“Of course I am the only proper person while he lives, poor child,” she said.
I broke in with, “The next heir is never allowed the custody.”
I wish I had not. She hastily and proudly said “What do you mean?” and Fulk quickly added that “the Lord Chancellor would decide.”
The next day he went out, and on returning came up to me in the nursery, and called me into the study.
“Ursula,” he said, “I find that, considering the circumstances, there will be no objection made to our retaining the personal charge of our little brother. Everyone is very kind. Ours is not a common case of illegitimacy, and my father’s well-known express wishes will be allowed to prevail.”
“And your character,” I could not help saying; and he owned that it did go for something, that he was known to everybody, and had some standing of his own, apart from the rank he had lost.
Then he went on to say that this would of course put an end to the emigration plan, so far as he was concerned. No doubt in the restless desire of change coming after such a fall and disappointment it was a great sacrifice; but as he said, “There did not seem anything left for him in life but just to try to do what seemed most like one’s duty.” And then he said it did not seem a worthy thing to do nothing, but just exist on a confined income, and the only thing he did know anything about, and was not too old to learn, was farming, and managing an estate.
Trevorsham would want an agent, for old Hall was so old, that my brother had really done all his work for a year or two past; and he had felt his way enough to know he could get appointed to the agency, if he chose. The house was to be let, but there was a farm to be had about two miles off, with a good house, and he thought of taking it, and stocking it, and turning regular farmer on his own account; while looking after the property, and bringing Alured up among his own people and interests.
Bertram did not like this at all. “Among all our old friends and acquaintance? Impossible! unbearable!” he said.
But Fulk’s answer, was— “Better so! If we went to a strange place, and tried to conceal it, it would always be oozing out, and be supposed disgraceful. If my sisters can bear it, I had rather confront it straightforwardly—”
“And be pitied”—said Bertram, with such a contemptuous tone.
Nobody, however, thought it would be advisable for him to give up the New Zealand plan, nor did he ever mean it for a moment; indeed, he declared that he should go and prepare for us; for that we should very soon get tired of Skimping’s Farm, and come out to him; meaning, of course, that our dear charge would be over.
He even wanted Jaquetta to come with him at once, and the log huts and fern trees danced before her eyes as the blue spectacles had done before mine; but she did not like to leave me, and Fulk would not encourage it, for we both thought her much too young and too tenderly brought up to be sent out to a wild settler’s life alone with Bertram, and without a friend near.