Part 6 out of 12
the idea that they consented. O she was healthy! And he likewise: but,
as if it had been a duel between two clearly designated by quality of
blood to bid a House endure, she was the first who taught him what it
was to have sensations of his mortality.
He could not forgive her. It seemed to him consequently politic to
continue frigid and let her have a further taste of his shadow, when it
was his burning wish to strain her in his arms to a flatness provoking
"You have had your ride?" he addressed her politely in the general
assembly on the lawn.
"I have had my ride, yes," Clara replied.
"Agreeable, I trust?"
So it appeared. Oh, blushless!
The next instant he was in conversation with Laetitia, questioning her
upon a dejected droop of her eyelashes.
"I am, I think," said she, "constitutionally melancholy."
He murmured to her: "I believe in the existence of specifics, and not
far to seek, for all our ailments except those we bear at the hands of
She did not dissent.
De Craye, whose humour for being convinced that Willoughby cared about
as little for Miss Middleton as she for him was nourished by his
immediate observation of them, dilated on the beauty of the ride and
his fair companion's equestrian skill.
"You should start a travelling circus," Willoughby rejoined. "But the
idea's a worthy one!--There's another alternative to the expedition I
proposed, Miss Middleton," said De Craye. "And I be clown? I haven't a
scruple of objection. I must read up books of jokes."
"Don't," said Willoughby.
"I'd spoil my part! But a natural clown won't keep up an artificial
performance for an entire month, you see; which is the length of time
we propose. He'll exhaust his nature in a day and be bowled over by the
dullest regular donkey-engine with paint on his cheeks and a nodding
"What is this expedition 'we' propose?"
De Craye was advised in his heart to spare Miss Middleton any allusion
"Merely a game to cure dulness."
"Ah!" Willoughby acquiesced. "A month, you said?"
"One'd like it to last for years."
"Ah! You are driving one of Mr. Merriman's witticisms at me, Horace; I
Willoughby bowed to Dr. Middleton, and drew him from Vernon, filially
taking his turn to talk with him closely.
De Craye saw Clara's look as her father and Willoughby went aside thus
It lifted him over anxieties and casuistries concerning loyalty.
Powder was in the look to make a warhorse breathe high and shiver for
CONTAINS AN INSTANCE OF THE GENEROSITY OF WILLOUGHBY
Observers of a gathering complication and a character in action
commonly resemble gleaners who are intent only on picking up the cars
of grain and huddling their store. Disinterestedly or interestedly they
wax over-eager for the little trifles, and make too much of them.
Observers should begin upon the precept, that not all we see is worth
hoarding, and that the things we see are to be weighed in the scale
with what we know of the situation, before we commit ourselves to a
measurement. And they may be accurate observers without being good
judges. They do not think so, and their bent is to glean hurriedly and
form conclusions as hasty, when their business should be sift at each
step, and question.
Miss Dale seconded Vernon Whitford in the occupation of counting looks
and tones, and noting scraps of dialogue. She was quite disinterested;
he quite believed that he was; to this degree they were competent for
their post; and neither of them imagined they could be personally
involved in the dubious result of the scenes they witnessed. They were
but anxious observers, diligently collecting. She fancied Clara
susceptible to his advice: he had fancied it, and was considering it
one of his vanities. Each mentally compared Clara's abruptness in
taking them into her confidence with her abstention from any secret
word since the arrival of Colonel De Craye. Sir Willoughby requested
Laetitia to give Miss Middleton as much of her company as she could;
showing that he was on the alert. Another Constantia Durham seemed
beating her wings for flight. The suddenness of the evident intimacy
between Clara and Colonel De Craye shocked Laetitia; their acquaintance
could be computed by hours. Yet at their first interview she had
suspected the possibility of worse than she now supposed to be; and she
had begged Vernon not immediately to quit the Hall, in consequence of
that faint suspicion. She had been led to it by meeting Clara and De
Craye at her cottage-gate, and finding them as fluent and
laughter-breathing in conversation as friends. Unable to realize the
rapid advance to a familiarity, more ostensible than actual, of two
lively natures, after such an introduction as they had undergone: and
one of the two pining in a drought of liveliness: Laetitia listened to
their wager of nothing at all--a no against a yes--in the case of poor
Flitch; and Clara's, "Willoughby will not forgive"; and De Craye's "Oh,
he's human": and the silence of Clara and De Craye's hearty cry,
"Flitch shall be a gentleman's coachman in his old seat or I haven't a
tongue!" to which there was a negative of Clara's head: and it then
struck Laetitia that this young betrothed lady, whose alienated heart
acknowledged no lord an hour earlier, had met her match, and, as the
observer would have said, her destiny. She judged of the alarming
possibility by the recent revelation to herself of Miss Middleton's
character, and by Clara's having spoken to a man as well (to Vernon),
and previously. That a young lady should speak on the subject of the
inner holies to a man, though he were Vernon Whitford, was incredible
to Laetitia; but it had to be accepted as one of the dread facts of our
inexplicable life, which drag our bodies at their wheels and leave our
minds exclaiming. Then, if Clara could speak to Vernon, which Laetitia
would not have done for a mighty bribe, she could speak to De Craye,
Laetitia thought deductively: this being the logic of untrained heads
opposed to the proceeding whereby their condemnatory deduction
hangs.--Clara must have spoken to De Craye!
Laetitia remembered how winning and prevailing Miss Middleton could be
in her confidences. A gentleman hearing her might forget his duty to
his friend, she thought, for she had been strangely swayed by Clara:
ideas of Sir Willoughby that she had never before imagined herself to
entertain had been sown in her, she thought; not asking herself whether
the searchingness of the young lady had struck them and bidden them
rise from where they lay imbedded. Very gentle women take in that
manner impressions of persons, especially of the worshipped person,
wounding them; like the new fortifications with embankments of soft
earth, where explosive missiles bury themselves harmlessly until they
are plucked out; and it may be a reason why those injured ladies
outlive a Clara Middleton similarly battered.
Vernon less than Laetitia took into account that Clara was in a state
of fever, scarcely reasonable. Her confidences to him he had excused,
as a piece of conduct, in sympathy with her position. He had not been
greatly astonished by the circumstances confided; and, on the whole, as
she was excited and unhappy, he excused her thoroughly; he could have
extolled her: it was natural that she should come to him, brave in her
to speak so frankly, a compliment that she should condescend to treat
him as a friend. Her position excused her widely. But she was not
excused for making a confidential friend of De Craye. There was a
Well, the difference was, that De Craye had not the smarting sense of
honour with women which our meditator had: an impartial judiciary, it
will be seen: and he discriminated between himself and the other
justly: but sensation surging to his brain at the same instant, he
reproached Miss Middleton for not perceiving that difference as
clearly, before she betrayed her position to De Craye, which Vernon
assumed that she had done. Of course he did. She had been guilty of it
once: why, then, in the mind of an offended friend, she would be guilty
of it twice. There was evidence. Ladies, fatally predestined to appeal
to that from which they have to be guarded, must expect severity when
they run off their railed highroad: justice is out of the question:
man's brains might, his blood cannot administer it to them. By chilling
him to the bone they may get what they cry for. But that is a method
deadening to their point of appeal.
I the evening, Miss Middleton and the colonel sang a duet. She had of
late declined to sing. Her voice was noticeably firm. Sir Willoughby
said to her, "You have recovered your richness of tone, Clara." She
smiled and appeared happy in pleasing him. He named a French ballad.
She went to the music-rack and gave the song unasked. He should have
been satisfied, for she said to him at the finish, "Is that as you like
it?" He broke from a murmur to Miss Dale, "Admirable." Some one
mentioned a Tuscan popular canzone. She waited for Willoughby's
approval, and took his nod for a mandate.
Traitress! he could have bellowed.
He had read of this characteristic of caressing obedience of the women
about to deceive. He had in his time profited by it.
"Is it intuitively or by their experience that our neighbours across
Channel surpass us in the knowledge of your sex?" he said to Miss Dale,
and talked through Clara's apostrophe to the 'Santissinia Virgine
Maria,' still treating temper as a part of policy, without any effect
on Clara; and that was matter for sickly green reflections. The lover
who cannot wound has indeed lost anchorage; he is woefully adrift: he
stabs air, which is to stab himself. Her complacent proof-armour bids
him know himself supplanted.
During the short conversational period before the ladies retired for
the night, Miss Eleanor alluded to the wedding by chance. Miss Isabel
replied to her, and addressed an interrogation to Clara. De Craye
foiled it adroitly. Clara did not utter a syllable. Her bosom lifted to
a wavering height and sank. Subsequently she looked at De Craye
vacantly, like a person awakened, but she looked. She was astonished by
his readiness, and thankful for the succour. Her look was cold, wide,
unfixed, with nothing of gratitude or of personal in it. The look,
however, stood too long for Willoughby's endurance.
Ejaculating "Porcelain!" he uncrossed his legs; a signal for the ladies
Eleanor and Isabel to retire. Vernon bowed to Clara as she was rising.
He had not been once in her eyes, and he expected a partial recognition
at the good-night. She said it, turning her head to Miss Isabel, who
was condoling once more with Colonel De Craye over the ruins of his
wedding-present, the porcelain vase, which she supposed to have been in
Willoughby's mind when he displayed the signal. Vernon walked off to
his room, dark as one smitten blind: bile tumet jecur: her stroke of
neglect hit him there where a blow sends thick obscuration upon
eyeballs and brain alike.
