composure unexampled. Albinia had just gratified her greatly by a
few words on Captain Pringle's evident good-nature, when a tread came
'Ha! you here?' exclaimed the loud honest voice.
'We were taking a turn in the moonlight,' said Albinia. 'A beautiful
'Beautiful! Arthur and I have been a bit of the way home with old
Goldsmith. There's an evergreen, to be sure; and now - are you bound
Maria clung to Albinia's arm. Perhaps in the days of the last
parting, she had been less careful to be with a chaperon.
'Ah! I forgot,' said the captain; 'your way lies the other side of
the hill. I had very nearly walked into Willow Lawn this morning,
only luckily I bethought me of asking.'
'I hope you will yet walk into Willow Lawn,' said Albinia.
'Ah! thank you; I should like to see the old place. I dare say it
may be transmogrified now, but I think I could find my way blindfold
about the old garden. I say, Maria, do you remember that jolly
tea-party on the lawn, when the frog made one too many?'
'That I do - ' Maria could not utter more, and Albinia said she was
afraid he would miss a great deal.
'I reckoned on that when I came home. Changes everywhere; but after
the one great change,' he added, mournfully, 'the others tell less.
One has the less heart to care for an old tree or an old path.'
Albinia felt sure he could mean only one great change, but they were
now at Mrs. Meadows's door, and Maria wished them good night, giving
a most grateful squeeze of the hand to Mrs. Kendal.
'Where are you bound now?' asked the captain.
'Back to the vicarage, to take up my husband and the girls,' said
Albinia, 'but good night. I am not afraid.'
The captain, however, chose to continue a squire of dames, and walked
at her side, presently giving utterance to a sound of commiseration.
'Ah! well, poor Maria, I never thought to see her so altered. Why,
she had the prettiest bloom - I dare say you remember - but, I beg your
pardon, somehow I thought you were her _elder_ sister.'
'Mr. Kendal's first wife was,' said Albinia, pitying the poor man;
but Captain Pringle was not a man for awkwardness, and the short
whistle with which he received her answer set her off laughing.
'I beg your pardon,' he said, recovering himself; 'but you see I am
all astray, like a man buried and dug up again, so no wonder I make
strange blunders; and my poor uncle is grown so childish, that he
does not know one person from another, and began by telling me Maria
Meadows had married and gone out to India. I had not had a letter
these seven years, so I thought it was high time to bring my boy
home, and renew old times, though how I am ever to go back without
him - '
'Is be your only one?'
'Yes. I lost his mother when he was six years old, and we have been
all the world to each other since, till I began to think I was
spoiling him outright, and it was time he should see what Old England
was made of.'
Albinia had something like a discovery to impart now; but she hated
the sense of speculating on the poor man's intentions. He talked so
much, that he saved her trouble in replying, and presently resumed
the subject of Maria's looks.
'She has had a harassed life, I fear,' said Albinia.
'Eh! old Meadows was a terrible old tyrant, I believe; but she was
his pet. I thought he refused her nothing - but there's no trusting
such a Turk! Oh! ah! I dare say,' as if replying to something
within. And then having come to the vicarage wicket, Albinia took
leave of him and ran indoors, answering the astonished queries as to
how she had been employed, 'Walking home with Aunt Maria and Captain
It was rather a relief at such a juncture that Lucy's curious eyes
should be removed. Mr. Ferrars came to talk his wife's state over
with his sister. Her children were too much for Winifred, and he
wished to borrow Lucy for a few weeks, till a governess could be
found for them.
It struck Albinia that this would be an excellent thing for Genevieve
Durant, and she at once contrived to ask her to tea, and privately
propound the plan.
Genevieve faltered much of thanks, and said that Madame was very
good; but the next morning a note was brought in, which caused a
sudden change of countenance:
'My dear Madame,
'I was so overwhelmed with your kindness last night, and so
unwilling to appear ungrateful, that perhaps I left you under a
false impression. I entreat you not to enter on the subject with
my grandmamma or my aunt. They would grieve to prevent what they
would think for my advantage, and would, I am but too sure, make
any sacrifice on my account; but they are no longer young, and
though my aunt does not perceive it, I know that the real work of
the school depends on me, and that she could not support the
fatigue if left unassisted. They need their little Genevieve,
likewise, to amuse them in their evenings; and, forgive me, madame,
I could not, without ingratitude, forsake them now. Thus, though
with the utmost sense of your kindness, I must beg of you to pardon
me, and not to think me ungrateful if I decline the situation so
kindly offered to me by Mr. Ferrars, thanking you ten thousand times
for your too partial recommendation, and entreating you to pardon
'Your most grateful and humble servant,
GENEVIEVE CELESTE DURANT.'
