'I see where you learnt the swiftness of foot that was so useful last July,' said Albinia.
'That? oh! but Bryan would have been up long before me,' said Ulick. 'He'd have made for the lock, not the gate! You should see what sport we have when the fox takes to the Corrig Dearg up among the rocks—and little Rosie upon Fir Darrig, with her hair upon the wind, and her colour like the morning cloud, glancing in and out among the rocks like the fairy of the glen. There are those that think her the best part of the hunt; they say the English officers at Ochlochtimore would never think it worth coming out but for her. I don't believe that, you know,' he added, laughing, 'though I like to fetch a rise out of Ulick at the great house by telling him of it.'
'How old is she?'
'Fifteen last April, and she is like an April wind, when it comes warm and frolicking over the sea! So wild and free, and yet so gentle and soft! Ellen and Mary are grave and steady, and work hard- -every stitch of my stockings was poor Mary's knitting, except what poor old Peggy would send up for a compliment; but Rosie—I don't think she does a thing but sing, and ride, and row the boat, and keep the house alive! My mother shakes her head, but I don't know what she'll say when she gets my aunt's letter. My Aunt Goldsmith purses up her lips, and says, "I'll write to advise my sister to send her daughters to some good school." Ellen, maybe, might bear one, but ah! the thought of little Rosie in a good school!'
'Like her brother Ulick in a good bank, eh?'
'Why,' he cried, 'they always called me the steady Englishman!'
Albinia laughed, but at that moment the sounds of the hunt again occupied them, and all were interpreted by Ulick with the keenest interest, but he would not run away again, though she exhorted him not to regard her. Presently it swept on out of hearing, and by-and-bye they reached the summit of the hill, and looked forth on the dark pine plantations on the opposite undulation, standing out in black relief against a sky golden with a pale, pure, pearly November sunset, a 'daffodil sky' flecked with tiny fleeces of soft bright-yellow light, reminding Albinia of Fouque's beautiful dream of Aslauga's golden hair showing the gates of Heaven to her devoted knight. She looked for her companion's sympathy in her admiration, but the woods seemed to oppress him, and his panting sigh showed how real a thing was he-men.
'Oh! my poor sun!' he broke out, 'I pity you for having to go down before your time into these black, stifling woods that rise up to smother you like giants—and not into your own broad, cool Atlantic, laughing up your own sparkles of light.'
'We inland people can hardly appreciate your longing for space.'
'It's a very prison,' said Ulick; 'the horizon is choked all round, and one can't breathe in these staid stiff hedges and enclosures!' And he threw out his arms and flapped them over his breast with a gesture of constraint.
'You seem no friend to cultivation.'
'Why, your meadows would be pretty things if they were a little greener,' said Ulick; 'but one gets tired of them, and of those straight lines of ploughed field. There's no sense of liberty; it is like the man whose prison walls closed in upon him!' And he gave another weary sigh, his step lost elasticity, and he moved on heavily.
'You are tired; I have brought you too far.'
'Tired by a bit of a step like this?' cried the boy, disdainfully, as he straightened himself, and resumed his brisk tread. But it did not last.
'I had forgotten that you had not been well,' she said.
'Pshaw!' muttered Ulick; then resumed, 'Aye, Mr. Kendal brought in the doctor upon me—very kind of him—but I do assure you 'tis nothing but home sickness; I was nearly as bad when I went to St. Columba, but I got over it then, and I will again!'
'It may be so in part,' said Albinia, kindly; 'but let me be impertinent, Ulick, for my sister Winifred told me to look after you; surely you give it every provocation. Such a change of habits is enough to make any one ill. Should you not ask your uncle for a holiday, and go home for a little while?'
'Don't name it, I beg of you,' cried the poor lad in an agitated voice, 'it would only bring it all over again! I've promised my mother to do my part, and with His help I will! Let the columns run out to all eternity, and the figures crook themselves as spitefully as they will, I've vowed to myself not to stir till I've got the better of the villains!'
'Ah!' said Albinia, 'they have blackened your eyes like the bruises of material antagonists! Yes, it is a gallant battle, but indeed you must give yourself all the help you can, for it would be doing your mother no good to fall ill.'
'I've no fears,' said Ulick; 'I know very well what is the matter with me, and that if I don't give way, it will go off in time. You've given it a good shove with your kindness, Mrs. Kendal,' he added, with deep emotion in his sensitive voice; 'only you must not talk of my going home, or you'll undo all you have done.'
'Then I won't; we must try to make you a home here. And in the first place, those lodgings of yours; you can never be comfortable in them.'
'Ah! you saw my fire smoking. I never shall learn to make a coal fire burn.'
'Not only that,' said Albinia, 'but you might easily find rooms much better furnished, and fitter for you.'
'I do assure you,' exclaimed Ulick, 'you scarcely saw it! Why, I don't think there's a room at the big house in better order, or so good!'
'At least,' said Albinia, repressing her deduction as to the big house of Ballymakilty, 'you have no particular love for the locality—the river smell—the stock of good leather, &c.'
'It's all Bayford and town smell together,' said Ulick; 'I never thought one part worse than another, begging your pardon, Mrs. Kendal.'
'And I am sure,' she continued, 'that woman can never make your meals comfortable. Yes, I see I am right, and I assure you hard head-work needs good living, and you will never be a match for the rogues in black and white without good beef-steaks. Now confess whether she gives you dinners of old shoe-leather.'
'A man can't sit down to dinner by himself,' cried Ulick, impatiently. 'Tea with a book are all that is bearable.'
'And you never go out—never see any one.'
'I dine at my uncle's every Sunday,' said Ulick.
'Is that all the variety you have?'
'Why, my uncle told me he would not have me getting into what he calls idle company. I've dined once at the vicarage, and drunk tea twice with Mr. Hope, but it is no use thinking of it—I couldn't afford it, and that's the truth.'
'Have you any books? What can you find to do all the evening?'
'I have a few that bear reading pretty often, and Mr. Hope as lent me some. I've been trying to keep up my Greek, and then I do believe there's some way of simplifying those accounts by logarithms, if I could but work it out. But my mother told me to walk, and I assure you I do take a constitutional as soon as I come out at half-past four every day.'
'Well, I have designs, and mind you don't traverse them, or I shall have to report you at home. I have a lodging in my eye for you, away from the river, and a nice clean, tidy Irishwoman to keep you in order, make your fires, and cram you, if you wont eat, and see if she does not make a man of you—'
'Stop, stop, Mrs. Kendal!' cried Ulick, distressed. 'You are very kind, but it can't be.'
'Excuse me, it is economy of the wrong sort to live in a gutter, and catch agues and fevers. Only think, if it was my boy Gilbert, should I not be obliged to any one that would tyrannize over him for his good! Besides, what I propose is not at all beyond such means as Mr. Kendal tells me are the least Mr. Goldsmith ought to give you. Do you dislike going into particulars with me? You know I am used to think for Gilbert, and I am a sort of cousin.'
'You are kindness itself,' said Ulick; 'and there! I suppose I must go to the bottom of it, and it is no news that pence are not plenty among the O'Mores, though it is no fault of my uncle. See there what my poor dear mother says.'
He drew a letter from his pocket, and gave a page to her.
'I miss you sorely, my boy,' it said; 'I know the more what a support and friend you have been to me now that you are so far away; but all is made up to me in knowing you to be among my own people, and the instrument of reconciliation with my brother, as you well know how great has been the pain of the estrangement caused by my own pride and wilfulness. I cannot tell you how glad I am that he approves of you, and that you are beginning to get used to the work that was my own poor father's for so long. Bred up as you have been, my mountain lad, I scarcely dared to hope that you would be able to sit down quietly to it, with all our hopes of making you a scholar so suddenly frustrated; but I might have put faith in your loving heart and sense of duty to carry you through anything. I feel as if a load were off my mind since you and Bryan are so happily launched. The boy has not once applied for money since he joined; and if you write to him, pray beg him to be careful, for it would well-nigh drive your father mad to be pressed any more—the poor mare has been sold at a dead loss and the Carrick-humbug quarry company pays no dividends, so how we are to meet the Christmas bills I cannot guess. But, as you remember, we have won over worse times, and now Providence has been so good to you and Bryan, what have I to do but be thankful and hope the best.'
Ulick watched her face, and gave her another note, saying mournfully, 'You see they all, but my mother, think, that if I am dragging our family honour through the mire, I've got something by it. Poor Bryan, he knows no better—he's younger than me by two years.'
The young ensign made a piteous confession of the first debt he had been able to contract, for twenty pounds, with a promise that if his brother would help him out of this one scrape, he would never run into another.
'I am very sorry for you, Ulick,' said Albinia, 'and I hate to advise you to be selfish, but it really is quite impossible for you to be paymaster for all your brothers' debts.'
'If it were Connel, I know it would be of no use,' said Ulick. 'But Bryan—you see he has got a start—they gave him a commission, and he is the finest fellow of us all, and knows what his word is, and keeps it! Maybe, if I get on, I may be able to save, and help him to his next step, and then if Redmond could get to college, my mother would be a happy woman, and all thanks to my uncle.'
'Then it is this twenty pounds that is pinching you now? Is that it?'
'You see my uncle said he would give me enough to keep me as a gentleman and his nephew, but not enough to keep all the family, as he said. After my Christmas quarter I shall be up in the world again, and then there will be time to think of the woman you spoke of—a Connaught woman, did you say?'
When Albinia reported this dialogue to her husband, he was much moved by this simple self-abnegation.
'There is nothing for it,' he said, 'but to bring him here till Christmas, and by that time we will take care that the new lodgings are cheap enough for him. He must not be left to the mercy of old Goldsmith and his sister!'
Even Albinia was astonished, but Mr. Kendal carried out his intentions, and went in quest of his new friend; while no one thought of objecting except grandmamma.
'I suppose, my dear,' she said, 'that you know what Mr. Goldsmith means to do for this young man.'
'I am sure I don't,' said Albinia.
'Really! Ah! well, I'm an old woman, and I may be wrong, but my poor dear Mr. Meadows would never encourage a banker's clerk about the house unless he knew what were his expectations. Irish too! If there was a thing Mr. Meadows disliked more than another, it was an Irishman! He said they were all adventurers.'
