To this I replied that I was in love, and so happy within my own house that I had excluded all strangers, and with that she had to be contented, but the state in which I found little Sophie frightened me. She was lying in bed with high fever, she had grown much thinner, and her eyes seemed to say that she was dying of grief. Her mother was in despair, for she was passionately fond of the child, and I thought she would have torn my eyes out when I told her that if Sophie died she would only have herself to reproach. Sophie, who was very good-hearted, cried out, "No, no! papa dear;" and quieted her mother by her caresses.
Nevertheless, I took the mother aside, and told her that the disease was solely caused by Sophie's dread of her severity.
"In spite of your affection," said I, "you treat her with insufferable tyranny. Send her to a boardingschool for a couple of years, and let her associate with girls of good family. Tell her this evening that she is to go to school, and see if she does not get better."
"Yes," said she, "but a good boarding-school costs a hundred guineas a year, including masters."
"If I approve of the school you select I will pay a year in advance."
On my making this offer the woman, who seemed to be living so luxuriously, but was in reality poverty-stricken, embraced me with the utmost gratitude.
"Come and tell the news to your daughter now," said she, "I should like to watch her face when she hears it."
"My dear Sophie," I said, "your mother agrees with me that if you had a change of air you would get better, and if you would like to spend a year or two in a good school I will pay the first year in advance."
"Of course, I will obey my dear mother," said Sophie.
"There is no question of obedience. Would you like to go to school? Tell me truly."
"But would my mother like me to go?"
"Yes, my child, if it would please you."
"Then, mamma, I should like to go very much."
Her face flushed as she spoke, and I knew that my diagnosis had been correct. I left her saying I should hope to hear from her soon.
At ten o'clock the next day Jarbe came to ask if I had forgotten my engagement.
"No," said I, "but it is only ten o'clock."
"Yes, but we have twenty miles to go."
"Certainly, the house is at St. Albans."
"It's very strange Pembroke never told me; how did you find out the address?"
"He left it when he went away:"
"Just like an Englishman."
I took a post-chaise, and in three hours I had reached my destination. The English roads are excellent, and the country offers a smiling prospect on every side. The vine is lacking, for though the English soil is fertile it will not bear grapes.
Lord Pembroke's house was not a particularly large one, but twenty masters and their servants could easily be accommodated in it.
The lady had not yet arrived, so my lord shewed me his gardens, his fountains, and his magnificent hot-houses; also a cock chained by the leg, and of a truly ferocious aspect.
"What have we here, my lord?"
"I see it is, but why do you chain it?"
"Because it is savage. It is very amorous, and if it were loose it would go after the hens, and kill all the cocks on the country-side."
"But why do you condemn him to celibacy?"
"To make him fiercer. Here, this is the list of his conquests."
He gave me a list of his cock's victories, in which he had killed the other bird; this had happened more than thirty times. He then shewed me the steel spurs, at the sight of which the cock began to ruffle and crow. I could not help laughing to see such a martial spirit in so small an animal. He seemed possessed by the demon of strife, and lifted now one foot and now the other, as if to beg that his arms might be put on.
Pembroke then exhibited the helmet, also of steel.
"But with such arms," said I, "he is sure of conquest."
"No; for when he is armed cap-a-pie he will not fight with a defenceless cock."
"I can't believe it, my lord."
"It's a well-known fact.