It was from Mr. John Short, on the business that we wot of. To Mr. Carnegie it read like a cool intimation that Bessie Fairfax was wanted—was become of importance at Abbotsmead, and must break with her present associations. It would have been impossible to convey in palatable words the requisition that the lawyer was put upon making; but to Mrs. Carnegie the demand did not sound harsh, nor the manner of it insolent. She had always kept her mind in a state of preparedness for some such change, and the only sense of annoyance that smote her was for her own shortcomings—for how she had suffered Bessie to be almost a servant to her own children, and how she could neither speak French nor play on the piano.
The doctor pooh-poohed her remorse. “You have done the best for her you could, Jane. What right has her grandfather to expect anything? He left her on your hands without a penny.”
“Bessie has been worth more than she costs, if that were the way to look at it. But she will have to leave us now; she will have to go.”
“Yes, she will have to go. But the old gentleman shall never deny our share in her.”
“The future will rest with Bessie herself.”
“And she has a good heart and a will of her own. She will be a woman with brains, whether she can play on the piano or not. Don’t fret yourself, Jane, for any fancied neglect of Bessie.”
“I am sadly grieved for her, Thomas; she will be sent to school, and what a life she will lead, dear child, so backward in her learning!”
“Nonsense! She is a bit of very good company. Wherever Bessie goes she will hold her own. She has plenty of character, and, take my word for it, character tells more in the long-run than talking French. There is the gig at the gate, and I must be off, though Bessie was starting for Woldshire by the next post. The letter is not one to be answered on the spur of the moment; acknowledge it, and say that it shall be answered shortly.”
With a comfortable kiss the doctor bade his wife good-bye for the day, admonishing her not to fall a-crying with Bessie over what could not be remedied. And so he left her with the tears in her eyes already. She sat a few minutes feeling rather than reflecting, then with the lawyer’s letter in her hands went up stairs, calling softly as she went, “Bessie dear, where are you?”
“Here, mother, in my own room;” and Bessie appeared in the doorway handling a scarlet feather-brush with which she was accustomed to dust her small property in books and ornaments each morning after the housemaid had performed her heavier task.