One evening the squire, after lying long silent, broke out with, “Poor Fred is gone!” the first spontaneous allusion to his loss that he had made.
Jonquil hastened to him. “My dear master, my dear master!” he lamented. “Oh, sir, you have but one son now! forgive him, and let the little boys come home—for your own sake, dear master.”
“They will come home, as you call it, when I follow poor Fred. My son Laurence stands in no need of forgiveness—he has done me no wrong. Strange women and children would be in my way; they are better where they are.” Thus had the squire once answered every plea on behalf of his son Geoffry. Jonquil remembered very well, and held his peace, sighing as one without hope.
Bessie Fairfax gave up her visit to the Forest of her own accord in her pitying reluctance to leave her grandfather. She wrote to Lady Latimer, and to her mother more at length. They were disappointed, but not surprised.
“Now they will prove what she is—a downright good girl, not an atom of selfishness about her,” said Mr. Carnegie to his wife with tender triumph.
“Yes, God bless her! Bessie will wear well in trouble, but I am very wishful to see her, and hear her own voice about that gentleman Lady Latimer talked of.” Lady Latimer had made a communication to the doctor’s wife respecting Mr. Cecil Burleigh.
Mr. Carnegie had nothing to advise. He felt tolerably sure that Bessie would tell her mother every serious matter that befell her, and as she had not mentioned this he drew the inference that it was not serious.
The first warm days of summer saw Mr. Fairfax out again, walking in the garden with a stick and the support of his granddaughter’s shoulder. She was an excellent and patient companion, he said. Indeed, Bessie could forget herself entirely in another’s want, and since this claim for care and helpfulness had been made upon her the tedium of life oppressed her no more. It was thus that Mr. Cecil Burleigh next saw her again. He had taken his seat in the House, and had come down to Brentwood for a few days; and when he called to visit his old friend, Jonquil sent him round to the south terrace, where Mr. Fairfax was walking with Bessie in the sun.
In her black dress Bessie looked taller, more womanly, and there was a sweet peace and kindness in her countenance, which, combined with a sudden blush at the sight of him, caused him to discover in her new graces and a more touching beauty than he had been able to discern before. Mr. Fairfax was very glad to see him, and interested to hear all he had to tell. Since he had learnt to appreciate at their real worth his granddaughter’s homely virtues, his desire for her union with this gentleman had revived. He had the highest opinion of Mr. Cecil Burleigh’s disposition, and he would be thankful to put her in his keeping—a jewel worth having.