'Well, I think you've gone hard to try to-day,' said Ulick.
'Mamma said my being able to read would be a comfort, and papa says he never saw such an ignorant boy! so what's the use of minding Gilbert's letter? It wont let me.'
'What wont let you?'
'Fun!' said Maurice, with a sob.
'He is a rogue!' cried Ulick, vehemently; 'but a stout heart and good will can get him under yet. Think of what your brother says of making your father and mother happy!'
'If I could do something to please them very, very much! Oh! if I could but learn to read all at once.'
'You can read—anybody can read!' said Ulick, pulling a book out of his pocket. 'There! try.'
There was some laughing over this; and then Maurice leant out of window, and grew sleepy. They had descended into the wide basin of alluvial land through which the Baye dawdled its meandering course, and were just about to cross the first bridge about two miles from Bayford, when Maurice shouted, 'There's Sophy!—how funny.'
It was a tall figure, in deep mourning, slowly moving along the towing-path, intently gazing into the river; but so strange was it to see Sophy so far from home, that Ulick paused a moment ere calling to the driver to stop.
As he hastily wrenched open the door, she raised up her face, and he was shocked. She looked as if she had lived years of sorrow, and even Maurice was struck with consternation.
'Sophy! Sophy!' he cried, hanging round her. 'I wouldn't have gone without telling you, if I had thought you would mind it. Speak to me, Sophy!'
She could say nothing save a hoarse 'Where?' as with both arms she pressed him as if she could never let him go again.
'In the train—intending to go to Malta,' said Ulick.
'I didn't know I could not; I didn't mean to vex you, Sophy,' continued the child. 'I'm come home now, and I wont try again.'
'Oh! Maurice, what would have become of you?' She held out her hand to Ulick, the first time for months.
'And we've got a letter for you, proceeded Maurice.
Ulick would fain have withheld it, but he had not the choice. She caught at it, still holding Maurice fast, and ere he could propose her opening it in the carriage while he walked home she had torn it open, and the same moment she had sunk down, seated on the path, with an arm round her brother. 'Oh! Maurice, it is well you are here! You would not have found them—it is over!'
She had found one brother to lose the other; but the relief of Maurice's safety had so softened the blow, that her tears gushed forth freely.
The sense of Ulick's presence restrained her, but raising her head, she missed him, and felt lonely, desolate, deserted, almost fainting, and in a strange place.
'Is he dead?' said Maurice, in a solemn low voice, and she wept helplessly, while the little fellow stood sustaining her weight like a small pillar, perplexed and dismayed.
'Are you poorly, Sophy? What shall I do?' said he, as she almost fell back, but a stronger arm held her up.
'Lean on me, dear Sophy,' said Ulick, who had returned, bringing some water from a small house near at hand, and supported her and soothed her like a brother.
The mists cleared away, the sense of desertion was gone, and she rose, but could not stand without his arm, and he almost lifted her into the carriage, where her appealing eye and helpless gesture made him follow her, and take Maurice on his knee. No one spoke; Maurice nestled close to his friend; awe-struck but weighed down by weariness and excitement. The blow had in reality been given when he was forced to relinquish the hope of seeing his brother again, and the actual certainty of his death fell with less comparative force. Perhaps he did not enter into the fact enough to ask for particulars. After a short space Sophy recovered herself enough to take out the letter, and read it over with greater comprehension.
'They were come!' she said.
'In time. I am glad.'
'In time to bring him peace, my uncle says! He knew mamma. I could never have borne it if I had deprived him of her!'
'Nor I,' said Ulick, from his heart. 'Did one but know the upshot of one's idle follies!'
Sophy looked towards Maurice.
'Asleep!' said Ulick. 'No wonder. He has walked four miles! He has a heart that might have been born in Ireland;' and as he looked at the fair young face softened and sweetened by sleep, 'What an infant it is to have even fancied such an undertaking!'
'Poor child!' sighed Sophy. 'He will never be the same!'
'Nay, grief at that age does not check the spirits for life.'
'You have never known,' said Sophy.
'No; our number has never yet been broken; but for this little man, I trust that the sense of duty may be deepened, and with it his love to you all; and surely that is not what will quench the blithe temper.'
'May it be so!' said Sophy. 'He may have enough of his mother in him to be happy.'
'I must think that the recollection of so loving a brother, and his pride in him for a hero, may make the stream flow more deeply, but not more darkly.'
'There never was a cloud between them,' said Sophy.
'Clouds are all past and gone now between those who can with him "take part in that thanksgiving lay,"' answered Ulick, kindly.
'Yes,' said Sophy. 'My uncle says it was peace at last! Oh! if humbleness and penitence could win it, one might be sure it would be his.'
'True,' said Ulick. 'It was a beautiful thing to find the loving sweetness and kindness refined into self-devotion and patience, and growing into something brighter and purer as it came near the last. It will be a precious recollection.'
'To those who have no self-reproach,' sighed Sophy; and after a pause she abruptly resumed, 'You once blamed me for being hard with him. Nothing was more true.'
'Impossible—when could I have presumed?'
'When? You remember. After Oxford.'
'Oh! you should not have let what I said dwell with you. I was a very raw Irishman then, and thought it barbarity to look cold on a little indiscretion, but I have learnt to think differently,' and he sighed. 'The severity that leads to repentance is truer affection than is shown by making light of foolishness.'
'If it had been affection and not wounded pride.'
'The dross has been refined away, if there were any,' said Ulick. 'You will be able to love him better now than ever you did in life.'
His comprehension met her half way, and gave her more relief and soothing than anything she had experienced for months. There was that response and intercommunion of spirit for which her nature had yearned the more because of the inability to express the craving; the very turn of the dark blue eyes, and the inflexions of the voice, did not merely convey pity, but an entering into the very core of her sorrow, namely, that she had never loved her brother enough, nor forgiven him for not being his fellow-twin. Whatever he said tended to reveal to her that there had been more justice, rectitude, sisterly feeling, and wholesome training than she had given herself credit for, and, above all, that Gilbert had loved her all the time. She was induced to dwell on the exalting and touching circumstances of his last redeeming year, and her tears streamed calmly and softly, not with the harshness that had hitherto marred her grief. Neither could have believed that there had been so long and marked a separation in feeling, or that Ulick O'More had not always been one with the Kendal family. It was all too soon that the conversation ended, and Maurice wakened suddenly at the vicarage wicket. Mrs. Dusautoy herself came to meet them as the little boy was lifted out. She had never been seen on her own feet so far from the house before! But no one ever knew the terror she had suffered, when of all her three charges not one was safe but the little Albinia, whose 'poor Maurice' and 'all gone' were as trying as her alternations of merriment. The vicar, the curate, the parish clerk, the servants of the two establishments, and four policemen, were all gone different ways; and poor Mrs. Dusautoy's day had been spent in hearing the results of their fruitless researches, or in worse presages, in which, as it now appeared, the river had played its part.
She kissed Maurice, and he did not rebel! She kissed Sophy, and could have shaken off Ulick's hand, but he only waited to hold up Hyder Ali as the real finder, before he ran off to desire the school-bell to be rung—the signal for announcing a discovery. It was well that Maurice was too much stunned and fatigued to be sensible what a commotion he had excited, or he might have thought it good fun.
The tidings from Malta came in almost as something secondary. The case had been too hopeless for anything else to be looked for, and when Mrs. Dusautoy consigned her charge to a couch, with entreaties to her not to move, there was calm tenderness in Sophy's voice as she told what needed to be told, and did not shrink from sympathy. She was grateful and gentle, and lay all the rest of the day, sad and physically worn out, but quietly mournful, and no longer dwelling on the painful side of past transactions, her remorse had given way to resigned acquiescence, and desolation to a sense that there was one who understood her. The sweet tones, and, above all, those two words, 'dear Sophy,' would come chiming back from some involuntary echo, and the turbid depths were at peace.
When Mr. Dusautoy came to her side, and held out his hand, his honest eyes brimming over, there was no repulsion in her manner of saying affectionately, 'You have had a great deal of trouble for my naughty little brother.' So different was her whole tone, that her kind friends thought how much better for some minds was any certainty than suspense. She bethought herself of sending to the Drurys, and showed rather gratification than her ordinary impatience at the manifold reports of the general sympathy, and of Bayford's grief for its hero. The poison was gone from her mind.
The Family Office had been asked to receive the whole party on their return. Mr. Kendal had business in London, and could not bear to part with the colonel till he had seen him safely lodged, and heard the surgeon's opinion.
Mr. Ferrars was laying himself out to guard his brother-in-law from being oppressed by the sympathetic welcome of the good aunts; but though the good ladies never failed in kindness, all the excess was directed into a different channel; Albinia herself was but secondary to the wounded hero, for whom alone they had eyes and ears. They would hardly let him stand erect for a moment; easy-chairs and couches were offered, soup and wine, biscuits and coffee were suggested, and questions were crowded on him, while he, poor fellow, wistfully gazed at the oft-directed pile of foreign letters on the side-table, and in pure desperation became too fatigued to go down to luncheon.
When the others returned, he was standing on the rug, curling his moustaches. There was a glow of colour on his hollow cheek, and his eyes danced; he put out his hand, and catching Albinia's with boyish playfulness, he squeezed it triumphantly, with the words, 'Albinia, she's a brick!'
They went their several ways, Fred to rest, Maurice to make an appointment for him with the doctor, and Albinia to Genevieve, whom Mr. Kendal regarded like his son's widow, forgetting that the attachment had been neither sanctioned nor returned. He could not rest without seeing her, and delivering that last message, but he was glad to have the way prepared by his wife, and proposed to call for her when his law business should be over.
Albinia sent in her card, and asked whether Miss Durant were at liberty. Genevieve came hurrying to her with outstretched hands: 'Dear Mrs. Kendal, this is kind!' and led her to the back drawing-room, where they were with one impulse enfolded in each other's tearful embrace.
'Oh! madame, how much you have suffered!'
'You know all?' said Albinia.
'O no, very little. My aunt knows little of Bayford now, and her sight is too weak for much writing.'
