‘True; I think a very high born and very rich man might be humble,’ said Ulick, so meditatively that they laughed; but Sophy said,
’No, that is not a paradox; the real difficulty is not in willingly yielding, but in taking what we cannot help.’
‘Well,’ said Ulick, ’I hope it is not pride not to intend working under Andrew Goldsmith.’
‘Do you consider that as your fate?’ asked Albinia.
‘Never my fate,’ said Ulick, quickly; ’hardly even my alternative, for he would like to put up a notice, “No Irish need apply.” We had enough of each other last winter.’
‘And do you suppose,’ said Mr. Kendal, ’that Mr. Goldsmith has left your position exactly the same?’
’I’ve no reason to think otherwise. I refused all connexion with the bank if it was to interfere with my name. I don’t think it unlikely that he may have left me a small compliment in the way of shares; but if so, I shall sell them, and make them keep me at Oxford. I’m not too old yet!’
‘Then the work of these four years is wasted,’ said Mr. Kendal, gravely.
‘No, indeed,’ cried Ulick; ’not if it takes me where I’ve always longed to be! Or, if not, I flatter myself I’m accountant enough to be an agent in my own country.’
‘Anything to get away from here,’ said Albinia, with a shade of asperity, provoked by the spirit of enterprise in his voice.
‘After all, it is a bit of a place,’ said Ulick; ’and the office parlour is not just a paradise! Then ’tis all on such a narrow scale, too little to absorb one, and too much to let one do anything else; I see how larger transactions might be engrossing, but this is mere cramping and worrying; I know I could do better for my family in the end than by what I can screw out of my salary now; and if it is no longer to give my poor mother a sense of expiation, as she calls it, why, then, the cage-door is open.’
His eyes glittered, and Sophy exclaimed, ’Yes; and now the training is over, it has made you fitter to fly.’
‘It has,’ he said; ’and I’m thankful for it. Without being here, I would never have learnt application—nor some better things, I hope.’
They scarcely saw him again till after the funeral, when late in the day he came into the drawing-room, and saying that his aunt was pretty well and composed, he knelt down on the floor with the little Awk, and silently built up a tower with her wooden bricks. His hand trembled nervously at first, but gradually steadied as the elevation became critical; and a smile of interest lighted his face as he became absorbed in raising the structure to the last brick, holding back the eager child with one hand lest she should overthrow it. Completion, triumph, a shock, a downfall!
‘Well,’ cried the elder Albinia, unable to submit to the suspense.
‘Telle est la vie,’ answered Ulick, smiling sadly as he passed his hand over his brow.