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- The Young Step-Mother - 120/124 -


'It is very honourable to her,' said Mr. Kendal.

'Very honourable to her,' replied Ulick, 'but cruelly hard upon me.'

'I think, too,' continued Mr. Kendal, stimulated thereto by his lady's severely prudent looks, 'that you ought--granting Miss Durant to be, as I well know her to be, one of the most excellent persons who ever lived--still to count the cost of opening such an affair. It is not fair upon a woman to bring her into a situation where disappointments may arise which neither may be able to bear.'

'Do you mean my family, Mr. Kendal? Trust me for getting consent from home. You will write my father a letter, saying what you said just now; Mrs. Kendal will write another to my mother; and I'll just let them see my heart is set on it, and they'll not hold out.'

'Could you bear to see her--looked down on?' said Albinia.

'Ha!' he cried, with flashing eyes. 'No, believe me, Mrs. Kendal, the O'Mores have too much gentle blood to do like that, even if she were one whom any one could scorn. Why, what is my mother herself but a Goldsmith by birth, and I'd like to see who would cast it up to any of the family that she was not as noble as an O'More! And Genevieve herself--isn't every look and every movement full of the purest gentility her fathers' land can show?'

'I dare say, once accepted, the O'Mores would heartily receive her; but here, in this place, there are some might think it told against you, and might make her uncomfortable.'

'What care I? I've lived and thriven under Bayford scorn many a day. And for her--Oh! I defy anything so base to wound a heart so high as hers, and with me to protect her!'

'And you can afford it?' said Mr. Kendal. 'Remember she has her aunt to maintain.'

'I can,' said Ulick. 'I have gone over it all again and again; and recalling his man-of-business nature, he demonstrated that even at present he was well able to support Mdlle. Belmarche, as well as to begin housekeeping, and that there was every reason to believe that his wider and more intelligent system of management would continue to increase his income.'

'Well, Ulick,' said Mr. Kendal at last, 'I wish you success with all my heart, and esteem you for a choice so entirely founded upon the qualities most certain to ensure happiness.'

'You don't mean to say that she has not the most glorious eyes, the most enchanting figure!' exclaimed Ulick, affronted at the compliment that seemed to aver that Genevieve's external charms were not equal to her sterling merit.

Mr. Kendal and Albinia laughed; and the former excused himself, not quite to the lover's satisfaction, by declaring the lady much more attractive than many regularly handsome people; but he added, that what he meant was, that he was sure the attachment was built upon a sound foundation. Then he entreated that Mrs. Kendal would persuade her to listen to him, for she had fled from him ever since his betrayal of his sentiments till he was half crazed, and had been walking up and down his room all night. He should do something distracted, if not relieved from suspense before night! And Mr. Kendal got rid of him in the midst of his transports, and turning to Albinia said, 'We must settle this as fast as possible, or he will lose his head, and get into a scrape.'

'I do not like such wild behaviour. It is not dignified.'

'It is only temperament,' said Mr. Kendal. 'Will you speak to her?'

'Yes, whenever she comes in.'

'I suspect she has gone out on purpose. Could you not go to find her at the school, or wherever she is likely to be?'

'I don't know where to find her. I cannot give up the children's lessons. Nothing hurts Maurice so much as irregularity.'

He made no answer, but his look of disappointment excited her to observe to herself that she supposed he expected her to run all over the town without ordering dinner first, and she wondered how he would like that!

Presently she heard him go out at the front door, and felt some contrition.

She had not the heart to seek Sophy to report progress, and did not see her till about eleven o'clock, when she came in hastily with her bonnet on, asking, 'Well, mamma?'

'Where have you been, Sophy?'

'To school,' she said. 'Has anything happened?'

'We have had it out, and I am to speak to her when she comes in,' said Albinia, glad as perhaps was Sophy of the enigmatical form to which Maurice's presence restrained the communication.

