Mr. Cecil Burleigh asked no more questions. If it be true that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Brook and Mr. Harry Musgrave must have been much in Miss Fairfax’s thoughts; this was now the third time that she had found occasion to mention them since coming to breakfast.
Lady Latimer turned in-doors again with a preoccupied air. Bessie had looked behind her as she rode down the avenue, as if she were bidding them good-bye. Mr. Cecil Burleigh was silent too. He had come to Fairfield with certain lively hopes and expectations, for which my lady was mainly responsible, and already he was experiencing sensations of blankness worse to bear than disappointment. Others might be perplexed as to Miss Fairfax’s sentiments, but to him they were clear as the day—friendly, but nothing more. She was now where she would be, was exuberantly contented, and could not hide how slight a tie upon her had been established by a year amongst her kindred in Woldshire.
“This is like old times, Bessie,” said the doctor as the Fairfield gate closed behind them.
Bessie laughed and tossed her head like a creature escaped. “Yes, I am so happy!” she answered.
The ride was just one of the doctor’s regular rounds. He had to call at Brook, where a servant was ill, and they went by the high-road to the manor. Harry Musgrave was not at home. He had gone out for a day’s ranging, and was pensively pondering his way through the bosky recesses of the Forest, under the unbroken silence of the tall pines, to the seashore and the old haunts of the almost extinct race of smugglers. The first person they met after leaving the manor was little Christie with a pale radiant face, having just come on a perfect theme for a picture—a still woodland pool reflecting high broken banks and flags and rushes, with slender birchen trees hanging over, and a cluster of low reed-thatched huts, very uncomfortable to live in, but gloriously mossed and weather-stained to paint.
“Don’t linger here too late—it is an unwholesome spot,” said Mr. Carnegie, warning him as he rode on. Little Christie set up his white umbrella in the sun, and kings might have envied him.
“My mother is better, but call and see her,” he cried after the doctor; this amendment was one cause of the artist’s blitheness.
“Of course, she is better—she has had nothing for a week to make her bad,” said Mr. Carnegie; but when he reached the wheelwright’s and saw Mrs. Christie, with a handkerchief tied over her cap, gently pacing the narrow garden-walks, he assumed an air of excessive astonishment.
“Yes, Mr. Carnegie, sir, I’m up and out,” she announced in a tone of no thanks to anybody. “I felt a sing’lar wish to taste the air, and my boy says, ‘Go out, mother; it will do you more good than anything.’ I could enjoy a ride in a chaise, but folks that make debts can afford to behave very handsome to themselves in a many things that them that pays ready money has to be mean enough to do without. Jones’s wife has her rides, but if her husband would pay for the repair of the spring-cart that was mended fourteen months ago come Martinmas, there’d be more sense in that.”