‘Incorrigible. I meant to make you pity him.’
’I did, till I found I had wasted my pity. Why could not these Meadowses look after his children! Why must the Colonel bring him here? I believe it was with malice prepense!’
’The Colonel went to see after him, and found him so drooping and wretched, that he insisted on bringing him home with him, and old Mrs. Meadows and her daughter almost forced him to accept the invitation.’
‘They little guessed what the Colonel would be at!’
‘You will be better now you have the Colonel to abuse,’ said her husband.
‘And pray what do you mean to say to the General?’
‘Exactly what I think.’
‘And to the aunts?’ slyly asked the wife.
’I think I shall leave you all that correspondence. It will be too edifying to see you making common cause with the aunts.’
‘That comes of trying to threaten one’s husband; and here they come,’ said Winifred. ’Well, Maurice, what can’t be cured must be endured. Albinia’a heart is gone, he is a very good man, and spite of India, first wife, and melancholy, he does not look amiss!’
Mr. Ferrars smiled at the chary, grudging commendation of the tall, handsome man who advanced through the beech-wood, but it was too true that his clear olive complexion had not the line of health, that there was a world of oppression on his broad brow and deep hazel eyes, and that it was a dim, dreamy, reluctant smile that was awakened by the voice of the lady who walked by his side, as if reverencing his grave mood.
She was rather tall, very graceful, and well made, but her features were less handsome than sweet, bright, and sensible. Her hair was nut-brown, in long curled waves; her eyes, deep soft grey, and though downcast under the new sympathies, new feelings, and responsibilities that crowded on her, the smile and sparkle that lighted them as she blushed and nodded to her brother and sister, showed that liveliness was the natural expression of that engaging face.
Say what they would, it was evident that Albinia Ferrars had cast in her lot with Edmund Kendal, and that her energetic spirit and love of children animated her to embrace joyfully the cares which such a choice must impose on her.
As might have been perceived by one glance at the figure, step, and bearing of Mr. Ferrars, perfectly clerical though they were, he belonged to a military family. His father had been a distinguished Peninsular officer, and his brother, older by many years, held a command in Canada. Maurice and Albinia, early left orphans, had, with a young cousin, been chiefly under the charge of their aunts, Mrs. Annesley and Miss Ferrars, and had found a kind home in their house in Mayfair, until Maurice had been ordained to the family living of Fairmead, and his sister had gone to live with him there, extorting the consent of her elder brother to her spending a more real and active life than her aunts’ round of society could offer her.