Genevieve pushed back her hair; she looked ill and heavy-eyed, with the extinguished air that sorrow gave her. Gilbert had distressed, perplexed her, and driven her from home, but what could be remembered, save the warm affection he had lavished on her, and the pain she had inflicted? Uneasiness and sorrow, necessarily unavowed, had preyed on the poor girl for weeks in secret; and even now she hardly presumed to give way, relief, almost luxury, as it was to be pressed in those kind arms, and suffered to weep freely for the champion of her younger days. When she had heard how he had thought of her to the last, her emotion grew less controllable; and Albinia was touched by the idea that there had all along been a stifled preference. Embellished as Gilbert now was, she could not but wish to believe that his affection had not been wasted; and his constancy might well be touching in one of the heroes of the six hundred. At least, Genevieve had a most earnest and loving appetite for every detail, and though the afternoon was nearly gone, neither felt as if half an hour had passed when admittance was asked for Mr. Kendal.
It was a trying moment, but Genevieve was too simple, genuine, and grateful to pause in selfish embarrassment. Had she toyed with Gilbert's affection, she could not have met his father with such maidenly modesty, and sweet sympathy and respect in her blushing cheek and downcast, tearful eyes.
He took her hand, speaking in the kindest tone of his mellow voice: 'My dear, Mrs. Kendal has told you what brings us here, and how much we feel for and with you.'
'So kind in you,' said Genevieve, faltering.
'Poor child, she has suffered grievously for want of fuller tidings,' said Albinia; 'she has been keeping her sorrow pent up all this time.'
'She has acted, as she has done throughout, most consistently,' said Mr. Kendal. 'My dear, though it was inexpedient to show my sentiments, I always respected my son for having placed his affections so worthily, and though circumstances were unfortunately adverse, I cannot thank you enough for your course of action and the influence you exercised.'
'I never did,' murmured Genevieve.
'Not perhaps consciously; but unswerving rectitude of conduct is one of the strongest earthly influences. He was sensible of it. He bade me tell you that whenever higher and better thoughts came to him, you were connected with them; and when to his surprise, poor boy, he found that he was thought to have distinguished himself, his first thought was that it might be a step to your esteem. He desired me to thank you for all that you have been to him, to entreat you to pardon the annoyance of which he was the occasion, and to beg you to wear this for his sake, if you could think of his presumption with forgiveness and toleration. Those were his words; but I trust you do not retain displeasure, for though, perhaps, foolishly and obtrusively expressed, it was sincere and lasting affection.'
'Oh, sir!' exclaimed Genevieve, 'do not speak thus! What can I feel save that it will be my tenderest and deepest pride to have been so regarded. Oh! that I could thank him! but,' clasping her hands together, 'I cannot even thank you.'
'The best way to gratify us,' he said, 'will be always to remember that you have a home at Willow Lawn, and a daughter's place in our hearts. Think of me like a father, Genevieve;' and he kissed her drooping forehead.
'Oh! Mr. Kendal, this is goodness.'
He turned to Albinia to suggest, 'It must be intolerable to be here at present. Speak to Mrs. Rainsforth, let us take her home, if it be but for a week.'
Leaving him to make the proposition to Genevieve, Albinia gained admittance to the other drawing-room, which she found all over little children, and their mother looking unequal to dispensing with their deputy. She said she had feared Miss Durant was looking ill, and had something weighing on her spirits, though she was always so cheerful and helpful, but baby had not been well, and Mr. Rainsforth was not at all strong, and her views had evidently taken no wider range.
Albinia began to think her proposal cruel, and prefaced it by a few words on the state of the case. The little bit of romance touched the kind heart. Mrs. Rainsforth was shocked to think of the grief the governess must have suffered in secret while aiding to bear her burdens, and was resolved on letting her have this respite, going eagerly to assure her that she could well be spared; baby was better, and papa was better, and the children would be good.
But Genevieve knew too well how necessary she was, and had been telling Mr. Kendal of the poor little mother's anxieties with her many delicate children, and her husband's failing health. She could not leave them with a safe conscience; and she would not show how she longed after quiet, the country, and her aunt. She stood firm, and Albinia could not say that she was not right. Mrs. Rainsforth was distressed, though much relieved, and was only pacified by the engagement that Miss Durant should, when it was practicable, spend a long holiday with her friends.
'At home!' said Mr. Kendal, and the responsive look of mournful gratitude from beneath the black dewy eyelashes dispelled all marvel at his son's enduring attachment.
He was wonderfully patient when Mrs. Rainsforth could not be content without Mrs. Kendal's maternal and medical opinion of the baby, on the road to and from the nursery consulting her on all the Mediterranean climates, and telling her what each doctor had said of Mr. Rainsforth's lungs, in the course of which Miss Durant and her romance were put as entirely out of the little lady's mind as if she had never existed.
The next day the Kendals set their faces homewards, leaving Maurice till the surgeon's work should be done, and Fred, as the aunts fondly hoped, to be their nursling.
But, behold! Sunday and Monday Colonel Fred spent in bed, smiling incessantly; Tuesday and Wednesday on the sofa; Thursday in going about London; Friday he was off to Liverpool; Saturday had sailed for Canada.
Albinia was coming nearer to the home that was pulling her by the heart-strings. Hadminster was past, and she had heard the welcome wards, 'All well,' from the servant who brought the carriage; but how much more there was to know than Sophy's detailed letters could convey—Sophy, whose sincerity, though one of the most trustworthy things in the world, was never quite to be relied on as to her own health or Maurice's conduct.
At the gate there was a little chestnut curled being in a short black frock, struggling to pull the heavy gate open with her plump arms, and standing for one moment with her back to it, screaming 'Mamma! Papa!' then jumping and clapping her hands in ecstasy and oblivion that the swing of the gate might demolish her small person between it and the horse. But there was no time for fright. Sophy caught her and secured the gate together; and the first glimpse assured Albinia that the hard gloom was absent. And there was Maurice, leaning against the iron rail of the hall steps; but he hardly moved, and his face was so strangely white and set, that Albinia caught him in her arms, crying, 'Are you well, my boy? Sophy, is he well?'
'Quite well,' said Sophy; but the boy had wriggled himself loose, stood but for an instant to receive his father's kiss, and had hold of the sword. The long cavalry sabre was almost as tall as himself, and he stood with both arms clasped round it; but no sooner did he feel their eyes upon him, than he turned about and ran upstairs.
It was not gracious, but they excused it; they had their little Albinia comfortably and childishly happy, as yet without those troublesome Kendal feelings that always demonstrated themselves in some perverse manner.
And Sophy stood among them—that brighter, better Sophy who had so long been obscured, happy to have them at home; talking and asking questions eagerly about the journey, and describing the kindness of the Dusautoys and the goodness of the children.
'Have you heard from Lucy?' asked Mr. Kendal, as Albinia went in pursuit of her little boy.
'Is there no letter from him?'
'Not for you, papa.'
'What? Did he write to his uncle?'
'No, papa—he wrote to me and to Mr. Pettilove. Cannot he be stopped, papa? Can he do any harm? Mr. Dusautoy and Mr. Pettilove think he can.'
'You mean that he wishes to question the will? You may be quite secure, my dear. Nothing can be more safe.'
'Oh, papa! I am so very glad. Not to be able to hinder him was so dreadful, when he wanted to pit Lucy and me against you. I could never have looked at you. I should always have felt that you had something to forgive me.'
'I could not well have confounded you with Algernon, my dear,' said Mr. Kendal. 'What did Pettilove mean? Do you know?'
'Not exactly; something about grandpapa's old settlement; which frightened the Vicar, though Mrs. Dusautoy said that it was only that he fancied nobody could do anything right without his help. Mr. Dusautoy is more angry with Algernon than I thought he could be with anybody.'
'No one but Algernon would have ever thought of it,' said Mr. Kendal. 'I am sorry he has molested you, my dear. Have you any objection to let me see his letter?'
'I kept it for you, papa, and a copy of my answer. I thought though I am not of age, perhaps my saying I would have nothing to do with it might do some good.'
Algernon magniloquently condoled with his sister-in-law on the injustice from which she and her sister had suffered, in consequence of the adverse influence which surrounded her brother, and generously informed her that she had a champion to defeat the machinations against their rights. He had little doubt of the futility of the document, and had written to the legal adviser of the late Mr. Meadows to inquire whether the will of that gentleman did not bar any power on the part of his grandson to dispose of the property. She might rely on him not to rest until she should be put in possession of the estate, unless it should prove to have been her grandfathers intention, in case of the present melancholy occurrence, that the elder sister should be the sole inheritrix, and he congratulated her on having such a protector, since, under the unfortunate circumstances, the sisters would have had no one to uphold their cause against their natural guardian.
Sophy's answer was—
'I prefer my natural guardian to any other whatever. I shall for my part owe you no thanks for attempting to frustrate my dear brother's wishes, and to raise an unbecoming dissension. I desire that no use of my name may be made, and you may rest assured that I should find nothing so difficult to forgive as any such interference in my behalf.
'Yours truly, 'SOPHIA KENDAL.'
'Certainly,' said Mr. Kendal, 'no family ill-will is complete unless money matters be brought in to aggravate it.'
'Do you think I did right, and spoke strongly enough, papa?'
'Quite strongly enough,' said Mr. Kendal, suppressing a smile. 'I hope you wrote kindly to Lucy at the same time.'
'One could not help that, papa; but I did say a great deal about the outrageous impropriety of raising the question, because I thought Algernon might be ashamed.'
'Riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt,' said Mr. Kendal. 'Your grandfather's acquisitions have brought us little but evil hitherto, and now I fear that our dear Gilbert's endeavour to break the net which bound us into that system of iniquity and oppression, may cause alienation from poor Lucy. Sophy, you must allow no apparent coldness or neglect on her part to keep you from writing often and affectionately.'
Maurice here came down with his mother, and as soon as there was a moment's pause, laid hold of the first book he met with, and began:—
'I do not see the justness of the analogy to which Onuphrio refers, but there are many parts of that vision on which I should wish to hear the explanations of Philalethes.'
All broke out in amazement, 'Why, Maurice, has Mrs. Dusautoy been making a scholar of you?'
'Oh! Maurice, was this your secret?' cried Sophy.
He had hidden his face in his mother's lap, and when she raised it struggled to keep it down, and she felt him sobbing and panting for breath. Mr. Kendal stroked his hair, and they tried to soothe him, but he started up abruptly.
