A LOST OPPORTUNITY.
Ryde looked beautiful the next morning from the deck of the Foam. The mainland looked beautiful too, and Bessie, gazing that way, thought how near she was to the Forest, until an irresistible longing to be there overcame her reserve. She asked her uncle if the Foam was going to lie long off Ryde. Why did she inquire? Because she should like to go to Hampton by the boat, and to Beechhurst to see her friends, if only for one single night. Before her humble petition was well past her lips the tears were in her eyes, for she saw that it was not going to be granted. Mr. Frederick Fairfax never risked being put out of his way, or made to wait the convenience of others on his yachting cruises. He simply told Bessie that she could not go, and added no reason why. But almost immediately after he sent her on shore with Mrs. Betts to Morgan’s to buy a proper glazed hat and to be measured for a serge dress: that was his way of diverting and consoling her.
Bessie was glad enough to be diverted from the contemplation of her disappointment. It was a very great pain indeed to be so near, and yet so cut off from all she loved. The morning was fresh on the pier, and many people were out inhaling the delicious salt breezes. A clergyman, wielding a slim umbrella and carrying a black bag and an overcoat, came lurching along. Bessie recognized Mr. Askew Wiley, and was so overjoyed to see anybody who came from home that she rushed up to him: “Oh, Mr. Wiley! how do you do? Are you going back to Beechhurst?” she cried breathless.
“Bessie Fairfax, surely? How you are grown!” said he, and shook hands. “Yes, Bessie, I am on my way now to catch the boat. If you want to hear about your people, you must turn back with me, for I have not a minute to spare.”
Bessie turned back: “Will you please tell them I am on board the Foam, my uncle Frederick’s yacht? I cannot get away to see them, and I don’t know how long we shall stay here, but if they could come over to see me!” she urged wistfully.
“It sounds like tempting them to a wild-goose chase, Bessie. Yachts that are here to-day are gone to-morrow. By the time they arrive you may have sailed off to Cowes or to Yarmouth. But I will give your message. How came you on board a yacht?”
Bessie got no more information from the rector; he had the same catechising habit as his good wife, and wanted to know her news. She gave it freely, and then they were at the end of the pier, and there was the Hampton boat ringing its bell to start. “Are you going straight home? Will you tell them at once?” Bessie ventured to say again as Mr. Wiley went down the gangway.
“Yes. I expect to find the carriage waiting for me at Hampton,” was the response.
“They might even come by the afternoon boat,” cried Bessie as a last word, and the rector said, “Yes.”