little Henry. It was the first of our troubles. We never again had
health or spirits for any festive occasion while we continued in
India, and thus the ceremony was never completed. In fact, I take
shame to myself for having entirely forgotten that you had never been
received into the congregation.'
'Then I have told a falsehood whenever I said the Catechism!' burst
out Sophy. Lucy would have laughed, and Albinia could almost have
been amused at the turn her displeasure had taken.
'It was not your fault,' said Mr. Kendal, quietly.
He evidently wished the subject to be at an end, excepting that in
silence he laid before Albinia's eyes the certificate of the baptism
of the twin-brothers, not long after the first arrival in India. He
then put the book in his pocket, and began, as usual, to read aloud.
'Oh, don't go, mamma,' said Sophy, when she had been carried to her
own room at bed-time, and made ready for the night.
Albinia was only too glad to linger, in the hope to be admitted into
some of the recesses of that untransparent nature, and by way of
assistance, said, 'I was not at all prepared for this discovery.'
Sophy drew a long sigh, and said, 'If I had never been christened, I
should have thought there was some hope for me.'
'That would have been too dreadful. How could you imagine your papa
capable - ?'
'I thought I had found out why I am so horrid! exclaimed Sophy. 'Oh,
if I could only make a fresh beginning! Mamma, do pray give me a
Albinia gave it to her, and she hastily turned the pages to the Order
for Private Baptism.
'At least I have not made the promises and vows!' she said, as if her
stern conscientiousness obtained some relief.
'Not formally made them,' said Albinia; 'but you cannot have a right
to the baptismal blessings, except on those conditions.'
'Mamma, then I never had the sign of the cross on my forehead! It
does not feel blest!' And then, hastily and low, she muttered,' Oh!
is that why I never could bear the cross in all my life!'
'Nay, my poor Sophy, yon must not think of it like a spell. Many
bear the cross no better, who have had it marked on their brows.'
'Can it be done now?' cried Sophy, eagerly.
'Certainly; I think it ought to be done. We will see what your
'Oh, mamma, beg him, pray him!' exclaimed Sophy. 'I know it will
make me begin to be good! I can't bear not to be one of those marked
and sealed. Oh! and, mamma, you will be my godmother? Can't you?
If the gleams of goodness and brightness do find me out, they are
always from you.'
'I think I might be, dear child,' said Albinia, 'but Mr. Dusautoy
must tell us whether I may. But, indeed, I am afraid to see you
reckon too much on this. The essential, the regenerating grace, is
yours already, and can save you from yourself, and Confirmation adds
the rest - but you must not think of any of these like a charm, which
will save you all further trouble with yourself. They do not kill
the faults, but they enable you to deal with them. Even baptism
itself, you know, has destroyed the guilt of past sin, but does not
hinder subsequent temptation.'
Albinia hardly knew how far Sophy attended to this caution, for all
she said was to reiterate the entreaty that the omitted ceremony
might be supplied.
Mr. Kendal gave a ready consent, as soon as he was told that Sophy so
ardently wished for it - so willing, indeed, that Albinia was
surprised, until he went on to say, 'No one need be aware of the
matter beyond ourselves. Your brother and sister would, I have no
doubt, act as sponsors. Nay, if Ferrars would officiate, we need
hardly mention it even to Dusautoy. It could take place in your
'But, Edmund!' began Albinia, aghast, 'would that be the right thing?
I hardly think Maurice would consent.'
'You are not imagining anything so preposterous or inexpedient as to
wish to bring Sophia forward in church,' said Mr. Kendal; 'even if
she were physically capable of it, I should not choose to expose her
to anything so painful or undesirable.'
'I am afraid, then,' said Albinia, 'that it will not be done at all.
It is not receiving her into the congregation to have this service
read before half-a-dozen people in my sitting-room.'
'Better not have it done at all, then,' said Mr. Kendal. 'It is not
essential. I will not have her made a spectacle.'
'Will you only consult Mr. Dusautoy?'
'I do not wish Mr. Dusautoy to interfere in my family regulations. I
mean, that I have a great respect for him, but as a clergyman, and
one wedded to form, he would not take into account the great evil of
making a public display, and attracting attention to a girl of her
age, station, and disposition. And, in fact,' added Mr. Kendal, with
the same scrupulous candour as his daughter always showed, 'for the
sake of my own position, and the effect of example, I should not wish
this unfortunate omission to be known.'