'I don't mean ever to be a plague again! So I did it. But there— when Ulick said it would be a comfort, you are all going to cry again, papa and all, and that's worse!' and stamping his foot passionately, he would have rushed out of the room, but was held fast in his father's arms, and indeed tears were flowing fast from eyes that his brother's death had left dry.
'My child! my dear child!' said Mr. Kendal, 'it is comfort. No one can rule you as by God's grace you can rule yourself, and your endeavours to do this are the greatest blessing I can ask.'
One more kiss from his mother, and she let him go. He did not know how to deal with emotion in himself, and hated the sight of it in others; so that it was better to let him burst away from them, while with one voice they admired, rejoiced, and interrogated Sophy.
'I know now,' she said, the rosy glow mantling in her cheek; 'it must have been Mr. O'More.'
'Ah! has he been with you?' said her father.
'Only once,' said Sophy, her colour deepening; 'but Maurice has been in a great hurry every day to go to him, and I saw there was some secret. One day, Susan asked me to prevent Master Maurice from teaching baby such ugly words, that she could not sleep—not bad words, but she thought they were Latin. So I watched, and I heard Maurice singing out some of the legend of Hiawatha, and insisting on poor little Awkey telling him what m-i-s-h-e-n-a-h-m-a, spelt. Poor little Awk stared, as well she might, and obediently made the utmost efforts to say after him, Mishenahma, king of fishes, but he was terribly discomposed at getting nothing but Niffey-ninny, king of fithes. I went to her rescue, and asked what they were about; but Maurice thundered down on me all the Delawares and Mohawks, and the Choctaws and Cameches; and baby squeaked after him as well as she could, till I fairly stopped my ears. I thought Ulick must be reading the legend to him. Now I see he must have been teaching him to read it.'
'Can it be possible?' said Mr. Kendal. 'He could not read words of five letters without spelling.'
'He always could do much more when he pleased than when he did not please,' said Albinia. 'I believe the impulse to use his understanding was all that was wanting, and I am very glad the impulse came from such a motive.'
Mr. Kendal ordained that Maurice's reward should be learning Latin from himself, a perilous trial; but it proved that Mr. Kendal was really a good teacher for a child of spirit and courage, and Maurice had early come to the age when boys do better with man than with woman. He liked the honour and the awe of papa's tutorship, and learnt so well, that his father never believed in his past dunceship; but over studies that he did not deem sufficiently masculine, he could be as troublesome as ever, his attention absent, and his restlessness most wearisome. To an ordinary eye, he was little changed; but his mother felt that the great victory of the will had been gained, and that his self was endeavouring to get the better of the spirit of insubordination and mischief. Night after night she found him sleeping with the Balaklava sword by his side, and his hand clasped over it; and he always crept out of the way of Crimean news, though that he gathered up the facts was plain when he committed his sovereign to Ulick, with a request that it might be devoted to the comforts preparing to be sent to the 25th Lancers.
Ulick wished him to consult his mother, but this he repelled. He could not endure the sight of a tear in her eye, and she could not restrain them when that chord was touched. It was a propensity she much disliked, the more because she thought it looked like affectation beside Sophy, whose feelings never took that course, but the more ill-timed the tears, the more they would come, at the most common-place condolence or remote allusion. It was the effect of the long strain on her powers, and the severe shock coming suddenly after so much pressure and fatigue; moreover, her habits had been so long disorganized that her time seemed blank, and she could not rouse herself from a feeling of languor and depression. Then Gilbert had been always on her mind, whether at home or absent; and it did not seem at first as if she had enough to fill up time or thoughts—she absolutely found herself doing nothing, because there was nothing she cared to do.
Mr. Kendal's first object was the fulfilment of Gilbert's wishes; but Albinia soon felt how much easier it is for women and boys to make schemes, than for men to bring them to effect, and how rash it is hastily to condemn those who tolerate abuses.
The whole was carefully looked over with a surveyor, and it was only then understood how complicated were the tenures, and how varied the covenants of the numerous small tenements which old Mr. Meadows had amassed. It was not possible to be free of the legal difficulties under at least a year, and plans of drainage might be impeded for want of other people's consent. Even if all had been smooth, the sacrifice of income, by destroying Tibb's Alley, and reducing the number of cottages, would be considerable. Meantime, the inspection had brought to light worse iniquities and greater wretchedness than Mr. Kendal had imagined, and his eagerness to set to work was tenfold. His table was heaped with sanitary reports, and his fits of abstraction were over the components of bad air or builder's estimates.
It only depended on Ulick to have resumed his intimacy at Willow Lawn; but the habit once broken was not resumed. He was often there, but never without invitation; and he was not always to be had. He had less leisure, he was senior clerk, and the junior was dull and untrained; and he often had work to do far into the evening. He looked bright and well, as though possessed of a sense of being valuable in his own place, more conducive to happiness than even congeniality of employment; and Sophy, though now and then disappointed at his non-appearance, always had a good reason for it, and continued to justify Mr. Dusautoy's boast that the air of the hill had made another woman of her.
Visiting cards had, of course, come in numbers to Willow Lawn, but Albinia seemed to have caught her husband's aversions, and it would be dangerous to say how long it was before she lashed herself into setting off for a round of calls.
Nothing surprised her more than Miss Goldsmith's reception. Conscious of her neglect, she expected the stiff manner to be more formal than ever; but the welcome was almost warm, and there was something caressing in her fears that Miss Kendal would be tired. Mr. Goldsmith was not quite well, there were threatenings of gout, and his sister had persuaded him to visit the relations at Bristol next week; everything might safely be trusted to young More, and therewith came such praise of his steadiness and ability, that Albinia did not know which way to look when all was ascribed to Mr. Kendal's great kindness to him.
It was too palpable to be altogether pleasant. Sophia Kendal was heiress enough to be a very desirable connexion for the bank. Albinia was afraid she should see through the lady's graciousness, and took her leave in haste; but Sophy only said, 'Do you remember, mamma, when the Goldsmiths thought we unsettled him?'
Before Albinia had disarmed her reply of the irony on the tip of her tongue, the omnibus came lumbering round the corner, and a voice proceeded from the rear, the door flew open, and there was a rapid exit.
Face and voice, light step, and gay bearing, all were Fred—the empty sleeve, the sole resemblance to the shattered convalescent of a few weeks back.
'There, Albinia! I said you should see her first. You haven't got any change, have you?' the last being addressed either to Albinia, the omnibus conductor, or a lady, who made a tender of two shillings, while Albinia ordered the luggage on to Willow Lawn, though something was faintly said about the inn.
'And there!' cried Fred, with an emphatic twist of his moustache, 'isn't she all I ever told you?'
'The last thing was a brick,' said Albinia, laughing, as she looked at the smiling, confiding, animated face, not the less pleasant for a French Canadian grace that recalled Genevieve.
'The right article for building a hut, I hope,' she said, merrily.
'But how and when could you have come?'
'This morning, from Liverpool. We did not mean to storm you in this manner; we meant to have settled ourselves at the inn, and walked down; Emily was very particular about it.'
'But you see, when he saw you, he forgot all my lectures!' said Emily, taking his welcome for granted.
'Very proper of him! But, Fred, I don't quite believe it yet. How long is it since we parted?'
'Six weeks; just enough to go to Canada and back, with a fortnight in the middle to spare.'
'And pray how long has Mrs. Fred existed?'
'Three weeks and two days;' and turning half round to give her the benefit of his words, 'it was on purely philanthropic principles, because I could not tie my own necktie.'
'Now could I,' said Emily pleadingly to Sophy—'now could I let him go back again alone, when he came so helpless, and looking so dreadfully ill?'
'And what are you going to do?' asked Albinia. 'You can't join again.'
'Join! why not? Here's a hand for a horse, and an arm for a wife, and the rest will be done much better for me than ever it was before.'
'But with her? and at Sebastopol!'
'That's the very thing'' cried the colonel, again turning about. 'Nothing will serve her but to show how a backwoodsman's daughter can live in a hut.'
'And what will the general say?'
'The general,' cried Emily, 'will endure me better as a fact than as a prospect; and we will teach him that a lady is not all made of nerves and of fancies! See what he will say if we let him into our paradise!'
Fred brightened, though Albinia's inquiry had for a moment taken him a little aback. The one being whom he dreaded was General Ferrars, for whom he cared a thousand times more than for his own elder brother, and he was soon speculating, with his usual insouciance, as to how his announcement might have been received by his lordship, and whether the aunts would look at them as they went through London.
Mr. Kendal met them at the gate, amazed at the avalanche of luggage, but well pleased, for he had grown very fond of Fred, and had been very anxious about him, thinking him broken and enfeebled for life, and hardly expecting him to return from his mad expedition. He was slow to believe his eyes and ears when he beheld a hale, handsome, vigorous man, full of life and activity, but his welcome and congratulations were of the warmest. He could far better stand a sudden inroad than if he had had to meditate for a week on entertaining the bride. Not that the bride wanted entertainment, except waiting upon her husband, who let himself be many degrees less handy than at Malta, for the pleasure of her attentions.
Perhaps the person least gratified was Maurice; for the child shrank with shy reverence from him whom his brother had saved, and would as soon have thought of making a plaything of Gilbert's sword as of having fun with the survivor. The sight of such a merry man was a shock, and he abruptly repelled all attempts at playing with him, and kept apart with a big book on a chair before him, a Kendalism for which he amply compensated when familiarity had diminished his awe.
Mr. Kendal, though little disposed to exert himself to talk, liked to watch his wife reviving into animation, and Sophy taking a full share in the glee with which Emily enjoyed turning the laugh against the good-natured soldier. In the midst of their flush of joy there was a tender consideration about the young couple, such as to hinder their tone from jarring. Indeed, it was less consideration than fellow-feeling, for Gilbert Kendal had become enshrined in the depths of Fred's heart; while to Emily the visit was well-nigh a pilgrimage. All her hero-worship was directed to the youth who had guarded her soldier's life, nursed him in his sickness, and, as he averred, inspired him with serious thoughts. Poor, failing, timid, penitent Gilbert was to her a very St. George, and every relic of him was viewed with reverence; she composed a countenance for him from his father's fine features, and fitted the fragments of his history into an ideal, till Sophy, after being surprised and gratified, began to view Gilbert through a like halo, and to rank him with his twin brother. Friendship was a new and agreeable phase of life to Sophy, who found a suitable companion in such an open-hearted person, simpler in nature, and fresher than herself, free from English commonplaces, though older and of more standing. She expanded and brightened wonderfully, and Emily, imagining her a female Gilbert, was devoted to her, and thought her a marvel of learning, depth, goodness, and humility, the more striking for her tinge of grave pensiveness.
