“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“No, no, that is out of date.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.