‘Is this his own proposal?’ asked Mr. Kendal.
’No; he has never spoken of it, but your plan has always seemed so decided that perhaps he thinks he has no choice.’
‘That is not what I wish,’ said his father. ’If his inclinations be otherwise, he has only to speak, and I will consider.’
‘Shall I sound him?’ suggested Albinia, dreading the timidity that always stood between the boy and his father.
‘Do not inspire him with the wish and then imagine it his own,’ said Mr. Kendal; and then thinking he had spoken sternly, added ’I know you would be the last to wish him to take holy orders inconsiderately, but you have such power over him, that I question whether he would know his wishes from yours.’
Albinia began to disavow the desire of actuating him.
’You would not intend it, but he would catch the desire from you, and I own I would rather he were not inspired with it. If he now should express it, I should fear it was the unconscious effort to escape from India. If it had been his brother Edmund, I would have made any sacrifice, but I do not think Gilbert has the energy or force of character I should wish to see in a clergyman, nor do I feel willing to risk him at the university.’
’Oh! Edmund, why will you distrust Oxford? Why will you not believe what I know through Maurice and his friends?’
’If my poor boy had either the disposition or the discipline of your brother, I should not feel the same doubt.’
’Maurice had no discipline except at school and when William licked him,’ cried Albinia. ’You know he was but eleven years old when my father died, and my aunts spoilt us without mitigation.’
‘I said the disposition,’ repeated Mr. Kendal; ’I can see nothing in Gilbert marking him for a clergyman, and I think him susceptible to the temptations that you cannot deny to exist at any college. Nor would I desire to see him fixed here, until he has seen something of life and of business, for which this bank affords the greatest facilities with the least amount of temptation. He would also be doing something for his own support; and with the life-interests upon his property, he must be dependent on his own exertions, unless I were to do more for him than would be right by the other children.’
‘Then I am to say nothing to him?’
’I will speak to him myself. He is quite old enough to understand his prospects and decide for himself.’
‘But, Edmund,’ cried Albinia, with sudden vehemence, ’you are not sacrificing Gilbert for Maurice’s sake?’
She had more nearly displeased him than she had ever done before, though he looked up quietly, saying, ’Certainly not. I am not sacrificing Gilbert, and I should do the same if Maurice were not in existence.’