Wives and Daughters: An Every-Day Story (Chapter 7, page 1 of 9)

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Chapter 7

If Squire Hamley had been unable to tell Molly who had ever been
thought of as her father's second wife, fate was all this time
preparing an answer of a pretty positive kind to her wondering
curiosity. But fate is a cunning hussy, and builds up her plans as
imperceptibly as a bird builds her nest; and with much the same kind
of unconsidered trifles. The first "trifle" of an event was the
disturbance which Jenny (Mr. Gibson's cook) chose to make at Bethia's
being dismissed. Bethia was a distant relation and protégée of
Jenny's, and she chose to say it was Mr. Coxe the tempter who ought
to have "been sent packing," not Bethia the tempted, the victim. In
this view there was quite enough plausibility to make Mr. Gibson
feel that he had been rather unjust. He had, however, taken care to
provide Bethia with another situation, to the full as good as that
which she held in his family. Jenny, nevertheless, chose to give
warning; and though Mr. Gibson knew full well from former experience
that her warnings were words, not deeds, he hated the discomfort, the
uncertainty,--the entire disagreeableness of meeting a woman at any
time in his house, who wore a grievance and an injury upon her face
as legibly as Jenny took care to do.

Down into the middle of this small domestic trouble came another, and
one of greater consequence. Miss Eyre had gone with her old mother,
and her orphan nephews and nieces, to the sea-side, during Molly's
absence, which was only intended at first to last for a fortnight.
After about ten days of this time had elapsed, Mr. Gibson received a
beautifully written, beautifully worded, admirably folded, and most
neatly sealed letter from Miss Eyre. Her eldest nephew had fallen ill
of scarlet fever, and there was every probability that the younger
children would be attacked by the same complaint. It was distressing
enough for poor Miss Eyre--this additional expense, this anxiety--the
long detention from home which the illness involved. But she said
not a word of any inconvenience to herself; she only apologized with
humble sincerity for her inability to return at the appointed time
to her charge in Mr. Gibson's family; meekly adding, that perhaps it
was as well, for Molly had never had the scarlet fever, and even if
Miss Eyre had been able to leave the orphan children to return to her
employments, it might not have been a safe or a prudent step.

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