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Abbeychurch(10)

2006-08-28 14:19

    Chapter X.

    Dora re-considered her arguments while putting on her bonnet, and the instant the walking party were outside the front door, she began again. 'But, Rupert, it would be committing murder to kill Winifred, even if she had the Fidophobia.'

    'No, no, Dora,' said Rupert, 'it is your mamma and Lizzie who have the Fidophobia.'

    'What can you mean?' said Helen; 'how can you frighten the child so, Rupert?'

    'Do not you know, Helen,' said Elizabeth, ''tis his vocation. He is a true Knight Rupert.'

    'Expound, most learned cousin,' said Rupert; 'you are too deep.'

    'You must know,' said Elizabeth, 'that Knecht Ruprecht is the German terrifier of naughty children, the same as the chimney-sweeper in England, or Coeur de Lion in Palestine, or the Duke of Wellington in France.

    'Baby, baby, he's a giant,

    Tall and black as Rouen steeple;

    And he dines and sups, 'tis said,

    Every day, on naughty people.'

    'I should have thought,' said Rupert, 'that considering my namesake's babe-bolting propensities, and his great black dog, that he would have been more likely to be held up in terrorem in England.'

    'I suppose there was some old grim Sir Rupert in Germany,' said Elizabeth; 'but my dictionary is my only authority.'

    'You are taking knecht to mean a knight,' said Anne, 'contrary to your argument last night. Knecht Ruprecht's origin is not nearly so sublime as you would make it out. Keightley's Fairy Mythology says he is only our old friend Robin Good-fellow, Milton's lubber fiend, the Hob Goblin. You know, Rupert, and Robert, and Hob, are all the same name, Rudbryht, bright in speech.'

    'And a hobbish fellow means a gentleman as clumsy as the lubber fiend,' said Elizabeth.

    'No doubt he wore hob-nails in his shoes,' said Rupert.

    'And chimney hobs were so called, because his cream bowl was duly set upon them,' said Anne.

    'And he was as familiar as the Robin Redbreast,' said Elizabeth.

    'And wore a red waistcoat like him, and like Herb Robert,' said Anne.

    'As shabby as this flower,' said Elizabeth, gathering a ragged Robin from the hedge.

    'Well done, etymology,' said Rupert; 'now for syntax and prosody.'

    'I hope we have been talking syntax all this time,' said Elizabeth; 'we will keep prosody for the evening, and then play at Conglomeration.'

    They now came to some bright green water-meadows, which bordered the little stream as soon as it left the town. There was a broad dry path by the river side, and as they walked along it, there was no lack of laughter or merriment in anyone but Helen, and she could find no amusement in anything she saw or heard. At last, however, she was highly delighted at the sight of some plants of purple loose-strife, growing on the bank. 'Oh!' cried she, 'that is the flower that is so beautiful at Dykelands.'

    'What! the loose strife?' said Elizabeth, 'it is common enough in all damp places.'

    Poor Helen! as if this slight to the flower she admired were not a sufficient shock to her feelings, Rupert, perfectly unconscious on what tender ground he was treading, said, 'If it is a lover of damp, I am sure it can nowhere be better suited than at Dykelands. Did you grow web-footed there, Helen?'

    'O Rupert,' said Helen, 'I am sure the garden is always quite dry.'

    'Except when it is wet,' said Elizabeth.

    'That was certainly the case when I was there two years ago,' observed Rupert; 'I could not stir two steps from the door without meeting with a pool deep enough to swim a man-of-war.'

    'Rupert,' said Elizabeth, 'I hereby give notice, that whosoever says one single word against the perfect dryness, cleanliness, and beauty, of dear Dykelands, commits high treason against Miss Helen Woodbourne; and as protecting disconsolate damsels is the bounden duty of a true knight and cavalier, I advise you never to mention the subject, on pain of being considered a discourteous recreant.'

    'Lizzie, how can you?' said Helen peevishly.

    'How strange it is,' said Anne, 'that so many old family houses should have been built in damp places.'

    'Our ancestors were once apparently frogs,' said Rupert; unhappily reminding Helen of her sister's parody.

    'Well,' said Elizabeth, 'I can understand why monasteries should have been built in damp places, near rivers or bogs, both for the sake of the fish, and to be useful in draining; but why any other mortal except Dutchmen, tadpoles, and newts, should delight in mud and mire, passes my poor comprehension.'

