His wife could not regret that his magisterial proceedings led to a coolness with the Osborns, augmented by a vestry-meeting, at which Mr. Dusautoy had begged him to be present. The Admiral and his party surpassed themselves in their virulence against whatever the vicar proposed, until they fairly roused Mr. Kendal’s ire, and ’he came out upon them all like a lion;’ and with force appearing the greater from being so seldom exerted, he represented Mr. Dusautoy’s conduct in appropriate terms, showing full appreciation of his merits, and holding up their own course before them in its true light, till they had nothing to say for themselves. It was the vicar’s first visible victory. The increased congregation showed how much way he had made with the poor, and Mr. Kendal taking his part openly, drew over many of the tradespeople, who had begun to feel the influence of his hearty nature and consistent uprightness, and had become used to what had at first appeared innovations. Mr. Dusautoy, in thanking Mr. Kendal, begged him to allow himself to be nominated his churchwarden next Easter, and having consented while his blood was up, there was no danger that, however he might dislike the prospect, he would falter when the time should come.
It was ‘a green Yule,’ a Christmas like an April day, and even the lengthening days and strengthening cold of January attaining to nothing more than three slight hoar-frosts, each quickly melting into mud, and the last concluding in rain and fog.
‘What would Willow Lawn have been without the drainage?’ Albinia often thought when she paddled down the wet streets, and saw the fields flooded. The damp had such an effect upon Sophy’s throat, temper, and whole nervous system, that her moods had few intervals, and Albinia wrote to the surgeon a detail of her symptoms, asking if she had not better be removed into a more favourable air. But he pronounced that the injury of the transport would outbalance the casual evils of the bad weather, and as the rain and fog mitigated, she improved; but there were others on whom the heavy moist air had a more fatal effect.
One morning, Mr. Kendal saw his wife descending the picturesque rugged stone staircase that led outside the house to the upper stories of the old block of buildings under the hill, nearly opposite to Willow Lawn. She came towards him with tears still in her eyes as she said, ’Poor Mrs. Simkins has just lost her little girl, and I am afraid the two boys are sickening.’
‘What do you mean? Is the fever there again?’ exclaimed Mr. Kendal in the utmost consternation.
’Did you not know it? Lucy has been very anxious about the child, who was in her class.’
‘You have not taken Lucy to a house with a fever!’
‘No, I thought it safer not, though she wanted very much to go.’
‘But you have been going yourself!’