'So you think the happiness of the Consecration day depends upon the party and the luncheon,' said Helen.
'No, no, of course I do not,' said Katherine; 'but we must think about that too, or we should not do what is proper.'
'Someone must,' said Helen, 'but it is happy for us that we are not called upon to do so yet.'
'Why, we must help Mamma,' said Katherine; 'I am sure that is our duty.'
'Certainly,' said Helen; 'but we need not dwell upon such thoughts for our own pleasure.'
'No, I do not, I am sure,' said Katherine; 'I do not care about the grand dejeuner, I am sure I think a great deal more about the Church and the Bishop—I wonder whether he will come by the railroad.'
At this moment, the door was thrown back hastily, and Elizabeth, the elder sister of Katherine and Helen, darted in, looking full of indignation, which she only wanted to pour forth, without much caring whether it was listened to with sympathy or not.
'So have you heard,' she began, 'these Hazlebys are coming. Did you ever hear of such a nuisance? Anything so preposterous? Mrs. Hazleby at a Consecration—I should as soon think of asking Gillespie Grumach.'
'It is for the Major's sake, of course,' said Helen; 'he will like to come.'
'Ay, but he is not coming, he cannot get leave,' said Elizabeth; 'if he was, I should not mind it so much, but it is only Mrs. Hazleby and the girls, for she has the grace to bring Lucy, on Mamma's special invitation. But only think of Mrs. Hazleby, scolding and snapping for ever; and Harriet, with her finery and folly and vulgarity. And that at a time which ought to be full of peace, and glorious feelings. Oh! they will spoil all the pleasure!'
'All?' said Helen.
'All that they can touch, all that depends upon sympathy,' said Elizabeth.
'Well, but I do not see—' said Katherine.
'No, no,' said Elizabeth, 'we all know that you will be happy enough, with your beloved Harriet. How frivolous and silly you will be, by the end of the first evening she has been here!'
'I am sure I think Harriet is very silly indeed,' said Katherine; 'I cannot bear her vulgar ways, bouncing about as she does, and such dress I never did see. Last time she was here, she had a great large artificial rose upon her bonnet; I wonder what Papa would say if he saw me in such a thing!'
'Pray keep the same opinion of her all the time she is here, Kate,' said Elizabeth; 'but I know you too well to trust you. I only know they will keep me in a perpetual state of irritation all the time, and I hope that will not quite spoil my mind for the Service.'
'How can you talk of Mamma's relations in that way, Lizzie?' said Helen.
'I do not care whose relations they are,' said Elizabeth; 'if people will be disagreeable, I must say so.'
'Mrs. Staunton used to say,' replied Helen, 'that people always ought to keep up their connexion with their relations, whether they like them or not. There were some very stupid people, relations of Mr. Staunton's, near Dykelands, whom Fanny and Jane could not endure, but she used to ask them to dinner very often, and always made a point—'
'Well, if I had any disagreeable relations,' said Elizabeth, 'I would make a point of cutting them. I do not see why relations have a right to be disagreeable.'
'I do not see how you could,' said Helen. 'For instance, would you prevent Mamma from ever seeing the Major, her own brother?'
'He cannot be half so well worth seeing since he chose to marry such a horrid wife,' said Elizabeth.
'Would you never see Horace again, if he did such a thing?' said Katherine; 'I am sure I would not give him up. Would you?'
'I could trust Horace, I think,' said Elizabeth; 'I will give him fair warning, and I give you and Helen warning, that if you marry odious people, I will have done with you.'
'When I was at Dykelands,' said Helen, 'everybody was talking about a man who had married—'
'Never mind Dykelands now, Helen,' said Elizabeth, 'and do put down your pencil. That drawing was tolerable before luncheon, but you have been making your tree more like Mr. Dillon's Sunday periwig, every minute since I have been here. And such a shadow! But do not stop to mend it. You will not do any good now, and here is some better work. Mamma wants us to help to finish the cushions. We must do something to earn the pleasure of having St. Austin's Church consecrated on St. Austin's day.'
'What, do you mean that I am to work on that hard velvet?' said Helen, who was a little mortified by the unsparing criticism on her drawing.
'Yes, I undertook that we three should make up the two cushions for the desk and eagle; Mrs. Webbe's hands are full of business already, but she has explained it all to me, and Kate will understand it better than I can.'
'I thought Sarah Webbe was to help,' said Helen.
'She is doing the carpet,' said Elizabeth. 'Oh! if you look so lamentable about it, Helen, we do not want your help. Dora will sew the seams very nicely, and enjoy the work too. I thought you might be glad to turn your handiwork to some account.'
'Really, Lizzie,' said Helen, 'I shall be very glad to be useful, if you want me. What shall I do?'
This was said in no gracious tone, and Elizabeth would not accept such an offer of assistance. 'No, no; never mind,' said she, putting a skein of crimson sewing-silk over Katherine's outstretched hands, and standing with her back to Helen, who took up her pencil again in silence, and made her black shadows much darker.
Elizabeth, who had not been of the walking party, and had thus heard of all the arrangements which had been made that afternoon, went on talking to Katherine. 'As soon as Church is over, the Bishop is coming to luncheon here, and then to settle some business with Papa; then is to be the school-children's feast—in the quadrangle, of course. Oh, how delightful that will be! And Mamma and I have been settling that we will have a little table for the smallest creatures, because the elder sisters get no time to eat if they are attending to them, and if the little ones are all together, everyone will come and help them.'
'The old women in the Alms-houses will,' said Katherine.
'Yes; and Dora will manage that nicely too, the table will not be too high for her to reach, and she will be very happy to be able to wait on her little class. And they are to have tea and cake, instead of dinner, for we do not want to have more cooking than can be helped, that people may not be prevented from going to church, and the children will be thirsty after being in church all the morning.'
'But we have a dinner-party, do not we?' said Katherine.
'Yes, but our youth and innocence will save us from being much plagued by it,' said Elizabeth.
'Oh! I thought you and Anne at least would dine with the company,' said Katherine.
'So Mamma thought,' said Elizabeth; 'but then she recollected that if we did, and not Harriet, Mrs. Hazleby would be mortally offended; and when we came to reckon, it appeared that there would be thirteen without us, and then Papa and I persuaded her, that it would be much less uncivil to leave out all the Misses, than to take one and leave the rest. You know Anne and I are both under seventeen yet, so that nobody will expect to see us.'
'Only thirteen people?' said Katherine; 'I thought the Bishop was to dine and sleep here.'
'Oh no, that was settled long ago; Papa found he had engaged to go to Marlowe Court,' said Elizabeth, 'and so there was room for the Hazlebys; I hoped he would have guarded us from them.'
'But will there be room?' said Katherine; 'I cannot fancy it.'
'Oh! half the rooms can be made Knight's Templar's horses and carry double,' said Elizabeth; 'Mrs. Hazleby and both the girls may very well be in the blue room.'
'And there is the best room for the Mertons, and Horace's for Rupert,' said Katherine.
'Poor Horace! it is a shame that he, who laid the first stone, should not be at