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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 626 pages of information about The Young Step-Mother.

‘Well?’

She paused and brought it out with an effort.  It had evidently occupied her for a long time.  ’Mamma, must not every one with feeling be in love once in their life?’

‘Well done, reserve!’ thought Albinia—­’but she is only a child, after all; not a blush, only those great eyes seeming ready to devour my answer.  What ought it to be?  Whatever it is, she will brood on it till her time comes.  I must begin, or I shall grow nervous:  “Dear Sophy, these are not things good to think upon.  There is quite enough to occupy a Christian woman’s heart and soul without that—­no need for her feelings to shrivel up for want of exercise.  No, I don’t believe in the passion once in the life being a fate, and pray don’t you, my Sophy, or you may make yourself very silly, or very unhappy, or both."’

Sophy drew up her head, and her brown skin glowed.  Albinia feared that she had said the wrong thing, and affronted her, but it was all working in the dark.

At any rate the sullenness was dissipated, and there were no tokens of a recurrence.  Sophy set herself to find ways of making amends for the past, and as soon as she had begun to do little services for grandmamma, she seemed to have forgotten her gloomy anticipations, even while some of them were partly realized.  For as it would be more than justice to human nature to say that Mrs. Meadows’s residence at Willow Lawn was a perfect success, so it would be less than justice to call it a failure.

To put the darker side first.  Grandmamma’s interest in life was to know the proceedings of the whole household, and comment on each.  Now Albinia could endure housewifely advice, some espionage on her servants, and even counsel about her child; but she could not away with the anxiety that would never leave Sophy alone, tried to force her sociability, and regretted all extra studies, unable to perceive the delicate treatment her disposition needed.  And Sophy, in the intolerance of early girlhood, was wretched at hearing poor grandmamma’s petty views, and narrow, ignorant prejudices.  She might resolve to be filial and agreeable, but too often found herself just achieving a moody, disgusted silence, or else bursting out with some true but unbecoming reproof.

On the whole, all did well.  Mrs. Meadows was happy; she enjoyed the animation of the larger party, liked their cheerful faces, grew fond of Maurice, and daily more dependent on Lucy and Mrs. Kendal.  Probably she had never before had so much of her own way, and her gentle placid nature was left to rest, instead of being constantly worried.  Her son-in-law was kind and gracious, though few words passed between them, and he gave her a sense of protection.  Indeed, his patience and good-humour were exemplary; he never complained even when he was driven from the dining-room by the table-cloth, to find Maurice rioting in the morning-room, and a music lesson in the drawing-room, or still worse, when he heard the Drurys everywhere; and he probably would have submitted quietly for the rest of his life, had not Albinia insisted on bringing forward the plan of building.

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