Sophy had been intently reading Mrs. Dusautoy’s face all through the narration, from under her thick black eyelashes, and at the end she drew a sigh of relief, and seemed to catch the smile of glad gratitude and affection. There was a precedent, which afforded incredible food to the tumultuous cravings of a heart that had been sinking in sullen gloom under the consciousness of an unpleasing exterior. The possibility of a ‘good-natured giant’ was far more present to her mind than the present probability of future suffering and restraint.
Ever rapid and eager, Albinia could think of nothing but immediate measures for Sophy’s good, and the satisfaction of her own conscience. She could not bear even to wait for Mr. Kendal’s return, but, as her aunts were still in London, she resolved on carrying Sophy to their house on the following day for the best advice. It was already late, and she knelt at the table to dash off two notes to put into the post-office as she went home. One to Mrs. Annesley, to announce her coming with Sophy, baby, and Susan, the other as follows:—
10th, 9 p.m.
’I find I have been cruelly neglectful. I have hunted and driven that poor child about till it has brought on spine complaint. The only thing I can do, is to take her to have the best advice without loss of time, so I am going to-morrow to my aunt’s. It would take too long to write and ask your leave. You must forgive this, as indeed each word I have to say is, forgive! She is so generous and kind! You know I meant to do my best, but they were right, I was too young.
The Dusautoys were somewhat taken by surprise, but they knew too well the need of promptitude to dissuade her; and Sophia herself sat aghast at the commotion, excited by the habitual discomfort of which she had thought so little. The vicar, when he found Mrs. Kendal in earnest, offered to go with them and protect them; but Albinia was a veteran in independent railway travelling, and was rather affronted by being treated as a helpless female. Mrs. Dusautoy, better aware of what the journey might be to one at least of the travellers, gave advice, and lent air cushions, and Albinia bade her good night with an almost sobbing ‘thank you,’ and an entreaty that if Mr. Kendal came home before them, she would tell him all about it.
At home, she instantly sent the stupefied Sophy to bed, astonished the little nurse, ordered down boxes and bags, and spent half the night in packing, glad to be stirring and to tire herself into sleeping, for her remorse and her anticipations were so painful, that, but for fatigue, her bed would have been no resting-place.
Winifred Ferrars was surprised by Mr. Kendal’s walking into her garden, with a perturbed countenance, begging her to help him to make out what could be the meaning of a note which he had just received. He was afraid that there was much amiss with the baby, and heartily wished that he had not been persuaded to leave home; but poor Albinia wrote in so much distress, that he could not understand her letter.