'There!' said Albinia, tossing the note to her brother, who was the
only person present excepting Gilbert.
'Poor Albinia,' he said, 'it is hard to be disappointed in a bit of
'I never meant it as patronage,' said Albinia, slightly hurt. 'I
thought it would help you, and rescue her from that school. There
will she spend the best years of her life in giving a second-rate
education to third-rate girls, not one of whose parents can
appreciate her, till she will grow as wizened and as wooden as
'Happily,' said Mr. Ferrars, 'there are worse things than being spent
in one's duty. She may be doing an important work in her sphere.'
'So does a horse in a mill,' exclaimed Albinia; 'but you would not
put a hunter there. Yes, yes, I know, education, and these girls
wanting right teaching; but she, poor child, has been but half
educated herself, and has not time to improve herself. If she does
good, it is by force of sheer goodness, for they all look down upon
her, as much as vulgarity can upon refinement.'
'I told her so,', exclaimed Gilbert; 'I told her it was the only way
to teach them what she was worth.'
'What did you know of the matter?' asked Albinia; and the colour
mounted in the boy's face as he muttered, 'She was overcome when she
came down, she said you had been so kind, and we were obliged to walk
up and down before she could compose herself, for she did not want
the old ladies to know anything about it.'
'And did she not wish to go?'
'No, though I did the best I could. I told her what a jolly place it
was, and that the children would be a perfect holiday to her. And I
showed her it would not be like going away, for she might come over
here whenever she pleased; and when I have my horse, I would come and
bring her word of the old ladies once a week.'
'Inducements, indeed!' said Mr. Ferrars. 'And she could not be
incited by any of these?'
'No,' said Gilbert, 'she would not hear of leaving the old women.
She was only afraid it would vex Mrs. Kendal, and she could not bear
not to take the advice of so kind a friend, she said. You are not
going to be angry with her,' he added.
'No,' said Albinia, 'one cannot but honour her motives, though I
think she is mistaken; and I am sorry for her; but she knows better
than to be afraid of me.'
With which assurance Gilbert quitted the room, and the next moment,
hearing the front door, she exclaimed, 'I do believe he is gone to
tell her how I took the announcement.'
Maurice gave a significant 'Hem!' to which his sister replied,
'Very romantic consolations and confidences.'
'Not at all. They have been used to each other all their lives, and
he used to be the only person who knew how to behave to her, so no
wonder they are great friends. As to anything else, she is nineteen,
and he not sixteen.'
'One great use of going to school is to save lads from that silly
pastime. I advise you to look to these moonlight escortings!'
'One would think you were an old dowager, Maurice. I suppose Colonel
Bury may not escort Miss Mary.'
'Ah, Albinia, you are a very naughty child still.'
'Of course, when you are here to keep me in order, I wish I never
were so at other times when it is not so safe.'
Mr. Kendal was kind and civil to Captain Pringle, and though the
boisterous manner seemed to affect him like a thunderstorm, Maria
imagined they were delighted with one another.
Maria was strangely serene and happy; her querulous, nervous manner
smoothed away, as if rest had come to her at last; and even if the
renewed intercourse were only to result in a friendship, there was
hope that the troubled spirit had found repose now that
misunderstandings were over, and the sore sense of ill-usage
Yet Albinia was startled when one day Mr. Kendal summoned her,
saying, 'It is all over, she has refused him!'
'Impossible; she could only have left half her sentence unsaid.'
'Too certain. She will not leave her mother.'
'Is that all?'
'Of course it is. He told me the whole affair, and certainly Mr.
Meadows was greatly to blame. He let Maria give this man every
encouragement, believing his property larger, and his expectations
more secure than was the case; and when the proposal was made, having
discovered his mistake, he sent a peremptory refusal, giving him
reason to suppose her a party to the rejection. Captain Pringle
sailed in anger; but it appears that his return has revived his
former feelings, and that he has found out that poor Maria was a
greater sufferer than himself.'