    Rupert pointed to a frog which Dora's foot had startled from its hiding-place, and said, 'Pray, why, according to my theory, should not the human kind have once been frogs? leap-frog being only a return to our natural means of progression.'

    'And bull-frogs in a course of becoming stalwart gentlemen,' said Anne.

    'Yes, we often hear of a croaking disposition, do not we, Helen?' said Elizabeth; 'you see both that propensity, and a love of marshes, are but indications of a former state of existence.'

    'And I am sure that your respectable neighbour, Mr. Turner, is a toad on his hind legs,' said Rupert.

    'Minus the precious jewel,' said Elizabeth.

    'By-the-bye,' said Rupert, 'is there not some mystery about that gentleman? This morning I hazarded a supposition, in the drawing- room, that the lost darling we have heard so much of, might have been dissected for the benefit of Mr. Turner's pupils, and thereupon arose a most wonderful whispering between Kate and one of your sweet cousins there, Lizzie, about some nephew, an Adolphus or Augustus, or some such name; but the more questions I asked, the more dark and mysterious did the young ladies become.'

    'I wonder if it is possible!' cried Elizabeth, with a sudden start.

    'What is possible?' asked Anne.

    'That Rupert should be right,' said Elizabeth; 'was Mrs. Hazleby in the room when you spoke ?'

    'Yes, but what of that?' said Rupert.

    'That you, talking at random,' said Elizabeth, 'very nearly betrayed Harriet's grand secret.'

    'Really, the affair becomes quite exciting,' said Rupert; 'pray do not leave me in suspense, explain yourself.'

    'I do not think I can, Rupert,' said Elizabeth, not wishing to expose Harriet, for Mrs. Woodbourne's sake.

    'Then I am to understand,' said Rupert, 'that Miss Hazleby has presented Fido to this noble Adolphus, as a pledge of the tenderest friendship, and that you and Kate act as confidants.'

    'Nonsense, Rupert,' said Anne, trying to check him by a look.

    'And I suppose,' proceeded Rupert, 'that the gentleman is to extract poor Fido's faithful heart, and wear it next his own. I never should have devised so refined and sentimental a souvenir. It is far beyond forget-me-nots and arrows. So professional too.'

    Elizabeth and Anne laughed so much that they could neither of them speak for some moments; but when Anne recovered, she took her brother by the arm and whispered, 'Rupert, the less you say about the Turners or Fido, the better. I will explain it all to you when we have an opportunity.'

    Elizabeth thanked her by a look; and at this moment Dora, who had been far in advance with Katherine and the Hazlebys, came running back to beg Rupert to gather for her some fine bulrushes which grew on the brink of the river. Rupert was very willing to comply with her request; but Elizabeth recommended Dora to leave them till they should return, and not to take the trouble of carrying them to Whistlefar Castle and back again.

    Leaving the river, they began to ascend a steep chalky lane, which had been wet all the winter, and was now full of rough hardened wheel-ruts and holes made by slipping horses. Elizabeth thought that Robert Bruce's calthorps could hardly have made the ground more uneven, and she was just going to say so, when Helen groaned out, 'What a horrid place! I slip and bruise my ancle every minute.' Upon which she immediately took the other side of the question, and answered, 'It is not nearly so bad as the long lane on the down, and you never complain of that.'

    'Oh! but this is all up-hill,' said Helen.

    'I am not in the least tired, Helen,' said Dora, who with Rupert's assistance was taking flying leaps over the ruts.

    'You? no, I should think not,' said Helen, in so piteous a tone, that Rupert very good-naturedly waited till she came up to him, and then offered her his arm.

    On seeing this, Harriet was rather vexed that she had not been first noticed by the gentleman, and began to make heavy complaints of the badness of the road, but no one paid much attention to her. Elizabeth however gave her arm to Lucy, who never could bear much fatigue.

    After they had gained the top of the hill, they walked on for some distance between high hedges, and as none of the party knew the way further than the river, except from some directions given them by Mr. Walker, the Curate, they begun to think that they must have missed a turn to the left, which he had told them to take. Harriet and Helen both declared that they had passed the turning; Katherine was sure they had not; and Elizabeth said that she had seen a turn to the right some way behind them, but that to the left was yet to come. As they could not agree upon this question, Rupert walked onwards to explore, leaving the young ladies to rest on the trunk of a tree lying by the side of the road. While he was gone, Elizabeth drew Helen aside, saying, 'Helen, you had better take care, I hope Rupert has not observed how much out of humour you are.'

