By a singular coincidence, while they were at a halt what to do or say, Lady Latimer advanced up the village street, having walked a mile from her house at Fairfield since breakfast. She was an early riser and a great walker: her life must have been half as long again as the lives of most ladies from the little portion of it she devoted to rest. She was come to Beechhurst now on some business of school, or church, or parish, which she assumed would, unless by her efforts, soon be at a deadlock. But years will tell on the most vigorous frames, and my lady looked so jaded that, if she had fallen in with Mr. Carnegie, he would have reminded her, for her health’s sake, that no woman is indispensable. She gave Bessie that sweet smile which was flattering as a caress, and was about to pass on when something wistful in the child’s eyes arrested her notice. She stopped and asked if there was any more news from Woldshire. Bessie’s round cheeks were two roses as she replied that her grandfather Fairfax had come—that he was there at the very moment, watching them from the churchyard.
“Where?” said my lady, and turned about to see.
Mr. Fairfax knew her. He descended the steps, came out at the lych-gate, and met her. At that instant the cast of his countenance reminded Bessie of her cynical friend Mr. Phipps, and a thought crossed her mind that if Lady Latimer had not recognized her grandfather and made a movement to speak, he would not have challenged her. It would have seemed a very remote period to Bessie, but it did not seem so utterly out of date to themselves, that Richard Fairfax in his adolescence had almost run mad for love of my lady in her teens. She had not reciprocated his passion, and in a fit of desperation he had married his wife, the mother of his three sons. Perhaps the cool affection he had borne them all his life was the measure of his indifference to that poor lady, and that indifference the measure of his vindictive constancy to his first idol. They had not seen each other for many years; their courses had run far apart, and they had grown old. But a woman never quite forgets to feel interested in a man who has once worshipped her, though he may long since have got up off his knees and gone and paid his devotions at other shrines. Lady Latimer had not been so blessed in her life and affections that she could