However, Ulick's first evening at Willow Lawn was on what he called 'a headache day.' He could not have taken a better measure for overcoming grandmamma's objections. Poor dear Mr. Meadows' worldly wisdom was not sufficiently native to her to withstand the sight of anything so pale and suffering, especially as he did not rebel against answering her close examination, which concluded in her pronouncing these intermitting attacks to be agueish, and prescribing quinine. To take medicines is an effectual way of gaining an old lady's love. Ulick was soon established in her mind as 'a very pretty behaved young gentleman.'
In the evenings, when Mr. Kendal read aloud, Ulick listened, and enjoyed it from the corner where he sheltered his eyes from the light. He was told that he ought to go to bed quickly, but after the ladies were in their rooms, a long buzzing murmur was heard in the passage, and judicious peeping revealed the two gentlemen, each, candle in hand, the one with his back against the wall at the top of the stairs, the other leaning upon the balusters three steps below, and there they stayed, till the clock struck one, and Ulick's candle burnt out.
'What could you be talking about?' asked the aggrieved Albinia.
'Prometheus Vinctus,' composedly returned Mr. Kendal.
Ulick's eagerness in collecting every crumb of scholarship was a great bond of union; but there was still more in the bright, open, demonstrative nature of the youth, which had a great attraction for the reserved, serious Mr. Kendal, and scarcely a day had passed before they were on terms of intimacy, almost like an elder and younger brother. Admitted into the family as a connexion, Ulick at once viewed the girls as cousins, and treated them with the same easy grace of good-natured familiarity as if they had been any of the nineteen Miss O'Mores around Ballymakilty.
'How is your head now?' asked Mr. Kendal. 'You are late this evening.'
'Yes,' said Ulick, entering the drawing-room, which was ruddy with firelight, and fragrant with the breath of the conservatory, and leaning over an arm-chair, as he tried to rub the aching out of his brow; 'there were some accounts to finish up and my additions came out different every time.'
'A sure sign that you ought to have left off.'
'I was just going to have told my uncle I was good for nothing to-day, when I heard old Johns mumbling something to him about Mr. More being unwell, and looking up, I saw that cold grey eye twinkling at me, as much as to say he was proud to see how soon an Irishman could be beaten. So what could I do but give him look for look, and go on with eight and seven, and five and two, as unconcerned as he was.'
'Well,' said Mr. Kendal, 'you know I think that your uncle's apparent indifference may be his fashion of being your best friend.'
'I'd take it like sunshine in May from a stranger, and be proud to disappoint him,' said Ulick, 'but to call himself my uncle, and use my mother's own eyes to look at me that way, that's the stroke! and to think that I'm only striving to harden myself by force of habit to be exactly like him! I'd rather enlist to-morrow, if that would not be his greatest triumph!' he cried, pressing his hands hard on his temple. 'It is very childish, but I could forgive him anything but using my mother's eyes that way!'
'You will yet rejoice in the likeness,' said Mr. Kendal. 'You must believe in more than you can trace, and when your perseverance has conquered his esteem, the rest will follow.'
'Follow? The rest, as you call it, would go before at home,' sighed Ulick, wearily. 'Esteem is like fame! what I want begins without it, and lives as well with or without it!'
'Perhaps,' said his friend, 'Mr. Goldsmith would think it weakness to show preference to a relation before it was earned.'
'Ah then,' cried Ulick, in a quaint Irish tone, 'Heaven have mercy on the little children!'
'Yes, the doctrine can only be consistently held by a solitary man.'
'Where would we be but for inconsistency?' exclaimed Ulick.
'I do not like to hear you talk in that manner,' said Sophy. 'Inconsistency is mere weakness.'
'Ah! then you are the dangerous character,' said Ulick, with a droll gesture of sheltering himself behind the chair.
'I did not call myself consistent, I wish I were,' she said, gravely.
'How she must love the French!' returned Ulick, confidentially turning to her father.
'Not at all, I detest them.'
'Then you are inconsistent, for they're the very models of uncompromising consistency.'
'Yes, to bad principles,' said Sophy.
'Robespierre was a prime specimen of consistency to good principle!'
Sophy turned to her father, and with an odd dubious look, asked him, 'Is be teasing me?'
'He'd be proud to have the honour,' Ulick made answer, so that Mr. Kendal's smile grew broad. It was the funniest thing to see Ulick sporting with Sophy's gravity, constraining her to playfulness, with something of the compulsion exercised by a large frolicsome puppy upon a sober old dog of less size and strength.
'I do not like to see powers wasted on paradox,' she said, even as the grave senior might roll up his lip and snarl.
'I'm in earnest, Sophy,' pursued Ulick, changing his note to eagerness. 'La grande nation herself finds that logic was her bane. Consistency was never made for man! Why where would this world be if it did not go two ways at once?'
Sophy did laugh at this Irish version of the centripetal and centrifugal forces, but she held out. 'The earth describes a circle; I like straight lines.'
'Much we shall have of the right direction, unless we are content to turn right about face,' said Ulick. 'The best path of life is but a herring-bone pattern.'
'What does he know of herring-boning?' asked Mrs. Kendal, coming in at the moment, with a white cashmere cloak folded picturesquely over her delicate blue silk. Ulick in a moment assumed a less careless attitude, as he answered—
'I found my poetical illustration on the motion of the earth too much for her, so I descended to the herring-bone as more suited to her capacity.'
'There he is, mamma,' said Sophy, 'pleading that consistency is the most ruinous thing in the world.'
'I thought as much,' said Albinia. 'Prometheus and his kin do most abound when Ulick's head is worst, and papa is in greatest danger of being late.'
Mr. Kendal turned round, looked at the time-piece, and marched off.
'But mamma!' continued Sophy, driving straight at her point, 'what do you think of consistency?'
'Oh, mamma!' cried Lucy, coming into the room in a flutter of white; 'there you are in your beautiful blue! Have you really put it on for the Drurys?'
Sophy bit her lip, neither pleased at the interruption, nor at the taste.
'Have you a graduated scale of dresses for all your friends, Lucy? asked Ulick.
'Everybody has, I suppose,' said Lucy.
'Ah! then I shall know how to judge how I stand in your favour. I never knew so well what the garb of friendship meant.'
'You must know which way her scale goes,' said Albinia, laughing at Sophy's evident affront at the frivolous turn the conversation had taken.
'That needs no asking,' quoth Ulick, 'Unadorned, adorned the most for the nearest the hearth.'
'That's all conceit,' said Lucy. 'Maybe familiarity breeds contempt.'
'No, no, when young ladies despise, they use a precision that says, "'Tis myself I care for, and not you."'
'What an observer!' cried Lucy. 'Now then, interpret my dress to-night!'
'How can you, Lucy!' muttered the scandalized Sophy.
'Well, Sophy, as you will have him to torment with philosophy this whole evening, I think you might give him a little respite,' said Lucy, good-humouredly. 'I want to know what my dress reveals to him!' and drawing up her head, where two coral pins contrasted with her dark braids, and spreading out her full white skirts and cerise trimmings, she threw her figure into an attitude, and darted a merry challenge from her lively black eyes, while Ulick availed himself of the permission to look critically, and Sophy sank back disgusted.
'Miss Kendal can, when she is inclined, produce as much effect with her beams of the second order as with all her splendours displayed.'
'Stuff,' said Lucy.
'Stuff indeed,' more sincerely murmured Sophy.
'Say something in earnest,' said Lucy. 'You professed to tell what I thought of the people.'
'I hope you'll never put on such new white gloves where I'm the party chiefly concerned.'
'What do you mean?'
'They are a great deal too unexceptionable.'
If there were something coquettish in the manner of these two, it did not give Albinia much concern. It was in him 'only Irish;' and Fred Ferrars had made her believe that it was rather a sign of the absence of love than of its presence. She saw much more respect and interest in his mischievous attacks on Sophy's gravity, and though Lucy both pitied him and liked chattering with him, it was all the while under the secret protest that he was only a banker's clerk.
Sophy was glad of the presence of a third person to obviate the perils of her evenings with grandmamma, and she beheld the trio set off to their dinner-party, without the usual dread of being betrayed into wrangling. Mr. O'More devoted himself to the old lady's entertainment, he amused her with droll stories, and played backgammon with her. Then she composed herself to her knitting, and desired them not to mind her, she liked to hear young people talk cheerfully; whereupon Sophy, by way of light and cheerful conversation, renewed the battle of consistency with a whole broadside of heavy metal.
When the diners-out came home, they found the war raging as hotly as ever; a great many historical facts and wise sayings having been fired off on both sides, and neither having found out that each meant the same thing.
However, the hours had gone imperceptibly past them, which could not be said for the others. The half-yearly dinners at Mr. Drury's were Albinia's dread nearly as much as Mr. Kendal's aversion. He was certain, whatever he might intend, to fall into a fit of absence, and she was almost equally sure to hear something unpleasant, and to regret her own reply. On the whole, however, Mr. Kendal came away on this evening the least dissatisfied, for Mr. Goldsmith had asked him with some solicitude, whether he thought 'that lad, young More,' positively unwell; and had gone the length of expressing that he seemed to be fairly sharp, and stuck to his work. Mr. Kendal seized the moment for telling his opinion, of Ulick, and though Mr. Goldsmith coughed and looked dry and almost contemptuous, he was perceptibly gratified, and replied with a maxim evidently intended both as an excuse for himself and as a warning to the Kendals, that young men were always spoilt by being made too much of—in his younger days—&c.
Lucy, meantime, was undergoing the broad banter of her unrefined cousins on the subject of the Irish clerk. A very little grace in the perpetration would have made it grateful to her vanity, but this was far too broad raillery, and made her hold up her head with protestations of her perfect indifference, to which her cousins manifested incredulity, visiting on her with some petty spite their small jealousies of her higher pretensions, and of the attention which had been paid to her by Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy.
'Not that he will ever look at you again, Lucy, you need not flatter yourself,' said the amiable Sarah Anne. 'Harry Wolfe writes that he was flirting with a beautiful young lady who came to see Oxford, and that he is spending quantities of money.'
'It is nothing to me, I am sure,' retorted Lucy. 'Besides, Gilbert says no such thing.'
'Gilbert! oh, no!' exclaimed Miss Drury; 'why, he is just as bad himself. Papa said, from what Mrs. Wolfe told him, he would not take 500 pounds to pay Mr. Gilbert's bills.'
