more fatal effect.
One morning, Mr. Kendal saw his wife descending the picturesque
rugged stone staircase that led outside the house to the upper
stories of the old block of buildings under the hill, nearly opposite
to Willow Lawn. She came towards him with tears still in her eyes as
she said, 'Poor Mrs. Simkins has just lost her little girl, and I am
afraid the two boys are sickening.'
'What do you mean? Is the fever there again?' exclaimed Mr. Kendal
in the utmost consternation.
'Did you not know it? Lucy has been very anxious about the child,
who was in her class.'
'You have not taken Lucy to a house with a fever!'
'No, I thought it safer not, though she wanted very much to go.'
'But you have been going yourself!'
'It was a low, lingering fever. I had not thought it infectious, and
even now I believe it is only one of those that run through an
over-crowded family. The only wonder is, that they are ever well in
such a place. Dear Edmund, don't be angry; it is what I used to do
continually at Fairmead. I never caught anything; and there is
plenty of chloride of lime, and all that. I never imagined you would
'It is the very place where the fever began before!' said Mr. Kendal,
almost under his breath.
Instead of going into the house, he made her turn into the garden,
where little Maurice was being promenaded in the sun. He stretched
out from his nurse's arms to go to them, and Albinia was going
towards him, but her husband held her fast, and said, 'I beg you will
not take the child till you have changed your dress.'
Albinia was quite subdued, alarmed at the effect on him.
'You must go away at once,' he said presently. 'How soon can you be
ready? You had better take Lucy and Maurice at once to your
brother's. They will excuse the liberty when they know the cause.'
'And pray what is to become of poor Sophy?'
'Never going out, there may be the less risk for her. I will take
care of her myself.'
'As if I was going to endure that!' cried Albinia. 'No, no, Edmund,
I am not likely to run away from you and Sophy! You may send Lucy
off, if you like, but certainly not me, or if you do I shall come
back the same evening.'
'I should be much happier if you were gone.'
'Thank you, but what should I be? No, if it were to be caught here,
which I don't believe, now the pond is gone, it would be of no use to
send me away, after I have been into the house with it.'
Her resolution and Sophy's need prevailed, and most unwillingly Mr.
Kendal gave up the point. She was persuaded that he was acting on a
panic, the less to be wondered at after all he had suffered. She
thought the chief danger was from the effect of his fears, and would
fain have persuaded him to remain at Fairmead with Lucy, but she was
not prepared to hear him insist on likewise removing Maurice. She
had promised not to enter the sick room again, and pleaded that the
little boy need never be taken into the street - that the fever was
not likely to come across the running stream - that the Fairmead
nursery was full enough already.
Mr. Kendal was inexorable. 'I hope you may never see what I have
seen,' he said gravely, and Albinia was silenced.
A man who had lost so many children might be allowed to be morbidly
jealous of the health of the rest. But it was a cruel stroke to her
to be obliged to part with her noble little boy, just when his daily
advances in walking and talking made him more charming than ever.
Her eyes were full of tears, and she struggled to choke back some
pettish rebellious words.
'You do not like to trust him with Susan,' said Mr. Kendal; 'you had
better come with him.'
'No,' said Albinia, 'I ought to stay here, and if you judge it right,
Maurice must go. I'll go and speak to Susan.'
And away she ran, for she had no power just then to speak in a wifely
manner. It was not easy to respect a man in a panic so extremely
He was resolved on an immediate start, and the next few hours were
spent in busy preparation, and in watching lest the excited Lucy
should frighten her sister. Albinia tried to persuade Mr. Kendal at
least to sleep at Fairmead that night, and after watching him drive
off, she hurried, dashing away the tears that would gather again and
again in her eyes, to hold council with the Dusautoys on the best
means of stopping the course of the malady, by depriving it of its
She had a quiet snug evening with Sophy, whom she had so much
interested in the destitution of the sick children as to set her to
work at some night-gear for them, and she afterwards sat long over
the fire trying to read to silence the longing after the little soft
cheek that had never yet been laid to rest without her caress, and
foreboding that Mr. Kendal would return from his dark solitary drive
with his spirits at the lowest ebb.
So late that she had begun to hope that Winifred had obeyed her
behest and detained him, she heard his step, and before she could run
to meet him, he had already shut himself into the study.
