“Your grandfather, my dear, was one amongst many who were devoted to her,” said Miss Juliana hastily.
“No more than that? Oh, I hoped he was preferred above others,” said Bessie, without much reflecting.
“Why hope it?” said Miss Charlotte in a saddened tone. “Dorothy thought that he was, and resented Olympia’s marriage with Lord Latimer as a treachery to her brother that was past pardon. Oliver shared Dorothy’s sentiments; but we are all friends again now, thank God! Juliana’s opinion is, that dear Olympia cared no more for Richard Fairfax than she cared for any of her other suitors, or why should she have married Lord Latimer? Olympia was her own mistress, and pleased herself—no one else, for we should have preferred Richard Fairfax, all of us. But she had her way, and there was a breach between Hartwell and Abbotsmead for many years in consequence. Why do we talk of it? it is past and gone. And there they go, walking up and down the lawn together, as I have seen them walk a hundred times, and a hundred to that. How strangely the old things seem to come round again!”
At that moment the three turned towards the house. Lady Latimer was talking with great earnestness; Mr. Fairfax sauntered with his hands clasped behind him and his eyes on the ground; Mr. Oliver Smith was not listening. When they entered the room her grandfather said to Bessie, “Come, Elizabeth, it is time we were riding home;” and when he saw her wistful eyes turn to the visitor from the Forest, he added, “You have not lost Lady Latimer yet. She will come over to Abbotsmead the day after to-morrow.”
Bessie could not help being reminded by her grandfather’s face and voice of another old Beechhurst friend—Mr. Phipps. Perhaps this luncheon at Hartwell had been pleasanter to her than to him, though even she had an aftertaste of disappointment in it, because Lady Latimer no longer dazzled her judgment. To the end my lady preserved her animation, and when the visitors had mounted and were ready to ride away she still engaged Mr. Fairfax’s ear while she expounded her views of the mischief that would accrue if ever election by ballot became the law of the land.
“You must talk to Chiverton about that,” said the squire, lifting his hat and moving off.
“I shall drive over to Castlemount to-morrow,” said my lady; and she accompanied her visitors to the gate with more last words on a variety of themes that had been previously discussed and dismissed.
All the way home the squire never once opened his mouth to speak; he appeared thoroughly jaded and depressed and in his most sarcastic humor. At dinner Bessie heard more bitter sentiments against her sex than she had ever heard in her life before, and wondered whether they were the residuum of his disappointed passion.
MY LADY REVISITS OLD SCENES.