It was an agreeable surprise to Henrietta that her mother waked free from headache, very cheerful, and feeling quite able to get up to breakfast. The room looked very bright and pleasant by the first morning light that shone upon the intricate frost-work on the window; and Henrietta, as usual, was too much lost in gazing at the branches of the elms and the last year’s rooks’ nests, to make the most of her time; so that the bell for prayers rang long before she was ready. Her mamma would not leave her, and remained to help her. Just as they were going down at last, they met Mrs. Langford on her way up with inquiries for poor Mary. She would have almost been better pleased with a slight indisposition than with dawdling; but she kindly accepted Henrietta’s apologies, and there was one exclamation of joy from all the assembled party at Mrs. Frederick Langford’s unhoped-for entrance.
“Geoffrey, my dear,” began Mrs. Langford, as soon as the greetings and congratulations were over, “will you see what is the matter with the lock of this tea-chest?—it has been out of order these three weeks, and I thought you could set it to rights.”
While Uncle Geoffrey was pronouncing on its complaints, Atkins, the old servant, put in his head.
“If you please, sir, Thomas Parker would be glad to speak to Mr. Geoffrey about his son on the railway.”
Away went Mr. Geoffrey to the lower regions, where Thomas Parker awaited him, and as soon as he returned was addressed by his father: “Geoffrey, I put those papers on the table in the study, if you will look over them when you have time, and tell me what you think of the turnpike trust.”
A few moments after the door was thrown wide open, and in burst three boys, shouting with one voice—“Uncle Geoffrey, Uncle Geoffrey, you must come and see which of Vixen’s puppies are to be saved!”
“Hush, hush, you rogues, hush!” was Uncle Geoffrey’s answer; “don’t you know that you are come into civilized society? Aunt Mary never saw such wild men of the woods.”
“All crazy at the sight of Uncle Geoffrey,” said grandmamma. “Ah, he spoils you all! but, come here, Johnny, come and speak to your aunt. There, this is Johnny, and here are Richard and Willie,” she added, as they came up and awkwardly gave their hands to their aunt and cousins.
Henrietta was almost bewildered by seeing so many likenesses of Alexander. “How shall I ever know them apart?” said she to Beatrice.
“Like grandmamma’s nest of teacups, all alike, only each one size below another,” said Beatrice. “However, I don’t require you to learn them all at once; only to know Alex and Willie from the rest. Here, Willie, have you nothing to say to me? How are the rabbits?”
Willie, a nice-looking boy of nine or ten years old, of rather slighter make than his brothers, and with darker eyes and hair, came to Queen Bee’s side, as if he was very glad to see her, and only slightly discomposed by Henrietta’s neighbourhood.