“Oh, if they are not vulgar and ostentatious, Lady Latimer will soon forget her prejudice against the tea.”
“And invite them to her garden-parties like the rest of us? No doubt she will; she likes to know everybody. Then some connection with other people of her acquaintance will come out, or she will learn that they are influential with the charitable institutions by reason of their handsome donations, or that they have an uncle high in the Church, or a daughter married into the brewing interest. Oh, the ramifications of society are infinite, and it is safest not to lay too much stress on the tea to begin with.”
“Much the safest,” Mr. Phipps, who had just come in, agreed. “The tea-dealer is very rich, and money (we have Solomon’s word for it) is a defence. He is not aware of needing her ladyship’s patronage. I expect, Miss Fairfax, that, drifting up and down and to and fro in your vicissitudes, you have found all classes much more alike than different?”
“Yes. The refinements and vulgarities are the monopoly of no degree; only I think the conceit of moral superiority is common to us all,” said Bessie, and she laughed.
“And well it may be, since the axiom that noblesse oblige has fallen into desuetude, and the word of a gentleman is no more to swear by than a huckster’s. Tom and Jerry’s wives go to court, and the arbitrary edict of fashion constitutes the latest barbaric importation bon ton for a season. I have been giving Harry Musgrave the benefit of my wanderings in Italy thirty years ago, and he is so enchanted that you will have to turn gypsy again next spring, Miss Fairfax.”
“It will suit me exactly—a mule or an ox-cart instead of the train, byways for highways, and sauntering for speed. Did I not tell you long ago, Mr. Phipps, that the gypsy wildness was in the Fairfax blood, and that some day it would be my fate to travel ever so far and wide, and to come home again browner than any berry?”
“Why, you see, Miss Fairfax, the wisest seer is occasionally blind, and you are that rare bird, a consistent woman. Knowing the great lady you most admired, I feared for you some fatal act of imitation. But, thank God! you have had grace given you to appreciate a simple-minded, lovable fellow, who will take you out of conventional bonds, and help you to bend your life round in a perfect circle. You are the happiest woman it has been my lot to meet with.”
Bessie did not speak, but she looked up gratefully in the face of her old friend.
BESSIE’S LAST RIDE WITH THE DOCTOR.
Mr. Carnegie complained that he had less of his dear Bessie’s company than anybody else by reason of his own busy occupation, and one clear September morning, when the air was wonderfully fresh and sweet after a thunderstorm during the night, he asked her to come out for a last ride with him before Harry Musgrave carried her away. Bessie donned her habit and hat, and went gladly: the ride would serve as a leavetaking of some of her friends in the cottages whom otherwise she might miss.