Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like tinkers at this time of night? Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?-Twelfth-Night.
The summer holidays not only brought home Allen Brownlow from Eton, but renewed his mother’s intercourse with several of her friends, who so contrived their summer outing as to “see how poor little Mrs. Brownlow was getting on,” and she hailed them as fragments of her dear old former life.
Mr. and Mrs. Acton came to a farmhouse at Redford, about a mile and a half off, where Mr. Acton was to lay up a store of woodland and home sketches, and there were daily meetings for walks, and often out-of-door meals. Mr. Ogilvie declared that he was thus much more rested than by a long expedition in foreign scenery, and he and his sister stayed on, and usually joined in the excursion, whether it were premeditated or improvised, on foot, into copse or glade, or by train or waggonette, to ruined abbey or cathedral town.
Then came two sisters, whom old Mrs. Brownlow had befriended when the elder was struggling, as a daily governess, to provide home and education for the younger. Now, the one was a worthy, hard-working law-copier, the other an artist in a small way, who had transmogrified her name of Jane into Juanita or Nita, wore a crop, short petticoats, and was odd. She treated Janet on terms of equal friendship, and was thus a much more charming companion than Jessie. They always came into cheap sea-side lodgings in the vacation, but this year had settled themselves within ten minutes walk of the Folly, a title which became more and more applicable, in Kenminster eyes, to the Pagoda, and above all in those of its proper owner. Mrs. Robert Brownlow, in the calm dignity of the heiress, in a small way, of a good family, had a bare toleration for professional people, had regretted the vocation of her brother-in-law, and classed governesses and artists as “that kind of people,” so that Caroline’s association with them seemed to her absolute love of low company. She would have stirred up her husband to remonstrate, but he had seen more of the world than she had, and declared that there was no harm in Caroline’s friends. “He had met Mr. Acton in the reading-room, smoked pipes with him in the garden, and thought him a very nice fellow; his wife was the daughter of poor Cartwright of the Artillery, and a sensible ladylike woman as ever he saw.”
With a resigned sigh at the folly of mankind, his wife asked, “How about the others? That woman with the hair? and that man with the velvet coat? Jessie says Jock told her that he was a mere play-actor!”
“Jock told Jessie! Nonsense, my dear! The man is going out to China in the tea trade, and is come to take leave. I believe he did sing in public at one time; but Joe attended him in an illness which damaged his voice, and then he put him in the way of other work. You need not be afraid. Joe was one of the most particular men in the world in his own way.”