She was at the door in a moment; she feared he had thought her
self-willed in the morning, and she was the more bent on rousing him.
She knocked - she opened the door. He had thrown himself into his
arm-chair, and was bending over the dreary, smouldering, sulky log and
white ashes, and his face, as he raised his head, was as if the whole
load of care and sorrow had suddenly descended again.
'I am sorry you sat up,' was of course his beginning, conveying
anything but welcome; but she knew that this only meant that he was
in a state of depression. She took hold of his hand, chilled with
holding the reins, told him of the good fire in the morning-room, and
fairly drew him up-stairs.
There the lamp burnt brightly, and the red fire cast a merry glow
over the shining chintz curtains, and the two chairs drawn so cosily
towards the fire, the kettle puffing on the hearth, and Albinia's
choice little bed-room set of tea-china ready on the small table.
The cheerfulness seemed visibly to diffuse itself over his face, but
he still struggled to cherish his gloom, 'Thank you, but I would not
have had you take all this trouble, my dear.'
'It would be a great deal more trouble if you caught a bad cold. I
meant you to sleep at Fairmead.'
'Yes, they pressed me very kindly, but I could not bear not to come
'And how did Maurice comport himself?'
'He talked to the horse and then went to sleep, and he was not at all
shy with his aunt after the first. He watched the children, but had
not begun to play with them. Still I think he will be quite happy
with Lucy there, and I hope it will not be for long.'
It was a favourable sign that Mr. Kendal communicated all these
particulars without being plied with questions, and Albinia went on
with the more spirit.
'No, I hope it may not be for long. We have been holding a great
council against the enemy, and I do hope that we have really done
something. No, you need not be afraid, I have not been there again,
but we have been routing out the nucleus, and hope we may starve out
the fever for want of victims. You never saw such a swarm as we had
to turn out. There were twenty-three people to be considered for.'
'Twenty-three! Have you turned out the whole block?'
'No, I wish we had; but that would have been seventy-five. This is
only from those two tenements with one door!'
'I should have thought so; but the lawful inhabitants make up
sixteen, and there were seven lodgers.'
Mr. Kendal gave a kind of groan, and asked what she had done; she
detailed the measures.
'Twenty-three people in those two houses, and seventy-five in the
whole block of building?'
'Too true. And if you could only see the rooms! The windows that
wont open; the roofs that open too much; the dirt on the staircases,
and, oh! the horrible smells!'
'It shall not go on,' said Mr. Kendal. 'I will look over the place.'
'Not till the fever is out of it,' hastily interposed Albinia.
He made a sign of assent, and went on: 'I will certainly talk to
Pettilove, and have the place repaired, if it be at my own expense.'
Albinia lifted up her eyes, not understanding at whose expense it
'The fact is,' continued Mr. Kendal, 'that there has been little to
induce me to take interest in the property. Old Mr. Meadows was, as
you know, a successful solicitor, and purchased these various town
tenements bit by bit, and then settled them very strictly on his
grandson. He charged the property with life incomes to his widow and
daughters, and to me; but the land is in the hands of trustees until
my son's majority, and Pettilove is the only surviving trustee.'
The burning colour mantled in Albinia's face, and almost inaudibly
she said, 'I beg your pardon, Edmund; I have done you moat grievous
injustice. I thought you _would_ not see - '
'You did not think unjustly, my dear. I ought to have paid more
attention to the state of affairs, and have kept Pettilove in order.
But I knew nothing of English affairs, and was glad to be spared the
unpleasant charge. The consequence of leaving a man like that
irresponsible never occurred to me. His whole conscience in the
matter is to have a large sum to put into Gilbert's hands when he
comes of age. Why, he upholds those dens of iniquity in Tibbs's
Alley on that very ground!'
