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Abbeychurch(6)

2006-08-28 14:11

    Chapter VI.

    The next morning was gloomy and rainy, as Elizabeth informed Anne at about seven o'clock; 'and I am not sorry for it,' said she, 'for I want to have you all to myself at home, so we will turn the incubi over to Kate and Helen, and be comfortable together.'

    'Will they submit to such treatment?' said Anne.

    'Oh yes, my dear,' said Elizabeth; 'they want us as little as we want them; they only want a little civility, and I will not be so sparing of that useful commodity as I was yesterday evening. And now, Anne, I am going to beg your pardon for being so excessively rude to Harriet, as I was last night. She did not mind it, but you did, and much more than if it had been to yourself.'

    'I believe I did,' said Anne; 'other people do not know what you mean when you set up your bristles, and I do. Besides, I was sorry for Lucy, who looks as if she had sensitiveness enough for the whole family.'

    'Poor Lucy!' said Elizabeth;

    "A weary lot is thine, fair maid,A weary lot is thine." Yes, Lucy has very deep feeling; you may see it in the painful flushing of her cheek, and the downcast look of her eye, when her mother and sister expose themselves. I really believe that that poor girl has more to endure than most people.'

    'O Lizzie,' said Anne, 'how differently you spoke of her yesterday!'

    'Yes,' said Elizabeth, 'but then I was furious with Mrs. Hazleby; and besides, I believe the truth was, that I was very tired and very cross, not exactly the way in which I intended to conclude the Consecration day; and now I am in my senses, I am very sorry I behaved as I did. But, Anne, though I hereby retract all I said in dispraise of Lucy, and confess that I was rude to Harriet, do not imagine that I disavow all I said about society last night, for I assure you that I expressed my deliberate opinion.'

    'Your deliberate opinion, my dear?' said Anne, laughing.

    'Yes, my deliberate opinion, my dear,' repeated Elizabeth. 'Pray why should not I have a deliberate opinion, as well as Hannah More, or Locke on the Human Understanding, or anyone else?'

    'Because,' rejoined Anne, 'I think that if the rest of the world were of your deliberate opinion, there would soon be a lock on the human understanding.'

    'I am sure I think there is at present,' returned Elizabeth; 'did you see Aunt Anne last night wasted upon Mrs. Dale, obliged to listen to the dullest stuff that ever was invented, and poor Mamma frightened out of her wits? I should not wonder if she had dreamt of mad dogs all night.'

    'I do not defend Mrs. Dale's powers of intellect,' said Anne, 'but I should have thought that you at least had little reason to complain. You were very well off next to Mrs. Bouverie.'

    'Oh! Mrs. Bouverie is a rara avis, an exception to the general rule,' said Elizabeth; 'but you know, she or my uncle, or aunt, or Papa, are generally forced to put a lock on their understanding. Why, Anne, what are you laughing at?'

    'Lizzie, I beg your pardon,' said Anne, trying to check herself, 'but I could not help it. Your speech put me in mind of the prints from Albano's four elements. Do not you remember Juno's visit to AEolus, where he is opening the door of a little corner cupboard where he keeps the puff-cheeked winds locked up? Do you mean to say that Mamma keeps her mighty powers of mind locked up in the same way, for fear they should burst out and overwhelm everybody?'

    Elizabeth heartily joined in her cousin's merriment. 'I will tell you what I do mean, Anne, what the great law of society is. Now, do not put on that absurd face of mock gravity, or I shall only laugh, instead of arguing properly.'

    'Well, let us hear,' said Anne.

    'It is almost more important than the law that you must eat with a knife and fork,' said Elizabeth. 'There is one level of conversation, fit for the meanest capacity; and whoever ventures to transgress it, is instantly called blue, or a horrid bore, &c., &c.'

    'Nonsense, Lizzie,' said Anne, laughing; 'I am sure I have heard plenty of clever people talk, about sensible things too, and never did I hear them called bores, or blue, or any of your awful et ceteras either.'

