‘O Mamma, there is no great harm done,’ said Elizabeth. She then went to fetch the frock, and gave it to the woman with a more gentle and sensible rebuke than could have been expected from the vehemence of her manner towards Mrs. Woodbourne a minute before. When this was done, and she had taken off her bonnet, she came to beckon Anne up-stairs.
‘So you have finished your labours,’ said Anne, taking up her work, while Elizabeth sat down to rule a copy-book for Winifred.
‘Yes,’ said Elizabeth, ’"we are free to sport and play;” I have read to the old woman, and crammed the children, and given old Mrs. Clayton a catalogue raisonnee of all the company and all their dresses, and a bill of fare of our luncheon and dinner, and where everything came from.’
‘And yet you profess to hold gossip in abomination,’ said Anne.
’Oh! but this is old gossip, regular legitimate amusement for the poor old lady,’ said Elizabeth. ’She really is a lady, but very badly off, and most of the Abbeychurch gentility are too fine to visit her, so that a little quiet chat with her is by no means of the common-place kind. Besides, she knows and loves us all like her own children. It was one of the first pleasures I can remember, to gather roses for her, and carry them to her from her own old garden here.’
‘Well, in consideration of all that you say,’ said Anne, ’I suppose I must forgive her for keeping you away all this afternoon.’
‘And what did you do all that time?’ said Elizabeth. ’Have you read Hereward, and do not you delight in him?’
‘Yes,’ said Anne, ’and I want to know whether he is not the father of Cedric of Rotherwood.’
‘He must have been his grandfather,’ said Elizabeth; ’Cedric lived a hundred years after.’
‘But Cedric remembered Torquilstone before the Normans came,’ said Anne.
’No, no, he could not, though he had been told what it had been before Front-de-Boeuf altered it,’ said Elizabeth.
‘And old Ulrica was there when Front-de-Boeuf’s father took it,’ said Anne.
‘I cannot tell how long a hag may live,’ said Elizabeth, ’but she could not have been less than a hundred and thirty years old in the time of Richard Coeur-de-Lion.’
‘Coeur-de-Lion came to the throne in 1189,’ said Anne. ’No, I suppose Torquil Wolfganger could not have been dispossessed immediately after the Conquest. But then you know Ulrica calls Cedric the son of the great Hereward.’
‘Her wits were a little out of order,’ said Elizabeth; ’either she meant his grandson, or Sir Walter Scott made as great an anachronism as when he made that same Ulrica compare Rebecca’s skin to paper. If she had said parchment, it would not have been such a compliment.’
‘How much interest Ivanhoe makes us take in the Saxons and Normans!’ said Anne.
’And what nonsense it is to say that works of fiction give a distaste for history,’ said Elizabeth.