‘Even a giraffe can bend his head and do at Rome as Rome does,’ murmured Ulick. But instead of heeding the audacious Irishman, Algernon patronized the showman by thanks for his exhibition; and then sitting down by Lucy, asked if he had ever told her of the tricks that he and il Principe Odorico Moretti used to play at Ems on the old Baron Sprawlowsky, while Mr. Ferrars, leaning over his sister’s chair, said aside, ’I beg your pardon, Albinia; I should not have yielded to Willie. This “rural pastime” is only in season en famille.’
‘Never mind, it served him right.’
‘It may have served him right, but had we the right to serve him?’
’I forgive your prudence for the sake of your folly. Could not Oxford have lessened his pomposity?’
‘It comes too late,’ said Maurice.
Before Ulick went to bed his pen and ink had depicted the entire caravan. The love-birds were pressed up together, with the individual features of the two young ladies, and completely little parrots; the snipe ran along the bars of the cage, looking exactly like all the O’Mores. The monkey showed nothing but the hands, but one held Maurice, and the other was clenched as if to cuff him, and grandest of all was, as in duty bound, Camelopardelis giraffa, thrown somewhat backwards, with such a majestic form, such a stalking attitude, loftily ruminating face, and legs so like the Cavendish Dusautoy’s last new pair of trousers, that Albinia could not help reserving it for the private delectation of his Aunt Fanny.
‘It and its young one,’ said Mr. Kendal, as he looked at her portrait; and the name delighted him so much, that he for some time applied it with a smile whenever his wife gave him cause to remember how much there was of the monkey in her composition.
It was the merriest Christmas ever known at Willow Lawn, and the first time there had been anything of the atmosphere of family frolic and fun. The lighting up of Sophy was one great ingredient; hitherto mirth had been merely endured by her, whereas now, improved health and spirits had made her take her share, amuse others and be amused, and cease to be hurt by the jarring of chance words. Lucy was lively as usual, but rather more excited than Albinia altogether liked; she was doubly particular about her dress; more disdainful of the common herd, and had a general air of exaltation that made Albinia rejoice when the Polysyllable, the horses, the key-bugle, and genre painting disappeared from the Bayford horizon.
If the end of the vacation were a relief on Lucy’s account, Albinia would gladly have lengthened it on Gilbert’s. Letters from his tutor had disquieted his father; there had been an expostulation followed by promises, and afterwards one of the usual scenes of argument, complaint, excuse, lamentation, and wish to amend; but lastly, a murmur that it was no use to talk to a father who had never been at the University, and did not know what was expected of a man.