    'I am not out of humour,' said Helen, according to the usual fashion of denying such a charge.

    'Then why do you look and speak as if you were?' said her sister; 'you had better watch yourself.'

    'I think you are enough to vex anyone, Lizzie,' said Helen; 'bringing me ever so far out of the way on such a road as this, and then scolding me for saying I do not like it.'

    'I see,' answered Elizabeth, 'you are not in a fit state to be reasoned with.'

    'No,' retorted Helen, who had indulged in her ill-humour till she hardly knew what she said, 'you will never condescend to hear what I have to say. Perhaps it might be as well sometimes if you would.'

    'Yes, Helen,' said Elizabeth, colouring and turning away, 'it would indeed. I know I have given you a right to upbraid me.'

    At this moment Rupert came back, cheering the drooping courage of the wearied and heated damsels with intelligence, that 'there is no lane without a turning,' and he had found the one they were seeking.

    Things now went on better; they came to a shady green path by the side of a wood, and Helen was more silent, her temper having perhaps been a little improved by the coolness. Soon, however, they had to cross two long fields, where gleaning was going on merrily; Helen made several complaints of the heat and of the small size of her parasol; and Elizabeth had to catch Dora, and hold her fast, to prevent her from overheating herself by a race after Rupert through the stubble. At the first stile, Harriet thought proper to make a great outcry, and was evidently quite disposed for a romp, but Rupert helped her over so quietly that she had no opportunity for one. They now found themselves in a grass field, the length of which made Helen sigh.

    'Why, Helen, how soon you are tired!' said Rupert; 'I am afraid Dykelands did not agree with you.'

    'Helen is only a little cross, she will be better presently,' said Dora, in so comical a tone, that Rupert, Katherine, and Harriet all laughed, and Helen said sharply, 'Dora, do not be pert.'

    Rupert was really a very good-natured youth, but it would have required more forbearance than he possessed, to abstain from teazing so tempting a subject as poor Helen was at this moment.

    'And how do you know that Helen is a little cross, Dora, my dear?' said he.

    'Because she looks so,' said Dora.

    'And how do people look when they are a little cross, Dora?'

    'I do not know,' answered Dora.

    'Do they look so, my dear?' said Rupert, mimicking poor Helen's woe- begone face in a very droll way.

    Dora laughed, and Helen was still more displeased. 'Dora, it is very naughty,' said she.

    'What! to look cross?' said Rupert; 'certainly, is it not, Dora?'

    Elizabeth and Anne were far in the rear, reaching for some botanical curiosity, on the other side of a wet ditch, or they would certainly have put a stop to this conversation, which was not very profitable to any of the parties concerned. Dora was rather a matter-of-fact little person, and a very good implement for teazing with, as she did not at all suspect the use made of her, until a sudden thought striking her, she stopped short, saying very decidedly, 'We will not talk of this any more.'

    'Why not?' said Rupert, rather sorry to be checked in the full enjoyment of his own wit.

    'Because Helen does not like it,' said Dora.

    'But, Dora,' said Rupert, wishing to try the little girl rather further, 'do not you think she deserves it, for being out of temper?'

    'I do not know,' said Dora gravely, 'but I know it is not right or kind to say what vexes her, and I shall not stay with you any longer, Rupert, if you will do it.'

    So saying, Dora, well-named Discreet Dolly, ran away to Lucy, of whom she was very fond.

    Rupert was both amused and surprised at Dora's behaviour, and perhaps, at the same time, a little ashamed and piqued by a little girl of seven years old having shewn more right feeling and self- command than he had displayed; and to cover all these sensations, he began to talk nonsense to Katherine and Harriet as fast as he could.

