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- Henrietta's Wish - 30/48 -
that Fred was reviving, and made her, if possible, watch with double intenseness, and then utter a desponding sigh. She wished it was she who lay there, unconscious of such exceeding wretchedness, and, strange to say, her imagination began to devise all that would be said were it really so; what all her acquaintance would say of the little Queen Bee, how soon Matilda St. Leger would forget her, how long Henrietta would cherish the thought of her, how deeply and silently Alex would grieve. "He would be a son to papa," she thought; but then came a picture of her home, her father and mother without their only one, and tears came into her eyes, which she brushed away, almost smiling at the absurdity of crying for her own imagined death, instead of weeping over this but too positive and present distress.
There was nothing to interrupt her; Fred lay as lifeless as before, and not a creature passed along the lonely road. The frosty air was perfectly still, and through it sounded the barking of dogs, the tinkle of the sheep-bell, the woodsman's axe in the plantations, and now and then the rattle of Dumple's harness, as she shook his head or shifted his feet at the gate where he had been left standing. The rooks wheeled above her head in a clear blue sky, the little birds answering each other from the high furze-bushes, and the pee-wits came careering near her with their broad wings, floating movement, and long melancholy note like lamentation.
At length, far away, there sounded on the hard turnpike road a horse's tread, coming nearer and nearer. Help was at hand! Be it who it might, some human sympathy would be with her, and that most oppressive solitude, which seemed to have lasted for years instead of minutes, would be relieved. In almost an agony of nervousness lest the newcomer might pass by, she gently laid her cousin's head on the grass, and flew rather than ran towards the opening of the lane. She was too late, the horseman had passed, but she recognised the shining hat, the form of the shoulders, and with a scream almost wild in its energy, called "Philip! O, Philip Carey!"
Joy, joy! he looked back, he turned his horse, and came up in amazement at finding her there, and asking questions which she could only answer by leading the way down the lane.
In another moment he was off his horse, and she could almost have adored him when she heard him pronounce that Frederick lived.
A few moments passed whilst he was handling his patient, and asking questions, when Beatrice beheld some figures advancing from the plantation. She dashed through the heath and furze to meet them, sending her voice before her with the good news, "He is alive! Philip Carey says he is alive!" and with these words she stood before her father and her Aunt Mary.
Her aunt seemed neither to see nor hear her; but with a face as white and still as a marble figure, hastened on. Mr. Geoffrey Langford stopped for an instant and looked at her with an expression such as she never could forget. "Beatrice, my child!" he exclaimed, "you are hurt!"
"No, no, papa," she cried. "It is Fred's blood--I am quite, quite safe!"
He held her in his arms, pressed her close to him, and kissed her brow, with a whispered exclamation of fervent thankfulness. Beatrice could never remember that moment without tears; the tone, the look, the embrace,--all had revealed to her the fervour of her father's affection, beyond--far beyond all that she had ever imagined. It was but for one instant that he gave way; the next, he was hastening on, and stood beside Frederick as soon as his sister-in-law.
The drawing-room at Knight Sutton Hall was in that state of bustle incidental to the expectation of company, which was sure to prevail wherever Mrs. Langford reigned. She walked about, removing the covers from chairs and ottomans, shaking out curtains, adjusting china, and appealing to Mrs. Frederick Langford in various matters of taste, though never allowing her to move to assist her. Henrietta, however, often came to her help, and was certainly acting in a way to incur the severe displeasure of the absent queen, by laying aside Midas's robes to assist in the arrangements. "That picture is crooked, I am sure!" said Mrs. Langford; and of course she was not satisfied till she had summoned Geoffrey from the study to give his opinion, and had made him mount upon a chair to settle its position. In the midst of the operation, in walked Uncle Roger. "Hollo! Geoffrey, what are you up to now? So, ma'am, you are making yourself smart to-day. Where is my father?"
"He has ridden over to see the South Farm," said Mrs. Langford.
"Oho! got out of the way of the beautifying,--I understand."
"Have you seen anything of Fred and Busy Bee?" asked Mrs. Frederick Langford. "They went out directly after breakfast to walk to Sutton Leigh, and I have not seen them since."
"O yes," said Mr. Roger Langford, "I can tell you what has become of them; they are gone to Allonfield. I have just seen them off in the gig, and Will with them, after some of their acting affairs."
