It was with a lightened heart and spirits exhilarated that Bessie retraced her steps up the pier. “It was such a good opportunity!” said she, congratulating herself.
“Yes, if the gentleman don’t forget,” rejoined Mrs. Betts.
But, alas! that was just what the gentleman did. He forgot until his remembering was too late to be of any purpose. He forgot until the next Sunday when he was in the reading-desk, and saw Mrs. Carnegie sitting in front of him with a restless boy on either hand. He felt a momentary compunction, but that also, as well as the cause of it, went out of his head with the end of his sermon, and the conclusion of the matter was that he never delivered the message Bessie had given him on Ryde pier at all.
Bessie, however, having a little confidence in him, unwittingly enjoyed the pleasures of hope all that day and the next. On the second evening she was a trifle downhearted. The morning after she awoke with another prospect before her eyes—a beautiful bay, with houses fringing its shores and standing out on its cliffs, and verdure to the water’s edge. Mrs. Betts told her these villages were Sandown and Shanklyn. The yacht was scudding along at a famous rate. They passed Luccombe with its few cottages nestling at the foot of the chine, then Bonchurch and Ventnor. “It would be very pleasant living at sea in fine weather, if only one had what one wants,” Bessie said.
The following day the yacht was off Ryde again, and Bessie went to walk on the pier in her close-fitting serge costume and glazed hat, feeling very barefaced and evident, she assured Mrs. Betts, who tried to convince her that the style of dress was exceedingly becoming to her, and made her appear taller. Bessie was, indeed, a very pretty middle height now, and her shining hair, clear-cut features, and complexion of brilliant health constituted her a very handsome girl.
Almost the first people she met were the Gardiners. “Mr. Cecil Burleigh went to London this morning,” Miss Julia told her. The elder sister asked if she was coming to the flower-show in Appley Gardens in the afternoon or the regatta ball that night.
Bessie said, “No, oh, no! she had never been to a ball in her life.”
“But you might go with us to the flower-show,” said Julia. She thought it would please Mr. Cecil Burleigh if a little attention were shown to Miss Fairfax.
Bessie did not know what to answer: she looked at her strange clothing, and said suddenly, No, she thanked them, but she could not go. They quite understood.
Just at that moment came bearing down upon them Miss Buff, fat, loud, jolly as ever. “It is Bessie Fairfax! I was sure it was,” cried she; and Bessie rushed straight into her open arms with responsive joy.
When she came to herself the Gardiners were gone. “Never mind, you are sure to meet them again; they are always about Ryde somewhere,” Miss Buff said. “How delightful it is to see you, Bessie! And quite yourself! Not a bit altered—only taller!” And then they found a sheltered seat, and Bessie, still quivering with her happy surprise, began to ask questions.