    In the mean time Helen walked on alone, a little behind the rest of the party; for by this time Elizabeth and Anne had come up with the others, and had passed her. As they entered a little copse, she began to recollect herself. She had from her infancy been accustomed to give way to fits of peevishness and fretfulness, thinking that as long as her ill-humour did not burst forth in open name, as Elizabeth's used formerly to do, there was no great harm in letting it smoulder away, and make herself and everyone else uncomfortable. Some time ago, something had brought conviction to her mind that such conduct was not much better than bearing malice and hatred in her heart, and she had resolved to cure herself of the habit. Then came her visit to Dykelands, where everything went on smoothly, and there was little temptation to give way to ill-humour, so that she had almost forgotten her reflections on the subject, till the present moment, when she seemed suddenly to wake and find herself in the midst of one of her old sullen moods. She struggled hard against it, and as acknowledging ill temper is one great step towards conquering it, she soon recovered sufficiently to admire the deep pink fruit of the skewer-wood, and the waxen looking red and yellow berries of the wild guelder rose, when suddenly the rear of the darkness dim which over-shadowed her spirits was scattered by the lively din of a long loud whistle from Rupert, who was concealed from her by some trees, a little in advance of her. She hastened forwards, and found him and all the others just emerged from the wood, and standing on an open bare common where neither castle nor cottage was to be seen, nothing but a carpet of purple heath, dwarf furze, and short soft grass upon which a few cows, a colt, and a donkey, were browsing. The party were standing together, laughing, some moderately, others immoderately.

    'What is the matter?' asked Helen.

    'I do not know,' said Elizabeth, 'unless Rupert is hallooing because he is out of the wood.'

    'Wait till you have heard my reasons unfolded,' said Rupert; 'did you never hear how this celebrated fortress came by its name?'

    'Never,' said several voices.

    'Then listen, listen, ladies all,' said Rupert. 'You must know that once upon a time there was a most beautiful princess, who lived in a splendid castle, where she received all kinds of company. Well, one day, there arrived an old grim palmer, just like the picture of Hopeful, in the Pilgrim's Progress, with a fine striped cockle-shell sticking upright in his hat-band. Well, the cockle-shell tickled the Princess's fancy very much, and she made her pet knight (for she had as many suitors as Penelope) promise that he would steal it from him that very night. So at the witching hour of midnight, the knight approached the palmer's couch, and gently abstracted the cockle hat and staff, placing in their stead, the jester's cap and bells, and bauble. Next morning when it was pitch dark, for it was the shortest day, up jumped the palmer, and prepared to resume his journey. Now it chanced that the day before, the lady had ordered that the fool should be whipped, for mocking her, when she could not get the marrow neatly out of a bone with her fingers, and peeped into it like a hungry magpie; so that the moment the poor palmer appeared in the court-yard, all the squires and pages set upon him, taking him for the fool, and whipped him round and round like any peg-top. Suddenly, down fell the cap and bells, and he saw what had been done; upon which he immediately turned into an enchanter, and commanded the Princess and all her train to fall into a deep sleep, all excepting the knight who had committed the offence, who is for ever riding up and down the castle court, repenting of his discourtesy, with his face towards the tail of a cream-coloured donkey, wearing a cap and bells for a helmet, with a rod for a lance, and a cockle-shell for a shield, and star-fishes for spurs, and the Princess can only be disenchanted by her devoted champion doing battle with him. All, however, has vanished away from vulgar eyes, and can only be brought to light by being thrice whistled for. A slight tradition has remained, and the place has ever since been known by the mysterious name of Whistlefar.'

    'And has no one ever found it?' said Dora.

    'I cannot say,' answered Rupert.

    'A deed of such high emprise can only be reserved for the great Prince Rupert himself,' said Elizabeth.

    'How can such nonsensical traditions be kept up?' said Harriet; 'I thought everyone had forgotten such absurd old stories, only fit to frighten children.'

    'Oh! you know nobody believes them,' said Katherine.

    'But, Rupert,' said Helen, 'this must be a modern story, it cannot be a genuine old legend, it is really not according to the spirit of those times to say that a palmer could be an enchanter, or so revengeful.'

    'Oh!' said Rupert, 'you know everything bad is to be learnt among the Saracens.'

    'Still,' said Helen, 'if you consider the purpose for which the Palmers visited the Holy Land, you cannot think them likely to learn the dark rites of the Infidels, and scarcely to wish to gratify personal resentment.'

    'The frock does not make the friar,' said Rupert, 'and this may have been a bad palmer. Think of the Knights Templars.'

    'Besides,' said Helen, 'how could the squires see either palmer or jester when it was pitch dark ?'

