‘More civilized and better kept at school, otherwise much the same,’ said Lady Merton. ’Yes, my experience is much the same as yours; comparatively few of those I have watched from their childhood have done thoroughly well, and their good conduct has been chiefly owing to their parents. Some have improved and returned to do right, perhaps partly in consequence of their early teaching.’
‘Sad work, sad work, after all!’ said Elizabeth, as she left the room to finish hearing the little ones, and release Mrs. Woodbourne.
‘And yet,’ said Helen, as the door closed, ’no one is so happy at school as Lizzie, or delights more in the children, or in devising pleasure for them.’
‘I never shall understand Lizzie,’ said Anne, with a kind of sigh; ’who would have suspected her of such desponding feelings? and I cannot believe it is so bad an affair. How can it be, taking those dear little things fresh from their baptism, training them with holy things almost always before them, their minds not dissipated by all kinds of other learning, like ours.’
’I do not know that that is quite the best thing, though in a degree it is unavoidable,’ said her mother.
‘So I was thinking,’ said Helen; ’I think it must make religious knowledge like a mere lesson; I know that is what Lizzie dreads, and they begin the Bible before they can read it well.’
’But can it, can it really be so melancholy? will all those bright-faced creatures, who look so earnest and learn so well, will they turn their backs upon all that is right, all they know so well?’ said poor Anne, almost ready to cry. ’O Mamma, do not tell me to think so.’
‘No, no, you need not, my dear,’ said Lady Merton; ’it would be grievous and sinful indeed to say any such things of baptized Christians, trained up by the Church. The more you love them, and the more you hope for them, the better. You will learn how to hope and how to fear as you grow older.’
‘But I have had as much experience as Lizzie,’ said Anne; ’I am but a month younger, and school has been my Sunday delight ever since I can remember; Mamma, I think the Abbeychurch people must be very bad—you see they keep shop on Sunday; but then you spoke of our own people. It must have been my own careless levity that has prevented me from feeling like Lizzie; but I cannot believe—’
’You have not been the director of the school for the last few years, as Lizzie has,’ said Lady Merton; ’the girls under your own protection are younger, their trial is hardly begun.’
‘I am afraid I shall be disheartened whenever I think of them,’ said Anne; ’I wish you had not said all this—and yet—perhaps—if disappointment is really to come, I had better be prepared for it.’
‘Yes, you may find this conversation useful, Anne,’ said Lady Merton; ’if it is only to shew you why I have always tried to teach you self-control in your love of the school.’