Helen's father cocked an eyebrow at her with an air of amusement. "Are you fighting with the natives already? I thought that was going to be my position."
"I can't believe that people are so hostile to technological innovation!" Helen threw herself down in the chair with a huff of indignation.
"People don't like change."
"They treat strangers with suspicion."
Her father laughed quite loudly. "People don't like strangers."
Helen shot an angry look at her father. "I am always interested in strangers unless they appear to be obviously shifty."
"So, they thought you looked shifty."
She snorted with contempt. "They accused me of being a pirate or a gypsy."
Her father leaned back in his chair with a wide grin. "Both admirable groups of people, far more trustworthy than inn keepers or coach drivers on the whole."
Helen stared at her father. "What?"
His face grew more serious. "If you're going to get cheated in this life, my girl, you will find it is most often the people who look quite respectable and entirely normal. Like bankers. They're the worst."
Helen sighed. "It shakes my faith in human nature."
He laughed again, but his face remained serious. "My dearest child, you have had a singular upbringing amongst good people, educated beyond the means of most young ladies—"
"For which I am very grateful, Papa." Helen laid her hand upon his and squeezed it.
"Yes, but you must realise that you have a rather different position in the world than most girls of your age."
"Woman, father," Helen corrected him. "I am a woman. Not a girl."
Her father looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Nevertheless, you have a distinct advantage over other females of your years and over many people in this country in general."
"And what is that?"
He threw his hands wide. "You have been further than the next village. You have read of great cities and philosophers and thinkers. You read the newspapers."
"Yes, but don't most people?"
"No, they do not." He shook his head. "Especially young ladies who are still taught to be nice and be useful and keep their pretty little heads out of important matters like science and technology."
Helen laughed. "Oh, Papa! You are a bluestocking."
Much to her surprise, her father looked somewhat abashed at this pronouncement. "It was your mother's doing." His face softened as it always did when he spoke of his wife. "She has always been abominably curious about all manner of strange things, and you know it is not in my power to deny her anything."
Helen smiled. "I am grateful to you both that you gave me the same advantages you gave to Fairfax and Edmund. To be able to pursue my dreams! It is quite exhilarating, Papa."
Her father looked grumpy but she could tell he was pleased. "If only your brothers had done as much with their advantages."
"Oh, Fairfax has done well," Helen said grudgingly.
"I suppose well enough for that sort of thing. But it would have been better if he had a little more gumption!"
"Edmund has gumption." Helen said with a snort of laughter.
Her father's expression darkened immediately. "Gumption is not what I'd call it. Devil-may-care rakehell confounded damnable cheek!"
"Well, it's no less than the truth."
Helen shrugged. "At least he hasn't turned to piracy."
"So far," her father muttered.