'Why, Albinia,' said the colonel, 'didn't I hear that it was your handsome daughter who is married?'
'Yes, poor Lucy was always called our pretty one.'
'More admired than her sister? Why, she never could have had a countenance!'
'Yes,' said Albinia, highly gratified by the opinion of such a connoisseur. 'I always told Winifred that Sophy was the beauty, but she has only lately had health or animation to set her off'
'I declare, when we overtook you in the street, she looked a perfect Spanish princess, in her black robes and great shady hat. You ought always to keep her in black. Ha! Emily, what are you smiling at?'
His wife looked up into his face with mischievous shyness in her eyes, as if she wanted him to say what would be a liberty in her. Somebody else had overtaken the ladies nearly at the same moment, and Albinia exulted in perceiving that the embellishment had been observed by others besides herself. She did not look so severe but that Fred was encouraged to repeat, 'Only lately had health or animation? When Irish winds blow this way, I fancy—But what will the aunts say?'
'They are not Sophy's aunts, whatever they are to you.'
'What will Kendal say? which is more to the purpose.'
'Oh! he saw it first; he will be delighted; but you must not say a word to him, for it can't come to anything just now.'
Albinia was thus confirmed in her anticipations, and the bridal pair, only wishing everybody to be as happy as themselves, took the matter up with such vivid interest and amusement, that she was rather afraid of a manifestation such as to shock either her husband or the parties themselves; but Fred was too much of a gentleman, and Emily too considerate, for anything perilously marked. Only she thought Emily need not have been so decided in making room for Ulick next to Sophy, when they were all looking out at the young moon at the conservatory-door that evening.
And then Emily took her husband's arm, and insisted on going down the garden to be introduced to English nightingales; and though she was told they never had come there in the memory of man, she was bent on doing as she would be done by, and drew him alone the silvered paths, among the black shadows of the trees; and Ulick asked Sophy if she wished to go too. She looked as if she should like it very much; he fetched a couple of cloaks ont of the hall, put her into one, and ran after Mrs. Ferrars with the other.
'Well!' thought Albinia, as she stood at the conservatory-door, 'how much more boldness and tact some people have than others! If I had lived a hundred years, I should not have managed it so well!'
'What's become of them?' said Mr. Kendal, as she went back to the drawing-room.
'Gone to listen for nightingales!'
'Nightingales! How could you let them go into the river-fog?'
'Emily was bent upon it; she is too much of a bride not to have her way.'
'Umph! I wonder Sophy was so foolish.'
They came back in a quarter of an hour. No nightingales; and Fred was indulging in reminiscences of bull-frogs; the two ladies were rapturous on the effect of the moonbeams in the ripple of the waters, and the soft furry white mist rising over the meadows. Ulick shivered, and leant over the fire to breathe a drier air, bantering the ladies for their admiration, and declaring that Mrs. Ferrars had taken the moan of an imprisoned house-dog for the nightingale, which he disdainfully imitated with buzz, zizz, and guggle, assuring her she had had no loss; but he looked rather white and chilled. Sophy whispered something to her papa, who rang the bell, and ordered in wine and hot water.
'There, Emily,' said Albinia, when he had taken his leave; 'what shall we say to your nightingales, if Mr. O'More catches his ague again?'
'Oh, there are moments when people don't catch agues,' said Fred. 'He would be a poor fellow to catch an ague after all that, though, by-the-bye, it is not a place to go to at night without a cigar.'
Albinia was on thorns, lest Sophy should be offended; but though her cheeks lighted up, and she was certainly aware of some part of their meaning, either she did not believe in the possibility of any one bantering her, or else the assumption was more agreeable than the presumption was disagreeable. She endured with droll puzzled dignity, when Fred teased her anxiety the next day to know whether Mr. O'More had felt any ill effects; and it really appeared as if she liked him better for what might have been expected to be a dire affront; but then he was a man whose manner enabled to do and say whatever he pleased.
Emily never durst enter on the subject with her, but had more than one confidential little gossip with Albinia, and repeatedly declared that she hoped to be in England when 'it' took place. Indeed that week's visit made them all so intimate, that it was not easy to believe how recent was the acquaintance.
The aunts had been so much disappointed at Fred's desertion, so much discomfited at his recovery contrary to all predictions, and so much annoyed at his marriage, that it took all their kindness, and his Crimean fame, to make them invite him and his colonial wife to the Family Office, to be present at the royal distribution of medals. However, the good ladies did their duty; and Emily and Sophy parted with promises of letters.
The beginning of the correspondence was as full a description of the presentation of the medals as could be given by a person who only saw one figure wherever she went, and to whom the great incident of the day was, that the gracious and kindhearted Queen had herself fastened the left-handed colonel's medal as well as Emily could have done it herself! There was another medal, with two clasps, that came to Bayford, and which was looked at in pensive but not unhappy silence. 'You shall have it some day, Maurice, but not now,' said Mr. Kendal, and all felt that now meant his own lifetime. It was placed where Gilbert would well have liked to see it, beside his brother Edmund's watch.
Emily made Mrs. Annesley and Miss Ferrars more fond of her in three days, than eleven years had made them of Winifred; too fond, indeed, for they fell to preaching to Fred upon the horrors of Sebastopol, till they persuaded him that he was a selfish wretch, and brought him to decree that she should stay with them during his absence. But, as Emily observed, that was not what she left home for; she demolished his arguments with a small amount of playing at petulance, and triumphantly departed for the East, leaving Aunt Mary crying over her as a predestined victim.
The last thing Fred did before sailing, was to send Albinia a letter from his brother, that she might see 'how very kind and cordial Belraven was,' besides something that concerned her more nearly.
Lord Belraven was civil when it cost him nothing, and had lately regarded his inconvenient younger brother with favour, as bringing him distinction, and having gained two steps without purchase, removed, too, by his present rank, and the pension for his wound, from being likely to become chargeable to him; so he had written such brotherly congratulations, that good honest Fred was quite affected. He was even discursive enough to mention some connexions of the young man who had been with Fred in the Crimea, a Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy, a very good sort of fellow, who gave excellent dinners, and was a pleasant yachting companion. His wife was said to be very pretty and pleasing, but she had arrived at Genoa very unwell, had been since confined, and was not yet able to see any one. It was said to be the effect of her distress for the death of her brother, and the estrangement from her family, who had behaved very ill about his property. Had not Albinia Ferrars married into that family?
Albinia knew enough of her noble relative to be aware that good dinners and obsequiousness were the way to his esteem, and Algernon's was the sort of arrogance that would stoop to adore a coronet. All this was nothing, however, to the idea of Lucy, ill in that strange place, with no one to care for her but her hard master. Albinia sometimes thought of going to find her out at Genoa; but this was too utterly wild and impossible, and nothing could be done but to write letters of affectionate inquiry, enclosing them to Lord Belraven.
Algernon's answer was solemn, and as brief as he could make anything. He was astonished that the event bad escaped the notice of the circle at Bayford, since he believed it had appeared in all the principal European newspapers; and his time had been so fully occupied, that he had imagined that intimation sufficient, since it was evident from the tone of the recent correspondence, that the family of Bayford were inclined to drop future intercourse. He was obliged for the inquiries for Lucy, and was happy to say she was recovering favourably, though the late unfortunate events, and the agitation caused by letters from home, had affected her so seriously, that they had been detained at Genoa for nearly four months to his great inconvenience, instead of pushing on to Florence and Rome. It had been some compensation that he had become extremely intimate with that most agreeable and superior person, Lord Belraven, who had consented to become sponsor to his son.
Lucy wrote to Albinia. Poor thing, the letter was the most childishly expressed, and the least childishly felt, she had ever written; its whole aspect was weak and wobegone; yet there was less self-pity, and more endeavour to make the best of it, than before. She had the dearest little baby in the world; but he was very delicate, and she wished mamma would send out an English nurse, for she could not bear that Italian woman—her black eyes looked so fierce, and she was sure it was not safe to have those immense pins in her hair. Expense was nothing, but she should never be happy till she had an Englishwoman about him, especially now that she was getting better, and Algernon would want her to come out again with him. Dear Algernon, he had lost the Easter at Rome for her sake, but perhaps it was a good thing, for he was often out in Lord Belraven's yacht, and she could be quiet with baby. She did wish baby to have had her dear brothers' names, but Algernon would not consent. Next Tuesday he was to be christened; and then followed a string of mighty names, long enough for a Spanish princess, beginning with Belraven!!!
Lucy Dusautoy's dreary condition in the midst of all that wealth could give, was a contrast to Emily Ferrars' buoyant delight in the burrow which was her first married home, and proved a paradise to many a stray officer, aye, maybe, to Lieutenant-General Sir William Ferrars himself. Her letters were charming, especially a detail of Fred meeting Bryan O'More coming out of the trenches, grim, hungry, and tired, having recently kicked a newly alighted shell down from the parapet, with the cool words, 'Be off with you, you ugly baste you;' of his wolfish appetite after having been long reduced to simple rations, though he kept a curly black lamb loose about his hut, because he hadn't the heart to kill it; and it served him for bed if not for board, all his rugs and blankets having flown off in the hurricane, or been given to the wounded; he had been quite affronted at the suggestion that a Galway pig was as well lodged as himself—it was an insult to any respectable Irish animal!
Albinia sent Maurice to summon Ulick to enjoy the letter in store for him. He looked grave and embarrassed, and did not light up as usual at Bryan's praises. He said that his aunt, who had written to him on business, had given a bad account of Mr. Goldsmith, but Albinia hardly thought this accounted for his preoccupation, and was considering how to probe it, when her brother Maurice opened the door. 'Ulick O'More! that's right; the very man I was in search of!'
'How's Winifred, Maurice?'
'Getting on wonderfully well. I really think she is going to make a start, after all! and she is in such spirits herself.'
'And the boy?'
'Oh, a thumping great fellow! I promise you he'll be a match for your Maurice.'
'I do believe it is to reward Winifred for sparing you in the spring when we wanted you so much! Come, sit down, and wait for Edmund.'
