The Egoist, by George Meredith

Chapter 25

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 today. 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 thrust aside.

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 library.

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,” said Clara.

“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?”

“Your wager.”

“What was that?”

“You know.”

“Speak.”

“A kiss.”

“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 can’t: ah!”

“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 Middleton.”

“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 said.

“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 Lucy’s writing:

“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, today 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?”

“Mr. Whitford.”

“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 more.”

“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 out long?”

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?”

“Yes.”

“To-day I am altogether yours.”

“Are you?”

“From the first to the last hour of it! — So you fall in with Horace’s humour pleasantly?”

“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 replied.

“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 bun.”

“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 today.”

“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.

Clara bowed.

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 arrear.

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 controlled it.

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 laboratory.”

“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 her.”

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 terrible.”

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. Middleton?

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 hour later.

“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 unhappy.

“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.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11