close itself as Lucy said, 'Those are poor mamma's books, all the
others are in the study. Come in, and I'll show you.'
She threw open the door, and Albinia entered. The study was shaded
with a mass of laurels that kept out the sun, and made it look chill
and sad, and the air in it was close. The round library-table was
loaded with desks, pocket-books, and papers, the mantelpiece was
covered with letters, and book-shelves mounted to the ceiling, filled
with the learned and the poetical of new and old times.
Over the fireplace hung what it needed not Lucy's whisper to point
out, as 'Poor mamma's picture.' It represented a very pretty girl,
with dark eyes, brilliant colour, and small cherry mouth, painted in
the exaggerated style usually called 'ridiculously like.'
Albinia's first feeling was that there was nothing in herself that
could atone for the loss of so fair a creature, and the thought
became more oppressive as she looked at a niche in the wall, holding
a carved sandal-wood work-box, with a silver watch lying on it.
'Poor Edmund's watch,' said Lucy. 'It was given to him for a reward
just before he was ill.'
Albinia tried to recover composure by reading the titles of the
books. Suddenly, Lucy started and exclaimed, 'Come away. There he
'Why come away?' said Albinia.
'I would not have him find me there for all the world.'
In all her vexation and dismay, Albinia could not help thinking of
Bluebeard's closet. Her inclination was to stay where she was, and
take her chance of losing her head, yet she felt as if she could not
bear to be found invading a sanctuary of past recollections, and was
relieved to find that it was a false alarm, though not relieved by
the announcement that Admiral and Mrs. Osborn and the Miss Osborns
were in the drawing-room.
'Before luncheon - too bad!' she exclaimed, as she hurried upstairs to
wash off the dust of unpacking.
Ere she could hurry down, there was another inundation streaming
across the hall, Mrs. Drury and three Miss Drurys, who, as she
remembered, when they began to kiss her, were some kind of cousins.
There was talk, but Albinia could not give entire attention; she was
watching for Mr. Kendal's return, that she might guard Gilbert from
his displeasure, and the instant she heard him, she sprang up, and
flew into the hall. He could not help brightening at the eager
welcome, but when she told him of Mr. Bowles' opinion, he looked
graver, and said, 'I fear you must not always attach credit to all
'Mr. Bowles told me himself that he must run no risk of
'You saw Mr. Bowles?'
'I went with Gilbert.'
'You? I never thought of your imposing so unpleasant a task on
yourself. I fear the boy has been trespassing on your kindness.'
'No, indeed, he never asked me, but - ' with a sort of laugh to hide
the warmth excited by his pleased, grateful look, 'I thought it all
in the day's work, only natural - '
She would have given anything to have had time to enjoy his
epanchement de coeur at those words, bit she was obliged to add,
'Alas! there's all the world in the drawing-room!'
'Osborns and Drurys.'
'Do you want me?'
'I ran away on the plea of calling you.'
'I'll never do so again,' was her inward addition, as his countenance
settled into the accustomed fixed look of abstraction, and as an
unwilling victim he entered the room with her, and the visitors were
'dreadful enough' to congratulate him.
Albinia knew that it must be so unpleasant to him, that she blushed
up to the roots of her hair, and could not look at anybody.
When she recovered, the first comers were taking leave, but the
second set stayed on and on till past luncheon-time, and far past her
patience, before the room was at last cleared.
Gilbert hurried in, and was received by his father with, 'You are
very much obliged to her!'
'Indeed I am,' said Gilbert, in a winning, pleasant manner.
'I don't want you to be,' said Albinia, affectionately laying her arm
on his shoulder. 'And now for luncheon - I pitied you, poor fellow; I
thought you must have been famished.'
'Anything not to have all the Drurys at luncheon,' said Gilbert,
confidentially, 'I had begun to wish myself at Tremblam.'
'By the bye,' said Mr. Kendal, waking as he sat down at the bottom of
the table, 'how was it that the Drurys did not stay to luncheon?'
'Was that what they were waiting for?' exclaimed Albinia. 'Poor
people, I had no notion of that.'
'They do have luncheon here in general,' said Mr. Kendal, as if not
knowing exactly how it came to pass.
'O yes,' said Lucy; 'Sarah Anne asked me whether we ate wedding-cake
'Poor Miss Sarah Anne!' said Albinia, laughing. 'But one cannot help
feeling inhospitable when people come so unconscionably early, and
cut up all one's morning.'
