Richard spent several days at Cliffe, and they were golden days to him and Bessie. On the last evening they went out together, for in the Lamberts' crowded household there was little quiet for the lovers, and Richard had pleaded for one more walk. "I shall not see you for six whole weeks," he said disconsolately; and, as usual, Bessie yielded to his wishes.
They climbed up by the quarry into the Coombe Woods, and walked through the long, green alleys that seemed to stretch into s.p.a.ce. The Coombe Woods were a favorite trysting-place for young couples, and many a village lad and la.s.s carried on their rustic courtship there. The trees were leafless now, but the February sky was soft and blue, and the birds were twittering of the coming spring.
"And Edna is to be married in June," observed Bessie, breaking the silence. "I am glad Mrs. Sefton has given her consent."
"I suppose they gave her no option," replied Richard. "I knew when Sinclair went down on Sat.u.r.day that he would settle something. Edna would not be likely to refuse him anything just now. You will have to be her bridesmaid, Bessie, so I am sure of some rides with you in June."
"Dear old Whitefoot! I shall be glad to mount him again."
"I shall get you a better horse before next winter. Whitefoot is growing old. Bessie, I ought not to be dissatisfied when you have been so good to me; but do you not think it would be possible to induce your father to change his mind?"
Bessie did not pretend to misunderstand his meaning; she only said gently:
"No, Richard; and I do not think it would be right to ask him;" and then she added, "You know dear Hatty will only have been dead a year."
"Yes, I see what you mean," he replied slowly, "and I must not be selfish; but next October is a long time to wait, Bessie."
"It will not seem so," she answered brightly, "and we must not hurry your mother; there will be Edna's marriage in June, and my visit to The Grange, and every now and then you will come here."
"Yes, and there will be my mother to settle in her new house--you see what Edna says in her letter, that they have decided not to separate; that means that my mother will take a house at Kensington. Well, I dare say that will be for the best; but when my mother goes The Grange will want its mistress."
"It will not want her long," she said very gently, "and Richard, dear, you have promised not to be impatient. Mother is not ready to part with me yet. I shall not like to think of you being lonely in that big house; but it will not be for long."
"And, after all, I shall not be lonely," he returned, for he was not to be outdone in unselfishness. "I shall be getting the house ready for you, and the new mare. Oh, and there will be a hundred things to do, and in the evenings I shall talk to Mac about his new mistress, and he will look up in my face with his wise, deep-set eyes, as though he understood every word, and was as glad as I was that October would soon come."
"Poor old Mac!" she exclaimed; and there was a soft color in her face as she interrupted him. "You must give him a pat from me, and to all the dear dogs--Leo, and Gelert, and Brand, and Bill Sykes--we must not forget Bill Sykes--and Tim, and Spot; and tell them--" And then she stopped and looked at him with a smile.
"What shall I tell them?" he asked coaxingly; "that you will be glad too, when October comes?"
"If you like," she answered quietly, "you may tell them that; but, Richard, when I think of the future, it is all like a dream. I cannot imagine that the dear old Grange is to be my home."
"You will find it very real," he replied. "Think what walks we shall have on Sunday afternoons, with Bill Sykes and his companions; and when you go into the drawing-room to make tea, Tim and Spot will not be left outside."
"Wait a moment, Richard look at that sunset;" and Bessie pointed to the western heavens, which were bathed in a glow of golden light. They had reached the end of the wood; a wide stretch of country lay before them.
How still and quiet it was! even the birds' twitterings had ceased.
Bessie's eyes grew soft and wistful; the sunset glories had reminded her of Hatty in her far-off home.
Down below them lay the bay, like a sea of gla.s.s mingled with fire.
"Thank G.o.d, all is well with my Hatty!" she thought; and then she turned to Richard with a gentle smile, and they went slowly back through the wood again, talking quietly of the days that were to be.
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