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Abbeychurch(9)

2006-08-28 14:17

    Chapter IX.

    Although she had sat up so much later than usual the night before, Anne was dressed on Saturday morning in time to go to her mother's room for a little while before breakfast.

    'Mamma,' said she, after they had spoken of Rupert's arrival, 'where do you think we went yesterday evening?'

    'Where, my dear?'

    'To hear a lecture at the Mechanics' Institute, Mamma.'

    'I should not have thought that your uncle would have approved of his daughters going to such a place,' said Lady Merton.

    'Do you think we ought not to have gone, Mamma?' said Anne.

    'I do not know the circumstances, my dear,' said Lady Merton; 'the Mechanics' Institute may perhaps be under your uncle's management, and in that case——'

    'Oh no,' said Anne. 'I do not think it is——at least, I do not think Uncle Woodbourne would have liked the lecture we heard much better than Lizzie and I did; and after it was too late, I found that Helen had declared it was very wrong of us to go. She would not go; and I found that when I was out of the room, she and Lizzie had had a great debate about it.'

    Anne then gave a full account of all that had occurred, and ended with, 'Now, Mamma, do you think we could have helped going on after we once came to Mrs. Turner's, and found what kind of a thing it was likely to be?'

    'People certainly cannot stop themselves easily when they have taken the first wrong step,' said Lady Merton.

    Anne sighed. 'Then I am afraid we have done very wrong,' said she.

    'For yourself, Anne,' said her mother, 'I do not think you are much to blame, since I cannot see how you were to know that your cousins were going without their father's consent.'

    'I am glad you think so, Mamma,' said Anne; 'but I cannot be quite happy about it, for I might certainly have supposed that there was some reason against our going, when Helen and the youngest Miss Hazleby turned back and went home.'

    'You heard none of Helen's remonstrances?' said Lady Merton.

    'No, Mamma; I was foolish enough to be satisfied with Lizzie's saying that she had been talking nonsense,' said Anne; 'besides, I could see that Helen was out of temper, and I thought that might account for her objecting.'

    'These are very good reasons, Anne,' said Lady Merton.

    'Indeed they are not, Mamma,' said Anne; 'I am afraid the real cause was, that my head was so full of the pleasure I expected in going to the lecture, that I did not choose to think that we ought not to go. I am afraid I am growing thoughtless, as you said I should here.'

    'No, no, Anne,' said Lady Merton, smiling, 'I did not say you would, I only said you must guard against doing so; and as far as I have seen, you have shewn more self-command than when you and Lizzie were last together.'

    'Ah! but when you are not looking on, Mamma,' said Anne; 'that is the dangerous time, especially now Rupert is come; he and Lizzie will make us laugh dreadfully.'

    'I hope they will,' said Lady Merton, 'provided it is without flippancy or unkindness.'

    'But, Mamma,' said Anne, presently after, 'what do you think about Lizzie? was she in the wrong?'

    'I cannot tell without knowing more about it,' said Lady Merton; 'do you know what she thinks herself?'

    'No, Mamma,' said Anne; 'she was asleep before I went to bed last night, and up before I awoke this morning. But I do firmly believe, that if Lizzie had had the slightest idea that she was doing wrong in going there, she would as soon have thought of flying as of doing so.'

    It was now breakfast-time; and Rupert came up to summon his mother and sister, and to inform them that his portmanteau had just been broken open for the seventh time since it had been in his possession. He said this with some satisfaction, for he was somewhat vain of his carelessness, for of what cannot people be vain?

    During breakfast, it was arranged that the three elder ladies should go in the Mertons' carriage to Baysmouth, a large town, which was about ten miles distant from Abbeychurch, and take Winifred and Edward with them; Dora was to accompany the other young people in a long walk, to a farm-house, which report said had been a baronial castle in the days of King Stephen, and from exploring the antiquities of which some of them expected great things, especially as it was known by the mysterious name of Whistlefar. Mr. Woodbourne and Sir Edward expected to be engaged all day in the final settlement of accounts with the architect of the church.