'No; I've not a moment to stay. I'm to meet Bury again at Woodside at six o'clock, he drove me there, and I walked on, looking in at your lodgings by the way, Ulick.'
'I'm not there now. I am keeping guard at the bank.'
'So they told me. Well, I hope your guard is not too strict for you to come over to Fairmead on Sunday; we want you to do our boy the kindness to be his godfather!'
Sophy blushed with approving gratitude.
'I don't consider that it will be a sinecure—he squalls in such a characteristic manner that I am convinced he will rival his cousin here in all amiable and amenable qualities; so I consider it particularly desirable that he should be well provided with great disciplinarians.'
'You certainly could not find any one more accomplished in teaching dunces to read,' said Albinia.
'When their mammas have taught them already!' added Ulick, laughing. 'Thank you; but you know I can't sleep out; Hyder Ali and I are responsible for a big chest of sovereigns, and all the rest of it.'
'Nor could I lodge you at present; so we are agreed. My proposition is that you should drive my sister over on Sunday morning. My wife is wearying for a sight of her; and she has not been at Fairmead on a Sunday since she left it, eh, Albinia?'
'I suppose for such a purpose it is not wrong to use the horse,' she said, her eyes sparkling.
'And you might put my friend Maurice between you, if you can't go out pleasuring without him.'
'I scorn you, sir; Maurice is as good as gold; I shall leave him at home, I think, to prove that I can—'
'That's the reward of merit!' exclaimed Sophy.
'She expects my children to corrupt him!' quoth Mr. Ferrars.
'For shame, Maurice; that's on purpose to make me bring him. Well, we'll see what papa says, and if he thinks the new black horse strong enough, or to be trusted with Mr. O'More.'
'I only wish 'twas a jaunting car!' cried Ulick.
'And what's the boy's name to be? Not Belraven, I conclude, like my unfortunate grandson—Maurice, I hope.'
'No; the precedent of his namesake would be too dangerous. I believe he is to be Edmund Ulick. Don't take it as too personal, Ulick, for it was the name of our mutual connexion.'
'I take the personal part though, Maurice; and thank you, said Albinia, and Mr. Ferrars looked more happy and joyous than any time since his wife's health had begun to fail. Always cheerful, and almost always taking matters up in the most lively point of view, it was only by comparison that want of spirits in him could be detected; and it was chiefly by the vanishing of a certain careworn, anxious expression about his eyes, and by the ring of his merry laugh, that Albinia knew that he thought better of his wife's state than for the last five or six years.
Albinia and Ulick drove off at six o'clock on a lovely summer Sunday morning, with Maurice between them in a royal state of felicity. That long fresh drive, past summer hay-fields sleeping in their silver bath of dew, and villages tardily awakening to the well-earned Sunday rest, was not the least pleasant part of the day; and yet it was completely happy, not even clouded by one outbreak of Master Maurice. Luckily for him, Mary had a small class, who absorbed her superabundant love of rule; and little Alby was a fair-haired, apple-cheeked maiden of five, who awoke both admiration and chivalry, and managed to coquet with him and Ulick both at once, so that Willie had no disrespect to his sisters to resent.
He was exemplary at church, well-behaved at dinner, and so little on his mamma's mind, that she had a delightful renewal of her acquaintance with the Sunday-school, and a leisurable gossip with Mrs. Reid and the two Miss Reids, collectively and individually; but the best of all was a long quiet tete-a-tete with Winifred.
After the evening service, Mr. Ferrars himself carried his newly-christened boy back to the mother, and paused that his sister might come with him, and they might feel like the old times, when the three had been alone together.
'Yes,' said Winifred, when he had left them, 'it is very pretty playing at it; but one cannot be the same.'
'Nor would one exactly wish it,' said Albinia; 'though I think you are going to be more the same.'
'Perhaps,' said Winifred; 'the worst of being ill is that it does wear one's husband so! When he came in, and tried to make me fancy we were gone back to Willie's time, I could not help thinking how different you both looked.'
'Well, so much the better and more respectable,' said Albinia. 'You know I always wanted to grow old; I don't want to stop short like your sister Anne, who looks as much the child of the house as ever.
'I wish you had as few cares as Anne. Look; I declare that's a grey hair!'
'I know. I like it; now Sophy is growing young, and I'm growing old, it is all correct.'
'Old, indeed!' ejaculated Winifred, looking at her fair fresh complexion and bright features; 'don't try for that, when even Edmund is not grey.'
'Yes he is,' said Albinia, gravely; 'Malta sowed many white threads in his black head, and worry about those buildings has brought more.'
'Worry; I'm very sorry to hear of it.'
'Yes; the tenures are so troublesome, and everybody is so cantankerous. If he wanted to set up some pernicious manufacture, it could not be worse! The Osbornes, after having lived with Tibb's Alley close to them all their lives, object to the almshouses! Mr. Baron wont have the new drains carried through his little strip of land. The Town Council think we are going to poison the water; and Pettilove, and everybody else who owns a wretched tenement, that we shall increase the wants of their tenants, and lower their rents. If it be carried through, it will be by that sheer force in going his own way that Edmund can exert when he chooses.'
'And he will?'
'O, yes, no fear of that; he goes on, avoiding seeing or hearing what he has not to act upon; but worse than all are the people themselves; Tibb's Alley all has notice to quit, but none of them can be got rid of till Martinmas, and some not till Lady-day, and the beer-house people are in such a rage! The turn-out of the public-houses come and roar at our gate on Saturday nights; and they write up things on the wall against him! and one day they threw over into the garden what little Awkey called a poor dear dead pussy. I believe they tell them all sorts of absurd things about his tyranny; poor creatures.'
'Can't you get it stopped?'
'Edmund wont summon any one, because he thinks it would do more harm than good. He says it will pass off; but it grieves him more than he shows: he thinks he could once have made himself more popular: but I don't know, it is a horrid set.'
'I thought you said he was in good spirits.'
'And so he is: he never gets depressed and unwilling to be spoken to. He is ready to take interest in everything; and always so busy! When I remember how he never seemed to be obliged to attend to anything, I laugh at the contrast; and yet he goes about it all so gravely and slowly, that it never seems like a change.'
In this and other home talk nearly an hour had passed, when Mr. Ferrars returned. 'Are you come to tell me to go?' said Albinia.
'Not particularly,' he said, in a tone that made her laugh.
'No, no,' said Winifred. 'I want a great deal more of her. Where have you been?'
'I have been to see old Wilks; Ulick walked down with me. By-the-bye, Albinia, what nonsense has Fred's wife been talking to his brother?'
'Emily does not talk nonsense!' fired up Albinia, colouring, nevertheless.
'The worse for her, then! However, it seems Bryan has disturbed this poor fellow very much, by congratulating him on his prospects at Willow Lawn.'
'Oh! that is what made him so distant and cautious, is it?' laughed Albinia. 'I think Mrs. Emily might as well not have betrayed it.'
'Betrayed! What could have passed?'
'Oh! Emily and Fred saw it as plain as I did. Why, it does not do credit to your discernment, Maurice; papa found it out long ago, and told me.'
'Yes, that he did, and did not mind the notion at all; rather liked it, in fact.'
'Well!' said Mr. Ferrars, in a different tone, 'it is a very queer business! I certainly did not think the lad showed any symptoms. He said he had heard gossip about it before, and had tried to be careful; his aunt talked to him once, but, as he said, it would be nothing but the rankest treason to think of such a thing, on the terms on which he is treated.'
'Ay, that's it!' said Albinia; 'he acts most perfectly.'
'Perfectly indeed, if that were acting,' said Mr. Ferrars.
'And what made him speak to you?' asked Winifred.
'He wanted to consult me. He said it was very hard on him, for all the pleasure he had came from his intercourse with Willow Lawn; and he could not bear to keep at a distance, because it looked as if he bad not forgotten the old folly about the caricature; but he was afraid of the report coming to your ears or Mr. Kendal's, because you would think it so wrong and shameful an abuse of your kindness.'
'And that's his whole concern?'
'So he told me.'
'And what advice did you give him?'
'I told him Bayford was bent on gossip, and no one heeded it less than my respected brother and sister.'
'That was famous of you, Maurice. I was afraid you would have put it upon his honour and the state of his own heart.'
'Sooth to say, I did not think his heart appeared very ticklish.'
'Oh! Maurice, Maurice! But you've not been there to see the hot fits and the cold fits! It is a very fine thermometer whether he says Sophy or Miss Kendal.'
'And you say Edmund perceived this?'
'Much you would trust my unassisted 'cuteness! I tell you he did, and that it will make him happier than anything.'
'Very well; then my advice will have done no harm. I did not think there had been so much self-control in an Irishman.'
'Had he not better say, so much blindness in the rector of Fairmead?' laughed Albinia.
'And pray what course is the affair to take?'
'The present, I suppose. Some catastrophe will occur at last to prove to him that we honour him, and don't view it as outrageous presumption; and then—oh! there can be no doubt that he will have a share in the bank; and Sophy may buy toleration for his round O. After all, he has the best of it as to ancestry, and we Kendals need not turn up our noses at banking.'
'I think he will be too proud to address her, except on equality as to money matters.'
'Pride is sometimes quelled and love free,' said Albinia. 'No, no; content yourself with having given the best advice in the world, with your eyes fast shut!'
And Albinia went home in high spirits.
Not long afterwards, Ulick O'More was summoned to Bristol, where his uncle had become suddenly worse; but he had only reached Hadminster when a telegraph met him with the news of Mr. Goldsmith's death, and orders to remain at his post.
He came to the Kendals in the evening in great grief; he had really come to love and esteem his uncle, and he was very unhappy at having lost the chance of a reconciliation for his mother. As her chief friend and confidant, he knew that she regarded the alienation of her own family as the punishment of her disobedient marriage, and that his own appointment had been valued chiefly as an opening towards fraternal feeling, and reproached himself for not having made more direct efforts to induce his uncle to enter into personal intercourse with her.
'If I had only ventured it before he went to Bristol,' he said; 'I was a fool not to have done so; and there, the Goldsmiths detest the very name of us! Why could they not have telegraphed for me? I might have heard what would have done my mother's heart good for the rest of her life. I am sure my poor uncle wanted to ease his mind!'
'May he not have sent some communication direct to her?'