Clara saw that she was paining him and regretted it when they were
separated. That was her real friend! But he prescribed too hard a task.
Besides, she had done everything he demanded of her, except the
consenting to stay where she was and wear out Willoughby, whose
dexterity wearied her small stock of patience. She had vainly tried
remonstrance and supplication with her father hoodwinked by his host,
she refused to consider how; through wine?--the thought was
Nevertheless, she was drawn to the edge of it by the contemplation of
her scheme of release. If Lucy Darleton was at home; if Lucy invited
her to come: if she flew to Lucy: oh! then her father would have cause
for anger. He would not remember that but for hateful wine! . . .
What was there in this wine of great age which expelled reasonableness,
fatherliness? He was her dear father: she was his beloved child: yet
something divided them; something closed her father's ears to her: and
could it be that incomprehensible seduction of the wine? Her
dutifulness cried violently no. She bowed, stupefied, to his arguments
for remaining awhile, and rose clear-headed and rebellious with the
reminiscence of the many strong reasons she had urged against them.
The strangeness of men, young and old, the little things (she regarded
a grand wine as a little thing) twisting and changing them, amazed her.
And these are they by whom women are abused for variability! Only the
most imperious reasons, never mean trifles, move women, thought she.
Would women do an injury to one they loved for oceans of that--ah, pah!
And women must respect men. They necessarily respect a father. "My
dear, dear father!" Clara said in the solitude of her chamber, musing
on all his goodness, and she endeavoured to reconcile the desperate
sentiments of the position he forced her to sustain, with those of a
venerating daughter. The blow which was to fall on him beat on her
heavily in advance. "I have not one excuse!" she said, glancing at
numbers and a mighty one. But the idea of her father suffering at her
hands cast her down lower than self-justification. She sought to
imagine herself sparing him. It was too fictitious.
The sanctuary of her chamber, the pure white room so homely to her
maidenly feelings, whispered peace, only to follow the whisper with
another that went through her swelling to a roar, and leaving her as a
suing of music unkindly smitten. If she stayed in this house her
chamber would no longer be a sanctuary. Dolorous bondage! Insolent
death is not worse. Death's worm we cannot keep away, but when he has
us we are numb to dishonour, happily senseless.
Youth weighed her eyelids to sleep, though she was quivering, and
quivering she awoke to the sound of her name beneath her window. "I
can love still, for I love him," she said, as she luxuriated in young
Crossjay's boy's voice, again envying him his bath in the lake waters,
which seemed to her to have the power to wash away grief and chains.
Then it was that she resolved to let Crossjay see the last of her in
this place. He should be made gleeful by doing her a piece of service;
he should escort her on her walk to the railway station next morning,
thence be sent flying for a long day's truancy, with a little note of
apology on his behalf that she would write for him to deliver to Vernon
Crossjay came running to her after his breakfast with Mrs Montague, the
housekeeper, to tell her he had called her up.
"You won't to-morrow: I shall be up far ahead of you," said she; and
musing on her father, while Crossjay vowed to be up the first, she
thought it her duty to plunge into another expostulation.
Willoughby had need of Vernon on private affairs. Dr. Middleton betook
himself as usual to the library, after answering "I will ruin you yet,"
to Willoughby's liberal offer to despatch an order to London for any
books he might want.
His fine unruffled air, as of a mountain in still morning beams, made
Clara not indisposed to a preliminary scene with Willoughby that might
save her from distressing him, but she could not stop Willoughby; as
little could she look an invitation. He stood in the Hall, holding
Vernon by the arm. She passed him; he did not speak, and she entered
"What now, my dear? what is it?" said Dr. Middleton, seeing that the
door was shut on them.
"Nothing, papa," she replied, calmly.
"You've not locked the door, my child? You turned something there: try
"I assure you, papa, the door is not locked."
"Mr. Whitford will be here instantly. We are engaged on tough matter.
Women have not, and opinion is universal that they never will have, a
conception of the value of time."
"We are vain and shallow, my dear papa."
"No, no, not you, Clara. But I suspect you to require to learn by
having work in progress how important is . . . is a quiet commencement
of the day's task. There is not a scholar who will not tell you so. We
must have a retreat. These invasions!--So you intend to have another
ride to-day? They do you good. To-morrow we dine with Mrs. Mountstuart
Jenkinson, an estimable person indeed, though I do not perfectly
understand our accepting.--You have not to accuse me of sitting over
wine last night, my Clara! I never do it, unless I am appealed to for
my judgement upon a wine."
"I have come to entreat you to take me away, papa."
In the midst of the storm aroused by this renewal of perplexity, Dr
Middleton replaced a book his elbow had knocked over in his haste to
dash the hair off his forehead, crying: "Whither? To what spot? That
reading of guide-books, and idle people's notes of Travel, and
picturesque correspondence in the newspapers, unsettles man and maid.
My objection to the living in hotels is known. I do not hesitate to say
that I do cordially abhor it. I have had penitentially to submit to it
in your dear mother's time, [Greek], up to the full ten thousand times.
But will you not comprehend that to the older man his miseries are
multiplied by his years? But is it utterly useless to solicit your
sympathy with an old man, Clara?"
"General Darleton will take us in, papa."
"His table is detestable. I say nothing of that; but his wine is
poison. Let that pass--I should rather say, let it not pass!--but our
political views are not in accord. True, we are not under the
obligation to propound them in presence, but we are destitute of an
opinion in common. We have no discourse. Military men have produced, or
diverged in, noteworthy epicures; they are often devout; they have
blossomed in lettered men: they are gentlemen; the country rightly
holds them in honour; but, in fine, I reject the proposal to go to
"I do hope not. Here we have everything man can desire; without
contest, an excellent host. You have your transitory tea-cup tempests,
which you magnify to hurricanes, in the approved historic manner of the
book of Cupid. And all the better; I repeat, it is the better that you
should have them over in the infancy of the alliance. Come in!" Dr.
Middleton shouted cheerily in response to a knock at the door.
He feared the door was locked: he had a fear that his daughter intended
to keep it locked.
"Clara!" he cried.
She reluctantly turned the handle, and the ladies Eleanor and Isabel
came in, apologizing with as much coherence as Dr. Middleton ever
expected from their sex. They wished to speak to Clara, but they
declined to take her away. In vain the Rev. Doctor assured them she
was at their service; they protested that they had very few words to
say, and would not intrude one moment further than to speak them.
Like a shy deputation of young scholars before the master, these very
words to come were preceded by none at all; a dismal and trying cause;
refreshing however to Dr. Middleton, who joyfully anticipated that the
ladies could be induced to take away Clara when they had finished.
"We may appear to you a little formal," Miss Isabel began, and turned
to her sister.
"We have no intention to lay undue weight on our mission, if mission it
can be called," said Miss Eleanor.
"Is it entrusted to you by Willoughby?" said Clara.
"Dear child, that you may know it all the more earnest with us, and our
personal desire to contribute to your happiness: therefore does
Willoughby entrust the speaking of it to us."
Hereupon the sisters alternated in addressing Clara, and she gazed from
one to the other, piecing fragments of empty signification to get the
full meaning when she might.
"--And in saying your happiness, dear Clara, we have our Willoughby's
in view, which is dependent on yours."
"--And we never could sanction that our own inclinations should stand
in the way."
"--No. We love the old place; and if it were only our punishment for
loving it too idolatrously, we should deem it ground enough for our
"--Without, really, an idea of unkindness; none, not any."
"--Young wives naturally prefer to be undisputed queens of their own
"--Youth and age!"
"But I," said Clara, "have never mentioned, never had a thought . . ."
"--You have, dear child, a lover who in his solicitude for your
happiness both sees what you desire and what is due to you."
"--And for us, Clara, to recognize what is due to you is to act on it."
"--Besides, dear, a sea-side cottage has always been one of our
"--We have not to learn that we are a couple of old maids, incongruous
associates for a young wife in the government of a great house."
"--With our antiquated notions, questions of domestic management might
arise, and with the best will in the world to be harmonious!"
"--So, dear Clara, consider it settled."
"--From time to time gladly shall we be your guests."
"--Your guests, dear, not censorious critics."
"And you think me such an Egoist!--dear ladies! The suggestion of so
cruel a piece of selfishness wounds me. I would not have had you leave
the Hall. I like your society; I respect you. My complaint, if I had
one, would be, that you do not sufficiently assert yourselves. I could
have wished you to be here for an example to me. I would not have
allowed you to go. What can he think of me! Did Willoughby speak of it
It was hard to distinguish which was the completer dupe of these two
echoes of one another in worship of a family idol.
"Willoughby," Miss Eleanor presented herself to be stamped with the
title hanging ready for the first that should open her lips, "our
Willoughby is observant--he is ever generous--and he is not less
forethoughtful. His arrangement is for our good on all sides."
"An index is enough," said Miss Isabel, appearing in her turn the
"You will not have to leave, dear ladies. Were I mistress here I should
"Willoughby blames himself for not reassuring you before."
"Indeed we blame ourselves for not undertaking to go."
"Did he speak of it first this morning?" said Clara; but she could draw
no reply to that from them. They resumed the duet, and she resigned
herself to have her cars boxed with nonsense.
"So, it is understood?" said Miss Eleanor.
"I see your kindness, ladies."
"And I am to be Aunt Eleanor again?"
"And I Aunt Isabel?"
