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Title: The Vicissitudes of Bessie Fairfax
Author: Lee, Holme, [pseud.], 1828-1900
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Vicissitudes of Bessie Fairfax" ***

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THE VICISSITUDES OF BESSIE FAIRFAX.


A NOVEL.

BY

HOLME LEE

(MISS HARRIET PARR),

AUTHOR OF "SYLVAN HOLT'S DAUGHTER," "KATHIE BRAND," ETC.


"Not what we could wish, but what we must even put up with."


PHILADELPHIA:

PORTER & COATES.



CONTENTS.

CHAP.                                           PAGE

I.       HER BIRTH AND PARENTAGE                   5
II.      THE LAWYER'S LETTER                      10
III.     THE COMMUNITY OF BEECHHURST              15
IV.      A RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR                   29
V.       GREAT-ASH FORD                           37
VI.      AGAINST HER INCLINATION                  46
VII.     HER FATE IS SEALED                       59
VIII.    BESSIE'S FRIENDS AT BROOK                65
IX.      FAREWELL TO THE FOREST                   77
X.       BESSIE GOES INTO EXILE                   80
XI.      SCHOOL-DAYS AT CAEN                      89
XII.     IN COURSE OF TIME                        98
XIII.    BESSIE LEARNS A FAMILY SECRET           112
XIV.     ON BOARD THE "FOAM"                     117
XV.      A LITTLE CHAPTER BY THE WAY             124
XVI.     A LOST OPPORTUNITY                      127
XVII.    BESSIE'S BRINGING HOME                  135
XVIII.   THE NEXT MORNING                        145
XIX.     NEIGHBORS TO ABBOTSMEAD                 152
XX.      PAST AND PRESENT                        160
XXI.     A DISCOVERY                             170
XXII.    PRELIMINARIES                           177
XXIII.   BESSIE SHOWS CHARACTER                  188
XXIV.    A QUIET POLICY                          194
XXV.     A DINNER AT BRENTWOOD                   198
XXVI.    A MORNING AT BRENTWOOD                  209
XXVII.   SOME DOUBTS AND FEARS                   216
XXVIII.  IN MINSTER COURT                        223
XXIX.    LADY LATIMER IN WOLDSHIRE               228
XXX.     MY LADY REVISITS OLD SCENES             235
XXXI.    A SUCCESS AND A REPULSE                 241
XXXII.   A HARD STRUGGLE                         254
XXXIII.  A VISIT TO CASTLEMOUNT                  256
XXXIV.   BESSIE'S PEACEMAKING                    266
XXXV.    ABBOTSMEAD IN SHADOW                    273
XXXVI.   DIPLOMATIC                              282
XXXVII.  SUNDAY MORNING AT BEECHHURST            285
XXXVIII. SUNDAY EVENING AT BROOK                 294
XXXIX.   AT FAIRFIELD                            305
XL.      ANOTHER RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR            311
XLI.     FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES               318
XLII.    HOW FRIENDS MAY FALL OUT                323
XLIII.   BETWEEN THEMSELVES                      328
XLIV.    A LONG DULL DAY                         336
XLV.     THE SQUIRE'S WILL                       343
XLVI.    TENDER AND TRUE                         349
XLVII.   GOODNESS PREVAILS                       360
XLVIII.  CERTAIN OPINIONS                        365
XLIX.    BESSIE'S LAST RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR      372
L.       FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE                   381



THE VICISSITUDES OF BESSIE FAIRFAX.



CHAPTER I.

_HER BIRTH AND PARENTAGE._


The years have come and gone at Beechhurst as elsewhere, but the results
of time and change seem to have almost passed it by. Every way out of
the scattered forest-town is still through beautiful forest-roads--roads
that cleave grand avenues, traverse black barren heaths, ford shallow
rivers, and climb over ferny knolls whence the sea is visible. The
church is unrestored, the parsonage is unimproved, the long low house
opposite is still the residence of Mr. Carnegie, the local doctor, and
looks this splendid summer morning precisely as it looked in the
splendid summer mornings long ago, when Bessie Fairfax was a little
girl, and lived there, and was very happy.

Bessie was not akin to the doctor. Her birth and parentage were on this
wise. Her father was Geoffry, the third and youngest son of Mr. Fairfax
of Abbotsmead in Woldshire. Her mother was Elizabeth, only child of the
Reverend Thomas Bulmer, vicar of Kirkham. Their marriage was a
love-match, concluded when they had something less than the experience
of forty years between them. The gentleman had his university debts
besides to begin life with, the lady had nothing. As the shortest way to
a living he went into the Church, and the birth of their daughter was
contemporary with Geoffry's ordination. His father-in-law gave him a
title for orders, and a lodging under his roof, and Mr. Fairfax
grudgingly allowed his son two hundred a year for a maintenance.

The young couple were lively and handsome. They had done a foolish
thing, but their friends agreed to condone their folly. Before very long
a south-country benefice, the rectory of Beechhurst, was put in
Geoffry's way, and he gayly removed with his wife and child to that
desirable home of their own. They were poor, but they were perfectly
contented. Nature is sometimes very kind in making up to people for the
want of fortune by an excellent gift of good spirits and good courage.
She was very kind in this way to Geoffry Fairfax and his wife Elizabeth;
so kind that everybody wondered with great amazement what possessed that
laughing, rosy woman to fall off in health, and die soon after the birth
of a second daughter, who died also, and was buried in the same grave
with her mother.

The rector was a cheerful exemplification of the adage that man is not
made to live alone. He wore the willow just long enough for decency, and
then married again--married another pretty, portionless young woman of
no family worth mentioning. This reiterated indiscretion caused a breach
with his father, and the slender allowance that had been made him was
resumed. But his new wife was good to his little Bessie, and Abbotsmead
was a long way off.

There were no children of this second marriage, which was lucky; for
three years after, the rector himself died, leaving his widow as
desolate as a clergyman's widow, totally unprovided for, can be. She had
never seen any member of her husband's family, and she made no claim on
Mr. Fairfax, who, for his part, acknowledged none. Bessie's near
kinsfolk on her mother's side were all departed this life; there was
nobody who wanted the child, or who would have regarded her in any light
but an incumbrance. The rector's widow therefore kept her unquestioned;
and being a woman of much sense and little pride, she moved no farther
from the rectory than to a cottage-lodging in the town, where she found
some teaching amongst the children of the small gentry, who then, as
now, were its main population.

It was hard work for meagre reward, and perhaps she was not sorry to
exchange her mourning-weeds for bride-clothes again when Mr. Carnegie
asked her; for she was of a dependent, womanly character, and the doctor
was well-to-do and well respected, and ready with all his heart to give
little Bessie a home. The child was young enough when she lost her own
parents to lose all but a reflected memory of them, and cordially to
adopt for a real father and mother those who so cordially adopted her.

Still, she was Bessie Fairfax, and as the doctor's house grew populous
with children of his own, Bessie was curtailed of her indulgences, her
learning, her leisure, and was taught betimes to make herself useful.
And she did it willingly. Her temper was loving and grateful, and Mrs.
Carnegie had her recompense in Bessie's unstinting helpfulness during
the period when her own family was increasing year by year; sometimes at
the rate of one little stranger, and sometimes at the rate of twins. The
doctor received his blessings with a welcome, and a brisk assurance to
his wife that the more they were the merrier. And neither Mrs. Carnegie
nor Bessie presumed to think otherwise; though seven tiny trots under
ten years old were a sore handful; and seven was the number Bessie kept
watch and ward over like a fairy godmother in the doctor's nursery, when
her own life had attained to no more than the discretion and philosophy
of fifteen. The chief of them were boys--boys on the plan of their
worthy father; five boys with excellent lungs and indefatigable stout
legs; and two little girls no whit behind their brothers for voluble
chatter and restless agility. Nobody complained, however. They had their
health--that was one mercy; there was enough in the domestic exchequer
to feed, clothe, and keep them all warm--that was another mercy; and as
for the future, people so busy as the doctor and his wife are forced to
leave that to Providence--which is the greatest mercy of all. For it is
to-morrow's burden breaks the back, never the burden of to-day.

A constant regret with Mrs. Carnegie (when she had a spare moment to
think of it) was her inability, from stress of annually recurring
circumstances, to afford Bessie Fairfax more of an education, and
especially that she was not learning to speak French and play on the
piano. But Bessie felt no want of these polite accomplishments. She had
no accomplished companions to put her to shame for her deficiencies. She
was fond of a book, she could write an unformed, legible hand, and add
up a simple sum. The doctor, not a bad judge, called her a shrewd,
reasonable little lass. She had mother-wit, a warm heart, and a nice
face, as sweet and fresh as a bunch of roses with the dew on them, and
he did not see what she wanted with talking French and playing the
piano; if his wife would believe him, she would go through life quite as
creditably and comfortably without any fashionable foreign airs and
graces. Thus it resulted, partly from want of opportunity, and partly
from want of ambition in herself, that Bessie Fairfax remained a rustic
little maid, without the least tincture of modern accomplishments.
Still, the doctor's wife did not forget that her dear drudge and helpful
right hand was a waif of old gentry, whose restoration the chapter of
accidents might bring about any day. Nor did she suffer Bessie to forget
it, though Bessie was mighty indifferent, and cared as little for her
gentle kindred as they cared for her. And if these gentle kindred had
increased and multiplied according to the common lot, Bessie would
probably never have been remembered by them to any purpose; she might
have married as Mr. Carnegie's daughter, and have led an obscure, happy
life, without vicissitude to the end of it, and have died leaving no
story to tell.

But many things had happened at Abbotsmead since the love-match of
Geoffry Fairfax and Elizabeth Bulmer. When Geoffry married, his brothers
were both single men. The elder, Frederick, took to himself soon after a
wife of rank and fortune; but there was no living issue of the marriage;
and the lady, after a few years of eccentricity, went abroad for her
health--that is, her husband was obliged to place her under restraint.
Her malady was pronounced incurable, though her life might be prolonged.
The second son, Laurence, had distinguished himself at Oxford, and had
become a knight-errant of the Society of Antiquaries. His father said he
would traverse a continent to look at one old stone. He was hardly
persuaded to relinquish his liberty and choose a wife, when the failure
of heirs to Frederick disconcerted the squire's expectations, and, with
the proverbial ill-luck of learned men, he chose badly. His wife, from a
silly, pretty shrew, matured into a most bitter scold; and a blessed man
was he, when, after three years of tribulation, her temper and a strong
fever carried her off. His Xantippe left no child. Mr. Fairfax urged the
obligations of ancient blood, old estate, and a second marriage; but
Laurence had suffered conjugal felicity enough, and would no more of it.
It was now that the squire first bethought himself seriously of his son
Geoffry's daughter. He proposed to bring her home to Abbotsmead, and to
marry her in due time to some poor young gentleman of good family, who
would take her name, and give the house of Fairfax a new lease, as had
been done thrice before in its long descent, by means of an heiress. The
poor young man who might be so obliging was even named. Frederick and
Laurence gave consent to whatever promised to mitigate their father's
disappointment in themselves, and the business was put into the hands of
their man of law, John Short of Norminster, than whom no man in that
venerable city was more respected for sagacity and integrity.

If Mr. Fairfax had listened to John Short in times past, he would not
have needed his help now. John Short had urged the propriety of
recalling Bessie from Beechhurst when her father died; but no good
grandmother or wise aunt survived at Kirkham to insist upon it, and the
thing was not done. The man of law did not, however, revert to what was
past remedy, but gave his mind to considering how his client might be
extricated from his existing dilemma with least pain and offence. Mr.
Fairfax had a legal right to the custody of his young kinswoman, but he
had not the conscience to plead his legal right against the long-allowed
use and custom of her friends. If they were reluctant to let her go, and
she were reluctant to come, what then? John Short confessed that Mr.
Carnegie and Bessie herself might give them trouble if they were so
disposed; but he had a reasonable expectation that they would view the
matter through the medium of common sense.

Thus much by way of prelude to the story of Bessie Fairfax's
Vicissitudes, which date from this momentous era of her life.



CHAPTER II.

_THE LAWYER'S LETTER._


"The postman! Run, Jack, and bring the letter."

_The letter_, said Mr. Carnegie; for the correspondence between the
doctor's house and the world outside it was limited. Jack jumped off his
chair at the breakfast-table and rushed to do his father's bidding.

"For mother!" cried he, returning at the speed of a small whirlwind, the
epistle held aloft. Down he clapped it on the table by her plate,
mounted into his chair again, and resumed the interrupted business of
the hour.

Mrs. Carnegie glanced aside at the letter, read the post-mark, and
reflected aloud: "Norminster--who can be writing to us from Norminster?
Some of Bessie's people?"

"The shortest way would be to open the letter and see. Hand it over to
me," said the doctor.

Bessie pricked her ears; but Mr. Carnegie read the letter to himself,
while his wife was busy replenishing the little mugs that came up in
single file incessantly for more milk. A momentary pause in the wants of
her offspring gave her leisure to notice her husband's visage--a
dusk-red and weather-brown visage at its best, but gathered now into
extraordinary blackness. She looked, but did not speak; the doctor was
the first to speak.

"It is about Bessie--from her grandfather's agent," said he with
suppressed vexation as he replaced the large full sheet in its envelope.

"What about _me_?" cried Bessie in an explosion of natural curiosity.

"Your mother will tell you presently. Mind, boys, you are good to-day,
and don't tire your sister."

So unusual an admonition made the boys stare, and everybody was hushed
with a presentiment of something going to happen that nobody would
approve. Mrs. Carnegie had her conjectures, not far wide of the truth,
and Bessie was conscious of impatience to get the children out of the
way, that she might have her curiosity appeased.

The doctor discerned the insurrection of self in her face, and said,
almost bitterly, "Wait till I am gone, Bessie; you will have all the
rest of your life to think of it. Now, boys, you have done eating; be
off, and get ready for school."

Jack and the rest cleared out of the parlor and pattered up stairs,
Bessie following close on their heels, purposely deaf to her mother's
voice: "You may stay, love." She was hurt and perturbed. An idea of what
was impending had flashed into her mind. After all, her abrupt exit was
convenient to her elders; they could discuss the circumstances more
freely in her absence. Mrs. Carnegie began.

"Well, Thomas, what does this wonderful letter say? I think I can
guess--Bessie is to go home?"

"Home! What place can be home to her if this is not?" rejoined the
doctor, and strode across the room to shut the door on his retreating
progeny, while his wife entered on the perusal of the letter.

It was from Mr. John Short, on the business that we wot of. To Mr.
Carnegie it read like a cool intimation that Bessie Fairfax was
wanted--was become of importance at Abbotsmead, and must break with her
present associations. It would have been impossible to convey in
palatable words the requisition that the lawyer was put upon making; but
to Mrs. Carnegie the demand did not sound harsh, nor the manner of it
insolent. She had always kept her mind in a state of preparedness for
some such change, and the only sense of annoyance that smote her was for
her own shortcomings--for how she had suffered Bessie to be almost a
servant to her own children, and how she could neither speak French nor
play on the piano.

The doctor pooh-poohed her remorse. "You have done the best for her you
could, Jane. What right has her grandfather to expect anything? He left
her on your hands without a penny."

"Bessie has been worth more than she costs, if that were the way to look
at it. But she will have to leave us now; she will have to go."

"Yes, she will have to go. But the old gentleman shall never deny our
share in her."

"The future will rest with Bessie herself."

"And she has a good heart and a will of her own. She will be a woman
with brains, whether she can play on the piano or not. Don't fret
yourself, Jane, for any fancied neglect of Bessie."

"I am sadly grieved for her, Thomas; she will be sent to school, and
what a life she will lead, dear child, so backward in her learning!"

"Nonsense! She is a bit of very good company. Wherever Bessie goes she
will hold her own. She has plenty of character, and, take my word for
it, character tells more in the long-run than talking French. There is
the gig at the gate, and I must be off, though Bessie was starting for
Woldshire by the next post. The letter is not one to be answered on the
spur of the moment; acknowledge it, and say that it shall be answered
shortly."

With a comfortable kiss the doctor bade his wife good-bye for the day,
admonishing her not to fall a-crying with Bessie over what could not be
remedied. And so he left her with the tears in her eyes already. She sat
a few minutes feeling rather than reflecting, then with the lawyer's
letter in her hands went up stairs, calling softly as she went, "Bessie
dear, where are you?"

"Here, mother, in my own room;" and Bessie appeared in the doorway
handling a scarlet feather-brush with which she was accustomed to dust
her small property in books and ornaments each morning after the
housemaid had performed her heavier task.

Mrs. Carnegie entered with her, and shut the door; for the two-leaved
lattice was wide open, and the muslin curtains were blowing half across
the tiny triangular nook under the thatch, which had been Bessie
Fairfax's "own room" ever since she came to live in the doctor's house.
Bessie was very fond of it, very proud of keeping it neat. There were
assembled all the personal memorials of no moneysworth that had been
rescued from the rectory-sale after her father's death; two miniatures,
not valuable as works of art, but precious as likenesses of her parents;
a faint sketch in water-colors of Kirkham Church and Parsonage House,
and another sketch of Abbotsmead; an Indian work-box, a China bowl, two
jars and a dish, very antiquated, and diffusing a soft perfume of
roses; and about a hundred and fifty volumes of books, selected by his
widow from the rectory library, for their binding rather than their
contents, and perhaps not very suitable for a girl's collection. But
Bessie set great store by them; and though the ancient Fathers of the
Church accumulated dust on their upper shelves, and the sages of Greece
and Rome were truly sealed books to her, she could have given a fair
account of her Shakespeare and of the Aldine Poets to a judicious
catechist, and of many another book with a story besides; even of her
Hume, Gibbon, Goldsmith, and Rollin, and of her Scott, perennially
delightful. She was, in fact, no dunce, though she had not been
disciplined in the conventional routine of education; and as for
training in the higher sense, she could not have grown into a more
upright or good girl under any guidance, than under that of her tender
and careful mother.

And in appearance what was she like, this Bessie Fairfax, subjected so
early to the caprices of fortune? It is not to be pretended that she
reached the heroic standard. Mr. Carnegie said she bade fair to be very
handsome, but she was at the angular age when the framework of a girl's
bones might stand almost as well for a boy's, and there was, indeed,
something brusque, frank, and boyish in Bessie's air and aspect at this
date. She walked well, danced well, rode well--looked to the manner born
when mounted on the little bay mare, which carried the doctor on his
second journeys of a day, and occasionally carried Bessie in his company
when he was going on a round, where, at certain points, rest and
refreshment were to be had for man and beast. Her figure had not the
promise of majestic height, but it was perfectly proportioned, and her
face was a capital letter of introduction. Feature by feature, it was,
perhaps, not classical, but never was a girl nicer looking taken
altogether; the firm sweetness of her mouth, the clear candor of her
blue eyes, the fair breadth of her forehead, from which her light
golden-threaded hair stood off in a wavy halo, and the downy peach of
her round cheeks made up a most kissable, agreeable face. And there were
sense and courage in it as well as sweetness; qualities which in her
peculiar circumstances would not be liable to rust for want of using.

The mistiness of tears clouded Bessie's eyes when her mother, without
preamble, announced the purport of the letter in her hand.

"It has come at last, Bessie, the recall that I have kept you in mind
was sure to come sooner or later; not that we shall be any the less
grieved to lose you, dear. Father will miss his clever little Bessie
sadly,"--here the kind mother paused for emotion, and Bessie, athirst to
know all, asked if she might read the letter.

The letter was not written for her reading, and Mrs. Carnegie hesitated;
but Bessie's promptitude overruled her doubt in a manner not unusual
with them. She took possession of the document, and sat down in the deep
window-seat to study it; and she had read but a little way when there
appeared signs in her face that it did not please her. Her mother knew
these signs well; the stubborn set of the lips, the resolute depression
of the level brows, much darker than her hair, the angry sparkle of her
eyes, which never did sparkle but when her temper was ready to flash out
in impetuous speech. Mrs. Carnegie spoke to forewarn her against rash
declarations.

"It is of no use to say you _won't_, Bessie, for you _must_. Your father
said, before he went out, that we have no choice but to let you go."

Bessie did not condescend to any rejoinder yet. She was reading over
again some passage of the letter by which she felt herself peculiarly
affronted. She continued to the end of it, and it was perhaps lucky that
her tenderness had then so far prevailed over her wrath that she could
only give way to tears of self-pity, instead of voice to the defiant
words that had trembled on her tongue a minute ago.

"I did hope, dear, that you would not take it so much to heart," said
her mother, comforting her. "But it is mortifying to think of being sent
to school. What a pity we have let time go on till you are fifteen, and
can neither speak a word of French nor play a note on the piano!"

Bessie had so often heard Mr. Carnegie's opinion of these
accomplishments that her mother's regrets wore a comic aspect to her
mind, and between laughing and crying she protested that she did not
care, she should not try to improve to please _them_--meaning her
Woldshire kinsfolk mentioned in the lawyer's letter.

"You have good common-sense, Bessie, and I am sure you will use it,"
said her mother with persuasive gravity. "If you show off with your
tempers, that will give a color to their notion that you have been badly
brought up. You must do us and yourself what credit you can, going
amongst strangers. I am not afraid for you, unless you set up your
little back, and determine to be downright naughty and perverse."

Bessie's countenance was not promising as she gave ear to these
premonitions. Her upper lip was short, and her nether lip pressed
against it with a scorny indignation. Her back was very much up, indeed,
in the moral sense indicated by her mother, and as these inauspicious
moods of hers were apt to last the longer the longer they were reasoned
with, her mother prudently refrained from further disquisition. She bade
her go about her ordinary business as if nothing had happened, and
Bessie did go about these duties with a quiet practical obedience to law
and order which bore out the testimony to her good common-sense. She
thought of Mr. John Short's letter, it is true, and once she stood for a
minute considering the sketch of Abbotsmead which hung above her chest
of drawers. "Gloomy dull old place," was her criticism on it; but even
as she looked, there ensued the reflection that the sun _must_ shine
upon it sometimes, though the artist had drawn it as destitute of light
and shade as the famous portrait of Queen Elizabeth, when she wished to
be painted fair, and was painted merely insipid.



CHAPTER III.

_THE COMMUNITY OF BEECHHURST._


The lawyer's letter from Norminster had thrust aside all minor
interests. Even the school-feast that was to be at the rectory that
afternoon was forgotten, until the boys reminded their mother of it at
dinner-time. "Bessie will take you," said Mrs. Carnegie, and Bessie
acquiesced. The one thing she found impossible to-day was to sit still.
We will go to the school-feast with the children. The opportunity will
be good for introducing to the reader a few persons of chief
consideration in the rural community where Bessie Fairfax acquired some
of her permanent views of life.

Beechhurst Rectory was the most charming rectory-house on the Forest. It
would be delightful to add that the rector was as charming as his abode;
but Beechhurst did not call itself happy in its pastor at this
moment--the Rev. Askew Wiley. Mr. Wiley's immediate predecessor--the
Rev. John Hutton--had been a pattern for country parsons. Hale, hearty,
honest as the daylight; knowing in sport, in farming, in gardening; bred
at Westminster and Oxford; the third son of a family distinguished in
the Church; happily married, having sons of his own, and sufficient
private fortune to make life easy both in the present and the future.
Unluckily for Beechhurst, he preferred the north to the south country,
and, after holding the benefice a little over one year, he exchanged it
against Otterburn, a moorland border parish of Cumberland, whence Mr.
Wiley had for some time past been making strenuous efforts to escape.
Both were crown livings, but Otterburn stood for twice as much in the
king's books as Beechhurst. Mr. Wiley was, however, willing to pay the
forfeiture of half his income to get away from it. He had failed to make
friends with the farmers, his principal parishioners, and the vulgar
squabbles of Otterburn had grown into such a notorious scandal that the
bishop was only too thankful to promote his removal. Mrs. Wiley's health
was the ostensible reason, and though Otterburn knew better, Beechhurst
accepted it in good faith, and gave its new rector a cordial
welcome--none the less cordial that his wife came on the scene a robust
and capable woman, ready and fit for parish work, and with no air of the
fragile invalid it had been led to expect.

But men are shrewd on the Forest as on the Border, and the Rev. Askew
Wiley was soon at a discount. His appearance was eminently clerical, but
no two of his congregation formed the same opinion of what he was
besides, unless the opinion that they did not like him. It was a clear
case of Dr. Fell; for there was nothing in his life to except to, and
in his character only a deficiency of courage. _Only?_ But
stay--consider what a crop of servile faults spring from a deficiency of
courage.

"He do so beat the devil about the bush that there is no knowing where
to have him," was the dictum early enunciated by a village Solomon,
which went on to be verified more and more, until the new rector was as
much despised on the Forest as on the Border. But he had a different
race to deal with. At Otterburn the rude statesmen provoked and defied
him with loud contempt; at Beechhurst his congregation dwindled down to
the gentlefolks, who tolerated him out of respect to his office, and to
the aged poor, who received a weekly dole of bread, bequeathed by some
long-ago benefactor; and these were mostly women. Mr. Carnegie was a
fair sample of the men, and he made no secret of his aversion.

The Reverend Askew Wiley, see him as he paces the lawn, his supple back
writhed just a little towards my lady deferentially, his head just a
little on one side, lending her an ear. By the gait of him he is looking
another way. Yes; for now my lady turns, he turns too, and they halt
front to front; his pallid visage half averted from her observation, his
glittering eyes roving with bold stealth over the populous garden, and
his thin-lipped, scarlet mouth working and twisting incessantly in the
covert of his thick-set beard.

My lady speaks with an impatience scarcely controlled. She is the great
lady of Beechhurst, the Dowager Lady Latimer, in the local estimation a
very great lady indeed; once a leader in society, now retired from it,
and living obscurely on her rich dower in the Forest, with almsdeeds and
works of patronage and improvement for her pleasure and her occupation.
My lady always loved her own way, but she had worked harmoniously with
Mr. Hutton through his year's incumbency. He was sufficient for his
duties, and gave her no opportunity for the exercise of unlawful
authority, no ground for encroachments, no room for interference. But it
was very different with poor Mr. Wiley. Everybody knew that he was a
trial to her. He could not hold his own against her propensity to
dictate. He deferred to her, and contrived to thwart her, to do the very
thing she would not have done, and to do it in the most obnoxious way.
The puzzle was--could he help it? Was he one of those tactless persons
who are for ever blundering, or had he the will to assert himself, and
not the pluck to do it boldly? His refuge was in round-about
manoeuvres, and my lady felt towards him as those intolerant
Cumberland statesmen felt before their enmity made the bleak moorland
too hot for him. He was called an able man, but his foibles were
precisely of the sort to create in the large-hearted of the gentle sex
an almost masculine antipathy to their spiritual pastor. Bessie Fairfax
could not bear him, and she could render a reason. Mr. Wiley received
pupils to read at his house, and he had refused to receive a dear
comrade of hers. It was his rule to receive none but the sons of
gentlemen. Young Musgrave was the son of a farmer on the Forest, who
called cousins with the young Carnegies. As the connection was wide,
perhaps the vigorous dislike of more important persons than Bessie
Fairfax is sufficiently accounted for. All the world is agreed that a
slight wound to men's self-love rankles much longer than a mortal
injury.

It is not, however, to be supposed that the Beechhurst people spited
themselves so far as to keep away from the rector's school-treat because
they did not love the rector. (By the by, it was not his treat, but only
buns and tea by subscription distributed in his grounds, with the
privilege of admittance to the subscribers.) The orthodox gentility of
the neighborhood assembled in force for the occasion when the sun shone
upon it as it shone to-day, and the entertainment was an event for
children of all classes. If the richer sort did not care for buns, they
did for games; and the Carnegie boys were so eager to lose none of the
sport that they coaxed Bessie to take time by the forelock, and
presented themselves almost first on the scene. Mrs. Wiley, ready and
waiting out of doors to welcome her more distinguished guests, met a
trio of the little folks, in Bessie's charge, trotting round the end of
the house to reach the lawn.

"Always in good time, Bessie Carnegie," said she. "But is not your
mother coming?"

"No, thank you, Mrs. Wiley," said Bessie with prim decorum.

"By the by, that is not your name. What is your name, Bessie?"

"Elizabeth Fairfax."

"Ah! yes; now I remember--Elizabeth Fairfax. And is your uncle pretty
well? I suppose we shall see him later in the day? He ought to look in
upon us before we break up. There! run away to the children in the
orchard, and leave the lawn clear."

Bessie accepted her dismissal gladly, thankful to escape the
catechetical ordeal that would have ensued had there been leisure for
it. She was almost as shy of the rector's wife as of the rector. Mrs.
Wiley had a brusque, absent manner, and it was a trick of hers to expose
her young acquaintance to a fire of questions, of which she as regularly
forgot the answers. She had often affronted Bessie Fairfax by asking her
real name, and in the next breath calling her affably Bessie Carnegie,
the doctor's step-daughter, niece or other little kinswoman whom he kept
as a help in his house for charity's sake.

Bessie had but faint recollections of the rectory as her home, for since
her father's death she had never gone there except as a visitor on
public days. But the tradition was always in her memory that once she
had lived in those pleasant rooms, had run up and down those broad sunny
stairs, and played on the spacious lawns of that mossy, tree-shadowed
garden. In the orchard had assembled, besides the children, a group of
their ex-teachers--Miss Semple and her sister, the village dressmakers,
Miss Genet, the daughter at the post-office, and the two Miss
Mittens--well-behaved and well-instructed young persons whom Mr. Wiley's
predecessors had been pleased to employ, but for whom Mrs. Wiley found
no encouragement. She had the ordering of the school, and preferred
gentlewomen for her lay-sisters. She had them, and only herself knew
what trouble in keeping them punctual to their duty and in keeping the
peace amongst them. There was dear fat Miss Buff, who had been right
hand in succession to Mr. Fairfax, Mr. Roebuck and Mr. Hutton, who
adored supremacy, and exercised it with the easy sway of long usage; she
felt herself pushed on one side by that ardent young Irish recruit, Miss
Thusy O'Flynn, whose peculiar temper no one cared to provoke, and who
ruled by the terror of it with a caprice that was trying in the last
degree. Miss Buff gave way to her, but not without grumbling, appealing,
and threatening to withdraw her services. But she loved her work in the
school and in the choir, and could not bear to punish herself or let
Miss Thusy triumph to the extent of driving her into private life; so
she adhered to her charge in the hope of better days, when she would
again be mistress paramount. And the same did Miss Wort--also one of the
old governing body--but from higher motives, which she was not afraid to
publish: she distrusted Mr. Wiley's doctrine, and she feared that he was
inclined to truckle to the taste for ecclesiastical decoration
manifested by certain lambs of his flock who doted on private
theatricals and saw no harm in balls. She adhered to her post, that the
truth might not suffer for want of a witness; and if the rising
generation of girls in preposterous hats had taken her for their pattern
of a laborious teacher, true to time as the school-bell itself, Mrs.
Wiley's preference for young ladies over young persons would have been
better justified, and Lady Latimer would not have been able to find
fault with the irregular attendance of the children, to express her
opinion that the school was not what it might be, and to throw out hints
that she must set about reforming it unless it soon reformed itself.

Bessie Fairfax was on speaking terms with nearly everybody, and Miss
Mitten called her the moment she appeared to help in setting a ring for
"drop hankercher." Two of the little Carnegies merrily joined hands with
the rest, and they were just about to begin, Jack being unanimously
nominated as first chase for his dexterous running, when a shrill voice
called to them peremptorily to desist.

"Why have you fallen out of rank? You ought to have kept your ranks
until you had sung grace before tea. Get into line again quickly, for
here come the buns;" and there was Miss Thusy O'Flynn, perched on a
mole-hill, in an attitude of command, waving her parasol and
demonstrating how they were to stand.

"The buns, indeed! It is time, I'm sure," muttered Miss Buff,
substantial in purple silk and a black lace bonnet. Her rival was a
pretty, red-haired, resolute little girl, very prettily dressed, who
showed to no disadvantage on the mole-hill. But Miss Buff could see no
charm she had; she it was who had given leave for a game, to pass the
time before tea. The children had been an hour in the orchard, and the
feast was still delayed.

"Perhaps the kettle does not boil," suggested Miss Wort, indulgently.

"We are kept waiting for Miss O'Flynn's aunt," rejoined Miss Buff. "Here
she comes, with our angelical parson, and Lady Latimer, out in the cold,
walking behind them."

Bessie Fairfax looked up. Lady Latimer was her supreme admiration. She
did not think that another lady so good, so gracious, so beautiful,
enriched the world. If there did, that lady was not the Viscountess
Poldoody. Bessie had a lively sense of fun, and the Irish dame was a
figure to call a smile to a more guarded face than hers--a short squab
figure that waddled, and was surmounted by a negative visage composed of
pulpy, formless features, and a brown wig of false curls--glaringly
false, for they were the first thing about her that fixed the eye,
though there were many matters besides to fascinate an observer with
leisure to look again. She seemed, however, a most free and cheerful old
lady, and talked in a loud, mellow voice, with a pleasant touch of the
brogue. She had been a popular Dublin singer and actress in her day--a
day some forty years ago--but only Lady Latimer and herself in the
rectory garden that afternoon were aware of the fact.

Grand people possessed an irresistible attraction for Mr. Wiley. The
Viscountess Poldoody had taken a house in his parish for the fine
season, and came to his church with her niece; he had called upon her,
and now escorted her to the orchard with a fulsome assiduity which was
betrayed to those who followed by the uneasy writhing of his back and
shoulders. With many complimentary words he invited her to distribute
the prizes to the children.

"If your ladyship will so honor them, it will be a day in their lives to
remember."

"Give away the prizes? Oh yes, if ye'll show me which choild to give 'em
to," replied the viscountess with a good-humored readiness. Then, with
a propriety of feeling which was thought very nice in her, she added, in
the same natural, distinct manner, standing and looking round as she
spoke:

"But is it not my Lady Latimer's right? What should I know of your
children, who am only a summer visitor?"

Lady Latimer acknowledged the courteous disclaimer with that exquisite
smile which had been the magic of her loveliness always. The children
would appreciate the kindness of a stranger, she said; and with a
perfect grace yielded the precedence, and at the same time resigned the
opportunity she had always enjoyed before of giving the children a
monition once a year on their duty to God, their parents, their pastors
and masters, elders and betters, and neighbors in general. Whether my
lady felt aggrieved or not nobody could discern; but the people about
were aggrieved for her, and Miss Buff confided to a friend, in a
semi-audible whisper of intense exasperation, that the rector was the
biggest muff and toady that ever it had been her misfortune to know.
Miss Buff, it will be perceived, liked strong terms; but, as she justly
pleaded in extenuation of a taste for which she was reproached, what was
the use of there being strong terms in the language if they were not to
be applied on suitable occasions?

The person, however, on whom this incident made the deepest impression
was Bessie Fairfax. Bessie admired Lady Latimer because she was
admirable. She had listened too often to Mr. Carnegie's radical talk to
have any reverence for rank and title unadorned; but her love of beauty
and goodness made her look up with enthusiastic respect to the one noble
lady she knew, of whom even the doctor spoke as "a great woman." The
children sang their grace and sat down to tea, and Lady Latimer stood
looking on, her countenance changed to a stern gravity; and Bessie,
quite diverted from the active business of the feast, stood looking at
her and feeling sorry. The child's long abstracted gaze ended by drawing
my lady's attention. She spoke to her, and Bessie started out of her
reverie, wide-awake in an instant.

"Is there nothing for you to do, Bessie Fairfax, that you stand musing?
Bring me a chair into the shade of the old walnut tree over yonder. I
have something to say to you. Do you remember what we talked about that
wet morning last winter at my house?"

"Yes, my lady," replied Bessie, and brought the chair with prompt
obedience.

On the occasion alluded to Bessie had been caught in a heavy rain while
riding with the doctor. He had deposited her in Lady Latimer's kitchen,
to be dried and comforted by the housekeeper while he went on his
farther way; and my lady coming into the culinary quarter while Bessie
was there, had given her a delicious cheese-cake from a tin just hot out
of the oven, and had then entered into conversation with her about her
likes and dislikes, concluding with the remark that she had in her the
making of an excellent National School mistress, and ought to be trained
for that special walk in life. Bessie had carried home a report of what
Lady Latimer had said; but neither her father nor mother admired the
suggestion, and it had not been mentioned again. Now, however, being
comfortably seated, my lady revived it in a serious, methodical way,
Bessie standing before her listening and blushing with a confusion that
increased every moment. She was thinking of the letter from Norminster,
but she did not venture yet to arrest Lady Latimer's flow of advice. My
lady did not discern that anything was amiss. She was accustomed to have
her counsels heard with deference. From advice she passed into
exhortation, assuming that Bessie was, of course, destined to some sort
of work for a living--to dressmaking, teaching or service in some
shape--and encouraging her to make advances for her future, that it
might not overtake her unprepared. Lady Latimer had not come into the
Forest until some years after the Reverend Geoffry Fairfax's death, and
she had no knowledge of Bessie's birth, parentage and connections; but
she had a principle against poor women pining in the shadow of gentility
when they could help themselves by honest endeavors; and also, she had a
plan for raising the quality of National School teaching by introducing
into the ranks of the teachers young gentlewomen unprovided by fortune.
She advised no more than she would have done, and all she said was good,
if Bessie's circumstances had been what she assumed. But Bessie,
conscious that they were about to suffer a change, felt impelled at
last to set Lady Latimer right. Her shy face mitigated the effect of her
speech.

"I have kindred in Woldshire, my lady, who want me. I am the only child
in this generation, and my grandfather Fairfax says that it is necessary
for me to go back to my own people."

Lady Latimer's face suddenly reflected a tint of Bessie's. But no
after-thought was in Bessie's mind, her simplicity was genuine. She
esteemed it praise to be selected as a fit child to teach children; and,
besides, whatever my lady had said at this period would have sounded
right in Bessie's ears. When she had uttered her statement, she waited
till Lady Latimer spoke.

"Do you belong to the Fairfaxes of Kirkham? Is your grandfather Richard
Fairfax of Abbotsmead?" she said in a quick voice, with an inflection of
surprise.

"Yes, my lady. My father was Geoffry, the third son; my mother was
Elizabeth Bulmer."

"I knew Abbotsmead many years ago. It will be a great change for you.
How old are you, Bessie? Fourteen, fifteen?"

"Fifteen, my lady, last birthday, the fourth of March."

Lady Latimer thought to herself, "Here is an exact little girl!" Then
she said aloud, "It would have been better for you if your grandfather
had recalled you when you were younger."

Bessie was prepared to hear this style of remark, and to repudiate the
implication. She replied almost with warmth, "My lady, I have lost
nothing by being left here. Beechhurst will always be home to me. If I
had my choice I would not go to Kirkham."

Lady Latimer thought again what a nice voice Bessie had, and regarded
her with a growing interest, that arose in part out of her own
recollections. She questioned her concerning her father's death, and the
circumstances of her adoption by Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie, and reflected
that, happily, she was too simple, too much of a child yet, for any but
family attachments--happily, because, though Bessie had no experience to
measure it by, there would be a wide difference between her position as
the doctor's adopted daughter amongst a house full of children, and as
heiress presumptive of Mr. Fairfax of Abbotsmead.

"Have you ever seen Abbotsmead, Bessie?" she said.

"No, my lady, I have never been in Woldshire since I was a baby. I was
born at Kirkham vicarage, my grandfather Bulmer's house, but I was not a
year old when we came away. I have a drawing of Abbotsmead that my
mother made--it is not beautiful."

"But Abbotsmead is very beautiful--the country round about is not so
delicious as the Forest, for it has less variety: it is out of sight of
the sea, and the trees are not so grand, but Abbotsmead itself is a
lovely spot. The house stands on a peninsula formed by a little brawling
river, and in the park are the ruins that give the place its name. I
remember the garden at Abbotsmead as a garden where the sun always
shone."

Bessie was much cheered. "How glad I am! In my picture the sun does not
shine at all. It is the color of a dark day in November."

The concise simplicity of Bessie's talk pleased Lady Latimer. She
decided that Mrs. Carnegie must be a gentlewoman, and that Bessie had
qualities capable of taking a fine polish. She would have held the child
in conversation longer had not Mrs. Wiley come up, and after a word or
two about the success of the feast, bade Bessie run away and see that
her little brothers were not getting into mischief. Lady Latimer nodded
her a kind dismissal, and off she went.

Six o'clock struck. By that time the buns were all eaten, the prizes
were all distributed, and the cream of the company had driven or walked
away, but cricket still went on in the meadow, and children's games in
the orchard. One or two gentlemen had come on the scene since the fervor
of the afternoon abated. Admiral Parkins, who governed Beechhurst under
Lady Latimer, was taking a walk round the garden with his brother
church-warden, Mr. Musgrave, and Mr. Carnegie had made his bow to the
rector's wife, who was not included in his aversion for the rector. Mr.
Phipps, also a gentleman of no great account in society, but a liberal
supporter of the parish charities, was there--a small, grotesque man to
look at, who had always an objection in his mouth. Was any one praised,
he mentioned a qualification; was any one blamed, he interposed a plea.
He had a character for making shrewd, incisive remarks, and was called
ironical, because he had a habit of dispersing flattering delusions and
wilful pretences by bringing the dry light of truth to bear upon them--a
gratuitous disagreeableness which was perhaps the reason why he was now
perched on a tree-stump alone, casting shy, bird-like glances hither and
thither--at two children quarrelling over a cracked tea-cup, at the
rector halting about uncomfortably amongst the "secondary people," at
his wife being instructed by Lady Latimer, at Lady Latimer herself,
tired but loath to go, at Bessie Fairfax, full of spirit and
forgetfulness, running at speed over the grass, a vociferous, noisy
troop of children after her.

"Stop, stop, you are not to cross the lawn!" cried Mrs. Wiley. "Bessie
Carnegie, what a tomboy you are! We might be sure if there was any
roughness you were at the head of it."

Lady Latimer also looked austere at the infringement of respect. Bessie
did not hear, and sped on till she reached the tree-stump where Mr.
Phipps was resting, and touched it--the game was "tiggy-touch-wood."
There she halted to take breath, her round cheeks flushed, her carnation
mouth open, and her pursuers baffled.

"You are a pretty young lady!" said Mr. Phipps, not alluding to Bessie's
beauty, but to her manner sarcastically. Bessie paid no heed. They were
very good friends, and she cared nothing for his sharp observations. But
she perceived that the rout of children was being turned back to the
orchard, and made haste to follow them.

Admiral Parkins and Mr. Musgrave had foregathered with Mr. Carnegie to
discuss some matters of parish finance. They drew near to Mr. Phipps and
took him into the debate. It was concerning a new organ for the church,
a proposed extension of the school-buildings, an addition to the
master's salary, and a change of master. The present man was
old-fashioned, and the spirit of educational reform had reached
Beechhurst.

"If we wait until Wiley moves in the business, we may wait till
doomsday. The money will be forthcoming when it is shown that it is
wanted," said the admiral, whose heart was larger than his income.

"Lady Latimer will not be to ask twice," said Mr. Musgrave. "Nor Mr.
Phipps."

"We must invite her ladyship to take the lead," said Mr. Carnegie.

"Let us begin by remembering that, as a poor community, we have no right
to perfection," said Mr. Phipps. "The voluntary taxes of the locality
are increasing too fast. It is a point of social honor for all to
subscribe to public improvements, and all are not gifted with a
superfluity of riches. If honor is to be rendered where honor is due,
let Miss Wort take the lead. Having regard to her means, she is by far
the most generous donor in Beechhurst."

Mr. Phipps's proposal was felt to need no refutation. The widow's mite
is such a very old story--not at all applicable to the immense
operations of modern philanthropy. Besides, Miss Wort had no ambition
for the glory of a leader, nor had she the figure for the post. Mr.
Phipps was not speaking to be contradicted, only to be heard.

Lady Latimer, on her way to depart, came near the place where the
gentlemen were grouped, and turned aside to join them, as if a sudden
thought had struck her. "You are discussing our plans?" she said. "A
certificated master to supersede poor old Rivett must be the first
consideration in our rearrangement of the schools. The children have
been sacrificed too long to his incompetence. We must be on the look-out
for a superior man, and make up our minds to pay him well."

"Poor old Rivett! he has done good work in his day, but he has the fault
that overtakes all of us in time," said Mr. Phipps. "For the master of a
rural school like ours, I would choose just such another man--of rough
common-sense, born and bred in a cottage, and with an experimental
knowledge of the life of the boys he has to educate. Certificated if you
please, but the less conventionalized the better."

Lady Latimer did not like Mr. Phipps--she thought there was something of
the spy in his nature. She gazed beyond him, and was peremptory about
her superior man--so peremptory that she had probably already fixed on
the fortunate individual who would enjoy her countenance. Half an hour
later, when Bessie Fairfax was carrying off her reluctant brothers to
supper and to bed, my lady had not said all she had to say. She was
still projecting, dissenting, deciding and undoing, and the gentlemen
were still listening with patient deference. She had made magnificent
offers of help for the furtherance of their schemes, and had received
warm acknowledgments.

"Her ladyship is bountiful as usual--for a consideration," said Mr.
Phipps, emitting a long suppressed groan of weariness, when her gracious
good-evening released them. Mr. Phipps revolted against my lady's yoke,
the others wore it with grace. Admiral Parkins said Beechhurst would be
in a poor way without her. Mr. Musgrave looked at his watch, and avowed
the same opinion. Mr. Carnegie said nothing. He knew so much good of
Lady Latimer that he had an almost unlimited indulgence for her. It was
his disposition, indeed, to be indulgent to women, to give them all the
homage and sympathy they require.

Mr. Phipps and Mr. Carnegie quitted the rectory-garden, and crossed the
road to the doctor's house in company. Bessie Fairfax, worn out with the
emotions and fatigues of the day, had left the children to their mother
and stout Irish nurse, and had collapsed into her father's great chair
in the parlor. She sprang up as the gentlemen entered, and was about to
run away, when Mr. Phipps spread out his arms to arrest her flight.

"Well, Cinderella, the pumpkin-coach has not come yet to fetch you
away?" said he. The application of the parable of Cinderella to her case
was Mr. Phipps's favorite joke against Bessie Fairfax.

"No, but it is on the road. I hear the roll of the wheels and the crack
of Raton's whip," said she with a prodigious sigh.

"So it is, Phipps--that's true! We are going to lose our Bessie," said
Mr. Carnegie, drawing her upon his knee as he sat down.

"Poor little tomboy! A nice name Mrs. Wiley has fitted her with! And she
is going to be a lady? I should not wonder if she liked it," said Mr.
Phipps.

"As if ladies were not tomboys too!" said she with wise scorn, half
laughing, half pouting. Then with wistfulness: "Will it be so very
different? Why should it? I hate the idea of going away from
Beechhurst!" and she laid her cheek against the doctor's rough whisker
with the caressing, confiding affection that made her so inexpressibly
dear to him.

"Here is my big baby," said he. "A little more, and she will persuade me
to say I won't part with her."

Bessie flashed out impetuously: "Do say so! do say so! If you won't part
with me, I won't go. Who can make us?"

Mrs. Carnegie came into the room, serious and reasonable. She had caught
Bessie's last words, and said: "If we were to let you have your own way
now, Bessie dear, ten to one that you would live to reproach us with not
having done our duty by you. My conscience is clear that we ought to
give you up. What is your opinion, Mr. Phipps?"

"My opinion is, Mrs. Carnegie, that when the pumpkin-coach calls for
Cinderella, she will jump in, kiss her hand to all friends in the
Forest, and drive off to Woldshire in a delicious commotion of tearful
joy and impossible expectation."

Bessie cried out vehemently against this.

"There, there!" said the doctor, as if he were tired, "that is enough.
Let us proclaim a truce. I forbid the subject to be mentioned again
unless I mention it. And let my word be law."

Mr. Carnegie's word, in that house, was law.



CHAPTER IV.

_A RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR._


The next morning Mr. Carnegie was not in imperative haste to start on
his daily circuit. The boys had to give him an account of yesterday's
fun. He heard them comfortably, and rejoiced the heart of Bessie by
telling her to be ready to ride with him at ten o'clock--her mother
could spare her. Bessie was not to wait for when the hour came. These
rides with her father were ever her chief delight. She wore a round
beaver hat with a rosette in front, and a habit of dark blue serge.
(There had been some talk of a new one for her, but now her mother
reflected that it would not be wanted.)

It was a delicate morning, the air was light and clear, the sky gray and
silvery. Bessie rode Miss Hoyden, the doctor's little mare, and trotted
along at a brisk pace by his stout cob Brownie. She had a sense of the
keenest enjoyment in active exercise. Mr. Carnegie looked aside at her
often, his dear little Bessie, thinking, but not speaking, of the
separation that impended. Bessie's pleasure in the present was enough to
throw that into the background. She did not analyze her sensations, but
her cheeks glowed, her eyes shone, and she knew that she was happy. They
were on their way to Littlemire, where Mr. Moxon lived--a poor clergyman
with whom young Musgrave was reading. Almost as soon as they were clear
of the village they struck into a green ride through the beeches, and
cut off a great angle of the high-road, coming out again on a furzy
opening dotted with old oaks, where the black pigs of the cottagers
would by and by feast and grow fat on their common rights. It was a
lovely, damp, perilous spot, haunted by the ghost of fever and ague. The
soft, vivid turf was oozy there, and the long-rooted stones were clothed
with wet, rusted moss. The few cottages of the hamlet wore deep hoods of
thatch, and stood amongst prosperous orchards; one of them, a little
larger than the rest, being the habitation of Mr. Moxon, the vicar of
Littlemire, whose church, dame-school, and income were all of the same
modest proportions as his dwelling. He had an invalid wife and no
attraction for resident pupils, but he was thankful when he could get
one living not too far off. Young Musgrave walked from Brook twice a
week--a long four miles--to read with him.

The lad was in the vicar's parlor when Mr. Carnegie and Bessie Fairfax
stopped at the gate. He came out with flushed brow and ruffled hair to
keep Bessie company and hold the doctor's horse while he went up stairs
with Mr. Moxon to visit his wife. That room where she lay in pain often,
in weakness always, was a mean, poorly-furnished room, with a window in
the thatch, and just a glimpse of heaven beyond, but that glimpse was
all reflected in the blessedness of her peaceful face. Mr. Moxon's
threadbare coat hung loosely on his large lean frame, like the coat of a
poor, negligent gentleman, such as he was. He had the reputation of
being a capital scholar, but he had not made the way in the world that
had been expected of him. He was vicar of Littlemire when the Reverend
Geoffry Fairfax came into the Forest, and he was vicar of Littlemire
still, with no prospect of promotion. Perhaps he did not seek it. His
wife loved this buried nook, and he loved it for her sake. Mr. Carnegie
took it often in his rides, because they called him their friend and he
could help them. They had not many besides: Lady Latimer and Mr. Phipps
did not forget them, but they were quite out of the way of the visiting
part of the community.

"You have done with Hampton, then, Harry?" Bessie said, waiting with her
comrade at the gate.

"Yes, so far as school goes, except that I shall always have a kindness
for the old place and the old doctor. It was a grand thing, my winning
that scholarship, Bessie."

"And now you will have your heart's desire--you will go to Oxford."

"Yes; Moxon is an Oxford man, and the old doctor says out-and-out the
best classic of his acquaintance. You have not seen my prize-books yet.
When are you coming to Brook, Bessie?"

"The first time I have a chance. What are the books, Harry?"

"All standard books--poetry," Harry said.

The young people's voices, chiming harmoniously, sounded in Mrs. Moxon's
room. The poor suffering lady, who was extended on an inclined couch
below the window, looked down at them, and saw Harry standing at Miss
Hoyden's head, with docile Brownie's bridle on his left arm, and Bessie,
with the fine end of her slender whip, teasing the dark fuzz of his
hair. They made a pretty picture at the gate, laughing and chattering
their confidences aloud.

"What did Harry Musgrave say to your news, Bessie?" her father asked as
they rode away from the vicar's house.

"I forgot to tell him!" cried she, pulling up and half turning round.
"I had so much to hear." But Mr. Carnegie said it was not worth while to
bring Harry out again from his books. How fevered the lad looked! Why
did not Moxon patronize open windows?

The road they were pursuing was a gradual long ascent, which brought
them in sight of the sea and of a vast expanse of rolling heath and
woodland. When they reached the top of the hill they breathed their
horses a few minutes and admired the view, then struck into a
bridle-track across the heath, and regained the high-road about a mile
from Beechhurst. Scudding along in front of them was the familiar figure
of Miss Wort in her work-a-day costume--a drab cloak and poke bonnet,
her back up, and limp petticoats dragging in the dust. She turned
swiftly in at the neat garden-gate that had a green space before it,
where numerous boles of trees, lopt of their branches, lay about in
picturesque confusion. A wheelwright's shed and yard adjoined the
cottage, and Mr. Carnegie, halting without dismounting, whistled loud
and shrill to call attention. A wiry, gray-headed man appeared from the
shed, and came forward with a rueful, humorous twinkle in his shrewd
blue eyes.

"Done again, Mr. Carnegie!" said he. "The old woman's done you again. It
is no good denying her physic, for physic she will have. She went to
Hampton Infirmary last Saturday with a ticket from Miss Wort, and
brought home two bottles o' new mixture. So you see, sir, between 'em,
you're frustrated once more."

"I am not surprised. Drugging is as bad a habit as drinking, and as hard
to leave off. Miss Wort has just gone in to your wife, so I will not
intrude. What is your son doing at present, Christie?"

"He's about somewhere idling with his drawing-book and bits o' colors.
He takes himself off whenever it is a finer day than common. Most likely
he's gone to Great-Ash Ford. He's met with a mate there after his own
mind--an artist chap. Was you wanting him, Mr. Carnegie?"

"There is a job of painting to do at my stable, but it can wait. Only
tell him, and he will suit his convenience."

At this moment Miss Wort reappeared in a sort of furtive hurry. She
gave a timid, sidelong glance at the doctor, and then addressed Bessie.
Mr. Carnegie had his eye upon her: she was the thorn in his professional
flesh. She meddled with his patients--a pious woman for whom other
people's souls and internal complaints supplied the excitement absent
from her own condition and favorite literature. She had some superfluous
income and much unoccupied time, which she devoted to promiscuous
visiting and the relief (or otherwise) of her poorer and busier
neighbors. Mr. Carnegie had refused to accept the plea of her good heart
in excuse of her bad practice, and had denounced her, in a moment of
extreme irritation, as a presumptuous and mischievous woman; and Miss
Wort had publicly rejoined that she would not call in Mr. Carnegie if
she were at death's door, because who could expect a blessing on the
remedies of a man who was not a professor of religion? The most cordial
terms they affected was an armed neutrality. The doctor was never free
from suspicion of Miss Wort. Though she looked scared and deprecating,
she did not shrink from responsibility, and would administer a dose of
her own prescribing in even critical cases, and pacify the doubts and
fears of her unlucky patient with tender assurances that if it did her
no good, it could do her no harm. Men she let alone, they were safe from
her: she did not pretend to know the queer intricacies of their insides;
also their aversion for physic she had found to be invincible.

"Two of the pills ten minutes afore dinner-time, Miss Wort, ma'am, did
you say? It is not wrote so plain on the box as it might be," cried a
plaintive treble from the cottage door. The high hedge and a great bay
tree hid Mr. Carnegie from Mrs. Christie's view, but Miss Wort,
timorously aware of his observation, gave a guilty start, and shrieking
convulsively in the direction of the voice, "Yes, yes!" rushed to the
doctor's stirrup and burst into eager explanation:

"It is only Trotter's strengthening pills, Mr. Carnegie. The basis of
them is iron--iron or steel. I feel positive that they will be of
service to Mrs. Christie, poor thing! with that dreadful sinking at her
stomach; for I have tried them myself on similar occasions. No, Mr.
Carnegie, a crust of bread would not be more to the purpose. A crust of
bread, indeed! Dr. Thomson of Edinburgh, the famous surgeon, has the
highest opinion of Trotter."

Mr. Carnegie's face was a picture of disgust. He would have felt himself
culpable if he had not delivered an emphatic protest against Miss Wort's
experiments. Mrs. Christie had come trembling to the gate--a
pretty-featured woman, but sallow as old parchment--and the doctor
addressed his expostulations to her. Many defeats had convinced him of
the futility of appealing to Miss Wort.

"If you had not the digestion of an ostrich, Mrs. Christie, you would
have been killed long ago," said he with severe reprobation. "You have
devoured half a man's earnings, and spoilt as fine a constitution as a
woman need be blessed with, by your continual drugging."

"No, Mr. Carnegie, sir--with all respect to your judgment--I never had
no constitution worth naming where constitutions come," said Mrs.
Christie, deeply affronted. "That everybody's witness as knew me afore
ever I married into the Forest. And what has kept me up since, toiling
and moiling with a husband and boys, if the drugs hasn't? I hope I'm
thankful for the blessing that has been sent with them." Miss Wort
purred her approval of these pious sentences.

"Some day you'll be in a hurry for an antidote, Mrs. Christie: that will
be the end of taking random advice."

"Well, sir, if so I be, my William is not the man to grudge me what's
called for. As you _are_ here, Mr. Carnegie, I should wish to have an
understanding whether you mean to provide me with doctor's stuff; if
not, I'll look elsewhere. I've not heard that Mr. Robb sets his face
against drugs yet; which it stands to reason has a use, or God Almighty
wouldn't have given them."

Mr. Carnegie rode off with a curt rejoinder to Mrs. Christie that he
would not supply her foolish cravings, Robb or no Robb. Miss Wort was
sorry for his contempt of the divine bounties, and sought an explanation
in his conduct: "Poor fellow! he has not entered a church since Easter,
unless he walks over to Littlemire, which is not likely."

"If he has not entered Mr. Wiley's church, I'm with him, and so is my
William," said Mrs. Christie with sudden energy. "I can't abide Mr.
Wiley. Oh, he's an arrogant man! It's but seldom he calls this way, and
I don't care if it was seldomer; for could he have spoken plainer if it
had been to a dog? 'You'd be worse if you ailed aught, Mrs. Christie,'
says he, and grins. I'd been giving him an account of the poor health I
enjoy. And my William heard him with his own ears when he all but named
Mr. Carnegie in the pulpit, and not to his credit; so he's in the right
of it to keep away. A kinder doctor there is not far nor near, for all
he has such an unaccountable prejudice against what he lives by."

"But that is not Christian. We ought not to absent ourselves from the
holy ordinances because the clergyman happens to offend us. We ought to
bear patiently being told of our faults," urged Miss Wort, who on no
account would have allowed one of the common people to impugn the
spiritual authorities unrebuked: her own private judgment on doctrine
was another matter.

"'Between him and thee,' yes," said Mrs. Christie, who on some points
was as sensitive and acute as a well-born woman. "But it is taking a
mean advantage of a man to talk at him when he can't answer; that's what
my William says. For if he spoke up for himself, they'd call it brawling
in church, and turn him out. He ain't liked, Miss Wort; you can't say he
is, to tell truth. Not many of the gentlemen does attend church, except
them as goes for the look o' the thing, like the old admiral and a few
more."

Miss Wort groaned audibly, then cheered up, and with a gush of feeling
assured her humble friend that it would not be so in a better world;
_there_ all would be love and perfect harmony. And so she went on her
farther way. Mr. Carnegie and Bessie Fairfax, riding slowly, were still
in sight. The next visit Miss Wort had proposed to pay was to a scene of
genuine distress, and she saw with regret that the doctor would
forestall her. He dismounted and entered a cottage by the roadside, and
when she reached it the door was shut, Brownie's bridle hung on the
paling, and Bessie was letting Miss Hoyden crop the sweet grass on the
bank while she waited. Miss Wort determined to stay for the doctor's
exit; she had remedies in her pocket for this case also.

Within the cottage there was a good-looking, motherly woman, and a
large-framed young man of nineteen or twenty who sat beside the fire
with a ghastly face, and hands hanging down in dark despondency. He had
the aspect of one rising from a terrible illness; in fact, he had just
come out of prison after a month's hard labor.

"It is his mind that's worst hurt, sir," said his mother, lifting her
eyes full of tears to Mr. Carnegie's kind face. "But he has a sore pain
in his chest, too, that he never used to have."

"Stand up, Tom, and let me have a look at you," said the doctor, and Tom
stood up, grim as death, starved, shamed, unutterably miserable.

"Mr. Wiley's been in, but all he had to say was as he hoped Tom would
keep straight now, since he'd found out by unhappy experience as the way
of transgressors is hard," the poor woman told her visitor, breaking
into a sob as she spoke.

Mr. Carnegie considered the lad, and told him to sit down again, then
turned to the window. His eye lit on Miss Wort Standing outside with
downcast face, and hands as if she were praying. He tapped on the glass,
and as she rushed to the door he met her with a flag of truce in the
form of a requisition for aid.

"Miss Wort, I know you are a liberal soul, and here is a case where you
can do some real good, if you will be guided," he said firmly. "I was
going to appeal to Lady Latimer, but I have put so much on her
ladyship's kindness lately--"

"Oh, Mr. Carnegie! I have a right to help here," interrupted Miss Wort.
"A _right_, for poor Tom was years and years in my Sunday-school class;
so he can't be very bad! Didn't Admiral Parkins and the other
magistrates say that they would rather send his master to prison than
him, if they had the power?"

"Yes; but he has done his prison now, and the pressing business is to
keep him from going altogether to the deuce. I want him to have a good
meal of meat three or four times a week, and light garden-work--all he
is fit for now. And then we shall see what next."

"I wo'ant list and I wo'ant emigrate; I'll stop where I am and live it
down," announced Tom doggedly.

"Yes, yes, that is what I should expect of you, Tom," said Miss Wort.
"Then you will recover everybody's good opinion."

"I don't heed folks' opinions, good or bad. I know what I know."

"Well, then, get your cap, and come home to dinner with me; it is roast
mutton," said Miss Wort, as if pleading with a fractious child.

Tom rose heavily, took his cap, and followed her out. Mr. Carnegie
watched them as they turned down a back lane to the village, the lathy
figure of the lad towering by the head and shoulders above the poke
bonnet and drab cloak of Miss Wort. He was talking with much violent
gesture of arm and fist, and she was silent. But she was not ruminating
physic.

"Miss Wort is like one of the old saints--she is not ashamed in any
company," said Bessie Fairfax.

"If justice were satisfied with good intentions, Miss Wort would be a
blameless woman," said her father.

A few minutes more brought the ride to an end at the doctor's door. And
there was a messenger waiting for him with a peremptory call to a
distance. It was a very rare chance indeed that he had a whole holiday.
His reputation for skill stood high in the Forest, and his practice was
extensive in proportion. But he had health, strength, and the heart for
it; and in fact it was his prosperity that bore half the burden of his
toils.



CHAPTER V.

_GREAT-ASH FORD._


A week elapsed. Lady Latimer called twice on Mrs. Carnegie to offer
counsel and countenance to Bessie Fairfax. The news that she was going
to leave the doctor's house for a rise in the world spread through the
village. Mrs. Wiley and Miss Buff called with the same benevolent
intentions as my lady. Mrs. Carnegie felt this oppressive, but tried to
believe that it was kind; Bessie grew impatient, and wished she could
be let alone. Mr. Phipps laughed at her, and asked if she did not enjoy
her novel importance. Bessie rejoined with a scorny "No, indeed!" Mr.
Phipps retaliated with a grimace of incredulity.

Mr. John Short's letter had been acknowledged, but it did not get itself
answered. Mr. Carnegie said, and said again, that there was no hurry
about it. In fact, he could not bear to look the loss of Bessie in the
face. He took her out to ride with him twice in that seven days, and
when his wife meekly urged that the affair must go on and be finished,
he replied that as Kirkham had done without Bessie for fourteen years,
it might well sustain her absence a little longer. Kirkham, however,
having determined that it was its duty to reclaim Bessie, was moved to
be imperious. As Mr. Fairfax heard nothing from his lawyer, he went into
Norminster to bid him press the thing on. Mr. John Short pleaded to give
the Carnegies longer law, and when Mr. Fairfax refused to see any
grounds for it, he suggested a visit to Beechhurst as more appropriate
than another letter.

"Who is to go? You or I?" asked the squire testily.

"Both, if you like. But you would do best to go alone, to see the little
girl and the good people who have taken care of her, and to let the
whole matter be transacted on a friendly footing."

Mr. Fairfax shrank from the awkwardness of the task, from the
humiliation of it, and said, "Could not Short manage it by post, without
a personal encounter?" Mr. Short thought not. Finally, it was agreed
that if another week elapsed without bringing the promised answer from
Mrs. Carnegie, they would go to Beechhurst together and settle the
matter on the spot.

The doctor's procrastination stole the second seven days as it had
stolen the first.

"Those people mean to make us some difficulty," said Mr. Fairfax with
secret irritation.

Mr. John Short gave no encouragement to this suspicion; instead, he
urged the visit to Beechhurst. "We need not give more than three days to
it--one to go, one to stay, one to return," said he.

Mr. Fairfax objected that he disliked travelling in a fuss. The lawyer
could return when their business was accomplished; as for himself, being
in the Forest, he should make a tour of it, the weather favoring. And
thus the journey was settled.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was not a lovelier spot within children's foot-range of Beechhurst
than Great-Ash Ford. On a glowing midsummer day it was a perfect
paradise for idlers. Not far off, yet half buried out of sight amongst
its fruit trees, was a farmhouse thatched with reeds, very old, and
weather-stained of all golden, brown, and orange tints. A row of silver
firs was in the rear, and a sweep of the softest velvety sward stretched
from its narrow domain to the river. To watch the cattle come from the
farther pastures in single file across the shallow water at milking-time
was as pretty a bit of pastoral as could be seen in all the Forest.

Bessie Fairfax loved this spot with a peculiar affection. Beyond the
ford went a footpath, skirting the river, to the village of Brook, where
young Musgrave lived--a footpath overshadowed by such giant fir trees,
such beeches and vast oaks as are nowhere else in England. The Great Ash
was a storm-riven fragment, but its fame continued, and its beauty in
sufficient picturesqueness for artistic purposes. Many a painter had
made the old russet farmhouse his summer lodging; and one was sketching
now where the water had dried in its pebbly bed, and the adventurous
little bare feet of Jack and Willie Carnegie were tempting an imaginary
peril in quest of the lily which still whitened the stream under the
bank.

It was not often that Bessie, with the children alone, wandered so far
afield. But the day had beguiled them, and a furtive hope that Harry
Musgrave might be coming to Beechhurst that way had given Bessie
courage. He had not been met, however, when it was time to turn their
faces towards home. The boys had their forest pony, and mounted him by
turns. It was Tom's turn now, and Bessie was leading Jerry, and carrying
the socks and boots of the other two in the skirt of her frock, gathered
up in one hand. She was a little subdued, a little downcast, it might be
with fatigue and the sultry air, or it might be with her present
disappointment; but beyond and above all wearied sensations was the jar
of unsettledness that had come into her life, and perplexed and
confused all its sweet simplicities. She made no haste, but lingered,
and let the children linger as they pleased.

The path by the river was not properly a bridle-path, but tourists for
pleasure often lost their way in the forest, and emerged upon the roads
unexpectedly from such delicious, devious solitudes. Thus it befell
to-day when two gentlemen on horseback overtook Bessie, where she had
halted with Tom and the pony to let Jack and Willie come up. They were
drying their pink toes preparatory to putting on again their shoes and
stockings as the strangers rode by.

"Is this the way to Beechhurst, my little gypsy?" quoth the elder of the
two, drawing rein for a moment.

Bessie looked up with a sunburnt face under her loose fair hair. "Yes,
sir," said she. Then a sudden intelligence gleamed in her eyes, her
cheeks blazed more hotly, and she thought to herself, "It is my
grandfather!"

The gentlemen proceeded some hundred paces in silence, and then the one
whom Bessie suspected as her grandfather said to the other, "Short, that
is the girl herself! She has the true Fairfax face as it is painted in a
score of our old portraits."

"I believe you are right, sir. Let us be certain--let us ask her name,"
proposed the lawyer.

Bessie's little troop were now ready to march, and they set off at a
run, heedless of her cry to stop a while behind the riders, "Else we
shall be in the dust of their heels," she said. Lingering would not have
saved her, however; for the strangers were evidently purposed to wait
until she came up. Jack was now taking his turn on Jerry, and Jerry with
his head towards his stable wanted no leading or encouraging to go. He
was soon up with the gentlemen and in advance of them. Next Tom and
Willie trotted by and stood, hand-in-hand, gazing at the horses.
Bessie's feet lagged as if leaden weights were tied to them, and her
conscious air as she glanced in the face of the stranger who had
addressed her before set at rest any remaining doubt of who she was.

"Are you Elizabeth Fairfax who lives with Mrs. Carnegie?" he asked in an
abrupt voice--the more abrupt and loud for a certain nervousness and
agitation that arose in him at the sight of the child.

"Yes, sir, I am," replied Bessie, like a veritable echo of himself.

"Then, as we are travelling the same road, you will be our guide, eh?"

"The children are little; they cannot keep pace with men on horseback,"
said Bessie. They were a mile and a half from Beechhurst yet. Mr. John
Short spoke hastily in an endeavor to promote an understanding, and
blundered worse than his client: his suggestion was that they might each
take up one of the bairns; but the expression of Bessie's eyes was a
reminder that she might not please to trudge at their bridle, though the
little and weak ones were to be carried.

"You are considering who is to take you up?" hazarded Mr. Fairfax.

Bessie recovered her countenance and said, as she would have said to any
other strangers on horseback who might have invited her to be their
guide on foot, "You cannot miss the way. It lies straight before you for
nearly a mile over the heath; then you will come to cross-roads and a
guide-post. You will be at Beechhurst long before we shall."

The gentlemen accepted their dismissal and rode on. Was Bessie mollified
at all by the mechanical courtesy with which their hats were lifted at
their departure? They recognized, then, that she was not the little
gypsy they had hailed her. It did not enter into her imagination that
they had recognized also the true Fairfax face under her dishevelled
holiday locks, though she was persuaded that the one who had asked her
name was her wicked grandfather: that her grandfather was a wicked man
Bessie had quite made up her mind. Mr. John Short admired her behavior.
It did not chafe his dignity or alarm him for the peace of his future
life. But Mr. Fairfax was not a man of humor; he saw no fun whatever in
his prospects with that intrepid child, who had evidently inherited not
the Fairfax face only, but the warm Fairfax temper.

"Do you suppose that she guessed who we are?" he asked his man of law.

"Yes, but she did not add to that the probability that we knew that she
guessed it, though she looks quick enough."

Mr. Fairfax was not flattered: "I don't love a quick woman. A quick
woman is always self-willed and wanting in feminine sweetness."

"There was never a Fairfax yet, man or woman, of mean understanding,"
said the lawyer. "Since the little girl has the family features, the
chances are that she has the family brains, and no lack of wit and
spirit."

Mr. Fairfax groaned. He held the not uncommon opinion that wit and
spirit endanger a man's peace and rule in a house. And yet in the case
of his son Laurence's Xantippe he had evidence enough that nothing in
nature is so discordant and intractable as a fool. Then he fell into a
silence, and turned his horse off the highway upon the margin of sward
at one side of it. Mr. John Short took the other; and so Bessie and the
boys soon lost sight of them.

It was a beautiful forest-road when they had crossed the heath. No
hedges shut it in, but here and there the great beech trees stood in
clumps or in single grace, and green rides opened vistas into cool
depths of shade which had never changed but with the seasons for many
ages. It was quite old-world scenery here. Neither clearings nor
enclosures had been thought of, and the wild sylvan beauty had all its
own perfect way. Presently there were signs of habitation. A curl of
smoke from a low roof so lost in its orchard that but for that domestic
flag it might have escaped observation altogether; a triangular green
with a pond, geese and pigs; more thatched cottages, gardens, small
fields, large hedges, high, bushy, unpruned; hedgerow trees; a lonely
little chapel in a burial-ground, a woodyard, a wheelwright's shop, a
guide-post pointing three ways, a blacksmith's forge at one side of the
road, and an old inn opposite; cows, unkempt children; white gates,
gravelled drives, chimney-pots of gentility, hidden away in bowers of
foliage. Then a glimpse of the church-tower, a sweep in the road; the
church and crowded churchyard, the rectory, the doctor's house, and a
stone's throw off the "King's Arms" at the top of the town-street, which
sloped gently all down hill. Another forge, tiled houses, shops with
queer bow-windows and steps up to the half-glazed doors, where a bell
rang when the latch was lifted. More white gates, more well-kept
shrubberies; green lanes, roads branching, curving to right and left;
and everywhere those open spaces of lawn and magnificent beech trees,
as if the old town had an unlimited forest-right to scatter its
dwellings far and wide, just as caprice or the love of beauty might
dictate.

"This is very lovely--it is a series of delightful pictures. Only to
live here must be a sort of education," said Mr. Fairfax as they arrived
within view of the ancient church and its precincts.

Mr. John Short saw and smelt opportunities of improvement, but he agreed
that Beechhurst for picturesqueness was most desirable. Every cottage
had its garden, and every garden was ablaze with flowers. Flowers love
that moist sun and soil, and thrive joyfully. Gayest of the gay within
its trim holly hedge was the Carnegies. The scent of roses and
mignonette suffused the warm air of evening. The doctor was going about
with a watering-pot, tending his beauties and favorites, while he
watched for the children coming home. His name and profession, set forth
on a bright brass plate, adorned the gate, from which a straight
box-edged path led to the white steps of the porch. The stable entrance
was at the side. Everything about the place had an air of well-doing and
of means enough; and the doctor himself, whom the strangers eyed
observantly from the height of their saddles, looked like his own master
in all the independence of easy circumstances.

Visitors to the Forest were too numerous in summer to attract notice.
Mr. Carnegie lifted his head for a moment, and then continued his
assiduities to a lovely old yellow rose which had manifested delicate
symptoms earlier in the season. Next to his wife and children the doctor
was fond of roses. The travellers rode past to the door of the "King's
Arms," and there dismounted. Half an hour after they were dining in an
up-stairs, bow-windowed room which commanded a cheerful prospect up and
down the village street, with a view of the church opposite and a side
glance of Mr. Carnegie's premises. They witnessed the return of Bessie
and the boys, and the fatherly help and reception they had. They saw the
doctor lift up Bessie's face to look at her, saw him pat her on the
shoulder encouragingly as she made him some brief communication, saw him
open the door and send her into the house, and then hurry round to the
stable to prevent the boys lingering while Jerry was rubbed down. He
had leisure and the heart, it seemed, for all such offices of kindness,
and his voice was the signal of instant obedience.

Later in the evening they were all out in the garden--Mrs. Carnegie too.
One by one the children were dismissed to bed, and when only Bessie was
left, the doctor filled his pipe and had a smoke, walking to and fro
under the hedge, over which he conversed at intervals with passing
neighbors. His wife and Bessie sat in the porch. The only thing in all
this that Mr. Fairfax could except to was the doctor's clay pipe. He
denounced smoking as a low, pernicious habit; the lawyer, more tolerant,
remarked that it was an increasing habit and good for the revenue, but
bad for him: he believed that many a quarrel that might have ripened
into a lawsuit had prematurely collapsed in the philosophy that comes of
tobacco-smoke.

"Perhaps it would prepare me with equanimity to meet my adversary," said
Mr. Fairfax.

Mr. John Short had not intended to give the conversation this turn. He
feared that his client was working himself into an unreasonable humor,
in which he would be ready to transfer to Mr. Carnegie the reproaches
that were due only to himself. He was of a suspicious temper, and had
already insinuated that the people who had kept his grandchild must have
done it from interested and ulterior motives. The lawyer could not see
this, but he did see that if Mr. Fairfax was bent on making a contest of
what might be amicably arranged, no power on earth could hinder him. For
though it proverbially takes two to make a quarrel, the doctor did not
look as if he would disappoint a man of sharp contention if he sought
it. The soft word that turns away anger would not be of his speaking.

"It will be through sheer mismanagement if there arise a hitch," Mr.
John Short said. "You desire to obtain possession of the child--then you
must go quietly about it. She is of an age to speak for herself, and our
long neglect may well have forfeited our claim. She is not your
immediate successor; there are infinite possibilities in the lives of
your two sons. If the case were dragged before the courts, she might be
given her choice where she would live; and if she has a heart she would
stay at Beechhurst, with her father's widow--and we are baulked."

"What right has a woman to call herself a man's widow when she has
married again?" objected Mr. Fairfax.

"Mrs. Carnegie's acknowledgment of our letter was courteous: we are on
the safe side yet," said the lawyer smoothly. "Suppose I continue the
negotiation by seeking an interview with her to-morrow morning?"

"Have your own way. I am of no use, it seems. I wish I had stayed at
Abbotsmead and had let you come alone."

Mr. John Short echoed the wish with all his heart, though he did not
give his thoughts tongue. He began to conjecture that some new aspect of
the affair had been presented to his client's mind by the encounter with
Elizabeth in the Forest. And he was right. The old squire had conceived
for her a sort of paradoxical love at first sight, and was become
suddenly jealous of all who had an established hold on her affections.
Here was the seed of an unforeseen complication, which was almost sure
to become inimical to Bessie's happiness when he obtained the guidance
of her life.

When Mr. Carnegie's pipe was out the sunset was past and the evening
dews were falling. Nine had struck by the kitchen clock, supper was on
the table, and the lamp was shedding its light through the open window.

"Come in, mother, come in, Bessie," said the doctor. "And, Bessie, let
us hear over again what was your adventure this afternoon?"

Bessie sat down before her cup of new milk and slice of brown bread, and
told her simple tale a second time. It had been rather pooh-poohed the
first, but it had made an impression. Said Mr. Carnegie: "And you jumped
to the conclusion that this gentleman unknown was your grandfather, even
before he asked your name? Now to describe him."

"He came from Hampton, because he rode Jefferson's old gray mare, and
the other rode the brown horse with white socks. He is a little like
Admiral Parkins--neither fat nor thin. He has white hair and a red and
brown color. He looks stern and as proud as Lucifer" (Mrs. Carnegie gave
Bessie a reproving glance), "and his voice sounds as if he were. Perhaps
he _could_ be kind--"

"You don't flatter him in his portrait, Bessie. Apparently you did not
take to him?"

"Not at all. I don't believe we shall ever be friends."

"Bessie dear, you must not set your mind against Mr. Fairfax,"
interposed her mother. "Don't encourage her in her nonsense and
prejudice, Thomas; they'll only go against her."

"Now for your grandfather's companion, Bessie: what was he like?"

"I did not notice. He was like everybody else--like Mr. Judson at the
Hampton Bank."

"That would be our correspondent, the lawyer, Mr. John Short of
Norminster."

Mr. Carnegie dropt the subject after this. His wife launched at him a
deprecating look, as much as to say, Would there not be vexation enough
for them all, without encouraging Bessie to revolt against lawful
authority? The doctor, who was guided more than he knew, thereupon held
his peace.



CHAPTER VI.

_AGAINST HER INCLINATION._


Mr. Fairfax was not a man of sentimental recollections. Nevertheless, it
did occur to him, as the twilight deepened, that somewhere in the
encumbered churchyard that he was looking down upon lay his son Geoffry
and Geoffry's first wife, Elizabeth. He felt a very lonely old man as he
thought of it. None of his sons' marriages were to boast of, but
Geoffry's, as it turned out, was the least unfortunate of any--Geoffry's
marriage with Elizabeth Bulmer, that is. If he had not approved of that
lady, he had tolerated her--pity that he had not tolerated her a little
more! The Forest climate had not suited the robust young Woldshire folk.
Once Geoffry had appealed to his father to help him to change his
benefice, but had experienced a harsh refusal. This was after Elizabeth
had suffered from an attack of rheumatism and ague, when she longed to
escape from the lovely, damp screens of the Forest to fresh Wold
breezes. She died, and Geoffry took another wife. Then he died of what
was called in the district marsh-fever. Mr. Fairfax was not impervious
to regret, but no regret would bring them to life again.

The next morning, while the dew was on the grass, he made his way into
the churchyard, and sought about for Geoffry's grave. He discovered it
in a corner, marked by a plain headstone and shaded by an elder bush. It
was the stone Geoffry had raised in memory of his Elizabeth, and below
her name his was inscribed, with the date of his death. The churchyard
was all neatly kept--this grave not more neatly than the others. Mrs.
Carnegie's affections had flowed into other channels, and Bessie had no
turn for meditation amongst the tombs. Mr. Fairfax felt rather more
forlorn after he had seen his son's last home than before, and might
have sunk into a fit of melancholy but for the diversion of his mind to
present matters. Just across the road Mr. Carnegie was mounting his
horse for his morning ride to the union workhouse, and Bessie was at the
gate seeing him off.

The little girl was not at all tired, flushed, or abstracted now. She
was cheerful as a lark, fresh, fair, rosy--more like a Fairfax than
ever. But when she caught sight of her grandfather over the churchyard
wall, she put on her grave airs and mentioned the fact to Mr. Carnegie.
Mr. John Short had written already to bespeak an interview with Bessie's
guardian, and to announce the arrival of Mr. Fairfax at the "King's
Arms." But at the same moment had come an imperative summons from the
workhouse, and Mr. Carnegie was not the doctor to neglect a sick poor
man for any business with a rich one that could wait. He had bidden his
wife receive the lawyer, and was leaving her to appoint the time when
Bessie directed his attention to her grandfather. With a sudden movement
he turned his horse, touched his hat with his whip-handle, and said,
"Sir, are you Mr. Fairfax?" The stranger assented. "Then here is our
Bessie, your granddaughter, ready to make your acquaintance. My wife
will see your agent. As for myself, I have an errand elsewhere this
morning." With that, and a reassuring nod to Bessie, the doctor started
off at a hard trot, and the two, thus summarily introduced, stood
confronting one another with a wall, the road, and a gate between them.
There was an absurdity in the situation that Bessie felt very keenly,
and blushes, mirth, and vexation flowed over her tell-tale visage as she
waited holding the gate, willing to obey if her grandfather called her,
or to stay till he came.

By a singular coincidence, while they were at a halt what to do or say,
Lady Latimer advanced up the village street, having walked a mile from
her house at Fairfield since breakfast. She was an early riser and a
great walker: her life must have been half as long again as the lives of
most ladies from the little portion of it she devoted to rest. She was
come to Beechhurst now on some business of school, or church, or parish,
which she assumed would, unless by her efforts, soon be at a deadlock.
But years will tell on the most vigorous frames, and my lady looked so
jaded that, if she had fallen in with Mr. Carnegie, he would have
reminded her, for her health's sake, that no woman is indispensable. She
gave Bessie that sweet smile which was flattering as a caress, and was
about to pass on when something wistful in the child's eyes arrested her
notice. She stopped and asked if there was any more news from Woldshire.
Bessie's round cheeks were two roses as she replied that her grandfather
Fairfax had come--that he was _there_ at the very moment, watching them
from the churchyard.

"Where?" said my lady, and turned about to see.

Mr. Fairfax knew her. He descended the steps, came out at the lych-gate,
and met her. At that instant the cast of his countenance reminded Bessie
of her cynical friend Mr. Phipps, and a thought crossed her mind that if
Lady Latimer had not recognized her grandfather and made a movement to
speak, he would not have challenged her. It would have seemed a very
remote period to Bessie, but it did not seem so utterly out of date to
themselves, that Richard Fairfax in his adolescence had almost run mad
for love of my lady in her teens. She had not reciprocated his passion,
and in a fit of desperation he had married his wife, the mother of his
three sons. Perhaps the cool affection he had borne them all his life
was the measure of his indifference to that poor lady, and that
indifference the measure of his vindictive constancy to his first idol.
They had not seen each other for many years; their courses had run far
apart, and they had grown old. But a woman never quite forgets to feel
interested in a man who has once worshipped her, though he may long
since have got up off his knees and gone and paid his devotions at other
shrines. Lady Latimer had not been so blessed in her life and affections
that she could afford to throw away even a flattering memory. Bessie's
talk of her grandfather had brought the former things to her mind. Her
face kindled at the sight of her friend, and her voice was the soul of
kindness. Mr. Fairfax looked up and pitied her, and lost his likeness to
Mr. Phipps. Ambitious, greedy of power, of rank, and riches--thus and
thus had he once contemned her; but there was that fascinating smile,
and so she would charm him if they met some day in Hades.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bessie went in-doors to apprise her mother of the visitors who were at
hand. Mr. Fairfax and Lady Latimer stood for a quarter of an hour or
longer in the shade of the churchyard trees, exchanging news, the chief
news being the squire's business at Beechhurst. Lady Latimer offered him
her advice and countenance for his granddaughter, and assured him that
Bessie had fine qualities, much simplicity, and the promise of beauty.
Meanwhile Mrs. Carnegie, forewarned of the impending interview,
collected herself and prepared for it. She sent Bessie into the
rarely-used drawing-room to pull up the blinds and open the glass door
upon the lawn; and, further to occupy the nervous moments, bade her
gather a few roses for the china bowl on the round table. Bessie had
just finished her task, and was standing with a lovely Devoniensis in
her hand, when her grandfather appeared, supported by Lady Latimer.

Mr. Fairfax was received by Mrs. Carnegie with courtesy, but without
effusion. It was the anxious desire of her heart that no ill-will should
arise because of Bessie's restoration. She was one of those unaffected,
reasonable, calm women whom circumstances rarely disconcert. Then her
imagination was not active. She did not pensively reflect that here was
her once father-in-law, but she felt comfortable in the consciousness
that Bessie had on a nice clean pink gingham frock and a crimped frill
round her white throat, in which she looked as pretty as she could look.
Bessie's light hair, threaded with gold, all crisp and wavy, and her
pure bright complexion, gave her an air of health and freshness not to
be surpassed. Her beauty was not too imposing--it was of everyday; and
though her wicked grandfather seemed to frown at her with his bushy gray
brows, and to search her through with his cold keen eyes, he was not
displeased by her appearance. He was gratified that she took after his
family. Bessie's expression as she regarded him again made him think of
that characteristic signature of her royal namesake, "Yours, as you
demean yourself, ELIZABETH," and he framed a resolution to
demean himself with all the humility and discretion at his command. He
experienced an impulse of affection towards her stronger than anything
he had ever felt for his sons: perhaps he discerned in her a more
absolute strain of himself. His sons had all taken after their mother.

Mrs. Carnegie's reception propitiated Mr. Fairfax still further. She
said a few words in extenuation of the delay there had been in replying
to his communication through Mr. John Short; and he was able to reply,
even sincerely, that he was glad it had occurred, since it had
occasioned his coming to the Forest. Bessie reddened; she had an almost
irresistible desire to say something gruff--she abominated these
compliments. She was vexed that Lady Latimer should be their witness,
and bent her brows fiercely. My lady did not understand the signs of her
temper. She was only amused by the flash of that harmless fire, and
serenely interposed to soothe and encourage the little girl. Oh, if she
could have guessed how she was offending!

"Can you spare Bessie for a few hours, Mrs. Carnegie? If you can, I will
carry her off to luncheon at Fairfield. Mr. Fairfax, whom I knew when I
was not much more than her age, will perhaps come too?" said my lady,
and Mr. Fairfax assented.

But tears rushed to Bessie's eyes, and she would have uttered a most
decisive "No," had not Mrs. Carnegie promptly answered for her that it
was a nice plan. "Your dress is quite sufficient, Bessie," added my
lady, and she was sent up stairs to put on her hat. Did she stamp her
angry little foot as she obeyed? Probably. And she cried, for to go to
Fairfield thus was horribly against her inclination. Nevertheless, half
an hour later, when my lady had transacted the business that brought
her to Beechhurst so opportunely, Bessie found herself walking gently
along the road at her side, and on her other hand her wicked
grandfather, chatting of a variety of past events in as disengaged and
pleasant a fashion as an old gentleman of sixty-five, fallen
unexpectedly into the company of an old friend, could do. As Bessie
cooled down, she listened and began to speculate whether he might
possibly be not so altogether wicked as his recent misbehavior had led
her to conclude; then she began to think better things of him in a
general way, but unfortunately it did not occur to her that he might
possibly have conceived a liking to herself. Love, that best solvent of
difficulties, was astray between them from the beginning.

