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Grandmother Dear Part 7

And off to bed she went.

The children went out early the next morning for a long walk in the country. It was nearly luncheon time when they returned, and they were met in the hall by aunty, who told them to run upstairs and take off their things quickly, as a friend of their grandmother's had come to spend the day with her.

"And make yourselves neat, my dears," she said. "Miss Wren is a particular old lady."

Sylvia was down in the drawing-room in five minutes, hair brushed, hands washed, collar straight. She went up to Miss Wren to be introduced to her, and then sat down in a corner by the window with a book. Miss Wren was very deaf, and her deafness had the effect, as she could not in the least hear her own voice, of making her shout out her observations in a very loud tone, sometimes rather embarrassing for those to whom they were addressed, or, still worse, for those concerning whom they were made.

"Nice little girl," she remarked to grandmother, "very nice, pretty-behaved little girl. Rather like poor Mary, is she not? Not so pretty! Dear me, what a pretty girl Mary was the first winter you were here, twelve, no, let me see, fourteen years ago! Never could think what made her take a fancy to that solemn-looking husband of hers."

Grandmother laid her hand warningly on Miss Wren's arm, and glanced in Sylvia's direction, and greatly to her relief just then, there came a diversion in the shape of Molly. Grandmother happened to be asked a question at this moment by a servant who just came into the room, and had therefore turned aside for an instant as Molly came up to speak to Miss Wren. Her attention was quickly caught again, however, by the old lady's remarks, delivered as usual in a very loud voice.

"How do you do, my dear? And what is your name? Dear me, is this a new fashion? Laura," to aunty, who was writing a note at the side-table and had not noticed Molly's entrance, "Laura, my dear, I wonder your mother allows the child to wear so much jewellery. In _my_ young days such a thing was never heard of."

Aunty got up from her writing at this, and grandmother turned round quickly. What could Miss Wren be talking about? Was her sight, as well as her hearing, failing her? Was grandmother's own sight, hitherto quite to be depended upon, playing her some queer trick? There stood Molly, serene as usual, with--it took grandmother quite a little while to count them--one, two, three, yes, _six_ brooches fastened on to the front of her dress! All the six invalid brooches, just restored to health, that is to say _pins_, were there in their glory. The turquoise one in the middle, the coral and the tortoise-shell ones at each side of it, the three others, the silver bird, the mosaic and the mother-of-pearl arranged in a half-moon below them, in the front of the child's dress.

They were placed with the greatest neatness and precision; it must have cost Molly both time and trouble to put each in the right spot.

Grandmother stared, aunty stared, Miss Wren looked at Molly curiously.

"Odd little girl," she remarked, in what she honestly believed to be a perfectly inaudible whisper, to grandmother. "She is not so nice as the other, not so like poor Mary. But I wonder, my dear, I really do wonder at your allowing her to wear so much jewellery. In _our_ young days----"

For once in her life grandmother was _almost_ rude to Miss Wren. She interrupted her reminiscences of "our young days" by turning sharply to Molly.

"Molly," she said, "go up to your room at once and take off that nonsense. What _is_ the meaning of it? Do you intend to make a joke of what you should be so ashamed of, your own carelessness?"

Molly stared up in blank surprise and distress.

"Grandmother dear," she said confusedly. "It was my _plan_. It was to make me careful."

Grandmother felt much annoyed, and Molly's self-defence vexed her more.

"Go up to your room," she repeated. "You have vexed me very much. Either you intend to make a joke of what I hoped would have been a lesson to you for all your life, or else, Molly, it is as if you had not all your wits.

Go up to your room at once."

Molly said no more. Never before had grandmother and aunty looked at her "like that." She turned and ran out of the room and up to her own, and throwing herself down on the bed burst into tears.

"I thought it was such a good plan," she sobbed. "I wanted to please grandmother. And I do believe she thinks I meant to mock her. Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear!"

Downstairs the luncheon bell rang, and they all seated themselves at table, but no Molly appeared.

"Shall I run up and tell her to come down?" suggested Sylvia, but "no,"

said grandmother, "it is better not."

But grandmother's heart was sore.

"I shall be so sorry if there is anything of sulkiness or resentfulness in Molly," she said to herself. "What _could_ the child have had in her head?"

CHAPTER V.

MOLLY'S PLAN.

"... Such a plague every morning with buckling shoes, gartering, and combing."

THE TWIN RIVALS.

Soon after luncheon Miss Wren took her departure. Nothing more was said about Molly before her, but on leaving she patted Sylvia approvingly on the back.

"Nice little girl," she said. "Your grandmother must bring you to see me some day. And your sister may come, too, if she leaves her brooches at home. Young people in _my_ young days----"

Aunty saw that Sylvia was growing very red, and looking as if she were on the point of saying something; Molly's queer behaviour had made her nervous: it would never do for Sylvia, too, to shock Miss Wren's notion of the proprieties by bursting out with some speech in Molly's defence.

So aunty interrupted the old lady by some remark about her shawl not being thick enough for the drive, which quite distracted her attention.

As soon as she had gone, grandmother sent Sylvia upstairs to look for Molly. Sylvia came back looking rather alarmed. No Molly was there. Where could she be? Grandmother began to feel a little uneasy.

"She is nowhere in the house," said Sylvia. "Marcelline says she saw her go out about half-an-hour ago. She is very fond of the little wood up the road, grandmother: shall I go and look for her there?"

Grandmother glanced round. "Ralph," she said. "Oh, I forgot, he will not be home till four;" for Ralph had begun going to school every day.

"Laura," she went on, to aunty, "put on your hat and go with Sylvia to find the poor child."

Sylvia's face brightened at this. "Then you are not so vexed with Molly now, grandmother," she said. "I know it seemed like mocking you, but I am sure she didn't mean it that way."

"What did she mean, then, do you think?" said grandmother.

"I don't quite know," said Sylvia. "It was a plan of her own, but it wasn't anything naughty or rude, I am sure."

Aunty and Sylvia went off to the little wood, as the children called it--in reality a very small plantation of young trees, where any one could be easily perceived, especially now when the leaves were few and far between. No, there was no Molly there. Hurriedly, aunty and Sylvia retraced their steps.

"Let us go round by the lodge," said aunty--they had left the house by the back gate--"and see if old Marie knows anything of where she is."

As they came near to the lodge they saw old Marie coming to meet them.

"Is Mademoiselle looking for the little demoiselle?" she said with a smile. "Yes, she is in my kitchen--she has been there for half-an-hour.

Poor little lady, she was in trouble, and I tried to console her. But the dear ladies have not been anxious about her? Ah yes! But how sorry I am!

I knew it not, or I would have run up to tell Marcelline where she was."

"Never mind, Marie," said aunty. "If we had known she was with you, we should have been quite satisfied. Run in, Sylvia, and tell Molly to come back to the house to speak to your grandmother."

Sylvia was starting forward, but Marie touched her arm.

"A moment, Mademoiselle Sylvie," she said,--Sylvia liked to be called "Mademoiselle Sylvie," it sounded so pretty--"a moment. The little sister has fallen asleep. She was sitting by the fire, and she had been crying so hard, poor darling. Better not wake her all at once."

She led the way into the cottage, and they followed her. There, as she had said, was Molly, fast asleep, half lying, half sitting, by the rough open fireplace, her head on a little wooden stool on which Marie had placed a cushion, her long fair hair falling over her face and shoulders--little sobs from time to time interrupting her soft, regular breathing.

Sylvia's eyes filled with tears.

Chapter end

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