And from hearing this sentence, Kalliope had turned to find at last tidings of her brother in a letter written from Avoncester, the nearest garrison town. He told his sister that, heart-broken already at the result of what he knew to be his own presumption, and horrified at the fatal consequences of his unhappy neglect, he felt incapable of facing any of those whom he had once called his friends, and the letter of dismissal had removed all scruples. Had it not been for his faith and fear, he would have put an end to his life, but she need have no alarms on that score. He had rushed away, scarce knowing what he was doing, till he had found himself on the road to Avoncester and then had walked on thither and enlisted in the regiment quartered there, where he hoped to do his duty, having no other hope left in life!
Part of this letter Kalliope read to Miss Mohun, who had come down to hear the doctor’s verdict. It was no time to smile at the heart being broken by the return of a valentine, or all hope in life being over before twenty. Kalliope, who knew what the life of a private was, felt wretched over it, and her poor mother was in despair; but Miss Mohun tried to persuade her that it was by no means an unfortunate thing, since Alexis would be thus detained safely and within reach till Sir Jasper arrived to take up the matter, and Mr. White had been able to understand it.
’Yes; but he cannot come to my poor mother. And Richard will be so angry—–think it such a degradation.’
‘He ought not. Your father—–’
’Oh! but he will. And I must write to him. Mother has been asking for him.’
‘Tell me, my dear, has Richard ever helped you?’
’Oh no, poor fellow, he could not. He wants all we can send him, or we would have put the little boys to a better school.’
‘I would not write before it is absolutely necessary,’ said Miss Mohun. ’A young man hanging about with nothing to do, even under these circumstances, might make things harder.’
‘Yes, I know,’ said Kalliope, with a trembling lip. ’And if it was urgent, even Alexis might come. Indeed, I ought to be thankful that he is safe, after all my dreadful fears, and not far off.’
Miss Mohun refrained from grieving the poor girl by blaming Alexis for the impetuous selfish folly that had so greatly added to the general distress of his family, and rendered it so much more difficult to plead his cause. In fact, she felt bound to stand up as his champion against all his enemies, though he was less easy of defence than his sister; and Mr. Flight, the first person she met afterwards, was excessively angry and disappointed, speaking of such a step as utter ruin.
‘The lad was capable of so much better things,’ said he. ’I had hoped so much of him, and had so many plans for him, that it is a grievous pity; but he had no patience, and now he has thrown himself away. I told him it was his first duty to maintain his mother, and if he had stuck to that, I would have done more for him as soon as he was old enough, and I could see what was to be done for the rest of them; but he grew unsettled and impatient, and this is the end of it!’