    As soon as the two parties of pleasure had been arranged, Elizabeth left the breakfast-table to tell the children of the treat in store for them, and to write a little note to Horace, to accompany Dora's letter, which had been finished that morning before breakfast.

    Just after she had quitted the room, Sir Edward asked what the smart- looking building, at the corner of Aurelia Place, was.

    'You mean the Mechanics' Institute,' said Mr. Woodbourne.

    'Never was new town without one,' said Rupert.

    'Is this one well conducted?' inquired Lady Merton.

    'Not much worse than such things usually are,' replied Mr. Woodbourne; 'two or three Socialist lectures were given there, but they were stopped before they had time to do much harm.'

    'Were you obliged to interfere?' said Sir Edward.

    'Yes,' said Mr. Woodbourne; 'I went to some of the managing committee——Mr. Green and old Mr. Turner——and after some rather strong representations on my part, they found means to put a stop to them. Higgins, their chief promoter, made several violent attacks upon me in his newspaper for my illiberality and bigotry; and poor Mr. Turner was so much distressed, that he came to entreat me to go myself, or at least to allow my girls to go, to some lectures, which he promised should be perfectly harmless. I told him that I disapproved of Mechanics' Institutes in general, and especially of the way in which this one is conducted, and that I had resolved long before that none of my family should ever set foot in it. Here the matter ended; and I have heard no more of it, except that Mrs. Turner is constantly tormenting my wife with offers to take the girls to some peculiarly interesting lecture.'

    If Elizabeth had been present, she would certainly have immediately confessed her indiscretion of the evening before; but she was not there, and Katherine, who was on the point of speaking, was checked by an imploring glance from Harriet. The conversation was changed, and nothing more was said on the subject. As soon as they could leave the breakfast-table, all the young ladies instantly flew to the school-room, where Elizabeth was sitting alone, writing.

    'Lizzie, Lizzie!' exclaimed three voices at once, 'do you know what you have done ?'

    'Is it anything very fatal?' said Elizabeth, looking quite composed.

    'A fine scrape you have got into!' cried Katherine.

    'A pretty kettle of fish you have brought us into!' exclaimed Harriet.

    'But what is the matter, good ladies?' said Elizabeth; 'why do you look so like the form that drew Priam's curtains at the dead of night?'

    'Come, Lizzie,' said Katherine pettishly, 'do not be so provoking with Priam and all that stuff, but tell us what is to be done about that horrid Institute.'

    'Oh! that is it, is it?' said Elizabeth; 'so I suppose Fido was stolen there, and you are afraid to tell!'

    'I am afraid he was,' said Katherine; 'but that is not the worst of it——I know nothing about him. But do you know what Papa says? Uncle Edward has been asking about the Institute; and, oh dear! oh dear! Papa said he could not bear Mechanics' Institutes, and had resolved quite firmly that none of his family should ever set foot in one!'

    Elizabeth really looked quite appalled at this piece of intelligence; and Katherine continued, 'And Chartists, and Socialists, and horrible people, have been lecturing there! I remember now, that when you were at Merton Hall in the spring, there was a great uproar, and the Abbeychurch Reporter behaved very badly to Papa about it. A fine affair you have made of it, indeed, Lizzie!'

    'And pray, Miss Kate,' said Elizabeth sharply, 'who was the person who first proposed this fine expedition? Really, I think, if everyone had their deserts, you would have no small share of blame! What could prevent you from telling me all this yesterday, when it seems you knew it all the time?'

    'I forgot it,' said Katherine.

    'Exactly like you,' continued her sister; 'and how could you listen to all Helen said, and not be put in mind of it? And how could you bring me back such a flaming description of Mrs. Turner's august puppy of a nephew? If we are in a kettle of fish, as Harriet says, you are at the bottom of it!'

    'Well, Lizzie,' said Katherine, 'do not be so cross; you know Mamma says I have such a bad memory, I cannot help forgetting.'