'Why does he come to you?'
'To consult me. He wishes me to persuade poor old Mrs. Meadows to go
out to the Mauritius, which is clearly impossible, but Maria must not
be sacrificed again. Would the Drurys make her comfortable? Or
could she not live alone with her maid?'
'She might live here.'
'Albinia! Think a little.'
'I can think of nothing else. Let her have the morning room, and
Sophy's little room, and Lucy and I would do our best for her.'
'No, that is out of the question. I would not impose such charge
upon you on any consideration!'
Albinia's face became humble and remorseful. 'Yes,' she said,
'perhaps I am too impatient and flighty.'
'That was not what I meant,' he said; 'but I do not think it right
that a person with no claims of relationship should be made a burthen
'No claims, Edmund,' said she, softly. 'In whose place have you put
He was silent: then said, 'No, it must not be, my kind Albinia. She
is a very good old lady, but Sophy and she would clash, and I cannot
expose the child to such a trial.'
'I dare say you are right,' pensively said Albinia, perceiving that
her plan had been inconsiderate, and that it would require the
wisdom, tact, and gentleness of a model woman to deal with such
discordant elements. 'What are you going to do?' as he took up his
hat. 'Are you going to see Maria? May I come with you?'
'If you please; but do not mention this notion. There is no
necessity for such a tax on you; and such arrangement should never be
He asked whether Miss Meadows could see him, and awaited her alone in
the dining-room, somewhat to the surprise of his wife; but either he
felt that there was a long arrear of kindness owing, or feared to
trust Albinia's impulsive generosity.
Meantime Albinia found the poor old lady in much uneasiness and
distress. Her daughter fancied it right to keep her in ignorance of
the crisis; but Maria was not the woman to conceal her feelings, and
her nervous misery had revealed all that she most wished to hide.
Too timid to take her confidence by storm, her mother had only
exchanged surmises and observations with Betty, and was in a troubled
condition of affectionate curiosity and anxiety. Albinia was a
welcome visitor since it was a great relief to hear what had really
taken place and to know that Mr. Kendal was with Maria.
'Ah! that is kind,' she said; 'but he must tell her not to think of
me. I am an old woman, good for nothing but to be put out of the
way, and she has gone through quite enough! You will not let her
give it up! Tell her I have not many more years to live, and
anything is good enough for me.'
'That would hardly comfort her,' said Albinia, affectionately; 'but
indeed, dear grandmamma, I hope we shall convince her that we can do
something to supply her place.'
'Ah! my dear, you are very kind, but nobody can be like a daughter!
But don't tell Maria so - poor dear love - she may never have another
chance. Such a beautiful place out there, and Mr. Pringle's property
must come to him at last! Bless me, what will Sarah Drury say? And
such a good attentive man - besides, she never would hear of any one
else - her poor papa never knew - Oh! she must have him! it is all
nonsense to think of me! I only wish I was dead out of the way!'
There was a strong mixture of unselfish love, and fear of solitude;
of the triumph of marrying a daughter, and dread of separation; of
affection, and of implanted worldliness; touching Albinia at one
moment, and paining her at another; but she soothed and caressed the
old lady, and was a willing listener to what was meant for a history
of the former transaction; but as it started from old Mr. Pringle's
grandfather, it had only proceeded as far as the wedding of the
Captain's father and mother, when it was broken off by Mr. Kendal's
'Oh! my dear Mr. Kendal, and what does poor Maria say? It is so kind
in you. I hope you have taken her in hand, and told her it is quite
another thing now, and her poor dear papa would think so. She must
not let this opportunity pass, for she may never have another. Did
you tell her so?'
'I told her that, under the circumstances, she has no alternative but
to accept Captain Pringle.'
'Oh! thank you. And does she?'
'She has given me leave to send him to her.'
'I am so much obliged. I knew that nobody but you could settle it
for her, poor dear girl; she is so young and inexperienced, and one
is so much at a loss without a gentleman. But this is very kind; I
did not expect it in you, Mr. Kendal. And will you see Mr.
Pettilove, and do all that is proper about settlements, as her poor
dear papa would have done. Poor Pettilove, he was once very much in
love with Maria!'
