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The Young Step-Mother
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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'Take care, Gilbert!' said Albinia, with a flash of her eye that he felt to his backbone.

'I don't mean it,' cried Gilbert, springing towards her in supplication. 'I've heard it said, that's all, and was as angry as you, but when a fellow is beside himself with misery at being driven away from all he loves—not a friend to help him—how can he keep from thinking all sorts of things?'

'I wonder what people dare to say it!' cried Albinia wrathfully; but he did not heed, he was picturing his own future misfortunes—toil— climate—fevers—choleras—Thugs—coups de soleil—genuine dread and repugnance working him up to positive agony.

'Gilbert,' said Albinia, 'this is trumpery self-torture! You know this is a mere farrago that you have conjured up. Your father would neither thrust you into danger, nor compel you to do anything to which you had a reasonable aversion. Go and be a man about it in one way or the other! Either accept or refuse, but don't make these childish lamentations. They are cowardly! I should be ashamed of little Maurice if he behaved so!'

'And you will not speak a word for me!'

'No! Speak for yourself!' and she left the room.

Days passed on, till she began to think that, after all, Gilbert preferred Calcutta, cholera, Thugs, and all, to facing his father; but at last, he must have taken heart from his extremity, for Mr. Kendal said, with less vexation than she had anticipated, 'So our plans are overthrown. Gilbert tells me he has an invincible dislike to Calcutta. Had you any such idea?'

'Not till your cousin's letter arrived. What did you say to him?'

'He was so much afraid of vexing me that I was obliged to encourage him to speak freely, and I found that he had always had a strong distaste to and dread of India. I told him I wished he had made me aware of it sooner, and desired to know what profession he really preferred. He spoke of Oxford and the Bar, and so I suppose it must be. I do not wonder that he wishes to follow his Traversham friends, and as they are a good set, I hope there may not be much temptation. I see you are not satisfied, Albinia, yet your wishes were one of my motives.'

'Thank you—once I should,' said Albinia; 'but, Edmund, I see how wrong it was to have concealed anything from you;' and thereupon she informed him of Gilbert's passion for Genevieve Durant, which astonished him greatly, though he took it far less seriously than she had expected, and was not displeased at having been kept in ignorance and spared the trouble of taking notice of it, and thus giving it importance.

'It will pass off,' he said. 'She has too much sense and principle to encourage him, and if you can get her out of Bayford for a few years he will be glad to have it forgotten.'

'Poor Genevieve! She must break up her grandmother's home after all!'

'It will be a great advantage to her. You used to say that it would be most desirable for her to see more of the world. Away from this place she might marry well.'

'Any one's son but yours,' said Albinia, smiling.

'The connexion would be worse here than anywhere else; but I was not thinking of any one in our rank of life. There are many superior men in trade with whom she might be very happy.'

'Poor child!' sighed Albinia. 'I cannot feel that it is fair that she should be banished for Gilbert's faults; and I am sorry for the school; you cannot think how much the tone was improving.'

'If it could be done without hurting her feelings, I should gladly give her a year at some superior finishing school, which might either qualify her for a governess, or enable her to make this one more profitable.'

'Oh! thank you!' cried Albinia; 'yet I doubt. However, her services would be quite equivalent in any school to the lessons she wants. I'll write to Mrs. Elwood—' and she was absorbed in the register-office in her brain, when Mr. Kendal continued—

'This is quite unexpected. I could not have supposed the boy so foolish! However, if you please, I will speak to him, tell him that I was unaware of his folly, and insist on his giving it up.'

'I should be very glad if you would.'

Gilbert was called, and the result was more satisfactory than Albinia thought that Genevieve deserved. His frenzy had tended to wear itself out, and he had been so dreadfully alarmed about India and his father, that in his relief, gratitude, and fear of being sent out, he was ready to promise anything. Before his father he could go into no rhapsodies, and could only be miserably confused.

'Personally,' said Mr. Kendal, 'it is creditable that you should be attracted by such estimable qualities, but these are not the sole consideration. Equality of station is almost as great a requisite as these for producing comfort or respectability, and nothing but your youth and ignorance could excuse your besetting any young woman with importunities which she had shown to be disagreeable to her.'

There was no outcry of despair, only a melancholy muttering. Then Mr. Kendal pronounced his decree in terms more explicit than those in which Albinia had exacted the promise. He said nothing about persecution, nor was he unreasonable enough to command an instant immolation of the passion; he only insisted that Gilbert should pay no marked attention, and attempt no unsanctioned or underhand communication. Unless he thought he had sufficient self-command to abstain, his father must take 'further measures.'

As if fearing that this must mean 'Kendal and Kendal,' he raised his head, and with a deep sigh undertook for his own self-command. Mr. Kendal laid his hand on his shoulder with kind pity, told him he was doing right, and that while he acted openly and obediently, he should always meet with sympathy and consideration.

Two difficult points remained—the disposing of the young people. Gilbert was still over young for the university, as well as very backward and ill-prepared, and the obstinate remains of the cough made his father unwilling to send him from home. And his presence made Genevieve's absence necessary.

The place had begun to loom in the distance. A former governess of Albinia's, who would have done almost anything to please her, had lately been left a widow, and established herself in a suburb of London, with a small party of pupils. She had just begun to feel the need of an additional teacher, and should gladly receive Genevieve, provided she fulfilled certain requisites, of which, luckily, French pronunciation stood the foremost. The terms were left to Albinia, who could scarcely believe her good fortune, and went in haste to discuss the matter with the Belmarches.

It almost consoled her for what she had been exceedingly ashamed to announce, the change of purpose with regard to Gilbert, which was a sentence of banishment to the object of his folly. Nothing pained her more than the great courtesy and kindness of the two old ladies to whom it was such a cruel stroke, they evidently felt for her, and appeared to catch at Mrs. Elwood's offer, and when Albinia proposed that her salary should be a share in the instructions of the masters, agreed that this was the very thing they had felt it their duty to provide for her, if they had been able to bring themselves to part with her.

'So,' said good Madame Belmarche, smiling sadly, 'you see it has been for the dear child's real good that our weakness has been conquered.'

Genevieve was written to, and consented to everything, and when Mr. Kendal took Gilbert away to visit an old friend, his wife called for Genevieve at the convent to bring her home. Albinia could not divest herself of some curiosity and excitement in driving up to the old-fashioned red brick house, with two tall wings projecting towards the street, and the front door in the centre between them, with steps down to it. She had not been without hopes of a parlour with a grille, or at least that a lay sister would open the door; but she saw nothing but a very ordinary-looking old maid-servant, and close behind her was Genevieve, with her little box, quite ready—no excuse for seeing anything or anybody else.

If Genevieve were sad at the proposal of leaving home and going among strangers, she took care to hide all that could pain Mrs. Kendal, and her cheerful French spirit really enjoyed the prospect of new scenes, and bounded with enterprise at the hope of a new life and fresh field of exertion.

'Perhaps, after all,' she said, smiling, 'they may make of me something really useful and valuable, and it will all be owing to you, dear madame. Drawing and Italian! When I can teach them, I shall be able to make grandmamma easy for life!'

Genevieve skipped out of the carriage and into her aunt's arms, as if alive only to the present delight of being at home again. It was a contrast to Sophy's dolorous visage. Poor Sophy! she was living in a perpetual strife with the outward tokens of sulkiness, forcing herself against the grain to make civil answers, and pretend to be interested when she felt wretched and morose. That Gilbert, after so many ravings, should have relinquished, from mere cowardice, that one hope of earning Genevieve by honourable exertion, had absolutely lowered her trust in the exalting power of love, and her sense of justice revolted against the decision that visited the follies of the guilty upon the innocent. She was yearning over her friend with all her heart, pained at the separation, and longing fervently to make some demonstration, but the greater her wish, the worse was her reserve. She spent all her money upon a beautiful book as a parting gift, and kept it beside her, missing occasion after occasion of presenting it, and falling at each into a perfect agony behind that impalpable, yet impassable, barrier of embarrassment.

It was not till the very last evening, when Genevieve had actually wished her good-bye and left the house, that she grew desperate. She hastily put on bonnet and cloak, and pursued Genevieve up the street, overtaking her at last, and causing her to look round close to her own door.

'My dear Miss Sophy,' cried Genevieve, 'what is the matter? You are quite overcome.'

'This book—' said Sophy—it was all she could say.

'Love—yes,' said Genevieve. 'Admiration—no.'

'You shall not say that,' cried Sophy. 'I have found what is really dignified and disinterested, and you must let me admire you, Jenny, it makes me comfortable.'

Genevieve smiled. 'I would not commit an egoism,' she said; but if the sense of admiration do you good, I wish it had a worthier cause.'

'There's no one to admire but you,' said Sophy. 'I think it very unfair to send you away, and though it is nobody's fault, I hate good sense and the way of the world!'

'Oh! do not talk so. I am only overwhelmed with wonder at the goodness I have experienced. If it had happened with any other family, oh! how differently I should have been judged! Oh! when I think of Mrs. Kendal, I am ready to weep with gratitude!'

'Yes, mamma is mamma, and not like any one else, but even she is obliged to be rational, and do the injustice, whatever she feels,' said Sophy.

'Oh! not injustice—kindness! I shall be able to earn more for grandmamma!'

'It is injustice!' said Sophy, 'not hers, perhaps, but of the world! It makes me so angry, to think that you—you should never do anything but wear yourself out in drudging over tiresome little children—'

'Little children are my brothers and sisters, as I never had any,' said Genevieve. 'Oh! I always loved them, they make a home wherever they are. I am thankful that my vocation is among them.'

