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