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much rather go there than to the grumbling old man in this lane, whither we were bound; it is quite a reprieve.”
“We must go to the grumbling old man afterwards,” said Helen, “so make up your mind to it; it will only be an evil deferred.”
“Very well; but at any rate we will enjoy the present, and I always think something may come to prevent a disagreeable future.” So saying, Effie put her arm through her cousin's, and they went on to the cottage.
They found the invalid alone, and she looked very much pleased when they entered. “We are come to chat away half an hour with you, Miss Wilson, if you like it," said Helen.
“I shall like it extremely,” said she. “I want to know a great deal about your pretty neighbourhood and its inhabitants. I see a great many people pass here from time to time, as I lie on my sofa, and I form my own notions about them; but I should like to know how far I am correct.”
“Did you form any notions about us, Miss Wilson ?” said Effie.
“No, because you were so kind as to call upon me directly I came, and I had no time to form any."
“Well, I am ready to give you any information you want, and I think you had much better take my opinion than Helen's, for I see the people as they are, and she looks at them through the beautifying glass of her own kind, sweet nature.”
“I thought you had only lately come, Miss Burnet ?”
“Don't call me Miss Burnet, please, I am Effie.”
“Well then, Effie, how long have you been here?”
“Only three weeks, but I have male good use of my powers of observation, and I assure you I know a great deal more of some of our neighbours than my cousin."
“But you shall only show me the fair silo of any of them. The dark one, if such there be, I will find out for myself.”
"Then you had better let Helen begin, for I know my pictures will have dark shades as well as bright lights.”
“I want to know who those children are, with their sweet, quiet mother, who live in that tiny cottage on the hill yonder. I see them every day. They comeof gentle blood, I am sure, though the exceeding plainness of their dress would seem to make their position doubtful.”
“Yes,” said Helen, “ they do, and there is a great deal in their history to interest you. Their name is Lester, and their father died three years ago, leaving them with such a very slender income, that they have barely the means of subsistence. It was thought that his death was occasioned by the sudden shock caused by the loss of all his property in one of the Oriental banks.”
“And why did they come here to settle ?"
“Partly, I think, because that cottage was effered to them for a merely nominal rent, and
partly on account of our bright healthy air, for the elder girl is delicate.”
"And who educates the children ?” . “Their mother-she does everything, and
how she finds the time and strength, I know not. But her whole mind is set upon their receiving a good education; and she is even now engaged, I know, in various works, the profits of which go to form a little fund, that she may one day be able to give them a few good lessons in music and drawing."
“Do you think she ought to care so much about these accomplishments ?”
“Oh, yes," said Helen, “because they must learn to provide for themselves in after life, and they could take no good situation without a knowledge of these things."
“ True," said Miss Wilson, “I did not think of that; poor children !".
“I do not think you would pity them, could you see and converse with them; they are so happy, and their little home is so well ordered and cheerful. The mother is most to
be pitied, and I do long sometimes to do something for her.”
“Why do not their relations come forward and assist them ?”
“I believe they are not altogether aware of their circumstances, and perhaps a natural feeling of pride may prevent Mrs. Lester from obtruding the real state of the case upon them. Whatever may be her motive, Mr. Marsden knows it all, and he says that the more he knows, the more deeply does he feel impressed with respect and veneration for Mrs. Lester's character.”
“You said, Miss Burnet, that you often longed to help her with the children ; would she not allow you ?”
“Oh yes; but from different circumstances it is out of my power to do it. What I should like would be to help her with their education, but there are many reasons why I cannot; ono is, that I am myself ignorant of those things sho most wants them to learn."
“Oh, Helen, Helen," said Effie, bursting