The door was again besieged by visitors, just as they were all going
out to make the round of the garden, and it was not till half-past
four that the succession ceased, and Albinia was left to breathe
freely, and remember how often Maurice had called her to order for
intolerance of morning calls.
'And not the only people I cared to see,' she said, 'the Dusautoys
and Nugents. But they have too much mercy to call the first day.'
Mr. Kendal looked as if his instinct were drawing him study-wards,
but Albinia hung on his arm, and made him come into the garden.
Though devoid of Winifred's gardening tastes, she was dismayed at the
untended look of the flower-beds. The laurels were too high, and
seemed to choke the narrow space, and the turf owed its verdant
appearance to damp moss. She had made but few steps before the water
squished under her feet, and impelled her to exclaim, 'What a pity
this pond should not be filled up!'
'Filled up! - '
'Yes, it would be so much less damp. One might drain it off into the
river, and then we should get rid of the fog.'
And she began actively to demonstrate the convenient slope, and the
beautiful flower-bed that might be made in its place. Mr. Kendal
answered with a few assenting sounds and complacent looks, and
Albinia, accustomed to a brother with whom to assent was to act,
believed the matter was in train, and that pond and fever would be
The garden opened into a meadow with a causeway leading to a canal
bank, where there was a promising country walk, but the cruel
visitors had left no time for exploring, and Albinia had to return
home and hurry up her arrangements before there was space to turn
round in her room - even then it was not what Winifred could have seen
without making a face.
Mr. Kendal had read aloud to his wife in the evening during the stay
at the sea-side, and she was anxious not to let the habit drop. He
liked it, and read beautifully, and she thought it good for the
children. She therefore begged him to read, catching him on the way
to his study, and coaxing him to stay no longer than to find a book.
He brought Schlegel's Philosophy of History. She feared that it was
above the young ones, but it was delightful to herself, and the
custom had better be established before it was perilled by attempts
to adapt it to the children. Lucy and Sophy seemed astonished and
displeased, and their whispers had to be silenced, Gilbert learnt his
lessons apart. Albinia rallied her spirits, and insisted to herself
that she did not feel discouraged.
Monday had gone, or rather Albinia had been robbed of it by
visitors - now for a vigorous Tuesday. Her unpacking and her setting
to rights were not half over, but as the surface was habitable, she
resolved to finish at her leisure, and sacrifice no more mornings of
So after she had lingered at the door, to delight Gilbert by admiring
his pony, she returned to the dining-room, where the girls were
loading a small table in the window with piles of books and
exercises, and Lucy was standing, looking all eagerness to show off
'Yes, my dear, but first we had better read. I have been talking to
your papa, and we have settled that on Wednesdays and Fridays we will
go to church; but on these days we will begin by reading the Psalms
'Oh,' said Lucy, 'we never do that, except when we are at
'Pray are you too old or too young for it?' said Albinia.
'We did it to please grandmamma,' said Sophy.
'Now you will do it to please me,' said Albinia, 'if for no better
reason. Fetch your Bibles and Prayerbooks.'
'We shall never have time for our studies, I assure you, mamma,'
'That is not your concern,' said Albinia, her spirit rising at the
girls' opposition. 'I wish for obedience.'
Lucy went, Sophy leant against the table like a post. Albinia
regretted that the first shot should have been fired for such a
cause, and sat perplexing herself whether it were worse to give way,
or to force the girls to read Holy Scripture in such a mood.
Lucy came flying down with the four books in her hands, and began
officiously opening them before her sister, and exhorting her not to
give way to sullenness - she ought to like to read the Bible - which of
course made Sophy look crosser. The desire to establish her
authority conquered the scruple about reverence. Albinia set them to
read, and suffered for it. Lucy road flippantly; Sophy in the
hoarse, dull, dogged voice of a naughty boy. She did not dare to
expostulate, lest she should exasperate the tempers that she had
'Never mind,' she thought, 'when the institution is fixed, they will
be more amenable.'
She tried a little examination afterwards, but not one answer was to
be extracted from Sophy, and Lucy knew far less than the first class
at Fairmead, and made her replies wide of the mark, with an air of
satisfaction that nearly overthrew the young step-mother's patience.
When Albinia took her Bible upstairs, she gave Sophy time to say what
Lucy reported instantly on her entrance.
