Bessie blushed him a sweet welcome, and said, perhaps unnecessarily, “I am so glad you have come!” and Harry expressed his thanks with kind eyes and a very cordial shake of the hand: they appeared quite confidentially intimate, those young people. Lady Latimer stood looking on like a picture of dignity, and when Mr. Cecil Burleigh entered from the conservatory she introduced the two young men in her stateliest manner. Bessie was beginning now to understand what all this meant. Throughout the dinner my lady never relaxed. She was formally courteous, elaborately gracious, but grande dame from her shoe-tie to the top-knot of her cap.
Those who knew her well were ill at ease, but Harry Musgrave dined in undisturbed, complacent comfort. He had known dons at Oxford, and placed Lady Latimer in the donnish caste: that was all. He thought she had been a more charming woman. The conversation was interrogatory, and chiefly addressed to himself, and he had plenty to say and a pleasant way of saying it, but except for Bessie’s dear bright face opposite the atmosphere would have been quite freezing. When the ladies withdrew, Mr. Logger almost immediately followed, and then Mr. Cecil Burleigh was himself again. He unbent to this athletic young man, whose Oxford double-first was the hall-mark of his quality, and whom Miss Fairfax was so frankly glad to see. Harry Musgrave had heard the reputation of the other, and met his condescension with the easy deference of a young man who knows the world. They were mutually interesting, and stayed in the dining-room until Lady Latimer sent to say that tea was in.
When they entered the drawing-room my lady and Mr. Logger were deep in a report of the emigration commission. Bessie and Dora were sitting on the steps into the rose-garden watching the moon rise over the distant sea. Dora was bidden to come in out of the dew and give the gentlemen a cup of tea; Bessie was not bidden to do anything: she was apparently in disgrace. Dora obeyed like a little scared rabbit. Harry Musgrave stood a minute pensive, then took possession of a fine, quilted red silk duvet from the couch, and folded it round Bessie’s shoulders with the remark that her dress was but thin. Mr. Cecil Burleigh witnessed with secret trepidation the simple, affectionate thoughtfulness with which the act was done and the beautiful look of kindness with which it was acknowledged. Bessie’s innocent face was a mirror for her heart. If this fine gentleman was any longer deceived on his own account, he was one of the blind who are blind because they will not see.
Lady Latimer was observant too, and she now left her blue-book, and said, “Mr. Musgrave, will you not have tea?”
Harry came forward and accepted a cup, and was kept standing in the middle of the room for the next half hour, extemporizing views and opinions upon subjects on which he had none, until a glance of my lady’s eye towards the clock on the chimney-piece gave him notice of the hours observed in great society. A few minutes after he took his leave, without having found the opportunity of speaking to Bessie again, except to say “Good-night.”