butcher's meat, and I don't think it looks well to see the vicarage
without a man-servant.'
Albinia finally made her escape, and while wondering whether she
should ever visit that house without tingling with irritation with
herself and with the inmates, Lucy exclaimed, 'There, you see I was
right. Grandmamma and Aunt Maria were surprised when I told them
that you said you were an able-bodied woman.'
What would not Albinia have given for Winifred to laugh with her?
What to do now she did not know, so she thought it best not to hear,
and to ask the way to a carpenter's shop to order some book-shelves.
She was more uncomfortable after she came home, for by the sounds
when Mr. Kendal next emerged from his study, she found that he had
locked himself in, to guard against further intrusion. And when she
offered to return to him the key of the cellaret, he quietly replied
that he should prefer her retaining it, - not a formidable answer in
itself, but one which, coupled with the locking of the door, proved
to her that she might do anything rather than invade his privacy.
Now Maurice's study was the thoroughfare of the household, the place
for all parish preparations unpresentable in the drawing-room, and
Albinia was taken by surprise. She grew hot and cold. Had she done
anything wrong? Could he care for her if he could lock her out?
'I will not be morbid, I will not be absurd,' said she to herself,
though the tears stood in her eyes. 'Some men do not like to be
rushed in upon! It may be only habit. It may have been needful
here. It is base to take petty offences, and set up doubts.'
And Mr. Kendal's tender manner when they were again together, his
gentle way of addressing her, and a sort of shy caress, proved that
he was far from all thought of displeasure; nay, he might be
repenting of his momentary annoyance, though he said nothing.
Albinia went to inquire after the sick man at her first leisure
moment, and while talking kindly to the wife, and hearing her
troubles, was surprised at the forlorn rickety state of the building,
the broken pavement, damp walls, and door that would not shut,
because the frame had sunk out of the perpendicular.
'Can't you ask your landlord to do something to the house?'
'It is of no use, ma'am, Mr. Pettilove never will do nothing.
Perhaps if you would be kind enough to say a word to him, ma'am - '
'Mr. Pettilove, the lawyer? I'll try if Mr. Kendal can say anything
to him. It really is a shame to leave a house in this condition.'
Thanks were so profuse, that she feared that she was supposed to
possess some power of amelioration. The poor woman even insisted on
conducting her up a break-neck staircase to see the broken ceiling,
whence water often streamed in plentifully from the roof.
Her mind full of designs against the cruel landlord, she speeded up
the hill, exhilarated by each step she took into the fresh air, to
the garden-gate, which she was just unhasping when the hearty voice
of the Vicar was heard behind her. 'Mrs. Kendal! I told Fanny you
Instead of taking her to the front door he conducted her across a
sloping lawn towards a French window open to the bright afternoon
'Here she is, here is Mrs. Kendal!' he said, sending his voice before
him, as they came in sight of the pretty little drawing-room, where
through the gay chintz curtains, she saw the clear fire shining upon
half-a-dozen school girls, ranged opposite to a couch. 'Ah!' as he
perceived them, 'shall I take her for a turn in the garden while you
finish your lesson?'
'One moment, if you please. I did not know it was so late,' and a
face as bright as all the rest was turned towards the window.
'Ah! give her her scholars, and she never knows how time passes,'
said Mr. Dusautoy. 'But step this way, and I'll show you the best
view in Bayford.' He took her up a step or two, to a little turfed
mound, where there was a rustic seat commanding the whole exquisite
view of river, vale, and woodland, with the church tower rising in
the foreground. The wind blew pleasantly, chasing the shadows of the
clouds across the open space. Albinia was delighted to feel it fan
her brow, and her eager exclamations contented Mr. Dusautoy. 'Yes,'
he said, 'it was all Fanny's notion. She planned it all last summer
when I took her round the garden. It is wonderful what an eye she
has! I only hope when the dry weather comes, that I shall be able to
get her up there to enjoy it.'
On coming down they found that Mrs. Dusautoy had dismissed her class,
and come out to a low, long-backed sloping garden-seat at the window.