In this mood of triumph and felicity, the old lady was left to
herself and her daughter. Albinia, on the way home, begged to hear
how Mr. Kendal had managed Maria; and found that he had simply told
her, in an authoritative tone, that after all that had passed, she
had no choice but to accept Captain Pringle, and that he had added a
promise, equally vague and reassuring, of being a son to Mrs.
Meadows. Such injunctions from such a quarter had infused new life
into Maria; and in the course of the afternoon, Albinia met the
Captain with the mother and daughter, one on each arm, Maria in
recovered bloom and brilliancy, and Mrs. Meadows's rheumatism
forgotten in the glory of exhibiting her daughter engaged.
For form's sake, secrecy had been mentioned; but the world of Bayford
had known of the engagement a fortnight before took place. Sophy had
been questioned upon it by Mary Wolfe two hours ere she was
officially informed, and was sore with the recollection of her own
ungracious professions of ignorance.
'So it is true,' she said. 'I don't mind, since Arthur is not a
Mr. Kendal laughed so heartily, that Sophy looked to Albinia for
explanation; but even on the repetition of her words, she failed to
perceive anything ridiculous in them.
'Why, mamma,' she said, impressively, 'if you had been like Aunt
Maria, I should - ' she paused and panted for sufficient strength of
phrase - 'I should have run away and begged! Papa laughs, but I am
sure he remembers when grandmamma and Aunt Maria wanted to come and
He looked as if he remembered it only too well.
'Well, papa,' pursued Sophy, 'we heard the maids saying that they
knew it would not do, for all Mr. Kendal was so still and steady, for
Miss Meadows would worret the life out of a lead pincushion.'
'Hem!' said Mr. Kendal. 'Albinia, do you think after all we are
doing Captain Pringle any kindness?'
'He is the best judge.'
'Nay, he may think himself bound in honour and compassion - he may be
returning to an old ideal.'
'People like Captain Pringle are not apt to have ideals,' said
Albinia; 'nor do I think Maria will be so trying. Do you remember
that creeper of Lucy's, all tendrils and catching leaves, which used
to lie sprawling about, entangling everything till she gave it a
prop, when it instantly found its proper development, and offered no
All was not, however, smooth water as yet. The Captain invaded Mr.
Kendal the next morning in despair at Maria having recurred to the
impossibility of leaving her mother, and wanting him to wait till he
could reside in England. This could not be till his son was grown
up, and ten years were a serious delay. Mr. Kendal suspected her of
a latent hope that the Captain would end by remaining at home; but he
was a man sense and determination, who would have thought it
unjustifiable weakness to sacrifice his son's interests and his own
usefulness. He would promise, that if all were alive and well, he
would bring Maria back in ten or twelve years' time; but he would not
sooner relinquish his duties, and he was very reluctant to become
engaged on such terms.
'No one less silly than poor Maria would have thought of such a
proposal,' was Mr. Kendal's comment afterwards to his wife. 'Twelve
years! No one would be able to live with her by that time!'
'I cannot help respecting the unselfishness,' said Albinia.
'One sided unselfishness,' quoth Mr. Kendal. 'I am sick of the whole
business, I wish I had never interfered. I cannot get an hour to
He might be excused for the complaint on that day of negotiations and
counter-negotiations, which gave no one any rest, especially after
Mrs. Drury arrived with all the rights of a relation, set on making
it evident, that whoever was to be charged with Mrs. Meadows, it was
not herself; and enforcing that nothing could be more comfortable
than that Lucy Kendal should set up housekeeping with her dear
grandmamma. Every one gave advice, and nobody took it; Mrs. Meadows
cried, Maria grew hysterical, the Captain took up his hat and walked
out of the house; and Albinia thought it would be very good in him
ever to venture into it again.
The next morning Mr. Kendal ordered his horse early, and hastened his
breakfast; told Albinia not to wait dinner for him, and rode off by
one gate, without looking behind him, as the other opened to admit
Captain Pringle. She marvelled whither he had fled, and thought
herself fortunate in having only two fruitless discussions in his
absence. Not till eight o'clock did he make his appearance, and then
it was in an unhearing, unseeing mood, so that nothing could be
extracted, except that he did not want any dinner; and it was not
till late in the evening that he abruptly announced, 'Lucy is coming
home on Wednesday. Colonel Bury will bring her to Woodside.'
