Unlooked-for Arrivals

Robinson opened the door for Molly almost before the carriage had fairly drawn up at the Hall, and told her that the Squire had been very anxious for her return, and had more than once sent him to an upstairs window, from which a glimpse of the hill-road between Hollingford and Hamley could be caught, to know if the carriage was not yet in sight. Molly went into the drawing-room. The Squire was standing in the middle of the floor, awaiting her—in fact, longing to go out and meet her, but restrained by a feeling of solemn etiquette, which prevented his moving about as usual in that house of mourning. He held a paper in his hands, which were trembling with excitement and emotion; and four or five open letters were strewed on a table near him.

“It’s all true,” he began; “she’s his wife, and he’s her husband—was her husband—that’s the word for it—was! Poor lad! poor lad! it’s cost him a deal. Pray God, it wasn’t my fault. Read this, my dear. It’s a certificate. It’s all regular—Osborne Hamley to Marie-Aimée Scherer, —parish-church and all, and witnessed. Oh, dear!” He sate down in the nearest chair and groaned. Molly took a seat by him, and read the legal paper, the perusal of which was not needed to convince her of the fact of the marriage. She held it in her hand after she had finished reading it, waiting for the Squire’s next coherent words; for he kept talking to himself in broken sentences. “Ay, ay! that comes o’ temper and crabbedness. She was the only one as could—and I’ve been worse since she was gone. Worse! worse! and see what it has come to! He was afraid of me—ay—afraid. That’s the truth of it—afraid. And it made him keep all to himself, and care killed him. They may call it heart-disease—Oh my lad, my lad, I know better now; but it’s too late—that’s the sting of it—too late, too late!” He covered his face, and moved himself backward and forward till Molly could bear it no longer.

“There are some letters,” said she; “may I read any of them?” At another time she would not have asked; but she was driven to it now by her impatience of the speechless grief of the old man.

“Ay, read ’em, read ’em,” said he. “Maybe you can. I can only pick out a word here and there. I put ’em there for you to look at; and tell me what is in ’em.”

Molly’s knowledge of written French of the present day was not so great as her knowledge of the French of the Mémoires de Sully, and neither the spelling nor the writing of the letters was of the best; but she managed to translate into good enough colloquial English some innocent sentences of love, and submission to Osborne’s will—as if his judgment was infallible—and of faith in his purposes; little sentences in “little language” that went home to the Squire’s heart. Perhaps, if Molly had read French more easily, she might not have translated them into such touching, homely, broken words. Here and there, there were expressions in English; these the hungry-hearted Squire had read, while waiting for Molly’s return. Every time she stopped, he said “Go on.” He kept his face shaded, and only repeated these two words at every pause. She got up to find some more of Aimée’s letters. In examining the papers, she came upon one in particular. “Have you seen this, sir? This certificate of baptism” (reading aloud) “of Roger Stephen Osborne Hamley, born June 21, 183—, child of Osborne Hamley and Marie-Aimée his wife”——

“Give it me,” said the Squire, his voice breaking now, and stretching forth his eager hand. “‘Roger,’ that’s me, ‘Stephen,’ that’s my poor old father; he died when he was not so old as I am; but I’ve always thought on him as very old. He was main and fond of Osborne, when he was quite a little one. It’s good of the lad to have thought on my father Stephen. Ay! that was his name. And Osborne— Osborne Hamley! One Osborne Hamley lies dead on his bed—and t’other—t’other I’ve never seen, and never heard on till to-day. He must be called Osborne, Molly. There is a Roger—there’s two for that matter; but one is a good-for-nothing old man; and there’s never an Osborne any more, unless this little thing is called Osborne; we’ll have him here, and get a nurse for him; and make his mother comfortable for life in her own country. I’ll keep this, Molly. You’re a good lass for finding it. Osborne Hamley. And if God will give me grace, he shall never hear a cross word from me—never! He shan’t be afeard of me. Oh, my Osborne, my Osborne” (he burst out), “do you know how bitter and sore is my heart for every hard word as I ever spoke to you? Do you know how I loved you—my boy—my boy?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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