    'Because people did not dare to do so,' said Elizabeth, 'but they thought it all the same.'

    'What do you mean by people?' said Anne.

    'The dull, respectable, common-place gentry, who make up the mass of mankind,' said Elizabeth.

    'Do they ?' said Anne.

    'Do not they?' said Elizabeth.

    'I do not know what the mass of mankind may be at Abbeychurch,' said Anne, 'but I am sure the people whom we see oftenest at home, are such as I think it a privilege to know.' And she began to enumerate these friends.

    'Oh! Anne,' interrupted Elizabeth, 'do not, for pity's sake, make me discontented; here am I in Abbeychurch, and must make the best of it. I must be as polite and hypocritical as I can make myself. I must waste my time and endure dullness.'

    'As to waste of time,' said Anne, 'perhaps it is most usefully employed in what is so irksome as you find being in company. Mamma has always wished me to remember, that acquiring knowledge may after all be but a selfish gratification, and many things ought to be attended to first.'

    'That doctrine would not do for everybody,' said Elizabeth.

    'No,' said Anne, 'but it does for us; and you will see it plainer, if you remember on what authority it is said that all knowledge is profitable for nothing without charity.'

    'Charity, yes,' said Elizabeth; 'but Christian love is a very different thing from drawing-room civility.'

    'Not very different from bearing and forbearing, as Helen said,' answered Anne.

    'Politeness is not great enough,' said Elizabeth, 'to belong to charity.'

    'You are not the person to say so,' said Anne.

    'Because I dislike it so much,' said Elizabeth, 'but that is because I despise it. It is such folly to sit a whole evening with your hands before you doing nothing.'

    'But do you not think,' said Anne, 'that enduring restraint, and listening to what is not amusing, for the sake of pleasing others, is doing something?'

    'Passively, not actively,' said Elizabeth; 'but it is not to please others, it is only that they may think you well bred, or rather that they may not think about you at all.'

    'It is to please our father and mother,' said Anne.

    'Yes, and that is the reason it must be done,' said Elizabeth; 'it is the way of the world, and cannot be helped.'

    'Rather say it is the trial which has been ordained for us,' said Anne.

    'Well,' said Elizabeth, smiling, 'I know all the time that you have the best of the argument. It would not be so if it was not good for us.'

    'And as it is,' said Anne, 'I believe that there is more enjoyment in the present order of things, than there would be in any arrangement we could devise.'

    'Oh! doubtless,' said Elizabeth, 'just as the corn ripens better with all the disasters that seem to befall it, than it would if we had the command of the clouds.'

    'Of course,' said Anne, 'you really are a much more reasonable creature than you pretend to be, Lizzie.'

    'Am I?' said Elizabeth. 'Well, I will just tell you my great horror, and I suppose you will laugh at me. I can endure gossip for old people who cannot employ themselves, and must talk, and have nothing to talk of but their neighbours; but only think of those wretched faineants who go chattering on, wasting their own time and other people's, doing no good on the face of the earth, and a great deal of harm.'

    'But these unfortunates are probably quite as unable to talk on any very wise subjects, as your beloved old people, to whom you give a license to gossip,' said Anne; 'and you do not wish to condemn them to perpetual silence. They are most likely to be estimable people, who ought to be amused.'

    'Estimable——yes, perhaps,' said Elizabeth, 'but then I cannot esteem a silly gossip.'

    'Why, Lizzie,' cried Anne, 'you are still at the old story that it is better to be wicked than stupid; at least, you reason upon that foundation, though you do not really think so.'

    'I believe,' said Elizabeth, 'that there must be some great crook in my mind; for though I know and believe as firmly as I do any other important thing, that mere intellect is utterly worthless, I cannot feel it; it bewitches me as beauty does some people, and I suppose always will, till I grow old and stupid, or get my mind into better order.'

