“Never mind—Harry will explain,” she said aloud: evidently her thoughts were astray.
“Explain what? I am afraid there are many things that need explanation,” said my lady austerely, and not another word until they reached home. But Bessie’s heart was in perfect peace, and her countenance reflected nothing but the sunshine.
A LONG, DULL DAY.
That evening Bessie Fairfax was charming, she was so happy. She was good and gracious again to Mr. Cecil Burleigh, and she was never prettier. He basked in her content, without trying to understand it—thought more than ever what a buoyant, sweet-tempered woman she would be, to give a man rest and refreshment at home, whose active life must be spent in the arid ways of the political world. Dora had her conjectures, and whispered them, but Bessie made no revelation, gave no confidences.
It must be ages before her league with Harry Musgrave could be concluded, and therefore let it be still, as it had been always, suspected, but not confessed—unless she were over-urged by Harry’s rival and her northern kinsfolk and friends. Then she would declare her mind, but not before. Lady Latimer asked no questions. Her woman’s discernment was not at fault, but she had her own opinion of youthful constancy and early loves and early vows, and believed that when they were not to be approved they were to be most judiciously ignored.
The next day was so fully occupied with engagements made beforehand that Bessie had no chance of going again to Beechhurst, but she did not make a grief of it—she could not have made a grief of anything just then. On the last morning, however, to her dear surprise, the doctor stopped at the door for a parting word of her mother’s love and his own, and their hopes that she would soon be coming amongst them again; and when she went away an hour later she went as joyous as she had come, though she knew that a report of her untoward behavior had gone before her, and that the probabilities were she would enter into an atmosphere of clouds the moment she reached Abbotsmead.
But it did not prove so. Lady Latimer had written cautiously and kindly—had not been able to give any assurance of Mr. Cecil Burleigh’s success, but had a feeling that it must come to pass. Elizabeth was a sweet girl, though she had the self-will of a child; in many points she was more of a child than my lady had supposed—in her estimate of individuals, and of their weight and position in the world, for instance—but this was a fault that knowledge of the world would cure.
Mr. Fairfax was pleased to welcome his granddaughter home again, and especially pleased to see no sadness in her return. The Forest was ever so much nearer now—not out of her world at all. Bessie had travelled that road once, and would travel it again. Every experience shortens such roads, lessens such difficulties between true friends. Bessie’s acquaintances came to call upon her, and she talked of the pleasure it had been to her to revisit the scenes of her childhood, of the few changes that had happened there since she came away, and of the hospitality of Lady Latimer.