the Consecration,' said Elizabeth.
'Well, but where is Anne to be?' said Katherine; 'if we take Dora into our room, and Winifred goes to the nursery, there is their room; but Aunt Anne's maid must have that.'
'Anne shall come to my room—if Aunt Anne will let her, that is to say,' said Elizabeth; 'I wonder I never thought of that before, it will counteract some of the horrors of the Hazlebys. I shall have the comfort of talking things over with the only person who knows what to feel. Yes, I will go and speak to Mamma, and shew her that it is the only way of lodging the world conveniently. Oh, how happy we shall be!'
As soon as Elizabeth had finished winding her skein, she hastened to Mrs. Woodbourne, and found no great difficulty in gaining her consent to the plan; and she then sat down to write to Miss Merton to inform her of the change of day, and invite her to share her room.
Elizabeth Woodbourne and Anne Merton were first cousins, and nearly of the same age. They had spent much of their time together in their childhood, and their early attachment to each other, strengthening as they grew older, was now becoming something more than girlish affection. Anne was an only daughter; and Elizabeth, though the eldest of a large family, had not hitherto found any of her sisters able to enter into her feelings as fully as her cousin; and perhaps there was no one who had so just an appreciation of Elizabeth's character as Anne; who, though hers was of a very different order, had perhaps more influence over her mind than anyone excepting Mr. Woodbourne.
Sir Edward Merton was brother to Mr. Woodbourne's first wife, the mother of Elizabeth, Katherine, and Helen; he had been Mr. Woodbourne's principal assistant in the erection of the new church, and indeed had added all the decorations which the Vicar's limited means, aided by a subscription, could not achieve; and his wife and daughter had taken nearly as much interest in its progress as the ardent Elizabeth herself. Anne eagerly read Elizabeth's note to her mother, and waited her consent to the scheme which it proposed.
'Well, Mamma,' said Anne, 'can you consent to this arrangement, or are you afraid that Lizzie and I should chatter all night?'
'I hope you have outgrown your old habits of gossipping and idling,' said Lady Merton; 'I believe I may trust you; and it may be inconvenient to Mrs. Woodbourne to find room for you elsewhere.'
'I am very much obliged to you, Mamma,' said Anne, at first gravely, then laughing, 'I mean that I shall enjoy it very much. But pray, Mamma, do not trust too much to our age and experience, for I do not know anything more difficult than to stop short in a delightful talk, only just for the sake of going to sleep.'
'Yes, it requires some self-control,' said Lady Merton.
'Self-control!' repeated Anne. 'Mamma, I am sure that "Patient cautious self-control is wisdom's root," must be your motto, for you are sure to tell me of it on every occasion.'
'I hope you are not tired of it, Anne,' said Lady Merton, 'for most probably I shall often tell you of it again.'
'Oh yes, I hope you will,' said Anne; 'there will be more need of it than ever, in this visit to Abbeychurch.'
'Yes,' said Lady Merton, 'you live so quietly here, excepting when Rupert is at home, that you must take care that all the excitement and pleasure there does not make you wild.'
'Indeed I must,' said Anne; 'I cannot fancy enjoying anything much more than the Consecration of a church for which Papa has done so much, and going with Lizzie, and meeting Rupert. Really, Mamma, it is lucky there is that one drawback, to keep it from seeming too pleasant beforehand.'
'You mean the Hazelbys,' said her mother.
'Yes, Mamma,' replied Anne; 'I am rather surprised to hear that they are to be there. I should not think that a vulgar-minded Scotchwoman, such as Lizzie describes Mrs. Hazleby, would take much delight in a Consecration; but I suppose Uncle Woodbourne could not well avoid asking them on such an occasion, I believe she is rather touchy.'
'You must take care what you say to Lizzie about the Hazlebys,' said Lady Merton; 'a very little might make it appear that we wished to set her against her step-mother's relations.'
'Oh! that would never do,' said Anne, 'but I am afraid it will be very difficult to keep from shewing what we think, if Mrs. Hazleby is all that Lizzie says.'
'Your Papa was pleased with what he saw of Major Hazleby last year,' said Lady Merton.
'Oh yes, Lizzie likes him very much,' said Anne; 'it is the lady of whom she has such a horror.'
'I should fancy,' said Lady Merton, 'that Mrs. Woodbourne's horror of her was almost equal to Lizzie's.'
'Kind gentle Aunt Mildred,' said Anne, 'do you think she ever had a horror of anyone?'
'It is certainly rather a strong word,' said Lady Merton, 'but you will allow me to say that she has a great dread of her; I think Mrs. Hazleby scolds and frightens her.'
'What a fury she must be,' said Anne, laughing, 'to be able to scold and frighten such a gentle Desdomona as Mrs. Woodbourne.'
'Do not say too much on that subject,' said Lady Merton, 'or we shall be forced to call your beloved Lizzie a fury.'
'O Mamma!' cried Anne, 'you cannot say that she is impetuous and violent now. She used, I allow, to be rather overbearing to Mrs. Woodbourne; but that was before she was old enough fully to feel and love her gentleness. Then she did take advantage of it, and argue, and dispute, but now—'
'She has her own way without disputing,' said Lady Merton.
'O Mamma, do you think so?' said Anne, as if she thought it a terrible accusation. 'Yes, I really think that she has, but then her way is generally right.'
'Yes,' said Lady Merton, 'she is in some respects more fit to govern herself than most girls of sixteen. Her good sense will keep her from going very far wrong.'
'Very far, Mamma?' repeated Anne.
'Yes, for such an excitable impetuous creature is not likely to escape going wrong, without steady control from herself or from someone else,' said Lady Merton.
'But I can hardly imagine Lizzie's actually doing wrong,' said Anne; 'we were certainly both naughty children, but I think the worst we did, was rather what makes nurses scold, than what would seriously displease you or Papa.'
'Oh! she was always an upright, noble-spirited child,' said Lady Merton.
'And now,' continued Anne, 'when she is much interested in anything, when her brilliant dark eyes are lighted up, and her beautiful smile is on her lips, and her whole face is full of brightness, and she looks slight and airy enough to be a spirit, and when she is talking about some things—I could fancy her some higher kind of creature.'
Lady Merton smiled. 'I think I know what you mean,' said she; 'I used to feel something of the kind with her mother.'
'What a wonderful person Aunt Katherine must have been!' cried Anne. She paused, and presently added, 'Mamma, I do not know whether I ought to say so, but much as I like Mrs. Woodbourne, I do rather wonder that Uncle Woodbourne married again.'
'So did your Papa and I,' said Lady Merton; 'but you must excuse him, when you think of his three little girls, Elizabeth especially, requiring such anxious care of body and mind.'
'But you do not think Mrs. Woodbourne could manage Lizzie?' said Anne.
'No,' said Lady Merton, 'she could not manage her in the least, but her mild influence has, I think, been of great service to her. Lizzie has certainly grown more gentle of late, and I think it is from consideration for her and the little children.'
'And I suppose,' said Anne, 'that Mrs. Woodbourne has done as much for Kate as anyone could.'
'Not quite,' said Lady Merton; 'I think your Aunt Katherine would have made her a little less trifling and silly.'
'But no one could ever have made her like Lizzie,' said Aune.
'No, but I think she might have been rather more than a mere good-natured