    'Really,' said Anne, 'I think the strongest proof of your beginning to grow old and stupid, is your doing such a very common-place thing, as to abuse honest gossip.'

    There was service at St. Mary's Church on Wednesday and Friday mornings; but on this day the rain was so violent, that of all the party at the Vicarage, the Mertons, and Elizabeth, Katherine, and Helen, alone ventured to go to church.

    When they returned, Anne followed her mother to her room, to talk over the events of the previous day. After much had been said of the Consecration, and also of their wonder and regret at Rupert's absence, Anne said, 'How strange it seems to lose sight of you and Papa as I have done ever since I have been here! Mamma, I have scarcely been with you at all, and never see Papa but when he is talking to Uncle Woodbourne, and everyone else is in the room.'

    'But I hope you are enjoying yourself, my dear?' said Lady Merton.

    'Oh yes, Mamma,' cried Anne; 'Lizzie is more delightful than ever, when we are alone.'

    'Are you taking a sudden romantic turn?' said Lady Merton, smiling; 'do you mean in future to keep one friend all to yourself?'

    'Oh no, Mamma,' said Anne, laughing; 'I only meant that Lizzie is more like herself when we are alone together. Sometimes when the others are there, she gets vexed, and says things which I do not like to hear, only for the sake of differing from them.'

    'I have seen something of the kind about her before,' said Lady Merton, 'but not enough to be unpleasant.'

    'No, Mamma, because you do not talk as Miss Hazleby did yesterday,' said Anne, smiling. 'She certainly did make a very ridiculous oration about officers and flirtations; but Lizzie, instead of putting a stop to it quietly and gently, only went into the other extreme, and talked about disliking all society.'

    'I am very sorry to hear this,' said Lady Merton; 'I am afraid she will make herself absurd and disagreeable by this spirit of contradiction, even if nothing worse comes of it.'

    'It was not all out of a spirit of contradiction,' said Anne, 'though she said this morning, that she was very tired and very cross yesterday evening. But, Mamma, she also said that she thinks the time she spends in company wasted, and she really believes that no one dares to talk sense, or that if he does, everyone dislikes him.'

    'That is only a little unconscious affectation of being wiser than other people, assisted by living in a place where there are the usual complement of dull people, and where her father's situation prevents him from associating only with those whom he would prefer,' said Lady Merton; 'her good sense will get the better of it. I am much more anxious about this spirit of contradiction.'

    'Yes, it certainly led her to be very unjust, as she acknowledged this morning,' said Anne, 'and rather unkind to Helen. But then it was no wonder that she was mad with the Hazlebys.'

    Anne then told the history of poor Dora's trouble, and was quite satisfied with her mother's displeasure at Mrs. Hazleby, and her admiration of little Dora.

    'And what do you think of Helen?' asked she presently.

    'I can hardly tell,' said Anne, 'she is still very demure, with very little of Lizzie's sparkling merriment; indeed, she does not seem in the least able to enter into a joke. But then she said some very sensible things. Lizzie said she wondered what we should think of her. She thinks her very much improved, but complains that she has lost her home feelings, and cares only for Dykelands; I scarcely know what she means.'

    'I think that I can guess,' said Lady Merton, 'from knowing a little more of Mrs. Staunton's character. She is a very amiable person, and has in reality, I believe, plenty of good sense; but she has allowed herself to fall into an exaggerated style of feeling and expression, which, I dare say, bewitched a girl like Helen, and now makes her find home cold and desolate.'

    'Like the letter which Mrs. Staunton wrote to you about Rupert, and which Papa called ecstatic,' said Anne.

    'That is an instance of Mrs. Staunton's way of expressing herself,' said Lady Merton; 'now I will give you one of her acuteness of feeling, as she calls it. Your Aunt Katherine was her greatest friend when she was a girl, though I believe the kind epithets she lavished upon me would have been enough to stock two or three moderate friendships. We all used to walk together, and spend at least one evening in the week together. One evening, your aunt, who had a good deal of the same high careless spirit which you observe in Lizzie, chanced to make some observation upon the rudeness of sailors in general, forgetting that Helen Atherley's brother was a sailor.'

