‘It is to please our father and mother,’ said Anne.
‘Yes, and that is the reason it must be done,’ said Elizabeth; ’it is the way of the world, and cannot be helped.’
‘Rather say it is the trial which has been ordained for us,’ said Anne.
‘Well,’ said Elizabeth, smiling, ’I know all the time that you have the best of the argument. It would not be so if it was not good for us.’
‘And as it is,’ said Anne, ’I believe that there is more enjoyment in the present order of things, than there would be in any arrangement we could devise.’
‘Oh! doubtless,’ said Elizabeth, ’just as the corn ripens better with all the disasters that seem to befall it, than it would if we had the command of the clouds.’
‘Of course,’ said Anne, ’you really are a much more reasonable creature than you pretend to be, Lizzie.’
‘Am I?’ said Elizabeth. ’Well, I will just tell you my great horror, and I suppose you will laugh at me. I can endure gossip for old people who cannot employ themselves, and must talk, and have nothing to talk of but their neighbours; but only think of those wretched faineants who go chattering on, wasting their own time and other people’s, doing no good on the face of the earth, and a great deal of harm.’
’But these unfortunates are probably quite as unable to talk on any very wise subjects, as your beloved old people, to whom you give a license to gossip,’ said Anne; ’and you do not wish to condemn them to perpetual silence. They are most likely to be estimable people, who ought to be amused.’
‘Estimable—yes, perhaps,’ said Elizabeth, ’but then I cannot esteem a silly gossip.’
‘Why, Lizzie,’ cried Anne, ’you are still at the old story that it is better to be wicked than stupid; at least, you reason upon that foundation, though you do not really think so.’
‘I believe,’ said Elizabeth, ’that there must be some great crook in my mind; for though I know and believe as firmly as I do any other important thing, that mere intellect is utterly worthless, I cannot feel it; it bewitches me as beauty does some people, and I suppose always will, till I grow old and stupid, or get my mind into better order.’
‘Really,’ said Anne, ’I think the strongest proof of your beginning to grow old and stupid, is your doing such a very common-place thing, as to abuse honest gossip.’
There was service at St. Mary’s Church on Wednesday and Friday mornings; but on this day the rain was so violent, that of all the party at the Vicarage, the Mertons, and Elizabeth, Katherine, and Helen, alone ventured to go to church.
When they returned, Anne followed her mother to her room, to talk over the events of the previous day. After much had been said of the Consecration, and also of their wonder and regret at Rupert’s absence, Anne said, ’How strange it seems to lose sight of you and Papa as I have done ever since I have been here! Mamma, I have scarcely been with you at all, and never see Papa but when he is talking to Uncle Woodbourne, and everyone else is in the room.’