Bessie was not invited to talk, but Lady Latimer gave her a kind glance
at intervals. Yet for all this encouragement her heart went pit-a-pat
when they came in sight of Fairfield; for about the gate was gathered a
group of young ladies--to Bessie's imagination at this epoch the most
formidable of created beings. There was one on horseback, a most
playful, sweet Margaret, who was my lady's niece; and another, a
dark-eyed, pretty thing, cuddling a brisk brown terrier--Dora and Dandy
they were; and a tall, graceful Scotch lassie, who ran to meet Lady
Latimer, and fondled up to her with the warmest affection; and two
little girls besides, sisters to Dora, very frank to make friends. Each
had some communication in haste for my lady, who, when she could get
leave to speak, introduced her niece to Mr. Fairfax, and recommended
Bessie to the attention of her contemporaries. Forthwith they were
polite. Dora offered Dandy to Bessie's notice; Margaret courted
admiration for Beauty; the others looked on with much benevolence, and
made cordial remarks and lively rejoinders. Bessie was too shy to enjoy
their affability; she felt awkward, and looked almost repulsively proud.
The younger ones gradually subsided. Margaret had often met Bessie
riding with Mr. Carnegie, and they knew each other to bow to. Bessie
patted Beauty's neck and commended her--a great step towards
friendliness with her mistress--and Margaret said enthusiastically, "Is
she not a darling? She shall have sugar, she shall! Oh, Aunt Olympia,
Beauty went so well to-day!" Then to Bessie: "That is a handsome little
mare you ride: what a sharp trot you go at sometimes!"

"It is my father's pace--we get over the ground fast. Miss Hoyden, she
is called--she is almost thoroughbred."

"You ride, Elizabeth? That is a good hearing," said Mr. Fairfax. "You
shall have a Miss Hoyden at Abbotsmead."

Bessie colored and turned her head for a moment, but said nothing.
Margaret whispered that _would_ be nice. Poor Bessie's romance was now
known to the young ladies of the neighborhood, and she was more
interesting to them than she knew.

Lady Latimer led the way with Mr. Fairfax up the drive overhung with
flowering trees and bushes. On the steps before the open hall-door stood
Mr. Wiley, whom my lady had bidden to call and stay to luncheon when his
pastoral visits brought him into the vicinity of Fairfield. He caught
sight of his young neighbor, Bessie Fairfax, and on the instant, with
that delicious absence of tact which characterized him, he asked
brusquely, "How came _you_ here?" Bessie blushed furiously, and no one
answered--no one seemed to hear but herself; so Mr. Wiley added
confidentially, "It is promotion indeed to come to Fairfield. Keep
humble, Bessie."

"Wait for me, Miss Fairfax," said Margaret as she dismounted. "Come to
my room." And Bessie went without a word, though her lips were laughing.
She was laughing at herself, at her incongruousness, at her trivial
mortifications. Margaret would set her at her ease, and Bessie learnt
that she had a rare charm in her hair, both from its color and the
manner of its growth. It was lovely, Margaret told her, and pressed its
crisp shining abundance with her hand delicately.

"That is a comfort in adverse circumstances," said Bessie with a light
in her eyes. Then they ran down stairs to find the morning-room deserted
and all the company gone in to luncheon.

The elders of the party were placed at a round table, a seat for Bessie
being reserved by Lady Latimer. Two others were empty, into one of which
dropt Margaret; the other was occupied by Mr. Bernard, the squire of the
next parish, to whom Margaret was engaged. Their marriage, in fact, was
close at hand, and Beechhurst was already devising its rejoicings for
the wedding-day.

The little girls were at a side-table, sociable and happy in under
tones. Bessie believed that she might have been happy too--at any rate,
not quite so miserable--if Mr. Wiley had not been there to lift his
brows and intimate surprise at the honor that was done her. She hated
her exaltation. She quoted inwardly, "They that are low need fear no
fall," and trembled for what he might be moved to say next. There was a
terrible opportunity of silence, for at first nobody talked. A crab of
brobdignagian proportions engrossed the seniors. Bessie and the younger
ones had roast lamb without being asked what they would take, and
Bessie, all drawbacks notwithstanding, found herself capable of eating
her dinner. The stillness was intense for a few minutes. Bessie glanced
at one or two of the intent faces preparing crab with a close devotion
to the process that assured satisfaction in the result, and then she
caught Lady Latimer's eye. They both smiled, and suddenly the talk broke
out all round; my lady beginning to inquire of the rector concerning
young Musgrave of Brook, whether he knew him. Bessie listened with
breathless interest to this mention of her dear comrade.

"Yes, I know him, in a way--a clever youth, ambitious of a college
education," said Mr. Wiley. "I have tried my best to dissuade him, but
his mind is bent on rising in the world. Like little Christie, the
wheelwright's son, who must be an artist."

"Why discourage young Musgrave? I heard from his father a few days ago
that he had won a scholarship at Hampton worth fifty pounds a year,
tenable for three years."

"That is news, indeed! Moxon has coached him well: I sent him to poor
Moxon. He wanted to read with me, but--you understand--I could not
exactly receive him while Lord Rafferty and Mr. Duffer are in my house.
So I sent him to poor Moxon, who is glad of a pupil when he can get
one."

"I wish Mr. Moxon better preferment. As for young Musgrave, he must have
talent. I was driving through Brook yesterday, and I called at the
manor-house. The mother is a modest person of much natural dignity. The
son was out. I left a message that I should be glad to see him, and do
something for him, if he would walk over to Fairfield."

"He will not come, I warrant," exclaimed Mr. Wiley. "He is a radical
fellow, and would say, as soon as look at you, that he had no wish to be
encumbered with patronage."

"He would not say so to Lady Latimer," cried Bessie Fairfax. Her voice
rang clear as a bell, and quite startled the composed, refined
atmosphere. Everybody looked at her with a smile. My lady exchanged a
glance with her niece.

"Then young Musgrave is a friend of yours?" she said, addressing her
little guest.

"We are cousins," was Bessie's unhesitating reply.

"I was not aware of it," remarked her grandfather drily.

Bessie was not daunted. Mrs. Musgrave was Mrs. Carnegie's elder sister.
Young Musgrave and the young Carnegies called cousins, and while she was
one of the Carnegies she was a cousin too. Besides, Harry Musgrave was
the nephew of her father's second wife, and their comradeship dated from
his visits to the rectory while her father was alive. She did not offer
explanations, but in her own mind she peremptorily refused to deny or
relinquish that cousinship. She went on eating in a dream of confusion,
very rosy as to the cheeks and very downcast as to the eyes, but not at
all ashamed. The little girls wondered with great amazement. Mr. Wiley
did not relish his rebuke, and eyed Bessie with anything but charity.
His bad genius set him expatiating further on the hazardous theme of
ambition in youths of low birth and mean estate, with allusions to Brook
and the wheelwright's shed that could not be misunderstood. Mr. Fairfax,
observing his granddaughter, felt uneasy. Lady Latimer generalized to
stop the subject. Suddenly said Bessie, flashing at the rector, and
quoting Mr. Carnegie, "You attribute to class what belongs to
character." Then, out of her own irrepressible indignation, she added,
"Harry Musgrave is as good a gentleman as you are, and little Christie
too, though he may be only a carpenter's son." (Which was not saying
much for them, as Mr. Phipps remarked when he was told the story.)

Lady Latimer stood up and motioned to all the young people to come away.
They vanished in retiring, some one road, some another, and for the
next five minutes Bessie was left with my lady alone, angry and
exquisitely uncomfortable, but not half alive yet to the comic aspect of
her very original behavior. She glanced with shy deprecation in Lady
Latimer's face, and my lady smiled with a perfect sympathy in her
sensations.

"You are not afraid to speak up for an absent friend, but silence is the
best answer to such impertinences," said she, and then went on to talk
of Abbotsmead and Kirkham till Bessie was almost cheated of her
distressing self-consciousness.

Fairfield was a small house, but full of prettiness. Bessie Fairfax had
never seen anything so like a picture as the drawing-room, gay with
flowers, perfumed, airy, all graceful ease and negligent comfort. From a
wide-open glass door a flight of steps descended to the rose-garden, now
in its beauty. Paintings, mirrors decorated the walls; books strewed the
tables. There were a hundred things, elegant, grotesque, and useless, to
look at and admire. How vivid, varied, delicious life must be thus
adorned! Bessie thought, and lost herself a little while in wonder and
curiosity. Then she turned to Lady Latimer again. My lady had lost
herself in reverie too; her countenance had an expression of weary
restlessness and unsatisfied desire. No doubt she had her private cares.
Bessie felt afraid, as if she had unwittingly surprised a secret.

Visitors were announced. The gentlemen came from the dining-room. Mr.
Bernard and Margaret appeared from the rose-garden. So did some of the
little girls, and invited Bessie down the steps. There was a general hum
of voices and polite laughter. More visitors, more conversation, more
effort. Bessie began to feel tired of the restraint, and looked up to
her grandfather, who stood in the doorway talking to Margaret. The next
minute he came to her, and said, with as much consideration as if she
were a grown-up person, "You have had enough of this, Elizabeth. It is
time we were returning to Beechhurst."

Margaret understood. "You wish to go? Come, then; I will take you to my
room to put on your hat," said she.

They escaped unnoticed except by Lady Latimer. She followed them for a
hasty minute, and began to say, "Margaret I have been thinking that
Bessie Fairfax will do very well to take Winny's place as bridesmaid
next week, since Winny cannot possibly come."

"Oh no, no, no!" cried Bessie, clasping her hands in instant, pleading
alarm.

Margaret laughed and bade her hush. "Nobody contradicts Aunt Olympia,"
she said in a half whisper.

"I will speak to Mr. Fairfax and arrange it at once," Lady Latimer
added, and disappeared to carry out her sudden intention.

Bessie reiterated her prayer to be left alone. "You will do very well.
You are very nice," rejoined Margaret, not at all understanding her
objections. "White over blue and blue bonnets are the bridesmaids'
colors. My cousin Winny has caught the measles. Her dress will fit you,
but Aunt Olympia's maid will see to all that. You must not refuse me."

When they went down stairs Bessie found that her grandfather had
accepted for her Lady Latimer's invitation, and that he had also
accepted for himself an invitation to the wedding. Nor yet were the
troubles of the day over.

"Are you going to walk?" said Mr. Wiley, coming out into the hall. "Then
I shall have much pleasure in walking with you. Our roads are the same."

Bessie's dismay was so evident as to be ludicrous. Mr. Wiley was either
very forgiving or very pachydermatous. Lady Latimer kissed her, and
whispered a warning "Take care!" and she made a sign of setting a watch
on her lips.

"So you will not have to be a teacher, after all, Bessie?" the judicious
rector took occasion to say the moment they were clear of Fairfield. Mr.
Fairfax listened. Bessie felt hot and angry: what need was there to
inflict this on her grandfather? "Was it a dressmaker or a
school-mistress Lady Latimer last proposed to make of you? I forget,"
said Mr. Wiley with an air of guileless consideration as he planted his
thorn.

"I never heard that there was any idea of dressmaking: I am not fond of
my needle," said Bessie curtly.

"Yes, there was. Her ladyship spoke of it to Mrs. Wiley. We hoped that
you might be got into Madame Michaud's establishment at Hampton to
learn the business. She is first-class. My wife patronizes her."

"I wish people would mind their own business."

"There is no harm done. But the remembrance of what you have been saved
from should keep you meek and lowly in spirit, Bessie. I have been
grieved to-day, _deeply grieved_, to see that you already begin to feel
uplifted." Mr. Wiley dwelt in unctuous italics on his regret, and waved
his head slowly in token of his mournfulness. Bessie turned scarlet and
held her peace.

"You must be very benevolent people here," said Mr. Fairfax
sarcastically. "Is Mr. Carnegie so poor and helpless a man that his kind
neighbors must interfere to direct his private affairs?"

Mr. Wiley's eyes glittered as he replied, parrying the thrust and
returning it: "No, no, but he has a large and increasing family of his
own; and with little Bessie thrown entirely on his hands besides,
friends might well feel anxious how she was to be provided for--Lady
Latimer especially, who interests herself for all who are in need. Her
ladyship has a great notion that women should be independent."

"My father is perfectly able and perfectly willing to do everything that
is necessary for his children. No one would dream of meddling with us
who knew him," cried Bessie impetuously. Her voice shook, she was so
annoyed that she was in tears. Mr. Fairfax took her hand, squeezed it
tight, and retained it as they walked on. She felt insulted for her
dear, good, generous father. She was almost sobbing as she continued in
his praise: "He has insured his life for us. I have heard him say that
we need never want unless by our own fault. And the little money that
was left for me when my real father died has never been touched: it was
put into the funds to save up and be a nest-egg for me when I marry."

Mr. Wiley's teeth gleamed his appreciation of this _naïve_ bit of
information. And even her grandfather could not forbear a smile, though
he was touched. "I am convinced that you have been in good hands,
Elizabeth," said he warmly. "It was not against Mr. Carnegie that any
neglect of natural duty was insinuated, but against me."

Bessie looked down and sighed. Mr. Wiley deprecated the charge of
casting blame anywhere. Mr. Fairfax brusquely turned the conversation to
matters not personal--to the forest-laws, the common-rights and
enclosure acts--and Bessie kept their pace, which quickened
imperceptibly, ruminating in silence her experiences of the day.
Mortification mingled with self-ridicule was uppermost. To be a
bridesmaid amongst the grand folks at Fairfield--could anything be more
absurdly afflicting? To be a seamstress at Madame Michaud's--the odious
idea of it! Poor Bessie, what a blessing to her was her gift of humor,
her gift for seeing the laughable side of things and people, and
especially the laughable side of herself and her trials!

Mr. Wiley was shaken off on the outskirts of the village, where a
ragged, unkempt laborer met him, and insisted on exchanging civilities
and conventional objections to the weather. "We wants a shower, parson."

"A shower! You're _wet_ enough," growled Mr. Wiley with a gaze of severe
reprobation. "And you were drunk on Sunday."

"Yes! I'se wet every day, and at my own expense, too," retorted the
delinquent with a grin.

Mr. Fairfax and Bessie walked on to the "King's Arms," and there for the
present said good-bye. Bessie ran home to tell her adventures, but on
the threshold she met a check in the shape of Jack, set to watch for her
return and tell her she was wanted. Mr. John Short was come, and was
with Mrs. Carnegie in the drawing-room.

"I say, Bessie, you are not going away, are you?" asked the boy, laying
violent hands on her when he had acquitted himself of his message.
"Biddy says you are. I say you sha'n't."

Mrs. Carnegie heard her son's unabashed voice in the hall, and opening
the door, she invited Bessie in.



CHAPTER VII.

_HER FATE IS SEALED._


Mr. John Short rose as Miss Fairfax entered, and bowed to her with
deference. Bessie, being forbidden by her mother to retreat, sat down
with ostentatious resignation to bear what was to come. But her bravado
was not well enough grounded to sustain her long. The preliminaries were
already concluded when she arrived, and Mrs. Carnegie was giving
utterance to her usual regret that her dear little girl had not been
taught to speak French or play on the piano. Mr. Fairfax's
plenipotentiary looked grave. His own daughters were perfect in those
accomplishments--"Indispensable to the education of a finished
gentlewoman," he said.

Thereupon Bessie, still in excited spirits, delivered her mind with
considerable force and freedom. "It is nonsense to talk of making me a
finished gentlewoman," she added: "I don't care to be anything but a
woman of sense."

Mr. John Short answered her shrewdly: "There is no reason why you should
not be both, Miss Fairfax. A woman of sense considers the fitness of
things. And at Abbotsmead none but gentlewomen are at home."

Bessie colored and was silent. "We have been proposing that you should
go to school for a year or two, dear," said Mrs. Carnegie persuasively.
Tears came into Bessie's eyes. The lawyer's letter had indeed mentioned
school, but she had not anticipated that the cruel suggestion would be
carried out.

"Shall it be an English school or a school in France?" said Mr. Short,
taking the indulgent cue, to avoid offence and stave off resistance. But
his affectation of meekness was more provoking than his sarcasm. Bessie
fired up indignantly at such unworthy treatment.

"You are deciding and settling everything without a word to my father.
How do you know that he will let me go away? I don't want to go," she
said.

"That _is_ settled, Bessie darling. _You have to go_--so don't get angry
about it," said Mrs. Carnegie with firmness. "You may have your choice
about a school at home or abroad, and that is all. Now be good, and
consider which you would like best."

Bessie's tears overflowed. "I hate girls!" she said with an asperity
that quite shamed her mother, "they are so silly." Mr. John Short with
difficulty forbore a smile. "And they don't like me!" she added with
gusty wrath. "I never get on with girls, never! I don't know what to say
to them. And when they find out that I can't speak French or play on the
piano, they will laugh at me." Her own countenance broke into a laugh as
she uttered the prediction, but she laughed with tears still in her
eyes.

The lawyer nodded his head in a satisfied way. "It will all come right
in time," said he. "If you can make fun of the prospect of school, the
reality will not be very terrible to a young lady of your courageous
temper."

Poor Bessie was grave again in an instant. She felt that she had let her
fate slip out of her hands. She could not now declare her refusal to go
to school at all; she could only choose what kind of school she would go
to. "If it must be one or another, let it be French," she said, and
rushed from the room in a tempestuous mood.

Mrs. Carnegie excused her as very affectionate, and as tired and
overdone. She looked tired and overdone herself, and out of spirits as
well. Mr. John Short said a few sympathetic words, and volunteered a few
reasonable pledges for the future, and then took his leave--the kindest
thing he could do, since thus he set the mother at liberty to go and
comfort her child. Her idea of comforting and Bessie's idea of being
comforted consisted, for the nonce, in having a good cry together.

       *       *       *       *       *

When his agent came to explain to Mr. Fairfax how far he had carried his
negotiations for his granddaughter's removal from Beechhurst, the squire
demurred. The thorn which Mr. Wiley had planted in his conscience was
rankling sorely; his pride was wounded too--perhaps that was more hurt
even than his conscience--but he felt that he had much to make up to the
child, not for his long neglect only, but for the indignities that she
had been threatened with. She might have been apprenticed to a trade; he
might have had to negotiate with some shopkeeper to cancel her
indentures. He did not open his mind to Mr. John Short on this matter;
he kept it to himself, and made much more of it in his imagination than
it deserved. Bessie had already forgotten it, except as a part of the
odd medley that her life seemed coming to, and in the recollection it
never vexed her; but it was like a grain of sand in her grandfather's
eye whenever he reviewed the incidents of this time. He gathered from
the lawyer's account of the interview how little acceptable to Bessie
was the notion of being sent to school, and asked why she should not go
to Abbotsmead at once?

"There is no reason why she should not go to Abbotsmead if you will have
a lady in the house--a governess," said Mr. John Short.

"I will have no governess in the house; I suppose she is too young to be
alone?"

"Well, yes. Mrs. Carnegie would not easily let her go unless in the
assurance that she will be taken care of. She has been a good deal
petted and spoiled. She is a fine character, but she would give you
nothing but trouble if you took her straight home."

Lady Latimer, with whom Mr. Fairfax held further counsel, expressed much
the same opinion. She approved of Elizabeth, but it was impossible to
deny that she had too much self-will, that she was too much of the
little mistress. She had been sovereign in the doctor's house; to fall
amongst her equals in age and seniors in school would be an excellent
discipline. Mr. Fairfax acquiesced, and two or three years was the term
of purgatory to which Bessie heard herself condemned. It was no use
crying. My lady encouraged her to anticipate that she would be very
tolerably happy at school. She was strong enough not to mind its
hardships; some girls suffered miserably from want of health, but she
had vigor and spirits to make the best of circumstances. Bessie was
flattered by this estimate of her pluck, but all the same she preferred
to avert her thoughts from the contemplation of the strange future that
was to begin in September. It was July now, and a respite was to be
given her until September.

Mr. John Short--his business done--returned to Norminster, and Mr.
Fairfax and Mr. Carnegie met. They were extremely distant in their
behavior. Mr. Carnegie refused to accept any compensation for the
charges Bessie had put him to, and made Mr. Fairfax wince at his
information that the child had earned her living twice over by her
helpfulness in his house. He did not mean to be unkind, but only to set
forth his dear little Bessie's virtues.

"She will never need to go a-begging, Bessie won't," said he. "She can
turn her hand to most things in a family. She has capital sense, and a
warm heart for those who can win it."

Mr. Fairfax bowed solemnly, as not appreciating this catalogue of homely
graces. The doctor looked very stern. He had subdued his mind to the
necessity, but he felt his loss in every fibre of his affections. No
one, except Bessie herself, half understood the sacrifice he was put
upon making, for he loved her as fondly as if she had been his very own;
and he knew that once divided from his household she never would be like
his own again. But her fate was settled, and the next event in her
experience seemed to set a seal upon it.

The day Mr. John Short left the Forest, Beechhurst began to set up its
arches and twine its garlands for the wedding of Lady Latimer's niece.
Bessie made a frantic effort to escape from the bridesmaid's honors that
were thrust upon her, but met with no sympathy except from her father,
and even he did not come to her rescue. He bade her never mind, it would
soon be over. One sensible relief she had in the midst of her fantastic
distress: Harry Musgrave was away, and would not see her in her
preposterous borrowed plumes. He had gone with Mr. Moxon on a week's
excursion to Wells, and would not return until after the wedding. Bessie
was full of anxieties how her dear old comrade would treat her now. She
found some people more distant and respectful, she did not wish that
Harry should be more respectful--that would spoil their intercourse.

Jolly Miss Buff was an immense help, stay, and comfort to her little
friend till through this perplexing ordeal. She was full of harmless
satire. She proposed to give Bessie lessons in manners, and to teach her
the court curtsey. She chuckled over her reluctance to obey commands to
tea at the rectory, and flattered her with a prediction that she would
enjoy the grand day of the wedding at Fairfield. "I know who the
bridesmaids are, and you will be the prettiest of the bunch," she
assured her. "Don't distress yourself: a bridesmaid has nothing to do
but to look pretty and stand to be stared at. It will be better fun at
the children's feast than at the breakfast--a wedding breakfast is
always slow--but you will see a host of fine people, which is amusing,
and since Lady Latimer wishes it, what need you care? You are one of
them, and your grandfather will be with you."

Before the day came Bessie had been wrought up to fancy that she should
almost enjoy her little dignity. Its garb became her well. The Carnegie
boys admired her excessively when she was dressed and set off to
Fairfield, all alone in her glory, in a carriage with a pair of gray
horses and a scarlet postilion; and when she walked into church, one of
a beautiful bevy of half a dozen girls in a foam of white muslin and
blue ribbons, Mrs. Carnegie was not quick enough to restrain Jack from
pointing a stumpy little finger at her and crying out, "There's our
Bessie!" Bessie with a blush and a smile the more rallied round the
bride, and then looked across the church at her mother with a merry,
happy face that was quite lovely.

Mr. Fairfax, who had joined the company at the church door, at this
moment directed towards her the notice of a gentleman who was standing
beside him. "That is Elizabeth--my little granddaughter," said he. The
gentleman thus addressed said, "Oh, indeed!" and observed her with an
air of interest.

Then the solemnity began. There was a bishop to marry the happy couple
(Bessie supposed they were happy, though she saw the blossoms quiver on
the bride's head, and the bridegroom's hand shaking when he put the ring
on her finger), and it was soon done--very soon, considering that it was
to last for life. They drove back to Fairfield with a clamor of
bells--Beechhurst had a fine old peal--and a shrill cheering of children
along the roadside. Lady Latimer looked proud and delighted, and
everybody said she had made an excellent match for her charming niece.

Bessie Fairfax was in the same carriage returning as the gentleman whose
attention had been called to her by her grandfather in the church. He
paid her the compliment of an attempt at conversation. He also sat by
her at the breakfast, and was kind and patronizing: her grandfather
informed her that he was a neighbor of his in Woldshire, Mr. Cecil
Burleigh. Bessie blushed, and made a slight acknowledgment with her
head, but had nothing to say. He was a very fine gentleman indeed, this
Mr. Cecil Burleigh--tall and straight, with a dark, handsome face and an
expression of ability and resolution. His age was seven-and-twenty, and
he had the appearance of an accomplished citizen of the world. Not to
make a mystery of him, _he_ was the poor young gentleman of great
talents and great expectations of whom the heads of families had spoken
as a suitable person to marry Elizabeth Fairfax and to give the old
house of Abbotsmead a new lease of life. He was a good-natured person,
but he found Bessie rather heavy in hand; she was too young, she had no
small talk, she was shy of such a fine gentleman. They were better
amused, both of them, in the rose-garden afterward--Bessie with Dora and
Dandy, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh with Miss Julia Gardiner, the most
beautiful young lady, Bessie thought, that she had ever seen. She had a
first impression that they were lovers.

Mr. Fairfax had been entirely satisfied by his granddaughter's behavior
in her novel circumstances. Bessie was pretty and she was pleased.
Nothing was expected of her either to do or to say. She had a frank,
bright manner that was very taking, and a pleasant voice when she
allowed it to be heard. Lady Latimer found time to smile at her once or
twice, and to give her a kind, encouraging word, and when the guests
began to disperse she was told that she must stay for a little dance
there was to be in the evening amongst the young people in the house.
She stayed, and danced every dance with as joyous a vivacity as if it
had been Christmas in the long parlor at Brook and Harry Musgrave her
partner; and she confessed voluntarily to her mother and Mr. Phipps
afterward that she had been happy the whole day.

"You see, dear Bessie, that I was right to insist upon your going," said
her mother.

"And the kettles never once bumped the earthen pot--eh?" asked Mr.
Phipps mocking.

"You forget," said Bessie, "I'm a little kettle myself now;" and she
laughed with the gayest assurance.



CHAPTER VIII.

_BESSIE'S FRIENDS AT BROOK._


That respite till September was indeed worth much to Bessie. Her mind
was gently broken in to changes. Mr. Fairfax vanished from the scene,
and Lady Latimer appeared on it more frequently. My lady even took upon
her (out of the interest she felt in her old friend) to find a school
for Bessie, and found one at Caen which everybody seemed to agree would
do. The daughters of the Liberal member for Hampton were receiving their
education there, and Mrs. Wiley knew the school.

It was a beautiful season in the Forest--never more beautiful--and
Bessie rode with her father whenever he could go with her. Then young
Musgrave came back from Wells. Perhaps it is unnecessary to repeat that
Bessie was very fond of young Musgrave. It was quoted of her, when she
was a fat little trot of seven years old and he a big boy of twelve,
that she had cried herself to sleep because he had refused her a kiss,
being absorbed in some chemical experiment that smelt abominably when
her mother called her to bed. The denial was singularly unkind, and even
ungrateful that evening, because Bessie had not screamed when he
electrified her round, wee nose. She was still so tender at heart for
him that she would probably have cried now if he had roughed her. But
they were friends, the best of friends--as good as brother and sister.
Harry talked of himself incessantly; but what hero to her so
interesting? Not even his mother was so indulgent to his harmless
vanities as Bessie, or thought him so surely predestined to be one of
the great men of his day.

It was early yet to say that Harry Musgrave was born under a lucky star,
but his friends did say it. He was of a most popular character, not too
wise or good to dispense with indulgence, or too modest to claim it. At
twelve he was a clumsy lad, bold, audacious, pleasant-humored, with a
high, curly, brown head, fine bright eyes, and no features to mention.
At twenty he had grown up into a tall, manly fellow, who meant to have
his share in the world if courage could capture it. Plenty of staying
power, his schoolmasters said he had, and it was the consciousness of
force in reserve that gave him much of his charm. Jealousy, envy,
emulation could find no place in him; he had been premature in nothing,
and still took his work at sober pace. He had a wonderful gift of
concentrativeness, and a memory to match. He loved learning for its own
sake far more than for the honor of excelling, and treated the favors of
fortune with such cool indifference that the seers said they were sure
some day to fall upon him in a shower. He had his pure enthusiasms and
lofty ambitions, as what young man of large heart and powerful intellect
has not? And he was now in the poetic era of life.

Bessie Fairfax had speculated much and seriously beforehand how Harry
Musgrave would receive the news that she was going to be a lady. He
received it with most sovereign equanimity.

"You always were a lady, and a very nice little lady, Bessie. I don't
think they can mend you," said he.

The communication and flattering response were made at Brook, in the
sitting-room of the farm--a spacious, half-wainscoted room, with dark
polished floor, and a shabby old Persian carpet in the centre of it. A
very picture-like interior it was, with the afternoon sun pouring
through its vine-shaded open lattice, though time and weather-stains
were on the ceiling and pale-colored walls, and its scant furniture was
cumbrous, worn, and unbeautiful. The farm-house had been the manor once,
and was fast falling to pieces. Mr. Musgrave's landlord was an
impoverished man, but he could not sell a rood of his land, because his
heir was a cousin with whom he was at feud. It was a daily trial to Mrs.
Musgrave's orderly disposition that she had not a neat home about her,
but its large negligence suited her husband and son. This bare
sitting-room was Harry's own, and with the wild greenery outside was
warm, sweet, and fresh in hot summer weather, though a few damp days
filled it with odors of damp and decay. It was a cell in winter, but in
July a bower.

And none the less a bower for those two young people in it this
afternoon. Mr. Carnegie had dropped Bessie at Brook in the morning, and
young Musgrave was to escort her home in the cool of the evening. His
mother and she had spent an hour together since the midday dinner, and
now the son of the house had called for her. They sat one on each side
of the long oak board which served young Musgrave for a study-table and
stood endwise towards the middle lattice. Harry had a new poem before
him, which he was tired of reading. The light and shadow played on both
their faces. There was a likeness for those who could see it--the same
frank courage in their countenances, the same turn for reverie in their
eyes. Harry felt lazy. The heat, the drowsy hum of bees in the
vine-blossoms, and the poetry-book combined, had made him languid. Then
he had bethought him of his comrade. Bessie came gladly, and poured out
in full recital the events that had happened to her of late. To these
she added the projects and anticipations of the future.

"Dear little Bessie! she fancies she is on the eve of adventures.
Terribly monotonous adventures a girl's must be!" said the conceit of
masculine twenty.

"I wish I had been a boy--it must be much better fun," was the whimsical
rejoinder of feminine fifteen.

"And you should have been my chum," said young Musgrave.

"That is just what I should have liked. Caen is nearer to Beechhurst
than it is to Woldshire, so I shall come home for my holidays. Perhaps I
shall never see you again, Harry, when I am transported to Woldshire."
This with a pathetic sigh.

"Never is a long day. I shall find you out; and if I don't, you'll hear
of me. I mean to be heard of, Bessie."

"Oh yes, Harry, I am sure you will. Shall you write a book? Will it be a
play? They always seem to walk to London with a play in their pockets, a
tragedy that the theatres won't look at; and then their troubles begin."

Young Musgrave smiled superior at Bessie's sentiment and Bessie's
syntax. "There is the railway, and Oxford is on the road. I intend
always to travel first-class," said he.

Bessie understood him to speak literally. "First-class! Oh, but that is
too grand! In the _Lives_ they never have much money. Some are awfully
poor--_starving_: Savage was, and Chatterton and Otway."

"Shabby, disreputable vagabonds!" answered young Musgrave lightly.

"And Samuel Johnson and ever so many more," continued Bessie, pleading
his sympathy.

"There is no honor in misery; it is picturesque to read about, but it is
a sorry state in reality to be very poor. Some poets have been scamps. I
shall not start as the prodigal son, Bessie, for I love not swinish
company nor diet of husks."

"The prodigal came home to his father, Harry."

"So he did, but I have my doubts whether he stayed."

There was a silence. Bessie had always believed in the prodigal as a
good son after his repentance. Any liberty of speculation as concerning
Scripture gave her pause; it was a new thing at Beechhurst and at Brook.

Young Musgrave furled over the pages of his book. A sheet of paper,
written, interlined, blotted with erasures, flew out. He laid a quick
hand upon it; not so quick, however, but that Bessie had caught sight of
verses--verses of his own, too. She entreated him to read them. He
excused himself. "Do, Harry; please do," she urged, but he was
inexorable. He had read her many a fine composition before--many a poem
crowded with noble words and lofty sentiments; but for once he was
reserved, firm, secret. He told Bessie that she would not admire this
last effort of his muse: it was a parody, an imitation of the Greek.

"Girls have no relish for humor: they don't understand it. It is sheer
profanity to them," said he. Let him show her his prize-books instead.

Bessie was too humble towards Harry to be huffed. She admired the
prize-books, then changed the subject, and spoke of Lady Latimer,
inquiring if he had availed himself of her invitation yet to call at
Fairfield.

"No," said he, "I have not called at Fairfield. What business can her
ladyship have with me? I don't understand her royal message. Little
Christie went to Fairfield with a portfolio of sketches in obedience to
a summons of that sort, and was bidden to sit down to dinner in the
servants' hall while the portfolio was carried up stairs. Her ladyship
bought a sketch, but the money was no salve for Christie's
mortification. I have nothing to sell. I took warning by my friend, and
did not go."

Again Bessie was dumb. She blushed, and did not know what to say. She
would not have liked to hear that Harry had been set down to dinner in
the servants' hall at Fairfield, though she had not herself been hurt by
a present of a cheese-cake in the kitchen. She was perfectly aware that
the farmers and upper servants in the great houses did associate as
equals. Evidently the conduct of life required much discretion.

Less than a year ago young Christie had helped at the painting and
graining of Lady Latimer's house. Somebody, a connoisseur in art,
wandering last autumn in the Forest, had found him making a drawing of
yew trees, had sought him in his home at the wheelwright's, had told him
he was a genius and would do wonders. On the instant young Christie
expected the greatest of all wonders to be done; he expected his friends
and neighbors to believe in him on the strength of the stranger's
prediction. Naturally, they preferred to reserve their judgment. He and
young Musgrave had learnt their letters under the same ferule, though
their paths had diverged since. Some faint reminiscence of companionship
survived in young Christie's memory, and in the absence of a generous
sympathy at home he went to seek it at Brook. A simple, strong
attachment was the result. Young Christie was gentle, vain, sensitive,
easily raised and easily depressed, a slim little fellow--a contrast to
Harry Musgrave in every way. "My friend" each called the other, and
their friendship was a pure joy and satisfaction to them both. Christie
carried everything to Brook--hopes, feelings, fears as well as
work--even his mortification at Fairfield, against a repetition of which
young Musgrave offered counsel, wisdom of the ancients.

"It is art you are in pursuit of, not pomps and vanities? Then keep
clear of Fairfield. The first thing for success in imaginative work is a
soul unruffled: what manner of work could you do to-day? You will never
paint a stroke the better for anything Lady Latimer can do for you; but
lay yourself open to the chafe and fret of her patronage now, and you
are done for. Ten, twenty years hence, she will be harmless, because you
will have the confidence of a name."

"And she will remember that she bought my first sketch; she will say she
made me," said young Christie.

"You will not care then: everybody knows that a man makes himself.
Phipps calls her vain-glorious; Carnegie calls her the very core of
goodness. In either case you don't need her. There is only one patron
for men of art and literature in these days, and that is the General
Public. The times are gone by for waiting in Chesterfield's ante-room
and hiding behind Cave's screen."

Harry recited all this for Bessie's instruction. Bessie was convinced
that he had spoken judiciously: the safest way to avoid a fall is not to
be in too much haste to climb. It is more consistent with self-respect
for genius in low estate to defend its independence against the assaults
of rich patrons, seeking appendages to their glory, than to accept their
benefits, and complain that they are given with insolence. It is an
evident fact that the possessors of rank and money value themselves as
of more consequence than those whom God has endowed with other gifts and
not with these. Platitudes reveal themselves to the young as novel and
striking truths. Bessie ruminated these in profound silence. Harry
offered her a penny for her thoughts.

"I was thinking," said she, with a sudden revelation of the practical,
"that young Christie will suffer a great deal in his way through the
world if he stumble at such common kindness as Lady Latimer's." And then
she told the story of the cheese-cake. "I beheld my lady then as a
remote and exalted sphere, where never foot of mine would come. I have
entered it since by reason of belonging to an old house of gentry, and I
find that I can breathe there. So may he some day, when he has earned a
title to it, but he would be very uncomfortable there now."

"And so may I some day, when I have earned a title to it, but I should
be very uncomfortable there now. Meanwhile we have souls above
cheese-cakes, and don't choose to bear my lady's patronage."

Bessie felt that she was being laughed at. She grew angry, and poured
out her sentiments hot: "There is a difference between you and young
Christie; you know quite well that there is, Harry. No, I sha'n't
explain what it consists in. Lady Latimer meant to encourage him: to see
that she thinks well enough of his sketches to buy one may influence
other people to buy them. He can't live on air; and if he is to be a
painter he must study. You are not going to rise in the world without
working? If you went to her house, she would make you acquainted with
people it might be good for you to know: it is just whether you like
that sort of thing or not. I don't; I am happier at home. But men don't
want to keep at home."

"_Already_, Bessie!" cried Harry in a rallying, reproachful tone.

"Already _what_, Harry? I am not giving myself airs, if that is what you
mean," said she blushing.

Harry shook his head, but only half in earnest: "You are, Bessie. You
are pretending to have opinions on things that you had never thought of
a month ago. Give you a year amongst your grandees, and you will hold
yourself above us all."

Tears filled Bessie's eyes. She was very much hurt; she did not believe
that Harry could have misunderstood her so. "I shall never hold myself
above anybody that I was fond of when I was little; they are more likely
to forget me when I am out of sight. They have others to love." Bessie
spoke in haste and excitement. She meant neither to defend herself nor
to complain, but her voice imported a little pathos and tragedy into the
scene. Young Musgrave instantly repented and offered atonement.
"Besides," Bessie rather inconsequently ran on, "I am very fond of Lady
Latimer; she has nobody of her own, so she tries to make a family in the
world at large."

"All right, Bessie--then she shall adopt you. Only don't be cross,
little goosey. Let us go into the garden." Young Musgrave made such a
burlesque of his remorse that Bessie, wounded but skin-deep, was fain to
laugh too and be friends again. And thereupon they went forth together
into the bosky old garden.

What a pleasant wilderness that old garden was, even in its neglected
beauty! Whoever planted it loved open spaces, turf, and trees of foreign
race; for there were some rare cedars, full-grown, straight, and
stately, with feathered branches sweeping the grass, and strange shrubs
that were masses of blossom and fountains of sweet odors. The
flower-borders had run to waste; only a few impoverished roses tossed
their blushing fragrance into the air, and a few low-growing,
old-fashioned things made shift to live amongst the weeds. But the
prettiest bit of all was the verdant natural slope, below which ran the
brook that gave the village and the manor their names. The Forest is not
a land of merry running waters, but little tranquil streams meander
hither and thither, making cool its shades. Three superb beeches laved
their silken leaves in the shallow flood, and amongst their roots were
rustic seats all sheltered from sun and wind. Here had Harry Musgrave
and Bessie Fairfax sat many a summer afternoon, their heads over one
poetry-book, reading, whispering, drawing--lovers in a way, though they
never talked of love.

"Shall we two ever walk together in this garden again, Harry?" said
Bessie, breaking a sentimental silence with a sigh as she gazed at the
sun-dimmed horizon.

"Many a time, I hope. I'll tell you my ambition." Young Musgrave spoke
with vivacity; his eyes sparkled. "Listen, Bessie, and don't be
astonished. I mean some day to buy Brook, and come to live here. That is
my ambition."

Bessie was overawed. To buy Brook was a project too vast for her
imagination. The traditions of its ancient glories still hung about it,
and the proprietor, even in his poverty, was a power in the country.
Harry proceeded with the confession of his day-dreams: "I shall pull
down the house--if it does not fall down of itself before--and build it
up again on the original plan, for I admire not all things new. With the
garden replanted and the fine old trees left, it will be a paradise--as
much of a paradise as any modern Adam can desire. And Bessie shall be my
Eve."

"You will see so many Eves between now and then, Harry, that you will
have forgotten me," cried Bessie.

Harry rejoined: "You are quite as likely to be carried away by a bluff
Woldshire squire as I am to fall captive to other Eves."

"You know, Harry, I shall always be fondest of you. We have been like
real cousins. But won't you be growing rather old before you are rich
enough to buy Brook?"

"If I am, you will be growing rather old too, Bessie. What do you call
old--thirty?"

"Yes. Do you mean to put off life till you are thirty?"

"No. I mean to work and play every day as it comes. But one must have
some great events to look forward to. My visions are of being master of
Brook and of marrying Bessie. One without the other would be only half a
good fortune."

"Do you care so much for me as that, Harry? I was afraid you cared for
little Christie more than for me now."

"Don't be jealous of little Christie, Bessie. Surely I can like you
both. There are things a girl does not understand. You belong to me as
my father and mother do. I have told you everything. I have not told
anybody but you what I intend about Brook--not even my mother. I want it
to be our secret."

"So it shall, Harry. You'll see how I can keep it," cried Bessie
delighted.

"I trust you, because I know if I make a breakdown you will not change.
When I missed the English verse-prize last year (you remember, Bessie?)
I had made so sure of it that I could hardly show my face at home.
Mother was disappointed, but you just snuggled up to me and said, 'Never
mind, Harry, I love you;' and you did not care whether I had a prize or
none. And that was comfort. I made up my mind at that minute what I
should do."

"Dear old Harry! I am sure your verses were the best, far away," was
Bessie's response; and then she begged to hear more of what her comrade
meant to do.

Harry did not want much entreating. His schemes could hardly be called
castles in the air, so much of the solid and reasonable was there in the
design of them. He had no expectation of success by wishing, and no
trust in strokes of luck. Life is a race, and a harder race than ever.
Nobody achieves great things without great labors and often great
sacrifices. "The labor I shall not mind; the sacrifices I shall make
pay." Harry was getting out of Bessie's depth now; a little more of
poetry and romance in his views would have brought them nearer to the
level of her comprehension. Then he talked to her of his school, of the
old doctor, that great man, of his schoolfellows, of his rivals whom he
had distanced--not a depreciatory word of any of them. "I don't believe
in luck for myself," he said. "But there is a sort of better and worse
fortune amongst men, independent of merit. It was the narrowest shave
between me and Fordyce. I would not have given sixpence for my chance of
the scholarship against his, yet I won it. He is a good fellow, Fordyce:
he came up and shook hands as if he had won. That was just what I
wanted: I felt so happy! Now I shall go to Oxford; in a year or two I
shall have pupils, and who knows but I may gain a fellowship? I shall
take you to Oxford, Bessie, when the time comes."

Bessie was as proud and as pleased in this indefinite prospect as if she
were bidden to pack up and start to-morrow. Harry went on to tell her
what Mr. Moxon had told him, how Oxford is one of the most beautiful of
cities, and one of the most famous and ancient seats of learning in the
world (which she knew from her geography-book), and there, under the
beeches, with the slow ripple at their feet, they sat happy as king and
queen in a fairy-tale, until the shadow of Mrs. Musgrave came gliding
over the grass, and her clear caressing voice broke on their ears:
"Children, children, are you never coming to tea? We have called you
from the window twice. And young Christie is here."

       *       *       *       *       *

Young Christie came forward with a bow and a blush to shake hands. He
had dressed himself for Sunday to come to Brook. He had an ingenuous
face, but plain in feature. The perceptive faculties were heavily
developed, and his eyes were fine; and his mouth and chin suggested a
firmness of character.

Mr. Musgrave, who was absent at dinner, was now come home tired from
Hampton. He leant back in his chair and held out a brown hand to Bessie,
who took it, and a kiss with it, as part of the regular ceremony of
greeting. She slipped into the chair set for her beside him, and was
quite at home, for Bessie was a favorite in the same degree at Brook as
Harry was at Beechhurst. Young Christie sat next to his friend and
opposite to Bessie. They had many things to say to each other, and
Bessie compared them in her own mind silently. Harry was serene and
quiet; Christie's color came and went with the animation of his talk.
Harry's hands had the sunburnt hue of going ungloved, but they were the
hands of a young man devoted to scholarly pursuits; Christie's were
stained with his trade, which he practised of necessity still, wooing
art only in his bye-hours. Harry's speech was decisive and simple;
Christie's was hesitating and a little fine, a little over-careful. He
was self-conscious, and as he talked he watched who listened, his
restless eyes glancing often towards Bessie. But this had a twofold
meaning, for while he talked of other things his faculty of observation
was at work; it was always at work as an undercurrent.

Loveliness of color had a perpetual fascination for him. He was
considering the tints in Bessie's hair and in the delicate, downy
rose-oval of her cheeks, and the effect upon them of the sunshine
flickering through the vine leaves. When the after-glow was red in the
west, the dark green cloth of the window-curtain, faded to purple and
orange, made a rich background for her fair head, and he beheld in his
fancy a picture that some day he would reproduce. On the tea-table he
had laid down a twig of maple, the leaves of which were curiously
crenated by some insect, and with it a clump of moss, and a stone
speckled in delicious scarlet and tawny patches of lichen-growth--bits
of Nature and beauty in which he saw more than others see, and had
picked up in his walk by Great-Ash Ford through the Forest to Brook.

"I live in hope of some lucky accident to give me the leisure and
opportunity for study; till then I must stick to my mechanical trade of
painting and graining," he was saying while his eyes roved about
Bessie's face, and his fingers toyed first with the twig of maple and
then with the pearled moss. "My father thinks scorn of art for a living,
and predicts me repentance and starvation. I tell him we shall see; one
must not expect to be a prophet in one's own country. But I am half
promised a commission at the Hampton Theatre--a new drop-scene. My
sketch is approved--it is a Forest view. The decision must come soon."

Everybody present wished the young fellow success. "Though whether you
have success or not you will have a share of happiness, because you are
a dear lover of Nature, and Nature never lets her lovers go unrewarded,"
said Mrs. Musgrave kindly.

"Ah! but I shall not be satisfied with her obscure favors," cried little
Christie airily.

"You must have applause: I don't think I care for applause," said young
Musgrave; and he cut Bessie a slice of cake.

Bessie proceeded to munch it with much gravity and enjoyment--Harry's
mother made excellent cakes--and the father of the house, smiling at her
serious absorption, patted her on the shoulder and said, "And what does
Bessie Fairfax care for?"

"Only to be loved," says Bessie without a thought.

"And that is what you will be, for love's a gift," rejoined Mr.
Musgrave. "These skip-jacks who talk of setting the world on fire will
be lucky if they make only blaze enough to warm themselves."

"Ay, indeed--and getting rich. Talk's cheap, but it takes a deal of
money to buy land," said his wife, who had a shrewd inkling of her son's
ambition, though he had not confessed it to her. "Young folks little
think of the chances and changes of this mortal life, or it's a blessing
they'd seek before anything else."

Bessie's face clouded at a word of changes. "Don't fret, Bessie, we'll
none of us forget you," said the kind father. But this was too much for
her tender heart. She pushed back her chair and ran out of the room. For
the last hour the tears had been very near her eyes, and now they
overflowed. Mrs. Musgrave followed to comfort her.

"To go all amongst strangers!" sobbed Bessie; and her philosophy quite
failed her when that prospect recurred in its dreadful blankness.
Happily, the time of night did not allow of long lamentation. Presently
Harry called at the stair's foot that it was seven o'clock. And she
kissed his mother and bade Brook good-bye.

The walk home was through the Forest, between twilight and moonlight.
The young men talked and Bessie was silent. She had no favor towards
young Christie previously, but she liked his talk to-night and his
devotion to Harry Musgrave, and she enrolled him henceforward amongst
those friends and acquaintances of her happy childhood at Beechhurst
concerning whom inquiries were to be made in writing home when she was
far away.



CHAPTER IX.

_FAREWELL TO THE FOREST._


A few days after his meeting with Bessie Fairfax at Brook, young
Christie left at the doctor's door a neat, thin parcel addressed to her
with his respects. Lady Latimer and Mrs. Wiley, who were still
interesting themselves in her affairs, were with Mrs. Carnegie at the
time, giving her some instructions in Bessie's behalf. Mrs. Carnegie was
rather bothered than helped by their counsels, but she did not
discourage them, because of the advantage to Bessie of having their
countenance and example. Bessie, sitting apart at the farther side of
the round table, untied the string and unfolded the silver paper. Then
there was a blush, a smile, a cry of pleasure. At what? At a picture of
herself that little Christie had painted, and begged to make an offering
of. It was handed round for the inspection of the company.

"A slight thing," said Mrs. Wiley with a negligent glance. "Young
Christie fishes with sprats to catch whales, as Askew told him
yesterday. He brought his portfolio and a drawing of the church to show,
but we did not buy anything. We are afraid that he will turn out a sad,
idle fellow, going dawdling about instead of keeping to his trade. His
father is much grieved."

"This is sketchy, but full of spirit," said Lady Latimer, holding the
drawing at arm's length to admire.

"It is life itself! We must hear what your father says to it, Bessie,"
Mrs. Carnegie added in a pleased voice.

"If her father does not buy it, I will. It is a charming little
picture," said my lady.

Bessie was gratified, but she hoped her father would not let anybody
else possess it.

"A matter of a guinea, and it will be well paid for," said the rector's
wife.

No one made any rejoinder, but Mr. Carnegie gave the aspiring artist
five guineas (he would not have it as a gift, which little Christie
meant), and plenty of verbal encouragement besides. Lady Latimer further
invited him to paint her little friends, Dora and Dandy. He accepted the
commission, and fulfilled it with effort and painstaking, but not with
such signal success as his portrait of Bessie. That was an inspiration.
The doctor hung up the picture in the dining-room for company every day
in her absence, and promised that it should keep her place for her in
all their hearts and memories until she came home again.

There are not many more events to chronicle until the great event of
Bessie's farewell to Beechhurst. She gave a tea-party to her friends in
the Forest, a picnic tea-party at Great-Ash Ford; and on a fine morning,
when the air blew fresh from the sea, she and her handsome new baggage
were packed, with young Musgrave, into the back seat of the doctor's
chaise, the doctor sitting in front with his man to drive. Their
destination was Hampton, to take the boat for Havre. The man was to
return home with the chaise in the evening. The doctor was going on to
Caen, to deliver his dear little girl safely at school, and Harry was
going with them for a holiday. All the Carnegie children and their
mother, the servants and the house-dog, were out in the road to bid
Bessie a last good-bye; the rector and his wife were watching over the
hedge; and Miss Buff panted up the hill at the last moment, with fat
tears running down her cheeks. She had barely time for a word, Mr.
Carnegie always cutting short leave-takings. Bessie's nose was pink with
tears and her eyes glittered, but she was in good heart. She looked
behind her as long as she could see her mother, and Jack and Willie
coursing after the chaise with damp pocket-handkerchiefs a-flutter; and
then she turned her face the way she was going, and said with a shudder,
"It is a beautiful, sunny morning, but for all that it is cold."

"Have my coat-sleeve, Bessie," suggested Harry, and they both laughed,
then became quiet, then merry.

About two miles out of Hampton the travellers overtook little Christie
making the road fly behind him as he marched apace, a knapsack at his
back and his chin in the air.

"Whither away so fast, young man?" shouted the doctor, hailing him.

"To Hampton Theatre," shouted Christie back again, and he flourished his
hat round his head. Harry Musgrave repeated the triumphant gesture with
a loud hurrah. The artist that was to be had got that commission for the
new drop-scene at the theatre. His summons had come by this morning's
post.

The toil-worn, dusty little figure was long in sight, for now the road
ran in a direct line. Bessie wished they could have given him a lift on
his journey. Harry Musgrave continued to look behind, but he said
nothing. It is some men's fortune to ride cock-horse, it is some other
men's to trudge afoot; but neither is the lot of the first to be envied,
nor the lot of the last to be deplored. Such would probably have been
his philosophy if he had spoken. Bessie, regarding externals only, and
judging of things as they seemed, felt pained by the outward signs of
inequality.

In point of fact, little Christie was the happiest of the three at that
moment. According to his own belief, he was just about to lay hold of
the key that would open for him the outer door of the Temple of Fame.
After that blessed drop-scene that he was on his way to execute at
Hampton, never more would he return to his mechanical painting and
graining. It was an epoch that they all dated from, this shining day of
September, when Bessie Fairfax bade farewell to the Forest, and little
Christie set out on his career of honor with a knapsack on his back and
seven guineas in his pocket. As for Harry Musgrave, his leading-strings
were broken before, and he was in some sort a citizen of the world
already.



CHAPTER X.

_BESSIE GOES INTO EXILE._


The rapid action and variety of the next few days were ever after like a
dream to Bessie Fairfax. A tiring day in Hampton town, a hurried walk to
the docks in the sunset, the gorgeous autumnal sunset that flushed the
water like fire; a splendid hour in the river, ships coming up full
sail, and twilight down to the sea; a long, deep sleep. Then sunrise on
rolling green waves, low cliffs, headlands of France; a vast turmoil,
hubbub, and confusion of tongues; a brief excursion into Havre, by gay
shops to gayer gardens, and breakfast in the gayest of glass-houses.
Then embarkation on board the boat for Caen; a gentle sea-rocking;
soldiers, men in blouses, women in various patterns of caps; the mouth
of the Orne; fringes on the coast of fashionable resort for sea-bathers.
Miles up the stream, dreary, dreary; poplars leaning aslant from the
wind, low mud-banks, beds of osiers, reeds, rushes, willows; poplars
standing erect as a regiment in line, as many regiments, a gray monotony
of poplars; the tide flowing higher, laving the reeds, the sallows, all
pallid with mist and soft driving rain. A gleam of sun on a lawn, on
roses, on a conical red roof; orchards, houses here and there, with
shutters closed, and the afternoon sun hot upon them; acres of
market-garden, artichokes, flat fields, a bridge, rushy ditches, tall
array of poplars repeated and continued endlessly.

"I think," said Bessie, "I shall hate a poplar as long as I live!"

Mr. Carnegie agreed that the scenery was not enchanting. Beautiful
France is not to compare with the beautiful Forest. Harry Musgrave was
in no haste with his opinion; he was looking out for Caen, that ancient
and famous town of the Norman duke who conquered England. He had been
reading up the guide-book and musing over history, while Bessie had been
letting the poplars weigh her mind down to the brink of despondency.

A repetition of the noisy landing at Havre, despatch of baggage to
Madame Fournier's, everybody's heart failing for fear of that august,
unknown lady. A sudden resolution on the doctor's part to delay the
dread moment of consigning Bessie to the school-mistress until evening,
and a descent on Thunby's hotel. A walk down the Rue St. Jean to the
Place St. Pierre, and by the way a glimpse, through an open door in a
venerable gateway, of a gravelled court-yard planted with sycamores and
surrounded by lofty walls, draped to the summit with vines and ivy; in
the distance an arcade with vistas of garden beyond lying drowsy in the
sunshine, the angle of a large mansion, and fluttering lilac wreaths of
wisteria over the portal.

"If this is Madame Fournier's school, it is a hushed little world," said
the doctor.

Bessie beheld it with awe. There was a solemn picturesqueness in the
prospect that daunted her imagination.

Harry Musgrave referred to his guide-book: "Ah, I thought so--this is
the place. Bessie, Charlotte Corday lived here."

Above the rickety gateway were two rickety windows. At those windows
Charlotte might have sat over her copy of Plutarch's "Lives," a
ruminating republican in white muslin, before the Revolution, or have
gazed at the sombre church of St. Jean across the street, in the happier
days before she despised going to old-fashioned worship. Bessie looked
up at them more awed than ever. "I hope her ghost does not haunt the
house. Come away, Harry," she whispered.

Harry laughed at her superstition. They went forward under the irregular
peaked houses, stunned at intervals by side-gusts of evil odor, till
they came to the place and church of St. Pierre. The market-women in
white-winged caps, who had been sitting at the receipt of custom since
morning surrounded by heaps of glowing fruit and flowers, were now
vociferously gathering up their fragments, their waifs and strays and
remnants, to go home. The men were harnessing their horses, filling
their carts. It was all a clamorous, sunny, odd sort of picture amidst
the quaint and ancient buildings. Then they went into the church, into
the gloom and silence out of the stir. The doctor made the young ones a
sign to hush. There were women on their knees, and on the steps of the
altar a priest of dignified aspect, and a file of acolytes, awfully
ugly, the very refuse of the species--all but one, who was a saint for
beauty of countenance and devoutness of mien. Harry glanced at him and
his companions as if they were beings of a strange and mysterious race;
and the numerous votive offerings to "Our Lady of La Salette" and
elsewhere he eyed askance with the expression of a very sound Protestant
indeed. The lovely luxuriant architecture, the foliated carvings, were
dim in the evening light. A young sculptor, who was engaged in the work
of restoring some of these rich carvings, came down from his perch while
the strangers stood to admire them.

That night by nine o'clock Bessie Fairfax was in the _dortoir_ at Madame
Fournier's--a chamber of six windows and twenty beds, narrow, hard,
white, and, except her own and one other, empty. By whose advice it was
that she was sent to school a week in advance of the opening she never
knew. But there she was in the wilderness of a house, with only a
dejected English teacher suffering from chronic face-ache, and another
scholar, younger than herself, for company. The great madame was still
absent at Bayeux, spending the vacation with her uncle the canon.

It was a moonlight night, and the jalousies looking upon the garden were
not closed. Bessie was neither timid nor grievous, but she was
desperately wide-awake. The formality of receiving her and showing her
to bed had been very briefly despatched. It seemed as if she had been
left at the door like a parcel, conveyed up stairs, and put away.
Beechhurst was a thousand miles off, and yesterday a hundred years ago!
The doctor and Harry Musgrave could hardly have walked back to Thunby's
hotel before she and her new comrade were in their little beds. Now,
indeed, was the Rubicon passed, and Bessie Fairfax committed to all the
vicissitudes of exile. She realized the beginning thereof when she
stretched her tired limbs on her unyielding mattress of straw, and
recalled her dear little warm nest under the eaves at home.

Presently, from a remote couch spoke her one companion, "I am sitting up
on end. What are you doing?"

"Nothing. Lying down and staring at the moon," replied Bessie, and
turned her eyes in the direction of the voice.

The figure sitting up on end was distinctly visible. It was clasping
its knees, its long hair flowed down its back, and its face was steadily
addressed to the window at the foot of its bed. "Do you care to talk?"
asked the queer apparition.

"I shall not fall asleep for _hours_ yet," said Bessie.

"Then let us have a good talk." The unconscious quoter of Dr. Johnson
contributed her full share to the colloquy. She told her story, and why
she was at Madame Fournier's: "Father's ship comes from Yarmouth in
Norfolk. It is there we are at home, but he is nearly always at sea--to
and fro to Havre and Caen, to Dunkirk and Bordeaux. It is a fine sailing
ship, the Petrel. When the wind blows I think of father, though he has
weathered many storms. To-night it will be beautiful on the water. I
have often sailed with father." A prodigious sigh closed the paragraph,
and drew from Bessie a query that perhaps she wished she was sailing
with him now? She did, indeed! "He left me here because I was not
well--it is three weeks since; it was the day of the emperor's
_fête_--but I am no stronger yet. I have been left here before--once for
a whole half-year. I hope it won't be so long this time; I do so miss
father! My mother is dead, and he has married another wife. I believe
she wishes I were dead too."

"Oh no," cried Bessie, much amazed. "I have a mother who is not really
my mother, but she is as good as if she were."

"Then she is not like mine. Are women all alike? Hush! there is Miss
Foster at the door--_listening_.... She is gone now; she didn't peep
in.... Tell me, do you hear anything vulgar in my speech?"

"No--it is plain enough." It was a question odd and unexpected, and
Bessie had to think before she answered it.

Her questioner mistook her reflection for hesitation, and seemed
disappointed. "Ah, but you do," said she, "though you don't like to tell
me so. It is provincial, very provincial, Miss Foster admits.... Next
week, when the young ladies come back, I shall wish myself more than
ever with father."

"What for? don't you like school?" Bessie was growing deeply interested
in these random revelations.

"No. How should I? I don't belong to them. Everybody slights me but
madame. Miss Hiloe has set me down as quite _common_. It is so
dreadful!"

Bessie's heart had begun to beat very hard. "Is it?" said she in a tone
of apprehension. "Do they profess to despise you?"

"More than that--they _do_ despise me; they don't know how to scorn me
enough. But you are not _common_, so why should you be afraid? My father
is a master-mariner--John Fricker of Great Yarmouth. What is yours?"

"Oh, mine was a clergyman, but he is long since dead, and my own mother
too. The father and mother who have taken care of me since live at
Beechhurst in the Forest, and _he_ is a doctor. It is my grandfather who
sends me here to school, and he is a country gentleman, a squire. But I
like my common friends best--_far_!"

"If you have a squire for your grandfather you may speak as you
please--Miss Hiloe will not call you common. Oh, I am shrewd enough: I
know more than I tell. Miss Foster says I have the virtues of my class,
but I have no business at a school like this. She wonders what Madame
Fournier receives me for. Oh, I wish father may come over next month!
Nobody can tell how lonely I feel sometimes. Will you call me Janey?"
Janey's poor little face went down upon her knees, and there was the
sound of sobs. Bessie's tender heart yearned to comfort this misery, and
she would have gone over to administer a kiss, had she not been
peremptorily warned not to risk it: there was the gleam of a light below
the door. When that alarm was past, composure returned to the
master-mariner's little daughter, and Bessie ventured to ask if the
French girls were nice.

The answer sounded pettish: "There are all sorts in a school like this.
Elise Finckel lives in the Place St. Pierre: they are clock and
watchmakers, the Finckels. Once I went there; then Elise and Miss Hiloe
made friends, and it was good-bye to me! but clanning is forbidden."

Bessie required enlightening as to what "clanning" meant. The
explanation was diffuse, and branched off into so many anecdotes and
illustrations that in spite of the moonlight, her nerves, her interest,
and her forebodings, Bessie began to yield to the overpowering influence
of sleep. The little comrade, listened to no longer, ceased her prattle
and napped off too.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next sound Bessie Fairfax heard was the irregular clangor of a bell,
and behold it was morning! Some one had been into the _dortoir_ and had
opened a window or two. The warm fragrant breath of sunshine and twitter
of birds entered.

"So this is being at school in France? What a din!" said Bessie,
stopping her ears and looking for her comrade.

That strange child was just opening a pair of sleepy eyes and exhorting
herself by name: "Now, Miss Janey Fricker, you will be wise to get up
without more thinking about it, or there will be a bad mark and an
imposition for you, my dear. What a blessing! five dull days yet before
the arrival of the tormentors!" She slipped out upon the floor,
exclaiming how tired she was and how all her bones ached, till Bessie's
heart ached too for pity of the delicate, sensitive morsel of humanity.

They had soup for breakfast, greasy, flavorless stuff loaded with
vegetables, and bread sour with long keeping. This was terrible to
Bessie. She sipped and put down her spoon, then tried again. Miss
Foster, at the same table, partook of a rough decoction of coffee with
milk, and a little rancid butter on the sour bread toasted.

After breakfast the two girls were told that they were permitted to go
into the garden. They spent the whole morning there, and there Mr.
Carnegie and Harry Musgrave found Bessie when they came to take their
final leave of her. It was good and brave of the little girl not to
distress them with complaints, for she was awfully hungry, and likely to
be so until her dainty appetite was broken in to French school-fare. Her
few tears did not signify.

Harry Musgrave said the garden was not so pretty as it appeared from the
street, and the doctor made rueful allusions to convents and prisons,
and was not half satisfied to leave his dear little Bessie there. The
morning sun had gone off the grass. The walls were immensely lofty--the
tallest trees did not overtop them. There was a weedy, weak fountain, a
damp grotto, and two shrines with white images of the Blessed Mary
crowned with gilt stars.

Miss Foster came into the garden the moment the visitors appeared,
holding one hand against the flannel that enveloped her face. She made
the usual polite speeches of hope, expectation, and promise concerning
the new-comer, and stayed about until the gentlemen went. Then an
inexpressible flatness fell upon Bessie, and she would probably have
wept in earnest, but for the sight of Janey Fricker standing aloof and
gazing at her wistfully for an invitation to draw near. Somebody to
succor was quite in Bessie's way; helpless, timid things felt safe under
covert of her wing. It gave her a vocation at once to have this weak,
ailing little girl seeking to her for protection, and she called her to
come. How gladly Janey came!

"What were you thinking of just now when I lost my friends?" Bessie
asked her.

"Oh, of lots of things: I can't tell you of what. Is that your brother?"

"No, he is a cousin."

"Are you very fond of him? I wonder what it feels like to have many
people to love? I have no one but father."

"Harry Musgrave and I have known each other all our lives. And now you
and I are going to be friends."

"If you don't find somebody you like better, as Elise Finckel did. There
is the bell; it means dinner in ten minutes." Bessie was looking sorry
at her new comrade's suspicion. Janey was quick to see it. "Oh, I have
vexed you about Elise?" cried she in a voice of pleading distress. "When
shall I learn to trust anybody again?"

Bessie smiled superior. "Very soon, I hope," said she. "You must not
afflict yourself with fancies. I am not vexed; I am only sorry if you
won't trust me. Let us wait and see. I feel a kindness for most people,
and don't need to love one less because I love another more. I promise
to keep a warm place in my heart for you always, you little mite! I have
even taken to Miss Foster because I pity her. She looks so overworked,
and jaded, and poor."

"It is easy to like Miss Foster when you know her. She keeps her mamma,
and her salary is only twenty-five pounds a year."

The dinner, to which the girls adjourned at a second summons of the
bell, was as little appetizing as the breakfast had been. There was the
nauseous soup, a morsel of veal, a salad dressed with rank oil, a mess
of sweet curd, and a dish of stewed prunes. After the fiction of dining,
Miss Foster took the two pupils for a walk by the river, where groups of
soldiers under shade of the trees were practising the fife and the drum.
Caen seemed to be full of soldiers, marching and drilling for ever.
Louise, the handsome portress at the school, frankly avowed that she did
not know what the young women of her generation would do for husbands;
the conscription carried away all the finest young men. Janey loved to
watch the soldiers; she loved all manner of shows, and also to tell of
them. She asked Bessie if she would like to hear about the emperor's
_fête_ last month; and when Bessie acquiesced, she began in a discursive
narrative style by which a story can be stretched to almost any length:

"There was a military mass at St. Etienne's in the morning. I had only
just left father, but Mademoiselle Adelaide took me with her, and a
priest sent us up into the triforium--you understand what the triforium
is? a gallery in the apse looking down on the choir. The triforium at
St. Etienne's is wide enough to drive a coach and four round; at the
Augustines, where we went once to see three sisters take the white veil,
it is quite narrow, and without anything to prevent you falling over--a
dizzy place. But I am forgetting the _fête_.... It was _so_ beautiful
when the doors were thrown open, and the soldiers and flags came
tramping in with the sunshine, and filled the nave! The generals sat
with the mayor and the _prêfet_ in the chancel, ever so grand in their
ribbons and robes and orders. The service was all music and not long:
soldiers don't like long prayers. You will see them go to mass on Sunday
at St. Jean's, opposite the school.... Then at night there was a
procession--such a pandemonium! such a rabble-rout, with music and
shouting, soldiers marching at the double, carrying blazing torches, and
a cloud of paper lanterns that caught fire and flared out. We could hear
the discordant riot ever so far off, and when the mob came up our street
again, almost in the dark, I covered my ears. Of all horrible sounds, a
mob of excited Frenchmen can make the worst. The wind in a storm at sea
is nothing to it."

There was a man gathering peaches from the sunny wall of a garden-house
by the river. Janey finished her tale, and remarked that here fruit
could be bought. Bessie, rich in the possession of a pocketful of money,
was most truly glad to hear it, and a great feast of fruit ensued, with
accompaniments of _galette_ and new milk. Then the walk was continued in
a circuit which brought them back to the school through the town. The
return was followed by a collation of thick bread and butter and thin
tea; then by a little reading aloud in Miss Foster's holiday apartment,
and then by the _dortoir_, and another good talk in the moonlight until
sleep overwhelmed the talkers. Bessie dropt off with the thought in her
mind that her father and dear Harry Musgrave must be just about going on
board the vessel at Havre that was to carry them to Hampton, and that
when she woke up in the morning they would be on English soil once more,
and riding home to Beechhurst through the dewy glades of the Forest....

This account of twenty-four hours will stand for the whole of that first
week of Bessie's exile. Only the walks of an afternoon were varied. In
company with dull, neuralgic Miss Foster the two pupils visited the
famous stone-quarries above the town, out of which so many grand
churches have been built; they compassed the shaded Cours; they
investigated the museum, and Bessie was introduced to the pretty
portrait of Charlotte Corday, in a simple cross-over white gown, a blue
sash and mob-cap. Afterward she was made acquainted with a lady of
royalist partialities, whose mother had actually known the heroine, and
had lived through the terrible days of the Terror. Her tradition was
that the portrait of Charlotte was imaginary, and, as to her beauty,
delusive, and that the tragical young lady's moving passion was a
passion for notoriety. Bessie wondered and doubted, and began to think
history a most interesting study.

For another "treat," as Janey Fricker called it, they went on the Sunday
to drink tea with Miss Foster at her mother's. Mrs. Foster was a widow
with ideas of gentility in poverty. She was a chirping, bird-like little
woman, and lived in a room as trellised as a bird-cage. The house was on
the site of the old ramparts, and the garden sloped to the _fosse_. A
magnolia blossomed in it, and delicious pears, of the sort called "Bon
chrêtiens," ripened on gnarled trees. This week was, in fact, a
beautiful little prelude to school life, if Bessie had but known it. But
her appreciation of its simple pleasures came later, when they were for
ever past. She remembered then, with a sort of remorse, laughing at
Janey's notion of a "treat." Everything goes by comparison. At this time
Bessie had no experience of what it is to live by inelastic rule and
rote, to be ailing and unhappy, alone in a crowd and neglected. Janey
believed in Mrs. Foster's sun-baked little garden as a veritable pattern
of Eden, but Bessie knew the Forest, she knew Fairfield, and almost
despised that mingled patch of beauty and usefulness, of sweet odors and
onions, for Mrs. Foster grew potherbs and vegetables amongst her
flowers.

Thus Bessie's first week of exile got over, and except for a sense of
being hungry now and then, she did not find herself so very miserable
after all.



CHAPTER XI.

_SCHOOL-DAYS AT CAEN._


One morning Bessie Fairfax rose to a new sensation. "To-day the classes
open, and there is an end of treats," cried Janey Fricker with a
despairing resignation. "You will soon see the day-scholars, and by
degrees the boarders will arrive. Madame was to come late last night,
and the next news will be of Miss Hiloe. Perhaps they will appear
to-morrow. Heigh-ho!"

"You are not to care for Miss Hiloe; I shall stand up for you. I have no
notion of tyrants," said Bessie in a spirited way. But her feelings were
very mixed, very far from comfortable. This morning it seemed more than
ever cruel to have sent her to school at her age, ignorant as she was of
school ways. She shuddered in anticipation of the dreadful moment when
it would be publicly revealed that she could neither play on the piano
nor speak a word of French. Her deficiencies had been confided to Janey
in a shy, shamefaced way, and Janey, who could chatter fluently in
French and play ten tunes at least, had betrayed amazement. Afterward
she had given consolation. There was one boarder who made no pretence of
learning music, and several day-scholars; of course, being French, they
spoke French, but not a girl of them all, not madame herself, could
frame three consecutive sentences in English to be understood.

In the novelty of the situation Janey was patroness for the day. Madame
Fournier had to be encountered after breakfast, and proved to be a
perfectly small lady, of most intelligent countenance and kind
conciliatory speech. She kissed Janey on both cheeks, and bent a
penetrating pair of brown eyes on Bessie's face, which looked intensely
proud in her blushing shyness. Madame had received from Mrs. Wiley (a
former pupil and temporary teacher) instructions that Bessie's education
and training had been of the most desultory kind, and that it was
imperatively necessary to remedy her deficiencies, and give her a
veneering of cultivation and a polish to fit her for the station of life
to which she was called. Madame was able to judge for herself in such
matters. Bessie impressed her favorably, and no humiliation was
inflicted on her even as touching her ignorance of French and the piano.
It was decreed that as Bessie professed no enthusiasm for music, it
would be wasting time that might be more profitably employed to teach
her; and a recommendation to the considerate indulgence of Mademoiselle
Adelaide, who was in charge of the junior class, saved her from huffs
and ridicule while going through the preliminary paces of French.

At recreation-time in the garden Janey ran up to ask how she had got on.
"_J'ai, tu as, il a_," said Bessie, and laughed with radiant audacity.
Her phantoms were already vanishing into thin air.

Not many French girls were yet present. The next noon-day they were
doubled. By Saturday all were come, and answered to their names when the
roll was called, the great and dreadful Miss Hiloe amongst them. They
were two, Mademoiselle Ada and Mademoiselle Ellen. The younger sister
was a cipher--an echo of the elder, and an example of how she ought to
be worshipped. Mademoiselle Ada would be a personage wherever she was.
Already her _rôle_ in the world was adopted. She had a pale Greek face,
a lofty look, and a proud spirit. She was not rude to those who paid
her the homage that was her due--she was, indeed, helpful and
patronizing to the humble--but for a small Mordecai like Janey Fricker
she had nothing but insolence and rough words. Janey would not bow down
to her; in her own way Janey was as stubborn and proud as her tyrant,
but she was not as strong. She was a waif by herself, and Mademoiselle
Ada was obeyed, served, and honored by a large following of admirers.
Bessie Fairfax did not feel drawn to enroll herself amongst them, and
before the classes had been a month assembled she had rejoiced the heart
of the master-mariner's little daughter with many warm, affectionate
assurances that there was no one else in all the school that she loved
so well as herself.

By degrees, and very quick degrees, Bessie's tremors for how she should
succeed at school wore off. What fantastic distresses she would have
been saved if she had known beforehand that she possessed a gift of
beauty, more precious in the sight of girls than the first place in the
first class, than the utmost eloquence of tongues, and the most
brilliant execution on the piano! It came early to be disputed whether
Mademoiselle Ada or Mademoiselle Bessie was the _belle des belles_; and
Bessie, too, soon had her court of devoted partisans, who extolled her
fair roseate complexion, blue eyes, and golden hair as lovelier far than
Mademoiselle Ada's cold, severe perfection of feature. Bessie took their
praises very coolly, and learnt her verbs, wrote her _dictées_, and
labored at her _thêmes_ with the solid perseverance of a girl who has
her charms to acquire. The Miss Hiloes were not unwilling to be on good
terms with her, but that, she told them, was impossible while they were
so ostentatiously discourteous to her friend, Janey Fricker. When to her
armor of beauty Bessie added the weapon of fearless, incisive speech,
the risk of affronts was much abated. Mr. Carnegie had prophesied wisely
when he said for his wife's consolation that character tells more in the
long-run than talking French or playing on the piano. Her companions
might like Bessie Fairfax, or they might let liking alone, but very few
would venture a second time on ill-natured demonstrations either towards
herself or towards any one she protected.

Bessie's position in the community was established when the tug of work
began. Her health and complexion triumphed over the coarse, hard fare;
her habits of industry made application easy; but the dulness and
monotony were sickening to her, the routine and confinement were hateful
yoke and bondage. Saving one march on Sunday to the Temple under Miss
Foster's escort, she went nowhere beyond the garden for weeks together.
Both French and English girls were in the same case, unless some friend
residing in the town or visiting it obtained leave to take them out. And
nobody came for Bessie. That she should go home to Beechhurst for a
Christmas holiday she had taken for granted; and while abiding the
narrow discipline, and toiling at her unaccustomed tasks with
conscientious diligence, that flattering anticipation made sunshine in
the distance. Every falling leaf, every chill breath of advancing
winter, brought it nearer. Janey and she used to talk of it half their
recreation-time--by the stagnant, weedy fountain in the garden at noon,
and in the twilight windows of the _classe_, when thoughts of the absent
are sweetest. For the Petrel had not come into port at Caen since the
autumn, and Janey was still left at school in daily expectation and
uncertainty.

"I am only sorry, Janey, that you are not sure of going home too," said
Bessie, one day, commiserating her.

"If I am not sailing with father I would rather be here. _I_ am not so
lonely since you came," responded Janey.

Then Bessie dilated on the pleasantness of the doctor's house, the
excellent kindness of her father and mother, the goodness of the boys,
the rejoicing there would be at her return, both amongst friends at
Beechhurst and friends at Brook. Each day, after she had indulged her
memory and imagination in this strain, her heart swelled with loving
expectancy, and when the recess was spoken of as beginning "next week,"
she could hardly contain herself for joy.

What a cruel pity that such natural delightsome hopes must all collapse,
all fall to the ground! It was ruled by Mr. Fairfax that his
granddaughter had been absent so short a time that she need not go to
England this winter season. Came a letter from Mrs. Carnegie to express
the infinite disappointment at home. And there an end.

"I cried for three days," Bessie afterward confessed. "It seemed that
there never could befall me such another misery."

It was indeed terrible. In a day the big house was empty of scholars.
Madame Fournier adjourned to Bayeux. Miss Foster went to her mother. The
masters, the other teachers disappeared, all except Mademoiselle
Adelaide, who was to stay in charge of the two girls for a fortnight,
and then to resign her office for the same period to Miss Foster. There
was a month of this heartless solitude before Bessie and Janey.
Mademoiselle Adelaide bemoaned herself as their jailer, as much in
prison as they. They had good grounds of complaint. A deserted school at
Christmas-time is not a cheerful place.

But there was compensation preparing for Bessie.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And when does Bessie Fairfax come?" was almost the first question of
Harry Musgrave when he arrived from Oxford.

"Bessie is not to come at all," was the answer.

What was that for? He proceeded to an investigation. There was a streak
of lively, strong perversity in Harry Musgrave. Remarks had been passed
on his accompanying Mr. Carnegie when he conveyed Bessie to
school--quite uncalled-for remarks, which had originated at Fairfield
and the rectory. The impertinence of them roused Harry's temper, and,
boy-like, he instantly resolved that if his dear little Bessie was kept
away from home and punished on his account, he would give her meddlesome
friends something to talk about by going to Caen again and seeing her in
spite of them. He made out with clearness enough to satisfy his
conscience that Lady Latimer and Mrs. Wiley gave themselves unnecessary
anxiety about Mr. Fairfax's granddaughter, and that he was perfectly
justified in circumventing their cautious tactics. He did not speak of
his intention to the Carnegies, lest he should meet with a remonstrance
that he would be forced to yield to; but he told his sympathizing mother
that he was going to spend five pounds of his pocket-money in a run
across to Normandy to see Bessie Fairfax. Mrs. Musgrave asked if it was
quite wise, quite kind, for Bessie's sake. He was sure that Bessie would
be glad, and he did not care who was vexed.

Harry Musgrave gave himself no leisure to reconsider the matter, but
went off to Hampton, to Havre, to Caen, with the lightest heart and most
buoyant spirit in the world. He put up at Thunby's, and in the frosty
sunshine of the next morning marched with the airs and sensations of a
lover in mischief to the Rue St. Jean. Louise, that sage portress,
recognized the bold young cousin of the English _belle des belles_, and
announced him to Mademoiselle Adelaide. After a parley Bessie was
permitted to receive him, to go out with him, to be as happy as three
days were long. Harry told her how and why he had come, and Bessie was
furiously indignant at the Wileys pretending to any concern in her
affairs. Towards Lady Latimer she was more indulgent. They spent many
hours in company, and told all their experiences. Harry talked of dons
and proctors, of work and play, of hopes and projects, of rivals and
friends. Bessie had not so much to tell: she showed him the _classe_ and
her place there, and introduced him to Janey. They visited all the
public gardens and river-side walks. They were beautiful young people,
and were the observed of many observers. The sagacious _curé_ of St.
Jean's, the confessor and director at the school, saw them by chance on
the morning of a day when he had a mission to Bayeux. What more natural
than that he should call upon Madame Fournier at her uncle the canon's
house? and what more simple than that he should mention having met the
English _belle_ and her cousin of the dangerous sex?

Bessie Fairfax and Janey Fricker attended vespers regularly on Sunday
afternoons at the church of St. Jean; but they were not amongst the fair
penitents who whispered their peccadilloes once a fortnight in the
_curé's_ ear--he secluded in an edifice of chintz like a shower-bath,
they kneeling outside the curtain with the blank eyes of the Holy Mother
upon them, and the remote presence of a guardian-teacher out of hearing.
But he took an interest in them. No overt act of proselytism was
permitted in the school, but if an English girl liked vespers instead of
the second service at the Temple, her preference was not discouraged.
Bessie attended the Protestant ordinances at stated seasons, and went to
vespers and benediction besides. The _curé_ approved of her ingenuous
devotion. Once upon a time there had been Fairfaxes faithful children
of the Church: this young lady was an off-set of that house, its heiress
and hope in this generation; it would be a holy deed to bring her, the
mother perhaps of a new line, within its sacred pale.

Madame Fournier heard his communication with alarm. Already, by her
ex-teacher Mrs. Wiley, this young Musgrave had been spoken against with
voice of warning. Madame returned to Caen with her worthy pastor. The
enterprising lover was just flown. Bessie had a sunshine face.
Mademoiselle Adelaide wept that night because of the reproaches madame
made her, and the following morning Bessie was invited to resume her
lessons, and was mulcted of every holiday indulgence. Janey Fricker
suffered with her, and for nearly a week they were all _en penitence_.
Then Miss Foster came; madame vanished without leave-taking, as if
liable to reappear at any instant, and lessons lapsed back into leisure.
Bessie felt that she had been an innocent scapegrace, and Harry very
venturesome; but she had so much enjoyed her "treat," and felt so much
the happier for it, that, all madame's grave displeasure
notwithstanding, she never was properly sorry.

Harry Musgrave returned to England as jubilant as he left Bessie. The
trip, winter though it was, exhilarated him. But it behooved him to be
serious when Mr. Carnegie was angry, and Mrs. Carnegie declared that she
did not know how to forgive him. If his escapade were made known to Mr.
Fairfax, the upshot might be a refusal to let Bessie revisit them at
Beechhurst throughout the whole continuance of her school-days. And that
was what came of it. Of course his escapade was communicated to Mr.
Fairfax, and Madame Fournier received a letter from Abbotsmead with the
intimation that the youth who had presented himself in the Rue St. Jean
as a cousin of Miss Fairfax was nothing akin to her, and that if she
could not be secured from his presumptuous intrusions there, she must be
removed from madame's custody. They had associated together as children,
but it was desirable to stay the progress of their unequal friendship as
they grew up; for the youth, though well conducted and clever, was of
mean origin and poor condition; so Mr. Fairfax was credibly informed.
And he trusted that Madame Fournier would see the necessity of a
decisive separation between them.

Madame did see the necessity. With Mr. Fairfax's letter came to her
hand another, a letter from the "youth" himself, but addressed to his
dear Bessie. That it should ever reach her was improbable. There was the
strictest quarantine for letters in the Rue St. Jean. Even letters to
and from parents passed through madame's private office. She opened and
read Harry Musgrave's as an obvious necessity, smiled over its boyish
exaggeration, and relished its fun at her own expense, for madame was a
woman of wisdom and humor. Little by little she had learnt the whole of
Bessie's life and conversation from her own lips; and she felt that
there was nothing to be feared from a lover of young Musgrave's type,
unless he was set on mischief by the premature interposition of
obstacles, of which this denial to Bessie of her Christmas holiday was
an example.

However, madame had not to judge, but to act. She returned Harry
Musgrave his letter, with a polite warning that such a correspondence
with a girl at school was silly and not to be thought of. Harry blushed
a little, felt foolish, and put the document into the fire. Madame made
him confess to himself that he had gone to Caen as much for bravado as
for love of Bessie. Bessie never knew of the letter, but she cherished
her pretty romance in her heart, and when she was melancholy she thought
of the garden at Brook, and of the beeches by the stream where they had
sat and told their secrets on their farewell afternoon; and in her
imagination her dear Harry was a perfect friend and lover.

       *       *       *       *       *

That episode passed out of date. Bessie gave her mind to improvement.
Discovery was made that she had a sweet singing voice, and, late in the
day as it seemed to begin, she undertook to learn the piano, on the plea
that it would be useful if she could only play enough to accompany
herself in a song. She had her dancing-lessons, her drawing-lessons, and
as much study of grammars, dictionaries, histories, geographies, and
sciences-made-easy as was good for her, and every day showed her more
and more what a dunce she was. Madame, however, treated her as a girl
who had _des moyens_, and she was encouraged to believe that when she
had done with school she would make as creditable a figure in the world
as most of her contemporaries.

How far off her _début_ might be no one had yet inquired. Since her late
experiences there was little certainty in Bessie's expectations of going
to Beechhurst for the long vacation which began in July. And it was
salutary that she entertained a doubt, for it mitigated disappointment
when it came. About a fortnight before the breaking up madame sent for
her one evening in to the _salon_, and with much consideration informed
her that it was arranged she should go with her to Bayeux and to the
sea, instead of going to England. Bessie had acquired the art of
controlling her feelings, and she accepted the fiat in silence. But she
felt a throb of vindictive rage against her grandfather, and said in her
heart that to live in a world where such men were masters, women ought
to be made of machinery. She refused to write to him, but she wrote home
to Beechhurst, and asked if any of them were coming to see her. But the
loving joint reply of her father and mother was that they thought it
better not.

Madame Fournier was indulgent in holiday-time, and Bessie was better
pleased at Bayeux than she had thought it possible to be. The canon
proved to be the most genial of old clergymen. He knew all the romance
of French history, and gave Bessie more instruction in their peripatetic
lectures about that drowsy, ancient city than she could have learnt in a
year of dull books. Then there was Queen Matilda's famous tapestry to
study in the museum, a very retired, rustic nook, all embowered in
vines. Bessie also practised sketching, for Bayeux is rich in bits of
street scenery--gables, queer windows, gateways, flowery balconies. And
she was asked into society with madame, and met the gentlefolks who kept
their simple, retired state about the magnificent cathedral. Before
Bayeux palled she was carried off to Luc-sur-Mer, the canon going too,
also in the care of madame his niece.

Bessie's regret next to that for home was for the loneliness of Janey
Fricker, left with Miss Foster in the Rue St. Jean. She wished for Janey
to walk with her in the rough sea-wind, to bathe with her, and talk with
her. One morning when the sun was glorious on the dancing waves, she
cried out her longing for her little friend. The next day Janey arrived
by the diligence. Mr. Fairfax had given madame _carte blanche_ for the
holiday entertainment of his granddaughter, and madame was glad to be
able to content her so easily. Luc-sur-Mer is not a place to be
enthusiastic about. Its beauty is moderate--a shelving beach, a
background of sand-hills, and the rocky reef of Calvados. The canon took
his gentle paces with a broad-brimmed abbé from Avranches, and madame
was happy in the society of a married sister from Paris. The two girls
did as they pleased. They were very fond of one another, and this
sentiment is enough for perfect bliss at their age. Bessie had never
wavered in her protecting kindness to Janey, and Janey served her now
with devotion, and promised eternal remembrance and gratitude.

When a fortnight came to an end at Luc-sur-Mer, Bessie returned to
Bayeux, and Janey went back to the Rue St. Jean. Before the school
reopened came into port at Caen the Petrel, and John Fricker, the
master-mariner, carried away his daughter. Janey left six lines of
hasty, tender adieu with Miss Foster for her friend, but no address. She
only said that she was "Going to sail with father."



CHAPTER XII.

_IN COURSE OF TIME._


For days, weeks, months the memory of lost Janey Fricker haunted Bessie
Fairfax with a sweet melancholy. She missed her little friend
exceedingly. She did not doubt that Janey would write, would return, and
even a year of silence and absence did not cure her of regret and
expectation. She was of a constant as well as a faithful nature, and had
a thousand kind pleas and excuses for those she loved. It was impossible
to believe that Janey had forgotten her, but Janey made no sign of
remembrance.

Time and change! Time and change! How fast they get over the ground! how
light the traces they leave behind them! At the next Christmas recess
there was a great exodus of English girls. The Miss Hiloes went, and
they had no successors. When Bessie wanted to talk of Janey and old
days, she had to betake herself to Miss Foster. There was nobody else
left who remembered Janey or her own coming to school.

As the time went on letters from Beechhurst were fewer and farther
between; letters from Brook she had none, nor any mention of Harry
Musgrave in her mother's. Her grandfather desired to wean her from early
associations, and a mixture of pride and right feeling kept the
Carnegies from whatever could be misconstrued into a wish to thwart him.
No one came to see her from the Forest after that rash escapade of Harry
Musgrave's. Her eighteenth birthday passed, and she was still kept at
school both in school-time and holidays.

Madame Fournier, the genial canon, the kind _curé_, a few English
acquaintances at Caen, a few French acquaintances at Bayeux, were very
good to her. Especially she liked her visits to the canon's house in
summer. Often, as the long vacation of her third year at Caen
approached, she caught herself musing on the probability of her recall
to England with a reluctancy full of doubts and fears. She had been so
long away that she felt half forgotten, and when madame announced that
once more she was to spend the autumn under her protection, she heard it
without remonstrance, and, for the moment, with something like relief.
But afterward, when the house was silent and the girls were all gone,
the unbidden tears rose often to her eyes, and the yearning of
home-sickness came upon her as strongly as in the early days of her
exile.