In dread of a token from Gilbert, Genevieve would not notice it, but pursued, 'You must come in and rest—you must have my aunt's salts.'

'No—no—' said Sophy, 'not there—' as Genevieve would have taken her to the little parlour, but opening the door of the school-room, she sank breathless into a sitting position on the carpetless boards.

Genevieve shut the door, and kneeling down, found Sophy's arms thrown round her, pressing her almost to strangulation.

'Oh! I wanted to do it—I never could. wont you have the book, Genevieve? It is my keepsake—only I could not give it because—'

'Is it your keepsake, indeed, dear Miss Sophy?' said Genevieve. 'Oh! if it is yours—how I shall value it—but it is too beautiful—'

'Nothing is too beautiful for you, Genevieve,' said Sophy fervently.

'And it is your gift! But I am frightened—it must have cost—!' began Genevieve, still a little on her guard. 'Dear, dear Miss Sophy, forgive me if I do seem ungrateful, but indeed I ought to ask—if—if it is all your own gift?'

'Mine? yes!' said Sophy, on the borders of offence. 'I know what you mean, Genevieve, but you may trust me. I would not take you in.'

Genevieve was blushing intensely, but taking courage she bestowed a shower of ardent embraces and expressions of gratitude, mingled with excuses for her precaution. 'Oh! it was so very kind in Miss Sophy,' she said; 'it would be such a comfort to remember, she had feared she too was angry with her.'

'Angry? oh, no!' cried Sophy, her heart quite unlocked; 'but the more I loved and admired, the more I could not speak. And if they drive you to be a governess? If you had a situation like what we read of?'

'Perhaps I shall not,' said Genevieve, laughing. 'Every one has been so good to me hitherto! And then I am not reduced from anything grander. I shall always have the children, you know.'

'How I should hate them!' quoth Sophy.

'They are my pleasure. Besides I have always thought it a blessing that my business in life, though so humble, should be what may do direct good. If only I do not set them a bad example, or teach them any harm.'

'Not much danger of that,' said Sophy, smiling. 'Well, I can't believe it will be your lot all your life. You will find some one who will know how to love you.'

'No,' said Genevieve, 'I am not in a position for marriage—grandmamma has often told me so!'

'Things sometimes happen,' pursued Sophy. 'Mamma said if Gilbert had been older, or even if—if he had been in earnest and steady enough to work for you in India, then it might—And surely if Gilbert could care for you—people higher and deeper than he would like you better still.'

'Hush,' said Genevieve; 'they would only see the objections more strongly. No, do not put these things in my head. I know that unless a teacher hold her business as her mission, and put all other schemes out of her mind, she will work with an absent, distracted, half-hearted attention, and fail of the task that the good God has committed to her.'

'Then you would never even wish—'

'It would be seeking pomps and vanities to wish,' said Genevieve; 'a school-room is a good safe cloister, probably less dull than the convent. If I wish at all, it will be that I may be well shut up there, for I know that in spite of myself my manners are different from your English ones. I cannot make them otherwise, and that amuses people; and I cannot help liking to please, and so I become excited. I enjoy society so much that it is not safe for me! So don't be sorry, dear Sophy, it is a fit penance for the vanity that elated me too much that evening at Fairmead!'

Mademoiselle Belmarche was here attracted by the voices. Sophy started up from the ground, made some unintelligible excuse, and while Mademoiselle was confounded with admiration at the sight of the book, inflicted another boa-constrictor embrace, and hurried away.



CHAPTER XVII.



Planets hostile to the tender passion must have been in the ascendant, for the result of Captain Ferrars's pursuit of his brother to Italy was the wholesome certainty that his own slender portion was all he had to reckon upon. Before returning to Canada, he came to Bayford to pour out his troubles to his cousin, and to induce her, if he could induce no one else, to advise his immediate marriage. It was the first time he had been really engaged, and his affection had not only stood three months' absence, but had so much elevated his shatter-brained though frank and honest temperament, that Albinia conceived a high opinion of 'Emily,' and did her best to persuade him to be patient, and wait for promotion.

Sophy likewise approved of him this time, perhaps because he was so opposite a specimen of the genus lover from that presented by her brother. Gilbert had not been able to help enjoying himself while from home, but his spirits sank on his return; he lay about on the grass in doleful dejection, studied little but L. E. L., lost appetite, and reproachfully fondled his cough; but Albinia was now more compassionate than Sophy, whom she was obliged to rebuke for an unsisterly disregard toward his woes.

'I can't help it,' said Sophy; 'I can't believe in him now!'

'Yes, you ought to believe that he is really unhappy, and be more gentle and considerate with him.'

'If it had been earnest, he would have sacrificed himself instead of Genevieve.'

'Ah! Sophy, some day you will learn to make excuses for other people, and not be so intolerant.'

'I never make excuses.'

'Except for Maurice,' said Albinia. 'If you viewed other people as you do him, your judgments would be gentler.'

Sophy's conscientiousness, like her romance, was hard, high, and strict; but while she had as little mercy on herself as on others, and while there were some soft spots in her adamantine judgment, there was hope that these would spread, and, without lowering her tone, make her more merciful.

She corresponded constantly with Genevieve, who seemed very happily placed; Mrs. Elwood was delighted with her, and she with Mrs. Elwood; and her lively letters showed no signs of pining for home. Sophy felt as if it were a duty to her friend, to do what in her lay to prevent the two old ladies from being dull, and spent an hour with them every week, not herself contributing much to their amusement, but pleasing them by the attention, and hearing much that was very curious of their old-world recollections.

Ever since that unlucky penny-club-day, when she had declared that she hated poor people, she had been let alone on that subject; and though principle had made her use her needle in their behalf, shyness and reserve had kept her back from all intercourse with them; but in her wish to compensate for Genevieve's absence, she volunteered to take charge of her vacant Sunday-school class, and obtained leave to have the girls at home on the afternoons for an hour and a half. This was enough for one who worked as she did, making a conscience of every word, and toiling to prepare her lessons, writing out her questions beforehand, and begging for advice upon them.

'My dear,' said Albinia, 'you must alter this—you see this question does not grow out of the last answer.'

'Yes,' said Sophy, 'that must have been what puzzled them last Sunday: they want connexion.'

'Nothing like logic to teach one to be simple,' said Albinia.

'I can't see the use of all this trouble,' put in Lucy. 'Why can't you ask them just what comes into your head, as I always do?'

'Suppose mistakes came into my head.'

'Oh! they would not find it out if they did! I declare!—what's this—Persian? Are you going to teach them Persian?'

'No; it is Greek. You see it is a piece of a Psalm, a quotation rather different in the New Testament. I wrote it down to ask papa what it is in Hebrew.'

'By-the-bye, Sophy,' continued Lucy, 'how could you let Susan Price come to church with lace sleeves—absolute lace sleeves!'

'Had she?'

'There—you never see anything! Mamma, would not it be more sensible to keep their dress in order, than to go poking into Hebrew, which can't be of use to any one?'

There was more reason than might appear in what Lucy said: the girls of her class were more orderly, and fonder of her than Sophy's of the grave young lady whose earnestness oppressed them, and whose shyness looked dislike and pride. As to finding fault with their dress, she privately told Albinia that she could not commit such a discourtesy, and was answered that no one but Mrs. Dusautoy need interfere.

'I will go and ask Mrs. Dusautoy what she wishes,' said Albinia. 'I should be glad if she would modify Lucy's sumptuary laws. To fall foul of every trifle only makes the girls think of their, dress.'

Albinia found Mrs. Dusautoy busied in writing notes on mourning paper.

'Here is a note I had written to you,' she said. 'I am sending over to Hadminster to see if any of the curates can take the services to-morrow.'

Albinia looked at the note while Mrs. Dusautoy wrote on hurriedly. She read that there could be no daily services at present, the Vicar having been summoned to Paris by the sudden death of Mrs. Cavendish Dusautoy. As the image of a well-endowed widow, always trying to force her way into higher society, arose before Albinia, she could hardly wait till the letter was despatched, to break out in amazement,

'Was she a relation of yours? Even the name never made me think of it!'

'It is a pity she cannot have the gratification of hearing it, poor woman,' said Mrs. Dusautoy, 'but it is a fact that she did poor George Dusautoy the honour to marry him.'

'Mr. Dusautoy's brother?'

'Ay—he was a young surgeon, just set up in practice, exactly like John—nay, some people thought him still finer-looking. She was a Miss Greenaway Cavendish, a stock-broker's heiress of a certain age.'

'Oh!' expressively cried Albinia.

'You may say so,' returned Mrs. Dusautoy. 'She made him put away his profession, and set up for taste and elegant idleness.'

'And he submitted?'

'There was a great deal of the meek giant in him, and he believed implicitly in the honour she had done him. It would have been very touching, if it had not been so provoking, to see how patiently and humbly that fine young man gave up all that would have made him happy, to bend to her caprices and pretensions.'

'Did you ever see them together?'

'No, I never saw her at all, and him only once. I never knew John really savage but once, and that was at her not letting him come to our wedding; but she did give him leave of absence for one fortnight, when we were at Lauriston. How happy the brothers were! It did one good to hear their great voices about the house; and they were like boys on a stolen frolic, when John took him to prescribe for some of our poor people. He used to talk of bringing us his little son—the one pleasure of his life—but he never was allowed. Oh, how I used to long to stir up a mutiny!' cried Mrs. Dusautoy, quite unknowing that she ruled her own lion with a leash of silk. 'If she had appreciated him, it would have been bearable; but to her he was no more than the handsome young doctor, whom she had made a gentleman, and not a very good piece of work of it either! Little she recked of the great loving heart that had thrown itself away on her, and the patience that bore with her; and she tried to hinder all the liberal bountiful actions that were all he cared to do with his means! I wish the boy may remember him!'