She was very little and slight, a mere doll in proportion to her
great husband, who could lift her as easily and tenderly as a baby,
paying her a sort of reverential deference and fond admiration that
rendered them a beautiful sight, in such full, redoubled measure was
his fondness repaid by the little, clever, fairy-looking woman, with
her playful manner, high spirits, keen wit, and the active habits
that even confirmed invalidism could not destroy. She had small
deadly white hands, a fair complexion, that varied more than was good
for her, pretty, though rather sharp and irregular features, and
hazel eyes dancing with merriment, and face and figure at some years
above thirty, would have suited a girl of twenty. To see Mr.
Dusautoy bringing her footstools, shawls, and cushions, and to
remember the accusation of starvation, was almost irresistibly
'Now, John, you had better have been giving Mrs. Kendal a chair all
'Mrs. Kendal will excuse,' said Mr. Dusautoy, as he brought her a
'Mrs. Kendal has excused,' said Mrs. Dusautoy, bursting into a merry
fit of laughter. 'Oh, I never heard anything more charming than your
introduction! I beg your pardon, but I laughed last evening till I
was worn out, and waked in the night laughing again.'
It was exhilarating to find that any one laughed at Bayford, and
Albinia partook of the mirth with all her heart. 'Never was an
address more gratifying to me!' she said.
'It was like him! so unlike Bayford! So bold a venture!' continued
Mrs. Dusautoy amid peals of laughter.
'What is there to laugh at?' said Mr. Dusautoy, putting on a look
between merriment and simplicity. 'What else could I have done? I
should have done the same whoever I had met.'
'Ah! now he is afraid of your taking it as too great a compliment!
To do him justice I believe he would, but the question is, what
answer he would have had.'
'Nobody could have refused - ' began Albinia.
'Oh!' cried Mrs. Dusautoy. 'Little you know Bayford.
'Fanny! Fanny! this is too bad. Madame Belmarche - '
'Would have had nothing but eau sucre! No, John, decidedly you and
Simkins fell upon your legs, and you bad better take credit for your
'I like the people,' said Albinia, 'but they never can be well while
they live in such a shocking place. It is quite a disgrace to
'It is in a sad state,' said Mr. Dusautoy.
'I know I should like to set my brother upon that Mr. Pettilove, who
they say will do nothing,' exclaimed Albinia.
The Vicar was going to have said something, but a look from his wife
checked him. Albinia was sorry for it, as she detected a look of
suppressed amusement on Mrs. Dusautoy's face. 'I mean to ask Mr.
Kendal what can be done,' she said; 'and in the meantime, to descend
from what we can't do to what we can. Mr. Dusautoy told me to come
to you for orders.'
'And I told Mr. Dusautoy that I should give you none.'
'Oh! that is hard.'
'If you could have heard him! He thought he _had_ got a working lady
at last, and he would have had no mercy upon you. One would have
imagined that Mr. Kendal had brought you here for his sole behoof!'
'Then I shall look to you, Mr. Dusautoy.'
'No, I believe she is quite right,' he said. 'She says you ought to
undertake nothing till yon have had time to see what leisure you have
to give us.'
'Nay, I have been used to think the parish my business, home my
'Yes,' said Mrs. Dusautoy, 'but then you were the womankind of the
clergy, now you are a laywoman.'
'I think you have work at home,' said the Vicar.
'Work, but not work _enough!_' cried Albinia. 'The girls will help
me; only tell me what I may do.'
'I say, "what you can,"' said Mrs. Dusautoy. 'You see before you a
single-handed man. Only two of the ladies here can be called
coadjutors, one being poor little Genevieve Durant, the other the
bookseller's daughter, Clarissa Richardson, who made all the rest fly
off. All the others do what good they mean to do according to their
own sweet will, free and independent women, and we can't have any
district system, so I think you can only do what just comes to hand.'
Most heartily did Albinia undertake all that Mrs. Dusautoy would let
her husband assign to her.
'Yes, John is a strong temptation,' said the bright little invalid,
'but you must let Mrs. Kendal find out in a month's time whether she
has work enough.'
'I could think my wise brother Maurice had been cautioning you,' said
Albinia, taking leave as of an old friend, for indeed she felt more
at home with Mrs. Dusautoy than with any acquaintance she had made in
Albinia told her husband of the state of the cottages, and railed at
Mr. Pettilove much to her own satisfaction. Mr. Kendal answered, 'He
would see about it,' an answer of which Albinia had yet to learn the
There are some characters so constituted, that of them the old
proverb, that Love is blind, is perfectly true; they can see no
imperfection in the mind or body of those dear to them. There are
others in whom the strongest affections do not destroy clearness of
vision, who see their friends on all sides, and perceive their faults
and foibles, without loving them the less.
