It was far easier to be active than passive during this process of “swearing eternal friendship,” and Molly willingly kissed the sweet pale face held up to her.

“I meant to have gone and fetched you myself; but the heat oppresses me, and I did not feel up to the exertion. I hope you had a pleasant drive?”

“Very,” said Molly, with shy conciseness.

“And now I’ll take you to your room; I have had you put close to me; I thought you would like it better, even though it was a smaller room than the other.”

She rose languidly and, wrapping her light shawl round her yet elegant figure, led the way upstairs. Molly’s bed-room opened out of Mrs. Hamley’s private sitting-room; on the other side of which was her own bed- room. She showed Molly this easy means of communication; and then, telling her visitor she would await her in the sitting-room, she closed the door, and Molly was left at leisure to make acquaintance with her surroundings.

First of all, she went to the window to see what was to be seen. A flower-garden right below; a meadow of ripe grass just beyond, changing colour in long sweeps, as the soft wind blew over it; great old forest- trees a little on one side; and, beyond them again, to be seen only by standing very close to the side of the window-sill, or by putting her head out, if the window was open, the silver shimmer of a mere, about a quarter of a mile off. On the opposite side to the trees and the mere, the look-out was bounded by the old walls and high-peaked roofs of the extensive farm-buildings. The deliciousness of the early summer silence was only broken by the song of the birds, and the nearer hum of bees. Listening to these sounds, which enhanced the exquisite sense of stillness, and puzzling out objects obscured by distance or shadow, Molly forgot herself, and was suddenly startled into a sense of the present by a sound of voices in the next room—some servant or other speaking to Mrs. Hamley. Molly hurried to unpack her box, and arrange her few clothes in the pretty old-fashioned chest of drawers, which was to serve her as dressing-table as well. All the furniture in the room was as old-fashioned and as well- preserved as it could be. The chintz curtains were Indian calico of the last century—the colours almost washed out, but the stuff itself exquisitely clean. There was a little strip of bedside carpeting, but the wooden flooring, thus liberally displayed, was of finely-grained oak, so firmly joined, plank to plank, that no grain of dust could make its way into the interstices. There were none of the luxuries of modern days; no writing-table, or sofa, or pier-glass. In one corner of the walls was a bracket, holding an Indian jar filled with pot-pourri; and that and the climbing honeysuckle outside the open window scented the room more exquisitely than any toilette perfumes. Molly laid out her white gown (of last year’s date and size) upon the bed, ready for the (to her new) operation of dressing for dinner, and, having arranged her hair and dress, and taken out her company worsted-work, she opened the door softly, and saw Mrs. Hamley lying on the sofa.

“Shall we stay up here, dear? I think it is pleasanter than down below; and then I shall not have to come upstairs again at dressing-time.”

“I should like it very much,” replied Molly.

“Ah! you’ve got your sewing, like a good girl,” said Mrs. Hamley. “Now, I don’t sew much. I live alone a great deal. You see, both my boys are at Cambridge, and the Squire is out-of-doors all day long—so I have almost forgotten how to sew. I read a great deal. Do you like reading?”

“It depends upon the kind of book,” said Molly. “I’m afraid I don’t like ‘steady reading,’ as papa calls it.”

“But you like poetry!” said Mrs. Hamley, almost interrupting Molly. “I was sure you did, from your face. Have you read this last poem of Mrs. Hemans’? Shall I read it aloud to you?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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