'How long has he been dead?'

'These ten years. He was drowned in a lake storm in Switzerland—people clung to him, and he could not swim. It was John's one great grief—he cannot mention him even now. And really,' she added, smiling, 'I do believe he has brought himself to fancy it was a very happy marriage. She has always been very civil; but she has been chiefly abroad, and never would take his advice about sending her boy to school.'

'What becomes of him now?'

'He is our charge. She was on the way home from Italy, when she was taken ill at Paris, and died at the end of the week.'

'How old is he?'

'About nineteen, I fancy. He must have had an odd sort of education; but if he is a nice lad, it will be a great pleasure to John to have something young about the house.'

'I was thinking that Mr. Dusautoy hardly wanted more cares.'

'So have I,' said her friend, smiling, 'and I have been laying a plot against him. You see, he is as strong as a lion, and never yet was too tired to sleep; but it is rather a tempting of Providence to keep 3589 people and fourteen services in a week resting upon one man!'

'Exactly what his churchwarden has preached to him.'

'Moreover, he cannot be in two places at once, let alone half-a-dozen. Now, my Lancashire people have written in quest of a title for holy orders for a young man who has just gone through Cambridge with great credit, and it strikes me that he might at once help John, and cram Master Algernon.'

'And Gilbert!' cried Albinia. 'Oh, if you will import a tutor for Gilbert, we shall be for ever beholden to you!'

'I had thought of him. I have no doubt that he is much better taught than Algernon; but I am not afraid of this poor fellow bringing home bad habits, and they will be good companions. I reckon upon you and Mr. Kendal as great auxiliaries, and I don't think John will be able to withstand our united forces.'

On the way home, on emerging from the alley, Albinia encountered Gilbert, just parting with another youth, who walked off quickly on the Tremblam road, while she inquired who it was.

'That?' said Gilbert; 'oh! that was young Tritton. He has been away learning farming in Scotland. We speak when we meet, for old acquaintance sake and that.'

The Bayford mind was diverted from the romance of Genevieve, by the enormous fortune of the Vicar's nephew, whose capital was in their mouths and imaginations swelled into his yearly income. Swarms of cards of inquiry were left at the vicarage; and Mrs. Meadows and Lucy enjoyed the reflected dignity of being able to say that Mrs. Kendal was continually there. And so she was, for Mrs. Dusautoy was drooping, though more in body than visibly in spirit, and needed both companionship and assistance in supporting the charge left by her absent Atlas.

He was not gone a moment longer than necessary, and took her by surprise at last, while Albinia and Sophy were sitting on the lawn with her, when she welcomed the nephew and the Vicar, holding out a hand to each, and thanked them for taking care of 'Fanny.' 'Here, Algernon,' he continued, 'here are two of our best friends, Mrs. Kendal and Miss Sophy.'

There was a stiff bow from a stiff altitude. The youth was on the gigantic Dusautoy scale, looking taller even than his uncle, from his manner of holding himself with his chin somewhat elevated. He had a good ruddy sun-burnt complexion, shining brown hair, and regular features; and Albinia could respond heartily to the good Vicar's exclamation, as he followed her down to the gate for the sake of saying,

'Well-grown lad, isn't that? And a very good-hearted fellow too, poor boy—the very picture of his dear father. Well, and how has Fanny been?'

He stayed to be reassured that his return was all his Fanny wanted, and then hurried back to her, while Albinia and Sophy pursued their way down the hill.

'News for grandmamma. We must give her a particular description of the hero.'

'How ugly he thought me!' said Sophy, quaintly.

'My dear, I believe that is the first thing you think of when you meet a stranger!'

'I saw it this time,' returned Sophy. 'His chin went up in the air at once. He set me down for Mrs. Kendal, and you for Miss Sophy.'

'Nonsense,' said Albinia, for the inveterate youthfulness of her bright complexion and sunny hair was almost a sore subject with her. 'Your always fancying that every one is disgusted with you, is as silly as if you imagined yourself transcendently beautiful. It is mere self-occupation, and helps to make you blunt and shy.'

'Mamma,' said Sophy, 'tell me one thing. Did you ever think yourself pretty?'

'I have thought myself looking so, under favourable circumstances, but that's all. You are as far from ugliness as I am, and have as little need to think of it. As far as features go, there's the making of a much handsomer woman in you than in me.'

Sophy laughed. A certain yearning for personal beauty was a curious part of her character, and she would have been ashamed to own the pleasure those few words had given her, or how much serenity and forbearance they were worth; and her good-humour was put to the proof that evening, for grandmamma had a tea-party, bent on extracting the full description of the great Algernon Greenaway Cavendish Dusautoy, Esquire. Lucy's first sight was less at her ease. Elizabeth Osborn, with whom she kept up a fitful intimacy, summoned her mysteriously into her garden, to show her a peep-hole through a little dusty window in the tool-house, whence could be descried the vicarage garden, and Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy, as, with a cigar in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets,

'Stately stept he east the wa', and stately stept he west.'

Lucy was so much amused, that she could not help reporting it at home, where Gilbert forgot his sorrows, in building up a mischievous romance in honour of the hole in the 'sweet and lovely wall.'

But the parents' feud did not seem likely to hold out. A hundred thousand pounds on one side of the wall, and three single daughters on the other, Mrs. Osborn was not the woman to trust to the 'wall's hole;' and so Mr. Dusautoy's enemy laid down her colours; and he was too kind-hearted to trace her sudden politeness to the source.

Mr. Dusautoy acceded to the scheme devised by his wife, and measures were at once taken for engaging the curate. When Albinia went to talk the matter over at the parsonage, Lucy accompanied her; but the object of her curiosity was not in the room; and when she had heard that he was fond of drawing, and that his horses were to be kept at the King's Head stables, the conversation drifted away, and she grew restless, and begged Mrs. Dusautoy to allow her to replenish the faded bouquets on the table. No sooner was she in the garden, than Mrs. Dusautoy put on an arch look, and lowering her voice, said,

'Oh! it is such fun! He does despise us so immensely.'

'Despise—you?'

'He is a good, boy, faithful to his training. Now his poor mother's axioms were, that the English are vulgar, country English more vulgar, Fanny Dusautoy the most vulgar! I wish we always as heartily accepted what we are taught.'

'He must be intolerable.'

'No, he is very condescending and patronizing to the savages. He really is fond of his uncle; and John is so much hurt it I notice his peculiarities, that I have been dying to have my laugh out.'

'Can Mr. Dusautoy bear with pretension?'

'It is not pretension, only calm faith in the lessons of his youth. Look,' she added, becoming less personal at Lucy's re-entrance, and pointing to a small highly-varnished oil-painting of a red terra cotta vase, holding a rose, a rhododendron before it, and half a water-melon grinning behind, newly severed by a knife.

'Is that what people bring home from Italy now-a-days?' said Albinia.

'That is an original production.'

'Did Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy do that?' cried Lucy.

'Genre is his style,' was the reply. 'His mother was resolved he should be an amateur, and I give his master great credit.'

'Especially for that not being a Madonna,' said Albinia. 'I congratulate you on his having so safe an amusement.'

'Yes; it disposes of him and of the spare room. He cannot exist without an atelier.'

Just then the Vicar entered.

'Ah! Algernon's picture,' began he, who had never been known to look at one, except the fat cattle in the Illustrated News. 'What do you think of it? Has he not made a good hand of the pitcher?'

Albinia gratified him by owning that the pitcher was round; and Lucy was in perfect rapture at the 'dear little spots' in the rhododendron.

'A poor way of spending a lad's time,' said the uncle; 'but it is better than nothing; and I call the knife very good: I declare you might take it up,' and he squeezed up his eyes to enhance the illusion.

A slow and wide opening of the door admitted the lofty presence of Algernon Cavendish Dusautoy, with another small picture in his hand. Becoming aware of the visitors, he saluted them with a dignified movement of his head, and erecting his chin, gazed at them over it.

'So you have brought us another picture, Algernon,' said his uncle. 'Mrs. Kendal has just been admiring your red jar.'

'Have you a taste for art?' demanded Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy, turning to her with magnificent suavity.

'I used to be very fond of drawing.'

'Genre is my style,' he pursued, almost overthrowing her gravity by the original of his aunt's imitation. 'I took lessons of old Barbouille—excellent master. Truth and nature, those were his maxims; and from the moment I heard them, I said, "This is my man." We used positively to live in the Borghese. There!' as he walked backwards, after adjusting his production in the best light.

'A snipe,' said Albinia.

'A snipe that I killed in the Pontine marshes.'

'There is very good shooting about Anxur,' said Albinia.

'You have been at Rome?' He permitted himself a little animation at discovering any one within the pale of civilization.

'For one fortnight in the course of a galloping tour with my two brothers,' said Albinia. 'All the Continent in one long vacation!'

'That was much to be regretted. It is my maxim to go through every museum thoroughly.'

'I can't regret,' said Albinia. 'I should be very sorry to give up my bright indistinct haze of glorious memories, though I was too young to appreciate all I saw.'

'For my part, I have grown up among works of art. My whole existence has been moulded on them, and I feel an inexpressible void without them. I shall be most happy to introduce you into my atelier, and show you my notes on the various Musees. I preserved them merely as a trifling memorial; but many connoisseurs have told me that I ought to print them as a Catalogue raisonnee, for private circulation, of course. I should be sorry to interfere with Murray, but on the whole I decided otherwise: I should be so much bored with applications.'

