Patient! That had to be the burthen of the song on both sides. Carey was pushing back her hair with a fierce, wild sense of impatience with that calm assumption that fretted her beyond all bearing, and made her feel desolate beyond all else. She would have, she thought, done well enough alone with her children, and scrambled into her new home; but the directions, however needful, seemed to be continually insulting her understanding. When she was advised as to the best butcher and baker, there was a ring in her ears as if Ellen meant that these were safe men for a senseless creature like her, and she could not encounter them with her orders without wondering whether they had been told to treat her well.
Indeed, one of the chief drawbacks to Carey’s comfort was her difficulty in attending to what her brother and sister-in-law said to her. Something in the measured tones of the Colonel always made her thoughts wander as from a dull sermon; and this was more unlucky in his case than in his wife’s-for Ellen used such reiterations that there was a fair chance of catching her drift the second or third time, if not the first, whereas all he said was well weighed and arranged, and was only too heavy and sententious.
Kencroft, the home of the Colonel and his family, Mrs. Robert Brownlow’s inheritance, was certainly “a picture of a place.” It had probably been an appendage of the old minster, though the house was only of the seventeenth century; but that was substantial and venerable of its kind, and exceedingly comfortable and roomy, with everything kept in perfect order. Caroline could not quite think the furniture worthy of it, but that was not for want of the desire to do everything handsomely and fashionably. Moreover, in spite of the schoolroom and nurseryful of children, marvels of needlework and knitting adorned every table, chair, and sofa, while even in the midst of the town Kencroft had its own charming garden; a lawn, once devoted to bowls and now to croquet, an old-fashioned walled kitchen garden, sloping up the hill, and a paddock sufficient to make cows and pigs part of the establishment.
The Colonel had devoted himself to gardening and poultry with the mingled ardour and precision of a man who needed something to supply the place of his soldierly duties; and though his fervour had relaxed under the influence of ease, gout, and substantial flesh, enough remained to keep up apple-pie order without-doors, and render Kencroft almost a show place. The meadow lay behind the house, and a gravel walk leading along its shaded border opened into the lane about ten yards from the gate of the Pagoda, as Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow and the post office laboured to call it; the Folly, as came so much more naturally to everyone’s lips. It had been the work of the one eccentric man in Mrs. Robert Brownlow’s family, and was thus her property. It had hung long on hand, being difficult to let, and after making sufficient additions, it had been decided that, at a nominal rent, it would house the family thrown upon the hands of the good Colonel.