Mrs. Lucas told Janet she might kiss her, and then sent the girl away. There was need of anxious watch lest fever should set in, and therefore all that was exciting was kept at a distance as the poor young widow verged towards recovery.
Once, when she heard voices on the stairs, she started nervously, and asked Mrs. Lucas, “Is Ellen there?”
“Yes, my dear; she shall not come to you unless you wish it,” seeing her alarm; and she laid her head down again.
The double funeral was accomplished while she was still too ill to hear anything about it, though Mrs. Lucas had no doubt that she knew; and when he came home, Colonel Brownlow called for Janet, and asked her whether she could find her grandmother’s keys and her father’s for him.
“Mother would not like anyone to rummage their things,” said Janet, like a watch-dog.
“My dear,” said her uncle, in a surprised but kind tone, as one who respected yet resented her feeling; “you may trust me not to rummage, as you call it, unnecessarily; but I know that I am executor, if you understand what that means, my dear.”
“Of course,” said Janet, affronted as she always was by being treated as a child.
“To both wills,” continued her uncle; “and it will save your mother much trouble and distress if I can take steps towards acting on them at once; and if you cannot tell where the keys are, I shall have to look for them.”
“Janet ought to obey at once,” said her aunt, not adding to the serenity of Janet’s mind; but she turned on her heel, ungraciously saying, “I’ll get them;” and presently returned with her grandmother’s key-box, full of the housekeeping keys, and a little key, which she gave to her uncle with great dignity, adding, “The key of her desk is the Bramah one; I’ll see for the others.”
“A strange girl, that!” said her uncle, as she marched out of the room.
“I am glad our Jessie has not her temper!” responded his wife; and then they both repaired to old Mrs. Brownlow’s special apartment, the back drawing-room, while Janet quietly dropped downstairs with the key she had taken from her father’s table on her way to the consulting-room. She intended to prevent any search, by herself producing the will from among his papers, for she was in an agony lest her uncle should discover the clue to the magnum bonum, of which she regarded herself the guardian.
Till she had actually unlocked the sloping lid of the old-fashioned bureau, it did not occur to her that she did not know either what the will was like, nor yet the magnum bonum, which was scarcely likely to be so ticketed. She only saw piles of letters and papers, marked, some with people’s names, some with a Greek or Latin word, or one of the curious old Arabic signs, for which her father had always a turn, having, as his mother used to tell him, something of the alchemist in his composition. One of these parcels, fastened with elastic rings, must be magnum bonum, and Janet, though without much chance of distinguishing it, was reading the labels with a strange, sad fascination, when, long before she had expected him, her uncle stood before her, with greatly astonished and displeased looks, and the word “Janet.”