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.
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.’