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.
As soon as dinner was over, Elizabeth went up to her own room, and was followed in a few moments by Anne, who found her putting on her bonnet and cloak. ‘Can you be going out in such weather as this?’ exclaimed she.
‘Yes,’ said Elizabeth; ’I must
“Let content with my
Though the rain it raineth every day."’
‘But what are the fortunes which oblige you to go out?’ said Anne.
‘The fortunes of an old woman to whom Kate or I read every Friday,’ said Elizabeth, ’and the fortunes of various young school-children, who must be prepared for Papa or Mr. Walker to catechize in Church on Sunday.’
’Why do not you send Kate or Helen, instead of murdering yourself in the wet?’ said Anne.
’Miss Kitty is three inches deep in the mysteries of a spencer, (I do not mean Edmund,)’ said Elizabeth, ’and it will not be out of her head these three days, at least not till she has made Mamma’s old black satin gown into one after Harriet’s pattern; I heard her asking for it as I came up-stairs.’
‘And would not Helen go?’ said Anne; ’she does not catch cold as easily as you do.’
‘Helen has contrived, somehow or other,’ said Elizabeth, ’to know no more about the school-children than if they were so many Esquimaux; besides, anyone with any experience of Helen’s ways, had rather walk ninety miles in the rain, than be at the pains of routing her out of the corner of the sofa to do anything useful.’
‘Indeed,’ said Anne, ’I think Helen does wish to make herself useful.’
’I dare say she sits still and wishes it in the abstract, for I think it must be a very disagreeable thing to reflect that she might as well be that plaster statue for any good that she does,’ said Elizabeth; ’but she grumbles at every individual thing you propose for her to do, just as she says she wishes to be a companion to Dora and Winifred, yet whenever they wish her to play with them or tell them a story, which is all the companionship children of their age understand, she is always too much at her ease to be disturbed. And now, as she is the only person in the house with whom poor Lucy is tolerably at her ease, it would be cruel to take her away.’