Bayeux is a _triste_ little city, and in hot weather a perfect sun-trap
between its two hills. The river runs softly hidden amongst willows, and
the dust rises in light clouds with scarce a breath of air. Yet glimpses
of cool beautiful green within gates and over stone walls refresh the
eyes; vines drape the placid rustic nook that calls itself the library;
every other window in the streets is a garland or a posy, and through
the doors ajar show vistas of oleanders, magnolias, pomegranates
flowering in olive-wood tubs, and making sweet lanes and hedges across
tiled courts to the pleasant gloom of the old houses.

Canon Fournier's house was in the neighborhood of the cathedral, and as
secluded, green, and garlanded as any. Oftentimes in the day his man
Launcelot watered the court-yard in agreeable zigzags. Bessie Fairfax,
when she heard the cool tinkle of the shower upon the stones, always
looked out to share the refreshment. The canon's _salon_ was a double
room with a _portière_ between. Two windows _gave_ upon the court and
two upon a shaded, paved terrace, from which a broad flight of steps
descended to the garden. The domain of the canon's housekeeper was at
one end of this terrace, and there old Babette sat in the cool shelling
peas, shredding beans, and issuing orders to Margot in the sultry
atmosphere of the kitchen stove. Bessie, alone in the _salon_ one August
morning, heard the shrill monotone of her voice in the pauses of a
day-dream. She had dropped her book because, try as she would to hold
her attention to the story, her thoughts lost themselves continually,
and were found again at every turning of the page astray somewhere about
the Forest--about home.

"It is very strange! I cannot help thinking of them. I wonder whether
anything is happening?" she said, and yielded to the subtle influence.
She began to walk to and fro the _salon_. She went over in her mind many
scenes; she recollected incidents so trivial that they had been long ago
forgotten--how Willie had broken the wooden leg of little Polly's new
Dutch doll (for surgical practice), and how Polly had raised the whole
house with her lamentations. And then she fell to reckoning how old the
boys would be now and how big, until suddenly she caught herself
laughing through tears at that cruel pang of her own when, after
submitting to be the victim of Harry Musgrave's electrical experiments,
he had neglected to reward her with the anticipated kiss. "I wonder
whether he remembers?--girls remember such silly things." In this fancy
she stood still, her bright face addressed towards the court. Through
the trees over the wall appeared the gray dome of the cathedral.
Launcelot came sauntering and waving his watering-can. The stout figure
of the canon issued from the doorway of a small pavilion which he called
his _omnibus_, passed along under the shadow of the wall, and out into
the glowing sun. Madame entered the _salon_, her light quick steps
ringing on the _parquet_, her holiday voice clear as a carol, her
holiday figure gay as a showy-plumaged bird.

"Ma chérie, tu n'es pas sortie? tu ne fais rien?"

Bessie awoke from her reverie, and confessed that she was idle this
morning, very idle and uncomfortably restless: it was the heat, she
thought, and she breathed a vast sigh. Madame invited her to _do_
something by way of relief to her _ennui_, and after a brief considering
fit she said she would go into the cathedral, where it was the coolest,
and take her sketching-block.

Oh, for the moist glades of the Forest, for the soft turf under foot and
the thick verdure overhead! Bessie longed for them with all her heart as
she passed upon the sun-baked stones to the great door of the cathedral.
The dusk of its vaulted roof was not cool and sweet like the arching of
green branches, but chill with damp odors of antiquity. She sat down in
one of the arcades near the portal above the steps that descend into the
nave. The immense edifice seemed quite empty. The perpetual lamp burned
before the altar, and wandering echoes thrilled in the upper galleries.
Through a low-browed open door streamed across the aisle a flood of
sunshine, and there was the sound of chisel and mallet from the same
quarter, the stone-yard of the cathedral; but there was no visible
worshipper--nothing to interrupt her mood of reverie.

For a long while, that is. Presently chimed in with the music of chisel
and mallet the ring of eager young footsteps outside, young men's
footsteps, voices and dear English speech. One was freely translating
from his guide-book: "The cathedral, many times destroyed, was rebuilt
after the fire of 1106, and not completed until the eighteenth century.
It is therefore of several styles. The length is one hundred and two
mètres and the height twenty-three mètres from floor to vault."

Bessie's breath came and went very fast; so did the blood in her cheeks.
Surely that voice she knew. It was Harry Musgrave's voice, and this was
why thoughts of the Forest had haunted her all the morning.

The owner of the voice entered, and it was Harry Musgrave--he and two
others, all with the fresh air of British tourists not long started on
their tour, knapsack on back and walking-stick in hand. They pulled off
their gray wideawakes and stared about, lowering their manly tones as
they talked; stood a few minutes considering the length, breadth,
height, and beauty of general effect in the nave and the choir, and then
descended the steps, and in the true national spirit of inquiry walked
straight to the stream of sunshine that revealed a door opening into
some place unseen. Bessie, sitting in retired shade, escaped their
observation. She laughed to herself with an inexpressible gladness. It
was certainly not by accident that Harry was here. She would have liked
to slip along the aisle in his shadow, to have called him by his name,
but the presence of his two unknown companions, and some diffidence in
herself, restrained her until the opportunity was gone, and he
disappeared, inveigled by the sacristan into making the regular tour of
the building. She knew every word he would hear, every antiquity he
would admire. She saw him in the choir turning over the splendid
manuscript books of Holy Writ and of the Mass which were in use in the
church when the kings of England were still dukes of Normandy; saw him
carried off into the crypt where is shown the pyx of those long-ago
times, a curious specimen of mediæval work in brass; and after that she
lost him.

Would they climb the dome, those enterprising young men? Bessie took it
for granted that they would. But she must see dear Harry again; and oh
for a word with him! Perhaps he would seek her out--he might have learnt
from her mother where she was at Bayeux--or perhaps he would not _dare_?
Not that Harry's character had ever lacked daring where his wishes were
concerned; still, recollecting the trouble that had come of his former
unauthorized visit, he might deny himself for her sake. It was not
probable, and Bessie would not have bidden him deny himself; she would
willingly go through the same trouble again for the same treat. Why had
she not taken courage to arrest his progress? How foolish, how heartless
it would appear to-morrow if the chance were not renewed to her to-day!
She would not have done so silly a thing three years ago--her impulse to
follow him, to call out his name, would have been irresistible--but now
she felt shy of him. A plague on her shyness!

Bessie's little temper had the better of her for a minute or two. She
was very angry with herself, would never forgive herself, she said, if
by her own trivial fault she had thrown away this favor of kind Fortune.
What must she do, what could she do, to retrieve her blunder? Where seek
for him? How find him? She quivered, grew hot and cold again with
excitement. Should she go to the Green Square?--he was sure to visit
that quarter. Then she remembered a high window in the canon's house
that commanded the open spaces round the cathedral; she would go and
watch from that high window. It was a long while before she arrived at
this determination; she waited to see if the strangers would return to
the beautiful chapter-house, to admire its fine tesselated floor and
carved stalls, and its chief treasure in the exquisite ivory crucifix of
the unfortunately famous princess De Lamballe; but they did not return,
and then she hastened home, lest she should be too late. Launcelot was
plying his water-can for the sixth time that morning when she entered
the court, and she stood in an angle of shadow to feel the air of the
light shower.

"Here she is, and just the same as ever!" exclaimed somebody at the
_salon_ window.

Bessie was startled into a cry of joy. It was Harry Musgrave himself.
Madame Fournier had been honored with his society for quite half an hour
while his little friend was loitering and longing pensively in the
cathedral. All that lost, precious time! Bessie never recollected how
they met, or what they said to each other in the first moments, but
Babette, who witnessed the meeting through the glass door at the end of
the hall which opened on the terrace, had a firm belief ever afterward
that the English ladies and gentlemen embrace with a kiss after
absence--a sign whether of simplicity or freedom of manners, she could
not decide; so she wisely kept her witness to herself, being a sage
person and of discreet experiences.

They returned into the _salon_ together. It was full of the perfume of
roses, of the wavering shadow of leaves on the floor and walls and
ceiling. It looked bright and pretty, and madame, with suave benignity,
explained: "I told Mr. Musgrave that it was better to wait here, and not
play hide-and-seek; Bessie was sure to come soon."

"I saw you in the cathedral, Harry; you passed close by me. It was so
difficult not to cry out!"

"You saw me in the cathedral, and did not run up to me? Oh, Bessie!"

"There were two other gentlemen with you." Bessie, though conscious of
her wickedness, saw no harm in extenuating it.

"If there had been twenty, what matter? Would I have let you pass me? If
I had not found courage to seek you here--and it required some courage,
and some perseverance, too--why, I should have missed you altogether."

Bessie laughed: here were they sparring as if they had parted no longer
ago than yesterday! Then she blushed, and all at once they came to
themselves, and began to be graver and more restrained.

"My friends are Fordyce and Craik; they have gone to study the Tapestry.
I said I would look in at it later with you, Bessie: I counted on you
for my guide," announced Harry with native assurance.

Bessie launched a supplicatory glance at madame, then hazarded a
doubtful consent, which did not provoke a denial. After that they moved
to the garden-end of the _salon_, and seated themselves in friendly
proximity. Then Bessie asked to be told all about them at home. All
about them was not a long story. The doctor's family had not arrived at
the era of dispersion and changes; the three years that had been so
long, full, and important to Bessie had passed in his house like three
monotonous days. The same at Brook.

"The fathers and mothers, yours and mine, are not an hour altered,"
Harry Musgrave said. "The boys are grown. Jack is a sturdy little
ruffian, as you might expect; no boy in the Forest runs through so many
clothes as Jack--that's the complaint. There is a talk of sending him to
sea, and he is deep in Marryat's novels for preparation."

"Poor Jack, he was a sad Pickle, but _so_ affectionate! And Willie and
the others?" queried Bessie rather mournfully.

Concerning Willie and the others there was a favorable account. Of all
Bessie's old friends and acquaintances not one was lost, not one had
gone away. But talk of them was only preliminary to more interesting
talk of themselves, modestly deferred, but well lingered over once it
was begun. Harry Musgrave could not tell Bessie too much--he could not
explain with too exact a precision the system of college-life, its
delights and drawbacks. He had been very successful; he had won many
prizes, and anticipated the distinction of a high degree--all at the
cost of work. One term he had not gone up to Oxford. The doctor had
ordered him to rest.

"Still, you are not quite killed with study," said Bessie gayly,
rallying him. She thought the school-life of girls was as laborious as
the college-life of young men, with much fewer alleviations.

"That was never my way. I can make a spurt if need be. But it is safer
to keep a steady, even pace."

"And what are you going to do for a profession, Harry? Have you made up
your mind yet?"

Harry had made up his mind to win a fellowship at Oxford, and then to
enter himself at one of the Inns of Court and read for the bar. For
physic and divinity he had no taste, but the law would suit him. Bessie
was ineffably depressed by this information: what romance is there in
the law for the imagination of eighteen? If Harry had said he was going
to throw himself on the world as a poor author, she would have bestowed
upon him a fund of interest and sympathy. To win a little of such
encouragement Harry added that while waiting for briefs he might be
forced to betake himself to the cultivation of light literature, of
journalism, or even of parliamentary reporting: many men, now of mark,
had done so. Then Bessie was better satisfied. "But oh what a prodigious
wig you will want!" was her rueful conclusion.

"Have I such a Goliath head?" Harry inquired, rubbing his large hands
through his crisp, abundant locks. They were as much all in a fuzz as
ever, but his skin was not so gloriously tanned, and his hands were
white instead of umber. Bessie noticed them: they were whiter and more
delicate than her own.

Harry Musgrave had no conceit, but plenty of confidence, and he knew
that his head was a very good head. It had room for plenty of brains,
and Harry was of opinion that it is far more desirable to be born with
a fortune in brains than with the proverbial silver spoon in one's
mouth. He would have laughed to scorn the vulgar notion that to be born
in the purple or in a wilderness of money-bags is more than an
equivalent, and would have bid you see the little value God sets on
riches by observing the people to whom He gives them. Birth, he would
have granted, ensures a man a long step at starting, but unless he have
brains his rival without ancestors will pass him in the race for
distinction. This was young Musgrave's creed at three-and-twenty. He
expounded it to Bessie, who heard him with a puzzled perception of
something left out. Harry, like many another man at the beginning of
life, reckoned without the unforeseen.

The sum of Bessie's experiences, adventures, opinions was not long. Her
mind had not matured at school as it would have done in the practical
education of home. She had acquired a graceful carriage and propriety of
behavior, and she had learned a little more history, with a few dates
and other things that are written in books; but of current literature
and current events, great or small, she had learned nothing. For
seclusion a French school is like a convent. She had a sense of humor
and a sense of justice--qualities not too common in the sex; and she had
a few liberal notions, the seed of which had been sown during her rides
with the doctor. They would probably outlive her memory for the shadowy
regions of chronology. Then she had a clear and strong sentiment with
regard to the oppressive manner in which her grandfather had exercised
his right and power over her, which gave a tincture to her social views
not the most amiable. She was confessedly happier with Madame Fournier
at Bayeux than she had any anticipation of being at Abbotsmead, but she
had nevertheless a feeling of injury in being kept in a state of
pupilage. She had wrought up her mind to expect a recall to England when
she was eighteen, and no recall had come. Harry Musgrave's inquiry when
she was to leave school brought a blush to her face. She was ashamed to
answer that she did not know.

"Lady Latimer should interfere for you," suggested Harry, who had not
received a lively impression of her lot.

Bessie's countenance cleared with a flash, and her thoughts were
instantly diverted to Fairfield and its gracious mistress--that bright
particular star of her childish imagination: "Oh, Harry, have you made
friends with Lady Latimer?" asked she.

"I have not been to her house, because she has never asked me since that
time I despised her commands, but we have a talk when we meet on the
road. Her ladyship loves all manner of information, and is good enough
to take an interest in my progress. I know she takes an interest in it,
because she recollects what I tell her--not like our ascetic parson, who
forgets whether I am at Balliol or Oriel, and whether I came out first
class or fourth in moderations."

"I wish I could meet Lady Latimer on the road or anywhere! Seeing you
makes me long to go home, Harry," said Bessie with a sigh. Harry
protested that she ought to go home, and promised that he would speak
about it--he would go to Fairfield immediately on his return to the
Forest, and beg Lady Latimer to intercede in her behalf. Bessie had a
doubt whether this was a judicious plan, but she did not say so. The
hope of deliverance, once admitted into her mind, overcame all
perplexities.

A little while and the canon came in glowing hot. "_Pouf!_" and he wiped
his rubicund, round visage with a handkerchief as brilliant. Coming
straight from the glare out of doors, he was not aware of the stranger
in the _salon_ till his eyes were used to the gloom. Then madame and
Bessie effected Harry's introduction, and as Harry, with a rare wisdom,
had practised colloquial French, he and the canon were soon acquainted.
Once only had the old man visited England, a visit for ever memorable on
account of the guinea he had paid for his first dinner in London.

"Certainly, they took you for an archbishop or for a monsigneur," said
Harry, when the old story of this cruel extortion was recited to him.
The canon was pleased. This explanation gave a color of flattery to his
infamous wrong. And madame thought her brother had quite _l'air noble_.

Babette summoned them to _dejeuner_. Harry stayed gladly at a hint of
invitation. Across the table the two young people had a full view of
each other, and satisfied their eyes with gazing. Bessie looked lovely
in her innocent delight, and Harry had now a maturer appreciation of
her loveliness. He himself had more of the student aspect, and an air of
lassitude, which he ascribed, as he had been instructed, to overstrain
in reading for the recent examinations. This was why he had come
abroad--the surest way of taking mental rest and refreshment.
Incidentally he mentioned that he had given up boating and athletic
exercises, under Mr. Carnegie's direction. Bessie only smiled, and
reflected that it was odd to hear of Harry Musgrave taking care of
himself. One visitor from England on a day would have been enough, but
by a curious coincidence, as they sat all at ease, through the open
window from the court there sounded another English voice, demanding
Madame Fournier and Miss Fairfax.

"Who can it be?" said Bessie, and she craned her fair neck to look,
while a rosy red suffused her face from chin to brow.

The canon and madame laid down their knives and forks to listen, and
involuntarily everybody's eyes turned upon Harry. He could not forbear a
smile and a glance of intelligence at Bessie; for he had an instant
suspicion that this new-comer was an emissary from Mr. Fairfax, and from
her agitation so had she. Launcelot held a short, prompt parley at the
gate, then Babette intervened, and next was audible the advance of a
firm, even step into the hall, and the closing of the _salon_ door.
"Encore un beau monsieur pour mademoiselle," announced the housekeeper,
and handed in a card inscribed with the name of "Mr. Cecil Burleigh,"
and a letter of introduction from Mr. Fairfax.

Bessie's heart went pit-a-pat while madame read the letter, and Harry
feared that he would probably have to find his way to the Tapestry
without a guide. Madame's countenance was inscrutable, but she said to
Bessie, "Calme-toi, mon enfant," and finished her meal with extreme
deliberation. Then with a perfect politeness, and an utter oblivion of
the little arrangement for a walk to the library that Harry and Bessie
had made, she gave him his _congé_ in the form of a hope that he would
never fail to visit her when he found himself at Caen or Bayeux. Harry
accepted it with a ready apprehension of the necessity for his
dismissal, and without alluding to the Tapestry made his respectful
acknowledgments to madame and the canon preparatory to bidding Bessie
farewell.

Under the awning over the _perron_ they said their good-byes. Bessie,
frank-hearted girl, was disappointed even to the glittering of tears.
"It has been very pleasant. I am so happy you came!" whispered she with
a tremor.

"God bless you, dear little Bessie! Give me this for a keepsake," said
Harry, and took a white, half-blown rose which she wore in the bosom of
her pretty dress of lilac _percale_. She let him have it. Then they
stood for a minute face to face and hand in hand, but the delicate
perplexities of Babette, spying through her glass door, were not
increased by a kiss at parting. And the young man seemed to rush away at
last in sudden haste.

"Montes dans ta chambre quelques instants, Bessie," said the voice of
madame. And then with a gentle, decorous dignity she entered the
_salon_.

       *       *       *       *       *

When madame entered the _salon_, Mr. Cecil Burleigh was standing at one
of the windows that _gave_ upon the court. He witnessed the departure of
Harry Musgrave, and did not fail to recognize an Englishman in the best
made of English clothes. The reader will probably recognize _him_ as one
of the guests at the Fairfield wedding, who had shown some attention to
Bessie Fairfax on her grandfather's introduction of him as a neighbor of
his in Woldshire. He was now at Bayeux by leave of Mr. Fairfax, to see
the young lady and take the sense of her opinions as to whether she
would prefer to remain another year at school, or to go back to England
in ten days under his escort. The interval he was on his way to spend in
Paris--on a private errand for the government, to a highly honorable
member of which he was private secretary.

Mr. Fairfax's letter to madame announced in simple terms the object of
Mr. Cecil Burleigh's mission to Bayeux, and as the gentleman recited it
by word of mouth she grew freezingly formal. To lose Bessie would be a
loss that she had been treating as deferred. Certainly, also, the ways
of the English are odd! To send the young lady on a two days' journey
with this strange gentleman, who was no relative, was impossible. So
well brought up as Bessie had been since she came to Caen, she would
surely refuse the alternative, and decide to remain at school. Madame
replied to the announcement that Miss Fairfax would appear in a few
minutes, and would of course speak for herself. But Bessie was in no
haste to meet the envoy from Kirkham after parting with her beloved
Harry, and when a quarter of an hour had elapsed, and there was still no
sign of her coming, Babette was despatched to the top of the house to
bring her down to the interview.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh had taken a chair opposite the door, and he watched
for its reopening with a visible and vivid interest. It opened, and
Bessie walked in with that stately erectness of gait which was
characteristic of the women of her race. "As upright as a Fairfax," was
said of them in more senses than one. She was blushing, and her large
dark blue eyes had the softness of recent tears. She curtseyed,
school-girl fashion, to her grandfather's envoy, and her graceful proud
humility set him instantly at a distance. His programme was to be
lordly, affable, tenderly patronizing, but his dark cheek flushed, and
self-possessed as he was, both by nature and habit, he was suddenly at a
loss how to address this stiff princess about whom he had expected to
find some rags of Cophetua still hanging. But the rags were all gone,
and the little gypsy of the Forest was become a lady.

Madame intervened with needful explanations. Bessie comprehended the
gist of the embassage very readily. She must take heart for an immediate
encounter with her grandfather and all her other difficulties, or she
must resign herself to a fourth year of exile and of school. Her mind
was at once made up. Since the morning--how long ago it seemed!--an
ardent wish to return to England had begun to glow in her imagination.
She wanted her real life to begin. These dull, monotonous school-days
were only a prelude which had gone on long enough. Therefore she said,
with brief consideration, that her choice would be to return home.

"To Kirkham understand, _ma chérie_, not to Beechhurst," said madame
softly, warningly.

"To Kirkham, so be it! Sooner or later I must go there," answered Bessie
with brave resignation.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh was apparently gratified by the young lady's
consent, abrupt though it was. But madame's countenance fell. She was
deeply disappointed at this issue. Apart from her pecuniary interest in
Bessie, which was not inconsiderable, Bessie had become a source of
religious concern to influential persons. And there was a favorite
nephew of madame's, domiciled in Paris, about whom visionary schemes had
been indulged, which now all in a moment vanished. This young nephew was
to have come with his mother to Étretât only a week hence, and there the
canon and Madame Fournier were to have joined them, with the beautiful
English girl committed to their charge. It was now good-bye to all such
plots and plans.

Bessie perceived from her face that madame was distressed, but she did
not know all the reasons why. Madame had been very good to her, and
Bessie felt sorry; but to leave school for home was such a natural,
inevitable episode in the course of life in the Rue St. Jean that,
beyond a momentary regret, she had no compunction. Mr. Cecil Burleigh
proceeded to lay open his arrangements. He was on his road to Paris,
where he might be detained from ten to fifteen days, but madame should
receive a letter from him when the precise time of his return was fixed.
After he had spoken to this effect he rose to take leave, and Bessie,
blushing as she heard her own voice, originated her first remark, her
first question:

"My grandfather hardly knows me. Does he expect my arrival at Kirkham
with pleasure, or would he rather put it off for another year?" Madame
thought she was already wavering in her determination.

"I am sure that when I have written to him he will expect your arrival
with the _greatest_ pleasure," replied Mr. Cecil Burleigh with kind
emphasis, retaining Bessie's hand for a moment longer than was
necessary, and relinquishing it with a cordial shake.

Bessie's blushes did not abate at the compliment implied in his answer
and in his manner: he had been favorably impressed, and would send to
Abbotsmead a favorable report of her. When he was gone she all in a
moment recollected when and where she had seen him before, and wondered
that he had not reminded her of it; but perhaps he had forgotten too?
She soon let go that reminiscence, and with a light heart, in
anticipation of the future which had appeared in the distance so
unpropitious, she talked of it to madame with a thousand random
speculations, until madame was tired of the subject. And then she talked
of it to Babette, who having no private disappointments in connection
therewith, proved patiently and sympathetically responsive.

"Of course," said Bessie, "we shall go down the river to Havre, and then
we shall cross to Hampton. I shall send them word at home, and some of
them are sure to come and meet me there."

The letter was written and despatched, and in due course of post arrived
an answer from Mr. Carnegie. He would come to Hampton certainly, and his
wife would come with him, and perhaps one of the boys: they would come
or go anywhere for a sight of their dear Bessie. But, fond, affectionate
souls! they were all doomed to disappointment. Mr. Cecil Burleigh wrote
earlier than was expected that he had intelligence from Kirkham to the
effect that Mr. Frederick Fairfax would be at Havre with his yacht on or
about a certain day, that he would come to Caen and himself take charge
of his niece, and carry her home by sea--to Scarcliffe understood, for
Kirkham was full twenty miles from the coast.

"Oh, how sorry I am! how sorry they will be in the Forest!" cried
Bessie. "Is there no help for it?"

Madame was afraid there was no help for it--nothing for it but
submission and obedience. And Bessie wrote to revoke all the cheerful
promises and prospects that she had held out to her friends at
Beechhurst.



CHAPTER XIII.

_BESSIE LEARNS A FAMILY SECRET._


Canon Fournier went to Étretât by himself, for madame was bound to
escort her pupil to Caen, to prepare her for her departure to England,
and with her own hands to remit her into those of her friends. Caen is
suffocatingly hot in August--dusty, empty, dull. Mr. Frederick
Fairfax's beautiful yacht, the Foam, was in port at Havre, but it was
understood that a week would elapse before it could be ready to go to
sea again. It had met with some misadventure and wanted repairs. Mr.
Frederick Fairfax came on to Caen, and presented himself in the Rue St.
Jean, where he saw Bessie in the garden. Two chairs were brought out for
them, and they sat and talked to the tinkle of the old fountain. It was
not much either had to say to the other. The gentleman was absent and
preoccupied, like a person accustomed to solitude and long silence; even
while he talked he gave Bessie the impression of being half lost in
reverie. He bore some slight resemblance to his father, and his fair
hair and beard were whitening already, though he appeared otherwise in
the prime of life.

The day after her uncle's visit there came to Bessie a sage, matronly
woman to offer her any help or information she might need in prospect of
sea-adventures. Mrs. Betts was to attend upon her on board the yacht;
she had decisive ways and spoke like a woman in authority. When Bessie
hesitated she told her what to do. She had been in charge of Mr.
Frederick Fairfax's unfortunate wife during a few weeks' cruise along
the coast. The poor lady was an inmate of the asylum of the Bon Sauveur
at Caen. The Foam had been many times into the port on her account
during Bessie's residence in the Rue St. Jean, but, naturally enough,
Mr. Frederick Fairfax had kept his visits from the knowledge of his
school-girl niece. Now, however, concealment might be abandoned, for if
the facts were not communicated to her here, she would be sure to hear
them at Kirkham. And Mrs. Betts told her the pitiful story. Bessie was
inexpressibly awed and shocked at the revelation. She had not heard a
whisper of the tragedy before.

One evening in the cool Bessie walked with Miss Foster up the wide
thoroughfare, at the country end of which are the old convent walls and
gardens which enclose the modern buildings of the Bon Sauveur. They were
not a dozen paces from the gates when the wicket was opened by a sister,
and Mr. Frederick Fairfax came out. Bessie's face flushed and her eyes
filled with tears of compassion.

"You know where I have been, then, Elizabeth?" said he--"to visit my
poor wife. She seems happier in her little room full of birds and
flowers than on the yacht with me, yet the good nuns assure me she is
the better for her sea-trip. The nuns are most kind."

Bessie acquiesced, and Miss Foster remarked that it was at the Bon
Sauveur gentle usage of the insane had first superseded the cruel old
system of restraints and terror. Mr. Frederick Fairfax shivered, stood a
minute gazing dejectedly into space, and then walked on.

"He loves her," said Bessie, deeply touched. "I suppose death is a light
affliction in comparison with such a separation."

The wicket was still open, the sister was still looking out. There was a
glimpse of lofty houses, open windows, grapevines rich in purple
clusters on the walls, and boxes of mignonette and gayer flowers upon
the window-sills. Miss Foster asked Bessie if she would like to see what
of the asylum was shown; and though Bessie's taste did not incline to
painful studies, before she had the decision to refuse she found herself
inside the gates and the sister was reciting her monotonous formula.

These tall houses in a crescent on the court were occupied by
lady-boarders not suffering from mental alienation or any loss of
faculty, but from decayed fortunes. The deaf and dumb, the blind, the
crippled, epileptic, and insane had separate dwellings built apart in
the formal luxuriant gardens. "We have patients of all nations," said
the sister. "Strangers see none of these; there have been distressing
recognitions." Bessie was not desirous of seeing any. She breathed more
freely when she was outside the gates. It was a nightmare to imagine the
agonies massed within those walls, though all is done that skill and
charity can do for their alleviation.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You will not forget us: if ever you come back to Caen, you will not
forget us?" The speaker was little Mrs. Foster.

Bessie had learned to love Mrs. Foster's crowded, minute _salon_, her
mixed garden of flowers and herbs; and she had learned to love the old
lady too, by reason of the kindnesses she had done her and her
over-worked daughter. Mr. Fairfax had made his granddaughter an
allowance of pocket-money so liberal that she was never at a loss for a
substantial testimony of her gratitude to any one who earned it. And now
her farewell visits to all who had been kind to her were paid, and she
was surprised how much she was leaving that she regretted. The word had
come for her to be ready at a moment's call. The yacht was in the river,
her luggage was gone on board, and Mrs. Betts had completed her final
arrangements for the comfort of the young lady. Only Mr. Cecil Burleigh
was to wait for--that was the last news for Bessie: Mr. Cecil Burleigh
was to join the yacht, and to be carried to England with her.

There were three days to wait. The time seemed long in that large vacant
house, that sunburnt secluded garden, that glaring silent court. Bessie
spent hours in the church. It was cool there, and close by if her
summons came. The good _curé_ saw her often, and took no notice. She was
not devout. She was too facile, too philosophical of temper to have
violent preferences or aversions in religion. A less sober mind than
hers would have yielded to the gentle pressure of universal example, but
Bessie was not of those who are given to change. She would have made an
excellent Roman Catholic if she had been born and bred in that
communion, but she had disappointed everybody's pious hopes and efforts
for her conversion to it. She once said to the _curé_ that holiness of
life was the chief thing, and she could not make out that it was the
monopoly of any creed or any sect, or any age of the world. He gave her
his blessing, and, not to acknowledge a complete defeat, he told Madame
Fournier that if the dear young lady met with poignant griefs and
mortifications, for which there were abundant opportunities in her
circumstances, he had expectations that she might then seek refuge and
consolation in the tender arms of the Church. Madame did not agree with
him. She had studied Bessie's character more closely, and believed that
whatever her trials, her strength would always suffice for her day, and
that whatever she changed she would not change her profession of faith
or deny her liberal and practical Protestant principles.

There was hurry at the end, as in most departures, but it was soon
over, and then followed a delicious calm. The yacht was towed down the
river in the beautiful cool of the evening. A pretty awning shaded the
deck, and there Bessie dined daintily with her uncle and Mr. Cecil
Burleigh, and for the first time in her life was served with polite
assiduity. She looked very handsome and more coquettish than she had any
idea of in her white dress and red _capuchon_, but she felt shy at being
made so much of. She did not readily adapt herself to worship. Mr. Cecil
Burleigh had arrived from Paris only that afternoon, and had many
amusing things to tell of his pleasures and adventures there. He spoke
of Paris as one who loved the gay city, and seemed in excellent spirits.
If his mission had a political object, he must certainly have carried it
through with triumphant success; but his talk was of balls, _fêtes_,
plays and shows.

After they had dined Bessie was left to her memories and musings, while
the gentlemen went pacing up and down the deck in earnest conversation.
It was a perfect evening. The sky was full of color, scarlet, rosy,
violet, primrose--changing, fading, flushing, perpetually. And before
all was gray the moon had risen and was shining in silver floods upon
the sea. In the mystery of moonshine Bessie lost sight of the phantom
poplars that fringe the Orne. The excitement of novelty and uncertainty
routed dull thoughts, and her fancy pruned its wings for a flight into
the future. In the twilight came Mrs. Betts, and cut short the flight of
fancy with prosy suggestions of early retirement to rest. It was easy to
retire, but not so easy to sleep. Bessie's mind was astir. It became
retrospective. She went over the terrors of her first coming to Caen,
the dinner at Thunby's, and the weird talk of Janey Fricker in the
_dortoir_, till melancholy overwhelmed her.

Where was Janey? Was she still sailing with her father? No news of her
had ever come to the Rue St. Jean since the day she left it. It
sometimes crossed Bessie's mind that Janey was no longer in the land of
the living. At last, with the lulling, soft motion of a breezeless night
on the water, came oblivion and sleep too sound for dreams.



CHAPTER XIV.

_ON BOARD THE FOAM._


Life is continuous, so we say, but here and there events happen that
mark off its parts so sharply as almost to sever them. Awaking the next
morning in the tiny gilded cabin of the Foam was the signal of such an
event to Bessie Fairfax. She had put away childish things, and left them
behind her at Caen yesterday. To-day before her, across the Channel, was
a new world to be proved, and a cloudy revelation of the joys and
sorrows, the hopes and fears that nourish the imagination of blooming
adolescence. For a minute she did not realize where she was, and lay
still, with wide-open eyes and ears perplexed, listening to the wash of
the sea. There was a splendid sunshine, a sky blue as sapphire, and a
lovely green ripple of waves against the glass.

The voice of Mrs. Betts brought her to herself: "I thought it best to
let you sleep your sleep out, miss. The sea-air does it. The gentlemen
have breakfasted two hours ago."

Bessie was sorry and ashamed. It was with a penitent face she appeared
on deck. But she immediately discovered that this was not school: she
had entire liberty to please and amuse herself. Perhaps if her
imagination had been less engaged she might have found the voyage
tedious. Mrs. Betts told her there was no knowing when they should see
Scarcliffe--it depended on wind and weather and whims. The yacht was to
put in at Ryde to land Mr. Cecil Burleigh; and as the regattas were
going on, they might cruise off the Isle of Wight for a week, maybe, for
the master was never in a hurry. In Bessie's bower there was an
agreeable selection of novels, but she had many successive hours of
silence to dream in when she was tired of heroes and heroines. Mr.
Frederick Fairfax was the most taciturn of men, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh
was constantly busy with pens, ink, and paper. In the long course of the
day he did take shreds of leisure, but they were mostly devoted to
cigars and meditation. Bessie observed that he was older and graver
since that gay wedding at Fairfield--which of course he had a right to
be, for it was three years ago--but he was still and always a very
handsome and distinguished personage.

In the _salon_ of Canon Fournier at Bayeux, Bessie Fairfax had
disconcerted this fine gentleman, but now the tables were turned, and on
board the yacht he often disconcerted her--not of _malice prepense_, but
for want of due consideration. No doubt she was a little unformed,
ignorant girl, but her intuitive perceptions were quick, and she knew
when she was depreciated and misunderstood. On a certain afternoon he
read her some beautiful poetry under the awning, and was interested to
know whether she had any taste for poetry. Bessie confessed that at
school she had read only Racine, and felt shy of saying what she used to
read at home, and he dropped the conversation. He drew the conclusion
that she did not care for literature. At their first meeting it had
seemed as if they might become cordial friends, but she soon grew
diffident of this much-employed stranger, who always had the ill-luck to
discover to her some deficiency in her education. The effect was that by
the time the yacht anchored off Ryde, she had lost her ease in his
society, and had become as shy as he was capricious, for she thought him
a most capricious and uncertain person in temper and demeanor.

Yet it was not caprice that influenced his behavior. He was quite
unconscious of the variableness that taxed her how to meet it. He
approved of Bessie: he admired her--face, figure, air, voice, manner. He
judged that she would probably mature into a quiet and loving woman of
no very pronounced character, and there was a direct purpose in his mind
to cultivate her affection and to make her his wife. He thought her a
nice girl, sweet and sensible, but she did not enchant him. Perhaps he
was under other magic--under other magic, but not spell-bound beyond his
strength to break the charm.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh was a man of genius and of soaring
ambition--well-born, well-nurtured, but as the younger son of a younger
son absolutely without patrimony. At his school and his university he
had won his way through a course of honors, and he would disappoint all
who knew him if he did not revive the traditions of his name and go onto
achieve place, power, and fame. To enter Parliament was necessary for
success in the career he desired to run, and the first step towards
Parliament for a poor young man was a prudent marriage into a family of
long standing, wide connection, and large influence in their county--so
competent authorities assured him--and all these qualifications had the
Fairfaxes of Kirkham, with a young heiress sufficiently eligible,
besides, to dispose of. The heads on each side had spoken again, and in
almost royal fashion had laid the lines for an alliance between their
houses. When Mr. Cecil Burleigh took Caen in his road to Paris, it was
with the distinct understanding that if Elizabeth Fairfax pleased him
and he succeeded in pleasing her, a marriage between them would crown
the hopes of both their families.

The gentleman had not taken long to decide that the lady would do. And
now they were on the Foam together he had opportunities enough of
wooing. He availed himself of a courtly grace of manner, with sometimes
an air of worship, which would have been tenderness had he felt like a
lover. Bessie was puzzled, and grew more and more ill at ease with him.
Absorbed in work, in thought, or in idle reverie and smoke, he appeared
natural and happy; he turned his attention to her, and was gay,
gracious, flattering, but all with an effort. She wished he would not
give himself the trouble. She hated to be made to blush and stammer in
her talk; it confused her to have him look superbly in her eyes; it made
her angry to have him press her hand as if he would reassure her against
a doubt.

Fortunately, the time was not long, for they began to bore one another
immensely. It was an exquisite morning when they anchored opposite Ryde,
and the first day of the annual regatta. At breakfast Mr. Cecil Burleigh
quietly announced that he would now leave the yacht, and make his way
home in a few days by the ordinary conveyances. Mr. Frederick Fairfax,
who was a consenting party to the family arrangement, suggested that
Bessie might like to go on shore to see the town and the charming
prospect from the pier and the strand. Mr. Cecil Burleigh did not second
the suggestion promptly enough to avoid the suspicion that he would
prefer to go alone; and Bessie, who had a most sensitive reluctance to
be where she was not wanted, made haste to say that she did not care to
land--she was quite satisfied to see the town from the water. Thereupon
the gentleman pressed the matter with so much insistance that, though
she would much rather have foregone the pleasure than enjoy it under his
escort, she found no polite words decisive enough for a refusal.

A white sateen dress embroidered in black and red, and a flapping
leghorn hat tied down gypsy style with a crimson ribbon, was a
picturesque costume, but not orthodox as a yachting costume at Ryde.
Bessie had a provincial French air in spite of her English face, and Mr.
Cecil Burleigh perhaps regretted that she was not more suitably equipped
for making her _début_ in his company. He had a prejudice against
peculiarity in dress, and knew that it was a terrible thing to be out of
the fashion and to run the gauntlet of bold eyes on Ryde pier. At the
seaside the world is idle, and has nothing to do but stare and
speculate. Bessie had beauty enough to be stared at for that alone, but
it was not her beauty that attracted most remark; it was her cavalier
and the singularity of her attire. Poor child! with her own industrious
fingers had she lavishly embroidered that heathen embroidery. The
gentlemen were not critically severe; the ladies looked at her, and
looked again for her escort's sake, and wondered how this prodigiously
fine gentleman came to have foregathered with so outlandish a blushing
girl; for Bessie, when she perceived herself an object of curious
observation, blushed furiously under the unmitigated fire of their gaze.
And most heartily did she wish herself back again on board the Foam.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh had friends and acquaintances everywhere, and some
very dear friends at this moment at Ryde. That was why he ended his
yachting there. As he advanced with Bessie up the pier every minute
there was an arrest, a brisk inquiry, and a reply. At last a halt that
might have been a _rendezvous_ occurred, finding of seats ensued, with
general introductions, and then a settling down on pretence of watching
the yachts through a glass. It was a very pretty spectacle, and Bessie
was left at liberty to enjoy it, and also to take note of the many gay
and fashionable folk who enrich and embellish Ryde in the season; for
Mr. Cecil Burleigh was entirely engrossed with another person. The
party they had joined consisted of a very thin old gentleman, spruce,
well brushed, and well cared for; of a languid, pale lady, some thirty
years younger, who was his wife; and of two girls, their daughters. It
was one of these daughters who absorbed all Mr. Cecil Burleigh's
attention, and Bessie recognized her at once as that most beautiful
young lady to whom he had been devoted at the Fairfield wedding. His
meeting with her had quite transfigured him. He looked infinitely glad,
an expression that was reflected on her countenance in a lovely light of
joy. It was not necessary to be a witch to discern that there was an
understanding between these two--that they loved one another. Bessie saw
it and felt sympathetic, and was provoked at the recollection of her
foolish conceit in being perplexed by the gentleman's elaborate
courtesies to herself.

The other sister talked to her. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner sat in silent
pensiveness, according to their wont, contemplating the boats on the
water. Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Julia (he called her Julia) conversed
together in low but earnest tones. It seemed that they had much to
communicate. Presently they crossed the pier, and stood for ever so long
leaning over the railing. Bessie was not inquisitive, but she could take
a lively, unselfish interest in many matters that did not concern her.
When they turned round again she was somehow not surprised to see that
Mr. Cecil Burleigh had a constrained air, and that the shell-pink face
of the young lady was pale and distorted with emotion. Their joy and
gladness had been but evanescent. She came hastily to her mother and
said they would now go home to luncheon. On the way she and Mr. Cecil
Burleigh followed behind the rest, but they did not speak much, or spoke
only of common things.

The Gardiners had a small house in a street turning up from the Strand,
a confined little house of the ordinary lodging-house sort, with a
handsbreadth of gravel and shrubs in front, and from the sitting-room
window up stairs a side-glance at the sea. From a few words that Mr.
Gardiner dropped, Bessie learned that it was theirs for twelve months,
until the following June; that it was very dear, but the cheapest place
they could get in Ryde fit to put their heads into; also that Ryde was
chosen as their home for a year because it was cheerful for "poor papa."

Here was a family of indigent gentility, servile waiters upon the
accidents of Fortune, unable to work, but not ashamed to beg, as their
friends and kindred to the fourth degree could have plaintively
testified. It was a mystery to common folks how they lived and got
along. They were most agreeable and accomplished people, who knew
everybody and went everywhere. The daughters had taste and beauty. They
visited by turns at great houses, never both leaving their parents at
the same time; they wore pretty, even elegant clothing, and were always
ready to assist at amateur concerts, private theatricals, church
festivals, and other cheerful celebrations. Miss Julia Gardiner's voice
was an acquisition at an evening party; her elder sister's brilliant
touch on the piano was worth an invitation to the most select
entertainment. And besides this, there are rich, kind people about in
the world who are always glad to give poor girls, who are also nice, a
little amusement. And the Miss Gardiners were popular; they were very
sweet-tempered, lady-like, useful, and charming.

Bessie Fairfax was an admirer of beauty in her own sex, and she could
scarcely take her eyes from the winsome fair face of Julia. It was a
very fair face, very lovely. After luncheon, at Mr. Cecil Burleigh's
request, she sang a new song that was lying on the piano; and they
talked of old songs which he professed to like better, which she said
she had forgotten. Mr. Gardiner had not come up stairs, and Mrs.
Gardiner, who had, soon disappeared. It was a narrow little room made
graceful with a few plants and ornaments and the working tools of
ladies; novels from the library were on the table and on the couch. A
word spoken there could not be spoken in secret. By and by, Helen, the
elder sister, proposed to take Bessie to the arcade. Mr. Cecil Burleigh
demurred, but acceded when it was added that "mamma" would go with them.
Mamma went, a weary, willing sacrifice; and in the arcade and in
somebody's pretty verandah they spent the hot afternoon until six
o'clock. When they returned to the house, Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Julia
were still together, and the new song on the desk of the piano had not
been moved to make room for any other. The gentleman appeared annoyed,
the lady weary and dejected. Bessie had no doubt that they were lovers
who had roughnesses in the course of their true love, and she
sentimentally wished them good-speed over all obstacles.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh rose as they entered, and said he would walk down the
pier with Miss Fairfax to restore her to the yacht, and Mr. Gardiner
bade Julia put on her hat and walk with them--it would refresh her after
staying all the hot afternoon in-doors.

The pier was deserted now. The gay crowd had disappeared, the regatta
was over for the day, and the band silent. The glare of sunshine had
softened to a delicate amber glow, and the water was smooth, translucent
as a lake. The three walked at a pace, but were overtaken and passed by
two ladies in dark blue-braided serge dresses that cleared the ground as
they walked and fitted close to very well made figures. Their hats were
black-glazed and low-crowned, with a narrow blue ribbon lettered "Ariel"
in white and gold.

"Look at those ladies," said Mr. Cecil Burleigh, suddenly breaking off
his talk with Julia to speak to Bessie; "that is the proper yachting
costume. You must have one before you come to Ryde in the Foam again."

Bessie blushed; perhaps he had been ashamed of her. This was a most
afflicting, humiliating notion. She was delighted to see the boat from
the yacht waiting to take her off. She had imagined her own dress both
pretty and becoming--she knew that it had cost her months of patient
embroidering. Poor Bessie! she had much to learn yet of the fitness of
things, and of things in their right places. Miss Gardiner treated her
as very young, and only spoke to her of her school, from which she was
newly but fully and for ever emancipated. Incidentally, Bessie learned a
bit of news concerning one of her early comrades there. "Ada Hiloe was
at Madame Fournier's at Caen. Was it in your time? Did you know her?"
she was asked, and when she said that she did, Mr. Cecil Burleigh added
for information that the young lady was going to be married; so he had
heard in Paris from Mr. Chiverton. Julia instantly cried out, "Indeed!
to whom?"

"To Mr. Chiverton himself."

"That horrid old man! Oh, can it be true?"

"He is very rich," was the quiet rejoinder, and both lapsed into
silence, until they had parted with their young companion.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh carefully enveloped Bessie in a cloak, Miss Gardiner
watching them. Then he bade her good-bye, with a reference to the
probability of his seeing her again soon at Abbotsmead. It was a
gracious good-bye, and effaced her slight discomfiture about her dress.
It even left her under the agreeable impression that he liked her in a
friendly way, his abrupt dicta on costume notwithstanding. A certain
amount of approbation from without was essential to Bessie's inner
peace. As the boat rowed off she waved her hand with rosy benignity to
the two looking after her departure. Mr. Cecil Burleigh raised his hat,
and they moved away.



CHAPTER XV.

_A LITTLE CHAPTER BY THE WAY._


It must not be dissimulated what very dear friends Mr. Cecil Burleigh
and Miss Julia Gardiner were. They had known and loved one another for
six years as neither was ever likely to love again. They had been long
of convincing that a marriage was impossible between two such poor young
people--the one ambitious, the other fond of pleasure. They suited to a
nicety in character, in tastes, but they were agreed, at last, that
there must be an end to their philandering. No engagement had ever been
acknowledged. The young lady's parents had been indulgent to their
constant affection so long as there was hope, and it was a fact
generally recognized by Miss Julia Gardiner's friends that she cared
very much for Mr. Cecil Burleigh, because she had refused two eligible
offers--splendid offers for a girl in her position. A third was now open
to her, and without being urgent or unkind her mother sincerely wished
that she would accept it. Since the morning she had made up her mind to
do so.

If the circumstances of these two had been what Elizabeth Fairfax
supposed, they would have spent some blessed hours together before dusk.
They stayed on the pier, and they talked, not of their love--they had
said all their say of love--but of Mr. Cecil Burleigh's flattering
prospects. When he stated that his expectations of getting a seat in the
House of Commons were based on the good-will of the Fairfax family and
connections, Julia was silent for several minutes. Then she remarked in
a gentle voice that Miss Fairfax was a handsome girl. Mr. Cecil Burleigh
acquiesced, and added that she was also amiable and intelligent.

After that they walked home--to the dull little house in the by street,
that is. Mr. Cecil Burleigh refused to go in; and when the door closed
on Julia's "Good-bye, Cecil, goodbye, dear," he walked swiftly away to
his hotel, with the sensations of a man who is honestly miserable, and
also who has not dined.

Julia sat by the open window until very late in the hot night, and Helen
with her, comforting her.

"No, the years have not been thrown away! If I live to grow old I shall
still count them the best years of my life," said she with a pathetic
resignation. "I may have been sometimes out of spirits, but much oftener
I have been happy; what other joy have I ever had than Cecil's love? I
was eighteen when we met at that ball--you remember, Nell! Dear Cecil! I
adored him from the first kind word he gave me, and what a thrill I felt
to-day when I saw him coming!"

"And he is to come no more?" inquired Helen softly.

"No more as of old. Of course we shall see one another as people do who
live in the same world: I am not going into a nunnery. Cecil will be a
great man some day, and I shall recollect with pride that for six years
he loved only _me_. He did not mention Mr. Brotherton: I think he has
heard, but if not, he will hear soon enough from other people. If we
were not so awfully poor, Nell, or if poverty were not so dreadful to
mamma, I _never_ would marry--_never_ while Cecil is a bachelor."

This was how Julia Gardiner announced that she meant to succumb to the
pressure of circumstances. Helen kissed her thankfully. She had been
very anxious for this consummation. It would be a substantial, permanent
benefit to them all if Julia married Mr. Brotherton. He had said that it
should be so, and he was a gentleman of good estate, and as generous as
he was wealthy, though very middle-aged, a widower with six children,
and as a lover not interesting perhaps.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh also sat at an open window, but he was not provided
with a confessor, only with a cigar. He had dined, and did not feel so
intensely miserable as he felt an hour ago. "Dear little Julia!" He
thought of her with caressing tenderness, her pretty looks, her graceful
ways, her sweet affection. "There were tears in her dove's eyes when she
said 'Good-bye, Cecil, good-bye, dear!'" No other woman would ever have
his heart.

They had both good sense, and did not rail at evil fortune. It had done
neither any mischief to be absorbed in love of the other through the
most passionate years of their lives. Mrs. Gardiner had remonstrated
often and kindly against their folly, but had put no decisive _veto_ on
it, in the hope that they would grow out it. And, in a manner, they had
grown out of it. Six years ago, if they had been allowed, they would
have married without counting the cost; but those six years had brought
them experience of the world, of themselves, and of each other, and they
feared the venture. If Mr. Cecil Burleigh had been without ambition, his
secretaryship would have maintained them a modest home; but neither had
he a mind for the exclusive retired pleasures of the domestic hearth,
nor she the wish to forego the delights of society. There was no romance
in poverty for Julia Gardiner. It was too familiar; it signified to her
shifts, privations, expediencies, rude humiliations, and rebuffs. And
that was not the life for Mr. Cecil Burleigh. Their best friends said
so, and they acquiesced. From this it followed that the time was come
for them to part. Julia was twenty-four. The present opportunity of
settling herself by a desirable marriage lost, she might never have
another--might wear away youth, beauty, expectation, until no residuum
were left her but bitterness and regret. She would have risked it at a
word from Cecil, but that word was not spoken. He reasoned with himself
that he had no right to speak it. He was not prepared to give all for
love, though he keenly regretted what he resigned. He realized frankly
that he lost in losing Julia a true, warm sympathizer in his
aspirations, and a loving peace in his heart that had been a God's
blessing to him. Oh, if there had been only a little more money between
them!

He reflected on many things, but on this most, and as he reflected there
came a doubt upon him whether it was well done to sever himself from the
dear repose he had enjoyed in loving her--whether there might not be a
more far-sighted prudence in marrying her than in letting her go. Men
have to ask their wives whether life shall be a success with them or
not. And Julia had been so much to him, so encouraging, such a treasure
of kindness! Whatever else he might win, without her he would always
miss something. His letters to her of six years were a complete history
of their course. Was it probable that he would ever be able to write so
to the rosy-cheeked little girl on board the Foam? Julia was equal with
him, a cultivated woman and a perfect companion.

But what profit was there in going back upon it? They had determined
that it must not be. In a few days he was expected at Abbotsmead:
Norminster wanted to hear from him. A general election impended, and he
had been requested to offer himself as a candidate in the Conservative
interest for that ancient city. Mr. Fairfax was already busy in his
behalf, and Mr. John Short, the Conservative lawyer, was extremely
impatient for his appearance upon the stage of action.



CHAPTER XVI.

_A LOST OPPORTUNITY._


Ryde looked beautiful the next morning from the deck of the Foam. The
mainland looked beautiful too, and Bessie, gazing that way, thought how
near she was to the Forest, until an irresistible longing to be there
overcame her reserve. She asked her uncle if the Foam was going to lie
long off Ryde. Why did she inquire? Because she should like to go to
Hampton by the boat, and to Beechhurst to see her friends, if only for
one single night. Before her humble petition was well past her lips the
tears were in her eyes, for she saw that it was not going to be granted.
Mr. Frederick Fairfax never risked being put out of his way, or made to
wait the convenience of others on his yachting cruises. He simply told
Bessie that she could not go, and added no reason why. But almost
immediately after he sent her on shore with Mrs. Betts to Morgan's to
buy a proper glazed hat and to be measured for a serge dress: that was
his way of diverting and consoling her.

Bessie was glad enough to be diverted from the contemplation of her
disappointment. It was a very great pain indeed to be so near, and yet
so cut off from all she loved. The morning was fresh on the pier, and
many people were out inhaling the delicious salt breezes. A clergyman,
wielding a slim umbrella and carrying a black bag and an overcoat, came
lurching along. Bessie recognized Mr. Askew Wiley, and was so overjoyed
to see anybody who came from home that she rushed up to him: "Oh, Mr.
Wiley! how do you do? Are you going back to Beechhurst?" she cried
breathless.

"Bessie Fairfax, surely? How you are grown!" said he, and shook hands.
"Yes, Bessie, I am on my way now to catch the boat. If you want to hear
about your people, you must turn back with me, for I have not a minute
to spare."

Bessie turned back: "Will you please tell them I am on board the Foam,
my uncle Frederick's yacht? I cannot get away to see them, and I don't
know how long we shall stay here, but if they could come over to see
me!" she urged wistfully.

"It sounds like tempting them to a wild-goose chase, Bessie. Yachts that
are here to-day are gone to-morrow. By the time they arrive you may have
sailed off to Cowes or to Yarmouth. But I will give your message. How
came you on board a yacht?"

Bessie got no more information from the rector; he had the same
catechising habit as his good wife, and wanted to know her news. She
gave it freely, and then they were at the end of the pier, and there was
the Hampton boat ringing its bell to start. "Are you going straight
home? Will you tell them at once?" Bessie ventured to say again as Mr.
Wiley went down the gangway.

"Yes. I expect to find the carriage waiting for me at Hampton," was the
response.

"They might even come by the afternoon boat," cried Bessie as a last
word, and the rector said, "Yes."

It was with a lightened heart and spirits exhilarated that Bessie
retraced her steps up the pier. "It was such a good opportunity!" said
she, congratulating herself.

"Yes, if the gentleman don't forget," rejoined Mrs. Betts.

But, alas! that was just what the gentleman did. He forgot until his
remembering was too late to be of any purpose. He forgot until the next
Sunday when he was in the reading-desk, and saw Mrs. Carnegie sitting in
front of him with a restless boy on either hand. He felt a momentary
compunction, but that also, as well as the cause of it, went out of his
head with the end of his sermon, and the conclusion of the matter was
that he never delivered the message Bessie had given him on Ryde pier at
all.

Bessie, however, having a little confidence in him, unwittingly enjoyed
the pleasures of hope all that day and the next. On the second evening
she was a trifle downhearted. The morning after she awoke with another
prospect before her eyes--a beautiful bay, with houses fringing its
shores and standing out on its cliffs, and verdure to the water's edge.
Mrs. Betts told her these villages were Sandown and Shanklyn. The yacht
was scudding along at a famous rate. They passed Luccombe with its few
cottages nestling at the foot of the chine, then Bonchurch and Ventnor.
"It would be very pleasant living at sea in fine weather, if only one
had what one wants," Bessie said.

The following day the yacht was off Ryde again, and Bessie went to walk
on the pier in her close-fitting serge costume and glazed hat, feeling
very barefaced and evident, she assured Mrs. Betts, who tried to
convince her that the style of dress was exceedingly becoming to her,
and made her appear taller. Bessie was, indeed, a very pretty middle
height now, and her shining hair, clear-cut features, and complexion of
brilliant health constituted her a very handsome girl.

Almost the first people she met were the Gardiners. "Mr. Cecil Burleigh
went to London this morning," Miss Julia told her. The elder sister
asked if she was coming to the flower-show in Appley Gardens in the
afternoon or the regatta ball that night.

Bessie said, "No, oh, no! she had never been to a ball in her life."

"But you might go with us to the flower-show," said Julia. She thought
it would please Mr. Cecil Burleigh if a little attention were shown to
Miss Fairfax.

Bessie did not know what to answer: she looked at her strange clothing,
and said suddenly, No, she thanked them, but she could not go. They
quite understood.

Just at that moment came bearing down upon them Miss Buff, fat, loud,
jolly as ever. "It _is_ Bessie Fairfax! I was sure it was," cried she;
and Bessie rushed straight into her open arms with responsive joy.

When she came to herself the Gardiners were gone. "Never mind, you are
sure to meet them again; they are always about Ryde somewhere," Miss
Buff said. "How delightful it is to see you, Bessie! And quite yourself!
Not a bit altered--only taller!" And then they found a sheltered seat,
and Bessie, still quivering with her happy surprise, began to ask
questions.

"We have come from Beechhurst this morning, my niece Louy and myself,"
was Miss Buff's answer to the first. "We started at six, to be in time
for the eight o'clock boat: the flower-show and the regatta ball have
brought us. I hope you are going to both? No? What a pity! I never miss
a ball for Louy if I can help it."

Bessie briefly explained herself and her circumstances, and asked when
her friend had last seen any of Mr. Carnegie's family.

"I saw Mrs. Carnegie yesterday to inquire if I could do anything for her
at Hampton. She looked very well."

"And did she say nothing of me?" cried Bessie in consternation.

"Not a word. She mentioned some time ago how sorry they all were not to
have you at home for a little while before you are carried away to
Woldshire."

"Then Mr. Wiley has never given them my message! Oh, how unkind!" Bessie
was fit to cry for vexation and self-reproach, for why had she not
written? Why had she trusted anybody when there was a post?

"You might as well pour water into a sieve, and expect it to stay there,
as expect Mr. Wiley to remember anything that does not concern himself,"
said Miss Buff. "But it is not too late yet, perhaps? When do you leave
Ryde?"

"It is all uncertain: it is just as the wind blows and as my uncle
fancies," replied Bessie despondently.

"Then write--write at once, and telegraph. Do both. There is Smith's
bookstall. They will let you have a sheet of paper, and I always carry
stamps." Miss Buff was prompt in action. Six lines were written for the
post and one line for the telegraph, and both were despatched in ten
minutes or less. "Now all is done that can be done to remedy yesterday
and ensure to-morrow: some of them are certain to appear in the morning.
Make your mind easy. Come back to our seat and tell me all about
yourself."

Bessie's cheerfulness revived under the brisk influence of her friend,
and she was ready to give an epitome of her annals, or a forecast of her
hopes, or (which she much preferred) to hear the chronicles of
Beechhurst. Miss Buff was the best authority for the village politics
that she could have fallen in with. She knew everything that went on in
the parish--not quite accurately perhaps, but accurately enough for
purposes of popular information and gossip.

"Well, my dear, Miss Thusy O'Flynn is gone, for one good thing," she
began with a _verve_ that promised thoroughness. "And we are to have a
new organ in the church, for another: it has been long enough talked
about. Old Phipps set his face dead against it until we got the money in
hand; we have got it, but not until we are all at daggers drawn. He told
Lady Latimer that we ought to keep our liberal imaginations in check by
a system of cash payments."

"Our friend has a disagreeable trick of being right," said Bessie
laughing.

"He has his uses, but I cannot bear him. I don't know who is to
blame--whether it is Miss Wort or Lady Latimer--but there is no peace at
Beechhurst now for begging. They have plenty of money, and little enough
to do with it. I call _giving_ the greatest of luxuries, but, bless you!
giving is not all charity. Miss Wort spends a fortune in eleemosynary
physic to half poison poor folks; Lady Latimer indulges herself in a
variety of freaks: her last was a mechanical leg for old Bumpus, who had
been happy on a wooden peg for forty years; we were all asked to
subscribe, and he doesn't thank us for it. As soon as one thing is done
with, up starts another that we are entreated to be interested
in--things we don't care about one bit. Old Phipps protests that it is
vanity and busy-bodyism. I hope I shall never grow so hard-hearted as to
see a poor soul want and not help her, but I hate to be canvassed for
alms on behalf of other people's benevolent objects--don't you?"

"It has never happened to me. I remember that my father used to appeal
to Lady Latimer and Miss Wort when his poor patients had not fit diet.
Lady Latimer was his chief Lady Bountiful."

"That may be true, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
I love fair play. The schools, now--they were very good schools before
ever she came into the Forest; yes, as far back as your father's time,
Bessie Fairfax--and yet, to hear the way in which she is belauded by a
certain set, one might suppose that she had been the making of them. But
it is the same all the world over--a hundred hands do the work, and one
name gets all the praise!" Miss Buff was growing warm over her
reminiscences, but catching the spark of mischief in Bessie's eyes, she
laughed, and added with great candor: "Yes, I confess there is a spice
of rivalry between us, but I am very fond of her all the same."

"Oh yes. She loves to rule, but then she has the talent," pleaded
Bessie.

"No, my dear, there you are mistaken. She is too fussy; she irritates
people. But for the old admiral she would often get into difficulties.
Beechhurst has taken to ladies' meetings and committees, and all sorts
of fudge that she is the moving spirit of. I often wish we were back in
the quiet, times when dear old Hutton was rector, and would not let her
be always interfering. I suppose it comes of this new doctrine of the
equality of the sexes; but I say they never will be equal till women
consent to be frights. It gives a man an immense pull over us to clap on
his hat without mounting up stairs to the looking-glass: while we are
getting ready to go and do a thing, he has gone and done it. You hear
Lady Latimer's name at every turn, but the old admiral is the backbone
of Beechhurst, as he always was, and old Phipps is his right hand."

"And Mr. Musgrave and my father?" queried Bessie.

"They do their part, but it is so unobtrusively that one forgets them;
but they would be missed if they were not there. Mr. Musgrave has a
great deal of influence amongst his own class--the farmers and those
people. Of course, you have heard how wonderfully his son is getting on
at college? Oh, my dear, what a stir there was about his running over to
Normandy after you!"

"Dear Harry! I saw him again quite lately. He came to see me at Bayeux,"
said Bessie with a happy sigh.

"Did he? we never heard of that. He is at home now: perhaps he will come
over with them to-morrow, eh?"

"I wish he would," was Bessie's frank rejoinder.

"And who else is there that you used to like? Fanny Mitten has married a
clerk in the Hampton Bank, and Miss Ely is married; but she was married
in London. I was in great hopes once that old Phipps would take Miss
Thusy O'Flynn, and a sweet pair they would have been; but he thought
better of it, and she went away as she came. Her aunt was a good old
soul, and what did it matter if she was vulgar? We were very sorry to
lose her contralto in the choir." Miss Buff's gossip was almost run out.
Bessie remembered little Christie to inquire for him. "Little
Christie--who is he? I never heard of him. Oh, the wheelwright's son who
went away to be an artist! I don't know. The old man made me a
garden-barrow once, and charged me enormously; and when I told him it
was too dear, he said it would last me my life. Such impertinence! The
common people grow very independent."

Bessie had heard the anecdote of the garden-barrow before. It spoke
volumes for the peace and simplicity of Miss Buff's life that she still
recollected and cited this ancient grievance. A few more words of the
doctor and his household, a few doubts and fears on Bessie's part that
her telegram might be delayed, and a few cheery predictions on Miss
Buff's, and they said good-bye, with the expression of a cordial hope
that they might meet soon again, and meet in the Forest. Bessie Fairfax
was amused and exhilarated by this familiar tattle about her beloved
Beechhurst. It had dissipated the shadows of her three years' absence,
and made home present to her once more. Nothing seems trivial that
concerns places and people dear to young affections, and all the keener
became her desire to be amongst them. She consulted Smith's boy as to
the probable time of the arrival of her telegram at the doctor's house;
she studied the table of the steamboats. She regretted bitterly that she
had not written the first day at Ryde; then pleaded her own excuse
because letters were a rarity for her to write, and had hitherto
required a formal permission.

Mrs. Betts lingered with her long and patiently upon the pier, but the
Gardiners did not come down again, and by and by Mrs. Betts, feeling the
approach of dinner-time, began to look out towards the yacht. After a
minute's steady observation she said, half to herself, but seriously, "I
do believe they are making ready to sail. There is a boat alongside with
bread and things."

"To sail! To leave Ryde! Oh, don't you think my uncle would wait a day
if I begged him?" cried Bessie in acute dismay.

"No, miss--not if he has given orders and the wind keeps fair. If I was
in your place, miss, I should not ask him. And as for the telegram, I
should not name it. It would put Mr. Frederick out, and do no good."

Bessie did not name it. Mrs. Betts's speculation proved correct. The
yacht sailed away in the afternoon. About the time when Mrs. Carnegie
was hurriedly dressing to drive with her husband to Hampton over-night,
to ensure not missing the mail-boat to Ryde in the morning, that gay and
pleasant town was fast receding from Bessie's view. At dawn the island
was out of sight, and when Mr. Carnegie, landing on the pier, sought a
boat to carry him and his wife to the Foam, a boatman looked up at him
and said, "The Foam, sir? You'll have much ado to overtake her. She's
halfway to Hastings by this time. She sailed yesterday soon after five
o'clock."

Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie turned away in silence. They had nothing to do but
sorrowfully to repair home again. They were more grieved at heart by
this disappointment than by any that had preceded it; and all the more
did they try to cheer one another.

"Don't fret, Jane: it hurts me to see you fret," said the doctor. "It
was a nice thought in Bessie, but the chance was a poor one."

"We have lost her, Thomas; I fear we have lost her," said his wife. "It
is unnatural to pass by our very door, so to speak, and not let us see
her. But I don't blame her."

"No, no, Bessie is not to blame: Harry Musgrave can tell us better than
that. It is Mr. Fairfax--his orders. He forbade her coming, or it might
have been managed easily. It is a mistake. He will never win her heart
so; and as for ruling her except through her affections, he will have a
task. I'm sorry, for the child will not be happy."

When Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie arrived at home they found Bessie's letter
that had come by post--an abrupt, warm little letter that comforted them
for themselves, but troubled them for her exceedingly. "God bless her,
dear child!" said her mother. "I am afraid she will cry sadly, Thomas,
and nobody to say a loving word to her or give her a kiss."

"It is a pity; she will have her share of vexations. But she is young
and can bear them, with all her life before her. We will answer that
pretty letter, that she may have something to encourage her when she
gets amongst her grand relations. I suppose it may be a week or ten days
first. We have done what we could, Jane, so cheer up, and let it rest."



CHAPTER XVII.

_BESSIE'S BRINGING HOME._


When Bessie Fairfax realized that the yacht was sailing away from Ryde
not to return, and carrying her quite out of reach of pursuit, her
spirits sank to zero. It was a perfect evening, and the light on the
water was lovely, but to her it was a most melancholy view--when she
could see it for the mist that obscured her vision. All her heart
desired was being left farther and farther behind, and attraction there
was none in Woldshire to which she was going. She looked at her uncle
Frederick, silent, absent, sad; she remembered her grandfather, cold,
sarcastic, severe; and every ensuing day she experienced fits of
dejection or fits of terror and repulsion, to which even the most
healthy young creatures are liable when they find themselves cut adrift
from what is dear and familiar. Happily, these fits were intermittent,
and at their worst easily diverted by what interested her on the voyage;
and she did not encourage the murky humor: she always tried to shake it
off and feel brave, and especially she made the effort as the yacht drew
towards its haven. It was her nature to struggle against gloom and pain
for a clear outlook at her horizon, and Madame Fournier had not failed
to supply her with moral precepts for sustenance when cast on the shore
of a strange and indifferent society.

The Foam touched at Hastings, at Dover, at semi-Dutch Harwich, and then
no more until it put into Scarcliffe Bay. Here Bessie's sea-adventures
ended. She went ashore and walked with her uncle on the bridge, gazing
about with frank, unsophisticated eyes. The scenery and the weather were
beautiful. Mr. Frederick Fairfax had many friends now at Scarcliffe, the
favorite sea-resort of the county people. Greetings met him on every
hand, and Bessie was taken note of. "My niece Elizabeth." Her history
was known, kindness had been bespoken for her, her prospects were
anticipated by a prescient few.

At length one acquaintance gave her uncle news: "The squire and your
brother are both in the town. I fell in with them at the bank less than
an hour ago."

"That is good luck: then we will go into the town and find them." And he
moved off with alacrity, as if in sight of the end of an irksome duty.
Bessie inquired if her uncle was going forward to Abbotsmead, to which
he replied that he was not; he was going across to Norway to make the
most of the fine weather while it lasted. He might be at horns in the
winter, but his movements were always uncertain.

Mr. Fairfax came upon them suddenly out of the library. "Eh! here you
are! We heard that the Foam was in," said he, and shook hands with his
eldest son as if he had been parted with only yesterday. Then he spoke a
few words to Bessie, rather abruptly, but with a critical observance of
her: she had outgrown his recollection, and was more of a woman than he
had anticipated. He walked on without any attempt at conversation until
they met a third, a tall man with a fair beard, whom her grandfather
named as "Your uncle Laurence, Elizabeth." And she had seen all her
Woldshire kinsmen. For a miracle, she was able to put as cool a face
upon her reception as the others did. A warm welcome would have brought
her to tears and smiles, but its quiet formality subdued emotion and set
her features like a handsome mask. She was too composed. Pride tinged
with resentment simulates dignified composure very well for a little
while, but only for a little while when there is a heart behind.

They went walking hither and thither about the steep, windy streets.
Bessie fell behind. Now and then there was an encounter with other
gentlemen, brief, energetic speech, inquiry and answer, sally and
rejoinder, all with one common subject of interest--the Norminster
election. Scarcliffe is a fine town, and there was much gay company
abroad that afternoon, but Bessie was too miserable to be amused. Her
uncle Laurence was the one of the party who was so fortunate as to
discover this. He turned round on a sudden recollection of his stranger
niece, and surprised a most desolate look on her rosy face. Bessie
confessed her feelings by the grateful humility of her reply to his
considerate proposal that they should turn in at a confectioner's they
were passing and have a cup of tea.

"My father is as full of this election as if he were going to contest
the city of Norminster himself," said he. "I hope you have a blue
bonnet? You will have to play your part. Beautiful ladies are of great
service in these affairs."

Bessie had not a blue bonnet; her bonnet was white chip and pink
may--the enemy's colors. She must put it by till the end of the war. Tea
and thick bread and butter were supplied to the hungry couple, and
about four o'clock Mr. Fairfax called for them and hurried them off to
the train. Mr. Laurence went on to Norminster, dropping the squire and
Elizabeth at Mitford Junction. Thence they had a drive of four miles
through a country of long-backed, rounded hills, ripening cornfields,
and meadows green with the rich aftermath, and full of cattle. The sky
above was high and clear, the air had a crispness that was exhilarating.
The sun set in scarlet splendor, and the reflection of its glory was
shed over the low levels of lawn, garden, and copse, which, lying on
either side of a shallow, devious river, kept still the name of
Abbotsmead that had belonged to them before the great monastery at
Kirkham was dissolved.

Mr. Fairfax was in good-humor now, and recovered from his momentary loss
of self-possession at the sight of his granddaughter so thoroughly grown
up. Also, election business at Norminster was going as he would have it,
and bowling smoothly along in the quiet, early evening he had time to
think of Elizabeth, sitting bolt upright in the carriage beside him. She
had a pretty, pensive air, for which he saw no cause--only the
excitement of novelty staved off depression--and in his sarcastic vein,
with doubtful compliment, he said, "I did not expect to see you grown so
tall, Elizabeth. You look as healthy as a milkmaid."

She was very quick and sensitive of feeling. She understood him
perfectly, and replied that she _was_ as healthy as a milkmaid. Then she
reverted to her wistful contemplation of the landscape, and tried to
think of that and not of herself, which was too pathetic.

This country was not so lovely as the Forest. It had only the beauty of
high culture. Human habitations were too wide-scattered, and the
trees--there were no very great trees, nor any blue glimpses of the sea.
Nevertheless, when the carriage turned into the domain at a pretty
rustic lodge, the overarching gloom of an avenue of limes won Bessie's
admiration, and a few fir trees standing in single grace near the ruins
of the abbey, which they had to pass on their way to the house, she
found almost worthy to be compared with the centenarians of the Forest.
The western sun was still upon the house itself. The dusk-tiled mansard
roof, pierced by two rows of twinkling dormers, and crowned by solid
chimney-stacks, bulked vast and shapely against the primrose sky, and
the stone-shafted lower windows caught many a fiery reflection in their
blackness. Through a porch broad and deep, and furnished with oaken
seats, Bessie preceded her grandfather into a lofty and spacious hall,
where the foot rang on the bare, polished boards, and ten generations of
Fairfaxes, successive dwellers in the grand old house, looked down from
the walls. It was not lighted except by the sunset, which filled it with
a warm and solemn glow.

Numerous servants appeared, amongst them a plump functionary in blue
satinette and a towering cap, who curtseyed to Elizabeth and spoke some
words of real welcome: "I'm right glad to see you back, Miss Fairfax;
these arms were the first that held you." Bessie's impulse was to fall
on the neck of this kindly personage with kisses and tears, but her
grandfather's cool tone intervening maintained her reserve:

"Your young mistress will be pleased to go to her room, Macky. Your
reminiscences will keep till to-morrow."

Macky, instantly obedient, begged Miss Fairfax to "come this way," and
conducted her through a double-leaved door that stood open to the inner
hall, carpeted with crimson pile, like the wide shallow stairs that went
up to the gallery surrounding the greater hall. On this gallery opened
many doors of chambers long silent and deserted.

"The master ordered you the white suite," announced Macky, ushering
Elizabeth into the room so called. "It has pretty prospects, and the
rooms are not such wildernesses as the other state-apartments. The
eldest unmarried lady of the family always occupied the white suite."

A narrow ante-room, a sitting-room, a bed-room, and off it a
sleeping-closet for her maid,--this was the private lodging accorded to
the new daughter of the house. Bessie gazed about, taking in a general
impression of faded, delicate richness, of white and gold and sparse
color, in elegant, antiquated taste, like a boudoir in an old Norman
château that she had visited.

"Mrs. Betts was so thoughtful as to come on by an earlier train to get
unpacked and warn us to be prepared," Macky observed in a respectful
explanatory tone; and then she went on to offer her good wishes to the
young lady she had nursed, in the manner of an old and trusted dependant
of the family. "It is fine weather and a fine time of year, and we hope
and pray all of us, Miss Fairfax, as this will be a blessed
bringing-home for you and our dear master. Most of us was here servants
when Mr. Geoffry, your father, went south. A cheerful, pleasant
gentleman he was, and your mamma as pleasant a lady. And here is Mrs.
Betts to wait on you."

Bessie thanked the old woman, and would have bidden her remain and talk
on about her forgotten parents, but Macky with another curtsey retired,
and Mrs. Betts, calm and peremptory, proceeded to array her young lady
in her prize-day muslin dress, and sent her hastily down stairs under
the guidance of a little page who loitered in the gallery. At the foot
of the stairs a lean, gray-headed man in black received her, and ushered
her into a beautiful octagon-shaped room, all garnished with books and
brilliant with light, where her grandfather was waiting to conduct her
to dinner. So much ceremony made Bessie feel as if she was acting a part
in a play. Since Macky's kind greeting her spirits had risen, and her
countenance had cleared marvellously.

Mr. Fairfax was standing opposite the door when she appeared. "Good God!
it is Dolly!" he exclaimed, visibly startled. Dolly was his sister
Dorothy, long since dead. Not only in face and figure, but in a certain
lightness of movement and a buoyant swift way of stepping towards him,
Elizabeth recalled her. Perhaps there was something in the simplicity of
her dress too: there on the wall was a pretty miniature of her
great-aunt in blue and white and golden flowing hair to witness the
resemblance. Mr. Fairfax pointed it out to his granddaughter, and then
they went to dinner.

It was a very formal ceremonial, and rather tedious to the
newly-emancipated school-girl. Jonquil served his master when he was
alone, but this evening he was reinforced by a footman in blue and
silver, by way of honor to the young lady. Elizabeth faced her
grandfather across a round table. A bowl-shaped chandelier holding
twelve wax-lights hung from the groined ceiling above the rose-decked
_épergne_, making a bright oasis in the centre of a room gloomy rather
from the darkness of its fittings than from the insufficiency of
illumination. Under the soft lustre the plate, precious for its antique
beauty, the quaint cut glass, and old blue china enriched with gold were
displayed to perfection. Bessie had a taste, her eye was gratified,
there was repose in all this splendor. But still she felt that odd
sensation of acting in a comedy which would be over as soon as the
lights were out. Suddenly she recollected the bare board in the Rue St.
Jean, the coarse white platters, the hunches of sour bread, the lenten
soup, the flavorless _bouilli_, and sighed--sighed audibly, and when her
grandfather asked her why that mournful sound, she told him. Her courage
never forsook her long.

"It has done you no harm to sup your share of Spartan broth; hard living
is good for us young," was the squire's comment. "You never
complained--your dry little letters always confessed to excellent
health. When I was at school we fed roughly. The joints were cut into
lumps which had all their names, and we were in honor bound not to pick
and choose, but to strike with the fork and take what came up."

"Of course," said Bessie, pricked in her pride and conscience lest she
should seem to be weakly complaining now--"of course we had treats
sometimes. On madame's birthday we had a glass of white wine at dinner,
which was roast veal and pancakes. And on our own birthdays we might
have _galette_ with sugar, if we liked to give Margotin the money."

"I trust the whole school had _galette_ with sugar on your birthday,
Elizabeth?" said her grandfather, quietly amused. He was relieved to
find her younger, more child-like in her ideas, than her first
appearance gave him hopes of. His manner relaxed, his tone became
indulgent. When she smiled with a blush, she was his sweet sister Dolly;
when her countenance fell grave again, she was the shy, touchy,
uncertain little girl who had gone to Fairfield on their first
acquaintance so sorely against her inclination. After Jonquil and his
assistant retired, Elizabeth was invited to tell how the time had passed
on board the Foam.

"Pleasantly, on the whole," she said. "The weather was so fine that we
were on deck from morning till night, and often far on into the night
when the moon shone. It was delightful cruising off the Isle of Wight;
only I had an immense disappointment there."

"What was that?" Mr. Fairfax asked, though he had a shrewd guess.

"I did not remember how easy it is to send a letter--not being used to
write without leave--and I trusted Mr. Wiley, whom I met on Ryde pier
going straight back to Beechhurst, with a message to them at home, which
he forgot to deliver. And though I did write after, it was too late, for
we left Ryde the same day. So I lost the opportunity of seeing my father
and mother. It was a pity, because we were so near; and I was all the
more sorry because it was my own fault."

Mr. Fairfax was silent for a few minutes after this bold confession. He
had interdicted any communication with the Forest, as Mr. Carnegie
prevised. He did not, however, consider it necessary to provoke Bessie's
ire by telling her that he was responsible for her immense
disappointment. He let that pass, and when he spoke again it was to draw
her out on the more important subject of what progress Mr. Cecil
Burleigh had made in her interest. It was truly vexatious, but as Bessie
told her simple tale she was conscious that her color rose and deepened
slowly to a burning blush. Why? She vehemently assured herself that she
did not care a straw for Mr. Cecil Burleigh, that she disliked him
rather than otherwise, yet at the mere sound of his name she blushed.
Perhaps it was because she dreaded lest anybody should suspect the
mistake her vanity had made before. Her grandfather gave her one acute
glance, and was satisfied that this business also went well.

"Mr. Cecil Burleigh left the yacht at Ryde. It was the first day of the
regatta when we anchored there, and we landed and saw the town," was all
Bessie said in words, but her self-betrayal was eloquent.

"We--what do you mean by _we_? Did your uncle Frederick land?" asked the
squire, not caring in the least to know.

"No--only Mr. Cecil Burleigh and myself. We went to the house of some
friends of his where we had lunch; and afterward Mrs. Gardiner and one
of the young ladies took me to the Arcade. My uncle never landed at all
from the day we left Caen till we arrived at Scarcliffe. Mrs. Betts went
into Harwich with me. That is a very quaint old town, but nothing in
England looks so battered and decayed as the French cities do."

Mr. Fairfax knew all about Miss Julia Gardiner, and Elizabeth's
information that Mr. Cecil Burleigh had called on the family in Ryde
caused him to reflect. It was very imprudent to take Elizabeth with
him--very imprudent indeed; of course, the squire could not know how
little he was to blame. To take her mind off the incident that seriously
annoyed himself, he asked what troubles Caen had seen, and Bessie,
thankful to discourse of something not confusing, answered him like a
book:

"Oh, many. It is very impoverished and dilapidated. The revocation of
the Edict of Nantes ruined its trade. Its principal merchants were
Huguenots: there are still amongst the best families some of the
Reformed religion. Then in the great Revolution it suffered again; the
churches were desecrated, and turned to all manner of common uses; some
are being restored, but I myself have seen straw hoisted in at a church
window, beautiful with flamboyant tracery in the arch, the shafts below
being partly broken away."

Mr. Fairfax remarked that France was too prone to violent remedies; then
reverting to the subjects uppermost in his thoughts, he said, "Elections
and politics cannot have much interest for you yet, Elizabeth, but
probably you have heard that Mr. Cecil Burleigh is going to stand for
Norminster?"

"Yes; he spoke of it to my uncle Frederick. He is a very liberal
Conservative, from what I heard him say. There was a famous contest for
Hampton when I was not more than twelve years old: we went to see the
members chaired. My father was orange--the Carnegies are almost
radicals; they supported Mr. Hiloe--and we wore orange rosettes."

"A most unbecoming color! You must take up with blue now; blue is the
only wear for a Fairfax. Most men might wear motley for a sign of their
convictions. Let us return to the octagon parlor; it is cheerful with a
fire after dinner. At Abbotsmead there are not many evenings when a fire
is not acceptable at dusk."

The fire was very acceptable; it was very composing and pleasant. Bright
flashes of flame kindled and reddened the fragrant dry pine chips and
played about the lightly-piled logs. Mr. Fairfax took his own
commodious chair on one side of the hearth, facing the uncurtained
windows; a low seat confronted him for Bessie. Both were inclined to be
silent, for both were full of thought. The rich color and gilding of the
volumes that filled the dwarf bookcases caught the glow, as did
innumerable pretty objects besides--water-color drawings on the walls,
mirrors that reflected the landscape outside, statuettes in shrines of
crimson fluted silk--but the prettiest object by far in this dainty
lady's chamber was still Bessie Fairfax, in her white raiment and
rippled, shining hair.

This was her grandfather's reflection, and again that impulse to love
her that he had felt at Beechhurst long ago began to sway his feelings.
It was on the cards that he might become to her a most indulgent, fond
old man; but then Elizabeth must be submissive, and do his will in great
things if he allowed her to rule in small. Bessie had dropt her mask and
showed her bright face, at peace for the moment; but it was shadowed
again by the resurrection of all her wrongs when her grandfather said on
bidding her good-night, "Perhaps, Elizabeth, the assurance that will
tend most to promote your comfort at Abbotsmead, to begin with, is that
you have a perfect right to be here."

Her astonishment was too genuine to be hidden. Did her grandfather
imagine that she was flattered by her domicile in his grand house? It
was exile to her quite as much as the old school at Caen. Nothing had
ever occurred to shake her original conviction that she was cruelly used
in being separated from her friends in the Forest. _They_ were her
family--not these strangers. Bessie dropped him her embarrassed
school-girl's curtsey, and said, "Good-night, sir"--not even a Thank
you! Mr. Fairfax thought her manner abrupt, but he did not know the
depth and tenacity of her resentment, or he would have recognized the
blunder he had committed in bringing her into Woldshire with unsatisfied
longings after old, familiar scenes.

Bessie was of a thoroughly healthy nature and warmly affectionate. She
felt very lonely and unfriended; she wished that her grandfather had
said he was glad to have her at Abbotsmead, instead of telling her that
she had a _right_ to be there; but she was also very tired, and sleep
soon prevailed over both sweet and bitter fancies. Premature resolutions
she made none; she had been warned against them by Madame Fournier as
mischievous impediments to making the best of life, which is so much
less often "what we could wish than what we must even put up with."



CHAPTER XVIII.

_THE NEXT MORNING._


Perplexities and distressed feelings notwithstanding, Bessie Fairfax
awoke at an early hour perfectly rested and refreshed. In the east the
sun was rising in glory. A soft, bluish haze hung about the woods, a
thick dew whitened the grass. She rose to look out of the window.

"It is going to be a lovely day," she said, and coiled herself in a
cushioned chair to watch the dawn advancing.

All the world was hushed and silent yet. Slowly the light spread over
the gardens, over the meadows and cornfields, chasing away the shadows
and revealing the hues of shrub and flower. A reach of the river stole
into view, and the red roof of an old mill on its banks. Then there was
a musical, monotonous, reiterated call not far off which roused the
cattle, and brought them wending leisurely towards the milking-shed. The
crowing of cocks near and more remote, the chirping of little birds
under the eaves, began and increased. A laborer, then another, on their
way to work, passed within sight along a field-path leading to the mill;
a troop of reapers came by the same road. Then there was the pleasant
sound of sharpening a scythe, and Bessie saw a gardener on the lawn
stoop to his task.

She returned to her pillow, and slept again until she was awakened by
somebody coming to her bedside. It was Mrs. Betts, bearing in her hands
one of those elegant china services for a solitary cup of tea which have
popularized that indulgence amongst ladies.

"What is it?" Bessie asked, gazing with a puzzled air at the tiny
turquoise-blue vessels. "Tea? I am going to get up to breakfast."

"Certainly, miss, I hope so. But it is a custom with many young ladies
to have a cup of tea before dressing."

"I will touch my bell if I want anything. No--no tea, thank you,"
responded Bessie; and the waiting-woman felt herself dismissed. Bessie
chose to make and unmake her toilette alone. It was easy to see that her
education had not been that of a young lady of quality, for she was
quite independent of her maid; but Mrs. Betts was a woman of experience
and made allowance for her, convinced that, give her time, she would be
helpless and exacting enough.

Mr. Fairfax and his granddaughter met in the inner hall with a polite
"Good-morning." Elizabeth looked shyly proud, but sweet as a dewy rose.
The door of communication with the great hall was thrown wide open. It
was all in cool shade, redolent of fresh air and the perfume of flowers.
Jonquil waited to usher them to breakfast, which was laid in the room
where they had dined last night.

Mr. Fairfax was never a talker, but he made an effort on behalf of
Bessie, with whom it was apparently good manners not to speak until she
was spoken to. "What will you do, Elizabeth, by way of making
acquaintance with your home? Will you have Macky with her legends of
family history and go over the house, or will you take a turn outside
with me and visit the stables?"

Bessie knew which it was her duty to prefer, and fortunately her duty
tallied with her inclination; her countenance beamed, and she said, "I
will go out with you, if you please."

"You ride, I know. There is a nice little filly breaking in for you: you
must name her, as she is to be yours."

"May I call her Janey?"

"Janey! Was that the name of Mr. Carnegie's little mare?"

"No; she was Miss Hoyden. Janey was the name of my first friend at
school. She went away soon, and I have never heard of her since. But I
shall: I often think of her."

"You have a constant memory, Elizabeth--not the best memory for your
happiness. What are you eating? Only bread and butter. Will you have no
sardines, bacon, eggs, honey? Nothing! A very abstemious young lady! You
have done with school, and may wean yourself from school-fare."

Breakfast over, Mrs. Betts brought her young lady's leghorn hat and a
pair of new Limerick gauntlet-gloves--nice enough for Sunday in Bessie's
modest opinion, but as they were presented for common wear she put them
on and said nothing. Mr. Fairfax conducted his granddaughter to his
private room, which had a lobby and porch into the garden, and twenty
paces along the wall a door into the stable-yard. The groom who had the
nice little filly in charge to train was just bringing her out of her
stable.

"There is your Janey, Elizabeth," said her grandfather.

"Oh, what a darling!" cried Bessie in a voice that pleased him, as the
pretty creature began to dance and prance and sidle and show off her
restive caprices, making the groom's mounting her for some minutes
impracticable.

"It is only her play, miss--she ain't no vice at all," the man said,
pleading her excuses. "She'll be as dossil as dossil can be when I've
give her a gallop. But this is her of a morning--so fresh there's no
holding her."

Another groom had come to aid, and at length the first was seated firm
in the saddle, with a flowing skirt to mimic the lady that Janey was to
carry. And with a good deal of manoeuvring they got safe out of the
yard.

"You would like to follow and see? Come, then," said the squire, and led
Bessie by a short cut across the gardens to the park. Janey was flying
like the wind over the level turf, but she was well under guidance, and
when her rider brought her round to the spot where Mr. Fairfax and the
young lady stood to watch, she quite bore out his encomium on her
docility. She allowed Bessie to stroke her neck, and even took from her
hand an apple which the groom produced from a private store of
encouragement and reward in his pocket.

"It will be well to give her a good breathing before Miss Fairfax mounts
her, Ranby," said his master, walking round her approvingly. Then to
Bessie he said, "Do you know enough of horses not to count rashness
courage, Elizabeth?"

"I am ready to take your word or Ranby's for what is venturesome," was
Bessie's moderate reply. "My father taught me to ride as soon as I could
sit, so that I have no fear. But I am out of practice, for I have never
ridden since I went to Caen."