    'I suppose there were lamps in the court,' said Rupert; 'but

    "I cannot tell how the truth may be,I tell the tale as 'twas told to me."' 'But who told you, Rupert?' said Helen.

    'Why, the story of Red Mantle, Helen, cannot you see?' said Elizabeth; 'it was on the table all the morning.'

    'O Lizzie, was there ever anything so cruel?' cried Rupert; 'Edie Ochiltree was nothing to you. Everyone was swallowing it so quietly, and you will not even let me enjoy the credit of originality.'

    'I am sure I give you credit due,' said Elizabeth; 'it is really an ingenious compound of Red Mantle, the Sleeping Beauty, Robert of Paris, and Triermain, and the cockle-shell shield and star-fish spurs form an agreeable variation.'

    'I never will tell another story in your presence, Lizzie,' said Rupert, evidently vexed, but carrying it off with great good humour; 'you are worse than Quarterly, Edinburgh, and Blackwood put together.'

    'I really think you deserved it, Rupert,' said Anne; 'I cannot pity you, you ought not to laugh at the pilgrims.'

    'Oh! I dare not open my lips before such devotees of crusading,' said Rupert.

    'And pray, Rupert,' said Elizabeth, 'what did you mean by comparing me to Edie Ochiltree? did you mean to say that you were like Monkbarns? I never heard that that gentleman fabricated either legends or curiosities, and made them pass for genuine ancient ones.'

    At this moment, happily for Rupert, they came to the top of a small rising ground, and beheld a farmhouse at about a hundred yards before them. Rupert whistled long and loud and shrill, and two or three of the young ladies exclaimed, 'Is this Whistlefar Castle?'

    'It is only enchanted,' said Elizabeth; 'clear away the mist of incredulity from your eyes, and behold keep, drawbridge, tower and battlement, and loop-hole grates where captives weep.'

    It cannot be denied that the young party were a little disappointed by the aspect of the renowned Whistlefar, but they did ample justice to all that was to be seen; a few yards of very thick stone wall in the court, a coat of arms carved upon a stone built into the wall upside down, and the well-turned arch of the door-way. Some, putting on Don Quixote's eyes for the occasion, saw helmets in milk-pails, dungeons in cellars, battle-axes in bill-hooks, and shields in pewter-plates, called the baby in its cradle the sleeping Princess, agreed that the shield must have been reversed by order of the palmer, and that one of the cows was the mischievous knight's cream- coloured donkey; so that laughter happily supplied the place of learned lore.

    On the way home the party were not quite so merry, although Helen was unusually agreeable, and enjoyed a very pleasant conversation with Rupert and Anne, who, she was pleased to find, really thought her worth talking to. Elizabeth was occupied with Dora, who was tired, and wanted to be cheered and amused. She did not however forget her bulrushes, and when they came in sight of them, she ran forwards to claim Rupert's promise of gathering some for her and her little brother and sister. This was a service of difficulty, for some of the bulrushes grew in the water, and others on deceitful ground, where a pool appeared wherever Rupert set his foot. With two or three strides and leaps, however, he reached a little dry island, covered with a tuft of sedges, in the midst of the marsh, and was reaching some of the bulrushes with the hook of Anne's parasol, when he suddenly cried out, 'Hollo, what have we here?'

    'What?' said some of the girls.

    'A dead dog, I believe,' said Rupert.

    'Oh! let me see,' cried Harriet, advancing cautiously over the morass.

    'Are you curious in such matters. Miss Hazleby?' said Rupert, laughing, as Harriet came splashing towards him through the wet, holding up her frock with one hand, and stretching out the other to him, to be helped upon the island. He pulled her upon it safely, but it quaked fearfully; and there was hardly room for them both to stand on it, while Harriet, holding fast by Rupert's hand, bent forwards, beheld the object of her curiosity, uttered a loud scream, lost her balance, and would have fallen into the river had she not been withheld by Rupert's strength of arm. They both slipped down on the opposite sides of the island, into the black mud, and Harriet precipitately retreated to the mainland.

    'Well, what is the matter?' said Elizabeth.

    'Oh! my poor dear little doggie!' cried Harriet.

    'Is it Fido?' said Elizabeth; 'then, Harriet, there is no fear of your eating him in a sausage; you may be at rest on that score.'

