Wives and Daughters: An Every-Day Story (Chapter 4, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 4

Molly grew up among these quiet people in calm monotony of life,
without any greater event than that which has been recorded--the
being left behind at the Towers--until she was nearly seventeen. She
had become a visitor at the school, but she had never gone again to
the annual festival at the great house; it was easy to find some
excuse for keeping away, and the recollection of that day was not
a pleasant one on the whole, though she often thought how much she
should like to see the gardens again.

Lady Agnes was married; there was only Lady Harriet remaining at
home; Lord Hollingford, the eldest son, had lost his wife, and was
a good deal more at the Towers since he had become a widower. He
was a tall ungainly man, considered to be as proud as his mother,
the countess; but, in fact, he was only shy, and slow at making
commonplace speeches. He did not know what to say to people whose
daily habits and interests were not the same as his; he would have
been very thankful for a handbook of small-talk, and would have
learnt off his sentences with good-humoured diligence. He often
envied the fluency of his garrulous father, who delighted in talking
to everybody, and was perfectly unconscious of the incoherence of his
conversation. But, owing to his constitutional reserve and shyness,
Lord Hollingford was not a popular man although his kindness of
heart was very great, his simplicity of character extreme, and his
scientific acquirements considerable enough to entitle him to much
reputation in the European republic of learned men. In this respect
Hollingford was proud of him. The inhabitants knew that the great,
grave, clumsy heir to its fealty was highly esteemed for his wisdom;
and that he had made one or two discoveries, though in what direction
they were not quite sure. But it was safe to point him out to
strangers visiting the little town, as "That's Lord Hollingford--the
famous Lord Hollingford, you know; you must have heard of him, he is
so scientific." If the strangers knew his name, they also knew his
claims to fame; if they did not, ten to one but they would make as
if they did, and so conceal not only their own ignorance, but that
of their companions, as to the exact nature of the sources of his
reputation.

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