It was a relief that Armine here came in, attracted by a report of his friend’s arrival, and Mrs. Brownlow went in search of her daughter, to whom she was guided by a sonata played with very unnecessary violence.
“You need not murder Haydn any more, you little barbarian,” she said, with a hand on the child’s shoulder, and looking anxiously into the gloomy face. “I have settled him.”
Babie drew a long breath, and said-
“I’m glad! It was so horrid! You’ll not let him do it any more?”
“Then you decidedly would not like it?” returned her mother.
“Like it? Poor Duke! Mother! As if I could ever! A man that can’t sit in a draught, or get wet in his feet!” cried Babie, with the utmost scorn; and reading reproof as well as amused pity in her mother’s eyes, she added, “Of course, I am very sorry for him; but fancy being very sorry for one’s love!”
“I thought you liked wounded knights?”
“Wounded! Yes, but they’ve done something, and had glorious wounds. Now Duke-he is very good, and it is not his fault but his misfortune; but he is such a-such a muff!”
“That’s enough, my dear; I am quite content that my Infanta should wait for her hero. Though,” she added, almost to herself, “she is too childish to know the true worth of what she condemns.”
She felt this the more when Babie, who had coaxed the housekeeper into letting her begin a private school of cookery, started up, crying-
“I must go and see my orange biscuits taken out of the oven! I should like to send a taste to Sydney!”
Yes, Barbara was childish for nearly sixteen, and, as it struck her mother at the moment, rather wonderfully so considering her cleverness and romance. It was better for her that the softening should not come yet, but, mother as she was, Caroline’s sympathies could not but be at the moment with the warm-hearted, impulsive, generous young man, moved out of all his habitual valetudinarian habits by his affection, rather than with the light-hearted child, who spurned the love she did not comprehend, and despised his ill-health. Had the young generation no hearts? Oh no-no-it could not be so with her loving Barbara, and she ought to be thankful for the saving of pain and perplexity.
Poor Armine was not getting much comfort out of his friend, who was too much preoccupied to attend to what he was saying, and only mechanically assented at intervals to the proposition that it was an inscrutable dispensation that the will and the power should so seldom go together. He heard all Armine’s fallen castles about chapels, schools, curates, and sisters, as in a dream, really not knowing whether they were or were not to be. And with all his desire to be useful, he never perceived the one offer that would have been really valuable, namely, to carry off the boy out of sight of the scene of his disappointment.