‘And he has taken a good place,’ said Lady Merton; ’Lizzie wrote in high glee to tell Anne of it.’
‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Woodbourne, ’she had brought him on wonderfully; I am sure I wonder how she could, with only a little occasional assistance from her papa; but then, Horace is certainly a very clever child, and few have Lizzie’s spirits and patience, to be able to bear with a little boy’s idleness and inattention so good-humouredly. And I do believe she enjoyed playing with him and the others as much as the children themselves; I used to say it was no use to send Lizzie to keep the children in order, she only promoted the fun and noise.’
‘She is a merry creature,’ said Lady Morton, ’her spirits never seem to flag, and I think she is looking stronger than when I saw her last.’
‘Indeed, I am very glad to hear you say so,’ said Mrs. Woodbourne; ’she has seemed very well and strong all the summer, but she still has that constant cough, and we must always be anxious about her, I wish she would take a little more care of herself, but she will not understand how necessary precautions are; she goes out in all sorts of weather, and never allows that anything will give her cold; indeed, I let Dora go out with them this evening, because I knew that Lizzie would stay out of doors too long, unless she had her to make her come in for her sake.’
‘How bright and well Helen looks!’ said Lady Merton; ’she seems to have been very happy at Dykelands.’
‘Very happy indeed,’ said Mrs. Woodbourne; ’I am sure we are exceedingly obliged to Mrs. Staunton for asking her. She has come back quite a different creature, and can speak of nothing but the kindness of her friends at Dykelands.’
Here the conversation dropped for a minute or two, for Lady Morton found it difficult to reply. Mrs. Staunton had lived in the village where Merton Hall was situated, and where both Lady Merton and her sister-in-law had spent their childhood. She had been much attached to Mrs. Woodbourne, and was Helen’s godmother; but having settled in a distant county, had scarcely kept up any intercourse with the Woodbourne family since her friend’s death, though constantly corresponding with Lady Merton, and occasionally writing and sending presents to her little god-daughter. Chancing however to come to London on business, she had written to Mr. Woodbourne to beg him to bring Helen to meet her there, and allow her to take her back with her into Lincolnshire to spend some time with her and her daughters. Mr. Woodbourne, knowing that his wife had esteemed her very highly, complied after a little deliberation. Helen’s visit had lasted longer than at first proposed, and she only returned home, after an absence of five months, just in time to wish her little brother farewell, on his departure for school, a few weeks before the Consecration of St. Austin’s. Lady Merton would have been glad to read Mrs. Woodbourne all the admiration of Helen, which Mrs. Staunton had poured forth to her in a letter written a short time before; but the terms in which it was expressed were more exaggerated than Lady Merton liked to shew to one who was not acquainted with Mrs. Staunton, and besides, her praise of Helen was full of comparison with her mother.