Sophy went away, but presently returning and taking up her work, but with eyes that betrayed how she was listening; but there was so entire an apparent absence of personal suffering, that Albinia began to discharge the weight from her mind, and believe that the sentiment had been altogether imaginary even on Sophy's side, and the whole a marvellous figment of her own.

At last, Mr. Kendal's foot was heard; Sophy started up, and sat down again. He came upstairs, and his face was all smiles.

'Well,' he said, 'I don't think she will go by the three o'clock omnibus.'

'You have spoken to her?' cried Albinia in compunction.

'Has Maurice finished? Then go out, my boy, for the present.'

'Well?' said Albinia, interrogatively, and Sophy laid down her work and crossed one hand over the other on her knees, and leant back as though to hinder visible tremor.

'Yes,' he said, going on with what had been deferred till Maurice was gone. 'I thought it hard on him--and as I was going to speak to Edwards, I asked if she were at the Union, where I found her, taking leave of the old women, and giving them little packets of snuff, and small presents, chiefly her own work, I am sure. I took her with me into the fields, and persuaded her at last to talk it over with me. Poor little thing! I never saw a more high-minded, conscientious spirit: she was very unhappy about it, and said she knew it was all her unfortunate manner, she wished to be guarded, but a little excitement and conversation always turned her head, and she entreated me not to hinder her going back to a school-room, out of the way of every one. I told her that she must not blame herself for being more than usually agreeable; but she would not listen, and I could hardly bring her to attend to what I said of young O'More. Poor girl! I believe she was running away from her own heart.'

'You have prevented her?' cried Sophy.

'At least I have induced her to hear his arguments. I told her my opinion of him, which was hardly needed, and what I thought might have more weight--that he has earned the right to please himself, and that I believed she would be better for him than riches. She repeated several times "Not now," and "Not here;" and I found that she was shocked at the idea of the subject being brought before us. I was obliged to tell her that nothing would gratify any of us so much, and that this was the time to fulfil her promise of considering me as a father.'

'Oh, thank you,' murmured Sophy.

'So finally I convinced her that she owed Ulick a hearing, and I think she felt that to hear was to yield. She had certainly been feeling that flight was the only measure, and between her dread of entrapping him and of hurting our feelings, had persuaded herself it was her duty. The last thing she did was to catch hold of me as I was going, and ask if he knew what her father was.'

'I dare say it has been the first thing she has said to him,' said Albinia. 'She is a noble little creature! But what have you done with them now?'

'I brought him to her in the parsonage garden. I believe they are walking in the lanes,' said Mr. Kendal, much gratified with his morning's work.

'She deserves him,' said Sophy; and then her eyes became set, as if looking into far distance.

The walk in the lanes had not ended by luncheon-time, and an afternoon loaded with callers was oppressive, but Sophy kept up well. At last, in the twilight, the door was heard to open, and Genevieve came in alone. They listened, and knew she must have run up to her own room. What did it portend? Albinia must be the one to go and see, so after a due interval, she went up and knocked. Genevieve opened the door, and threw herself into her arms. 'Dear Mrs. Kendal! Oh! have I done wrong? I am so very happy, and I cannot help it!'

Albinia kissed her, and assured her she had done nothing to repent of.

'I am so glad you think so. I never dreamt such happiness could be meant for me, and I am afraid lest I should have been selfish and wrong, and bring trouble on him.'

'We have been all saying you deserve him.'

'Oh no--no--so good, so noble, so heroic as he is. How could he think of the poor little French teacher! And he will pay my aunt's fifty pounds! I told him all, and he knew it before, and yet he loves me! Oh! why are people so very good to me?'

'I could easily find an answer to that question,' said Albinia. 'Where is he, my dear?'

'He is gone home. I would not come into the town with him. It is nothing, you know; no one must hear of it, for he must be free unless his parents consent--and I know they never can,' she said, shaking her head, sadly, 'but even then I shall have one secret of happiness- -I shall know what has been! But oh! Mrs. Kendal, let me go away--'

The Young Step-Mother - 120/124

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