father, which Molly felt sure was assumed; but it was
not conciliatory, for all that. Roger, quiet,
steady, and natural, talked more than all the others;
but he too was uneasy, and in distress on many accounts.
To-day he principally addressed himself to Molly; entering
into rather long narrations of late discoveries in
natural history, which kept up the current of talk
without requiring much reply from any one, Molly had
expected Osborne to look something different from usual—conscious,
or ashamed, or resentful, or even ’married’—but
he was exactly the Osborne of the morning—handsome,
elegant, languid in manner and in look; cordial with
his brother, polite towards her, secretly uneasy at
the state of things between his father and himself.
She would never have guessed the concealed romance
which lay perdu
under that every-day behaviour.
She had always wished to come into direct contact with
a love-story: here she was, and she only found
it very uncomfortable; there was a sense of concealment
and uncertainty about it all; and her honest straightforward
father, her quiet life at Hollingford, which, even
with all its drawbacks, was above-board, and where
everybody knew what everybody was doing, seemed secure
and pleasant in comparison. Of course she felt
great pain at quitting the Hall, and at the mute farewell
she had taken of her sleeping and unconscious friend.
But leaving Mrs. Hamley now was a different thing
to what it had been a fortnight ago. Then she
was wanted at any moment, and felt herself to be of
comfort. Now her very existence seemed forgotten
by the poor lady whose body appeared to be living
so long after her soul.
She was sent home in the carriage, loaded with true
thanks from every one of the family. Osborne
ransacked the houses for flowers for her; Roger had
chosen her out books of every kind. The squire
himself kept shaking her hand, without being able
to speak his gratitude, till at last he had taken
her in his arms, and kissed her as he would have done
Molly’s father was not at home when she returned;
and there was no one to give her a welcome. Mrs.
Gibson was out paying calls, the servants told Molly.
She went upstairs to her own room, meaning to unpack
and arrange her borrowed books, Rather to her surprise
she saw the chamber, corresponding to her own, being
dusted; water and towels too were being carried in.
‘Is any one coming?’ she asked of the
‘Missus’s daughter from France. Miss
Kirkpatrick is coming to-morrow.’
Was Cynthia coming at last? Oh, what a pleasure
it would be to have a companion, a girl, a sister
of her own age! Molly’s depressed spirits
sprang up again with bright elasticity. She longed
for Mrs Gibson’s return, to ask her all about
it: it must be very sudden, for Mr. Gibson had
said nothing of it at the Hall the day before.
No quiet reading now; the books were hardly put away
with Molly’s usual neatness. She went down
into the drawing-room, and could not settle to anything.
At last Mrs. Gibson came home, tired out with her
walk and her heavy velvet cloak. Until that was
taken off, and she had rested herself for a few minutes,
she seemed quite unable to attend to Molly’s