“Empty-headed dolls are all the go,” said Bobus. “Never mind, Jessie, a girl’s business is to be pretty and good-humoured, not to stuff herself with Latin and Greek. You should leave that to us poor beggars!”
“Yes, I know, that’s all your envy and jealousy,” retorted Janet.
All the time Jessie stood by, plump, gentle, and pretty, though with a certain cloud of perplexity on her white open brow, and as her aunt returned into the room, she said-
“I think my sum is right now, Aunt Caroline; but Bobus helped me. Must I do it over again?”
“You shall begin with it to-morrow, my dear,” said her aunt; “then I daresay it will go off easily.”
Jessie thanked with an effusion of gratitude which made her prettier than ever, and then was claimed by Bobus to help him in the making of some paper bags that he needed for some of his curiosities.
Janet liked to fancy that it was beauty versus genius that made Jessie the greater favourite. She had not taken into account that she was always too much engrossed with her own concerns to be helpful, while Jessie’s pretty dexterous hands were always at everyone’s service, and without in the least entering into the cause of science, she was invaluable in the museum, whenever her ideas of neatness and symmetry were not in too absolute opposition to the requirements of system.
The two little ones, Essie and Ellie, were equally graceful, or indeed still more so, as being still in their kittenhood, and their attitudes were so charming as to revive their aunt’s artistic instincts.
All the earlier part of the year, when her time was her own, it had been mere wretchedness and heart-sickness to think of the art which had given her husband so much pleasure, and, but for Allen, the studio would never have been arranged. But no sooner was her time engrossed, than the artist fever awoke in her, and all the time she could steal by early rising, or on wet afternoons, and birthday holidays, was devoted to her clay.
Before the end of the autumn she had sent up to Mr. Acton some lovely little groups of children, illustrating Wordsworth’s poems. She had been taught anatomy enough to make her work superior to that of most women, and Mr. Acton found no difficulty in disposing of them to a porcelain manufactory, to be copied in Parian, bringing in a sum that made her feel rich.
Vistas opened before her sanguine eyes of that clay educating her son for the Magnum Bonum, her great thought. Her boys must be brought up to be worthy of the quest, high-minded, disinterested, and devoted, as well as intellectual and religious. So said their father; and thus the Magnum Bonum had become very nearly a religion to her, giving her a definite aim and principle.
Unfortunately there was not much in her present surroundings to lead her higher. The vicar, Mr. Rigby, was a dull, weak man, of a worn-out type, a careful visitor of the sick and poor, but taking little heed to the educated, except as subscribers and Sunday-school teachers. Carey had done little in the first capacity, Janet had refused to act in the latter.