“Dear Olympia is as energetic as ever, but, Juliana, don’t you think she is contracting a slight stoop to one side?” said Miss Charlotte. Miss Juliana approached to look out.
“She always did hang that arm. Dear Olympia! Still, she is a majestic figure. She was one of the handsomest women in Europe, Miss Fairfax, when Lord Latimer married her.”
“I can well imagine that: she is beautiful now when she smiles and colors a little,” said Bessie.
“Ah, that smile of Olympia’s! We do not often see it in these days, but it had a magic. All the men were in love with her—she made a great marriage. Lord Latimer was not one of our oldest nobility, but he was very rich and his mansion at Umpleby was splendid, quite a palace, and our Olympia was queen there.”
“We never married,” said Miss Charlotte meekly. “It would not have done for us to marry men who could not have been received at court, so to speak—at Umpleby, I mean. Olympia said so at the time, and we agreed with her. Dear Olympia was the only one of us who married, except Maggie, our half-sister, the eldest of our father’s children—Mrs. Bernard’s mother—and that was long before the great event in our family.”
Bessie fancied there was a flavor of regret in these statements.
Miss Juliana took up the thread where her sister had dropped it: “There is our dear Oliver—what a perfect gentleman he was! How accomplished, how elegant! If your sweet aunt Dorothy had not died when she did, he might have been your near connection, Miss Fairfax. We have often urged him to marry, if only for the sake of the property, but he has steadfastly refused to give that good and lovely young creature a successor. Our elder brother also died unmarried.”
Miss Charlotte chimed in again: “Lady Latimer moved for so many years in a distinguished circle that she can throw her mind into public business. We range with humble livers in content, and are limited to the politics of a very small school and hamlet. You will be a near neighbor, Miss Fairfax, and we hope you will come often to Hartwell: we cannot be Lady Latimer to you, but we will do our best. Abbotsmead was once a familiar haunt; of late years it has been almost a house shut up.”
Bessie liked the kindly, garrulous old ladies, and promised to be neighborly. “I have been told,” she said after a short silence, “that my grandfather was devoted to Lady Latimer when they were young.”