'Dear me, mamma, here is Sophy declaring that you ought to be a
charity-schoolmistress. You wont be angry with her, but it is so
'If you were at my charity school, Lucy,' said Albinia, 'the first
lesson I should give you would be against telling tales.'
Albinia turned to Sophy. 'My dear,' she said, 'perhaps I pressed
this on when you were not prepared for it, but I have always been
used to think of it as a duty.'
Sophy made no answer, but her moody attitude relaxed, and Albinia
took comfort in the hope that she might have been gracious if she had
known how to set about it.
'I suppose Miss Belmarche is a Roman Catholic,' she said, wishing to
account for this wonderful ignorance, and addressing herself to
Sophy; but Lucy, whom she thought she had effectually put down, was
up again in a moment like a Jack-in-a-box.
'O yes, but not Genevieve. Her papa made it his desire that she
should be brought up a Protestant. Wasn't it funny? You know
Genevieve is Madame Belmarche's grand-daughter, and Mr. Durant was a
'Madame Belmarche's father and brother were guillotined,' continued
'Ah! then she is an emigrant?'
'Yes. Miss Belmarche has always kept school here. Our own mamma,
and Aunt Maria went to school to her, and Miss Celeste Belmarche
married Mr. Durant, a dancing-master - she was French teacher in a
school in London where he taught, and Madame Belmarche did not
approve, for she and her husband were something very grand in France,
so they waited and waited ever so long, and when at last they did
marry, they were quite old, and she died very soon; and they say he
never was happy again, and pined away till he really did die of
grief, and so Genevieve came to her grandmamma to be brought up.'
'Poor child! How old is she?'
'Fifteen,' said Lucy. 'She teaches in the school. She is not at all
pretty, and such a queer little thing.'
'Was her father French?'
'No,' said Sophy.
'Yes,' said Lucy. 'You know nothing about it, Sophy. He was French,
but of the Protestant French sort, that came to England a great many
years ago, when they ran away from the Sicilian Vespers, or the Edict
of Nantes, I don't remember which; only the Spitalfields weavers have
something to do with it. However, at any rate Genevieve has got
something in a drawer up in her own room that she is very secret
about, and wont show to anybody.'
'I think it is something that somebody was killed with,' said Sophy,
in a low voice.
'Dear me, if it is, I am sure it is quite wicked to keep it. I shall
be quite afraid to go into her room, and you know I slept there all
the time of the fever.'
'It did not hurt you,' said Sophy.
Albinia had been strongly interested by the touching facts, so
untouchingly narrated, and by the characteristic account of the
Huguenot emigration, but it suddenly occurred to her that she was
promoting gossip, and she returned to business. Lucy showed off her
attainments with her usual self-satisfaction. They were what might
be expected from a second-rate old-fashioned young ladies' school,
where nothing was good but the French pronunciation. She was
evidently considered a great proficient, and her glib mediocrity was
even more disheartening than the ungracious carelessness or dulness -
there was no knowing which - that made her sister figure wretchedly in
the examination. However, there was little time - the door-bell rang
at a quarter to twelve, and Mrs. Wolfe was in the drawing-room.
'I told you so,' whispered Lucy, exultingly.
'This is unbearable,' cried Albinia. 'I shall give notice that I am
always engaged in the morning.'
She desired each young lady to work a sum in her absence, and left
them to murmur, if they were so disposed. Perhaps it was Lucy's
speech that made her inflict the employment; at any rate, her spirit
was not as serene as she could have desired.
Mr. Kendal was quite willing that she should henceforth shut her door
against company in the morning; that is to say, he bowed his head
assentingly. She was begging him to take a walk with her, when, at
another sound of the bell, he made a precipitate retreat into his
study. The visitors were the Belmarche family. The old lady was
dark and withered, small, yet in look and air, with a certain
nobility and grandeur that carried Albinia back in a moment to the
days of hoops and trains, of powder and high-heeled shoes, and made
her feel that the sweeping courtesy had come straight from the days
of Marie Antoinette, and that it was an honour and distinction
conferred by a superior - superior, indeed, in all the dignity of age,
suffering, and constancy.
Albinia blushed, and took her hand with respect very unlike the
patronizing airs of Bayford Bridge towards 'poor old Madame
Belmarche,' and with downcast eyes, and pretty embarrassment, heard
the stately compliments of the ancien regime.
