’Mrs Drury? She might—she would, under the circumstances. She could not refuse. If you desire me to come, I should not be doing wrong; and grandmamma might never even miss me. Surely—oh surely, a young life, full of hope and promise, that may yet be saved, is not to be set against what cannot be prolonged more than a few weeks.’
‘As to that,’ said Mr. Kendal, in the deliberate tone which denoted dissatisfaction, ’though of course it would be the greatest blessing to have you with us, I think you may trust Gilbert to my care. And we must consider poor Sophia.’
‘She could not bear to be considered.’
’No; but it would be leaving her in a most distressing position, when she is far from well, and with most uncongenial assistants. You see, poor Gilbert reckons on Lucy being here, which would make it very different. But think of poor Sophia in the event of Mrs. Meadows not surviving till our return!’
’You are right! It would half kill her! My promise was sacred; I was a wretch to think of breaking it. But when I think of my boy—my Gilbert pining for me, and I deserting him—’
‘For the sake of duty,’ said her husband. ’Let us do right, and trust that all will be overruled for the best. I shall go with an easier mind if I leave you with the other children, and I can be the sooner with him.’
‘I could travel as fast.’
’I may soon bring him home to you. Or you might bring the others to join us in the south of France. You will all need change.’
The decision was made, and her judgment acquiesced, though she could hardly have cast the balance for herself. She urged no more, even when relentings came over her husband at the thought of the trials to which he was leaving her, and of those which he should meet in solitude; yet not without a certain secret desire to make himself sufficient for the care and contentment of his own son. He cast about for all possible helpers for her, but could devise nothing except a note entreating her brother to be with her as much as possible, and commending her to the Dusautoys. It was a less decided kindness that he ordered Maurice’s pony to be turned out to grass, so as to prevent rides in solitude, thinking the boy too young to be trusted, and warned by the example of Gilbert’s temptations.
Going up to the bank to obtain a supply of gold, he found young O’More there without his uncle. The tidings of Gilbert’s danger had spread throughout the town, and one heart at least was softened. Ulick wrung the hand that lately he would not touch, and Mr. Kendal forgot his wrath as he replied to the warm-hearted inquiry for particulars.
‘Then Mrs. Kendal cannot go with you?’
’No, it is impossible. There is no one able to take charge of Mrs. Meadows.’
’Ah! and Mrs. Cavendish Dusautoy is gone! I grieve for the hour when my pen got the better of me. Mr. Kendal, this is worse than I thought. Your son will never forgive me when he knows I’m at the bottom of his disappointment.’