Mrs. Dusautoy's wicked glance had so nearly demolished the restraint on her friend's dimples, that she turned her back on her, and commended the finish of a solitary downy feather that lay detached beside the bird.

'My maxim is truth to nature, at any cost of pains,' said the youth, not exactly gratified, for homage was his native element, but graciously proceeding to point out the merits of the composition.

Albinia's composure could endure no more, and she took her leave, Mr. Dusautoy coming down the hill with her to repeat, and this time somewhat wistfully,

'A fine lad, is he not, poor fellow?'

With perfect sincerity, she could praise his good looks.

'He has had a quantity of sad stuff thrust on him by the people who have been about his poor mother,' said Mr. Dusautoy. 'She could never bear to part with him, and no wonder, poor thing; and she must have let a very odd sort of people get about her abroad—they've flattered that poor lad to the top of his bent, you see, but he's a very good boy for all that, very warm-hearted.'

'He must be very amiable for his mother to have been able to manage him all this while.'

'Just what I say!' cried the Vicar, his honest face clearing. 'Many youths would have run into all that is bad, brought up in that way; but only consider what disadvantages he has had! When we get him to see his real standing a little better—I say, could not you let us have your young people to come up this evening, have a little music, and make it lively? I suppose Fanny and I are growing old, though I never thought so before. Will you come, Lucy, there's a good girl, and bring your brother and sister? The lads must be capital friends.'

Lucy promised with sparkling eyes, and the Vicar strode off, saying he should depend on the three.

Gilbert 'supposed he was in for it,' but 'did not see the use of it,' he was sick of the name of 'that polysyllable,' and 'should see enough of him when Mr. Hope came, worse luck.'

The result of the evening was, that Lacy was enraptured at the discovery that this most accomplished hero sang Italian songs to the loveliest guitar in the world, and was very much offended with Sophy for wishing to know whether mamma really thought him so very clever.

Immediately after the Ordination arrived Mr. Hope, a very youthful, small, and delicate-looking man, whom Mr. Dusautoy could have lifted as easily as his own Fanny, with short sight, timid nature, scholarly habits, weak nerves, and an inaudible voice.

Of great intellect, having read deeply, and reading still more deeply, he had the utmost dread of ladies, and not even his countrywoman, Mrs. Dusautoy, could draw him out. He threw his whole soul into the work, winning the hearts of the infant-school and the old women, but discomfiting the congregation by the weakness of his voice, and the length and depth of his sermons. There was one in especial which very few heard, and no one entered into except Sophy, who held an hour's argument over it with her father, till they arrived at such lengthy names of heresies, that poor grandmamma asked if it were right to talk Persian on a Sunday evening.

He conscientiously tutored his two pupils, but there was no common ground between him and them. Excepting his extra intellect, there was no boyhood in him. A town-bred scholar, a straight constitutional upon a clean road was his wildest dream of exercise; he had never mounted a horse, did not know a chicken from a partridge, except on the table, was too short-sighted for pictures, and esteemed no music except Gregorians.

The two youths were far more alive to his deficiencies than to his endowments: Algernon contemned him for being a book-seller's son, with nothing to live on but his fellowship and curacy, and Gilbert looked down on his ignorance of every matter of common life, and excessive bashfulness. Mr. Dusautoy would have had less satisfaction in the growing intimacy between the lads, had he known that it had been cemented by inveigling poor Mr. Hope into a marsh in search of cotton-grass, which, at Gilbert's instigation, Algernon avouched to be a new sort of Indian corn, grown in Italy for feeding silkworms.

An intimacy there was, rather from constant intercourse than from positive liking. Gilbert saw through and disdained young Dusautoy's dulness and self-consequence; but good-natured, kindly, and unoccupied, he had no objection to associate with him, showing him English ways, trying to hinder him from needlessly exposing himself, and secretly amused with his pretension. Algernon, with his fine horses, expensive appointments, and lofty air, was neither a discreditable nor unpleasing companion. Mr. Kendal had given his son a horse, which, without costing the guineas that Algernon had 'refused' for each of his steeds, was a very respectable-looking animal, and the two young gentlemen, starting on their daily ride, were a grand spectacle for more than little Maurice.

Gilbert had suffered some eclipse. Once he had been the grand parti, the only indisputable gentleman, but now Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy had entirely surpassed him both in self-assertion and in the grounds for it. His incipient dandyisms faded into insignificance beside the splendours of the heir of thousands; and he, who among all his faults had never numbered conceit or forwardness, had little chance beside such an implicit believer in his own greatness.

Nor was Bayford likely to diminish that faith. The non-adorers might be easily enumerated—his uncle and aunt, his tutor, his groom, Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, Gilbert and Sophy; the rest all believed in him as thoroughly as he did in himself. His wealth was undoubted, his accomplishments were rated at his own advertisement, and his magnanimous condescension was esteemed at full value. Really handsome, good-natured and sociable, he delighted to instruct his worshippers by his maxims, and to bend graciously to their homage. The young ladies had but one cynosure! Few eyes were there that did not pursue his every movement, few hearts that did not bound at his approach, few tongues that did not chronicle his daily comings and goings.

'It would save much trouble,' said Albinia, 'if a court circular could be put into the Bayford paper.'

The Kendals were the only persons whom Algernon regarded as in any way on a footing with him. Finding that the lady was a Ferrars, and had been in Italy, he regarded her as fit company, and whenever they met, favoured her with the chief and choicest of his maxims, little knowing how she and his aunt presumed to discuss him in private.

Without being ill-disposed, he had been exceedingly ill taught; his mother, the child of a grasping vulgar father, had little religious impression, and that little had not been fostered by the lax habits of a self-expatriated Englishwoman, and very soon after his arrival at Bayford his disregard of ordinary English proprieties had made itself apparent. On the first Sunday he went to church in the morning, but spent the evening in pacing the garden with a cigar; and on the afternoon of that day week his aunt was startled by the sound of horse's hoofs on the road. Mr. Dusautoy was at school, and she started up, met the young gentleman, and asked him what strange mistake could have been made. He made her a slight bow, and loftily said he was always accustomed to ride at that hour! 'But not on Sunday!' she exclaimed. He was not aware of any objection. She told him his uncle would be much displeased, he replied politely that he would account to his uncle for his conduct, begged her pardon, but he could not keep his horse waiting.

Mrs. Dusautoy went back, fairly cried at the thought of her husband's vexation, and the scandal to the whole town.

The Vicar was, of course, intensely annoyed, though he still could make excuses for the poor boy, and laid all to the score of ignorance and foreign education. He made Algernon clearly understand that the Sunday ride must not be repeated. Algernon mumbled something about compromising his uncle and offending English prejudices, by which he reserved to himself the belief that he yielded out of magnanimity, not because he could not help it; but he could not forgive his aunt for her peremptory opposition; he became unpleasantly sullen and morose as regularly as the Sunday came round, and revenged himself by pacing the verandah with his cigar, or practising anything but sacred music on his key-bugle in his painting-room.

The youth was really fond of his uncle, but he had imbibed all his mother's contempt for her sister-in-law. Used to be wheedled by an idolizing mother, and to reign over her court of parasites, he had no notion of obeying, and a direct command or opposition roused his sullen temper of passive resistance. When he found 'that little nobody of a Mrs. John Dusautoy' so far from being a flatterer, or an adorer of his perfections, inclined to laugh at him, and bent on keeping him in order, all the enmity of which he was capable arose in his mind, and though in general good-natured and not aggressive, he had a decided pleasure in doing what she disapproved, and thus asserting the dignity of a Greenaway Cavendish Dusautoy.

The atelier was a happy invention. Certainly wearisome noises, and an aroma of Havannahs would now and then proceed therefrom, but he was employed there the chief part of the day, and fortunately his pictures were of small size, and took an infinite quantity of labour, so that they could not speedily outrun all the Vicarage walls.

He favoured the University of Oxford by going up with Gilbert for matriculation, when, to the surprise of Mr. Hope, he was not plucked. They were to begin their residence at the Easter term. Mrs. Dusautoy did not confess even to Albinia how much she looked forward to Easter.

In early spring, a sudden and short illness took away Madame Belmarche's brave spirit to its rest, after sixty years of exile and poverty, cheerfully borne.

There had been no time to summon Genevieve, and her aunt would not send for her, but decided on breaking up the school, which could no longer be carried on, and going to live in the Hadminster convent. And thus, as Mr. Kendal hoped, all danger of renewed intercourse between his son and Genevieve ended. Gilbert looked pale and wretched, and Sophy hoped it was with compunction at having banished Genevieve at such a moment, but not a word was said—and that page of early romance was turned!



CHAPTER XVIII.



It was a beautiful July afternoon, the air musical with midsummer hum, the flowers basking in the sunshine, the turf cool and green in the shade, and the breeze redolent of indescribable freshness and sweetness compounded of all fragrant odours, the present legacy of a past day's shower. Like the flowers themselves, Albinia was feeling the delicious repose of refreshed nature, as in her pretty pink muslin, her white drapery folded round her, and her bright hair unbonnetted, she sat reclining in a low garden chair, at the door of the conservatory, a little pale, a little weak, but with a sweet happy languor, a soft tender bloom.

There was a step in the conservatory, and before she could turn round, her brother Maurice bent over her, and kissed her.

'Maurice! you have come after all!'

'Yes, the school inspection is put off. How are you?' as he sat down on the grass by her side.

