It was well for Molly that callers came in just at this time, for Mrs. Gibson was extremely annoyed. They told her some little local piece of news, however, which filled up her mind; and Molly found that, if she only expressed wonder enough at the engagement they had both heard of from the departed callers, the previous discussion as to her accompanying her stepmother or not might be entirely passed over. Not entirely though; for the next morning she had to listen to a very brilliantly touched-up account of the dance and the gaiety which she had missed; and also to be told that Mrs. Gibson had changed her mind about giving her the gown, and thought now that she should reserve it for Cynthia, if only it was long enough; but Cynthia was so tall—quite overgrown, in fact. The chances seemed equally balanced as to whether Molly might not have the gown after all.
MR OSBORNE’S SECRET
Osborne and Roger came to the Hall; Molly found Roger established there when she returned after this absence at home. She gathered that Osborne was coming; but very little was said about him in any way. The Squire scarcely ever left his wife’s room now; he sat by her, watching her, and now and then moaning to himself. She was so much under the influence of opiates that she did not often rouse up; but when she did, she almost invariably asked for Molly. On these rare occasions, she would ask after Osborne—where he was, if he had been told, and if he was coming? In her weakened and confused state of intellect she seemed to have retained two strong impressions—one, of the sympathy with which Molly had received her confidence about Osborne; the other, of the anger which her husband entertained against him. Before the squire she never mentioned Osborne’s name; nor did she seem at her ease in speaking about him to Roger; while, when she was alone with Molly, she hardly spoke of any one else. She must have had some sort of wandering idea that Roger blamed his brother, while she remembered Molly’s eager defence, which she had thought hopelessly improbable at the time. At any rate she made Molly her confidante about her first-born. She sent her to ask Roger how soon he would come, for she seemed to know perfectly well that he was coming.
‘Tell me all Roger says. He will tell you.’
But it was several days before Molly could ask Roger any questions; and meanwhile Mrs. Hamley’s state had materially altered. At length Molly came upon Roger sitting in the library, his head buried in his hands. He did not hear her footstep till she was close beside him. Then he lifted up his face, red, and stained with tears, his hair all ruffled up and in disorder.
‘I’ve been wanting to see you alone,’ she began. ’Your mother does so want some news of your brother Osborne. She told me last week to ask you about him, but I did not like to speak of him before your father.’