Mrs. Bouverie was silent for a moment, and then said, ’Well, I must say, I am disappointed to find that you do not play.’
Elizabeth remembered how well her mother had, played, and it was plain to her that Mrs. Bouverie was noticing her for her mother’s sake. She looked down and coloured as she replied, ’Both my sisters are musical, and Helen is said to be likely to sing very well. I believe the history of my want of music to be,’ added she, with a bright smile, ’that I was too naughty to learn; and now, I am afraid —I am not sorry for it, as it would have taken up a great deal of time, and two singing sisters are surely enough for one family.’
‘I was in hopes of hearing,’ said Mrs. Bouverie, ’that you had trained your school-children to sing the sixty-fifth Psalm as nicely as they did to-day. I am sure their teacher must have come from the Vicarage.’
‘No,’ said Elizabeth, ’it was the school-master who taught them. Perhaps, if Helen had not been from home so long, she might have helped the girls, but when she came home three weeks ago, it was hardly worth while for her to begin. That is the only reason I ever wished to understand music.’
Mrs. Bouverie now began talking to her about the church and its architecture, and of the children, in exactly the way that Elizabeth liked, and in half an hour she saw more of Elizabeth’s true self than Miss Maynard had ever seen, though she had known her all her life. Miss Maynard had seen only her roughness. Mrs. Bouverie had found her way below it. Elizabeth was as sincere and open as the day, although from seldom meeting with anyone who could comprehend or sympathize with her ideas, her manners had acquired a degree of roughness and reserve, difficult to penetrate, and anything but attractive, suiting ill with her sweet smile and beaming eyes. She was talking quite happily and confidentially to Mrs. Bouverie, when she caught Mrs. Woodbourne’s eye, and seeing her look anxious, she remembered Winifred’s disaster, and took the first opportunity of hastening up-stairs to see whether the little girl’s hand was still in as favourable a state as when she left her.
A few moments after she had quitted the room, Sir Edward Merton approached Mrs. Bouverie, and took the place beside her, which Elizabeth had lately occupied.
’I hope Elizabeth has been gracious to you, as I see you have been so kind as to talk to her,’ said he, smiling.
‘Oh, I hope we are becoming good friends,’ said Mrs. Bouverie; ’I have seldom seen so young a girl shew as much mind as your niece.’
‘I am very glad to hear you say so,’ said Sir Edward, ’for she is apt to be rather more reserved with strangers than could be wished.’
’Perhaps she did not consider me as an entire stranger; I remember seeing her once when a most engaging little child of four or five years old,’ said Mrs. Bouverie; ’and now I hope our acquaintance will continue. Shall we see her at Marlowe Court to-morrow, as I believe we meet you there? Of course we shall see Miss Merton?’