'Poor Gilbert! I am afraid a large sum so collected is not likely to
do him much good! and at one-and-twenty - ! But that is one notion of
Albinia was much happier after that conversation. She could better
endure to regret her own injustice than to believe her husband the
cruel landlord; and it was no small advance that he had afforded her
an explanation which once he would have deemed beyond the reach of
In spite of the lack of little Maurice's bright presence, which, to
Albinia's great delight, his father missed as much as she did, the
period of quarantine sped by cheerfully. Sophy had not a single
sullen fit the whole time, and Albinia having persuaded Mr. Kendal
that it would be a sanatory measure to whitewash the study ceiling, he
was absolutely forced to turn out of it and live in the morning-room,
with all his books piled up in the dining-room. And on that
great occasion Albinia abstracted two fusty, faded, green canvas
blinds from the windows, carried them off with a pair of tongs, and
pushed them into a bonfire in the garden, persuaded they were the
last relics of the old fever. She had the laurels cut, the curtains
changed, the windows cleaned, and altogether made the room so much
lighter, that when Mr. Kendal again took possession, he did not look
at all sure whether he liked it; and though he was courteously
grateful, he did not avail himself of the den half so much as when it
had more congenial gloom. But then he had the morning-room as a
resort, and it was one of Albinia's bargains with herself, that as
far as her own influence could prevent it, neither he nor Sophy
should ever render it a literal boudoir.
The sense of snugness that the small numbers produced was one great
charm, and made Mr. Kendal come unusually far out of his shell. His
chief sanatory precaution was to take Albinia out for a drive or walk
every day, and these expeditions were greatly enjoyed.
One day, after a visit from her old nurse, Sophy received Albinia
with the words, -
'Oh, mamma,' she said, 'old nurse has been telling me such things. I
shall never be cross with Aunt Maria again. It is such a sad story,
just like one in a book, if she was but that kind of person.'
'Aunt Maria! I remember Mrs. Dusautoy once saying she gave her the
idea of happiness shattered, but - '
'Did she?' exclaimed Sophy. 'I never thought Aunt Maria could have
done anything but fidget everybody that came near her; but old nurse
says a gentleman was once in love with her, and a very handsome young
gentleman too. Old Mr. Pringle's nephew it was, a very fine young
officer in the army. I want you to ask papa if it is true. Nurse
says that he wrote to make an offer for her, very handsomely, but
grandpapa did not choose that both his daughters should go quite
away; so he locked the letter up, and said no, and never told her,
and she thought the captain had been trifling and playing her false,
and pined and fretted, till she got into this nervous way, and fairly
wore herself out, nurse says, and came to be what she is now, instead
of the prettiest young lady in the town! And then, mamma, when
grandpapa died, she found the letter in his papers, and one inside
for her, that had never been given to her; and by that time there was
no hope, for Captain Pringle had gone out with his regiment, and
married a rich young lady in the Indies! Oh, mamma! you see she
really is deserted, and it is all man's treachery that has broken her
heart. I thought people always died or went into convents - I don't
mean that Aunt Maria could have done that, but I did not think that
way of hers was a broken heart!'
'If she has had such troubles, it should indeed make us try to be
very forbearing with her,' said Albinia.
'Will you ask papa about it?' entreated Sophy.
'Yes, certainly; but you must not make sure whether he will think it
right to tell us. Poor Aunt Maria; I do think some part of it must
'But, mamma, is that really like deserted love?'
'My dear, I don't think I ever saw deserted love,' said Albinia,
rather amused. 'I suppose troubles of any kind, if not - I mean, I
suppose, vexations - make people show their want of spirits in the way
most accordant with their natural dispositions, and so your poor aunt
has grown querulous and anxious.'
'If she has such a real grand reason for being unhappy, I shall not
be cross about it now, except - '
Sophy gave a sigh, and Albinia bade her good night.
Mr. Kendal had never heard the story before, but he remembered many
circumstances in corroboration. He knew that Mr. Pringle had a
nephew in the army, he recollected that he had made a figure in
Maria's letters to India; and that he had subsequently married a lady
in the Mauritius, and settled down on her father's estate. He
testified also to the bright gay youth of poor Maria, and his
surprise at the premature loss of beauty and spirits; and from his
knowledge of old Mr. Meadows, he believed him capable of such an act
of domestic tyranny. Maria had always been looked upon as a mere
child, and if her father did not choose to part with her, he would
think it for her good, and his own peace, for her not to be aware of
the proposal. He was much struck, for he had not suspected his
sister-in-law to be capable of such permanent feeling.
'There was little to help her in driving it away,' said Albinia.
'Few occupations or interests, and very little change, to prevent it
from preying on her spirits.'
'True,' said Mr. Kendal; 'a narrow education and limited sphere are
sad evils in such cases.'
