’They don’t clash, except poor Sophy. Gilbert and Lucy are elements of union, with more plaster of Paris than stone in their nature.’
‘Pray, has Kendal made up his mind what to do with Gilbert?’
‘I have heard nothing lately; I hope he is grown too old for India.’
‘Gilbert is rather too well off for his good,’ said Mr. Ferrars; ’the benefit of a profession is not evident enough.’
’I know what I wish! If he could but be Mr. Dusautoy’s curate, in five or six years’ time, what glorious things we might do with the parish!’
‘Eh! is that his wish?’
’I have sometimes hoped that his mind is taking that turn. He is ready to help in anything for the poor people. Once he told me he never wished to look beyond Bayford for happiness or occupation; but I did not like to draw him out, because of his father’s plans. Why, what have you drawn? The alms-houses?’
‘I could do no other when I was improving Gilbert’s house for him.’
’That would be the real improvement! How pretty! I will keep them for him.’
The second post came in, bringing a letter from Gilbert to his father, and Albinia was so much surprised, that her brother asked whether Gilbert were one of the boys who only write to their father with a reason.
‘He can write more freely to me,’ said Albinia; ’and it comes to the same thing. I am not in the least afraid of anything wrong, but perhaps he may be making some proposal for the future. I want to know how he is. Fancy his being so foolish as to go out bathing. I am afraid of his colds.’
Many times during the consultation did Mr. Ferrars detect Albinia’s eye stealing wistfully towards that ‘E. Kendal, Esq.;’ and when the proper owner came in, he was evidently as much struck, for he paused, as if in dread of opening the letter. Her eyes were on his countenance as he read, and did not gather much consolation. ’I am afraid this is serious,’ at last he said.
‘His cold?’ exclaimed Albinia.
‘Yes,’ said Mr. Kendal, reading aloud sentence by sentence, with gravity and consideration.
’I do not wish to alarm Mrs. Kendal, and therefore address myself at once to you, for I do not think it right to keep you in ignorance that I have had some of the old symptoms. I do not wish to make any one uneasy about me, and I may have made light of the cold I caught a month since; but I cannot conceal from myself that I have much painful cough, an inclination to shortness of breath, and pain in the back and shoulders, especially after long reading or writing. I thought it right to speak to Mr. Downton, but people in high health can understand nothing short of a raging fever; however, at last he called in the parish surgeon, a stupid, ignorant fellow, who understands my case no more than his horse, and treats me with hyoscyamus, as if it were a mere throat-cough. I thought it my duty to speak openly, since, though I am quite aware that circumstances make little difference in constitutional cases, I know you and dear Mrs. Kendal will wish that all possible means should be used, and I think it—’