resistance. Listen to me, my boy, for you must never forget this:
you have been taken among persons who, I trust, will never be your
'Oh!' interrupted Maurice, 'must I never be a jockey?'
'No, Maurice. Horses are perverted to bad purposes by thoughtless
men, and you must keep aloof from such. You were not to blame, for
you refused to do what you knew to be wrong, and did not know it was
an improper place for you.'
'Gilbert took me,' said Maurice, puzzled at the gravity, which
convinced him that some one was in fault, and of course it must be
'Gilbert did very wrong,' said Mr. Kendal, 'and henceforth you must
learn that you must trust to your own conscience, and no longer
believe that all your brother tells you is right.'
Maurice gazed in inquiry, and perceiving his brother's downcast air,
ran to his mother, crying, 'Is papa angry?'
'Yes,' said Gilbert, willing to spare her the pain of a reply, 'he is
justly angry with me for having exposed you to temptation. Oh,
Maurice, if I had been made such as you, it would have been better
for us all!'
It was the first perception that a grown person could do wrong, and
that person his dear Gilbert. As if the grave countenances were
insupportable, he gave a long-drawn breath, hid his face on his
mother's knee, and burst into an agony of weeping. He was lifted on
her lap in a moment, father and mother both comforting him with
assurances that he was a very good boy, and that papa was much
pleased with him, Mr. Kendal even putting the cannon into his hand,
as a tangible evidence of favour; but the child thrust aside the toy,
and sliding down, took hold of his brother's languid, dejected hand,
and cried, with a sob and stamp of his foot,
'You shan't say you are naughty: I wont let you!'
Alas! it was a vain repulsion of the truth that this is a wicked
world. Gilbert only put him back, saying,
'You had better go away from me, Maurice: you cannot understand what
I have done. Pray Heaven yon may never know what I feel!'
Maurice did but cling the tighter, and though Mr. Kendal had not yet
addressed the culprit, he respected the force of that innocent love
too much to interfere. The bell rang, and they went down, Maurice
still holding by his brother, and when his uncle met them, it was
touching to see the generous little fellow hanging back, and not
giving his own hand till he had seen Gilbert receive the ordinary
Though Mr. Ferrars had been told nothing, he could not but be aware
of the symptoms of a family crisis - the gravity of some, and the
pale, jaded looks of others. Lucy was not one of these; she came
down with little Albinia in her arms, and began to talk rather
airily, excusing herself for not having come down in the evening
because that 'horrid ink' had got into her hair, and tittering a
little over the absurdity of her having picked up the inkstand in the
dark. Not a word of response did she meet, and her gaiety died away
in vague alarm. Sophy, the most innocent, looked wretched, and
Maurice absolutely began to cry again, at the failure of some
manoeuvre to make his father speak to Gilbert.
His tears broke up the breakfast-party. His mother led him away to
reason with him, that, sad as it was, it was better that people
should be grieved when they had transgressed, as the only hope of
their forgiveness and improvement. Maurice wanted her to reverse the
declaration that Gilbert had done wrong; but, alas! this could not
be, and she was obliged to send him out with his little sister,
hoping that he would work off his grief by exercise. It was mournful
to see the first shadow of the penalty of sin falling on the Eden of
With an aching heart, she went in search of Lucy, who had taken
sanctuary in Mrs. Meadows's room, and was not easily withdrawn from
thence to a tete-a-tete. Fearful of falsehood, Albinia began by
telling her she knew all, and how little she had expected such a
requital of trust.
Lucy exclaimed that it had not been her fault, she had always wanted
to tell, and gradually Albinia drew from her the whole avowal, half
shamefaced, half exultant.
She had never dreamt of meeting Algernon at Brighton - it was quite by
chance that she came upon him at the officers' ball when he was
staying with Captain Greenaway. He asked her to dance, and she had
said yes, all on a sudden, without thinking, and then she fancied he
would go away; she begged him not to come again, but whenever she
went out on the chain-pier before breakfast, there he was.
