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.”
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.