‘She’s a gentle, pretty creature,’ said Molly. ’But—but I sometimes think it has killed her; she lies like one dead.’ And Molly could not keep from crying softly at the thought.
‘Nay, nay!’ said the squire. ’It’s not so easy to break one’s heart. Sometimes I’ve wished it were. But one has to go on living—all the appointed days, as it says in the Bible.’ But we’ll do our best for her. We’ll not think of letting her go away till she’s fit to travel.’
Molly wondered in her heart about this going away, on which the squire seemed fully resolved. She was sure that he intended to keep the child; perhaps he had a legal right to do so;—but would the mother ever part from it? Her father, however, would solve the difficulty,—her father, whom she always looked to as so clear-seeing and experienced. She watched and waited for his coming. The February evening drew on; the child lay asleep in the squire’s arms till his grandfather grew tired, and laid him down on the sofa: the large square-cornered yellow sofa upon which Mrs. Hamley used to sit, supported by pillows in a half-reclining position. Since her time it had been placed against the wall, and had served merely as a piece of furniture to fill up the room. But once again a human figure was lying upon it; a little human creature, like a cherub in some old Italian picture. The squire, remembered his wife as he put the child down. He thought of her as he said to Molly,—
‘How pleased she would have been!’ But Molly thought of the young widow upstairs. Aimee was her ‘she’ at the first moment.
Presently,—but it seemed a long long time first,—she heard the quick prompt sounds, which told of her father’s arrival. In he came—to the room as yet only lighted by the fitful blaze of the fire.
MOLLY GIBSON’S WORTH IS DISCOVERED
Mr. Gibson came in rubbing his hands after his frosty ride. Molly judged from the look in his eye that he had been fully informed of the present state of things at the Hall by some one. But he simply went up to and greeted the squire, and waited to hear what was said to him. The squire was fumbling at the taper on the writing-table, and before he answered much he lighted it, and signing to his friend to follow him, he went softly to the sofa and showed him the sleeping child, taking the utmost care not to arouse it by flare or sound.
‘Well! this is a fine young gentleman,’ said Mr. Gibson, returning to the fire rather sooner than the squire expected. ’And you’ve got the mother here, I understand. Mrs. Osborne Hamley, as we must call her, poor thing! It’s a sad coming home to her, for I hear she knew nothing of his death.’ He spoke without exactly addressing any one, so that either Molly or the squire might answer as they liked. The squire said,—