    And she began to cry, which softened Elizabeth's anger a little.

    'I did not mean to throw all the blame upon you, Kate,' said she; 'I know I ought not to have trusted to you; besides that, I led you all into it, being the eldest. I only meant to shew you that you are not quite so immaculate as you seem to imagine. We have all done very wrong, and must take the consequences.'

    Helen was leaving the room, when Harriet died out, 'O Helen, pray do not go and tell of us!'

    'Helen has no such intention,' said Elizabeth; 'I am going to tell Papa myself as soon as he has done breakfast.'

    'Oh! Lizzie, dearest Lizzie,' cried Harriet, 'I beg you will not; you do not know what Mamma would do to me!'

    'Pray, Harriet,' said Elizabeth scornfully, 'do you think that I am going to conceal my own faults from my own father?'

    'But, Lizzie, stop one moment,' said Harriet; 'you know it was you and Kate who took me; I did not know it was wrong to go; and now Fido is lost, Mamma will be certain to say it was by my going, and she will be dreadfully angry with me; and you would not wish me to be scolded for what was your fault!'

    'Should not you wish me to tell, Anne,' said Elizabeth, turning her back upon Harriet.

    'I told Mamma this morning,' said Anne.

    'Told her!' exclaimed Harriet; 'and what did she say——?'

    'She said she wondered that my cousins were allowed to go to such a place,' said Anne; 'and she seemed very sorry we had gone.'

    'But was she angry with you?' persisted Harriet.

    Anne hesitated; and Elizabeth replied, 'No, of course she could not be angry with Anne, when it was all my doing. She must be displeased enough with me, though.'

    'But will she tell Mamma and Aunt Mildred?' said Harriet.

    'I do not think she will,' answered Anne.

    'No, because she trusts to me to tell,' said Elizabeth; 'so that you see I must, Harriet.'

    'Must you?' said Harriet; 'I cannot see why; it will only get us all a scolding.'

    'Which we richly deserve,' said Elizabeth.

    'I am sure, if you like to be scolded,' said Harriet, 'you are very welcome; only do not make Mamma scold me too.'

    'I am sure, if you like to be insincere and cowardly,' said Elizabeth, 'you shall not make me so too.'

    'I do not want you to tell a fib,' said Harriet; 'I only want you to say nothing.'

    'L'un vaut bien l'autre,' said Elizabeth.

    'What?' said Harriet; 'do only wait till we are gone, if you are determined to tell——there's a dear girl.'

    'Deceive Papa and Mamma for three whole days!' cried Elizabeth; 'I wonder you are not ashamed of yourself. Besides, Harriet, I do not see what you have to fear. It was Kate and I who did wrong; we knew better, and cast away Helen's good advice; we shut our eyes and went headlong into mischief, but you had no reason to suppose that you might not do as we did.'

    'No,' said Harriet, 'I should not care if it was not for Fido.'

    'But will my silence find Fido?' said Elizabeth.

    'No,' said Harriet; 'but if Mamma knows we went there she will scold us for going, because she will be angry about Fido; and if she once thinks that it was I who lost him——oh, Lizzie, you do not know how angry she will be!'

    'But, Harriet,' said Katherine, 'I thought you used to say that you could do anything with your Mamma, and that she never minded where you went.'

    'Oh! that is when she is in good humour,' said Harriet; 'she is not often cross with me, but when she is, you may hear her from one end of the house to the other. Cannot you, Lucy? And now she will be dreadfully cross about Fido, and the other thing coming upon it, I do not know what she may say. O Lizzie, you will save me!'

    'I will only tell of Kate and myself,' said Elizabeth; 'or I will ask Papa not to mention it to Mrs. Hazleby; though, Harriet, there are some people who prefer any suffering, just or unjust, to deceit.'

    'Then you mean to tell directly,' said Katherine, in a piteous tone.

    'Of course I do,' said Elizabeth; 'there is the dining-room door shut. Come with me, Kate.'

