He led her up to her own room, tried to soothe her, and would not listen to a word till she should be calm. After lying still for a little while, she thought she had recovered, but the very word ‘Gilbert’ brought such an expression of anxiety and sternness over his brow as overcame her again, and she could not speak without so much emotion that he silenced her; and finding that she could neither leave the subject, nor mention it without violent agitation, he said he would leave her for a little while, and perhaps she might sleep, and then be better able to speak to him. Still she held him, and begged that he would say nothing to Gilbert till he had heard her, and to pacify her he yielded, passed his promise, and quitted her with a kiss.
There was a messenger at Fairmead Parsonage by sunrise the next morning, and by twelve o’clock Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars were at Willow Lawn.
Mr. Kendal’s grave brow and depressed manner did not reassure Winifred as he met her in the hall, although his words were, ’I hope she is doing well.’
He said no more, for the drawing-room door was moving to and fro, as if uneasy on the hinges, and as he made a step towards it, it disclosed a lady with black eyes and pinched features, whom he presented as ‘Miss Meadows.’
’Well, now—I think—since more efficient—since I leave Mrs. Kendal to better—only pray tell her—my love and my mother’s—if I could have been of any use—or shall I remain?—could I be of any service, Edmund?—I would not intrude when—but in the house—if I could be of any further use.’
‘Of none, thank you,’ said Mr. Kendal, ’unless you would be kind enough to take home the girls.’
‘Oh, papa!’ cried Lucy, I’ve got the keys. You wont be able to get on at all without me. Sophy may go, but I could not be spared.’
‘Let it be as you will,’ said Mr. Kendal; ’I only desire quiet, and that you should not inconvenience Mrs. Ferrars.’
‘You will help me, will you not!’ said Winifred, smiling, though she did not augur well from this opening scene. ’May I go soon to Albinia?’
‘Presently, I hope,’ said Mr. Kendal, with an uneasy glance towards Miss Meadows, ’she has seen no one as yet, and she is so determined that you cannot come till after Christmas, that she does not expect you.’
Miss Meadows began one of her tangled skeins of words, the most tangible of which was excitement; and Mr. Kendal, knowing by long experience that the only chance of a conclusion was to let her run herself down, held his tongue, and she finally departed.
Then he breathed more freely, and said he would go and prepare Albinia to see her sister, desiring Lucy to show Mrs. Ferrars to her room, and to take care not to talk upon the stairs.
This, Lucy, who was in high glory, obeyed by walking upon creaking tip-toe, apparently borrowed from her aunt, and whispering at a wonderful rate about her eagerness to see dear, dear mamma, and the darling little brother.