It was a more welcome task than spreading gloom over her countenance, but she entered in great trepidation, prepared to sink under some stern mandate, and there was nothing at first to undeceive her, for her father was resolved to atone for his concession by sparing her no preliminary thunders, and began by depicting her indiscretion and deceit, as well as the folly of attaching herself to a man without other recommendations than figure and fortune.
How much Lucy heard was uncertain; she leant on a chair with drooping head and averted face, trembling, and suppressing a sob, apparently too much frightened to attend. Just when the exordium was over, and ‘Therefore I lay my commands on you’ might have been expected, it turned into, ’However, upon Mr. Dusautoy’s kind representation, I have resolved to give the young man a trial, and provided he convinces me by his conduct that I may safely entrust your happiness to him, I have told his uncle that I will not withhold my sanction.’
With a shriek of irrepressible feeling, Lucy looked from father to mother, and clasped her hands, unable to trust her ears.
‘Yes, Lucy,’ said Albinia, ’your father consents, on condition that nothing further happens to excite his doubts of Mr. Cavendish Dusautoy. It rests with yourself now, it is not too late. After all that has passed, you would incur much deserved censure if you put an end to the affair; but even that would be better, far better, than entering into an engagement with a man without sound principle.’
‘Your mother is quite right, Lucy,’ said Mr. Kendal. ’This is the only time. Gratified vanity has led you too far, and you have acted as I hoped no child of mine would ever act, but you have not forfeited our tenderest care. You are not engaged to this man, and no word of yours would be broken. If you hesitate to commit yourself to him, you have only to speak, and we would gladly at once do everything that could conduce to make you happy.’
‘You don’t want me to give him up!’ cried Lucy. ’Oh! mamma, did not he say he had consented?’
’I said it rested with yourself Lucy. Do not answer me now. Come to me at six o’clock, and tell me, after full reflection, whether I am to consider you as ready to pledge yourself to this young man.’
It was all that could be done. Albinia had a dim hope that the sense of responsibility, and dread of that hard will and selfish temper, might so rise upon Lucy as to startle her, but then, as Mr. Kendal observed, if she should decide against him, she would have used him so extremely ill, that they should feel nothing but shame.
‘Yes,’ said Albinia, ’but it would be better to be ashamed of a girl’s folly, than to see her made miserable for life. Poor Lucy! if she decide against him, she will become a woman at once, if not, I’m afraid it will be the prediction about Marie Antoinette over again— very gay, and coming right through trial.’