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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 626 pages of information about The Young Step-Mother.

‘I broke the conservatory with the marble dog, and—­’ he looked at Gilbert.

‘There’s my brave boy,’ said Mr. Kendal, who had suffered so much from his elder son’s equivocation as to be ready to overlook anything for the sake of truth.  ’Here, Uncle Maurice, shake hands with your godson, who always tells truth.’

The urchin folded his arms on his bosom, and looked like a young Bonaparte.

’Where’s your hand? said his uncle.  ‘Wont you give it to me?’

‘No.’

‘He will be wiser to-morrow, if you are so good as to try him again,’ said Albinia, who knew nothing did him more harm than creating a commotion by his caprices; ’he is up too late, and fractious with sleepiness.  Go to bed now, my dear.’

‘I shall not be wiser to-morrow,’ quoth the child, marching out of the room in defiance.

‘Monkey! what’s the matter now?’ exclaimed Albinia; ’I suppose you have all been spoiling him.  But what’s become of Lucy?’

‘Gilbert said she was at the Dusautoys,’ replied Sophy; ’but if you would but come to grandmamma!  She found out that you were expected, and she is in such a state that we have not known what to do.’

’I’ll come, only, Sophy dear, please order tea and something to eat.  Your uncle looks ravenous.’

She broke off, as there advanced into the room a being like Lucy, but covered with streams and spatters of flowing sable tears, like a heraldic decoration, over face, neck, and dress.

All unconscious, she came with outstretched hands and words of welcome, but an astonished cry of ‘Lucy!’ met her, and casting her eyes on her dress, she screamed, ‘Oh goodness! it’s ink!’

‘Where can you have been? what have you been doing?’

’I—­don’t know—­Oh! it was the great inkstand, and not the scent—­Oh! it is all over me!  It’s in my hair!’ shuddering.  ’Oh, dear! oh dear!  I shall never get it out!’ and off she rushed, followed by Gilbert, and was soon heard calling the maids to bring hot water to her room.

‘What is all this?’ asked Mr. Kendal.

‘I do not know,’ mournfully answered Sophy.

Albinia left the library, and taking a candle, went into the empty drawing-room.  The moonlight shone white upon the table, and showed the large cut-glass ink-bottle in a pool of its own contents; and the sofa-cover had black spots and stains as if it had partaken of the libation.

Sophy saw, and stood like a statue.

‘You know nothing, I am sure,’ said Albinia.

‘Nothing!’ repeated Sophy, with a blank look of wretchedness.

‘If you please, ma’am,’ said the nurse at the door, ’could you be kind enough to come to Mrs. Meadows, she will be quieter when she has seen you?’

‘Sophy dear, we must leave it now,’ said Albinia.  ’You must see to their tea, they have had nothing since breakfast.’

She hastened to the sick room, where she found Mrs. Meadows in a painful state of agitation and excitement.  The nurse said that until this evening, she had been as usual, but finding that Mrs. Kendal was expected, she had been very restless; Miss Kendal was out, and neither Miss Sophy nor Mr. Gilbert could soothe her.

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