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- Henrietta's Wish - 10/48 -


"O no, no, grandmamma," joined in Henrietta, "we shall be very glad to take it. Pray let us."

"Yes," added Beatrice, "if it is really to be of any use, no one can be more willing."

"Of any use?" repeated Mrs. Langford. "No! never mind. I'll send someone."

"No, pray do not, dear grandmamma," eagerly exclaimed Henrietta; "I do beg you will let us take it. It will be making me at home directly to let me be useful."

Grandmamma was pacified. "When will you set out?" she asked; "you had better not lose this bright morning."

"We will go directly," said Queen Bee; "we will go by the west turning, so that Henrietta may see the Pleasance."

"My dear! the west turning will be a swamp, and I won't have you getting wet in your feet and catching cold."

"O, we have clogs; and besides, the road does not get so dirty since it has been mended. I asked Johnny this morning."

"As if he knew, or cared anything about it!--and you will be late for luncheon. Besides, grandpapa will drive your aunt there the first day she feels equal to it, and Henrietta may see it then. But you will always have your own way."

Henrietta had seldom been more uncomfortable than during this altercation; and but for reluctance to appear more obliging than her cousin, she would have begged to give up the scheme. Her mother would have interfered in another moment, but the entrance of Uncle Geoffrey gave a sudden turn to affairs.

"Who likes to go to the Pleasance?" said he, as he entered. "All whose curiosity lies that way may prepare their seven-leagued boots."

"Here are the girls dying to go," said Mrs. Langford, as well pleased as if she had not been objecting the minute before.

"Very well. We go by Sutton Leigh: so make haste, maidens." Then, turning to his mother, "Didn't I hear you say you had something to send to Elizabeth, ma'am?"

"Only some currant jelly for little Tom; but if--"

"O grandmamma, that is my charge; pray don't cheat me," exclaimed Henrietta. "If you will lend me a basket, it will travel much better with me than in Uncle Geoffrey's pocket."

"Ay, that will be the proper division of labour," said Uncle Geoffrey, looking well pleased with his niece; "but I thought you were off to get ready."

"Don't keep your uncle waiting, my dear," added her mamma; and Henrietta departed, Beatrice following her to her room, and there exclaiming, "If there is a thing I can't endure, it is going to Sutton Leigh when one of the children is poorly! It is always bad enough--"

"Bad enough! O, Busy Bee!" cried Henrietta, quite unprepared to hear of any flaw in her paradise.

"You will soon see what I mean. The host of boys in the way; the wooden bricks and black horses spotted with white wafers that you break your shins over, the marbles that roll away under your feet, the whips that crack in your ears, the universal air of nursery that pervades the house. It is worse in the morning, too; for one is always whining over sum, es, est, and another over his spelling. O, if I had eleven brothers in a small house, I should soon turn misanthrope. But you are laughing instead of getting ready."

"So are you."

"My things will be on in a quarter of the time you take. I'll tell you what, Henrietta, the Queen Bee allows no drones, and I shall teach you to 'improve each shining hour;' for nothing will get you into such dire disgrace here as to be always behind time. Besides, it is a great shame to waste papa's time. Now, here is your shawl ready folded, and now I will trust you to put on your boots and bonnet by yourself."

In five minutes the Queen Bee flew back again, and found Henrietta still measuring the length of her bonnet strings before the glass. She hunted her down stairs at last, and found the two uncles and grandpapa at the door, playing with the various dogs, small and great, that usually waited there. Fred and the other boys had gone out together some time since, and the party now set forth, the three gentlemen walking together first. Henrietta turned as soon as she had gone a sufficient distance that she might study the aspect of the house. It did not quite fulfil her expectations; it was neither remarkable for age nor beauty; the masonry was in a sort of chessboard pattern, alternate squares of freestone and of flints, the windows were not casements as she thought they ought to have been, and the long wing, or rather excrescence, which contained the drawing-room, was by no means ornamental. It was a respectable, comfortable mansion, and that was all that was to be said in its praise, and Beatrice's affection had so embellished it in description, that it was no wonder that Henrietta felt slightly disappointed. She had had some expectation, too, of seeing it in the midst of a park, instead of which the carriage-drive along which they were walking, only skirted a rather large grass field, full of elm trees, and known by the less dignified name of the paddock. But she would not confess the failure of her expectations even to herself, and as Beatrice was evidently looking for some expressions of admiration, she said the road must be very pretty in summer.

