The two were about to ascend the minster steps when they espied Mr. Fairfax in the distance, and turned to meet him. He had been lunching with his son. At the first glance Bessie knew that her grandfather had suffered an overwhelming surprise since he went out in the morning. Mr. Cecil Burleigh also perceived that something was amiss, and not to distress his friend by inopportune remark, he said where he and Miss Fairfax were going.
“Go—go, by all means,” said the squire. “Perhaps you may overtake me as you return: I shall walk slowly, and I want a word with Short as I pass his house.” With this he went on, and the young people entered the minster, thinking but not speaking of what they could not but observe—his manifest bewilderment and pre-occupation.
On the road home they did not, however, overtake Mr. Fairfax. He reached Brentwood before them, and was closeted with Lady Angleby for some considerable time previous to dinner. Her ladyship was not agreeable without effort that evening, and there was indeed a perceptible cloud over everybody but Mr. Logger. Whatever the secret, it had been communicated to Mr. Cecil Burleigh and his sister, and it affected them all more or less uncomfortably. Bessie guessed what had happened—that her grandfather had seen his son Laurence’s little playfellow, and that there had been an important revelation.
Bessie was right. Mr. Laurence Fairfax had Master Justus on his lap when his father unexpectedly walked into his garden. There was a lady in blue amongst the flowers who vanished; and the incompetent Sally, with something in her arms, who also hastily retired, but not unseen, either her or her burden. Master Justus held his ground with baby audacity, and the old squire recognized a strong young shoot of the Fairfax stock. One or two sharp exclamations and astounded queries elicited from Mr. Laurence Fairfax that he had been five years married to the lady in blue—a niece of Dr. Jocund—and that the bold little boy was his own, and another in the nurse’s arms. Mr. Fairfax did not refuse to sit at meat with his son, though the chubby boy sat opposite, but he declined all conversation on the subject beyond the bald fact, and expressed no desire to be made acquainted with his newly-discovered daughter-in-law. Indeed, at a hint of it he jerked out a peremptory negative, and left the house without any more reference to the matter. Mr. Laurence Fairfax feared that it would be long before his father would darken his doors again, but it was a sensible relief to have got his secret told, and not to have had any angry, unpardonable words about it. The squire said little, but those who knew him knew perfectly that he might be silent and all the more indignant. And undoubtedly he was indignant. Of his three sons, Laurence had been always the one preferred; and this was his usage of him, his confidence in him!