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- Henrietta's Wish - 48/48 -
"Yes," said Henrietta, understanding her. "And tell her, Bee--for I am sure I shall never be able to say it to her,--all about our thanks, and how sorry I am that I cared so little about her or her comfort." "If I had only believed, instead of blinding myself so wilfully!" she almost whispered to herself with a deep sigh; but being now ready, she ran downstairs and entered her brother's room. His countenance bore traces of weeping, but he was still calm; and as she came in he looked anxiously at her. She spoke quietly as she sat down by him, put her hand into his, and said, "Thank you, dear Fred, for making me go."
"I was quite sure you would be glad when it was over," said Fred. "I have been reading the service with Aunt Geoffrey, but that is a very different thing."
"It will all come to you when you go to Church again," said Henrietta.
"How little I thought that New Year's Day--!" said Fred.
"Ah! and how little we either of us thought last summer's holidays!" said Henrietta. "If it was not for that, I could bear it all better; but it was my determination to come here that seems to have caused everything, and that is the thought I cannot bear."
"I was talking all that over with Uncle Geoffrey last night," said Fred, "and he especially warned us against reproaching ourselves with consequences. He said it was he who had helped my father to choose the horse that caused his death, and asked me if I thought he ought to blame himself for that. I said no; and he went on to tell me that he did not think we ought to take unhappiness to ourselves for what has happened now; that we ought to think of the actions themselves, instead of the results. Now my skating that day was just as bad as my driving, except, to be sure, that I put nobody in danger but myself; it was just as much disobedience, and I ought to be just as sorry for it, though nothing came of it, except that I grew more wilful."
"Yes," said Henrietta, "but I shall always feel as if everything had been caused by me. I am sure I shall never dare wish anything again."
"It was just as much my wish as yours," said Fred.
"Ah! but you did not go on always trying to make her do what you pleased, and keeping her to it, and almost thinking it a thing of course, to make her give up her wishes to yours. That was what I was always doing, and now I can never make up for it!"
"O yes," said Fred, "we can never feel otherwise than that. To know how she forgave us both, and how her wishes always turned to be the same as ours, if ours were not actually wrong; that is little comfort to remember, now, but perhaps it will be in time. But don't you see, Henrietta, my dear, what Uncle Geoffrey means?--that if you did domineer over her, it was very wrong, and you may be sorry for that; but that you must not accuse yourself of doing all the mischief by bringing her here. He says he does not know whether it was not, after all, what was most for her comfort, if--"
"O, Freddy, to have you almost killed!"
"If the thoughts I have had lately will but stay with me when I am well again, I do not think my accident will be a matter of regret, Henrietta. Just consider, when I was so disobedient in these little things, and attending so little to her or to Uncle Geoffrey, how likely it was that I might have gone on to much worse at school and college."
"Never, never!" said Henrietta.
"Not now, I hope," said Fred; "but that was not what I meant to say. No one could say, Uncle Geoffrey told me, that the illness was brought on either by anxiety or over-exertion. The complaint was of long standing, and must have made progress some time or other; and he said that he was convinced that, as she said to Aunt Geoffrey, she had rather have been here than anywhere else. She said she could only be sorry for grandpapa and grandmamma's sake, but that for herself it was great happiness to have been to Knight Sutton Church once more; and she was most thankful that she had come to die in my father's home, after seeing us well settled here, instead of leaving us to come to it as a strange place."
"How little we guessed it was for that," said Henrietta. "O what were we doing? But if it made her happy--"
"Just imagine what to-day would have been if we were at Rocksand," said Fred. "I, obliged to go back to school directly, and you, taking leave of everything there which would seem to you so full of her; and Uncle Geoffrey, just bringing you here without any time to stay with you, and the place and people all strange. I am sure that she who thought so much for you, must have rejoiced that you are at home here already."
"Home!" said Henrietta, "how determinedly we used to call it so! But O, that my wish should have turned out in such a manner! If it has been all overruled so as to be happiness to her, as I am sure it has, I cannot complain; but I think I shall never wish again, or care for my own way."
"The devices and desires of our own hearts!" said Fred.
"I don't think I shall ever have spirit enough to be wilful for my own sake," proceeded Henrietta. "Nothing will ever be the same pleasure to me, as when she used to be my other self, and enjoy it all over again for me; so that it was all twofold!" Here she hid her face, and her tears streamed fast, but they were soft and calm; and when she saw that Fred also was much overcome, she recalled her energies in a minute.