Why did she go thither? She hung her head. Mrs. Annesley had
desired her to walk; she could not help it; she was afraid to write
and tell what was going on - besides, he would come, though she told
him she would not see him; and she could not bear to make him
unhappy. Then, when she came home, she had been in hopes it was all
over, but she had been very unhappy, and had been on the point of
telling all about it many times, when mamma looked at her kindly; but
then he came to the Vicarage, and he would wait for her at the
bridge, and write notes to her, and she could not stop it; but she
had always told him it was no use, she never would be engaged to him
without papa's consent. She had only promised that she would not
marry any one else, only because he was so very desperate, and she
was afraid to break it off entirely, lest he should go and marry the
Principessa Bianca, a foreigner and Papist, which would be so
shocking for him and his uncle. Gilbert could testify how grieved
she was to have any secrets from mamma; but Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy
was so dreadful when she talked of telling, that she did not know
what would happen.
When he went away, and she thought it was all over - mamma might
recollect how hard it was for her to keep up, and what a force she
put upon herself - but she would rather have pined to death than have
said one word to bring him back, and was quite shocked when Gilbert
gave her his note, to beg her to let him see her that evening, before
the party returned; she said, with all her might, that he must not
come, and when he did, she was begging him all the time to go away,
and she was so dreadfully frightened when they actually came, that
she had all but gone into hysterics, or fainted away, and that was
the way he came to throw the ink at her - she was so very much
shocked, and so would he be - and really she felt the misfortune to
the beautiful new sofa-cover as a most serious calamity and
aggravation of her offence.
It was not easy to know how to answer; Albinia was scornful of the
sofa-cover, and yet it was hard to lay hold of a tangible subject on
which to show Lucy her error, except in the concealment, which, by
her own showing, she had lamented the whole time. She had always
said no, but, unluckily, her noes were of the kind that might easily
be made to mean yes, and she evidently had been led on partly by her
own heart, partly by the force of the stronger will, though her
better principles had filled her with scruples and misgivings at
every stage. She had been often on the point of telling all, and
asking forgiveness; and here it painfully crossed Albinia, that if
she herself had been less hurried, and less disposed to take
everything for granted, a little tenderness might have led to a
Still Lucy defended herself by the compulsion exercised on her, and
she would hear none of the conclusions Albinia drew therefrom; she
would not see that the man who drove her to a course of disobedience
and subterfuge could be no fit guide, and fired up at a word of
censure, declaring that she knew that mamma had always hated him, and
that now he was absent, she would not hear him blamed. The one drop
of true love made her difficult to deal with, for the heart was
really made over to the tyrant, and Albinia did not feel herself
sufficiently guiltless of negligence and imprudence to rebuke her
with a comfortable conscience.
Mr. Kendal had been obliged to attend to some justice business -
better for him, perhaps, than acting as domestic magistrate - and
meanwhile the Vicar of Fairmead found himself forgotten. He wanted
to be at home, yet did not like to leave his sister in unexplained
trouble, though not sure whether he might not be better absent.
Time passed on, he finished the newspaper, and wrote letters, and
then, seeing no one, he had gone into the hall to send for a
conveyance, when Gilbert, coming in from the militia parade, became
the recipient of his farewells, but apparently with so little
comprehension, that he broke off, struck by the dejected countenance,
and wandering eye.
'I beg your pardon,' Gilbert said, passing his hand over his brow, 'I
did not hear.'
'I was only asking you to tell my sister that I would not disturb
her, and leaving my good-byes with you.'
'You are not going?'
'Thank you; I think my wife will grow anxious.'
'I had hoped' - Gilbert sighed and paused - 'I had thought that
perhaps - '
The wretchedness of his tone drove away Mr. Ferrars's purpose of
immediate departure, and returning to the drawing-room he said, 'If
there were any way in which I could be of use.'
'Then you do not know?' said Gilbert, veiling his face with his hand,
as he leant on the mantel-shelf.
'I know nothing. I could only see that something was amiss. I was
wishing to know whether my presence or absence would be best for you
'Oh! don't go!' cried Gilbert. Nobody must go who can be any comfort
to Mrs. Kendal.'
A few kind words drew forth the whole piteous history that lay so
heavily on his heart. Reserves were all over now; and irregularly
and incoherently he laid open his griefs and errors, his gradual
absorption into the society with which he had once broken, and the
inextricable complication of mischief in which he had been involved
by his debt.