    Katherine rather unwillingly followed her sister into the passage; but when there, fear making her ingenious, a sudden thought struck her. 'Lizzie,' whispered she, 'if you tell Papa that you and I went, Mrs. Hazleby will be sure to hear, and if she asks Harriet about it, perhaps she——you know——may tell a story about it.'

    'Fine confidence you shew in your chosen friend!' said Elizabeth.

    'Why, one must be civil; and Harriet is a sort of cousin,' said Katherine; 'but I am sure she is not half so much my friend as Willie.'

    'Well, never mind defending your taste in friends,' said Elizabeth; 'for as I do think your scruple worth answering, I will tell you that I had thought of the same thing; but I do not choose to do evil that good may come, or that evil may not come. I shall tell Papa what an excellent opinion you have of Harriet, and leave him to do as he pleases.'

    Elizabeth's hand was on the lock of the door of her father's study, when Katherine exclaimed, 'There is someone there——I hear voices!'

    'Uncle Edward,' said Elizabeth. 'I do not mind his being there; we ought to beg his pardon for leading Anne astray.'

    'Oh! but do not you see,' said Katherine, 'here are a hat and a roll of papers on the table! Mr. Roberts must be come.'

    'Tiresome man!' cried Elizabeth; 'he will be there all day, and I shall not see Papa I do not know when. It really was a very convenient thing when the architects of the old German cathedrals used to take a desperate leap from the top of the tower as soon as it was finished. Well, I must find Mamma now.'

    'Cannot you wait till the evening, when you may see Papa?' said Katherine, hoping to put off the evil day.

    'I cannot have this upon my mind all day unconfessed,' said Elizabeth; 'besides, Harriet will pester me with entreaties as long as it is untold. Come, Kitty, do not be such a coward.'

    'I am sure I do not want you not to tell,' said Katherine, looking rather miserable; 'only I am not in such a hurry about it as you are. You do not know where Mamma is.'

    'No, but I will find her,' said Elizabeth.

    The sisters set off on the chase; they looked into the drawing-room, the dining-room, Mrs. Woodbourne's room, without success; they ran up to the nursery, but she was not there; and they were going down again, when Katherine, seeing Elizabeth go towards the kitchen stairs, exclaimed, 'Well, I will go no further; it is so ridiculous, as if it was a matter of life and death! You may call if you want me.'

    Katherine retreated into her own room, and Elizabeth ran down to the kitchen, where she found Mrs. Woodbourne ordering dinner.

    Elizabeth stood by the fire, biting her lip and pinching her finger, and trembling all over with impatience, while Mrs. Woodbourne and the cook were busily consulting over some grouse which Rupert had brought from Scotland.

    'Lizzie, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodbourne presently, 'would you just run to my room and fetch down the green receipt-book?'

    Elizabeth obeyed: running was rather a relief to her, and she was down-stairs again in another instant.

    'Why, Lizzie,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, with a smile, 'you must be wild to-day; you have brought me the account-book instead of——But, my dear child, what is the matter?' said she, perceiving that Elizabeth's face was scarlet, and her eyes full of tears.

    'I will tell you presently,' whispered Elizabeth, breathlessly, 'when you have done.' She darted away again, and returned with the right book; but Mrs, Woodbourne was too much alarmed by her manner to spend another moment in giving directions to the cook, and instantly followed her to her own room. Elizabeth hastily shut the door, and sat down to recover her breath.

    'My dear Lizzie, there is nothing amiss with any of the——' exclaimed Mrs. Woodbourne, almost gasping for breath.

    'Oh no, Mamma,' said Elizabeth, a smile passing over her face in spite of her distress, 'it is not Winifred who is mad. It is I who have been more mad and foolish and self-willed than you would ever believe. Mamma, I have been with Mrs. Turner to the Mechanics' Institute.'

    'My dear Lizzie, you do not mean it!' said Mrs. Woodbourne.

