Arthur returns to Grassdale at the beginning of September and upsets Helen’s hard-won peace by engaging a governess to teach little Arthur. Helen objects on the grounds that she is perfectly capable of instructing Arthur, but Arthur says she’s turning the boy into a joyless automaton. Miss Myers, he informs Helen, is the perfect choice to look after Arthur. She is pious and more than qualified.
Having given up her painting for the time being, Helen’s employment was to come from instructing little Arthur. By bringing Miss Myers in as governess, Arthur has taken that work away from Helen as well.
When Miss Myers arrives, Helen finds her only marginally intelligent. She is very good at the piano and sings beautifully, but other than that, Helen can see little to value in her. She is overly servile with Helen and obsequious with little Arthur. In the evenings, she sings for the obvious entertainment of Mr. Huntingdon and Helen. Helen begins to feel guilty about her dislike of her, but finds out one morning shortly after Miss Myers’ arrival that she had every reason to be suspicious of the new governess.
As usual, Helen blames herself when she should really trust her own instincts. She feels remorse at taking an instant dislike to the governess, but learns quickly that she was right. Miss Myers is disingenuous and largely without talent, and Helen is much more qualified to teach Arthur than she is.
Rachel informs Helen that Miss Myers did not sleep in her own bedchamber the night before. Helen immediately begins making plans and preparations for moving to Wildfell Hall. She unhappily tells Rachel she’ll have to leave without her—she cannot afford to live as a lady any longer, and she can’t imagine why Rachel would want to stay in her service. Rachel steadfastly vows to remain with her and little Arthur as long as she wants her. Helen embraces her, and the two women decide to leave Grassdale as soon as possible together.
Arthur brought Miss Myers to Grassdale not for his son’s benefit but for his own. Although not explicitly stated, Helen’s decision to leave him finally seems connected to Miss Myers’s class. Unlike Annabella, Miss Myers is a working-class woman. Helen was prepared to forgive Arthur’s affair with Annabella, but his dalliance with Miss Myers is too insulting to endure.
Helen gives herself the next two days to pack and prepare. During that time, she writes a letter to Esther, Milicent, and her aunt, informing them of her decision. She asks them all to write to her in care of her brother. She does not want Arthur to be able to discover where she’s gone. The letter to Mrs. Maxwell is the most difficult to write. She writes in great detail of Arthur’s transgressions, so her aunt will understand why she is taking such an extreme step.
The letter to Mrs. Maxwell is the most painful to write because Helen knows her aunt will be greatly pained to know how much Helen has suffered, but it is also because Mrs. Maxwell could have foreseen the outcome of Helen’s marriage to Arthur Huntingdon—it is why she warned Helen against it.
Helen also writes to Frederick, asking him to get rooms ready at Wildfell Hall. It is difficult for her to remain calm, but she does her best in order to hide her plans from her husband. At dinner on her final night at Grassdale, she’s unable to eat, and when Arthur asks what’s wrong with her, she claims to be ill and asks him if she might retire early. He assures her he won’t miss her a bit.
It is now clear that Frederick is Mr. Lawrence. What Gilbert took for a lover’s tryst in the garden of Wildfell Hall was nothing more than Helen and Frederick showing filial affection.
Helen goes to her bedroom but can’t sleep. She calms herself by writing in her diary and decides to call herself Helen Graham from now on. The surname was her mother’s maiden name, and she is afraid to go by Mrs. Huntingdon, lest she be discovered.
By renaming herself, Helen is not only working to protect her identity but also to claim a new one. She will be her own person again, and her new name symbolizes that step.