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.
As soon as Mrs. Hazleby made her appearance in the drawing-room before dinner, Rupert began repeating,
’The wound it seemed
both sore and sad
To every Christian eye,
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the child would die,
But soon a wonder came to
That shewed the rogues they lied,
The child recovered of the bite,
It was the dog that died.’
‘I beg to offer my congratulations,’ continued he, setting a chair for her.
Mrs. Hazleby looked surprised.
’On the demonstration we have this day received of your superior judgement, Ma’am,’ said Rupert, ’though indeed we could hardly have doubted it before.’
‘Pray let me understand you, Mr. Merton,’ said Mrs. Hazleby.
‘Have you not heard of the circumstance to which I allude?’ said Rupert; ’for if you are not already aware of it, I must beg to be excused from relating it; I could not bear to give so great a shock to a lady’s feelings.’
‘Oh! you mean about Fido,’ said Mrs. Hazleby, almost smiling; ’yes, Lucy told me that you had found him. Really, my girls are so careless, I can trust nothing to them.’
‘Indeed, Madam,’ said Rupert, ’I assure you that nothing could have been more heart-rending than the scene presented to our eyes when the Miss Hazlebys first became aware of the untimely fate of their favourite. Who could behold it with dry eye—or dry foot?’ added he, in an under-tone, with a side glance at Anne.
Rupert contrived to talk so much nonsense to Mrs. Hazleby, that he charmed her with his attention, gave her no time to say anything about Fido, and left Anne much surprised that she had never found out that he was laughing at her. At dinner, the grouse he had brought came to their aid; Mrs. Hazleby was delighted to taste a blackcock once more, and was full of reminiscences of Inchlitherock; and by means of these recollections, and Rupert’s newly imported histories, Sir Edward and Mr. Woodbourne contrived to make the conversation more entertaining than Elizabeth thought it ever could be in any party in which Mrs. Hazleby was present.
Afterwards in the drawing-room, Dora’s bulrushes and the other children’s purchases were duly admired, and the little people, being rather fatigued, were early sent to bed, although Edward vehemently insisted, with his eyes half shut, that he was not in the least sleepy. The elder girls then arranged themselves round the table. Helen was working a bunch of roses of different colours; Anne admired it very much, but critics were not wanting to this, as to every other performance of Helen’s.