‘Will they submit to such treatment?’ said Anne.
‘Oh yes, my dear,’ said Elizabeth; ’they want us as little as we want them; they only want a little civility, and I will not be so sparing of that useful commodity as I was yesterday evening. And now, Anne, I am going to beg your pardon for being so excessively rude to Harriet, as I was last night. She did not mind it, but you did, and much more than if it had been to yourself.’
‘I believe I did,’ said Anne; ’other people do not know what you mean when you set up your bristles, and I do. Besides, I was sorry for Lucy, who looks as if she had sensitiveness enough for the whole family.’
‘Poor Lucy!’ said Elizabeth;
“A weary lot is thine,
A weary lot is thine.”
Yes, Lucy has very deep feeling; you may see it in the painful flushing of her cheek, and the downcast look of her eye, when her mother and sister expose themselves. I really believe that that poor girl has more to endure than most people.’
‘O Lizzie,’ said Anne, ‘how differently you spoke of her yesterday!’
‘Yes,’ said Elizabeth, ’but then I was furious with Mrs. Hazleby; and besides, I believe the truth was, that I was very tired and very cross, not exactly the way in which I intended to conclude the Consecration day; and now I am in my senses, I am very sorry I behaved as I did. But, Anne, though I hereby retract all I said in dispraise of Lucy, and confess that I was rude to Harriet, do not imagine that I disavow all I said about society last night, for I assure you that I expressed my deliberate opinion.’
‘Your deliberate opinion, my dear?’ said Anne, laughing.
‘Yes, my deliberate opinion, my dear,’ repeated Elizabeth. ’Pray why should not I have a deliberate opinion, as well as Hannah More, or Locke on the Human Understanding, or anyone else?’
‘Because,’ rejoined Anne, ’I think that if the rest of the world were of your deliberate opinion, there would soon be a lock on the human understanding.’
‘I am sure I think there is at present,’ returned Elizabeth; ’did you see Aunt Anne last night wasted upon Mrs. Dale, obliged to listen to the dullest stuff that ever was invented, and poor Mamma frightened out of her wits? I should not wonder if she had dreamt of mad dogs all night.’
‘I do not defend Mrs. Dale’s powers of intellect,’ said Anne, ’but I should have thought that you at least had little reason to complain. You were very well off next to Mrs. Bouverie.’
‘Oh! Mrs. Bouverie is a rara avis, an exception to the general rule,’ said Elizabeth; ’but you know, she or my uncle, or aunt, or Papa, are generally forced to put a lock on their understanding. Why, Anne, what are you laughing at?’
‘Lizzie, I beg your pardon,’ said Anne, trying to check herself, ’but I could not help it. Your speech put me in mind of the prints from Albano’s four elements. Do not you remember Juno’s visit to AEolus, where he is opening the door of a little corner cupboard where he keeps the puff-cheeked winds locked up? Do you mean to say that Mamma keeps her mighty powers of mind locked up in the same way, for fear they should burst out and overwhelm everybody?’