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Wives and Daughters eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 796 pages of information about Wives and Daughters.

’The name of my wife is Aimee.  Aimee Hamley of course.  She lives at Bishopsfield, a village near Winchester.  Write it down, but keep it to yourself.  She is a Frenchwoman, a Roman Catholic, and was a servant.  She is a thoroughly good woman.  I must not say how dear she is to me.  I dare not.  I meant once to have told Cynthia, but she did not seem quite to consider me as a brother.  Perhaps she was shy of a new relation, but you’ll give my love to her, all the same.  It is a relief to think that some one else has my secret; and you are like one of us, Molly.  I can trust you almost as I can trust Roger.  I feel better already now I feel that some one else knows the whereabouts of my wife and child.’

‘Child!’ said Molly, surprised.  But before he could reply, Maria had announced,—­

‘Miss Phoebe Browning.’

‘Fold up that paper,’ said he, quickly, putting something into her hands.  ‘It is only for yourself.’

CHAPTER XLVI

HOLLINGFORD GOSSIPS

’My dear Molly, why didn’t you come and dine with us?  I said to sister I would come and scold you well.  Oh, Mr. Osborne Hamley, is that you?’ and a look of mistaken intelligence at the tete-a-tete she had disturbed came so perceptibly over Miss Phoebe’s face that Molly caught Osborne’s sympathetic eye, and both smiled at the notion.

’I’m sure I—­well! one must sometimes—­I see our dinner would have been—­’ Then she recovered herself into a connected sentence.  ’We only just heard of Mrs. Gibson’s having a fly from the “George,” because sister sent our Nancy to pay for a couple of rabbits Tom Ostler had snared (I hope we shan’t be taken up for poachers, Mr Osborne—­snaring doesn’t require a licence, I believe?), and she heard he was gone off with the fly to the Towers with your dear mamma; for Coxe who drives the fly in general has sprained his ankle.  We had just finished dinner, but when Nancy said Tom Ostler would not be back till night I said, “Why, there’s that poor dear girl left all alone by herself, and her mother such a friend of ours,”—­when she was alive, I mean, But I’m sure I’m glad I’m mistaken.’

Osborne said,—­’I came to speak to Mr. Gibson, not knowing he had gone to London, and Miss Gibson kindly gave me some of her lunch.  I must go now.’

‘Oh dear!  I am so sorry,’ fluttered out Miss Phoebe, ’I disturbed you; but it was with the best intentions.  I always was mal-apropos from a child.’  But Osborne was gone before she had finished her apologies.  Before he left, his eyes met Molly’s with a strange look of yearning farewell that struck her at the time, and that she remembered strongly afterwards.  ’Such a nice suitable thing, and I came in the midst, and spoilt it all.  I am sure you’re very kind, my dear, considering—­’

’Considering what, my dear Miss Phoebe?  If you are conjecturing a love affair between Mr. Osborne Hamley and me, you never were more mistaken in your life.  I think I told you so once before.  Please do believe me.’

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