“But I was at home. Perhaps he is going back to London. I should have liked to see him,” said Bessie when she heard.
“He came at eleven o’clock: who comes at eleven o’clock? Of course Roberts said ‘Not at home,’” replied my lady.
Bessie knew that Roberts would not have said “Not at home” unless he had received orders to that effect. And, in fact, his orders were to say “Not at home” to Mr. Harry Musgrave at any and every hour. Lady Latimer had pledged herself to secure the success of Mr. Cecil Burleigh. She felt that Bessie was strong in her frank defiance, but if my lady could do no more for the discouraged suitor, she could at least keep his favored rival at a distance. And this she did without a twinge of remorse. Bessie had a beautiful temper when she was pleased, but her whole soul rebelled against persecution, and she considered it acute persecution to be taken out for formal drives and calls in custody of my lady and Mr. Cecil Burleigh, when her mother was probably mending the boys’ socks, and longing for an hour or two of her company at Beechhurst, and Harry Musgrave was looking in every afternoon at the doctor’s to see if, by good luck, she had gone over. Bessie was made aware of this last circumstance, and she reckoned it up with a daily accumulating sense of injury against my lady and her client. Mr. Cecil Burleigh found out before long that he was losing rather than gaining in her esteem. Miss Fairfax became not only stiff and cold, but perverse, and Lady Latimer began to feel that it was foolishly done to bring her to Fairfield. She had been put in the way of the very danger that was to be averted. Mr. Harry Musgrave showed to no disadvantage in any company; Miss Fairfax had not the classic taste; Lady Angleby’s tactics were a signal failure; her nephew it was who suffered diminution in the ordeal she had prescribed for his rival; and the sooner, therefore, that Miss Fairfax, “a most determined young lady,” was sent back to Woldshire, the better for the family plans.
“I shall not invite Elizabeth Fairfax to prolong her visit,” Lady Latimer said to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, who in his own mind was sorry she had made it. “I am afraid that her temper is masterful.” My lady was resolved to think that Bessie was behaving very ill, not reflecting that a young lady pursued by a lover whom she does not love is allowed to behave worse than under ordinary circumstances.
Bessie would have liked to be asked to stay at Fairfield longer (which was rather poor-spirited of her), for, though she did not go so much to her old home or to Brook as she desired and had expected, it was something to know that they were within reach. Her sense of happiness was not very far from perfect—the slight bitterness infused into her joy gave it a piquancy—and Lady Latimer presently had brought to her notice symptoms so ominous that she began to wish for the day that would relieve her from her charge.