"Especially when this bank is one forest of foxgloves," said Queen Bee. "Only think! Uncle Roger and the farmer faction wanted grandpapa to have this hedge row grubbed up, and turned into a plain dead fence; but I carried the day, and I dare say Aunt Mary will be as much obliged to me as the boys who would have lost their grand preserve of stoats and rabbits. But here are the outfield and the drill."

And going through a small gate at the corner of the paddock, they entered a large ploughed field, traversed by a footpath raised and gravelled, so as to be high and dry, which was well for the two girls, as the gentlemen left them to march up and down there by themselves, whilst they were discussing the merits of the brilliant blue machine which was travelling along the furrows. It was rather a trial of patience, but Beatrice was used to it, and Henrietta was in a temper to be pleased with anything.

At last the inspection was concluded, and Mr. Langford came to his granddaughters, leaving his two sons to finish their last words with Martin.

"Well, young ladies," said he, "this is fine drilling, in patience at least. I only wish my wheat may be as well drilled with Uncle Roger's new-fangled machines."

"That is right, grandpapa," said Queen Bee; "you hate them as much as I do, don't you now?"

"She is afraid they will make honey by steam," said grandpapa, "and render bees a work of supererogation."

"They are doing what they can towards it," said Beatrice. "Why, when Mr. Carey took us to see his hives, I declare I had quite a fellow- feeling for my poor subjects, boxed up in glass, with all their privacy destroyed. And they won't even let them swarm their own way--a most unwarrantable interference with the liberty of the subject."

"Well done, Queenie," said Mr. Langford, laughing; "a capital champion. And so you don't look forward to the time when we are to have our hay made by one machine, our sheep washed by another, our turkeys crammed by a third--ay, and even the trouble of bird-starving saved us?"

"Bird-starving!" repeated Henrietta.

"Yes; or keeping a few birds, according to the mother's elegant diminutive," said Beatrice, "serving as live scarecrows."

"I should have thought a scarecrow would have answered the purpose," said Henrietta.

"This is one that is full of gunpowder, and fires off every ten minutes," said grandpapa; "but I told Uncle Roger we would have none of them here unless he was prepared to see one of his boys blown up at every third explosion."

"Is Uncle Roger so very fond of machines?" said Henrietta.

"He goes about to cattle shows and agricultural meetings, and comes home with his pockets crammed with papers of new inventions, which I leave him to try as long as he does not empty my pockets too fast."

"Don't they succeed, then?" said Henrietta.

"Why--ay--I must confess we get decent crops enough. And once we achieved a prize ox,--such a disgusting overgrown beast, that I could not bear the sight of it; and told Uncle Roger I would have no more such waste of good victuals, puffing up the ox instead of the frog."

Henrietta was not quite certain whether all this was meant in jest or earnest; and perhaps the truth was, that though grandpapa had little liking for new plans, he was too wise not to adopt those which possessed manifest advantage, and only indulged himself in a good deal of playful grumbling, which greatly teased Uncle Roger.

"There is Sutton Leigh," said grandpapa, as they came in sight of a low white house among farm buildings. "Well, Henrietta, are you prepared for an introduction to an aunt and half-a-dozen cousins, and Jessie Carey into the bargain?"

"Jessie Carey!" exclaimed Beatrice in a tone of dismay.

"Did you not know she was there? Why they always send Carey over for her with the gig if there is but a tooth-ache the matter at Sutton Leigh."

"Is she one of Aunt Roger's nieces?" asked Henrietta.

"Yes," said Beatrice. "And--O! grandpapa, don't look at me in that way. Where is the use of being your pet, if I may not tell my mind?"

"I won't have Henrietta prejudiced," said Mr. Langford. "Don't listen to her, my dear: and I'll tell you what Jessie Carey is. She is an honest, good-natured girl as ever lived; always ready to help every one, never thinking of trouble, without an atom of selfishness."


Henrietta's Wish - 10/48

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