What? have you heard from Maurice?'
'No; I have been at Fairmead.'
You! To-day! How was Winifred?'
'Better - I believe.'
'How does she like the governess?'
'I did not hear.'
Gradually something oozed out about Lucy having been happy and
valuable, and after Sophy had gone to bed, he inquired how the
courtship was going on?
'Worse than ever,' Albinia said.
'I suppose it must end in this?'
'If there is no more satisfactory arrangement, I suppose we must
receive Mrs. Meadows.'
If Albinia could but have heard what a scolding her brother was
undergoing from his vivacious wife!
'As if poor Albinia had not enough on her hands! Of all inmates in
the world! When Mr. Kendal himself did not like it! Well! Maurice
would certainly have advised Sinbad to request the honour of taking
the Old Man of the Sea for a promenade a cheval. There was an end of
Albinia. There would never be any room in her house, and she would
never be able to come from home. And after having seen her worked to
death, he to advise - '
'I did not advise, I only listened. What he came for was to silence
his conscience and his wife by saying, "Your brother thinks it out of
the question." Now to this my conscience would not consent.'
'More shame for it, then!'
'I could not say I thought these two people's happiness should be
sacrificed, or the poor old woman left desolate. Albinia has spirits
and energy for a worse infliction, and Edmund Kendal himself is the
better for every shock to his secluded habits. If it is a step I
would never dare advise, still less would I dare dissuade.'
'Well! I thought Mr. Kendal at least had more sense.'
'Ay, nothing is so provoking as to see others more unselfish than
'All I have to say,' concluded Mrs. Ferrars, walking off, 'is, I wish
there was a law against people going and marrying two wives.'
Albinia was in no haste to profit by her husband's consent to her
proposal. The more she revolved it, the more she foresaw the
discomfort for all parties. She made every effort to devise the
'more satisfactory arrangement,' but nothing would occur. The Drurys
would not help, and the poor old lady could not be left alone. Her
maid Betty, who had become necessary to her comfort, was not a
trustworthy person, and could not be relied on, either for honesty,
or for not leaving her mistress too long alone; and when the notion
was broached of boarding Mrs. Meadows with some family in the place,
the conviction arose, that when she had grandchildren, there was no
reason for leaving her to strangers.
Finally, the proposal was made, and as instantly rejected by Maria.
It was very kind, but her mother could never be happy at Willow Lawn,
never; and the tone betrayed some injury at such a thing being
thought possible. But just as the Kendals had begun to rejoice at
having cleared their conscience at so slight a cost, Captain Pringle
and Miss Meadows made their appearance, and Maria presently requested
that Mrs. Kendal would allow her to say a few words.
'I am afraid you thought me very rude and ungrateful,' she began,
'but the truth was, I did not think dear mamma would ever bear to
live here, my poor dear sister and all; but since that, I have been
talking it over with the dear Captain - thinks that since you are so
kind, and dear Edmund - more than I could ever have dared to expect -
that I could not do better than just to sound mamma.'
There was still another vicissitude. Mrs. Meadows would not hear of
being thrust on any one, and was certain that Maria had extorted an
invitation; she would never be a burden upon any one; young people
liked company and amusement, and she was an old woman in every one's
way; she wished she were in her coffin with poor dear Mr. Meadows,
who would have settled it all. Maria fell back into the depths of
despair, and all was lugubrious, till Mr. Kendal, in the most tender
and gentle manner, expressed his hopes that Mrs. Meadows would
consider the matter, telling her that his wife and children would
esteem it a great privilege to attend on her, and that he should be
very grateful if she would allow them to try to supply Maria's place.
And Albinia, in her coaxing tone, described the arrangement; how the
old furniture should stand in the sitting-room, and how Lucy would
attend to her carpet-work, and what nice walks the sunny garden would
afford, and how pleasant it would be not to have the long hill
between them, till grandmamma forgot all her scruples in the
fascination of that sweet face and caressing manner, she owned that
poor old Willow Lawn always was like home, and finally promised to
come. Before the evening was over the wedding-day was fixed.
What Sophy briefly termed 'the fuss about Aunt Maria,' had been so
tedious, that it almost dispelled all poetical ideas of courtship.
If Captain Pringle had been drowned at sea, and Aunt Maria pined
herself into her grave, it would have been much more proper and