Clara could have wrung her hands at the impediment which prohibited her
delicacy from telling them why she could not name them so as she had
done in the earlier days of Willoughby's courtship. She kissed them
warmly, ashamed of kissing, though the warmth was real.
They retired with a flow of excuses to Dr. Middleton for disturbing
him. He stood at the door to bow them out, and holding the door for
Clara, to wind up the procession, discovered her at a far corner of the
He was debating upon the advisability of leaving her there, when Vernon
Whitford crossed the hall from the laboratory door, a mirror of himself
in his companion air of discomposure.
That was not important, so long as Vernon was a check on Clara; but the
moment Clara, thus baffled, moved to quit the library, Dr. Middleton
felt the horror of having an uncomfortable face opposite.
"No botheration, I hope? It's the worst thing possible to work on.
Where have you been? I suspect your weak point is not to arm yourself
in triple brass against bother and worry, and no good work can you do
unless you do. You have come out of that laboratory."
"I have, sir.--Can I get you any book?" Vernon said to Clara.
She thanked him, promising to depart immediately.
"Now you are at the section of Italian literature, my love," said Dr
Middleton. "Well, Mr. Whitford, the laboratory--ah!--where the amount
of labour done within the space of a year would not stretch an electric
current between this Hall and the railway station: say, four miles,
which I presume the distance to be. Well, sir, and a dilettantism
costly in time and machinery is as ornamental as foxes' tails and
deers' horns to an independent gentleman whose fellows are contented
with the latter decorations for their civic wreath. Willoughby, let me
remark, has recently shown himself most considerate for my girl. As far
as I could gather--I have been listening to a dialogue of ladies--he is
as generous as he is discreet. There are certain combats in which to be
the one to succumb is to claim the honours;--and that is what women
will not learn. I doubt their seeing the glory of it."
"I have heard of it; I have been with Willoughby," Vernon said,
hastily, to shield Clara from her father's allusive attacks. He wished
to convey to her that his interview with Willoughby had not been
profitable in her interests, and that she had better at once, having
him present to support her, pour out her whole heart to her father. But
how was it to be conveyed? She would not meet his eyes, and he was too
poor an intriguer to be ready on the instant to deal out the verbal
obscurities which are transparencies to one.
"I shall regret it, if Willoughby has annoyed you, for he stands high
in my favour," said Dr. Middleton.
Clara dropped a book. Her father started higher than the nervous
impulse warranted in his chair. Vernon tried to win a glance, and she
was conscious of his effort, but her angry and guilty feelings,
prompting her resolution to follow her own counsel, kept her eyelids on
"I don't say he annoys me, sir. I am here to give him my advice, and if
he does not accept it I have no right to be annoyed. Willoughby seems
annoyed that Colonel De Craye should talk of going to-morrow or next
"He likes his friends about him. Upon my word, a man of a more genial
heart you might march a day without finding. But you have it on the
forehead, Mr. Whitford."
"Oh! no, sir."
"There," Dr. Middleton drew his finger along his brows.
Vernon felt along his own, and coined an excuse for their blackness;
not aware that the direction of his mind toward Clara pushed him to a
kind of clumsy double meaning, while he satisfied an inward and craving
wrath, as he said: "By the way, I have been racking my head; I must
apply to you, sir. I have a line, and I am uncertain of the run of the
line. Will this pass, do you think?
'In Asination's tongue he asinates';
signifying that he excels any man of us at donkey-dialect."
After a decent interval for the genius of criticism to seem to have
been sitting under his frown, Dr. Middleton rejoined with sober
jocularity: "No, sir, it will not pass; and your uncertainty in regard
to the run of the line would only be extended were the line centipedal.
Our recommendation is, that you erase it before the arrival of the
ferule. This might do:
'In Assignation's name he assignats';
signifying that he pre-eminently flourishes hypothetical promises, to
pay by appointment. That might pass. But you will forbear to cite me
for your authority."
"The line would be acceptable if I could get it to apply," said Vernon.
"Or this . . ." Dr. Middleton was offering a second suggestion, but
Clara fled, astonished at men as she never yet had been. Why, in a
burning world they would be exercising their minds in absurdities! And
those two were scholars, learned men! And both knew they were in the
presence of a soul in a tragic fever!
A minute after she had closed the door they were deep in their work.
Dr. Middleton forgot his alternative line.
"Nothing serious?" he said in reproof of the want of honourable
clearness on Vernon's brows.
"I trust not, sir; it's a case for common sense."
"And you call that not serious?"
"I take Hermann's praise of the versus dochmiachus to be not only
serious but unexaggerated," said Vernon.
Dr. Middleton assented and entered on the voiceful ground of Greek
metres, shoving your dry dusty world from his elbow.
THE FLIGHT IN WILD WEATHER
The morning of Lucy Darleton's letter of reply to her friend Clara was
fair before sunrise, with luminous colours that are an omen to the
husbandman. Clara had no weather-eye for the rich Eastern crimson, nor
a quiet space within her for the beauty. She looked on it as her gate
of promise, and it set her throbbing with a revived belief in radiant
things which she had once dreamed of to surround her life, but her
accelerated pulses narrowed her thoughts upon the machinery of her
project. She herself was metal, pointing all to her one aim when in
motion. Nothing came amiss to it, everything was fuel; fibs, evasions,
the serene battalions of white lies parallel on the march with dainty
rogue falsehoods. She had delivered herself of many yesterday in her
engagements for to-day. Pressure was put on her to engage herself, and
she did so liberally, throwing the burden of deceitfulness on the
extraordinary pressure. "I want the early part of the morning; the rest
of the day I shall be at liberty." She said it to Willoughby, Miss
Dale, Colonel De Craye, and only the third time was she aware of the
delicious double meaning. Hence she associated it with the colonel.
Your loudest outcry against the wretch who breaks your rules is in
asking how a tolerably conscientious person could have done this and
the other besides the main offence, which you vow you could overlook
but for the minor objections pertaining to conscience, the
incomprehensible and abominable lies, for example, or the brazen
coolness of the lying. Yet you know that we live in an undisciplined
world, where in our seasons of activity we are servants of our design,
and that this comes of our passions, and those of our position. Our
design shapes us for the work in hand, the passions man the ship, the
position is their apology: and now should conscience be a passenger on
board, a merely seeming swiftness of our vessel will keep him dumb as
the unwilling guest of a pirate captain scudding from the cruiser half
in cloven brine through rocks and shoals to save his black flag. Beware
the false position.
That is easy to say: sometimes the tangle descends on us like a net of
blight on a rose-bush. There is then an instant choice for us between
courage to cut loose, and desperation if we do not. But not many men
are trained to courage; young women are trained to cowardice. For them
to front an evil with plain speech is to be guilty of effrontery and
forfeit the waxen polish of purity, and therewith their commanding
place in the market. They are trained to please man's taste, for which
purpose they soon learn to live out of themselves, and look on
themselves as he looks, almost as little disturbed as he by the
undiscovered. Without courage, conscience is a sorry guest; and if all
goes well with the pirate captain, conscience will be made to walk the
plank for being of no service to either party.
Clara's fibs and evasions disturbed her not in the least that morning.
She had chosen desperation, and she thought herself very brave because
she was just brave enough to fly from her abhorrence. She was
light-hearted, or, more truly, drunken-hearted. Her quick nature
realized the out of prison as vividly and suddenly as it had sunk
suddenly and leadenly under the sense of imprisonment. Vernon crossed
her mind: that was a friend! Yes, and there was a guide; but he would
disapprove, and even he, thwarting her way to sacred liberty, must be
What would he think? They might never meet, for her to know. Or one day
in the Alps they might meet, a middle-aged couple, he famous, she
regretful only to have fallen below his lofty standard. "For, Mr.
Whitford," says she, very earnestly, "I did wish at that time, believe
me or not, to merit your approbation." The brows of the phantom Vernon
whom she conjured up were stern, as she had seen them yesterday in the
She gave herself a chiding for thinking of him when her mind should be
intent on that which he was opposed to.
It was a livelier relaxation to think of young Crossjay's shame-faced
confession presently, that he had been a laggard in bed while she swept
the dews. She laughed at him, and immediately Crossjay popped out on
her from behind a tree, causing her to clap hand to heart and stand
fast. A conspirator is not of the stuff to bear surprises. He feared he
had hurt her, and was manly in his efforts to soothe: he had been up
"hours", he said, and had watched her coming along the avenue, and did
not mean to startle her: it was the kind of fun he played with fellows,
and if he had hurt her, she might do anything to him she liked, and she
would see if he could not stand to be punished. He was urgent with her
to inflict corporal punishment on him.
"I shall leave it to the boatswain to do that when you're in the navy,"
"The boatswain daren't strike an officer! so now you see what you know
of the navy," said Crossjay.
"But you could not have been out before me, you naughty boy, for I
found all the locks and bolts when I went to the door."
"But you didn't go to the back door, and Sir Willoughby's private door:
you came out by the hall door; and I know what you want, Miss
Middleton, you want not to pay what you've lost."
"What have I lost, Crossjay?"
"What was that?"
"Nothing of the sort. But, dear boy, I don't love you less for not
kissing you. All that is nonsense: you have to think only of learning,
and to be truthful. Never tell a story: suffer anything rather than be
dishonest." She was particularly impressive upon the silliness and
wickedness of falsehood, and added: "Do you hear?"
"Yes: but you kissed me when I had been out in the rain that day."
"Because I promised."
"And, Miss Middleton, you betted a kiss yesterday."