    'Or if she had remembered it,' said Anne, 'judging by Lizzie, she would have said the same thing; she would have taken it for granted that the present company was always excepted.'

    'Captain Atherley was not of the present company,' said Lady Merton, 'he was in the Mediterranean; and it happened that he had not had time to call at Merton Hall in due form, the last time he had been at home, so that poor Helen thought that this speech was aimed at him. She said nothing at the time; but next morning arrived a note to me, to entreat me to find out what her darling Henry could possibly have done to offend dearest Katherine Merton, for she should be wretched till she understood it, and Katherine had forgiven her and him. She assured me that she had lain awake all night, thinking it over, and had at last come to the conclusion that it must be this unfortunate omission, and she promised to write to dear Henry immediately, to make him send all possible apologies.'

    'Poor Captain Atherley!' exclaimed Anne; 'and what could my aunt say?'

    'Unfortunately,' said Lady Merton, 'both she and I had entirely forgotten the speech, and could not guess what could have given rise to Helen's imaginations. After a consultation, I was deputed to Helen with many assurances that Katherine was very sorry, she could not exactly tell why, but for whatever had grieved Helen; and after a good deal of kissing and lamenting on both sides, which, I believe, Katherine considered as a punishment for her inconsiderate speech, things were set right again.'

    'Inconsiderate, Mamma?' said Anne; 'that seems as if you blamed my aunt, when it seems to me that Mrs. Staunton deserved all the blame for her excessive folly, and what I should think want of confidence in her friend's affection.'

    'It was certainly very silly,' said Lady Merton; 'but you know, Anne, that when people have once accustomed themselves to get into a habit of making mountains of mole-hills, they cannot see anything as it really is. I thought Katherine quite in the right, as you do now, but I believe she considered that, knowing as she did the over- sensitiveness of her friend, she should have been more cautious in what she said.'

    'That was the right way for her to take it,' said Anne; 'but I still think Mrs. Staunton must be an excessively silly person. Of course one would wish to keep from hurting people's feelings, but it really is hardly possible to help it, if they will ride out to meet offence in such a way.'

    'Yet, Anne,' said her mother, 'you may comfort yourself with knowing that as long as you do what is commanded, set a watch before your lips, you are not likely to wound the feelings of others, however sensitive.'

    'I know, Mamma,' said Anne, 'that would correct every fault of that kind; but then I hardly know how to do so thoroughly. And I think sensitiveness is a good thing——at least, it makes people know better what will hurt others.'

    'Be sensitive for others, without being ready to take offence for yourself, then, Anne,' said Lady Merton. 'And now that you have fitted the moral to my story, I must go down and help Mrs. Woodbourne to entertain Mrs. Hazleby.'

    'I pity you,' said Anne. 'If everyone, or indeed if half the world were like her, I should be more violent in my opinions than Lizzie is.'

    'And what are you going to do?' asked Lady Merton.

    'I am going to sit in the school-room,' said Anne; 'I had a special invitation from Dora this morning.'

