‘Are you sure you do not wish it?’ said Mr. Kendal, with great kindness, but an evident weight removed.
‘Most certain!’ she exclaimed, with full sincerity; ’I am not at all ready for them. What should I do with them to entertain?’
‘Very well,’ said Mr. Kendal, ’you must be the judge. If there be no necessity, I shall be glad to avoid unsettling our habits, and probably Bayford would hardly afford much enjoyment to your aunts.’
Albinia glanced in his face, and in that of her brother, with her own arch fun. It was the first time that day that Maurice had seen that peculiarly merry look, and he rejoiced, but he was not without fear that she was fostering Mr. Kendal’s retiring habits more than was good for him. But it was not only on his account that she avoided the invitation, she by no means wished to show Bayford to her fastidious aunts, and felt as if to keep them satisfied and comfortable would be beyond her power.
Set free from this dread, and his familiarity with his brother-in-law renewed, Mr. Kendal came out to great advantage at the early dinner. Miss Ferrars was well read and used to literary society, and she started subjects on which he was at home, and they discussed new books and criticised critics, so that his deep reading showed itself, and even a grave, quiet tone of satire, such as was seldom developed, except under the most favourable circumstances. He and Aunt Gertrude were evidently so well pleased with each other, that Albinia almost thought she had been precipitate in letting him off the visit.
Gilbert had, fortunately, a turn for small children, and submitted to be led about the garden by little Willie; and as far as moderate enjoyment went, the visit was not unsuccessful; but as for what Albinia came for, it was unattainable, except for one little space alone with her brother.
‘I meant to have asked a great deal,’ she said, sighing.
‘If you, want me, I would contrive to ride over,’ said Maurice.
’No, it is not worth that. But, Maurice, what is to be done when one sees one’s duty, and yet fails for ever for want of tact and temper! Ah, I know what you will say, and I often say it to myself, but whatever I propose, I always do either the wrong thing or in the wrong way!’
‘You fall a hundred times a day, but are raised up again,’ said Maurice.
’Maurice, tell me one thing. Is it wrong to do, not the best, but only the best one can?’
‘It is the wrong common to us all,’ said Maurice.
’I used to believe in “whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.” Now, I do everything ill, rather than do nothing at all.’
‘There are only two ways of avoiding that.’
‘And they are—?’
‘Either doing nothing, or admiring all your own doings.’
‘Which do you recommend?’ said Albinia, smiling, but not far from tears.
‘My dear,’ said Maurice, ’all I can dare to recommend, is patience and self-control. Don’t fret and agitate yourself about what you can’t do, but do your best to do calmly what you can. It will be made up, depend upon it.’