'I trust he did! I have long thought he only kept her aloof from habit, and felt kindly towards her all the time.'
'And never could persuade himself to make a move towards her until too late,' said Albinia.
'Yes. Nothing comes home to one more than the words, "Agree with thine adversary quickly whiles thou art in the way with him." If once one comes to think there's creditable pride in holding out, there's no end to it, or else too much end.'
'Mr. Goldsmith was persevering in the example his father had set him,' said Mr. Kendal.
'Ay! my mother never blamed either, and I'm afraid, if the truth were told, my father was hot enough too, though it would all have been bygones with him long ago, if they would have let it. But I was thinking just then of my own foolishness last winter, when I would not grant you it was pride, Mrs. Kendal, for fear I should have to repent of it.'
'What has brought you to see that it was?' asked she.
'One comes to a better mind when the fit is off,' he said. 'I hope I will not be as bad next time.'
'I hope we shall never give you a next time,' said Albinia; 'for neither party is comfortable, perched on a high horse.'
'And you see,' continued Ulick, 'it is hard for us to give up our pride, because it is the only thing we've got of our own, and has been meat, drink, and clothing to us for many a year.'
'So no wonder you make the most of it.'
'True; I think a very high born and very rich man might be humble,' said Ulick, so meditatively that they laughed; but Sophy said,
'No, that is not a paradox; the real difficulty is not in willingly yielding, but in taking what we cannot help.'
'Well,' said Ulick, 'I hope it is not pride not to intend working under Andrew Goldsmith.'
'Do you consider that as your fate?' asked Albinia.
'Never my fate,' said Ulick, quickly; 'hardly even my alternative, for he would like to put up a notice, "No Irish need apply." We had enough of each other last winter.'
'And do you suppose,' said Mr. Kendal, 'that Mr. Goldsmith has left your position exactly the same?'
'I've no reason to think otherwise. I refused all connexion with the bank if it was to interfere with my name. I don't think it unlikely that he may have left me a small compliment in the way of shares; but if so, I shall sell them, and make them keep me at Oxford. I'm not too old yet!'
'Then the work of these four years is wasted,' said Mr. Kendal, gravely.
'No, indeed,' cried Ulick; 'not if it takes me where I've always longed to be! Or, if not, I flatter myself I'm accountant enough to be an agent in my own country.'
'Anything to get away from here,' said Albinia, with a shade of asperity, provoked by the spirit of enterprise in his voice.
'After all, it is a bit of a place,' said Ulick; 'and the office parlour is not just a paradise! Then 'tis all on such a narrow scale, too little to absorb one, and too much to let one do anything else; I see how larger transactions might be engrossing, but this is mere cramping and worrying; I know I could do better for my family in the end than by what I can screw out of my salary now; and if it is no longer to give my poor mother a sense of expiation, as she calls it, why, then, the cage-door is open.'
His eyes glittered, and Sophy exclaimed, 'Yes; and now the training is over, it has made you fitter to fly.'
'It has,' he said; 'and I'm thankful for it. Without being here, I would never have learnt application—nor some better things, I hope.'
They scarcely saw him again till after the funeral, when late in the day he came into the drawing-room, and saying that his aunt was pretty well and composed, he knelt down on the floor with the little Awk, and silently built up a tower with her wooden bricks. His hand trembled nervously at first, but gradually steadied as the elevation became critical; and a smile of interest lighted his face as he became absorbed in raising the structure to the last brick, holding back the eager child with one hand lest she should overthrow it. Completion, triumph, a shock, a downfall!
'Well,' cried the elder Albinia, unable to submit to the suspense.
'Telle est la vie,' answered Ulick, smiling sadly as he passed his hand over his brow.
'It's too bad of him,' broke out Mrs. Kendal.
'I thought you were prepared,' said Sophy, severely, disappointed to see him so much discomposed.
'How should I be prepared,' said he, petulantly, 'for the whole concern, house, and bank, and all the rest of it?'
'Left to you?' was the cry.
'Every bit of it, and an annuity apiece charged on it to my mother and aunt for their lives! My aunt told me how it came about. It was all that fellow Andrew's fault.'
'Or misfortune,' murmured Albinia.
'My poor uncle had made a will in Andrew's favour long before my time, and at Bristol he wanted to make some arrangement for my mother and for me; but it seems Mr. Andrew took exception at me—would not promise to continue me on, nor to give me a share in the business, and at last my uncle was so much disgusted, that be sent for a lawyer and cut Andrew out of his will altogether. My aunt says he went on asking for me, and it was Andrew's fault that they wrote instead of telegraphing. You can't think what kind messages he sent to me;' and Ulick's eyes filled with tears. 'My poor uncle, away from home, and with that selfish fellow.'
'Did he send any message to your mother?'
'Yes! he told my aunt to write to her that he was sorry they had been strangers so long, and that—I'd been like a son to him. I'm sure I wish I had been. I dare say he would have let me if I had not flown out about my O. I could have saved changing it without making such an intolerable row, and then he might have died more at peace with the world.'
'At peace with you at least he did.'
'I trust so. But if I could only have been by his side, and felt myself a comfort, and thanked him with all my heart. Maybe he would have listened to me, and not have sown ill-will between Andrew and me, by giving neither what we would like.'
'Do you expect us to be sorry?'
'Nay, I came to be helped out of my ingratitude and discontent at finding the cage-door shut, and myself chained to the oar; for as things are left, I could not get it off my hands without giving up my mother's interests and my aunt's. Besides, my poor uncle left me an entreaty to keep things up creditably like himself, and do justice by the bank. It is as if, poor man, it was an idol that he had been high priest to, and wanted me to be the same—ay, and sacrifice too.'
'Nay, there are two ways of working, two kinds of sacrifice; and besides, you are still working for your mother.'
'So I am, but without the hope she had before. To be sure, it would be affluence at home, or would be if she could have it in her own hands. Little Redmond shall have the best of educations! And we must mind there is something in advance by the time Bryan wants to purchase his company.'
Albinia asked how his aunt liked the arrangement. It seemed that Andrew had offended her nearly as much as her brother, and that she was clinging to Ulick as her great comfort and support; he did not like to stay long away from her, but he had rushed down to Willow Lawn to avoid the jealous congratulations of the cousinhood.
'You will hardly keep from glad people,' said Albinia. 'You must shut yourself up if you cannot be congratulated. How rejoiced Mr. Dusautoy will be!'
'Whatever is, is best,' sighed Ulick. 'I shall mind less when the first is past! I must go and entertain all these people at dinner!' and he groaned. 'Good evening. Heigh ho! I wonder if our Banshee will think me worth keening for?'
'I hope she will have no occasion yet,' said Albinia, as he shut the door; 'but she will be a very foolish Banshee if she does not, for she will hardly find such another O'More! Well, Sophy, my dear.'
'We should have missed him,' said Sophy, as grave as a judge.
Albinia's heart beat high with the hope that Ulick would soon perceive sufficient consolation for remaining at Bayford, but of course he could make no demonstration while Miss Goldsmith continued with him. She made herself very dependent on him, and he devoted his evenings to her solace. He had few leisure moments, for the settlement of his affairs occupied him, and full attention was most important to establish confidence at this critical juncture, when it might be feared that his youth, his nation, and Andrew Goldsmith's murmurs might tell against him. Mr. Kendal set the example of putting all his summer rents into his hands, and used his influence to inspire trust; and fortunately the world had become so much accustomed to transacting affairs with him, that the country business seemed by no means inclined to fall away. Still there was much hard work and some perplexity, the Bristol connexion made themselves troublesome, and the ordinary business was the heavier from the clerks being both so young and inexperienced that he was obliged to exercise close supervision. It was guessed, too, that he was not happy about the effect of the influx of wealth at home, and that he feared it would only add to the number of horses and debts.
He soon looked terribly fagged and harassed, and owned that he envied Mr. Hope, who had just received the promise of a district church, in course of building under Colonel Bury's auspices, about four miles from Fairmead. To work his way through the University and take Holy Orders had been Ulick's ambition; he would gladly have endured privation for such an object, and it did seem hard that such aspirations should be so absolutely frustrated, and himself forced into the stream of uncongenial, unintellectual toil, in so obscure and uninviting a sphere. The resignation of all lingering hope of escape, and the effort to be contented, cost him more than even his original breaking in; and Mr. Kendal one day found him sitting in his little office parlour unable to think or to speak under a terrible visitation of his autumnal tormentor, brow-ague.
This made Mr. Kendal take to serious expostulation. It was impossible to go on in this way; why did he not send for a brother to help him?
Ulick could not restrain a smile at the fruitlessness of thinking of assistance of this kind from his elder brothers, and as to little Redmond, the only younger one still to be disposed of, he hoped to do better things for him.
'Then send for a sister.'
He hoped he might bring Rose over when his aunt was gone, but he could not shut those two up together at any price.
Then,' said Mr. Kendal, rather angrily, 'get an experienced, trustworthy clerk, so as to be able to go from home, or give yourself some relaxation.'
'Yes, I inquired about such a person, but there's the salary; and where would be the chance of getting Redmond to school?'
'I think your father might see to that.'
Ulick had no answer to make to this. The legacy to Mrs. O'More might nearly as well have been thrown into the sea.
'Well,' said Mr. Kendal, walking about the room, 'why don't you keep a horse?'
'As a less costly animal than brother, sister, or clerk?' said Ulick, laughing.
'Your health will prove more costly than all the rest if you do not take care.'
'Well, my aunt told me it would be respectable and promote confidence if I lived like a gentleman and kept my horse. I'll see about it,' said Ulick, in a more persuadable tone.
The seeing about it resulted in the arrival of a genuine product of county Galway, a long-legged, raw-boned hunter, with a wild, frightened eye, quivering, suspicious-looking ears, and an ill-omened name compounded of kill and of kick, which Maurice alone endeavoured to pronounce; also an outside car, very nearly as good as new. This last exceeded Ulick's commission, but it had been such a bargain, that Connel had not been able to resist it, indeed it cost more in coming over than the original price; but Ulick nearly danced round it, promising Mrs. and Miss Kendal that when new cushioned and new painted they would find it beat everything.
He was not quite so envious of Mr. Hope when he devoted the early morning hours to Killye-kickye, as the incorrect world called his steed, and, if the truth must be told, he first began to realize the advantages of wealth, when he set his name down among the subscribers to the hounds.