Albinia had been hearing much the same story from Mrs. Drury, though not so much exaggerated, and administered with more condolence. She did not absolutely believe, and yet she could not utterly disbelieve, so the result was a letter to Gilbert, with an anxious exhortation to be careful, and not to be deluded into foolish expenditure in imitation of the Polysyllable; and as no special answer was returned, she dismissed the whole from her mind as a Drury allegation.
The horse chanced to be lame, so that Gilbert could not be met at Hadminster on his return from Oxford, but much earlier than the omnibus usually lumbered into Bayford, he astonished Sophy, who was lying on the sofa in the morning-room, by marching in with a free and easy step, and a loose coat of the most novel device.
'No one else at home?' he asked.
'Only grandmamma. We did not think the omnibus would come in so soon, but I suppose you took a fly, as there were three of you.'
'As if we were going to stand six miles of bus with the Wolfe cub! No, Dusautoy brought his horse down with him, and I took a fly!' said Gilbert. 'Well, and what's the matter with Captain; has the Irishman been riding him?'
Sophy bit her lip to prevent an angry answer, and was glad that Maurice rushed in, fall of uproarious joy. 'Hollo! boy, how you grow! What have you got there?'
'It's my new pop-gun, that Ulick made me, I'll shoot you,' cried Maurice, retiring to a suitable distance.
'I declare the child has caught the brogue! Is the fellow here still?'
'What fellow?' coldly asked Sophy.
'Why, this pet of my father's.'
'Bang!' cried Maurice, and a pellet passed perilously close to Gilbert's eyes.
'Don't, child. Pray is this banker's clerk one of our fixtures, Sophy?'
'I don't know why you despise him, unless it is because it is what you ought to be yourself,' Sophy was provoked into retorting.
'Apparently my father has a monomania for the article.' Gilbert intended to speak with provoking coolness; but another fraternal pellet hit him fall in the nose, and the accompanying shout of glee was too much for an already irritated temper. With passion most unusual in him, he caught hold of the child, and exclaiming, 'You little imp, what do you mean by it?' he wrenched the weapon out of his hand, and dashed it into the fire, in the midst of an energetic 'For shame!' from his sister. Maurice, with a furious 'Naughty Gilbert,' struck at him with both his little fists clenched, and then precipitated himself over the fender to snatch his treasure from the grate, but was instantly captured and pulled back, struggling, kicking, and fighting with all his might, till, to the equal relief of both brothers, Sophy held up the pop-gun in the tongs, one end still tinged with a red glow, smoky, blackened, and perfumed. Maurice made one bound, she lowered it into his grasp as the last red spark died out, and he clasped it as Siegfried did the magic sword!
'There, Maurice, I didn't mean it,' said Gilbert, heartily ashamed and sorry; 'kiss and make it up, and then put on your hat, and we'll come up to old Smith's and get such a jolly one!'
The forgiving child had already given the kiss, glad to atone for his aggressions, but then was absorbed in rubbing the charred wood, amazed that while so much black came off on his fingers, the effect on the weapon was not proportionate, and then tried another shot in a safer direction. 'Come,' said Gilbert, 'put that black affair into the fire, and come along.'
'No!' said Maurice; 'it is my dear gun that Ulick made me, and it shan't be burnt.'
'What, not if I give you a famous one—like a real one, with a stock and barrel?' said Gilbert, anxious to be freed from the tokens of his ebullition.
'No! no!' still stoutly said the constant Maurice. 'I don't want new guns; I've got my dear old one, and I'll keep him to the end of his days and mine!' and he crossed his arms over it.
'That's right, Maurice,' said Sophy; 'stick to old friends that have borne wounds in your service!'
'Well, it's his concern if he likes such a trumpery old thing,' said Gilbert. 'Come here, boy; you don't bear malice! Come and have a ride on my back.'
The practical lesson, 'don't shoot at your brother's nose,' would never have been impressed, had not mamma, on coming in, found Maurice and his pop-gun nearly equally black, and by gradual unfolding of cause and effect, learnt his forgotten offence. She reminded him of ancient promises never to aim at human creatures, assured him that Gilbert was very kind not to have burnt it outright; and to the great displeasure, and temporary relief of all the family, sequestrated the weapon for the rest of the evening.
Sophy told her in confidence that Gilbert had been the most to blame, which she took as merely an instance of Sophy's blindness to Maurice's errors; for the explosion had so completely worked off the Oxford dash, that he was perfectly meek and amiable. Considering the antecedents, such a contrast to himself as young O'More could hardly fail to be an eyesore, walking tame about the home, and specially recommended to his friendship; but so good-natured was he, and so attractive was the Irishman, that it took much influence from Algernon Dusautoy to keep up a thriving aversion. Albinia marvelled at the power exercised over Gilbert by one whose intellect and pretensions he openly contemned, but perceived that obstinacy and undoubting self-satisfaction overmastered his superior intelligence and principle, and that while perceiving all the follies of the Polysyllable, Gilbert had a strange propensity for his company, and therein always resumed the fast man, disdainful of the clerk. He did not like Ulick better for being the immediate cause of the removal of the last traces of the Belmarche family from their old abode, which had been renovated by pretty shamrock chintz furniture, the pride of the two Irish hearts. Indeed it was to be feared that Bridget would assist in the perpetuation of those rolling R's which caused Mr. Goldsmith's brow to contract whenever his nephew careered along upon one.
His departure from Willow Lawn was to take place at Christmas. The Ferrars party were coming to keep the two consecutive birthdays of Sophy and Maurice at Bayford, would take him back for Christmas-day to Fairmead, and on his return he would take possession of his new rooms.
Maurice's fete was to serve as the occasion of paying off civilities to a miscellaneous young party; but as grandmamma's feelings would have been hurt, had not Sophy's been equally distinguished, it was arranged that Mrs. Nugent should then bring her eldest girl to meet the Ferrarses at an early tea.
Just as Albinia had descended to await her guests, Gilbert came down, and presently said, with would-be indifference, 'Oh, by-the-by, Dusautoy said he would look in.'
'The Polysyllable!' cried Albinia, thunderstruck; 'what possessed you to ask him, when you knew I sacrificed Mr. Dusautoy rather than have him to spoil it all?'
'I didn't ask him exactly,' replied Gilbert; 'it was old Bowles, who met us, and tried to nail us to eat our mutton with him, as he called it. I had my answer, and Dusautoy got off by saying he was engaged to us, and desired me to tell you he would make his excuses in person.'
'He can make no excuse for downright falsehood.'
'Hem!' quoth Gilbert. 'You wouldn't have him done into drinking old Bowles's surgery champagne.'
'One comfort is that he wont get any dinner,' said Albinia, vindictively. 'I hope he'll be ravenously hungry.'
'He may not come after all,' said Gilbert; and Albinia, laying hold of that hope, had nearly forgotten the threatened disaster, as her party appeared by instalments, and Winifred owned to her that Sophy had grown better-looking than could have been expected. Her eyes had brightened, the cloudy brown of her cheeks was enlivened, she held herself better, and the less childish dress was much to her advantage. But above all, the moody look of suffering was gone, and her face had something of the grave sweetness and regular beauty of that of her father.
'Seventeen,' said Mrs. Ferrars; 'by the time she is seventy, she may be a remarkably handsome woman!'
The tea-drinking was in lively operation, when after a thundering knock, Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy was ushered in, with the air of a prince honouring the banquet of his vassals, saying, 'I told Kendal I should presume on your hospitality, I beg you will make no difference on my account.'
Of which gracious permission Albinia was resolved to avail herself. She left all the insincerity to her husband, and would by no means allow grandmamma to abdicate the warm corner. She suspected that he wanted an introduction to Mrs. Nugent, and was resolved to defeat this object, unless he should condescend to make the request, so she was well satisfied to see him wedged in between papa and Sophy, while a prodigious quantity of Irish talk was going on between Mrs. Nugent and Mr. O'More, with contributions of satire from Mr. Ferrars which kept every one laughing except little Nora Nugent and Mary Ferrars, who were deep in the preliminaries of an eternal friendship, and held the ends of each other's crackers like a pair of doves. Lucy, however, was ill at ease at the obscurity which shrouded the illustrious guest, and in her anxiety, gave so little attention to her two neighbours, that Willie Ferrars, affronted at some neglect, exclaimed, 'Why, Lucy, what makes you screw your eyes about so! you can't attend to any one.'
'It is because Polly Silly is there,' shouted Master Maurice from his throne beside his mamma.
To the infinite relief of the half-choked Albinia, little Mary Ferrars, with whom her cousin had been carrying on a direful warfare all day, fitted on the cap, shook her head gravely at him, and after an appealing look of indignation, first at his mamma, then at her own, was overheard confiding to Nora Nugent that Maurice was a very naughty boy—she was sorry to say, a regular spoilt child.
'But how should you hinder Miss Kendal from attending?'
'I'll tell you, darling. Poor Lucy! she is very fond of me, and I dare say she wanted me to sit next to her, but you know she will have me for three days, and I have you only this one evening. I'll go and speak to her after tea, when we go into the drawing-room, and then she wont mind.'
Lucy, after an agony of blushes, had somewhat recovered on finding that no one seemed to apply her brother's speech, and when the benevolent Mary made her way to her, and thrust a hand into hers, only a feeble pressure replied to these romantic blandishments, so anxious was she to carry to Mrs. Kendal the information that Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy had been so obliging as to desire his servant to bring his guitar and key-bugle.
'We are much obliged,' said Albinia, 'but look at that face!' and she turned Lucy towards Willie's open-mouthed, dismayed countenance. You must tell him the company are not sufficiently advanced in musical science.'
'But mamma, it would gratify him!'
'Very likely'—and without listening further, Albinia turned to Willie, who had all day been insisting that papa should introduce her to the new game of the Showman.
Infinitely delighted to be relieved from the fear of the guitar, Willie hunted all who would play into another room; whence they were to be summoned, one by one, back to the drawing-room by the showman, Mr. Ferrars, who shrugged his shoulders at the task, but undertook it, and first called for Mrs. Kendal.
She found him stationed before the red curtains, which were closely drawn, and her husband and the three elder ladies sitting by as audience.
'Pray, madam, may I ask what animal you would desire to have exhibited to you, out of the vast resources that my menagerie contains. Choose freely, I undertake that whatever you may select, you shall not be disappointed.'