'Oh, quite well! What a delicious afternoon we shall have! Edmund will be at home directly. Mrs. Meadows has absolutely let Gilbert take her to drink tea at the Drurys! Only I am sorry Sophy should miss you, for she was so good about going, because Lucy wanted to do something to her fernery. Of course you are come for Sunday, and the christening?'

'Yes,—that is, to throw myself on Dusautoy's mercy.'

'We will send Mr. Hope to Fairmead,' said Albinia, 'and see whether Winifred can make him speak. We can't spare the Vicar, for he is our godfather, and you must christen the little maiden.'

'I thought the three elder ones were to be sponsors.'

'Gilbert is shy,' said Albinia, 'afraid of the responsibility, and perhaps he is almost too near, the very next to ourselves. His father would have preferred Mr. Dusautoy from the first, and only yielded to my wish. I wish you had come two minutes sooner, she was being paraded under that wall, but now she is gone in asleep.'

'Her father writes grand things of her.'

'Does he?' said Albinia, colouring and smiling at what could not be heard too often; 'he is tolerably satisfied with the young woman! And he thinks her like Edmund, and so she must be, for she is just like him. She will have such beautiful eyes. It is very good of her to take after him, since Maurice won't!'

'And she is to be another Albinia.'

'I represented the confusion, and how I always meant my daughter to be Winifred, but there's no doing anything with him! It is only to be a second name. A. W. K.! Think if she should marry a Mr. Ward!'

'No, she would not be awkward, if she were so a-warded.'

'It wont spell, Maurice,' cried Albinia, laughing as their nonsense, as usual, rose to the surface, 'but how is Winifred?'

'As well as could be hoped under the affliction of not being able to come and keep you in order.'

'She fancied me according to the former pattern,' said Albinia, smiling, 'I could have shown her a better specimen, not that it was any merit, for there were no worries, and Edmund was so happy, that it was pleasure enough to watch him.'

'I was coming every day to judge for myself, but I thought things could not be very bad, while he wrote such flourishing accounts.'

'No, there were no more ponds!' said Albinia, 'and grandmamma happily was quite well, cured, I believe, by the excitement. Lucy took care of her, and Sophy read to me—how we have enjoyed those readings! Oh! and Aunt Gertrude has found a delightful situation for Genevieve, a barrister's family, with lots of little children—eighty pounds a year, and quite ready to value her, so she is off my mind.'

'Maurice, boy! come here,' she called, as she caught sight of a creature prancing astride on one stick, and waving another. On perceiving a visitor, the urchin came careering up, bouncing full tilt upon her, and clasping her round with both his stalwart arms. 'Gently, gently, boy,' she said, bending down, and looking with proud delight at her brother, as she held between her hands a face much like her own, as fair and freshly tinted, but with a peculiar squareness of contour, large blue eyes, with dark fringes, brimming over with mischief and fun, a bold, broad brow, and thick, light curls. There was a spring and vigour as of perpetual irrepressible life about the whole being, and the moment he had accepted his uncle's kiss, he poised his lance, and exclaimed, 'You are Bonaparte, I'm the Duke!'

'Indeed,' said Mr. Ferrars, at once seizing a wand, and bestriding the nearest bench. Two or three charges rendered the boy so uproarious, that presently he was ordered off, and to use the old apple tree as Bonaparte.

'What a stout fellow!' said Mr. Ferrars, as he went off at a plunging gallop, 'I should have taken him for at least five years old!'

'So he might be,' said Albinia, 'for strength and spirit—he is utterly fearless, and never cries, much as he knocks himself about! He will do anything but learn. The rogue! he once knew all his letters, but no sooner did he find they were the work of life, than he forgot every one, and was never so obstreperous as when called upon to say them. I gave up the point, but I foresee some fine scenes.'

'His minding no one but you is an old story. I hope at least the exception continues.'

'I have avoided testing it. I want all my forces for a decisive battle. I never heard of such a masterful imp,' she continued, with much more exultation than anxiety, 'his sisters have no chance with him, he rules them like a young Turk. There's the pony! Sophy will let him have it as a right, and it is the work of my life to see that she is not defrauded of her rides.'

'You don't mean that that child rides anything but a stick.'

'One would think he had been born in boots and spurs. Legitimately he only rides with some one leading the pony, but I have my suspicions that by some preternatural means he has been on the pony's back, and round the yard alone, and that papa prudentially concealed it from me!'

'I confess I should not like it,' said her brother gravely.

'Oh! I don't mind that kind of thing. A real boy can't be hurt, and I don't care how wild he runs, so long as he is obedient and truthful. And true I think he is to the backbone, and I know he is reverend. We had such a disturbance because he would not say his prayers.'

'Proof positive!'

'Yes, it was,' said Albinia. 'It did not seem to him orthodox without me, and when he was let into my room again, it was the prettiest sight! When he had been told of his little sister, all he said was that he did not want little girls—girls were stupid—'

'Ah! that came of your premature introduction to my Albinia,'

'Not at all. It was partly as William's own nephew, and partly because pleasure was expected from him. But when he actually saw the little thing, that sturdy face grew so very soft and sweet, and when we told him he was her protector, he put both his hands tight together, and said, "I'll be so good!" When he is with her, another child seems to shine out under the bluff pickle he generally is—he walks so quietly, and thinks it such an honour to touch her.'

'She will be his best tutor,' said Maurice, smiling, but breaking off—

A sudden shriek of deadly terror rang out over the garden from the river! A second or two sufficed to show them Lucy at the other end of the foot-bridge, that led across the canal to the towing-path. She did not look round, till Albinia, clutching her, demanded, 'Where is he?'

Unable to speak, Lucy pointed down the towing-path, along which a horse was seen rushing wildly—a figure pursuing it. 'It was hitched up here—he must have scrambled up by the gate! Oh! mamma! mamma! He has run after him, but oh!'

Mr. Ferrars gave Lucy's arm a squeeze, a hint not to augment the horror. Something he said of 'Let me—and you had better—' but Albinia heard nothing, and was only bent on pressing forward.

The canal and path took a wide sweep round the meadow, and the horse was still in sight, galloping at full speed, with a small heap on its back, as they trusted, but the rapid motion, and their eyes strained and misty with alarm, caused an agony of uncertainty.

Albinia pointed across the meadows in anguish at not being able to make herself understood, and hoarsely said, 'The gate!'

Mr. Ferrars caught her meaning, and the next moment had leaped over the gutter, and splashed into the water meadow, but in utter hopelessness of being beforehand with the runaway steed! How could that gate be other than fatal? The horse was nearing it—the pursuer far behind—Mr. Ferrars not half way over the fields.

There was a loud cry from Lucy.—'He is caught! caught!'

A loud shout came back, was caught up, and sent on by both the pursuers, 'All right!'

Albinia had stood in an almost annihilation of conscious feeling. Even when her brother strode back to her repeating 'All safe, thanks be to God,' she neither spoke nor relaxed that intensity of watching. A few seconds more, and she sprang forward again as the horse was led up by a young man at his side; and on his back, laughing and chattering, sat Master Maurice. Algernon Dusautoy strode a few steps behind, somewhat aggrieved, but that no one saw.

The elder Maurice lifted down the younger one, who, as he was clasped by his mother, exclaimed, 'Oh! mamma, Bamfylde went so fast! I am to ride home again! He said so—he's my cousin!'

Albinia scarcely heard; her brother however had turned to thank the stranger for her, and exclaimed, 'I should say you were an O'More.'

'I'm Ulick, from the Loughside Lodge,' was the answer. 'Is cousin Winifred here?'

'No, this is my sister, Mrs. Kendal, but—'

Albinia held out her hand, and grasped his; 'I can't—Maurice, speak,' she said.

The little Maurice persisted in his demand to be remounted for the twelve yards to their own gate, but nobody heard him; his uncle was saying a few words of explanation to the stranger, and Algernon Dusautoy was enunciating something intended as a gracious reception of the apologies which no one was making. All Albinia thought of was that the little unruly hand was warm and struggling, prisoned in her own; all her brother cared for was to have her safely at home. He led her across the bridge, and into the garden, where they met Mr. Kendal, who had taken alarm from her absence; Lucy ran up with her story, and almost at the same moment, Albinia, springing to him, murmured, 'Oh! Edmund, the great mercy—Maurice;' but there she found herself making a hoarse shriek; with a mingled sense of fright and shame, she smothered it, but there was an agony of suffocation, she felt her husband's arms round her, heard his voice, and her boy's scream of terror—felt them all unable to help her, and sank into unconsciousness.

Mr. Ferrars helped Mr. Kendal to carry his wife's inanimate form to her room. They used all means of restoration, but it was a long, heavy swoon, and a slow, painful revival. Mr. Kendal would have been in utter despair at hearing that the doctor was out, but for his brother, with his ready resources and cheerful encouragement; and finally, she lifted her eyelids, and as she felt the presence of her two dearest guardians, whispered, 'Where is he?'

Lucy reported that he was with Susan, and Albinia, after hearing her husband again assure her that he was quite safe, lay still from exhaustion, but so calm, that her brother thought them best alone, and drew Lucy away.

In about a quarter of an hour Mr. Kendal came down, saying that she was quietly asleep, and he had left the nurse with her. He had yet to hear the story, and when he understood that the child had been madly careering along the towing-path, on the back of young Dusautoy's most spirited hunter, and had been only stopped when the horse was just about to leap the tall gate, he was completely overcome. When he spoke again, it was with the abrupt exclamation, 'That child! Lucy, bring him down!'

In marched the boy, full of life and mischief, though with a large red spot beneath each eye.

