“Mr. Barnes,” said Jessie; “but he is hardly ever there. He is an old miser, you know-what they call a millionaire, or mill-owner; which is it?”
“One is generally the French for the other,” put in Janet.
“Never mind her, Jessie,” said Allen, with a look of infinite displeasure at his sister. “What does he do which keeps him away?”
“I believe he is a great merchant, and is always in Liverpool,” said Jessie. “Any way, he is a very cross old man, and won’t let anybody go into his park and gardens when he comes down here; and he is very cruel too, for he disinherited his own nephew and niece for marrying. Only think Mrs. Watson at the grocer’s told our Susan that there’s a little girl, who is his own great-niece, living down at River Hollow Farm with Mr. and Mrs. Gould, just brought up by common farmers, you know, and he won’t take any notice of her, nor give one farthing for bringing her up. Isn’t it shocking? And even when he is at home, he only has two chops or two steaks, or just a bit of kidney, and that when he is literally rolling in gold.”
Jessie opened her large brown eyes to mark her horror, and Allen, made a gesture of exaggerated sympathy, which his sister took for more earnest than it was, and she said, scornfully, “I should like to see him literally rolling in gold. It must be like Midas. Do you mean that he sleeps on it, Jessie? How hard and cold!”
“Nonsense,” said Jessie; “you know what I mean.”
“I know what literally rolling in gold means, but I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t bully her, Janet,” said Allen; “we are not so stupid, are we, Jessie? Come and show me the walnut-tree you were telling me about.”
“What’s the matter, Janet?” said her mother, coming in a moment or two after, and finding her staring blankly out of the window, where the two had made their exit.
“O mother, Jessie has been talking such gossip, and Allen likes it, and won’t have it stopped! I can’t think what makes Allen and Bobus both so foolish whenever she is here.”
“She is a very pretty creature,” said Carey, smiling a little.
“Pretty!” repeated Janet. “What has that to do with it?”
“A great deal, as you will have to find out in the course of your life, my dear.”
“I thought only foolish people cared about beauty.”
“It is very convenient for us to think so,” said Carey, smiling.
“But mother-surely everybody cares for you just as much or more than if you were a great handsome, stupid creature! How I hate that word handsome!”
“Except for a cab,” said Carey.
“Ah! when shall I see a Hansom again?” said Janet in a slightly sentimental tone. But she returned to the charge, “Don’t go, mother, I want you to answer.”
“Beauty versus brains! My dear, you had better open your eyes to the truth. You must make up your mind to it. It is only very exceptional people who, even in the long run, care most for feminine brains.”