“Ah! I see, Molly,” said Mrs. Hamley; “you won’t tell me your sorrows, and yet, perhaps, I could have done you some good.”

“I don’t like,” said Molly, in a low voice. “I think papa wouldn’t like it. And, besides, you have helped me so much—you and Mr. Roger Hamley. I often think of the things he said; they come in so usefully, and are such a strength to me.”

“Ah, Roger! yes. He is to be trusted, Oh, Molly! I’ve a great deal to say to you myself, only not now. I must have my medicine and try to go to sleep. Good girl! You are stronger than I am, and can do without sympathy.”

Molly was taken to another room; the maid who conducted her to it told her that Mrs. Hamley had not wished her to have her nights disturbed, as they might very probably have been, if she had been in her former sleeping-room. In the afternoon Mrs. Hamley sent for her, and, with the want of reticence common to invalids, especially to those suffering from long and depressing maladies, she told Molly of the family distress and disappointment.

She made Molly sit down near her on a little stool, and, holding her hand, and looking into her eyes to catch her spoken sympathy from their expression quicker than she could from her words, she said—

“Osborne has so disappointed us! I cannot understand it yet. And the Squire was so terribly angry! I cannot think how all the money was spent—advances through money-lenders, besides bills. The Squire does not show me how angry he is now, because he’s afraid of another attack; but I know how angry he is. You see, he has been spending ever so much money in reclaiming that land at Upton Common, and is very hard pressed himself. But it would have doubled the value of the estate; and so we never thought anything of economies which would benefit Osborne in the long run. And now the Squire says he must mortgage some of the land; and you can’t think how it cuts him to the heart. He sold a great deal of timber to send the two boys to college. Osborne—oh! what a dear, innocent boy he was; he was the heir, you know; and he was so clever, every one said he was sure of honours and a fellowship, and I don’t know what all; and he did get a scholarship; and then all went wrong. I don’t know how. That is the worst. Perhaps the Squire wrote too angrily, and that stopped up confidence. But he might have told me. He would have done, I think, Molly, if he had been here, face to face with me. But the Squire, in his anger, told him not to show his face at home, till he had paid off the debts he had incurred out of his allowance. Out of two hundred and fifty a year to pay off more than nine hundred, one way or another! And not to come home till then! Perhaps Roger will have debts too! He had but two hundred; but, then, he was not the eldest son. The Squire has given orders that the men are to be turned off the draining- works; and I lie awake thinking of their poor families this wintry weather. But what shall we do? I’ve never been strong, and perhaps I’ve been extravagant in my habits; and there were family traditions as to expenditure, and the reclaiming of this land. Oh, Molly! Osborne was such a sweet little baby, and such a loving boy: so clever, too! You know I read you some of his poetry: now, could a person who wrote like that do anything very wrong? And yet I’m afraid he has.”

“Don’t you know, at all, how the money has gone?” asked Molly.

“No! not at all. That’s the sting. There are tailors’ bills, and bills for book-binding and wine and pictures—those come to four or five hundred; and, though this expenditure is extraordinary—inexplicable to such simple old folk as we are—yet it may be only the luxury of the present day. But the money for which he will give no account—of which, indeed, we only heard through the Squire’s London agents, who found out that certain disreputable attorneys were making inquiries as to the entail of the estate;—oh, Molly! worse than all—I don’t know how to bring myself to tell you—as to the age and health of the Squire, his dear father”—(she began to sob almost hysterically; yet she would go on talking, in spite of Molly’s efforts to stop her)—“who held him in his arms, and blessed him, even before I had kissed him; and thought always so much of him as his heir and first-born darling! How he has loved him! How I have loved him! I sometimes have thought of late, that we’ve almost done that good Roger injustice.”

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