Mr. Osborne's Secret

Osborne and Roger came to the Hall; Molly found Roger established there, when she returned after this absence at home. She gathered that Osborne was coming; but very little was said about him in any way. The Squire scarcely ever left his wife’s room; he sat by her, watching her, and now and then moaning to himself. She was so much under the influence of opiates that she did not often rouse up; but, when she did, she almost invariably asked for Molly. On these rare occasions, she would ask after Osborne—where he was, if he had been told, and if he was coming? In her weakened and confused state of intellect she seemed to have retained two strong impressions—one, of the sympathy with which Molly had received her confidence about Osborne; the other, of the anger which her husband entertained against him. Before the Squire she never mentioned Osborne’s name, nor did she seem at her ease in speaking about him to Roger; while, when she was alone with Molly, she hardly spoke of any one else. She must have had some sort of wandering idea that Roger blamed his brother, while she remembered Molly’s eager defence, which she had thought hopelessly improbable at the time. At any rate, she made Molly her confidant about her first-born. She sent her to ask Roger how soon he would come, for she seemed to know perfectly well that he was coming.

“Tell me all Roger says. He will tell you.”

But it was several days before Molly could ask Roger any question; and meanwhile Mrs. Hamley’s state had materially altered. At length Molly came upon Roger sitting in the library, his head buried in his hands. He did not hear her footstep till she was close beside him. Then he lifted up his face, red, and stained with tears, his hair all ruffled up and in disorder.

“I’ve been wanting to see you alone,” she began. “Your mother does so want some news of your brother Osborne. She told me last week to ask you about him; but I did not like to speak of him before your father.”

“She hardly ever named him to me.”

“I don’t know why; for to me she used to talk of him perpetually. I have seen so little of her this week, and I think she forgets a great deal now. Still, if you don’t mind, I should like to be able to tell her something, if she asks me again.”

He put his head again between his hands, and did not answer her for some time.

“What does she want to know?” said he, at last. “Does she know that Osborne is coming soon—any day?”

“Yes. But she wants to know where he is.”

“I can’t tell you. I don’t exactly know. I believe he’s abroad, but I’m not sure.”

“But you’ve sent papa’s letter to him?”

“I’ve sent it to a friend of his, who will know better than I do where he’s to be found. You must know that he isn’t free from creditors, Molly. You can’t have been one of the family, like a child of the house almost, without knowing that much. For that and for other reasons I don’t exactly know where he is.”

“I will tell her so. You are sure he will come?”

“Quite sure. But, Molly, I think my mother may live some time yet; don’t you? Dr. Nicholls said so yesterday when he was here with your father. He said she had rallied more than he had ever expected. You’re not afraid of any change that makes you so anxious for Osborne’s coming?”

“No. It’s only for her that I asked. She did seem so to crave for news of him. I think she dreamed of him; and then when she wakened it was a relief to her to talk about him to me. She always seemed to associate me with him. We used to speak so much of him when we were together.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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