the worse of me for not looking quite so well.'
'Perhaps not,' said Lady Merton, 'but they would think the better of you for a little attention to their taste.'
'They might for attention to their wishes, Aunt Anne,' said Elizabeth, 'but hardly to their taste. Taste is such a petty nonsensical thing.'
'I shall leave you and Anne to argue about the fine distinction between taste and wishes,' said Lady Merton; 'it is more in your line than mine.'
'You mean to say that I have been talking nonsense, Aunt Anne,' said Elizabeth.
'I say nothing of the kind, Lizzie,' said her aunt; 'I only say that you are in the habit of splitting hairs.'
Elizabeth saw that her aunt was not pleased. She went to the chimney-piece, and employed herself in making a delicate piece of ixia get a better view of itself in the looking-glass. Presently she turned round, saying, 'Yes, Aunt Anne, I was very wrong; I was making a foolish pretence at refinement, to defend myself.'
'I did not mean to begin scolding you the very moment I came near you, Lizzie,' said Lady Merton.
'Indeed I wish you would, Aunt Anne,' said Elizabeth; 'pray scold me from morning till night, there is no one who wants it more.'
'My dear child, how can you say so?' cried Mrs. Woodbourne.
'Many thanks for the agreeable employment you propose to me, Lizzie,' said Lady Merton.
'If Rupert docs not come to-night, I mean to undertake a little of that agreeable employment myself, when he arrives,' said Elizabeth, 'and to make Anne help me.'
'I believe Rupert is so fond of being scolded, that it only makes him worse,' said Lady Merton.
'Here are Papa and Uncle Edward coming back at last,' said Katherine, who was, as usual, sitting in the window.
Mrs. Woodbourne looked greatly relieved; she had been for some time in trouble for the dinner, not being able to console herself in the way in which Elizabeth sometimes attempted to re-assure her in such cases—'Never mind, Mamma, the dinner is used to waiting.'
As soon as dinner was over, the girls proposed to walk to the new church, that Anne might see it at her leisure before the Consecration. The younger children were very urgent to be allowed to accompany them, but Mrs. Woodbourne would only consent to Dora's doing so, on her eldest sister's promise to return before her bed-time.
'And, Mamma,' said Elizabeth, as soon as this question was decided, and the other two children had taken out their basket of bricks at the other end of the room, 'have you settled whether Edward is to go to the Consecration to-morrow?'
'I really think he is almost too young, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodbourne; 'you know it is a very long service.'
'Oh! Mamma,' said Dora, 'he is five years old now, and he says he will be very good, and he will be very much disappointed if he has to stay at home, now he has had his new frock and trousers; and Winifred and I are going.'
'Really, Dora,' said Elizabeth, 'I think he had better not go, unless he has some reason for wishing to do so, better than what you have mentioned.'
'I believe he understands it all as well as we do,' said Dora; 'we have all been talking about it in the nursery, this evening, at supper:—and you know, Mamma, he has quite left off being naughty in church.'
'Still, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, 'I scarcely think that we can take him; I cannot have him sitting with me, among the people whom we have invited, and he will certainly grow tired and restless.'
'I do not think his being tired just at last will signify,' said Elizabeth; 'he will attend at first, I am sure, and it is a thing he must never forget all his life. I will take care of him and Winifred, and Dora can behave well without being watched.'
'Very well, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodbourne in her plaintive voice, 'I shall be glad for him to go, if you can undertake to keep him in order, but you must take care you do not tire yourself. You will have almost too much to do afterwards, and you must not let yourself be harassed by his restlessness.'
'Oh no, Mamma, thank you,' said Elizabeth, 'he will not fidget, and I am not afraid of anything in the summer, and on such a great day as to-morrow. I could walk to Johnny Groat's house, and take care of fifty children, if need were.'
Edward was called, examined as to his reasons for wishing to go to the Consecration, made to promise to behave well, and sent back in high glee to play with Winifred. Elizabeth and Dorothea then followed the others up-stairs to prepare for the walk.
'It is very strange,' remarked Mrs. Woodbourne, as they left the room, 'that Elizabeth can manage the children so much better than anyone else can; they always like best to be with her, though she always makes them mind her, and Kate is much more what people would call good-natured.'
'Do you not think Lizzie good-natured?' said Lady Merton, rather surprised.
'Oh yes, indeed I do,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, 'she is a most kind-hearted creature. I really believe there is nothing she would not do for the children or me, I do not know what would become of me without her: but you know her way of speaking, she does not mean any harm; but still when people are not used to her, it vexes them; indeed I did not mean to say anything against her, she is a most excellent creature, quite her Papa's right hand.'
'Horace grew almost too much for her to manage before he went to school, did not he?' said Lady Merton.
'Poor little boy!' said Mrs. Woodbourne, 'we miss him sadly, with his merry face and droll ways. You know, he was always a very high-spirited child, but Lizzie could always make him mind her in the end, and he was very obedient to his papa and me. Edward is a quiet meek boy, he has not his brother's high spirits, and I hope we shall keep him at home longer.'
'Horace is certainly very young for a school-boy,' said Lady Merton; 'Rupert was ten years old when he went to Sandleford, but Sir Edward afterwards regretted that he had not gone there earlier, and the little boys are very well taken care of there.'
'Yes, Mr. Woodbourne said everything looked very comfortable,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, sighing; 'and I suppose he must rough it some time or other, poor little fellow, so that it may be as well to begin early.'
'And he has taken a good place,' said Lady Merton; 'Lizzie wrote in high glee to tell Anne of it.'
'Yes,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, 'she had brought him on wonderfully; I am sure I wonder how she could, with only a little occasional assistance from her papa; but then, Horace is certainly a very clever child, and few have Lizzie's spirits and patience, to be able to bear with a little boy's idleness and inattention so good-humouredly. And I do believe she enjoyed playing with him and the others as much as the children themselves; I used to say it was no use to send Lizzie to keep the children in order, she only promoted the fun and noise.'
'She is a merry creature,' said Lady Morton, 'her spirits never seem to flag, and I think she is looking stronger than when I saw her last.'
'Indeed, I am very glad to hear you say so,' said Mrs. Woodbourne; 'she has seemed very well and strong all the summer, but she still has that constant cough, and we must always be anxious about her, I wish she would take a little more care of herself, but she will not understand how necessary precautions are; she goes out in all sorts of weather, and never allows that anything will give her cold; indeed, I let Dora go out with them this evening, because I knew that Lizzie would stay out of doors too long, unless she had her to make her come in for her sake.'
'How bright and well Helen looks!' said Lady Merton; 'she seems to have been very happy at Dykelands.'
'Very happy indeed,' said Mrs. Woodbourne; 'I am sure we are exceedingly obliged to Mrs. Staunton for asking her. She has come back quite a different creature, and can speak of