The Ferrars’ nature, above all when sore with farewells, was not made to submit to having time wasted by treacherous trains on a cold wintry day, and at a small new station, with an apology for a waiting-room, no bookstall, and nothing to eat but greasy gingerbread and hard apples.
Maurice relieved his feelings by heartily rowing all the officials, but he could obtain no redress, as he knew full well the whole time, nor would any train pick them up for full three hours.
So indignant was he, that amusement rendered Albinia patient, especially when he took to striding up and down the platform, devising cases in which the delay might be actionable, and vituperating the placability of Mr. Kendal, who having wrapt up his wife in plaids and seated her on the top of the luggage, had set his back to the wall, and was lost to the present world in a book.
‘Never mind, Maurice,’ said Albinia; ’in any other circumstances we should think three hours of each other a great boon.’
’If anything could be an aggravation, it would be to see Albinia philosophical.’
‘You make me so on the principle of the Helots and Spartans.’
It was possible to get to Hadminster by half-past seven, and on to Bayford by nine o’clock, but Fairmead lay further from the line, and the next train did not stop at the nearest station, so Maurice agreed to sleep at Bayford that night; and this settled, set out with his sister to explore the neighbourhood for eatables and church architecture. They made an ineffectual attempt to rouse Mr. Kendal to go with them, but he was far too deep in his book, and only muttered something about looking after the luggage. They found a stale loaf of bread, and a hideous church, but it was a merry walk, and brought them back in their liveliest mood, which lasted even to pronouncing it ‘great fun’ that the Hadminster flies were all at a ball, and that the omnibus must convey them home by the full moonlight.
Slowly the omnibus rumbled over the wooden bridge, and then with a sudden impulse it thundered up to the front door.
Albinia jumped out, and caught Sophy in her arms, exclaiming, ’And how are you all, my dear?’
‘We had quite given you up,’ Gilbert was saying. ’The fire is in the library,’ he added, as Mr. Kendal was opening the drawing-room door, and closing it in haste at the sight of a pale, uninviting patch of moonlight, and the rush of a blast of cold wind.
’And how is grandmamma? and the children? My Sophy, you don’t look well, and where’s Lucy?’
Ere she could receive an answer, down jumped, two steps at a time, a half-dressed figure, all white stout legs and arms which were speedily hugging mamma.
‘There’s my man!’ said Mr. Kendal, ‘a good boy, I know.’
‘No!’ cried the bold voice.
‘No?’ (incredulously) what have you been doing?’