She heard no more of the matter, and but for the absence of the davenport could really have thought it all a dream.
She was driving her two little fairy ponies to Kenminster with Elvira, to get the afternoon post, when a quiet, light step came into the bedroom, and Janet stood within it, looking for the davenport, as if she did not quite believe her senses. However, remembering Babie’s eyes, she had her suspicions. She looked into the little girl’s room and saw nothing, then tried the closet door, and finding it locked, came to a tolerably correct guess as to what had become of it, and felt hotly angry at “that conceited child’s meddling folly.”
For the awkward thing was that the clasped memorandum-book, containing “Magnum Bonum,” was in her hand, locked out of, instead of into, its drawer.
When searching for the account-book for her uncle, it had, as it were, offered itself to her; and though so far from being green, with “Garden” marked on it, it was Russia leather, and had J. B. upon it. She had peeped in and read “Magnum Bonum” within the lid. All day the idea had haunted her, that there lay the secret, in the charge of her little thoughtless mother, who, ignorant of its true value, and deterred by uncomprehended words and weak scruples, was withholding it from the world, and depriving her own family, and what was worst of all, her daughter, of the chances of becoming illustrious.
“I am his daughter as much as hers,” thought she. “Why should she deprive me of my inheritance?”
Certainly Janet had been told that the great arcanum could not be dealt with by a woman; but this she did not implicitly believe, and she was in consequence the more curious to discover what it really was, and whether it was reasonable to sacrifice the best years of her life to preparing for it. The supposed unfairness of her exclusion seemed to her to justify the act, and thus it was that she had stolen to the davenport when she supposed that her little sister would be asleep, and finding it impossible to attend or understand with Babie’s great brown eyes lamping on her, she had carried off the book.
She had been reading it even till the morning light had surprised her, and had been able to perceive the general drift, though she had leaped over the intermediate steps. She had just sufficient comprehension of the subject for unlimited confidence that the achievement was practicable, without having knowledge enough to understand a tithe of the difficulties, though she did see that they could hardly be surmounted by a woman unassisted. However, she might see her way by the time her studies were completed, and in the meantime her mother might keep the shell while she had the essence.
However, to find the shell thus left on her hands was no slight perplexity. Should she, as eldest daughter left in charge, demand the desk, Barbara would produce her reasons for its abstraction, and for this Janet was not prepared. Unless something else was wanted from it, so as to put Babie in the wrong, Janet saw no alternative but to secure the book in her own bureau, and watch for a chance of smuggling it back.