“Yes, yes, that is what I should expect of you, Tom,” said Miss Wort. “Then you will recover everybody’s good opinion.”
“I don’t heed folks’ opinions, good or bad. I know what I know.”
“Well, then, get your cap, and come home to dinner with me; it is roast mutton,” said Miss Wort, as if pleading with a fractious child.
Tom rose heavily, took his cap, and followed her out. Mr. Carnegie watched them as they turned down a back lane to the village, the lathy figure of the lad towering by the head and shoulders above the poke bonnet and drab cloak of Miss Wort. He was talking with much violent gesture of arm and fist, and she was silent. But she was not ruminating physic.
“Miss Wort is like one of the old saints—she is not ashamed in any company,” said Bessie Fairfax.
“If justice were satisfied with good intentions, Miss Wort would be a blameless woman,” said her father.
A few minutes more brought the ride to an end at the doctor’s door. And there was a messenger waiting for him with a peremptory call to a distance. It was a very rare chance indeed that he had a whole holiday. His reputation for skill stood high in the Forest, and his practice was extensive in proportion. But he had health, strength, and the heart for it; and in fact it was his prosperity that bore half the burden of his toils.
A week elapsed. Lady Latimer called twice on Mrs. Carnegie to offer counsel and countenance to Bessie Fairfax. The news that she was going to leave the doctor’s house for a rise in the world spread through the village. Mrs. Wiley and Miss Buff called with the same benevolent intentions as my lady. Mrs. Carnegie felt this oppressive, but tried to believe that it was kind; Bessie grew impatient, and wished she could be let alone. Mr. Phipps laughed at her, and asked if she did not enjoy her novel importance. Bessie rejoined with a scorny “No, indeed!” Mr. Phipps retaliated with a grimace of incredulity.
Mr. John Short’s letter had been acknowledged, but it did not get itself answered. Mr. Carnegie said, and said again, that there was no hurry about it. In fact, he could not bear to look the loss of Bessie in the face. He took her out to ride with him twice in that seven days, and when his wife meekly urged that the affair must go on and be finished, he replied that as Kirkham had done without Bessie for fourteen years, it might well sustain her absence a little longer. Kirkham, however, having determined that it was its duty to reclaim Bessie, was moved to be imperious. As Mr. Fairfax heard nothing from his lawyer, he went into Norminster to bid him press the thing on. Mr. John Short pleaded to give the Carnegies longer law, and when Mr. Fairfax refused to see any grounds for it, he suggested a visit to Beechhurst as more appropriate than another letter.