'What, not if I were to ask for a black spider monkey?' said Albinia, to whom it was very charming to be playing with Maurice again.
Mr. Kendal looked up in entertained curiosity, Mrs. Nugent smiled as if she thought the showman's task impossible, and Winifred stretched out to gain a full view.
'A black spider monkey,' he said, slowly. 'Allow me to ask, madam, if you are acquainted with the character of the beast?'
'It doesn't scratch, does it?' said she, quickly.
'That is for you to answer.'
'I never knew it do so. It does chatter a great deal, but it never scratched that I knew of.'
'Nor I,' said the showman, 'since it was young. Do you think age renders it graver and steadier?'
'Not a bit. It is always frisky and troublesome, and I never knew it get a bit better as it grew older.'
Winifred laughed outright. Mr. Kendal's lips were parted by his smile. 'I wonder what sort of a mother it would make?' said the showman.
'All animals are good mothers, of course.'
'I meant, is it a good disciplinarian?'
'If you mean cuffing its young one for playing exactly the same tricks as itself.'
'Exactly; and what would be the effect of letting it and its young one loose in a great scholar's study?'
'There wouldn't be much study left.'
'And would it be for his good?'
'Really, Mr. Showman, you ask very odd questions. Shall we try?' said Albinia, with a skip backward, so as to lay her hand on the shoulder of her own great scholar, while the showman drew back the curtain, observing—'I wish, ma'am, I could show "it and its young one" together, but the young specimen is unfortunately asleep. Behold the original black spider monkey!'
There stood the monkey, with sunny brown locks round the laughing glowing face, and one white paw still lying on the scholar's shoulder—while his face made no assurance needful that it was very good for him! The mirror concealed behind the curtains was the menagerie! Albinia clapped her hands with delight, and pronounced it the most perfect of games.
'And now let us have Willie,' said Mrs. Ferrars; 'it will conduce to the harmony of the next room.'
Willie, already initiated, hoped to puzzle papa as a platypus ornithoryncus, but was driven to allow that it was a nondescript animal, neither fish, flesh, nor good red-herring, useless, and very fond of grubbing in the mud; and if it were not at Botany Bay, it ought to be! The laughter that hailed his defence of its nose as 'well, nothing particular,' precipitated the drawing up of the curtain and his apparition in the glass: and then Nora Nugent being called, the inseparable Mary accompanied her, arm-in-arm, simpering an announcement that they liked nothing so well as a pair of dear little love-birds.
Oh, unpitying papa! to draw from the unsuspicious Nora the admission that they were very dull little birds, of no shape at all, who always sat hunched up in a corner without any fun, and people said their love was all stupidity and pretence; in fact, if she had one she should call it Silly Polly or Polly Silly!
To silence Willie's exultation in his sister's discomfiture, he was sent to fetch Lucy, whose impersonation of an argus pheasant would not have answered well but for a suggestion of Albinia, that she was eyes all over for any delinquency in school. Ulick O'More, owning with a sigh that he should like to see no beast better than a snipe, gave rise to much ingenuity by being led to describe it as of a class migratory, hard to catch, food for powder, given to long bills. There he guessed something, and stood on the defensive, but could not deny that its element was bogs, but that it had been seen skimming over water meadows, and finding sustenance in banks, whereupon the curtain rose. Ulick rushed upon the battles of his nation, and was only reduced to quiescence by the entrance of Sophy, who expressed a desire to see a coral worm, apparently perplexing the showman, who, to gain time, hemmed, and said, 'A very unusual species, ma'am,' which set all the younger ones in a double giggle, such as confused Sophy, to find herself standing up, with every one looking at her, and listening for her words. 'I thought you undertook for any impossibility in earth air or water.'
'Well, ma'am, do you take me for a mere mountebank? But when ladies and gentlemen take such unusual fancies—and for an animal that—you would not aver that it is often found from home?'
'Never, I should say.'
'Nor that it is accessible?'
'And why is it so, ma'am?'
'Why,' said Sophy, bewildered into forgetting her natural history, 'it lives at the bottom of the sea; that's one thing.'
'Where Truth lives,' said a voice behind.
'I beg to differ,' observed Albinia. 'Truth is a fresh water fish at the bottom of a well; besides, I thought coral worms were always close to the surface.'
'But below it—not in everybody's view,' said Sophy—an answer which seemed much to the satisfaction of the audience, but the showman insisted on knowing why, and whether it did not conceal itself. 'It makes stony caves for itself, out of sight,' said Sophy, almost doubting whether she spoke correctly. 'Well, surely it does so.'
'Most surely,' said an acclamation so general that she did not like it. If she had been younger, she would have turned sulky upon the spot, and Mr. Ferrars almost doubted whether to bring ont his final query. 'Pray, ma'am, do you think this creature out of reach in its self-made cave, at the bottom—no, below the surface of the sea, would be popular enough to repay the cost of procuring it.'
'Ah! that's too bad,' burst out the Hibernian tones. 'Why, is not the best of everything hidden away from the common eye? Out of sight—stony cave—It is the secret worker that lays the true solid foundation, raises the new realms, and forms the precious jewels.' The torrent of r's was irresistible!
'Police! order!' cried the showman. 'An Irish mob has got in, and there's an end of everything.' So up went the curtain, and the polyp appeared, becoming rapidly red coral as she perceived what the exhibition was, and why the politeness of the Green Isle revolted from her proclaiming her own unpopularity. But all she did was to turn gruffly aside, and say, 'It is lucky there are no more ladies to come, Mr. Showman, or the mob would turn everything to a compliment.'
Gilbert's curiosity was directed to the Laughing Jackass, and with too much truth he admitted that it took its tone from whatever it associated with, and caught every note, from the song of the lark to the bray of the donkey; then laughed good-humouredly when the character was fitted upon himself.
'That is all, is it not?' asked the showman. 'I may retire into private life.'
'Oh no,' cried Willie; 'you have forgotten Mr. Dusautoy.'
'I was afraid you had,' said Lucy, 'or you could not have left him to the last.'
'I am tempted to abdicate,' said Mr. Ferrars.
'No,' Albinia said. 'He must have his share, and no one but you can do it. Where can he be? the pause becomes awful!'
'Willie is making suggestions,' said Gilbert; 'his imagination would never stretch farther than a lion. It's what he thinks himself and no mistake.'
'He is big enough to be the elephant,' said little Mary.
'The half-reasoning!' said Ulick, softly; 'and I can answer for his trunk, I saw it come off the omnibus.'
'Ladies and gentlemen, if you persist in such disorderly conduct, the exhibition will close,' cried the showman, waving his wand as Willie trumpeted Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy in, and on the demand what animal he wanted to see, twitched him as Flibbertigibbet did the giant warder, and caused him to respond—'The Giraffe.'
'Has it not another name, sir? A short or a long one, more or less syllables!'
'Camelopard. A polysyllabic word, certainly,' said Algernon, looking with a puzzled expression at the laughers behind; and almost imagining it possible that he could have made an error, he repeated, 'Camel-le-o-pard. Yes, it is a polysyllable'—as, indeed, he had added an unnecessary syllable.
'Most assuredly,' said the showman, looking daggers at his suffocating sister. 'May I ask you to describe the creature?'
'Seventeen feet from the crown to the hoof, but falls off behind,' said the accurate Mr. Dusautoy; 'beautiful tawny colour.'
'Nearly as good as a Lion,' added Gilbert; but Algernon, fancying the game was by way of giving useful instruction to the children, went on in full swing. 'Handsomely mottled with darker brown; a ruminating animal; so gentle that in spite of its size, none of my little friends need be alarmed at its vicinity. Inhabits the African deserts, but may be bred in more temperate latitudes. I myself saw an individual in the Jardin des Plantes, which was popularly said never to bend its neck to the ground, but I consider this a vulgar delusion, for on offering it food, it mildly inclined its head.'
'Let us hope the present specimen is equally condescending,' said Mr. Ferrars.
'Eh! what! I see myself!' said Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy, with a tone so inappreciably grand in mystification, that the showman had no choice but to share the universal convulsion of laughter, while Willie rolling on the floor with ecstasy, shouted, 'Yes, it is you that are the thing with such a long name that it can't bend its head to the ground!'
'But too good-natured to be annoyed at folly,' said Mr. Ferrars, perceiving that it was no sport to him.
'This is the way my mischievous uncle has served us all in turn,' said Lucy, advancing; 'we have all been shown up, and there was mamma a monkey, and I an argus pheasant—'
'Ah! I see,' said the gentleman. 'These are your rural pastimes of the season. Yes, I can take my share in good part, just as I have pelted the masks at the Carnival.'
'Even a giraffe can bend his head and do at Rome as Rome does,' murmured Ulick. But instead of heeding the audacious Irishman, Algernon patronized the showman by thanks for his exhibition; and then sitting down by Lucy, asked if he had ever told her of the tricks that he and il Principe Odorico Moretti used to play at Ems on the old Baron Sprawlowsky, while Mr. Ferrars, leaning over his sister's chair, said aside, 'I beg your pardon, Albinia; I should not have yielded to Willie. This "rural pastime" is only in season en famille.'
'Never mind, it served him right.'
'It may have served him right, but had we the right to serve him?'
'I forgive your prudence for the sake of your folly. Could not Oxford have lessened his pomposity?'
'It comes too late,' said Maurice.
Before Ulick went to bed his pen and ink had depicted the entire caravan. The love-birds were pressed up together, with the individual features of the two young ladies, and completely little parrots; the snipe ran along the bars of the cage, looking exactly like all the O'Mores. The monkey showed nothing but the hands, but one held Maurice, and the other was clenched as if to cuff him, and grandest of all was, as in duty bound, Camelopardelis giraffa, thrown somewhat backwards, with such a majestic form, such a stalking attitude, loftily ruminating face, and legs so like the Cavendish Dusautoy's last new pair of trousers, that Albinia could not help reserving it for the private delectation of his Aunt Fanny.
'It and its young one,' said Mr. Kendal, as he looked at her portrait; and the name delighted him so much, that he for some time applied it with a smile whenever his wife gave him cause to remember how much there was of the monkey in her composition.
