It had of course another door opening into the corridor, and it was on these rooms that Janet set her affections. To the general surprise, Elvira declared that this was the very room she had chosen, with the red velvet curtains and gold crown, the day they went over the house, and that Mother Carey had promised it to her, and she would have it.
No one could remember any such promise, and the curtains of crimson moreen did not answer Elfie’s description; but she would not be denied, and actually put all her possessions into the room.
Janet, without a word, quietly turned them out into the passage, and Elfie flew into one of those furious kicking and screaming passions which always ended in her being sent to bed. Caroline felt quite shaken by it, but stood firm, though, as she said, it went to her heart to deny the child who ought to have had equal shares with herself, and she would have been thankful if Janet would have given way.
Of this, however, Janet had no thoughts, strong in the conviction that the child could not make the same reasonable use of the fittings of the room as she could herself, and by no means disposed not “to seek her own.”
She had numerous papers, notes of lectures, returned essays from her society, and the like to dispose of, and she rejoiced in placing them in the compartments of the great bureau, in the lower room. The lawyers had cleared all before her, and the space was delightful. All personals must have been carried off by the servants as perquisites, for she found no traces of the former occupant till she came to a little bed-side table. The drawer was not locked, but did not open without difficulty, being choked with notes and letters in envelopes, directed to J. Barnes, Esquire. This perhaps accounted for the drawer not having been observed and emptied. Janet shook the contents out into a basket, and was going to take them to her uncle, but thought it could do no harm first to see whether there were anything curious or interesting in them.
Several were receipted bills; but then she came to her mother’s handwriting, and read her conciliatory note, which whetted her curiosity; and looking further she got some amusement out of the polite notes and offers of service, claims to old family friendship, and congratulations which had greeted Mr. Barnes, and he had treated with grim disregard.
Presently, thrust into an envelope with another letter, and written on a piece of note-paper, was something that made her start as if at the sting of a viper. No! it could not be a will! She knew what wills were like. They were sheets of foolscap, written by lawyers, while this was only an old man’s cramped and crooked writing. Perhaps, when he was in a rage, he had so far carried out his threat, that Allen should remember King Midas as to make a rough draft of a will, leaving everything to Elvira de Menella, for there at the top was the date, plainly visible, the very April when the confession had been made. But no doubt he had never carried out his purpose so far as to get it legally drawn out and attested. As Mr. Richards had said, he had never been in health to take any active measures, and probably he had rested satisfied with this relief to his feelings.