Alas! even with all tender love and compassion, no earthly parent can forgive as does the Heavenly Father. None but the Omniscient can test the fulness of the confession, nor the sincerity of ’Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son.’ This interview only sent the son away more crushed and overwhelmed, and yearning towards the more deeply offended, and yet more compassionate Father.
Mr. Kendal, after this interview, so far relaxed his displeasure as to occasionally address Gilbert when they met at luncheon after this deplorable morning, while towards Lucy he observed a complete silence. It was not at first that she perceived this, and even then it struck more deeply on Sophia than it did on her.
Mr. Kendal shrank from inflicting pain on the good vicar, and it was decided that the wives should be the channel through which the information should be imparted. Albinia took the children, sending them to play in the garden while she talked to Mrs. Dusautoy. She found that keen little lady had some shrewd suspicions, but had discovered nothing defined enough to act upon, and was relieved to have the matter opened at last.
As to the ink, no mortal could help laughing over it; even Albinia, who had been feeling as if she could never laugh again, was suddenly struck by the absurdity, and gave way to a paroxysm of merriment.
’Properly managed, I do think it might put an end to the whole affair,’ said Mrs. Dusautoy. ‘He could not stand being laughed at.’
‘I’m afraid he never will believe that he can be laughed at.’
‘Yes, that is unlucky,’ said Mrs. Dusautoy, gravely; but recollecting that she was not complimentary, she added, ’You must not think we undervalue Lucy. John is very fond of her, and the only objection is, that it would require a person of more age and weight to deal with Algernon.’
‘Never mind speeches,’ sighed Albinia; ’we know too well that nothing could be worse for either. Can’t you give him a tutor and send him to travel.’
’I’ll talk to John; but unluckily he is of age next month, and there’s an end of our power. And John would never keep him away from hence, for he thinks it his only chance.’
’I suppose we must do something with Lucy. Heigh-ho! People used not to be always falling in love in my time, except Fred, and that was in a rational way; that could be got rid of!’
The effect of the intelligence on the vicar was to make him set out at once to the livery-stables in quest of his nephew, but he found that the young gentleman had that morning started for London, whither he proposed to follow him on the Monday. Lucy cried incessantly, in the fear that the gentle-hearted vicar might have some truculent intentions towards his nephew, and was so languid and unhappy that no one had the heart to scold her; and comforting her was still more impossible.