'Do you think anything can be a cure for disappointment?' asked
Sophy, in such a solemn, earnest tone, that Albinia was disposed to
laugh; but she knew that this would be a dire offence, and was much
surprised that Sophy had so far broken through her reserve, as to
mingle in their conversation on such a subject.
'Occupation,' said Mr. Kendal, but speaking rather as if from duty
than from conviction. 'There are many sources of happiness, even if
shipwreck have been made on one venture. Your aunt had few resources
to which to turn her mind. Every pursuit or study is a help stored
up against the vacuity which renders every care more corroding.'
'Well!' said Sophy, in her blunt, downright way, 'I think it would
take all the spirit out of everything.'
'I hope you will never be tried,' said Mr. Kendal, with a mournful
smile, as if he did not choose to confess that she had divined too
rightly the probable effect of trouble upon her own temperament.
'I suppose,' said Albinia, 'that the real cure can be but one thing
for that, as for any other trouble. I mean, "Thy will be done." I
don't suppose anything else would give energy to turn to other
duties. But it would be more to the purpose to resolve to be more
considerate to poor Maria.'
'I shall never be impatient with her again,' said Sophy.
And though at first the discovery of so romantic a cause for poor
Miss Meadows's fretfulness dignified it in Sophy's eyes, yet it did
not prove sufficient to make it tolerable when she tormented the
window-blinds, teased the fire, was shocked at Sophy's favourite
studies, or insisting on her wishing to see Maria Drury. Nay, the
bathos often rendered her petty unconscious provocations the more
harassing, and Sophy often felt, in an agony of self-reproach, that
she ought to have known herself too well to expect to show
forbearance with any one when she was under the influence of ill-temper.
In Easter week Mr. Ferrars brought Lucy and Maurice home, and Gilbert
came for a short holiday.
Gilbert was pleased when he was called to go over the empty houses
with his father, Mr. Ferrars, and a mason.
Back they came, horrified at the dreadful disrepair, at the narrow
area into which such numbers were crowded, and still more at the ill
odours which Mr. Ferrars and the mason had gallantly investigated,
till they detected the absence of drains, as well as convinced
themselves that mending roofs, floors, or windows, would be a mere
mockery unless the whole were pulled down.
Mr. Ferrars was more than ever thankful to be a country parson, and
mused on the retribution that the miasma, fostered by the avarice of
the grandfather and the neglect of the father, had brought on the
family. Dives cannot always scorn Lazarus without suffering even in
Gilbert, in the glory of castle-building, was talking eagerly of the
thorough renovation that should take place, the sweep that should be
made of all the old tenements, and the wide healthy streets and model
cottages that should give a new aspect to the town.
Mr. Kendal prepared for the encounter with Pettilove, and his son
begged to go with him, to which he consented, saying that it was time
Gilbert should have an opinion in a matter that affected him so
Gilbert's opinion of the interview was thus announced on his return:
'If there ever was a brute in the world, it is that Pettilove!'
'Then he wont consent to do anything?'
'No, indeed! Say what my father or I would to him, it was all of not
the slightest use. He smiled, and made little intolerable nods, and
regretted - but there were the settlements, and his late lamented
partner! A parcel of stuff. Not so much as a broken window will he
mend! He says he is not authorized!'
'Quite true,' said Mr. Kendal. 'The man is warranted in his
proceedings, and thinks them his duty, though I believe he has a
satisfaction in the power of thwarting me.'
'I'm sure he has!' cried Gilbert. 'I am sure there was spite in his
grin when he pulled out that horrid old parchment, with the lines a
yard long, and read us out the abominable old crabbed writing, all
about the houses, messuages, and tenements thereupon, and a lot of
lawyer's jargon. I'm sure I thought it was left to Peter Pettilove
himself. And when I came to understand it, one would have thought it
took my father to be the worst enemy we had in the world, bent on
'That is the assumption on which settlements are drawn up, Gilbert,'
said his father.
'Can nothing be done, then?' said Albinia.
'Thus much,' said Mr. Kendal. 'Pettilove will not object to our
putting the houses somewhat in repair, as, in fact, that will be
making a present to Gilbert; but he will not spend a farthing on them
of the trust, except to hinder their absolute falling, nor will he
make any regulation on the number of lodgers. As to taking them
down, that is, as I always supposed, out of the question, though I
think the trustees might have stretched a point, being certain of
both my wishes and Gilbert's.'