    On going down-stairs, Anne found that Katherine and Harriet had gone to spend the morning with the Mrs. Turner mentioned during the walk to St. Austin's, as her daughter, Miss Wilhelmina, had engaged to teach Harriet to make wax flowers. Lucy was up-stairs, writing to Major Hazleby; and Helen was sitting in the school-room, where Elizabeth was teaching the children. Little Winifred had just finished her lessons, and was skipping off in high glee with her medal round her neck, to tell her mamma that she had gained four good marks. Dora was perched on a high stool, at Elizabeth's desk, with a broadly ruled paper before her, on the top of which the words, 'My dear Horace, St. Austin's Church was consecrated yesterday,' were to be seen in fair round hand. No more was visible, for the little girl laughingly laid down her rosy cheek, and all her light wavy curls, flat upon the letter, as Anne advanced and made a stealthy attempt to profit by the intelligence she was sending to her brother. Edward was standing by Elizabeth, reading Mrs. Trimmer's Fabulous Histories, for, though five years old, he made very slow progress in English literature, being more backward in learning to read than any of the others had been, excepting Helen. He did not like the trouble of spelling, and was in the habit of guessing at every word he did not know; and on his very composedly calling old Joe the gardener, 'the old gander,' Anne burst into an irrepressible giggle, and Helen, sedate as she was, could not help following her example. They had just composed themselves, when Edward made another blunder, which set them off again, and Elizabeth, who when alone with the children, could bear anything with becoming gravity, also gave way.

    Edward, finding that he was diverting them, began to make absurd mistakes on purpose, so that Elizabeth was forced to call him to order. Anne thought it best to leave the room, and Helen followed her, saying, 'We had better leave Lizzie to manage him by herself; she always does better without me.'

    'You have never shewn me your drawings, Helen,' said Anne; 'I should like very much to see them, if you will let me.'

    'If you please,' said Helen. 'Will you come up to my room? I keep all my own things there, out of the way of the critics.'

    'What critics?' inquired Anne.

    'Lizzie, to be sure, and Papa,' said Helen; 'I think them the severest people I know.'

    'Do you indeed!' said Anne.

    'Do not you?' said Helen; 'does not Lizzie say the sharpest things possible? I am sure she does to me, and she never likes anything I do. If there is any little fault in it, she and Papa always look at that, rather than anything else.'

    'Well,' said Anne, 'it is a comfort that if they like anything you do, you are sure it is really very good. Their praise is worth more than that of other people.'

    Helen sighed, but made no reply, as by this time they had arrived at the door of the room which she shared with Katherine. It was a complete contrast to Elizabeth's; it was larger and lighter, and looked out upon the bright garden, the alms-houses, and the church tower. The upper part of the window was occupied by Katherine's large cage of canary birds, and below was a stand of flower-pots, a cactus which never dreamt of blossoming, an ice-plant, and a columnia belonging to Katherine, a nourishing daphne of Helen's, and a verbena, and a few geranium cuttings which she had brought from Dykelands, looking very miserable under cracked tumblers and stemless wine-glasses. On a small round table were, very prettily arranged, various little knicknacks and curiosities, which Elizabeth always laughed at, such as a glass ship, which was surrounded with miniature watering-pots, humming-tops, knives and forks, a Tonbridge-ware box, a gold-studded horn bonbonniere, a Breakwater-marble ruler, several varieties of pincushions, a pen-wiper with a doll in the middle of it, a little dish of money-cowries, and another of Indian shot, the seed of the mahogany tree, some sea-eggs, a false book made of the wreck of the Royal George, and some pieces of spar and petrifactions which Helen had acquired on an expedition to Matlock with the Stauntons. The book-shelf, however, was to Anne the most attractive object in the room; and whilst Helen was untying the strings of her portfolio, she went up to it.

    'What a beautiful little Bishop Wilson!' exclaimed she, taking out one of the books.

    'Yes,' said Helen with a sigh, 'that was dear Mrs. Staunton's last present to me before I left Dykelands. She said that perhaps she should not see me again before I was confirmed, and it was the fittest Godmother's gift she could find.'

    'And is this pretty Lady of the Lake yours too?' said Anne; 'what a pretty binding, with the Douglas arms on it!'

    'Yes,' said Helen, 'that was Fanny's present; and Jane gave me the pretty forget-me-not brooch I wore yesterday. You see I have plenty of keep-sakes from the dear people.'