    'Yes, Mamma, indeed it is so,' said Elizabeth mournfully; 'I did not know what had happened there certainly, but I would not listen to Helen's good advice, and so I have made Papa seem to consent to what he abhors; I have led Kate and Anne and Harriet all wrong. Oh! Mamma, is not it terrible?'

    'Indeed, I wish I had told you what your Papa said to Mr. Turner,' said Mrs. Woodbourne; 'I am afraid your papa will be very much annoyed; but, my dear, do not distress yourself, you could not know that it was wrong.'

    'Yes; but, Mamma,' said Elizabeth, 'I did know that it was wrong to go out without asking your leave. Simple obedience might have kept me straight. But now I will tell you all, and you shall judge what had best be done about the Hazlebys and Fido.'

    Rather incoherently, and with many sobs, Elizabeth told the history of the preceding evening. Mrs. Woodbourne listened to her with the utmost kindness, and said all she could to soothe and console her, assuring her that Mr. Woodbourne could not be seriously displeased with her for having transgressed a command of which she was ignorant. Elizabeth was much relieved by having been able to talk over her conduct in this manner; and though she still felt that she had been very much to blame, and by no means sure that Mr. Woodbourne would pass over her fault so lightly, was greatly comforted by her mamma's kindness. She went away to bathe her swollen eyes, before she went down to the school-room to read the Psalms and Lessons with her sisters, as was their regular custom when there was no service at the church, before they began their morning's work; Mrs. Woodbourne undertaking to call the children down in a few minutes, and saying that she would speak to Katherine in the course of the day. She willingly promised to say nothing to Mrs. Hazleby, and only wished she was quite sure that there were no symptoms of madness about Fido.

    'What a strange girl Lizzie is!' cried Harriet, just as Elizabeth departed on her search for her father or Mrs. Woodbourne.

    'But, Harriet,' said Lucy, drawing her aside to the window, 'what difference is her saying nothing to make? Mamma will ask how Fido was lost.'

    'I am sure, Lucy, that was more your fault than mine,' said Harriet; 'I could not be watching him all the time we were at that place.'

    'Then why did you take him there?' said Helen.

    'Because Lucy chose to run away without ever thinking what I was to do,' said Harriet.

    'But when you were leading him, and it must have been you who let go his string,' said Helen; 'I cannot see how you can accuse Lucy of having been the means of losing him, when she was safe at home.'

    Harriet was saved from the necessity of finding an answer, by hearing her mother calling her in the passage, and she hastened to obey the summons.

    'Do you know where Fido is?' was Mrs. Hazleby's question.

    'No,' said Harriet, finding she had only escaped one dilemma to fall into another. She avoided any further questions, however, by hastening past her mother and running up-stairs.

    'Lucy, Lucy!' then called Mrs. Hazleby; and as Lucy came out of the school-room, she repeated the inquiry.

    'I do not know, Mamma,' answered Lucy in a low voice, but standing quite still.

    'Go and ask for him in the kitchen then,' said Mrs. Hazleby.

    'I am afraid it would be of no use. Ma'am,' said Lucy, firmly, but not daring to raise her eyes; 'we missed him when we came in from walking, yesterday evening.'

    'Yesterday evening!' cried Mrs. Hazleby; 'and did you never speak of it? I never knew anyone so careless as you are, in all my life. It is of no use to leave anything in your charge, you care for——'

    Here Lucy leant back and shut the door behind her, so that Anne and Helen could distinguish nothing but the sound of Mrs. Hazleby's loud angry voice raised to its highest pitch.

    'Poor Lucy!' sighed Helen.

    'Dreadful!' said Anne.

    'And how can anyone say that Lucy is not one of the noblest, most self-devoted creatures upon earth?' exclaimed Helen, with tears in her eyes; 'there she is, bearing all that terrible scolding, rather than say it was Harriet's fault, as everyone knows it was. I am sure no one is like Lucy. And this is going on continually about something or other.'

    'How can she exist?' said Anne.