    'But can it really be Fido?' said Katherine, pressing forwards.

    'Do you wish to see?' said Rupert, 'for if so, I advise you to make haste, the island is sinking fast.'

    'I am splashed all over, so I do not care. Can I have one more look?' said Harriet, in a melancholy voice.

    Rupert handed her back to the island, where she took her last farewell of poor Fido, all his long hair drenched with water, and the very same blue ribbon which she had herself tied round his neck the day before, floating, a funeral banner, on the surface of the stream. She contemplated him until her weight and Rupert's had sunk the island so much, that it was fast becoming a lake, while Elizabeth whispered to Anne to propose presenting her with a forget-me-not, on Fido's part.

    'I hope,' said Rupert, as they proceeded with their walk, 'that you are fully sensible of poor Fido's generous self-sacrifice; he immolated himself to remove, by the manner of his death, any suspicions of Winifred's having the Fidophobia.'

    'Perhaps,' said Elizabeth, 'he had some knowledge of the frightful suspicions which attached to him, and, like the Irish varmint in St. Patrick's days,

    "went flop,Slap bang into the water,And thus committed suicide To save himself from slaughter."' They now began to consider how Fido could have met with his death. Harriet was sure that some naughty boy must have thrown him in. Lucy thought that in that case he would have lost his blue ribbon; Dora indignantly repelled the charge of cruelty from the youth of Abbeychurch; Elizabeth said such a puppy was very likely to fall off the bridge; and Rupert decided that he had most probably been attacked by a fit, to which, he said, half-grown puppies were often liable.

    Rupert and Anne then began talking about a dog which they had lost some time ago in nearly the same manner; and during this dialogue the party divided, Harriet and Katherine walked on in close consultation, and Lucy and Helen began helping Dora to sort and carry her bulrushes, which detained them behind the others.

    'What appears to me the most mysterious part of the story,' said Rupert, 'is how the beloved Fido, petted and watched and nursed and guarded as he seems to have been, should have contrived to stray from your house as far as to the river.'

    'Oh! that is no mystery at all,' said Elizabeth; 'we crossed the bridge twice yesterday evening, and I dare say we left him behind us there.'

    'What could you have been doing on the bridge yesterday evening?' said Rupert. 'Oh! I know; I saw the people coming away from a tee- total entertainment; you were certainly there, Anne, I hope you enjoyed it.'

    'How very near the truth you do contrive to get, Rupert,' said Elizabeth.

    'Then,' cried Rupert, with a start, 'I see it all. I thought you all looked very queer at breakfast. I understand it all. You have been to the Mechanics' Institute.'

    'Yes, Rupert,' said Elizabeth.

    'No, but you do not mean to say that you really have, Lizzie and Anne,' cried Rupert, turning round to look into their faces.

    Each made a sign of assent; and Rupert, as soon as he had recovered from his astonishment, burst into a violent fit of laughter, which lasted longer than either his sister or cousin approved, and it was not till after he had been well scolded by both, that he chose to listen to their full account of all that had passed on the subject.

    'The worst of it is, now,' said Elizabeth, 'that as soon as Mrs. Hazleby hears that Fido has been found in the river, she will ask how he came near it.'

    'And what then?' said Anne.

    'Why, she well knows that the bridge is not a place to which we are likely to resort; she will ask what took us there; I would not trust Harriet to tell the truth, and I have promised not to betray her, so what is to be done if Mrs. Hazleby asks me?' said Elizabeth.

    'I hope she will not ask her youngest daughter,' said Anne.

    'That she shall not do,' said Elizabeth: 'I will tell her myself that Fido was found in the river, and answer all her questions as best I can.'

    'It is rather a pity,' said Anne archly, 'that Miss Hazleby did not actually fall into the river, for the sensation caused by Rupert's rescuing her would quite have absorbed all the interest in Fido's melancholy fate.'

    'Thank you, Anne,' said Rupert; 'I am sure I only wonder she was not submerged. I never could have guessed any fair lady could be so heavy. I am sure I feel the claw she gave my arm at this moment.'

    'How very ungallant!' said Anne.

    'Still,' said Rupert, 'without appearing as the preserver of the fair Harriet from a watery grave, I think I have interest enough with Mrs. Hazleby to be able to break the fatal news to her, and calm her first agonies of grief and wrath.'