It was the merriest Christmas ever known at Willow Lawn, and the first time there had been anything of the atmosphere of family frolic and fun. The lighting up of Sophy was one great ingredient; hitherto mirth had been merely endured by her, whereas now, improved health and spirits had made her take her share, amuse others and be amused, and cease to be hurt by the jarring of chance words. Lucy was lively as usual, but rather more excited than Albinia altogether liked; she was doubly particular about her dress; more disdainful of the common herd, and had a general air of exaltation that made Albinia rejoice when the Polysyllable, the horses, the key-bugle, and genre painting disappeared from the Bayford horizon.
If the end of the vacation were a relief on Lucy's account, Albinia would gladly have lengthened it on Gilbert's. Letters from his tutor had disquieted his father; there had been an expostulation followed by promises, and afterwards one of the usual scenes of argument, complaint, excuse, lamentation, and wish to amend; but lastly, a murmur that it was no use to talk to a father who had never been at the University, and did not know what was expected of a man.
The aspect of Oxford had changed in Albinia's eyes since the days of her brother. Alma Mater had been a vision of pealing bells, chanting voices, cloistered shades, bright waters—the source of her most cherished thoughts, the abode of youth walking in the old paths of pleasantness and peace; and she knew that to faithful hearts, old Oxford was still the same. But to her present anxious gaze it had become a field of snares and temptations, whither she had been the means of sending one, unguarded and unstable.
Once under the influence of a good sound-hearted friend, he might have been easily led right, but his intimacy with young Dusautoy seemed to cancel all hope of this, and to be like a rope about his neck, drawing him into the same career, and keeping aloof all better influences. Algernon, with his pride, pomposity, and false refinement, was more likely to run into ostentations expenditure, than into coarse dissipation, and it might still be hoped that the two youths would drag through without public disgrace; but this was felt to be a very poor hope by those who felt each sin to be a fatal blot, and trembled at the self-indulgent way of life that might be a more fatal injury than even the ban of the authorities.
She saw that the anxiety pressed heavily on Mr. Kendal, and though both shrank from giving their uneasiness force by putting it into words, each felt that it was ever-present with the other. Mr. Kendal was deeply grieving over the effects, for the former state of ignorance and apathy of the evils of which he had only recently become fully sensible. Living for himself alone, without cognizance of his membership in one great universal system, he had needed the sense of churchmanship to make him act up to his duties as father, neighbour, citizen, and man of property; and when aroused, he found that the time of his inaction had bound him about with fetters. A tone of mind had grown up in his family from which only Sophy had been entirely freed; seeds of ineradicable evil had been sown, mischiefs had grown by neglect, abuses been established by custom; and his own personal disadvantages, his mauvaise honte, his reserved, apparently proud manner, his slowness of speech, dislike to interruption, and over-vehemence when excited, had so much increased upon him, as, in spite of his efforts, to be serious hindrances. Kind, liberal, painstaking, and conscientious as he had become, he was still looked upon as hard, stern, and tyrannical. His ten years of inertness had strewn his path with thorns and briars, even beyond his own household; and when he looked back to his neglect of his son, he felt that even the worst consequences would be but just retribution.
Once such feelings would have wrapt him in morbid gloom; now he strove against his disposition to sit inert and hidden, he did his work manfully, and endeavoured not to let his want of spirits sadden the household.
Nor was he insensible to the cheerful healthy atmosphere of animation which had diffused itself there; and the bright discussions of the trifling interests of the day. Ulick O'More was also a care to him, which did him a great deal of good.
That young gentleman now lived at his lodgings, but was equally at home at Willow Lawn, and his knock at the library door, when he wished to change a book, usually led to some 'Prometheus' discussion, and sometimes to a walk, if Mr. Kendal thought him looking pale; or to dining and to spending the evening.
His scrapes were peculiar. He had thoroughly mastered his work, and his active mind wanted farther scope, so that he threw himself with avidity into deeper studies, and once fell into horrible disgrace for being detected with a little Plato on his desk. Mr. Goldsmith nearly gave him up in despair, and pronounced that he would never make a man of business. He made matters worse by replying that this was the best chance of his not being a man of speculation. If he were allowed to think of nothing but money, he should speculate for the sake of something to do!
Before Mr. Goldsmith had half recovered the shock, Mr. Dusautoy and Mr. Hope laid violent hands upon young O'More for the evening school twice a week, which almost equally discomposed his aunt. She had never got over the first blow of Mr. Dusautoy's innovations, and felt as if her nephew had gone over to the enemy. She was doubly ungracious at the Sunday dinner, and venomously critical of the choir's chanting, Mr. Hope's voice, and the Vicar's sermons.
The worst scrape came in March. The Willow Lawn ladies were in the lower end of the garden, which, towards the river, was separated from the lane that continued Tibb's Alley, by a low wall surmounted by spikes, and with a disused wicket, always locked, and nearly concealed by a growth of laurels; when out brake a horrible hullabaloo in that region of evil report, the shouts and yells coming nearer, and becoming so distinct that they were about to retreat, when suddenly a dark figure leapt over the gate, and into the garden, amid a storm of outcries. As he disappeared among the laurels, Albinia caught up Maurice, Lucy screamed and prepared to fly, and Sophy started forward, exclaiming, 'It is Ulick, mamma; his face is bleeding!' But as he emerged, she retreated, for she had a nervous terror of the canine race, and in his hand, at arm's length he held by the neck a yellow dog, a black pot dangling from its tail.
'Take care,' he shouted, as Albinia set down Maurice, and was running up to him; 'he may be mad.'
Maurice was caught up again, Lucy shrieked, and Sophy, tottering against an apple-tree, faintly said, 'He has bitten you!'
'No, not he; it was only a stone,' said Ulick, as best he might, with a fast bleeding upper lip. 'They were hunting the poor beast to death—I believe he's no more mad than I am—only with the fright— but best make sure.'
'Fetch some milk, Lucy,' said Albinia. 'Take Maurice with you. No, don't take the poor thing down to the river, he'll only think you are going to drown him. Go, Maurice dear.'
Maurice safe, Albinia was able to find ready expedients after Sir Fowell Buxton's celebrated example. She brought Ulick the gardener's thick gauntlets from the tool-house, and supplied him with her knife, with which he set the poor creature free from the instrument of torture, and then let him loose, with a pan of milk before him, in the old-fashioned summer-house, through the window of which he could observe his motions, and if he looked dangerous, shoot him.
Nothing could look less dangerous; the poor creature sank down on the floor and moaned, licked its hind leg, and then dragged itself as if famished to the milk, lapped a little eagerly, but lay down again whining, as if in pain. Ulick and Albinia called to it, and it looked up and tried to wag its tail, whining appealingly. 'My poor brute!' he cried, 'they've treated you worse than a heathen. That's all—let me see what I can do for you.'
'Yes, but yourself, Ulick,' said Albinia, as in his haste he took down his handkerchief from his mouth; 'I do believe your lip is cut through! You had better attend to that first.'
'No, no, thank you,' said Ulick, eagerly, 'they've broken the poor wretch's leg!' and he was the next moment sitting on the summer-house floor, lifting up the animal tenderly, regardless of her expostulation that the injured, frightened creature might not know its friends. But she did it injustice; it wagged its stumpy tail, and licked his fingers.
She offered to fetch rag for his surgery, and he farther begged for some slight bits of wood to serve as splints, he and his brothers had been dog-doctors before. As she hurried into the house, Sophy, who had sunk on a sofa in the drawing-room, looking deadly pale, called out, 'Is he bitten?'
'No, no,' cried Albinia, hurrying on, 'the dog is all safe. It has only got a broken leg.'
Maurice, with whom Lucy had all this time been fighting, came out with her to see the rest of the adventure; and thought it very cruel that he was not permitted to touch the patient, which bore the operation with affecting fortitude and gratitude, and was then consigned to a basket lined with hay, and left in the summer-house, Mr. Kendal being known to have an almost eastern repugnance to dogs.
Then Ulick had leisure to be conducted to the morning-room, and be rendered a less ghastly spectacle, by some very uncomfortable sticking-plaster moustaches, which hardly permitted him to narrate his battle distinctly. He thought the boys, even of Tibb's Alley, would hardly have ventured any violence after he had interfered, but for some young men who aught to have known better; he fancied he had seen young Tritton of Robbles Leigh, and he was sure of an insolent groom whom Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy, to the great vexation of his uncle, had recently sent down with a horse to the King's Head. They had stimulated the boys to a shout of Paddy and a shower of stones, and Ulick expected credit for great discretion, in having fled instead of fought. 'Ah! if Brian and Connel had but been there, wouldn't we have put them to the rout?'
Nothing would then serve him but going back to Tibb's Alley to trace the dog's history, and meantime Lucy, from the end of the passage, beckoned to Albinia, and whispered mysteriously that 'Sophy would not have any one know it for the world—but,' said Lucy, 'I found her absolutely fainting away on the sofa, only she would not let me call you, and ordered that no one should know anything about it. But, mamma, there was a red-hot knitting-needle sticking out of the fire, and I am quite sure that she meant if Ulick was bitten, to burn out the place.'
Albinia believed Sophy capable of both the resolution and its consequence; but she agreed with Lucy that no notice should be taken, and would not seem aware that Sophy was much paler than usual.
The dog, as well as Ulick could make out, was a waif or stray, belonging to a gipsy deported that morning by the police, and on whom its master's sins had been visited. So without scruple he carried the basket home to his lodgings, and on the way, had the misfortune to encounter his uncle, while shirtfront, coat, and waistcoat were fresh from the muddy and bloody fray, and his visage in the height of disfigurement.
Mr. Goldsmith looked on the whole affair as an insult to every Goldsmith of past ages! A mere street row! He ordered Mr. More to his lodgings, and said be should hear from him to-morrow. Ulick came down to Willow Lawn in the dark, almost considering himself as dismissed, not knowing whether to be glad or sorry; and wanting to consult Mr. Kendal whether it would be possible to work his way at college as Mr. Hope had done, or even wondering whether he might venture to beg for a recommendation to 'Kendal and Kendal.'
Mr. Kendal was so strongly affected, that he took up his hat and went straight to Mr. Goldsmith, 'to put the matter before him in a true light.'