    'With her acute feelings and painful timidity,' said Helen, 'it is worse for her than it would be for anyone else, yet how gently and simply she bears it all! and old Mrs. Hazleby says that she is often ill after these scoldings, and she would have taken her away to live with her, as the Major proposed, after Miss Dorothea Hazleby died, but that she thought it would be taking away all the comfort of her father's life. Oh! Anne,' cried Helen, walking up and down the room as Mrs. Hazleby's voice became louder and louder, 'I cannot bear it; what shall I do? Oh! if it was but right, if it would not make it worse for Lucy, I could, I would go out and tell Mrs. Hazleby what everybody thinks of her.'

    'I do not wonder that Miss Hazleby was ready to do almost anything to avoid such a scene,' said Anne.

    'Mean selfish creature!' said Helen; 'she ran away on purpose that Lucy might stay and bear all this. Anne, I do believe that if martyrs are made, and crowns are gained, by daily sufferings and hourly self-denial, that such a crown will be dear dear Lucy's.'

    Anne's answer was——

    'And all the happy souls that rode Transfigured through that fresh abode,Had heretofore in humble trust,Shone meekly 'mid their native dust,The glow-worms of the earth!' 'Thank you, Anne,' said Helen, wiping away her tears; 'I will think of Lucy as the light, the glow-worm of her family. Thank you; the thought of her meek clear light in darkness need not be gloomy, as it has been.'

    Anne had never thought of Helen as possessing so much enthusiasm, and was almost more inclined to wonder at her than at Lucy. While they had been talking, Mrs. Hazleby's voice had ceased, steps were now heard in the passage, and a letter was brought in and given to Helen. It was from Fanny Staunton, but she had only just time to glance it over, before the three children came in, followed by their mother and Elizabeth. Anne went to call her mother to join them in reading the Psalms and Lessons; and Winifred was sent to summon Katherine, who had purposely lingered up-stairs till all the rest were assembled.

    Elizabeth's eyes were very red, and she was afraid to trust her voice to read the first verse of the Psalm, as it was always her part to do; but little Dora, who sat next to her, and who seemed in part to enter into her feelings, although she said nothing, read the first verse for her; and Elizabeth took Edward, who always looked over her book, upon her knee when the Lessons began, so as to screen her face from her aunt. When they had finished, attention was drawn away from her by Edward, who was eagerly assuring Lady Merton that the Bible and Prayer-book which Uncle Edward, his godfather, had given him, were quite safe, and he was to use them himself when Lizzie thought he could read well enough. This Dora explained as meaning when he had for a week abstained from guessing words instead of spelling them; and Elizabeth proposed to him to try whether he could read to- day without one mistake. Edward objected to reading at that time, as he was to go out at half-past twelve, and there would be no time for lessons. Elizabeth demonstrated that it was now only half-past ten, and that it was impossible that he could spend two hours in putting on his best frock and trowsers, and in settling what to buy with the bright half-crown which Uncle Edward had given him; and Winifred assured him that she meant to do all her lessons to-day. Edward looked round to appeal to his mother, but both she and Lady Merton had left the room, and he was forced to content himself with asking Anne whether she thought there was time.

    'Oh yes, Edward; I hope you will let me hear how well you can read; I want to know whether the young robins saw any more monsters,' said Anne good-naturedly.

    Winifred, rather inopportunely, was ready with the information, that the nest was visited by two more monsters; but Anne stopped her ears, and declared she would hear nothing but from Edward himself, and the young gentleman was thus persuaded to begin his lesson.

    Helen did not wait to see how the question was decided, but went up to her own room to enjoy Fanny Staunton's letter. She paused however a few moments, to consider whether she should go to Lucy, but thinking that it must certainly be painful to her to speak of what had passed, she proceeded to her own room, there to send her whole heart and mind to Dykelands.