"You must have a new habit: you shall have a heavy one for the winter,
and ride to the meet with me occasionally. I suppose you have never done
that?"

"Mr. Musgrave once took me to see the hounds throw off. I rode Harry's
pony that day. I was staying at Brook for a week."

Mr. Fairfax knew who "Mr. Musgrave" was and who "Harry" was, but Bessie
did not recollect that he knew. However, as he asked no explanation of
them, she volunteered none, and they returned to the gardens.

The cultivated grounds of Abbotsmead extended round three sides of the
house. On the west, where the principal entrance was, an outer
semicircle of lime trees, formed by the extension of the avenue,
enclosed a belt of evergreens, and in the middle of the drive rose a
mound over which spread a magnificent cedar. The great hall was the
central portion of the building, lighted by two lofty, square-headed
windows on either side of the door; the advanced wings that flanked it
had corresponding bays of exquisite proportions, which were the
end-windows of the great drawing-room and the old banqueting-room. The
former was continued along the south, with one bay very wide and deep,
and on either side of it a smaller bay, all preserving their dim glazing
after the old Venetian pattern. Beyond the drawing-room was the modern
adaptation of the wing which contained the octagon parlor and
dining-room: from the outside the harmony of construction was not
disturbed. The library adjoined the banqueting-room on the north, and
overlooked a fine expanse where the naturalization of American trees and
shrubs had been the hobby of the Fairfaxes for more than one generation.
The flower-garden was formed in terraces on the south, and was a mixture
of Italian and old English taste. The walls were a mingled tapestry of
roses, jessamine, sweet clematis, and all climbing plants hardy enough
to bear the rigors of the northern winter. Trimmed in though ever so
closely in the fall of the year, in the summer it bushed and blossomed
out into a wantonly luxuriant, delicious variety of color and fragrance.
If here and there a bit of gray stone showed through the mass, it
seemed only to enhance the loveliness of the leaf and flower-work.

Bessie Fairfax stood to admire its glowing intricacy, and with a
remarkable effort of candor exclaimed, "I think this is as pretty as
anything in the Forest--as pretty as Fairfield or the manor-house at
Brook;" which amused her grandfather, for the south front of the old
mansion-house of Abbotsmead was one of the most grandly picturesque
specimens of domestic architecture to be found in the kingdom.

In such perambulations time slips away fast. The squire looked at his
watch. It was eleven o'clock; at half-past he was due at a magistrate's
meeting two miles off; he must leave Bessie to amuse herself until
luncheon at two. Bessie was contented to be left. She replied that she
would now go indoors and write to her mother. Her grandfather paused an
instant on her answer, then nodded acquiescence and went away in haste.
Was he disappointed that she said nothing spontaneous? Bessie did not
give that a thought, but she said in her letter, "I do believe that my
grandfather wishes me to be happy here"--a possibility which had not
struck her until she took a pen in her hand, and set about reflecting
what news she had to communicate to her dear friends at Beechhurst. This
brilliant era of her vicissitudes was undoubtedly begun with a little
aversion.

In the absence of her young lady, Mrs. Betts had unpacked and carefully
disposed of Bessie's limited possessions.

"Your wardrobe will not give me much trouble, miss," said the
waiting-woman, with sly, good-humored allusion to the extent of it.

"No," answered Bessie, misunderstanding her in perfect simplicity. "You
will find all in order. At school we mended our clothes and darned our
stockings punctually every week."

"Did you really do this beautiful darning, miss? It is the finest
darning I ever met with--not to say it was lace." Mrs. Betts spoke more
seriously, as she held up to view a pair of filmy Lille thread stockings
which had sustained considerable dilapidation and repair.

"Yes. They were not worth the trouble. Mademoiselle Adelaide made us
wear Lille thread on dancing-days that we might never want stockings to
mend. She had a passion for darning. She taught us to graft also: you
will find one pair of black silk grafted toe and heel. I have thought
them much too precious ever to wear since. I keep them for a curiosity."

On the tables in Bessie's sitting-room were set out her humble
appliances for work, for writing--an enamelled white box with cut-steel
ornaments, much scratched; a capacious oval basket with a quilted red
silk cover, much faded; a limp Russia-leather blotting-book wrapped in
silver paper (Harry Musgrave had presented it to Bessie on her going
into exile, and she had cherished it too dearly to expose it to the risk
of blots at school). "I think," said she, "I shall begin to use it now."

She released it from its envelope, smelt it, and laid it down
comfortably in front of the Sevres china inkstand. All the permanent
furniture of the writing-table was of Sevres china. Bessie thought it
grotesque, and had no notion of the value of it.

"The big basket may be put aside?" suggested Mrs. Betts, and her young
lady did not gainsay her. But when the shabby little white enamelled box
was threatened, she commanded that that should be left--she had had it
so long she could not bear to part with it. It had been the joint-gift
of Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie on her twelfth birthday.

Released, at length, from Mrs. Betts's respectful, observant presence,
Bessie began to look about her and consider her new habitation. A sense
of exaltation and a sense of bondage possessed her. These pretty, quaint
rooms were hers, then? It was not a day-dream--it was real. She was at
Abbotsmead--at Kirkham. Her true home-nest under the eaves at Beechhurst
was hundreds of miles away: farther still was the melancholy garden in
the Rue St. Jean.

Opposite the parlor window was the fireplace, the lofty mantelshelf
being surmounted by a circular mirror, so inclined as to reflect the
landscape outside. Upon the panelled walls hung numerous specimens of
the elegant industry of Bessie's predecessors--groups of flowers
embroidered on tarnished white satin; shepherds and shepherdesses with
shell-pink painted faces and raiment of needlework in many colors;
pallid sketches of scenery; crayon portraits of youths and maidens of
past generations, none younger than fifty years ago. There was a
bookcase of white wood ruled with gold lines, like the spindly chairs
and tables, and here Bessie could study, if she pleased, the literary
tastes of ancient ladies, matrons and virgins, long since departed this
life in the odor of gentility and sanctity. The volumes were in bindings
rich and solid, and the purchase or presentation of each had probably
been an event. Bessie took down here and there one. Those ladies who
spent their graceful leisure at embroidery-frames were students of
rather stiff books. Locke _On the Conduct of the Human Understanding_
and Paley's _Evidences of the Christian Religion_ Bessie took down and
promptly restored; also the _Sermons_ of Dr. Barrow and the _Essays_ of
Dr. Goldsmith. The _Letters_ of Mrs. Katherine Talbot and Mrs. Elizabeth
Carter engaged her only a few minutes, and the novels of Miss Edgeworth
not much longer. The most modern volumes in the collection were
inscribed with the name of "Dorothy Fairfax," who reigned in the days of
Byron and Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley, and had through them (from the
contents of three white vellum-covered volumes of extracts in her
autograph) learnt to love the elder poets whose works in quarto
populated the library. To Bessie these volumes became a treasure out of
which she filled her mind with songs and ballads, lays and lyrics. The
third volume had a few blank pages at the end, and these were the last
lines in it:

     "Absence, hear thou my protestation
         Against thy strength,
         Distance and length;
     Do what thou canst for alteration:
         For hearts of truest mettle
         Absence doth join, and Time doth settle."

Twice over Bessie read this, then to herself repeated it aloud--all with
thoughts of her friends in the Forest.

The next minute her fortitude gave way, tears rushed to her eyes, Madame
Fournier's precepts vanished out of remembrance, and she cried like a
child wanting its mother. In which unhappy condition Mrs. Betts
discovered her, sitting upon the floor, when the little page came flying
to announce luncheon and visitors. It was two o'clock already.



CHAPTER XIX.

_NEIGHBORS TO ABBOTSMEAD._


Some recent duties of Mrs. Betts's service had given her, on occasion,
an authoritative manner, and she was impelled to use it when she
witnessed the forlornness of her young lady. "I am surprised that you
should give way, miss," said she. "In the middle of the day, too, when
callers are always liable, and your dear, good grandpapa expects a
smiling face! To make your eyes as red as a ferret--"

"Indeed, they are not!" cried Bessie, and rose and ran to the
looking-glass.

Mrs. Betts smiled at the effect of her tactics, and persevered: "Let me
see, miss: because if it is plain you have been fretting, you had better
make an excuse and stop up stairs. But the master will be vexed." Bessie
turned and submitted her countenance to inspection. "There was never a
complexion yet that was improved by fretting," was the waiting-woman's
severe insinuation. "You must wait five minutes, and let the air from
the window blow on you. Really, miss, you are too old to cry."

Bessie offered no rejoinder; she was ashamed. The imperative necessity
of controlling the tender emotions had been sternly inculcated by Madame
Fournier. "Now shall I do?" she humbly asked, feeling the temperature of
her cheeks with her cool hands.

Mrs. Betts judiciously hesitated, then, speaking in a milder voice,
said, "Yes--perhaps it would not be noticed. But tears was the very
mischief for eyes--_that_ Miss Fairfax might take her word for. And it
was old Lady Angleby and her niece, one of the Miss Burleighs, who were
down stairs."

Bessie blushed consciously, appealed to the looking-glass again,
adjusted her mind to her duty, and descended to the octagon parlor. The
rose was no worse for the shower. Mr. Fairfax was there, standing with
his back to the fireplace, and lending his ears to an argument that was
being slowly enunciated by the noble matron who filled his chair. A
younger lady, yet not very young, who was seated languidly with her back
to the light, acknowledged Bessie's entrance with a smile that invited
her approach. "I think," she said, "you know my brother Cecil?" and so
they were introduced.

For several minutes yet Lady Angleby's eloquence oozed on (her theme was
female emancipation), the squire listening with an inscrutable
countenance. "Now, I hope you feel convinced," was her triumphant
conclusion. Mr. Fairfax did not say whether he was convinced or not. He
seemed to observe that Elizabeth had come in, and begged to present his
granddaughter to her ladyship. Elizabeth made her pretty curtsey, and
was received with condescension, and felt, on a sudden, a most
unmannerly inclination to laugh, which she dissembled under a girlish
animation and alacrity in talk. The squire was pleased that she
manifested none of the stupid shyness of new young-ladyhood, though in
the presence of one of the most formidable of county magnates. Elizabeth
did not know that Lady Angleby was formidable, but she saw that she was
immense, and her sense of humor was stirred by the instant perception
that her self-consequence was as enormous as her bulk. But Miss Burleigh
experienced a thrill of alarm. The possibility of being made fun of by a
little simple girl had never suggested itself to the mind of her august
relative, but there was always the risk that her native shrewdness might
wake up some day from the long torpor induced by the homage paid to her
rank, and discover the humiliating fact that she was not always
imposing. By good luck for Miss Fairfax's favor with her, Pascal's maxim
recurred to her memory--that though it is not necessary to respect grand
people it is necessary to bow to them--and her temptation to be merry at
Lady Angleby's expense was instantly controlled. Miss Burleigh could not
but make a note of her sarcastic humor as a decidedly objectionable, and
even dangerous, trait in the young lady's character. That she dissembled
it so admirably was, however, to her credit. After his first movement of
satisfaction the squire was himself perplexed. Elizabeth's spirits were
lively and capricious, she was joyous-tempered, but she would not dare
to quiz; he must be mistaken. In fact, she had not yet acquired the
suppressed manner and deferential tone to her betters which are the
perpetuation of that ancient rule of etiquette by which inferiors are
guarded against affecting to be equal in talk with the mighty. Mr.
Fairfax proposed rather abruptly to go in to luncheon. Jonquil had
announced it five minutes ago.

"She is beautiful! _beautiful_! I am charmed. We shall have her with
us--a beautiful young woman would popularize our cause beyond anything.
But how would Cecil approve of that?" whispered Lady Angleby as she
toiled into the adjoining room with the help of her host's arm.

"Mr. Cecil Burleigh is wise and prudent. He will know how to temporize
with the vagaries of his womankind," said the squire. But he was highly
gratified by the complimentary appreciation of his granddaughter.

"Vagaries, indeed! The surest signs of sound and healthy progress that
have shown themselves in this generation."

Lady Angleby mounted her hobby. She was that queer modern development, a
democrat skin-deep, born and bred in feudal state, clothed in purple and
fine linen, faring sumptuously every day, and devoted colloquially to
the regeneration of the middle classes. The lower classes might now be
trusted to take care of themselves (with the help of the government and
the philanthropists), but such large discovery was being made of
frivolity, ignorance, and helplessness amongst the young women of the
great intermediate body of the people that Lady Angleby and a few select
friends had determined, looking for the blessing of Providence on their
endeavors, to take them under their patronage.

"It is," she said, "a most hopeful thing to see the discontent that is
stirring amongst young women in this age, because an essential
preliminary to their improvement is the conviction that they have the
capacity for a freer, nobler life than that to which they are bound by
obsolete domestic traditions. Let us put within the reach of every young
girl an education that shall really develop her character and her
faculties. Why should the education of girls be arrested at eighteen,
and the apprenticeship of their brothers be continued to
one-and-twenty?" This query was launched into the air, but Lady
Angleby's prominent blue eyes seemed to appeal to Bessie, who was
visibly dismayed at the personal nature of the suggestion.

Mr. Fairfax smiled and bade her speak, and then laughing, she said,
"Because at eighteen girls tire of grammar and dictionaries and precepts
for the conduct of life. We are women, and want to try life itself."

"And what do you know to fit you for life?" said Lady Angleby firmly.

"Nothing, except by instinct and precept."

"Exactly so. And where is your experience? You have none. Girls plunge
into life at eighteen destitute of experience--weak, foolish, ignorant
of men and themselves. No wonder the world is encumbered with so many
helpless poor creatures as it is."

"I should not like to live with only girls till one-and-twenty. What
experience could we teach each other?" said Bessie, rather at sea. A
notion flashed across her that Lady Angleby might be talking nonsense,
but as her grandfather seemed to listen with deference, she could not be
sure.

"Girls ought to be trained in logic, geometry, and physical science to
harden their mental fibre; and how can they be so trained if their
education is to cease at eighteen?" Then with a modest tribute to her
own undeveloped capacities, the great lady cried, "Oh, what I might have
done if I had enjoyed the advantages I claim for others!"

"You don't know. You have never yet been thrown on your own resources,"
said Bessie with an air of infinite suggestion.

Lady Angleby stared in cold astonishment, but Bessie preserved her gay
self-possession. Lady Angleby's cold stare was to most persons utterly
confusing. Miss Burleigh, an inattentive listener (perhaps because her
state of being was always that of a passive listener), gently observed
that she had no idea what any of them would do if they were thrown on
their own resources.

"No idea is ever expected from you, Mary," said her aunt, and turned her
stony regard upon the poor lady, causing her to collapse with a silent
shiver. Bessie felt indignant. What was this towering old woman, with
her theory of feminine freedom and practice of feminine tyranny? There
was a momentary hush, and then Lady Angleby with pompous complacency
resumed, addressing the squire:

"Our large scheme cannot be carried into effect without the general
concurrence of the classes we propose to benefit, but our pet plan for
proving to what women may be raised demands the concurrence of only a
few influential persons. I am sanguine that the government will yield to
our representations, and make us a grant for the foundation of a college
to be devoted to their higher education. We ask for twenty thousand
pounds."

"I hope the government will have more wit," Mr. Fairfax exclaimed, his
rallying tone taking the sting out of his words. "The private hobbies of
you noble ladies must be supported out of your private purses, at the
expense of more selfish whims."

"There is nothing so unjust as prejudice, unless it be jealousy,"
exclaimed Lady Angleby with delicious unreason. "You would keep women in
subjection."

Mr. Fairfax laughed, and assented to the proposition. "You clamor for
the high education of a few at the cost of the many; is that fair?" he
continued. "High education is a luxury for those who can afford it--a
rich endowment for the small minority who have the power of mind to
acquire it; and no more to be provided for that small minority out of
the national exchequer than silk attire for our conspicuous beauties."

"I shall never convert you into an advocate for the elevation of the
sex. You sustain the old cry--the inferiority of woman's intellect."

"'The earth giveth much mould whereof earthen vessels are made, but
little dust that gold cometh of.' High education exists already for the
wealthy, and commercial enterprise will increase the means of it as the
demand increases. If you see a grain of gold in the dust of common life,
and likely to be lost there, rescue it for the crucible, but most such
grains of gold find out the way to refine themselves. As for gilding the
earthen pots, I take leave to think that it would be labor wasted--that
they are, in fact, more serviceable without ornament, plain, well-baked
clay. Help those who are helpless and protect those who are weak as much
as you please, but don't vex the strong and capable with idle
interference. Leave the middle classes to supply their wants in their
own way--they know them best, and have gumption enough--and stick we to
the ancient custom of providing for the sick and needy."

"The ancient custom is good, and is not neglected, but the modern
fashion is better."

"That I contest. There is more alloy of vanity and busy-bodyism in
modern philanthropy than savor of charity."

"We shall never agree," cried Lady Angleby with mock despair. "Miss
Fairfax, this is the way with us--your grandfather and I never meet but
we fall out."

"You are not much in earnest," said Bessie. Terrible child! she had set
down this great lady as a great sham.

"To live in the world and to be absolutely truthful is very difficult,
is all but impossible," remarked Miss Burleigh with a mild
sententiousness that sounded irrelevant, but came probably in the
natural sequence of her unspoken thoughts.

"When you utter maxims like your famous progenitor you should give us
his nod too, Mary," said her aunt. Then she suddenly inquired of Mr.
Fairfax, "When do you expect Cecil?"

"Next week. He must address the electors at Norminster on Thursday. I
hope he will arrive here on Tuesday."

Lady Angleby looked full in Bessie's face, which was instantly
overspread by a haughty blush. Miss Burleigh looked anywhere else. And
both drew the same conclusion--that the young lady's imagination was all
on fire, and that her heart would not be slow to yield and melt in the
combustion. The next move was back to the octagon parlor. The young
people walked to the open window; the elders had communications to
exchange that might or might not concern them, but which they were not
invited to hear. They leant on the sill and talked low. Miss Burleigh
began the conversation by remarking that Miss Fairfax must find
Abbotsmead very strange, being but just escaped from school.

"It is strange, but one grows used to any place very soon," Bessie
answered.

"You have no companion, and Mr. Fairfax sets his face against duennas.
What shall you do next week?"

"What I am bid," said Bessie laconically. "My grandfather has bespoken
for me the good offices of Mrs. Stokes as guide to the choice of a blue
bonnet; the paramount duty of my life at present seems to be to conform
myself to the political views of Mr. Cecil Burleigh in the color of my
ribbons. I have great pleasure in doing so, for blue is my color, and
suits me."

Miss Burleigh had a good heart, and let Bessie's little bravado pass.
"Are you interested in the coming election? I cannot think of anything
else. My brother's career may almost be said to depend on his success."

"Then I hope he will win."

"Your kind good wishes should help him. You will come and stay at
Brentwood?"

"Brentwood? what is Brentwood?"

"My aunt's house. It is only two miles out of Norminster. My aunt was so
impatient to see you that she refused to wait one day. Cecil will often
be with us, for my father's house is at Carisfort--too far off."

"I am at my grandfather's commands. I have not a friend here. I know no
one, and have even to find out the ways and manners of my new world. Do
you live at Brentwood?"

"Yes. My home is with my aunt. I shall be glad, very glad, to give you
any help or direction that you like to ask for. Mrs. Stokes has a
charming taste in dress, and is a dear little woman. You could not have
a nicer friend; and she is well married, which is always an advantage in
a girl's friend. You will like Colonel Stokes too."

In the course of the afternoon Bessie had the opportunity of judging for
herself. Colonel Stokes brought his wife to call upon her. Their
residence was close by Abbotsmead, at the Abbey Lodge, restored by Mr.
Fairfax for their occupation. Colonel Stokes was old enough to be his
wife's father, and young enough to be her hero and companion. She was a
plump little lady, full of spirits and loving-kindness. Bessie
considered her, and decided that she was of her own age, but Mrs. Stokes
had two boys at home to contradict that. She looked so girlish still in
her sage matronhood because she was happy, gay, contented with her life,
because her eyes were blue and limpid as deep lake water, and her cheeks
round and fresh as half-blown roses ungathered. Her dress was as dainty
as herself, and merited the eulogium that Miss Burleigh had passed upon
it.

"You are going to be so kind as to introduce me to a good milliner at
Norminster?" Bessie said after a few polite preliminaries.

"Yes--to Miss Jocund, who will be delighted to make your acquaintance. I
shall tell her to take pains with you, but there will be no need to tell
her that; she always does take pains with girls who promise to do her
credit. I am afraid there is not time to send to Paris for the blue
bonnet you must wear next Thursday, but she will make you something
nice; you may trust her. This wonderful election is the event of the
day. We have resolved that Mr. Cecil Burleigh shall head the poll."

"How shall you ensure his triumph? Are you going to canvass for him?"

"No, no, that is out of date. But Lady Angleby threatens that she will
leave Brentwood, and never employ a Norminster tradesman again if they
are so ungrateful as to refuse their support to her nephew. They are
radicals every one."

"And is not she also a radical? She talks of the emancipation of women
by keeping them at school till one-and-twenty, of the elevation of the
masses, and the mutual improvement of everybody not in the peerage."

"You are making game of her, like my Arthur. No, she is not a radical;
that is all her _hum_. I believe Lord Angleby was something of the sort,
but I don't understand much about politics."

"Only for the present occasion we are blue?" said Bessie airily.

"Yes--all blue," echoed Mrs. Stokes. "Sky-blue," and they both laughed.

"You must agree at what hour you will go into Norminster on Monday--the
half-past-eleven train is the best," Colonel Stokes said.

"Cannot we go to-morrow?" his wife asked.

"No, it is Saturday, market-day;" and his suggestion was adopted.

When the visit was over, in the pleasantness of the late afternoon,
Bessie walked through the gardens and across the park with these
neighbors to Abbotsmead. A belt of shrubbery and a sunk fence divided
the grounds of the lodge from the park, and there was easy
communication by a rustic bridge and a wicket left on the latch. "I hope
you will come often to and fro, and that you will seek me whenever you
want me. This is the shortest way," Mrs. Stokes said to her. Bessie
thanked her, and then walked back to the house, taking her time, and
thinking what a long while ago it was since yesterday.

Yesterday! Only yesterday she was on board the Foam that had brought her
from France, that had passed by the Forest--no longer ago than
yesterday, yet as far off already as a year ago.

Thinking of it, she fell into a melancholy that belonged to her
character. She was tired with the incidents of the day. At dinner Mr.
Fairfax seemed to miss something that had charmed him the night before.
She answered when he spoke, but her gayety was under eclipse. They were
both relieved when the evening came to an end. Bessie was glad to escape
to solitude, and her grandfather experienced a sense of vague
disappointment, but he supposed he must have patience. Even Jonquil
observed the difference, and was sorry that this bright young lady who
had come into the house should enter so soon into its clouds; he was
grieved too that his dear old master, who betrayed an unwonted humility
in his desire to please her, should not at once find his reward in her
affection. Bessie was not conscious that it would have been any boon to
him. She had no rule yet to measure the present by except the past, and
her experience of his usage in the past did not invite her tenderness. A
reasonable and mild behavior was all she supposed to be required of her.
Anything else--whether for better or worse--would be spontaneous. She
could not affect either love or dislike, and how far she could dissemble
either she had yet to learn.



CHAPTER XX.

_PAST AND PRESENT._


The next morning Bessie was left entirely at liberty to amuse herself.
Mr. Fairfax had breakfasted alone, and was gone to Norminster before
she came down stairs. Jonquil made the communication. Bessie wondered
whether it was often so, and whether she would have to make out the
greater part of the days for herself. But she said nothing; some feeling
that she did not reason about told her that there must be no complaining
here, let the days be what they might. She wrote a long letter to Madame
Fournier, and then went out of doors, having declined Mrs. Betts's
proposed attendance.

"Where is the village?" she asked a boy who was sweeping up fallen
leaves from the still dewy lawn. He pointed her the way to go. "And the
church and parsonage?" she added.

"They be all together, miss, a piece beyond the lodge."

With an object in view Bessie could feel interested. She was going to
see her mother's home, the house where she was herself born; and on the
road she began to question whether she had any kinsfolk on her mother's
side. Mrs. Carnegie had once told her that she believed not--unless
there were descendants of her grandfather Bulmer's only brother in
America, whither he had emigrated as a young man; but she had never
heard of any. A cousin of some sort would have been most acceptable to
Bessie in her dignified isolation. She did not naturally love solitude.

The way across the park by which she had been directed brought her out
upon the high-road--a very pleasant road at that spot, with a fir wood
climbing a shallow hill opposite, bounded by a low stone fence, all
crusted with moss and lichen, age and weather.

For nearly half a mile along the roadside lay an irregular open space of
broken ground with fine scattered trees upon it, and close turf where
primroses were profuse in spring. An old woman was sitting in the shade
knitting and tending a little black cow that cropped the sweet moist
grass. Only for the sake of speaking Bessie asked again her way to the
village.

"Keep straight on, miss, you can't miss it," said the old woman, and
gazed up at her inquisitively.

So Bessie kept straight on until she came to the ivy-covered walls of
the lodge; the porch opened upon the road, and Colonel Stokes was
standing outside in conversation with another gentleman, who was the
vicar of Kirkham, Mr. Forbes. Bessie went on when she had passed them,
shyly disconcerted, for Colonel Stokes had come forward with an air of
surprise and had asked her if she was lost. Perhaps it was unusual for
young ladies to walk alone here? She did not know.

The gentlemen watched her out of sight. "Miss Fairfax, of course," said
the vicar. "She walks admirably--I like to see that."

"A handsome girl," said Colonel Stokes. And then they reverted to their
interrupted discussion, the approaching election at Norminster. The
clergyman was very keen about it, the old Indian officer was almost
indifferent.

Meanwhile Bessie reached the church--a very ancient church, spacious and
simple, with a square tower and a porch that was called Norman. The
graveyard surrounded it. A flagged pathway led from the gate between the
grassy mounds to the door, which stood open that the Saturday sun might
drive out the damp vapors of the week. She went in and saw whitewashed
walls; thick round pillars between the nave and aisles; deep-sunken
windows dim with fragmentary pieces of colored glass, and all more or
less out of the perpendicular; a worm-eaten oak-screen separating the
chancel and a solemn enclosure, erst a chapel, now the Fairfax pew; a
loft where the choir sat in front for divine service, with fiddle and
bassoon, and the school-children sat behind, all under the eye of the
parson and his clerk, who was also the school-master.

In the chancel were several monuments to the memory of defunct pastors.
The oldest was very old, and the inscription in Latin on brass; the
newest was to Bessie's grandfather--the "Reverend Thomas Bulmer, for
forty-six years vicar of this parish." From the dates he had married
late, for he had died in a good old age in the same year as his daughter
Elizabeth, and only two months before her. In smaller letters below the
inscription-in-chief it was recorded that his wife Letitia was buried at
Torquay in Cornwall, and that this monument was erected to their pious
memory by their only child--"Elizabeth, the wife of the Reverend Geoffry
Fairfax, rector of Beechhurst in the county of Hants."

All gone--not one left! Bessie pondered over this epitome of family
history, and thought within herself that it was not without cause she
felt alone here. With a shiver she returned into the sunshine and
proceeded up the public road. The vicarage was a little low house, very
humble in its externals, roofed with fluted tiles, and the walls covered
to the height of the chamber windows with green latticework and
creepers. It stood in a spacious garden and orchard, and had
outbuildings at a little distance on the same homely plan. The living
was in the gift of Abbotsmead, and the Fairfaxes had not been moved to
house their pastor, with his three hundred a year, in a residence fit
for a bishop. It was a simple, pleasant, rustic spot. The lower windows
were open, so was the door under the porch. Bessie saw that it could not
have undergone any material change since the summer days of twenty years
ago, when her father, a bright young fellow fresh from college, went to
read there of a morning with the learned vicar, and fell in love with
his pretty Elizabeth, and wooed and won her.

Bessie, imperfectly informed, exaggerated the resentment with which Mr.
Fairfax had visited his offending son. It was never an active
resentment, but merely a contemptuous acceptance of his irrevocable act.
He said, "Geoffry has married to his taste. His wife is used to a plain
way of living; they will be more useful in a country parish living on
so, free from the temptations of superfluous means." And he gave the
young couple a bare pittance. Time might have brought him relenting, but
time does not always reserve us opportunities. And here was Bessie
Fairfax considering the sorrows and early deaths of her parents,
charging them to her grandfather's account, and confirming herself in
her original judgment that he was a hard and cruel man.

The village of Kirkham was a sinuous wide street of homesteads and
cottages within gardens, and having a green open border to the road
where geese and pigs, cows and children, pastured indiscriminately. It
was the old order of things where one man was master. The gardens had,
for the most part, a fine show of fragrant flowers, the hedges were
neatly trimmed, the fruit trees were ripening abundantly. Of children,
fat and ruddy, clean and well clothed, there were many playing about,
for their mothers were gone to Norminster market, and there was no
school on Saturday. Bessie spoke to nobody, and nobody spoke to her.
Some of the children dropt her a curtsey, but the majority only stared
at her as a stranger. She felt, somehow, as if she would never be
anything else but a stranger here. When she had passed through the
village to the end of it, where the "Chequers," the forge, and the
wheelwright's shed stood, she came to a wide common. Looking across it,
she saw the river, and found her way home by the mill and the
harvest-fields.

It would have enhanced Bessie's pleasure, though not her happiness
perhaps, if she could have betaken herself to building castles in the
Woldshire air, but the moment she began to indulge in reverie her
thoughts flew to the Forest. No glamour of pride, enthusiasm, or any
sort of delightful hope mistified her imagination as to her real
indifference towards Abbotsmead. When she reached the garden she sat
down amongst the roses, and gazed at the beautiful old flower-woven
walls that she had admired yesterday, and felt like a visitor growing
weary of the place. Even while her bodily eyes were upon it, her mind's
eye was filled with a vision of the green slopes of the wilderness
garden at Brook, and the beeches laving their shadows in the sweet
running water.

"I believe I am homesick," she said. "I cannot care for this place. I
should have had a better chance of taking to it kindly if my grandfather
had let me go home for a little while. Everything is an effort here."
And it is to be feared that she gave way again, and fretted in a manner
that Madame Fournier would have grieved to see. But there was no help
for it; her heart was sore, and tears relieved it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Fairfax was at home to dinner. He returned from Norminster jaded and
out of spirits. Now, Bessie, though she did not love him (though she
felt it a duty to assert and reassert that fact to herself, lest she
should forget it), felt oddly pained when she looked into his face and
saw that he was dull; to be dull signified to be unhappy in Bessie's
vocabulary. But timidity tied her tongue. It was not until Jonquil had
left them to themselves that they attempted any conversation. Then Mr.
Fairfax remarked, "You have been making a tour of investigation,
Elizabeth: you have been into the village?"

Bessie said that she had, and that she had gone into the church. Then
all at once an impulse came upon her to ask, "Why did you let my parents
go so far away? was it so very wrong in them to marry?"

"No, not wrong at all. It is written, 'A man shall leave his father and
mother, and cleave unto his wife,'" was the baffling reply she got, and
it silenced her. And not for that occasion only.

When Bessie retired into the octagon parlor her grandfather stayed
behind. He had been to see Mr. John Short that day, and had heard that a
new aspect had come over the electioneering sky. The Radicals had
received an impetus from some quarter unknown, and were preparing to
make such a hard fight for the representation of Norminster that the
triumph of the Tory party was seriously threatened. This news had vexed
him, but it was not of that he meditated chiefly when he was left alone.
It was of Bessie. He had founded certain pleasurable expectations upon
her, and he felt that these expectations were losing their bloom. He
could not fail to recollect her quietness of last night, when he noticed
the languor of her eyes, the dejection of her mouth, and the effort it
was to her to speak. The question concerning her parents had aroused the
slumbering ache of old remembrance, and had stung him anew with a sense
of her condemnation. A feeling akin to remorse visited him as he sat
considering, and by degrees realizing, what he had done to her, and was
doing; but he had his motive, he had his object in it, and the motive
had seemed to justify the means until he came to see her face to face.
Contact with her warm, distinct humanity began immediately to work a
change in his mind. Absent, he had decided that he could dispose of her
as he would. Present, he recognized that she would have a voice, and
probably a casting voice, in the disposal of herself. He might sever her
from her friends in the Forest, but he would not thereby attach her to
friends and kinsfolk in the north. His last wanton act of selfish
unkindness, in refusing to let her see her old home in passing, was
evidently producing its effect in silent grieving, in resentment and
revolt.

All his life long Mr. Fairfax had coveted affection, and had missed the
way to win it. No one had ever really loved him except his sister
Dorothy--so he believed; and Elizabeth was so like Dorothy in the face,
in her air, her voice, her gestures, that his heart went out to her with
a yearning that was almost pain. But when he looked at her, she looked
at him again like Dorothy alienated--like Dorothy grown strange. It was
a very curious revival out of the far past. When he was a young man and
Lady Latimer was a girl, there had been a prospect of a double marriage
between their families, but the day that destroyed one hope destroyed
both, and Dorothy Fairfax died of that grief. Elizabeth, with her
tear-worn eyes, was Dorothy's sad self to-night, only the eyes did not
seek his friendly. They were gazing at pictures in the fire when he
rejoined her, and though Bessie moved and raised her head in courteous
recognition of his coming, there was something of avoidance in her
manner, as if she shrank from his inspection. Perhaps she did; she had
no desire to parade her distresses or to reproach him with them. She
meant to be good--only give her time. But she must have time.

There was a book of photographs on the table that Frederick Fairfax and
his wife had collected during their wedding-tour on the Continent. It
was during the early days of the art, and the pictures were as blurred
and faded as their lives had since become. Bessie was turning them over
with languid interest, when her grandfather, perceiving how she was
employed, said he could show her some foreign views that would please
her better than those dim photographs. He unlocked a drawer in the
writing-table and produced half a dozen little sketch-books, his own and
his sister Dorothy's during their frequent travels together. It seemed
that their practice had been to make an annual tour.

While Bessie examined the contents of the sketch-books, her grandfather
stood behind her looking over her shoulder, and now and then saying a
few words in explanation, though most of the scenes were named and
dated. They were water-color drawings--bits of landscape, picturesque
buildings, grotesque and quaint figures, odd incidents of foreign life,
all touched with tender humor, and evidently by a strong and skilful
hand; and flowers, singly or in groups, full of a delicate fancy. In the
last volume of the series there were no more flowers; the scenes were of
snow-peaks and green hills, of wonderful lake-water, and boats with
awnings like the hood of a tilted cart; and the sky was that of Italy.

"Oh, these are lovely, but why are there no more flowers?" said Bessie
thoughtlessly.

"Dorothy had given up going out then," said her grandfather in a low,
strained voice.

Bessie caught her breath as she turned the next page, and came on a
roughly washed-in mound of earth under an old wall where a white cross
was set. A sudden mist clouded her sight, and then a tear fell on the
paper.

"That is where she was buried--at Bellagio on Lake Como," said Mr.
Fairfax, and moved away.

Bessie continued to gaze at the closing page for several minutes without
seeing it; then she turned back the leaves preceding, and read them
again, as it were, in the sad light of the end. It was half a feint to
hide or overcome her emotion, for her imagination had figured to her
that last mournful journey. Her grandfather saw how she was
affected--saw the trembling of her hand as she paused upon the sketches
and the furtive winking away of her tears. Dear Bessie! smiles and tears
were so easy to her yet. If she had dared to yield to a natural impulse,
she would have shut the melancholy record and have run to comfort
him--would have clasped her hands round his arm and laid her cheek
against his shoulder, and have said, "Oh, poor grandpapa!" with most
genuine pity and sympathy. But he stood upon the hearth with his back to
the fire, erect, stiff as a ramrod, with gloom in his eyes and lips
compressed, and anything in the way of a caress would probably have
amazed more than it would have flattered him. Bessie therefore refrained
herself, and for ever so long there was silence in the room, except for
the ticking of the clock on the chimney-piece and the occasional
dropping of the ashes from the bars. At last she left looking at the
sketches and mechanically reverted to the photographs upon which Mr.
Fairfax came out of his reverie and spoke again. She was weary, but the
evening was now almost over.

"I do not like those sun-pictures. They are not permanent, and a
water-color drawing is more pleasing to begin with. You can draw a
little, Elizabeth? Have you any sketches about Caen or Bayeux?"

Bessie modestly said that she had, and went to bring them; school-girl
fashion, she wished to exhibit her work, and to hear that the money
spent on her neglected education had not been all spent in vain. Her
grandfather was graciously inclined to commend her productions. He told
her that she had a nice touch, and that it was quite worth her while to
cultivate her talent. "It will add a great interest to your travels when
you have the chance of travelling," he said; "for, like life itself,
travelling has many blank spaces that a taste for sketching agreeably
fills up. Ten o'clock already? Yes--good-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning Mr. Fairfax and Bessie walked to church together.
Along the road everybody acknowledged the squire with bow or curtsey,
and the little children stood respectfully at gaze as he passed. He
returned the civility of all by lifting a forefinger to his hat, though
he spoke to none, and Bessie was led to understand that he had the
confidence of his people, and that he probably deserved it. For a sign
that there was no bitterness in his own feelings, each token of regard
was noted by her with satisfaction.

At the lodge Colonel and Mrs. Stokes joined them, and Mrs. Stokes's
bright eyes frankly appreciated the elegant simplicity of Bessie's
attire, her chip bonnet and daisies, her dress of French spun silk,
white and violet striped, and perfectly fitting Paris gloves. She nodded
meaningly to Bessie, and Bessie smiled back her full comprehension that
the survey was satisfactory and pleasing.

Some old customs still prevailed at Kirkham. The humble congregation was
settled in church before the squire entered his red-curtained pew, and
sat quiet after sermon until the squire went out. Bessie's thoughts
roved often during the service. Mr. Forbes read apace, and the clerk
sang out the responses like an echo with no time to lose. There had been
a death in the village during the past week, and the event was now
commemorated by a dirge in which the children's shrill treble was
supported by the majority of the congregation. The sermon also took up
the moral of life and death. It was short and pithy; perhaps it was
familiar, and none the less useful for that. Mr. Forbes was not
concerned to lead his people into new ways; he believed the old were
better. Work and pray, fear God and keep His commandments, love your
neighbor, and meddle not with those who are given to change,--these were
his cardinal points, from which he brought to bear on their consciences
much powerful doctrine and purifying precept. He was a man of high
courage and robust faith, who practised what he preached, and bore that
cheerful countenance which is a sign of a heart in prosperity.

After service Colonel and Mrs. Stokes walked home with Mr. Fairfax and
Bessie, lunched at Abbotsmead, and lounged about the garden afterward.
This was an institution. Sunday is long in country houses, and good
neighbors help one another to get rid of it. The Stokes's boys came in
the afternoon, to Bessie's great joy; they made a noisy playground of
the garden, and behaved just like Jack and Tom and Willie Carnegie,
kicking up their heels and laughing at nothing.

"There are no more gooseberries," cried their mother, catching the
younger of the two, a bluff copy of herself, and offering him to Bessie
to kiss. Bessie kissed him heartily. "You are fond of children, I can
see," said her new friend.

"I like a houseful! Oh, when have I had a nice kiss at a boy's hard,
round cheeks? Not for years! years! I have five little brothers and two
sisters at home."

Mrs. Stokes regarded Bessie with a touched surprise, but she asked no
questions; she knew her story in a general inaccurate way. The boy gazed
in her face with a pretty lovingness, rubbed his nose suddenly against
hers, wrestled himself out of her embrace, and ran away. "When you feel
as if you want a good kiss, come to my house," said his mother, her blue
eyes shining tenderly. "It must be dreadful to miss little children when
you have lived with them. I could not bear it. Abbotsmead always looks
to me like a great dull splendid prison."

"My grandfather makes it as pleasant to me as he can; I don't repine,"
said Bessie quickly. "He has given me a beautiful little filly to ride,
but she is not quite trained yet; and I shall beg him to let me have a
companionable dog; I love a dog."

The church-bells began to ring for afternoon service. Mrs. Stokes shook
her head at Bessie's query: nobody ever went, she said, but servants and
poor people. Evening service there was none, and Mr. Forbes dined with
the squire; that also was an institution. The gentlemen talked of
parochial matters, and Bessie, wisely inferring that they could talk
more freely in her absence, left them to themselves and retreated to her
private parlor, to read a little and dream a great deal of her friends
in the Forest.

At dusk there was a loud jangling indoors and out, and Mrs. Betts
summoned her young lady down stairs. She met her grandfather and Mr.
Forbes issuing from the dining-room, and they passed together into the
hall, where the servants of the house stood on parade to receive their
pastor and master. They were assembled for prayers. Once a week, after
supper, this compliment was paid to the Almighty--a remnant of ancient
custom which the squire refused to alter or amend. When Bessie had
assisted at this ceremony she had gone through the whole duty of the
day, and her reflection on her experience since she came to Abbotsmead
was that life as a pageant must be dull--duller than life as a toil.



CHAPTER XXI.

_A DISCOVERY._


While Bessie Fairfax was pronouncing the web of her fortunes dull, Fate
was spinning some mingled threads to throw into the pattern and give it
intricacy and liveliness. The next day Mrs. Stokes chaperoned her to
Norminster in quest of that blue bonnet. Mrs. Betts went also, and had a
world of shopping to help in on behalf of her young mistress. They drove
from the station first to the chief tailor's in High street, the
ladies' habitmaker, then to the fashionable hosier, the fashionable
haberdasher. By three o'clock Bessie felt herself flagging. What did she
want with so many fine clothes? she inquired of Mrs. Stokes with an air
of appeal. She was learning that to get up only one character in life as
a pageant involves weariness, labor, pains, and money.

"You are going to stay at Brentwood," rejoined her chaperone
conclusively.

"And is it so dull at Brentwood that dressing is a resource?" Bessie
demurred.

"Wait and see. You will have pleasant occupation enough, I should think.
Most girls would call this an immense treat. But if you are really tired
we will go to Miss Jocund now. Mrs. Betts can choose ribbons and
gloves."

Miss Jocund was a large-featured woman of a grave and wise countenance.
She read the newspaper in intervals of business, and was reading it now
with her glasses on. Lowering the paper, she recognized a favorite
customer in Mrs. Stokes, and laid the news by, but with reluctance. Duty
forbade, however, that this lady should be remitted to an assistant.

"I am sorry to disturb you, Miss Jocund, but it is important--it is
about a bonnet," cried Mrs. Stokes gayly. "I have brought you Miss
Fairfax of Abbotsmead. I am sure you will make her something quite
lovely."

Miss Jocund took off her glasses, and gave Bessie a deliberate,
discerning look-over. "Very happy, ma'am, indeed. Blue, of course?" she
said. Bessie acquiesced. "Any taste, any style?" the milliner further
queried.

"Yes. Give me always simplicity and no imitations," was the
unhesitating, concise reply.

"Miss Fairfax and I understand one another. Anything more to-day,
ladies?" Bessie and Mrs. Stokes considered for a moment, and then said
they would not detain Miss Jocund any longer from her newspaper. "Ah,
ladies! who can exist altogether on _chiffons_?" rejoined the milliner,
half apologetically. "I do love my _Times_--I call it my 'gentleman.' I
cannot live without my gentleman. Yes, ladies, he does smell of tobacco.
That is because he spends a day and night in the bar-parlor of the
Shakespeare Tavern before he visits me. So do evil communications
corrupt good manners. The door, Miss Lawson. Good-afternoon, ladies."

"You must not judge of Miss Jocund as a milliner and nothing more," her
chaperone instructed Bessie when they had left the shop. "She is a lady
herself. Her father was Dr. Jocund, the best physician in Norminster
when you could find him sober. He died, and left his daughter with only
debts for a fortune; she turned milliner, and has paid every sixpence of
them."

Where were they to go next? Bessie recollected that her uncle Laurence
lived in the vicinity of the minster, and that she had an errand to him
from her grandfather. She had undertaken it cheerfully, feeling that it
would be a pleasure to see her kind uncle Laurence again. There was a
warmth of geniality about him that was absent from her uncle Frederick
and her grandfather, and she had decided that if she was to have any
friend amongst her kinsfolk, her uncle Laurence would be that friend.
She was sure that her father, whom she barely knew, had been most like
him.

It was not far to Minster Court, and they directed their steps that way.
The streets of Norminster still preserve much of their picturesque
antiquity, but they are dull, undeniably dull, except on the occasion of
assizes, races, fairs, and the annual assembling of the yeomanry and
militia. Elections are no more the saturnalia they used to be in the
good old times. Bessie was reminded of Bayeux and its sultry drowsiness
as they passed into the green purlieus of the minster and under a
low-browed archway into a spacious paved court, where the sun slept on
the red-brick backs of the old houses. Mr. Laurence Fairfax's door was
in the most remote corner, up a semi-circular flight of steps, guarded
on either side by an iron railing.

As the two ladies approached the steps a young countrywoman came down
them, saying in a mingled strain of persuasion and threat, "Come, Master
Justus: if you don't come along this minute, I'll tell your granma." And
a naughty invisible voice made an answer with lisping defiance, "Well,
go, Sally, go. Be quick! go before your shoes wear out."

Mrs. Stokes, rounding her pretty eyes and pretty mouth, cried softly,
"Oh, what a very rude little boy!" And the very rude little boy
appeared in sight, hustled coaxingly behind by the stout respectable
housekeeper of Mr. Laurence Fairfax. When he saw the strange ladies he
stood stock-still and gazed at them as bold as Hector, and they gazed at
him again in mute amazement--a cherub of four years old or thereabouts,
with big blue eyes and yellow curls. When he had satisfied himself with
gazing, he descended the steps and set off suddenly at a run for the
archway. The housekeeper had a flushed, uneasy smile on her face as she
recognized Mrs. Stokes--a smile of amused consternation, which the
little lady's shocked grimace provoked. Bessie herself laughed in
looking at her again, and the housekeeper rallied her composure enough
to say, "Oh, the self-will and naughtiness there is in boys, ma'am! But
you know it, having boys of your own!"

"Too well, Mrs. Burrage, too well! Is Mr. Laurence Fairfax at home?"

"I am sorry to say that he is not, ma'am. May I make bold to ask if the
young lady is Miss Fairfax from Abbotsmead, that was expected?"

Bessie confessed to her identity, and while Mrs. Stokes wrote the name
of Miss Fairfax on one of her own visiting-cards (for Bessie was still
unprovided), Burrage begged, as an old servant of the house, to offer
her best wishes and to inquire after the health of the squire. They were
interrupted by that rude little boy, who came running back into the
court with Sally in pursuit. He was shouting too at the top of his
voice, and making its solemn echoes ring again. Burrage with sudden
gravity watched what would ensue. Capture ensued, and a second evasion
into the street. Burrage shook her head, as who would say that Sally's
riotous charge was far beyond her control--which indubitably he was--and
Bessie forgot her errand entirely. Whose was that little boy, the
picture of herself? Mrs. Stokes recovered her countenance. They turned
to go, and were halfway across the court when the housekeeper called
after them in haste: "Ladies, ladies! my master has come in by the
garden way, if you will be pleased to return?" and they returned,
neither of them by word or look affording to the other any intimation of
her profound reflections.

Mr. Laurence Fairfax received his visitors with a frank welcome, and
bade Burrage bring them a cup of tea. Mrs. Stokes soon engaged him in
easy chat, but Bessie sat by in perplexed rumination, trying to
reconcile the existence of that little flaxen-haired boy with her
preconceived notions of her bachelor uncle. The view of him had let in a
light upon her future that pleased while it confused her. The reason it
pleased her she would discern as her thoughts cleared. At this moment
she was dazzled by a series of surprises. First, by the sight of that
cherub, and then by the order that reigned through this quaint and
narrow house where her learned kinsman lived. They had come up a winding
stair into a large, light hall, lined with books and peopled by marble
sages on pedestals, from which opened two doors--the one into a small
red parlor where the philosopher ate, the other into a long room looking
to the garden and the minster, furnished with the choicest collections
of his travelled youth. The "omnibus" of Canon Fournier used to be all
dusty disorder. Bessie's silence and her vagrant eyes misled her uncle
into the supposition that his old stones, old canvases, and ponderous
quartoes interested her curiosity, and noticing that they settled at
length, with an intelligent scrutiny, on some object beyond him, he
asked what it was, and moved to see.

Nothing rich, nothing rare or ancient--only the tail and woolly
hind-quarters of a toy lamb extruded from the imperfectly closed door of
a cupboard below a bookcase. Instantly he jumped up and went to shut the
cupboard; but first he must open it to thrust in the lamb, and out it
tumbled bodily, and after it a wagon with red wheels and black-spotted
horses harnessed thereto. As he awkwardly restored them, Mrs. Stokes
never moved a muscle, but Bessie smiled irrepressibly and in her uncle's
face as he returned to his seat with a fine confusion blushing thereon.
At that moment Burrage came in with the tea. No doubt Mrs. Stokes was
equally astonished to see a nursery-cupboard in a philosopher's study,
but she could turn her discourse to circumstances with more skill than
her unworldly companion, and she resumed the thread of their interrupted
chat with perfect composure. Mr. Laurence Fairfax could not, however,
take her cue, and he rose with readiness at the first movement of the
ladies to go. He began to say to Bessie that she must make his house
her home when she wanted to come to Norminster, and that he should
always be glad of her company. Bessie thanked him, and as she looked up
in his benevolent face there was a pure friendliness in her eyes that he
responded to by a warm pressure of her hand. And as he closed the door
upon them he dismissed his sympathetic niece with a most kind and
kinsman-like nod.

Mrs. Stokes began to laugh when they were clear of the house: "A pretty
discovery! Mr. Laurence Fairfax has a little playfellow: suppose he
should turn out to be a married man?" cried she under her breath. "So
that is the depth of his philosophy! My Arthur will be mightily amused."

"What a darling little naughty boy that was!" whispered Bessie, also
laughing. "How I should like to have him at Abbotsmead! What fun it
would be!"

"Mind, you don't mention him at Abbotsmead. Mr. Fairfax will be the last
to hear of him; the mother must be some unpresentable person. If Mr.
Laurence Fairfax is married, it will be so much the worse for you."

"Nothing in the way of little Fairfax boys can be the worse for me," was
Bessie's airy, pleasant rejoinder. And she felt exhilarated as by a
sudden, sunshiny break in the cloudy monotony of her horizon.

Mr. Laurence Fairfax returned to his study when he had parted with his
visitors, and there he found Burrage awaiting him. "Sir," she said with
a gravity befitting the occasion, "I must tell you that Master Justus
has been seen by those two ladies."

"And Master Justus's pet lamb and cart and horses," quoth her master as
seriously. "You had thrown the toys into the cupboard too hastily, or
you had not fastened the door, and the lamb's legs stuck out. Miss
Fairfax made a note of them."

"Ah, sir, if you would but let Mr. John Short speak before the story
gets round to your respected father the wrong way!" pleaded Burrage. Mr.
Laurence Fairfax did not answer her. She said no more, but shook her
head and went away, leaving him to his reflections, which were more
mischievous than the reflections of philosophers are commonly supposed
to be.

Bessie returned to Kirkham a changed creature. Her hopefulness had
rallied to the front. Her mind was filled with blithe anticipations
founded on that dear little naughty boy and his incongruous cupboard of
playthings in her uncle's study.

If there was a boy for heir to Abbotsmead, nobody would want her; she
might go back to the Forest. Secrets and mysteries always come out in
the end. She had sagacity enough to know that she must not speak of what
she had seen; if the little boy was openly to be spoken of, he would
have been named to her. But she might speculate about him as much as she
pleased in the recesses of her fancy. And oh what a comfort was that!

Mr. Fairfax at dinner observed her revived animation, and asked for an
account of her doings in Norminster. Then, and not till then, did Bessie
recollect his message to her uncle Laurence, and penitently confessed
her forgetfulness, unable to confess the occasion of it. "It is of no
importance; I took the precaution of writing to him this afternoon,"
said her grandfather dryly, and Bessie's confusion was doubled. She
thought he would never have any confidence in her again. Presently he
said, "This is the last evening we shall be alone for some time,
Elizabeth. Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his sister Mary, whom you have seen,
will arrive to-morrow, and on Thursday you will go with me to Lady
Angleby's for a few nights. I trust you will be able to make a friend of
Miss Burleigh."

To this long speech Bessie gave her attention and a submissive assent,
followed by a rather silly wish: "I wish it was to Lady Latimer's we
were going instead of to Lady Angleby's; I don't like Lady Angleby."

"That does not much matter if you preserve the same measure of courtesy
toward her as if you did," rejoined her grandfather. "It is unnecessary
to announce your preferences and prejudices by word of mouth, and it
would be unpardonable to obtrude them by your behavior. It is not of
obligation that because she is a grand lady you should esteem her, but
it is of obligation that you should curtsey to her; you understand me?
Do not let your ironical humor mislead you into forgetting the first
principle of good manners--to render to all their due." Mr. Fairfax
also had read Pascal.

Bessie's cheeks burned under this severe admonition, but she did not
attempt to extenuate her fault, and after a brief silence her
grandfather said, to make peace, "It is not impossible that your longing
to see Lady Latimer may be gratified. She still comes into Woldshire at
intervals, and she will take an interest in Mr. Cecil Burleigh's
election." But Bessie felt too much put down to trust herself to speak
again, and the rest of the meal passed in a constrained quiet.

This was not the way towards a friendly and affectionate understanding.
Nevertheless, Bessie was not so crushed as she would have been but for
the vision of that unexplained cherub who had usurped the regions of her
imagination. If the time present wearied her, she had gained a wide
outlook to a _beyond_ that was bright enough to dream of, to inspire her
with hope, and sustain her against oppression. Mr. Fairfax discerned
that she felt her bonds more easy--perhaps expecting the time when they
would be loosed. His conjectures for a reason why were grounded on the
confidential propensities of women, and the probability that Mrs.
Stokes, during their long _tête-à-tête_ that day, had divulged the plots
for her wooing and wedding. How far wide of the mark these conjectures
were he would learn by and by. Meanwhile, as the effect of the unknown
magic was to make her gayer, more confident, and more interested in
passing events, he was well pleased. His preference was for sweet
acquiescence in women, but, for an exception, he liked his granddaughter
best when she was least afraid of him.



CHAPTER XXII.

_PRELIMINARIES._


Mr. Cecil Burleigh met Bessie Fairfax again with a courteous vivacity
and an air of intimate acquaintance. If he was not very glad to see her
he affected gladness well, and Bessie's vivid blushes were all the
welcome that was necessary to delude the witnesses into a belief that
they already understood one another. He was perfectly satisfied
himself, and his sister Mary, who worshipped him, thought Bessie sweetly
modest and pretty. And her mind was at peace for the results.

There was a dinner-party at Abbotsmead that evening. Colonel and Mrs.
Stokes came, and Mr. Forbes and his mother, who lived with him (for he
was unmarried), a most agreeable old lady. It was much like other
dinner-parties in the country. The guests were all of one mind on
politics and the paramount importance of the landed interest, which gave
a delightful unanimity to the conversation. The table was round, so that
Miss Fairfax did not appear conspicuous as the lady of the house, but
she was not for that the less critically observed. Happily, she was
unconscious of the ordeal she underwent. She looked lovely in the face,
but her dress was not the elaborate dress of the other ladies; it was
still her prize-day white muslin, high to the throat and long to the
wrists, with a red rose in her belt, and an antique Normandy gold cross
for her sole ornament. The cross was a gift from Madame Fournier. Mr.
Cecil Burleigh, being seated next to her, was most condescending in his
efforts to be entertaining, and Bessie was not quite so uneasy under his
affability as she had been on board the yacht. Mrs. Stokes, who had
heard much of the Tory candidate, but now met him for the first time,
regarded him with awe, impressed by his distinguished air and fine
manners. But Bessie was more diffident than impressed. She did not talk
much; everybody else was so willing to talk that it was enough for her
to look charming. Once or twice her grandfather glanced towards her,
wishing to hear her voice--which was a most tunable voice--in reply to
her magnificent neighbor, but Bessie sat in beaming, beautiful silence,
lending him her ears, and at intervals giving him a monosyllabic reply.
She might certainly have done worse. She might have spoken foolishly, or
she might have said what she occasionally thought in contradiction of
his solemn opinions. And surely this would have been unwise? Her silence
was pleasing, and he wished for nothing in her different from what she
seemed. He liked her youthfulness, and approved her simplicity as an
eminently teachable characteristic; and if she was not able greatly to
interest or amuse him, perhaps that was not from any fault or
deficiency in herself, but from circumstances over which she had no
control. An old love, a true love, unwillingly relinquished, is a
powerful rival.

The whole of the following day was at his service to walk and talk with
Bessie if he and she pleased, but Bessie invited Miss Burleigh into her
private parlor and went into seclusion. That was after breakfast, and
Mr. Cecil made a tour of the stables with the squire, and saw Janey take
her morning gallop. Then he spoke in praise of Janey's mistress while on
board the Foam, and with all the enthusiasm at his command of his own
hopes. They had not become expectations yet.

"It is uphill work with Elizabeth," said her grandfather. "She cares for
none of us here."

"The harder to win the more constant to keep," replied the aspirant
suitor cheerfully.

"I shall put no pressure on her. Here is your opportunity, and you must
rely on yourself. She has a heart for those who can reach it, but my
efforts have fallen short thus far." This was not what the squire had
once thought to say.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh did not admire gushing, demonstrative women, and a
gushing wife would have wearied him inexpressibly. He felt an attraction
in Bessie's aloofness, and said again, "She is worth the pains she will
cost to win: a few years will mature her fine intelligence and make of
her a perfect companion. I admire her courageous simplicity; there is a
great deal in her character to work upon."

"She is no cipher, certainly; if you are satisfied, I am," said Mr.
Fairfax resignedly. "Yet it is not flattering to think that she would
toss up her cap to go back to the Forest to-morrow."

"Then she is loyal in affection to very worthy people. I have heard of
her Forest friends from Lady Latimer."

"Lady Latimer has a great hold on Elizabeth's imagination. It would be a
good thing if she were to pay a visit to Hartwell; she might give her
young devotee some valuable instructions. Elizabeth is prejudiced
against me, and does not fall into her new condition so happily as I was
led to anticipate that she might."

"She will wear to it. My sister Mary has an art of taming, and will
help her. I prefer her indifference to an undue elation: that would
argue a commonness of mind from which I imagine her to be quite free."

"She has her own way of estimating us, and treats the state and luxury
of Abbotsmead as quite external to her. In her private thoughts, I fear,
she treats them as cumbrous lendings that she will throw off after a
season, and be gladly quit of their burden."

"Better so than in the other extreme. A girl of heart and mind cannot be
expected to identify herself suddenly with the customs of a strange
rank. She was early trained in the habits of a simple household, but
from what I see there can have been nothing wanting of essential
refinement in Mrs. Carnegie. There is a crudeness in Miss Fairfax
yet--she is very young--but she will ripen sound and sweet to the core,
or I am much mistaken in the quality of the green fruit."

The squire replied that he had no reason to believe his granddaughter
was otherwise than a good girl. And with that they left discussing her
and fell upon the election. Mr. Cecil Burleigh had a good courage for
the encounter, but he also had received intimations not to make too sure
of his success. The Fairfax influence had been so long in abeyance, so
long only a name in Norminster, that Mr. John Short began to quake the
moment he began to test it. Once upon a time Norminster had returned a
Fairfax as a matter of course, but for a generation its tendencies had
been more and more towards Liberalism, and at the last election it had
returned its old Whig member at the head of the poll, and in lieu of its
old Tory member a native lawyer, one Bradley, who professed Radicalism
on the hustings, but pruned his opinions in the House to the useful
working pattern of a supporter of the ministry. This prudent gentleman
was considered by a majority of his constituents not to have played
fair, and it was as against him, traitor and turncoat, that the old
Tories and moderate Conservatives were going to try to bring in Mr.
Cecil Burleigh. Both sides were prepared to spend money, and Norminster
was enjoying lively anticipations of a good time coming.

While the gentlemen were thus discoursing to and fro the terrace under
the library window, Miss Burleigh in Bessie's parlor was instructing her
of her brother's political views. It is to be feared that Bessie was
less interested than the subject deserved, and also less interested in
the proprietor of the said views than his sister supposed her to be. She
listened respectfully, however, and did not answer very much at random,
considering that she was totally ignorant beforehand of all that was
being explained to her. At length she said, "I must begin to read the
newspapers. I know much better what happened in the days of Queen
Elizabeth than what has happened in my own lifetime;" and then Miss
Burleigh left politics, and began to speak of her brother's personal
ambition and personal qualities; to relate anecdotes of his signal
success at Eton and at Oxford; to expatiate on her own devotion to him,
and the great expectations founded by all his family upon his high
character and splendid abilities. She added that he had the finest
temper in the world, and that he was ardently affectionate.

Bessie smiled at this. She believed that she knew where his ardent
affections were centred; and then she blushed at the tormenting
recollection of how she had interpreted his assiduities to herself
before making that discovery. Miss Burleigh saw the blush, seeming to
see nothing, and said softly, "I envy the woman who has to pass her life
with Cecil. I can imagine nothing more contenting than his society to
one he loves."

Bessie's blush was perpetuated. She would have liked to mention Miss
Julia Gardiner, but she felt a restraining delicacy in speaking of what
had come to her knowledge in such a casual way, and more than ever
ashamed of her own ridiculous mistake. Suddenly she broke out with an
odd query, at the same moment clapping her hands to her traitorous
cheeks: "Do you ever blush at your own foolish fancies? Oh, how tiresome
it is to have a trick of blushing! I wish I could get over it."

"It is a trick we get over quite early enough. The fancies girls blush
at are so innocent. I have had none of that pretty sort for a long
while."

Miss Burleigh looked sympathetic and amused. Bessie was silent for a few
minutes and full of thought. Presently, in a musing, meditative voice,
she said, "Ambition! I suppose all men who have force enough to do great
things long for an opportunity to do them; and that we call ambition.
Harry Musgrave is ambitious. He is going to be a lawyer. What can a
famous lawyer become?"

"Lord chancellor, the highest civil dignity under the Crown."

"Then I shall set my mind on seeing Harry lord chancellor," cried Bessie
with bold conclusion.

"And when he retires from office, though he may have held it for ever so
short a time, he will have a pension of five thousand a year."

"How pleasant! What a grateful country! Then he will be able to buy
Brook and spend his holidays there. Dear old Harry! We were like brother
and sister once, and I feel as if I had a right to be proud of him, as
you are of your brother Cecil. Women have no chance of being ambitious
on their own account, have they?"

"Oh yes. Women are as ambitious of rank, riches, and power as men are;
and some are ambitious of doing what they imagine to be great deeds. You
will probably meet one at Brentwood, a most beautiful lady she is--a
Mrs. Chiverton."

Bessie's countenance flashed: "She was a Miss Hiloe, was she not--Ada
Hiloe? I knew her. She was at Madame Fournier's--she and a younger
sister--during my first year there."

"Then you will be glad to meet again. She was married in Paris only the
other day, and has come into Woldshire a bride. They say she is showing
herself a prodigy of benevolence round her husband's magnificent seat
already: she married him that she might have the power to do good with
his immense wealth. There must always be some self-sacrifice in a lofty
ambition, but hers is a sacrifice that few women could endure to pay."

Bessie held her peace. She had been instructed how all but impossible it
is to live in the world and be absolutely truthful; and what perplexed
her in this new character of her old school-fellow she therefore
supposed to be the veil of glamour which the world requires to have
thrown over an ugly, naked truth.

About eleven o'clock the two young ladies walked out across the park
towards the lodge, to pay a visit to Mrs. Stokes. Then they walked on to
the village, and home again by the mill. The morning seemed long drawn
out. Then followed luncheon, and after it Mr. Cecil Burleigh drove in an
open carriage with Bessie and his sister to Hartwell. The afternoon was
very clear and pleasant, and the scenery sufficiently varied. On the
road Bessie learnt that Hartwell was the early home of Lady Latimer, and
still the residence of her bachelor brother and two maiden sisters.

The very name of Lady Latimer acted like a spell on Bessie. She had been
rather silent and reserved until she heard it, and then all at once she
roused up into a vivid interest. Mr. Cecil Burleigh studied her more
attentively than he had done hitherto. Miss Burleigh said, "Lady Latimer
is another of our ambitious women. Miss Fairfax fancies women can have
no ambition on their own account, Cecil. I have been telling her of Mrs.
Chiverton."

"And what does Miss Fairfax say of Mrs. Chiverton's ambition?" asked Mr.
Cecil Burleigh.

"Nothing," rejoined Bessie. But her delicate lip and nostril expressed a
great deal.

The man of the world preferred her reticence to the wisest speech. He
mused for several minutes before he spoke again himself. Then he gave
air to some of his reflections: "Lady Latimer has great qualities. Her
marriage was the blunder of her youth. Her girlish imagination was
dazzled by the name of a lord and the splendor of Umpleby. It remains to
be considered that she was not one of the melting sort, and that she
made her life noble."

Here Miss Burleigh took up the story: "That is true. But she would have
made it more noble if she had been faithful to her first love--to your
grandfather, Miss Fairfax."

Bessie colored. "Oh, were they fond of each other when they were young?"
she asked wondering.

"Your grandfather was devoted to her. He had just succeeded to
Abbotsmead. All the world thought it would be a match, and great
promotion for her too, when she met Lord Latimer. He was sixty and she
was nineteen, and they lived together thirty-seven years, for he
survived into quite extreme old age."

"And she had no children, and my grandfather married somebody else?"
said Bessie with a plaintive fall in her voice.

"She had no children, and your grandfather married somebody else. Lady
Latimer was a most excellent wife to her old tyrant."

Bessie looked sorrowful: "Was he a tyrant? I wonder whether she ever
pities herself for the love she threw away? She is quite alone--she
would give anything that people should love her now, I have heard them
say in the Forest."

"That is the revenge that slighted love so often takes. But she must
have satisfaction in her life too. She was always more proud than
tender, except perhaps to her friend, Dorothy Fairfax. You have heard of
your great-aunt Dorothy?"

"Yes. I have succeeded to her rooms, to her books. My grandfather says I
remind him of her."

"Dorothy Fairfax never forgave Lady Latimer. They had been familiar
friends, and there was a double separation. Oh, it is quite a romance!
My aunt, Lady Angleby, could tell you all about it, for she was quite
one with them at Abbotsmead and Hartwell in those days; indeed, the
intimacy has never been interrupted. And you know Lady Latimer--you
admire her?"

"I used to admire her enthusiastically. I should like to see her again."

After this there was silence until the drive ended at Hartwell. Bessie
was meditating on the glimpse she had got into the pathetic past of her
grandfather's life, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his sister were
meditating upon her.

Hartwell was a modest brick house within a garden skirting the road. It
had a retired air, as of a poor gentleman's house whose slender fortunes
limit his tastes: Mr. Oliver Smith's fortunes were very slender, and he
shared them with two maiden sisters. The shrubs were well grown and the
grass was well kept, but there was no show of the gorgeous scentless
flowers which make the gardens of the wealthy so gay and splendid in
summer. Ivy clothed the walls, and old-fashioned flowers bloomed all
the year round in the borders, but it was not a very cheerful garden in
the afternoon.

Two elderly ladies were pacing the lawn arm-in-arm, with straw hats
tilted over their noses, when the Abbotsmead carriage stopped at the
gate. They stood an instant to see whose it was, and then hurried
forward to welcome their visitors.

"This is very kind, Mr. Cecil, very kind, Miss Mary; but you always are
kind in remembering old friends," said the elder, Miss Juliana, and then
was silent, gazing at Bessie.

"This is Miss Fairfax," said Mr. Cecil Burleigh. "Lady Latimer has no
doubt named her in her letters."

"Ah! yes, yes--what am I dreaming about? Charlotte," turning to her
sister, "who is she like?"

"She is like poor Dorothy," was the answer in a tremulous, solemn voice.
"What will Oliver say?"

"How long is it since Lady Latimer saw you, my dear?" asked Miss
Juliana.

"Three years. I have not been home to the Forest since I left it to go
to school in France."

"Ah! Then that accounts for our sister not having mentioned to us your
wonderful resemblance to your great-aunt, Dorothy Fairfax. Three years
alter and refine a child's chubby face into a young woman's face."

Miss Juliana seemed to be thrown into irretrievable confusion by
Bessie's apparition and her own memory. She was quite silent as she led
the way to the house, walking between Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his sister.
Miss Charlotte walked behind with Bessie, and remarked that she was
pleased to have a link of acquaintance with her already by means of Lady
Latimer. Bessie asked whether Lady Latimer was likely soon to come into
Woldshire.

"We have not heard that she has any present intention of visiting us.
Her visits are few and far between," was the formal reply.

"I wish she would. When I was a little girl she was my ideal of all that
is grand, gracious, and lovely," said Bessie.

Bessie's little outbreak had done her good, had set her tongue at
liberty. Her self-consciousness was growing less obtrusive. Mr. Cecil
Burleigh explained to her the legal process of an election for a member
of Parliament, and Miss Burleigh sat by in satisfied silence, observing
the quick intelligence of her face and the flattered interest in her
brother's. At the park gates, Mr. Fairfax, returning from a visit to one
of his farmsteads where building was in progress, met the carriage and
got in. His first question was what Mr. Oliver Smith had said about the
coming election, and whether he would be in Norminster the following
day.

The news about Buller troubled him no little, to judge by his
countenance, but he did not say much beyond an exclamation that they
would carry the contest through, let it cost what it might. "We have
been looking forward to this contest ever since Bradley was returned
five years ago; we will not be so faint-hearted as to yield without a
battle. If we are defeated again, we may count Norminster lost to the
Conservative interest."

"Oh, don't talk of defeat! We shall be far more likely to win if we
refuse to contemplate the possibility of defeat," cried Bessie with
girlish vivacity.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh laughed and said, "Miss Fairfax is right. She will
wear my colors and I will adopt her logic, and, ostrich-like, refuse to
see the perils that threaten me."

"No, no," remonstrated Bessie casting off her shy reserve under
encouragement. "So far from hiding your face, you must make it familiar
in every street in Norminster. You must seek if you would find, and ask
if you would have. I would. I should hate to be beaten by my own
neglect, worse than by my rival."

Mr. Fairfax was electrified at this brusque assertion of her sentiments
by his granddaughter. Her audacity seemed at least equal to her shyness.
"Very good advice, Elizabeth; make him follow it," said he dryly.

"We will give him no rest when we have him at Brentwood," added Miss
Burleigh. "But though he is so cool about it, I believe he is dreadfully
in earnest. Are you not, Cecil?"

"I will not be beaten by my own neglect," was his rejoinder, with a
glance at Bessie, blushing beautifully.

They did not relapse into constraint any more that day. There was no
addition to the company at dinner, and the evening being genially warm,
they enjoyed it in the garden. Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Miss Fairfax even
strolled as far as the ruins in the park, and on the way he enlightened
her respecting some of his opinions, tastes, and prejudices. She heard
him attentively, and found him very instructive. His clever conversation
was a compliment to which, as a bright girl, she was not insensible. His
sister had detailed to him her behavior on her introduction to Lady
Angleby, and had deplored her lively sense of the ridiculous. Miss
Burleigh had the art of taming that her brother credited her with, and
Elizabeth was already at ease and happy with her--free to be herself, as
she felt, and not always on guard and measuring her words; and the more
of her character that she revealed, the better Miss Burleigh liked her.
Her gayety of temper was very attractive when it was kept within due
bounds, and she had a most sweet docility of tractableness when
approached with caution. At the close of the evening she retired to her
white parlor with a rather exalted feeling of responsibility, having
promised, at Mr. Cecil Burleigh's instigation, to study certain essays
of Lord Bacon on government and seditions in states for the informing of
her mind. She took the volume down from Dorothy Fairfax's bookshelf, and
laid it on her table for a reminder. Miss Burleigh saw it there in the
morning.

"Ah, dear Cecil! He will try to make you very wise and learned," said
she, nodding her head and smiling significantly. "But never mind: he
waltzes to perfection, and delights in a ball, no man more."

"Does he?" cried Bessie, amused and laughing. "That potent, grave, and
reverend signor can condescend, then, to frivolities! Oh, when shall we
have a ball that I may waltz with him?"

"Soon, if all go successfully at the election. Lady Angleby will give a
ball if Cecil win and you ask her."

"_I_ ask her! But I should never dare."

"She will be only too glad of the opportunity, and you may dare anything
with her when she is pleased. She has always been dear Cecil's fast
friend, and his triumph will be hers. She will want to celebrate it
joyously, and nothing is really so joyous as a good dance. We will have
a good dance."



CHAPTER XXIII.

_BESSIE SHOWS CHARACTER._


At breakfast, Mr. Fairfax handed a letter to Bessie. "From home, from my
mother," said she in a glad undertone, and instantly, without apology,
opened and read it. Mr. Cecil Burleigh took a furtive observation of her
while she was thus occupied. What a good countenance she had! how the
slight emotion of her lips and the lustrous shining under her dark
eyelashes enhanced her beauty! It was a letter to make her happy, to
give her a light heart to go to Brentwood with. Mrs. Carnegie was always
sympathetic, cheerful, and loving in her letters. She encouraged her
dear Bessie to reconcile herself to absence, and attach herself to her
new home by cultivating all its sources of interest, and especially the
affection of her grandfather. She gave her much tender, reasonable
advice for her guidance, and she gave her good news: they were all well
at home and at Brook, and Harry Musgrave had come out in honors at
Oxford. The sunshine of pure content irradiated Bessie's face. She
looked up; she wanted to communicate her joy. Her grandfather looked up
at the same moment, and their eyes met.

"Would you like to read it? It is from my mother," she said, holding out
the letter with an impulse to be good to him.

"I can trust you with your correspondence, Elizabeth," was his reply.

She drew back her hand quickly, and laid down the letter by her plate.
She sipped her tea, her throat aching, her eyes swimming. The squire
began to talk rather fast and loud, and in a few minutes, the meal being
over, he pushed away his chair and left the room.

"The train we go into Norminster by reaches Mitford Junction at ten
thirty-five," observed Mr. Cecil Burleigh.

Bessie rose and vanished with a mutinous air, which made him laugh and
whisper to his sister, as she disappeared, that the young lady had a
rare spirit. Mr. Fairfax was in the hall. She went swiftly up to him,
and laying a hand on his arm, said, in a quivering, resolute voice,
"Read my letter, grandpapa. If you will not recognize those I have the
best right to love, we shall be strangers always, you and I."

"Come up stairs: I will read your letter," said the old man shortly, and
he mounted to her parlor, she still keeping her hold on his arm. He
stood at her table and read it, and laid it down without a word, but,
glancing aside at her pleasing face, he was moved to kiss her, and then
promptly effected his escape from her tyranny. He was not displeased,
and Bessie was triumphant.

"Now we can begin to be friends," she cried softly, clapping her hands.
"I refuse to be frightened. I shall always tell him my news, and make
him listen. If he is sarcastic, I won't care. He will respect me if I
assert my right to be respected, and maintain that my father and mother
at Beechhurst have the first and best claim on my love. He shall not
recognize them as belonging only to my past life; he shall acknowledge
them as belonging to me always. And Harry too!"

These strong resolutions arising out of that letter from the Forest
exhilarated Bessie exceedingly. There was perhaps more guile in her than
was manifest on slight acquaintance, but it was the guile of a wise,
warm heart. All trace of emotion had passed away when she came down
stairs, and when her grandfather, assisting her into the carriage,
squeezed her fingers confidentially, her new, all-pervading sense of
happiness was confirmed and established. And the courage that happiness
inspires was hers too.

At Mitford Junction, Colonel and Mrs. Stokes and Mr. Oliver Smith joined
their party, and they travelled to Norminster together. The old city was
going quietly about its business much as usual when they drove through
the streets to the "George," where Mr. Cecil Burleigh was to meet his
committee and address the electors out of the big middle bow-window.
Miss Jocund's shop was nearly opposite to the inn, and thither the
ladies at once adjourned, that Bessie might assume her blue bonnet. The
others were already handsomely provided. Miss Jocund was quite at
liberty to attend to them at this early hour of the day--her "gentleman"
had not come in yet--and she conducted them to her show-room over the
shop with the complacent alacrity of a milliner confident that she is
about to give supreme satisfaction. And indeed Mrs. Stokes cried out
with rapture, the instant the bonnet filled her eye, that it was "A
sweet little bonnet--blue crape and white marabouts!"

Bessie smiled most becomingly as it was tried on, and blushed at herself
in the glass. "But a shower of rain will spoil it," she objected,
nodding the downy white feathers that topped the brim. She was
proceeding philosophically to tie the glossy broad strings in a bow
under her round chin when Miss Jocund stepped hastily to the rescue, and
Mrs. Betts entered with a curtsey, and a blue silk slip on her arm.
"What next?" Bessie demanded of the waiting-woman in rosy consternation.

"I am afraid we must trouble you, Miss Fairfax, but not much, I hope,"
insinuated Miss Jocund with a queer, deprecating humility. "There is a
good half hour to spare. Since Eve put on a little cool foliage, female
dress has developed so extensively that it is necessary to try some
ladies on six times to avoid a misfit. But your figure is perfectly
proportioned, and I resolved, for once, to chance it on my knowledge of
anatomy, supplemented by an embroidered dress from your wardrobe. If you
_will_ be _so_ kind: a stitch here and a stitch there, and my delightful
duty is accomplished."

Miss Jocund's speeches had always a touch of mockery, and Bessie, being
in excellent spirits, laughed good-humoredly, but denied her request.
"No, no," said she, "I will not be so kind. Your lovely blue bonnet
would be thrown away if I did not look pleasant under it, and how could
I look pleasant after the painful ordeal of trying on?"

Mrs. Stokes, with raised eyebrows, was about to remonstrate, Mrs. Betts,
with flushed dismay, was about to argue, when Miss Jocund interposed;
she entered into the young lady's sentiments: "Miss Fairfax has spoken,
and Miss Fairfax is right. A pleasant look is the glory of a woman's
face, and without a pleasant look, if I were a single gentleman a woman
might wear a coal-scuttle for me."

At this crisis there occurred a scuffle and commotion on the stairs, and
Bessie recognized a voice she had heard elsewhere--a loud, ineffectual
voice--pleading, "Master Justus, Master Justus, you are not to go to
your granny in the show-room;" and in Master Justus bounced--lovely,
delicious, in the whitest of frilly pinafores and most boisterous of
naughty humors.

Bessie Fairfax stooped down and opened her arms with rapturous
invitation. "Come, oh, you bonnie boy!" and she caught him up, shook
him, kissed him, tickled him, with an exuberant fun that he evidently
shared, and frantically retaliated by pulling down her hair.

This was very agreeable to Bessie, but Miss Jocund looked like an angry
sphinx, and as the defeated nurse appeared she said with suppressed
excitement, "Sally, how often must I warn you to keep the boy out of the
show-room? Carry him away." The flaxen cherub was born off kicking and
howling; Bessie looked as if she were being punished herself, Mrs.
Stokes stood confounded, Mrs. Betts turned red. Only Miss Burleigh
seemed unaffected, and inquired simply whose that little boy was.
"_Mine_, ma'am," replied the milliner with an emphasis that forbade
further question. But Miss Burleigh's reflective powers were awakened.

Mrs. Betts, that woman of resources and experience, standing with the
blue silk slip half dropt on the Scotch carpet at her feet, reverted to
the interrupted business of the hour as if there had been no break. "And
if, when it comes to dressing this evening at Lady Angleby's, there's
not a thing that fits?" she bitterly suggested.

"I will answer for it that everything fits," said Miss Jocund,
recovering herself with more effort. "I have worked on true principles.
But"--with a persuasive inclination towards Bessie--"if Miss Fairfax
will condescend to inspect my productions, she will gratify me and
herself also."

As she spoke Miss Jocund threw open the door of an adjoining room, where
the said productions were elaborately laid out, and Mrs. Stokes ran in
to have the first view. Miss Burleigh followed. Bessie, with a rather
unworthy distrust, refused to advance beyond the doorway; but, looking
in, she beheld clouds upon clouds of blue and white puffery, tulle and
tarletan, and shining breadths of silk of the same delicate hues, with
fans, gloves, bows, wreaths, shoes, ribbons, sashes, laces--a portentous
confusion. After a few seconds of disturbed contemplation, during which
she was lending an ear to the remote shrieks of that darling boy, she
said--and surely it was provoking!--"The half would be better than the
whole. I am sorry for you, Mrs. Betts, if you are to have all those
works of art on your mind till they are worn out."

"Indeed, miss, if you don't show more feeling, my mind will give way,"
retorted Mrs. Betts. "It is the first time in my long experience that
ever a young lady so set me at defiance as to refuse to try on new
dresses. And all one's credit at stake upon her appearance! In a great
house like Brentwood, too!"

Those piercing cries continued to rise higher and higher. Miss Jocund,
with a vexed exclamation, dropped some piece of finery on which she was
beginning to dilate, and vanished by another door. In a minute the noise
was redoubled with a passionate intensity. Bessie's eyes filled; she
knew that old-fashioned discipline was being administered, and her heart
ached dreadfully. She even offered to rush to the rescue, but Mrs. Betts
intercepted her with a stern "Better let me do up your hair, miss,"
while Mrs. Stokes, moved by sympathetic tenderness, whispered, "Stop
your ears; it is necessary, _quite_ necessary, now and then, I assure
you." Oh, did not Bessie know? had she not little brothers? When there
was silence, Miss Jocund returned, and without allusion to the nursery
tragedy resumed her task of displaying the fruits of her toils.

Bessie, with a yearning sigh, composed herself, laid hands on her blue
bonnet while nobody was observing, and moved away to an open window in
the show-room that commanded the street. Deliberately she tied the
strings in the fashion that pleased her, and seated herself to look out
where a few men and boys were collecting on the edge of the pavement to
await the appearance of the Conservative candidate at the bow-window
over the portico of the "George." Presently, Mrs. Stokes joined her,
shaking her head, and saying with demure rebuke, "You naughty girl! And
this is all you care for pretty things?" Miss Burleigh, with more real
seriousness, hoped that the pretty things would be right. Miss Jocund
came forward with a natural professional anxiety to hear their opinions,
and when she saw the bonnet-strings tied clasped her hands in acute
regret, but said nothing. Mrs. Betts, a picture of injured virtue, held
herself aloof beyond the sea of finery, gazing across it at her
insensible young mistress with eyes of mournful indignation. Bessie felt
herself the object of general misunderstanding and reproach, and was
stirred up to extenuate her untoward behavior in a strain of mischievous
sarcasm.

"Don't look so distressed, all of you," she pleaded. "How can I interest
myself to-day in anything but Mr. Cecil Burleigh's address to the
electors of Norminster and my own new bonnet?"

"_That_ is very becoming, for a consolation," said the milliner with an
affronted air.

"I think it is," rejoined Bessie coolly. "And if you will not bedizen me
with artificial flowers, and will exonerate me from wearing dresses that
crackle, I shall be happy. Did you not promise to give me simplicity and
no imitations, Miss Jocund?"

"I cannot deny it, Miss Fairfax. Natural leaves and flowers are my
taste, and graceful soft outlines of drapery; but when it is the mode to
wear tall wreaths of painted calico, and to be bustled off in twenty
yards of stiff, cheap tarletan, most ladies conform to the mode, on the
axiom that they might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion.
And nothing comes up so ugly and outrageous but there are some who will
have it in the very extreme."

"I am quite aware of the pains many women take to be displeasing, but I
thought you understood that was not 'my style, my taste,'" said Bessie,
quoting the milliner's curt query at their first interview.

"I understand now, Miss Fairfax, that there are things here you would
rather be without. I will not pack up the tarletan skirts and artificial
flowers. With the two morning silks and two dinner silks, and the tulle
over the blue slip for a possible dance, perhaps you will be able to go
through your visit to Brentwood?"

"I trust so," said Bessie. "But if I need anything more I will write to
you."

There was an odd pause of silence, in which Bessie looked out of the
window, and the rest looked at one another with a furtive, defeated,
amused acknowledgment that this young lady, so ignorant of the world,
knew how to take her own part, and would not be controlled in the
exercise of her senses by any irregular, usurped authority. Mrs. Betts
saw her day-dream of perquisites vanish. Both she and Miss Jocund had
got their lesson, and they remembered it.

A welcome interruption came with the sound of swift wheels and
high-stepping horses in the street, and the ladies pressed forward to
see. "Lady Angleby's carriage," said Miss Burleigh as it whirled past
and drew up at the "George." She was now in haste to be gone and join
her aunt, but Bessie lingered at the window to witness the great lady's
reception by the gentlemen who came out of the inn to meet her. Mr.
Cecil Burleigh was foremost, and Mr. Fairfax, Mr. Oliver Smith, Mr.
Forbes, and several more, yet strangers to Bessie, supported him. One
who bowed with extreme deference she recognized, at a second glance, as
Mr. John Short, her grandfather's companion on his memorable visit to
Beechhurst, which resulted in her severance from that dear home of her
childhood. The sight of him brought back some vexed recollections, but
she sighed and shook them off, and on Miss Burleigh's again inviting her
to come away to the "George" to Lady Angleby, she rose and followed her.

"Look pleasant," said Miss Jocund, standing by the door as Bessie went
out, and Bessie laughed and was obedient.



CHAPTER XXIV.

_A QUIET POLICY._


Lady Angleby received Bessie Fairfax with a gracious affability, and if
Bessie had desired to avail herself of the privilege there was a cheek
offered her to kiss, but she did not appear to see it. Her mind was
running on that boy, and her countenance was blithe as sunshine. Mr.
Laurence Fairfax came forward to shake hands, and Mr. John Short
respectfully claimed her acquaintance. They were in a smaller room,
adjoining the committee-room, where the majority of the gentlemen had
assembled, and Bessie said to Miss Burleigh, "We should see and hear
better in Miss Jocund's window;" but Miss Burleigh showed her that Miss
Jocund's window was already filled, and that the gathering on the
pavement was increasing. Soon after twelve it increased fast, with the
workmen halting during a few minutes of their hour's release for dinner,
but it never became a crowd, and the affair was much flatter than Bessie
had expected. The new candidate was introduced by Mr. Oliver Smith, who
spoke very briefly, and then made way for the candidate himself. Bessie
could not see Mr. Cecil Burleigh, nor hear his words, but she observed
that he was listened to, and jeeringly questioned only twice, and on
both occasions his answer was received with cheers.

"You will read his speech in the _Norminster Gazette_ on Saturday, or he
will tell you the substance of it," Miss Burleigh said. "Extremes meet
in politics as in other things, and much of Cecil's creed will suit the
root-and-branch men as well as the fanatics of his own party." Bessie
wondered a little, but said nothing; she had thought moderation Mr.
Cecil Burleigh's characteristic.

A school of young ladies passed without difficulty behind the scanty
throng, and five minutes after the speaking was over the street was
empty.

"Buller was not there," said Mr. John Short to Mr. Oliver Smith, and
from the absence of mirth amongst the gentlemen, Bessie conjectured that
there was a general sense of failure and disappointment.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh preserved his dignified composure, and came up to
Bessie, who said, "This is only the beginning?"

"Only the beginning--the real work is all to do," said he, and entered
into a low-toned exposition thereof quite calmly.

It was at this moment that Mr. John Short, happening to cast an eye upon
the two, received one of those happy inspirations that visit in
emergency men of superior resources and varied experience. At Lady
Angleby's behest the pretty ladies in blue bonnets set out to shop, pay
calls in the town, and show their colors, and the agent attached himself
to the party. They all left the "George" together, but it was not long
before they divided, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Bessie, having nowhere
particular where they wished to go, wandered towards the minster. Mr.
John Short, without considering whether his company might be acceptable,
adhered to them, and at length boldly suggested that they were not far
from the thoroughfare in which the "Red Lion" was situated, and that a
word from the aspirant candidate to Buller might not be thrown away.

It was the hour of the afternoon when the host of the "Red Lion" sat at
the receipt of news and custom, smoking his pipe after dinner in the
shade of an old elm tree by his own door. He was a burly man, with a
becoming sense of his importance and weight in the world, and as honest
a desire to do his share in mending it as his betters. He was not to be
bought by any of the usual methods of electioneering sale and barter,
but he had a soft place in his heart that Mr. John Short knew of, and
was not therefore to be relinquished as altogether invulnerable.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh could not affect the jocose and familiar, but perhaps
his plain way of address was a higher compliment to the publican's
understanding. "Is it true, Buller, that you balance about voting again
for Bradley? Think of it, and see if you cannot return to the old flag,"
was all he said.