True light or false, it was intolerable in the banker's eyes, and it took a great deal of eloquence to persuade him that his nephew was worth a second trial. Fighting in Tibb's Alley over a gipsy's dog, and coming back looking like a ruffian! Mr. Goldsmith wished him no harm, but it would be a disgrace to the concern to keep him on, and Miss Goldsmith, whom Mr. Kendal heartily wished to gag, chimed in with her old predictions of the consequences of her poor sister's foolish marriage. The final argument, was Mr. Kendal's declaration of the testimonials with which he would at once send him out to Calcutta, to take the situation once offered to his own son. No sooner did Mr. Goldsmith hear that his nephew had an alternative, than he promised to be lenient, and finally dispatched a letter to U. More, Esquire, with a very serious rebuke, but a promise that his conduct should be overlooked, provided the scandal were not repeated, and he should not present himself at the bank till his face should be fit to be seen.
Mr. Kendal mounted him the next morning on Gilbert's horse, and sent him to Fairmead. The dog was left in charge of Bridget, who treated it with abundant kindness, but failed to obtain the exclusive affection which the poor thing lavished upon its rescuer. By the time Ulick came home, it had arrived at limping upon three legs, and was bent on following him wherever he went. Disreputable and heinously ugly it was, of tawny currish yellow (whence it was known as the Orange-man), with a bull-dog countenance; and the legs that did not limp were bandy. Albinia called it the Tripod, but somehow it settled into the title of Hyder Ali, to which it was said to 'answer' the most readily, though it would in fact answer anything from Ulick, and nothing from any one else..
Ever at his heels, the 'brazen Tripod' contrived to establish an entrance at Willow Lawn; scratched till Mr. Kendal would interrupt a 'Prometheus talk' to let him in at the library door; and gradually made it a matter of course to come into the drawing-room, and repose upon Sophy's flounces.
This was by way of compensation for his misadventures elsewhere. He was always bringing Ulick into trouble; shut or tie him up as he might, he was sure to reappear when least wanted. He had been at church, he had been in Miss Goldsmith's drawing-room, he had been found times without number curled up under Ulick's desk. Mr. Goldsmith growled hints about hanging him, and old Mr. Johns, who really was fond of his bright young fellow clerk, gave grave counsel; but Ulick only loved his protege the better, and after having exhausted an Irish vocabulary of expostulation, succeeded in prevailing on him to come no farther than the street; except on very wet days, when he would sometimes be found on the mat in the entry, looking deplorably beseeching, and bringing on his master an irate, 'Here's that dog again!'
'Would that no one fell into worse scrapes,' sighed Mr. Dusautoy, when he heard of Ulick's disasters with Hyder Ali, and it was a sigh that the house of Kendal re-echoed.
Nobody could be surprised when, towards the long vacation, tidings came to Bayford, that after long forbearance on the part of the authorities, the insubordination and riotous conduct of the two young men could be endured no longer. It appeared that young Dusautoy, with his weak head and obstinate will, had never attempted to bend to rules, but had taken every reproof as an insult and defiance. Young men had not been wanting who were ready to take advantage of his lavish expenditure, and to excite his disdain for authorities. They had promoted the only wit he did understand, broad practical jokes and mischief; and had led him into the riot and gambling to which he was not naturally prone. Gilbert Kendal, with more sense and principle, had been led on by the contagion around him, and at last an outrageous wine party had brought matters to a crisis. The most guilty were the most cunning, and the only two to whom the affair could actually be brought home, were Dusautoy and Kendal. The sentence was rustication, and the tutor wrote to Mr. Dusautoy, as the least immediately affected, to ask him to convey the intelligence to Mr. Kendal.
The vicar was not a man to shrink from any task, however painful, but he felt it the more deeply, as, in spite of his partiality, he was forced to look on his own favourite Algernon as the misleader of Gilbert; and when he overtook the sisters on his melancholy way down the hill, he consulted them how their father would bear it.
'Oh! I don't know,' said Lucy; 'he'll be terribly angry. I should not wonder if he sent Gilbert straight off to India; should you, Sophy?'
'I hope he will do nothing in haste,' exclaimed Mr. Dusautoy. 'I do believe if those two lads were but separated, or even out of such company, they would both do very well.'
'Yes,' exclaimed Lucy; 'and, after all, they are such absurd regulations, treating men like schoolboys, wanting them to keep such regular troublesome hours. Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy told me that there was no enduring the having everything enforced.'
'If things had been enforced on poor Algernon earlier, this might never have been,' sighed his uncle.
'I'm sure I don't see why papa should mind it so much,' continued Lucy. 'Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy told me his friend Lord Reginald Raymond had been rusticated twice, and expelled at last.'
'What do you think of it, Sophy?' asked the vicar, anxiously.
'I don't feel as if any of us could ever look up again,' she answered very low.
'Why, no; not that exactly. It is not quite the right way to take these things, Sophy,' said Mr. Dusautoy. 'Boys may be very foolish and wrong-headed, without disgracing their family.'
Sophy did not answer—it was all too fresh and sore, and she did not find much consolation in the number of youths whom Lucy reckoned up as having incurred the like penalty. When they entered the house, and Mr. Dusautoy knocked at the library door, she followed Lucy into the garden, without knowing where she was going, and threw herself down upon the grass, miserable at the pain which was being inflicted upon her father, and with a hardened resentful feeling, between contempt and anger, against the brother, who, for very weakness, could so dishonour and grieve him. She clenched her hand in the intensity of her passionate thoughts and impulses, and sat like a statue, while Lucy, from time to time, between the tying up of flowers and watering of annuals, came up with inconsistent exhortations not to be so unhappy—for it was not expulsion—it was sure to be unjust—nobody would think the worse of them because young men were foolish—all men of spirit did get into scrapes—
It was lucky for Lucy that all this passed by Sophy's ear as unheeded as the babbling of the brook. She did not move, till roused by Ulick O'More, coming up from the bridge, telling that he had met some Irish haymakers in the meadows, and saying he wanted to beg a frock for one of their children.
'I think I can find you one,' said Lucy, 'if you will wait a minute; but don't go in, Mr. Dusautoy is there.'
'Is anything the matter?' he exclaimed.
'Every one must soon know,' said Lucy; 'it is of no use to keep it back, Sophy. Only my brother and Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy have got into a scrape about a wine party, and are going to be rusticated. But wait, I'll fetch the frock.'
Sophy had almost run away while her sister spoke, but the kind look of consternation and pity on Ulick's face deterred her, he in soliloquy repeated, as if confounded by the greatness of the misfortune, 'Poor Gilbert!'
'Poor Gilbert!' burst from Sophy in irritation at misplaced sympathy; 'I thought it would be papa and mamma you cared for!'
'With reason,' returned Ulick, 'but I was thinking how it must break his heart to have pained such as they.'
'I wish he would feel it thus,' exclaimed Sophy; 'but he never will!'
'Oh! banish that notion, Sophy,' cried Ulick, recoiling at the indignation in her dark eyes, 'next to grieving my mother, I declare nothing could crush me like meeting a look such as that from a sister of mine.'
'How can I help it?' she said, reserve breaking down in her vehemence, 'when I think how much papa has suffered—how much Gilbert has to make up to him—how mamma took him for her own—how they have borne with him, and set their happiness on him, and yielded to his fancies, only for him to disappoint them so cruelly, and just because he can't say No! I hope he wont come home; I shall never know how to speak to him !'
'But all that makes it so much the worse for him,' said Ulick, in a tone of amazement.
'Yes, you can't understand,' she answered; 'if he had had one spark of feeling like you, he would rather have died than have gone on as he has done.'
'Surely many a man may be overtaken in a fault, and never be wrong at heart,' said Ulick. 'There's many a worse sin than what the world sets a blot upon, and I believe that is just why homes were made.'
Lucy came back with the frock, and Ulick, thanking her, sped away; while Sophy slowly went upstairs and hid herself on her couch. For a woman to find a man thinking her over-hard and severe, is sure either to harden or to soften her very decidedly, and it was a hard struggle which would be the effect. There was an inclination at first to attribute his surprise to the lax notions and foolish fondness of his home, where no doubt far worse disorders than Gilbert's were treated as mere matters of course. But such strong pity for the offender did not seem to accord with this; and the more she thought, the more sure she became that it was the fresh charity and sweetness of an innocent spirit, 'believing all things,' and separating the fault from the offender. His words had fallen on her ear in a sense beyond what he meant. Pride and uncharitable resentment might be worse sins than mere weakness and excess. She thought of the elder son in the parable, who, unknowing of his brother's temptation and sorrow, closed his heart against his return; and if her tears would have come, she would have wept that she could not bring herself to look on Gilbert otherwise than as the troubler of her father's peace.
When her mother at last came upstairs, she only ventured to ask gently, 'How does papa bear it?'
'It did not come without preparation,' was the answer; 'and at first we were occupied with comforting Mr. Dusautoy, who takes to himself all the shame his nephew will not feel, for having drawn poor Gilbert into such a set.'
'And papa?' still asked Sophy.
'He is very quiet, and it is not easy to tell. I believe it was a great mistake, though not of his making, to send Gilbert to Oxford at all, and I doubt whether he will ever go back again.
'Oh, mamma, not conquer this, and live it down!' cried Sophy; but then changing, she sighed and said, 'If he would—'
'Yes, a great deal depends upon how he may take this, and what becomes of Algernon Dusautoy; though I suppose there is no lack of other tempters. Your papa has even spoken of India again; he still thinks he would be more guarded there, but all depends on the spirit in which we find him. One thing I hope, that I shall leave it all to his father's judgment, and not say one word.'
The next post brought a penitent letter from Gilbert, submitting completely to his father; only begging that he might not see any one at home until he should have redeemed his character, and promising to work very hard and deny himself all relaxation if he might only go to a tutor at a distance.
This did not at all accord with Mr. Kendal's views. He had an unavowed distrust of Gilbert's letters, he did not fancy a tutor thus selected, and believed the boy to be physically incapable of the proposed amount of study. So he wrote a very grave but merciful summons to Willow Lawn.
Albinia went to meet the delinquent at Hadminster, and was struck by the different deportment of the two youths. Algernon Dusautoy, whose servant had met him, sauntered up to her as if nothing had happened, carelessly hoped all were well at Bayford, and, in spite of her exceeding coldness, talked on with perfect ease upon the chances of a war with Russia, and had given her three or four maxims, before Gilbert came up with the luggage van, with a bag in his hand, and a hurried bewildered manner, unable to meet her eye. He handed her into the carriage, seated himself beside her, and drove off without one unnecessary word, while Algernon, mounting his horse, waved them a disengaged farewell, and cantered on. Albinia heard a heavy sigh, and saw her companion very wan and sorrowful, dejection in every feature, in the whole stoop of his figure, and in the nervous twitch of his hands. The contrast gave an additional impulse to her love and pity, and the first words she said were, 'Your father is quite ready to forgive.'