"I am sure, Crossjay--no, I will not say I am sure: but can you say you
are sure you were out first this morning? Well, will you say you are
sure that when you left the house you did not see me in the avenue? You
"Miss Middleton, I do really believe I was dressed first."
"Always be truthful, my dear boy, and then you may feel that Clara
Middleton will always love you."
"But, Miss Middleton, when you're married you won't be Clara
"I certainly shall, Crossjay."
"No, you won't, because I'm so fond of your name!"
She considered, and said: "You have warned me, Crossjay, and I shall
not marry. I shall wait," she was going to say, "for you," but turned
the hesitation to a period. "Is the village where I posted my letter
the day before yesterday too far for you?"
Crossjay howled in contempt. "Next to Clara, my favourite's Lucy," he
"I thought Clara came next to Nelson," said she; "and a long way off
too, if you're not going to be a landlubber."
"I'm not going to be a landlubber. Miss Middleton, you may be
absolutely positive on your solemn word."
"You're getting to talk like one a little now and then, Crossjay."
"Then I won't talk at all."
He stuck to his resolution for one whole minute.
Clara hoped that on this morning of a doubtful though imperative
venture she had done some good.
They walked fast to cover the distance to the village post-office, and
back before the breakfast hour: and they had plenty of time, arriving
too early for the opening of the door, so that Crossjay began to dance
with an appetite, and was despatched to besiege a bakery. Clara felt
lonely without him: apprehensively timid in the shuttered, unmoving
village street. She was glad of his return. When at last her letter was
handed to her, on the testimony of the postman that she was the lawful
applicant, Crossjay and she put out on a sharp trot to be back at the
Hall in good time. She took a swallowing glance of the first page of
"Telegraph, and I will meet you. I will supply you with everything you
can want for the two nights, if you cannot stop longer."
That was the gist of the letter. A second, less voracious, glance at it
along the road brought sweetness:--Lucy wrote:
"Do I love you as I did? my best friend, you must fall into unhappiness
to have the answer to that."
Clara broke a silence.
"Yes, dear Crossjay, and if you like you shall have another walk with
me after breakfast. But, remember, you must not say where you have gone
with me. I shall give you twenty shillings to go and buy those bird's
eggs and the butterflies you want for your collection; and mind,
promise me, to-day is your last day of truancy. Tell Mr. Whitford how
ungrateful you know you have been, that he may have some hope of you.
You know the way across the fields to the railway station?"
"You save a mile; you drop on the road by Combline's mill, and then
there's another five-minutes' cut, and the rest's road."
"Then, Crossjay, immediately after breakfast run round behind the
pheasantry, and there I'll find you. And if any one comes to you before
I come, say you are admiring the plumage of the Himalaya--the
beautiful Indian bird; and if we're found together, we run a race, and
of course you can catch me, but you mustn't until we're out of sight.
Tell Mr. Vernon at night--tell Mr. Whitford at night you had the money
from me as part of my allowance to you for pocket-money. I used to like
to have pocket-money, Crossjay. And you may tell him I gave you the
holiday, and I may write to him for his excuse, if he is not too harsh
to grant it. He can be very harsh."
"You look right into his eyes next time, Miss Middleton. I used to
think him awful till he made me look at him. He says men ought to look
straight at one another, just as we do when he gives me my
boxing-lesson, and then we won't have quarrelling half so much. I can't
recollect everything he says."
"You are not bound to, Crossjay."
"No, but you like to hear."
"Really, dear boy. I can't accuse myself of having told you that."
"No, but, Miss Middleton, you do. And he's fond of your singing and
playing on the piano, and watches you."
"We shall be late if we don't mind," said Clara, starting to a pace
close on a run.
They were in time for a circuit in the park to the wild double
cherry-blossom, no longer all white. Clara gazed up from under it,
where she had imagined a fairer visible heavenliness than any other
sight of earth had ever given her. That was when Vernon lay beneath.
But she had certainly looked above, not at him. The tree seemed
sorrowful in its withering flowers of the colour of trodden snow.
Crossjay resumed the conversation.
"He says ladies don't like him much."
"Who says that?"
"Were those his words?"
"I forget the words: but he said they wouldn't be taught by him, like
me, ever since you came; and since you came I've liked him ten times
"The more you like him the more I shall like you, Crossjay."
The boy raised a shout and scampered away to Sir Willoughby, at the
appearance of whom Clara felt herself nipped and curling inward.
Crossjay ran up to him with every sign of pleasure. Yet he had not
mentioned him during the walk; and Clara took it for a sign that the
boy understood the entire satisfaction Willoughby had in mere shows of
affection, and acted up to it. Hardly blaming Crossjay, she was a
critic of the scene, for the reason that youthful creatures who have
ceased to love a person, hunger for evidence against him to confirm
their hard animus, which will seem to them sometimes, when he is not
immediately irritating them, brutish, because they can not analyze it
and reduce it to the multitude of just antagonisms whereof it came. It
has passed by large accumulation into a sombre and speechless load upon
the senses, and fresh evidence, the smallest item, is a champion to
speak for it. Being about to do wrong, she grasped at this eagerly, and
brooded on the little of vital and truthful that there was in the man
and how he corrupted the boy. Nevertheless, she instinctively imitated
Crossjay in an almost sparkling salute to him.
"Good-morning, Willoughby; it was not a morning to lose: have you been
He retained her hand. "My dear Clara! and you, have you not
overfatigued yourself? Where have you been?"
"Round--everywhere! And I am certainly not tired."
"Only you and Crossjay? You should have loosened the dogs."
"Their barking would have annoyed the house."
"Less than I am annoyed to think of you without protection."
He kissed her fingers: it was a loving speech.
"The household . . ." said Clara, but would not insist to convict him
of what he could not have perceived.
"If you outstrip me another morning, Clara, promise me to take the
dogs; will you?"
"To-day I am altogether yours."
"From the first to the last hour of it!--So you fall in with Horace's
"He is very amusing."
"As good as though one had hired him."
"Here comes Colonel De Craye."
"He must think we have hired him!"
She noticed the bitterness of Willoughby's tone. He sang out a
good-morning to De Craye, and remarked that he must go to the stables.
"Darleton? Darleton, Miss Middleton?" said the colonel, rising from his
bow to her: "a daughter of General Darleton? If so, I have had the
honour to dance with her. And have not you?--practised with her, I
mean; or gone off in a triumph to dance it out as young ladies do? So
you know what a delightful partner she is."
"She is!" cried Clara, enthusiastic for her succouring friend, whose
letter was the treasure in her bosom.
"Oddly, the name did not strike me yesterday, Miss Middleton. In the
middle of the night it rang a little silver bell in my ear, and I
remembered the lady I was half in love with, if only for her dancing.
She is dark, of your height, as light on her feet; a sister in another
colour. Now that I know her to be your friend . . . !"
"Why, you may meet her, Colonel De Craye."
"It'll be to offer her a castaway. And one only meets a charming girl
to hear that she's engaged! 'Tis not a line of a ballad, Miss
Middleton, but out of the heart."
"Lucy Darleton . . . You were leading me to talk seriously to you,
Colonel De Craye."
"Will you one day?--and not think me a perpetual tumbler! You have
heard of melancholy clowns. You will find the face not so laughable
behind my paint. When I was thirteen years younger I was loved, and my
dearest sank to the grave. Since then I have not been quite at home in
life; probably because of finding no one so charitable as she. 'Tis
easy to win smiles and hands, but not so easy to win a woman whose
faith you would trust as your own heart before the enemy. I was poor
then. She said. 'The day after my twenty-first birthday'; and that day
I went for her, and I wondered they did not refuse me at the door. I
was shown upstairs, and I saw her, and saw death. She wished to marry
me, to leave me her fortune!"
"Then, never marry," said Clara, in an underbreath.
She glanced behind.
Sir Willoughby was close, walking on turf.
"I must be cunning to escape him after breakfast," she thought.
He had discarded his foolishness of the previous days, and the thought
in him could have replied: "I am a dolt if I let you out of my sight."
Vernon appeared, formal as usual of late. Clara begged his excuse for
withdrawing Crossjay from his morning swim. He nodded.
De Craye called to Willoughby for a book of the trains.
"There's a card in the smoking-room; eleven, one, and four are the
hours, if you must go," said Willoughby.
"You leave the Hall, Colonel De Craye?"
"In two or three days, Miss Middleton."
She did not request him to stay: his announcement produced no effect on
her. Consequently, thought he--well, what? nothing: well, then, that
she might not be minded to stay herself. Otherwise she would have
regretted the loss of an amusing companion: that is the modest way of
putting it. There is a modest and a vain for the same sentiment; and
both may be simultaneously in the same breast; and each one as honest
as the other; so shy is man's vanity in the presence of here and there
a lady. She liked him: she did not care a pin for him--how could she?
yet she liked him: O, to be able to do her some kindling bit of
service! These were his consecutive fancies, resolving naturally to the
exclamation, and built on the conviction that she did not love
Willoughby, and waited for a spirited lift from circumstances. His call
for a book of the trains had been a sheer piece of impromptu, in the
mind as well as on the mouth. It sprang, unknown to him, of conjectures
he had indulged yesterday and the day before. This morning she would
have an answer to her letter to her friend, Miss Lucy Darleton, the
pretty dark girl, whom De Craye was astonished not to have noticed more
when he danced with her. She, pretty as she was, had come to his
recollection through the name and rank of her father, a famous general
of cavalry, and tactician in that arm. The colonel despised himself for
not having been devoted to Clara Middleton's friend.
