Mr. Cecil Burleigh was apparently gratified by the young lady’s consent, abrupt though it was. But madame’s countenance fell. She was deeply disappointed at this issue. Apart from her pecuniary interest in Bessie, which was not inconsiderable, Bessie had become a source of religious concern to influential persons. And there was a favorite nephew of madame’s, domiciled in Paris, about whom visionary schemes had been indulged, which now all in a moment vanished. This young nephew was to have come with his mother to Etretat only a week hence, and there the canon and Madame Fournier were to have joined them, with the beautiful English girl committed to their charge. It was now good-bye to all such plots and plans.
Bessie perceived from her face that madame was distressed, but she did not know all the reasons why. Madame had been very good to her, and Bessie felt sorry; but to leave school for home was such a natural, inevitable episode in the course of life in the Rue St. Jean that, beyond a momentary regret, she had no compunction. Mr. Cecil Burleigh proceeded to lay open his arrangements. He was on his road to Paris, where he might be detained from ten to fifteen days, but madame should receive a letter from him when the precise time of his return was fixed. After he had spoken to this effect he rose to take leave, and Bessie, blushing as she heard her own voice, originated her first remark, her first question:
“My grandfather hardly knows me. Does he expect my arrival at Kirkham with pleasure, or would he rather put it off for another year?” Madame thought she was already wavering in her determination.
“I am sure that when I have written to him he will expect your arrival with the greatest pleasure,” replied Mr. Cecil Burleigh with kind emphasis, retaining Bessie’s hand for a moment longer than was necessary, and relinquishing it with a cordial shake.
Bessie’s blushes did not abate at the compliment implied in his answer and in his manner: he had been favorably impressed, and would send to Abbotsmead a favorable report of her. When he was gone she all in a moment recollected when and where she had seen him before, and wondered that he had not reminded her of it; but perhaps he had forgotten too? She soon let go that reminiscence, and with a light heart, in anticipation of the future which had appeared in the distance so unpropitious, she talked of it to madame with a thousand random speculations, until madame was tired of the subject. And then she talked of it to Babette, who having no private disappointments in connection therewith, proved patiently and sympathetically responsive.
“Of course,” said Bessie, “we shall go down the river to Havre, and then we shall cross to Hampton. I shall send them word at home, and some of them are sure to come and meet me there.”