'Maurice!' Gilbert had often heard that tone, but Maurice never, and he tossed back his head with an innocent look of fearless wonder. 'Maurice, I find you have been a very naughty, disobedient boy. When you rode the pony round the yard, did not I order you never to do so again?'

'I did not do it again,' boldly rejoined Maurice.

'Speak the truth, sir. What do you mean by denying what you have done?' exclaimed his father, angrily.

'I didn't ride the pony,' indignantly cried the child, 'I rode a horse, saddled and bridled!'

'Don't answer me in that way!' thundered Mr. Kendal, and much incensed by the nice distinction, and not appreciating the sincerity of it, he gave the child a shake, rough enough to bring the red into his face, but not a tear. 'You knew it was very wrong, and you were as near as possible breaking your neck. You have frightened your mamma, so as to make her very ill, and I am sorry to find you most mischievous and unruly, not to be trusted out of sight. Now, listen to me, I shall punish you very severely if you act in this disobedient way again.'

Papa angry, was a novel spectacle, at which Maurice looked as innocently and steadily as ever, so completely without fear or contrition, that he provoked a stern, 'Do you hear me, sir?' and another shake. Maurice flushed, and his chest heaved, though he did not sob, and his father, uncomfortable at such sharp dealing with so young a child, set him aside, with the words, 'There now, recollect what I have told you!' and walked to the window, where he stood silent for some seconds, while the boy stood with rounded shoulders, perplexed eye, and finger on his pouting lip, and Mr. Ferrars, newspaper in hand, watched him under his eyelids, and speculated what would be the best sort of mediation, or whether the young gentleman yet deserved it. He knew that his own Willie would have been a mere quaking, sobbing mass of terror, under such a shake, and he would like to have been sure whether that sturdy silence were obstinacy or fortitude.

The sound of the door-bell made Mr. Kendal turn round, and laying his hand on the little fellow's fair head, he said, 'There, Maurice, we'll say no more about it if you will be a good boy. Run away now, but don't go into your mamma's room.'

Maurice looked up, tossed his curls out of his eyes, shook himself, felt the place on his arm where the grip of the hand had been, and galloped off like the young colt that he was.

Albinia awoke, refreshed, though still shaken and feeble, and surprised to find that dinner was going on downstairs. Her own meal presently put such new force into her, that she felt able to speak Maurice's name without bursting into tears, and longing to see both her little ones beside her, she told the nurse to fetch the boy, but received for answer, 'No, Master Maurice said he would not come,' and the manner conveyed that it had been defiantly said. Master Maurice was no favourite in the nursery, and he was still less so, when his mamma, disregarding all mandates, set out to seek him. Already she heard from the stairs the wrangling with Susan that accompanied all his toilettes, and she found him the picture of firm, solid fairness, in his little robe de nuit, growling through the combing of his tangled locks. Though ordinarily scornful of caresses, he sprang to her and hugged her, as she sat down on a low chair, and he knelt in her lap, whispering with his head on her shoulder, and his arms round her neck, 'Mamma, were you dead?'

'No, Maurice,' she answered with something of a sob, 'or I should not have my dear, dear little boy throttling me now! But why would you not come down to me?'

'Papa said I must not.'

Oh, that was quite right, my boy;' and though she unclasped the tight arms, she drew him nestling into her bosom. 'Oh, Maurice, it has been a terrible day! Does my little boy know how good the great God has been to him, and how near he was never seeing mamma nor his little sister again.'

Her great object was to make him thankful for his preservation, but with a child, knowing nothing of death and heedless of fear, this was very difficult. The rapid motion had been delightful excitement, or if there had been any alarm, it was forgotten in the triumph. She had to change her note, and represent how the poor horse might have run into the river, or against a post! Maurice looked serious, and then she came to the high moral tone—mounting strangers' horses without leave—would papa, would Gilbert, think of such a thing? The full lip was put out, as though under conviction, and he hung his head. 'You wont do it again?' said she.

'No.'

She told him to say his prayers, guiding the confession and thanksgiving that she feared he did not fully follow. As he rose up, and saw the tears on her cheeks, he whispered, 'Mamma, did it make you so?'

Cause and effect were a great puzzle to him, but that swoon was the only thing that brought home to him that he had been guilty of something enormous, and when she owned that his danger had been the occasion, he stood and looked; then, standing bolt upright, with clasped hands, and rosy feet pressed close together, he said, with a long breath, 'I'll never get on Bamfylde again till I'm a big boy.'

As he spoke, Mr. Kendal pushed open the half-closed door, and Albinia, looking up, said, 'Here's a boy who knows he has done wrong, papa.'

Never was more welcome excuse for lifting the gallant child to his breast, and lavishing caresses that would have been tender but for the strong spirit of riot which turned them into a game at romps, cut short by Mr. Kendal, as soon as the noise grew very outrageous. 'That's enough to-night; good night.' And when they each had kissed the monkey face tossing about among the clothes, Maurice might have heard more pride than pain in the 'I never saw such a boy!' with which they shut the door.

'This is not prudent!' said Mr. Kendal.

'Do you think I could have rested till I had seen him? and he said you had told him not to come down.'

'I would have brought him to you. You are looking very ill; you had better go to bed at once.'

'No, I should not sleep. Pray let me grow quiet first. Now you know you trust Maurice,—old Maurice, and I'll lie on the sofa like any mouse, if you'll bring him up and let him talk. You know it will be an interesting novelty for you to talk, and me to listen! and he has not seen the baby.'

Albinia gained her point, but Mr. Kendal and Lucy first tucked her up upon the sofa, till she cried out, 'You have swathed me hand and foot. How am I to show off that little Awk?'

'I'll take care of that,' said Mr. Kendal; and so he did, fully doing the honours of the little daughter, who had already fastened on his heart.

'But,' cried Albinia, breaking into the midst, 'who or what are we, ungrateful monsters, never to have thought of the man who caught that dreadful horse!'

'You shall see him as soon as you are strong enough,' said Mr. Kendal; 'your brother and I have been with him.'

'Oh, I am glad; I could not rest if he had not been thanked. And can anything be done for him? What is he? I thought he was a gentleman.'

Maurice smiled, and Mr. Kendal answered, 'Yes, he is Mr. Goldsmith's nephew, and I am pleased to find that he is a connexion of your brother.'

'One of the O'Mores,' cried Albinia. 'Oh, Maurice, is it really one of Winifred's O'Mores?'

'Even so,' replied Mr. Ferrars; the very last person I should have expected to meet on the banks of the Baye! It was that clever son of the captain's for whose education Mr. Goldsmith paid, and it seems had sent for, to consider of his future destination. He only arrived yesterday.'

'A very fine young man,' said Mr. Kendal. 'I was particularly pleased with his manner, and it was an act of great presence of mind and dexterity.'

'It is all a maze and mystery to me,' said Albinia; 'do tell me all about it. I can't make out how the horse came there.'

'I understood that young Dusautoy was calling here,' said Mr. Kendal; 'I wondered at even his coolness in coming in by that way, and at your letting him in.'

'I saw nothing of him,' said Albinia. 'Perhaps he was looking for Gilbert.'

'No,' said Lucy, looking up from her work, with a slight blush, and demure voice of secret importance; 'he had only stepped in for a minute, to bring me a new fern.'

'Indeed,' said her father; 'I was not aware that he took interest in your fernery.'

'He knows everything about ferns,' said Lucy. 'Mrs. Cavendish Dusautoy once had a conservatory filled with the rarest specimens, and he has given me a great many directions how to manage them.'

'Oh! if he could get you to listen to his maxims, I don't wonder at anything,' exclaimed Albinia.

'He had only just come in with the Adiantium, and was telling me how hydraulic power directed a stream of water near the roots among his mother's Fuci,' said Lucy, rather hurt. 'He had fastened up his horse quite securely, and nobody could have guessed that Maurice could have opened that gate to cross the bridge, far less have climbed up the rail to the horse's back. I never shall forget my fright, when we heard the creature's feet, and Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy began to run after it directly.'

'As foolish a thing as he could have done,' said Mr. Kendal, not impressed with Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy's condescension in giving chase. 'It was well poor little Maurice was not abandoned to your discretion, and his resources.'

'It seems,' continued Mr. Ferrars, 'that young O'More was taking a walk on the towing-path, and was just so far off as to see, without being able to prevent it, this little monkey scramble from the gate upon the horse's neck. How it was that he did not go down between, I can't guess; the beast gave a violent start, as well it might, jerked the reins loose, and set off full gallop. Seeing the child clinging on like a young panther, he dashed across the meadow, to cut him off at the turn of the river; and it was a great feat of swiftness, I assure you, to run so lightly through those marshy meadows, so as to get the start of the runaway; then he crept up under cover of the hedge, so as not to startle the horse, and had hold of the bridle, just as he paused before leaping the gate! He said he could hardly believe his eyes when he saw the urchin safe, and looking more excited than terrified.'

'Yes, he was exceedingly struck with Maurice's spirit,' said Mr. Kendal, who, when the fright and anger were over, could begin to be proud of the exploit.

'They fraternized at once,' said Mr. Ferrars. 'Maurice imparted that his name was Maurice Ferrars Kendal, and Ulick, in all good faith and Irish simplicity, discovered that they were cousins!'

'Oh! Edmund, he must come to the christening dinner!'

'Mind,' said Maurice, 'you, know he is not even my wife's cousin; only nephew to her second cousin's husband.'

'For shame, Maurice, cousin is that cousinly does!'

'Very well, only don't tell the aunts that Winifred saddled all the O'Mores upon you.'