The morning's letters were on the bronze plate in the hall. Clara
passed on her way to her room without inspecting them. De Craye opened
an envelope and went upstairs to scribble a line. Sir Willoughby
observed their absence at the solemn reading to the domestic servants
in advance of breakfast. Three chairs were unoccupied. Vernon had his
own notions of a mechanical service--and a precious profit he derived
from them! but the other two seats returned the stare Willoughby cast
at their backs with an impudence that reminded him of his friend
Horace's calling for a book of the trains, when a minute afterward he
admitted he was going to stay at the Hall another two days, or three.
The man possessed by jealousy is never in need of matter for it: he
magnifies; grass is jungle, hillocks are mountains. Willoughby's legs
crossing and uncrossing audibly, and his tight-folded arms and clearing
of the throat, were faint indications of his condition.
"Are you in fair health this morning, Willoughby?" Dr. Middleton said
to him after he had closed his volumes.
"The thing is not much questioned by those who know me intimately," he
"Willoughby unwell!" and, "He is health incarnate!" exclaimed the
ladies Eleanor and Isabel.
Laetitia grieved for him. Sun-rays on a pest-stricken city, she
thought, were like the smile of his face. She believed that he deeply
loved Clara, and had learned more of her alienation.
He went into the ball to look into the well for the pair of
malefactors; on fire with what he could not reveal to a soul.
De Craye was in the housekeeper's room, talking to young Crossjay, and
Mrs. Montague just come up to breakfast. He had heard the boy
chattering, and as the door was ajar he peeped in, and was invited to
enter. Mrs. Montague was very fond of hearing him talk: he paid her the
familiar respect which a lady of fallen fortunes, at a certain period
after the fall, enjoys as a befittingly sad souvenir, and the
respectfulness of the lord of the house was more chilling.
She bewailed the boy's trying his constitution with long walks before
he had anything in him to walk on.
"And where did you go this morning, my lad?" said De Craye.
"Ah, you know the ground, colonel," said Crossjay. "I am hungry! I
shall eat three eggs and some bacon, and buttered cakes, and jam, then
begin again, on my second cup of coffee."
"It's not braggadocio," remarked Mrs. Montague. "He waits empty from
five in the morning till nine, and then he comes famished to my table,
and cats too much."
"Oh! Mrs. Montague, that is what the country people call roemancing.
For, Colonel De Craye, I had a bun at seven o'clock. Miss Middleton
forced me to go and buy it"
"A stale bun, my boy?"
"Yesterday's: there wasn't much of a stopper to you in it, like a new
"And where did you leave Miss Middleton when you went to buy the bun?
You should never leave a lady; and the street of a country town is
lonely at that early hour. Crossjay, you surprise me."
"She forced me to go, colonel. Indeed she did. What do I care for a
bun! And she was quite safe. We could hear the people stirring in the
post-office, and I met our postman going for his letter-bag. I didn't
want to go: bother the bun!--but you can't disobey Miss Middleton. I
never want to, and wouldn't."
"There we're of the same mind," said the colonel, and Crossjay shouted,
for the lady whom they exalted was at the door.
"You will be too tired for a ride this morning," De Craye said to her,
descending the stairs.
She swung a bonnet by the ribands. "I don't think of riding to-day."
"Why did you not depute your mission to me?"
"I like to bear my own burdens, as far as I can."
"Miss Darleton is well?"
"I presume so."
"Will you try her recollection for me?"
"It will probably be quite as lively as yours was."
"Shall you see her soon?"
"I hope so."
Sir Willoughby met her at the foot of the stairs, but refrained from
giving her a hand that shook.
"We shall have the day together," he said.
At the breakfast-table she faced a clock.
De Craye took out his watch. "You are five and a half minutes too slow
by that clock, Willoughby."
"The man omitted to come from Rendon to set it last week, Horace. He
will find the hour too late here for him when he does come."
One of the ladies compared the time of her watch with De Craye's, and
Clara looked at hers and gratefully noted that she was four minutes in
She left the breakfast-room at a quarter to ten, after kissing her
father. Willoughby was behind her. He had been soothed by thinking of
his personal advantages over De Craye, and he felt assured that if he
could be solitary with his eccentric bride and fold her in himself, he
would, cutting temper adrift, be the man he had been to her not so many
days back. Considering how few days back, his temper was roused, but he
They were slightly dissenting as De Craye stepped into the hall.
"A present worth examining," Willoughby said to her: "and I do not
dwell on the costliness. Come presently, then. I am at your disposal
all day. I will drive you in the afternoon to call on Lady Busshe to
offer your thanks: but you must see it first. It is laid out in the
"There is time before the afternoon," said Clara.
"Wedding presents?" interposed De Craye.
"A porcelain service from Lady Busshe, Horace."
"Not in fragments? Let me have a look at it. I'm haunted by an idea
that porcelain always goes to pieces. I'll have a look and take a hint.
We're in the laboratory, Miss Middleton."
He put his arm under Willoughby's. The resistance to him was momentary:
Willoughby had the satisfaction of the thought that De Craye being with
him was not with Clara; and seeing her giving orders to her maid
Barclay, he deferred his claim on her company for some short period.
De Craye detained him in the laboratory, first over the China cups and
saucers, and then with the latest of London--tales of youngest Cupid
upon subterranean adventures, having high titles to light him.
Willoughby liked the tale thus illuminated, for without the title there
was no special savour in such affairs, and it pulled down his betters
in rank. He was of a morality to reprobate the erring dame while he
enjoyed the incidents. He could not help interrupting De Craye to point
at Vernon through the window, striding this way and that, evidently on
the hunt for young Crossjay. "No one here knows how to manage the boy
except myself But go on, Horace," he said, checking his contemptuous
laugh; and Vernon did look ridiculous, out there half-drenched already
in a white rain, again shuffled off by the little rascal. It seemed
that he was determined to have his runaway: he struck up the avenue at
full pedestrian racing pace.
"A man looks a fool cutting after a cricket-ball; but, putting on steam
in a storm of rain to catch a young villain out of sight, beats
anything I've witnessed," Willoughby resumed, in his amusement.
"Aiha!" said De Craye, waving a hand to accompany the melodious accent,
"there are things to beat that for fun."
He had smoked in the laboratory, so Willoughby directed a servant to
transfer the porcelain service to one of the sitting-rooms for Clara's
inspection of it.
"You're a bold man," De Craye remarked. "The luck may be with you,
though. I wouldn't handle the fragile treasure for a trifle."
"I believe in my luck," said Willoughby.
Clara was now sought for. The lord of the house desired her presence
impatiently, and had to wait. She was in none of the lower rooms.
Barclay, her maid, upon interrogation, declared she was in none of the
upper. Willoughby turned sharp on De Craye: he was there.
The ladies Eleanor and Isabel and Miss Dale were consulted. They had
nothing to say about Clara's movements, more than that they could not
understand her exceeding restlessness. The idea of her being out of
doors grew serious; heaven was black, hard thunder rolled, and
lightning flushed the battering rain. Men bearing umbrellas, shawls,
and cloaks were dispatched on a circuit of the park. De Craye said:
"I'll be one."
"No," cried Willoughby, starting to interrupt him, "I can't allow it."
"I've the scent of a hound, Willoughby; I'll soon be on the track."
"My dear Horace, I won't let you go."
"Adieu, dear boy! and if the lady's discoverable, I'm the one to find
He stepped to the umbrella-stand. There was then a general question
whether Clara had taken her umbrella. Barclay said she had. The fact
indicated a wider stroll than round inside the park: Crossjay was
likewise absent. De Craye nodded to himself.
Willoughby struck a rattling blow on the barometer.
"Where's Pollington?" he called, and sent word for his man Pollington
to bring big fishing-boots and waterproof wrappers.
An urgent debate within him was in progress.
Should he go forth alone on his chance of discovering Clara and
forgiving her under his umbrella and cloak? or should he prevent De
Craye from going forth alone on the chance he vaunted so impudently?
"You will offend me, Horace, if you insist," he said.
"Regard me as an instrument of destiny, Willoughby," replied De Craye.
"Then we go in company."
"But that's an addition of one that cancels the other by conjunction,
and's worse than simple division: for I can't trust my wits unless I
rely on them alone, you see."
"Upon my word, you talk at times most unintelligible stuff, to be frank
with you, Horace. Give it in English."
"'Tis not suited, perhaps, to the genius of the language, for I thought
I talked English."
"Oh, there's English gibberish as well as Irish, we know!"
"And a deal foolisher when they do go at it; for it won't bear
squeezing, we think, like Irish."
"Where!" exclaimed the ladies, "where can she be! The storm is
Laetitia suggested the boathouse.
"For Crossjay hadn't a swim this morning!" said De Craye.
No one reflected on the absurdity that Clara should think of taking
Crossjay for a swim in the lake, and immediately after his breakfast:
it was accepted as a suggestion at least that she and Crossjay had gone
to the lake for a row.
In the hopefulness of the idea, Willoughby suffered De Craye to go on
his chance unaccompanied. He was near chuckling. He projected a plan
for dismissing Crossjay and remaining in the boathouse with Clara,
luxuriating in the prestige which would attach to him for seeking and
finding her. Deadly sentiments intervened. Still he might expect to be
alone with her where she could not slip from him.
