‘That is to say, you burnt it without reading it,’ said Anne.
‘The former part of your supposition is true, sweet sister mine,’ replied Rupert: ’not knowing what spells it might contain, seeing that Miss Merton’s caligraphy is more like the cabalistic characters of a sorceress than the Italian-hand of a gentle demoiselle, I exorcised it—I committed it to the devouring element!’
’Without turning over the second page of the second piece of note-paper, I suppose?’ said Anne.
’How was I ever to suppose that anyone would write a letter for the purpose of giving me an important piece of information,’ said Rupert, ’and then put the pith of it in a place where no one would ever dream of looking? No, Lady Elizabeth, if by my absence your feast has lost its brightest ornament, its wittiest and wisest cavalier, it is this sister of mine whom you must accuse!’
It was really not a little provoking to be blamed in this manner for Rupert’s own carelessness; but Anne was used to her brother’s ways, and could bear them with good humour. Elizabeth, however, attacked him. ’Why, Rupert, one would suppose you had never heard where a woman’s mind is to be found! These are most futile excuses.’
‘I will only attempt one other,’ said the truant—’the utter worthlessness of young ladies’ letters, which is such as not to encourage their friends to make any very strict researches into them.’
‘Worse and worse!’ said Elizabeth; ’you have certainly behaved most cavalierly, that must be confessed! We are only considering what punishment you deserve.’
‘I deserve the punishment I have had, Lizzie,’ said Rupert; ’I have missed the Consecration, and three days of this fair company!’
’Besides that, you will be held up ever after as a warning to Horace and Edward,’ said Elizabeth.
‘I saw that first-mentioned pupil of yours on Sunday,’ said Rupert.
‘Oh! how pleased Mamma will be!’ cried Elizabeth; ’then you went to Sandleford?’
’Yes; finding myself too late for the coach on Saturday afternoon, by which I had intended to go to Ely,’ said Rupert, ’I made up my mind to spend Sunday at Sandleford, and take a cursory view of the young gentleman, and of my old haunts.’
‘Thank you,’ said Elizabeth, her eyes beaming with pleasure; ’I am sure that was very kind of you. And how did he look, poor little fellow, and what did he say, and was not he delighted to see you?’
‘I shall leave you to judge of that,’ said Rupert, ’and say that he looked very happy and flourishing, with face and shirt-collar all over ink on Saturday afternoon; and he said more than I can remember on Sunday evening.’
‘And what does Dr. Freeman say of him?’ said Elizabeth.
’Dr. Freeman assured me—what do you think, young ladies?—that Master Horatio Woodbourne is by far the most promising youth who has entered his celebrated academy since—of course you know whom I mean, and will spare my blushes!’