Nor was this the only subscription to which he was glad to set his name; there were others where Mr. Dusautoy wanted funds, and Mr. Kendal's difficulties were lessened by having another lord of the soil on his side. Some exchanges brought land enough within their power to make drainage feasible, and Ulick started the idea that it would be better to locate the almshouses at the top of the hill, on the site of Madame Belmarche's old house, than to place them where Tibb's Alley at present was, close to the river, and far from church.
Mr. Kendal's plans were unpopular, and two or three untoward circumstances combined to lead to his being regarded as a tyrant. He could not do things gently, and had not a conciliating manner. Had he been more free spoken, real oppression would have been better endured than benefits against people's will. He interfered to prevent some Sunday trading; and some of the Tibb's Alley tenants who ought to have gone at midsummer, chose to stay on and set him at defiance till they had to be forcibly ejected; whereupon Ulick O'More showed that he was not thoroughly Anglicised by demanding if, under such circumstances, it was safe to keep the window shutters unclosed at night, Mr. Kendal's head was such a beautiful mark under the lamp.
If not a mark for a pistol, he was one for the disaffected blackguard papers, which made up a pathetic case of a helpless widow with her bed taken away from under her, ending with certain vague denunciations which were read with roars of applause at the last beer shop which could not be cleared till Christmas, while the closing of the rest sent herds thither; and papers were nightly read; representing the Nabob expelling the industrious from the beloved cottages of their ancestors, by turns, to swell his own overgrown garden, or to found a convent, whence, as a disguised Jesuit, he meant to convert all Bayford to popery.
As Albinia wrote to Genevieve, they were in a state of siege, for only in the middle of the day did Mr. Kendal allow the womankind to venture out without an escort, the evening was disturbed by howlings at the gate, and all sorts of petty acts of spite were committed in the garden, such as injuring trees, stealing fruit, and carrying off the children's rabbits. Let that be as it might, Genevieve owned herself glad to come to hospitable Willow Lawn, though sorry for the cause.
Poor Mr. Rainsforth, after vainly striving to recruit his health at Torquay during the vacation, had been sentenced to give up his profession, and ordered to Madeira, and Genevieve was upon the world again.
The Kendals claimed her promise of a long visit, or rather that she should come home, and take time and choice in making any fresh engagement, nay, that she should not even inquire for a situation till after Christmas. And after staying to the last moment when she could help the Rainsforths, she proposed to spend a day or two with her aunt at the convent, and then come to her friends at Bayford.
Mr. Kendal drove his ladies to fetch her. He had lately indulged the household with a large comfortable open carriage with two horses, a rival to Mr. O'More's notable car, where he used to drive in an easy lounging fashion on one side, with Hyder Ali to balance him on the other.
This was a grand shopping day, an endless business, and as the autumn day began to close in, even Mr. Kendal's model patience was nearly exhausted before they called for their little friend. There was something very sweet and appropriate in her appearance; her dress, without presuming to share their mourning, did not insult it by gay colouring; it was a quiet dark violet and white checked silk, a black mantle, and black velvet bonnet with a few green leaves to the lilac flowers, and the face when at rest was softly pensive, but ready to respond with cheerful smiles and grateful looks. She had become more English, and had dropped much foreign accent and idiom, but without losing her characteristic grace and power of disembarrassing those to whom she spoke, and in a few moments even Sophy had lost all sense of meeting under awkward or melancholy circumstances, and was talking eagerly to her dear old sympathizing friend.
There was a great exchange of tidings; Genevieve had much to tell of her dear Rainsforths, the many vicissitudes of anxiety in which she had shared, and of the children's ways of taking the parting; and of the dear little Fanny who seemed to have carried away so large a piece of her susceptible heart, that Sophy could not help breaking out, 'Well, I do think it is very hard to make yourself a bit of a mother's heart, only to have it torn out again.'
Albinia smiled, and said, 'After all, Sophy, happiness in this world is in such loving, only we don't find it out till the rent has been made.'
'And some people can get fond of anything,' said Sophy.
'I'm sure,' said Genevieve, 'every one is so kind to me I can't help it.'
'I was not blaming you,' said Sophy. 'People are the better for it, but I cannot like except where I esteem, and that does not often come.'
'Oh! don't you think so?' cried Genevieve.
'I don't mean moderate approval. That may extend far, and with it good-will, but there is a deep, concentrated feeling which I don't believe those who like every one can ever have, and that is life.'
Perhaps the deepening twilight favoured the utterance of her feelings, for, as they were descending a hill, she said, 'Mamma, that was the place where Maurice was brought back to me.'
She had before passed it in silence, but in the dark she was not afraid of betraying the expression that the thrill of exquisite recollection brought to her countenance; and leaning back in her corner indulged in listening to the narration, as Albinia, unaware of the special point of the episode, related Maurice's desperate enterprise, going on to dilate on the benefit of having Mr. O'More at the bank rather than Andrew Goldsmith.
'Ah!' said Genevieve, 'it is he who wants to pull down our dear old house. I shall quarrel with him.'
'Genevieve making common cause with the obstructives of Bayford, as if he had not enemies enough!'
'What's that light in the sky?' exclaimed Sophy, starting up to speak to her father on the driving seat.
'A bonfire,' said Mr. Kendal. 'If we had remembered that it was the 5th of November, we would not have stayed out so late.' The next moment he drew up the horses, exclaiming, 'Mr. Hope, will you have a lift?'
Mr. Hope, rather to the ladies' surprise, took the vacant place beside Sophy, instead of climbing up to the box. He had been to see his intended parish, and was an enviable man, for he was as proud of it as if it had been an intended wife, and Albinia, who knew it for a slice of dreary heath, was entertained with his raptures. Church, schools, and parsonage, each in their way were perfection or at least promised to be, and he had never been so much elevated or so communicative. The speechless little curate seemed to have vanished.
The road, as may be remembered, did not run parallel with the curve of the river, but cutting straight across, entered Bayford over the hill, passing a small open bit of waste land, where stood a few cottages, the outskirts of the town.
Suddenly coming from an overshadowed lane upon this common, a glare of light flashed on them, showing them each other's faces, and casting the shadow of the carriage into full relief. The horses shied violently, and they beheld an enormous bonfire raised on a little knoll about twenty yards in front of them, surrounded by a dense crowd, making every species of hideous noise.
Mr. Kendal checked the horses' start, and Mr. Hope sprang to their heads. They were young and scarcely trustworthy, their restless movements showed alarm, and it was impossible to turn them without both disturbing the crowd and giving them a fuller view of the object of their terror. Mr. Kendal came down, and reconnoitring for a moment, said, 'You had better get out while we try to lead them round, we will go home by Squash Lane.'
Just then a brilliant glow of white flame, and a tremendous roar of applause, put the horses in such an agony, that they would have been too much for Mr. Hope, had not Mr. Kendal started to his assistance, and a man standing by likewise caught the rein. He was a respectable carpenter who lived on the heath, and touching his hat as he recognised them, said, 'Sir, if the ladies would come into my house, and you too, sir. The people are going on in an odd sort of way, and Mrs. Kendal would be frightened. I'll take care of the carriage.'
Mr. Kendal went to the side of the carriage, and asked the ladies if they were alarmed.
'O no!' answered Albinia, 'it is great fun;' and as the horses fidgeted again, 'it feels like a review.'
'You had better get out,' he said; 'I must try to back the horses till I can turn them without running over any one. Will you go into the house? You did not expect to find Bayford so riotous,' he added with a smile, as he assisted Genevieve out.
'You are not going to get up again,' said Albinia, catching hold of him, and in her dread of his committing himself to the mercy of the horses, returning unmeaning thanks to the carpenter's urgent requests that she would take refuge in his house.
In fact, the scene was new and entertaining, and on the farther side of the road, sheltered by the carriage, the party were entirely apart from the throng, which was too much absorbed to notice them, only a few heads turning at the rattling of the harness, and the ladies were amused at the bright flame, and the dark figures glancing in and out of the light, the shouts of delight and the merry faces.
'There's Guy Fawkes,' cried Albinia, as a procession of scarecrows were home on chairs amid thunders of acclamation; 'but whom have they besides? Here are some new characters.'
'Most lugubrious looking,' said Genevieve. 'I cannot make out the shouts.'
'It is the Nabob,' said Mr. Kendal. 'Perhaps you do not know that is my alias. This is my execution.'
The carpenter implored them to come in, and Mr. Hope added his entreaties, but Mr. Kendal would not leave the horses, and the ladies would not leave him; and they all stood still while his effigy was paraded round the knoll, the mark of every squib, the object of every invective that the rabble could roar out at the top of their voices. Jesuits and Papists; Englishmen treated like blackamoor slaves in the Indies; honest folk driven out of house and home; such was the burthen of the cries that assailed the grim representative carried aloft, while the real man stood unmoved as a statue, his tall, powerful figure unstirred, his long driving-whip resting against his shoulder without betraying the slightest motion, neither firm lip nor steady eye changing. Genevieve, with tears in her eyes, exclaimed, 'Oh! this is madness! Will no one tell them how wicked they are?'
'Never mind, my dear,' said Mr. Kendal, pressing the hand that in her fervour she had laid on his arm, 'they will come to their senses in time. No, Mr. Hope, I beg you will not interfere, they are in no state for it; they have done no harm as yet.'
'I wonder what the police are about?' cried Albinia, indignantly.
'They are too few to do any good,' said Mr. Kendal. 'It may be better that they are not incensing the mob. It will all go off quietly when this explosion has relieved their feelings.'
They felt as if there were something grand in this perfectly dispassionate reception of the outrage, and they stood awed and silenced, Sophy leaning on him.
'It will soon be over now,' he said, 'they are poking up the name to receive me.'
'Hark! what's that?'
The mob came swaying back, and a rich voice swelled above all the din, 'Boys, boys, is it burning your friends you are? Then, for the first time, Mr. Kendal started, and muttered, 'foolish lad! is he here?'
Confused cries rose again, but the other voice gained the mastery.
'So you call that undertaker-looking figure there Mr. Kendal. Small credit to your taste. You want to burn him. What for?'
'For being a Nabob and a tyrant,' was the shout.