'I suspect,' said Albinia, 'that the example of repairing it would
speak volumes of good.'
'It is mere absurdity to speak of it!' said Mr. Kendal. 'The poor
child is not to leave her couch yet for weeks.'
Sophy was told in the morning that the question was under
consideration, and Lucy was strictly forbidden to mention the
When next Mr. Kendal came to read with Sophy, she said imploringly,
'Papa, have you thought?'
'Yes,' he said, 'I have done so; but your mamma thinks, and, on
examination of the subject, I perceive she is right, that the service
has no meaning unless it take place in the church.'
'Yes,' said Sophy; 'but you know I am to be allowed to go about in
'You will hardly be equal to any fatigue even then, I fear, my dear;
and you would find this publicity extremely trying and unpleasant.'
'It would not last ten minutes,' said Sophy, 'and I am sure I should
not care! I should have something else to think about. Oh! papa,
when my forehead aches with surliness, it does feel so unblest, so
uncrossed!' and she put her hand over it, 'and all the books and
hymns seem not to belong to me. I think I shall be able to keep off
the tempers when I have a right in the cross.'
'Ah! my child, I am afraid the tempers are a part of your physical
constitution,' he returned, mournfully.
'You mean that I am like you, papa,' said Sophy. 'I think I might at
least learn to be really like you, and if I must feel miserable, not
to be unkind and sulky! And then I should leave off even the being
unhappy about nothing.'
Her eyes brightened, but her father shook his head sadly, and said,
'You would not be like me, my dear, if depression never made you
selfish. But,' he added, with an effort, 'you will not suffer so
much from low spirits when you are in better health, and able to move
'Oh, no!' exclaimed Sophy; 'I often feel so sick of lying here, that
I feel as if I never could be sulky if only I might walk about, and
go from one room to another when I please! But papa, you will let me
be admitted into the Church when I am able, will you not?'
'It shall be well weighed, Sophy.'
Sophy knew her father too well, and had too much reticence to say any
more. He was certainly meditating deeply, and reading too, indeed he
would almost have appeared to have a fit of the study, but for little
Maurice, a tyrannical little gentleman, who domineered over the
entire household, and would have been grievously spoilt, if his
mother had not taken all the crossing the stout little will upon
herself. He had a gallant pair of legs, and the disposition of a
young Centaur, he seemed to divide the world into things that could
be ridden on, and that could not; and when he bounced at the study
door, with 'Papa! gee! gee!' and lifted up his round, rosy face, and
despotic blue eyes, Mr. Kendal's foot was at his service, and the
study was brown no longer.
The result of Mr. Kendal's meditations was an invitation to his wife
to drive with him to Fairmead.
That was a most enjoyable drive, the weather too hot and sunny,
perhaps, for Albinia's preferences, but thoroughly penetrating, and
giving energy to, her East-Indian husband, and making the whole
country radiant with sunny beauty - the waving hay-fields falling
before the mower's scythe, the ranks of hay-makers tossing the
fragrant grass, the growing corn softly waving in the summer breeze,
the river blue with reflected sky, the hedges glowing with stately
fox-gloves, or with blushing wreaths of eglantine. And how cool,
fresh, and fair was the beech-avenue at Fairmead.
Yet though Albinia came to it with the fond tenderness of old
association, it was not with the regretful clinging of the first
visit, when it seemed to her the natural home to which she still
really belonged. Nor had she the least thought about producing an
impression of her own happiness, and scarcely any whether 'Edmund'
would be amused and at ease, though knowing he had a stranger to
encounter in the person of Winifred's sister, Mary Reid.
That was not a long day. It was only too short, though Mr. and Mrs.
Kendal stayed three hours longer than on the last occasion. Mr.
Kendal faced Mary Reid without flinching, and she, having been
previously informed that Albinia's husband was the most silent and
shy man in existence, began to doubt her sister's veracity. And
Albinia, instead of dealing out a shower of fireworks, to hide what,
if not gloom, was at least twilight, was now 'temperately bright,'
talking naturally of what most concerned her with the sprightliness
of her happy temper, but without effort; and gratifying Winifred by a
great deal more notice of the new niece and namesake than she had
ever bestowed on either of her predecessors in their infant days.