'I knew he would be so,' he answered, hardly able to command his voice; 'I knew you would all be a great deal too kind to me, and that is the worst of all.'
'No, Gilbert, not if it gives you resolution to resist the next time.'
He groaned; and it was not long before she drew from him a sincere avowal of his follies and repentance. He had been led on by assurances that 'every one' did the like, by fear of betraying his own timidity, by absurd dread of being disdained as slow; all this working on his natural indolence and love of excitement, had combined to involve him in habits which had brought on him this disgrace. It was a hopeful sign that he admitted its justice, and accused no one of partiality; the reprimand had told upon him, and he was too completely struck down even to attempt to justify himself; exceedingly afraid of his father, and only longing to hide himself. Such was his utter despair, that Albinia had no scruples in encouraging him, and assuring him with all her heart, that if taken rightly, the shock that brought him to his senses, might be the blessing of his life. He did not take comfort readily, though soothed by her kindness; he could not get over his excessive dread of his father, and each attempt at reassurance fell short. At last it came out that the very core of his misery was this, that he had found himself for part of the journey, in the same train with Miss Durant and two or three children. He could not tell her where he was going nor why, and he had leant back in the carriage, and watched her on the platform by stealth, as she moved about, 'lovelier and more graceful than ever!' but how could he present himself to her in his disgrace and misery? 'Oh, Mrs. Kendal, I forgive my father, but my life was blighted when I was cut off from her!'
'No, Gilbert, you are wrong. There is no blighting in a worthy, disinterested attachment. To be able to love and respect such a woman is a good substantial quality in you, and ought to make you a higher and better man.'
Gilbert turned round a face of extreme amazement. 'I thought,' he said, 'I thought you—' and went no farther.
'I respect your feeling for her more than when it was two years younger,' she said; 'I should respect it doubly if instead of making you ashamed, it had saved you from the need of shame.'
'Do you give me any hope?' cried Gilbert, his face gleaming into sudden eager brightness.
'Things have not become more suitable,' said Albinia; and his look lapsed again into despondency; but she added, 'Each step towards real manhood, force of character, and steadiness, would give you weight which might make your choice worth your father's consideration, and you worth that of Genevieve.'
'Oh! would you but have told me so before!'
'It was evident to your own senses,' said Albinia; and she thought of the suggestion that Sophy had made.
'Too late! too late!' sighed Gilbert.
'No, never too late! You have had a warning; you are very young, and it cannot be too late for winning a character, and redeeming the time!'
'And you tell me I may love her!' repeated Gilbert, so intoxicated with the words, that she became afraid of them.
'I do not tell you that you may importune her, or disobey your father. I only tell you that to look up and work and deny yourself, in honour of one so truly noble, is one of the best and most saving of secondary motives. I shall honour you, Gilbert, if you do so use it as to raise and support you, though of course I cannot promise that she can be earned by it, and even that motive will not do alone, however powerful you may think it.'
Neither of them said more, but Gilbert sighed heavily several times, and would willingly have checked their homeward speed. He grew pale as they entered the town, and groaned as the gates swung back, and they rattled over the wooden bridge. It was about four o'clock, and he said, hurriedly, as with a sort of hope, 'I suppose they are all out.'
He was answered by a whoop of ecstasy, and before he was well out of the carriage, he was seized by the joyous Maurice, shouting that he had been for a ride with papa, without a leading rein. Happy age for both, too young to know more than that the beloved playfellow was at home again!
Little Albinia studied her brother till the small memory came back, and she made her pretty signs for the well-remembered dancing in his arms. From such greetings, Gilbert's wounded spirit could not shrink, much as he dreaded all others; and, carrying the baby and preceded by Maurice, while he again muttered that of course no one was at home, he went upstairs.
Albinia meantime tapped at the library door. She knew Mr. Kendal to be there, yearning to forgive, but thinking it right to have his pardon sought; and she went in to tell him of his son's keen remorse, and deadly fear. Displeased and mournful, Mr. Kendal sighed. 'He has little to fear from me, would he but believe so! He ought to have come to me, but—'
That 'but' meant repentance for over-sternness in times past.
'Let me send him to you.'
'I will come,' said Mr. Kendal, willing to spare his son the terror of presenting himself.
There was a pretty sight in the morning-room. Gilbert was on the floor with the two children, Maurice intent on showing how nearly little Albinia could run alone, and between ordering and coaxing, drawing her gently on; her beautiful brown eyes opened very seriously to the great undertaking, and her round soft hands, with a mixture of confidence and timidity, trusted within the sturdy ones of her small elder, while Gilbert knelt on one knee, and stretched out a protecting arm, really to grasp the little one, if the more childish brother should fail her, and his countenance, lighted up with interest and affection, was far more prepossessing than when so lately it had been, full of cowering, almost abject apprehension.
Was it a sort of instinctive feeling that the little sister would be his best shelter, that made him gather the child into his arms, and hold her before his deeply blushing face as he rose from the floor? She merrily called out, 'Papa!' Maurice loudly began to recount her exploits, and thus passed the salutation, at the end of which Gilbert found that his father was taking the little one from him, and giving her to her mother, who carried her away, calling Maurice with her.
'Have you nothing to say to me?' said Mr. Kendal, after waiting for some moments; but as Gilbert only looked up to him with a piteous, scared, uncertain glance, be added; 'You need not fear me; I believe you have erred more from weakness than from evil inclinations, and I trust in the sincerity of your repentance.'
These kind words softened Gilbert; he assured his father of his thanks for his kindness, no one could grieve more deeply, or be more anxious to atone in any possible manner for what he had unwittingly done.
'I believe you, Gilbert,' said his father; 'but you well know that the only way of atoning for the past, as well as of avoiding such wretchedness and disgrace for the future, is to show greater firmness.'
'I know it is,' said Gilbert, sorrowfully.
'I cannot look into your heart,' added Mr. Kendal. 'I can only hope and believe that your grief for the sin is as deep, or deeper, than that for the public stigma, for which comparatively, I care little.'
Gilbert exclaimed that so indeed it was, and this was no more than the truth. Out of sight of temptation, and in that pure atmosphere, the loud revel and coarse witticisms that had led him on, were only loathsome and disgusting, and made him miserable in the recollection.
'I am ready to submit to anything,' he added, fervently. 'As long as you forgive me, I am ready to bear anything.'
'I forgive you from my heart,' said Mr. Kendal, warmly. 'I only wish to consider what may be most expedient for you. I should scarcely like to send you back to Oxford to retrieve your character, unless I were sure that you would be more resolute in resisting temptation. No, do not reply; your actions during this time of penance will be a far more satisfactory answer than any promises. I had thought of again applying to your cousin John, to take you into his bank, though you could not now go on such terms as you might have done when there was no error in the background, and I still sometimes question whether it be not the safer method.'
'Whatever you please,' said Gilbert; 'I deserve it all.'
'Nay, do not look upon my decision, whatever it may be, as punishment, but only as springing from my desire for your real welfare. I will write to your cousin and ask whether he still has a vacancy, but without absolutely proposing you to him, and we will look on the coming months as a period of probation, during which we may judge what may be the wisest course. I will only ask one other question, Gilbert, and you need not be afraid to answer me fully and freely. Have you any debts at Oxford?'
'A few,' stammered Gilbert, with a great effort.
'Can you tell me to whom, and the amount?'
He tried to recollect as well as he could, while completely frightened and confused by the gravity with which his father was jotting them down in his pocket-book.
'Well, Gilbert,' he concluded, 'you have dealt candidly with me, and you shall never have cause to regret having done so. And now we will only feel that you are at home, and dwell no longer on the cause that has brought you. Come out, and see what we have been doing in the meadow.'
Gilbert seemed more overthrown and broken down by kindness than by reproof. He hardly exerted himself even to play with Maurice, or to amuse his grandmother; and though his sisters treated him as usual, he never once lifted up his eyes to meet Sophy's glance, and scarcely used his voice.
Nothing could be more disarming than such genuine sorrow; and Sophy, pardoning him with all her heart, and mourning for her past want of charity, watched him, longing to do something for his comfort, and to evince her tenderness; but only succeeded in encumbering every petty service or word of intercourse with a weight of sad consciousness.
'I had almost written to ask your pardon,' said Mrs. Dusautoy, as Albinia entered her drawing-room on the afternoon following. 'I should like by way of experiment to know what would put that boy out of countenance. He listened with placid graciousness to his uncle's lecture, and then gave us to understand that he was obliged for his solicitude, and that there was a great deal of jealousy and misrepresentation at Oxford; but he thought it best always to submit to authorities, however unreasonable. And this morning, after amiably paying his respects to me, he said he was going to inquire for Gilbert. I intimated that Willow Lawn was the last place where he would be welcome, but he was far above attending to me. Did Gilbert see him?'
'Gilbert was in the garden with us when we were told he was in the house. Poor fellow, he shuddered, and looked as if he wanted me to guard him, so I sent him out walking with Maurice while I went in, and found Lucy entertaining the gentleman. I made myself as cold and inhospitable as I could, but I am afraid he rather relishes a dignified retenue.'
'Poor boy! I wonder what on earth is to be done with him. I never before knew what John's love and patience were.'
'Do you think he will remain here?'
'I cannot tell; we talk of tutors, but John is really, I believe, happier for having him here, and besides one can be sure the worst he is doing is painting a lobster. However, much would depend on what you and Mr. Kendal thought. If he and Gilbert were doing harm to each other, everything must give way.'
'If people of that age will not keep themselves out of harm's way, nobody can do it for them,' said Albinia, 'and as long as Gilbert continues in his present mood, there is more real separation in voluntarily holding aloof, than if they were sent far apart, only to come together again at college.'
Gilbert did continue in the same mood. The tender cherishing of his home restored his spirits; but he was much subdued, and deeply grateful, as he manifested by the most eager and affectionate courtesy, such as made him almost the servant of everybody, without any personal aim or object, except to work up his deficient studies, and to avoid young Dusautoy. He seemed to cling to his family as his protectors, and to follow the occupations least likely to lead to a meeting with the Polysyllable; he was often at church in the week, rode with his father, went parish visiting with the ladies, and was responsible when Maurice fished for minnows in the meadows. Nothing could be more sincerely desirous to atone for the past and enter on a different course, and no conduct could be more truly humble or endearing.
