With a recollection of the warnings of a year and a half ago, Bessie could not but ponder this news of Harry’s illness with grave distress. She wrote to Mr. Carnegie, and enclosed the letter for his opinion. Mr. Carnegie respected her confidence, and told her that from the name of the physician mentioned by Christie as in attendance on his patient he was in the best possible hands. She confessed to Harry what she had done, and he found no fault with her, but his next letter was in a vein of melancholy humor from beginning to end. He was going back, he said, to his dismal chambers, his law-books and his scribbling, and she was to send him a very bright letter indeed to cheer him in his solitude. How Bessie wished she could have flown herself to cheer him! And now, too, she half regretted her poverty under her grandfather’s will, that deferred all hope of his rescue from London smoke and toil till he had made the means of rescue for himself. But she gave him the pleasure of knowing what she would do if she could.
Thus the summer months lapsed away. There was no hiatus in their correspondence again, but Harry told her that he had a constant fever on him and was longing for home and rest. Once he wrote from Richmond, whither he had gone with Christie, “The best fellow in the universe—love him, dear Bessie, for my sake”—and once he spoke of going to Italy for the winter, and of newspaper letters that were to pay the shot. He was sad, humorous, tender by turns, but Bessie missed something. There were allusions to the vanity of man’s life and joy, now and then there was a word of philosophy for future consolation, but of present hope there was nothing. Her eyes used to grow dim over these letters: she understood that Harry was giving in, that he found his life too hard for him, and that he was trying to prepare her and himself for this great disappointment.
When Parliament rose Mr. Cecil Burleigh came down to Norminster and paid a visit to Abbotsmead. He was the bearer of an invitation to Brentwood and his sister’s wedding, but Miss Fairfax was not able to accept it. She had just accepted an invitation to Fairfield.
TENDER AND TRUE.
Lady Latimer was in possession of all the facts and circumstances of her guest’s position when she arrived at Fairfield. Her grandfather’s will was notorious, and my lady did not entirely disapprove of it, as Bessie’s humbler friends did, for she still cherished expectations in Mr. Cecil Burleigh’s interest, and was not aware how far he was now from entertaining any on his own account. Though she had convinced herself that there was an unavowed engagement between Mr. Harry Musgrave and Miss Fairfax, she was resolved to treat it and speak of it as a very slight thing indeed, and one that must be set aside without weak tenderness. Having such clear and decided views on the affair, she was not afraid to state them even to Bessie herself.