Should she show it to her mother and uncle, and let them know their narrow escape? No. Mother Carey and Allen made quite fuss enough already about that little vixen, and if they discovered how nearly she had been the sole heiress, they would be far worse. Besides, her mother might have misgivings, as to this unhappy document being morally though not legally, binding. Suppose she were seized with a fit of generosity, and gave all up! or even half. Elfie, the little shrew, to have equal rights! The sweets of wealth only just tasted to be resigned, and the child, overweening enough already, to be set in their newly-gained place!
The sagacity of seventeen decided that mother had better not be worried about it for her own sake, and that of everyone else. So what was to be done. No means of burning it were at hand, and to ask for them might excite suspicion. The safest way was to place it in one of the drawers of the bureau, lock it up, and keep the key.
CHAPTER XVIII. AN OFFER FOR MAGNUM BONUM.
They had gold and gold and gold without end,
Gold to lay by and gold to spend,
Gold to give and gold to lend,
And reversions of gold in futuro.
In gold his family revelled and rolled,
Himself and his wife and his sons so bold,
And his daughters who sang to their harps of gold
O bella eta dell’ oro.
Four years of wealth had not made much external alteration in Mrs. Joseph Brownlow. As she descended the staircase of her beautiful London house, one Monday morning, late in April, between flower-stands filled with lovely ferns and graceful statues, she had still the same eager girlish look. It was true that her little cap was of the most costly lace, her hair manipulated by skilful hands, and her thin black summer dress was of material and make such as a scientific eye alone could have valued in their simplicity. But dignity still was wanting. Silks and brocades that would stand alone, and velvets richly piled only crushed and suffocated the little light swift figure, and the crisp curly hair was so much too wilful for the maid, that she had been even told that madame’s style would be to cut it short, and wear it a l’ingenue, which she viewed as insulting; and altogether her general air was precisely what it had been when her dress cost a twentieth part of what it did at present.
Her face looked no older. It was thin, eager, bright, and sunny, yet with an indescribable wistfulness in the sparkling eyes, and something worn in the expression, and, as usual, she moved with a quiet nimbleness peculiar to herself.
The breakfast-table, sparkling with silver and glass, around a magnificent orchid in the centre, and a rose by every plate, was spread in the dining-room, sweet sounds and scents coming in through the widely-opened glass doors of the conservatory, while a bright wood fire, still pleasant to look at, shone in the grate.