Albinia Kendal was a person of the latter description. It might
almost be called her temptation, that her mind beheld all that came
before it in a clear, and a humorous light, such as only a
disposition overflowing with warm affection and with the energy of
kindness, could have prevented from bordering upon censoriousness.
She had imagination, but it was not such as to make an illusion of
the present, or to interfere with her almost satirical good sense.
Happily, religion and its earthly manifestation - charity regulated
her, taught her to fear to judge lest she should be judged,
strengthened her naturally fond affections, and tempered the keenness
that disappointment might soon have turned to sourness. The tongue,
the temper, and the judgment knew their own tendencies, and a guard
was set over them; and if the sentinel were ever torpid or deceived,
repentance paid the penalty.
She had not long seen her husband at home before she had
involuntarily completed her view of his character. Nature must have
designed him for a fellow of a college, where, apart from all cares,
he might have collected fragments of forgotten authors, and
immortalized his name by some edition of a Greek Lyric poet, known by
four poems and a half, and two-thirds of a line quoted somewhere
else. In such a controversy, lightened by perpetually polished
poems, by a fair amount of modern literature, select college
friendships, and methodical habits, Edmund Kendal would have been in
his congenial element, lived and died, and had his portrait hung up
as one of the glories of his college.
But he had been carried off from school, before he had done more than
prove his unusual capacity. All his connexions were Indian, and his
father, who had not seen him since his earliest childhood, offered
him no choice but an appointment in the civil service. He had one
stimulus; he had seen Lucy Meadows in the radiant glory of girlish
beauty, and had fastened on her all a poet's dreams, deepening and
becoming more fervid in the recesses of a reserved heart, which did
not easily admit new sensations. That stimulus carried him out
cheerfully to India, and quickened his abilities, so that he exerted
himself sufficiently to obtain a lucrative situation early in life.
He married, and his household must have been on the German system,
all the learning on one side, all the domestic cares on the other.
The understanding and refinement wanting in his wife, he believed to
be wanting in all women. As resident at a small remote native court
in India, he saw no female society such as could undeceive him; and
subsequently his Bayford life had not raised his standard of
womankind. A perfect gentleman, his superiority was his own work,
rather than that of station or education, and so he had never missed
intercourse with really ladylike or cultivated, female minds,
expected little from wife, or daughters, or neighbours; had a few
learned friends, but lived within himself. He had acquired a
competence too soon, and had the great misfortune of property without
duties to present themselves obviously. He had nothing to do but to
indulge his naturally indolent scholarly tastes, which, directed as
they had been to Eastern languages, had even less chance of sympathy
among his neighbours than if they had been classical. Always
reserved, and seldom or never meeting with persons who could converse
with him, he had lapsed into secluded habits, and learnt to shut
himself up in his study and exclude every one, that he might have at
least a refuge from the gossip and petty cares that reigned
everywhere else. So seldom was anything said worth his attention,
that he never listened to what was passing, and had learnt to say
'very well' - 'I'll see about it,' without even knowing what was said
But though his wife had been no companion, the illusion had never
died away, he had always loved her devotedly, and her loss had
shattered all his present rest and comfort; as entirely as the death
of his son had taken from him hope and companionship.
What a home it must have been, with Lucy reigning over it in her pert
self-sufficiency, Gilbert and Sophy running riot and squabbling, and
Maria Meadows coming in on them with her well-meant worries and
When taken away from the scene of his troubles, his spirits revived;
afraid to encounter his own household alone, he had thought Albinia
the cure for everything. But at home, habit and association had
proved too strong for her presence - the grief, which he had tried to
leave behind, had waited ready to meet him on the threshold, and the
very sense that it was a melancholy welcome added to his depression,
and made him less able to exert himself. The old sorrows haunted the
walls of the house, and above all the study, and tarried not in
seizing on their unresisting victim. Melancholy was in his nature,
his indolence gave it force, and his habits were almost ineffaceable,
and they were habits of quiet selfishness, formed by a resolute,
though inert will, and fostered by an adoring wife. A youth spent in
India had not given him ideas of responsibilities beyond his own
family, and his principles, though sound, had not expanded the views
of duty with which he had started in life.