Moreover, Lucy's two long visits had made Mrs. Ferrars feel a strong
interest in her, and, with a sort of maternal affection, she inquired
after the cuttings of the myrtle which she had given her.
'Ah!' said Albinia, 'I never honoured gardening so much.'
'I know you would never respect it in me.'
'As you know, I love a walk with an object, and never could abide
breaking my back, pottering over a pink with a stem that wont support
it, and a calyx that wont hold it.'
'And Lucy converted you when I could not!'
'If you had known my longing for some wholesome occupation for her,
such as could hurt neither herself nor any one else, and the pleasure
of seeing her engrossed by anything innocent, making it so easy to
gratify her. Why, a new geranium is a constant fund of ecstasy, and
I do not believe she was ever so grateful to her father in her life
as when he gave her a forcing-frame. Anything is a blessing that
makes people contented at home, and takes them out of themselves.'
'Lucy is a very nice, pleasant inmate; her ready obligingness and
facility of adapting herself make her very agreeable.'
'Yes,' said Albinia, 'she is the "very woman," taking her complexion
from things around, and so she will go smoothly through the world,
and be always preferred to my poor turbid, deep-souled Sophy.'
'Are you going to be very angry with me?'
'Ah! you do not know Sophy! Poor, dear child! I do so long that she
could have - if it were but one day, one hour, of real, free, glowing
happiness! I think it would sweeten and open her heart wonderfully
just to have known it! If I could but see any chance of it, but I am
afraid her health will always be against her, and oh! that dreadful
sense of depression! Do you know, Winifred, I do think love would be
the best chance. Now, don't laugh; I do assure you there is no
reason Sophy should not be very handsome.'
'Quite as handsome as the owl's children, my dear.'
'Well, the owls are the only young birds fit to be seen. But I tell
you, Sophy's profile is as regular as her father's, and animation
makes her eyes beautiful, and she has grown immensely since she has
been lying down, so that she will come out without that
disproportioned look. If her eyebrows were rather less marked, and
her complexion - but that will clear.'
'Yes, we will make her a beauty when we are about it.'
'And, after all, affection is the great charm, and if she were
attached, it would, be so intensely - and happiness would develop so
much that is glorious, only hidden down so deep.'
'I hope you may find her a male Albinia,' said Winifred, a little
wickedly, 'but take care. It might be kill or cure, and I fancy when
sunshine is attracted by shadow, it is more often as it was in your
case than vice versa.'
'Take care!' repeated Albinia, affronted. 'You don't fancy I am
going beyond a vague wish, do you?'
'And rather a premature one. How old is Sophy?'
'Towards fourteen, but years older in thought and in suffering.'
Albinia did not hear the result of the conference with her brother
till she had resumed her seat in the carriage, after having been
surprised by Mr. Kendal handing in three tall theological tomes.
They both had much to think over as they drove home in the
lengthening shadows. Albinia was greatly concerned that Winifred's
health had become affected, and that her ordinary home duties were
beyond her strength. Albinia had formerly thought Fairmead parsonage
did not give her enough to do, but now she saw the gap that she had
left; and she had fallen into a maze of musings over schemes for
helping Winifred, before Mr. Kendal spoke, telling her that he had
resolved that Sophia's admission into the Church should take place as
soon as she was equal to the exertion.
Albinia asked if she should speak to Mr. Dusautoy, but the manliness
of Mr. Kendal's character revolted from putting off a confession upon
his wife; so he went to church the next morning, and saw the vicar
Mr. Dusautoy's first thought was gratitude for the effort that the
resolution must have cost both Mr. Kendal and his daughter; his next,
how to make the occasion as little trying to their feelings as was
consistent with his duty and theirs. He saw Sophy, and tried to draw
her out, but, though far from sullen, she did not reply freely.
However, he was satisfied, and he wished her, likewise, to consider
herself under preparation for Confirmation in the autumn. She did
all that he wished quietly and earnestly, but without much remark,
her confidence only came forth when her feelings were strongly
stirred, and it was remarkable that throughout this time of
preparation there was not the remotest shadow of ill-temper.