'Yet,' he said, 'all the time I longed from my heart to do well. It
was the very thing that led me into this scrape. I thought if the
man applied to my father, as he threatened, that I should be
suspected of having concealed this on purpose, and be sent to India,
and I was so happy, and thought myself so safe here. I did believe
that home and Mrs. Kendal would have sheltered me, but my destiny
must needs hunt me out here, and alienate even her!'
'The way to find the Devil behind the Cross, is to cower beneath it
in weak idolatry, instead of grasping it in courageous faith,' said
Mr. Ferrars. 'Such faith would have made you trust yourself
implicitly to your father. Then you would either have gone forth in
humble acceptance of the punishment, or else have stayed at home,
free, pardoned, and guarded; but, as it was, no wonder temptation
followed you, and you had no force to resist it.'
'And so all is lost! Even dear little Maurice can never be trusted
to me again! And his mother, who would, if she could, be still
merciful and pitying as an angel, she cannot forget to what I exposed
him! She will never be the same to me again! Yet I could lay down
my life for any of them!'
Mr. Ferrars watched the drooping figure, crouching on his chairs,
elbows on knees, head bowed on the supporting hands, and face hidden,
and, listening to the meek, affectionate hopelessness of the tone, he
understood the fond love and compassion that had often surprised him
in his sister, but he longed to read whether this were penitence
towards God, or remorse towards man.
'Miserable indeed, Gilbert,' he said, 'but if all were irretrievably
offended, there still is One who can abundantly pardon, where
repentance is true.'
'I thought' - cried Gilbert - 'I thought it had been true before! If
pain, and shame, and abhorrence could so render it, I know it was
when I came home. And then it was comparative happiness; I thought I
was forgiven, I found joy and peace where they are promised' - the
burning tears dropped between his fingers - but it was all delusion;
not prayers nor sacraments can shield me - I am doomed, and all I ask
is to be out of the way of ruining Maurice!'
'This is mere despair,' said Mr. Ferrars. 'I cannot but believe your
contrition was sincere; but steadfast courage was what you needed,
and you failed in the one trial that may have been sent you to
strengthen and prove you. The effects have been terrible, but there
is every hope that you may retrieve your error, and win back the
sense of forgiveness.'
'If I could dare to hope so - but I cannot presume to take home to
myself those assurances, when I know that I only resolve, that I may
have resolutions to break.'
'Have you ever laid all this personally before Mr. Dusautoy?'
'No; I have thought of it, but, mixed up as this is with his nephew
and my sister, it is impossible! But you are a clergyman, Mr.
Ferrars!' he added, eagerly.
Mr. Ferrars thought, and then said,
'If you wish it, Gilbert, I will gladly do what I can for you. I
believe that I may rightly do so.'
His face gleamed for a moment with the light of grateful gladness, as
if at the first ray of comfort, and then he said, 'I am sure none was
ever more grieved and wearied with the burden of sin - if that be
'I think,' said Mr. Ferrars, 'that it might be better to give time to
collect yourself, examine the past, separate the sorrow for the sin
from the disgrace of the consequences, and then look earnestly at the
sole ground of hope. How would it be to come for a couple of nights
to Fairmead, at the end of next week?'
Gilbert gratefully caught at the invitation; and Mr. Ferrars gave him
some advice as to his reading and self-discipline, speaking to him as
gently and tenderly as Albinia herself. Both lingered in case the
other should have more to say, but at last Gilbert stood up, saying,
'I would thankfully go to Calcutta now, but the situation is filled
up, and my father said John Kendal had been enough trifled with. If
I saw any fresh opening, where I should be safe from hurting
'There is no reason you and your brother should not be a blessing to
'Yes, there is. Till I lived at home, I did not know how impossible
it is to keep clear of old acquaintance. They are good-natured
fellows - that Tritton and the like - and after all that has come and
gone, one would be a brute to cut them entirely, and Maurice is
always after me, and has been more about with them than his mother
knows. Even if I were very different, I should be a link, and though
it might be no great harm if Maurice were a tame mamma's boy - you
see, being the fellow he is, up to anything for a lark, and frantic
about horses - I could never keep him from them. There's no such
great harm in themselves - hearty, good-natured fellows they are - but
there's a worse lot that they meet, and Maurice will go all lengths
whenever he begins. Now, so little as he is now, if I were once
gone, he would never run into their way, and they would never get a
hold of him.'