It was a positive pleasure to Albinia to discover that there had been
an inefficient clergyman at Bayford before Mr. Dusautoy, and to know
that during half the time that the present vicar had held the living,
Mr. Kendal had been absent, so that his influence had had no time to
work. She began to understand her line of action. It must be her
effort, in all loving patience and gentleness, to raise her husband's
spirits and rouse his faculties; to make his powers available for the
good of his fellow-creatures, to make him an active and happy man,
and to draw him and his children together. This was truly a task to
make her heart throb high with hope and energy. Strong and brave was
that young heart, and not self-confident - the difficulty made her
only the more hopeful, because she saw it was her duty. She was
secure of her influence with him. If he did exclude her from his
study, he left her supreme elsewhere, and though she would have given
the world that their sovereignty might be a joint one _everywhere_,
still she allowed much for the morbid inveterate habit of dreading
disturbance. When he began by silence and not listening, she could
always rouse him, and give him animation, and he was so much
surprised and pleased whenever she entered into any of his pursuits,
that she had full hope of drawing him out.
One day when the fog, instead of clearing off had turned to violent
rain, Albinia had been out on parish work, and afterwards enlivening
old Mrs. Meadows by dutifully spending an hour with her, while Maria
was nursing a nervous headache - she had been subject to headaches
ever since...an ominous sigh supplied the rest.
But all the effect of Albinia's bright kindness was undone, when the
grandmother learnt that Gilbert was gone to his tutor, and would have
to come home in the rain, and she gave such an account of his
exceeding delicacy, that Albinia became alarmed, and set off at once
that she might consult his father about sending for him.
Her opening of the hall door was answered by Mr. Kendal emerging from
his study. He was looking restless and anxious, came to meet her,
and uncloaked her, while he affectionately scolded her for being so
venturesome. She told him where she had been, and he smiled, saying,
'You are a busy spirit! But you must not be too imprudent.'
'Oh, nothing hurts me. It is poor Gilbert that I am anxious about.'
'So am I. Gilbert has not a constitution fit for exposure. I wish
he were come home.'
'Could we not send for him? Suppose we sent a fly.'
He was consenting with a pleased smile, when the door opened, and
there stood the dripping Gilbert, completely wet through, pale and
chilled, with his hair plastered down, and his coat stuck all over
with the horse's short hair.
'You must go to bed at once, Gilbert,' said his father. 'Are you
'Very. It was such a horrid driving wind, and I rode so fast,' said
Gilbert; violently shivering, as they helped to pull him out of his
great coat; he put his hand to his mouth, and said that his face
ached. Mr. Kendal was very anxious, and Albinia hurried the boy up
to bed, and meantime ordered quickly a basin of the soup preparing
for dinner, warmed some worsted socks at the fire, and ran upstairs
He seemed to have no substance in him; he had hardly had energy to
undress himself, and she found him with his face hidden on the
pillow, shivering audibly, and actually crying. She was aghast.
The boys with whom she had been brought up, would never have given
way so entirely without resistance; but between laughing, cheering,
scolding, covering him up close, and rubbing his hands with her own,
she comforted him, so that he could be grateful and cheerful when his
father himself came up with the soup. Albinia noticed a sort of
shudder pass over Mr. Kendal as he entered, and he stood close by
Gilbert, turning his back on everything else, while he watched the
boy eat the soup, as if restored by every spoonful. 'That was a good
thought,' was his comment to his wife, and the look of gratitude
brought a flush of pleasure into her cheek.
Of all the dinners, this was the most pleasant; he was more gentle
and affectionate, and she made him tell her about the Persian poets,
and promise to show her some specimens of the Rose Garden of Saadi - she
had never before been so near having his pursuits opened to her.
'What a favourite Gilbert is!' Lucy said to Sophia, as Albinia
lighted a candle and went up to his room.
'He makes such a fuss,' said Sophy. 'What is there in being wet
through to cry about?'
Albinia heard a little shuffle as she opened the door, and Gilbert
pushed a book under his pillow. She asked him what he had been
reading. 'Oh,' he said, 'he had not been doing it long, for the
flickering of the candle hurt his eyes.'