"But, Fred, I may well be thankful that I have you, which is far more than I deserve; and as long as we do what she wished, we are still obeying her. I think at last I may get something of the right sort of feeling; for I am sure I see much better now what she and grandpapa used to mean when they talked about dear papa. And now do you like for me to read to you?"
Few words more require to be said of Frederick and Henrietta Langford. Knight Sutton Hall was according to their mother's wish, their home; and there Henrietta had the consolation, during the advancing spring and summer, of watching her brother's recovery, which was very slow, but at the same time steady. Mrs. Geoffrey Langford stayed with her as long as he required much nursing; and Henrietta learnt to look upon her, not as quite a mother, but at any rate as more than an aunt, far more than she had ever been to her before; and when at length she was obliged to return to Westminster, it was a great satisfaction to think how soon the vacation would bring them all back to Knight Sutton.
The holidays arrived, and with them Alexander, who, to his great disappointment, was obliged to give up all his generous hopes that Fred would be one of his competitors for the prize, when he found him able indeed to be with the family, to walk short distances, and to resume many of his former habits; but still very easily tired, and his head in a condition to suffer severely from noise, excitement, or application. Perhaps this was no bad thing for their newly formed alliance, as Alex had numberless opportunities of developing his consideration and kindness, by silencing his brothers, assisting his cousin when tired, and again and again silently giving up some favourite scheme of amusement when Fred proved to be unequal to it. Even Henrietta herself almost learned to trust Fred to Alex's care, which was so much less irritating than her own; and how greatly the Queen Bee was improved is best shown, when it is related, that neither by word nor look did she once interrupt the harmony between them, or attempt to obtain the attention, of which, in fact, she always had as large a share as any reasonable person could desire.
How fond Fred learnt to be of Alex will be easily understood, and the best requital of his kindness that he could devise was an offer--a very adventurous one, as was thought by all who heard of it--to undertake little Willy's Latin, which being now far beyond Aunt Roger's knowledge, had been under Alex's care for the holidays. Willy was a very good pupil on the whole--better, it was said by most, than Alex himself had been--and very fond of Fred; but Latin grammar and Caesar formed such a test as perhaps their alliance would scarcely have endured, if in an insensible manner Willy and his books had not gradually been made over to Henrietta, whose great usefulness and good nature in this respect quite made up, in grandmamma's eyes, for her very tolerable amount of acquirements in Latin and Greek.
By the time care for her brother's health had ceased to be Henrietta's grand object, and she was obliged once more to see him depart to pursue his education, a whole circle of pursuits and occupations had sprung up around her, and given her the happiness of feeling herself both useful and valued. Old Mr. Langford saw in her almost the Mary he had parted with when resumed in early girlhood by Mrs. Vivian; Mrs. Langford had a granddaughter who would either be petted, sent on messages, or be civil to the Careys, as occasion served; Aunt Roger was really grateful to her, as well for the Latin and Greek she bestowed upon Willy and Charlie, as for the braided merino frocks or coats on which Bennet used to exercise her taste when Henrietta's wardrobe failed to afford her sufficient occupation. The boys all liked her, made a friend of her, and demonstrated it in various ways more or less uncouth: her manners gradually acquired the influence over them which Queen Bee had only exerted over Alex and Willy, and when, saving Carey and Dick, they grew less awkward and bearish, without losing their honest downright good humour and good nature, Uncle Geoffrey only did her justice in attributing the change to her unconscious power. Miss Henrietta was also the friend of the poor women, the teacher and guide of the school children, and in their eyes and imagination second to no one but Mr. Franklin. And withal she did not cease to be all that she had ever been to her brother, if not still more. His heart and soul were for her, and scarce a joy and sorrow but was shared between them. She was his home, his everything, and she well fulfilled her mother's parting trust of being his truest friend and best-loved counsellor.
Would that her own want of submission and resignation had not prevented her from hearing the dear accents in which that charge was conveyed! This was, perhaps, the most deeply felt sorrow that followed her through life; and even with the fair peaceful image of her beloved mother, there was linked a painful memory of a long course of wilfulness and domineering on her own part. But there was much to be dwelt on that spoke only of blessedness and love, and each day brought her nearer to her whom she had lost, so long as she was humbly striving to walk in the steps of Him Who "came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him."
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