The imaginary disdain of Ulick O'More was entirely gone, and perceiving that the Irishman's delicacy was keeping him away from Willow Lawn, Gilbert himself met him and brought him home, in the delight of having heard of a naval cadetship having been offered to his brother, and full of such eager joy as longed for sympathy.
'Happy fellow!' Gilbert murmured to himself.
Younger in years, more childish in character, poor Gilbert had managed to make his spirit world-worn and weary, compared with the fresh manly heart of the Irishman, all centered in the kindred 'points of Heaven and home,' and enjoying keenly, for the very reason that he bent dutifully with all his might to a humble and uncongenial task.
Yet somehow, admire and esteem as he would, there arose no intimacy or friendship between Gilbert and Ulick; their manners were frank and easy, but there was no spontaneous approach, no real congeniality, nor exchange of mind and sympathy as between Ulick and Mr. Kendal. Albinia had a theory that the friendship was too much watched to take; Sophy hated herself for the recurring conviction that 'Gilbert was not the kind of stuff,' though she felt day by day how far he excelled her in humility, gentleness, and sweet temper.
When the Goldsmiths gave their annual dinner-party, Albinia felt a sudden glow at the unexpected sight of Ulick O'More.
'I am only deputy for the Orange man,' he said; 'it is Hyder Ali who ought to be dining here! Yes, it is his doing, I'd back him against any detective!'
'What heroism have you been acting together?'
'We had just given Farmer Martin L120 in notes, when as he went out, we heard little Hyder growling and giving tongue, and a fellow swearing as if he was at the fair of Monyveagh, and the farmer hallooing thieves. I found little Hyder had nailed the rascal fast by the leg, just as he had the notes out of the farmer's pouch. I collared him, Johns ran for the police, and the rascal is fast.'
'What a shame to cheat Mr. Kendal of the committal.'
'The policeman said he was gone out, so we had the villain up to the Admiral with the greater satisfaction, as he was a lodger in one of the Admiral's pet public-houses in Tibb's Alley.'
'Ah, when Gilbert is of age,' said Albinia, 'woe to Tibb's! So you are a testimonial to the Tripod?'
'So I suspect, for I found an invitation when I came home, I would have run down to tell you, but I had been kept late, and one takes some getting up for polite society.'
There was a great deal of talk about Hyder's exploit, and some disposition to make Mr. O'More the hero of the day; but this was quickly nipped by his uncle's dry shortness, and the superciliousness with which Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy turned the conversation to the provision of pistols, couriers, and guards, for travelling through the Abruzzi. The polysyllabic courage, and false alarms on such a scale, completely eclipsed a real pick-pocket, caught by a gipsy's cur and a banker's clerk.
Not that Ulick perceived any disregard until later in the evening, when the young Kendals arrived, and of course he wanted each and all to hear of his Tripod's achievement. He met with ready attention from Sophy and Gilbert, who pronounced that as the cat was to Whittington, so was Hyder to O'More; but when in his overflowing he proceeded to Lucy, she had neither eyes nor ears for him, and when the vicar told her Mr. O'More was speaking to her, she turned with an air of petulance, so that he felt obliged to beg her pardon and retreat.
The Bayford parties never lasted later than a few minutes after ten, but when once Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy and Miss Kendal had possession of the piano and guitar, there was no conclusion. Song succeeded song, they wanted nothing save their own harmony, and hardly waited for Miss Goldsmith's sleepy thanks. The vicar hated late hours, and the Kendals felt every song a trespass upon their hosts, but the musicians had their backs to the world, and gave no interval, so that it was eleven o'clock before Mr. Kendal, in desperation, laid his hand on his daughter, and barbarously carried her off.
The flirtation was so palpable, that Albinia mused on the means of repressing it; but she believed that to remonstrate, would only be to give Lucy pleasure, and held her peace till a passion for riding seized upon the young lady. The old pony had hard service between Sophy's needs and Maurice's exactions, but Lucy's soul soared far above ponies, and fastened upon Gilbert's steed.
'And pray what is Gilbert to ride?'
'Oh! papa does not always want Captain, or Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy would lend him Bamfylde.'
'Thank you,' returned Gilbert, satirically.
Next morning Lucy, radiant with smiles, announced that all was settled. Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy's Lady Elmira would be brought down for her to try this afternoon, so Gilbert might keep his own horse and come too, which permission he received with a long whistle and glance at Mrs. Kendal, and then walked out of the room.
'How disobliging!' said Lucy. 'Well then, Sophy, you must make your old hat look as well as you can, for I suppose it will not quite do to go without anyone.'
Sophy, like her brother, looked at Mrs. Kendal, and with an eye of indignant appeal and entreaty, while Albinia's countenance was so full of displeasure, that Lucy continued earnestly, 'O, mamma, you can't object. You used to go out riding with papa when he was at Colonel Bury's.'
'Well, Lucy!' exclaimed her sister, 'I did not think even you capable of such a comparison.'
'It's all the same,' said Lucy tartly, blushing a good deal.
Sophy leapt up to look at her, and Albinia trying to be calm and judicious, demanded, 'What is the same as what?'
'Why, Algernon and me,' was the equally precise reply.
In stately horror, Sophy rose and seriously marched away, leaving, by her look and manner, a species of awe upon both parties, and some seconds passed ere, with crimson blushes, Albania ventured to invite the dreaded admission, by demanding, 'Now, Lucy, will you be so good as to tell me the meaning of this extraordinary allusion?'
'Why, to be sure—I know it was very different. Papa was so old, and there were us,' faltered Lucy, 'but I meant, you would know how it all is—how those things—'
'Stop, Lucy, am I to understand by those things, that you wish me to believe you and Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy are on the game terms as—No, I can't say it.'
'I don't know what you mean,' said Lucy, growing frightened, 'I never thought there could be such an uproar about my just going out riding.'
'You have led me to infer so much more, that it becomes my duty to have an explanation, at least,' she added, thinking this sounded cold, 'I should have hoped you would have given me your confidence.'
'O, but you always would make game of him!' cried Lucy.
'Not now; this is much too serious, if you have been led to believe that his attentions are not as I supposed, because you are the only girl about here whom he thinks worthy of his notice.'
'It's a great deal more,' said Lucy, with more feeling and less vanity than had yet been apparent.
'And what has he been making you think, my poor child?' said Albinia. 'I know it is very distressing, but it would be more right and safe if I knew what it amounts to.'
'Not much after all,' said Lucy, her tone implying the reverse, and though her cheeks were crimson, not averse to the triumph of the avowal, nor enduring as much embarrassment as her auditor, 'only he made me sure of it—he said—(now, mamma, you have made me, so I must) that he had changed his opinion of English beauty—you know, mamma. And another time he said he had wandered Europe over to—to find loveliness on the banks of the Baye. Wasn't it absurd? And he says he does not think it half so much that a woman should be accomplished herself, as that she should be able to appreciate other people's talents—and once he said the Principessa Bianca di Moretti would be very much disappointed.'
'Well, my dear,' said Albinia, kindly putting her arm round Lucy's waist, 'perhaps by themselves the things did not so much require to be told. I can hardly blame you, and I wish I had been more on my guard, and helped you more. Only if he seems to care so little about disappointing this lady might he not do the same by you?'
'But she's an Italian, and a Roman Catholic,' exclaimed Lucy.
Albinia could not help smiling, and Lucy, perceiving that this was hardly a valid excuse for her utter indifference towards her Grandison's Clementina, continued, 'I mean—of course there was nothing in it.'
'Very possibly; but how would it be, if by-and-by he told somebody that Miss Kendal would be very much disappointed?'
'O, mamma,' cried Lucy, hastily detaching herself, 'you don't know!'
'I cannot tell, my poor Lucy,' said Albinia. 'I fear there must be grief and trouble any way, if you let yourself attend to him, for you know, even if he were in earnest, it would not be right to think of a person who has shown so little wish to be good.'
Lucy stood for a few moments before the sense reached her mind, then she dropped into a chair, and exclaimed,
'I see how it is! You'll treat him as grandpapa treated Captain Pringle, but I shall break my heart, quite!' and she burst into tears.
'My dear, your father and I will do our best for your happiness, and we would never use concealment. Whatever we do shall be as Christian people working together, not as tyrants with a silly girl.'
Lucy was pleased, and let Albinia take her hand.
'Then I will write to decline the horse. It would be far too marked.'
'But oh, mamma! you wont keep him away!'
'I shall not alter our habits unless I see cause. He is much too young for us to think seriously of what he may have said; and I entreat you to put it out of your mind, for it would be very sad for you to fix your thoughts on him, and then find him not in earnest, and even if he were, you know it would be wrong to let affection grow up where there is no real dependence upon a person's goodness.'
The kindness soothed Lucy, and though she shed some tears, she did not resist the decision. Indeed she was sensible of that calm determination of manner, which all the family had learnt to mean that the measures thus taken were unalterable, whereas the impetuous impulses often were reversed.
Many a woman's will is like the tide, ever fretting at the verge of the boundary, but afraid to overpass it, and only tempting the utmost limit in the certainty of the recall, and Lucy perhaps felt a kind of protection in the curb, even while she treated it as an injury. She liked to be the object of solicitude, and was pleased with Albinia's extra kindness, while, perhaps, there was some excitement in the belief that Algernon was missing her, so she was particularly amenable, and not much out of spirits.
The original Meadows character, and Bayford breeding, had for a time been surmounted by Albinia's influence and training; but so ingrain was the old disposition, that a touch would at once re-awaken it, and the poor girl was in a neutral state, coloured by whichever impression had been most recent. Albinia's hopes of prevailing in the end increased when Mrs. Dusautoy told her, with a look of intelligence, that Algernon was going to stay with a connexion of his mother, a Mr. Greenaway, with six daughters, very stylish young ladies.
Six stylish young ladies! Albinia could have embraced them all, and actually conferred a cordial nod on Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy when she met him on the way home.
But as she entered the house, so ominous a tone summoned her to the library, that she needed not to be told that Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy had been there.
'I told him,' said Mr. Kendal, 'that he was too young for me to entertain his proposal, and I intimated that he had character to redeem before presenting himself in such capacity.'