Anne learns that an old school friend is living in Bath. When they were in school together, Miss Hamilton had helped Anne when she was lonely at school and in mourning for her mother. She had married soon after school and became Mrs. Smith. Anne had heard that she married a wealthy man, but when they meet in Bath, Mrs. Smith is poor and sickly.
Mrs. Smith’s husband squandered all his money and died young, leaving her quite poor. Mrs. Smith also came down with rheumatic fever, which weakened her heart and left her with damage to her legs. She came to Bath in the hopes that it would restore some of her health.
Anne is delighted with Mrs. Smith’s company. Whereas someone else who might have been so afflicted both with loss of health and wealth might have been very bitter about life, Mrs. Smith’s spirits are high and entertaining. Anne visits with her as often as she can.
During one conversation, Mrs. Smith tells Anne about the sister of her landlady, who lives in the building and nursed her to sufficient health when she first arrived in Bath. The nurse has many and varied patients, so when she comes home, she has fascinating tales to relate about people in the community. These stories entertain Mrs. Smith, who is barely more than an invalid. Mrs. Smith is incapable of being in society, but this friend brings her news of what is happening in the outside world. She also finds purchasers for Mrs. Smith’s knitting.
One night, when Anne must excuse herself from joining her family in a social visit with Lady Dalrymple, Sir Walter quizzes her about what her plans are. When he finds out that Anne prefers the company of some sickly widow who lives on the poor side of town, he becomes angry. He demands to know why Anne would waste her time when Lady Dalrymple offers so much more in social standing. Sir Walter repeats Mrs. Smith’s name over and over, emphasizing how insignificant it is. There is no family history behind it. There is no elegance or stature. Sir Walter makes such a big issue of this fact that Mrs. Clay, who also has a plain name and no social standing, excuses herself from the room. Anne, in the meantime, wonders if her father realizes how much Mrs. Clay represents exactly what he has been complaining about in Mrs. Smith. Anne keeps her appointment with Mrs. Smith, in defiance of her father’s...
(The entire section contains 656 words.)
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