Wives and Daughters: An Every-Day Story (Chapter 8, page 1 of 18)


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Chapter 8

On Thursday, the quiet country household was stirred through all
its fibres with the thought of Roger's coming home. Mrs. Hamley had
not seemed quite so well, or quite in such good spirits for two or
three days before; and the squire himself had appeared to be put out
without any visible cause. They had not chosen to tell Molly that
Osborne's name had only appeared very low down in the mathematical
tripos. So all that their visitor knew was that something was out of
tune, and she hoped that Roger's coming home would set it to rights,
for it was beyond the power of her small cares and wiles.

On Thursday, the housemaid apologized to her for some slight
negligence in her bedroom, by saying she had been busy scouring
Mr. Roger's rooms. "Not but what they were as clean as could be
beforehand; but mistress would always have the young gentlemen's
rooms cleaned afresh before they came home. If it had been Mr.
Osborne, the whole house would have had to be done; but, to be sure,
he was the eldest son, so it was but likely." Molly was amused at
this testimony to the rights of heirship; but somehow she herself had
fallen into the family manner of thinking that nothing was too great
or too good for "the eldest son." In his father's eyes, Osborne was
the representative of the ancient house of Hamley of Hamley, the
future owner of the land which had been theirs for a thousand years.
His mother clung to him because they two were cast in the same
mould, both physically and mentally--because he bore her maiden name.
She had indoctrinated Molly with her faith, and, in spite of her
amusement at the housemaid's speech, the girl visitor would have
been as anxious as any one to show her feudal loyalty to the heir,
if indeed it had been he that was coming. After luncheon, Mrs. Hamley
went to rest, in preparation for Roger's return; and Molly also
retired to her own room, feeling that it would be better for her to
remain there until dinner-time, and so to leave the father and mother
to receive their boy in privacy. She took a book of MS. poems with
her; they were all of Osborne Hamley's composition; and his mother
had read some of them aloud to her young visitor more than once.
Molly had asked permission to copy one or two of those which were
her greatest favourites; and this quiet summer afternoon she took
this copying for her employment, sitting at the pleasant open window,
and losing herself in dreamy out-looks into the gardens and woods,
quivering in the noon-tide heat. The house was so still, in its
silence it might have been the "moated grange;" the booming buzz of
the blue flies, in the great staircase window, seemed the loudest
noise in-doors. And there was scarcely a sound out-of-doors but the
humming of bees, in the flower-beds below the window. Distant voices
from the far-away fields where they were making hay--the scent of
which came in sudden wafts distinct from that of the nearer roses
and honeysuckles--these merry piping voices just made Molly feel the
depth of the present silence. She had left off copying, her hand
weary with the unusual exertion of so much writing, and she was
lazily trying to learn one or two of the poems off by heart.

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