‘That is more of a reason,’ said Anne; ’what a pity it is that Lucy is so shy!’
’Excessive shyness and reserve is what prevents her mother from being able to spoil her,’ said Elizabeth; ‘so do not regret it.’
‘Still I do not like to see you going out in this way,’ said Anne.
‘I may truly say that rain never hurts me,’ said Elizabeth; ’and if I once let one trifle stop me in these parish matters, I shall be stopped for ever, and never do anything. Perhaps I shall not come back this hour and a half, for old Mrs. Clayton must be dying to hear all about our Consecration, luncheon, dinner, &c., and as she is the widow of the last Vicar, we are in duty bound to be civil to her, and I must go and call upon her. Oh! you poor thing, I forgot how deserted you will be, and really the drawing-room is almost uninhabitable with that Bengal tiger in it. Here is that delightful Norman Conquest for you to read; pray look at the part about Hereward the Saxon.’
Elizabeth would not trust herself to stay with Anne any longer, and ran down-stairs, and might soon be heard putting up her umbrella and shutting the front door after her.
Anne found the afternoon pass rather heavily, in spite of the companionship of William the Conqueror and Hereward the Saxon, of assisting the children in a wet day game of romps, and of shewing Dora and Winifred the contents of the box they had admired the day before. Helen and Lucy were sitting at work very comfortably in the corner of the sofa in the inner drawing-room; Harriet and Katherine very busy contriving the spencer in the front drawing-room, keeping up a whispering accompaniment to the conversation of the elder ladies—if conversation it could be called, when Mrs. Hazleby had it all to herself, while giving Lady Merton and Mrs. Woodbourne an account of the discomforts she had experienced in country quarters in Ireland.
Sir Edward and Mr. Woodbourne were engaged in looking over the accounts of the church in the study, and Fido was trying to settle his disputes with Meg Merrilies, who, with arching back, tail erect, and eyes like flaming green glass, waged a continual war with him over her basket in the hall.
Anne was very glad to hear her cousin’s footstep in the hall as she returned. Coming straight to the drawing-room, Elizabeth exclaimed, ’Mamma, did you tell Mrs. Clarke that she might have a frock for Susan?’
‘Yes, my dear,’ said Mrs. Woodbourne; ’she asked me yesterday when you were not near, and I told her you would give her one. I thought the child looked very ragged.’
‘I suppose she must have it,’ said Elizabeth, looking much vexed; ’I told her she should not, a month ago, unless she sent the children to school regularly, and they have scarcely been there five days in the last fortnight.’
‘I wish I had known it, my dear,’ said Mrs. Woodbourne; ’you know I am always very sorry to interfere with any of your plans.’