Mr. Ferrars had unconsciously screwed up his face with dismay, but he
relaxed it, and spoke kindly.
'You are right. It was a mistake to stay at home. Perhaps your
regiment may be stationed elsewhere.'
'I don't know how long it may be called out. If it were but possible
to make a fresh beginning.'
'Did you hear of my brother's suggestion?'
'I wish - but it is useless to talk about that. I could not presume
to ask my father for a commission - Heaven knows when I shall dare to
speak to him!'
'You have not personally asked his pardon after full confession.'
'N-o - Mrs. Kendal knows all.'
'Did you ever do such a thing in your life?'
'You don't know what my father is.'
'Neither do you, Gilbert. Let that be the first token of sincerity.'
Without leaving space for another word, Mr. Ferrars went through the
conservatory into the garden, where, meeting the children, he took
the little one in his arms, and sent Maurice to fetch his mamma.
Albinia came down, looking so much heated and harassed, that he was
grieved to leave her.
'Oh, Maurice, I am sorry! You always come in for some catastrophe,'
she said, trying to smile. 'You have had a most forlorn morning.'
'Gilbert has been with me,' he said. 'He has told me all, my dear,
and I think it hopeful: I like him better than I ever did before.'
'Poor feather, the breath of your lips has blown him the other way,'
said Albinia, too unhappy for consolation.
'Well, it seems to me that you have done more for him than I ever
quite believed. I did not expect such sound, genuine religious
'He always had plenty of religious sentiment,' said Albinia, sadly.
'I have asked him to come to us next week. Will you tell Edmund so?'
'Yes. He will be thankful to you for taking him in hand. Poor boy,
I know how attractive his penitence is, but I have quite left off
building on it.'
Mr. Ferrars defended him no longer. He could not help being much
moved by the youth's self-abasement, but that might be only because
it was new to him, and he did not even try to recommend him to her
mercy; he knew her own heart might be trusted to relent, and it would
not hurt Gilbert in the end to be made to feel the full weight of his
'I must go,' he said, 'though I am sorry to leave you in perplexity.
I am afraid I can do nothing for you.'
'Nothing - but feel kindly to Gilbert,' said Albinia. 'I can't do so
yet. I don't feel as if I ever could again, when I think what he was
doing with Maurice. Yes, and how easily he could have brought poor
Lucy to her senses, if he had been good for anything! Oh! Maurice,
this is sickening work! You should be grateful to me for not
scolding you for having taken me from home!'
'I do not repent,' said her brother. 'The explosion is better than
the subterranean mining.'
'It may be,' said Albinia, 'and I need not boast of the good I did at
home! My poor, poor Lucy! A little discreet kindness and
watchfulness on my part would have made all the difference! It was
all my running my own way with my eyes shut, but then, I had always
lived with trustworthy people. Well, I wont keep you listening to my
maundering, when Winifred wants you. Oh! why did that Polysyllable
ever come near the place?'
Mr. Ferrars said the kindest and most cheering things he could
devise, and drove away, not much afraid of her being unforgiving.
He was disposed to stake all his hopes of the young man on the issue
of his advice to make a direct avowal to his father. And Gilbert
made the effort, though rather in desperation than resolution,
knowing that his condition could not be worse, and seeing no hope
save in Mr. Ferrars' counsel. He was the first to seek Mr. Kendal,
and dreadful to him as was the unaltering melancholy displeasure of
the fixed look, the steadily penetrating deep dark eyes, and the
subdued sternness of the voice, he made his confession fully, without
reserve or palliation.
It was more than Mr. Kendal had expected, and more, perhaps, than he
absolutely trusted, for Gilbert had not hitherto inspired faith in
his protestations that he spoke the whole truth and nothing but the
truth, nor had he always the power of doing so when overpowered by
fright. The manner in which his father laid hold of any inadvertent
discrepancy, treating it as a wilful prevarication, was terror and
agony; and well as he knew it to be the meed of past equivocation, he
felt it cruel to torture him by implied suspicion. Yet how could it
be otherwise, when he had been introducing his little brother to his
own corrupters, and conniving at his sister's clandestine
correspondence with a man whom he knew to be worthless?'
