The behaviour of Harcourt was certainly a good encouragement, and had I been wavering in my promise to Mr Masterton, would have encouraged me to proceed. I returned home with a light heart and a pleasing satisfaction, from the conviction that I had done right. The next morning I set off for ——, and, as it was a long while since I had seen Fleta, our meeting was a source of delight on both sides. I found her very much grown and improved. She was approaching her fifteenth year, as nearly as we could guess—of course her exact age was a mystery. Her mind was equally expanded. Her mistress praised her docility and application, and wished to know whether I intended that she should be taught music and drawing, for both of which she had shown a decided taste. To this I immediately consented, and Fleta hung on my shoulder and embraced me for the indulgence. She was now fast approaching to womanhood, and my feelings towards her were more intense than ever. I took the chain of coral and gold beads from her neck, telling her that I must put it into a secure place, as much depended upon them. She was curious to know why, but I would not enter into the subject at that time. One caution I gave her, in case, by any chance, her retreat should be discovered by the companions of Melchior, which was, that without I myself came, she was, on no account, to leave the school, even if a letter from me was produced, requesting her to come, unless that letter was delivered by Timothy. I gave the same directions to her mistress, paid up her schooling and expenses, and then left her, promising not to be so long before I saw her again. On my return to town I deposited the necklace with Mr Masterton, who locked it up carefully in his iron safe.
On the Friday, as agreed, Harcourt and I, accompanied by Timothy and Harcourt’s servant, started on the outside of the coach, as younger brothers usually convey themselves, for his father’s seat in ——shire, and arrived there in time for dinner. I was kindly received by old Mr Harcourt and his family, consisting of his wife and three amiable and beautiful girls. But on the second day, during which interval I presume Harcourt had an opportunity of undeceiving his father, I was delighted to perceive that the old gentleman’s warmth of behaviour towards me was increased. I remained there for a fortnight, and never was so happy. I was soon on the most intimate terms with the whole family, and was treated as if I belonged to it. Yet when I went to bed every night, I became more and more melancholy. I felt what a delight it must be to have parents, sisters, and friends—the bosom of a family to retire into, to share with it your pleasures and your pains; and the tears often ran down my cheeks, and moistened my pillow, when I had, not an hour before, been the happiest of the happy, and the gayest of the gay. In a family party, there is nothing so amusing as any little talent out of the general way, and my performances and tricks on cards, &c., in which Melchior had made me such an adept, were now brought forward as a source of innocent gratification. When I quitted, I had a general and hearty welcome to the house from the parents; and the eyes of the amiable girls, as well as mine, were not exactly dry, as we bade each other farewell.