Charlotte Yonge. Henrietta's Wish
HENRIETTA'S WISH; OR, DOMINEERING. A Tale.
ON the afternoon of a warm day in the end of July, an open carriage was waiting in front of the painted toy-looking building which served as the railway station of Teignmouth. The fine bay horses stood patiently enduring the attacks of hosts of winged foes, too well-behaved to express their annoyance otherwise than by twitchings of their sleek shining skins, but duly grateful to the coachman, who roused himself now and then to whisk off some more pertinacious tormentor with the end of his whip.
Less patient was the sole occupant of the carriage, a maiden of about sixteen years of age, whose shady dark grey eyes, parted lips, and flushed complexion, were all full of the utmost eagerness, as every two or three minutes she looked up from the book which she held in her hand to examine the clock over the station door, compare it with her watch, and study the countenances of the by- standers to see whether they expressed any anxiety respecting the non-arrival of the train. All, however, seemed quite at their ease, and after a time the arrival of the railway omnibus and two or three other carriages, convinced her that the rest of the world only now began to consider it to be due. At last the ringing of a bell quickened everybody into a sudden state of activity, and assured her that the much-desired moment was come. The cloud of smoke was seen, the panting of the engine was heard, the train displayed its length before the station, men ran along tapping the doors of the carriages, and shouting a word which bore some distant resemblance to 'Teignmouth,' and at the same moment various travellers emerged from the different vehicles.
Her eye eagerly sought out one of these arrivals, who on his side, after a hasty greeting to the servant who met him on the platform, hurried to the carriage, and sprang into it. The two faces, exactly alike in form, complexion, and features, were for one moment pressed together, then withdrawn, in the consciousness of the publicity of the scene, but the hands remained locked together, and earnest was the tone of the 'Well, Fred!' 'Well, Henrietta!' which formed the greeting of the twin brother and sister.
'And was not mamma well enough to come?' asked Frederick, as the carriage turned away from the station.
'She was afraid of the heat. She had some business letters to write yesterday, which teased her, and she has not recovered from them yet; but she has been very well, on the whole, this summer. But what of your school affairs, Fred? How did the examination go off?'
'I am fourth, and Alex Langford fifth. Every one says the prize will lie between us next year.'
'Surely,' said Henrietta, 'you must be able to beat him then, if you are before him now.'
'Don't make too sure, Henrietta,' said Frederick, shaking his head, 'Langford is a hard-working fellow, very exact and accurate; I should not have been before him now if it had not been for my verses.'
'I know Beatrice is very proud of Alexander,' said Henrietta, 'she would make a great deal of his success.'
'Why of his more than of that of any other cousin?' said Frederick with some dissatisfaction.
'O you know he is the only one of the Knight Sutton cousins whom she patronizes; all the others she calls cubs and bears and Osbaldistones. And indeed, Uncle Geoffrey says he thinks it was in great part owing to her that Alex is different from the rest. At least he began to think him worth cultivating from the time he found him and Busy Bee perched up together in an apple-tree, she telling him the story of Alexander the Great. And how she always talks about Alex when she is here.'
'Is she at Knight Sutton?'
'Yes, Aunt Geoffrey would not come here, because she did not wish to be far from London, because old Lady Susan has not been well. And only think, Fred, Queen Bee says there is a very nice house to be let close to the village, and they went to look at it with grandpapa, and he kept on saying how well it would do for us.'
'O, if we could but get mamma there!' said Fred. 'What does she say?'
'She knows the house, and says it is a very pleasant one,' said Henrietta; 'but that is not an inch-no, not the hundredth part of an inch-towards going there!'
'It would surely be a good thing for her if she could but be brought to believe so,' said Frederick. 'All her attachments are there-her own home; my father's home.'
'There is nothing but the sea to be attached to, here,' said Henrietta. 'Nobody can take root without some local interest, and as to acquaintance, the people are always changing.'
'And there is nothing to do,' added Fred; 'nothing possible but boating and riding, which are not worth the misery which they cause her, as Uncle Geoffrey says. It is very, very-'
'Aggravating,' said Henrietta, supplying one of the numerous stock of family slang words.
'Yes, aggravating,' said he with a smile, 'to be placed under the necessity of being absurd, or of annoying her!'
'Annoying! O, Fred, you do not know a quarter of what she goes through when she thinks you are in any danger. It could not be worse if you were on the field of battle! And it is very strange, for she is not at all a timid person for herself. In the boat, that time when the wind rose, I am sure Aunt Geoffrey was more afraid than she was, and I have seen it again and again that she is not easily frightened.'
'No: and I do not think she is afraid for you.'
'Not as she is for you, Fred; but then boys are so much more precious than girls, and besides they love to endanger themselves so much, that I think that is reasonable.'
'Uncle Geoffrey thinks there is something nervous and morbid in it,' said Fred: 'he thinks that it is the remains of the horror of the sudden shock-'
'What? Our father's accident?' asked Henrietta. 'I never knew rightly about that. I only knew it was when we were but a week old.'
'No one saw it happen,' said Fred; 'he went out riding, his horse came home without him, and he was lying by the side of the road.'
'Did they bring him home?' asked Henrietta, in the same low thrilling tone in which her brother spoke.
'Yes, but he never recovered his senses: he just said 'Mary,' once or twice, and only lived to the middle of the night!'
'Terrible!' said Henrietta, with a shudder. 'O! how did mamma ever recover it?-at least, I do not think she has recovered it now,-but I meant live, or be even as well as she is.'
'She was fearfully ill for long after,' said Fred, 'and Uncle Geoffrey thinks that these anxieties for me are an effect of the shock. He says they are not at all like her usual character. I am sure it is not to be wondered at.'
'O no, no,' said Henrietta. 'What a mystery it has always seemed to us about papa! She sometimes mentioning him in talking about her childish days and Knight Sutton, but if we tried to ask any more, grandmamma stopping us directly, till we learned to believe we ought never to utter his name. I do believe, though, that mamma herself would have found it a comfort to talk to us about him, if poor dear grandmamma had not always cut her short, for fear it should be too much for her.'
'But had you not always an impression of something dreadful about his death?'
'O yes, yes; I do not know how we acquired it, but that I am sure we had, and it made us shrink from asking any questions, or even from talking to each other about it. All I knew I heard from Beatrice. Did Uncle Geoffrey tell you this?'
'Yes, he told me when he was here last Easter, and I was asking him to speak to mamma about my fishing, and saying how horrid it was to be kept back from everything. First he laughed, and said it was the penalty of being an only son, and then he entered upon this history, to show me how it is.'
'But it is very odd that she should have let you learn to ride, which one would have thought she would have dreaded most of all.'
'That was because she thought it right, he says. Poor mamma, she said to him, 'Geoffrey, if you think it right that Fred should begin to ride, never mind my folly.' He says that he thinks it cost her as much resolution to say that