“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.”