A DINNER AT BRENTWOOD.
There was rejoicing at Brentwood that evening. All the guests staying in the house were assembled in the drawing-room before dinner, when Mr. Oliver Smith, who had retained quarters at the “George,” walked in with an appearance of high satisfaction, and immediately began to say, “I bring you good news. Buller has made up his mind to do the right thing, Burleigh, and give you a plumper. He hailed my cab as I was passing the ‘Red Lion’ on my road here, and told me his decision. Do you carry witchcraft about with you?”
“Buller could not resist the old name and the old colors. Miss Fairfax is my witchcraft,” said Mr. Cecil Burleigh with a profound bow to Bessie, in gay acknowledgment of her unconscious services.
Bessie blushed with pleasure, and said, “Indeed, I never opened my mouth.”
“Oh, charms work in silence,” said Mr. Oliver Smith.
Lady Angleby was delighted; Mr. Fairfax looked gratified, and gave his granddaughter an approving nod.
The next and last arrivals were Mr. and Mrs. Chiverton. Mr. Chiverton was known to all present, but the bride was a stranger except to one or two. She was attired in rich white silk—in full dress—so terribly trying to the majority of women, and Bessie Fairfax’s first thought on seeing her again was how much less beautiful she was than in her simple percale dresses at school. She did not notice Bessie at once, but when their eyes met and Bessie smiled, she ran to embrace her with expansive cordiality. Bessie, her beaming comeliness notwithstanding, could assume in an instant a touch-me-not air, and gave her hand only, though that with a kind frankness; and then they sat down and talked of Caen.
Mrs. Chiverton’s report as a woman of extraordinary beauty and virtue had preceded her into her husband’s country, but to the general observer Miss Fairfax was much more pleasing. She also wore full dress—white relieved with blue—but she was also able to wear it with a grace; for her arms were lovely, and all her contours fair, rounded, and dimpled, while Mrs. Chiverton’s tall frame, though very stately, was very bony, and her little head and pale, classical face, her brown hair not abundant, and eyes too cold and close together, with that expression of intense pride which is a character in itself, required a taste cultivated amidst statuary to appreciate. This taste Mr. Chiverton possessed, and his wife satisfied it perfectly.
Bessie looked at Mr. Chiverton with curiosity, and looked quickly away again, retaining an impression of a cur-like face with a fixed sneer upon it. He was not engaged in conversation at the time; he was contemplating his handsome wife with critical admiration, as he might have contemplated a new acquisition in his gallery of antique marbles. In his eyes the little girl beside her was a mere golden-haired, rosy, plump rustic, who served as a foil to his wife’s Minerva-like beauty.