    Fanny Staunton's letter was overflowing with affection and with regrets for Helen's departure; and this, together with her descriptions of her own and her sister's amusements and occupations, made Helen's heart yearn more strongly than ever after the friends she had left. Anne's cheerful manner, and Lucy's quiet content, had, the day before, made Helen rather ashamed of herself, and she had resolved to leave off pining for Dykelands, and to make herself happy, by being useful and obliging, without thinking about little grievances, such as almost everyone could probably find in their own home, if they searched for them. When she had curled her hair, it was with the hope that the sacrifice of her tails would convince Elizabeth that she had some regard for her taste; unfortunately, however, her hair was rather too soft to curl well, and after having been plaited for the last three months, it was most obstinate in hanging deplorably straight, in a way very uncomfortable to her feelings and irritating to her temper; besides which, Elizabeth had been too much occupied by her own concerns all the morning, to observe the alteration, and indeed, if she had remarked it, she was not likely to feel as much flattered by this instance of deference to her opinion, as Helen thought she ought to be. Last night, Helen had lamented that her own petulance had prevented her from reasoning calmly with Elizabeth, and from setting before her all the arguments upon which she had discoursed so fluently to Lucy, after the imprudent step had been taken; but now, she threw the blame upon Elizabeth's impetuosity and unkindness, and felt somewhat aggrieved, because neither of her sisters had expressed a full sense of her firmness and discretion. She compared Fanny's affectionate expressions, with Elizabeth's sharp and hasty manner; the admiration which her friends had made rather too evident, with the wholesome though severe criticisms she sometimes met with at home; the quietness at Dykelands, with the constant bustle at the Vicarage; and ended, by thinking Mrs. Woodbourne the only person of the family who possessed any gentleness or kindness, and making up her mind that Dykelands was the only pleasant place in England, and that she herself was a most ill-used person, whose merits were not in the least appreciated.

    Such were the feelings which gradually took possession of her mind, while she was writing her answer to Fanny's letter; and by the time she had finished, had brought her into that agreeable frame, which is disposed to be offended with the first person who does not act up to its expectations.

    Katherine's study, through the whole morning, was to avoid a private interview with Mrs. Woodbourne; and she really shewed considerable ingenuity in evading her. If Mrs. Woodbourne called her, she answered, 'Yes, Mamma, I am coming directly,' but she took care not to come till she knew that her mamma was no longer alone; if Lady Merton wanted anything which she had left up-stairs, Katherine would officiously volunteer to fetch it, when particularly told that she was not wanted; if Mrs. Woodbourne moved to the door, and made signs to Katherine to follow her, she worked with double assiduity, and never looked up unless to speak to Rupert or to Harriet; and thus she contrived to elude the reproof she expected, until the whole party, except the two gentlemen, met at twelve o'clock for an early luncheon, so that there was no longer any danger that Mrs. Woodbourne would find an opportunity of speaking to her, at present.

    The three children were to dine late with the rest of the party, and were in high glee at the prospect of the afternoon's amusement; Elizabeth seemed to have recovered her spirits; Harriet was as noisy as ever; and Lucy, if possible, a little quieter than was her wont; Anne, as usual, ready to be amused with anything; and Rupert quite prepared to amuse everyone.

    Fido was again mentioned, and Rupert, who had heard about half of the history of his loss, suggested the possibility of his having been despatched by the railroad to London, there to be converted into sausages. Harriet, after many exclamations of 'O Mr. Merton!' declared that if she believed such a thing could ever happen, she would never eat another sausage in her life, and concluded as usual with, 'would you, Lucy?' Mrs. Woodbourne inquired anxiously after Winifred's hand. Mrs. Hazleby was on the point of taking fire at the implied suspicion of her lamented favourite's sanity, when Rupert averted the threatened danger, by a grave examination of Winifred and Meg Merrilies, who had both been wounded, and concluded by recommending that as soon as puss shewed symptoms of hydrophobia, Winifred should be smothered between two feather-beds, to prevent further mischief. Everyone laughed, except Dora, who thought the proposal exceedingly shocking; and Rupert argued very gravely with her on the expediency of the measure, until she was called away to prepare for the walk.

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