Miss Belmarche was not such a fine specimen of Sevres porcelain as
her mother. She was a brown, dried, small woman, having lost, or
never possessed, her country's taste in dress, and with a rusty
bonnet over the tight, frizzly curls of her front, too thin and too
scantily robed to have any waist, and speaking English too well for
the piquant grace of her mother's speech. Poor lady! born an exile,
she had toiled, and struggled for a whole lifetime to support her
mother; but though care had worn her down, there was still vivacity
in her quick little black eyes, and though her teeth were of a
dreadful colour, her laugh was so full of life and sweetness, that
Albinia felt drawn towards her in a moment.
Silent and demure, plainly dressed in an old dark merino, and a
white-ribboned faded bonnet, sat a little figure almost behind her
grandmother. Her face had the French want of complexion, but the
eyes were of the deepest, most lustrous hue of grey, almost as dark
as the pupils, and with the softness of long dark eyelashes - beautiful
eyes, full of light and expression - and as she moved towards
the table, there was a finish and delicacy about the whole form
and movements, that made her a most pleasing object.
But Albinia could not improve her acquaintance, for in flowed another
party of visitors, and Madame curtsied herself out again, Albinia
volunteering that she would soon come to see her, and being answered,
'You will do me too much honour.'
Another afternoon devoured by visitors! Every one seemed to have
come except the persons who would have been most welcome, Mr.
Dusautoy, and Winifred's friends, the Nugents.
When, at four o'clock, she had shaken hands with the last guest, she
gave a hearty yawn, jumped up and shook herself, as she exclaimed,
'There! There! that is done! I wonder whether your papa would come
'He is in his study,' said the girls.
Albinia thought of knocking and calling at the door, but somehow it
seemed impossible, and she decided on promenading past his window to
show that she was ready for him. But alas! those evergreens! She
could not see in, and probably he could not see out.
'Ha!' cried Lucy, as they pursued their walk into the kitchen garden,
'here are some asparagus coming up. Grandmamma always has our first
Albinia was delighted to find such an opening. Out came her knife -
they would cut the heads and take them up at once; but when the
tempting white-stalked, pink-tipped bundle had been made up and put
into a basket, a difficulty arose.
'I'll call the boy to take it,' said Lucy.
'What, when we are going ourselves?' said Albinia.
'Oh! but we can't.'
'Why? Do you think we shall break down under the weight?'
'O no, but people will stare.'
'Why - what should they stare at?'
'It looks _so_ to carry a basket - '
Albinia burst into one of her merriest peals of laughing.
'Not carry a basket! My dear, I have looked _so_ all the days of my
life. Bayford must endure the spectacle, so it may as well begin at
'But, dear mamma - '
'I'm not asking you to carry it. O no, I only hope you don't think
it too ungenteel to walk with me. But the notion of calling a boy
away from his work, to carry a couple of dozen asparagus when an
able-bodied woman is going that way herself!'
Albinia was so tickled that she could hardly check herself, even when
she saw Lucy looking distressed and hurt, and little laughs would
break out every moment as she beheld the young lady keeping aloof, as
if ashamed of her company, turning towards the steep church steps,
willing at least to hide the dreadful sight from the High Street.
Just as they had entered the narrow alley, they heard a hasty tread,
and almost running over them with his long strides, came Mr.
Dusautoy. He brought himself up short, just in time, and exclaimed,
'I beg your pardon - Mrs. Kendal, I believe. Could you be kind enough
to give me a glass of brandy?'
Albinia gave a great start, as well she might.
'I was going to fetch one,' quickly proceeded Mr. Dusautoy, 'but your
house is nearer. A poor man - there - just come home - been on the
tramp for work - quite exhausted - ' and he pointed to one of the
'I'll fetch it at once,' cried Albinia.
'Thank you,' he said, as they crossed the street. 'This poor fellow
has had nothing all day, has walked from Hadminster - just got home,
sank down quite worn out, and there is nothing in the house but dry
bread. His wife wants something nearly as much as he does.'
In the excitement, Albinia utterly forgot all scruples about
'Bluebeard's closet.' She hurried into the house, and made but one
dash, standing before her astonished husband's dreamy eyes,
exclaiming, 'Pray give me the key of the cellaret; there's a poor man
just come home, fainting with exhaustion, Mr. Dusautoy wants some
brandy for him.'
