Mortified at having come so much overworked and weakened, as to occasion only trouble and anxiety, she yielded resignedly when forbidden to wear out strength and spirits by a visit to the burial-ground before her embarkation. She must content herself with Maurice’s description of the locality, and carry away in her eye only the general picture of the sapphire ocean and white rock fortress of the holy warriors vowed to tenderness and heroism, as the last resting-place of her cherished Gilbert, when ‘out of weakness he had been made strong’ in penitence and love.
Had Sophia’s wishes been consulted, she would have preferred nursing her sorrows at home; but no choice had been left, and at the vicarage the fatherly kindness of Mr. Dusautoy, and the considerate let-alone system of his wife, kept her at ease and not far from cheerful, albeit neither the simplicity of the one nor the keenness of the other was calculated to draw her into unreserve: comfort was in the children.
The children clung to her as if she made their home, little Albinia preferring her even to Uncle John, as he had insisted on being called ever since Lucy had become his niece, and Maurice invoking caresses, the bestowal of which was his mother’s rare privilege. The boy was dull and listless, and though riot and mirth could be only too easily excited, his wildest shouts and most frantic gesticulations were like efforts to throw off a load at his heart. Time hung heavy on his hands, and he would lie rolling and kicking drearily on the floor, watching with some envy his little sister as she spelt her way prosperously through ‘Little Charles,’ or daintily and distinctly repeated her hymns. ‘Nothing to do’ was the burthen of his song, and with masculine perverseness he disdained every occupation suggested to him. Sophy might boast of his obedience and quiescence, but Mrs. Dusautoy pitied all parties, and wondered when he would be disposed of at school.
Permission to open letters had been left with Sophy, who with silent resignation followed the details of poor Gilbert’s rapid decay. At last came the parcel by the private hand, containing a small packet for each of the family. Sophy received a silver Maltese Cross, and little Albinia a perfumy rose-leaf bracelet. There was a Russian grape-shot for Maurice, and with it a letter.
With childish secrecy, he refused to let any one look at so much as the envelope, and ran away with it, shouting ‘It’s mine.’ Sophy was grieved that it should be treated like a toy, and fearing that, while playing at importance, he would lose or destroy it, without coming to a knowledge of the contents, she durst not betray her solicitude, lest she should give a stimulus to his wilfulness and precipitate its fate. However, when he had galloped about enough, he called imperatively, ‘Sophy;’ and she found him lying on his back on the grass, the black cat an unwilling prisoner on his chest.