    Anne then turned to the portfolio on the table. Helen shewed her, in the first place, a rather stiff and formal looking forget-me-not, painted by Fanny Staunton, and a carelessly sketched but neatly shaded head drawn by Jane, both which specimens of art Anne tried hard to admire for Helen's sake, but could not find it in her heart to do so. Helen's own drawings, which were landscapes, gave more promise of improvement, and displayed a good deal of taste and freedom of hand, though some were by no means correct in the outline. Helen pointed out several faults which she candidly acknowledged to be wrong, and some others which she said 'Lizzie called blunders.'

    'There,' said she, 'is the house at dear Dykelands; there is my window with the Banksia roses clustering round it, so that I could gather them as I stood in my room. That room is still to be called Helen's. But now, Anne, do you think that line ought to be straight? Lizzie says it should, but I think the perspective alters it; I am sure I saw it so.'

    'Indeed, Helen,' said Anne, 'I think the shadow must have deceived you.' And with a little trouble she proved that Elizabeth was right.

    'Ah!' said Helen, 'if Lizzie would but have shewn me patiently, instead of saying, 'Why, Helen, cannot you draw a straight line?' I should have understood her.' Then she continued, while taking out India-rubber and pencil to rectify the mistake, 'I used to draw a great deal at dear Dykelands; we had a sketching master, and used to go out with him twice a week, but it was very delightful when we three went alone, when one of us used to read while the others drew. I am sure these sketches will for ever remind me of those happy days.'

    'Why, Helen,' said Anne, smiling, 'you speak as if you never meant to be happy again.'

    'Do I?' said poor Helen; 'I am afraid I do seem rather silly about dear Dykelands. The other day I was singing

    "My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,My heart's in the Highlands, gone chasing the deer," when in came Lizzie, and said, "No, Helen,

    Your heart is at Dykelands, your heart's in the bogs,Your heart is at Dykelands, gone chasing the frogs," for she is always laughing at it for being so damp, dear place. And it was before Horace went to school, and he would do nothing but sing it at me all day, and make Winifred do so too.'

    Anne could not help laughing.

    'Then you too think me absurd,' said Helen; 'but if you only knew how happy I was at Dykelands, and how desolate I sometimes feel here, you would not wonder at me.'

    'Then you do not like Abbeychurch?' said Anne incredulously; she could not say 'you are not happy at home.'

    'Who could prefer a little dismal town to a pleasant house in the country?' said Helen; 'you like Merton Hall better than this place, do not you, Anne?'

    'Of course,' replied Anne; 'but then Merton Hall is my home.'

    'And Abbeychurch is mine,' sighed poor Helen. 'I believe it is very wrong to be discontented with home, but I cannot help it.'

    'My dear Helen, what do you mean?' exclaimed Anne, quite aghast.

    'Indeed, Anne,' said Helen, 'I do not wonder that you are shocked, but you do not know how I feel here. At Dykelands I felt that people liked me and were pleased with me, but at home nobody wants me, nobody cares for me, I am in the way wherever I go.'

    'My dear Helen,' cried Anne, 'that must be fancy!'

    'I wish it was,' said poor Helen, shaking her head.

    'But only think,' proceeded Anne, 'what you are accusing them of. Not loving you, and wishing you away.'

    'No, I do not say it is as bad as that,' said Helen; 'but I am sure I am of no use here, and might as well be away.'

    'I suppose,' said Anne, 'that you have been so long away as to have lost all your old home occupations, and you have not yet had time to make new ones.'

    'Perhaps it is so,' said Helen; 'but I do not think I had any occupations before I went to Dykelands, at least none worth having, and now I cannot make myself new ones. Lizzie does everything, and will not let me help her, for fear I should do mischief.'

    'Now, Helen,' said Anne, who had by this time collected her ideas, which had been completely startled by her cousin's avowal of dislike of home, 'I will tell you what I think Mamma would say to you. I think you used to be indolent and waste your senses, but now Dykelands has given you a spur, and you are very much improved.'

    'Do you really think so?' interrupted Helen, who had lately felt quite starved for want of praise.

