‘God bless you, Miss,’ said he; ‘make him touch a drop o’ this: he’s gone since breakfast without food, and it’s past one in the morning now.’
He softly removed the cover, and Molly took the basin back with her to her place at the squire’s side. She did not speak, for she did not well know what to say, or how to present this homely want of nature before one so rapt in grief. But she put a spoonful to his lips, and touched them with the savoury food, as if he had been a sick child, and she the nurse; and instinctively he took down the first spoonful of the soup. But in a minute he said, with a sort of cry, and almost overturning the basin Molly held, by his passionate gesture as he pointed to the bed,—
‘He will never eat again—never.’
Then he threw himself across the corpse, and wept in such a terrible manner that Molly trembled lest he also should die—should break his heart there and then. He took no more notice of her words, of her tears, of her presence, than he did of that of the moon, looking through the unclosed window, with passionless stare, Her father stood by them both before either of them was aware.
‘Go downstairs, Molly,’ said he gravely; but he stroked her head tenderly as she rose. ‘Go into the dining-room.’ Now she felt the reaction from all her self-control. She trembled with fear as she went along the moonlit passages. It seemed to her as if she should meet Osborne, and hear it all explained; how he came to die,—what he now felt and thought and wished her to do. She did get down to the dining-room,—the last few steps with a rush of terror,—senseless terror of what might be behind her; and there she found supper laid out, and candles lit, and Robinson bustling about decanting some wine. She wanted to cry; to get into some quiet place, and weep away her over-excitement; but she could hardly do so there. She only felt very much tired, and to care for nothing in this world any more. But vividness of life came back when she found Robinson holding a glass to her lips as she sate in the great leather easy-chair, to which she had gone instinctively as to a place of rest.
’Drink, Miss. It’s good old Madeira. Your papa said as how you was to eat a bit. Says he, “My daughter may have to stay here, Mr Robinson, and she’s young for the work. Persuade her to eat something, or she’ll break down utterly.” Those was his very words.’
Molly did not say anything. She had not energy enough for resistance. She drank and she ate at the old servant’s bidding; and then she asked him to leave her alone, and went back to her easy-chair and let herself cry, and so ease her heart.
SQUIRE HAMLEY’S SORROW
It seemed very long before Mr. Gibson came down. He went and stood with his back to the empty fireplace, and did not speak for a minute or two.
‘He’s gone to bed,’ said he at length. ’Robinson and I have got him there. But just as I was leaving him he called me back, and asked me to let you stop. I’m sure I don’t know—but one doesn’t like to refuse at such a time.’