The throwing open of the hall-doors for the gentlemen presented a
framed picture of a deluge. All the young-leaved trees were steely
black, without a gradation of green, drooping and pouring, and the song
of rain had become an inveterate hiss.
The ladies beholding it exclaimed against Clara, even apostrophized
her, so dark are trivial errors when circumstances frown. She must be
mad to tempt such weather: she was very giddy; she was never at rest.
Clara! Clara! how could you be so wild! Ought we not to tell Dr.
Laetitia induced them to spare him.
"Which way do you take?" said Willoughby, rather fearful that his
companion was not to be got rid of now.
"Any way," said De Craye. "I chuck up my head like a halfpenny, and go
by the toss."
This enraging nonsense drove off Willoughby. De Craye saw him cast a
furtive eye at his heels to make sure he was not followed, and thought,
"Jove! he may be fond of her. But he's not on the track. She's a
determined girl, if I'm correct. She's a girl of a hundred thousand.
Girls like that make the right sort of wives for the right men. They're
the girls to make men think of marrying. To-morrow! only give me a
chance. They stick to you fast when they do stick."
Then a thought of her flower-like drapery and face caused him fervently
to hope she had escaped the storm.
Calling at the West park-lodge he heard that Miss Middleton had been
seen passing through the gate with Master Crossjay; but she had not
been seen coming back. Mr. Vernon Whitford had passed through half an
"After his young man!" said the colonel.
The lodge-keeper's wife and daughter knew of Master Crossjay's pranks;
Mr. Whitford, they said, had made inquiries about him and must have
caught him and sent him home to change his dripping things; for Master
Crossjay had come back, and had declined shelter in the lodge; he
seemed to be crying; he went away soaking over the wet grass, hanging
his head. The opinion at the lodge was that Master Crossjay was
"He very properly received a wigging from Mr. Whitford, I have no
doubt," said Colonel Do Craye.
Mother and daughter supposed it to be the case, and considered Crossjay
very wilful for not going straight home to the Hall to change his wet
clothes; he was drenched.
Do Craye drew out his watch. The time was ten minutes past eleven. If
the surmise he had distantly spied was correct, Miss Middleton would
have been caught in the storm midway to her destination. By his guess
at her character (knowledge of it, he would have said), he judged that
no storm would daunt her on a predetermined expedition. He deduced in
consequence that she was at the present moment flying to her friend,
the charming brunette Lucy Darleton.
Still, as there was a possibility of the rain having been too much for
her, and as he had no other speculation concerning the route she had
taken, he decided upon keeping along the road to Rendon, with a keen
eye at cottage and farmhouse windows.
VERNON IN PURSUIT
The lodge-keeper had a son, who was a chum of Master Crossjay's, and
errant-fellow with him upon many adventures; for this boy's passion was
to become a gamekeeper, and accompanied by one of the head-gamekeeper's
youngsters, he and Crossjay were in the habit of rangeing over the
country, preparing for a profession delightful to the tastes of all
three. Crossjay's prospective connection with the mysterious ocean
bestowed the title of captain on him by common consent; he led them,
and when missing for lessons he was generally in the society of Jacob
Croom or Jonathan Fernaway. Vernon made sure of Crossjay when he
perceived Jacob Croom sitting on a stool in the little lodge-parlour.
Jacob's appearance of a diligent perusal of a book he had presented to
the lad, he took for a decent piece of trickery. It was with amazement
that he heard from the mother and daughter, as well as Jacob, of Miss
Middleton's going through the gate before ten o'clock with Crossjay
beside her, the latter too hurried to spare a nod to Jacob. That she,
of all on earth, should be encouraging Crossjay to truancy was
incredible. Vernon had to fall back upon Greek and Latin aphoristic
shots at the sex to believe it.
Rain was universal; a thick robe of it swept from hill to hill; thunder
rumbled remote, and between the ruffled roars the downpour pressed on
the land with a great noise of eager gobbling, much like that of the
swine's trough fresh filled, as though a vast assembly of the hungered
had seated themselves clamorously and fallen to on meats and drinks in
a silence, save of the chaps. A rapid walker poetically and humourously
minded gathers multitudes of images on his way. And rain, the heaviest
you can meet, is a lively companion when the resolute pacer scorns
discomfort of wet clothes and squealing boots. South-western
rain-clouds, too, are never long sullen: they enfold and will have the
earth in a good strong glut of the kissing overflow; then, as a hawk
with feathers on his beak of the bird in his claw lifts head, they rise
and take veiled feature in long climbing watery lines: at any moment
they may break the veil and show soft upper cloud, show sun on it, show
sky, green near the verge they spring from, of the green of grass in
early dew; or, along a travelling sweep that rolls asunder overhead,
heaven's laughter of purest blue among titanic white shoulders: it may
mean fair smiling for awhile, or be the lightest interlude; but the
watery lines, and the drifting, the chasing, the upsoaring, all in a
shadowy fingering of form, and the animation of the leaves of the trees
pointing them on, the bending of the tree-tops, the snapping of
branches, and the hurrahings of the stubborn hedge at wrestle with the
flaws, yielding but a leaf at most, and that on a fling, make a glory
of contest and wildness without aid of colour to inflame the man who is
at home in them from old association on road, heath, and mountain. Let
him be drenched, his heart will sing. And thou, trim cockney, that
jeerest, consider thyself, to whom it may occur to be out in such a
scene, and with what steps of a nervous dancing-master it would be
thine to play the hunted rat of the elements, for the preservation of
the one imagined dryspot about thee, somewhere on thy luckless person!
The taking of rain and sun alike befits men of our climate, and he who
would have the secret of a strengthening intoxication must court the
clouds of the South-west with a lover's blood.
Vernon's happy recklessness was dashed by fears for Miss Middleton.
Apart from those fears, he had the pleasure of a gull wheeling among
foam-streaks of the wave. He supposed the Swiss and Tyrol Alps to have
hidden their heads from him for many a day to come, and the springing
and chiming South-west was the next best thing. A milder rain
descended; the country expanded darkly defined underneath the moving
curtain; the clouds were as he liked to see them, scaling; but their
skirts dragged. Torrents were in store, for they coursed streamingly
still and had not the higher lift, or eagle ascent, which he knew for
one of the signs of fairness, nor had the hills any belt of mist-like
On a step of the stile leading to the short-cut to Rendon young
Crossjay was espied. A man-tramp sat on the top-bar.
"There you are; what are you doing there? Where's Miss Middleton?" said
Vernon. "Now, take care before you open your mouth."
Crossjay shut the mouth he had opened.
"The lady has gone away over to a station, sir," said the tramp.
"You fool!" roared Crossjay, ready to fly at him.
"But ain't it now, young gentleman? Can you say it ain't?"
"I gave you a shilling, you ass!"
"You give me that sum, young gentleman, to stop here and take care of
you, and here I stopped."
"Mr. Whitford!" Crossjay appealed to his master, and broke of in
disgust. "Take care of me! As if anybody who knows me would think I
wanted taking care of! Why, what a beast you must be, you fellow!"
"Just as you like, young gentleman. I chaunted you all I know, to keep
up your downcast spirits. You did want comforting. You wanted it
rarely. You cried like an infant."
"I let you 'chaunt', as you call it, to keep you from swearing."
"And why did I swear, young gentleman? because I've got an itchy coat
in the wet, and no shirt for a lining. And no breakfast to give me a
stomach for this kind of weather. That's what I've come to in this
world! I'm a walking moral. No wonder I swears, when I don't strike up
"But why are you sitting here wet through, Crossjay! Be off home at
once, and change, and get ready for me."
"Mr. Whitford, I promised, and I tossed this fellow a shilling not to
go bothering Miss Middleton."
"The lady wouldn't have none o" the young gentleman, sir, and I offered
to go pioneer for her to the station, behind her, at a respectful
"As if!--you treacherous cur!" Crossjay ground his teeth at the
betrayer. "Well, Mr. Whitford, and I didn't trust him, and I stuck to
him, or he'd have been after her whining about his coat and stomach,
and talking of his being a moral. He repeats that to everybody."
"She has gone to the station?" said Vernon.
Not a word on that subject was to be won from Crossjay.
"How long since?" Vernon partly addressed Mr. Tramp.
The latter became seized with shivers as he supplied the information
that it might be a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. "But what's
time to me, sir? If I had reglar meals, I should carry a clock in my
inside. I got the rheumatics instead."
"Way there!" Vernon cried, and took the stile at a vault.
"That's what gentlemen can do, who sleeps in their beds warm," moaned
the tramp. "They've no joints."
Vernon handed him a half-crown piece, for he had been of use for once.
"Mr. Whitford, let me come. If you tell me to come I may. Do let me
come," Crossjay begged with great entreaty. "I sha'n't see her for
. . ."
"Be off, quick!" Vernon cut him short and pushed on.
The tramp and Crossjay were audible to him; Crossjay spurning the
consolations of the professional sad man.
Vernon spun across the fields, timing himself by his watch to reach
Rendon station ten minutes before eleven, though without clearly
questioning the nature of the resolution which precipitated him.
Dropping to the road, he had better foothold than on the slippery
field-path, and he ran. His principal hope was that Clara would have
missed her way. Another pelting of rain agitated him on her behalf.
Might she not as well be suffered to go?--and sit three hours and more
in a railway-carriage with wet feet!
