Bessie rode a little way with her grandfather, and would have ridden farther, but he sent her back with Ranby. Mr. Cecil Burleigh had once expressed a prejudice against foxhunting ladies, and when Mr. Fairfax saw his granddaughter the admiration of the miscellaneous gathering, and her acquaintance claimed by even Mr. Gifford, he adopted it. Bessie was disappointed. She liked the exercise, the vivacity of the sport, and Janey went so beautifully; but when her grandfather spoke she quietly submitted. Sir Edward Lucas, though he was charmed with her figure on horseback, was still more charmed by her obedience.
The burden of Bessie’s present life threatened to be the tedium of nothing to do. She could not read, practise her songs, and learn poetry by heart all the hours of the day: less than three sufficed her often. If she had been bred in a country-house, she would have possessed numerous interests that she inevitably lacked. She was a stranger amongst the villagers—neither old nor young knew her. There was little suffering to engage her sympathy or poverty to invite her help. At Kirkham there were no long-accumulated neglects to reform as there was at Morte, and to Morte Mr. Fairfax forbade her to go. She had a liberal allowance, and not half ways enough to spend it, so she doubled her allowance to Miss Hague on behalf of her former pupils, Geoffry and Frederick; Laurence paid his own.
She was not a girl of many wants, and her taste did not incline to idle expenditure. She had seen thrift and the need of thrift in her early home, and thought money much too valuable to be wasted in buying things she did not require. Where she saw a necessity she was the freest of givers, but she had experience, gained in her rides with Mr. Carnegie, against manufacturing objects of sentimental charity.
Her resource for a little while was the study of the house and neighborhood she lived in. There was a good deal of history connected with Kirkham. But it was all contained in the county gazetteer; and when Macky had instructed her in the romance of the family, and the legends attached to the ruins by the river and the older portions of the mansion, all was learnt that there was to know, and the sum of her reflections announced aloud was, that Abbotsmead was a very big house for a small family. Macky shook her head in melancholy acquiescence.
The December days were very long, and the weather wild and stormy both by land and sea. Bessie conjectured sometimes when her uncle Frederick would come home, but it appeared presently that he was not coming. He wrote that he had laid up the Foam in one of the Danish ports to be ready for the breaking up of the winter and a further exploration of the Baltic coasts, and that he was just starting on a journey into Russia—judging that the beauty of the North is in perfection during the season of ice and snow.
“Just like one of Fred’s whims!” said his father discontentedly. “As if he could not have come into Woldshire and have enjoyed the hunting! Nobody enjoyed it more than he did formerly.”