    'Yes,' said Anne, 'and so does everyone, and so Lizzie told me.'

    'Lizzie?' said Helen; 'I thought she considered me as great a baby as ever.'

    'No, no, my dear,' said Anne; 'I will tell you what she said of you. She said you were almost all she could wish in a sister, and that you were quite a reflective creature; and that is high praise from her.'

    'Well, if she thinks so,' said Helen, 'she does not shew it; she is always making game of my opinions and feelings.'

    'So she does of almost everyone's,' said Anne; 'but that is no proof that she does not love them.'

    'And she will never listen to anything that I say, or take interest in anything I care for,' continued Helen.

    'Indeed, Helen, you only think so because you do not understand her ways,' said Anne; 'all last month she could think of nothing but the Consecration, and Horace's going to school. Now all that is over and you are quiet again, after we are gone you will get on capitally together.'

    'I am sure she contradicts every word I say,' said Helen.

    'That is not out of unkindness, I assure you,' said Anne, who unfortunately could not deny that such was the fact. 'She only likes an argument, which sharpens your wits, and does no harm, if both sides are but good-humoured and cheerful. She will find you out in time, and you will understand her better.'

    'Oh! Lizzie is delightful when she does not contradict,' said Helen; 'she is cleverer than anyone I ever saw, even than Fanny Staunton, and Papa says her patience and diligence with Horace were beyond all praise; but I can never be clever enough for her to make me her friend.'

    'But you do not think people choose their friends only for their cleverness?' said Anne.

    'Why, no,' said Helen, 'I do not think they ought, but Lizzie does. You would not be her friend if you were not clever.'

    'Well,' said Anne, 'but try and convince her that you can be her friend without being clever, if you will not allow that you are.'

    'Oh!' said Helen, brightening up, 'if Lizzie would but make a friend of me, how happy we should be! if she would but talk to me of her own concerns, and listen to mine! But she never chooses to hear me speak of Dykelands.'

    'Then,' said Anne, 'you must remember that she has never been there, and does not know the people.'

    'Yes,' said Helen; 'but I think that if she had been there, and I at home, I should have listened for her sake, besides that Mrs. Staunton was our own mamma's dearest friend.'

    Anne had always thought that her own mother had been Aunt Katherine's dearest friend; but she had forbearance enough to leave the honour to Mrs. Staunton in Helen's imagination, and answered, 'And for that very reason, and for your sake too, Helen, she will delight to hear about Mrs. Staunton when you are quiet together, if you do not give her too much at a time, or talk of Dykelands when she is thinking of something else. Oh yes, Helen, you and Lizzie will be excellent friends, unless you are much more silly than I think either of you.'

    Anne smiled so cheerfully, that Helen could not help smiling too; but she would probably have found another sorrow to lament over, if at this moment Dora had not come up to summon them to their early dinner.

    Helen felt exceedingly grateful to Anne for having listened so kindly and patiently to her list of grievances. It was the first sympathy, as she considered, that she had met with since she had left Dykelands, and it atoned in her mind for various little thoughtless ways of Anne's, which had wounded her in former years, and which she had not perhaps striven sufficiently to banish from her memory; and this was a great advantage from this conversation, even if she derived no further benefit from it.

    On her side, Anne had some thoughts of telling Elizabeth what Helen's feelings really were, in hopes that she might shew a little regard for them; but, sisterless herself, she thought the bond of sisterhood too sacred to be rashly interfered with by a stranger's hand; besides, she considered Helen's complaints as really confidential, if not expressly so, and resolved to mention them to no one but Lady Merton, and to limit her attempts at being useful to bringing the two sisters before each other in their most amiable light, and at any rate to avoid saying anything that could possibly occasion a discussion between them, though she could hardly imagine that it was possible to dislike one of the merry arguments that she delighted in. However, remembering her mother's story of Mrs. Staunton, she decided that though it was a great misfortune for people to have such strange fancies, yet their friends ought to respect them.

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