THE SQUIRE’S WILL.
Throughout his life Mr. Fairfax had guided his actions by a certain rule of justice that satisfied himself. The same rule was evident in his last will. His granddaughter had given him to understand that she should return to the Forest and cast in her lot with the humble friends from amongst whom he had taken her, and the provision he made for her was consonant with that determination. He bequeathed to her a sum of five thousand pounds—a sufficient portion, as he considered, for that rank in life—and to Mr. Cecil Burleigh he bequeathed the handsome fortune that it was intended she should bring him in marriage. He had the dower without the bride, and though Lady Angleby and his sister quietly intimated to astonished friends that they had good reason to hope Miss Fairfax would ultimately be no loser by her grandfather’s will, her uncle Laurence was not the only person by many who judged her unkindly and unfairly treated. But it was impossible to dispute the old squire’s ability to dispose of his property, or his right to dispose of it as he pleased. He had been mainly instrumental in raising Mr. Cecil Burleigh to the position he occupied, and there was a certain obligation incurred to support him in it. If Mr. Fairfax had chosen to make a son of him, no one had a right to complain. No one did complain; the expression of opinion was extremely guarded.
Bessie was informed of the terms of her grandfather’s will in the first shock of surprise; afterward her uncle Laurence reflected that it would have been wise to keep them from her, but the deed was done. She received the news without emotion: she blushed, put up her eyebrows, and smiled as she said, “Then I am a poor young woman again.” She saw at once what was absurd, pathetic, vexatious in her descent from the dignity of riches, but she was not angry. She never uttered a word of blame or reproach against her grandfather, and when it was indignantly recalled to her that Mr. Cecil Burleigh was put into possession of what ought to have been hers, she answered, “There is no ought in the matter. Grandpapa had a lively interest in Mr. Cecil Burleigh’s career, for the sake of the country as well as for his own sake, and if you ask me my sentiments I must confess that I feel the money grandpapa has left him is well bestowed. It would be a shame that such a man should be hampered by mean cares and insufficient fortune.”