It was the sort of tone which, while perfectly kind and gentle, shows that it belongs to a man who will be obeyed, and ready compliance was promised. He proceeded to give his very valuable aid at once in taste and execution, the adornment prospered greatly, and when Mr. Franklin came in, his surprise and delight were excited by the beauty which had grown up in his absence. The long, drooping, massive wreaths of evergreen at the east end, centring in the crown and letters; the spiral festoons round the pillars; the sprays in every niche; the tower of holly over the font—all were more beautiful, both together and singly, than he had even imagined, and he was profuse in admiration and thanks.
The work was done; and the two Misses Langford, after one well-satisfied survey from the door, bent their steps homeward, looking forward to the pleasure with which grandpapa and Aunt Mary would see it to-morrow. As they went in the deepening twilight, the whole village seemed vocal: children’s voices, shrill and tuneless near, but softened by distance, were ringing out here, there, and everywhere, with
“As shepherds watch’d their flocks by night.”
And again, as they walked on, the sound from another band of little voices was brought on the still frosty wind—
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.”
Imperfect rhymes, bad voices, no time observed; but how joyous,—how really Christmas-like—how well it suited the soft half-light, the last pale shine of sunset lingering in the south-west! the large solemn stars that one by one appeared! How Uncle Geoffrey caught up the lines and sang them over to himself! How light and free Beatrice walked!— and how the quiet happy tears would rise in Henrietta’s eyes!
The singing in the drawing-room that evening, far superior as it was, with Henrietta, Beatrice, Frederick, and even Aunt Mary’s beautiful voice, was not equal in enjoyment to that. Was it because Beatrice was teasing Fred all the time about his defection? The church singers came up to the Hall, and the drawing-room door was set open for the party to listen to them; grandpapa and Uncle Geoffrey went out to have a talk with them, and so passed the space till tea-time; to say nothing of the many little troops of young small voices outside the windows, to whom Mrs. Langford’s plum buns, and Mr. Geoffrey’s sixpences, were a very enjoyable part of the Christmas festivities.
The double feast of Sunday and Christmas-day dawned upon Henrietta with many anxieties for her mother, to whom the first going to church must be so great a trial. Would that she could, as of old, be at her side the whole day! but this privilege, unrecked of at Rocksand, was no longer hers. She had to walk to church with grandmamma and the rest of the party, while Mrs. Frederick Langford was driven