    'You, Rupert?' said Anne.

    'Myself, Anne,' replied Rupert; 'you have no notion what friends Mrs. Hazleby and I have become. We had a tete-a-tete of an hour and a half this morning.'

    'What could you find to talk about?' said Anne.

    'First,' said Rupert, 'she asked about my grouse shooting; where I went, and with whom, and whether I had seen any of the Campbells of Inchlitherock. Of course we embarked in a genealogy of the whole Campbell race; then came a description of the beauties of Inchlitherock. Next I was favoured with her private history; how she, being one of thirteen, was forced, at eighteen, to leave the lovely spot, and embark with her brother for India.'

    'On speculation,' said Elizabeth.

    'And finally, how she came to marry the Major.'

    'O Rupert, that is too much; you must have invented it!' cried Anne.

    'Indeed I did not, Anne,' said Rupert; 'it is a fact that she lived somewhere in the Mofussil with her brother, and there she encountered the Major. You, young ladies, may imagine how she fascinated him, and how finally her brother seems to have bullied the Major into marrying her.'

    '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.'

    'I believe the actual impulse was given by a dispute between Lizzie and me on the date of chivalry,' said Anne.

    'And so Rupert's friends, the Turners, are great authorities in history,' said Sir Edward; 'I never should have suspected it.'

    'Now I think of it,' said Anne, 'it was the most ridiculous part of the affair, considering the blunder that Lizzie told me Mrs. Turner made about St. Augustine. What could we have been dreaming of?'

    'Midsummer madness,' said Sir Edward.

    'But just tell me, Papa,' said Anne, 'do you not think Helen quite the heroine of the story?'

    'I think Helen very much improved in appearance and manners,' said Sir Edward; 'and I am quite willing to believe all that I see you have to tell me of her.'

    'Do not wait to tell it now, Anne,' said Lady Merton, 'or Mrs. Woodbourne will not think us improved in appearance or manners. It is nearly six o'clock.'

    'I will keep it all for the journey home,' said Anne, 'when Papa's ears will be disengaged.'

    'And his tongue too, to give you a lecture upon Radicalism, Miss,' said Sir Edward, with a fierce gesture, which drove Anne away laughing.

    Elizabeth had finished dressing, a little too rapidly, and had gone to find Mrs. Woodbourne. 'Well, Mamma,' said she, as soon as she came into her room, 'Winifred has lived to say 'the dog is dead'.'

    'What do you mean, my dear?' said Mrs. Woodbourne.

    'The enemy is dead, Mamma,' said Elizabeth; 'we found him drowned by the green meadow.'

    'Poor little fellow! your aunt will be very sorry,' was kind Mrs. Woodbourne's remark.

    'But now, Mamma,' said Elizabeth, 'you may be quite easy about Winifred; he could not possibly have been mad.'

    'How could he have fallen in, poor little dog?' said Mrs. Woodbourne.

    'He must have strayed about upon the bridge while we were at the Mechanics' Institute,' said Elizabeth; 'it was all my fault, and I am afraid it is a very great distress to Lucy. Helen might well say mischief would come of our going.'

    'I wish the loss of Fido was all the mischief likely to come of it, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, with a sigh; 'I am afraid your papa will be very much annoyed by it, with so much as he has on his mind too.'

    'Ah! Mamma, that is the worst of it, indeed,' said Elizabeth, covering her face with her hands; 'if I could do anything——'

    'My dearest child,' said Mrs. Woodbourne, 'do not go on making yourself unhappy, I am very sorry I said anything about your Papa; you know he cannot be angry with one who grieves so sincerely for what she has done amiss. I am sure you have learnt a useful lesson, and will be wiser in future. Now do put your scarf even, and let me pin this piece of lace straight for you, it is higher on one side than the other, and your band is twisted.'

    On her side, Lucy, trembling as she entered her mother's room, but firm in her purpose of preserving her sister from the temptation to prevaricate, by taking all the blame which Mrs. Hazleby chose to ascribe to her, quietly communicated the fatal intelligence to Mrs. Hazleby. Her information was received with a short angry 'H——m,' and no more was said upon the matter, as Mrs. Hazleby was eager to shew Harriet some wonderful bargains which she had met with at Baysmouth.

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