The letter was written and despatched, and in due course of post arrived an answer from Mr. Carnegie. He would come to Hampton certainly, and his wife would come with him, and perhaps one of the boys: they would come or go anywhere for a sight of their dear Bessie. But, fond, affectionate souls! they were all doomed to disappointment. Mr. Cecil Burleigh wrote earlier than was expected that he had intelligence from Kirkham to the effect that Mr. Frederick Fairfax would be at Havre with his yacht on or about a certain day, that he would come to Caen and himself take charge of his niece, and carry her home by sea—to Scarcliffe understood, for Kirkham was full twenty miles from the coast.
“Oh, how sorry I am! how sorry they will be in the Forest!” cried Bessie. “Is there no help for it?”
Madame was afraid there was no help for it—nothing for it but submission and obedience. And Bessie wrote to revoke all the cheerful promises and prospects that she had held out to her friends at Beechhurst.
BESSIE LEARNS A FAMILY SECRET.
Canon Fournier went to Etretat by himself, for madame was bound to escort her pupil to Caen, to prepare her for her departure to England, and with her own hands to remit her into those of her friends. Caen is suffocatingly hot in August—dusty, empty, dull. Mr. Frederick Fairfax’s beautiful yacht, the Foam, was in port at Havre, but it was understood that a week would elapse before it could be ready to go to sea again. It had met with some misadventure and wanted repairs. Mr. Frederick Fairfax came on to Caen, and presented himself in the Rue St. Jean, where he saw Bessie in the garden. Two chairs were brought out for them, and they sat and talked to the tinkle of the old fountain. It was not much either had to say to the other. The gentleman was absent and preoccupied, like a person accustomed to solitude and long silence; even while he talked he gave Bessie the impression of being half lost in reverie. He bore some slight resemblance to his father, and his fair hair and beard were whitening already, though he appeared otherwise in the prime of life.
The day after her uncle’s visit there came to Bessie a sage, matronly woman to offer her any help or information she might need in prospect of sea-adventures. Mrs. Betts was to attend upon her on board the yacht; she had decisive ways and spoke like a woman in authority. When Bessie hesitated she told her what to do. She had been in charge of Mr. Frederick Fairfax’s unfortunate wife during a few weeks’ cruise along the coast. The poor lady was an inmate of the asylum of the Bon Sauveur at Caen. The Foam had been many times into the port on her account during Bessie’s residence in the Rue St. Jean, but, naturally enough, Mr. Frederick Fairfax had kept his visits from the knowledge of his school-girl niece. Now, however, concealment might be abandoned, for if the facts were not communicated to her here, she would be sure to hear them at Kirkham. And Mrs. Betts told her the pitiful story. Bessie was inexpressibly awed and shocked at the revelation. She had not heard a whisper of the tragedy before.