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It was with an lovely feeling of contented exhaustion that Adamanta turned her face to her youngest, contentedly suckling a meal at her breast. "Well, young Isengar, how do you find the world?" she murmured. "Is it as good a place as you thought it might be, since you were in such a hurry to enter it?" He'd been nearly three weeks early, not so early as had his younger sister Mirabella, who had worried all of them dreadfully. But he had certainly not taken his time as had Isumbras, who had been nearly two weeks late. She chuckled as she recalled Gerontius' wry remark that his third child had missed ninety-eight meals at the start and had been trying to catch up ever since.
And her heart gave a lurch as it always did at the thought of little Hildigard, carried off far too young by the spotted fever. He had not lived even long enough to bring her the first flowers of faunthood.
Then there were her other "Hildis"-- she had decided that was not a good prefix for a lad's name: all three of them were impetuous, rushing headlong into whatever presented itself. Why Hildigrim was only twenty-two and already making eyes at the lasses! It had scarcely been a week since Hildifons had been caught attempting to scrump cousin Prospero's prize-winning tomatoes and only two days since Hildibrand had to be rescued from the top of a tree by his ever-patient older brother Isenbard, who finally lost patience and had applied his own punishment to his younger brother.
Isembold and Isenbard both took after the Chubb side of the family. They were solid and dependable lads, but there was no denying that they lacked a certain "something" that set the Tooks apart as a clan. Adamanta was glad at least some of her children had something of her in them. Her middle daughter Donnamira also seemed to favor the Chubbs-- she was much more settled and less flighty than her older and younger sisters. She dreaded the day that Bella and Mira entered their tweens. Not only were the two of them likely to get into any scrape that a lad could think of, but she had a feeling that it was going to be hard to keep the suitors at bay as well.
Although, she thought with a smile, Gerontius was unlikely to brook a lot of nonsense of that sort with his daughters, who all three were the apple of his eye.
The two of them had most certainly not intended such a large family. But one child seemed to follow another with an ease that shocked Adamanta's own family. Chubbs generally tended to have "only children" or two or three at most. And even the Tooks were seldom so prolific as she and Gerontius had been. But this latest one had been more difficult. She was not so young as she used to be, and she and Gerontius had agreed he would be the last. "Let us end with an even dozen," he had said with a smile, and she had agreed for she knew how worried he had been this time.
There was a tap on her door. She wondered who it was this time-- there had been a steady stream of family and friends today wishing the new little one a welcome.
"Come in!" she called.
The door opened to reveal the cheerful face of her eldest, Isengrim. "Hello, Mother," he said. He came in, bearing a great sheaf of flowers, bright with colour: roses and peonies, sweet peas, daylilies and others, bringing in a waft of floral scent that was heady. "If you recall, it is thirty years ago today that you brought me into the world. And I thought I would bring you my gift now, and thank you for this wonderful gift you gave me: a new brother!"
He bent over, and with one arm, took up little Isengar, and placed the flowers in his mother's arms, and then bent to receive her kiss on his cheek.
"Silly child!" she said with a grin. "Of course I would not forget your birthday! But now you will have to share it." She looked at the huge armfull of flowers. "And you just had to bring these in here without a vase!" she exclaimed, but with a twinkle in her eye.
Isengrim chuckled. "It's quite all right, Mother. I've already asked your chambermaid to bring a vase."
"Clever lad! Isengar, you could do worse than to follow your big brother's example!"
Isengar, being held with expert ease over his big brother's shoulder responded with a contented burp.
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