The next day Caroline was in bed with one of her worst headaches. Mary felt that she had been a cruel and prim old duenna, and meekly bore Clara’s reproachful glances.
He put in his thumb
And he pulled out a plum,
And cried, “What a good boy am I!”
Whether it were from the effects of the warnings, or from that of native good sense, from that time forward Mrs. Joseph Brownlow sobered down, and became less distressing to her sister-in-law. Mary carried off her brother to Wales, and the Acton and Ray party dispersed, while Dr. and Mrs. Lucas came for a week, giving much relief to Mrs. Brownlow, who could discuss the family affairs with them in a manner she deemed unbecoming with Mrs. Acton or Miss Ogilvie. Had Caroline heard the consultation, she would have acquitted Ellen of malice; and indeed her Serene Highness was much too good to gossip about so near a connection, and had only confided her wonder and perplexity at the strange phenomenon to her favourite first cousin, who unfortunately was not equally discreet.
With the end of the holidays finished also the trying series of first anniversaries, and their first excitements of sorrow, so that it became possible to be more calm and quiet.
Moreover, two correctives came of themselves to Caroline. The first was Janet’s inordinate correspondence with Nita Ray, and the discovery that the girl held herself engaged to stay with the sisters in November.
“Without asking me!” she exclaimed, aghast.
“I thought you heard us talking,” said Janet, so carelessly, that her mother put on her dignity.
“I certainly had no conception of an invitation being given and accepted without reference to me.”
“Come, now, Mother Carey,” said this modern daughter; “don’t be cross! We really didn’t know you weren’t attending.”
“If I had I should have said it was impossible, as I say now. You can never have thought over the matter!”
“Haven’t I? When I am doing no good here, only wasting time?”
“That is my fault. We will set to work at once steadily.”
“But my classes and my lectures!”
“You are not so far on but that our reading together will teach you quite as much as lectures.”
Janet looked both sulky and scornful, and her mother continued-
“It is not as if we had not modern books, and I think I know how to read them so as to be useful to you.”
“I don’t like getting behindhand with the world.”
“You can’t keep up even with the world without a sound foundation. Besides, even if it were more desirable, the Rays cannot afford to keep you, nor I to board you there.”
“I am to pay them by helping Miss Ray in her copying.”
“Poor Miss Ray!” exclaimed Carey, laughing. “Does she know your handwriting?”