[Sidenote: An Afternoon Call]
It appears that Harvey had sent a footman up to Aunt Maria’s door, to tell of the first Clarkes’ arrival, and then, terrified by Lady Farrington’s voice, had rushed up himself to announce the second lot, and he met Aunt Maria on the stairs coming down, and of course she never heard the difference between “Mrs.” and the “Misses,” and thought he was simply hurrying her up for the first set. So in she sailed all smiles, and as Mrs. Clarke was nearest the door, she got to her first, and was so glad to see her.
“Dear, dear, years since we met, Honoria,” she said; “and these are all your bonny girls, tut, tut!” and she looked at the fat Clarks who came next. “Ah! yes I can see! What a wonderful likeness to poor dear Arthur!”
Furious glances from Mrs. Clarke, whose daughters are my age!
“And this must be Millicent,” she went on, taking the second fat Clark’s hand. “Yes, yes; why, she takes after you, my dear Honoria, tut, tut!” and she squeezed hands, and beamed at them all in the kindest way. Mrs. Clarke, bursting with fury, tried to say they were no relations of hers; but, of course, Aunt Maria could not catch all that, only the word “relations,” and she then caught sight of the buff Clarklets in the background.
[Sidenote: A Friendly Invitation]
“Ah, yes! I see, these are your girls; I have mistaken your other relations for them.” Then she turned again to the fat Clarks, evidently liking their jolly faces best. “But one can see they are Clarkes. Let me guess. Yes, they must be poor Henry’s children!” At this, Lord Valmond had such a violent fit of choking by the tea-table, that Aunt Maria, who hears the oddest, most unexpected things, caught that, and saw him, and saying, “Howd’ ye do?” created a diversion. Presently I heard Lady Farrington roaring in a whisper into her ears the difference between the Clarkes and the Clarks, and the poor dear was so upset; but her kind heart came up trumps, and she was awfully nice to the two vulgar Clarks, who had the good sense to go soon, and then the others went. Then she got Lord Valmond on to her sofa, and he screamed such heaps of nice things into her ear, just as if she had been Mrs. Smith, and she was so pleased. And Uncle John came in, and they talked about the pheasants, and he asked Lord Valmond to dinner on Saturday night (to-morrow), and he looked timidly at me, to see if I was still angry with him and wanted him not to come, so I smiled sweetly, and he accepted joyfully. Isn’t it lovely, Mamma? I shall be home with you by then, and Lady Farrington and Major Orwell are going too! So he will have to play dummy whist all the evening with Uncle and Aunt, and eat his dinner at half-past six! Now, good-night.—Your affectionate daughter, Elizabeth.