"Sir, I mean to think of it," replied Buller with equal directness. "I'm
pleased with what I hear of you, and I like a gentleman, but Bradley
explains his puzzling conduct very plausibly: it is no use being
factious and hindering business in the House, as he says. And it can't
be denied that there's Tory members in the House as factious as any of
them pestilent Radical chaps that get up strikes out of doors. I'm not
saying that you would be one of them, sir."

"I hope not. For no party considerations would I hinder any advance or
reform that I believe to be for the good of the country."

"I am glad to hear it, sir; you would be what we call an independent
member. My opinion is, sir, that sound progress feels its way and takes
one step at a time, and if it tries to go too fast it overleaps itself."

Mr. Cecil Burleigh was not prepared for political disquisition on the
pavement in front of the "Red Lion," but he pondered an instant on Mr.
Buller's platitude as if it were a new revelation, and then said with
quiet cordiality, "Well, think of it, and if you decide to give me your
support, it will be the more valuable as being given on conviction.
Good-day to you, Buller."

The publican had risen, and laid aside his pipe. "Good-day to you, sir,"
said he, and as Bessie inclined her fair head to him also, he bowed with
more confusion and pleasure than could have been expected from the host
of a popular tavern.

Mr. John Short lingered behind, and as the beautiful young people
retired out of hearing, admiringly watched by the publican, the lawyer
plied his insinuating craft and whispered, "You are always a
good-natured man, Buller. Look at those two--_No election, no wedding_."

"You don't say so!" ejaculated Buller with kindly sympathy in his voice.
"A pretty pair, indeed, to run in a curricle! I should think now his
word's as good as his bond--eh? Egad, then, I'll give 'em a plumper!"

The agent shook hands with him on it delighted. "You are a man of your
word too, Buller. I thank you," he said with fervor, and felt that this
form of bribery and corruption had many excuses besides its success. He
did not intend to divulge by what means the innkeeper's pledge had been
obtained, lest his chief might not quite like it, and with a few nods,
becks, and half-words he ensured Buller's silence on the delicate family
arrangement that he had so prematurely confided to his ear. And then he
went back to the "George" with the approving conscience of an agent who
has done his master good secret service without risking any impeachment
of his honor. He fully expected that time would make his words true.
Unless in that confidence, Mr. Short was not the man to have spoken
them, even to win an election.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Miss Fairfax strolled a little farther, and then
retraced their steps to the minster, and went in to hear the anthem.
Presently appeared in the distance Mr. Fairfax and Miss Burleigh, and
when the music was over signed to them to come away. Lady Angleby was
waiting in the carriage at the great south door to take them home, and
in the beautiful light of the declining afternoon they drove out of the
town to Brentwood--a big, square, convenient old house, surrounded by a
pleasant garden divided from the high-road by a belt of trees.

Mrs. Betts was already installed in the chamber allotted to her young
lady, and had spread out the pretty new clothes she was to wear. She was
deeply serious, and not disposed to say much after her morning's lesson.
Bessie had apparently dismissed the recollection of it. She came in all
good-humor and cheerfulness. She hummed a soft little tune, and for the
first time submitted patiently to the assiduities of the experienced
waiting-woman. Mrs. Betts did not fail to make her own reflections
thereupon, and to interpret favorably Miss Fairfax's evidently happy
preoccupation.



CHAPTER XXV.

_A DINNER AT BRENTWOOD._


There was rejoicing at Brentwood that evening. All the guests staying in
the house were assembled in the drawing-room before dinner, when Mr.
Oliver Smith, who had retained quarters at the "George," walked in with
an appearance of high satisfaction, and immediately began to say, "I
bring you good news. Buller has made up his mind to do the right thing,
Burleigh, and give you a plumper. He hailed my cab as I was passing the
'Red Lion' on my road here, and told me his decision. Do you carry
witchcraft about with you?"

"Buller could not resist the old name and the old colors. Miss Fairfax
is my witchcraft," said Mr. Cecil Burleigh with a profound bow to
Bessie, in gay acknowledgment of her unconscious services.

Bessie blushed with pleasure, and said, "Indeed, I never opened my
mouth."

"Oh, charms work in silence," said Mr. Oliver Smith.

Lady Angleby was delighted; Mr. Fairfax looked gratified, and gave his
granddaughter an approving nod.

The next and last arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Chiverton. Mr. Chiverton
was known to all present, but the bride was a stranger except to one or
two. She was attired in rich white silk--in full dress--so terribly
trying to the majority of women, and Bessie Fairfax's first thought on
seeing her again was how much less beautiful she was than in her simple
_percale_ dresses at school. She did not notice Bessie at once, but when
their eyes met and Bessie smiled, she ran to embrace her with expansive
cordiality. Bessie, her beaming comeliness notwithstanding, could assume
in an instant a touch-me-not air, and gave her hand only, though that
with a kind frankness; and then they sat down and talked of Caen.

Mrs. Chiverton's report as a woman of extraordinary beauty and virtue
had preceded her into her husband's country, but to the general observer
Miss Fairfax was much more pleasing. She also wore full dress--white
relieved with blue--but she was also able to wear it with a grace; for
her arms were lovely, and all her contours fair, rounded, and dimpled,
while Mrs. Chiverton's tall frame, though very stately, was very bony,
and her little head and pale, classical face, her brown hair not
abundant, and eyes too cold and close together, with that expression of
intense pride which is a character in itself, required a taste
cultivated amidst statuary to appreciate. This taste Mr. Chiverton
possessed, and his wife satisfied it perfectly.

Bessie looked at Mr. Chiverton with curiosity, and looked quickly away
again, retaining an impression of a cur-like face with a fixed sneer
upon it. He was not engaged in conversation at the time; he was
contemplating his handsome wife with critical admiration, as he might
have contemplated a new acquisition in his gallery of antique marbles.
In his eyes the little girl beside her was a mere golden-haired, rosy,
plump rustic, who served as a foil to his wife's Minerva-like beauty.

Lady Angleby was great lady enough to have her own by-laws of etiquette
in her own house, and her nephew was assigned to take Miss Fairfax to
dinner. They sat side by side, and were wonderfully sociable at one end
of the table, with the hostess and Mr. Fairfax facing them at the other.
Besides the guests already introduced, there was one other gentleman,
very young--Sir Edward Lucas--whose privilege it was to escort Mrs.
Chiverton. Mr. Forbes gave his arm to Miss Burleigh. Mr. Chiverton and
Mr. Oliver Smith had no ladies: Lady Angleby liked a preponderance of
gentlemen at her entertainments. Everybody talked and was pleasant, and
Bessie Fairfax felt almost at ease, so fast does confidence grow in the
warm atmosphere of courtesy and kindness. When the ladies retired to the
drawing-room she was bidden to approach Lady Angleby's footstool, and
treated caressingly; while Mrs. Chiverton was allowed to converse on
philanthropic missions with Miss Burleigh, who yawned behind her fan and
marvelled at the splendor of the bride's jewels.

In the dining-room conversation became more animated when the gentlemen
were left to themselves. Mr. Chiverton loved to take the lead. He had
said little during dinner, but now he began to talk with vivacity, and
was heard with the attention that must be paid to an old man possessed
of enormous wealth and the centre of great connexions. He was accustomed
to this deference, and cared perhaps for none other. He had a vast
contempt for his fellow-creatures, and was himself almost universally
detested. But he could bear it, sustained by the bitter tonic of his own
numerous aversions. One chief aversion was present at this moment in the
elegant person of Mr. Oliver Smith. Mr. Oliver Smith was called not too
strong in the head, but he was good, and possessed the irresistible
influence of goodness. Mr. Chiverton hated his mild tenacity. His own
temper was purely despotic. He had represented a division of the county
for several years, and had finally retired from Parliament in dudgeon at
the success of the Liberal party and policy. After some general remarks
on the approaching election, came up the problem of reconciling the
quarrel between labor and capital, then already growing to such
proportions that the whole community, alarmed, foresaw that it might
have ere long to suffer with the disputants. The immediate cause of the
reference was the fact of a great landowner named Gifford having asked
for soldiers from Norminster to aid his farmers in gathering in the
harvest, which was both early and abundant. The request had been
granted. The dearth of labor on his estates arose from various causes,
but primarily from there not being cottages enough to house the
laborers, his father and he having both pursued the policy of driving
them to a distance to keep down the rates.

"The penuriousness of rich men is a constant surprise to me," said Mr.
Forbes. "Dunghill cottages are not so frequent as they were, but there
are still a vast number too many. When old Gifford made a solitude
round him, Blagg built those reed-thatched hovels at Morte which
contribute more poor rogues to the quarter sessions than all the
surrounding parishes. That strip of debatable land is the seedbed of
crime and misery: the laborers take refuge in the hamlet, and herd
together as animals left to their own choice never do herd; but their
walk to and from their work is shortened by one half, and they have
their excuse. We should probably do the same ourselves."

"The cottages of the small proprietors are always the worst," remarked
Mr. Chiverton.

"If you and Gifford would combine to rebuild the houses you have allowed
to decay or have pulled down, Morte would soon be left to the owls and
the bats," said the clergyman. "By far the larger majority of the men
are employed on your farms, and it is no longer for your advantage that
their strength should be spent in walking miles to work--if ever it was.
You will have to do it. While Jack was left in brute ignorance, it was
possible to satisfy him with brute comforts and control him with brute
discipline; but teach Jack the alphabet, and he becomes as shrewd as his
master. He begins to consider what he is worth, and to readjust the
proportion between his work and his wages--to reflect that the larger
share of the profit is, perhaps, due to himself, seeing that he reaps by
his own toil and sweat, and his master reaps by the toil and sweat of a
score."

Mr. Chiverton had manifested signs of impatience and irritability during
Mr. Forbes's address, and he now said, with his peculiar snarl for which
he was famous, "Once upon a time there was a great redistribution of
land in Egypt, and the fifth part of the increase was given to Pharaoh,
and the other four parts were left to be food to the sowers. If
Providence would graciously send us a universal famine, we might all
begin again on a new foundation."

"Oh, we cannot wait for that--we must do something meanwhile," said Sir
Edward Lucas, understanding him literally. "I expect we shall have to
manage our land less exclusively with an eye to our own revenue from
it."

Mr. Chiverton testily interrupted the young man's words of wisdom: "The
fact is, Jack wants to be master himself. Strikes in the manufacturing
towns are not unnatural--we know how those mercantile people grind their
hands--but since it has come to strikes amongst colliers and miners, I
tremble at the prospect for the country. The spirit of insubordination
will spread and spread until the very plough-boys in the field are
infected."

"A good thing, too, and the sooner the better," said Mr. Oliver Smith.

"No, no!" cried Mr. Fairfax, but Mr. Forbes said that was what they were
coming to. Sir Edward Lucas listened hard. He was fresh from Oxford,
where boating and athletic exercises had been his chief study. His
father was lately dead, and the administration of a great estate had
devolved upon him. His desire was to do his duty by it, and he had to
learn how, that prospect not having been prepared for in his education,
further than by initiation in the field-sports followed by gentlemen.

Mr. Chiverton turned on Mr. Oliver Smith with his snarl: "Your conduct
as a landowner being above reproach, you can afford to look on with
complacency while the rest of the world are being set by the ears."

Mr. Oliver Smith had very little land, but as all there knew what he had
as well as he knew himself, he did not wince. He rejoined: "As a class,
we have had a long opportunity for winning the confidence of the
peasants; some of us have used it--others of us have neglected it and
abused it. If the people these last have held lordship over revolt and
transfer their allegiance to other masters, to demagogues hired in the
streets, who shall blame them?"

"Suppose we all rise above reproach: I mean to try," said Sir Edward
Lucas with an eagerness of interest that showed his good-will. "Then if
my people can find a better master, let them go."

Mr. Cecil Burleigh turned to the young man: "It depends upon yourself
whether they shall find a better master or not. Resolve that they shall
not. Consider your duty to the land and those upon it as the vocation of
your life, and you will run a worthy career."

Sir Edward was at once gratified and silenced. Mr. Cecil Burleigh's
reputation was greater yet than his achievement, but a man's
possibilities impress the young and enthusiastic even more than his
successes accomplished.

"You hold subversive views, Burleigh--views to which the public mind is
not educated up, nor will be in this generation," said Mr. Chiverton.
"The old order of things will last my time."

"Changes move fast now-a-days," said Mr. Fairfax. "I should like to see
a constitutional remedy provided for the Giffords of the gentry before I
depart. We are too near neighbors to be friends, and Morte adjoins my
property."

"Gifford was brought up in a bad school--a vaporing fellow, not true to
any of his obligations," said Mr. Oliver Smith.

"It is Blagg, his agent, who is responsible," began Mr. Chiverton.

Mr. Oliver Smith interrupted contemptuously: "When a landlord permits an
agent to represent him without supervision, and refuses to look into the
reiterated complaints of his tenants, he gives us leave to suppose that
his agent does him acceptable service."

"I have remonstrated with him myself, but he is cynically indifferent to
public opinion," said Mr. Forbes.

"The public opinion that condemns a man and dines with him is not of
much account," said Mr. Oliver Smith, with a glance at Mr. Chiverton,
the obnoxious Gifford's very good friend.

"Would you have him cut?" demanded Mr. Chiverton. "I grant you that it
is a necessary precaution to have his words in black and white if he is
to be bound by them--"

"You could not well say worse of a gentleman than that, Chiverton--eh?"
suggested Mr. Fairfax.

There was a minute's silence, and then Mr. Forbes spoke: "I should like
our legal appointments to include advocates of the poor, men of
integrity whose business it would be to watch over the rights and listen
to the grievances of those classes who live by laborious work and are
helpless to resist powerful wrong. Old truth bears repeating: these are
the classes who maintain the state of the world--the laborer that holds
the plough and whose talk is of bullocks, the carpenter, the smith, and
the potter. All these trust to their hands, and are wise in their work,
and when oppression comes they must seek to some one of leisure for
justice. It is a pitiful thing to hear a poor man plead, 'Sir, what can
I do?' when his heart burns with a sense of intolerable wrong, and to
feel that the best advice you can give him is that he should bear it
patiently."

"I call that too sentimental on your part, Forbes," remonstrated Mr.
Chiverton. "The laborers are quiet yet, and guidable as their own oxen,
but look at the trades--striking everywhere. Surely your smiths and
carpenters are proving themselves strong enough to protect their own
interests."

"Yes, by the combination that we should all deprecate amongst our
laborers--only by that. Therefore the wise will be warned in time, for
such example is contagious. Many of our people have lain so long in
discontent that bitter distrust has come of it, and they are ready to
abandon their natural leaders for any leader who promises them more
wages and less toil. If the laborers strike, Smith's and Fairfax's will
probably stick to their furrows, and Gifford's will turn upon him--yours
too, Chiverton, perhaps." Mr. Forbes was very bold.

"God forbid that we should come to that!" exclaimed Mr. Fairfax
devoutly. "We have all something to mend in our ways. Our view of the
responsibility that goes with the possession of land has been too
narrow. If we could put ourselves in the laborer's place!"

"I shall mend nothing: no John Hodge shall dictate to me," cried Mr.
Chiverton in a sneering fury. "A man has a right to do what he likes
with his own, I presume?"

"No, he has not; and especially not when he calls a great territory in
land his own," said Mr. Forbes. "That is the false principle out of
which the bad practice of some of you arises. A few have never been
guided by it--they have acted on the ancient law that the land is the
Lord's, and the profit of the land for all--and many more begin to
acknowledge that it is a false principle by which it is not safe to be
guided any longer. Pushed as far as it will go, the result is Gifford."

"And myself," added Mr. Chiverton in a quieter voice as he rose from his
chair. Mr. Forbes looked at him. The old man made no sign of being
affronted, and they went together into the drawing-room, where he
introduced the clergyman to his wife, saying, "Here, Ada, is a
gentleman who will back you in teaching me my duty to my neighbor;" and
then he went over to Lady Angleby.

"You are on the side of the poor man, then, Mrs. Chiverton?" said Mr.
Forbes pleasantly. "It is certainly a legitimate sphere of female
influence in country neighborhoods."

The stately bride drew her splendid dress aside to make room for him on
the ottoman, and replied in a measured voice, "I am. I tell Mr.
Chiverton that he does not satisfy the reasonable expectations of his
people. I hope to persuade him to a more liberal policy of management on
his immense estates; his revenue from them is very large. It distresses
me to be surrounded by a discontented tenantry, as it would do to be
waited on by discontented servants. A bad cottage is an eyesore on a
rich man's land, and I shall not rest until I get all Chiver-Chase
cleared of bad cottages and picturesquely inconvenient old farmsteads.
The people appeal to me already."

Bessie Fairfax had come up while her old school-fellow was gratifying
Mr. Forbes's ears with her admirable sentiments. She could not forbear a
smile at the candid assertion of power they implied, and as Mr. Forbes
smiled too with a twinkle of amused surprise, Bessie said sportively,
"And if Mr. Chiverton is rebellious and won't take them away, then what
shall you do?"

Mrs. Chiverton was dumb; perhaps this probability had not occurred to
her ruling mind. Mr. Forbes begged to know what Miss Fairfax herself
would do under such circumstances. Bessie considered a minute with her
pretty chin in the air, and then said, "I would not wear my diamonds.
Oh, I would find out a way to bring him to reason!"

A delicate color suffused Mrs. Chiverton's face, and she looked proudly
at Bessie, standing in her bright freedom before her. Bessie caught her
breath; she saw that she had given pain, and was sorry: "You don't care
for my nonsense--you remember me at school," she whispered, and laid her
hand impulsively on the slim folded hands of the young married lady.

"I remember that you found something to laugh at in almost
everything--it is your way," said Mrs. Chiverton coldly, and as her
flush subsided she appeared paler than before. She was so evidently hurt
by something understood or imagined in Bessie's innocent raillery that
Bessie, abashed herself, drew back her hand, and as Mr. Forbes began to
speak with becoming seriousness she took the opportunity of gliding away
to join Miss Burleigh in the glazed verandah.

It was a dark, warm night, but the moon that was rising above the trees
gradually illumined it, and made the garden mysterious with masses of
shadow, black against the silver light. In the distance rose the ghostly
towers of the cathedral. Miss Burleigh feared that the grass was too wet
for them to walk upon it, but they paced the verandah until Mr. Cecil
Burleigh found them and the rising hum of conversation in the
drawing-room announced the appearance of the other gentlemen. Miss
Burleigh then went back to the company, and there was an opportunity for
kind words and soft whisperings between the two who were left, if either
had been thereto inclined; but Bessie's frank, girlish good-humor made
lovers' pretences impossible, and while Mr. Cecil Burleigh felt every
hour that he liked her better, he felt it more difficult to imply it in
his behavior. Bessie, on her side, fully possessed with the idea that
she knew the lady of his love, was fast throwing off all sense of
embarrassment in his kindness to herself; while onlookers, predisposed
to believe what they wished, interpreted her growing ease as an
infallible sign that his progress with her was both swift and sure.

They were still at the glass door of the verandah when Mrs. Chiverton
sought Bessie to bid her good-night. She seemed to have forgotten her
recent offence, and said, "You will come and see me, Miss Fairfax, will
you not? We ought to be friends here."

"Oh yes," cried Bessie, who, when compunction touched her, was ready to
make liberal amends, "I shall be very glad."

Mrs. Chiverton went away satisfied. The other guests not staying in the
house soon followed, and when all were gone there was some discussion of
the bride amongst those who were left. They were of one consent that she
was very handsome and that her jewels were most magnificent.

"But no one envies her, I hope?" said Lady Angleby.

"You do not admire her motive for the marriage? Perhaps you do not
believe in it?" said Mr. Cecil Burleigh.

"I quite believe that she does, but I do not commend her example for
imitation."

Miss Burleigh, lingering a few minutes in Miss Fairfax's room when they
went up stairs, delivered her mind on the matter. "My poor ambition
flies low," she said. "I could be content to give love for love, and do
my duty in the humblest station God might call me to, but not for any
sake could I go into the house of bondage where no love is. Poor Mrs.
Chiverton!"

Bessie made a very unsentimental reply: "Poor Mrs. Chiverton, indeed!
Oh, but she does not want our pity! That old man is a slave to her, just
as the girls were at school. She adores power, and if she is allowed to
help and patronize people, she will be perfectly happy in her way.
Everybody does not care, first and last, to love and be loved. I have
been so long away from everybody who loves me that I am learning to do
without it."

"Oh, my dear, don't fancy that," said Miss Burleigh, and she stroked
Bessie's face and kissed her. "Some of us here are longing to love you
quite as tenderly as any friends you have in the Forest." And then she
bade her good-night and left her to her ruminations.

Miss Burleigh's kiss brought a blush to Bessie's face that was slow to
fade even though she was alone. She sat thinking, her hands clasped, her
eyes dreamily fixed on the flame of the candle. Some incidents on board
the Foam recurred to her mind, and the blush burnt more hotly. Then,
with a sigh, she said to herself, "It is pleasant here, everybody is
good to me, but I wish I could wake up at Beechhurst to-morrow morning,
and have a ride with my father, and mend socks with my mother in the
afternoon. There one felt _safe_."

There was a knock at the door, and Mrs. Betts entered, complacent with
the flattering things that had been said of her young lady in the
steward's room, and willing to repeat them on the smallest
encouragement: "Miss Jocund is really cleverer than could have been
supposed, miss. Your white silk fits most beautiful," she began.

"I was not conscious of being newly dressed to-night, so her work must
be successful," replied Bessie, untying the black velvet round her fair
throat. Mrs. Betts took occasion to suggest that a few more ornaments
would not be amiss. "I don't care for ornaments--I am fond of my old
cross," Bessie said, laying it in the rosy palm of her hand. Then
looking up with a melancholy, reflective smile, she said, "All the
shining stones in the world would not tempt me to sacrifice my liberty."
Mrs. Chiverton was in her thoughts, and Lady Latimer.

Mrs. Betts had a shrewd discernment, and she was beginning to understand
her young lady's character, and to respect it. She had herself a vein of
feeling deeper than the surface; she had seen those she loved suffer,
and she spoke in reply to Miss Fairfax with heartfelt solemnity: "It is
a true thing, miss, and nobody has better cause than me to know it, that
happiness does not belong to rank and riches. It belongs nowhere for
certain, but them that are good have most of it. For let the course of
their lives run ever so contrary, they have a peace within, given by One
above, that the proud and craving never have. Mr. Frederick's wife--she
bears the curse that has been in her family for generations, but she had
a pious bringing-up, and, poor lady! though her wits forsook her, her
best comfort never did."

"Some day, Mrs. Betts, I shall ask you to tell me her story," Bessie
said.

"There is not much to tell, miss. She was the second Miss Lovel (her
sister and she were co-heiresses)--not to say a beauty, but a sweet
young lady, and there was a true attachment between her and Mr.
Frederick. It was in this very house they met--in this very house he
slept after that ball where he asked her to marry him. It is not telling
secrets to tell how happy she was. Your grandfather, the old squire,
would have been better pleased had it been some other lady, because of
what was in the blood, but he did not offer to stop it, and they lived
at Abbotsmead after they were married. The house was all new done-up to
welcome her; that octagon parlor was her design. She brought Mr.
Frederick a great fortune, and they loved one another dearly, but it did
not last long. She had a baby, and lost it, and was never quite herself
after. Poor thing! poor thing!"

"And my uncle Laurence's wife," said Bessie, not to dwell on that
tragedy of which she knew the issue.

"Oh! Mr. Laurence's wife!" said Mrs. Betts in a quite changed tone. "I
never pitied a gentleman more. Folks who don't know ladies fancy they
speak and behave pretty always, but that lady would grind her teeth in
her rages, and make us fly before her--him too. She would throw whatever
was in her reach. She was a deal madder and more dangerous in her fits
of passion than poor Mrs. Frederick: she, poor dear! had a delusion that
she was quite destitute and dependent on charity, and when she could get
out she would go to the cottages and beg a bit of bread. A curious
delusion, miss, but it did not distress her, for she called herself one
of God's poor, and was persuaded He would take care of her. But it was
very distressing to those she belonged to. Twice she was lost. She
wandered away so far once that it was a month and over before we got her
back. She was found in Edinburgh. After that Mr. Frederick consented to
her being taken care of: he never would before."

"Oh, Mrs. Betts, don't tell me any more, or it will haunt me."

"Life's a sorrowful tale, miss, at best, unless we have love here and a
hope beyond."



CHAPTER XXVI.

_A MORNING AT BRENTWOOD_.


Brentwood was a comfortable house to stay in for visitors who never
wanted a moment's repose. Lady Angleby lived in the midst of her
guests--must have their interest, their sympathy in all her occupations,
and she was never without a press of work and correspondence. Bessie
Fairfax by noon next day felt herself weary without having done anything
but listen with folded hands to tedious dissertations on matters
political and social that had no interest for her. Since ten o'clock Mr.
Cecil Burleigh and Mr. Fairfax had withdrawn themselves, and were gone
into Norminster, and Miss Burleigh sat, a patient victim, with two dark
hollows under her eyes--bearing up with a smile while ready to sink
with fatigue. The gentlemen did not return to luncheon, but a caller
dropped in--a clergyman, Mr. Jones; and Miss Burleigh took the
opportunity of his entrance to vanish, making a sign to Miss Fairfax to
come too. They went into the garden, where they were met by a vivacious,
pretty old lady, Miss Hague, a former governess of Miss Burleigh, who
now acted as assistant secretary to Lady Angleby.

"Your enemy, Mr. Jones, is in the drawing-room with my aunt," Miss
Burleigh told her. "Quite by chance--he was not asked."

"Oh, let him stay. It is a study to see him amble about her ladyship
with the airs and graces of a favorite, and then to witness his
condescension to inferior persons like me," said Miss Hague. "I'll go to
your room, Mary, and take off my bonnet."

"Do, dear. We have only just escaped into the fresh air, and are making
the most of our liberty."

Miss Hague lodged within a stone's throw of Brentwood, and Lady Angleby
was good in bidding her go to luncheon whenever she felt disposed. She
was disposed as seldom as courtesy allowed, for, though very poor, she
was a gentlewoman of independent spirit, and her ladyship sometimes
forgot it. She was engaged seeking some report amongst her papers when
Miss Hague entered, but she gave her a nod of welcome. Mr. Jones said,
"Ah, Miss Hague," with superior affability, and luncheon was announced.

Lady Angleby had to give and hear opinions on a variety of subjects
while they were at table. Middle-class female education Mr. Jones had
not gone into. He listened and was instructed, and supposed that it
might easily be made better; nevertheless, he had observed that the best
taught amongst his candidates for confirmation came from the shopkeeping
class, where the parents still gave their children religious lessons at
home. Then ladies of refined habits and delicate feelings as mistresses
of elementary schools--that was a new idea to him. A certain robustness
seemed, perhaps, more desirable; teaching a crowd of imperfectly washed
little boys and girls was not fancy-work; also he believed that
essential propriety existed to the full as much amongst the young women
now engaged as amongst young ladies. If the object was to create a class
of rural school-mistresses who would take social rank with the curate,
he thought it a mistake; a school-mistress ought not to be above
drinking her cup of tea in a tidy cottage with the parents of her
pupils: he should prefer a capable young woman in a clean holland apron
with pockets, and no gloves, to any poor young lady of genteel tastes
who would expect to associate on equal terms with his wife and
daughters. Then, cookery for the poor. Here Mr. Jones fell inadvertently
into a trap. He said that the chief want amongst the poor was something
to cook: there was very little spending in twelve shillings a week, or
even in fifteen and eighteen, with a family to house, clothe, and feed.
Lady Angleby held a quite opposite view. She said that a helpless
thriftlessness was at the root of the matter. She had printed and
largely distributed a little book of receipts, for which many people had
thanked her. Mr. Jones knew the little book, and had heard his wife say
that Lady Angleby's receipt for stewed rabbits was well enough, but that
her receipt for hares stewed with onions was hares spoilt; and where
were poor people to get hares unless they went out poaching?

"I assure your ladyship that agrimony tea is still drunk amongst our
widows, and an ounce of shop-tea is kept for home-coming sons and
daughters grown proud in service. They gather the herb in the autumn,
and dry it in bunches for the winter's use. And many is the laborer who
lets his children swallow the lion's share of his Sunday bit of meat
because the wife says it makes them strong, and children have not the
sense not to want all they see. Any economical reform amongst the
extravagant classes that would leave more and better food within reach
of the hard-working classes would be highly beneficial to both.
Sometimes I wish we could return to that sumptuary law of Queen
Elizabeth which commanded the rich to eat fish and fast from flesh-meat
certain days of the week." Here Mr. Jones too abruptly paused. Lady
Angleby had grown exceedingly red in the face; Bessie Fairfax had grown
rosy too, with suppressed reflections on the prize-stature to which her
hostess had attained in sixty years of high feeding. Queen Elizabeth's
pious fast might have been kept by her with much advantage to her
figure.

Poor Mr. Jones had confused himself as well as Lady Angleby, but the
return to the drawing-room created an opportune diversion. He took up an
illustrated paper with a scene from a new play, and after studying it
for a few minutes began to denounce the amusements of the gay world in
the tone of a man who has known nothing of them, but has let his
imagination run into very queer illusions. This passed harmless. Nobody
was concerned to defend the actor's vocation where nobody followed it;
but Mr. Jones was next so ill-advised as to turn to Miss Hague, and say
with a supercilious air that since they last met he had been trying to
read a novel, which he mentioned by name--a masterpiece of modern
fiction--and really he could not see the good of such works. Miss Hague
and he had disagreed on this subject before. She was an inveterate
novel-reader, and claimed kindred with a star of chief magnitude in the
profession, and to speak lightly of light literature in her presence
always brought her out warmly and vigorously in defence and praise of
it.

"No good in such works, Mr. Jones!" cried she. "My hair is gray, and
this is a solemn fact: for the conduct of life I have found far more
counsel and comfort in novels than in sermons, in week-day books than in
Sunday preachers!"

There was a startled silence. Miss Burleigh extended a gentle hand to
stop the impetuous old lady, but the words were spoken, and she could
only intervene as moderator: "Novels show us ourselves at a distance, as
it were. I think they are good both for instruction and reproof. The
best of them are but the Scripture parables in modern masquerade. Here
is one--the Prodigal Son of the nineteenth century, going out into the
world, wasting his substance with riotous living, suffering, repenting,
returning, and rejoiced over."

"Our Lord made people think: I am not aware that novels make people
think," said Mr. Jones with cool contempt.

"Apply your mind to the study of either of these books--Mr. Thackeray's
or George Eliot's--and you will not find all its powers too much for
their appreciation," said Miss Hague.

Mr. Jones made a slight grimace: "Pray excuse the comparison, Miss
Hague, but you remind me of a groom of mine whom I sent up to the Great
Exhibition. When he came home again all he had to say was, 'Oh, sir, the
saddlery was beautiful!'"

"Nothing like leather!" laughed Lady Angleby.

"He showed his wit--he spoke of what he understood," said Miss Hague.
"You undertake to despise light literature, of which avowedly you know
nothing. Tell me: of the little books and tracts that you circulate,
which are the most popular?"

"The tales and stories; they are thumbed and blackened when the serious
pages are left unread," Mr. Jones admitted.

"It is the same with the higher-class periodicals that come to us from
D'Oyley's library," said Lady Angleby, pointing to the brown, buff,
orange, green, and purple magazines that furnished her round-table. "The
novels are well read, so are the social essays and the bits of gossiping
biography; but dry chapters of exploration, science, discovery, and
politics are tasted, and no more: the first page or two may be opened,
and the rest as often as not are uncut. And as they come to Brentwood,
so, but for myself, they would go away. The young people prefer the
stories, and with rare exceptions it is the same with their elders. The
fact is worth considering. A puff of secular air, to blow away the vapor
of sanctity in which the clergy envelop themselves, might be salutary at
intervals. All fresh air is a tonic."

Mr. Jones repeated his slight grimace, and said, "Will Miss Hague be so
kind as to tell me what a sermon ought to be? I will sit at her feet
with all humility."

"With arrogant humility!--with the pride that apes humility," cried Miss
Hague with cheerful irreverence. "I don't pretend to teach you
sermon-making: I only tell you that, such as sermons mostly are,
precious little help or comfort can be derived from them."

Mr. Jones again made his characteristic grimace, expressive of the
contempt for secular opinion with which he was morally so well
cushioned, but he had a kind heart and refrained from crushing his poor
old opponent with too severe a rejoinder. He granted that some novels
might be harmless, and such as he would not object to see in the hands
of his daughters; but as a general rule he had a prejudice against
fiction; and as for theatres, he would have them all shut up, for he
was convinced that thousands of young men and women might date their
ruin from their first visit to a theatre: he could tell them many
anecdotes in support of his assertions. Fortunately, it was three
o'clock. The butler brought in letters by the afternoon post, and the
anecdotes had to be deferred to a more convenient season. The clergyman
took his leave.

Lady Angleby glanced through her sheaf of correspondence, and singled
out one letter. "From dear Lady Latimer," she said, and tore it open.
But as she read her countenance became exceedingly irate, and at the end
she tossed it over to Miss Hague: "There is the answer to your
application." The old lady did not raise her eyes immediately after its
perusal, and Miss Burleigh took it kindly out of her hand, saying, "Let
me see." Then Lady Angleby broke out: "I do not want anybody to teach me
what is my duty, I hope."

Miss Hague now looked up, and Bessie Fairfax's kind heart ached to see
her bright eyes glittering as she faltered, "I think it is a very kind
letter. I wish more people were of Lady Latimer's opinion. I do not wish
to enter the Governesses' Asylum: it would take me quite away from all
the places and people I am fond of. I might never see any of you again."

"How often must I tell you that it is not necessary you should go into
the asylum? You may be elected to one of the out-pensions if we can
collect votes enough. As for Lady Latimer reserving her vote for really
friendless persons, it is like her affectation of superior virtue." Lady
Angleby spoke and looked as if she were highly incensed.

Miss Hague was trembling all over, and begging that nothing more might
be said on the subject.

"But there is no time to lose," said her patroness, still more angrily.
"If you do not press on with your applications, you will be too late:
everybody will be engaged for the election in November. The voting-list
is on my writing-table--the names I know are marked. Go on with the
letters in order, and I will sign them when I return from my drive."

Miss Fairfax's face was so pitiful and inquisitive that the substance of
Lady Latimer's letter was repeated to her. It was to the effect that
Miss Hague's former pupils were of great and wealthy condition for the
most part, and that they ought not to let her appeal to public charity,
but to subscribe a sufficient pension for her amongst themselves; and
out of the respect in which she herself held her, Lady Latimer offered
five pounds annually towards it. "And I think that is right," said
Bessie warmly. "If you were my old governess, Miss Hague, I should be
only too glad to subscribe."

"Well, my dear young lady, I was your father's governess and your
uncles' until they went to a preparatory school for Eton: from
Frederick's being four years old to Geoffry's being ten, I lived at
Abbotsmead," said Miss Hague. "And here is another of my boys," she
added as the door opened and Sir Edward Lucas was announced.

"Then I will do what my father would have done had he been alive," said
Bessie. "Perhaps my uncle Laurence will too."

"What were you saying of me, dear Hoddydoddy?" asked Sir Edward, turning
to the old lady when he had paid his devoirs to the rest.

The matter being explained to him, he was eager to contribute his
fraction. "Then leave the final arrangement to me," said Lady Angleby.
"I will settle what is to be done. You need not write any more of those
letters, Miss Hague, and I trust these enthusiastic young people will
not tire of what they have undertaken. It is right, but if everybody did
what is right on such occasions there would be little use for benevolent
institutions. Sir Edward, we were going to drive into Norminster: will
you take a seat in my carriage?"

Sir Edward would be delighted; and Miss Hague, released from her
ladyship's desk, went home happy, and in the midst of doubts and fears
lest she had hurt the feelings of Mr. Jones wept the soft tears of
grateful old age that meets with unexpected kindness. The resolute
expression of her sentiments by Miss Fairfax had inspired her with
confidence, and she longed to see that young lady again. In the letter
of thanks she wrote to Lady Latimer she did not fail to mention how her
judgment and example had been supported by that young disciple; and Lady
Latimer, revolving the news with pleasure, began to think of paying a
visit to Woldshire.



CHAPTER XXVII.

_SOME DOUBTS AND FEARS_.


Sir Edward Lucas was a gentleman for whom Lady Angleby had a
considerable degree of favor: it was a pity he was so young, otherwise
he might have done for Mary. Poor Mary! Mr. Forbes and she had a long,
obstinate kindness for each other, but Lady Angleby stood in the way:
Mr. Forbes did not satisfy any of her requirements. Besides, if she gave
Mary up, who was to live with her at Brentwood? Therefore Mr. Forbes and
Miss Burleigh, after a six years' engagement, still played at patience.
She did not drive into Norminster that afternoon. "Mr. Fairfax and Cecil
will be glad of a seat back," said she, and stood excused.

Sir Edward Lucas had more pleasure in facing his contemporary: Miss
Fairfax he regarded as his contemporary. He was smitten with a lively
admiration for her, and in course of the drive he sought her advice on
important matters. Lady Angleby began to instruct him on what he ought
to do for the improvement of his fine house at Longdown, but he wanted
to talk rather of a new interest--the mineral wealth still waiting
development on his property at Hippesley Moor.

"Now, what should you do, Miss Fairfax, supposing you had to earn your
bread by a labor always horribly disagreeable and never unattended by
danger?" he asked with great eagerness.

Bessie had not a doubt of what she should do: "I should work as hard as
ever I could for the shortest possible time that would keep me in
bread."

"Just so," said Sir Edward rubbing his hands. "So would I. Now, will
that principle work amongst colliers? I am going to open a pit at
Hippesley Moor, where the coal is of excellent quality. It is a fresh
start, and I shall try to carry out your principle, Miss Fairfax; I am
convinced that it is excellent and Christian."

_Christian!_ Bessie's blue eyes widened with laughing alarm. "Oh, had
you not better consult somebody of greater experience?" cried she.

Lady Angleby approved her modesty, and with smiling indulgence
remarked, "I should think so, indeed!"

"No, no: experience is always for sticking to grooves," said Sir Edward.
"I like Miss Fairfax's idea. It is shrewd--it goes to the root of the
difficulty. We must get it out in detail. Now, if in three days' hard
work the collier can earn the week's wages of an agricultural laborer
and more--and he can--we have touched the reason why he takes so many
play-days. It would be a very sharp spur of necessity indeed that would
drive me into a coal-pit at all; and nothing would keep me there one
hour after necessity was satisfied. I shall take into consideration the
instinct of our common humanity that craves for some sweetness in life,
and as far as I am able it shall be gratified. Now, the other three
days: what shall be their occupation? Idleness will not do."

"No, I should choose to have a garden and work in the sun," said Bessie,
catching some of his spirit.

"And I should choose to tend some sort of live-stock. In the way of
minor industries I am convinced that a great deal may be put in their
way only by taking thought. I shall lay parcels of land together for
spade cultivation--the men will have a market at their own doors; then
poultry farms--"

"Not forgetting the cock-pit for Sunday amusement," interrupted Lady
Angleby sarcastically. "You are too Utopian, Sir Edward. Your colony
will be a dismal failure and disappointment if you conduct it on such a
sentimental plan."

Sir Edward colored. He had a love of approbation, and her ladyship was
an authority. He sought to propitiate her better opinion, and resumed:
"There shall be no inexorable rule. A man may work his six days in the
pit if it be his good-will, but he shall have the chance of a decent
existence above ground if he refuse to live in darkness and peril more
than three or four. Schools and institutes are very good things in their
place, and I shall not neglect to provide them, but I do not expect that
more than a slender minority of my colliers will ever trouble the
reading-room much. Let them feed pigs and grow roses."

"They will soon not know what they want. The common people grow more
exacting every day--even our servants. You will have some fine stories
of trouble and vexation to tell us before long."

Sir Edward looked discouraged, and Bessie Fairfax, with her impulsive
kind heart, exclaimed, "No, no! In all labor there is profit, and if you
work at doing your best for those who depend on your land, you will not
be disappointed. Men are not all ungrateful."

Sir Edward certainly was not. He thanked Miss Fairfax energetically, and
just then the carriage stopped at the "George." Mr. Fairfax and Mr.
Cecil Burleigh came out in the most cheerful good-humor, and Mr. Cecil
Burleigh began to tell Bessie that she did not know how much she had
done for him by securing Buller's vote; it had drawn others after it.
Bessie was delighted, and was not withheld by any foolish shyness from
proclaiming that her mind was set on his winning his election.

"You ought to take these two young people into your counsels, Cecil;
they have some wonderful devices for the promotion of contentment
amongst coal-miners," said Lady Angleby. Mr. Fairfax glanced in his
granddaughter's innocent, rosy face, and shook hands with Sir Edward as
he got out of the carriage. Mr. Cecil Burleigh said that wisdom was not
the monopoly of age, and then he inquired where they were going.

They were going to call at the manor on Lady Eden, and to wind up with a
visit to Mr. Laurence Fairfax in the Minster Court. Mr. Fairfax said he
would meet them there, and the same said Mr. Cecil Burleigh. Sir Edward
Lucas stood halting on the inn-steps, wistfully hoping for a bidding to
come too. Lady Angleby was even kinder than his hopes; she asked if he
had any engagement for the evening, and when he answered in the negative
she invited him to come and dine at Brentwood again. He accepted with
joy unfeigned.

When the ladies reached Minster Court only Mr. Cecil Burleigh had
arrived there. Lady Angleby was impatient to hear some private details
of the canvass, and took her nephew aside to talk of it. Mr. Laurence
Fairfax began to ask Bessie how long she was to stay at Brentwood.
"Until Monday," Bessie said; and her eyes roved unconsciously to the
cupboard under the bookcase where the toys lived, but it was fast shut
and locked, and gave no sign of its hid treasures. Her uncle's eyes
followed hers, and with a significant smile he said, if she pleased, he
would request her grandfather to leave her with him for a few days,
adding that he would find her some young companions. Bessie professed
that she would like it very much, and when Mr. Fairfax came in the
request was preferred and cordially granted. The squire was in high
good-humor with his granddaughter and all the world just now.

Bessie went away from Minster Court with jubilant anticipations of what
might happen during the proposed visit to her uncle's house. One thing
she felt sure of: she would become better acquainted with that darling
cherub of a boy, and the vision she made of it shed quite a glow on the
prospect. She told Miss Burleigh when she returned to Brentwood that she
was not going out of reach on Monday; she was going to stay a few days
with her uncle Laurence in Minster Court.

"Cecil will be so glad!" said his devoted sister.

"There are no more Bullers to conquer, are there?" Bessie asked, turning
her face aside.

"I hope not. Oh no! Cecil begins to be tolerably sure of his election,
and he will have you to thank for it. Mr. John Short blesses you every
hour of the day."

Bessie laughed lightly. "I did good unconsciously, and blush to find it
fame," said she.

A fear that her brother's success with Miss Fairfax might be doubtful,
though his election was sure, flashed at that instant into Miss
Burleigh's mind. Bessie's manner was not less charming, but it was much
more intrepid, and at intervals there was a strain of fun in it--of
mischief and mockery. Was it the subacid flavor of girlish caprice,
which might very well subsist in combination with her sweetness, or was
it sheer insensibility? Time would show, but Miss Burleigh retained a
lurking sense of uneasiness akin to that she had experienced when she
detected in Miss Fairfax, at their first meeting, an inclination to
laugh at her aunt--an uneasiness difficult to conceal and dangerous to
confess. Not for the world would she, at this stage of the affair, have
revealed her anxiety to her brother, who held the even tenor of his
way, whatever he felt--never obtrusive and never negligent. He treated
Bessie like the girl of sense she was, with courtesy, but without
compliments or any idle banter; and Bessie certainly began to enjoy his
society. He improved on acquaintance, and made the hours pass much more
pleasantly at Brentwood when he was there than they passed in his
absence. This was promising. The evening's dinner-party would have been
undeniably heavy without the leaven of his wit, for Mr. Logger, that
well-known political writer, had arrived from London in the course of
the afternoon, and Lady Angleby and he discoursed with so much solemn
allusion and innuendo on the affairs of the nation that it was like
listening surreptitiously at a cabinet council. Sir Edward Lucas was
quite silent and oppressed.

Coming into the morning-room after breakfast on the following day armed
with a roll of papers, Mr. Logger announced, "I met our excellent friend
Lady Latimer at Summerhay last week; she is immensely interested in the
education movement."

Mr. Fairfax and Mr. Cecil Burleigh instantly discovered that it was time
they were gone into the town, and with one compunctious glance at
Bessie, of which she did not yet know the meaning, they vanished. The
roll in Mr. Logger's hand was an article in manuscript on that education
movement in which he had stated that his friend Lady Latimer was so
immensely interested; and he had the cruelty to propose to read it to
the ladies here. He did read it, his hostess listening with gratified
approval and keeping a controlling eye on Miss Fairfax, who, when she
saw what impended, would have escaped had she been able. Miss Burleigh
bore it as she bore everything--with smiling resignation--but she
enjoyed the vivacity of Bessie's declaration afterward that the lecture
was unpardonable.

"What a shockingly vain old gentleman! Could we not have waited to read
his article in print?" said she.

"Probably it will never be in print. He toadies my aunt, who likes to be
credited with a literary taste, but Cecil says people laugh at him; he
is not of any weight, either literary or political, though he has great
pretensions. We shall have him for a week at least, and I have no doubt
he has brought manuscript to last the whole time."

Bessie was so uncomfortably candid as to cry out that she was glad,
then, her visit would soon be over; and then she tried to extenuate her
plain-speaking, not very skilfully.

Miss Burleigh accepted her plea with a gentleness that reproached her:
"We hoped that you would be happy at Brentwood with Cecil here; his
company is generally supposed to make any place delightful. He is
exceedingly dear to us all; no one knows how good he is until they have
lived with him a long while."

"Oh, I am sure he is good; I like him much better now than I did at
first; but if he runs away to Norminster and leaves us a helpless prey
to Mr. Logger, that is not delightful," rejoined Bessie winsomely.

Miss Burleigh kissed and forgave her, acknowledged that it was the
reverse of delightful, and conveyed an intimation to her brother by
which he profited. Mr. Logger favored the ladies with another reading on
Sunday afternoon--an essay on sermons, and twice as long as one. Mr.
Jones should have been there: this essay was much heavier artillery than
Miss Hague's little paper-winged arrows. In the middle of it, just at
the moment when endurance became agony and release bliss, Mr. Cecil
Burleigh entered and invited Miss Fairfax to walk into the town to
minster prayers, and Bessie went so gladly that his sister was quite
consoled in being left to hear Mr. Logger to an end.

The two were about to ascend the minster steps when they espied Mr.
Fairfax in the distance, and turned to meet him. He had been lunching
with his son. At the first glance Bessie knew that her grandfather had
suffered an overwhelming surprise since he went out in the morning. Mr.
Cecil Burleigh also perceived that something was amiss, and not to
distress his friend by inopportune remark, he said where he and Miss
Fairfax were going.

"Go--go, by all means," said the squire. "Perhaps you may overtake me as
you return: I shall walk slowly, and I want a word with Short as I pass
his house." With this he went on, and the young people entered the
minster, thinking but not speaking of what they could not but
observe--his manifest bewilderment and pre-occupation.

On the road home they did not, however, overtake Mr. Fairfax. He reached
Brentwood before them, and was closeted with Lady Angleby for some
considerable time previous to dinner. Her ladyship was not agreeable
without effort that evening, and there was indeed a perceptible cloud
over everybody but Mr. Logger. Whatever the secret, it had been
communicated to Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his sister, and it affected them
all more or less uncomfortably. Bessie guessed what had happened--that
her grandfather had seen his son Laurence's little playfellow, and that
there had been an important revelation.

Bessie was right. Mr. Laurence Fairfax had Master Justus on his lap when
his father unexpectedly walked into his garden. There was a lady in blue
amongst the flowers who vanished; and the incompetent Sally, with
something in her arms, who also hastily retired, but not unseen, either
her or her burden. Master Justus held his ground with baby audacity, and
the old squire recognized a strong young shoot of the Fairfax stock. One
or two sharp exclamations and astounded queries elicited from Mr.
Laurence Fairfax that he had been five years married to the lady in
blue--a niece of Dr. Jocund--and that the bold little boy was his own,
and another in the nurse's arms. Mr. Fairfax did not refuse to sit at
meat with his son, though the chubby boy sat opposite, but he declined
all conversation on the subject beyond the bald fact, and expressed no
desire to be made acquainted with his newly-discovered daughter-in-law.
Indeed, at a hint of it he jerked out a peremptory negative, and left
the house without any more reference to the matter. Mr. Laurence Fairfax
feared that it would be long before his father would darken his doors
again, but it was a sensible relief to have got his secret told, and not
to have had any angry, unpardonable words about it. The squire said
little, but those who knew him knew perfectly that he might be silent
and all the more indignant. And undoubtedly he was indignant. Of his
three sons, Laurence had been always the one preferred; and this was his
usage of him, his confidence in him!



CHAPTER XXVIII.

_IN MINSTER COURT_.


Mr. Fairfax did not withdraw his consent to Elizabeth's staying in
Norminster with her uncle Laurence, and on Monday afternoon she and Mrs.
Betts were transferred from Brentwood to Minster Court. On the first
evening Mr. John Short dined there, but no one else. He made Miss
Fairfax happy by talking of the Forest, which he had revisited more than
once since the famous first occasion. After dinner the two gentlemen
remained together a long while, and Bessie amused herself alone in the
study. She cast many a look towards the toy-cupboard, and was strongly
tempted to peep, but did not; and in the morning her virtue had its
reward. It was a little after eleven o'clock when Burrage threw open the
door of the study where she was sitting with her uncle and announced
"The dear children, sir," in a matter-of-fact tone, as if they were
daily visitors.

Bessie's back was to the door. She blushed and turned round with
brightened eyes, and there, behold! was that sweet little boy in a blue
poplin tunic, and a second little boy, a year smaller, in a white
embroidered frock and scarlet sash! The voice of the incompetent Sally
was heard in final exhortation, "Now, mind you be good, Master Justus!"
and Master Justus ran straight to the philosopher and saluted him
imperatively as "Dada!" which honorable title the other little boy
echoed in an imperfect lisp, with an eager desire to be taken up and
kissed. The desire was abundantly gratified, and then Mr. Laurence
Fairfax said, "This is Laury," and offered him to Bessie for a
repetition of the ceremonial.

Bessie could not have told why, but her eyes filled as she took him into
her lap and took off his pretty hat to see his shining curly locks.
Master Justus was already at the cupboard dragging out the toys, and her
uncle stood and looked down at her with a pleased, benevolent face. "Of
course they are my cousins?" said Bessie simply, and quite as simply he
said "Yes."

This was all the interrogatory. But games ensued in which Bessie was
brought to her knees and a seat on the carpet, and had the beautiful
propriety of her hair as sadly disarranged as in her gypsy childhood
amongst the rough Carnegie boys. Mrs. Betts put it tidy again before
luncheon, after the children were gone. Mrs. Betts had fathomed the
whole mystery, and would have been sympathetic about it had not her
young lady manifested an invincible gayety. Bessie hardly knew herself
for joy. She wanted very much to hear the romantic story that must
belong to those bonny children, but she felt that she must wait her
uncle's time to tell it. Happily for her peace, the story was not long
delayed: she learnt it that evening.

This was the scene in Mr. Laurence Fairfax's study. He was seated at
ease in his great leathern chair, and perched on his knee, with one arm
round his neck and a ripe pomegranate cheek pressed against his ear, was
that winsome little lady in blue who was to be known henceforward as the
philosopher's wife: if she had not been so exquisitely pretty it would
have seemed a liberty to take with so much learning. Opposite to them,
and grim as a monumental effigy, sat Miss Jocund, and Bessie Fairfax,
with an amazed and amused countenance, listened and looked on. The
philosopher and his wife were laughing: they loved one another, they had
two dear little boys; what could the world give them or take away in
comparison with such joys? Their secret, long suspected in various
quarters, had transpired publicly since yesterday, and Lady Angleby had
that morning appealed haughtily to Miss Jocund in her own shop to know
how it had all happened.

Miss Jocund now reported what she had answered: "I reckon, your
ladyship, that Dan Cupid is no more open in his tactics than ever he
was. All I have to tell is, that one evening, some six years ago, my
niece Rosy, who was a timid little thing, went for a walk by the river
with a school-fellow, and a hulking, rude boy gave them a fright. Mr.
Laurence Fairfax, by good luck, was in the way and brought them home,
and said to me that Rosy was much too pretty to be allowed to wander out
unprotected. When they met after he had a kind nod and a word for her,
and I've no doubt she had a shy blush for him. A philosopher is but a
man, and liable to fall in love, and that is what he did: he fell in
love with Rosy and married her. It suited all parties to keep it a
secret at first; but a secret is like a birth--when its time is full
forth it must come. Two little boys with Fairfax writ large on their
faces are bad to hide. Therefore it suits all parties now to declare the
marriage. And that is the whole story, an' it please your ladyship."

"I warrant it did not please her ladyship at all," said Mr. Laurence
Fairfax, laughing at the recital.

"No. She turned and went away in a rage; then came back to expound her
views with respect to Rosy's origin. I begged to inform her that from
time immemorial king's jesters had been of the Jocund family--an office
to the full as dignified as the office of public barber. And a barber
her ladyship's great-grandfather was, and shaved His Majesty's lieges
for a penny. Mr. Cecil Burleigh waited for her outside, and to him
immediately she of course repeated the tale. How does it come to be a
concern of his, I should be glad to know?" Nobody volunteered to gratify
her curiosity, but Mr. Laurence Fairfax could have done so, no doubt.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh had not visited Minster Court that day: was this the
reason? Bessie was not absolutely indifferent to the omission, but she
had other diversions. That night she went up stairs with the young
mother (so young that Elizabeth could not fashion to call her by her
title of kindred) to view the boys in their cots, and saw her so loving
and tender over them that she could not but reflect how dear a companion
she must be to her philosopher after his lost Xantippe. She was such a
sweet and gentle lady that, though he had chosen to marry her privately,
he could have no reluctance in producing her as his wife. He had kept
her to himself unspoilt, had much improved her in their retired life,
and as he had no intention of bringing her into rivalry with finer
ladies, the charm of her adoring simplicity was not likely to be
impaired. He had set his mind on his niece Elizabeth for her friend from
the first moment of their meeting, and except Elizabeth he did not
desire that she should find, at present, any intimate friend of her own
sex. And Elizabeth was perfectly ready to be her friend, and to care
nothing for the change in her own prospects.

"You know that my boys will make all the difference to you?" her uncle
said to her the next day, being a few minutes alone with her.

"Oh yes, I understand, and I shall be the happier in the end. Abbotsmead
will be quite another place when they come over," was her reply.

"There is my father to conciliate before they can come to Abbotsmead. He
is deeply aggrieved, and not without cause. You may help to smooth the
way to comfortable relations again, or at least to prevent a widening
breach. I count on that, because he has permitted you to come here,
though he knows that Rosy and the boys are with me. I should not have
had any right to complain had he denied us your visit."

"But I should have had a right to complain, and I should have
complained," said Bessie. "My grandfather and I are friends now, because
I have plucked up courage to assert my right to respect myself and my
friends who brought me up; otherwise we must have quarrelled soon."

Mr. Laurence Fairfax smiled: "My father can be obstinately unforgiving.
So he was to my brother Geoffry and his wife; so he may be to me, though
we have never had a disagreement."

"I could fancy that he was sometimes sorry for his unkindness to my
father. I shall not submit if he attempt to forbid me your house or the
joy of seeing my little cousins. Oh, his heart must soften to them soon.
I am glad he saw Justus, the darling!"

Bessie Fairfax had evidently no worldly ambition. All her desire was
still only to be loved. Her uncle Laurence admired her unselfishness,
and before she left his house at the week's end he had her confidence
entirely. He did not place too much reliance on her recollections of
Beechhurst as the place where she had centred her affections, for young
affections are prone to weave a fine gossamer glamour about early days
that will not bear the touch of later experience; but he was sure there
had been a blunder in bringing her into Woldshire without giving her a
pause amongst those scenes where her fond imagination dwelt, if only to
sweep it clear of illusions and make room for new actors on the stage of
her life. He said to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, with whom he had an important
conversation during her visit to Minster Court, that he did not believe
she would ever give her mind to settling amongst her north-country
kindred until she had seen again her friends in the Forest, and Mr.
Cecil Burleigh began to agree with him. Miss Burleigh did the same.

It was settled already that the recent disclosure must make no
alteration in the family compact. Mr. Cecil Burleigh interposed a firm
veto when its repeal was hinted at. Every afternoon, one excepted, he
called on Miss Fairfax to report the progress of his canvass,
accompanied by his sister, and Bessie always expressed herself glad in
his promising success. But it was with a cool cheek and candor shining
clear in her blue eyes that she saw them come and saw them go; and both
brother and sister felt this discouraging. The one fault they found in
Miss Fairfax was an absence of enthusiasm for themselves; and Bessie was
so thankful that she had overcome her perverse trick of blushing at
nothing. When she took her final leave of them before quitting Minster
Court, Mr. Cecil Burleigh said that he should probably be over at
Abbotsmead in the course of the ensuing week, and Bessie was glad as
usual, and smiled cordially, and hoped that blue would win--as if he
were thinking only of the election!

He was thinking of it, and perhaps primarily, but his interest in
herself was becoming so much warmer and more personal than it had
promised to be that it would have given him distinct pleasure to
perceive that she was conscious of it.

The report of Mr. Laurence Fairfax's private marriage had spread through
city and country, but Bessie went back to Kirkham without having heard
it discussed except by Mrs. Betts, who was already so deeply initiated
in the family secrets. That sage and experienced woman owned frankly to
her young mistress that in her judgment it was a very good thing, looked
at in the right way.

"A young lady that is a great heiress is more to be pitied than envied:
that is my opinion," said she. "If she is not made a sacrifice of in
marriage, it is a miracle. Men run after her for her money, or she
fancies they do, which comes to the same thing; and perhaps she doesn't
marry at all for suspecting nobody loves her; which is downright
foolish. Jonquil and Macky are in great spirits over what has come out,
and I don't suppose there is one neighbor to Kirkham that won't be
pleased to hear that there's grandsons, even under the rose, to carry on
the old line. Mrs. Laurence is a dear sweet lady, and the children are
handsome little fellows as ever stepped; their father may well be proud
of 'em. He has done a deal better for himself the second time than he
did the first. I dare say it was what he suffered the first time made
him choose so different the second. It is not to be wondered at that the
squire is vext, but he ought to have learnt wisdom now, and it is to be
hoped he will come round by and by. But whether or not, the deed's done,
and he cannot undo it."

Mrs. Betts's summary embodied all the common sense of the case, and left
nothing more to be said.



CHAPTER XXIX.

_LADY LATIMER IN WOLDSHIRE_.


Mr. Fairfax welcomed Elizabeth on her arrival with an air of reserve, as
if he did not wish to receive any intelligence from Minster Court.
Bessie took the hint. The only news he had for her was that she might
mount Janey now as soon as she pleased. Bessie was pleased to mount her
the next morning, and to enjoy a delightful ride in her grandfather's
company. Janey went admirably, and promised to be an immense addition to
the cheerfulness of her mistress's life. Mr. Fairfax was gratified to
see her happy, and they chatted cordially enough, but Bessie did not
find it possible to speak of the one thing that lay uppermost in her
mind.

In the afternoon Mrs. Stokes called, and having had a glimpse of Mr.
Laurence Fairfax's secret, and heard various reports since, she was
curious for a full revelation. Bessie gave her the narrative complete,
interspersed with much happy prediction; and Mrs. Stokes declared
herself infinitely relieved to hear that, in spite of probabilities, the
mysterious wife was a quite presentable person.

"You remember that I told you Miss Jocund was a lady herself," she said.
"The Jocunds are an old Norminster family, and we knew a Dr. Jocund in
India. It was an odd thing for Miss Jocund to turn milliner; still, it
must be much more comfortable than dependence upon friends. There is
nothing so unsatisfactory as helpless poor relations. Colonel Stokes has
no end of them. I wish they would turn milliners, or go into Lady
Angleby's scheme of genteel mistresses for national schools, or do
anything but hang upon us. And the worst is, they are never grateful and
never done with."

"Are they ashamed to work?"

"No, I don't think shame is in their way, or pride, but sheer
incompetence. One is blind, another is a confirmed invalid."

"Then perhaps Providence puts them in your lot for the correction of
selfishness," said Bessie laughing. "I believe if we all helped the need
that belongs to us by kindred or service, there would be little misery
of indigence in the world, and little superfluity of riches even amongst
the richest. That must have been the original reading of the old saw
that sayeth, 'Charity should begin at home.'".

"Oh, political economy is not in my line," cried Mrs. Stokes, also
laughing. "You have caught a world of wisdom from Mr. Cecil Burleigh, no
doubt, but please don't shower it on me."

Bessie did not own the impeachment by a blush, as she would have done a
week ago. She could hear that name with composure now, and was proving
an apt pupil in the manners of society. Mrs. Stokes scanned her in some
perplexity, and would have had her discourse of the occupations and
diversions of Brentwood, but all Bessie's inclination was to discourse
of those precious boys in Minster Court.

"They are just of an age to be play-fellows with your boys," she said to
the blooming little matron. "How I should rejoice to see them racing
about the garden together!"

Bessie was to wish this often and long before her loving desire was
gratified. If she had not been preassured that her grandfather did, in
fact, know all that was to be known about the children, nothing in his
conduct would have betrayed it to her. She told the story in writing to
her mother, and received advice of prudence and patience. The days and
weeks at Abbotsmead flowed evenly on, and brought no opportunity of
asking the favor of a visit from them. Mr. and Mrs. Chiverton drove
over to luncheon, and Bessie and her grandfather returned the civility.
Sir Edward Lucas came to call and stayed a long time, planning his new
town for colliers: Miss Fairfax said a word in praise of steep tiled
roofs as more airy than low roofs of slate, and Sir Edward was an easy
convert to her opinion. Mr. Cecil Burleigh came twice to spend a few
days, and brought a favorable report of his canvass; the second time his
sister accompanied him, and they brought the good news that Lady Latimer
was at Brentwood, and was coming to Hartwell the following week.

Bessie Fairfax was certainly happier when there was company at
Abbotsmead, and she had a preference for Miss Burleigh's company; which
might be variously interpreted. Miss Burleigh herself considered Miss
Fairfax rather cold, but then Bessie was not expansive unless she loved
very fondly and familiarly. One day they fell a-talking of Mr. Laurence
Fairfax's wife, and Miss Burleigh suggested a cautious inquiry with a
view to obtaining Bessie's real sentiments respecting her. She received
the frankest exposition of them, with a bit of information to boot that
gave her a theme for reflection.

"I think her a perfect jewel of a wife," said Bessie with genuine
kindness. "My uncle Laurence and she are quite devoted to one another.
She sings like a little bird, and it is beautiful to see her with those
boys. I wish we had them all at Abbotsmead. And she is _so_ pretty--the
prettiest lady I ever saw, except, perhaps, one."

"And who was that one?" Miss Burleigh begged to know.

"It was a Miss Julia Gardiner. I saw her first at Fairfield at the
wedding of Lady Latimer's niece, and again at Ryde the other day."

"Oh yes! dear Julia was very lovely once, but she has gone off. The
Gardiners are very old friends of ours." Miss Burleigh turned aside her
face as she spoke. She had not heard before that Miss Fairfax had met
her rival and predecessor in Mr. Cecil Burleigh's affections: why had
her dear Cecil been so rash as to bring them in contact and give her the
opportunity of drawing inferences? That Bessie had drawn her inferences
truly was plain, from a soft blush and glance and a certain tone in her
voice as she mentioned the name of Miss Julia Gardiner, as if she would
deprecate any possible idea that she was taking a liberty. The subject
was not pursued. Miss Burleigh wished only to forget it; perhaps Bessie
had expected a confidential word, and was abashed at hearing none, for
she began to talk with eagerness, rather strained, of Lady Latimer's
promised visit to Hartwell.

Lady Latimer's arrival was signalized by an immediate invitation to Mr.
Fairfax and his granddaughter to go over and lunch on a fixed day.
Bessie was never so impatient as till the day came, and when she mounted
Janey to ride to Hartwell she palpitated more joyously than ever she had
done yet since her coming into Woldshire. Her grandfather asked her why
she was so glad, but she found it difficult to tell him: because my lady
had come from the Forest seemed the root of the matter, as far as it
could be expressed. The squire looked rather glum, Macky remarked to
Mrs. Betts; and if she had been in his shoes wild horses should not have
drawn her into company with that proud Lady Latimer. The golden harvest
was all gone from the fields, and there was a change of hue upon the
woods--yellow and red and russet mingled with their deep green. The
signs of decay in the vivid life of Nature could not touch Bessie with
melancholy yet--the spring-tides of youth were too strong in her--but
Mr. Fairfax, glancing hither and thither over the bare, sunless
landscape, said, "The winter will soon be upon us, Elizabeth. You must
make the best of the few bright days that are remaining: very few and
very swift they seem when they are gone."

Hartwell was as secluded amongst its evergreens and fir trees now as at
midsummer, but in the overcast day the house had a dull and unattractive
aspect. The maiden sisters sat in the gloomy drawing-room alone to
receive their guests, but after the lapse of a few minutes Lady Latimer
entered. She was dressed in rich black silk and lace--carefully dressed,
but the three years that had passed since Bessie Fairfax last saw her
had left their mark. Bessie, her heart swelling, her eyes shining with
emotion, moved to meet her, but Lady Latimer only shook hands with sweet
ceremoniousness, and she was instantly herself again. The likeness that
had struck the maiden sisters did not strike my lady, or, being warned
of it, she was on her guard. There was a momentary silence, and then
with cold pale face she turned to Mr. Fairfax, congratulated him on
having his granddaughter at home, and asked how long she had been at
Abbotsmead. Soon appeared Mr. Oliver Smith, anxious to talk election
gossip with his neighbor; and for a few minutes Bessie had Lady Latimer
to herself, to gaze at and admire, and confusedly to listen to, telling
Beechhurst news.

"Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie charged me with innumerable kind words for
you--Jack wants you to go home before he goes to sea--Willie and Tom
want you to make tails for their kites--Miss Buff will send you a letter
soon--Mr. Wiley trusts you have forgiven him his forgetfulness of your
message."

"Oh no, I have not. He lost me an opportunity that may come again I know
not when," said Bessie impetuously.

"I must persuade your grandfather to lend you to me for a month next
spring, when the leaves are coming out and the orchards are in blossom;
or, if he cannot spare you then, when the autumn tints begin."

"Oh, thank you! But I think the Forest lovely at all seasons--when the
boughs are bare or when they are covered with snow."

Bessie would have been glad that the invitation should come now, without
waiting for next year, but that was not even thought of. Lady Latimer
was looking towards the gentlemen, more interested in their interests
than in the small Beechhurst chat that Bessie would never have tired of.
After a few minutes of divided attention my lady rose, and _a propos_ of
the Norminster election expressed her satisfaction in the career that
seemed to be opening for Mr. Cecil Burleigh:

"Lord Latimer thought highly of him from a boy. He was often at Umpleby
in the holidays. He is like a son to my old friend at Brentwood; Lady
Angleby is happy in having a nephew who bids fair to attain distinction,
since her own sons prefer obscurity. She deplores their want of
ambition: it must be indeed a trial to a mother of her aspiring temper."
So my lady talked on, heard and not often interrupted; it was the old
voice and grand manner that Bessie Fairfax remembered so well, and once
so vastly reverenced. She did not take much more notice of Bessie. After
luncheon she chose to pace the lawn with her brother and Mr. Fairfax,
debating and predicting the course of public affairs, which shared her
thoughts with the government of Beechhurst. Bessie remained indoors with
the two quiet sisters, who were not disposed to forsake the fireside for
the garden: the wood-fire was really comfortable that clouded afternoon,
though September was not yet far advanced. Miss Charlotte sat by one of
the windows, holding back the curtain to watch the trio on the lawn, and
Bessie sat near, able to observe them too.

"Dear Olympia is as energetic as ever, but, Juliana, don't you think she
is contracting a slight stoop to one side?" said Miss Charlotte. Miss
Juliana approached to look out.

"She always did hang that arm. Dear Olympia! Still, she is a majestic
figure. She was one of the handsomest women in Europe, Miss Fairfax,
when Lord Latimer married her."

"I can well imagine that: she is beautiful now when she smiles and
colors a little," said Bessie.

"Ah, that smile of Olympia's! We do not often see it in these days, but
it had a magic. All the men were in love with her--she made a great
marriage. Lord Latimer was not one of our oldest nobility, but he was
very rich and his mansion at Umpleby was splendid, quite a palace, and
our Olympia was queen there."

"We never married," said Miss Charlotte meekly. "It would not have done
for us to marry men who could not have been received at court, so to
speak--at Umpleby, I mean. Olympia said so at the time, and we agreed
with her. Dear Olympia was the only one of us who married, except
Maggie, our half-sister, the eldest of our father's children--Mrs.
Bernard's mother--and that was long before the great event in our
family."

Bessie fancied there was a flavor of regret in these statements.

Miss Juliana took up the thread where her sister had dropped it: "There
is our dear Oliver--what a perfect gentleman he was! How accomplished,
how elegant! If your sweet aunt Dorothy had not died when she did, he
might have been your near connection, Miss Fairfax. We have often urged
him to marry, if only for the sake of the property, but he has
steadfastly refused to give that good and lovely young creature a
successor. Our elder brother also died unmarried."

Miss Charlotte chimed in again: "Lady Latimer moved for so many years in
a distinguished circle that she can throw her mind into public business.
We range with humble livers in content, and are limited to the politics
of a very small school and hamlet. You will be a near neighbor, Miss
Fairfax, and we hope you will come often to Hartwell: we cannot be Lady
Latimer to you, but we will do our best. Abbotsmead was once a familiar
haunt; of late years it has been almost a house shut up."

Bessie liked the kindly, garrulous old ladies, and promised to be
neighborly. "I have been told," she said after a short silence, "that my
grandfather was devoted to Lady Latimer when they were young."

"Your grandfather, my dear, was one amongst many who were devoted to
her," said Miss Juliana hastily.

"No more than that? Oh, I hoped he was preferred above others," said
Bessie, without much reflecting.

"Why hope it?" said Miss Charlotte in a saddened tone. "Dorothy thought
that he was, and resented Olympia's marriage with Lord Latimer as a
treachery to her brother that was past pardon. Oliver shared Dorothy's
sentiments; but we are all friends again now, thank God! Juliana's
opinion is, that dear Olympia cared no more for Richard Fairfax than she
cared for any of her other suitors, or why should she have married Lord
Latimer? Olympia was her own mistress, and pleased herself--no one else,
for we should have preferred Richard Fairfax, all of us. But she had her
way, and there was a breach between Hartwell and Abbotsmead for many
years in consequence. Why do we talk of it? it is past and gone. And
there they go, walking up and down the lawn together, as I have seen
them walk a hundred times, and a hundred to that. How strangely the old
things seem to come round again!"

At that moment the three turned towards the house. Lady Latimer was
talking with great earnestness; Mr. Fairfax sauntered with his hands
clasped behind him and his eyes on the ground; Mr. Oliver Smith was not
listening. When they entered the room her grandfather said to Bessie,
"Come, Elizabeth, it is time we were riding home;" and when he saw her
wistful eyes turn to the visitor from the Forest, he added, "You have
not lost Lady Latimer yet. She will come over to Abbotsmead the day
after to-morrow."

Bessie could not help being reminded by her grandfather's face and voice
of another old Beechhurst friend--Mr. Phipps. Perhaps this luncheon at
Hartwell had been pleasanter to her than to him, though even she had an
aftertaste of disappointment in it, because Lady Latimer no longer
dazzled her judgment. To the end my lady preserved her animation, and
when the visitors had mounted and were ready to ride away she still
engaged Mr. Fairfax's ear while she expounded her views of the mischief
that would accrue if ever election by ballot became the law of the land.

"You must talk to Chiverton about that," said the squire, lifting his
hat and moving off.

"I shall drive over to Castlemount to-morrow," said my lady; and she
accompanied her visitors to the gate with more last words on a variety
of themes that had been previously discussed and dismissed.

All the way home the squire never once opened his mouth to speak; he
appeared thoroughly jaded and depressed and in his most sarcastic humor.
At dinner Bessie heard more bitter sentiments against her sex than she
had ever heard in her life before, and wondered whether they were the
residuum of his disappointed passion.



CHAPTER XXX.

_MY LADY REVISITS OLD SCENES_.


To meet Lady Latimer and Mr. Oliver Smith at Abbotsmead, Lady Angleby
and Mr. Cecil Burleigh came over from Brentwood. Bessie Fairfax was
sorry. She longed to have my lady to herself. She thought that she might
then ask questions about other friends in the Forest--about friends at
Brook--which she felt it impossible to ask in the presence of
uninterested or adverse witnesses. But Lady Latimer wished for no
confidential communications. She had received at Brentwood full
particulars of the alliance that was projected between the families of
Fairfax and Burleigh, and considered it highly desirable. My lady's
principle was entirely against any wilfulness of affection in young
girls. In this she was always consistent, and Bessie's sentimental
constancy to the idea of Harry Musgrave would have provoked her utter
disapproval. It was therefore for Bessie's comfort that no opportunity
was given her of betraying it.

At luncheon the grand ladies introduced their philanthropic hobbies, and
were tedious to everybody but each other. They supposed the two young
people would be grateful to be left to entertain themselves; but Bessie
was not grateful at all, and her grandfather sat through the meal
looking terribly like Mr. Phipps--meditating, perhaps, on the poor
results in the way of happiness that had attended the private lives of
his guests, who were yet so eager to meddle with their neighbors' lives.
When luncheon was over, Lady Latimer, quitting the dining-room first,
walked through the hall to the door of the great drawing-room. The
little page ran quickly and opened to her, then ran in and drew back the
silken curtains to admit the light. The immense room was close yet
chill, as rooms are that have been long disused for daily purposes.

"Ah, you do not live here as you used to do formerly?" she said to Mr.
Fairfax, who followed her.

"No, we are a diminished family. The octagon parlor is our common
sitting-room."

Bessie had promised Macky that some rainy day she would make a tour of
the house and view the pictures, but she had not done it yet, and this
room was strange to her. The elder visitors had been once quite familiar
with it. Lady Latimer pointed to a fine painting of the Virgin and
Child, and remarked, "There is the Sasso-Ferrato," then sat down with
her back to it and began to talk of political difficulties in Italy. Mr.
Cecil Burleigh was interested in Italy, so was Mr. Oliver Smith, and
they had a very animated conversation in which the others joined--all
but Bessie. Bessie listened and looked on, and felt not quite
happy--rather disenchanted, in fact. Lady Latimer was the same as
ever--she overflowed with practical goodness--but Bessie did not regard
her with the same simple, adoring confidence. Was it the influence of
the old love-story that she had heard? My lady seemed entirely free from
pathetic or tender memories, and domineered in the conversation here as
she did everywhere. Even Lady Angleby was half effaced, and the squire
had nothing to say.

"I like her best at Fairfield," Bessie thought, but Bessie liked
everything best in the Forest.

Just before taking her leave my lady said abruptly to the young lady of
the house, "An important sphere is open to you: I hope you will be able
to fill it with honor to yourself and benefit to others. You have an
admirable example of self-devotion, if you can imitate it, in Mrs.
Chiverton of Castlemount. She told me that you were school-fellows and
friends already. I was glad to hear it."

These remarks were so distinctly enunciated that every eye was at once
attracted to Bessie's face. She colored, and with an odd, fastidious
twist of her mouth--the feminine rendering of the squire's cynical
smile--she answered, "Mrs. Chiverton has what she married for: God grant
her satisfaction in it, and save me from her temptation!" In nothing did
Bessie Fairfax's early breeding more show itself than in her audacious
simplicity of speech when she was strongly moved. Lady Latimer did not
condescend to make any rejoinder, but she remarked to Mr. Fairfax
afterward that habits of mind were as permanent as other habits, and she
hoped that Elizabeth would not give him trouble by her stiff
self-opinion. Mr. Fairfax hoped not also, but in the present instance he
had silently applauded it. And Mr. Burleigh was charmed that she had the
wit to answer so skilfully.

When my lady was gone, Bessie grieved and vexed herself with
compunctious thoughts. But that was not my lady's last visit; she came
over with Miss Charlotte another afternoon when Mr. Fairfax was gone to
Norminster, and on this occasion she behaved with the gracious sweetness
that had fascinated her young admirer in former days. Bessie said she
was like herself again. At my lady's request Bessie took her up to the
white parlor. On the threshold she stopped a full minute, gazing in:
nothing of its general aspect was changed since she saw it last--how
long ago! She went straight to the old bookcase, and took down one of
Dorothy Fairfax's manuscript volumes and furled over the leaves. Miss
Charlotte drew Bessie to the window and engaged her in admiration of the
prospect, to leave her sister undisturbed.

Presently my lady said, "Charlotte, do you remember these old books of
Dorothy's?" and Miss Charlotte went and looked over the page.

"Oh yes. Dear Dorothy had such a pretty taste--she always knew when a
sentiment was nicely put. She was a great lover of the old writers."

After a few minutes of silent reading my lady spoke again: "She once
recited to me some verses of George Herbert's--of when God at first made
man, how He gave him strength, beauty, wisdom, honor, pleasure, all to
keep, but with repining restlessness. They were a prophecy. I cannot
find them." She restored the volume to its shelf, quoting the last
lines--all she remembered distinctly:

     "Let him be rich and weary, that at last,
     If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
       May toss him to my breast."

"I know; they are in the last volume, toward the end," said Bessie
Fairfax, and quickly found them. "They do not say that God gave man
love; and that is a craving too. Don't you think so?"

Lady Latimer looked straight before her out of the window with lips
compressed.

"What do you mean by love, my dear?--so many foolish feelings go by that
name," said Miss Charlotte, filling the pause.

"Oh, I mean just love--the warm, happy feeling in my heart toward
everybody who belongs to me or is good to me--to my father and mother
and all of them at home, and to my grandfather now and my uncle
Laurence, and more besides."

"You are an affectionate soul!" said my lady, contemplating her quietly.
"You were born loving and tender--"

"Like dear Dorothy," added Miss Charlotte with a sigh. "It is a great
treasure, a warm heart."

"Some of us have hearts of stone given us--more our misfortune than our
fault," said Lady Latimer with a sudden air of offence, and turned and
left the room, preceding the others down stairs. Bessie was startled;
Miss Charlotte made no sign, but when they were in the hall she asked
her sister if she would not like to see the gardens once more. Indeed
she would, she said; and, addressing Bessie with equanimity restored,
she reminded her how she had once told her that Abbotsmead was very
beautiful and its gardens always sunny, and she hoped that Bessie was
not disappointed, but found them answer to her description. Bessie said
"Yes," of course; and my lady led the way again--led the way everywhere,
and to and fro so long that Miss Charlotte was fain to rest at
intervals, and even Bessie's young feet began to ache with following
her. My lady recollected every turn in the old walks and noted every
alteration that had been made--noted the growth of certain trees, and
here and there where one had disappeared. "The gum-cistus is gone--that
lovely gum-cistus! In the hot summer evenings how sweet it was!--like
Indian spices. And my cedar--the cedar I planted--is gone. It might have
been a great tree now; it must have been cut down."

"No, Olympia, it never grew up--it withered away; Richard Fairfax told
Oliver that it died," said Miss Charlotte.

The ladies from Hartwell were still in the gardens when the squire came
home from Norminster, and on Jonquil's information he joined them there.
"Ah, Olympia! are you here?" he said.

My lady colored, and looked as shy as a girl: "Yes; we were just going.
I am glad to have seen you to say good-bye."

They did not, however, say good-bye yet; they took a turn together
amongst the old familiar places, Miss Charlotte and Bessie resting
meanwhile in the great porch, and philosophizing on what they saw.

"Did you know grandpapa's wife--my grandmamma?" Bessie began by asking.

"Oh yes, my dear. She was a sprightly girl before she married, but all
her life after she went softly. Mr. Fairfax was not an unkind or
negligent husband, but there was something wanting. She was as unlike
Olympia as possible--very plain and simple in her tastes and appearance.
She kept much at home, and never sought to shine in society--for which,
indeed, she was not fitted--but she was a good woman and fond of her
children."

"And grandpapa was perfectly indifferent to her: it must have been
dreary work. Oh, what a pity that Lady Latimer did not care for him!"

"She did care for him very much."

"But if she cared for Umpleby more?"

Miss Charlotte sighed retrospectively and said, "Olympia was ambitious:
she is the same still--I see no change. She longed to live in the
world's eye and to have her fill of homage--for Nature had gifted her
with the graces and talents that adorn high station--but she was never a
happy woman, never satisfied or at peace with herself. She ardently
desired children, and none were given her. I have often thought that she
threw away substance for shadow--the true and lasting joys of life for
its vain glories. But she had what she chose, and if it disappointed her
she never confessed to her mistake or avowed a single regret. Her pride
was enough to sustain her through all."

"It is of no use regretting mistakes that must last a lifetime. But one
is sorry."

The squire and Lady Latimer were drawing slowly towards the porch,
talking calmly as they walked.

"Yes, one is sorry. Those two were well suited to each other once," said
Miss Charlotte.

The Hartwell carriage came round the sweep, the Hartwell coachman--who
was groom and gardener too--not in the best of humors at having been
kept so long waiting. Lady Latimer, with a sweet countenance, kissed
Bessie at her leave-taking, and told her that permission was obtained
for her to visit Fairfield next spring. Then she got into the carriage,
and bowing and smiling in her exquisite way, and Miss Charlotte a little
impatient and tired, they drove off. Bessie, exhilarated with her rather
remote prospect of the Forest, turned to speak to her grandfather. But,
lo! his brief amenity had vanished, and he was Mr. Phipps again.



CHAPTER XXXI.

_A SUCCESS AND A REPULSE_.


The weather at the beginning of October was not favorable. There were
gloomy days of wind and rain that Bessie Fairfax had to fill as she
could, and in her own company, of which she found it possible to have
more than enough. Mr. Fairfax had acquired solitary tastes and habits,
and though to see Elizabeth's face at meal-times and to ride with her
was a pleasure, he was seldom at her command at other hours. Mrs. Stokes
was sociable and Mrs. Forbes was kind, but friends out of doors do not
compensate altogether for the want of company within. Sir Edward Lucas
rode or drove over rather frequently seeking advice, but he had to take
it from the squire after the first or second occasion, though his
contemporary would have given it with pleasure. Bessie resigned herself
to circumstances, and, like a well-brought-up young lady, improved her
leisure--practised her songs, sketched the ruins and the mill, and
learnt by heart some of the best pieces in her aunt Dorothy's collection
of poetry.

Towards the middle of the month Mr. Cecil Burleigh came again, bringing
his sister with him to stay to the end of it. Bessie was very glad of
her society, and when her feminine acumen had discerned Miss Burleigh's
relations with the vicar she did not grudge the large share of it that
was given to his mother: she reflected that it was a pity these elderly
lovers should lose time. What did they wait for, Mr. Forbes and his
gentle Mary, Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his sweet Julia? She would have
liked to arrange their affairs speedily.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh went to and fro between Norminster and Abbotsmead as
his business required, and if opportunity and propinquity could have
advanced his suit, he had certainly no lack of either. But he felt that
he was not prospering with Miss Fairfax: she was most animated, amiable
and friendly, but she was not in a propitious mood to be courted. Bessie
was to go to Brentwood for the nomination-day, and to remain until the
election was over. By this date it had begun to dawn on other
perceptions besides Mr. Cecil Burleigh's that she was not a young lady
in love. His sister struggled against this conviction as long as she was
able, and when it prevailed over her hopefulness she ventured to speak
of it to him. He was not unprepared.

"I am, after all, afraid, Cecil, that Miss Fairfax may turn out an
uninteresting person," she began diffidently.

"Because I fail to interest her, Mary--is that it?" said her brother.

"She perplexes me by her cool, capricious behavior. _Now_ I think her
very dear and sweet, and that she appreciates you; then she looks or
says something mocking, and I don't know what to think. Does she care
for any one else, I should like to know?"

"Perhaps she made some such discovery at Ryde for me."

"She told me of your meeting with the Gardiners there. Poor Julia! I
wish it could be Julia, Cecil."

"I doubt whether it will ever be Miss Fairfax, Mary. She is the oddest
mixture of wit and simplicity."

"Perhaps she has some old prepossession? She would not be persuaded
against her will."

"All her prepossessions are in favor of her friends in the Forest. There
was a young fellow for whom she had a childish fondness--he was at
Bayeux when I called upon her there."

"Harry Musgrave? Oh, they are like brother and sister; she told me so."

"She is a good girl, and believes it, perhaps; but it is a
brother-and-sisterhood likely to lapse into warmer relations, given the
opportunity. That is what Mr. Fairfax is intent on hindering. My hope
was in her youth, but she is not to be won by the semblance of wooing.
She is either calmly unconscious or consciously discouraging."

"How will Mr. Fairfax bear his disappointment?"

"The recent disclosure of his son Laurence's marriage will lessen that.
It is no longer of the same importance who Miss Fairfax marries. She has
a great deal of character, and may take her own way. She is all anxiety
now to heal the division between the father and son, that she may have
the little boys over at Abbotsmead; and she will succeed before long.
The disclosure was made just in time, supposing it likely to affect my
intentions; but Miss Fairfax is still an excellent match for me--for me
or any gentleman of my standing."

"I fancy Sir Edward Lucas is of that opinion."

"Yes, Sir Edward is quite captivated, but he will easily console
himself. The squire has intimated to him that he has other views for
her; the young man is cool to me in consequence."

Miss Burleigh became reflective: "Miss Fairfax's position is changed,
Cecil. A good connexion and a good dower are one thing, and an heiress
presumptive to Kirkham is another. Perhaps you would as lief remain a
bachelor?"

"If Miss Fairfax prove impregnable--yes."

"You will test her, then?"

"Surely. It is in the bond. I have had her help, and will pay her the
compliment."

Miss Burleigh regarded her brother with almost as much perplexity as she
regarded Miss Fairfax. The thought passed through her mind that he did
not wish even her to suspect how much his feelings were engaged in the
pursuit of that uncertain young lady because he anticipated a refusal;
but what she thought she kept to herself, and less interested persons
did not observe that there was any relaxation in the aspirant member's
assiduities to Miss Fairfax. Bessie accepted them with quiet simplicity.
She knew that her grandfather was bearing the main cost of Mr. Cecil
Burleigh's canvass, and she might interpret his kindnesses as gratitude:
it cannot be averred that she did so interpret them, for she gave nobody
her confidence, but the plea was open to her.

Lady Angleby welcomed Miss Fairfax on her second visit to Brentwood as
if she were already a daughter of the house. It had not entered into her
mind to imagine that her magnificent nephew could experience the slight
of a rejection by this unsophisticated, lively little girl. She had
quite reconciled herself to the change in Bessie's prospects, and looked
forward to the marriage with satisfaction undiminished: Mr. Fairfax had
much in his power with reference to settlements, and the conduct of his
son Laurence would be an excitement to use it to the utmost extent. His
granddaughter in any circumstances would be splendidly dowered. Nothing
could be prettier than Bessie's behavior during this critical short
interval before the election, and strangers were enchanted with her. A
few more persons who knew her better were falling into a state of
doubt--her grandfather amongst them--but nothing was said to her, for it
was best the state of doubt should continue, and not be converted into a
state of certainty until the crisis was over.

It was soon over now, and resulted in the return of Mr. Cecil Burleigh
as the representative of Norminster in the Conservative interest, and
the ignominious defeat of Mr. Bradley. Once more the blue party held up
its head in the ancient city, and Mr. Fairfax, Mr. Chiverton, and
others, their Tory contemporaries, were at ease again for the safety of
the country. Mr. Burleigh the elder had come from Carisfort for the
election, and he now for the first time saw the young lady of whom he
had heard so much. He was a very handsome but very rustic poor squire,
who troubled the society of cities little. Bessie's beauty was perfect
to his taste, especially when her blushes were revived by a certain
tender paternal significance and familiarity in his address to her. But
when the blushes cooled her spirit of mischief grew vivacious to repel
their false confession, and even Lady Angleby felt for a moment
disturbed. Only for a moment, however. She wished that Mr. Burleigh
would leave his country manners at home, and ascribing Bessie's shy
irritation to alarmed modesty, introduced a pleasant subject to divert
her thoughts.