'Yes, you had better not,' said Albinia, moving the flaring light to
a less draughty part of the dingy whitewashed attic. 'Or shall I
read to you?'
'Are you come to stay with me?' cried the boy, raising himself up to
look after her, as she moved about the room and stood looking from
the window over the trees at the water meadows, now flooded into a
lake, and lighted by the beams of a young moon.
'I can stay till your father is ready for tea,' said Albinia, coming
nearer. 'Let me see whether your hands are hot.'
She found her own hand suddenly clasped, and pressed to his lips, and
then, as if ashamed, he turned his face away; nor would she betray
her pleasure in it, but merely said, 'Shall I go on with your book!'
'No,' said he, wearily turning his reddened cheek to the other side.
'I only took it because it is so horrid lying here thinking.'
'I am very sorry to hear it. Do you know, Gibbie, that it is said
there is nothing more lamentable than for a man not to like to have
his own thoughts for his company,' said she, gaily.
'Ah! but - !' said Gilbert. 'If I lie here alone, I'm always looking
out there,' and he pointed to the opposite recess. She looked, but
saw nothing. 'Don't you know?' he said.
'Edmund?' she asked.
He grasped her hands in both his own. 'Aye! Ned used to sleep
there. I always look for him there.'
'Do you mean that you would rather have another room? I would manage
'O no, thank you, I like it for some things. Take the candle - look
by the shutter - cut out in the wood.'
The boys' scoring of 'E. & G. K.,' was visible there.
'Papa has taken all be could of Edmund's,' said Gilbert, 'but he
could not take that! No, I would not have any other room if you were
to give me the best in the house.'
'I am sure not! But, my dear, considering what Edmund was, surely
they should be gentle, happy thoughts that the room should give you.'
He shuddered, and presently said, 'Do you know what?' and paused;
then continued, with an effort, getting tight hold of her hand, 'Just
before Edmund died - he lay out there - I lay here - he sat up all white
in bed, and he called out, clear and loud, "Mamma, Gilbert" - I saw
him - and then - he was dead! And you know mamma did die - and I'm sure
I shall!' He had worked himself into a trembling fit, hid his face
'But you have not died of the fever.'
'Yes - but I know it means that I shall die young! I am sure it does!
It was a call! I heard Nurse say it was a call!'
What was to be done with such a superstition? Albinia did not think
it would be right to argue it away. It might be in truth a warning
to him to guard his ways - a voice from the twin-brother, to be with
him through life. She knelt down by him, and kissed his forehead.
'Dear Gilbert,' she said, 'we all shall die.'
'Yes, but I shall die young.'
'And if you should. Those are happy who die young. How much pain
your baby-brother and sisters have missed! How happy Edmund is now!'
'Then you really think it meant that I shall'' he cried, tremblingly.
'O don't! I can't die!'
'Your brother called on what he loved best,' said Albinia. 'It may
mean nothing. Or rather, it may mean that your dear twin-brother is
watching for you, I am sure he is, to have you with him, for what
makes your mortal life, however long, seem as nothing. It was a call
to you to be as pure on earth as he is in heaven. O Gilbert, how good
you should be!'
Gilbert did not know whether it frightened him or soothed him to see
his superstition treated with respect - neither denied, nor reasoned
away. But the ghastliness was not in the mere fear that death might
not be far off.
The pillow had turned a little on one side - Albinia tried to smooth
it - the corner of a book peeped out. It was a translation of The
Three Musqueteers, one of the worst and most fascinating of Dumas'
'You wont tell papa!' cried Gilbert, raising himself, in far more
real and present terror than he had previously shown.
'How did you get it? Whose is it?'
'It is my own. I bought it at Richardson's. It is very funny. But
you wont tell papa? I never was told not; indeed I was not.'
'Now, Gilbert dear, will you tell me a few things? I do only wish
what is good for you. Why don't you wish that papa should hear of
Gilbert writhed himself.
'You know he would not like it?'
'Then why did you take to reading it?'
'Oh!' cried the boy, 'if you only did know how stupid and how
miserable it has been! More than half myself gone, and Sophy always
glum, and Lucy always plaguing, and Aunt Maria always being a