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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 454 pages of information about The Vicissitudes of Bessie Fairfax.

“A shower!  You’re wet enough,” growled Mr. Wiley with a gaze of severe reprobation.  “And you were drunk on Sunday.”

“Yes!  I’se wet every day, and at my own expense, too,” retorted the delinquent with a grin.

Mr. Fairfax and Bessie walked on to the “King’s Arms,” and there for the present said good-bye.  Bessie ran home to tell her adventures, but on the threshold she met a check in the shape of Jack, set to watch for her return and tell her she was wanted.  Mr. John Short was come, and was with Mrs. Carnegie in the drawing-room.

“I say, Bessie, you are not going away, are you?” asked the boy, laying violent hands on her when he had acquitted himself of his message.  “Biddy says you are.  I say you sha’n’t.”

Mrs. Carnegie heard her son’s unabashed voice in the hall, and opening the door, she invited Bessie in.

CHAPTER VII.

HER FATE IS SEALED.

Mr. John Short rose as Miss Fairfax entered, and bowed to her with deference.  Bessie, being forbidden by her mother to retreat, sat down with ostentatious resignation to bear what was to come.  But her bravado was not well enough grounded to sustain her long.  The preliminaries were already concluded when she arrived, and Mrs. Carnegie was giving utterance to her usual regret that her dear little girl had not been taught to speak French or play on the piano.  Mr. Fairfax’s plenipotentiary looked grave.  His own daughters were perfect in those accomplishments—­“Indispensable to the education of a finished gentlewoman,” he said.

Thereupon Bessie, still in excited spirits, delivered her mind with considerable force and freedom.  “It is nonsense to talk of making me a finished gentlewoman,” she added:  “I don’t care to be anything but a woman of sense.”

Mr. John Short answered her shrewdly:  “There is no reason why you should not be both, Miss Fairfax.  A woman of sense considers the fitness of things.  And at Abbotsmead none but gentlewomen are at home.”

Bessie colored and was silent.  “We have been proposing that you should go to school for a year or two, dear,” said Mrs. Carnegie persuasively.  Tears came into Bessie’s eyes.  The lawyer’s letter had indeed mentioned school, but she had not anticipated that the cruel suggestion would be carried out.

“Shall it be an English school or a school in France?” said Mr. Short, taking the indulgent cue, to avoid offence and stave off resistance.  But his affectation of meekness was more provoking than his sarcasm.  Bessie fired up indignantly at such unworthy treatment.

“You are deciding and settling everything without a word to my father.  How do you know that he will let me go away?  I don’t want to go,” she said.

“That is settled, Bessie darling. You have to go—­so don’t get angry about it,” said Mrs. Carnegie with firmness.  “You may have your choice about a school at home or abroad, and that is all.  Now be good, and consider which you would like best.”

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