Sarah Anne Drury had been invited to enliven grandmamma, and every one augured a beautiful day and perfect enjoyment. The morning was beautiful, but alas! Sophy was hors de combat, far too unwell to think of making one of the party. She bore the disappointment magnanimously, and even the pity. Every one was sorry, and Gilbert wanted her to go and wait at Fairmead Parsonage for the chance of improving, promising to come and fetch her for any part of the entertainment; and her father told her that he had looked to her as his chief companion while the gay people were taking their pleasure. No one was uncomfortably generous enough to offer to stay at home with her; but Lucy suggested asking Genevieve to come and take care of her.
‘Nay,’ said Sophy, ’it would be much better if she were to go in my stead.’
Gilbert and Lucy both uttered an exclamation; and Sophy added, ’She would have so much more enjoyment than I could! Oh, it would quite make up for my missing it!’
‘My dear,’ said grandmamma, ’you don’t know what you are talking of. It would be taking such a liberty.’
‘There need be no scruples on that score,’ said Albinia; ’the Colonel would only thank me if I brought him half Bayford.’
‘Then,’ cried Sophy, ’you think we may ask her? Oh, I should like to run up myself;’—and a look of congratulation and gratitude passed between her and her brother.
‘No, indeed, you must not, let me go,’ said Lucy, ’I’ll just finish this cup of tea—’
‘My dear, my dear,’ interposed Mrs. Meadows, ’pray consider. She is a very good little girl in her way, but it is only giving her a taste for things out of her station’
‘Oh! don’t say that, dear grandmamma,’ interposed Albinia, ’one good festival does carry one so much better through days of toil!’
’Ah, well! my dear, you will do as you think proper; but considering who the poor child is, I should call it no kindness to bring her forward in company.’
Something passed between the indignant Gilbert and Sophy about French counts and marquises, but Lucy managed much better. ’Dear me, grandmamma, nobody wishes to bring her forward. She will only play with the children, and see the fireworks, and no one will speak to her.’
Albinia averted further discussion till grandmamma had left the breakfast-table, when all four appealed with one voice to Mr. Kendal, who saw no objection, whereupon Lucy ran off, while Albinia finished her arrangements for the well-being of grandmamma, Sophy, and Maurice, who were as difficult to manage as the fox, goose, and cabbage. At every turn she encountered Gilbert, touching up his toilette at each glass, and seriously consulting her and Sophy upon the choice between lilac and lemon-coloured gloves, and upon the bows of his fringed neck-tie.
‘My dear Gilbert,’ said Albinia, on the fifth anxious alternative, ’it is of no use. No living creature will be the wiser, and do what you will, you will never look half so well as your father.’