As Mrs. Woodbourne was advancing to kiss Harriet, a loud sharp ‘yap’ was heard from something in the arms of the latter; Mrs. Woodbourne started, turned pale, and looked so much alarmed, that Anne could not laugh. Harriet, however, was not so restrained, but laughed loudly as she placed upon a chair a little Blenheim spaniel, with a blue ribbon round his neck, and called to her sister Lucy to ’look after Fido.’ It presently appeared that the little dog had been given to them at the last place where they had been staying on the road to Abbeychurch; and Mrs. Hazleby and her eldest daughter continued for some time to expatiate upon the beauty and good qualities of Fido, as well as those of all his kith and kin. He was not, however, very cordially welcomed by anyone at the Vicarage; for Mr. Woodbourne greatly disliked little dogs in the house, his wife dreaded them much among her children, and there were symptoms of a deadly feud between him and Elizabeth’s only pet, the great black cat, Meg Merrilies. But still his birth, parentage, and education, were safe subjects of conversation; and all were sorry when Mrs. Hazleby had exhausted them, and began to remark how thin Elizabeth looked—to tell a story of a boy who had died of a fever, some said of neglect, at the school where Horace was—to hint at the possibility of Rupert’s having been lost on the Scottish mountains, blown up on the railroad, or sunk in a steam-vessel—to declare that girls were always spoiled by being long absent from home, and to dilate on the advantages of cheap churches.
She had nearly all the conversation to herself, the continual sound of her voice being only varied by Harriet’s notes and comments, given in a pert shrill, high key, and by a few syllables in answer from Lady Merton and Mrs. Woodbourne. The two gentlemen, happily for themselves, had a great quantity of plans and accounts of the church to look over together, which were likely to occupy them through the whole of Sir Edward’s visit. Elizabeth was busy numbering the Consecration tickets for the next day, and Anne in helping her, so that they sat quietly together in the inner drawing-room during the greater part of the evening.
When they went up-stairs to bed, Elizabeth exclaimed, ’Oh! that horrid new bonnet of mine! I had quite forgotten it, and I must trim it now, for I shall not have time to-morrow morning. I will run to Kate and Helen’s room, and fetch my share of the ribbon.’
As she returned and sat down to work, she continued, ’It is too much plague to quill up the ribbon as the others have theirs. It will do quite well enough plain. Now, Anne, do not you think that as long as dress is neat, which of course it must be, prettiness does not signify ?’
‘Perhaps I might think so, if I had to trim my own bonnets,’ said Anne, laughing.
’Ah! you do not think so—Anne, you who have everything about you, from your shoe-strings upwards, in the most complete order and elegant taste. But then, you know, you would do quite as well if the things were ugly.’