The atelier was a happy invention. Certainly wearisome noises, and an aroma of Havannahs would now and then proceed therefrom, but he was employed there the chief part of the day, and fortunately his pictures were of small size, and took an infinite quantity of labour, so that they could not speedily outrun all the Vicarage walls.
He favoured the University of Oxford by going up with Gilbert for matriculation, when, to the surprise of Mr. Hope, he was not plucked. They were to begin their residence at the Easter term. Mrs. Dusautoy did not confess even to Albinia how much she looked forward to Easter.
In early spring, a sudden and short illness took away Madame Belmarche’s brave spirit to its rest, after sixty years of exile and poverty, cheerfully borne.
There had been no time to summon Genevieve, and her aunt would not send for her, but decided on breaking up the school, which could no longer be carried on, and going to live in the Hadminster convent. And thus, as Mr. Kendal hoped, all danger of renewed intercourse between his son and Genevieve ended. Gilbert looked pale and wretched, and Sophy hoped it was with compunction at having banished Genevieve at such a moment, but not a word was said—and that page of early romance was turned!
It was a beautiful July afternoon, the air musical with midsummer hum, the flowers basking in the sunshine, the turf cool and green in the shade, and the breeze redolent of indescribable freshness and sweetness compounded of all fragrant odours, the present legacy of a past day’s shower. Like the flowers themselves, Albinia was feeling the delicious repose of refreshed nature, as in her pretty pink muslin, her white drapery folded round her, and her bright hair unbonnetted, she sat reclining in a low garden chair, at the door of the conservatory, a little pale, a little weak, but with a sweet happy languor, a soft tender bloom.
There was a step in the conservatory, and before she could turn round, her brother Maurice bent over her, and kissed her.
‘Maurice! you have come after all!’
‘Yes, the school inspection is put off. How are you?’ as he sat down on the grass by her side.
’Oh, quite well! What a delicious afternoon we shall have! Edmund will be at home directly. Mrs. Meadows has absolutely let Gilbert take her to drink tea at the Drurys! Only I am sorry Sophy should miss you, for she was so good about going, because Lucy wanted to do something to her fernery. Of course you are come for Sunday, and the christening?’
‘Yes,—that is, to throw myself on Dusautoy’s mercy.’
‘We will send Mr. Hope to Fairmead,’ said Albinia, ’and see whether Winifred can make him speak. We can’t spare the Vicar, for he is our godfather, and you must christen the little maiden.’
‘I thought the three elder ones were to be sponsors.’