The aspect of Oxford had changed in Albinia’s eyes since the days of her brother. Alma Mater had been a vision of pealing bells, chanting voices, cloistered shades, bright waters—the source of her most cherished thoughts, the abode of youth walking in the old paths of pleasantness and peace; and she knew that to faithful hearts, old Oxford was still the same. But to her present anxious gaze it had become a field of snares and temptations, whither she had been the means of sending one, unguarded and unstable.
Once under the influence of a good sound-hearted friend, he might have been easily led right, but his intimacy with young Dusautoy seemed to cancel all hope of this, and to be like a rope about his neck, drawing him into the same career, and keeping aloof all better influences. Algernon, with his pride, pomposity, and false refinement, was more likely to run into ostentations expenditure, than into coarse dissipation, and it might still be hoped that the two youths would drag through without public disgrace; but this was felt to be a very poor hope by those who felt each sin to be a fatal blot, and trembled at the self-indulgent way of life that might be a more fatal injury than even the ban of the authorities.
She saw that the anxiety pressed heavily on Mr. Kendal, and though both shrank from giving their uneasiness force by putting it into words, each felt that it was ever-present with the other. Mr. Kendal was deeply grieving over the effects, for the former state of ignorance and apathy of the evils of which he had only recently become fully sensible. Living for himself alone, without cognizance of his membership in one great universal system, he had needed the sense of churchmanship to make him act up to his duties as father, neighbour, citizen, and man of property; and when aroused, he found that the time of his inaction had bound him about with fetters. A tone of mind had grown up in his family from which only Sophy had been entirely freed; seeds of ineradicable evil had been sown, mischiefs had grown by neglect, abuses been established by custom; and his own personal disadvantages, his mauvaise honte, his reserved, apparently proud manner, his slowness of speech, dislike to interruption, and over-vehemence when excited, had so much increased upon him, as, in spite of his efforts, to be serious hindrances. Kind, liberal, painstaking, and conscientious as he had become, he was still looked upon as hard, stern, and tyrannical. His ten years of inertness had strewn his path with thorns and briars, even beyond his own household; and when he looked back to his neglect of his son, he felt that even the worst consequences would be but just retribution.
Once such feelings would have wrapt him in morbid gloom; now he strove against his disposition to sit inert and hidden, he did his work manfully, and endeavoured not to let his want of spirits sadden the household.
Nor was he insensible to the cheerful healthy atmosphere of animation which had diffused itself there; and the bright discussions of the trifling interests of the day. Ulick O’More was also a care to him, which did him a great deal of good.