’I wonder how such a candid person as you are, can defend the slightest departure from truth for any purpose,’ said Helen.
’I would not defend anyone whom I did not believe to be upright and open,’ said Elizabeth; ’but it is only your slowness, and old spite against Rupert because he used to joke you, that puts these fancies into your head. Now I must go to the children; I hope, Helen, you will really enter into the spirit of the day, little as you seem to care about the church.’
Helen gave a deep sigh as her sister left the room; she was vexed at having been laughed at, at the disregard of her arguments, at the reproach, and perhaps a little at Elizabeth’s having taken no notice of the beautiful pyramid of cherries which had cost her half an hour’s labour.
There was some truth in what Helen said of her cousin, though few would have given his faults so much prominence. Rupert Merton was an only son, and very handsome, and this was the history of nearly all his foibles. No one could say that his career at school, and so far at college, had not been everything that could be wished, and most people had nearly as high an opinion of him as he had of himself; but Helen, who had almost always been made a laughing-stock when he was with her, had not quite so agreeable a recollection of his lively, graceful, pleasant manners as her sisters had, and was glad to find that his tormenting ways were not entirely caused by her own querulous temper, as Elizabeth sometimes told her they were.
When Mrs. Woodbourne came down, Helen’s handiwork received its full share of admiration, and Mrs. Woodbourne was much pleased by the girls’ forethought and activity, which had saved her from a great deal of fatigue.
The breakfast was quickly finished, and immediately afterwards the four eldest Miss Woodbournes, together with Anne, went to the school to see if the children were ready to go to church. It was pleasant to see the smiling courtesying row of girls, each with her Prayer-book in her hand, replying to Elizabeth’s nods, greetings, and questions, with bright affectionate looks, or a few words, which shewed that they were conscious of the solemnity of the service in which they were about to bear a part.
Elizabeth left her sisters and Anne to assist the school-mistress in marshalling them on their way to church, and returned home to fetch Edward and Winifred, whom she had engaged to take with her. She found that nearly all the party were gone, and report said that the Bishop had arrived at the house of Mr. Somerville, who was to be curate of St. Austin’s. Winifred and Edward were watching for her at the door, in great dread of being forgotten, for they said, ’Papa had come for Mamma, and fetched her away in a great hurry, and then Harriet and Lucy set off after them, and Uncle Edward had taken Aunt Anne long before to look at the church.’ Elizabeth was rejoicing in the prospect of a quiet walk with the children, and was only delaying in a vain attempt to reduce the long fingers of Winifred’s glove to something more like the length of the short fingers of its owner, when a sharp voice at the top of the stairs cried out, ‘Wait for me!’ and Mrs. Hazleby appeared, looking very splendid in a short black silk cloak trimmed with scarlet.