Mr. Kendal insisted that her London doctor should come to see her at
the year's end. The improvement had not been all that had been
hoped, but it was decided that though several hours of each day must
still be spent on her back, she might move about, join the meals, and
do whatever she could without over-fatigue. It seemed a great
release, but it was a shock to find how very little she could do at
first, now that she had lost the habit of exertion, and of disregard
of her discomforts. She had quite shot up to more than the ordinary
woman's height, and was much taller than her sister - but this hardly
gave the advantage Albinia had hoped, for she had a weak, overgrown
look, and could not help stooping. A number of people in a room, or
even the sitting upright during a morning call, seemed quite to
overcome and exhaust her: but still the return to ordinary life was
such great enjoyment, that she endured all with good temper.
But now the church-going was possible, a fit of exceeding dread came
upon her. Albinia found her with the tears silently rolling down her
cheeks, almost as if she were unconscious of them.
'Oh, mamma, I can never do it! I know what I am. I can't let them
say I will keep all the commandments always! It will not be true!'
'It will be true that you have the steadfast purpose, my dear.'
'How can it be steadfast when I know I can't?'
It was the old story, and all had to be argued through again how the
obligation was already incurred at her baptism, and how it was
needful that she should be sworn to her own side of the great
covenant - how the power would be given, and the grace supplied, but
that the will and purpose to obey was required - and then Sophy
recurred to that blessing of the cross for which she longed so
earnestly, and which again Albinia feared she was regarding in the
light of a talisman.
Mr. Ferrars was to be her godfather. Mr. Kendal had wished Aunt
Winifred, as Lucy called her, to be the godmother, but Sophy had
begged earnestly for Mrs. Dusautoy, whose kindness had made a great
There was not much liking between Mrs. Ferrars and Sophy. Perhaps
Sophy had been fretted and angered by her quick, decided ways, and
rather disgusted by the enthusiasm of her brother and sister about
Fairmead; and she was not gratified by hearing that Winifred was to
accompany her husband in order to try the experiment of a short
absence from cares and children.
Albinia, on the contrary, was highly pleased to have Winifred to
nurse, and desirous of showing off Sophy's reformation. Winifred
arrived late in the day, with an invalid look, and a great
inclination to pine for her baby. She was so much tired, that
Albinia took her upstairs very soon, and put her to bed, sitting with
her almost all the evening, hoping that downstairs all was going on
The next morning, too, went off very well. Mr. Ferrars sought a
private talk with his old godchild, and though Sophy scarcely
answered, she liked his kind, frank, affectionate manner, and showed
such feeling as he wished, so that he fully credited all that his
sister thought of her.
Otherwise, Sophy was kept quiet, to gave her strength and collect her
At seven o'clock in the evening, there was not a formidable
congregation. Miss Meadows, who had been informed as late as could
save offence, had treated it as a freak of Mrs. Kendal, resented the
injunction of secrecy, and would neither be present herself, nor let
her mother come out. Genevieve, three old men, and a child or two,
were the whole number present. The daily service at Bayford was an
offering made in faith by the vicar, for as yet there was very little
attendance. 'But,' said Mr. Dusautoy, 'it is the worship of God, not
an entertainment to please man - it is all nonsense to talk of its
answering or not answering.'
Mr. Kendal was in a state of far greater suffering from shame than
his daughter, as indeed he deserved, but he endured it with a
gallant, almost touching resignation. He was the only witness of her
baptism, and it seemed like a confession, when he had to reply to the
questions, by whom, and with what words this child had been baptized,
when she stood beside him overtopping her little godmother. She
stood with tightly-locked hands, and ebbing colour, which came back
in a flood when Mr. Dusautoy took her by the hand, and said, 'We
receive this child into the congregation,' and when he traced the
cross on her brow, she stood tremblingly, her lips squeezed close
together, and after she returned to her place no one saw her face.
Albinia, with her brother and Lucy, were at home by the short cut
before the carriage could return. She met Sophy at the hall-door,
kissed her, and said, 'Now, my dear, you had better lie down, and be
quite quiet;' then followed Winifred into the drawing-room, and took
her shawl and bonnet from her, lingering for a happy twilight
conversation. Lucy came down, and went to water her flowers, and
by-and-by tea was brought, the gentlemen came in from their walk, and
Mr. Kendal asked whether Sophy was tired. Albinia went up to see.
She found her on her couch in the morning room, and told her that tea
was ready. There was something not promising in the voice that
replied; and she said,
'No, don't move, my dear, I will bring it to you; you are tired.'
