Bessie was long enough at Abbotsmead after her grandfather’s death to realize how that event affected her own position there. The old servants had been provided for by their old master, and they left—Jonquil, Macky, Mrs. Betts, and others their contemporaries. Bessie missed their friendly faces, and dispensed with the services of a maid. Then Mrs. Fairfax objected to Joss in the house, lest he should bite the children, and Janey and Ranby were not entirely at her beck and call as formerly. The incompetent Sally, who sang a sweet cradle-song, became quite a personage and sovereign in the nursery, and was jealous of Miss Fairfax’s intrusion into her domain. It was inevitable and natural, but Bessie appreciated better now the forethought of her grandfather in wishing to provide her with a roof of her own. Abbotsmead under its new squire, all his learning and philosophy notwithstanding, promised to become quite a house of the world again, for his beautiful young wife was proving of a most popular character, and attracted friends about her with no effort. Instead of old Lady Angleby, the Hartwell people and the Chivertons, came the Tindals, Edens, Raymonds, Lefevres, and Wynards; and Miss Fairfax felt herself an object of curiosity amongst them as the young lady who had been all but disinherited for her obstinate refusal to marry the man of her grandfather’s choice. She was generally liked, but she was not just then in the humor to cultivate anybody’s intimacy. Mrs. Stokes was still her chief resource when she was solitary.
She had a private grief and anxiety of her own, of which she could speak to none. One day her expected letter from Harry Musgrave did not come; it was the first time he had failed her since their compact was made. She wrote herself as usual, and asked why she was neglected. In reply she received a letter, not from Harry himself, but from his friend Christie, who was nursing him through an attack of inflammation occasioned by a chill from remaining in his wet clothes after an upset on the river. She gathered from it that Harry had been ill and suffering for nearly a fortnight, but that he was better, though very weak, and that if Christie had been permitted to do as he wished, Mrs. Musgrave would have been sent for, but her son was imperative against it. He did not think it was necessary to put her to that distress and inconvenience, and as he was now in a fair way of recovery it was his particular desire that she should not be alarmed and made nervous by any information of what he had passed through. But he would not keep it from his dear Bessie, who had greater firmness, and who might rest assured he was well cared for, as Christie had brought him to his own house, and his old woman was a capital cook—a very material comfort for a convalescent.