"Is there to be a ball at Brentwood or no ball, Miss Fairfax?" said she
with amiable suggestion. "I think there was something mooted about a
ball if my nephew won his election, was there not?"

What could Bessie do but feel appeased, and brighten charmingly?--"Oh,
we shall dance for joy if you give us one; but if you don't think we
deserve it--" said she.

"Oh, as for your deserts--Well, Mary, we must have the dance for joy.
Cecil wishes it, and so, I suppose, do you all," said her ladyship with
comprehensive affability. Mr. Burleigh nodded at Bessie, as much as to
say that nothing could be refused her.

Bessie blushed again. She loved a little pleasure, and a ball, a real
ball--Oh, paradise! And Mr. Cecil Burleigh coming in at the moment she
forgot her proper reticent demeanor, and made haste to announce to him
the delight that was in prospect. He quite entered into her humor, and
availed himself of the moment to bespeak her as his partner to open the
ball.

It was settled that she should stay at Brentwood to help in the
preparations for it, and her grandfather left her there extremely
contented. Cards of invitation were sent out indiscriminately to blue
and orange people of quality; carpenters and decorators came on the
scene, and were busy for a week in a large empty room, converting it and
making it beautiful. The officers of the cavalry regiment stationed at
Norminster were asked, and offered the services of their band. Miss
Jocund and her rivals were busy morning, noon, and night in the
construction of aërial dresses, and all the young ladies who were bidden
to the dance fell into great enthusiasm when it was currently reported
that the new member, who was so handsome and so wonderfully clever, was
almost, if not quite, engaged to be married to that pretty, nice Miss
Fairfax, with whom they were all beginning to be more or less
acquainted.

Mr. Fairfax did not return to Brentwood until the day of the dance. Lady
Angleby was anxious that it should be the occasion of bringing her
nephew's courtship to a climax, and she gave reasons for the expediency
of having the whole affair carried through to a conclusion without
unnecessary delays. Sir Edward Lucas had been intrusive this last week,
and Miss Fairfax too good-natured in listening to his tedious talk of
colliers, cottagers, and spade husbandry. Her ladyship scented a danger.
There was an evident suitability of age and temper between these two
young persons, and she had fancied that Bessie looked pleased when Sir
Edward's honest brown face appeared in her drawing-room. She had been
obliged to ask him to her ball, but she would have been thankful to
leave him out.

Mr. Fairfax heard all his old friend had to urge, and, though he made
light of Sir Edward, it was with a startling candor that he added, "But
woman's a riddle indeed if Elizabeth would give her shoe-tie for Cecil."
Lady Angleby was so amazed and shocked that she made no answer
whatever. The squire went on: "The farce had better pause--or end.
Elizabeth is sensitive and shrewd enough. Cecil has no heart to give
her, and she will never give hers unless in fair exchange. I have
observed her all along, and that is the conclusion I have come to. She
saw Miss Julia Gardiner at Ryde, and fathomed that old story: she
supposes them to be engaged, and is of much too loyal a disposition to
dream of love for another woman's lover. That is the explanation of her
friendliness towards Cecil."

"But Julia Gardiner is as good as married," cried Lady Angleby. "Cecil
will be cruelly disappointed if you forbid him to speak to Miss Fairfax.
Pray, say nothing, at least until to-night is over."

"I shall not interfere at the present point. Let him use his own
discretion, and incur a rebuff if he please. But his visits to
Abbotsmead are pleasant, and I would prefer not to have either Elizabeth
annoyed or his visits given up."

"You have used him so generously that whatever you wish must have his
first consideration," said Lady Angleby. She was extremely surprised by
the indulgent tone Mr. Fairfax assumed towards his granddaughter: she
would rather have seen him apply a stern authority to the management of
that self-willed young lady, for there was no denial that he, quite as
sincerely as herself, desired the alliance between their families.

Mr. Fairfax had not chosen a very opportune moment to trouble her
ladyship's mind with his own doubts. She was always nervous on the eve
of an entertainment at Brentwood, and this fresh anxiety agitated her to
such a degree that Miss Burleigh suffered a martyrdom before her duty of
superintendence over the preparations in ball-room and supper-room was
accomplished. Her aunt found time to tell her Mr. Fairfax's opinions
respecting his granddaughter, and she again found time to communicate
them to her brother. To her prodigious relief, he was not moved thereby.
He had a letter from Ryde in his pocket, apprising him on what day his
dear Julia was to become Mrs. Brotherton; and he was in an elastic humor
because of his late success--just in the humor when a man of mature age
and sense puts his trust in Fortune and expects to go on succeeding.
Perhaps he had not consciously endeavored to detach his thoughts from
Julia, but a shade of retrospective reverie had fallen upon her image,
and if she was lost to him, Elizabeth Fairfax was, of all other women he
had known, the one he would prefer to take her place. He was quite sure
of this, though he was not in love. The passive resistance that he had
encountered from Miss Fairfax had not whetted his ardor much, but there
was the natural spirit of man in him that hates defeat in any shape; and
from his air and manner his sister deduced that in the midst of
uncertainties shared by his best friends he still kept hold of hope.
Whether he might put his fate to the touch that night would, he said,
depend on opportunity--and impulse.

Such was the attitude of parties on the famous occasion of Lady
Angleby's ball to celebrate her nephew's successful election. Miss
Fairfax had been a great help to Miss Burleigh in arranging the fruit
and the flowers, and if Mrs. Betts had not been peremptory in making her
rest a while before dinner, she would have been as tired to begin with
as a light heart of eighteen can be. The waiting-woman had received a
commission of importance from Lady Angleby (nothing less than to find
out how much or how little Miss Fairfax knew of Miss Julia Gardiner's
past and present circumstances), and accident favored her execution of
it. A cheerful fire blazed on the hearth in Bessie's room; by the hearth
was drawn up the couch, and a newspaper lay on the couch. Naturally,
Bessie's first act was to take it up, and when she saw that it was a
_Hampton Chronicle_ she exclaimed with pleasure, and asked did Mrs.
Betts receive it regularly from her friends?--if so, she should like to
read it, for the sake of knowing what went on in the Forest.

"No, miss, it only comes a time by chance: that came by this afternoon's
post. I have barely glanced through it. I expect it was sent by my
cousin to let me know the fine wedding that is on the _tapis_ at
Ryde--Mr. Brotherton, her master, and Miss Julia Gardiner."

"Miss Julia Gardiner!" exclaimed Bessie in a low, astonished voice.

Mrs. Betts, with an indifference that a more cunning young lady than
hers would have felt to be carefully prepared, proceeded with her
information: "Yes, miss; you met the lady, I think? The gentleman is
many years older, but a worthy gentleman. And she is a most sweet lady,
which, where there is children to begin with, is much to be considered.
She has no fortune, but there is oceans of money on his side--oceans."

Bessie did not jump to the conclusion that it was therefore a mercenary
marriage, as she had done in another case. She forgot, for the moment,
her interest in the Forest news, and though she seemed to be
contemplating her beautiful dress for the evening laid out upon the bed,
the pensive abstraction of her gaze implied profounder thoughts. Mrs.
Betts busied herself with various little matters--sewed on faster the
rosette of a white shoe, and the buttons on the gloves that were to be
worn with that foam of silvery tulle. What Bessie was musing of she
could not herself have told; a confused sensation of pain and pity was
uppermost at first. Mrs. Betts stood at a distance and with her back to
her young mistress, but she commanded her face in the glass, and saw it
overspread slowly by a warm soft blush, and the next moment she was
asked, "Do you think she will be happy, Mrs. Betts?"

"We may trust so, miss," said the waiting-woman, still feigning to be
fully occupied with her duties to her young lady's pretty things. "Why
should she not? She is old enough to know her mind, and will have
everything that heart can desire--won't she?"

Bessie did not attempt any answer to this suggestive query. She put the
newspaper aside, and stretched herself with a sigh along the couch,
folding her hands under her cheek on the pillow. Her eyes grew full of
tears, and so she lay, meditating on this new lesson in life, until Mrs.
Betts warned her that it was time to dress for dinner. Miss Fairfax had
by this date so far accustomed herself to the usages of young ladies of
rank that Mrs. Betts was permitted to assist at her toilette. It was a
silent process this evening, and the penetration of the waiting-woman
was at fault when she took furtive glances in the mirror at the subdued
face that never smiled once, not even at its own beauty. She gave Lady
Angleby an exact account of what had passed, and added for
interpretation, "Miss Fairfax was surprised and sorry, I'm sure. I
should say she believed Miss Julia Gardiner to be attached to somebody
else. The only question she asked was, Did I think she would be happy?"
Lady Angleby could extract nothing out of this.

Every one was aware of a change in Bessie when she went into the
drawing-room; she felt as one feels who has heard bad news, and must
conceal the impression of it. But the visible effect was that her
original shyness seemed to have returned with more than her original
pride, and she blushed vividly when Mr. Cecil Burleigh made her a low
bow of compliment on her beautiful appearance. Mr. Fairfax had enriched
his granddaughter that day with a suite of fine pearls, once his sister
Dorothy's, and Bessie had not been able to deny herself the ornament of
them, shining on her neck and arms. Her dress was white and bright as
sea-foam in sunshine, but her own inimitable blooming freshness made her
dress to be scarcely at all regarded. Every day at this period added
something to her loveliness--the loveliness of youth, health, grace, and
a good nature.

When dinner was over the three young people adjourned to the ball-room,
leaving Lady Angleby and Mr. Fairfax together. Miss Burleigh and Bessie
began by walking up and down arm-in-arm, then they took a few turns in a
waltz, and after that Miss Burleigh said, "Cecil, Miss Fairfax and you
are a perfect height to waltz together; try the floor, and I will go and
play with the music-room door open. You will hear very well." She went
off quickly the moment she had spoken, and Bessie could not refuse to
try the floor, but she had a downcast, conscious air under her impromptu
partner's observation. Mr. Cecil Burleigh was in a gay, light mood, as
became him on this public occasion of his election triumph, and he was
further elated by Miss Fairfax's amiable condescension in waltzing with
him at his sister's behest; and as it was certainly a pleasure to any
girl who loved waltzing to waltz with him, they went on until the music
stopped at the sound of carriage-wheels.

"You are fond of dancing, Miss Fairfax?" said her cavalier.

"Oh yes," said Bessie with a pretty upward glance. She had enjoyed that
waltz extremely; her natural animation was reviving, too buoyant to lie
long under the depression of melancholy, philosophic reverie.

The guests were received in the drawing-room, and began to arrive in
uninterrupted succession. Mr. and Mrs. Tindal, Lord and Lady Eden, Mr.
and Mrs. Philip Raymond, Mr. Maurice and Miss Lois Wynyard, Mrs. Lefevre
and Miss Jean Lefevre, Mr. and Mrs. Chiverton, Colonel Stokes and his
wife, and Sir Edward Lucas with an architectural scheme in his pocket;
however, he danced none the worse for it, as Miss Fairfax testified by
dancing with him three times. She had a charming audacity in evading
awkward partners, and it was observed that she waltzed only with the new
member. She looked in joyous spirits, and acknowledged no reason why she
should deny herself a pleasure. More than once in the course of the
evening she flattered Lady Angleby's hopes by telling her it was a most
delicious ball.

Mr. Fairfax contemplated his granddaughter with serene speculation. Lady
Angleby had communicated to him the results of Mrs. Betts's inquisition.
At a disengaged moment he noticed a wondering pathos in Bessie's eyes,
which were following Mr. Cecil Burleigh's agile movements through the
intricate mazes of the Lancers' Quadrilles. His prolonged gaze ended by
attracting hers; she blushed and drew a long breath, and seemed to shake
off some persistent thought. Then she came and asked, like a
light-footed, mocking, merry girl, if he was not longing to dance too,
and would he not dance with her? He dismissed her to pay a little
attention to Mrs. Chiverton, who sat like a fine statue against the
wall, unsought of partners, and Bessie went with cheerful submission.
Her former school-rival was kind to her now with a patronizing, married
superiority that she did not dislike. Mrs. Chiverton knew from her
husband of the family project for Miss Fairfax's settlement in life, and
as she approved of Mr. Cecil Burleigh as highly as her allegiance to Mr.
Chiverton permitted her to approve of anybody but himself, she spoke at
some length in his praise, desiring to be agreeable. Bessie suffered her
to go on without check or discouragement; she must have understood the
drift of many things this evening which had puzzled her hitherto, but
she made no sign. Miss Burleigh said to her brother when they parted
for the night that she really did not know what to think or what to
advise, further than that Sir Edward Lucas ought to be "set down," or
there was no guessing how far he might be tempted to encroach. Miss
Fairfax, she considered, was too universally inclined to please.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh had no clear resolve of what he would do when he went
to walk in the garden the next morning. He knew what he wanted. A sort
of paradoxical exhilaration possessed him. He remembered his dear Julia
with tender, weary regret, and gave his fancy license to dwell on the
winsomeness of Bessie. And while it was so dwelling he heard her tuneful
tongue as she came with Miss Burleigh over the grass, still white with
hoar-frost where the sun had not fallen. He advanced to meet them.

"Oh, Cecil, here you are! Mr. Fairfax has been inquiring for you, but
there is no hurry," said his sister, and she was gone.

Bessie wore a broad shady hat, yet not shady enough to conceal the
impetuous blushes that mantled her cheeks on her companion's evasion.
She felt what it was the prelude to. Mr. Cecil Burleigh, inspired with
the needful courage by these fallacious signs, broke into a stammering
eloquence of passion that was yet too plain to be misunderstood--not
reflecting, he, that maiden blushes may have more sources than one. The
hot torrent of Bessie's rose from the fountain of indignation in her
heart--indignation at his inconstancy to the sweet lady who she knew
loved him, and his impertinence in daring to address herself when she
knew he loved that lady. She silently confessed that to this upshot his
poor pretences of wooing had tended from the first, and that she had
been wilfully half blind and wholly unbelieving--so unwilling are proud
young creatures to imagine that their best feelings can be traded
on--but she was none the less wrathful and scornful as she lifted her
eyes, dilated with tears, to his, and sweeping him a curtsey turned away
without a single word--without a single word, yet never was wooer more
emphatically answered.

They parted and went different ways. Bessie, thinking she would give all
she was worth that he had held his peace and let her keep her dream of
pity and sympathy, took the shrubbery path to the village and Miss
Hague's cottage-lodgings; and Mr. Cecil Burleigh, repenting too late the
vain presumption that had reckoned on her youth and ignorance, apart
from the divining power of an honest soul, walked off to Norminster to
rid himself of his heavy sense of mortification and discomfiture.

Miss Burleigh saw her brother go down the road, and knew what had
happened, and such a pang came with the certainty that only then did she
realize how great had been her former confidence. She stood a long while
at her window, listening and watching for Miss Fairfax's return to the
house, but Bessie was resting in Miss Hague's parlor, hearing anecdotes
of her father and uncles when they were little boys, and growing by
degrees composed after her disturbing emotion. She wished to keep the
morning's adventure to herself, or, if the story must be told, to leave
the telling of it to Mr. Cecil Burleigh; and when she went back to the
house, the old governess accompanying her, she betrayed no counsel by
her face: that was rosy with the winter cold, and hardly waxed rosier
when Lady Angleby expressed a wish to know what she had done with her
nephew, missing since breakfast. Bessie very simply said that she had
only seen him for a minute, and she believed that he had gone into the
town; she had been paying a long-promised visit to Miss Hague.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh, reappearing midway the afternoon, was summoned to
his aunt's closet and bidden to explain himself. The explanation was far
from easy. Lady Angleby was profoundly irritated, and reproached her
nephew with his blundering folly in visiting Miss Julia Gardiner in Miss
Fairfax's company. She refused to believe but that his fascination must
have proved irresistible if Miss Fairfax had not been led to the
discovery of that faded romance. Was he quite sure that the young lady's
answer was conclusive? Perfectly conclusive--so conclusive that he
should not venture to address her again. "Not after Julia's marriage?"
his sister whispered. Lady Angleby urged a temporary retreat and then a
new approach: it was impossible but that a fine, spirited girl like Miss
Fairfax must have ambition and some appreciation of a distinguished
mind; and how was her dear Cecil to support his position without the
fortune she was to bring him? At this point Mr. Cecil Burleigh
manifested a contemptuous and angry impatience against himself, and rose
and left the discussion to his grieved and disappointed female
relatives. Mr. Fairfax, on being informed of the repulse he had
provoked, received the news calmly, and observed that it was no more
than he had anticipated.

Towards evening Bessie felt her fortitude failing her, and did not
appear at dinner nor in the drawing-room. Her excuses were understood
and accepted, and in the morning early Mr. Cecil Burleigh conveyed
himself away by train to London, that his absence might release her from
seclusion. Before he went, in a consultation with his aunt and Mr.
Fairfax, it was agreed that the late episode in his courtship should be
kept quiet and not treated as final. Later in the day Mr. Fairfax
carried his granddaughter home to Abbotsmead, not unconsoled by the
reflection that he was not to be called upon to resign her to make
bright somebody else's hearth. Bessie was much subdued. She had passed a
bad night, she had shed many tears, and though she had not encountered
one reproach, she was under the distressing consciousness that she had
vexed several people who had been good to her. At the same time there
could not be two opinions of the wicked duplicity of a gentleman who
could profess to love and wish to marry her when his heart was devoted
to another lady: she believed that she never could forgive him that
insult.

Yet she was sorry even to tears again when she remembered him in the
dull little drawing-room at Ryde, and Miss Julia Gardiner telling him
that she had forgotten her old songs which he liked better than her new
ones; for it had dawned upon her that this scene--it had struck her then
as sad--must have been their farewell, the _finis_ to the love-chapter
of their youth. Bessie averted her mind from the idea that Miss Julia
Gardiner had consented to marry a rich, middle-aged gentleman who was a
widower: she did not like it, it was utterly repugnant, she hated to
think of it. Oh, that people would marry the right people, and not care
so much for rank and money! Lady Angleby's loveliest sister had forty
years ago aggrieved her whole family by marrying the poor squire of
Carisfort; and Lady Angleby had said in Bessie's hearing that her
sister was the most enviable woman she knew, happy as the day was long,
though so positively indigent as to be thankful for her eldest
daughter's half-worn Brentwood finery to smarten up her younger girls.
It must indeed be a cruel mistake to marry the wrong person. So far the
wisdom and sentiment of Bessie Fairfax--all derived from observation or
most trustworthy report--and therefore not to be laughed at, although
she was so young.



CHAPTER XXXII.

_A HARD STRUGGLE_.


Mr. Cecil Burleigh's departure to town so immediately after Lady
Angleby's ball might have given rise to remark had he not returned to
Brentwood before the month's end, and in excellent spirits. During his
brief absence he had, however, found time to run down to the Isle of
Wight and see Miss Julia Gardiner. In all trouble and vexation his
thoughts still turned to her for rest.

Twice already a day had been named for the marriage, and twice it had
been deferred to please her. It now stood fixed for February--"A good
time to start for Rome and the Easter festivals," she had pleaded. Mr.
Brotherton was kindness itself in consideration for her wishes, but her
own family felt that poor Julia was making a long agony of what, if it
were to be done at all, were best done quickly. When Mr. Cecil Burleigh
went to Ryde, he expected to find the preparations for the wedding very
forward, but nothing seemed to have been begun. The young ladies were
out walking, but Mrs. Gardiner, who had written him word that the 10th
of December was the day, now told him almost in the first breath that it
was put off again until the New Year.

"We shall all be thankful to have it over. I never knew dear Julia so
capricious or so little thoughtful for others," said the poor languid,
weary lady.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh heard the complaint with a miserable compassion, and
when Julia came in, and her beautiful countenance broke into sunshine
at the sight of him, he knew what a cruel anticipation for her this
marriage really was. He could have wished for her sake--and a little for
his own too--that the last three months were blotted from their history;
but when they came to talk together, Julia, with the quick discernment
of a loving woman, felt that the youthful charms of Miss Fairfax had
warmly engaged his imagination, though he had so much tenderness of
heart still left for herself.

He did not stay long, and when he was going he said that it would have
been wiser never to have come: it was a selfish impulse brought him--he
wanted to see her. Julia laughed at his simple confession; her sister
Helen was rather angry.

"Now, I suppose you will be all unsettled again, Julia," said she,
though Julia had just then a most peaceful face. Helen was observant of
her: "I know what you are dreaming--while there is the shadow of a
chance that Cecil will return to you, Mr. Brotherton will be left
hanging between earth and heaven."

"Oh, Nellie, I wish you would marry Mr. Brotherton yourself. Your
appreciation of his merits is far higher than mine."

"If I were in your place I would not use him as you do: it _is_ a shame,
Julia."

"It is not you who are sentenced to be buried alive, Nellie. I dare not
look forward: I dread it more and more--"

"Of course. That is the effect of Cecil's ill-judged visit and Mary
Burleigh's foolish letter. Pray, don't say so to mamma; it would be
enough to lay her up for a week."

Julia shut her eyes and sighed greatly. "Fashionable marriages are
advertised with the tag of 'no cards;' you will have to announce mine as
'under chloroform.' Nellie, I never can go through with it," was her
cry.

"Oh, Julia," remonstrated her sister, "don't say that. If you throw over
Mr. Brotherton, half our friends will turn their backs upon us. We have
been wretchedly poor, but we have always been well thought of."

Miss Julia Gardiner's brief joy passed in a thunder-shower of passionate
tears.

It was not intended that the rebuff Mr. Cecil Burleigh had received
from Miss Fairfax should be generally known even by his friends, but it
transpired nevertheless, and was whispered as a secret in various
Norminster circles. Buller heard it, but was incredulous when he saw the
new member in his visual spirits; Mrs. Stokes guessed it, and was
astonished; Lady Angleby wrote about it to Lady Latimer with a petition
for advice, though why Lady Latimer should be regarded as specially
qualified to advise in affairs of the heart was a mystery. She was not
backward, however, in responding to the request: Let Mr. Cecil Burleigh
hold himself in reserve until Miss Julia Gardiner's marriage was an
accomplished fact, and then let him come forward again. Miss Fairfax had
behaved naturally under the circumstances, and Lady Latimer could not
blame her. When the young lady came to Fairfield in the spring,
according to her grandfather's pledge, Mr. Cecil Burleigh should have
the opportunity of meeting her there, but meanwhile he ought not
entirely to give up calling at Abbotsmead. This Mr. Cecil Burleigh could
not do without affronting his generous old friend--to whom Bessie gave
no confidence, none being sought--but he timed his first visit during
her temporary absence, and she heard of it as ordinary news on her
return.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

_A VISIT TO CASTLEMOUNT._


Bessie Fairfax had been but a few days at home after the Brentwood
rejoicings when there came for her an invitation from Mrs. Chiverton to
spend a week at Castlemount. She was perfectly ready to go--more ready
to go than her grandfather was to part with her. She read him the letter
at breakfast; he said he would think about it, and at luncheon he had
not yet made up his mind. Before post-time, however, he supposed he must
let her choose her own associates, and if she chose Mrs. Chiverton for
old acquaintance' sake, he would not refuse his consent, but Mr.
Chiverton and he were not on intimate terms.

Bessie went to Castlemount under escort of Mrs. Betts. Mrs. Chiverton
was rejoiced to welcome her. "I like Miss Fairfax, because she is
honest. Her manner is a little brusque, but she has a good heart, and we
knew each other at school," was her reason given to Mr. Chiverton for
desiring Bessie's company. They got on together capitally. Mrs.
Chiverton had found her course and object in life already, and was as
deeply committed to philanthropic labors and letters as either Lady
Latimer or Lady Angleby. They were both numbered amongst her
correspondents, and she promised to outvie them in originality and
fertility of resource. What she chiefly wanted at Castlemount was a good
listener, and Bessie Fairfax, as yet unprovided with a vocation, showed
a fine turn that way. She reposed lazily at the end of Mrs. Chiverton's
encumbered writing-table, between the fire and the window, and heard her
discourse with infinite patience. Bessie was too moderate ever to join
the sisterhood of active reformers, but she had no objection to their
activity while herself safe from assaults. But when she was invited to
sign papers pledging herself to divers serious convictions she demurred.
Mrs. Chiverton said she would not urge her. Bessie gracefully
acquiesced, and Mrs. Chiverton put in a more enticing plea: "I can
scarcely expect to interest you in my occupations all at once, but they
bring to me often the most gratifying returns. Read that letter."

Bessie read that letter. "Very honeyed phrases," said she with her odd
twist of the mouth, so like her grandfather. It was from a more
practised philanthropist than the young lady to whom it was addressed,
and was in a strain of fulsome adulation, redolent of gratitude for
favors to come. Religious and benevolent egotism is impervious to the
tiny sting of sarcasm. Mrs. Chiverton looked complacently lofty, and
Bessie had not now to learn how necessary to her was the incense of
praise. Once this had provoked her contempt, but now she discerned a
certain pathos in it; she had learnt what large opportunity the craving
for homage gives to disappointment. "You cannot fail to do some good
because you mean well," she said after the perusal of more letters, more
papers and reports. "But don't call me heartless and unfeeling because
I think that distance lends enchantment to the view of some of your
pious and charitable objects."

"Oh no; I see you do not understand their necessity. I am busy at home
too. I am waging a crusade against a dreadful place called Morte, and a
cottage warfare with our own steward. These things do not interest Mr.
Chiverton, but he gives me his support. I tell him Morte must disappear
from the face of the earth, but there is a greedy old agent of Mr.
Gifford's, one Blagg, who is terribly in the way. Then I have
established a nursery in connection with the school, where the mothers
can leave their little children when they go to work in the fields."

"Do they work in the fields hereabouts?"

"Oh yes--at hoeing, weeding and stone-picking, in hay-time and harvest.
Some of them walk from Morte--four miles here and four back. There is a
widow whose husband died on the home-farm--it was thought not to answer
to let widows remain in the cottages--this woman had five young
children, and when she moved to Morte, Mr. Chiverton kindly kept her on.
I want her to live at our gates."

"And what does she earn a day?"

"Ninepence. Of course, she has help from the parish as well--two
shillings a week, I think, and a loaf for each child besides."

A queer expression flitted over Bessie's face; she drew a long breath
and stretched her arms above her head.

"Yes, I feel it is wrong: the widow of a laborer who died in Mr.
Chiverton's service, who spends all her available strength in his
service herself, ought not to be dependent on parish relief. I put it to
him one day with the query, Why God had given him such great wealth? A
little house, a garden, the keep of a cow, a pig, would have made all
the difference in the world to her, and none to him, except that her
children might have grown up stout and healthy, instead of ill-nurtured
and weakly. But you are tired. Let us go and take a few turns in the
winter-garden. It is the perfection of comfort on a windy, cold day like
this."

Bessie acceded with alacrity. Castlemount was not the building of one
generation, but it owed its chief glories to its present master. Mr.
Chiverton had found it a spacious country mansion, and had converted it
into a palace of luxury and a museum of art--one reason why Morte had
thriven and Chiver-Chase become almost without inhabitant. Bessie
Fairfax was half bewildered amongst its magnificences, but its
winter-garden was to her the greatest wonder of all. She was not,
however, sufficiently acclimatized to an artificial temperature to enjoy
it long. "It is delicious, but as we are not hot-house ferns, a good
stretch over that upland would be, perhaps, more delicious still: it is
cold, but the sun shines," she said after two turns under the moist
glass.

"We must not change the air too suddenly," Mrs. Chiverton objected. "The
wind is very boisterous."

"There is a woman at work in it; is it your widow?" Bessie asked,
pointing down a mimic orange-grove.

"Yes--poor thing! how miserably she is clothed! I must send her out one
of my knitted kerchiefs."

"Oh yes, do," said Bessie; and the woollen garment being brought, she
was deputed to carry it to the weeding woman.

On closer view she proved to be a lean, laborious figure, with an
anxious, weather-beaten face, which cleared a little as she received the
mistress's gift. It was a kerchief of thick gray wool, to cross over in
front and tie behind.

"It will be a protection against the cold for my chest; I suffered with
the inflammation badly last spring," she said, approving it.

"Put it on at once; it is not to be only looked at," said Bessie.

The woman proceeded to obey, but when she wanted to tie it behind she
found a difficulty from a stiffness of one shoulder, and said, "It is
the rheumatics, miss; one catches it being out in the wet."

"Let me tie it for you," said Bessie.

"Thank you, miss, and thank the mistress for her goodness," said the
woman when it was done, gazing curiously at the young lady. And she
stooped again to her task, the wind making sport with her thin and
scanty skirts.

Bessie walked farther down the grove, green in the teeth of winter. She
was thinking that this poor widow, work and pain included, was not less
contented with her lot than herself or than the beautiful young lady who
reigned at Castlemount. Yet it was a cruelly hard lot, and might be
ameliorated with very little thought. "Blessed is he that considereth
the poor," says the old-fashioned text, and Bessie reflected that her
proud school-fellow was in the way of earning this blessing.

She was confirmed in that opinion on the following day, when the weather
was more genial, and they took a drive together in the afternoon and
passed through the hamlet of Morte. It had formed itself round a
dilapidated farm-house, now occupied as three tenements, in one of which
lived the widow. The carriage stopped in the road, and Mrs. Chiverton
got out with her companion and knocked at the door. It was opened by a
shrewd-visaged, respectable old woman, and revealed a clean interior,
but very indigent, with the tea-table set, and on a wooden stool by the
hearth a tall, fair young woman sitting, who rose and dropt a smiling
curtsey to Miss Fairfax: she was Alice, the second housemaid at
Abbotsmead, and waited on the white suite. She explained that Mrs. Macky
had given her leave to walk over and see her mother, but she was out at
work; and this was her aunt Jane, retired from service and come to live
at home with her widowed sister.

An old range well polished, an oven that would not bake, and a boiler
that would not hold water,--this was the fireplace. The floor was of
bricks, sunken in waves and broken; through a breach in the roof of the
chamber over the "house" blew the wind and leaked the rain, in spite of
a sack stuffed with straw thrust between the rafters and the tiles.

"Yes, ma'am, my poor sister has lived in this place for sixteen years,
and paid the rent regularly, three pounds a year: I've sent her the
money since she lost her husband," said the retired servant, in reply to
some question of Mrs. Chiverton's. "Blagg is such a miser that he won't
spend a penny on his places; it is promise, promise for ever. And what
can my poor sister do? She dar'n't affront him, for where could she go
if she was turned out of this? There's a dozen would jump at it, houses
is so scarce and not to be had."

"There ought to be a swift remedy for wretches like Blagg," Mrs.
Chiverton indignantly exclaimed when they were clear of the
foul-smelling hamlet. "Why cannot it be an item of duty for the rural
police to give information of his extortion and neglect? Those poor
women are robbed, and they are utterly helpless to resist it. It is a
greater crime than stealing on the highway."

"Do any of grandpapa's people live at Morte?" Bessie asked.

"No, I think not; they are ours and Mr. Gifford's, and a colony of
miserable gentry who exist nobody can tell how, but half their time in
jail. It was a man from Morte who shot our head-keeper last September.
Poor wretch! he is waiting his trial now. When I have paid a visit to
Morte I always feel indifferent to my beautiful home."

Bessie Fairfax felt a sharp pang of compunction for her former hard
judgment of Mrs. Chiverton. If it was ever just, time and circumstances
were already reversing it. The early twilight overtook them some miles
from Castlemount, but it was still clear enough to see a picturesque
ivied tower not far removed from the roadside when they passed
Carisfort.

Bessie looked at it with interest. "That is not the dwelling-house--that
is the keep," Mrs. Chiverton said. "The house faces the other way, and
has the finest view in the country. It is an antiquated place, but
people can be very good and happy there."

The coachman had slackened speed, and now stopped. A gentleman was
hastening down the drive--Mr. Forbes, as it turned out on his nearer
approach. The very person she was anxious to see! Mrs. Chiverton
exclaimed; and they entered on a discussion of some plan proposed
between them for the abolition of Morte.

"I can answer for Mr. Chiverton's consent. Mr. Gifford is the
impracticable person. And of course it is Blagg's interest to oppose us.
Can we buy Blagg out?" said the lady.

"No, no; that would be the triumph of iniquity. We must starve him out,"
said the clergyman.

More slowly there had followed a lady--Miss Burleigh, as Bessie now
perceived. She came through the gate, and shook hands with Mrs.
Chiverton before she saw who her companion in the carriage was, but when
she recognized Bessie she came round and spoke to her very pleasantly:
"Lady Augleby has gone to Scarcliffe to meet one of her daughters, and
I have a fortnight's holiday, which I am spending at home. You have not
been to Carisfort: it is such a pretty, dear old place! I hope you will
come some day. I am never so happy anywhere as at Carisfort;" and she
allowed Bessie to see that she included Mr. Forbes in the elements of
her happiness there. Bessie was quite glad to be greeted in this
friendly tone by Mr. Cecil Burleigh's sister; it was ever a distress to
her to feel that she had hurt or vexed anybody. She returned to
Castlemount in charming spirits.

On entering the drawing-room before dinner there was a new arrival--a
slender little gentleman who knelt with one knee on the centre ottoman
and turned over a volume of choice etchings. He moved his head, and
Bessie saw a visage familiar in its strangeness. He laid the book down,
advanced a step or two with a look of pleased intelligence, bowed and
said, "Miss Fairfax!" Bessie had already recognized him. "Mr. Christie!"
said she, and they shook hands with the utmost cordiality. The world is
small and full of such surprises.

"Then you two are old acquaintances? Mr. Christie is here to paint my
portrait," said Mrs. Chiverton.

The meeting was an agreeable episode in their visit. At dinner the young
artist talked with his host of art, and Bessie learnt that he had seen
Italy, Spain, Greece, that he had friends and patrons of distinction,
and that he had earned success enough to set him above daily cares. Mr.
Chiverton had a great opinion of his future, and there was no better
judge in the circle of art-connoisseurs.

"Mr. Christie has an exquisite taste and refinement--feelings that are
born in a man, and that no labor or pains can enable him to acquire,"
her host informed Bessie. It was these gifts that won him a commission
for a portrait of the beautiful Mrs. Chiverton, though he was not
professedly a painter of portraits.

After dinner, Miss Fairfax and he had a good talk of Beechhurst, of
Harry Musgrave, and other places and persons interesting to both. Bessie
asked after that drop-scene, at the Hampton theatre, and Mr. Christie,
in nowise shy of early reminiscences, gave her an amusing account of how
he worked at it. Then he spoke of Lady Latimer as a generous soul who
had first given him a lift, and of Mr. Carnegie as another effectual
helper. "He lent me a little money--I have long since paid it back," he
whispered to Bessie. He was still plain, but his countenance was full of
intelligence, and his air and manner were those of a perfectly simple,
cultivated, travelled gentleman. He did salaam to nobody now, for in his
brief commerce with the world he had learnt that genius has a rank of
its own to which the noblest bow, and ambition he had none beyond
excelling in his beloved art. Harry Musgrave was again, after long
separation, his comrade in London. He said that he was very fond of
Harry.

"He is my constant Sunday afternoon visitor," he told Bessie. "My
painting-room looks to the river, and he enjoys the sunshine and the
boats on the water. His own chambers are one degree less dismal than
looking down a well."

"He works very hard, does he not?--Harry used to be a prodigious
worker," said Bessie.

"Yes, he throws himself heart and soul into whatever he undertakes,
whether it be work or pleasure. If he had won that fellowship the other
day I should have been glad. It would have made him easier."

"I did not know he was trying for one. How sorry I am! It must be very
dull studying law."

"He lightens that by writing articles for some paper--reviews of books
chiefly. There are five years to be got through before he can be called
to the bar--a long probation for a young fellow in his circumstances."

"Oh, Harry Musgrave was never impatient: he could always wait. I am
pleased that he has taken to his pen. And what a resource you must be to
each other in London, if only to tell your difficulties and
disappointments!"

"Oh yes, I am in all Musgrave's secrets, and he in mine," said Christie.
"A bachelor in chambers has not a superfluity of wants; he is short of
money now and then, but that is very much the case with all of us."

Bessie laughed carelessly. "Poor Harry!" said she, and recollected the
tragical and pathetic stories of the poets that they used to discuss,
and of which they used to think so differently. She did not reflect how
much temptation was implied in the words that told her Harry was short
of money now and then. A degree of hardship to begin with was nothing
more than all her heroes had encountered, and their biography had
commonly succeeded in showing that they were the better for it--unless,
indeed, they were so unlucky as to die of it--but Harry had far too much
force of character ever to suffer himself to be beaten; in all her
visions he was brave, steadfast, persistent, and triumphant. She said so
to Mr. Christie, adding that they had been like brother and sister when
they were children, and she felt as if she had a right to be interested
in whatever concerned him. Mr. Christie looked on the carpet and said,
"Yes, yes," he remembered what friends and comrades they were--almost
inseparable; and he had heard Harry say, not so very long ago, that he
wished Miss Fairfax was still at hand when his spirits flagged, for she
used to hearten him more than anybody else ever did. Bessie was too much
gratified by this reminiscence to think of asking what the
discouragements were that caused Harry to wish for her.

The next day Mrs. Chiverton's portrait was begun, and the artist was as
happy as the day was long. His temper was excellent unless he were
interrupted at his work, and this Mr. Chiverton took care should not
happen when he was at home. But one morning in his absence Mr. Gifford
called on business, and was so obstinate to take no denial that Mrs.
Chiverton permitted him to come and speak with her in the
picture-gallery, where she was giving the artist a sitting. Bessie
Fairfax, who had the tact never to be in the way, was there also,
turning over his portfolio of sketches (some sketches on the beach at
Yarmouth greatly interested her), but she looked up with curiosity when
the visitor entered, for she knew his reputation.

He was a fat man of middle age, with a thin voice and jerky manner. "I
had Forbes yesterday, Mrs. Chiverton, to speak to me in your name," he
announced. "Do you know him for the officious fellow he is, for ever
meddling in other people's matters? For ten years he has pestered me
about Morte, which is no concern of mine."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Gifford, it is very much your concern," Mrs.
Chiverton said with calm deliberation. "Eleven laborers, employed by
farmers on your estate, representing with their families over thirty
souls, live in hovels at Morte owned by you or your agent Blagg. They
are unfit for human habitation. Mr. Chiverton has given orders for the
erection of groups of cottages sufficient to house the men employed on
our farms, and they will be removed to them in the spring. But Mr.
Fairfax and other gentlemen who also own land in the bad neighborhood of
Morte object to the hovels our men vacate being left as a harbor for the
ragamuffinery of the district. They require to have them cleared away;
most of these, again, are in Blagg's hands."

"The remedy is obvious: those gentlemen do not desire to be munificent
at Blagg's expense--let them purchase his property. No doubt he has his
price."

"Yes, Mr. Gifford, but a most extortionate price. And it is said he
cannot sell without your consent."

Mr. Gifford grew very red, and with stammering elocution repelled the
implication: "Blagg wants nobody's consent but his own. The fact is, the
tenements pay better to keep than they would pay to sell; naturally, he
prefers to keep them."

"But if you would follow Mr. Chiverton's example, and let the whole
place be cleared of its more respectable inhabitants at one blow, he
would lose that inducement."

Mr. Gifford laughed, amazed at this suggestion--so like a woman, as he
afterwards said. "Blagg has served me many years--I have the highest
respect for him. I cannot see that I am called on to conspire against
his interests."

Mrs. Chiverton's countenance had lost its serenity, and would not soon
recover it, but Bessie Fairfax could hardly believe her ears when the
artist muttered, "Somebody take that chattering fool away;" and up he
jumped, cast down his palette, and rushed out of the gallery. Mrs.
Chiverton looked after him and whispered to Bessie, "What is it?" "Work
over for the day," whispered Bessie again, controlling an inclination to
laugh. "The temperament of genius disturbed by the intrusion of
unpleasant circumstances." Mrs. Chiverton was sorry; perhaps a walk in
the park would recompose the little man. There he was, tearing over the
grass towards the lake. Then she turned to Mr. Gifford and resumed the
discussion of Morte, with a warning of the terrible responsibility he
incurred by maintaining that nest of vice and fever; but as it was
barren of results it need not be continued.

The next day the painter worked without interruption.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

_BESSIE'S PEACEMAKING._


When Bessie Fairfax returned from Castlemount she learnt for a first
piece of news that Mr. Cecil Burleigh had spent two days of her absence
at Abbotsmead, and that he had only left in the morning. To this
information her grandfather added that he had seen in his time
unsuccessful lovers, more dejected. Bessie laughed and blushed, and said
she was glad to hear he was in good spirits; and this was their first
and last allusion to the crowning episode of her visit to Brentwood. The
squire gave her one searching look, and thought it wisdom to be silent.

The green rides of the woods and glades of the park were all encumbered
with fallen leaves. The last days of autumn were flown, and winter was
come. The sound of the huntsman's horn was heard in the fields, and the
squire came out in his weather-stained scarlet coat to enjoy the sport
which was the greatest pleasure life had left for him. One fine soft
morning at the end of November the meet was at Kirkham turnpike, and
Abbotsmead entertained the gentlemen of the hunt at breakfast.

Bessie rode a little way with her grandfather, and would have ridden
farther, but he sent her back with Ranby. Mr. Cecil Burleigh had once
expressed a prejudice against foxhunting ladies, and when Mr. Fairfax
saw his granddaughter the admiration of the miscellaneous gathering, and
her acquaintance claimed by even Mr. Gifford, he adopted it. Bessie was
disappointed. She liked the exercise, the vivacity of the sport, and
Janey went so beautifully; but when her grandfather spoke she quietly
submitted. Sir Edward Lucas, though he was charmed with her figure on
horseback, was still more charmed by her obedience.

The burden of Bessie's present life threatened to be the tedium of
nothing to do. She could not read, practise her songs, and learn poetry
by heart all the hours of the day: less than three sufficed her often.
If she had been bred in a country-house, she would have possessed
numerous interests that she inevitably lacked. She was a stranger
amongst the villagers--neither old nor young knew her. There was little
suffering to engage her sympathy or poverty to invite her help. At
Kirkham there were no long-accumulated neglects to reform as there was
at Morte, and to Morte Mr. Fairfax forbade her to go. She had a liberal
allowance, and not half ways enough to spend it, so she doubled her
allowance to Miss Hague on behalf of her former pupils, Geoffry and
Frederick; Laurence paid his own.

She was not a girl of many wants, and her taste did not incline to idle
expenditure. She had seen thrift and the need of thrift in her early
home, and thought money much too valuable to be wasted in buying things
she did not require. Where she saw a necessity she was the freest of
givers, but she had experience, gained in her rides with Mr. Carnegie,
against manufacturing objects of sentimental charity.

Her resource for a little while was the study of the house and
neighborhood she lived in. There was a good deal of history connected
with Kirkham. But it was all contained in the county gazetteer; and when
Macky had instructed her in the romance of the family, and the legends
attached to the ruins by the river and the older portions of the
mansion, all was learnt that there was to know, and the sum of her
reflections announced aloud was, that Abbotsmead was a very big house
for a small family. Macky shook her head in melancholy acquiescence.

The December days were very long, and the weather wild and stormy both
by land and sea. Bessie conjectured sometimes when her uncle Frederick
would come home, but it appeared presently that he was not coming. He
wrote that he had laid up the Foam in one of the Danish ports to be
ready for the breaking up of the winter and a further exploration of the
Baltic coasts, and that he was just starting on a journey into
Russia--judging that the beauty of the North is in perfection during the
season of ice and snow.

"Just like one of Fred's whims!" said his father discontentedly. "As if
he could not have come into Woldshire and have enjoyed the hunting!
Nobody enjoyed it more than he did formerly."

He did not come, however, and Bessie was not astonished. Under other
circumstances Abbotsmead might have been a cheerful house, but it seemed
as if no one cared to make it cheerful now: if the days got over
tranquilly, that was enough. The squire and his granddaughter dined
alone day after day, Mr. Forbes relieved their monotony on Sundays, and
occasionally Mr. Oliver Smith came for a night. Society was a toil to
Mr. Fairfax. He did not find his house dull, and would have been
surprised to know that Elizabeth did. What could she want that she had
not? She had Janey to ride, and Joss, a companionable dog, to walk with;
she had her carriage, and could drive to Hartwell as often as she
pleased; and at her gates she had bright little Mrs. Stokes for company
and excellent Mrs. Forbes for counsel. Still, Bessie felt life stagnant
around her. She could not be interested in anything here without an
effort. The secret of it was her hankering after the Forest, and partly
also her longing for those children. To have those dear little boys over
from Norminster would cheer her for the whole winter; but how to compass
it? Once she thought she would bring them over without leave asked, but
when she consulted Mrs. Stokes, she was assured that it would be a
liberty the squire would never forgive.

"I am not afraid of being never forgiven," rejoined Bessie. "I shall do
some desperate act one of these days if I am kept idle. Think of the
echoes in this vast house answering only the slamming of a door! and
think of what they would have to answer if dear little unruly Justus
were in the old nursery!"

Mrs. Stokes laughed: "I am only half in sympathy with you. Why did you
discourage that fascinating Mr. Cecil Burleigh? A young lady is never
really occupied until she is in love."

Bessie colored slightly. "Well," she said, "I am in love--I am in love
with my two little boy-cousins. What do you advise? My grandfather has
never mentioned them. It seems as if it would be easier to set them
before him than to speak of them."

"I should not dare to do that. What does Mr. Laurence Fairfax say? What
does his wife say?"

"Not much. My grandfather is treating them precisely as he treated my
father and my mother--just letting them alone. And it would be so much
pleasanter if we were all friends! I call it happiness thrown away. I
have everything at Abbotsmead but that. It is not like a home, and the
only motive there was for me to try and root there is taken away since
those boys came to light."

"Your future prospects are completely changed. You bear it very well."

"It is easy to bear what I am truly thankful for. Abbotsmead is nothing
to me, but those boys ought to be brought up in familiarity with the
place and the people. I am a stranger, and I don't think I am very apt
at making humble friends. To enjoy the life one ought to begin one's
apprenticeship early. I wonder why anybody strains after rank and
riches? I find them no gain at all. I still think Mr. Carnegie the best
gentleman I know, and his wife as true a gentlewoman as any. You are
smiling at my partiality. Shall you be shocked if I add that I have met
in Woldshire grand people who, if they were not known by their titles,
would be reckoned amongst the very vulgar, and gentry of old extraction
who bear no brand of it but that disagreeable manner which is qualified
as high-bred insolence?"

Mrs. Stokes held all the conventionalities in sincere respect. She did
not understand Miss Fairfax, and asked who, then, of their acquaintance
was her pattern of a perfect lady. Bessie instanced Miss Burleigh. "Her
sweet graciousness is never at fault, because it is the flower of her
beautiful disposition," said she.

"I should never have thought of her," said Mrs. Stokes reflectively.
"She is very good. But to go back to those boys: do nothing without
first speaking to Mr. Fairfax."

Bessie demurred, and still believed her own bolder device the best, but
she allowed herself to be overruled, and watched for an opportunity of
speaking. Undoubtedly, Mr. Fairfax loved his granddaughter with more
respect for her independent will than he might have done had they been
together always. He had denied her no reasonable request yet, and he
granted her present prayer so readily that she was only sorry she had
not preferred it earlier.

"Grandpapa, you will give me a Christmas gift, will you not?" she said
one evening after dinner about a week before that festive season.

"Yes, Elizabeth. What would you like?" was his easy reply. It was a
satisfaction to hear that she had a wish.

"I should like to have my two little cousins from Norminster--Justus and
Laury. They would quite enliven us."

Mr. Fairfax was evidently taken by surprise. Still, he did not rebuke
her audacity. He was silent for a minute or two, as if reflecting, and
when he answered her it was with all the courtesy that he could have
shown towards a guest for whose desires he was bound to feel the utmost
deference. "Certainly, Elizabeth," said he. "You have a right to be
here, as I told you at your first coming, and it would be hard that I
should forbid you any visitor that would enliven you. Have the little
boys, by all means, if you wish it, and make yourself as happy as you
can."

Elizabeth thanked him warmly. "I will write to-morrow. Oh, I know they
may come--my uncle Laurence promised me," said she. "And the day before
Christmas Eve, Mrs. Betts and I will go for them. I am so glad!"

Mr. Fairfax did not check her gay exuberance, and all the house heard
what was to be with unfeigned joy. Mrs. Stokes rejoiced too, and pledged
her own sons as playfellows for the little visitors. And when the
appointed time came, Bessie did as she had said, and made a journey to
Norminster, taking Mrs. Betts with her to bring the children over. Their
father and pretty young mother consented to their going with the less
reluctance because it seemed the first step towards the re-establishment
of kindly relations with the offended squire; and Sally was sent with
them.

"Next Christmas you will come too," said Bessie, happier than any queen
in the exercise of her office as peacemaker, and important also as
being put in charge of those incomparable boys, for Sally was, of
course, under superior orders.

The first drawback to her intense delight was a whimper from Laury as he
lost sight of his mamma, and the next drawback was that Justus asked to
be taken home again the moment the train reached Mitford Junction. These
little troubles were quickly composed, however, though liable, of
course, to break out again; and Bessie felt flushed and uneasy lest the
darling boys should fail of making a pleasant first impression on
grandpapa. Alas for her disquiets! She need have felt none. Jonquil
received her at the door with a sad countenance; and Macky, as she came
forward to welcome the little gentlemen, betrayed that her temper had
been tried even to tears not very long before. Jonquil did not wait to
be inquired of respecting his master, but immediately began to say, in
reply to his young lady's look of troubled amazement, "The squire, miss,
has gone on a journey. I was to tell you that he had left you the house
to yourself."

"Gone on a journey? But he will return before night?" said Bessie.

"No, miss. We are to expect him this day week, when Mr. Laurence's
children have gone back to Norminster," explained the old servant in a
lower voice.

Bessie comprehended the whole case instantly. Macky was relieving her
pent feelings by making a fuss with the little boys, and giving Mrs.
Betts her mind on the matter. The group stood disconcerted in the hall
for several minutes, the door open and the low winter sun shining upon
them. Bessie did not speak--she could not. She gazed at the children,
pale herself and trembling all over. Justus began to ask where was
grandpapa, and Laury repeated his question like a lisping echo. There
was no answer to give them, but they were soon pacified in the old
nursery where their father had played, and were made quite happy with a
grand parade of new toys on the floor, expressly provided for the
occasion. Bed-time came early, and Bessie was relieved when it did come.
Never in the whole course of her life had she felt so hurt, so insulted,
so injured; and yet she was pained, intensely pained, for the old man
too. Perhaps he had meant her to be so, and that was her punishment.
Jonquil could give her no information as to whither his master had
gone, but he offered a conjecture that he had most probably gone up to
London.

If it was any comfort to know that the old servants of the house
sympathized with her, Bessie had that. They threw themselves heart and
soul into the work of promoting the pleasure of the little visitors.
Jonquil proved an excellent substitute for grandpapa, and Macky turned
out an inexhaustible treasury of nice harmless things to eat, of funny
rhymes to sing, and funny stories to tell in a dramatic manner. Still,
it was a holiday spoilt. It was not enjoyed in the servants' hall nor in
the housekeeper's room. No amount of Yule logs or Yule cakes could make
a merry Christmas of it that year. All the neighbors had heard with
satisfaction that Mr. Fairfax's little grandsons were to be brought to
Abbotsmead, and such as had children made a point of coming over with
them, so that the way in which Miss Fairfax's effort at peacemaking had
failed was soon generally known, and as generally disapproved. Mrs.
Stokes, that indignant young matron, qualified the squire's behavior as
"Quite abominable!" but she declared that she would not vex herself if
she were Miss Fairfax--"No, indeed!" Bessie tried hard not. She tried to
be dignified, but her disappointment was too acute, and her
grandfather's usage of her too humiliating, to be borne with her
ordinary philosophy.

She let her uncle Laurence know what had happened by letter, and on the
day fixed for the children to go home again she went with them, attended
by Mrs. Betts as before. Mr. Laurence Fairfax was half amused at the
method by which his father had evaded Bessie's bold attempt to rule him,
and his blossom of a wife was much too happy to care for the old
squire's perversity unless he cared; but they were both sorry for
Bessie.

"My grandfather lets me have everything but what I want," she said with
a tinge of rueful humor. "He surrounds me with every luxury, and denies
me the drink of cold water that I thirst for. I wish I could escape from
his tyranny. We were beginning to be friends, and this has undone it
all. A refusal would not have been half so unkind."

"There is nothing but time to trust to," said her uncle Laurence. "My
father's resentment is not active, but it lasts."

Bessie was quite alone that long evening, the last of the old year: at
Beechhurst or at Brook there was certainly a party. Nor had she any
intimation of the time of her grandfather's return beyond what Jonquil
had been able to give her a week ago. He had not written since he left,
and an accumulation of letters awaited him in his private room, Jonquil
having been unable to forward any for want of an address. The dull
routine of the house proceeded for three days more, and then the master
reappeared at luncheon without notice to anybody.

Mr. Fairfax took his seat at the table, ate hungrily, and looked so
exactly like himself, and so unconscious of having done anything to
provoke anger, to give pain or cause anxiety, that Bessie's imaginary
difficulties in anticipation of his return were instantly removed. He
made polite inquiries after Janey and Joss, and even hoped that Bessie
had been enlivened by her little cousins' visit. She would certainly not
have mentioned them if he had not, but, as he asked the question, she
was not afraid to answer him.

"Yes," said she, "children are always good company to me, especially
boys; and they behaved so nicely, though they are very high-spirited,
that I don't think they would have been inconvenient if you had stayed
at home."

"Indeed? I am glad to hear they are being well brought up," said the
squire; and then he turned to Jonquil and asked for his letters.



CHAPTER XXXV.

_ABBOTSMEAD IN SHADOW._


Mr. Fairfax's letters were brought to him, and after glancing cursorily
through the batch, he gathered them all up and went off to his private
room. Bessie conjectured that he would be busy for the rest of the
afternoon, and she took a walk in the park until dusk, when she returned
to the house and retired to her own parlor. The dressing-bell rang at a
quarter to seven, as usual, and Mrs. Betts came to assist at her young
lady's toilet. Being dressed, Bessie descended to the octagon room,
which she found empty.

It was a fine, frosty night, and the sky was full of stars. She put
aside a curtain and looked out into the wintry garden, feeling more than
ever alone and desolate amidst the grandeur of her home. It seemed as if
the last unkindness she had suffered was the worst of all, and her heart
yearned painfully towards her friends in the Forest. Oh, for their
simple, warm affection! She would have liked to be sitting with her
mother in the old-fashioned dining-room at Beechhurst, listening for the
doctor's return and the clink of Miss Hoyden's hoofs on the hard frozen
road, as they had listened often in the winters long ago. She forgot
herself in that reverie, and scarcely noticed that the door had been
opened and shut again until her grandfather spoke from the hearth,
saying that Jonquil had announced dinner.

The amiable disposition in which the squire had come home appeared to
have passed off completely. Bessie had seen him often crabbed and
sarcastic, but never so irritable as he was that evening. Nothing went
right, from the soup to the dessert, and Jonquil even stirred the fire
amiss. Some matter in his correspondence had put him out. But as he made
no allusion to his grievance, Bessie was of course blind and deaf to his
untoward symptoms. The next day he went to Norminster to see Mr. John
Short, and came back in no better humor--in a worse humor if
possible--and Mrs. Stokes whispered to Bessie the explanation of it.

Mr. Fairfax had inherited a lawsuit with a small estate in Durham,
bequeathed to him by a distant connexion, and this suit, after being for
years a blister on his peace, had been finally decided against him. The
estate was lost, and the plague of the suit with it, but there were
large costs to pay and the time was inconvenient.

"Your grandfather contributed heavily to the election of Mr. Cecil
Burleigh in the prospect of an event which it seems is not to be,"
concluded the little lady with reproachful significance. "My Arthur told
me all about it (Mr. Fairfax consults him on everything); and now there
are I don't know how many thousands to pay in the shape of back rents,
interest, and costs, but it is an immense sum."

Bessie was sorry, very sorry, and showed it with so much sense and
sympathy that her grandfather presently revealed his vexations to her
himself, and having once mentioned them, he found her a resource to
complain to again. She hoped that he would get over his defeat the
sooner for talking of it, but he did not. He was utterly convinced that
he had right on his side, and he wanted a new trial, from which Mr. John
Short could hardly dissuade him. The root of his profound annoyance was
that Abbotsmead must be encumbered to pay for the lost suit, unless his
son Frederick, who had ready money accumulated from the unspent fortune
of his wife, would come to the rescue. In answer to his father's appeal
Frederick wrote back that a certain considerable sum which he mentioned
was at his service, but as for the bulk of his wife's fortune, he
intended it to revert to her family. Mr. Laurence Fairfax made, through
the lawyer, an offer of further help to keep Abbotsmead clear of
mortgages, and with the bitter remark that it was Laurence's interest to
do so, the squire accepted his offer.

So much at this crisis did Bessie hear of money and the burden and
anxiety of great estates that she thought poverty must be far
preferable. The squire developed a positively bad temper under his
worries. And he was not irritable only: by degrees he became ill, and
yet would have no advice. Jonquil was greatly troubled about him, and
when he refused to mount his horse one splendid hunting morning in
February, though he was all equipped and ready, Bessie also began to
wonder what ailed him besides crossness, for he was a man of strong
constitution and not subject to fanciful infirmities.

Early in March, Mr. Frederick Fairfax wrote home that his Russian tour
was accomplished, and that he was impatient to be on board his yacht
again. The weather was exceedingly rough and tempestuous later in the
month, and the squire, watching the wrack of the storm on the wolds,
often expressed anxiety lest his son should be rash and venturesome
enough to trust himself out of port in such weather. Everybody was
relieved when April opened with sunny showers and the long and severe
winter seemed to be at an end. It had not made Bessie more in love with
her life at Abbotsmead: there had, indeed, been times of inexpressible
dreariness in it very trying to her fortitude. With the dawning of
brighter days in spring she could not but think of the Forest with fresh
longing, and she watched each morning's post for the arrival of that
invitation to Fairfield which Lady Latimer had promised to send. At
length it came, and after brief demur received a favorable answer. The
squire had a mortified consciousness that his granddaughter's life was
not very cheerful, and, though he did not refuse her wish, he was unable
to grant it heartily. However, the fact of his consent overcame the
manner of it, and Bessie was enjoying the pleasures of anticipation, and
writing ecstatically to her mother, when an event happened that threw
Abbotsmead into mourning and changed the bent even of her desires.

One chilly evening after dinner, when she had retreated to the octagon
parlor, and was dreaming by the fireside in the dusk alone, Jonquil,
with visage white as a ghost, ushered in Mr. John Short. He had walked
over from Mitford Junction, in the absence of any vehicle to bring him
on, and was jaded and depressed, though with an air of forced composure.
As Jonquil withdrew to seek his master the lawyer advanced into the
firelight, and Bessie saw at once that he came on some sad errand. Her
grandfather had gone, she believed, to look after his favorite hunter,
which had met with a severe sprain a week ago; but she was not sure, for
he had been more and more restless for some time past, had taken to
walking at unaccustomed hours, to neglecting his correspondence, leaving
letters for days unopened, and betraying various other signs of a mind
unsettled and disturbed. It had appeared to Bessie that he was always in
a state of distressed expectancy, but what for she had no idea. The
appearance of Mr. John Short without previous notice suggested new
vexation connected with the lawsuit, but when she asked if he were again
the messenger of bad news, he startled her with a much more tragical
announcement.

"I am sorry to say that I am, Miss Fairfax. Mr. Frederick has not lived
much at home of late years, but I fear that it will be a terrible shock
to his father to hear that he is lost," said Mr. John Short.

"Lost!" echoed Bessie. "Lost! Oh where? Poor grandpapa!"

"On the Danish coast. His yacht was wrecked in one of the gales of last
month, and all on board perished. The washing ashore of portions of the
wreck leaves no doubt of the disaster. The consul at the nearest port
communicated with the authorities in London, and the intelligence
reached me some days ago in a form that left little to hope. This
morning the worst was confirmed."

Bessie sat down feeling inexpressibly sorrowful. "Grandpapa is out
somewhere--Jonquil is seeking him. Oh, how I wish I could be more of a
help and comfort to him!" she said, raising her eyes to the lawyer's
face.

"It is a singular thing, Miss Fairfax, but your grandfather never seems
to want help or comfort like other men. He shuts himself up and
broods--just broods--when he is grieved or angry. He was very genial and
pleasant as a young man, but he had a disappointment of the affections
that quite soured him. I do not know that he ever made a friend of any
one but his sister Dorothy. They were on the Continent for a year after
that affair, and she died in Italy. He was a changed man when he came
home, and he married a woman of good family, but nobody was, perhaps,
more of a stranger to him than his own wife. It was generally remarked.
And he seemed to care as little for her children as he did for her. I
have often been surprised to see that he was indifferent whether they
came to Abbotsmead or not; yet the death of Mr. Geoffry, your father,
hurt him severely, and Mr. Frederick's will be no less a pain."

"I wish I had not vexed him about my uncle Laurence's boys. We were
becoming good friends before," said Bessie.

"Oh, the squire will not bear malice for that. He discriminates between
the generosity of your intention towards the children, and what he
probably mistook for a will to rule himself. He acted very perversely in
going out of the way."

"Does my uncle Laurence know the news you bring?"

"Yes, but he desired me to be the first medium of it. Jonquil is a long
while seeking his master."

A very long while. So long that Bessie rang the bell to inquire, and
the little page answered it. The master was not come in, he said; they
had sent every way to find him. Bessie rose in haste, and followed by
Mr. John Short went along the passage to her grandfather's private room.
That was dark and empty, and so was the lobby by which it communicated
with the garden and the way to the stables. She was just turning back
when she bethought her to open the outer door, and there, at the foot of
the steps on the gravel-walk, lay the squire. She did not scream nor
cry, but ran down and helped to carry him in, holding his white head
tenderly. For a minute they laid him on the couch in the justice-room,
and servants came running with lights.

"It is not death," said Mrs. Betts, peering close in the unconscious
face. "The fire is out here: we will move him to his chamber at once."

As they raised him again one stiffened hand that clutched a letter
relaxed and dropped it. The lawyer picked it up and gave it to Miss
Fairfax. It was a week old--a sort of official letter recording the
wreck of the Foam and the loss of her crew. The suddenness and tragical
character of the news had been too much for the poor father. In the
shock of it he had apparently staggered into the air and had fallen
unconscious, smitten with paralysis. Such was the verdict of Mr. Wilson,
the general practitioner at Mitford, who arrived first upon the scene,
and Dr. Marks, the experienced physician from Norminster, who came in
the early morning, supported his opinion. The latter was a stranger to
the house, and before he left it he asked to see Miss Fairfax.

The night had got over between waiting and watching, and Bessie had not
slept--had not even lain down to rest. She begged that Dr. Marks might
be shown to her parlor, and Mr. John Short appeared with him. Mrs. Betts
had put over her shoulders a white cachemire wrapper, and with her fair
hair loosened and flowing she sat by the window over-looking the fields
and the river where the misty morning was breaking slowly into sunshine.
Both the gentlemen were impressed by a certain power in her, a fortitude
and gentleness combined that are a woman's best strength in times of
trouble and difficulty. They could speak to her without fear of creating
fresh embarrassment as plainly as it was desirable that they should
speak, for she was manifestly aware of a responsibility devolving upon
her.

"Though I apprehend no immediate danger, Miss Fairfax, it is to be
regretted that this sad moment finds Mr. Fairfax at variance with his
only surviving son," said Dr. Marks. "Mr. Laurence Fairfax ought to be
here. It is probable that his father has not made a final disposition of
his affairs; indeed, I understand from Mr. John Short that he has not
done so."

"Oh, does that matter now?" said Bessie.

"Mr. Fairfax's recovery might be promoted if his mind were quite at
ease. If he should wish to transact any business with his lawyer, you
may be required to speak of your own wishes. Do not waste the favorable
moment. The stroke has not been severe, and I have good hopes of
restoration, but when the patient is verging on seventy we can never be
sure."

Dr. Marks went away, leaving Mr. Wilson to watch the case. Mr. John
Short then explained to Bessie the need there was that she should be
prepared for any event: a rally of consciousness was what he hoped for,
perfect, whether tending to recovery or the precursor of dissolution.
For he knew of no will that Mr. Frederick had made, and he knew that
since the discovery of Mr. Laurence's marriage the squire had destroyed
the last will of his own making, and that he had not even drawn out a
rough scheme of his further intentions. The entailed estates were of
course inalienable--those must pass to his son and his son's son--but
there were houses and lands besides over which he had the power of
settlement. Bessie listened, but found it very hard to give her mind to
these considerations, and said so.

"My uncle Laurence is the person to talk to," she suggested.

"Probably he will arrive before the day is over, but you are to be
thought of, you are to be provided for, Miss Fairfax."

"Oh, I don't care for myself at all," said Bessie.

"The more need, then, that some one else should care for you," replied
Mr. John Short.

Inquirers daily besieged Abbotsmead for news of the squire. Mr.
Laurence Fairfax came over, and Mr. John Short stayed on, expecting his
opportunity, while slowly the old man recovered up to a certain point.
But his constitution was permanently weakened and his speech indistinct.
Jonquil, Macky, and Mrs. Betts were his nurses, and the first person
that he was understood to ask for was Elizabeth. Bessie was so glad of
his recollection that she went to him with a bright face--the first
bright face that had come about his bed yet--and he was evidently
pleased. She took up one of his hands and stroked and kissed it, and
knelt down to bring herself nearer to him, all with that affectionate
kindness that his life had missed ever since his sister Dorothy died.

"You are better, grandpapa; you will soon be up and out of doors again,"
said she cheerfully.

He gave her no answer, but lay composed with his eyes resting upon her.
It was doubtful whether the cause of his illness had recurred to his
weakened memory, for he had not attempted to speak of it. She went on to
tell him what friends and neighbors had been to ask after his
health--Mr. Chiverton, Sir Edward Lucas, Mr. Oliver Smith--and what
letters to the same purport she had received from Lady Latimer, Lady
Angleby, Mr. Cecil Burleigh, and others, to which she had replied. He
acknowledged each item of her information with a glance, but he made no
return inquiries.

Mr. Chiverton had called that day, and the form in which he carried
intelligence home to his wife was, "Poor Fairfax will not die of this
bout, but he has got his first warning."

Mrs. Chiverton was sorry, but she did not refrain from speculating on
how Miss Fairfax would be influenced in her fortunes by the triple
catastrophe of her uncle Laurence's marriage, her uncle Frederick's
death, and her grandfather's impending demise. "I suppose if Mr.
Laurence were unmarried, as all the world believed him to be, she would
stand now as the greatest prospective heiress in this part of the
county. If it was her fortune Mr. Cecil Burleigh wanted, he has had a
deliverance."

"I am far from sure that Burleigh thinks so," returned Mr. Chiverton
significantly.

"Oh, I imagined that projected marriage was one of convenience, a family
compact."

"In the first instance so it was. But the young lady's rosy simplicity
caught Burleigh's fancy, and it is still in the power of Mr. Fairfax to
make his granddaughter rich."

Whether Mr. Fairfax would make his granddaughter rich was debated in
circles where it was not a personal interest, but of course it was
discussed with much livelier vivacity where it was. Lady Angleby
expressed a confident expectation that as Miss Fairfax had been latterly
brought up in anticipation of heiress-ship, her grandfather would endow
her with a noble fortune, and Miss Burleigh, with ulterior views for her
brother, ventured to hope the same. But Mr. Fairfax was in no haste to
set his house in order. He saw his son Laurence for a few minutes twice,
but gave him no encouragement to linger at Abbotsmead, and his reply to
Mr. John Short on the only occasion when he openly approached the
subject of will-making was, "There is time enough yet."

The household was put into mourning, but as there was no bringing home
of the dead and no funeral, the event of the eldest son's death passed
with little outward mark. Elizabeth was her grandfather's chief
companion in-doors, and she was cheerful for his sake under
circumstances that were tryingly oppressive. To keep up to her duty she
rode daily, rain or fair, and towards the month's end there were many
soft, wet days when all the wolds were wrapt in mist. People watched her
go by often, with Joss at Janey's heels, and Ranby following behind, and
said they were sorry for Miss Fairfax; it was very sad for so young a
girl to have to bear, unsupported, the burden of her grandfather's
declining old age. For the squire was still consistent in his obstinacy
in refusing to be gracious to his son and his son's wife and children,
and Bessie, on her uncle Laurence's advice, refrained from mentioning
them any more. Old Jonquil alone had greater courage.

One evening the squire, after lying long silent, broke out with, "Poor
Fred is gone!" the first spontaneous allusion to his loss that he had
made.

Jonquil hastened to him. "My dear master, my dear master!" he lamented.
"Oh, sir, you have but one son now! forgive him, and let the little boys
come home--for your own sake, dear master."

"They will come home, as you call it, when I follow poor Fred. My son
Laurence stands in no need of forgiveness--he has done me no wrong.
Strange women and children would be in my way; they are better where
they are." Thus had the squire once answered every plea on behalf of his
son Geoffry. Jonquil remembered very well, and held his peace, sighing
as one without hope.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

_DIPLOMATIC._


Bessie Fairfax gave up her visit to the Forest of her own accord in her
pitying reluctance to leave her grandfather. She wrote to Lady Latimer,
and to her mother more at length. They were disappointed, but not
surprised.

"Now they will prove what she is--a downright good girl, not an atom of
selfishness about her," said Mr. Carnegie to his wife with tender
triumph.

"Yes, God bless her! Bessie will wear well in trouble, but I am very
wishful to see her, and hear her own voice about that gentleman Lady
Latimer talked of." Lady Latimer had made a communication to the
doctor's wife respecting Mr. Cecil Burleigh.

Mr. Carnegie had nothing to advise. He felt tolerably sure that Bessie
would tell her mother every serious matter that befell her, and as she
had not mentioned this he drew the inference that it was not serious.

The first warm days of summer saw Mr. Fairfax out again, walking in the
garden with a stick and the support of his granddaughter's shoulder. She
was an excellent and patient companion, he said. Indeed, Bessie could
forget herself entirely in another's want, and since this claim for care
and helpfulness had been made upon her the tedium of life oppressed her
no more. It was thus that Mr. Cecil Burleigh next saw her again. He had
taken his seat in the House, and had come down to Brentwood for a few
days; and when he called to visit his old friend, Jonquil sent him round
to the south terrace, where Mr. Fairfax was walking with Bessie in the
sun.

In her black dress Bessie looked taller, more womanly, and there was a
sweet peace and kindness in her countenance, which, combined with a
sudden blush at the sight of him, caused him to discover in her new
graces and a more touching beauty than he had been able to discern
before. Mr. Fairfax was very glad to see him, and interested to hear all
he had to tell. Since he had learnt to appreciate at their real worth
his granddaughter's homely virtues, his desire for her union with this
gentleman had revived. He had the highest opinion of Mr. Cecil
Burleigh's disposition, and he would be thankful to put her in his
keeping--a jewel worth having.

Presently Bessie was released from her attendance, and the visitor took
her place: her grandfather wished to speak to Mr. Cecil Burleigh alone.
He began by reverting to the old project of their marriage, and was
easily satisfied with an assurance that the gentleman desired it with
all his heart. Miss Julia Gardiner's wedding had not yet taken place.
She had been delicate through the winter, and Mr. Brotherton had
succumbed to a sharp attack of gout in the early spring. So there had
been delay after delay, but the engagement continued in force, and Mr.
Cecil Burleigh had not repeated his indecorous visit. He believed that
he was quite weaned from that temptation.

Mr. Fairfax gave him every encouragement to renew his siege to
Elizabeth, and promised him a dower with her if he succeeded that should
compensate for her loss of position as heiress of Abbotsmead. It was an
understood thing that Mr. Cecil Burleigh could not afford to marry a
scantily-portioned wife, and a whisper got abroad that Miss Fairfax was
to prosper in her fortunes as she behaved, and to be rich or poor
according as she married to please her grandfather or persevered in
refusing his choice. If Bessie heard it, she behaved as though she heard
it not. She went on being good to the old man with a most complete and
unconscious self-denial--read to him, wrote for him, walked and drove
with him at his will and pleasure, which began to be marked with all the
exacting caprice of senility. And the days, weeks, months slipped round
again to golden September. Monotony abridges time, and, looking behind
her, Bessie could hardly believe that it was over a year ago since she
came home from France.

One day her grandfather observed or imagined that she looked paler than
her wont. He had a letter in his hand, which he gave to her, saying,
"You were disappointed of your visit to Fairfield in the spring,
Elizabeth: would you like to go now? Lady Latimer renews her invitation,
and I will spare you for a week or two."

Oh, the surprise and delight of this unexpected bounty! Bessie blushed
with gratitude. She was the most grateful soul alive, and for the
smallest mercies. Lady Latimer wrote that she should not find Fairfield
dull, for Dora Meadows was on a long stay there, and she expected her
friend Mr. Logger, and probably other visitors. Mr. Fairfax watched his
granddaughter narrowly through the perusal of the document. There could
be no denial that she was eagerness itself to go, but whether she had
any motive deeper than the renewal of love with the family amidst which
she had been brought up, he could not ascertain. There was a great
jealousy in his mind concerning that young Musgrave of whose visit to
Bayeux Mr. Cecil Burleigh had told him, and a settled purpose to hinder
Elizabeth from what he would have called an unequal match. At the same
time that he would not force her will, he would have felt fully
justified in thwarting it; but he had a hope that the romance of her
childish memories would fade at contact with present realities. Lady
Latimer had suggested this possible solution of a difficulty, and Lady
Angleby had supported her, and had agreed that it was time now to give
Mr. Cecil Burleigh a new opportunity of urging his suit, and the coy
young lady a chance of comparing him with those whom her affection and
imagination had invested with greater attractions. There was feminine
diplomacy in this, and the joyful accident that appeared to Bessie a
piece of spontaneous kindness and good-fortune was the result of a
well-laid and well-matured plan. However, as she remained in blissful
ignorance of the design, there was no shadow forecast upon her pleasure,
and she prepared for a fortnight's absence with satisfaction unalloyed.

"You are quite sure you will not miss me, grandpapa--quite sure you can
do without me?" she affectionately pleaded.

"Yes, yes, I can do without you. I shall miss you, and shall be glad to
see you home again, but you have deserved your holiday, and Lady Latimer
might feel hurt if I refused to let you go."

Before leaving Woldshire, Bessie went to Norminster. The old house in
Minster Court was more delightful to her than ever. There was another
little boy in the nursery now, called Richard, after his grandfather.
Bessie had to seek Mrs. Laurence Fairfax at the Manor House, where Lady
Eden was celebrating the birthday of her eldest son. She was seated in
the garden conversing with a young Mrs. Tindal, amidst a group of
mothers besides, whose children were at play on the grass. Mr. Laurence
Fairfax was a man of philosophic benevolence, and when advances were
made to his wife (who had a sense and cleverness beyond anything that
could have been expected in anything so bewilderingly pretty) by ladies
of the rank to which he had raised her, he met them with courtesy, and
she had now two friends in Lady Eden and Mrs. Tindal, whose society she
especially enjoyed, because they all had babies and nearly of an age.
Bessie told her grandfather where and in what company she had found her
little cousins and their mother. The squire was silent, but he was not
affronted. No results, however, came of her information, and she left
Abbotsmead the next morning without any further reference to the family
in Minster Court.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

_SUNDAY MORNING AT BEECHHURST_.


Bessie Fairfax arrived at Fairfield late on Saturday night, and had the
warmest welcome from Lady Latimer. They were only four at dinner. Mr.
Logger and Dora Meadows made up the quartette, and as she was tired with
her journey, and the conversation both at table and in the drawing-room
was literary and political, she was thankful to be dismissed to her room
at an early hour. It was difficult to believe that she was actually
within two miles of home. She could see nothing from her window for the
night-dews, and she woke on Sunday morning to a thick Forest mist; but
by nine o'clock it had cleared, and it was a sumptuous day. She was full
of happy excitement, and proposed to set off betimes and walk to church.
Lady Latimer, in her most complacent humor, bade her do exactly what she
liked: there was Dora to accompany her if she walked, or there was room
in the carriage that would convey herself and Mr. Logger.

The young ladies preferred to walk. Bessie had ridden that road with Mr.
Carnegie many and many a time, but had walked it seldom, for there were
short cuts through the brushwood and heather that she was wont to pursue
in her gypsy excursions with the doctor's boys. But these were not paths
for Sunday. She recollected going along that road with Lady Latimer and
her grandfather sorely against her inclination, and returning by the
same way with her grandfather and Mr. Wiley, when the rector,
admonishing her on the virtue of humility, roused her pride and ire by
his reminder of the lowly occupations to which her early patronesses had
destined her. She laughed to herself, but she blushed too, for the
recollection was not altogether agreeable.

As they drew near to Beechhurst one familiar spot after another called
her attention. Then the church-bells began to ring for morning service,
and they were at the entrance of the town-street, with its little
bow-windowed shops shut up, and its pretty thatched cottages half buried
in flowery gardens that made sweet the air. Bessie's heart beat fast and
faster as she recognized one old acquaintance after another. Some looked
at her and looked again, and did not know her, but most of those she
remembered had a nod, a smile, or a kind word for her, and she smiled on
all. They all seemed like friends. Now Miss Wort rushed out of her gate
and rushed back, something necessary forgotten--gloves or prayer-book
probably. Then the school-children swarmed forth like bees from a hive,
loudly exhorted to peaceable behavior by jolly Miss Buff, who was too
much absorbed in her duty of marshalling them in order to walk the
twenty yards to church to see her young friend at first, but cried out
in a gust of enthusiasm when she did see her, "Oh, you dear little
Bessie! who would have thought it? I never heard you were coming. What a
surprise for them all! They will be delighted."

"I am staying at Fairfield," said Bessie. "There had been so many
disappointments before that I would not promise again. But here I am,
and it seems almost too good to be true."

"Here you are, and a picture of health and beauty; you don't mind my
telling you that? Nobody can say Woldshire disagrees with you."

They walked on. They came in sight of the "King's Arms"--of the doctor's
house. "There is dear old Jack in the porch," said Bessie; and Miss
Buff, with a kind, sympathetic nod, turned off to the church gate and
left her. Jack marched down the path and Willie followed. Then Mrs.
Carnegie appeared, hustling dilatory Tom before her, and leading by the
hand Polly, a little white-frocked girl of nine. As they issued into the
road Bessie stepped more quickly forward. The boys stared at the elegant
young lady in mourning, and even her mother gazed for one moment with
grave, unrecognizing scrutiny. It was but for one moment, and then the
flooded blue eyes and tremulous lips revealed who it was.

"Why, it is our Bessie!" cried Jack, and sprang at her with a shout,
quite forgetful of Sunday sobriety.

"Oh, Jack! But you are taller than I am now," said she, arresting his
rough embrace and giving her hand to her mother. They kissed each other,
and, deferring all explanations, Bessie whispered, "May I come home with
you after service and spend the day?"

"Yes, yes--father will be in then. He has had to go to Mrs. Christie:
Mr. Robb has been attending her lately, but the moment she is worse
nothing will pacify her but seeing her old doctor."

They crossed the road to the church in a group. Mr. Phipps came up at
the moment, grotesque and sharp as ever. "Cinderella!" exclaimed he,
lifting his hat with ceremonious politeness. "But where is the prince?"
looking round and feigning surprise.

"Oh, the prince has not come yet," said Bessie with her beautiful blush.

Mrs. Carnegie emitted a gentle sound, calling everybody to order, and
they entered the church. Bessie halted at the Carnegie pew, but the
children filled it, and as she knew those boys were only kept quiet
during service by maternal control, she passed on to the Fairfield pew
in the chancel, where Dora Meadows was already ensconced. Lady Latimer
presently arrived alone: Mr. Logger had committed himself to an opinion
that it was a shame to waste such a glorious morning in church, and had
declined, at the last moment, to come. He preferred to criticise
preachers without hearing them.

The congregation was much fuller than Bessie remembered it formerly.
Beechhurst had reconciled itself to its pastor, and had found him not so
very bad after all. There was no other church within easy reach, divine
worship could not, with safety, be neglected altogether, and the
aversion with which he was regarded did not prove invincible. It was the
interest of the respectable church-people to get over it, and they had
got over it, pleading in extenuation of their indulgence that, in the
first place, the rector was a fixture, and in the second that his want
of social tact was his misfortune rather than his fault, and a clergyman
might have even worse defects than that. Lady Latimer, Admiral Parkins,
Mr. Musgrave, and Miss Wort had supported him in his office from the
first, and now Mr. Phipps and Mr. Carnegie did not systematically absent
themselves from his religious ministrations.

The programme of the service, so to speak, was also considerably
enlarged since Bessie Fairfax went away. There was a nice-looking curate
whom she recollected as one of the rector's private pupils--Mr. Duffer.
There were twelve men and boys in white raiment, and Miss Buff,
presiding at the new organ with more than her ancient courage, executed
ambitious music that caused strangers and visitors to look up at the
loft and inquire who the organist was. Players and singers were not
always agreed, but no one could say otherwise than that, for a country
church, the performance was truly remarkable; and in the _Hampton
Chronicle_, when an account was given of special services, gratifying
mention was invariably made of Miss Buff as having presided at the organ
with her usual ability. Bessie hardly knew whether to laugh or cry as
she listened. Lady Latimer wore a countenance of ineffable patience. She
had fought the ground inch by inch with the choral party in the
congregation, and inch by inch had lost it. The responses went first,
then the psalms, and this prolonged the service so seriously that twice
she walked out of the church during the pause before sermon; but being
pastorally condoled with on the infirmities inseparable from years which
prevented her sitting through the discourse, she warmly denied the
existence of any such infirmities, and the following Sunday she stayed
to the end. For the latest innovation Beechhurst was indebted to the
young curate, who had a round full voice. He would intone the prayers.
By this time my lady was tired of clerical vanities, and only remarked,
with a little disdain in her voice, that Mr. Duffer's proper place was
Whitchester Cathedral.

When service was over Bessie whispered to her hostess the engagement she
had made for herself during the rest of the day. My lady gloomed for an
instant, and then assented, but Bessie ought to have asked her leave.
The two elder boys were waiting at the church-door as Bessie came out,
and snatched each a daintily gloved hand to conduct her home.

"Mother has gone on first to warn father," Jack announced; and missing
other friends--the Musgraves, Mittens, and Semples, to wit--she allowed
herself to be led in triumph across the road and up the garden-walk, the
garden gay as ever with late-blooming roses and as fragrant of
mignonette.

When she reached the porch she was all trembling. There was her mother,
rather flushed, with her bonnet-strings untied, and her father appearing
from the dining-parlor, where the table was spread for the family
dinner, just as of old.

"This is as it should be; and how are you, my dear?" said Mr. Carnegie,
drawing her affectionately to him.

"Is there any need to ask, Thomas? Could she have looked bonnier if she
had never left us?" said his wife fondly.

Blushing, beaming, laughing, Bessie came in. How small the house seemed,
and how full! There was young Christie's picture of her smiling above
the mantelpiece, there was the doctor's old bureau and the old leathern
chair. Bridget and the younger branches appeared, some of them shy of
Bessie, and Totty particularly, who was the baby when she went away.
They crowded the stairs, the narrow hall. "Make room there!" cried
Jack, imperative amidst the fuss; and her mother conveyed the trembling
girl up to her own dear old triangular nest under the thatch. The books,
the watery miniatures, the Oriental bowl and dishes were all in their
places. "Oh, mother, how happy I am to see it again!" cried she. And
they had a few tears to wink away, and with them the fancied
forgetfulnesses of the absent years.

It was a noisy dinner in comparison with the serene dulness Bessie was
used to, but not noisier than it was entitled to be with seven children
at table, ranging from four to fourteen, for Sunday was the one day of
the week when Mr. Carnegie dined with his children, and it was his good
pleasure to dine with them all. So many bright faces and white pinafores
were a sweet spectacle to Bessie, who was so merry that Totty was quite
tamed by the time the dessert of ripe fruit came; and would sit on
"Sissy's" lap, and apply juicy grapes to "Sissy's" lips--then as "Sissy"
opened them, suddenly popped the purple globes into her own little
mouth, which made everybody laugh, and was evidently a good old family
joke.

Dinner over, Mr. Carnegie adjourned to his study, where his practice was
to make up for short and often disturbed nights by an innocent nap on
Sunday afternoon. "We will go into the drawing-room, Bessie, as we
always do. Totty says a hymn with the others now, and will soon begin to
say her catechism, God bless her!" Thus Mrs. Carnegie.

Bessie had now a boy clinging to either arm. They put her down in a
corner of the sofa, their mother occupying the other, and Totty throned
between them. There was a little desultory talk and seeking of places,
and then the four elder children, standing round the table, read a
chapter, verse for verse. Then followed the recitation of the catechism
in that queer, mechanical gabble that Bessie recollected so well. "If
you stop to think you are sure to break down," was still the warning.
After that Jack said the collect and epistle for the day, and Willie and
Tom said the gospel, and the lesser ones said psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs; and by the time this duty was accomplished Bridget had
done dinner, and arrived in holiday gown and ribbons to resume her
charge. In a few minutes Bessie was left alone with her mother. The
boys went to consult a favorite pear-tree in the orchard, and as Jack
was seen an hour or two later perched aloft amongst its gnarled branches
with a book, it is probable that he chose that retreat to pursue
undisturbed his seafaring studies by means of Marryat's novels.

"I like to keep up old-fashioned customs, Bessie," said her mother. "I
know the dear children have been taught their duty, and if they forget
it sometimes there is always a hope they may return. Mrs. Wiley and Lady
Latimer have asked for them to attend the Bible classes, but their
father was strongly against it; and I think, with him, that if they are
not quite so cleverly taught at home, there is a feeling in having
learnt at their mother's knees which will stay by them longer. It is
growing quite common for young ladies in Beechhurst to have classes in
the evening for servant-girls and others, but I cannot say I favor them:
the girls get together gossipping and stopping out late, and the
teachers are so set up with notions of superior piety that they are
quite spoilt. And they do break out in the ugliest hats and
clothes--faster than the gayest of the young ladies who don't pretend to
be so over-righteous. You have not fallen into that way, dear Bessie?"

"Oh no. I do not even teach in the Sunday-school at Kirkham. It is very
small. Mr. Forbes does not encourage the attendance of children whose
parents are able to instruct them themselves."

"I am glad to hear it. I do not approve of this system of relieving
parents of their private duties. Mr. Wiley carries it to excess, and
will not permit any poor woman to become a member of the
coal-and-clothing club who does not send her children to Sunday-school:
the doctor has refused his subscription in consequence, and divides it
amongst the recusants. For a specimen of Miss Myra Robb's evening-class
teaching we have a girl who provokes Bridget almost past her patience:
she cannot say her duty to her neighbor in the catechism, and her
practice of it is so imperfect that your father begs me, the next time I
engage a scullery-wench, to ascertain that she is not infected with the
offensive pious conceit that distinguishes poor Eliza. Our own dear
children are affectionate and good, on the whole. Jack has made up his
mind to the sea, and Willie professes that he will be a doctor, like
his father; he could not be better. They are both at Hampton School yet,
but we have them over for Sunday while the summer weather continues."

When Bessie had heard the family news and all about the children, she
had to tell her own, and very interesting her mother found it. She had
to answer numerous questions concerning Mr. Laurence Fairfax, his wife
and boys, and then Mrs. Carnegie inquired about that fine gentleman of
whose pretensions to Miss Fairfax Lady Latimer had warned her. Bessie
blushed rather warmly, and told what facts there were to tell, and she
now learnt for the first time that her wooing was a matter of
arrangement and policy. The information was not gratifying, to judge
from the hot fire of her face and the tone of her rejoinder. "Mr. Cecil
Burleigh is a fascinating person--so I am assured--but I don't think I
was the least bit in love," she averred with energetic scorn. Her mother
smiled, and did not say so much in reply as Bessie thought she might.

Presently they went into the orchard, and insensibly the subject was
renewed. Bessie remembered afterward saying many things that she never
meant to say. She mentioned how she had first seen Mr. Cecil Burleigh at
the Fairfield wedding devoted to a most lovely young lady whom she had
seen again at Ryde, and had known as Miss Julia Gardiner. "I thought
they were engaged," she said. "I am sure they were lovers for a long
while."

"You were under that impression throughout?" Mrs. Carnegie suggested
interrogatively.

"Yes. From the day I saw them together at Ryde I had no other thought.
He was grandpapa's friend, grandpapa forwarded his election for
Norminster, and as I was the young lady of the house at Abbotsmead, it
was not singular that he should be kind and attentive to me, was it? I
am quite certain that he was as little in love with me as I was with
him, though he did invite me to be his wife. I felt very much insulted
that he should suppose me such a child as not to know that he did not
care for me; it was not in that way he had courted Miss Julia Gardiner."

