Sophy had said from the first that her sister could not go back. She expected her to be unhappy, and believed it the penalty of the wrongdoings in consenting to the clandestine correspondence; and treated her with melancholy kindness as a victim under sentence. She was very affectionate, but not at all consoling when Lucy was sad, and she was impatient and gloomy when the trousseau, or any of the privileges of a fiancee brought a renewal of gaiety and importance. A broken heart and ruined fortunes were the least of the consequences she augured, and she went about the house as if she had realized them both herself.
The wedding-day came, and grandmamma was torpid and only half conscious, so that all could venture to leave her. The bride was not allowed to see her, lest the agitation should overwhelm both; for the poor girl was indeed looking like the victim her sister thought her, pale as death, with red rings round her extinguished eyes, and trembling from head to foot, the more at the apprehension that Algernon would think her a fright.
After all that lavender and sal-volatile could do for her, she was such a spectacle, that when her father came to fetch her he was shocked, and said, tenderly, ’Lucy, my child, this must not be. Say one word, and all shall be over, and you shall never hear a word of reproach.’
But Lucy only cast a frightened glance around, and rising up with the accents of perfect sincerity, said, ’No, papa; I am quite ready; I am quite happy. I was only silly.’
Her mind was evidently made up, and it was past Albinia’s divination whether her agitation were composed of fear of the future and remorse for the past, or whether it were mere love of home and hurry of spirits, exaggerated by belief that a bride ought to weep. Probably it was a compound of all, and the whole of her reply perfect truth, especially the final clause.
So they married her, poor child, very much as if they had been attending her to the block. Sophy’s view of the case had infected them all beyond being dispelled by the stately complacency of the bridegroom, or the radiant joy and affection of his uncle.
They put her into a carriage, watched her away, and turned back to the task which she had left them, dreading the effects of her absence. She was missed, but less than they feared; the faculties had become too feeble for such strong emotion as had followed Gilbert’s departure; and the void was chiefly perceptible by the plaintive and exacting clinging to Albinia, who had less and less time to herself and her children, and was somewhat uneasy as to the consequences as regarded Maurice. While Gilbert was at home, the child had been under some supervision; but now his independent and unruly spirit was left almost uncontrolled, except by his own intermittent young conscience, his father indulged him, and endured from him what would have been borne from no one else; and Sophy was his willing slave, unable to exact obedience,