'Much you know of Nabobs! No; I'll tell you what it's for. It is because his son got his death fighting for his queen and his country a year ago, and on his death-bed bade him do his best to drive the fever from your doors, and shelter you and save you from the Union in your old age. Is that a thing to burn him for?'
'We want no Irish papists here!' shouted a blackguard voice.
'Serve him with the same sauce.'
'I never was a papist,' was the indignant reply. 'No more was he; but I've said that the place shan't disgrace itself, and—'
'I'm with you,' shouted another above all the howls of the mob. 'Gilbert Kendal was as kind-hearted a chap as ever lived, and I'll see no wrong done to his father.'
Tremendous uproar ensued; then the well-known tones pealed out again, 'I've given my word to save his likeness. Come on, boys. Hurrah for Kendal!'
The war-cry was echoed by a body of voices, there was a furious melee and a charge towards the Nabob, who rocked and toppled down, while stragglers came pressed backwards on all sides.
'Here, Hope, take care of them. Stay with them,' said Mr. Kendal, putting the whip into the curate's hand, and striding towards the nucleus of the fray, through the throng who were driven backwards.
'O'More,' he called, 'what's all this? Give over! Are you mad?' and then catching up, and setting on his legs, a little fallen boy, 'Go home; get out of all this mischief. What are you doing? Take home that child,' to a gaping girl with a baby. 'O'More, I say, I'll commit every man of you if you don't give over.'
He was recognised, and those who had little appetite for the skirmish gave back from him; but the more reckless and daring small fry began shrieking, 'The Nabob!' and letting off crackers and squibs, through which he advanced upon the knot of positive combatants, who were exchanging blows over his prostrate image in front of the fire.
One he caught by the collar, in the act of aiming a blow. The fist was instantly levelled at him, with the cry, 'You rascal! what do you mean by it?' But the fierce struggle failed to shake off the powerful grasp; and at the command, 'Don't be such a fool!' Ulick burst out, 'Murder! 'tis himself!' and in the surprise was dragged some paces before recovering his perceptions.
The cry of police had at the same instant produced a universal scattering, and five policemen, coming on the ground, found scarcely any one to separate or capture. Mr. Kendal relaxed his hold, saying, 'You are my prisoner.'
'I didn't think you'd been so strong,' said Ulick, shaking himself, and looking bewildered. 'Where's the effigy?'
'What's that to you. Come away, like a rational being.'
'Ha! what's that?' as a frightful, agonizing shriek rent the air, and a pillar of flame came rushing across the now open space. It was a child, one mass of fire, and flying, in its anguish, from all who would have seized it. One moment of horror, and it had vanished! The next, Genevieve's voice was heard crying, 'Bring me something more to press on it.' She had contrived to cross its path with her large carriage rug, and was kneeling over it, forcing down the rug to smother the flames. Mr. Hope brought her a shawl, and they all stood round in silent awe.
'The poor child will be stifled,' said Albinia, kneeling down to help to unfold its face.
Poor little face, distorted with terror and agony! One of the policemen recognised it as the child of the public-house in Tibb's Alley. There were moans, but no one dared to uncover the limbs; and the policeman and Mr. Hope proposed carrying it at once to Mr. Bowles, and then home. Mr. Kendal desired that it should be laid on the seat of the carriage, which he would drive gently to the doctor's. Genevieve got in to watch over the poor little boy, and the others walked on by the side, passed the battle-field, now entirely deserted, too much shocked for aught but conjectures on his injuries, and the cause of the misfortune. Either he must have been pushed in on the fire by the runaway rabble, or have trod upon some of the scattered combustibles.
Mr. Bowles desired that the child should be taken home at once, promising to follow instantly; so at the entrance of Tibb's Alley, the carriage stopped, and Mr. Hope lifted out the poor little wailing bundle. Albinia was following, but a decided prohibition from her husband checked her. 'I would not have either of you go to that house on any account. Tell them to send to us for whatever they want, but that is enough.'
There was no gainsaying such a command, but as they reached the door of Willow Lawn, Mr. Kendal exclaimed, 'Where is Miss Durant?'
'She is gone with the little boy,' said Sophy. 'She told me she hoped you would not be displeased. Mr. Hope will take care of her, and she will soon come in.'
'Every one is mad to-night!' cried Mr. Kendal. 'In such a place as that! I will go for her directly.'
'Pray don't,' said Albinia, 'no one could speak a rude word to her on such an errand. She and Mr. Hope will be much more secure from incivility without you.'
'I believe it may be so, but I wish—'
His wish was broken off, for his little Albinia, screaming, 'Papa! papa!' clung to him in a transport of caresses, which Maurice explained by saying, 'Little Awkey has been crying, mamma, she thought they were burning papa in the bonnie.'
'Papa not burnt!' cried little Awkey, patting his cheeks, and laying her head on his shoulders alternately, as he held her to his breast. 'Naughty people wanted to make a fire, but they sha'n't burn papa or poor Guy Fawkes, or any of the good men.'
'And where were you, Ulick?' cried Maurice, in an imperious, injured way. 'You said once, perhaps you would take me to see the fire; and I went up to the bank, and they said you were gone, and it was glaring so in the sky, and I did so want to go.'
'I am glad you stayed away, my man,' said Albinia.
'I did want to go,' said Maurice; 'and I ran up to the top of the street, and there was Mr. Tritton; and he said if I liked a lark, he would take care of me; but—' and there he stopped short, and the colour came into his face.
Albinia threw her arm round him, and kissed him, saying, 'My trusty boy! and so you came home?'
'Yes; and there was Awkey crying about their burning papa, and she would not go up to the garret-window to see the fire, nor do anything.'
'Why, what is the sword here for?' exclaimed Sophy, finding it on the stairs.
'Because then Awkey was not so afraid.'
For once, Maurice had been exemplary, keeping from the tempting uproar, and devoting himself to soothing his little sister. It was worth all the vexations of the evening; but he went on to ask if Ulick could not take him now, if the fire was not out yet,
'Not exactly,' said Mr. Kendal, drily.
'I beg your pardon, Mr. Kendal,' said Ulick, who had apparently only just resumed the use of speech; 'don't know what I may have done when you collared me, but I'd no more notion of its being you than the Lord Lieutenant.'
'And pray what took you there?' asked Mr. Kendal. 'The surprise was quite as great to me.'
'Why,' said Ulick, 'one of the little lads of my Sunday class gave me a hint the other day that those brutes meant to have a pretty go to-night, and that Jackson was getting up a figure of the Nabob to break their spite upon. So I told my little fellow to give a hint to a few more of the right sort, and we'd go up together and not let the rascals have their own way.'
'Upon my word, I wonder what the Vicar will say to the use you make of his Sunday-school. Pretty work for his model teacher.'
'What better could the boys be taught than to fight for the good cause? Why, no one is a scratch the worse for it. And do you think we could sit by and see our best friend used worse than a dog?'
'Why not give notice to the police?'
'And would you have me hinder a fight?' cried Ulick, in the most Irish of all his voices.
'Oh! very well, if you like—only there will be a run on the bank to-morrow.'
'What has Ulick been doing, Sophy?' asked Maurice.
'Only what you would have done had you been older, Maurice,' she said, in a hurt voice; 'defending papa's effigy, for which he does not seem to meet with much gratitude.'
'Well,' said Mr. Kendal, who all the time had had more gratitude in his eyes than on his tongue, 'if the burning had had the same consequence as melting one's waxen effigy was thought to have, it might have been worth while to interfere, but I should have thought it more dignified in a respectable substantial householder to let those foolish fellows have their swing.'
'More dignified maybe,' smiled Albinia, 'but less like an O'More.'
'No, you are not going,' said Mr. Kendal; 'I shall not release my prisoner just yet.'
'You carried off all the honour of the day,' said Ulick. 'I had no notion you had such an arm. Why, you swung me round like a tom-cat, or—' and he exemplified the exploit upon Maurice, and was well buffeted.
'That's a little Irish blarney to propitiate me,' laughed Mr. Kendal, who certainly was in unusual spirits after his execution and rescue by proxy, but you wont escape prison fare.'
'There's no doubt who was the heroine of the day,' added Sophy. 'How one envies her!'
'What! your little governess friend?' said Ulick. 'Yes; she did show superior wit, when the rest of the world stood gaping round.'
'It was admirable—just like Genevieve's tenderness and dexterity,' said Albinia. 'I dare say she is doing everything for the poor little fellow.'
'Yes, admirable,' said Mr. Kendal; 'but you all behaved very creditably, ladies.'
'Ay,' said Albinia; 'not to scream is what a man thinks the climax of excellence in a woman.'
'It is generally all that is required,' said Mr. Kendal. I don't know what I should have done if poor Lucy had been there.'
Thereupon the ladies went upstairs, Maurice following Sophy to extract a full account of the skirmish. The imp probably had an instinct that she would think more of what redounded to Ulick O'More's glory than of what would be edifying to his own infant mind. It was doubtful how long it would be before Guy Fawkes would arrive at his proper standing in the little Awk's opinion, after the honour of an auto-da-fe in company with papa.
Mr. Hope escorted Genevieve home, and was kept to dinner. They narrated that they had found the public-house open, and the bar full of noisy runaways.
The burns were dreadful, but the surgeon did not think they would be fatal, and the child had held Genevieve's hand throughout the dressing, and seemed so unwilling to part with her, that she had promised to come again the next day, and had been thanked gratefully. There seemed no positive want of comforts, and there was every hope that all would do well.
Genevieve looked pale after the scene she had gone through, and could not readily persuade herself to eat, still less rally her spirits to talk; but she managed to avoid observation at dinner-time, and afterwards a rest on the sofa restored her. She evidently felt, as she said, that this was coming home, and her exquisite gift of tact making her perceive that she was to be at ease and on an equality, she assumed her position without giving her friends the embarrassment of installing her, and Mr. Hope was in such a state of transparent admiration, that Albinia could not help two or three times noiselessly clapping her hands under the table, and secretly thanking the rioters and their tag-rag and bob-tail for having provided a home for little Genevieve Durant.
There was indeed a pang as she thought of Gilbert; but she believed that Genevieve's heart had never been really touched, and was still fresh and open. She thought she might make Mr. Kendal and Sophy equally magnanimous. Perhaps by that time Sophy would be too happy to have leisure to be hurt, and she had little fear but that Mr. Kendal's good sense would conquer his jealousy for his son, though it might cost him something.