Grandmamma was placable; Gilbert’s white face and red eyes were pleading enough, and she was distressed at Mrs. Kendal having come out, looking pale and tired. If she had been alone, the only danger would have been that the offence would be lost in petting; but Maria had been personally wounded, and the jealousy she already felt of the step-mother, had been excited to the utmost by Gilbert’s foolish words. She was excessively grieved, and a great deal more angry with Mrs. Kendal than with Gilbert; and the want of justification for this feeling, together with her great excitement, distress, and embarrassment, made her attempts to be dry and dignified ludicrously abortive. She really seemed to have lost the power of knowing what she said. She was glad Mrs. Kendal could walk up this morning, since she could not come at night.
‘It was not my fault,’ said Albinia, earnestly; ’Mr. Kendal forbade me. I am sure I wish we had come.’
The old lady would have said something kind about not reproaching herself, but Miss Meadows interposed with, ’It was very unlucky, to be sure—Mr. Kendal never failed them before, not that she would wish—but she had always understood that to let young people run about late in the evening by themselves—not that she meant anything, but it was very unfortunate—if she had only been aware—Betty should have come down to walk up with them.’
Gilbert could not forbear an ashamed smile of intense affront at this reproach to his manliness.
‘It was exceedingly unfortunate,’ said Albinia, trying to repress her vexation; ’but Gilbert must learn to have resolution to guard himself. And now that he is come to ask your forgiveness, will you not grant it to him?’
’Oh, yes, yes, certainly, I forgive him from my heart. Yes, Gilbert, I do, only you must mind and beware—it is a very shocking thing—low company and all that—you’ve made yourself look as ill—and if you knew what a cake Betty had made—almond and citron both—“but it’s for Master Gilbert,” she said, “and I don’t grudge”—and then to think—oh, dear!’
Albinia tried to express for him some becoming sorrow at having disappointed so much kindness, but she brought Miss Meadows down on her again.
’Oh, yes—she grudged nothing—but she never expected to meet with gratitude—she was quite prepared—’ and she swallowed and almost sobbed, ’there had been changes. She was ready to make every excuse--she was sure she had done her best—but she understood—she didn’t want to be assured. It always happened so—she knew her homely ways were not what Mrs. Kendal had been used to—and she didn’t wonder— she only hoped the dear children—’ and she was absolutely crying.
‘My dear Maria,’ said her mother, soothingly, ’you have worked yourself into such a state, that you don’t know what you are saying. You must not let Mrs. Kendal think that we don’t know that she is leading the dear children to all that is right and kind towards as.’