Another month goes by, and Helen and Arthur’s guests arrive for the shooting party. Helen finds Lord Lowborough changed. He is, for the most part, happier than he was before. He clearly adores his wife, who rewards his adoration mostly with insincere compliments. Annabella also flirts scandalously with Arthur, who flirts back in a way that Helen senses is designed to make her jealous. She refuses to play along, however, and scolds him primarily on behalf of Lord Lowborough. The only time her jealously is truly awakened is when Annabella sings and plays for the company. Helen knows her powers at the piano are woefully inferior to Annabella’s.
Arthur is putting Helen in the position of again viewing Annabella as a rival. It’s not surprising, perhaps, that he would toy with Lowborough’s emotions, given how little he pitied him when he was in the throes of opium addiction and impending poverty, but Helen does her best to get Arthur to consider him. Having lived idly at Grassdale Manor all these months, Helen has no art to show for herself, but Annabella can still perform beautifully.
Helen does have a means of retaliation at her disposal in the form of Walter Hargrave, who is all too happy to show her attention, especially when he thinks Arthur is neglecting her, but Helen finds it all incredibly distasteful and humiliating and strives to ignore his attempts to engage her.
Helen refuses to stoop to Arthur’s level by engaging in a flirtation with another man. Her religious and loyal nature forbid her from behaving in an immoral way, even when nearly driven to it by her husband’s neglect.
The group is invited to a house party at the Grove, the seat of the Hargraves. Helen takes this occasion to sketch the character of Mrs. Hargrave, whom she thinks hard-hearted and concerned primarily with keeping up appearances. Not poor by any means, she stretches her budget on frivolous things and spends the bulk of her money on Walter who, while not as immoral as his companions, is still, in Helen’s estimation, thoughtless and self-involved. The people who suffer the most at the hands of these two status hounds are Milicent and Esther. At 14, Esther is just as kind and innocent as her sister, but is by nature more assertive, and Helen thinks she will give her mother more trouble than Milicent when it comes time to marry her off.
Mrs. Hargrave shares in common with Mrs. Markham a tendency to value her son over her daughters—hence Milicent’s disastrous marriage to Ralph Hattersley. An unhappy wife, Helen is naturally interested in the marital fortunes of others. She hopes Esther will have better luck than Milicent and herself in that area, but Helen is now acquainted with the ugly realities and results of the marriage market. It is essentially slavery for women and unlimited power for men.