Good, easy man; he little thought what a thunder-clap was this intelligence. Uncle Geoffrey turned round on his elevation to look him full in the face; every shade of colour left the countenance of Mrs. Frederick Langford; Henrietta let her work fall, and looked up in dismay.
"You don't mean that Fred was driving?" said her mother.
"Yes, I do! Why my boys can drive long before they are that age,-- surely he knows how!"
"O, Roger, what have you done!" said she faintly, as if the exclamation would break from her in spite of herself.
"Indeed, mamma," said Henrietta, alarmed at her paleness, "I assure you Fred has often told me how he has driven our own horses when he was sitting up by Dawson."
"Ay, ay, Mary," said Uncle Roger, "never fear. Depend upon it, boys do many and many a thing that mammas never guess at, and come out with whole bones after all."
Henrietta, meantime, was attentively watching Uncle Geoffrey's face, in hopes of discovering what he thought of the danger; but she could learn nothing, for he kept his features as composed as possible.
"I do believe those children are gone crazy about their acting," said Mrs. Langford; "and how Mr. Langford can encourage them in it I cannot think. So silly of Bee to go off in this way, when she might just as well have sent by Martin!" And her head being pretty much engrossed with her present occupation, she went out to obey a summons from the kitchen, without much perception of the consternation that prevailed in the drawing-room.
"Did you know they were going, Henrietta?" asked Uncle Geoffrey, rather sternly.
"No! I thought they meant to sent Alex. But O! uncle, do you think there is any danger?" exclaimed she, losing self-control in the infection of fear caught from the mute terror which she saw her mother struggling to overcome. Her mother's inquiring, imploring glance followed her question.
"Foolish children!" said Uncle Geoffrey, "I am very much vexed with the Bee for her wilfulness about this scheme, but as for the rest, there is hardly a steadier animal than old Dumple, and he is pretty well used to young hands."
Henrietta thought him quite satisfied, and even her mother was in some degrees tranquillized, and would have been more so, had not Mr. Roger Langford begun to reason with her in the following style:--"Come, Mary, you need not be in the least alarmed. It is quite nonsense in you. You know a boy of any spirit will always be doing things that sound imprudent. I would not give a farthing for Fred if he was always to be the mamma's boy you would make him. He is come to an age now when you cannot keep him up in that way, and he must get knocked about some time or other."
"O yes, I know I am very foolish," said she, trying to smile.
"I shall send up Elizabeth to talk to you," said Uncle Roger. "She would have a pretty life of it if she went into such a state as you do on all such occasions."
"Enough to break the heart of ten horses, as they say in Ireland," said Uncle Geoffrey, seeing that the best chance for her was to appear at his ease, and divert his brother's attention. "And by the by, Roger, you never told me if you heard any more of your poor Irish haymakers."
"Why, Geoffrey, you have an absent fit now for once in your life," said his brother. "Are you the man to ask if I heard any more of them, when you yourself gave me a sovereign to send them in the famine?"
Uncle Geoffrey, however, persevered, and finally succeeded in starting Uncle Roger upon his favourite and inexhaustible subject of the doings at the Allonfield Union. During this time Mrs. Frederick Langford put a few stitches into her work, found it would not do, and paused, stood up, seemed to be observing the new arrangement in the room,--then took a long look out at the window, and at last left the room. Henrietta ran after her to assure her that she was convinced that Uncle Geoffrey was not alarmed, and to beg her to set her mind at rest. "Thank you, my dear," said she. "I--no, really--you know how foolish I am, my dear, and I think I had rather be alone. Don't stay here and frighten yourself too; this is only my usual fright, and it will be better if I am left alone. Go down, my dear, think about something else, and let me know when they come home."
With considerable reluctance Henrietta was obliged to obey, and descended to the drawing-room, where the first words that met her ears were from Uncle Roger. "Well, I wish, with all my heart, they were safe at home again. But do you mean to say, Geoffrey, that I ought not to have let them go?"
"I shall certainly come upon you for damages, if he breaks the neck of little Bee," said Uncle Geoffrey.
"If I had guessed it," said Uncle Roger; "but then, you know, any of my boys would think nothing of driving Dumple,--even Dick I have trusted,- -and they came up--you should have seen them--as confidently as if he
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