CHAPTER II. A CHAPTER OF TWADDLE
The blessing of my later years
Was with me when a boy.-Wordsworth.
When Mrs. Grinstead, on her nephew’s arm, came into her drawing-room after dinner, she was almost as much dismayed as pleased to find a long black figure in a capacious arm-chair by the fire.
“You adventurous person,” she said, “how came you here?”
“I could not help it, with the prospect of Lancey boy,” he said in smiling excuse, holding out a hand in greeting to Gerald, and thanking Anna, who brought a cushion.
“Hark! there he is!” and Gerald and Anna sprang forward, but were only in time to open the room door, when there was a double cry of greeting, not only of the slender, bright-eyed, still youthful-looking uncle, but of the pleasant face of his wife. She exclaimed as Lancelot hung over his brother-
“Indeed, I would not have come but that I thought he was still in his room.”
“That’s a very bad compliment, Gertrude, when I have just made my escape.”
“I shall be too much for you,” said Gertrude. “Here, children, take me off somewhere.”
“To have some dinner,” said Geraldine, her hand on the bell.
“No, no, Marilda feasted me.”
“Then don’t go,” entreated Clement. “It is a treat to look at you two sunny people.”
“Let us efface ourselves, and be seen and not heard,” returned Gertrude, sitting down between Gerald and Anna on a distant couch, whence she contemplated the trio-Clement, of course, with the extreme pallor, languor, and emaciation of long illness, with a brow gaining in dignity and expression by the loss of hair, and with a look of weary, placid enjoyment as he listened to the talk of the other two; Lance with bright, sweet animation and cheeriness, still young-looking, though his hair too was scantier and his musical tones subdued; and Geraldine, pensive in eye and lip, but often sparkling up with flashes of her inborn playfulness, and, like Clement, resting in the sunshine diffused by Lance. This last was the editor and proprietor of the ‘Pursuivant’, an important local paper, and had come up on journalistic business as well as for the fete. Gertrude meantime had been choosing carpets and curtains.