They had not the clue which their mother had to the history of the matter, when the next day, though still far from well, she had an interview with her daughter and the Athenian Professor before their return to Scotland.
He knew of the Magnum Bonum matter. It seemed that Janet, as her knowledge increased, had become more sensible of the difficulties in the pursuit, and being much attracted by his graces and ability, had so put questions for her own enlightenment as to reveal to him that she possessed a secret. To cajole it from her, so far as she knew it, had been no greater difficulty than it was to the fox to get the cheese from the crow: and while to him she was the errant unprotected young lady of large and tempting fortune, he could easily make himself appear to her the missing link in the pursuit. He could do what as a woman she could not accomplish, and what her brothers were not attempting.
In that conviction, nay, even expecting her mother to be satisfied with his charms and his qualifications, she claimed that he might at least read the MS. of the book, assuring her mother that all she had intended the night before was to copy out the essentials for him.
“To take the spirit and leave me the letter?” said Caroline. “O Janet, would not that have been worse than carrying off the book?”
“Well, mother, I maintain that I have a right to it,” said Janet, “and that there is no justice in withholding it.”
“Do you or your husband fulfil these conditions Janet?” and Caroline read from the white slate those words about the one to whom the pursuit was intrusted being a sound, religious man, who would not seek it for his own advancement but for the good of others.
Janet exultantly said that was just what Demetrius would do. As to the being a sound religious man, her mother might seek in vain for a man of real ability who held those old-fashioned notions. They were very well in her father’s time, but what would Bobus say to them?
She evidently thought Demetrius would triumph in his private interview with her mother, but if Caroline had had any doubt before, that would have removed it. Janet honestly had a certain enthusiasm for science, beneficence, and the honour of the family, but the Professor besieged Mrs. Brownlow with his entreaties and promises just as if-she said to herself-she had been the widow of some quack doctor for whose secret he was bidding.
If she would only grant it to him and continue her allowance to Janet while he was pursuing it, then, there would be no limit to the share he would give her when the returns came in. It was exceedingly hard to answer without absolutely insulting him, but she entrenched herself in the declaration that her husband’s conditions required a full diploma and degree, and that till all her sons were grown up she had been forbidden to dispose of it otherwise. Very thankful she was that Armine was not seventeen,