If it was any comfort to know that the old servants of the house sympathized with her, Bessie had that. They threw themselves heart and soul into the work of promoting the pleasure of the little visitors. Jonquil proved an excellent substitute for grandpapa, and Macky turned out an inexhaustible treasury of nice harmless things to eat, of funny rhymes to sing, and funny stories to tell in a dramatic manner. Still, it was a holiday spoilt. It was not enjoyed in the servants’ hall nor in the housekeeper’s room. No amount of Yule logs or Yule cakes could make a merry Christmas of it that year. All the neighbors had heard with satisfaction that Mr. Fairfax’s little grandsons were to be brought to Abbotsmead, and such as had children made a point of coming over with them, so that the way in which Miss Fairfax’s effort at peacemaking had failed was soon generally known, and as generally disapproved. Mrs. Stokes, that indignant young matron, qualified the squire’s behavior as “Quite abominable!” but she declared that she would not vex herself if she were Miss Fairfax—“No, indeed!” Bessie tried hard not. She tried to be dignified, but her disappointment was too acute, and her grandfather’s usage of her too humiliating, to be borne with her ordinary philosophy.
She let her uncle Laurence know what had happened by letter, and on the day fixed for the children to go home again she went with them, attended by Mrs. Betts as before. Mr. Laurence Fairfax was half amused at the method by which his father had evaded Bessie’s bold attempt to rule him, and his blossom of a wife was much too happy to care for the old squire’s perversity unless he cared; but they were both sorry for Bessie.
“My grandfather lets me have everything but what I want,” she said with a tinge of rueful humor. “He surrounds me with every luxury, and denies me the drink of cold water that I thirst for. I wish I could escape from his tyranny. We were beginning to be friends, and this has undone it all. A refusal would not have been half so unkind.”
“There is nothing but time to trust to,” said her uncle Laurence. “My father’s resentment is not active, but it lasts.”
Bessie was quite alone that long evening, the last of the old year: at Beechhurst or at Brook there was certainly a party. Nor had she any intimation of the time of her grandfather’s return beyond what Jonquil had been able to give her a week ago. He had not written since he left, and an accumulation of letters awaited him in his private room, Jonquil having been unable to forward any for want of an address. The dull routine of the house proceeded for three days more, and then the master reappeared at luncheon without notice to anybody.
Mr. Fairfax took his seat at the table, ate hungrily, and looked so exactly like himself, and so unconscious of having done anything to provoke anger, to give pain or cause anxiety, that Bessie’s imaginary difficulties in anticipation of his return were instantly removed. He made polite inquiries after Janey and Joss, and even hoped that Bessie had been enlivened by her little cousins’ visit. She would certainly not have mentioned them if he had not, but, as he asked the question, she was not afraid to answer him.