"It is a much commoner thing than you imagine for a man to be unable to
marry as his heart would dictate. But he is not for that to remain
single all his life, is he?" said Mrs. Carnegie.

"Perhaps not; I should respect him more if he did. I will remain single
all my life unless I find somebody to love me first and best," said
Bessie with the airy assurance of the romantic age.

"Well, dear, and I trust you may, for affection is the great sweetener
of life, and it must be hard getting along without it. But here is
father."

Mr. Carnegie, his nap over, had seen his wife and Bessie from the
study-window. He drew Bessie's hand through his arm and asked what they
were so earnest in debate upon. Not receiving an immediate answer, he
went on to remark to his wife that their little Bessie was not spoilt by
her life among her high-born friends. "For anything I can see, she is
our dear Bessie still."

"So she is, Thomas--self-will and her own opinion and all," replied her
mother, looking fondly in her face.

Bessie laughed and blushed. "You never expected perfection in me, nor
too much docility," she said.

The doctor patted her hand, and told her she was good enough for human
nature's daily companionship. Then he began to give her news of their
neighbors. "It falls out fortunately that it is holiday-time. Young
Christie is here: you know him? He told us how he had met you at some
grand house in the winter, where he went to paint a picture: the lady
had too little expression to please him, and he was not satisfied with
his work. She was, fortunately, and her husband too, for he had a
hundred pounds for the picture--like coining money his father says. He
is very good to the old people, and makes them share his prosperity--a
most excellent son." Bessie listened for another name of an excellent
son. It came. "And Harry Musgrave is at Brook for a whiff of country
air. That young man works and plays very hard: he must take heed not to
overdo it."

"Then I shall see all my friends while I am in the Forest," said Bessie,
very glad.

"Yes, and as pleased they will be to see you. Mother, Bessie might walk
to Brook with me before tea. They will be uncommonly gratified, and she
will get over to us many another day," Mr. Carnegie proposed.

"Yes, Thomas, if it will not overtire her."

"Oh, nothing overtires me," said Bessie. "Let us go by Great-Ash Ford."

Before they started the doctor had a word or two with his wife alone. He
wanted to hear what she had made out from dear Bessie herself respecting
that grand gentleman, the member of Parliament, who by Lady Latimer's
account was her suitor some time ago and still.

"I am puzzled, Thomas, and that is the truth--girls are so deep," Mrs.
Carnegie said.

"Too deep sometimes for their own comprehension--eh? At any rate, she is
not moping and pining. She is as fresh as a rose, and her health and
spirits are all right. I don't remember when I have felt so thankful as
at the sight of her bonny face to-day."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

_SUNDAY EVENING AT BROOK._


That still Sunday afternoon across the glowing heath to Great-Ash Ford
was most enchanting. Every step of the way was a pleasure to Bessie. And
when they came to the ford, whom should they see resting under the shade
of the trees but Harry Musgrave and young Christie? Harry's attitude was
somewhat weary. He leant on one elbow, recumbent upon the turf, and with
flat pebbles dexterously thrown made ducks and drakes upon the surface
of the shallow pool where the cattle drank. Young Christie was talking
with much earnestness--propounding some argument apparently--and neither
observed the approach of Mr. Carnegie and his companion until they were
within twenty paces. Then a sudden flush overspread Harry's face. "It
_is_ Bessie Fairfax!" said he, and sprang to his feet and advanced to
meet her. Bessie was rosy too, and her eyes dewy bright. Young Christie,
viewing her as an artist, called her to himself the sweetest and most
womanly of women, and admired her the more for her kind looks at his
friend. Harry's _ennui_ was quite routed.

"We were walking to Brook--your mother will give us a cup of tea,
Harry?" said Mr. Carnegie.

Harry was walking home to Brook too, with Christie for company; his
mother would be only too proud to entertain so many good friends. They
went along by the rippling water together, and entered the familiar
garden by the wicket into the wood. Mr. and Mrs. Musgrave were out there
on the green slope under the beeches, awaiting their son and his friend,
and lively were their exclamations of joy when they saw who their other
visitors were.

"Did I not tell you little Bessie was at church, Harry?" cried his
father, turning to him with an air of triumph.

"And he would not believe it. I thought myself it must be a mistake,"
said Mrs. Musgrave.

Bessie was touched to the heart by their cordial welcome. She made a
most favorable impression. Mr. Musgrave thought her as handsome a young
lady as a man could wish to look at, and his wife said her good heart
could be seen in her face.

Bessie felt, nevertheless, rather more formally at home than in her
childhood, except with her old comrade Harry. Between them there was not
a moment's shyness. They were as friendly, as intimate as formerly,
though with a perceptible difference of manner. Bessie had the simple
graces of happy maidenhood, and Harry had the courteous reserve of good
society to which his university honors and pleasant humor had introduced
him. He was a very acceptable companion wherever he went, because his
enjoyment of life was so thorough as to be almost infectious. He must be
a dull dog, indeed, who did not cheer up in the sunshine of Musgrave's
presence: that was his popular character, and it agreed with Bessie's
reminiscences of him; but Harry, like other young men of great hopes and
small fortunes, had his hours of shadow that Christie knew of and others
guessed at. At tea the talk fell on London amusements and bachelor-life
in chambers.

"As for Christie, prudent old fogy that he is, what can he know of our
miseries?" said Harry with assumed ruefulness "He has a mansion in
Cheyne Walk and a balcony looking over the river, and a vigilant
housekeeper who allows no latch-key and turns off the gas at eleven. She
gives him perfect little dinners, and makes him too comfortable by half:
we poor apprentices to law lodge and fare very rudely."

"He has the air of being well done to, which is more than could be said
for you when first you arrived at home, Harry," remarked his mother with
what struck Bessie as a long and wistful gaze.

"Too much smell of the midnight oil is poison to country lungs--mind
what I tell you," said the doctor, emphasizing his words with a grave
nod at the young man.

"He ought to be content with less of his theatres and his operas and
supper-parties if he will read and write so furiously. A young fellow
can't combine the lives of a man of study and a man of leisure without
stealing too many hours from his natural rest. But I talk in vain--talk
you, Mr. Carnegie," said Christie with earnestness.

"A man must work, and work hard, now-a-days, if he means to do or be
anything," said Harry defiantly.

"It is the pace that kills," said the doctor. "The mischief is, that you
ardent young fellows never know when to stop. And in public life, my
lad, there is many a one comes to acknowledge that he has made more
haste than good speed."

Harry sank back in his chair with laughing resignation; it was too bad,
he said, to talk of him to his face so dismally. Bessie Fairfax was
looking at him, her eyebrows raised, and fancying she saw a change; he
was certainly not so brown as he used to be, nor so buoyant, nor so
animated. But it would have perplexed her to define what the change she
fancied was. Conscious of her observation, Harry dissembled a minute,
then pushed back his chair, and invited her to come away to the old
sitting-room, where the evening sun shone. No one offered to follow
them; they were permitted to go alone.

The sitting-room looked a trifle more dilapidated, but was otherwise
unaltered, and was Harry's own room still, by the books, pens, ink, and
paper on the table. Being by themselves, silence ensued. Bessie sadly
wondered whether anything was really going wrong with her beloved Harry,
and he knew that she was wondering. Then she remembered what young
Christie had said at Castlemount of his being occasionally short of
money, and would have liked to ask. But when she had reflected a moment
she did not dare. Their boy-and-girl days, their days of plain,
outspoken confidence, were for ever past. That one year of absence spent
by him in London, by her at Abbotsmead, had insensibly matured the
worldly knowledge of both, and without a word spoken each recognized the
other's position, but without diminution of their ancient kindness.

This recognition, and certain possible, even probable, results had been
anticipated before Bessie was suffered to come into the Forest. Lady
Angleby had said to Mr. Fairfax: "Entrust her to Lady Latimer for a
short while. Granting her humble friends all the virtues that humanity
adorns itself with, they must want some of the social graces. Those
people always dispense more or less with politeness in their familiar
intercourse. Now, Cecil is exquisitely polite, and Miss Fairfax has a
fine, delicate feeling. She cannot but make comparisons and draw
conclusions. Solid worth apart, the charm of manner is with us. I shall
expect decisive consequences from this visit."

What Bessie actually discerned was that all the old tenderness that had
blessed her childhood, and that gives the true sensitive touch, was
still abiding: father, mother, Harry--dearest of all who were most dear
to her--had not lost one whit of it. And judged by the eye, where love
looked out, Harry's great frame, well knit and suppled by athletic
sports, had a dignity, and his irregular features a beauty, that pleased
her better than dainty, high-bred elegance. He had to push his way over
the obstacles of poverty and obscure birth, and she was a young lady of
family and fortune, but she looked up to him with as meek a humility as
ever she had done when they were friends and comrades together, before
her vicissitudes began and her exalted kinsfolk reclaimed her. Woldshire
had not acquainted her with his equal. All the world never would.

Their conversation was opened at last with a surprised smile at finding
themselves where they were--in the bare sitting-room at Brook, with the
western light shining on them through the vine-trellised lattices after
four years of growth and experience. How often had Bessie made a
picture in her day-dreams of their next meeting here since she went
away! In this hour, in this instant, love was new-born in both their
hearts. They saw it, each in the other's eyes--heard it, each in the
other's voice. Tears came with Bessie's sudden smile. She trembled and
sighed and laughed, and said she did not know why she was so foolish.
Harry was foolish too as he made her some indistinct plea about being so
glad. And a red spot burned on his own cheek as he dwelt on her
loveliness. Once more they were silent, then both at once began to talk
of people and things indifferent, coming gradually round to what
concerned themselves.

Harry Musgrave spoke of his friend Christie and his profession
relatively to his own: "Christie has distinguished himself already.
There are houses in London where the hostess has a pride in bringing
forward young talent. Christie got the _entrée_ of one of the best at
the beginning of his career, and is quite a favorite. His gentleness is
better than conventional polish, but he has taken that well too. He is a
generous little fellow, and deserves the good luck that has befallen
him. His honors are budding betimes. That is the joy of an artistic
life--you work, but it is amongst flowers. Christie will be famous
before he is thirty, and he is easy in his circumstances now: he will
never be more, never rich; he is too open-handed for that. But I shall
have years and years to toil and wait," Harry concluded with a
melancholy, humorous fall in his voice, half mocking at himself and half
pathetic, and the same was his countenance.

All the more earnestly did Bessie brighten: "You knew that, Harry, when
you chose the law. But if you work amongst bookworms and cobwebs, don't
you play in the sunshine?"

"Now and then, Bessie, but there will be less and less of that if I
maintain my high endeavors."

"You will, Harry, you must! You will never be satisfied else. But there
is no sentiment in the law--it is dreary, dreary."

"No sentiment in the law? It is a laborious calling, but many honorable
men follow it; and are not the lawyers continually helping those to
right who suffer wrong?"

"That is not the vulgar idea of them, is it? But I believe it is what
you will always strive to do, Harry." Bessie spoke with pretty
eagerness. She feared that she might have seemed to contemn Harry's
vocation, and she hastened to make amends. Harry understood her
perfectly, and had the impudence to laugh at her quite in his old boyish
way. A little confused--also in the old way--she ran on: "I have seen
the judges in their scarlet robes and huge white wigs on a hot July
Sunday attending service in Norminster Cathedral. I tried to attire you
so, but my imagination failed. I don't believe you will ever be a judge,
Harry."

"That is a discouraging prediction, Bessie, if I am to be a lawyer. I do
a little in this way," he said, handling a famous review that lay on the
table. "May I send it to you when there is a paper of mine in it?"

"Oh yes; I should like it so much! I should be so interested!" said
Bessie fervently. "We take the _Times_ at Abbotsmead, and _Blackwood_
and the old _Quarterly_, but not that. I have seen it at my uncle
Laurence's house, and Lady Latimer has it. I saw it in the Fairfield
drawing-room last night: is there anything of yours here, Harry?"

"Yes, this is mine--a rather dry nut for you. But occasionally I
contribute a light-literature article."

"Oh, I must tell my lady. She and Mr. Logger were differing over that
very paper, and ascribing it to half a dozen great, wise people in
turn."

Harry laughed: "Pray, then, don't confess for me. The arguments will
lose half their force if she learn what a tyro wrote it."

"No, no, she will be delighted to know--she adores talent. Besides, Mr.
Logger told her that the cleverest articles were written by sprightly
young men fresh from college. Have you paid your respects to her yet?
She told me with a significant little _moue_ that you had condescended
to call upon her at Easter."

"I propose to pay my respects in company with Christie to-morrow. She is
a grand old lady; and what cubs we were, Bessie, to throw her kindness
in her face before! How angry you were!"

"You were afraid that her patronage might be a trespass on your
independence. It was a mistake in the right direction, if it was a
mistake at all. Poor Mr. Logger is called a toady because he loves to
visit at the comfortable houses of rich great widow ladies, but I am
sure they love to have him. Lady Latimer does not approve you any the
less for not being eager to accept her invitations. You know I was fond
of her--I looked up to her more than anybody. I believe I do still."

There was a brief pause, and then Harry said, "I have heard nothing of
Abbotsmead yet, Bessie?"

"There is not much to hear. I live there, but no longer in the character
of heiress; that prospect is changed by the opportune discovery that my
uncle Laurence had the wisdom, some five years ago, to take a wife to
please himself, instead of a second fine lady to please my grandfather.
He made a secret of it, for which there was no necessity and not much
excuse, but he did it for their happiness. They have three capital
little boys, who, of course, have taken my shoes. I am not sorry. I
don't care for Woldshire or Abbotsmead. The Forest has my heart."

"And mine. A man may set his hopes high, so I go on aspiring to the
possession of this earthly paradise of Brook."

Bessie was smitten with a sudden recollection of what more Harry had
aspired to that time she was admitted into his confidence respecting the
old manor-house. She colored consciously, for she knew that he also
recollected, then said with a smile, "Ah, Harry, but between such
aspirations and their achievement there stretches so often a weary long
day. You will tire with looking forward if you look so far. Are you not
tiring now?"

"No, no. You must not take any notice of my mother's solemn prognostics.
She does not admire what she calls the smoky color I bring home from
London. Some remote ancestor of my father died there of decline, and she
has taken up a notion that I ought to throw the study of the law to the
winds, come home, and turn farmer. Of what avail, I ask her, would my
scholarship be then?"

"You would enjoy it, Harry. In combination with a country life it would
make you the pleasantest life a man can live."

Harry shook his head: "What do you know about it, Bessie? It is
dreadfully hard on an ambitious fellow to be forced to turn his back on
all his fine visions of usefulness and distinction for the paltry fear
that death may cut him short."

"Oh, if you regard it in that light! I should not call it a paltry fear.
There are more ways than one to distinction--this, for instance,"
dropping her hand on Harry's paper in the review. "Winged words fly far,
and influence you never know what minds. I should be proud of the
distinction of a public writer."

"Literature by itself is not enough to depend on unless one draws a
great prize of popularity. I have not imagination enough to write a
novel. Have you forgotten the disasters of your heroes the poets,
Bessie? No--I cannot give up after a year of difficulty. I would rather
rub out than rust out, if that be all."

"Oh, Harry, don't be provoking! Why rub out or rust out either?"
remonstrated Bessie. "Your mother would rather keep her living son,
though ever so unlucky, than bury the most promising that ever killed
himself with misdirected labor. Two young men came to Abbotsmead once to
bid grandpapa good-bye; they were only nineteen and sixteen, and were
the last survivors of a family of seven sons. They were going to New
Zealand to save their lives, and are thriving there in a patriarchal
fashion with large families and flocks and herds. You are not asked to
go to New Zealand, but you had better do that than die untimely in foggy
England, dear as it is. Is not life sweet to you?--it is very sweet to
me."

Harry got up, and walked to an open lattice that commanded the purple
splendor of the western sky. He stood there two or three minutes quite
silent, then by a glance invited Bessie to come. "Life is so sweet," he
said, "that I dare not risk marring it by what seems like cowardice; but
I will be prudent, if only for the sake of the women who love me." There
was the old mirthful light in Harry's eyes as he said the last words
very softly.

"Don't make fun of us," said Bessie, looking up with a faint blush. "You
know we love you; mind you keep your word. It is time I was going back
to Fairfield, the evening is closing in."

The door opened and Mrs. Musgrave entered. "Well, children, are you
ready?" she inquired cheerfully. "We are all thinking you have had quite
time enough to tell your secrets, and the doctor has been wanting to
leave for ever so long."

"Bessie has been administering a lecture, mother, and giving me some
serious advice; she would send me to the antipodes," said her son.
Bessie made a gentle show of denial, and they came forward from the
window.

"Never mind him, dear, that is his teasing way: I know how much to
believe of his nonsense," said Mrs. Musgrave. "But," she added more
gravely, turning to Harry, "if Bessie agrees with your mother that there
is no sense in destroying your health by poring over dusty law in London
when there are wholesome light ways of living to be turned to in sweet
country air, Bessie is wise. I wish anybody could persuade him to tell
what is his objection to the Church. Or he might go and be a tutor in
some high family, as Lady Latimer suggested. He is well fitted for it."

"Did Lady Latimer suggest that, mother?" Harry asked with sharp
annoyance in his voice and look.

"She did, Harry; and don't let that vex you as if it was a coming-down.
For she said that many such tutors, when they took orders, got good
promotion, and more than one had been made a bishop."

This was too much for the gravity of the young people. "A bishop,
Bessie! Can you array me in lawn sleeves and satin gown?" cried Harry
with a peal of laughter. Then, with a sudden recovery and a sigh, he
said, "Nay, mother, if I must play a part, it shall not be on that
stage. I'll keep my self-respect, whatever else I forfeit."

"You will have your own way, Harry, lead where it will; your father and
me have not that to learn at this time of day. But, Bessie joy, Mr.
Carnegie's in a hurry, and it is a good step to Fairfield. We shall see
you often while you are in the Forest, I hope?"

"Staying with Lady Latimer is not quite the same as being at home, but I
shall try to come again."

"Do, dear--we shall be more than pleased; you were ever a favorite at
Brook," said Mrs. Musgrave tenderly. Bessie kissed Harry's mother, shook
hands with himself and his father, who also patted her on the back as a
reminder of old familiarity, and then went off with Mr. Carnegie,
light-hearted and light-footed, a picture of young content. The doctor,
after one glance at her blithe face, thought that he could tell his wife
when he got home who it was their little Bessie really loved.

Harry Musgrave took his hat to set Christie part of the way back to
Beechhurst in the opposite direction. The young men talked as they
walked, Christie resuming the argument that the apparition of Bessie
Fairfax had interrupted in the afternoon. The argument was that which
Mrs. Musgrave had enunciated against the study of the law. Harry was not
much moved by it. If he had a new motive for prudence, he had also a new
and very strong motive for persistence. Christie suspected as much, but
the name of Miss Fairfax was not mentioned.

"You have made your mark in that review, and literature is as fair a
profession as art if a man will only be industrious," he said.

"I hate the notion of task-work and drudgery in literature; and what
sort of a living is to be got out of our inspirations?" objected Harry.

"It is good to bear the yoke in our youth: I find it discipline to paint
pot-boilers," rejoined little Christie mildly. "You must write
pot-boilers for the magazines. The best authors do it."

"It is not easy to get a footing in a magazine where one would care to
appear. There are not many authors whose sole dependence is a
goose-quill. Call over the well-known men; they are all something else
before they are authors. Your pot-boilers are sure of a market; pictures
have become articles of furniture, indispensable to people of taste, and
everybody has a taste now-a-days. But rejected papers are good for
nothing but to light one's fire, if one can keep a fire. Look at
Stamford! Stamford has done excellent work for thirty years; he has been
neither idle nor thriftless, and he lives from hand to mouth still. He
is one of the writers for bread, who must take the price he can get,
and not refuse it, lest he get nothing. And that would be my case--is my
case--for, as you know, my pen provides two-thirds of my maintenance. I
cannot tax my father further. If I had not missed that fellowship! The
love of money may be a root of evil, but the want of it is an evil grown
up and bearing fruit that sets the teeth on edge."

"My dear Musgrave, that is the voice of despair, and for such a
universal _crux_!"

"I don't despair, but I am tried, partly by my hard lines and partly by
the anxieties at home that infect me. To think that with this frame,"
striking out his muscular right arm, "even Carnegie warns me as if I
were a sick girl! The sins of the fathers are the modern Nessus' shirt
to their children. I shall do my utmost to hold on until I get my call
to the bar and a platform to start from. If I cannot hold on so long,
I'll call it, as my mother does, defeat by visitation of God, and step
down to be a poor fellow amongst other poor fellows. But that is not the
life I planned for."

"We all know that, Musgrave, and there is no quarter where you won't
meet the truest sympathy. Many a man has to come down from the tall
pedestal where his hopes have set him, and, unless it be by his own
grievous fault, he is tolerably sure to find his level of content on the
common ground. That's where I mean to walk with my Janey; and some day
you'll hold up a finger, and just as sweet a companion will come and
walk hand in hand with you."

Harry smiled despite his trouble; he knew what Christie meant, and he
believed him. He parted with his friend there, and turned back in the
soft gloom towards home, thinking of her all the way--dear little
Bessie, so frank and warm-hearted. He remembered how, when he was a boy
and lost a certain prize at school that he had reckoned on too
confidently, she had whispered away his shame-faced disappointment with
a rosy cheek against his jacket, and "Never mind, Harry, I love you."
And she would do it again, he knew she would. The feeling was in
her--she could not hide it.

But at this point of his meditations his worldly wisdom came in to dash
their beauty. Unless he could bridge with bow of highest promise the
gulf that vicissitude had opened between them since those days of
primitive affection, he need not set his mind upon her. He ought not, so
he told himself, though his mind was set upon her already beyond the
chance of turning. He did not know yet that he had a rival; when that
knowledge came all other obstacles, sentimental, chivalrous, would be
swallowed up in its portentous shadow. For to-night he held his reverie
in peace.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

_AT FAIRFIELD._


"We thought you were lost," was Lady Latimer's greeting to Bessie
Fairfax when she entered the Fairfield drawing-room, tired with her long
walk, but still in buoyant spirits.

"Oh no!" said Bessie. "I have come from Brook. When I had seen them all
at home my father carried me off there to tea."

"I observed that you were not at the evening service. The Musgraves and
those people drink tea at five o'clock: you must be ready for your
supper now. Mr. Logger, will you be so good as to ring the bell?"

Bessie was profoundly absorbed in her own happiness, but Lady Latimer's
manner, and still more the tone of her voice, struck her with an
uncomfortable chill. "Thank you, but I do not wish for anything to eat,"
she said, a little surprised.

The bell had rung, however, and the footman appeared. "Miss Fairfax will
take supper--she dined in the middle of the day," said Lady Latimer, but
nothing could be less hospitable than the inflection of her speech as
she gave the order.

"Indeed, indeed, I am not hungry; we had chicken and tongue to tea,"
cried Bessie, rather shamefaced now.

"And matrimony-cake and hot buttered toast--"

"No, we had no matrimony-cake," said Bessie, who understood now that my
lady was cross; and no one could be more taunting and unpleasant than my
lady when she was cross.

The footman had taken Miss Fairfax's remonstrative statement for a
negative, and had returned to his own supper when the drawing-room bell
rang again: "Why do you not announce Miss Fairfax's supper? Is it not
ready yet?"

"In a minute, my lady," said the man, and vanished. In due time he
reappeared to say that supper was served, and Lady Latimer looked at her
young guest and repeated the notice. Bessie laughed, and, rising with a
fine color and rather proud air, left the room and went straight to bed.
When neither she nor Mrs. Betts came in to prayers half an hour later,
my lady became silent and reflective: she was not accustomed to revolt
amongst her young ladies, and Miss Fairfax's quiet defiance took her at
a disadvantage. She had anticipated a much more timid habit in this
young lady, whom she had undertaken to manage and mould to the will of
her grandfather. In the morning her humor was gracious again, and
Bessie, who had received counsel from Dora Meadows, deeply experienced
in Aunt Olympia's peculiarities, made no sign of remembering that there
had been any fray. But she was warned of the imperious temper of her
hostess, who would have no independence of action amongst her youthful
charges, but expected them to consult her and defer to her at every
step. "Why, then," thought Bessie, "did she bid me, in the first
instance, do exactly what I liked?" To this there was no answer: is
there ever an answer to the _why_ of an exacting woman's caprice?

After breakfast the young ladies took Mr. Logger out for a salubrious
airing across the heath. In their absence Harry Musgrave and young
Christie called at Fairfield, and, no longer in terror of Lady Latimer's
patronage, talked to her of themselves, which she liked. She was
exceedingly kind, and asked them both to dine the next day. "You will
meet Mr. Cecil Burleigh: you may have heard his name, Mr. Musgrave? The
Conservative member for Norminster," she said rather imposingly.

"Oh yes, he is one of the coming men," said Harry, much interested, and
he accepted the invitation. Mr. Christie declined it. His mother was
very ill, he said, but he would send his portfolio for her ladyship to
look over, if she would allow him. Her ladyship would be delighted.

When the young ladies brought Mr. Logger back to luncheon the visitors
were gone, but Lady Latimer mentioned that they had been there, and she
gave Mr. Logger a short account of them: "Mr. Harry Musgrave is reading
for the bar. He took honors at Oxford, and if his constitution will
stand the wear and tear of a laborious, intellectual life, great things
may be expected from him. But unhappily he is not very strong." Mr.
Logger shook his head, and said it was the London gas. "Mr. Christie is
a son of our village wheelwright, himself a most ingenious person. Mr.
Danberry found him out, and spoke those few words of judicious praise
that revealed the young man to himself as an artist. Mr. Danberry was
staying with me at the time, and we had him here with his sketches,
which were so promising that we encouraged him to make art his study.
And he has done so with much credit."

"Christie? a landscape-painter? does a portrait now and then? I have met
him at Danberry's," said Mr. Logger, whose vocation it was to have met
everybody who was likely to be mentioned in society. "Curious now:
Archdeacon Topham was the son of a country carpenter: headstrong
fellow--took a mountain-walk without a guide, and fell down a
_crevasse_, or something."

Mr. Cecil Burleigh arrived the next day to luncheon. In the afternoon
the whole party walked in the Forest. Lady Latimer kept Dora at her
elbow, and required Mr. Logger's opinion and advice on a new emigration
scheme that she was endeavoring to develop. Bessie Fairfax was thus left
to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, and they were not at a loss for conversation.
Bessie was feeling quite gay and happy, and talked and listened as
cheerfully as possible. The gentleman was rather jaded with the work of
the session, and showed it in his handsome visage. He assumed that Miss
Fairfax was so far in his confidence as to be interested in the high
themes that interested himself, and of these he discoursed until his
companion inadvertently betrayed that she was capable of abstracting her
mind and thinking of something else while seeming to give him all her
polite attention. He was then silent--not unthankfully.

Their walk took them first round by the wheelwright's and afterward by
the village. Lady Latimer loved to entertain and occupy her guests, even
those who would have preferred wider margins of leisure. On the green in
front of the wheelwright's they found little Christie seated under a
white umbrella, making a sketch of his father's house and the shed. A
group of sturdy children had put themselves just in the way by a
disabled wagon to give it life.

"I am doing it to please my mother," said the artist in reply to Lady
Latimer's inquiry if he was going to make a finished picture of it. He
went on with his dainty touches without moving. "I must not lose the
five-o'clock effect of the sun through that tall fir," he explained
apologetically.

"No; continue, pray, continue," said my lady, and summoned her party to
proceed.

At the entrance of the village, to Bessie's great joy, they fell in with
Mr. Carnegie returning from a long round on horseback.

"Would Bessie like a ride with the old doctor to-morrow?" he asked her
as the others strolled on.

"Oh yes--I have brought my habit," she said enthusiastically.

"Then Miss Hoyden shall trot along with me, and we'll call for you--not
later than ten, Bessie, and you'll not keep me waiting."

"Oh no; I will be ready. Lady Latimer has not planned anything for the
morning, so I may be excused."

Whether Lady Latimer had planned anything for the morning or not, she
manifested a lofty displeasure that Miss Fairfax had planned this ride
for herself. Dora whispered to her not to mind, it would soon blow over.
So Bessie went up stairs to dress somewhat relieved, but still with a
doubtful mind and a sense of indignant astonishment at my lady's
behavior to her. She thought it very odd, and speculated whether there
might be any reason for it beyond the failure in deference to herself.

An idea struck her when she saw Mrs. Betts unfolding her most sumptuous
dress--a rich white silk embroidered in black and silver for
mourning--evidently in the intention of adorning her to the highest.
"Oh, not that dress," she said. "I will wear my India muslin with black
ribbons."

"It is quite a set party, miss," remonstrated Mrs. Betts.

"No matter," said Bessie decisively. No, she would not triumph over dear
Harry with grand clothes.

When her young lady had spoken, Mrs. Betts knew that it was spending her
breath in vain to contradict; and Bessie went down to the drawing-room
with an air of inexpensive simplicity very becoming to her beauty, and
that need not alarm a poor gentleman who might have visions of her as a
wife. Lady Latimer instantly accused and convicted her of that intention
in it--in her private thoughts, that is. My lady herself was magnificent
in purple satin, and little Dora Meadows had put on her finest raiment;
but Bessie, with her wealth of fair hair and incomparable beauty of
coloring, still glowed the most; and she glowed with more than her
natural rose when Lady Latimer, after looking her up and down from head
to foot with extreme deliberation, turned away with a scorny face.
Bessie's eyes sparkled, and Mr. Logger, who saw all and saw nothing,
perceived that she could look scorny too.

Mr. Cecil Burleigh was pacing to and fro the conservatory into which a
glass door opened from the drawing-room. His hands were clasped behind
him, and his head was bent down as if he were in a profoundly cogitative
mood. "I am afraid Burleigh is rather out of sorts--the effect of
overstrain, the curse of our time," said Mr. Logger sententiously. Mr.
Logger himself was admirably preserved.

"He is looking remarkably well, on the contrary," said Lady Latimer. My
lady was certainly not in her most beneficent humor. Dora darted an
alarmed glance at Bessie, and at that moment Mr. Musgrave was announced.

Bessie blushed him a sweet welcome, and said, perhaps unnecessarily, "I
am so glad you have come!" and Harry expressed his thanks with kind eyes
and a very cordial shake of the hand: they appeared quite confidentially
intimate, those young people. Lady Latimer stood looking on like a
picture of dignity, and when Mr. Cecil Burleigh entered from the
conservatory she introduced the two young men in her stateliest manner.
Bessie was beginning now to understand what all this meant. Throughout
the dinner my lady never relaxed. She was formally courteous,
elaborately gracious, but _grande dame_ from her shoe-tie to the
top-knot of her cap.

Those who knew her well were ill at ease, but Harry Musgrave dined in
undisturbed, complacent comfort. He had known dons at Oxford, and placed
Lady Latimer in the donnish caste: that was all. He thought she had been
a more charming woman. The conversation was interrogatory, and chiefly
addressed to himself, and he had plenty to say and a pleasant way of
saying it, but except for Bessie's dear bright face opposite the
atmosphere would have been quite freezing. When the ladies withdrew, Mr.
Logger almost immediately followed, and then Mr. Cecil Burleigh was
himself again. He unbent to this athletic young man, whose Oxford
double-first was the hall-mark of his quality, and whom Miss Fairfax was
so frankly glad to see. Harry Musgrave had heard the reputation of the
other, and met his condescension with the easy deference of a young man
who knows the world. They were mutually interesting, and stayed in the
dining-room until Lady Latimer sent to say that tea was in.

When they entered the drawing-room my lady and Mr. Logger were deep in a
report of the emigration commission. Bessie and Dora were sitting on the
steps into the rose-garden watching the moon rise over the distant sea.
Dora was bidden to come in out of the dew and give the gentlemen a cup
of tea; Bessie was not bidden to do anything: she was apparently in
disgrace. Dora obeyed like a little scared rabbit. Harry Musgrave stood
a minute pensive, then took possession of a fine, quilted red silk
_duvet_ from the couch, and folded it round Bessie's shoulders with the
remark that her dress was but thin. Mr. Cecil Burleigh witnessed with
secret trepidation the simple, affectionate thoughtfulness with which
the act was done and the beautiful look of kindness with which it was
acknowledged. Bessie's innocent face was a mirror for her heart. If this
fine gentleman was any longer deceived on his own account, he was one of
the blind who are blind because they will not see.

Lady Latimer was observant too, and she now left her blue-book, and
said, "Mr. Musgrave, will you not have tea?"

Harry came forward and accepted a cup, and was kept standing in the
middle of the room for the next half hour, extemporizing views and
opinions upon subjects on which he had none, until a glance of my lady's
eye towards the clock on the chimney-piece gave him notice of the hours
observed in great society. A few minutes after he took his leave,
without having found the opportunity of speaking to Bessie again, except
to say "Good-night."

As Harry Musgrave left the room my lady rang the bell, and when the
servant answered it she turned to Bessie and said in her iced voice,
"Perhaps you would like to send for a shawl?"

"Thank you, but I will not go out again," said Bessie mildly, and the
servant vanished.

Mr. Logger, who had really much amiability, here offered a remark: "A
very fine young man, that Mr. Musgrave--great power of countenance.
Wherever I meet with it now I say, Let us cherish talent, for it will
soon be the only real distinction where everybody is rich."

Mr. Cecil Burleigh made an inarticulate murmur, which might signify
acquiescence or the reverse.

Lady Latimer said, "Young ladies, I think it is time you were going up
stairs." And with dutiful alacrity the young ladies went.

"Never mind," whispered Dora to Bessie with a kiss as they separated.
"If you take any notice of Aunt Olympia's tempers, you will not have a
moment's peace: I never do. All will be right again in the morning."
Bessie had her doubts of that, but she tried to feel hopeful; and she
was not without her consolation, whether or no.



CHAPTER XL.

_ANOTHER RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR._


Half-past nine was the breakfast-hour at Fairfield, and Bessie Fairfax
said she would prepare for her ride before going down.

"Will you breakfast in your riding-habit, miss?--her ladyship is very
particular," said Mrs. Betts in a tone implying that her ladyship might
consider it a liberty. Bessie said Yes, she must not keep Mr. Carnegie
waiting when he came.

So she went down stairs in her habit and a crimson neck-tie, with her
hair compactly rolled up, and looking exceedingly well. Lady Latimer
justified Dora's predictions: she kissed Bessie as if she had never been
affronted. Bessie accepted the caress, and was thankful. It was no part
of her pleasure to vex my lady.

They had not left the breakfast-table when the servant announced that
Mr. Carnegie had arrived. "We will go out and see you mount," said Lady
Latimer, and left her unfinished meal, Mr. Cecil Burleigh attending her.
Dora would have gone too, but as Mr. Logger made no sign of moving, my
lady intimated that she must remain. Lady Latimer had inquiries to make
of the doctor respecting several sick poor persons, her pensioners, and
while they are talking Mr. Cecil Burleigh gave Bessie a hand up into her
saddle, and remarked that Miss Hoyden was in high condition and very
fresh.

"Oh, I can hold her. She has a good mouth and perfect temper; she never
ran away from me but once," said Bessie, caressing her old favorite with
voice and hand.

"And what happened on that occasion?" said Mr. Cecil Burleigh.

"She had her fling, and nothing happened. It was along the road that
skirts the Brook pastures, and at the sharp turn Mr. Harry Musgrave saw
her coming--head down, the bit in her teeth--and threw open the gate,
and we dashed into the clover. As I did not lose my nerve or tumble off,
I am never afraid now. I love a good gallop."

Mr. Cecil Burleigh asked no more questions. If it be true that out of
the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Brook and Mr. Harry
Musgrave must have been much in Miss Fairfax's thoughts; this was now
the third time that she had found occasion to mention them since coming
to breakfast.

Lady Latimer turned in-doors again with a preoccupied air. Bessie had
looked behind her as she rode down the avenue, as if she were bidding
them good-bye. Mr. Cecil Burleigh was silent too. He had come to
Fairfield with certain lively hopes and expectations, for which my lady
was mainly responsible, and already he was experiencing sensations of
blankness worse to bear than disappointment. Others might be perplexed
as to Miss Fairfax's sentiments, but to him they were clear as the
day--friendly, but nothing more. She was now where she would be, was
exuberantly contented, and could not hide how slight a tie upon her had
been established by a year amongst her kindred in Woldshire.

"This is like old times, Bessie," said the doctor as the Fairfield gate
closed behind them.

Bessie laughed and tossed her head like a creature escaped. "Yes, I am
so happy!" she answered.

The ride was just one of the doctor's regular rounds. He had to call at
Brook, where a servant was ill, and they went by the high-road to the
manor. Harry Musgrave was not at home. He had gone out for a day's
ranging, and was pensively pondering his way through the bosky recesses
of the Forest, under the unbroken silence of the tall pines, to the
seashore and the old haunts of the almost extinct race of smugglers. The
first person they met after leaving the manor was little Christie with a
pale radiant face, having just come on a perfect theme for a picture--a
still woodland pool reflecting high broken banks and flags and rushes,
with slender birchen trees hanging over, and a cluster of low
reed-thatched huts, very uncomfortable to live in, but gloriously mossed
and weather-stained to paint.

"Don't linger here too late--it is an unwholesome spot," said Mr.
Carnegie, warning him as he rode on. Little Christie set up his white
umbrella in the sun, and kings might have envied him.

"My mother is better, but call and see her," he cried after the doctor;
this amendment was one cause of the artist's blitheness.

"Of course, she is better--she has had nothing for a week to make her
bad," said Mr. Carnegie; but when he reached the wheelwright's and saw
Mrs. Christie, with a handkerchief tied over her cap, gently pacing the
narrow garden-walks, he assumed an air of excessive astonishment.

"Yes, Mr. Carnegie, sir, I'm up and out," she announced in a tone of no
thanks to anybody. "I felt a sing'lar wish to taste the air, and my boy
says, 'Go out, mother; it will do you more good than anything.' I could
enjoy a ride in a chaise, but folks that make debts can afford to behave
very handsome to themselves in a many things that them that pays ready
money has to be mean enough to do without. Jones's wife has her rides,
but if her husband would pay for the repair of the spring-cart that was
mended fourteen months ago come Martinmas, there'd be more sense in
that."

"Don't matter, my good soul! Walking is better than riding any fine day,
if you have got the strength," said the doctor briskly.

"Yes, sir; there's that consolation for them that is not rich and loves
to pay their way. I hope to walk to church next Sunday, please the Lord.
And if a word could be given to Mr. Wiley not to play so on the
feelings, it would be a mercy. He do make such awful faces, and allude
to sudden death and accidents and the like, as is enough to give an
ailing person a turn. I said to Mrs. Bunny, 'Mary,' I said, 'don't you
go to hear him; leastways, sit by the door if you must, and don't stop
for the sermon: it might make that impression it would do the babe a
mischief.'"

"Go to chapel; it is nearer. And take Mrs. Bunny with you," said Mr.
Carnegie.

"No, sir. Mrs. Wiley has been very kind in calling and taking notice
since I have been laid up, and one good turn deserves another. I shall
attend church in future, though the doctrine's so shocking that if folks
pondered it the lunatic asylums wouldn't hold 'em all. I'll never
believe as the Lord meant us to be threatened with judgment to come, and
hell, and all that, till one's afraid to lie down in one's bed. He'd not
have let there be an end of us if we didn't get so mortal tired o'
living."

"Living is a weariness that men and women bear with unanimous patience,
Mrs. Christie--aches and pains included."

"So it may be, sir. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. A week ago I
could not have thought the pleasure it would be to-day to see the sun,
and the pretty things in flower, and my boy going out with his
color-box. And not as much physic have you given me, Mr. Carnegie, as
would lie on a penny-piece."

Bessie Fairfax laughed as they rode on, and said, "Nobody changes. I
should be tempted to give Mrs. Christie something horribly nasty for her
ingratitude."

"Nobody changes," echoed the doctor. "She will be at her drugs again
before the month is out."

A little beyond the wheelwright's, Mr. Carnegie pulled up at a spot by
the wayside where an itinerant tinker sat in the shade with his brazier
hot, doing a good stroke of work on the village kettles and pots: "Eh,
Gampling, here you are again! They bade me at home look out for you and
tell you to call. There is a whole regiment of cripples to mend."

"Then let 'em march to Hampton, sir--they'll get back some time this
side o' Christmas," said the tinker, with a surly cunning glance out of
the corner of his eye. "Your women's so mighty hard to please that I'm
not meaning to call again; I prefers to work where I gives
satisfaction."

"I did hear something of a pan new bottomed to mend a hole in its side;
but what is that amongst friends? Mistakes will occur in the
best-regulated businesses."

"You're likely to know, sir--there's a sight o' folks dropping off quite
unaccountable else. I'm not dependent on one nor another, and what I
says I stands to: I'll never call at Dr. Carnegie's back door again
while that Irish lass is about his kitchen; she's give me the rough side
of her tongue once, but she won't do it no more."

"Then good-day to you, Gampling; I can't part with the Irish lass at
your price."

A sturdy laborer came along the road eating a hunch of bread and cheese.
Mr. Carnegie asked him how his wife did. The answer was crabbed: "She's
never naught to boast on, and she's allus worse after a spiritchus
visit: parson's paying her one now. Can you tell me, Mr. Carnegie, sir,
why parson chooses folk's dinner-time to drop in an' badger 'em about
church? Old parson never did." He did not stay to have his puzzle
elucidated, but trudged heavily on.

"Mr. Wiley does not seem very popular yet," observed Bessie.

"He is more so than he was. But his wife, who helps the poor liberally
in the winter, is of twice the use in the parish that he is, with his
inopportune 'spiritchus visits.' I have remonstrated with him about
going to the cottages between twelve and one, when dinner is being eaten
and the men want a bit of rest, but he professes that it is the only
time to catch them in-doors. I suppose Molton won't bear it, and takes
up his food and walks out. Yet Beechhurst might have a worse pastor than
poor Wiley. He is a man I pity--a martyr to dyspepsia and a gloomy
imagination. But I will not deny that he often raises my choler still."
The doctor was on the verge of having it raised now.

At the last bend of the road to the village, and nearly opposite the
forge, was a small cabin of one room, the abode of the respectable Mrs.
Wallop, the mainstay of Beechhurst as a nurse in last illnesses and
dangerous cases--a woman of heart and courage, though perhaps of too
imaginative a style of conversation. Although it was but a work-day, she
was sitting at her own door in her Sunday black gown and bonnet, and,
like Niobe, all tears. Mr. Carnegie pulled up in sheer amazement at the
deplorable spectacle his valued right hand was making of herself in
public, and, as if she had been on the watch for him, up she rose from
her stool and came forward to answer his unspoken questions.

"Ay, Mr. Carnegie, sir, you may well ask what I am doing at home all day
idle," said she. "It is a Judas I feel, and if I don't get it off my
mind it will be too much for me: I can't bear it, sir."

"Then out with it, Mrs. Wallop," said the imperative doctor. "It is
nothing very private, or you would not advertise it by crying at the
corner of the street."

"No, sir, but it shames me to tell it, that it do, though you're one o'
them that well knows what flesh and blood comes to when the temptation's
strong. I've took money, Mr. Carnegie, wage for a month, to go nowheres
else but to the rectory; and nobody ill there, only a' might happen. It
never occurred to me the cruel sin I'd done till Robb came along,
begging and praying of me to go to them forlorn poor creturs at
Marsh-End. For it is the fever, sir. Mr. Wiley got wind of it, and sent
Robb over to make sure."

"Lost in misery they are. Fling away your dirty hire, and be off to
Marsh-End, Mrs. Wallop. Crying and denying your conscience will
disagree very badly with your inside," said Mr. Carnegie, angry contempt
in his voice.

"I will sir, and be glad to. It ain't Christian--no, nor human natur--to
sit with hands folded when there is sick folk wanting help. Poor Judas!"
she went on in soliloquy as the doctor trotted off. "I reckon his
feelings changed above a bit between looking at the thirty pieces of
silver and wishing he had 'un, and finding how heavy they was on his
soul afore he was drove to get rid of 'em, and went out and hanged
himself. I won't do that, anyhow, while I've a good charicter to fall
back on, but I'll return Mrs. Wiley her money, and take the consequences
if she sets it about as I'm not a woman of my word."

A few minutes more brought Mr. Carnegie home with Bessie Fairfax to his
own door. Hovering about on the watch for the doctor's return was Mr.
Wiley. Though there was no great love lost between them, the rector was
imbued with the local faith in the doctor's skill, and wanted to consult
him.

"You have heard that the fever has broken out again?" he said with
visible trepidation.

"I have no case of fever myself. I hear that Robb has."

"Yes--two in one house. Now, what precautions do you recommend against
infection?"

"For nervous persons the best precaution is to keep out of the way of
infection."

"You would recommend me to keep away from Marsh-End, then? Moxon is
nearer, though it is in my parish."

"I never recommend a man to dodge his duty. Mrs. Wallop will be of most
use at present; she is just starting."

"Mrs. Wallop? My wife has engaged her and paid her for a month in the
event of any trouble coming amongst ourselves. You must surely be
mistaken, Mr. Carnegie?"

"Mrs. Wiley was mistaken. She did not know her woman. Good-morning to
you, sir."



CHAPTER XLI.

_FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES._


Mrs. Carnegie from the dining-room window witnessed the colloquy between
the rector and her husband, and came out into the porch to receive her
dear Bessie. "They will not expect you at Fairfield until they see you;
so come in, love," said she, and Bessie gladly obeyed.

The doctor's house was all the quieter for the absence of the elder boys
at Hampton. The other children were playing in the orchard after school.
"It is a great convenience to have a school opened here where boys and
girls are both taught from four up to ten, and very nicely taught," said
the mother. "It gives me a little leisure. Even Totty goes, and likes
it, bless her!"

Mr. Carnegie was not many minutes in-doors. He ate a crust standing, and
then went away again to answer a summons that had come since he went out
in the morning.

"It will be a good opportunity, Bessie, to call on Miss Buff and Miss
Wort, and to say a word in passing to the Semples and Mittens; they are
always polite in asking after you," Mrs. Carnegie mentioned at the
children's dinner. But Miss Buff, having heard that Miss Fairfax was at
the doctor's house, forestalled these good intentions by arriving there
herself. She was ushered into the drawing-room, and Bessie joined her,
and was embraced and rejoiced over exuberantly.

"You dear little thing! I do like you in your habit," cried she. "Turn
round--it fits beautifully. So you have been having a ride with the
doctor, and seeing everybody, I suppose? Mrs. Wiley wonders when you
will call."

"Oh yes, Bessie dear, you must not neglect Mrs. Wiley," said Mrs.
Carnegie.

"It will do some day with Lady Latimer--she has constant business at the
rectory," Bessie said. She did not wish to waste this precious afternoon
in duty-visits to people she did not care for.

"Well, I was to have written to you, and I never did," recommenced Miss
Buff.

"Out of sight, out of mind: don't apologize!"

But Miss Buff would explain and extenuate her broken promise: "The fact
is, my hands are almost too full: what with the school and the
committee, the organ and church, the missionary club and my district, I
am a regular lay-curate. Then there is Mr. Duffer's early service, eight
o'clock; and Fridays and Wednesdays and all the saints' days, and
decorating for the great festivals--perhaps a little too much of that,
but on Whitsunday the chancel was lovely, was it not, Mrs. Carnegie?"
Mrs. Carnegie nodded her acquiescence. "Then I have a green-house at
last, and that gives me something to do. I should like to show you my
green-house, Bessie. But you must be used to such magnificent things now
that perhaps you will not care for my small place."

"I shall care as much as ever. I prefer small things to great yet."

"And my fowl-house--you shall see that--and my pigeons. You used to be
so fond of live creatures, Bessie."

"By the by, Miss Buff, have you discovered yet the depredator of your
poultry-yard?" Mrs. Carnegie asked.

"No, but I have put a stop to his depredations. I strongly suspect that
pet subject of Miss Wort's--that hulking, idle son of Widow Burt. I am
sorry for _her_, but _he_ is no good. You know I wrote to the inspector
of police at Hampton. Did I not tell you? No! Well, but I did, and said
if he would send an extra man over to stay the night in the house and
watch who stole my pigeons, he should have coffee and hot buttered
toast; and I dare say Eppie would not have objected to sit up with him
till twelve. However, the inspector didn't--he did not consider it
necessary--but the ordinary police probably watched, for I have not been
robbed since. And that is a comfort; I hate to sleep with one eye open.
You are laughing, Bessie; you would not laugh if you had lost seven
pigeons ready to go into a pie, and all in the space of ten days. I am
sure that horrid Burt stole 'em."

Bessie still laughed: "Is your affection so material? Do you love your
pigeons so dearly that you eat them up?" said she.

"What else should I keep them for? I should be overrun with pigeons but
for putting them in pies; they make the garden very untidy as it is. I
have given up keeping ducks, but I have a tame gull for the slugs. Who
is this at the gate? Oh! Miss Wort with her inexhaustible physic-bottle.
Everybody seems to have heard that you are here, Bessie."

Miss Wort came in breathless, and paused, and greeted Bessie in a way
that showed her wits were otherwise engaged. "It is the income-tax," she
explained parenthetically, with an appealing look round at the company.
"I have been so put out this morning; I never had my word doubted
before. Jimpson is the collector this year--"

"Jimpson!" broke out Miss Buff impetuously. "I should like to know who
they will appoint next to pry into our private affairs? As long as old
Dobbs collected all the rates and taxes they were just tolerable, but
since they have begun to appoint new men every year my patience is
exhausted. Talk of giving us votes at elections: I would rather vote at
twenty elections than have Tom, Dick, and Harry licensed to inquire into
my money-matters. Since Dobbs was removed we have had for assessors of
income-tax both the butchers, the baker, the brewer, the miller, the
little tailor, the milk-man; and now Jimpson at the toy-shop, of all
good people! There will soon be nobody left but the sweep."

"The sweep is a very civil man, but Jimpson is impertinent. I told him
the sum was not correct, and he answered me: 'The government of the
country must have money to carry on; I have nothing to do with the sum
except to collect it. If you don't like it, ma'am, you've got to appeal
and go before the commissioners.' He may puzzle me with his figures, but
he will never convince me I have the income, for I have not. And he said
if I supposed he was fond of the job I was mistaken."

"Can Mr. Carnegie help you, Miss Wort? Men manage these things so much
more easily than we do," said Mrs. Carnegie kindly.

"Thank you, but I paid the demand as the least trouble and to have done
with it."

"Of course; I would pay half I am possessed of rather rather than go
before the commissioners," said Miss Buff. "Old Phipps is one of them;
and here he is. Come to see you, Bessie; you are having quite a levee. I
shall be off now." Miss Buff rose, and Miss Wort with her, but before
they went there were some rallying speeches to be exchanged between Miss
Buff and the quaint old bachelor. They were the most friendly of
antagonists, and their animosity was not skin-deep. "Have you seen Lady
Latimer since the last school committee, Mr. Phipps?" asked Miss Buff,
in mischievous allusion to their latest difference of opinion.

"No. I always keep as far as possible out of her ladyship's way."

"If you had her spirit of charity you would not avow it."

"You take the name of charity in vain. 'It is the beginning, the excuse,
and the pretext for a thousand usurpations.' Poverty has a new terror
now-a-days in the officiousness of women with nothing to do but play at
charity."

Miss Wort shook her head and shut her eyes, as if to stave off the shock
of this profanity. Miss Buff only laughed the more merrily, and declared
that Mr. Phipps himself had as much to answer for as anybody in
Beechhurst, if charity was a sin.

"I can charge myself with very few acts of charity," said he grimly. "I
am not out of bonds to bare justice."

Mr. Phipps was in his sarcastic vein, and shot many a look askance at
Cinderella in the sofa corner, with her plumed velvet hat lying on a
chair beside her. She had been transformed into a most beautiful
princess, there was no denying that. He had heard a confidential whisper
respecting Mr. Cecil Burleigh, and had seen that gentleman--a very
handsome personage to play the part of prince in the story. Mr. Phipps
had curiosity, discernment, and a great shrewdness. Bessie had a happy
face, and was enjoying her day in her old home; but she would never be
Cinderella in the nursery any more--never the little sunburnt gypsy who
delighted to wander in the Forest with the boys, and was nowhere so well
pleased as when she might run wild. He told her so; he wanted to prove
her temper since her exaltation.

"I shall never be only twelve years old again, and that's true," said
Bessie, with a sportive defiance exceedingly like her former self. "But
I may travel--who knows how far and wide?--and come home browner than
any berry. Grandpapa was a traveller once; so was my uncle Laurence in
pursuit of antiquities; and my poor uncle Frederick--you know he was
lost in the Baltic? The gypsy wildness is in the blood, but I shall
always come back to the Forest to rest."

"She will keep up that delusion in her own mind to the last," said Mr.
Phipps. Then after an instant's pause, as if purposely to mark the
sequence of his thoughts, he asked, "Is that gentleman who is staying at
Fairfield with you now, Mr. Cecil Burleigh, a Woldshire man or South
country?"

"Woldshire," said Bessie curtly; and the color mounted to her face at
the boldness of her old friend's insinuation.

Mr. Phipps admired her anger, and went on with great coolness: "He has
some reputation--member for Norminster, I think you said? The Fairfaxes
used to be great in that part of the county fifty years ago. And I
suppose, Miss Fairfax, you can talk French now and play on the piano?"

Bessie felt that he was very impertinent, but she preserved her
good-humor, and replied laughing, "Yes, Mr. Phipps, I can do a little of
both, like other young ladies." Mr. Carnegie had now come in.

"The old piano is sadly out of tune, but perhaps, Bessie dear, you would
give us a song before you go," suggested her mother.

Bessie gracefully complied, but nobody thought much of her little French
canzonette. "It is but a tiny chirp, Bessie; we have better songs than
that at home--eh, mother?" said the doctor, and that was all the
compliment she got on her performance. Mr. Phipps was amused by her
disconcerted air; already she was beyond the circle where plain speaking
is the rule and false politeness the exception. She knew that her father
must be right, and registered a silent vow to sing no more unless in
private.

Just at this crisis a carriage drove up and stopped at the gate. "It is
the Fairfield carriage come to carry you off, Bessie," said her mother.
Lady Latimer looked out and spoke to the footman, who touched his hat
and ran to the porch with his message, "Would Miss Fairfax make
haste?--her ladyship was in a hurry."

"I must go," said Bessie, and took her hat. Mr. Phipps sighed like an
echo, and everybody laughed. "Good-bye, but you will see me very soon
again," she cried from the gate, and then she got into the carriage.

"To Admiral Parking's," said Lady Latimer, and they drove off on a round
of visits, returning to Fairfield only in time to dress for dinner.

Just at that hour Harry Musgrave was coming back from his ramble in the
red light of a gorgeous sunset, to be met by his mother with the news
that Bessie Fairfax had called at the manor in the course of a ride with
the doctor in the morning, and what a pity it was that he was out of the
way! for he might have had a ride with them if he had not set off quite
so early on his walk. Harry regretted too much what he had missed to
have much to say about it; it was very unlucky. Bessie at Fairfield, he
clearly discerned, was not at home for him, and Lady Latimer was not his
friend. He had not heard any secrets respecting Mr. Cecil Burleigh, but
a suspicion obscured his fancy since last night, and his mother's
tidings threw him into a mood of dejection that made him as pale as a
fond lover whom his lady has rebuffed.



CHAPTER XLII.

_HOW FRIENDS MAY FALL OUT._.


Mr. and Mrs. Bernard and Mr. Wiley were added to the dinner-party at
Fairfield that evening, and Lady Latimer gave Miss Fairfax a quiet
reminder that she might have to be on her guard, for the rector was as
deficient in tact as ever. And so he proved. He first announced that the
fever had broken out again at Littlemire and Marsh-End, after the
shortest lull he recollected, thus taking away Mr. Logger's present
appetite, and causing him to flee from the Forest the first thing in the
morning. Then he condoled with Mrs. Bernard on a mishap to her child
that other people avoided speaking of, for the consequences were likely
to be very serious, and she had not yet been made fully aware of them.
There was a peculiar, low, lugubrious note in his voice which caused it
to be audible through the room, and Bessie, who sat opposite to him,
between Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Mr. Logger, devoted all her conversation
to them to avoid that of the rector. But he had taken note of her at the
moment of his entrance, and though the opportunity of remark had not
been afforded him, he soon made it, beginning with inquiries after her
grandfather. Then he reverted to Mr. Fairfax's visit to Beechhurst four
years ago, and spoke in a congratulatory, patronizing manner that was
peculiarly annoying to Bessie: "There is a difference between now and
then--eh, Bessie? Mrs. Wiley and I have often smiled at one naïve little
speech of yours--about a nest-egg that was saving up for a certain event
that young ladies look forward to. It must be considerably grown by now,
that nest-egg. You remember, I see."

Anybody might see that Bessie remembered; not her face only, but her
neck, her very arms, burned.

"Secrets are not to be told out of the confessional," said Mr. Bernard.
"Miss Fairfax, you blush unseen by me."

There was a general low ripple of laughter, and everybody began to talk
at once, to cover the young lady's palpable confusion. Afterward, Lady
Latimer, who had been amused, begged to know what that mysterious
nest-egg might be. Bessie hesitated. "Tell us, _do_ tell us," urged Dora
and Mrs. Bernard; so Bessie told them. She had to mention the schemes
for sending her to the Hampton Training School and Madame Michaud's
millinery shop by way of making her story clear, and then Lady Latimer
rather regretted that curiosity had prevailed, and manifested her regret
by saying that Mr. Wiley was one of the most awkward and unsafe guests
she ever invited to her table. "I should have asked him to meet Mr.
Harry Musgrave last night, but he would have been certain to make some
remark or inquiry that would have hurt the young man's feelings or put
him out of countenance."

"Oh no," said Bessie with a beautiful blushing light in her face, "Harry
is above that. He has made his own place, and holds it with perfect ease
and simplicity. I see no gentleman who is his better."

"You were always his advocate," Lady Latimer said with a sudden
accession of coldness. "Oxford has done everything for him. Dora, close
that window; Margaret, don't stand in a draught. Mr. Harry Musgrave is
a very plain young man."

"Aunt Olympia, no," remonstrated Mrs. Bernard, who had a suspicion of
Miss Fairfax's tenderness in that quarter, and for kind sympathy would
not have her ruffled.

But Bessie was quite equal to the occasion. "His plainness is lost in
what Mr. Logger calls his power of countenance," said she. "And I'm sure
he has a fine eye, and the sweetest smile I know."

Lady Latimer's visage was a study of lofty disapproval: "Has he but one
eye?--I thought he had two. When young ladies begin to talk of young
gentlemen's fine eyes and sweet smiles, we begin to reflect. But they
commonly keep such sentiments to themselves."

Dora and Bessie glanced at one another, and had the audacity to laugh.
Then Mrs. Bernard laughed and shook her head. My lady colored; she felt
herself in a minority, and, though she did not positively laugh, her
lips parted and her air of severity melted away. Bessie had cast off all
fear of her with her old belief in her perfection. She loved her, but
she knew now that she would never submit to her guidance. Lady Latimer
glanced in the girl's brave, bright face, and said meaningly, "The
nest-egg will not have been saving up unnecessarily if you condescend to
such a folly as _that_." And Bessie felt that my lady had got the last
word for the present.

She looked guilty yet indignant at this open reference to what was no
more than an unspoken vision. She had a thousand shy silent thoughts in
her heart, but it was not for any one to drag them into the light. Lady
Latimer understood that she had said too much, but she would not
retract, and in this way their contention began. They were henceforward
visibly in opposition. Mr. Harry Musgrave called the next morning at
Fairfield and asked for Miss Fairfax. He was not admitted; he was told
that she was not at home.

"But I was at home. Perhaps he is going back to London. I should have
liked to see him," said Bessie when she heard.

"He came at eleven o'clock: who comes at eleven o'clock? Of course
Roberts said 'Not at home,'" replied my lady.

Bessie knew that Roberts would not have said "Not at home" unless he
had received orders to that effect. And, in fact, his orders were to say
"Not at home" to Mr. Harry Musgrave at any and every hour. Lady Latimer
had pledged herself to secure the success of Mr. Cecil Burleigh. She
felt that Bessie was strong in her frank defiance, but if my lady could
do no more for the discouraged suitor, she could at least keep his
favored rival at a distance. And this she did without a twinge of
remorse. Bessie had a beautiful temper when she was pleased, but her
whole soul rebelled against persecution, and she considered it acute
persecution to be taken out for formal drives and calls in custody of my
lady and Mr. Cecil Burleigh, when her mother was probably mending the
boys' socks, and longing for an hour or two of her company at
Beechhurst, and Harry Musgrave was looking in every afternoon at the
doctor's to see if, by good luck, she had gone over. Bessie was made
aware of this last circumstance, and she reckoned it up with a daily
accumulating sense of injury against my lady and her client. Mr. Cecil
Burleigh found out before long that he was losing rather than gaining in
her esteem. Miss Fairfax became not only stiff and cold, but perverse,
and Lady Latimer began to feel that it was foolishly done to bring her
to Fairfield. She had been put in the way of the very danger that was to
be averted. Mr. Harry Musgrave showed to no disadvantage in any company;
Miss Fairfax had not the classic taste; Lady Angleby's tactics were a
signal failure; her nephew it was who suffered diminution in the ordeal
she had prescribed for his rival; and the sooner, therefore, that Miss
Fairfax, "a most determined young lady," was sent back to Woldshire, the
better for the family plans.

"I shall not invite Elizabeth Fairfax to prolong her visit," Lady
Latimer said to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, who in his own mind was sorry she
had made it. "I am afraid that her temper is masterful." My lady was
resolved to think that Bessie was behaving very ill, not reflecting that
a young lady pursued by a lover whom she does not love is allowed to
behave worse than under ordinary circumstances.

Bessie would have liked to be asked to stay at Fairfield longer (which
was rather poor-spirited of her), for, though she did not go so much to
her old home or to Brook as she desired and had expected, it was
something to know that they were within reach. Her sense of happiness
was not very far from perfect--the slight bitterness infused into her
joy gave it a piquancy--and Lady Latimer presently had brought to her
notice symptoms so ominous that she began to wish for the day that would
relieve her from her charge.

One morning Mr. Cecil Burleigh was pacing the garden without his hat,
his head bent down, and his arms clasped behind him as his custom was,
when Bessie, after regarding him with pensive abstraction for several
minutes, remarked to Dora in a quaint, melancholy voice: "Mr. Cecil
Burleigh's hyacinthine locks grow thin--he is almost bald." My lady
jumped up hastily to look, and declared it nonsense--it was only the sun
shining on his head. Dora added that he was growing round-shouldered
too.

"Why not say humpbacked at once?" exclaimed Lady Latimer angrily. Both
the girls laughed: it was very naughty.

"But he is not humpbacked, Aunt Olympia," said the literal Dora.

My lady walked about in a fume, moved and removed books and papers, and
tried to restrain a violent impulse of displeasure. She took up the
review that contained Harry Musgrave's paper, and said with impatience,
"Dora, how often must I beg of you to put away the books that are done
with? Surely this is done with."

"I have not finished reading Harry's article yet: please let me take
it," said Bessie, coming forward.

"'Harry's article'? What do you mean?" demanded Lady Latimer with
austerity: "'Mr. Harry Musgrave' would sound more becoming."

"I forgot to tell you: the paper you and Mr. Logger were discussing the
first evening I was here was written by Mr. Harry Musgrave," said Bessie
demurely, but not without pride.

"Oh, indeed! The crudeness Mr. Logger remarked in it is accounted for,
then," said my lady, and Bessie's triumph was abated. Also my lady
carried off the review, and she saw it no more.

"It is only Aunt Olympia's way," whispered Dora to comfort her. "It
will go off. She is very fond of you, but you must know you are
dreadfully provoking. I wonder how you dare?"

"And is not _she_ dreadfully provoking?" rejoined Bessie, and began to
laugh. "But I am too happy to be intimidated. She will forgive me--if
not to-day, then to-morrow, or if not to-morrow, then the day after; or
I can have patience longer. But I will _not_ be ruled by her--_never_!"



CHAPTER XLIII.

_BETWEEN THEMSELVES._


It was on this day, when Bessie Fairfax's happiness primed her with
courage to resist my lady's imperious will, that Harry Musgrave learnt
for a certainty he had a rival. The rector was his informant. Mr. Wiley
overtook Harry sauntering in the Forest, and asked him how he did,
adding that he regretted to hear from his mother that there was a doubt
of his being able to continue his law-studies in London, and reminding
him of his own unheeded warnings against his ambition to rise in the
world.

"Oh, I shall pull through, I trust," replied the young man, betraying no
disquiet. "My mother is a little fanciful, as mothers often are. You
must not encourage her anxieties."

"You look strong enough, but appearances are sometimes deceptive. Take
care of yourself--health is before everything. It was a pity you did not
win that fellowship: I don't know how you mean to live after you have
got your call to the bar. You clever young fellows who rise from the
ranks expect to carry the world before you, but it is a much harder
matter than you think. Your father cannot make you much of an
allowance?"

Harry knew the rector's tactless way too well to be affronted now by any
remark he might make or any question he might ask. "My father has a
liberal mind," he said good-humoredly. "And a man hopes for briefs
sooner or later."

"It is mostly later, unless he have singular ability or good
connexions. You must marry a solicitor's daughter," said the rector,
flourishing his stick. Harry said he would try to dispense with violent
expedients. They walked on a minute or two in silence, and then Mr.
Wiley said: "You have seen Miss Fairfax, of course?--she is on a visit
at Fairfield."

"Yes. She has been at Brook," replied Harry with reticent coolness. "We
all thought her looking remarkably well."

"Yes, beautiful--very much improved indeed. My wife was quite
astonished, but she has been living in the very best society. And have
you seen Mr. Cecil Burleigh?"

Harry made answer that he had dined at Fairfield one evening, and had
met Mr. Cecil Burleigh there.

"Miss Fairfax's friends must be glad she is going to marry so well--so
suitably in every point of view. It is an excellent match, and, I
understand from Lady Latimer, all but settled. She is delighted, for
they are both immense favorites with her."

Harry Musgrave was dumb. Yet he did not believe what he heard--he could
not believe it, remembering Bessie's kind, pretty looks. Why, her very
voice had another, softer tone when she spoke to him; his name was music
from her lips. The rector went on, explaining the fame and anticipated
future of Mr. Cecil Burleigh in a vaguely confidential manner, until
they came to a spot where two ways met, and Harry abruptly said, "I was
going to Littlemire to call on Mr. Moxon, and this is my road." He held
out his hand, and was moving off when Mr. Wiley's visage put on a solemn
shade of warning:

"It will carry you through Marsh-End. I would avoid Marsh-End just now
if I were you--a nasty, dangerous place. The fever is never long absent.
I don't go there myself at present."

But Harry said there was a chance, then, that he might meet with his old
tutor in the hamlet, and he started away, eager to be alone and to
escape from the rector's observation, for he knew that he was betraying
himself. He went swiftly along under the sultry shade in a confused
whirl of sensations. His confidence had suddenly failed him. He had
counted on Bessie Fairfax for his comrade since he was a boy; the idea
of her was woven into all his pleasant recollections of the past and
all his expectations in the future. Since that Sunday evening in the old
sitting-room at Brook her sweet, womanly figure had been the centre of
his thoughts, his reveries. He had imagined difficulties, obstacles, but
none with her. This real difficulty, this tangible obstacle, in the
shape of Mr. Cecil Burleigh, a suitor chosen by her family and supported
by Lady Latimer, gave him pause. He could not affect to despise Mr.
Cecil Burleigh, but he vowed a vow that he would not be cheated of his
dear little Bessie unless by her own consent. Was it possible that he
was deceived in her--that he and she mistook her old childish affection
for the passion that is strong as death? No--no, it could not be. If
there was truth in her eyes, in her voice, she loved him as dearly as he
loved her, though never a word of love had been spoken between them. The
young man wrought himself up into such a state of agitation and
excitement that he never reached Marsh-End nor saw Mr. Moxon at all that
day. He turned, and bent his steps by a circuitous path to a woodland
nook where he had left his friend Christie at work a couple of hours
ago.

"Back again so soon? Then you did not find Moxon at home," said the
artist, scarcely lifting an eye from the canvas.

Harry flung himself on the ground beside his friend and delivered his
mind of its new burden. Christie now condescended to look at him and to
say calmly, "It is always well to know what threatens us, but there is
no need to exaggerate facts. Mr. Cecil Burleigh is a rival you may be
proud to defeat; Miss Fairfax will please herself, and I think you are a
match for him. You have the start."

"I know Bessie is fond of me, but she is a simple, warm-hearted girl,
and is fond of all of us," said Harry with a reflective air.

"I had no idea you were so modest. Probably she has a slight preference
for _you_." Christie went on painting, and now and then a telling touch
accentuated his sentiments.

Harry hearkened, and grew more composed. "I wish I had her own assurance
of it," said he.

"You had better ask her," said Christie.

After this they were silent for a considerable space, and the picture
made progress. Then Harry began again, summing up his disadvantages: "Is
it fair to ask her? Here am I, of no account as to family or fortune,
and under a cloud as to the future, if my mother and Carnegie are
justified in their warnings--and sometimes it comes over me that they
are--why, Christie, what have I to offer her? Nothing, nothing but my
presumptuous self."

"Let her be judge: women have to put up with a little presumption in a
lover."

"Would it not be great presumption? Consider her relations and friends,
her rank and its concomitants. I cannot tell how much she has learnt to
value them, how necessary they have become to her. Lady Latimer, who was
good to me until the other day, is shutting her doors against me now as
too contemptible."

"Not at all. The despotic old lady shuts her doors against you because
she is afraid of you."

"What have I to urge except that I love her?"

"The best of pleas. Don't fear too much. Give her leave to love you by
avowing your love--that is what a girl waits for: if you let her go back
to Woldshire without an understanding between yourselves, she will think
you care for your own pride more than for her."

"I wish she were little Bessie at Beechhurst again, and all her finery
blown to the winds. I have not seen her for five days."

"That must be your own fault. You don't want an ambassador? If you do,
there's the post."

Harry was silent again. He was chiefly raising objections for the
pleasure of hearing them contradicted; of course he was not aware of
half the objections that might have been cited against him as an
aspirant to the hand of Miss Fairfax. In the depth of his heart there
was a tenacious conviction that Bessie Fairfax loved him best in the
world--with a love that had grown with her growth and strengthened with
her strength, and would maintain itself independent of his failure or
success in life. But oh, that word _failure_! It touched him with a
dreadful chill. He turned pale at it, and resolutely averted his mind
from the idea.

He left young Christie with as little ceremony as he had rejoined him,
and walked home to Brook, entering the garden from the wood. The first
sight that met him was Bessie Fairfax standing alone under the beeches.
At the moment he thought it was an illusion, for she was all in
bluish-gray amongst the shadows; but at the sound of the gate she turned
quickly and came forward to meet him.

"I was just beginning to feel disappointed," said she impulsively. "Lady
Latimer brought me over to say good-bye, and we were told you had gone
to Littlemire. She is in the sitting-room with your mother. I came out
here."

Harry's face flushed so warmly that he had no need to express his joy in
words. What a lucky event it was that he had met Mr. Wiley, and had been
turned back from his visit to his old tutor! He was fatigued with
excitement and his hurried walk, and he invited Bessie to sit with him
under the beeches where they used to sit watching the little stream as
it ran by at their feet. Bessie was nothing loath--she was thinking that
this was the last time they should meet for who could tell how long--and
she complied with all her old child-like submission to him, and a
certain sweet appealing womanly dignity, which, without daunting Harry
at all, compelled him to remember that she was not any longer a child.

The young people were not visible from the sitting-room. Lady Latimer's
head was turned another way when Harry and Bessie met, but the instant
she missed her young charge she got up and looked out of the lattice.
The boles and sweeping branches of the great beeches hid the figures at
their feet, and Mrs. Musgrave, observing that dear Bessie was very fond
of the manor-garden, and had probably strolled into the wilderness, my
lady accepted the explanation and resumed her seat and her patience.

Meanwhile, Harry did not waste his precious opportunity. He had this
advantage, that when he saw Bessie he saw only the fair face that he
worshipped, and thought nothing of her adventitious belongings, while in
her absence he saw her surrounded by them, and himself set at a vast
conventional distance. He said that the four years since she left
Beechhurst seemed but as one day, now they were together again in the
old familiar places, and she replied that she was glad he thought so,
for she thought so too. "I still call the Forest home, though I do not
pine in exile. I return to it the day after to-morrow," she told him.

"Good little philosophical Bessie!" cried Harry, and relapsed into his
normal state of masculine superiority.

Then they talked of themselves, past, present, and future--now with
animation, now again with dropped and saddened voices. The afternoon sun
twinkled in the many-paned lattices of the old house in the background,
and the brook sang on as it had sung from immemorial days before a stone
of the house was built. Harry gazed rather mournfully at the ivied walls
during one of their sudden silences, and then he told Bessie that the
proprietor was ill, and the manor would have a new owner by and by.

"I trust he will not want to turn out my father and mother and pull it
down, but he is an improving landlord, and has built some excellent ugly
farmsteads on his other property. I have a clinging to it, and the
doctor says it would be well for me had I been born and bred in almost
any other place."

Bessie sighed, and said deprecatingly, "Harry, you look as strong as a
castle. If it was Mr. Christie they were always warning, I should not
wonder, but _you_!"

"But _me_! Little Christie looks as though a good puff of wind might
blow him away, and he is as tough as a pin-wire. I stand like a tower,
and they tell me the foundations are sinking. It sounds like a fable to
frighten me."

"Harry dear, it is not serious; don't believe it. Everybody has to take
a little care. You must give up London and hard study if they try you.
We will all help you to bear the disappointment: I know it would be
cruel, but if you must, you must! Leaning towers, I've heard, stand
hundreds of years, and serve their purpose as well as towers that stand
erect."

"Ah, Bessie, cunning little comforter! Tell me which is the worse--a
life that is a failure or death?" said Harry, watching the gyrations of
a straw that the eddies of the rivulet were whirling by.

"Oh, death, death--there is no remedy for death." Bessie shuddered.
There was repulsion in her face as well as awe.

Harry felt surprised: this was his own feeling, but women, he thought,
had more natural resignation. Not so, however, his young comrade. She
loved life, and hoped to see good days. He reminded her that she had
lost both her parents early.

"Yes," she said, "but my other father and mother prevented me suffering
from their loss. I scarcely recollect it, I was such a happy child. It
would be different now if any of those, young like myself, that I have
grown up with and love very much, were to pass out of sight, and I had
to think that nowhere in the world could I find them any more."

"It would touch you more personally. There was a young fellow drowned at
Oxford whom I knew: we were aghast for a day, but the next we were on
the river again. I recollect how bitterly you cried the morning your
father was buried; all the afternoon you refused to be comforted, even
by a sweet black puppy that I had brought over for the purpose, but in
the evening you took to it and carried it about in your pinafore. Oh,
God and time are very good to us. We lose one love, another steps in to
fill the void, and soon we do not remember that ever there was a void."

Bessie was gazing straight away into heaven, her eyes full of sunshiny
tears, thoughts of the black puppy struggling with more pathetic
thoughts. "We are very dismal, Harry," said she presently. "Is the moral
of it how easily we should be consoled for each other's loss? Would you
not pity me if I died? I should almost die of your death, I think."

"And if I am to live and never do any good, never to be famous, Bessie?
If I come to you some day beaten and jaded--no honors and glories, as I
used to promise--"

"Why, Harry, unless it were your mother no one would be kinder to you
than I would," she said with exquisite tenderness, turning to look in
his face, for he spoke in a strained, low voice as if it hurt him.

He took her hands, she not refusing to yield them, and said, "It is my
belief that we are as fond of each other as ever we were, Bessie, and
that neither of us will ever care half so much for anybody else?"

"It is my belief too, Harry." Bessie's eyes shone and her tongue
trembled, but how happy she was! And he bowed his head for several
minutes in silence.

There was a rustling in the bushes behind them, a bird perhaps, but the
noise recalled them to the present world--that and a whisper from
Bessie, smiling again for pure content: "Harry dear, we must not make
fools of ourselves now; my lady might descend upon us at any moment."

Harry sighed, and looked up with great content. "It is a compact,
Bessie," said he, holding out his right hand.

"Trust me, Harry," said she, and laid hers softly in his open palm.

Mrs. Musgrave's voice was heard from the sitting-room window: "Bessie!
Bessie dear! where are you?--Lady Latimer wishes to go. Make haste--come
in." A bit of Bessie's blue-gray dress had betrayed her whereabouts. And
lo! the two young people emerged from the shelter of the trees, and
quite at their leisure sauntered up the lawn, talking with a sweet gay
confidence, just as they used to talk when they were boy and girl, and
Bessie came to tea at Brook, and they were the best friends in the
world. Harry's mother guessed in a moment what had happened. Lady
Latimer caught one glance and loftily averted her observation.

They had to go round to the hall-door, and they did not hurry
themselves. They took time to assure one another how deep was their
happiness, their mutual confidence--to promise a frequent exchange of
letters, and to fear that they would not meet again before Bessie left
Fairfield. Lady Latimer was seated in the carriage when they appeared in
sight. Bessie got in meekly, and was bidden to be quicker. She smiled at
Harry, who looked divinely glad, and as they drove off rapidly
recollected that she had not said good-bye to his mother.

"Never mind--Harry will explain," she said aloud: evidently her thoughts
were astray.

"Explain what? I am afraid there are many things that need explanation,"
said my lady austerely, and not another word until they reached home.
But Bessie's heart was in perfect peace, and her countenance reflected
nothing but the sunshine.



CHAPTER XLIV.

_A LONG, DULL DAY._


That evening Bessie Fairfax was charming, she was _so_ happy. She was
good and gracious again to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, and she was never
prettier. He basked in her content, without trying to understand
it--thought more than ever what a buoyant, sweet-tempered woman she
would be, to give a man rest and refreshment at home, whose active life
must be spent in the arid ways of the political world. Dora had her
conjectures, and whispered them, but Bessie made no revelation, gave no
confidences.

It must be _ages_ before her league with Harry Musgrave could be
concluded, and therefore let it be still, as it had been always,
suspected, but not confessed--unless she were over-urged by Harry's
rival and her northern kinsfolk and friends. Then she would declare her
mind, but not before. Lady Latimer asked no questions. Her woman's
discernment was not at fault, but she had her own opinion of youthful
constancy and early loves and early vows, and believed that when they
were not to be approved they were to be most judiciously ignored.

The next day was so fully occupied with engagements made beforehand that
Bessie had no chance of going again to Beechhurst, but she did not make
a grief of it--she could not have made a grief of anything just then. On
the last morning, however, to her dear surprise, the doctor stopped at
the door for a parting word of her mother's love and his own, and their
hopes that she would soon be coming amongst them again; and when she
went away an hour later she went as joyous as she had come, though she
knew that a report of her untoward behavior had gone before her, and
that the probabilities were she would enter into an atmosphere of clouds
the moment she reached Abbotsmead.

But it did not prove so. Lady Latimer had written cautiously and
kindly--had not been able to give any assurance of Mr. Cecil Burleigh's
success, but had a feeling that it must come to pass. Elizabeth was a
sweet girl, though she had the self-will of a child; in many points she
was more of a child than my lady had supposed--in her estimate of
individuals, and of their weight and position in the world, for
instance--but this was a fault that knowledge of the world would cure.

Mr. Fairfax was pleased to welcome his granddaughter home again, and
especially pleased to see no sadness in her return. The Forest was ever
so much nearer now--not out of her world at all. Bessie had travelled
that road once, and would travel it again. Every experience shortens
such roads, lessens such difficulties between true friends. Bessie's
acquaintances came to call upon her, and she talked of the pleasure it
had been to her to revisit the scenes of her childhood, of the few
changes that had happened there since she came away, and of the
hospitality of Lady Latimer.

The lime trees were turning yellow and thin of leaf; there was a fire
all day in the octagon parlor. It was autumn in Woldshire, soon to be
winter. It seemed to Bessie on her return like resuming the dull routine
of a life that had gone on for a long while. Mrs. Stokes, as her nearest
and most neighborly neighbor, often ran across the park of an afternoon,
but Bessie's best delight was at post-time in the morning. Mr. Fairfax
never came down stairs to breakfast, and she had Harry Musgrave's
letters all to herself, undiscovered and undisturbed.

The squire never regained his strength or his perfect moral control, and
the peculiar tempers of his previous life seemed to be exaggerated as
his natural force decayed. Mr. Oliver Smith was his most frequent and
welcome visitor. They talked together of events past and of friends long
since dead. Perhaps this was a little wearisome and painful now and then
to Mr. Oliver Smith, who retained his youthful sprightliness amidst more
serious sentiments. He would have had his old friend contemplate the
great future that was approaching, instead of the unalterable past.

One day he said to Bessie, "I think your grandfather wanders in his mind
sometimes; I fear he is failing."

"I don't know," was her reflective answer. "His thoughts often run on
his sister Dorothy and Lady Latimer: I hear him mutter to himself the
same words often, 'It was a lifelong mistake, Olympia.' But that is
true, is it not? He is as clear and collected as ever when he dictates
to me a letter on business; he makes use of me as his secretary."

"Well, well! Let us hope, then, God may spare him to us for many years
to come," said Mr. Oliver Smith, with that conventional propriety of
speech which helps us through so many hard moments when feeling does not
dictate anything real to say.

Bessie dwelt for some days after on that pious aspiration of her
grandfather's old friend, but the ache and tedium of life did not return
upon her. Her sense of duty and natural affection were very strong. She
told herself that if it were her lot to watch for many years beside this
dwindling flame, it was a lot of God's giving, not of her own seeking,
and therefore good. The letters that came to her from Beechhurst and
Caen breathed nothing but encouragement to love and patience, and Harry
Musgrave's letters were a perpetual fount of refreshment. What
delightful letters they were! He told, her whatever he thought would
interest or amuse her or make his life palpable to her. He sent her
books, he sent her proof-sheets to be read and returned: if Bessie had
not loved him so devotedly and all that belonged to him, she might have
thought his literature a tax on her leisure. It was a wonder to all who
knew her (without knowing her secret fund of joy) what a cheerful
countenance she wore through this dreary period of her youth. Within the
house she had no support but the old servants, and little change or
variety from without. Those kind old ladies, Miss Juliana and Miss
Charlotte Smith, were very good in coming to see her, and always
indulged her in a talk of Lady Latimer and Fairfield; Miss Burleigh
visited her occasionally for a day, but Lady Angleby kept out of the
shadow on principle--she could not bear to see it lengthening. She
enjoyed life very much, and would not be reminded of death if she could
help it. Her nephew spent Christmas at Norminster, and paid more than
one visit to Abbotsmead. Miss Fairfax was as glad as ever to see him. He
came like a breath of fresh air from the living outer world, and made no
pretensions to what he knew she had not to give. The engagement between
Miss Julia Gardiner and Mr. Brotherton had fallen through, for some
reason that was never fully explained, and Miss Burleigh began to think
her dear brother would marry poor Julia after all.

Another of Bessie's pleasures was a day in Minster Court. One evening
she brought home a photograph of the three boys, and the old squire put
on his spectacles to look at it. She had ceased to urge reconciliation,
but she still hoped for it earnestly; and it came in time, but not at
all as she expected. One day--it was in the early spring--she was called
to her grandfather's room, and there she found Mr. John Short sitting in
council and looking exceedingly discontented. The table was strewn with
parchments and papers, and she was invited to take a seat in front of
the confusion. Then an abrupt question was put to her: Would she prefer
to have settled upon her the Abbey Lodge, which Colonel Stokes now
occupied as a yearly tenant, or a certain house in the suburbs of
Norminster going out towards Brentwood?

"In what event?" she asked, coloring confusedly.

"In the event of my death or your own establishment in life," said her
grandfather. "Your uncle Laurence will bring his family here, and I do
not imagine that you will choose to be one with them long; you will
prefer a home of your own."

The wave of color passed from Bessie's face. "Dear grandpapa, don't talk
of such remote events; it is time enough to think of changes and decide
when the time comes," said she.

"That is no answer, Elizabeth. Prudent people make their arrangements in
anticipation of changes, and their will in anticipation of death. Speak
plainly: do you like the lodge as a residence, or the vicinity of
Norminster?"

"Dear grandpapa, if you were no longer here I should go home to the
Forest," Bessie said, and grew very pale.

The old squire neither moved nor spoke for several minutes. He stared
out of the window, then he glanced at the lawyer and said, "You hear,
Short? now you will be convinced. She has not taken root enough to care
to live here any longer. She will go back to the Forest; all this time
she has been in exile, and cut off from those whom alone she loves. Why
should I keep her waiting at Abbotsmead for a release that may be slow
to come? Go now, Elizabeth, go now, if to stay wearies you;" and he
waved her to the door imperatively.

Bessie rose trembling and left the room, tears and indignation
struggling for the mastery. "Oh, grandpapa! why will you say such
things?" was all her remonstrance, but she felt that there are some
wrongs in this life very hard to bear.

Mr. John Short sat mute for some time after the young lady's departure.
The squire gloomed sorrowfully: "From first to last my course is nothing
but disappointment."

"I wish, sir, that you could be prevailed on to see Mr. Laurence?"
suggested the lawyer. "His wife is a very good little lady, and the boys
you might be proud of. Pray, sir, give yourself that chance of happiness
for your closing days."

"I had other plans. There will be no marriage, Short: I understand
Elizabeth. In warning me that she will return to the Forest when I am
gone, she just tells me that my hopes of her and Burleigh are all
moonshine. Well, let Laurence come. Let him come and take possession
with his children; they can leave me my corner of the house in peace. I
shall not need it very long. And Elizabeth can go _home_ when she
pleases."

Mr. Fairfax's resentment was very bitter against Bessie, at first, for
the frank exposition she had made of her future intentions. She had
meant no unkindness, but simple honesty. He did not take it so, and when
her customary duty and service brought her next into his presence he
made her feel how deeply she had offended. He rejected her offer to read
to him, put aside her helping hand, and said he would have Jonquil to
assist him; she need not remain. He uttered no accusation against her
and no reproach; he gave her no opportunity of softening her abrupt
announcement; he just set her at a distance, as it were, and made
himself unapproachable. Bessie betook herself in haste to her white
parlor, to hide the blinding tears in her eyes and the mortification in
her heart. "And he wonders that so few love him!" she said to herself,
not without anger even in her pitiful yearning to be friends again.

A week of alienation followed this scene, and Bessie was never more
miserable. Day by day she tried to resume her loving care of her
grandfather, and day by day she was coldly repulsed. Jonquil, Macky,
Mrs. Betts, all sympathized in silence; their young lady was less easy
to condole with now than when she was fresh from school. The old squire
was as wretched as he made his granddaughter. He had given permission
for his son to come to Abbotsmead, and he seemed in no haste to embrace
the permission. When he came at last, he brought little Justus with him,
but he had to say that it was only for a few hours. In fact, his wife
was extremely unwilling to abandon their happy, independent home in the
Minster Court, and he was equally unwilling to force her inclination.
Mr. Fairfax replied, "You know best," and gazed at his grandson, who,
from between his father's knees, gazed at him again without any advance
towards good-fellowship. A formal reconciliation ensued, but that was
all. For the kindness that springs out of a warm, affectionate nature
the old squire had to look to Elizabeth, and without any violent
transition they glided back into their former habits and relations.
Bessie was saddened a little by her late experiences, but she was not
quite new to the lesson that the world is a place of unsatisfied hopes
and defeated intentions.

Mr. John Short was often to and fro between Abbotsmead and Norminster
during that summer, and an idea prevailed in the household that the
squire was altering his will again. His son Frederick had died
intestate, and the squire had taken possession of what he left. The poor
lady in seclusion at Caen died also about this time, and a large
addition was made to Mr. Fairfax's income--so large that his loss by the
Durham lawsuit was more than balanced. The lawyer looked far from
pleasant while transacting his client's business. It was true that Mr.
Frederick Fairfax had left no will, but he had expressed certain
distinct intentions, and these intentions, to the indignant astonishment
of many persons, his father would not carry out. Mr. Forbes talked to
him of the sacredness of his son's wishes, but the squire had a purpose
for the money, and was obstinate in his refusal to relinquish it. Some
people decided that thus he meant to enrich his granddaughter without
impoverishing Abbotsmead for his successor, but Mr. John Short's manner
to the young lady was tinctured with a respectful compassion that did
not augur well for her prospects.