He clasped the visionary little feet to warm them on his breast.--But
Willoughby's obstinate fatuity deserved the blow!--But neither she nor
her father deserved the scandal. But she was desperate. Could reasoning
touch her? if not, what would? He knew of nothing. Yesterday he had
spoken strongly to Willoughby, to plead with him to favour her
departure and give her leisure to sound her mind, and he had left his
cousin, convinced that Clara's best measure was flight: a man so
cunning in a pretended obtuseness backed by senseless pride, and in
petty tricks that sprang of a grovelling tyranny, could only be taught
Her recent treatment of him, however, was very strange; so strange that
he might have known himself better if he had reflected on the bound
with which it shot him to a hard suspicion. De Craye had prepared the
world to hear that he was leaving the Hall. Were they in concert? The
idea struck at his heart colder than if her damp little feet had been
Vernon's full exoneration of her for making a confidant of himself, did
not extend its leniency to the young lady's character when there was
question of her doing the same with a second gentleman. He could
suspect much: he could even expect to find De Craye at the station.
That idea drew him up in his run, to meditate on the part he should
play; and by drove little Dr. Corney on the way to Rendon and hailed
him, and gave his cheerless figure the nearest approach to an Irish bug
in the form of a dry seat under an umbrella and water-proof covering.
"Though it is the worst I can do for you, if you decline to supplement
it with a dose of hot brandy and water at the Dolphin," said he: "and
I'll see you take it, if you please. I'm bound to ease a Rendon patient
out of the world. Medicine's one of their superstitions, which they
cling to the harder the more useless it gets. Pill and priest launch
him happy between them.--'And what's on your conscience, Pat?--It's
whether your blessing, your Riverence, would disagree with another
drop. Then put the horse before the cart, my son, and you shall have
the two in harmony, and God speed ye!'--Rendon station, did you say,
Vernon? You shall have my prescription at the Railway Arms, if you're
hurried. You have the look. What is it? Can I help?"
"No. And don't ask."
"You're like the Irish Grenadier who had a bullet in a humiliating
situation. Here's Rendon, and through it we go with a spanking clatter.
Here's Doctor Corney's dog-cart post-haste again. For there's no dying
without him now, and Repentance is on the death-bed for not calling him
in before. Half a charge of humbug hurts no son of a gun, friend
Vernon, if he'd have his firing take effect. Be tender to't in man or
woman, particularly woman. So, by goes the meteoric doctor, and I'll
bring noses to window-panes, you'll see, which reminds me of the
sweetest young lady I ever saw, and the luckiest man. When is she off
for her bridal trousseau? And when are they spliced? I'll not call her
perfection, for that's a post, afraid to move. But she's a dancing
sprig of the tree next it. Poetry's wanted to speak of her. I'm Irish
and inflammable, I suppose, but I never looked on a girl to make a man
comprehend the entire holy meaning of the word rapturous, like that
one. And away she goes! We'll not say another word. But you're a
Grecian, friend Vernon. Now, couldn't you think her just a whiff of an
idea of a daughter of a peccadillo-Goddess?"
"Deuce take you, Corney, drop me here; I shall be late for the train,"
said Vernon, laying hand on the doctor's arm to check him on the way to
the station in view.
Dr Corney had a Celtic intelligence for a meaning behind an illogical
tongue. He drew up, observing. "Two minutes run won't hurt you."
He slightly fancied he might have given offence, though he was well
acquainted with Vernon and had a cordial grasp at the parting.
The truth must be told that Vernon could not at the moment bear any
more talk from an Irishman. Dr. Corney had succeeded in persuading him
not to wonder at Clara Middleton's liking for Colonel de Craye.
AT THE RAILWAY STATION
Clara stood in the waiting-room contemplating the white rails of the
rain-swept line. Her lips parted at the sight of Vernon.
"You have your ticket?" said he.
She nodded, and breathed more freely; the matter-of-fact question was
"You are wet," he resumed; and it could not be denied.
"A little. I do not feel it."
"I must beg you to come to the inn hard by--half a dozen steps. We
shall see your train signalled. Come."
She thought him startlingly authoritative, but he had good sense to
back him; and depressed as she was by the dampness, she was disposed to
yield to reason if he continued to respect her independence. So she
submitted outwardly, resisted inwardly, on the watch to stop him from
taking any decisive lead.
"Shall we be sure to see the signal, Mr. Whitford?"
"I'll provide for that."
He spoke to the station-clerk, and conducted her across the road.
"You are quite alone, Miss Middleton?"
"I am: I have not brought my maid."
"You must take off boots and stockings at once, and have them dried.
I'll put you in the hands of the landlady."
"But my train!"
"You have full fifteen minutes, besides fair chances of delay."
He seemed reasonable, the reverse of hostile, in spite of his
commanding air, and that was not unpleasant in one friendly to her
adventure. She controlled her alert distrustfulness, and passed from
him to the landlady, for her feet were wet and cold, the skirts of her
dress were soiled; generally inspecting herself, she was an object to
be shuddered at, and she was grateful to Vernon for his inattention to
Vernon ordered Dr. Corney's dose, and was ushered upstairs to a room of
portraits, where the publican's ancestors and family sat against the
walls, flat on their canvas as weeds of the botanist's portfolio,
although corpulency was pretty generally insisted on, and there were
formidable battalions of bust among the females. All of them had the
aspect of the national energy which has vanquished obstacles to subside
on its ideal. They all gazed straight at the guest. "Drink, and come to
this!" they might have been labelled to say to him. He was in the
private Walhalla of a large class of his countrymen. The existing host
had taken forethought to be of the party in his prime, and in the
central place, looking fresh-fattened there and sanguine from the
performance. By and by a son would shove him aside; meanwhile he
shelved his parent, according to the manners of energy.
One should not be a critic of our works of Art in uncomfortable
garments. Vernon turned from the portraits to a stuffed pike in a glass
case, and plunged into sympathy with the fish for a refuge.
Clara soon rejoined him, saying: "But you, you must be very wet. You
were without an umbrella. You must be wet through, Mr. Whitford."
"We're all wet through, to-day," said Vernon. "Crossjay's wet through,
and a tramp he met."
"The horrid man! But Crossjay should have turned back when I told him.
Cannot the landlord assist you? You are not tied to time. I begged
Crossjay to turn back when it began to rain: when it became heavy I
compelled him. So you met my poor Crossjay?"
"You have not to blame him for betraying you. The tramp did that. I
was thrown on your track quite by accident. Now pardon me for using
authority, and don't be alarmed, Miss Middleton; you are perfectly free
for me; but you must not run a risk to your health. I met Doctor
Corney coming along, and he prescribed hot brandy and water for a wet
skin, especially for sitting in it. There's the stuff on the table; I
see you have been aware of a singular odour; you must consent to sip
some, as medicine; merely to give you warmth."
"Impossible, Mr. Whitford: I could not taste it. But pray, obey Dr.
Corney, if he ordered it for you."
"I can't, unless you do."
"I will, then: I will try."
She held the glass, attempted, and was baffled by the reek of it.
"Try: you can do anything," said Vernon.
"Now that you find me here, Mr. Whitford! Anything for myself it would
seem, and nothing to save a friend. But I will really try."
"It must be a good mouthful."
"I will try. And you will finish the glass?"
"With your permission, if you do not leave too much."
They were to drink out of the same glass; and she was to drink some of
this infamous mixture: and she was in a kind of hotel alone with him:
and he was drenched in running after her:--all this came of breaking
loose for an hour!
"Oh! what a misfortune that it should be such a day, Mr. Whitford!"
"Did you not choose the day?"
"Not the weather."
"And the worst of it is, that Willoughby will come upon Crossjay wet to
the bone, and pump him and get nothing but shufflings, blank lies, and
then find him out and chase him from the house."
Clara drank immediately, and more than she intended. She held the glass
as an enemy to be delivered from, gasping, uncertain of her breath.
"Never let me be asked to endure such a thing again!"
"You are unlikely to be running away from father and friends again."
She panted still with the fiery liquid she had gulped: and she wondered
that it should belie its reputation in not fortifying her, but
rendering her painfully susceptible to his remarks.
"Mr. Whitford, I need not seek to know what you think of me."
"What I think? I don't think at all; I wish to serve you if I can."
"Am I right in supposing you a little afraid of me? You should not be.
I have deceived no one. I have opened my heart to you, and am not
ashamed of having done so."
"It is an excellent habit, they say."
"It is not a habit with me."
He was touched, and for that reason, in his dissatisfaction with
himself, not unwilling to hurt. "We take our turn, Miss Middleton. I'm
no hero, and a bad conspirator, so I am not of much avail."
"You have been reserved--but I am going, and I leave my character
behind. You condemned me to the poison-bowl; you have not touched it
"In vino veritas: if I do I shall be speaking my mind."
"Then do, for the sake of mind and body."
"It won't be complimentary."
"You can be harsh. Only say everything."
"Have we time?"
They looked at their watches.
"Six minutes," Clara said.
Vernon's had stopped, penetrated by his total drenching.
She reproached herself. He laughed to quiet her. "My dies solemnes are
sure to give me duckings; I'm used to them. As for the watch, it will
remind me that it stopped when you went."
She raised the glass to him. She was happier and hoped for some little
harshness and kindness mixed that she might carry away to travel with
and think over.
He turned the glass as she had given it, turned it round in putting it
to his lips: a scarce perceptible manoeuvre, but that she had given it
expressly on one side.
It may be hoped that it was not done by design. Done even accidentally,
without a taint of contrivance, it was an affliction to see, and coiled
through her, causing her to shrink and redden.
