‘Why in the world?’ said Katherine; ’I thought you liked your plaits better.’
‘Lizzie does not,’ said Helen.
‘Well,’ said Katherine, ’I am sure I should never dream of doing such a thing, only because Lizzie chooses to make a fuss.’
‘Perhaps not,’ said Helen.
There was a silence. Presently Helen said, ’I suppose Mr. Higgins’s next Sunday’s paper will mention that the Mechanics’ Institute was honoured by the presence of the Miss Woodbournes!’
‘Dear me, do you think so?’ said Katherine, who could not guess from her sister’s manner what opinion she intended to express.
‘I think it very probable indeed,’ said Helen; ’such a sanction to the education-without-religion system is not to be neglected.’
‘System!’ said Katherine, looking bewildered; ’how are we to sanction anything?’
’Our station here, as the daughters of the clergyman, gives us some weight,’ said Helen; ’besides that, what each person does, however trifling, is of importance to others.’
This was not very clearly expressed, and Katherine did not trouble herself to understand it. She only said, ’Well, I hope we have not got into a scrape; however, you know it was Lizzie’s doing, not mine.’
‘I thought you went,’ said Helen.
‘Yes,’ said Katherine; ’but that was only because Lizzie said it was not wrong. She is the eldest, and you know she is accountable.’
‘I should think that poor consolation,’ said Helen.
‘Well,’ said Katherine sleepily, ’good-night. Those horrid gas-lights have made my head ache. I cannot talk any more.’
Although she had sat up so much later than usual the night before, Anne was dressed on Saturday morning in time to go to her mother’s room for a little while before breakfast.
‘Mamma,’ said she, after they had spoken of Rupert’s arrival, ’where do you think we went yesterday evening?’
‘Where, my dear?’
‘To hear a lecture at the Mechanics’ Institute, Mamma.’
’I should not have thought that your uncle would have approved of his daughters going to such a place,’ said Lady Merton.
‘Do you think we ought not to have gone, Mamma?’ said Anne.
‘I do not know the circumstances, my dear,’ said Lady Merton; ’the Mechanics’ Institute may perhaps be under your uncle’s management, and in that case—’
‘Oh no,’ said Anne. ’I do not think it is—at least, I do not think Uncle Woodbourne would have liked the lecture we heard much better than Lizzie and I did; and after it was too late, I found that Helen had declared it was very wrong of us to go. She would not go; and I found that when I was out of the room, she and Lizzie had had a great debate about it.’
Anne then gave a full account of all that had occurred, and ended with, ’Now, Mamma, do you think we could have helped going on after we once came to Mrs. Turner’s, and found what kind of a thing it was likely to be?’