The grave words that he obtained at last, scarcely amounted to
pardon; they implied that he had done irreparable mischief and acted
disgracefully, and such forgiveness as was granted was only made
conditional on there being no farther reserves.
Alas! even with all tender love and compassion, no earthly parent can
forgive as does the Heavenly Father. None but the Omniscient can
test the fulness of the confession, nor the sincerity of 'Father, I
have sinned against Heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to
be called Thy son.' This interview only sent the son away more
crushed and overwhelmed, and yearning towards the more deeply
offended, and yet more compassionate Father.
Mr. Kendal, after this interview, so far relaxed his displeasure as
to occasionally address Gilbert when they met at luncheon after this
deplorable morning, while towards Lucy he observed a complete
silence. It was not at first that she perceived this, and even then
it struck more deeply on Sophia than it did on her.
Mr. Kendal shrank from inflicting pain on the good vicar, and it was
decided that the wives should be the channel through which the
information should be imparted. Albinia took the children, sending
them to play in the garden while she talked to Mrs. Dusautoy. She
found that keen little lady had some shrewd suspicions, but had
discovered nothing defined enough to act upon, and was relieved to
have the matter opened at last.
As to the ink, no mortal could help laughing over it; even Albinia,
who had been feeling as if she could never laugh again, was suddenly
struck by the absurdity, and gave way to a paroxysm of merriment.
'Properly managed, I do think it might put an end to the whole
affair,' said Mrs. Dusautoy. 'He could not stand being laughed at.'
'I'm afraid he never will believe that he can be laughed at.'
'Yes, that is unlucky,' said Mrs. Dusautoy, gravely; but recollecting
that she was not complimentary, she added, 'You must not think we
undervalue Lucy. John is very fond of her, and the only objection
is, that it would require a person of more age and weight to deal
'Never mind speeches,' sighed Albinia; 'we know too well that nothing
could be worse for either. Can't you give him a tutor and send him
'I'll talk to John; but unluckily he is of age next month, and
there's an end of our power. And John would never keep him away from
hence, for he thinks it his only chance.'
'I suppose we must do something with Lucy. Heigh-ho! People used
not to be always falling in love in my time, except Fred, and that
was in a rational way; that could be got rid of!'
The effect of the intelligence on the vicar was to make him set out
at once to the livery-stables in quest of his nephew, but he found
that the young gentleman had that morning started for London, whither
he proposed to follow him on the Monday. Lucy cried incessantly, in
the fear that the gentle-hearted vicar might have some truculent
intentions towards his nephew, and was so languid and unhappy that no
one had the heart to scold her; and comforting her was still more
Mr. Kendal used to stride away from the sight of her swollen eyes,
and ask Albinia why she did not tell her that the only good thing
that could happen to her would be, that she should never see nor hear
of the fellow again.
Why he did not tell her so himself was a different question.
'Well, Albinia,' said Mr. Kendal, after seeing Mr. Dusautoy on his
return from London.
There was such a look of deprecation about him, that she exclaimed,
'One would really think you had been accepting this charming son-in-law.'
'Suppose I had,' he said, rather quaintly; then, as he saw her hands
held up, 'conditionally, you understand, entirely conditionally.
What could I do, when Dusautoy entreated me, with tears in his eyes,
not to deprive him of the only chance of saving his nephew?'
'Umph,' was the most innocent sound Albinia could persuade herself to
'Besides,' continued Mr. Kendal, 'it will be better to have the
affair open and avowed than to have all this secret plotting going on
without being able to prevent it. I can always withhold my consent
if he should not improve, and Dusautoy declares nothing would be such
'May it prove so!'
'You see,' he pursued, 'as his uncle says, nothing can be worse than
driving him to these resorts, and when he is once of age, there's an
end of all power over him to hinder his running straight to ruin.
Now, when he is living at the Vicarage, we shall have far more
opportunity of knowing how he is going on, and putting a check on
their intercourse, if he be unsatisfactory.'
'If we can.'
'After all, the young man has done nothing that need blight his
future life. He has had great disadvantages, and his steady
attachment is much in his favour. His uncle tells me he promises to
become all that we could wish, and, in that case, I do not see that I