Uncle Max did not live quite alone. His house was large, far too large for an unmarried man, and he was very sociable by nature, so he induced his curate to take up his abode with him; but the two men and Mrs. Drabble, the housekeeper, and the maid under her, could not fill it, and several rooms were shut up. Lawrence Tudor had been a pupil of Uncle Max, and the two were very much attached to each other. Uncle Max had brought him up once or twice to Hyde Park Gate, and we had all been much pleased with him. He was not in the least good-looking, but I remember Sara said he was gentlemanly and pleasant and had a nice voice. I knew his frank manner and evident affection for Uncle Max prepossessed me in his favour; he had been very athletic in his college days, and was passionately fond of boating and cricket, and he was very musical and sang splendidly.
The little Uncle Max had told me about him had strongly interested me. The Tudors had been wealthy people, and Uncle Max had spent more than one long vacation at their house, coaching Walter Tudor, who was going in for an army examination, and reading Greek with Lawrence (or Laurie, as they generally called him) and another brother, Ben.
Lawrence had meant to enter the army too. Nelson, the eldest of all, was already in India, and had a captaincy. They were all fine, stalwart young men, fond of riding and hunting and any out-of-door pursuit. But there never would have been a parson among them but for the failure of the company in which Mr. Tudor’s money was invested. He had been one of the directors, and from wealth he was reduced to poverty.
There was no money to buy Walter a commission, so he enlisted, bringing fresh trouble to his parents by doing so. Ben entered an office, but Lawrence was kept at Oxford by an uncle’s generosity, and under strong pressure consented to take orders.
The poor young fellow had no special vocation, and he owned to Max afterwards that he feared that he had done the wrong thing. I am afraid Max thought so too, but he would not discourage him by saying so; on the contrary, he treated him in a bracing manner, telling him that he had put his hand to the plough, and that there must be no looking backward, and bidding him pluck up heart and do his duty as well as he could; and then he smoothed his way by asking him to be his curate and live with him, so saving him from the loneliness and discomfort of some curates’ existence, who are at the mercy of their landladies and laundresses.
So the two lived merrily together, and Lawrence Tudor was all the better man and parson for Uncle Max’s genial help and sympathy; and though Mrs. Drabble grumbled and did not take kindly to him at first, she made him thoroughly comfortable, and mended his socks and sewed on his buttons in motherly fashion. Mrs. Drabble was quite a character in her way; she was a fair, fussy little woman, who looked meek enough to warrant the best of tempers; she had a soft voice