Mr. Cecil Burleigh was not prepared for political disquisition on the pavement in front of the “Red Lion,” but he pondered an instant on Mr. Buller’s platitude as if it were a new revelation, and then said with quiet cordiality, “Well, think of it, and if you decide to give me your support, it will be the more valuable as being given on conviction. Good-day to you, Buller.”
The publican had risen, and laid aside his pipe. “Good-day to you, sir,” said he, and as Bessie inclined her fair head to him also, he bowed with more confusion and pleasure than could have been expected from the host of a popular tavern.
Mr. John Short lingered behind, and as the beautiful young people retired out of hearing, admiringly watched by the publican, the lawyer plied his insinuating craft and whispered, “You are always a good-natured man, Buller. Look at those two—No election, no wedding.”
“You don’t say so!” ejaculated Buller with kindly sympathy in his voice. “A pretty pair, indeed, to run in a curricle! I should think now his word’s as good as his bond—eh? Egad, then, I’ll give ’em a plumper!”
The agent shook hands with him on it delighted. “You are a man of your word too, Buller. I thank you,” he said with fervor, and felt that this form of bribery and corruption had many excuses besides its success. He did not intend to divulge by what means the innkeeper’s pledge had been obtained, lest his chief might not quite like it, and with a few nods, becks, and half-words he ensured Buller’s silence on the delicate family arrangement that he had so prematurely confided to his ear. And then he went back to the “George” with the approving conscience of an agent who has done his master good secret service without risking any impeachment of his honor. He fully expected that time would make his words true. Unless in that confidence, Mr. Short was not the man to have spoken them, even to win an election.
Mr. Cecil Burleigh and Miss Fairfax strolled a little farther, and then retraced their steps to the minster, and went in to hear the anthem. Presently appeared in the distance Mr. Fairfax and Miss Burleigh, and when the music was over signed to them to come away. Lady Angleby was waiting in the carriage at the great south door to take them home, and in the beautiful light of the declining afternoon they drove out of the town to Brentwood—a big, square, convenient old house, surrounded by a pleasant garden divided from the high-road by a belt of trees.
Mrs. Betts was already installed in the chamber allotted to her young lady, and had spread out the pretty new clothes she was to wear. She was deeply serious, and not disposed to say much after her morning’s lesson. Bessie had apparently dismissed the recollection of it. She came in all good-humor and cheerfulness. She hummed a soft little tune, and for the first time submitted patiently to the assiduities of the experienced waiting-woman. Mrs. Betts did not fail to make her own reflections thereupon, and to interpret favorably Miss Fairfax’s evidently happy preoccupation.