'Not an O'More but should be welcome for his sake!'

'Nor an Irishman,' said Mr. Ferrars.

Albinia suffered so much from the shock, that she could not make her appearance till noon on the following day. Then, after sitting a little while in the old study, to hear that grandmamma had not been able to sleep all night for thinking of Maurice's danger, and being told some terrible stories of accidents with horses, she felt one duty done, and moved on to the drawing-room in search of her brother.

She found herself breaking upon a tete-a-tete. A sweet, full voice, with strong cadences, was saying something about duty and advice, and she would have retreated, but her brother and the stranger both sprang up, and made her understand that she was by no means to go away. No introduction was wanted; she grasped the hand that was extended to her, and would have said something if she could, but she found herself not strong enough to keep from tears, and only said, 'I wish little Maurice were not gone out with his brother, but you will dine with us, and see him to-morrow.'

'With the greatest pleasure, if my uncle and aunt will spare me.'

'They must,' said Albinia, 'you must come to meet your old friend and cousin,' she added, mischievously glancing at Maurice, but he did not look inclined to disavow the relationship, and the youth was not a person whom any one would wish to keep at a distance. He seemed about nineteen or twenty years of age, not tall, but well made, and with an air of great ease and agility, rather lounging and careless, yet alert in a moment. The cast of his features at once betrayed his country, by the rounded temples, with the free wavy hair; the circular form of the eyebrow; the fully opened dark blue eye, looking almost black when shaded; the short nose, and the well-cut chin and lips, with their outlines of sweetness and of fun, all thoroughly Irish, but of the best style, and with a good deal of thought and mind on the brow, and determination in the mouth. Albinia had scarcely a minute, however, for observation, for he seemed agitated, and in haste to take leave, nor did her brother press him to remain, since she was still looking very white and red, and too fragile for anything but rest. With another squeeze of the hand she let him go, while he, with murmured thanks, and head bent in enthusiastic honour to the warm kindness of one so sweet and graceful, took leave. Mr. Ferrars followed him into the hall, leaving the door open, so that she heard the words, 'Good-bye, Ulick; I'll do my best for you. All I can say is, that I respect you.'

'Don't respect me too soon,' he answered; 'maybe you'll have to change your mind. The situation may like me no better than I the situation.'

'No, what you will, you can do; I trust to your perseverance.'

'As my poor mother does! Well, with patience the snail got to Rome, and if it is to lighten her load, I must bear it. Many thanks, Mr. Ferrars. Good morning.'

'Good morning; only, Ulick, excuse me, but let me give you a hint; if the situation is to like you, you must mind your Irish.'

'Then you must not warm my heart with your kindness,' was the answer. 'No, no, never fear, when I'm not with any one who has seen Ballymakilty, I can speak English so that I could not be known for a Galway man. Not that I'm ashamed of my country,' he added; and the next moment the door shut behind him.

'How could you scold him for his Irish?' exclaimed Albinia, as her brother re-entered; 'it sounds so pretty and characteristic.'

'I fear Mr. Goldsmith may think it too characteristic!'

'I am sure Edmund might well call him prepossessing. I hope Mr. Goldsmith is going to do something handsome for him!'

'Poor lad! Mr. Goldsmith considers that he has purchased him for a permanent fixture on a high stool. It is a sad disappointment, for he had been doing his utmost to prepare himself for college, and he has so far distinguished himself at school, that I see that a very little help would soon enable him to maintain himself at the University. I could have found it in my heart to give it to him myself; it would please Winifred.'

'Oh, let us help; I am sure Edmund would be glad.'

'No, no, this is better for all. Remember this is the Goldsmith's only measure of conciliation towards their sister since her marriage, and it ought not to be interfered with. Poor Ulick says he knows this is the readiest chance of being of any use to his family, and that his mother has often said she should be happy if she could but see one of the six launched in a way to be independent! There are those three eldest, little better than squireens, never doing a thing but loafing about with their guns. I used to long for a horse-whip to lay about them, till they spoke to me, and then not one of the rogues but won my heart with his fun and good-nature.'

'Then I suppose it is a great thing to have one in the way of money-making.'

'Hem! The Celtic blood is all in commotion! This boy's business was to ask my candid opinion whether there were anything ungentlemanlike in a clerkship in a bank. It was well it was not you!'

'Now, Maurice, don't you know how glad I should have been if Gilbert would have been as wise!'

'Yes, you have some common sense after all, which is more than Ulick attributes to his kith and kin. When I had proved the respectability of banking to his conviction, I'll not say satisfaction, he made me promise to write to his father. He is making up his mind to what is not only a great vexation to himself, and very irksome employment, but he knows he shall be looked down upon as having lost caste with all his family!'

'It really is heroism!' cried Albinia.

'It is,' said Mr. Ferrars; 'he does not trust himself to face the clan, and means to get into harness at once, so as to clench his resolution, and relieve his parents from his maintenance immediately.'

'Is he to live with that formal Miss Goldsmith?'

'No. In solitary lodgings, after that noisy family and easy home! I can't think how he will stand it. I should not wonder if the Galwegian was too strong after all.'

'We must do all we can for him,' cried Albinia; 'Edmund likes him already. Can't he dine with us every Sunday?'

'I know you will be kind,' said Mr. Ferrars. 'Only see how things turn out before you commit yourself. Ah! I have said the unlucky word which always makes you fly off!'

There was little fear that Ulick O'More would not win his way with Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, recommended as he was, and with considerable attractions in the frankness and brightness of his manner. He was a very pleasant addition to the party who dined at Willow Lawn, after the christening. No one had time to listen to Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy's maxims, and he retired rather sullenly, to lean against the mantelpiece, and marvel why the Kendals should invite an Irish banker's clerk to meet him. Gilbert likewise commented on the guest with a muttered observation on his sisters' taste; 'Last year it was all the Polysyllable, now it would be all the Irishman!'



CHAPTER XIX.



There was a war of supremacy in the Kendal household. Albinia and her son were Greek to Greek, and if physical force were on her side, her own tenderness was against her. As to allies, Maurice had by far the majority of the household; the much-tormented Susan was her mistress's sole supporter; Mr. Kendal and Sophy might own it inexpedient to foster his outrecuidance, but they so loved to do his bidding, so hated to thwart him, and so grieved at his being punished, that they were little better than Gilbert, Lucy, grandmamma, or any of the maids or men.

The moral sense was not yet stirred, and the boy seemed to be trying the force of his will like the strength of his limbs. Even as he delighted to lift a weight the moment he saw that it was heavy, so a command was to him a challenge to see how much he would undergo rather than obey, but his resistance was so open, gay, and free, that it could hardly be called obstinacy, and he gloried in disappointing punishment. The dark closet lost all terror for him; he stood there blowing the horn through his hand, content to follow an imaginary chase, and when untimely sent to bed, he stole Susan's scissors, and cut a range of stables in the sheets. The short, sharp infliction of pain answered best, but his father, though he could give a shake when angry, could not strike when cool, and Albinia was forced to turn executioner, though with such tears and trembling that her culprit looked up reassuringly, saying, 'Never mind, mamma, I shan't!' He did, however, mind her tears, they bore in upon him the sense of guilt; and after each transgression, he could not be at peace till he had marched up to her, holding out his hand for the blow, and making up his face not to wince, and then would cling round her neck to feel himself pardoned. Justice came to him in a most fair and motherly shape! The brightest, the merriest of all his playmates was mamma; he loved her passionately, and could endure no cloud between himself and her, so that he was slowly learning that submission to her was peace and pleasure, and rebellion mere pain to both. She established ten minutes of daily lessons, but even she could not reach beyond the capture of his restless person, his mind was out of reach, and keen as he was in everything else, towards "a + b = ab" he was an unmitigated dunce. Nor did he obey any one who did not use authority and force of will, and though perfectly simple and sincere, he was too young to restrain himself without the assistance of the controlling power, so that in his mother's absence he was tyrannical and violent, and she never liked to have him out of her sight, and never was so sure that he was deep in mischief as when she had not heard his voice for a quarter of an hour.

'Albinia,' said Mr. Kendal, one relenting autumn day, when November strove to look like April, 'I thought of walking to pay Farmer Graves for the corn. Will you come with me?'

'Delightful, I want to see what Maurice will say to the turkey-cock.'

'Is it not too far for him?'

'He would run quite as many miles in the garden,' said Albinia, who would have walked in dread of a court of justice on her return, had not the scarlet hose been safely prancing on the road before her.

'This way, then,' said Mr. Kendal; 'I must get this draft changed at the bank. Come, Maurice, you will see a friend there.'

'Do you know, Edmund,' said Albinia, as they set forth, 'my conscience smites me as to that youth; I think we have neglected him.'

'I cannot see what more we could have done. If his uncle does not bring him forward in society, we cannot interfere.'

'It must be a forlorn condition,' said Albinia; 'he is above the other clerks, and he seems to be voted below the Bayford Elite, since the Polysyllable has made it so very refined! One never meets him anywhere now it is too dark to walk after the banking hours. Cannot we ask him to come in some evening?'

'We cannot have our evenings broken up,' said Mr. Kendal. 'I should be glad to show him any kindness, but his uncle seems to have ruled it that he is to be considered more as his clerk than as one of his family, and I doubt if it would be doing him any service to interfere.'

They were now at the respectable old freestone building, with 'Goldsmith' inscribed on the iron window-blinds, and a venerable date carved over the door. Inside, those blinds came high, and let in but little light over the tall desks, at which were placed the black-horsehair perches of the clerks, old Mr. Goldsmith himself occupying a lower throne, more accessible to the clients. One of the high stools stood empty, and Albinia making inquiry, Mr. Goldsmith answered, with a dry, dissatisfied cough, that More, as he called him, had struck work, and gone home with a headache.