'No - I'll go down, thank you.' It was the gruff voice!
'Indeed you had much better not, my dear. It is only an hour to
bed-time, and you would only tire yourself for nothing.'
'You are tired, Sophy,' said her father. 'You had better lie down
while you have your tea.'
'No, thank you,' growled Sophy, as though hurt by being told to lie
down before company.
Her father put a sofa-cushion behind her, but though she mumbled some
acknowledgment, it was so surly, that Mrs. Ferrars looked up in
surprise, and she would not lean back till fatigue gained the
ascendancy. Mr. Kendal asking her, got little in reply but such a
grunt, that Mrs. Ferrars longed to shake her, but her father fetched
a footstool, and put it under her feet, and grew a little abstracted
in his talk, as if watching her, and his eye had something of the old
So it went on. The night's rest did not carry off the temper. Sophy
was monosyllabic, displeased if not attended to, but receiving
attention like an affront, wanting nothing, but offended if it were
not offered. Albinia was exceedingly grieved. She had some
suspicion that Sophy might have been hurt by her going to Mrs.
Ferrars instead of to her on their return from church, and made an
attempt at an apology, but this was snubbed like an additional
affront, and she could only bide the time, and be greatly
disappointed at such an exhibition before the guests.
Winifred looked on, forbearing to hurt Albinia's feelings by remarks,
but in private compensating by little outbreaks with her husband,
teasing him about his hopeful goddaughter, laughing at Albinia's
infatuation, and railing at Mr. Kendal's endurance of the ill-humour,
which she declared he promoted.
Maurice, as usual, was provoking. He had no notion of giving up his
godchild, he said, and he had no doubt that Edmund Kendal could
manage his own child his own way.
'Because of his great success in that line.'
'He is not what he was. He uses his sense and principle now, and
when they are fairly brought to bear, I know no one whom I would more
'Well! it will be great good luck if I do not fall foul of Miss Sophy
one of these days, if no one else will!'
Winifred was slightly irritable herself from weakness, and on the
last morning of her stay she could bear the sight no longer. Sophy
had twice been surly to Lucy's good offices, had given Albinia a look
like thunder, and answered her father with a sulky displeasure that
made Mrs. Ferrars exclaim, as soon as he had left the room, 'I should
never allow a child of mine to peak to her father in that manner!'
Sophy swelled. She did not think Mrs. Ferrars had any right to
interfere between her and her father. Her silence provoked Winifred
to continue, 'I wonder if you have any compunction for having spoilt
all your - all Mrs. Kendal's enjoyment of our visit.'
'I am not of consequence enough to spoil any one's pleasure.'
That was the last effort. Albinia came into the room, with little
Maurice holding her hand, and flourishing a whip. He trotted up to
the sofa, and began instantly to 'whip sister Sophy;' serve her
right, if I had but the whip, thought Mrs. Ferrars, as his mother
hurried to snatch him off. Leaning over Sophy's averted face, she
saw a tear under her eyelashes, but took no notice.
Three seconds after, Sophy reared herself up, and with a rigid face
and slow step walked out of the room.
'Have you said anything to her?' asked Albinia.
'I could not help it,' said Winifred, narrating what had past. 'Have
I done wrong?'
'Edmund cannot bear to have anything harsh said to her in these
moods, especially about her behaviour to himself. He thinks she
cannot help it - but it may be well that she should know how it
appears to other people, for I cannot bear to see his patient
kindness spurned. Only, you know, she values it in her heart. I am
afraid we shall have a terrible agony now.'
Albinia was right. It was the worst agony poor Sophy had ever
undergone. She had been all this time ignorant that it was a cross
fit, only imagining herself cruelly neglected and cast aside for the
sake of Mrs. Ferrars; but the wakening time had either arrived, or
had been brought by that reproach, and she beheld her conduct in the
most abhorrent light. After having desired to be pledged to her
share of the covenant, and earnestly longed to bear the cross, to be
sworn in as soldier and servant, to have put her neck under the yoke
of her old master ere the cross had dried upon her brow, to have been
meanly jealous, ungrateful, disrespectful, vindictive!! oh! misery,
misery! hopeless misery! She would take no word of comfort when
Albinia tried to persuade her that it had been partly the reaction of
a mind wrought up to an occasion very simple in its externals, and of