Bessie paid very little heed to the speculations of which she could not
fail to hear something. So long as her grandfather was tolerably kind
to her she asked no more from the present, and she left the future to
take care of itself. But it cannot be averred that he was invariably
kind. There seemed to lurk in his mind a sense of injury, which he
visited upon her in sarcastic gibes and allusions to the Forest,
taunting her with impatience to have done with him and begone to her
dearer friends. Bessie resented this for a little while, but by and by
she ceased to be affected, and treated it as the pettishness of a sick
old man, never used to be considerate for others. He kept her very much
confined and gave her scant thanks for her care of him. If Mr. Cecil
Burleigh admired patience and forbearance in a woman, he had the
opportunity of studying a fair example of both in her. He pitied her
secretly, but she put on no martyr-airs. "It is nothing. Oh no,
grandpapa is not difficult--it is only his way. Most people are testy
when they are ill," she would plead, and she believed what she said. The
early sense of repulsion and disappointment once overcome, she was too
sensible to bewail the want of unselfish affection where it had never
existed before.

The squire had certain habits of long standing--habits of coldness,
distance, reserve, and he never changed materially. He survived through
the ensuing autumn and winter, and finally sank during the
north-easterly weather of the following spring, just two years after the
death of his son Frederick. Jonquil and Macky, who had been all his life
about him, were his most acceptable attendants. He did not care to have
his son Laurence with him, and when the children came over it was not by
his invitation. Mr. Forbes visited him almost daily, and Mr. Cecil
Burleigh came down from London twice at his request. Bessie remitted no
act of tender thoughtfulness; and one day, shortly before the end, he
said to her, "You are a good girl, Elizabeth." She smiled and said, "Am
I, grandpapa?" but his persistent coldness had brought back her shy
reticence, and neither said any more. Perhaps there was compunction in
the old man's mind--the cast of his countenance was continually that of
regret--but there was no drawing near in heart or confidence ever again,
and the squire died in the isolation of feeling with which living he had
chosen to surround himself. The world, his friends, neighbors, and
servants said that he died in honor respected by all who knew him; but
for long and long after Bessie could never think of his death without
tears--not because he had died, but because so little sorrow followed
him.



CHAPTER XLV.

_THE SQUIRE'S WILL._


Throughout his life Mr. Fairfax had guided his actions by a certain rule
of justice that satisfied himself. The same rule was evident in his last
will. His granddaughter had given him to understand that she should
return to the Forest and cast in her lot with the humble friends from
amongst whom he had taken her, and the provision he made for her was
consonant with that determination. He bequeathed to her a sum of five
thousand pounds--a sufficient portion, as he considered, for that rank
in life--and to Mr. Cecil Burleigh he bequeathed the handsome fortune
that it was intended she should bring him in marriage. He had the dower
without the bride, and though Lady Angleby and his sister quietly
intimated to astonished friends that they had good reason to hope Miss
Fairfax would ultimately be no loser by her grandfather's will, her
uncle Laurence was not the only person by many who judged her unkindly
and unfairly treated. But it was impossible to dispute the old squire's
ability to dispose of his property, or his right to dispose of it as he
pleased. He had been mainly instrumental in raising Mr. Cecil Burleigh
to the position he occupied, and there was a certain obligation incurred
to support him in it. If Mr. Fairfax had chosen to make a son of him, no
one had a right to complain. No one did complain; the expression of
opinion was extremely guarded.

Bessie was informed of the terms of her grandfather's will in the first
shock of surprise; afterward her uncle Laurence reflected that it would
have been wise to keep them from her, but the deed was done. She
received the news without emotion: she blushed, put up her eyebrows, and
smiled as she said, "Then I am a poor young woman again." She saw at
once what was absurd, pathetic, vexatious in her descent from the
dignity of riches, but she was not angry. She never uttered a word of
blame or reproach against her grandfather, and when it was indignantly
recalled to her that Mr. Cecil Burleigh was put into possession of what
ought to have been hers, she answered, "There is no ought in the matter.
Grandpapa had a lively interest in Mr. Cecil Burleigh's career, for the
sake of the country as well as for his own sake, and if you ask me my
sentiments I must confess that I feel the money grandpapa has left him
is well bestowed. It would be a shame that such a man should be hampered
by mean cares and insufficient fortune."

"Oh, if you are satisfied that is enough," was the significant
rejoinder, and Lady Angleby's hopes had a wider echo.

To Mr. Cecil Burleigh his old friend's bequest was a boon to be thankful
for, and he was profoundly thankful. It set him above troublesome
anxieties and lifted his private life into the sphere of comfort. But
his first visit to Abbotsmead and first meeting with Miss Fairfax after
it was communicated to him tried his courage not a little. The intimacy
that had been kept up, and even improved during Mr. Fairfax's decline,
had given him no grounds for hoping better success with Elizabeth as a
lover than before, and yet he was convinced that in leaving him this
fine fortune the squire had continued to indulge his expectations of
their ultimate union. That Elizabeth would be inclined towards him in
the slightest degree by the fact of his gaining the inheritance that she
had forfeited, he never for one moment dreamed; the contrary might be
possible, but not that. Amongst the many and important duties and
interests that engaged him now he had neither leisure nor desire for
sentimental philandering. He was a very busy man of the world, and
wished for the rest of a home. Insensibly his best thoughts reverted to
his dear Julia, never married, still his very good friend. He approved
the sweet rosy face of Elizabeth Fairfax, her bright spirit and loving,
unselfish disposition, but he found it impossible to flatter himself
that she would ever willingly become his wife. Lady Angleby insisted
that honor demanded a renewal of his offer, but Elizabeth never gave him
an opportunity; and there was an end of his uncertainties when she said
one day to his sister (after receiving an announcement of her own
approaching marriage to Mr. Forbes), "And there is nothing now to stand
between your brother and Miss Julia Gardiner. I am truly glad grandpapa
left him an independence, they have been so faithful to each other."

Miss Burleigh looked up surprised, as if she thought Bessie must be
laughing at them. And Bessie was laughing. "Not quite constant perhaps,
but certainly faithful," she persisted. But Mr. Cecil Burleigh had
probably appreciated her blossoming youth more kindly than his dear
Julia had appreciated her autumnal widower. Bessie meant to convey that
neither had any right to complain of the other, and that was true. Miss
Burleigh carried Miss Fairfax's remarks to her brother, and after that
they were privately agreed that it would be poor Julia after all.

Mr. Laurence Fairfax insisted that his niece should live at Abbotsmead,
and continue in possession of the white suite until she was of age. He
was her guardian, and would take no denial.

"It wants but three months to that date," she told him.

"Your home is here until you marry, Elizabeth," he rejoined in a tone
that forbade contradiction. "You shall visit Lady Latimer, but subject
to permission. Remember you are a Fairfax. Though you may go back to the
Forest, it is a delusion to imagine that you can live comfortably in the
crowded household where you were happy as a child. You have been six
years absent; three of them you have spent in the luxurious ease of
Abbotsmead. You have acquired the tastes and habits of your own class--a
very different class. You must look to me now: your pittance is not
enough for the common necessaries of life."

"Not so very different a class, Uncle Laurence, and fortunately I am not
in bondage to luxurious ease," Bessie said. "But I will not be perverse.
Changes come without seeking, and I am of an adaptable disposition. The
other day I was supposed to be a great heiress--to-day I have no more
than a bare competence."

"Not even that, but if you marry suitably you may be sure that I shall
make you a suitable settlement," rejoined her kinsman. Bessie speculated
in silence and many times again what her uncle Laurence might mean by
"suitably," but they had no explanation, and the occasion passed.

Bessie's little fortune was vested in the hands of trustees, and settled
absolutely to her own use. She could not anticipate her income nor make
away with it, which Mr. Carnegie said was a very good thing. Beyond that
remark, and a generous reminder that her old nest under the thatch was
ready for her whenever she liked to return and take possession, nothing
was said in the letters from Beechhurst about her grandfather's will or
her new vicissitude. She had some difficulty in writing to announce her
latest change to Harry Musgrave, but he wrote back promptly and
decisively to set her heart at rest, telling her that to his notions her
fortune was a very pretty fortune, and avowing a prejudice against being
maintained by his wife: he would greatly prefer that she should be
dependent upon him. Bessie, who was a loving woman far more than a proud
or ambitious one, was pleased by his assurance, and in answering him
again she confessed that would have been her choice too. Nevertheless,
she became rather impatient to see him and talk the matter over--the
more so because Harry manifested little curiosity to learn anything of
her family affairs unless they immediately affected herself. He told her
that he should be able to go down to Brook at the end of August, and he
begged her to meet him there. This she promised, and it was understood
between them that if she was not invited to Fairfield she would go to
the doctor's house, even though the boys might be at home for their
holidays.

Bessie was long enough at Abbotsmead after her grandfather's death to
realize how that event affected her own position there. The old servants
had been provided for by their old master, and they left--Jonquil,
Macky, Mrs. Betts, and others their contemporaries. Bessie missed their
friendly faces, and dispensed with the services of a maid. Then Mrs.
Fairfax objected to Joss in the house, lest he should bite the children,
and Janey and Ranby were not entirely at her beck and call as formerly.
The incompetent Sally, who sang a sweet cradle-song, became quite a
personage and sovereign in the nursery, and was jealous of Miss
Fairfax's intrusion into her domain. It was inevitable and natural, but
Bessie appreciated better now the forethought of her grandfather in
wishing to provide her with a roof of her own. Abbotsmead under its new
squire, all his learning and philosophy notwithstanding, promised to
become quite a house of the world again, for his beautiful young wife
was proving of a most popular character, and attracted friends about her
with no effort. Instead of old Lady Angleby, the Hartwell people and the
Chivertons, came the Tindals, Edens, Raymonds, Lefevres, and Wynards;
and Miss Fairfax felt herself an object of curiosity amongst them as the
young lady who had been all but disinherited for her obstinate refusal
to marry the man of her grandfather's choice. She was generally liked,
but she was not just then in the humor to cultivate anybody's intimacy.
Mrs. Stokes was still her chief resource when she was solitary.

She had a private grief and anxiety of her own, of which she could speak
to none. One day her expected letter from Harry Musgrave did not come;
it was the first time he had failed her since their compact was made.
She wrote herself as usual, and asked why she was neglected. In reply
she received a letter, not from Harry himself, but from his friend
Christie, who was nursing him through an attack of inflammation
occasioned by a chill from remaining in his wet clothes after an upset
on the river. She gathered from it that Harry had been ill and suffering
for nearly a fortnight, but that he was better, though very weak, and
that if Christie had been permitted to do as he wished, Mrs. Musgrave
would have been sent for, but her son was imperative against it. He did
not think it was necessary to put her to that distress and
inconvenience, and as he was now in a fair way of recovery it was his
particular desire that she should not be alarmed and made nervous by any
information of what he had passed through. But he would not keep it from
his dear Bessie, who had greater firmness, and who might rest assured he
was well cared for, as Christie had brought him to his own house, and
his old woman was a capital cook--a very material comfort for a
convalescent.

With a recollection of the warnings of a year and a half ago, Bessie
could not but ponder this news of Harry's illness with grave distress.
She wrote to Mr. Carnegie, and enclosed the letter for his opinion. Mr.
Carnegie respected her confidence, and told her that from the name of
the physician mentioned by Christie as in attendance on his patient he
was in the best possible hands. She confessed to Harry what she had
done, and he found no fault with her, but his next letter was in a vein
of melancholy humor from beginning to end. He was going back, he said,
to his dismal chambers, his law-books and his scribbling, and she was to
send him a very bright letter indeed to cheer him in his solitude. How
Bessie wished she could have flown herself to cheer him! And now, too,
she half regretted her poverty under her grandfather's will, that
deferred all hope of his rescue from London smoke and toil till he had
made the means of rescue for himself. But she gave him the pleasure of
knowing what she would do if she could.

Thus the summer months lapsed away. There was no hiatus in their
correspondence again, but Harry told her that he had a constant fever on
him and was longing for home and rest. Once he wrote from Richmond,
whither he had gone with Christie, "The best fellow in the
universe--love him, dear Bessie, for my sake"--and once he spoke of
going to Italy for the winter, and of newspaper letters that were to pay
the shot. He was sad, humorous, tender by turns, but Bessie missed
something. There were allusions to the vanity of man's life and joy, now
and then there was a word of philosophy for future consolation, but of
present hope there was nothing. Her eyes used to grow dim over these
letters: she understood that Harry was giving in, that he found his life
too hard for him, and that he was trying to prepare her and himself for
this great disappointment.

When Parliament rose Mr. Cecil Burleigh came down to Norminster and paid
a visit to Abbotsmead. He was the bearer of an invitation to Brentwood
and his sister's wedding, but Miss Fairfax was not able to accept it.
She had just accepted an invitation to Fairfield.



CHAPTER XLVI.

_TENDER AND TRUE._


Lady Latimer was in possession of all the facts and circumstances of her
guest's position when she arrived at Fairfield. Her grandfather's will
was notorious, and my lady did not entirely disapprove of it, as
Bessie's humbler friends did, for she still cherished expectations in
Mr. Cecil Burleigh's interest, and was not aware how far he was now from
entertaining any on his own account. Though she had convinced herself
that there was an unavowed engagement between Mr. Harry Musgrave and
Miss Fairfax, she was resolved to treat it and speak of it as a very
slight thing indeed, and one that must be set aside without weak
tenderness. Having such clear and decided views on the affair, she was
not afraid to state them even to Bessie herself.

Harry Musgrave had not yet arrived at Brook, but after a day devoted to
her mother Bessie's next opportunity for a visit was devoted to Harry's
mother. She mentioned to Lady Latimer where she was going, and though my
lady looked stern she did not object. On Bessie's return, however, she
found something to say, and cast off all reserves: "Mr. Harry Musgrave
has not come, but he is coming. Had I known beforehand, I should have
preferred to have you here in his absence. Elizabeth, I shall consider
that young man very deficient in honorable feeling if he attempt to
interfere between you and your true interest."

"That I am sure he never will," said Bessie with animation.

"He is not over-modest. If you are advised by me you will be distant
with him--you will give him no advantage by which he may imagine himself
encouraged. Any foolish promise that you exchanged when you were last
here must be forgotten."

Bessie replied with much quiet dignity: "You know, Lady Latimer, that I
was not brought up to think rank and riches essential, and the
experience I have had of them has not been so enticing that I should
care to sacrifice for their sake a true and tried affection. Harry
Musgrave and I are dear friends, and, since you speak to me so frankly,
I will tell you that we propose to be friends for life."

Lady Latimer grew very red, very angry: "Do you tell me that you will
marry that young man--without birth, without means, without a profession
even? What has he, or is he, that should tempt you to throw away the
fine position that awaits your acceptance?"

"He has a real kindness for me, a real unselfish love, and I would
rather be enriched with that than be ever so exalted. It is an old
promise. I always did love Harry Musgrave, and never anybody else."

Lady Latimer fumed, walked about and sat down again: "How are you to
live?"

"I don't know," said Bessie cheerfully. "Like other young people--partly
on our prospects. But we do not talk of marrying yet."

"It is a relief to hear that you do not talk of marrying yet, though how
you can dream of marrying young Mr. Musgrave at all, when you have Mr.
Cecil Burleigh at your feet, is to me a strange, incomprehensible
infatuation."

"Mr. Cecil Burleigh is not at my feet any longer. He has got up and gone
back to Miss Julia Gardiner's feet, which he ought never to have left.
Grandpapa's will has the effect of making two charming people happy, and
I am glad of it."

"Is it possible?" said Lady Latimer in a low, chagrined voice. "Then you
have lost him. I presume that you felt the strain of such high
companionship too severe for you? Early habits cling very close."

"He had no fascination for me; it was an effort sometimes."

"You must have been carrying on a correspondence with Mr. Harry Musgrave
all this while."

"We have corresponded during the last year," said Bessie calmly.

"I blame myself that I ever gave the opportunity for a renewal of your
old friendliness. That is the secret of your wilfulness."

"I loved Harry best--that is the secret of it," said Bessie; and she
turned away to close the discussion.

It was a profound mortification to Lady Latimer to hear within the week
from various quarters that Mr. Cecil Burleigh was at Ryde, and to all
appearance on the happiest terms with Miss Julia Gardiner. And in fact
they were quietly married one morning by special license, and the next
news of them was that they were travelling in the Tyrol.

It was about a week after this, when Bessie was spending a few hours
with her mother, that she heard of Harry Musgrave's arrival at Brook. It
was the doctor who brought the intelligence. He came into the little
drawing-room where his wife and Bessie were sitting, and said, "I called
at Brook in passing and saw poor Harry."

"Well, Thomas, and how is he?" inquired Mrs. Carnegie in the anxious
tone a kind voice takes when asking after the health of a friend who may
be in a critical way. Bessie dropped her work and looked from one to the
other.

The doctor did not answer directly, but, addressing Bessie, he said,
"You must not be shocked, my dear, when you see Harry Musgrave."

"What is the matter? I have heard nothing: is he ill again?" cried
Bessie.

"He must never go back to London," said Mr. Carnegie with a great sigh.

"Is it so bad as that? Poor Harry!" said his wife in a sad, suppressed
tone. Bessie said nothing: her throat ached, her eyes burnt, but she was
too stunned and bewildered to inquire further, and yet she thought she
had been prepared for something like this.

"He asked after you, Bessie, and when you would go to see him," the
doctor went on.

"I will go now. It is not too late? he is not too tired? will he be
glad?" Bessie said, all in a breath.

"Yes, he wants to talk to you; but you will have to walk all the way,
dear, and alone, for I have to go the other road."

"Oh, the walk will not hurt me. And when I have seen him I will go back
to Fairfield. But tell me what ails him: has he been over-working, or is
it the results of his illness?" Bessie was very earnest to know all
there was to be known.

"Work is not to blame: the lad was always more or less delicate, though
his frame was so powerful," Mr. Carnegie said with gravity. "He is out
of spirits, and he has had a warning to beware of the family complaint.
That is not to say it has marked him yet--he may live for years, with
care and prudence live to a good old age--but there is no public career
before him; and it is a terrible prospect, this giving up and coming
down, to a young fellow of his temper. His mother sits and looks at him,
beats on her knee, deplores the money spent on his college education,
and frets; you must try your hand at some other sort of consolation,
Bessie, for that will never do. Now, if you are going, my dear, you had
better start."

Mrs. Carnegie wished she could have offered herself as Bessie's
companion, but she would have been an impediment rather than a help, and
Bessie set out alone. She had gone that way to Brook many and many a
time, but never quite alone before. It seemed, at first, strange to her
to be walking across the open heath by herself, and yet she felt,
somehow, as if it had all happened before--perhaps in a dream. It was a
warm afternoon towards six o'clock, and the August glow of the heather
in blossom spread everywhere like a purple sea. At the gate of the
Forest Farm the cows were gathered, with meek patience expecting their
call to the milking-shed; but after she passed under the shade of the
trees beyond Great-Ash Ford she met not a creature until she came in
sight of the wicket opening into the wood from the manor-garden. And
there was Harry Musgrave himself.

Approaching over the turf with her light swift foot, Bessie drew quite
near to him unheard, and saw him before he saw her. He had seated
himself on a fallen tree, and leant his head on his hand in an easy
attitude; his countenance was abstracted rather than sad, and his eyes,
fixed on the violet and amber of the sky in the west, were full of
tranquil watching. Bessie's voice as she cried out his name was
tremulous with joy, and her face as he turned and saw her was beautiful
with the flush of young love's delight.

"I was waiting for you. I knew you would come, my dear, my dear!" was
his greeting. They went into the garden hand in hand, silent: they
looked at each other with assured happiness. Harry said, "You are all in
black, Bessie."

"Yes, for poor grandpapa: don't you remember? I will put it off
to-morrow if you dislike it."

"Put it off; I _do_ dislike it: you have worn it long enough." They
directed their steps to their favorite seat under the beeches, but Mrs.
Musgrave, restless since her son's arrival, and ever on the watch, came
down to them with a plea that they would avoid the damp ground and
falling dew. The ground was dry as dust, and the sun would not set yet
for a good hour.

"There is the sitting-room if you want to be by yourselves," she said
plaintively. "Perhaps you'll be able to persuade Harry to show some
sense, Bessie Fairfax, and feeling for his health: he won't listen to
his mother."

She followed them into the spacious old room, and would have shut the
lattices because the curtains were gently flapping in the evening
breeze, but Harry protested: "Mother dear, let us have air--it is life
and pleasure to me. After the sultry languor of town this is delicious."

"There you go, Harry, perverse as ever! He never could be made to mind a
draught, Bessie; and though he has just been told that consumption is in
the family, and carried off his uncle Walter--every bit as fine a young
man as himself--he pays no heed. He might as well have stopped on the
farm from the beginning, if this was to be the end. I am more mortified
than tongue can tell."

Harry stood gazing at her with a pitiful patience, and said kindly, "You
fear too much, mother. I shall live to give you more trouble yet."

"Even trouble's precious if that's all my son is likely to give me. I
would rather have trouble than nothing." She went out, closing the door
softly as if she were leaving a sick room. Bessie felt very sorry for
her, and when she looked at Harry again, and saw the expression of
helpless, painful regret in his face, she could have wept for them both.

"Poor mother! she is bitterly disappointed in me, Bessie," he said,
dropping into one of the huge old elbow-chairs.

"Oh, Harry, it is all her love! She will get over this, and you will
repay her hurt pride another day," cried Bessie, eager to comfort him.

"Shall I, Bessie? But how? but when? We must take counsel together.
They have been telling me it is selfish and a sacrifice and unmanly to
bind Bessie to me now, but I see no sign that Bessie wants her freedom,"
he said, looking at her with laughing, wistful eyes--always with that
sense of masculine triumph which Bessie's humility had encouraged.

"Oh, Harry, I want no freedom but the freedom to love and serve you!"
cried she with a rush of tears and a hand held out to him. And then with
an irresistible, passionate sorrow she fell on her knees beside him and
hid her face on his shoulder. He put his arm round her and held her fast
for several minutes, himself too moved to speak. He guessed what this
sudden outburst of feeling meant: it meant that Bessie saw him so
altered, saw through his quiet humor into the deep anxiety of his heart.

"I'll conceal nothing from you, Bessie: I don't think I have felt the
worst of my defeat yet," were his words when he spoke at last. She
listened, still on her knees: "It is a common thing to say that suspense
is worse to bear than certainty, but the certainty that destroys hope
and makes the future a blank is very like a millstone hanged round a
man's neck to sink him in a slough of despondency. I never really
believed it until Dr. Courteney told me that if I wish to save my life
it must be at the cost of my ambition; that I can never be an advocate,
a teacher, a preacher; that I shall have to go softly all my days, and
take care that the winds don't blow on me too roughly; that I must be an
exile from English fogs and cold, let me prefer home ever so dearly;
that I must read only a little, and write only a little, and avoid all
violent emotions, and be in fact the creature I have most despised--a
poor valetudinarian, always feeling my own pulse and considering my own
feelings."

"You will have to change much more before you will come to that; and I
never knew you despise anybody, Harry," Bessie said with gentle
deprecation. "You had a tender heart from a boy, and others feel kindly
towards you."

"And come what may, my dear little Bessie will keep her faith to me?"
said Harry looking down into her sweet eyes.

"Yes, Harry."

After a pause he spoke again: "You have done me good, dear; I shall rest
better for having talked to you to-night. It is in the night-time that
thought is terrible. For months past, ever since I was ill in the
spring, the foreshadow of failure has loomed dark and close upon me like
a suffocating weight--what I must do; how I must live without being a
tax on my father, if I am to live; what he and my mother would feel;
what old friends would say; who could or would help me to some harmless
occupation; and whether I should not, for everybody's sake, be better
out of the world."

"Oh, Harry, but that was faint-hearted!" said Bessie with a touch of
reproach. "You forgot me, then?"

"I have had several strokes of bad luck lately, or perhaps I ought to
suspect that not being in good case my work was weak. Manuscript after
manuscript has been returned on my hands. Surely this was discouraging.
There on the table is a roll of which I had better hopes, and I found it
awaiting me here."

"May I take it to Fairfield and read it?" Bessie asked. "It is as big as
a book."

"Yes; if it were printed and bound it would be a book. Read it, and let
me know how it impresses you."

Bessie looked mightily glad. "If you will let me help you, Harry, you
will make me happy," said she. "What is it about?"

"It is a story, for your comfort--a true story. I could not devise a
plot, so I fell back on a series of pathetic facts. Life is very sad,
Bessie. Why are we so fond of it?"

"We take it in detail, as we take the hours of the day and the days of
the year, and it is very endurable. It has seemed to me sometimes that
those whom we call fortunate are the least happy, and that the hard lot
is often lifted into the sphere of blessedness. Consider Mr. and Mrs.
Moxon; they appear to have nothing to be thankful for, and yet in their
devotion to one another what perfect peace and consolation!"

"Oh, Bessie, but it is a dreadful fate!" said Harry. "Poor Moxon! who
began life with as fine hopes and as solid grounds for them as any
man,--there he is vegetating at Littlemire still, his mind chiefly taken
up with thinking whether his sick wife will be a little more or a little
less suffering to-day than she was yesterday."

"I saw them last week, and could have envied them. She is as near an
angel as a woman can be; and he was very contented in the garden, giving
lessons to a village boy in whom he has discovered a genius for
mathematics. He talked of nothing else."

"Poor boy! poor genius! And are we to grow after the Moxons' pattern,
Bessie--meek, patient, heavenly?" said Harry.

"By the time our hair is white, Harry, I have no objection, but there is
a long meanwhile," replied Bessie with brave uplooking face. "We have
love between us and about us, and that is the first thing. The best
pleasures are the cheapest--we burden life with too many needless cares.
You may do as much good in an obscure groove of the world as you might
do if your name was in all men's mouths. I don't believe that I admire
very successful people."

"That is lucky for us both, since I am a poor fellow whose health has
given way--who is never likely to have any success at all."

"You don't know, Harry; but this is not the time to remember pride and
ambition--it is the time to recover all the health and strength you can;
and with them hope and power will return. What do you most enjoy in the
absence of work?"

"Fresh air, fine scenery, and the converse of men. To live plainly is no
hardship to me; it would be a great hardship to fall on lower
associations, which is the common destiny of the poor and decayed
scholar. You will save me, Bessie?"

"Indeed I will!" And on this they clasped hands fervently.

"Bessie, can we go to Italy together this winter? I dare not go alone: I
must have you to take care of me," pleaded Harry.

"I will take care of you, Harry." Bessie was smiling, tearful, blushing,
and Harry said she was a dear, good girl, and he thanked her.

After that there was some exposition of ways and means, and Bessie,
growing rosier and rosier, told Harry the story of that famous nest-egg,
concerning which she had been put to the blush before. He was very glad
to hear of it--very glad indeed, and much relieved, for it would make
that easy which he had been dwelling on as most of all desirable, but
hampered with difficulties that he could not himself remove. To see him
cheer up at this practical point was delightful to Bessie; it was like
his generous warm heart, equally open to give and to receive. She felt
almost too happy, and blessed the simple forethought of the doctor which
would justify them in remitting all care and anxiety to a future at
least two years off, and afford Harry leisure and opportunity to regain
his health and courage, and look about him for another vocation than
that he had chosen originally.

"And you will find it, Harry, and perhaps you will love it better than
London and dusty law. I am sure I shall," prophesied Bessie gayly.

Harry laughed at her obstinate prejudice; she pointed out that the
result had proved it a shrewd prejudice; and then they fell upon Italy
and talked travel-talk with the sanguine anticipations of young people
endowed with limitless curiosity and a genuine taste for simple
pleasures and each other's society. Harry's classical learning would be
everywhere available for the enhancement of these pleasures.

At this stage of their previsions Mrs. Musgrave intervened, and Bessie
became conscious that the shades of evening were stealing over the
landscape. Mrs. Musgrave had on her bonnet, and was prepared to walk
with Bessie on the road to Fairfield until they should meet Mr. Musgrave
returning from Hampton, who would accompany her the rest of the way.
Harry wished to go in his mother's stead, but she was peremptory in
bidding him stay where he was, and Bessie supported her. "No, Harry, not
to-night--another time," she said, and he yielded at once.

"I'm sure his mother thanks you," said Mrs. Musgrave as they went out.
"He was so jaded this morning when he arrived that the tears came into
his eyes at a word, and Mr. Carnegie said that showed how thoroughly
done he is."

Tears in Harry's eyes! Bessie thought of him with a most pitiful
tenderness. "Oh," she said, "we must all be good to him: he does not
look so ill to me as he looks tired. We must keep up his spirits and his
hope for himself. I see no cause for despair."

"You are young, Bessie Fairfax, and it is easy for you to hope that
everything will turn out for the best, but it is a sore trial for his
father and me to have our expectation taken away. If Harry would have
been advised when he left college, he would never have gone to London.
But it is no use talking of that now. I wish we could see what he is to
do for a living; he will fret his heart out doing nothing at Brook."

"Oh, Mrs. Musgrave, with a quire of paper and one of your gray
goosequills Harry will be preserved from the mischief of doing nothing.
You must let me come over and cheer him sometimes."

"If things had turned out different with my poor son, all might have
been different. You have a good, affectionate disposition, Bessie, and
there is nobody Harry prizes as he prizes you; but a young man whose
health is indifferent and who has no prospects--what is that for a young
lady?" Mrs. Musgrave began to cry.

"Don't cry, dear Mrs. Musgrave; if you cry, that will hurt Harry worse
than anything," said Bessie energetically. "He feels his disappointment
more for his father and you than for himself. His health is not so bad
but that it will mend; and as for his prospects, it is not wise to
impress upon him that the cloud he is under now may never disperse. 'A
cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine.' Have a cheerful heart again.
It will come with trying."

They had not yet met Mr. Musgrave, though they were nearly a mile on the
road, but Bessie would not permit the poor mother to walk any farther
with her. They parted with a kiss. "And God for ever bless you, Bessie
Fairfax, if you have it in your heart to be to Harry what nobody else
can be," said his mother, laying her tremulous hands on the girl's
shoulders. Bessie kissed her again and went on her way rejoicing. This
was one of the happiest hours her life had ever known. She was not
tempted to dwell wantonly on the dark side of events present, and there
were so many brighter possibilities in the future that she could
entirely act out the divine precept to let the morrow take thought for
the things of itself.

When Bessie Fairfax reached Fairfield, Roberts informed her in a
depressed manner that her ladyship was waiting dinner. Bessie started at
this view of her impolite absence, and hastened to the drawing-room to
apologize. But Lady Latimer coldly waived her explanations, and Bessie
felt very self-reproachful until an idea occurred to her what she would
do. After a brief retreat and rapid toilet she reappeared with Harry's
manuscript in her hand, and with simple craft displaying the roll, she
said, "This is for us to read--a true story. It is not in print yet, but
Mr. Harry Musgrave writes a plain hand. We are to give him our opinion
of it. I believe that, after all, he will be a poor author--one of my
heroes, Lady Latimer."

"One of your heroes, Elizabeth? There is nothing very heroic in Mr.
Logger," rejoined my lady softening, and holding out her hand for the
manuscript. "Is the young man very ill?"

"No, no--not so ill that we need fear his dying inglorious without
giving the world something to remember him by, but discouraged by the
dicta of friends and physicians, who consign him to idleness and
obscurity for a year or two."

"Which idleness and obscurity I presume it is your wish to alleviate?"
said Lady Latimer with half-contemptuous resignation. "Come to dinner
now: we will read your hero's story afterward."

Lady Latimer's personal interests were so few that it was a necessity
for her generous soul to adopt the interests of other people. She kept
Bessie reading until eleven o'clock, when she was dismissed to bed and
ordered to leave the manuscript below, lest she should sit up and read
it when she ought to be asleep. But what Bessie might not do my lady was
quite at liberty to do herself, and she made an end of the tale before
she retired. And not only that. She wrote to Mr. Logger to recommend a
publisher, and to ask how proper payment could be assured to a young and
unknown author. She described the story to the veteran critic as a sad,
pretty story of true love (which people go on believing in), sensibly
written, without serious flaws of taste or grammar, and really worth
reading if one had nothing else to do. In the morning she informed
Bessie of what she had done. Bessie was not quite sure that Harry would
feel gratified at being placed under the protection of her ladyship and
Mr. Logger; but as she could not well revoke the letter that was
written, she said nothing against it, and Lady Latimer was busy and
happy for a week in the expectation that she was doing something for
"the unfortunate young man." But at the week's end Mr. Logger dashed her
confidence with the answer that he had not been able to meet with any
publisher willing to pay money down for a sad, pretty story of true love
by an unknown author: sad, pretty stories of true love were a drug in
the literary market. She was grievously disappointed. Bessie was the
same, and as she had confessed a hope to Harry, she had to carry to him
the tidings of failure. If he was sorry, it was for her regret, but they
soon began to talk of other things. They had agreed that if good luck
came they would be glad, and if bad luck they would pass it lightly
over.



CHAPTER XLVII.

_GOODNESS PREVAILS_.


Desirous as Lady Latimer was to do Mr. Harry Musgrave a service, her
good-will towards him ended there. She perversely affected to believe
that Miss Fairfax's avowed promise to him constituted no engagement, and
on this plea put impediments in the way of her visits to Brook, lest a
handle should be given to gossip. Bessie herself was not concerned to
hinder gossip. With the exception of Lady Latimer, all her old friends
in the Forest were ready to give her their blessing. The Wileys were
more and more astonished that she should be so short-sighted, but Mr.
Phipps shook her by both hands and expressed his cordial approbation,
and Miss Buff advised her to have her own way, and let those who were
vexed please themselves again.

Bessie suffered hours of argument from my lady, who, when she found she
could prevail nothing, took refuge in a sort of scornful, compassionate
silence. These silences were, however, of brief duration. She appealed
to Mr. Carnegie, who gave her for answer that Bessie was old enough to
know her own mind, and if that leant towards Mr. Harry Musgrave, so much
the better for him; if she were a weak, impulsive girl, he would advise
delay and probation, but she was of full age and had a good sensible
head of her own; she knew Mr. Harry Musgrave's circumstances, tastes,
prejudices, and habits--what she would gain in marrying him, and what
she would resign. What more was there to say? Mr. Laurence Fairfax had
neither the power nor the will to interpose authoritatively; he made
inquiries into Mr. Harry Musgrave's university career, and talked of him
to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, who replied with magnanimity that but for the
break-down of his health he was undoubtedly one of those young men from
whose early achievement and mental force the highest successes might
have been expected in after-life. Thereupon Mr. Laurence Fairfax and his
gentle wife pitied him, and could not condemn Elizabeth.

Mrs. Carnegie considered that Bessie manifested signal prudence,
forethought, and trust in God when she proposed that her nest-egg, which
was now near a thousand pounds, should supply the means of living in
Italy for a couple of years, without reference to what might come after.
But when Elizabeth wrote to her uncle Laurence to announce what manner
of life she was preparing to enter upon, and what provision was made for
it, though he admired her courage he wrote back that it should not be so
severely tested. It was his intention to give her the portion that would
have been her father's--not so much as the old squire had destined for
her had she married as he wished (that, she knew, had gone another way),
but a competence sufficient to live on, whether at home or abroad. He
told her that one-half of her fortune ought to be settled on Mr. Harry
Musgrave, to revert to her if he died first, and he concluded by
offering himself as one of her trustees.

This generous letter made Bessie very glad, and having shown it to Lady
Latimer at breakfast, she went off with it to Brook directly after. She
found Harry in the sitting-room, turning out the contents of his old
desk. In his hand at the moment of her entrance was the white rose that
he had taken from her at Bayeux; it kept its fragrance still. She gave
him her uncle's letter to read, and when he had read it he said, "If I
did not love you so much, Bessie, this would be a burden painful to
bear."

"Then don't let us speak of it--let me bear it. I am pleased that my
uncle Laurence should be so good to us. When you meet I know you will be
friends. He is in elysium when he can get a good scholar to talk to, and
he will want you to send him all sorts of archæological intelligence
from Rome."

"I have a piece of news too--hopeful news from Christie," said Harry,
producing one of the artist's rapid scratches. "It is to tell me that he
is on the committee of a new illustrated magazine of art which is to
start at Christmas, and that he is sure I can help them with the
letter-press department while we are in Italy."

"Of course you can. And they will require a story: that sweet story of
yours has some picture bits that would be exquisite if they fell into
the hands of a sympathetic artist. Let us send it to Christie, Harry
dear."

"Very well: nothing venture, nothing have. The manuscript is with you.
Take Christie's letter for his address; you will see that he wants an
answer without loss of time. He is going to be married very shortly, and
will be out of town till November."

"I will despatch the story by to-day's post, and a few lines of what I
think of it: independent criticism is useful sometimes."

Harry looked at her, laughing and saying with a humorous deprecation,
"Bessie's independent criticism!"

Bessie blushed and laughed too, but steadfastly affirmed, "Indeed,
Harry, if I did not think it the prettiest story I ever read I would not
tell you so. Lady Latimer said it was pretty, and you cannot accuse her
of loving you too much."

"No. And that brings me to another matter. I wish you would come away
from Fairfield: come here, Bessie. In this rambling old house there is
room enough and to spare, and you shall have all the liberty you please.
I don't see you as often or for as long as I want, and the order of
things is quite reversed: I would much rather set out to walk to you
than wait and watch for your appearance."

"Had I not better go home? My little old nest under the thatch is empty,
and the boys are away."

"Come here first for a week; we have never stayed in one house together
since we were children. I want to see my dear little Bessie every hour
of the day. At Fairfield you are caged. When her ladyship puts on her
grand manner and towers she is very daunting to a poor lover."

"She has not seen you since you left London, Harry. I should like you to
meet; then I think she might forgive us," said Bessie, with a wistful
regret. Sometimes she was highly indignant with my lady, but in the
depths of her heart there was always a fund of affection, admiration,
and respect for the idol of her childish days.

The morning but one after this Bessie's anxious desire that my lady and
her dear Harry should meet was unexpectedly gratified. It was about
halfway towards noon when she was considering whether or no she could
with peace and propriety bring forward her wish to go again to Brook,
when Lady Latimer hurried down from her sanctum, which overlooked the
drive, saying, "Elizabeth, here is young Mr. Musgrave on horseback; run
and bid him come in and rest. He is giving some message to Roberts and
going away."

"Oh, please ask him yourself," said Bessie, but at the same moment she
hastened out to the door.

It was a sultry, oppressive morning, and Harry looked languid and
ill--more ill than Bessie had ever seen him look. She felt inexpressibly
shocked and pained, and he smiled as if to relieve her, while he held
out a letter that he had been on the point of entrusting to Roberts:
"From that excellent fellow, Christie. Your independent criticism has
opened his eyes to the beauties of my story, and he declares that he
shall claim the landscape bits himself."

Lady Latimer advanced with a pale, grave face, and invited the young man
to dismount. There was something of entreaty in her voice: "The
morning-room is the coolest, Elizabeth--take Mr. Musgrave there. I shall
be occupied until luncheon, but I hope you will be able to persuade him
to stay."

Bessie's lips repeated, "Stay," and Harry not unthankfully entered the
house. He dropt into a great easy-chair and put up one hand to cover his
eyes, and so continued for several minutes. Lady Latimer stood an
instant looking at him with a pitiful, scared gaze, and then, avoiding
Bessie's face, she turned and left the lovers together. Bessie laid her
hand on Harry's shoulder and spoke kindly to him: he was tired, the
atmosphere was very close and took away his strength. After a while he
recovered himself and said something about Christie's friendliness, and
perhaps if _he_ illustrated the story they should see reminiscences of
the manor-garden and of Great-Ash Ford, and other favorite spots in the
Forest. They did not talk much or eagerly at all, but Christie's
commendation of the sad pretty story of true love was a distinct
pleasure to them both, and especially to Harry. His mother had begged
him to stop at home and let the letter be sent over to Fairfield, but he
wanted the gratification of telling Bessie his news himself; and the
ride in the hot, airless weather had been too fatiguing. Bessie took up
a piece of work and sat by the window, silent, soothing. He turned his
chair to face her, and from his position he had a distant view of the
sea--a dark blue line on the horizon. He had been fond of the sea and of
boats from his first school-days at Hampton, and as he contemplated its
great remote calm a longing to be out upon it took possession of him,
which he immediately confessed to Bessie. Bessie did not think he need
long in vain for that--it was easy of accomplishment. He said yes--Ryde
was not far, and a Ryde wherry was a capital craft for sailing.

Just as he was speaking Lady Latimer came back bringing some delicious
fruit for Harry's refreshment. "What is that you are saying about Ryde?"
she inquired quickly. "I am going to Ryde for a week or two, and as I
shall take Elizabeth with me, you can come to us there, Mr. Musgrave,
and enjoy the salt breezes. It is very relaxing in the Forest at this
season."

Bessie by a glance supplicated Harry to be gracious, and in obedience to
her mute entreaty he thanked her ladyship and said it would give him the
truest pleasure. My lady had never thought of going to Ryde until that
moment, but since she had seen Harry Musgrave and had been struck by the
tragedy of his countenance, and all that was meant by his having to fall
out of the race of life so early, she was impelled by an irresistible
goodness of nature to be kind and generous to him. Robust people,
healthy, wealthy, and wise, she could let alone, but poverty, sickness,
or any manner of trouble appealed straight to her noble heart, and
brought out all her spirit of Christian fellowship. She was prompt and
thorough in doing a good action, and when she met the young people at
luncheon her arrangements for going to the island were all made, and she
announced that the next day, in the cool of the evening, they would
drive to Hampton and cross by the last boat to Ryde. This sudden and
complete revolution in her behavior was not owing to any change in
principle, but to sheer pitifulness of temper. She had not realized
before what an immense disaster and overthrow young Musgrave was
suffering, but at the sight of his pathetic visage and weakened frame,
and of Elizabeth's exquisite tenderness, she knew that such great love
must be given to him for consolation and a shield against despair. It
was quite within the scope of her imagination to depict the temptations
of a powerful and aspiring mind reduced to bondage and inaction by the
development of inherited disease: to herself it would have been of all
fates the most terrible, and thus she fancied it for him. But in Harry
Musgrave's nature there was no bitterness or fierce revolt, no angry
sarcasm against an unjust world or stinging remorse for fault of his
own. Defeat was his destiny, and he bowed to it as the old Greek heroes
bowed to the decree of the gods, and laughed sometimes at the impotence
of misfortune to fetter the free flight of his thoughts. And Elizabeth
was his angel of peace.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

_CERTAIN OPINIONS_.


The house that Lady Latimer always occupied on her visits to Ryde was
away from the town and the pier, amongst the green fields going out
towards Binstead. It had a shaded garden down to the sea, and a
landing-place of its own when the tide was in. A balcony, looking north,
made the narrow drawing-room spacious, and my lady and her despatch-box
were established in a cool room below, adjoining the dining-parlor. She
did not like the pier or the strand, with their shoals of company in the
season, and took her drives out on the white roads to Wootton and
Newport, Osborne and Cowes, commonly accompanied by some poor friend to
whom a drive was an unfrequent pleasure. She never trusted herself to a
small boat, and as for the wherry that bore Harry Musgrave and Elizabeth
every morning flying before the wind for three delicious hours, she
appreciated its boasted safety so slightly that she was always relieved
to see them safe back again, whether they landed at the foot of the
garden or came through the town. It was beautiful weather, with fine
fresh breezes all the week, and Harry looked and felt so much like a new
man at the end of it that my lady insisted on his remaining a second
week, when they would all return to the Forest together. He had given
her the highest satisfaction by so visibly taking the benefit of her
hospitality, and had made great way in her private esteem besides.
Amongst her many friends and acquaintances then at Ryde, for every day's
dinner she chose one gentleman for the sake of good talk that Mr. Harry
Musgrave might not tire, and the breadth and diversity of the young
man's knowledge and interests surprised her.

One evening after some especially amusing conversation with a travelled
doctor, who was great in the scientific study of botany and beetles, she
said to Elizabeth when they were alone, "What a pity! what a grievous
pity! There is no position brains and energy can win that Mr. Harry
Musgrave might not raise himself to if his health were equal to his
mental capacity. And with what dignity and fortitude he bears his
condemnation to a desultory, obscure existence! I had no idea there
could be so much sweet patience in a man. Do you anticipate that it will
be always so?"

"Harry is very happy now, and I do not look forward much or far,"
Elizabeth said quietly. "People say men are so different from women, but
after all they must be more like women than like anything else. So I try
sometimes to put myself in Harry's place, and I know there will be
fluctuations--perhaps, even a sense of waste and blankness now and then,
and a waking up of regret. But he has no envious littleness of mind and
no irritability of temper: when he is feeling ill he will feel low. But
our life need not be dull or restricted, and he has naturally a most
enjoying humor."

"And he will have you--I think, after all, Elizabeth, you have found
your vocation--to love and to serve; a blessed vocation for those called
to it, but full of sorrows to those who take it up when the world and
pride have disappointed them."

Elizabeth knew that my lady was reflecting on herself. They were both
silent for a few minutes, and then Elizabeth went on: "Harry and I have
been thinking that a yacht would be an excellent establishment for us to
begin with--a yacht that would be fit to coast along France, and could
be laid up at Bordeaux while we rest for the winter at Arcachon--or, if
we are of a mind to go farther, that would carry us to the
Mediterranean. Harry loves a city, and Bologna attracts his present
curiosity: I tell him because it was once a famous school of law."

"Bologna is a most interesting city. He would be well amused there,"
said my lady. "It has a learned society, and is full of antiquities and
pictures. It is in the midst of a magnificent country too. I spent a
month there once with Lord Latimer, and we found the drives in the
vicinity unparalleled. You cannot do better than go to Bologna. Take
your yacht round to one of the Adriatic ports--to Venice. I can supply
you with guide-books. I perceive that Mr. Harry Musgrave must be well
entertained. A Ryde wherry with you in the morning is the perfection of
entertainment, but he has an evident relish for sound masculine
discourse in the evening: we must not be too exacting."

Bessie colored slightly and laughed. "I don't think that I am very
exacting," she said. "I am sure whatever Harry likes he shall do, for
me. I know he wants the converse of men; he classes it with fine scenery
and fresh air as one of the three delights that he most inclines to,
since hard work is forbidden him. Bologna will be better than Arcachon
for the winter."

"Yes, if the climate be suitable. We must find out what the climate is,
or you may alter your plans again. I have not heard yet when the great
event is to take place--when you are to be married."

"My father thinks that Harry should avoid the late autumn in the
Forest--the fall of the leaf," Bessie began with rosy diffidence.

"But you have made no preparations? And there are the settlements!"
exclaimed Lady Latimer, anxiously.

"Our preparations are going on. My uncle Laurence and Mr. Carnegie will
be our trustees; they have consulted Harry, I know, and the settlements
are in progress. Oh, there will be no difficulty."

"But the wedding will be at Abbotsmead, since Mr. Laurence Fairfax gives
his countenance?" Lady Latimer suggested interrogatively.

Bessie's blush deepened: "No. I have promised Harry that it shall be at
Beechhurst, and very quiet. Therefore when we return to the Forest I
shall have to ask you to leave me at the doctor's house."

Lady Latimer was silent and astonished. Then she said with emphasis:
"Elizabeth, I cannot approve of that plan. If you will not go to
Abbotsmead, why not be married from Fairfield? I shall be glad to render
you every assistance."

"You are very, very kind, but Harry would not like it," pleaded Bessie.

"You are too indulgent, Elizabeth. Harry would not like it, indeed! Why
should he have everything his own way?"

"Oh, Lady Latimer, I am sure you would not have the heart to cross him
yourself!" cried Bessie.

My lady looked up at her sharply, but Elizabeth's face was quite
serious: "He has rallied wonderfully during the week--rallied both his
strength and his spirits. It is fortunate he has that buoyancy. Every
girl loves a gay wedding."

"It would be peculiarly distasteful to Harry under the circumstances,
and I would not give him pain for the world," Bessie said warmly.

"He is as well able to bear a little contradiction as the rest of us,"
said Lady Latimer, looking lofty. "In my day the lady was consulted. Now
everything must be arranged to accommodate the gentleman. I'm sure we
are grown very humble!"

Bessie looked meekly on the carpet and did not belie my lady's words.
Something in her air was provoking--perhaps that very meekness, in
certain lights so foreign to her character--for Lady Latimer colored,
and continued in her frostiest tone: "If you are ashamed of the
connection you are forming, that justifies your not inviting the world
to look on at your wedding, which ought to be an hour of pride and
triumph to a girl."

Bessie's meekness vanished in a blush: "And it will be an hour of
triumph to me. Ashamed! Harry Musgrave is to me the best and dearest
heart that breathes," she exclaimed; and my lady was too well advised to
prolong the argument, especially as she felt that it would be useless.

Harry Musgrave was not grudging of his gratitude for real kindness, and
though, when he was in his stronger mood, Lady Latimer was perhaps still
disposed to huff him, the next hour she was as good as she knew how to
be. The visit to the island was productive of excellent results in the
way of a better understanding, and my lady made no more opposition to
Elizabeth's leaving her and taking up her abode in Mr. Carnegie's house
until her marriage.

For a day or two the triangular nest under the thatch felt small and
confined to Bessie, but one morning the rustic sweetness of honeysuckle
blowing in at the open lattice awoke in her memory a thousand happy
childish recollections and brought back all the dear home-feelings. Then
Harry Musgrave was more like his original self here than elsewhere.
Insensibly he fell into his easy boyish pleasantry of manner, and
announced himself as more secure of his fate when he found Bessie
sitting in company with a work-basket in the pretty, low, old-fashioned
drawing-room, perfumed with roses overflowing the china bowl. Bessie had
a perfect notion of the fitness of things, and as simplicity of dress
seemed best suited to her beauty in that place, she attired herself in
her plainest and most becoming gown, and Harry looked her over
approvingly and called her his dear little Bessie again. The doctor, her
mother, the children, every early friend out of the house, was glad, and
congratulated her upon her return to the Forest and to them. And now and
then, in the dreamy length of the days when she sat thinking, all the
interval of time and all the change of scene, circumstance, and faces
since she first went away appeared to her like a dream of the night
when it is gone.

Of course she had to listen to the moralities of this last vicissitude
from her various friends.

Said Miss Buff confidentially, "There is a vast deal more in
surroundings, Bessie, than people like to admit. We are all under their
influence. If we had seen you at Abbotsmead, we might have pitied your
sacrifice, but when we see you at the doctor's in your sprigged cambric
dresses, and your beautiful wavy hair in the style we remember, it seems
the most right and natural thing in the world that you should marry Mr.
Harry Musgrave--no condescension in it. But I did not _quite_ feel that
while you were at Fairfield, though I commended your resolution to have
your own way. Now that you are here you are just Bessie Fairfax--only
the doctor's little daughter. And that goes in proof of what I always
maintain--that grand people, where they are not known, ought never to
divest themselves of the outward and visible signs of their grandness;
for Nature has not been bountiful to them all with either wit or sense,
manners or beauty, though there are toadies everywhere able to discern
in them the virtues and graces suitable to their rank."

"Lady Latimer looks her part upon the stage," said Bessie.

"But how many don't! The countess of Harbro', for instance; who that did
not know her would take her for anything but a common person? Insolent
woman she is! She found fault with the choir to me last Sunday, as if I
were a singing-mistress and she paid my salary. Has old Phipps confessed
how you have astonished him and falsified his predictions?"

"I am not aware that I have done anything to astonish anybody. I fancied
that I had pleased Mr. Phipps rather than otherwise," said Bessie with a
quiet smile.

"And so you have. He is gratified that a young lady of quality should
have the pluck to make a marriage of affection in a rank so far below
her own, considering nothing but the personal worth of the man she
marries."

"I have never been able to discover the hard and fast conventional lines
that are supposed to separate ranks. There is an affectation in these
matters which practically deludes nobody. A liberal education and the
refinements of wealth are too extensively diffused for those whose pride
it is that they have done nothing but vegetate on one spot of land for
generations to hold themselves aloof as a superior caste. The
pretensions of some of them are evident, but only evident to be
ridiculous--like the pretensions of those who, newly enriched by trade,
decline all but what they describe as carriage-company."

"The poor gentry are eager enough to marry money, but that does not
prevent them sneering at the way the money is made," Miss Buff said.
"Even Lady Latimer herself, speaking of the family who have taken
Admiral Parkins's house for three months, said it was a pity they should
come to a place like Beechhurst, for the gentlefolk would not call upon
them, and they would feel themselves above associating with the
tradespeople. They are the great tea-dealers in Cheapside."

"Oh, if they are not vulgar and ostentatious, Lady Latimer will soon
forget her prejudice against the tea."

"And invite them to her garden-parties like the rest of us? No doubt she
will; she likes to know everybody. Then some connection with other
people of her acquaintance will come out, or she will learn that they
are influential with the charitable institutions by reason of their
handsome donations, or that they have an uncle high in the Church, or a
daughter married into the brewing interest. Oh, the ramifications of
society are infinite, and it is safest not to lay too much stress on the
tea to begin with."

"Much the safest," Mr. Phipps, who had just come in, agreed. "The
tea-dealer is very rich, and money (we have Solomon's word for it) is a
defence. He is not aware of needing her ladyship's patronage. I expect,
Miss Fairfax, that, drifting up and down and to and fro in your
vicissitudes, you have found all classes much more alike than
different?"

"Yes. The refinements and vulgarities are the monopoly of no degree;
only I think the conceit of moral superiority is common to us all," said
Bessie, and she laughed.

"And well it may be, since the axiom that _noblesse oblige_ has fallen
into desuetude, and the word of a gentleman is no more to swear by than
a huckster's. Tom and Jerry's wives go to court, and the arbitrary
edict of fashion constitutes the latest barbaric importation _bon ton_
for a season. I have been giving Harry Musgrave the benefit of my
wanderings in Italy thirty years ago, and he is so enchanted that you
will have to turn gypsy again next spring, Miss Fairfax."

"It will suit me exactly--a mule or an ox-cart instead of the train,
byways for highways, and sauntering for speed. Did I not tell you long
ago, Mr. Phipps, that the gypsy wildness was in the Fairfax blood, and
that some day it would be my fate to travel ever so far and wide, and to
come home again browner than any berry?"

"Why, you see, Miss Fairfax, the wisest seer is occasionally blind, and
you are that rare bird, a consistent woman. Knowing the great lady you
most admired, I feared for you some fatal act of imitation. But, thank
God! you have had grace given you to appreciate a simple-minded, lovable
fellow, who will take you out of conventional bonds, and help you to
bend your life round in a perfect circle. You are the happiest woman it
has been my lot to meet with."

Bessie did not speak, but she looked up gratefully in the face of her
old friend.



CHAPTER XLIX.

_BESSIE'S LAST RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR._


Mr. Carnegie complained that he had less of his dear Bessie's company
than anybody else by reason of his own busy occupation, and one clear
September morning, when the air was wonderfully fresh and sweet after a
thunderstorm during the night, he asked her to come out for a last ride
with him before Harry Musgrave carried her away. Bessie donned her habit
and hat, and went gladly: the ride would serve as a leavetaking of some
of her friends in the cottages whom otherwise she might miss.

In the village they met Miss Buff, going off to the school to hear the
Bible read and teach the Catechism--works of supererogation under the
new system, which Mr. Wiley had thankfully remitted to her on account
of her popularity with parents and children.

"Your duty to your neighbor and your duty to God and the ten
commandments--nothing else, because of the Dissenters," she explained in
a bustle. "Imagine the vulgarity of an education for the poor from which
the Bible may be omitted! Dreadful! I persuade the children to get
certain of the psalms, proverbs, and parables by heart out of school.
Bless you! they like that; but as for teaching them such abstract
knowledge as what an adverb or an isthmus is, or the height of Mont
Blanc, I defy you! And it is all fudge. Will they sweep a room or make
an apple-dumpling the better for it? Not they. But fix it in their minds
that whatever their hands find to do they must do it with their might,
and there is a chance that they will sweep into the corners and pare the
apples thin. But I have no time to spare, so good-bye, good-bye!"

The general opinion of Beechhurst was with Miss Buff, who was making a
stand upon the ancient ways in opposition to the superior master of Lady
Latimer's selection, whose chief tendency was towards grammar, physical
geography, and advanced arithmetic, which told well in the inspector's
report. Miss Buff was strong also in the matter of needle, work and
knitting--she would even have had the boys knit--but here she had
sustained defeat.

Mr. Carnegie's first visit was to Mrs. Christie, who, since she had
recovered her normal state of health, had resumed her habit of drugging
and complaining. Her son was now at home, and when the doctor and Bessie
rode across the green to the wheelwright's house there was the artist at
work, with a companion under his white umbrella. His companion wore a
maize piqué dress and a crimson sash; a large leghorn hat, garnished
with poppies and wheat-ears, hid her face.

"There is Miss Fairfax herself, Janey," whispered young Christie in an
encouraging tone. "Don't be afraid."

Janey half raised her head and gazed at Bessie with shy, distrustful
eyes. Bessie, quite unconscious, reined in Miss Hoyden under the shadow
of a spreading tree to wait while the doctor paid his visit in-doors.
She perceived that there was a whispering between the two under the
white umbrella, and with a pleasant recognition of the young man she
looked another way. After the lapse of a few minutes he approached her,
an unusual modest suffusion overspreading his pale face, and said, "Miss
Fairfax, there is somebody here you once knew. She is very timid, and
says she dares not claim your remembrance, because you must have thought
she had forgotten you."

Bessie turned her head towards the diffident small personage who was
regarding her from the distance. "Is it Janey Fricker?" she asked with a
pleased, amused light in her face.

"It is Janey Christie." In fact, the artist was now making his
wedding-tour, and Janey was his wife.

"Oh," said Bessie, "then this was why your portfolio was so full of
sketches at Yarmouth. I wish I had known before."

Janey's face was one universal blush as she came forward and looked up
in Miss Fairfax's handsome, beneficent face. There had always been an
indulgent protectiveness in Bessie's manner to the master-mariner's
little daughter, and it came back quite naturally. Janey expected hasty
questions, perhaps reproaches, perhaps coldness, but none of these were
in Bessie's way. She had never felt herself ill used by Janey, and in
the joy of the sudden rencounter did not recollect that she had anything
to forgive. She said how she had lived in the hope of a meeting again
with Janey some day, and what a delightful thing it was to meet thus--to
find that her dear little comrade at school was married to Harry
Musgrave's best friend! Janey had heard from her husband all the story
of Bessie's faithful love, but she was too timid and self-doubting to be
very cordial or responsive. Bessie therefore talked for both--promised
herself a renewal of their early friendship, and expressed an hospitable
wish that Mr. Christie would bring his wife to visit them in Italy next
year when he took his holiday. Christie promised that he would, and
thought Miss Fairfax more than ever good and charming; but Janey was
almost happier when Bessie rode away with Mr. Carnegie and she was
permitted to retire into seclusion again under the white umbrella. The
artist had chosen him a helpmeet who could be very devoted in private
life, but who would never care for his professional honors or public
reputation. Bessie heard afterward that the master-mariner was dead,
and the place in her heart that he had held was now her husband's. With
her own more expansive and affectionate nature she felt a genial warmth
of satisfaction in the meeting, and as she trotted along with the doctor
she told him about Janey at school, and thought herself most fortunate
to have been riding with him that morning.

"For I really fear the little shy creature would never have come near me
had I not fallen in with her where she could not escape," said she.

"Christie has been even less ambitious in his marriage than yourself,
Bessie," was the doctor's reply. "That one-idead little woman may
worship him, but she will be no help. She will not attract friends to
his house, even if she be not jealous of them; and he will have to go
out and leave her at home; and that is a pity, for an artist ought to
live in the world."

"She is docile, but not trustful. Oh, he will tame her, and she will try
to please him," said Bessie cheerfully. "She fancied that I must have
forgotten her, when there was rarely a day that she did not come into my
mind. And she says the same of me, yet neither of us ever wrote or made
any effort to find the other out."

"Let us hope that you have both contracted a more serviceable friendship
in another direction," said the doctor, and Bessie laughed. She was
aware that his estimate of feminine friendship was not exalted.

About half a mile farther, where a byroad turned off towards Fairfield,
the riders came upon a remarkable group in high debate over a
donkey--Lady Latimer, Gampling the tinker, and the rural policeman. My
lady instantly summoned Mr. Carnegie to her succor in the fray, which,
to judge from her countenance and the stolid visage of the emissary of
the law, was obstinate. It appeared that the policeman claimed to arrest
the donkey and convey him to the pound. The dry and hungry beast had
been tethered by his master in the early morning where a hedge and
margin of sward bordered the domain of Admiral Parkins. Uninstructed in
modern law, he broke loose and strayed along the green, cropping here
and there a succulent shoot of thorn or thistle, until, when
approaching repletion, he was surprised by the policeman, reprimanded,
captured, and led ignominiously towards the gaol for vagrant animals--a
donkey that everybody knew.

"He's took the innicent ass into custody, and me he's going to summons
and get fined," Gampling exclaimed, his indignation not abated by the
appearance of another friend upon the scene, for a friend he still
counted the doctor, though he persisted in his refusal to mend his
kettles and pots and pans.

"Is not this an excess of zeal, Cobb?" remonstrated Mr. Carnegie.
"Suppose you let the ass off this time, and consider him warned not to
do it again?"

"Sir, my instructions is not to pass over any infringement of the new
h'act. Straying is to be put down," said Cobb stiffly.

"This here ass have earned his living honest a matter of eight year, and
naught ever laid agen his character afore by high nor low," pleaded
Gampling, growing pathetic as authority grew more stern. "Her ladyship
and the doctor will speak a good word for him, and there's others as
will."

"Afore the bench it may be of vally and go to lowering the fine," said
the invincible exponent of the law; "I ain't nothing to do with that."

"I'll tell you where it is, Cobb," urged Gampling, swelling into anger
again. "This here ass knows more o' nat'ral justice than the whole
boiling o' new h'acts. He'd never be the man to walk into her ladyship's
garden an' eat up her flowerbeds: raason why, he'd get a jolly good
hiding if he did. But he says to hisself, he says, when he sees a nice
bite o' clover or a sow-thistle by the roadside: "This here's what's
left for the poor, the fatherless, and the widder--it ain't much, but
thank God for small mercies!'--an' he falls to. Who's he robbed, I
should like to know?"

"You must ask the admiral that when you come up before the magistrates
on Saturday," rejoined Cobb severely--his professional virtue sustained,
perhaps, by the presence of witnesses.

Gampling besides being an itinerant tinker was also an itinerant
political preacher, and seeing that he could prevail nothing by secular
pleas, he betook himself to his spiritual armory, and in a voice of sour
derision that made Bessie Fairfax cringe asked the doctor if he had yet
received the Devil's Decalogue according to h'act of Parliament and
justices' notices that might be read on every wall?--and he proceeded to
recite it: "Thou shalt remove the old landmarks, and enter into the
fields of the poor. Thou shalt wholly reap the corners of thy fields and
gather the gleanings of thy harvest: thou shalt leave nothing for the
poor and the stranger. If a wayfarer that is a-hungered pluck the ears
of corn and eat, thou shalt hale him before the magistrates, and he
shall be cast into prison. Thou shalt turn away thy face from every poor
man, and if thy brother ask bread of thee, thou shalt give him neither
money nor food."

Mr. Carnegie made a gesture to silence the tinker, for he had thrown
himself into an oratorical attitude, and shouted out the new
commandments at the top of his voice, emphasizing each clause with his
right fist brought down each time more passionately on the palm of his
left hand. But his humor had grown savage, and with his eyes glowing
like hot coals in his blackened visage he went on, his tone rising to a
hoarse, hysteric yell: "Thou shalt oppress the poor, and forbid to teach
the gospel in the schools, lest they learn to cry unto their God, and He
hear them, and they turn again and rend thee."

"What use is there in saying the thing that is not, Gampling?" demanded
Lady Latimer impetuously. "The Bible _is_ read in our schools. And if
you workingmen take advantage of the privileges that you have won, you
ought to be strong enough, both in and out of Parliament, to prevent any
new act being made in violation of the spirit of either law or gospel."

"I can't argy with your ladyship--it would be uncivil to say you talk
bosh," replied the tinker as suddenly despondent as he had been furious.
"I know that every year makes this world worse for poor honest folk to
live in, an' that there's more an' more h'acts to break one's shins
over. Who would ha' thowt as ever my old ass could arn me a fine an'
costs o' a summons by nibbling a mouthful o' green meat on the queen's
highway, God bless her! I've done."

My lady endeavored to make Gampling hear that she would pay his fine
(if fined he were), but he refused to listen, and went off, shaking his
head and bemoaning the hard pass the world was come to.

"It is almost incredible the power of interference that is given to the
police," said Lady Latimer. "That wretched young Burt and his mother
were taken up by Cobb last week and made to walk to Hampton for lying on
the heath asleep in the sun; nothing else--that was their crime.
Fortunately, the magistrates had the humanity to discharge them."

"Poor souls! they are stamped for vagabonds. But young Burt will not
trouble police or magistrates much longer now," said the doctor.

In fact, he had that very morning done with troubling anybody. When Mr.
Carnegie pulled up ten minutes later at the door of a forlorn hovel
which was the present shelter of the once decent widow, he had no need
to dismount. "Ride on, Bessie," he said softly, and Bessie rode on.
Widow Burt came out to speak to the doctor, her lean face scorched to
the color of a brick, her clothing ragged, her hair unkempt, her eyes
wild as the eyes of a hunted animal.

"He's gone, sir," she said, pointing in-doors to where a long,
motionless figure seated in a chair was covered with a ragged patchwork
quilt. The doctor nodded gravely, paused, asked if she were alone.

"Mrs. Wallop sat up with us last night--she's very good, is Mrs.
Wallop--but first thing this morning Bunny came along to fetch her to
his wife, and she'd hardly got out o' sight when poor Tom stretched
hisself like a bairn that's waked up and is going to drop off to sleep
again, an' with one great sigh was dead. Miss Wort comes most mornings:
here she is."

Yes, there was Miss Wort, plunging head foremost through the heather by
way of making a short cut. She saw at a glance what had happened, and
taking both the poor mother's hands in her own, she addressed the doctor
with tears in her eyes and tremulous anger in her voice: "I shall always
say that it is a bad and cruel thing to send boys to prison, or anybody
whose temptation is hunger. How can we tell what we should do ourselves?
We are not wiser than the Bible, and we are taught to pray God lest we
be poor and steal. Tom would never have come to be what he was but for
that dreadful month at Whitchester. Instead of shutting up village-boys
and hurting their health if they have done anything wrong, why can't
they be ordered to wear a fool's cap for a week, going about their
ordinary work? Our eyes would be on them, and they would not have a
chance of picking and stealing again; it would give us a little more
trouble at first, but not in the long run, and save taxes for prisons.
People would say, 'There goes a poor thief,' and they would be sorry for
him, and wonder why he did it; and we ought to look after our own
things. And then, if they turned out incorrigible, they might be shut up
or sent out of the way of temptation. Oh, if those who have the power
were only a little more considerate, and would learn to put themselves
in their place!"

Mr. Carnegie said that Miss Wort's queer suggestion was capable of
development, and there was too much sending of poor and young people to
prison for light offences--offences of ignorance often, for which a
reprimand and compensation would be enough. Bessie had never seen him
more saddened.

Their next and last visit was to Littlemire. Mr. Moxon was in his
garden, working without his coat. He came forward, putting the
threadbare garment on, and begged Miss Fairfax to go up stairs and see
his wife. This was one of her good days, as she called the days when the
aching weariness of her perpetual confinement was a degree abated, and
she welcomed her visitor with a cry of plaintive joy, kissed her, gazed
at her fondly through glittering tears.

Bessie did not know that she had been loved so much. Girl-like, she had
brought her tribute of flowers to the invalid's room, had wondered at
this half-paralyzed life that was surrounded by such an atmosphere of
peace; and when, during her last visit, she had realized what a
compensation for all sorrow was this peace, she had not yet understood
what an ardor of sympathy kept the poor sufferer's heart warm towards
those whose brighter lot had nothing in common with her own.

"Oh, my love," she said in a sweet, thrilling voice, "dear Harry
Musgrave has been to tell me of his happiness. I am so glad for you
both--so very, very glad!" She did not pause to let Bessie respond, but
ran on with her recollections of Harry since he was a boy and came first
to read with her husband. "His thoughtfulness was really quite
beautiful; he never forgot to be kind. Oh, my dear, you may thoroughly
rely on his fine, affectionate temper. Rarely did he come to a lesson
without bringing me some message from his mother and little present in
his hand--a few flowers, a spring chicken, some nice fruit, a partridge.
This queer rustic scaffold for my books and work, Harry constructed it
himself, and I would not exchange it for the most elegant and ingenious
of whatnots. I could do nothing for him but listen to his long thoughts
and aspirations: that was when you were out of hearing, and he could
neither talk nor write to his dear little Bessie."

"It was a great gap, but it did not make us strangers," said Bessie.

"When he went to Oxford he sent us word of his arrival, and how he liked
his college and his tutor--matters that were as interesting to us as if
he had been our own. And when he found how welcome his letters were, he
wrote to Mr. Moxon often, and sent him any report or pamphlet that he
thought might please him; and several times he gave himself the trouble
both at the Bodleian and in London to search for and copy out extracts
from works that Mr. Moxon wanted and had no means of procuring here. You
can have no idea how helpful he has been to my husband in such things.
Poor fellow! what a grief it was to us that term he had to stay away
from Oxford on account of his health! Already we began to fear for the
future, but his buoyant spirit would not anticipate any permanent
hindrance to his progress; and that check did make him more prudent. But
it is not to be; he sees himself cut short of the career where he
planned to be famous; he gives way, however, to neither anger nor
repining. Oh, my love! that I could win you to believe that if you clasp
this cross to your heart, as the gift of Him who cannot err, you will
never feel it a burden!"

Bessie smiled. She did not feel it a burden now, and Harry was not
abandoned to carry its weight alone. She did not speak: she was not apt
at the expression of her religious feelings, but they were sincere as
far as life had taught her. She could have lent her ears for a long
while to Harry Musgrave's praises without growing weary, but the vicar
now appeared, followed by the doctor, talking in a high, cheerful voice
of that discovery he had made of a remarkable mathematical genius in
Littlemire: "A most practical fellow, a wonderful hard head--will turn
out an enterprising engineer, an inventor, perhaps; has the patience of
Job himself, and an infinite genius for taking pains."

Bessie recollected rather pathetically having once heard the sanguine,
good vicar use very similar terms in speaking of her beloved Harry.



CHAPTER L.

_FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE._


Towards the end of September, Harry Musgrave and Bessie Fairfax were
married. Lady Latimer protested against this conclusion by her absence,
but she permitted Dora Meadows to go to the church to look on. The
wedding differed but very little from other weddings. Harry Musgrave was
attended by his friend Forsyth, and Polly and Totty Carnegie were the
bridesmaids. Mr. Moxon married the young couple, and Mr. Carnegie gave
the bride away. Mr. Laurence Fairfax was present, and the occasion was
further embellished by little Christie and Janey in their recent wedding
garments, and by Miss Buff and Mr. Phipps, whose cheerful appearance in
company gave rise to some ingenious prophetic remarks. The village folks
pronounced the newly-wedded pair to be the handsomest they had seen
married at Beechhurst church for many a long year, and perhaps it was
lucky that Lady Latimer stayed away, for there was nothing in Mr. Harry
Musgrave's air or countenance to cheat her into commiseration.

"Elizabeth looked lovely--so beautifully happy," Dora Meadows reported.
"And Mr. Harry Musgrave went through the ceremony with composure: Miss
Buff said he was as cool as a cucumber. I should think he is a
faithless, unsentimental sort of person, Aunt Olympia."

"Indeed! because he was composed?" inquired my lady coldly.

Dora found it easier to express an opinion than to give her reasons for
it: all that Aunt Olympia could gather from her rather incoherent
attempts at explanation was that Mr. Harry Musgrave had possibly feigned
to be worse than he was until he had made sure of Elizabeth's tender
heart, for he appeared to be in very good case, both as to health and
spirits.

"He might have died for Elizabeth if she had not loved him; and whatever
he is or is not, he most assuredly would never voluntarily have given up
the chances of an honorable career for the sake of living in idleness
even with Elizabeth. You talk nonsense, Dora. There may be persons as
foolish and contemptible as you suppose, but Elizabeth has more wit than
to have set her affections on such a one." Poor Dora was silenced. My
lady was peremptory and decisive, as usual. When Dora had duly repented
of her silly suggestion, Aunt Olympia's natural curiosity to hear
everything prevailed over her momentary caprice of ill-humor, and she
was permitted to recite the wedding in all its details--even to Mrs.
Musgrave's silk gown and the pretty little bridesmaids' dresses. The
bridegroom only she prudently omitted, and was sarcastically rebuked for
the omission by and by with the query, "And the bridegroom was nowhere,
then?"

The bells broke out several times in the course of the day, and the
event served for a week's talk after it was over. The projected
yacht-voyage had been given up, and the young people travelled in all
simplicity, with very little baggage and no attendant except Mrs. Betts.
They went through Normandy until they came to Bayeux, where Madame
Fournier was spending the long vacation at the house of her brother the
canon, as her custom was. In the twilight of a hot autumnal evening they
went to call upon her. Lancelot's watering-can had diffused its final
shower, and the oleanders and pomegranates, grateful for the refreshing
coolness, were giving out their most delicious odors. The canon and
madame were sipping their _café noir_ after dinner, seated in the
verandah towards the garden, and Madame Babette, the toil of the day
over, was dozing and reposing under the bowery sweet clematis at the end
by her own domain.

The elderly people welcomed their young visitors with hospitable
warmth. Two more chairs were brought out and two cups of _café noir_,
and the visit was prolonged into the warm harvest moonlight with news of
friends and acquaintances. Bessie heard that the venerable _curé_ of St.
Jean's still presided over his flock at Caen, and occupied the chintz
edifice like a shower-bath which was the school-confessional. Miss
Foster was married to a _brave fermier_, and Bessie was assured that she
would not recognize that depressed and neuralgic _demoiselle_ in the
stout and prosperous _fermière_ she had developed into. Mdlle. Adelaide
was also married; and Louise, that pretty portress, in spite of the
raids of the conscription amongst the young men of her _pays_, had found
a shrewd young innkeeper, the only son of a widow, who was so wishful to
convert her into madame at the sign of the Croix Rouge that she had
consented, and now another Louise, also very pretty, took cautious
observation of visitors before admission through the little trap of the
wicket in the Rue St. Jean.

Then Madame Fournier inquired with respectful interest concerning her
distinguished pupil, Madame Chiverton, of whose splendid marriage in
Paris a report had reached her through her nephew. Was Monsieur
Chiverton so very rich? was he so very old and ugly? was he good to his
beautiful wife? Monsieur Chiverton, Bessie believed, was perfectly
devoted and submissive to his wife--he was not handsome nor youthful--he
had great estates and held a conspicuous position. Madame replied with
an air of satisfaction that proud Miss Ada would be in her element then,
for she was born to be a grand lady, and her own family was so poor that
she was utterly without _dot_--else, added madame with some mystery, she
might have found a _parti_ in the imperial court: there had been a brave
marshal who was also duke. Here the amiable old lady checked herself,
and said with kind reassurance to the unambitious Bessie, "But, _ma
chèrie_, you have chosen well for your happiness. Your Harry is
excellent; you have both such gayety of heart, like _us_--not like the
English, who are _si maussade_ often."

Bessie would not allow that the English are _maussade_, but madame
refused to believe herself mistaken.

Mr. and Mrs. Harry Musgrave still carry their gayety of heart wherever
they go. They are not fashionable people, but people like to know them.
They have adopted Italy for their country, and are most at home in
Florence, but they do not find their other home in England too far off
for frequent visits.

They are still only two, and move about often and easily, and see more
than most travellers do, for they charter queer private conveyances for
themselves, and leave the beaten ways for devious paths that look
attractive and often turn out great successes. It was during one of
these excursions--an excursion into the Brianza--that they not long ago
fell in with a large party of old friends from England, come together
fortuitously at Bellagio. Descending early in the evening from the
luxuriant hills across which they had been driving through a long green
June day, they halted at the hospitable open gate of the Villa Giulia.
There was a pony-carriage at the door, and another carriage just moving
off after the discharge of its freight.

"Oh, Aunt Olympia, look here! Mr. Harry Musgrave and Elizabeth!" cried a
happy voice, and there, behold! were my Lady Latimer and Dora--Lady
Lucas now--and Sir Edward; and turning back to see and asking, "Who?
who?" came Mr. Oliver Smith and his sisters, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh and
his dear Julia.

To Bessie it was a delightful encounter, and Harry Musgrave, if his
enthusiasm was not quite so eager, certainly enjoyed it as much, for his
disposition was always sociable. My lady, after a warm embrace and six
words to Elizabeth, said, "You will dine with me--we are all dining
together this evening;" and she communicated her commands to one of the
attendants. It was exactly as at home: my lady took the lead, and
everybody was under her orders. Bessie liked it for old custom's sake;
Mrs. Cecil Burleigh stood a little at a loss, and asked, "What are we to
do?"

The Cecil Burleighs were not staying at the Villa Giulia--they were at
another hotel on the hill above--and the Lucases, abroad on their
wedding-tour, were at a villa on the edge of the lake. They had been
making a picnic with Lady Latimer and her party that day, and were just
returning when the young Musgraves appeared. The dinner was served in a
room looking upon the garden, and afterward the company walked out upon
the terraces, fell into groups and exchanged news. My lady had already
enjoyed long conversations with Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Sir Edward Lucas,
and she now took Mr. Harry Musgrave to talk to. Harry slipped his hand
within his wife's arm to make her a third in the chat, but as it was
information on Roman politics and social reforms my lady chiefly wanted,
Bessie presently released herself and joined the wistful Dora, who was
longing to give her a brief history of her own wooing and wedding.
Before the tale was told Sir Edward joined them in the rose-bower
whither they had retreated, and contributed some general news from
Norminster and Abbotsmead and the neighborhood. Lady Angleby had adopted
another niece for spaniel, _vice_ Mrs Forbes promoted to Kirkham
vicarage, and her favorite clergyman, Mr. Jones, had been made rural
dean; Mrs Stokes had a little girl; Mrs. Chiverton was carrying on a
hundred beneficent projects to the Woldshire world's wonder and
admiration: she had even prevailed against Morte.

"And I believe she would have prevailed had poor Gifford lived; she is a
most energetic woman," Sir Edward said. Bessie looked up inquiringly.
"Mr. Gifford died of malignant fever last autumn," Sir Edward told her.
"He went to Morte in pursuit of some incorrigible poacher when fever was
raging there, and took it in its most virulent form; his death proved an
irresistible argument against the place, and Blagg made a virtue of
necessity and razed his hovels."

Bessie heard further that her uncle Laurence Fairfax had announced the
principle that it is unwise for landowners to expect a direct profit
from the cottages and gardens of their laboring tenants, and was putting
it into practice on the Kirkham estates, to the great comfort and
advantage of his dependants.

"My Edward began it," whispered Dora, not satisfied that her husband
should lose the honor that to him belonged.

"Yes," said Bessie, "I remember what sensible, kind views he always took
of his duties and responsibilities."


"And another thing he has done," continued the little lady. "While other
men are enclosing every waste roadside scrap they dare, he has thrown
open again a large meadow by the river which once upon a time was free
to the villagers on the payment of a shilling a head for each cow turned
out upon it. The gardens to the new cottages are planted with fruit
trees, and you cannot think what interest is added to the people's lives
when they have to attend to what is pleasant and profitable for
themselves. It cannot be a happy feeling to be always toiling for a
master and never for one's own. There! Edward has taken himself off, so
I may tell you that there never was anybody so good as he is, so
generous and considerate."

Dora evidently regarded her spouse with serious, old-fashioned devotion
and honor. Bessie smiled. She could have borne an equal tribute to her
dear Harry, and probably if Mrs. Cecil Burleigh had been as effusive as
these young folks, she might have done the same; for while they talked
in the rose-bower Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his wife came by, she leaning
on his arm and looking up and listening as to the words of an oracle.

"Is she not sweet? What a pity it would have been had those two not
married!" said Dora softly, and they passed out of sight.

"Come out and see the roses," Lady Latimer said to Elizabeth through the
window early next morning. "They are beautiful with the dew upon them."

Harry Musgrave and his wife were at breakfast, with a good deal of
litter about the room. Botanical and other specimens were on the
window-sill, on the table was a sheaf of popular Italian street-songs
collected in various cities, and numerous loose leaves of manuscript.
Harry had decided that Bellagio was a pleasant spot to rest in for a
week or so, and Bessie had produced their work in divers kinds. They
were going to have a delightful quiet morning of it, when my lady tapped
on the glass and invited Elizabeth out to admire the roses.

"Don't stay away long," whispered Harry to his wife, rising to pay his
compliments.

He did not reseat himself to enjoy his tranquil labors for nearly an
hour, and Bessie stood in her cool white dress like a statue of
Patience, hearing Lady Latimer discourse until the sun had evaporated
the dew from the roses. Then Miss Juliana and Miss Charlotte appeared,
returning from a stroll beyond the bounds of the garden, and announced
that the day was growing very hot. "Yes, it is almost too hot to walk
now; but will you come to my room, Elizabeth? I have some photographs
that I am sure would interest you," urged my lady. She seemed surprised
and displeased when Harry entreated comically that his wife might not be
taken away, waving his hand to the numerous tasks that awaited them.

"We also have photographs: let us compare them in the drowsy hours of
afternoon," said he; and when Bessie offered to hush his odd speeches,
he boldly averred that she was indispensable: "She has allowed me to get
into the bad habit of not being able to work without her."

My lady could only take her leave with a hope that they would be at
leisure later in the day, and was soon after seen to foregather with an
American gentleman as ardent in the pursuit of knowledge as herself.
Afterward she found her way to the village school, and had an
instructive interview with an old priest; and on the way back to the
Villa Giulia, falling in with a very poor woman and two barefooted
little boys, her children, she administered charitable relief and earned
many heartfelt blessings. The review of photographs took place in the
afternoon, as Harry suggested, and in the cool of the evening, after the
_table d'hôte_, they had a boat on the lake and paid the Lucases a visit
before their departure for Como. Then they sauntered home to their inn
by narrow, circuitous lanes between walled gardens--steep, stony lanes
where, by and by, they came upon an iron gate standing open for the
convenience of a man who was busy within amongst the graves, for this
was the little cemetery of Bellagio. It had its grand ponderosity in
stone and marble sacred to the memory of noble dust, and a throng of
poor iron crosses, leaning this way and that amidst the unkempt, tall
grasses.

Lady Latimer walked in; Harry Musgrave and Bessie waited outside. My
lady had many questions to ask of the gardener about the tenants of the
vaults beneath the huge monuments, and many inscriptions upon the wall
to read--pathetic, quaint, or fulsome. At length she turned to rejoin
her companions. They were gazing through a locked grate into a tiny
garden where were two graves only--a verdant little spot over which the
roses hung in clouds of beauty and fragrance. An inscription on a slab
sunk in the wall stated that this piece of ground was given for a
burial-place to his country-people by an Englishman who had there buried
his only son. The other denizen of the narrow plat was Dorothea Fairfax,
at whose head and feet were white marble stones, the sculpture on them
as distinct as yesterday. Bessie turned away with tears in her eyes.

"What is it?" said my lady sharply, and peered through the grate. Harry
Musgrave had walked on. When Lady Latimer looked round her face was
stern and cold, and the pleasant light had gone out of it. Without
meeting Elizabeth's glance she spoke: "The dead are always in the right;
the living always in the wrong. I had forgotten it was at Bellagio that
Dorothy died. Has Oliver seen it, I wonder? I must tell him." Yes,
Oliver had been there with his other sisters in the morning: they had
not forgotten, but they hoped that dear Olympia's steps would not wander
round by that way.

However, my lady made no further sign except by her unwonted silence.
She left the Villa Giulia the following day with all her party, her last
words to Elizabeth being, "You will let me know when you are coming to
England, and I will be at Fairfield. I would not miss seeing you: it
seems to me that we belong to one another in some fashion. Good-bye."

Bessie went back to Harry over his work rather saddened. "I do love Lady
Latimer, Harry--her very faults and her foibles," she said. "I must have
it by inheritance."

"If you had expressed a wish, perhaps she would not have gone so
suddenly. She appears to have no object in life but to serve other
people even while she rules them. Don't look so melancholy: she is not
unhappy--she is not to be pitied."

"Oh, Harry! Not unhappy, and so lonely!"

"My dear child, all the world is lonely more or less--she more, we less.
But doing all the good she can--and so much good--she must have many
hours of pure and high satisfaction. I am glad we have met."

And Bessie was glad. These chance meetings so far away gave her sweet
intervals of reverie about friends at home. She kept her tender heart
for them, but had never a regret that she had left them all for Harry
Musgrave's sake. She sat musing with lovely pensive face. Harry looked
up from his work again. The sky was heavenly serene, there was a cool
air stirring, and slow moving shadows of cloud were upon the lake.

"I am tired of these songs just now," said Harry, rising and stepping
over to the window where his wife sat. "This is a day to find out
something new: let us go down the garden to the landing and take a boat.
We will ask for a roll or two of bread and some wine, and we can stay as
late as we please."

Bessie came out of her dream and did his bidding with a grace. And that
was the day's diversion.

THE END.



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ENGLAND, PICTURESQUE AND DESCRIPTIVE. By JOEL COOK, author of "A Holiday
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historic scenes and rural life of England and Wales. With Mr. Cook's
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     This work, which is prepared in elegant style, and profusely
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HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA. By the COMTE DE PARIS. With Maps
faithfully Engraved from the Originals, and Printed in Three Colors.
8vo. Cloth, per volume, $3.50; red cloth, extra, Roxburgh style, uncut
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Vols. I, II, and III now ready.

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     It contains full accounts of the battle of Chancellorsville, the
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     battle of Gettysburg ever written.

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     best history of the American war."--_Athenæum, London_.

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     competent critics both of this country and abroad."--_Times,
     Cincinnati_.

     "Messrs. Porter & Coates, of Philadelphia, will publish in a few
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HALF-HOURS WITH THE BEST AUTHORS. With short Biographical and Critical
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New Household Edition. With six portraits on steel. 3 vols., thick 12mo.
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     The excellent idea of the editor of these choice volumes has been
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     end of the year than he would by five years of desultory reading.

     They can be commenced at any day in the year. The variety of
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     is a library in itself.

THE POETRY OF OTHER LANDS. A Collection of Translations into English
Verse of the Poetry of Other Languages, Ancient and Modern. Compiled by
N. CLEMMONS HUNT. Containing translations from the Greek, Latin,
Persian, Arabian, Japanese, Turkish, Servian, Russian, Bohemian, Polish,
Dutch, German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese languages. 12mo.
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THE FIRESIDE ENCYCLOPÆDIA OF POETRY. Edited by HENRY T. COATES. This is
the latest, and beyond doubt the best collection of poetry published.
Printed on fine paper and illustrated with thirteen steel engravings and
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     library."--_New York Tribune_.

     "Lovers of good poetry will find this one of the richest
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     "Cyclopædias of poetry are numerous, but for sterling value of its
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     takes the gems from many volumes, culling with rare skill and
     judgment."--_Chicago Inter-Ocean_.

THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF POETRY. Compiled by HENRY T. COATES. Containing
over 500 poems carefully selected from the works of the best and most
popular writers for children; with nearly 200 illustrations. The most
complete collection of poetry for children ever published. 4to. Cloth,
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     "This seems to us the best book of poetry for children in
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     compilation."--_Worcester Spy_.

     "The special value of the book lies in the fact that it nearly or
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     poetry which has been written for children that cannot be found in
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     "A more excellent volume cannot be found. We have found within the
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THE COMPLETE WORKS OF THOS. HOOD. With engravings on steel. 4 vols.,
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     Hood's verse, whether serious or comic--whether serene like a
     cloudless autumn evening or sparkling with puns like a frosty
     January midnight with stars--was ever pregnant with materials for
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     there was a deep vein of melancholy pathos running through his
     mirth, and even when his sun shone brightly its light seemed often
     reflected as if only over the rim of a cloud.

     Well may we say, in the words of Tennyson, "Would he could have
     stayed with us," for never could it be more truly recorded of any
     one--in the words of Hamlet characterizing Yorick--that "he was a
     fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy." D.M. Moir.

THE ILIAD OF HOMER RENDERED INTO ENGLISH BLANK VERSE. By EDWARD, EARL OF
DERBY. From the latest London edition, with all the author's last
revisions and corrections, and with a Biographical Sketch of Lord Derby,
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THE WORKS OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS. Comprising the Antiquities of the Jews; a
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