prohibition, the over-mastering anxiety, the broken night, and fatigue of the journey, had ill prepared her for the shock at last, and Mr. Gibson was seriously alarmed for the consequences. She had wandered strangely in her replies to him; he had perceived that she was wandering, and had made great efforts to recall her senses; but Mr. Gibson foresaw that some bodily illness was coming on, and stopped late that night, arranging many things with Molly and the Squire. One—the only—comfort arising from her state was, the probability that she would be entirely unconscious by the morrow—the day of the funeral. Worn out by the contending emotions of the day, the Squire seemed now unable to look beyond the wrench and trial of the next twelve hours. He sate with his head in his hands, declining to go to bed, refusing to dwell on the thought of his grandchild—not three hours ago such a darling in his eyes. Mr. Gibson gave some instructions to one of the maid-servants as to the watch she was to keep by Mrs. Osborne Hamley, and insisted on Molly’s going to bed. When she pleaded the apparent necessity of staying up, he said—

“Now, Molly, look how much less trouble the dear old Squire would give if he would obey orders. He is only adding to anxiety by indulging himself. One pardons everything to extreme grief, however. But you will have enough to do to occupy all your strength for days to come; and go to bed you must now. I only wish I saw my way as clearly through other things as I do to your nearest duty. I wish I’d never let Roger go wandering off; he’ll wish it too, poor fellow! Did I tell you, Cynthia is going off in hot haste to her uncle Kirkpatrick’s. I suspect a visit to him will stand in lieu of going out to Russia as a governess.”

“I am sure she was quite serious in wishing for that.”

“Yes, yes! at the time. I’ve no doubt she thought she was sincere in intending to go. But the great thing was to get out of the unpleasantness of the present time and place; and uncle Kirkpatrick’s will do this as effectually, and more pleasantly, than a situation at Nishni-Novgorod in an ice-palace.”

He had given Molly’s thoughts a turn, which was what he wanted to do. Molly could not help remembering Mr. Henderson, and his offer, and all the consequent hints; and wondering and wishing—what did she wish? or had she been falling asleep? Before she had quite ascertained this point, she was asleep in reality.

After this, long days passed over in a monotonous round of care; for no one seemed to think of Molly’s leaving the Hall during the woeful illness that befell Mrs. Osborne Hamley. It was not that her father allowed her to take much active part in the nursing; the Squire gave him carteblanche, and he engaged two efficient hospital-nurses to watch over the unconscious Aimée; but Molly was needed to receive the finer directions as to her treatment and diet. It was not that she was wanted for the care of the little boy; the Squire was too jealous of the child’s exclusive love for that, and one of the housemaids was employed in the actual physical charge of him; but he needed some one to listen to his incontinence of language, both when his passionate regret for his dead son came uppermost, and also when he had discovered some extraordinary charm in that son’s child; and, again, when he was oppressed with the uncertainty of Aimée’s long-continued illness. Molly was not so good or so bewitching a listener to ordinary conversation as Cynthia; but, where her heart was interested, her sympathy was deep and unfailing. In this case, she only wished that the Squire could really feel that Aimée was not the encumbrance which he evidently considered her to be. Not that he would have acknowledged the fact, if it had been put before him in plain words. He fought against the dim consciousness of what was in his mind; he spoke repeatedly of patience, when no one but himself was impatient; he would often say that, when she grew better, she must not be allowed to leave the Hall, until she was perfectly strong, when no one was even contemplating the remotest chance of her leaving her child, excepting only himself. Molly once or twice asked her father, if she might not speak to the Squire and represent the hardship of sending her away, the improbability that she would consent to quit her boy, and so on; but Mr. Gibson only replied—

“Wait quietly. Time enough, when nature and circumstance have had their chance, and have failed.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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