‘Poor man!’ said Elizabeth, ’I always wondered how he chanced to fall into her clutches. But did you hear no more?’
‘No more of her personal history,’ said Rupert; ’she kindly employed the rest of her time in giving me wise counsels.’
‘Oh! pray let us have the benefit of them,’ said Anne, who had by this time pretty well forgotten her prudence.
‘There were many regrets that I was not in the army,’ said Rupert, ’and many pieces of advice which would have been very useful if I had, but which I am afraid were thrown away upon me, ending with wise reflections upon the importance of a wise choice of a wife, especially for a young man of family, exposed to danger from designing young ladies, with cautions against beauty because of its perishable nature, and learning, because literary ladies are fit for nothing.’
‘Meaning to imply,’ said Elizabeth, ’how fortunate was Major Hazleby in meeting with so sweet a creature as the charming Miss Barbara Campbell, possessed of neither of these dangerous qualities.’
‘I do not know,’ said Anne; ’I think she might have possessed some of the former when she left Inchlitherock.’
’Before twenty years of managing and scolding had fixed her eyes in one perpetual stare,’ said Elizabeth. ‘But here we are at home.’
They found the hall table covered with parcels, which shewed that Mrs. Woodbourne and her party had returned from their drive, and the girls hastened up-stairs.
Anne found her mamma in her room, as well as Sir Edward, who was finishing a letter.
‘Well, Mamma, had you a prosperous journey?’ said she.
‘Yes, very much so,’ said Lady Merton: ’Mrs. Hazleby was in high good-humour, she did nothing but sing Rupert’s praises, and did not scold Mrs. Woodbourne as much as usual.’
‘And what have you been doing, Miss Anne?’ said Sir Edward; ’you are quite on the qui vive.’
’Oh! I have been laughing at the fun which Rupert and Lizzie have been making about Mrs. Hazleby,’ said Anne; ’I really could not help it, Mamma, and I do not think I began it.’
‘Began what?’ said Sir Edward.
’Why, Mamma was afraid I should seem to set Lizzie against her step-mother’s relations, if I quizzed them or abused them,’ said Anne.
’I do not think what you could say would make much difference in Lizzie’s opinion of them,’ said Sir Edward, ’but certainly I should think they were not the best subjects of conversation here.’
‘But I have not told you of the grand catastrophe,’ said Anne; ’we have found poor Fido drowned among the bulrushes.’
‘I hope Mrs. Woodbourne will be happy again,’ said Lady Merton.
‘And, Mamma, he must have fallen in while we were at the Mechanics’ Institute,’ said Anne; ’there is one bad consequence of our folly already.’
‘I cannot see what induced you to go,’ said Sir Edward; ’I thought Lizzie had more sense.’