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days! Dear Lady Catherine made every one happy; and Emily-have you good accounts of her ?"
“Yes, indeed,” replied Lady Grey ; “Emily is as well as she is happy, her lot is an enviable one! Devoted to the good of others, she is a most essential aid to her husband in his extensive parish. Both herself and Mr. Montagu were passing some little time with us before Christmas, and we intend, after this troublesome little affair is over” (alluding to her very near confinement), and I am sufficiently recovered “ to pay them a visit in return. My brother-in-law has a beautiful Rectory situated on the Banks of the Wye; but you must come and stay with us, and we will have Aunt Catherine and the Montagus to meet you."
"Nothing would please me better," returned Mrs. Vernon. “Emily was always a loveable creature, and well suited to be the wife of a clergyman. I have lost sight of you all, so completely, since my marriage, I am quite glad to hear of those whose memory is so dear to me. Mr. Vernon is a great sportsman,” she continued, " and Scotland for this reason has great attractions. But where is Mildred ? I see that your little fairy has carried her off.”
Lady Grey rose, and opening the window, by which you descended by a small flight of steps to her own private flower garden, called Edith aloud. She had, indeed, possession of little Mildred Vernon, and was busily displaying to her, her own property, as she called the lovely spring parterre, where double violets, primroses of every variety, and polyanthuses, with every choicest shrub and flower of the season, grew in rich abundance. She was busily picking as large a nosegay as her tiny hand could hold, and filling her little wheelbarrow with as many more besides (all to give her little friend); when, hearing her dear mamma's voice, calling Edith, Edith, she bounded away, holding, however, very fast her companion's hand, up the steps, saying, as they presented themselves, “ Well dear mamma, here we are !”.
“ What a pretty contrast our children make!” whispered Mrs. Vernon to her friend, as she stood watching their advancing steps together, hand in hand; and truly was it so ! seldom were there to be seen two such pretty little creatures. Mildred Vernon was Edith's senior by a year; she had just attained her seventh birth-day, whilst Edith had only just completed her sixth. Both were delicately made; Edith's clear, transparent complexion, with rich, dark brown, glossy, natural ringlets, hanging luxuriantly about her; her large dark eyes, and sweeping long eyelashes, with most marked delicate features, and cheeks full of dimples, formed a very model of infantine beauty. Mildred's hair, on the other hand, was of the lightest shade of auburn, hanging, like. Edith's, negligently, but in profusion also, round her small snowy neck; her eyes, of light hazel, were large and expressive of thought beyond her years; but beaming with an intelligence and softness, that none could look upon their brilliant and innocent expression, without an exclamation of “ Oh! how lovely!”
“You are very good to my little girl, I see,” said Mrs. Vernon, as the children reached the top of the steps; and taking little Edith's hand in hers, whilst admiringly, she stroked her head, “How much your darling resembles yourself, my dear Lady Grey !”
“So they tell me," returned her friend, touching the bell as she spoke. “Bring luncheon” she said to the servant, as he obeyed her summons.
" It is already served my Lady," returned the man.
“ Then we will repair to the dining-room, my dear Isabella,” and Lady Grey put her friend's arm affectionately in her own, and they left the room ; the children followed. “Let Lord Grey know Mrs. Vernon is here, and lunching with me,” said Lady Grey to one of the servants, as she seated herself at the table ; but she had hardly done so before his Lordship himself made his appearance, and expressed, in the kindest and most flattering manner, his pleasure at seeing so old a friend of his wife's.
“But you are not going to run away to-day, surely,” said he, when Mrs. Vernon rose from the table, and expressed to her friend a wish to take a short stroll, as had been proposed, in the grounds, previous to returning, adding, “ sixteen miles, if it really is so far, my dear Lord Grey, demands time. Can it really be half-past three o'clock ?” as she looked at her watch, “I should have hardly fancied it so late."
"Is it not provoking, dear Reginald ?" interrupted Lady Grey, addressing her husband, “ Isabella is leaving the Wilderness to-morrow, and we would so gladly have detained her with us a little ; Mr.Vernon's father is ill, and they are hurrying to him in Staffordshire; she promises me later, however, to dédommager us."
“I am sorry indeed, for the cause--old Mr. Vernon of Ivy Tower's illness. Nothing very serious, however, I hope,” returned Lord Grey ; “I used to see a good deal of him when he lived at the Wilderness, and always thought him one of the kindest of beings.”
“He has been generally beloved, but I greatly fear his illness at the present moment is a break-up,” returned Mrs. Vernon. “At his advanced age, one can hardly expect it otherwise ; we are as Lady Grey observes, making our utmost speed, to-morrow, to Ivy Tower; my father-in-law having expressed an anxious wish to see my husband, we would not delay a day longer than necessary. I am told your orangery is well worth seeing—do let me see it, dear Edith; and, in the mean time, may I order the carriage round?”
“ Mildred Vernon is not going to-day, mamma?” said little Edith to her mother, as she heard the carriage.ordered. “Oh, do not let her go just to-day, dear mamma!”
Lady Grey and Mrs. Vernon could not forbear smiling at the friendship so immediately struck up between their respective children.
“Little Mildred, my darling," 'returned her mother, “must go back with her mamma to-day, but is to come again, Edith, and pay you a much longer visit later. Think, dearest, little Mildred would be as sorry to leave her mamma as you would me. Would you not my child ?" Edith clasped tightly her mother's hand, and with a sweet “ Oh yes" was at once satisfied. “But, come,” continued Lady Grey, we are going to the orangery; you and your little friend can come too.”
“But I want to show Mildred my new large doll; may we not go to nurse and see it mamma?”
" Oh, if Mildred likes it, darling."
A gentle “yes” was just audible from little Mildred, though quite satisfactory as to there being no compulsion in the way; and the two children ran off together.
In the mean time Lady Grey and her friend, strolled away first to the orangery and conservatory, and then to Lady Grey's pretty flower garden.
“You have a sweet place here, my dear Edith,'' said her friend as they reached the terrace, which commanded a beautiful view of the fine old Park.
“Yes, it is a dear old place! The great giver of all good has been very gracious in his gifts to me, and my happy lot I wish entirely to devote to his service and his praise ; may I only live to win dear Reginald