A Visit to the Hamleys

Of course the news of Miss Gibson’s approaching departure had spread through the household before the one o’clock dinner-time came; and Mr. Coxe’s dismal countenance was a source of much inward irritation to Mr. Gibson, who kept giving the youth sharp glances of savage reproof for his melancholy face and want of appetite, which he trotted out, with a good deal of sad ostentation; all of which was lost upon Molly, who was too full of her own personal concerns to have any thought or observation to spare from them; excepting once or twice, when she thought of the many days that must pass over, before she should again sit down to dinner with her father.

When she named this to him after the meal was done, and they were sitting together in the drawing- room, waiting for the sound of the wheels of the Hamley carriage, he laughed and said—

“I’m coming over to-morrow to see Mrs. Hamley; and I daresay I shall dine at their lunch; so you won’t have to wait long before you’ve the treat of seeing the wild beast feed.”

Then they heard the approaching carriage.

“Oh, papa,” said Molly, catching at his hand, “I do so wish I wasn’t going, now that the time is come.”

“Nonsense; don’t let us have any sentiment! Have you got your keys? that’s more to the purpose.”

Yes; she had got her keys, and her purse; and her little box was put up on the seat by the coachman; and her father handed her in; the door was shut, and she drove away in solitary grandeur, looking back and kissing her hand to her father, who stood at the gate, in spite of his dislike of sentiment, as long as the carriage could be seen. Then he turned into the surgery, and found Mr. Coxe had had his watching too, and had, indeed, remained at the window gazing, moon-struck, at the empty road up which the young lady had disappeared. Mr. Gibson startled him from his reverie by a sharp, almost venomous, speech about some small neglect of duty a day or two before. That night Mr. Gibson insisted on passing by the bedside of a poor girl, whose parents were worn-out by many wakeful anxious nights, succeeding to hard-working days.

Molly cried a little, but checked her tears, as soon as she remembered how annoyed her father would have been at the sight of them. It was very pleasant driving quickly along in the luxurious carriage, through the pretty green lanes, with dog-roses and honeysuckles so plentiful and fresh in the hedges, that she once or twice was tempted to ask the coachman to stop till she had gathered a nosegay. She began to dread the end of her little journey of seven miles; the only drawback to which was, that her silk was not a true clantartan, with a little uncertainty as to Miss Rose’s punctuality. At length they came to a village; straggling cottages lined the road, an old church stood on a kind of green, with the public-house close by it; there was a great tree, with a bench all round the trunk, midway between the church gates and the little inn. The wooden stocks were close to the gates. Molly had long passed the limit of her rides, but she knew this must be the village of Hamley, and that they must be very near to the Hall.

They swung in at the gates of the park in a few minutes, and drove up through meadow-grass, ripening for hay—it was no grand aristocratic deer-park this—to the old red-brick hall; not three hundred yards from the highroad. There had been no footman sent with the carriage, but a respectable servant stood at the door, even before they drew up, ready to receive the expected visitor, and take her into the drawingroom where his mistress lay awaiting her.

Mrs. Hamley rose from her sofa to give Molly a gentle welcome; she kept the girl’s hand in hers after she had finished speaking, looking into her face, as if studying it, and unconscious of the faint blush she called up on the otherwise colourless cheeks.

“I think we shall be great friends,” said she, at length. “I like your face, and I am always guided by first impressions. Give me a kiss, dear.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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