'Don't you think,' said Mr. Ferrars, looking up from his book, 'that
a sanatory commission might be got to over-ride Gilbert's guardian?'
'My guardian! do not call him so!' muttered Gilbert.
'I am afraid,' said Mr. Kendal, 'that unless your commission emulated
of Albinia and Dusautoy they would have little perception of the
evils. Our local authorities are obtuse in such matters.'
'Agitate! agitate!' murmured Mr. Ferrars, going on with his book.
'Well,' said Albinia, 'at least there is one beer-shop less in
Tibbs's Alley. And if there are tolerable seasons, I daresay paint,
whitewash, and windows to open, may keep the place moderately
wholesome till - Are you sixteen yet, Gilbert? Five years.'
'Yes, and then - '
Gilbert came and sat down beside her, and they built a scheme for the
almshouses so much wanted. Gilbert was sure the accumulation would
easily cover the expense, and Albinia had many an old woman, who it
was hoped might live to enjoy the intended paradise there.
'Yes, yes, I promise,' cried Gilbert, warming with the subject, 'the
first thing I shall do - '
'No, don't promise,' said Albinia. 'Do it from your heart, or not at
'No, don't promise, Gilbert,' said Sophy.
'Why not, Sophy?' he said good-humouredly.
'Because you are just what you feel at the moment,' said Sophy.
'You don't think I should keep it?'
The grave answer fell like lead, and Albinia told her she was not
kind or just to her brother. But she still looked steadily at him,
and answered, 'I cannot help it. What is truth, is truth, and
Gilbert cares only for what he sees at the moment.'
'What is truth need not always be fully uttered,' said Albinia. 'I
hope you may find it untrue.'
But Sophy's words would recur, and weigh on her painfully.
The summer had just begun, when notice was given that a Confirmation
would take place in the autumn; and Lucy's name was one of the first
sent in to Mr. Dusautoy. His plan was to collect his candidates in
weekly classes of a few at a time, and likewise to see as much as he
could of them in private.
'Oh! mamma!' exclaimed Lucy, returning from her first class, 'Mr.
Dusautoy has given us each a paper, where we are to set down our
christening days, and our godfathers and godmothers. And only think,
I had not the least notion when I was christened. I could tell
nothing but that Mr. Wenlock was my godfather! It made me feel quite
foolish not to know my godmothers.'
'We were in no situation to have things done in order,' said Mr.
Kendal, gravely. 'If I recollect rightly, one of your godmothers was
Captain Lee's pretty young wife, who died a few weeks after.'
'And the other?' said Lucy.
'Your mother, I believe,' he said.
Lucy employed herself in filling up her paper, and exclaimed, 'Now I
do not know the date! Can you tell me that, papa?'
'It was the Christmas-day next after your birth,' he said. 'I
remember that, for we took you to spend Christmas at the nearest
station of troops, and the chaplain christened you.'
Lucy wrote down the particulars, and exclaimed, 'What an old baby I
must have been! Six months old! And I wonder when Sophy was
christened. I never knew who any of her godfathers and godmothers
were. Did you, Sophy?'
'No - ' she was looking up at her father.
A sudden flush of colour came over his face, and he left the room in
'Why, Sophy!' exclaimed Lucy, 'one would think you had not been
christened at all!'
Even the light Lucy was alarmed at the sound of her own words. The
same idea had thrilled across Albinia; but on turning her eyes on
Sophy, she saw a countenance flushed, anxious, but full rather of
trembling hope than of dismay.
In a few seconds Mr. Kendal came back with a thick red pocket-book in
his hand, and produced the certificate of the private baptism of
Sophia, daughter of Edmund and Lucy Kendal, at Talloon, March 17th,
Sophy's face had more disappointment in it than satisfaction.
'I can explain the circumstances to you now,' said her father. 'At
Talloon we were almost out of reach of any chaplains, and, as you
know, were almost the only English. We always intended to take you
to the nearest station, as had been done with Lucy, but your dear
mother was never well enough to bear the journey; and when our next
little one was born, it was so plain that he could not live, that I
sent in haste to beg that the chaplain would come to us. It was then
that you were both baptized, and before the week was over, he buried