Above the rickety gateway were two rickety windows. At those windows Charlotte might have sat over her copy of Plutarch’s “Lives,” a ruminating republican in white muslin, before the Revolution, or have gazed at the sombre church of St. Jean across the street, in the happier days before she despised going to old-fashioned worship. Bessie looked up at them more awed than ever. “I hope her ghost does not haunt the house. Come away, Harry,” she whispered.
Harry laughed at her superstition. They went forward under the irregular peaked houses, stunned at intervals by side-gusts of evil odor, till they came to the place and church of St. Pierre. The market-women in white-winged caps, who had been sitting at the receipt of custom since morning surrounded by heaps of glowing fruit and flowers, were now vociferously gathering up their fragments, their waifs and strays and remnants, to go home. The men were harnessing their horses, filling their carts. It was all a clamorous, sunny, odd sort of picture amidst the quaint and ancient buildings. Then they went into the church, into the gloom and silence out of the stir. The doctor made the young ones a sign to hush. There were women on their knees, and on the steps of the altar a priest of dignified aspect, and a file of acolytes, awfully ugly, the very refuse of the species—all but one, who was a saint for beauty of countenance and devoutness of mien. Harry glanced at him and his companions as if they were beings of a strange and mysterious race; and the numerous votive offerings to “Our Lady of La Salette” and elsewhere he eyed askance with the expression of a very sound Protestant indeed. The lovely luxuriant architecture, the foliated carvings, were dim in the evening light. A young sculptor, who was engaged in the work of restoring some of these rich carvings, came down from his perch while the strangers stood to admire them.
That night by nine o’clock Bessie Fairfax was in the dortoir at Madame Fournier’s—a chamber of six windows and twenty beds, narrow, hard, white, and, except her own and one other, empty. By whose advice it was that she was sent to school a week in advance of the opening she never knew. But there she was in the wilderness of a house, with only a dejected English teacher suffering from chronic face-ache, and another scholar, younger than herself, for company. The great madame was still absent at Bayeux, spending the vacation with her uncle the canon.
It was a moonlight night, and the jalousies looking upon the garden were not closed. Bessie was neither timid nor grievous, but she was desperately wide-awake. The formality of receiving her and showing her to bed had been very briefly despatched. It seemed as if she had been left at the door like a parcel, conveyed up stairs, and put away. Beechhurst was a thousand miles off, and yesterday a hundred years ago! The doctor and Harry Musgrave could hardly have walked back to Thunby’s hotel before she and her new comrade were in their little beds. Now, indeed, was the Rubicon passed, and Bessie Fairfax committed to all the vicissitudes of exile. She realized the beginning thereof when she stretched her tired limbs on her unyielding mattress of straw, and recalled her dear little warm nest under the eaves at home.