Albinia endeavoured to discuss the matter with Genevieve that night when they went upstairs. It was not easy to do, for Genevieve seemed resolved to wish her good-night outside her door, but she made her entrance, and putting her arm round her little friend’s waist, said, ’Am I very much in your way, my dear? I thought you might want a little help, or at least a little talk.’
‘Oh! Mrs. Kendal, I hoped you did not know!’ and her eyes filled with tears.
Mr. Dusautoy told me, my dear; poor Mr. Hope’s distress betrayed him, and Mr. Dusautoy was anxious I should—’
Genevieve did not let her finish, but exclaiming, ’I did not expect this from you, madame,’ gave way to a shower of tears.
’My dear child, do we not all feel you the more one with ourselves for this reluctance?’ said Albinia, caressing her fondly. ’It shall not be forced upon you any more till you can bear it.’
‘Till!’ exclaimed Genevieve, alarmed. ’Oh! do not say that! Do not hold out false hopes! I never shall!’
‘I do not think you are a fair judge as yet, my dear.’
‘I think I am,’ said Genevieve, slowly, ’I must not let you love me on false pretences, dearest Mrs. Kendal. I do not think it is all for—for his sake—but indeed, though I must esteem Mr. Hope, I do not believe I could ever feel for him as—’ then breaking off. ’I pray you, with all my heart, dearest friend, never to speak to me of marriage. I am the little governess, and while Heaven gives me strength to work for my aunt, and you let me call this my home, I am content, I am blessed. Oh! do not disturb and unsettle me!’
So imploringly did she speak, that she obliterated all thought of the prudent arguments with which Albinia had come stored. It was no time for them; there was no possibility of endeavouring to dethrone the memory of her own Gilbert, and her impulse was far more to agree that no one else could ever be loved, than to argue in favour of a new attachment. She was proud of Gilbert for being thus recollected, and doubly pleased with the widowed heart; nor was it till the first effect of Genevieve’s tears had passed off that she began to reflect that the idea might become familiar, and that romance having been abundantly satisfied by the constancy of the Lancer, sober esteem might be the basis of very happy married affection.
Mr. Hope did not go away, but he shrank into himself, and grew more timid than ever, and it was through the Dusautoys that Albinia learnt that he was much consoled, and intended to wait patiently. He had written to Mdlle. Belmarche, who had been extremely disappointed, and continued to believe that so excellent and well brought up a young girl as her niece would not resist her wishes with regard to a young pastor so respectable.