'Indeed,' said Albinia, 'I am sorry to hear it. Mr. Hope said he thought him not looking well.'

'He has complained of headache a good deal lately,' said Mr. Goldsmith. 'Young men don't find it easy to settle to business.'

Albinia's heart smote her for not having thought more of her son's rescuer, and she revolved what could or what might have been done. It really was not easy to show him attention, considering Gilbert's prejudice against his accent, and Mr. Kendal's dislike to an interrupted evening, and all she could devise was a future call on Miss Goldsmith. But for Maurice, it would have been a silent walk, and though her mind was a little diverted by his gallant attempt to bestride the largest pig in the farm-yard, she was sure Mr. Kendal was musing on the same topic, and was not surprised when, as they returned, he exclaimed, 'I have a great mind to go and see after that poor lad.'

'This way, then,' said Albinia, turning down a narrow muddy street parallel with the river.

'Impossible!' said Mr. Kendal; 'he can never live at the Wharves?'

'Yes,' said Albinia; 'he told me that he lodged with an old servant of the Goldsmiths, Pratt's wife, at the Lower Wharf.'

She pointed to the name of Pratt over a shop-window in a house that had once seen better days, but which looked so forlorn, that Mr. Kendal would not look the slatternly maid in the face while so absurd a question was asked as whether Mr. O'More lived there.

The girl, without further ceremony, took them up a dark stair, and opened the door of a twilight room, where Albinia's first glimpse showed her the young man with his head bent down on his arms on the table, as close as possible to the forlorn, black fire, of the grim, dull, sulky coal of the county, which had filled the room with smoke and blacks. The window, opened to clear it, only admitted the sickly scent of decaying weed from the river to compete with the perfume of the cobbler's stock-in-trade. Ulick started up pale and astonished, and Mr. Kendal, struck with consternation, chiefly thought of taking away his wife and child from the infected atmosphere, and made signs to Albinia not to sit down; but she was eagerly compassionate.

'It was nothing,' said Ulick, 'only his head was rather worse than usual, and he thought it time to give in when the threes put lapwings' feathers in their caps just like the fives.'

'Are you subject to these headaches?'

'It is only home-sickness,' he said. 'I'll have got over it soon.'

'I must come and see after you, my good friend,' said Mr. Kendal, with suppressed impatience and anxiety. 'I shall return in a moment or two, but I am sure you are not well enough for so many visitors taking you by surprise. Come.'

He was so peremptory, that Albinia found herself on the staircase before she knew what she was about. The fever panic had seized Mr. Kendal in full force; he believed typhus was in the air, and insisted on her taking Maurice home at once, while he went himself to fetch Mr. Bowles. She did not in the least credit fever to be in the chill touch of that lizard hand, and believed that she could have been the best doctor; but there was no arguing while he was under this alarm, and she knew that she might be thankful not to be ordered to observe a quarantine.

When Mr. Kendal returned home he looked much discomposed, though his first words were, 'Thank Heaven, it is no fever! Albinia, we must look after that poor lad; he is positively poisoned by that pestiferous river and bad living! Bowles said he was sure he was not eating meat enough. I dare say that greasy woman gives him nothing fit to eat! Albinia, you must talk to him—find out whether old Goldsmith gives him a decent salary!'

'He ought not to be in those lodgings another day. I suppose Miss Goldsmith had no notion what they were. I fancy she never saw the Lower Wharf in her life.'

'I never did till to-day,' said Mr. Kendal. 'It was all of a piece— the whole street—the room—the furniture—why the paper was coming off the walls! What could they be dreaming of! And there he was, trying to read a little edition of Prodentius, printed at Salamanca, which he picked up at a bookstall at Galway. It must have belonged to some priest educated in Spain. He says any Latin book was invaluable to him. He is infinitely too good for his situation, and the Goldsmiths are neglecting him infamously. Look out some rooms fit for him, Albinia.'

'I will try. Let me see—if I could only recollect any; but Mr. Hope has the only really nice ones in the place.'

'Somewhere he must be, if it is in this house.'

'There is poor old Madame Belmarche's still empty, with Bridget keeping it. I wish he could have rooms there.'

'Well, why not? Pettilove told me it must be let as two tenements. If the old woman could take half, a lodger would pay her rent,' said Mr. Kendal, promptly. 'You had better propose it.'

'And the Goldsmiths?' asked Albinia.

'I will show him the Lower Wharf.'

The next afternoon Mr. Kendal desired his wife to go to the Bank and borrow young O'More for her walking companion.

'Really I don't know whether I have the impudence.'

'I will come and do it for you. You will do best alone with the lad; I want you to get into his confidence, and find out whether old Goldsmith treats him properly. I declare, but that I know John Kendal so well, this would be enough to make me rejoice that Gilbert is not thrown on the world!'

Albinia knew herself to be so tactless, that she saw little hope other doing anything but setting him against his relations; but her husband was in no frame to hear objections, so she made none, and only trusted she should not be very foolish. At least, the walk would be a positive physical benefit to the slave of the desk.

Ulick O'More was at his post, and said his head was well, but his hair stuck up as if his fingers had been many times run through it; he was much thinner, and the wearied countenance, whitened complexion, and spiritless sunken eyes, were a sad contrast to the glowing freshness and life that had distinguished him in the summer.

Mr. Kendal told the Banker that it had been decided that his nephew needed exercise, and that Mrs. Kendal would be glad of his company in a long walk. Mr. Goldsmith seemed rather surprised, but consented, whereupon the young clerk lighted up into animation, and bounded out of his prison house, with a springy step learnt upon mountain heather. Mr. Kendal only waited to hear whither they were bound.

'Oh! as far as we can go on the Woodside road,' said Albinia. 'I think the prescription I used to inflict on poor Sophy will not be thrown away here. I always fancy there is a whiff of sea air upon the hill there.'

Ulick smiled at such a fond delusion, bred up as he had been upon the wildest sea-coast, exposed to the full sweep of the Atlantic storm! She set him off upon his own scenery, to the destruction of his laborious English, as he dwelt on the glories of his beloved rocks rent by fierce sea winds and waves into fantastic, grotesque, or lovely shapes, with fiords of exquisite blue sea between, the variety of which had been to him as the gentle foliage of tamer countries. Not a tree stood near the 'town' of Ballymakilty, but the wild crags, the sparkling waters, the broad open hills, and the bogs, with their intensely purple horizon, held fast upon his heart; and he told of white sands, reported to be haunted by mermaids, and crevices of rock where the tide roared, and gave rise to legends of sea monsters, and giants turned to stone. He was becoming confidential and intimate when, in a lowered voice, he mentioned the Banshee's crag, where the shrouded messenger of doom never failed to bewail each dying child of the O'More, and where his own old nurse had actually beheld her keening for the uncle who was killed among the Caffres. Albinia began to know how she ought to respect the O'Mores.

They were skirting the side of the hill, with a dip of green meadow-land below them, rising on the other side into coppices. The twang of the horn, and the babbling cry of the hounds, reminded Albinia that the hunting season had begun, and looking over a gate, she watched the parti-coloured forms of the dogs glancing among the brushwood opposite, and an occasional red coat gleaming out through the hedge above. Just then the cry ceased, the dogs became silent, and scattered hither and thither bewildered. Ulick looked eagerly, then suddenly vaulted over the gate, went forward a few steps, looked again, pointed towards some dark object which she could barely discern, put his finger in his ear, and uttered an unearthly screech, incomprehensible to her, but well understood by the huntsman, and through him by the dogs, which at once simultaneously dashed in one direction, and came pouring into the meadow over towards him, down went their heads, up went their curved tails, the clatter and rushing of hoofs, and the apparition of red coats, showed the hunters all going round the copse, while at the same moment, away with winged steps bounded her companion, flying headlong like the wind, so as to meet the hunt.

'Ask me not what the lady feels, Left in that dreadful hour alone,'

laughed Albinia to herself. 'Well done, speed! Edmund might be satisfied there's not much amiss! Through the hedge—over the meadow—a flying leap over the stream—it is more like a bird than a man—up again. Does he mean to follow the hunt all the rest of the way? Rather Irish, I must say! And I do believe they will all come down this lane! I must walk on; it wont do to be overtaken here between these high hedges. Ah! I thought he was too much of a gentleman to leave me—here he comes. How much in his way I must be! I never saw such a runner; not a bit does he slacken for the hill—and what bright cheeks and eyes! What good it must have done him!'

'I beg ten thousand pardons!' cried he, as he came up, scarcely out of breath. 'I declare I forgot you, I could not help it, when I saw them at a check !'

'You feel for the hunter as I do for the fox,' said Albinia. 'Is yours one of the great hunting neighbourhoods?'

'That it is!' he cried. 'My grandfather had the grand stud! He and his seven sons were out three times in the week, and there was a mount for whoever wanted it!'

'And this generation is not behind the last?'

'Ah! and why would it be?' exclaimed the boy, the last remnant of English pronunciation forsaking him. 'My Uncle Connel has the best mare on this side the bridge of Athlone! I mean that side.'

'And how is it with you?' asked Albinia.

'We've got no horses—that is, except my father's mare, and the colt, and Fir Darrig—the swish-tailed pony—and the blind donkey that brings in the turf. So we younger ones mostly go hunting on foot; and after all I believe that's the best sport. Bryan always comes in before any of the horses, and we all think it a shame if we don't!'

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