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

‘It would have been too bad if he had not.’

’I believe he did so solely to make me sleep, but it is the first time he has deigned to treat the affair as anything but a delusion, and he can’t retract now.  Since that, poor Gilbert has made a scrap or two of mine presentable, and there’s all that I have been able to accomplish; but I hope it may have set her mind at rest.’

‘Shall I be secretary?’

’Thank you, I think not.  She would only worry herself about what is before me; and if the doctors let me off easy, I had rather report of myself in person.’

His eyes danced, and Maurice thought his unselfishness deserved a reward.

‘My poor Gilbert’s last secret,’ said Mr. Kendal, as he laid before his wife the brief document by which his son had designated him as his sole heir and executor.  ‘A gift to you, and a trust to me.’

Albinia looked up for explanation.

’While he intrusts his sisters to my justice, he tacitly commends to me the works which you wished to see accomplished.’

‘The almshouses!  The improvements!  Do you mean to undertake them?’

‘It shall be my most sacred duty.’

‘Oh! that we could have planned it with him!’

’Perhaps I value this the more from the certainty that it is spontaneous,’ said Mr. Kendal.  ’It showed great consideration and forethought, that he said nothing of his intention to me.  Had he mentioned it, I should have thought it right to suggest his leaving his sisters their share; and yet, as we are situated with young Dusautoy, it would have been awkward to have interfered.  He did well and wisely to be silent.’

’You don’t expect Algernon to be discontented.  Impossible, at such a time, and so well off as he is!’

‘I wish it may be impossible.’

‘What do you mean, to do?’

’As far as I can see at present, I shall do this.  I fear neither the mode of acquisition nor the management of that property was such as to bring a blessing, and I believe my poor boy has made it over to me in order to free his sisters from the necessity of winking at oppression and iniquity.  Had it gone to them, matters must have been let alone till Sophia came of age, and even then, all improvements must have depended on Algernon’s consent.  The land and houses we will keep, and sufficient ready money for the building and repairs; and to this, Sophia, at least, will gladly agree.  The rest—­ something under twenty thousand, if I remember correctly—­is the girls’ right.  I will settle Lucy’s share on her so as to be out of her husband’s power, and Sophia shall have hers when she comes of age.’

’I am sure that will take from Algernon all power of grumbling, though I cannot believe that even he could complain.’

‘You approve, then?’

’How can yon ask?  It is the first thing that has seemed like happiness, if it did not make one long for him to talk it over!’ The wound was still very recent, and her spirits very tender, and the more she felt the blessing of the association with Gilbert in the work of love, the more she wept, though not altogether in sorrow.

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