Fugitives are subject to strange incidents; they are not vessels lying
safe in harbour. She shut her lips tight, as if they had stung. The
realizing sensitiveness of her quick nature accused them of a loss of
bloom. And the man who made her smart like this was formal as a railway
official on a platform.
"Now we are both pledged in the poison-bowl," said he. "And it has the
taste of rank poison, I confess. But the doctor prescribed it, and at
sea we must be sailors. Now, Miss Middleton, time presses: will you
return with me?"
"Where do you propose to go?"
"To London; to a friend--Miss Darleton."
"What message is there for your father?"
"Say I have left a letter for him in a letter to be delivered to you."
"To me! And what message for Willoughby?"
"My maid Barclay will hand him a letter at noon."
"You have sealed Crossjay's fate."
"He is probably at this instant undergoing an interrogation. You may
guess at his replies. The letter will expose him, and Willoughby does
"I regret it. I cannot avoid it. Poor boy! My dear Crossjay! I did not
think of how Willoughby might punish him. I was very thoughtless. Mr.
Whitford, my pin-money shall go for his education. Later, when I am a
little older, I shall be able to support him."
"That's an encumbrance; you should not tie yourself to drag it about.
You are unalterable, of course, but circumstances are not, and as it
happens, women are more subject to them than we are."
"But I will not be!"
"Your command of them is shown at the present moment."
"Because I determine to be free?"
"No: because you do the contrary; you don't determine: you run away
from the difficulty, and leave it to your father and friends to bear.
As for Crossjay, you see you destroy one of his chances. I should have
carried him off before this, if I had not thought it prudent to keep
him on terms with Willoughby. We'll let Crossjay stand aside. He'll
behave like a man of honour, imitating others who have had to do the
same for ladies."
"Have spoken falsely to shelter cowards, you mean, Mr. Whitford. Oh, I
know.--I have but two minutes. The die is cast. I cannot go back. I
must get ready. Will you see me to the station? I would rather you
should hurry home."
"I will see the last of you. I will wait for you here. An express runs
ahead of your train, and I have arranged with the clerk for a signal; I
have an eye on the window."
"You are still my best friend, Mr. Whitford."
"Well, though you do not perfectly understand what torments have driven
me to this."
"Carried on tides and blown by winds?"
"Ah! you do not understand."
"Sufferings are not mysteries, they are very simple facts."
"Well, then, I don't understand. But decide at once. I wish you to have
your free will."
She left the room.
Dry stockings and boots are better for travelling in than wet ones, but
in spite of her direct resolve, she felt when drawing them on like one
that has been tripped. The goal was desirable, the ardour was damped.
Vernon's wish that she should have her free will compelled her to sound
it: and it was of course to go, to be liberated, to cast off incubus
and hurt her father? injure Crossjay? distress her friends? No, and ten
She returned to Vernon in haste, to shun the reflex of her mind.
He was looking at a closed carriage drawn up at the station door.
"Shall we run over now, Mr. Whitford?"
"There's no signal. Here it's not so chilly."
"I ventured to enclose my letter to papa in yours, trusting you would
attend to my request to you to break the news to him gently and plead
"We will all do the utmost we can."
"I am doomed to vex those who care for me. I tried to follow your
"First you spoke to me, and then you spoke to Miss Dale; and at least
you have a clear conscience."
"What burdens it?"
"I have done nothing to burden it."
"Then it's a clear conscience."
Vernon's shoulders jerked. Our patience with an innocent duplicity in
women is measured by the place it assigns to us and another. If he had
liked he could have thought: "You have not done but meditated something
to trouble conscience." That was evident, and her speaking of it was
proof too of the willingness to be dear. He would not help her. Man's
blood, which is the link with women and responsive to them on the
instant for or against, obscured him. He shrugged anew when she said:
"My character would have been degraded utterly by my staying there.
Could you advise it?"
"Certainly not the degradation of your character," he said, black on
the subject of De Craye, and not lightened by feelings which made him
sharply sensible of the beggarly dependant that he was, or poor
adventuring scribbler that he was to become.
"Why did you pursue me and wish to stop me, Mr. Whitford?" said Clara,
on the spur of a wound from his tone.
He replied: "I suppose I'm a busybody; I was never aware of it till
"You are my friend. Only you speak in irony so much. That was irony,
about my clear conscience. I spoke to you and to Miss Dale: and then I
rested and drifted. Can you not feel for me, that to mention it is like
a scorching furnace? Willoughby has entangled papa. He schemes
incessantly to keep me entangled. I fly from his cunning as much as
from anything. I dread it. I have told you that I am more to blame than
he, but I must accuse him. And wedding-presents! and congratulations!
And to be his guest!"
"All that makes up a plea in mitigation," said Vernon.
"Is it not sufficient for you?" she asked him timidly.
"You have a masculine good sense that tells you you won't be respected
if you run. Three more days there might cover a retreat with your
"He will not listen to me. He confuses me; Willoughby has bewitched
"Commission me: I will see that he listens."
"And go back? Oh, no! To London! Besides, there is the dining with Mrs.
Mountstuart this evening; and I like her very well, but I must avoid
her. She has a kind of idolatry . . . And what answers can I give? I
supplicate her with looks. She observes them, my efforts to divert them
from being painful produce a comic expression to her, and I am a
charming 'rogue', and I am entertained on the topic she assumes to be
principally interesting me. I must avoid her. The thought of her leaves
me no choice. She is clever. She could tattoo me with epigrams."
"Stay . . . there you can hold your own."
"She has told me you give me credit for a spice of wit. I have not
discovered my possession. We have spoken of it; we call it your
delusion. She grants me some beauty; that must be hers."
"There's no delusion in one case or the other, Miss Middleton. You have
beauty and wit; public opinion will say, wildness: indifference to your
reputation will be charged on you, and your friends will have to admit
it. But you will be out of this difficulty."
"Ah--to weave a second?"
"Impossible to judge until we see how you escape the first. And I have
no more to say. I love your father. His humour of sententiousness and
doctorial stilts is a mask he delights in, but you ought to know him
and not be frightened by it. If you sat with him an hour at a Latin
task, and if you took his hand and told him you could not leave him,
and no tears!--he would answer you at once. It would involve a day or
two further; disagreeable to you, no doubt: preferable to the present
mode of escape, as I think. But I have no power whatever to persuade. I
have not the 'lady's tongue'. My appeal is always to reason."
"It is a compliment. I loathe the 'lady's tongue'."
"It's a distinctly good gift, and I wish I had it. I might have
succeeded instead of failing, and appearing to pay a compliment."
"Surely the express train is very late, Mr. Whitford?"
"The express has gone by."
"Then we will cross over."
"You would rather not be seen by Mrs. Mountstuart. That is her carriage
drawn up at the station, and she is in it."
Clara looked, and with the sinking of her heart said: "I must brave
"In that case I will take my leave of you here, Miss Middleton."
She gave him her hand. "Why is Mrs. Mountstuart at the station to-day?"
"I suppose she has driven to meet one of the guests for her
dinner-party. Professor Crooklyn was promised to your father, and he
may be coming by the down-train."
"Go back to the Hall!" exclaimed Clara. "How can I? I have no more
endurance left in me. If I had some support!--if it were the sense of
secretly doing wrong, it might help me through. I am in a web. I cannot
do right, whatever I do. There is only the thought of saving Crossjay.
Yes, and sparing papa.--Good-bye, Mr. Whitford. I shall remember your
kindness gratefully. I cannot go back."
"You will not?" said he, tempting her to hesitate.
"But if you are seen by Mrs. Mountstuart, you must go back. I'll do my
best to take her away. Should she see you, you must patch up a story
and apply to her for a lift. That, I think, is imperative."
"Not to my mind," said Clara.
He bowed hurriedly, and withdrew. After her confession, peculiar to
her, of possibly finding sustainment in secretly doing wrong, her
flying or remaining seemed to him a choice of evils: and whilst she
stood in bewildered speculation on his reason for pursuing her--which
was not evident--he remembered the special fear inciting him, and so
far did her justice as to have at himself on that subject. He had done
something perhaps to save her from a cold: such was his only
consolatory thought. He had also behaved like a man of honour, taking
no personal advantage of her situation; but to reflect on it recalled
his astonishing dryness. The strict man of honour plays a part that he
should not reflect on till about the fall of the curtain, otherwise he
will be likely sometimes to feel the shiver of foolishness at his good
Posted in observation at a corner of the window Clara saw Vernon cross
the road to Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson's carriage, transformed to the
leanest pattern of himself by narrowed shoulders and raised
coat-collar. He had such an air of saying, "Tom's a-cold", that her
skin crept in sympathy.
Presently he left the carriage and went into the station: a bell had
rung. Was it her train? He approved her going, for he was employed in
assisting her to go: a proceeding at variance with many things he had
said, but he was as full of contradiction to-day as women are accused
of being. The train came up. She trembled: no signal had appeared, and
Vernon must have deceived her.
He returned; he entered the carriage, and the wheels were soon in
motion. Immediately thereupon, Flitch's fly drove past, containing
Colonel De Craye.
Vernon could not but have perceived him!
But what was it that had brought the colonel to this place? The
pressure of Vernon's mind was on her and foiled her efforts to assert
her perfect innocence, though she knew she had done nothing to allure
the colonel hither. Excepting Willoughby, Colonel De Craye was the last
person she would have wished to encounter.
She had now a dread of hearing the bell which would tell her that
Vernon had not deceived her, and that she was out of his hands, in the