‘Oh! she does not trouble herself about consistency,’ said Elizabeth; ’anything which attracts notice pleases her. She thinks our dear papa has done more for the living than nine out of ten would have thought of; and if there was any talk of presenting him with some small testimonial of respect, her mite would be instantly forthcoming; and Sir Edward Merton, he is the most munificent gentleman she ever heard of; if all of his fortune were like him now!—“Only, my dear Miss Lizzie, does not your papa think of having a lightning conductor attached to the spire? such an elevation, it quite frightens me to think of it! and the iron of the railroad, too—“’
‘Oh! is she scientific, too?’ aaid Anne.
‘Yes; you see how the march of intellect has reached us,’ said Elizabeth; ’poor Kate is so much afraid of the electric fluid, that she cannot venture to wear a steel buckle. You have no idea of the efforts we are making to keep up with the rest of the world. We have a wicked Radical newspaper all to ourselves; I wonder it has the face to call itself the Abbeychurch Reporter.’
‘Your inns are on the move,’ said Anne; ’I see that little beer-shop near the Station calls itself “The Locomotive Hotel."’
‘I wish it were really locomotive,’ said Elizabeth, ’so that it would travel out of Abbeychurch; it is ruining half the young men here.’
‘Well, perhaps the new town will mend,’ said Anne; ’it will have a Christian name to-morrow, and perhaps the influence of the old town will improve it.’
‘I think Papa has little hope of that kind,’ said Elizabeth; ’if the new town does grow a little better, the old will still grow worse. It is grievous to see how much less conformable Papa finds the people of the old town, than even I can remember them. But come, we must be locomotive, or Dora will not be at home in time.’
The clock was striking eight as the young ladies entered the house; but Dora was allowed to sit up a little longer to see her aunt, Mrs. Hazleby. It was not long before a loud knock at the door announced that lady’s arrival.
Mrs. Hazleby was a tall bony Scotchwoman, with fierce-looking grey eyes. She gave Mrs. Woodbourne a very overpowering embrace, and then was careful to mark the difference between her niece, little Dora, whom she kissed, and the three elder girls, with whom she only shook hands. She was followed by her daughters—Harriet, a tall showy girl of sixteen, and Lucy, a pale, quiet, delicate-looking creature, a year younger. Rupert Merton was still missing; but his movements were always so uncertain, that his family were in no uneasiness on his account.