Presently Bessie was released from her attendance, and the visitor took her place: her grandfather wished to speak to Mr. Cecil Burleigh alone. He began by reverting to the old project of their marriage, and was easily satisfied with an assurance that the gentleman desired it with all his heart. Miss Julia Gardiner’s wedding had not yet taken place. She had been delicate through the winter, and Mr. Brotherton had succumbed to a sharp attack of gout in the early spring. So there had been delay after delay, but the engagement continued in force, and Mr. Cecil Burleigh had not repeated his indecorous visit. He believed that he was quite weaned from that temptation.
Mr. Fairfax gave him every encouragement to renew his siege to Elizabeth, and promised him a dower with her if he succeeded that should compensate for her loss of position as heiress of Abbotsmead. It was an understood thing that Mr. Cecil Burleigh could not afford to marry a scantily-portioned wife, and a whisper got abroad that Miss Fairfax was to prosper in her fortunes as she behaved, and to be rich or poor according as she married to please her grandfather or persevered in refusing his choice. If Bessie heard it, she behaved as though she heard it not. She went on being good to the old man with a most complete and unconscious self-denial—read to him, wrote for him, walked and drove with him at his will and pleasure, which began to be marked with all the exacting caprice of senility. And the days, weeks, months slipped round again to golden September. Monotony abridges time, and, looking behind her, Bessie could hardly believe that it was over a year ago since she came home from France.
One day her grandfather observed or imagined that she looked paler than her wont. He had a letter in his hand, which he gave to her, saying, “You were disappointed of your visit to Fairfield in the spring, Elizabeth: would you like to go now? Lady Latimer renews her invitation, and I will spare you for a week or two.”
Oh, the surprise and delight of this unexpected bounty! Bessie blushed with gratitude. She was the most grateful soul alive, and for the smallest mercies. Lady Latimer wrote that she should not find Fairfield dull, for Dora Meadows was on a long stay there, and she expected her friend Mr. Logger, and probably other visitors. Mr. Fairfax watched his granddaughter narrowly through the perusal of the document. There could be no denial that she was eagerness itself to go, but whether she had any motive deeper than the renewal of love with the family amidst which she had been brought up, he could not ascertain. There was a great jealousy in his mind concerning that young Musgrave of whose visit to Bayeux Mr. Cecil Burleigh had told him, and a settled purpose to hinder Elizabeth from what he would have called an unequal match. At the same time that he would not force her will, he would have felt fully justified in thwarting it; but he had a hope that the romance of her childish