There are not many more events to chronicle until the great event of Bessie’s farewell to Beechhurst. She gave a tea-party to her friends in the Forest, a picnic tea-party at Great-Ash Ford; and on a fine morning, when the air blew fresh from the sea, she and her handsome new baggage were packed, with young Musgrave, into the back seat of the doctor’s chaise, the doctor sitting in front with his man to drive. Their destination was Hampton, to take the boat for Havre. The man was to return home with the chaise in the evening. The doctor was going on to Caen, to deliver his dear little girl safely at school, and Harry was going with them for a holiday. All the Carnegie children and their mother, the servants and the house-dog, were out in the road to bid Bessie a last good-bye; the rector and his wife were watching over the hedge; and Miss Buff panted up the hill at the last moment, with fat tears running down her cheeks. She had barely time for a word, Mr. Carnegie always cutting short leave-takings. Bessie’s nose was pink with tears and her eyes glittered, but she was in good heart. She looked behind her as long as she could see her mother, and Jack and Willie coursing after the chaise with damp pocket-handkerchiefs a-flutter; and then she turned her face the way she was going, and said with a shudder, “It is a beautiful, sunny morning, but for all that it is cold.”
“Have my coat-sleeve, Bessie,” suggested Harry, and they both laughed, then became quiet, then merry.
About two miles out of Hampton the travellers overtook little Christie making the road fly behind him as he marched apace, a knapsack at his back and his chin in the air.
“Whither away so fast, young man?” shouted the doctor, hailing him.
“To Hampton Theatre,” shouted Christie back again, and he flourished his hat round his head. Harry Musgrave repeated the triumphant gesture with a loud hurrah. The artist that was to be had got that commission for the new drop-scene at the theatre. His summons had come by this morning’s post.
The toil-worn, dusty little figure was long in sight, for now the road ran in a direct line. Bessie wished they could have given him a lift on his journey. Harry Musgrave continued to look behind, but he said nothing. It is some men’s fortune to ride cock-horse, it is some other men’s to trudge afoot; but neither is the lot of the first to be envied, nor the lot of the last to be deplored. Such would probably have been his philosophy if he had spoken. Bessie, regarding externals only, and judging of things as they seemed, felt pained by the outward signs of inequality.
In point of fact, little Christie was the happiest of the three at that moment. According to his own belief, he was just about to lay hold of the key that would open for him the outer door of the Temple of Fame. After that blessed drop-scene that he was on his way to execute at Hampton, never more would he return to his mechanical painting and graining. It was an epoch that they all dated from, this shining day of September, when Bessie Fairfax bade farewell to the Forest, and little Christie set out on his career of honor with a knapsack on his back and seven guineas in his pocket. As for Harry Musgrave, his leading-strings were broken before, and he was in some sort a citizen of the world already.