Like a man but half awake, obeying an apparition, Mr. Kendal put his
hand into his pocket and gave her the key. She was instantly opening
the cellaret, seeking among the bottles, and asking questions all the
time. She proposed taking a jug of the kitchen-tea then in
operation, and Mr. Dusautoy caught at the idea, so that poor Lucy
beheld the dreadful spectacle of the vicar bearing a can full of
steaming tea, and Mrs. Kendal a small cup with the 'spirituous
liquor.' What was the asparagus to this?
Albinia told her to go on to Mrs. Meadows', and that she should soon
follow. She intended to have gone the moment that she had carried in
the cup, leaving Mr. Dusautoy in the cottage, but the poor trembling
frightened wife needed woman's sympathy and soothing, and she waited
to comfort her, and to see the pair more able to enjoy the meeting,
in their tidy, but bare and damp-looking cottage. She promised broth
for the morrow, and took her leave, the vicar coming away at the same
'Thank you,' he said, warmly, as they came out, and turned to mount
the hill together.
'May I go and call on them again?'
'It will be very kind in you. Poor Simkins is a steady, good sort of
fellow, but a clumsy workman, down-hearted, and with poor health, and
things have been untoward with him.'
'People, who do not prosper in the world are not always the worst,'
'No, indeed, and these are grateful, warm-hearted people that you
will like, if you can get over the poor woman's lackadaisical manner.
But you are used to all that,' he added, smiling. 'I see you know
what poor folk are made of.'
'I have been living among them nearly all my days,' said Albinia. 'I
hope you will give me something to do, I should be quite forlorn
without it;' and she looked up to his kind, open face, as much at
home with him as if she had known, him for years.
'Fanny - my wife - shall find work for you,' he said. 'You must excuse
her calling on you, she is never off the sofa, but - ' And what a
bright look he gave! as much as to say that his wife _on_ the sofa
was better than any one else _off_. 'I was hoping to call some of
these afternoons,' he continued, 'but I have had little time, and
Fanny thought your door was besieged enough already.'
'Thank you,' said Albinia; 'I own I thought it was your kindness in
leaving me a little breathing time. And would Mrs. Dusautoy be able
to see me if I were to call?'
'She would be delighted. Suppose you were to come in at once.'
'I wish I could, but I must go on to Mrs. Meadows'. If I were to
'Any time - any time,' he said. 'She is always at home, and she has
been much better since we came here. We were too much in the town at
Mr. Dusautoy, having a year ago come out of the diocese where had
been Albinia's home, they had many common friends, and plunged into
'ecclesiastical intelligence,' with a mutual understanding of the
topics most often under discussion, that made Albinia quite in her
element. 'A great Newfoundland dog of a man in size, and
countenance, and kindness,' thought she. 'If his wife be worthy of
him, I shall reck little of all the rest.'
Her tread the gayer for this resumption of old habits, she proceeded
to Mrs. Meadows', where the sensation created by her poor little
basket justified Lucy's remonstrance. There were regrets, and
assurances that the girl could have come in a moment, and that she
need not have troubled herself, and her laughing declarations that it
was no trouble were disregarded, except that the old lady said, in
gentle excuse to her daughter, that Mrs. Kendal had always lived in
the country, where people could do as they pleased.
'I mean to do as I please here,' said Albinia, laughing; but the
speech was received with silent discomfiture that made her heartily
regret it. She disdained to explain it away; she was beginning to
hold Mrs. and Miss Meadows too cheap to think it worth while.
'Well,' said Mrs. Meadows, as if yielding up the subject, 'things may
be different from what they were in my time.'
'Oh! mamma - Mrs. Kendal - I am sure - ' Albinia let Maria flounder, but
she only found her way out of the speech with 'Well! and is not it
the most extraordinary! - Mr. Dusautoy - so rude - '
'I should not wonder if you found me almost as extraordinary as Mr.
Dusautoy,' said Albinia.
Why would Miss Meadows always nettle her into saying exactly the
wrong thing, so as to alarm and distress the old lady? That want of
comprehension of playfulness was a strangely hard trial. She turned
to Mrs. Meadows and tried to reassure her by saying, 'You know I have
been always in the clerical line myself, so I naturally take the part
of the parson.'
'Yes, my dear,' said Mrs. Meadows. 'I dare say Mr, Dusautoy is a
very good man, but I wish he would allow his poor delicate wife more