“She moved me on the walk out. Coming home I felt differently.”
Vernon glanced at Colonel De Craye.
“She wants good guidance,” continued Laetitia.
“She has not an idea of treachery.”
“You think so? It may be true. But she seems one born devoid of patience, easily made reckless. There is a wildness . . . I judge by her way of speaking; that at least appeared sincere. She does not practise concealment. He will naturally find it almost incredible. The change in her, so sudden, so wayward, is unintelligible to me. To me it is the conduct of a creature untamed. He may hold her to her word and be justified.”
“Let him look out if he does!”
“Is not that harsher than anything I have said of her?”
“I’m not appointed to praise her. I fancy I read the case; and it’s a case of opposition of temperaments. We never can tell the person quite suited to us; it strikes us in a flash.”
“That they are not suited to us? Oh, no; that comes by degrees.”
“Yes, but the accumulation of evidence, or sentience, if you like, is combustible; we don’t command the spark; it may be late in falling. And you argue in her favour. Consider her as a generous and impulsive girl, outwearied at last.”
“By anything; by his loftiness, if you like. He flies too high for her, we will say.”
“Sir Willoughby an eagle?”
“She may be tired of his eyrie.”
The sound of the word in Vernon’s mouth smote on a consciousness she had of his full grasp of Sir Willoughby and her own timid knowledge, though he was not a man who played on words.
If he had eased his heart in stressing the first syllable, it was only temporary relief. He was heavy-browed enough.
“But I cannot conceive what she expects me to do by confiding her sense of her position to me,” said Laetitia.
“We none of us know what will be done. We hang on Willoughby, who hangs on whatever it is that supports him: and there we are in a swarm.”
“You see the wisdom of staying, Mr. Whitford.”
“It must be over in a day or two. Yes, I stay.”
“She inclines to obey you.”
“I should be sorry to stake my authority on her obedience. We must decide something about Crossjay, and get the money for his crammer, if it is to be got. If not, I may get a man to trust me. I mean to drag the boy away. Willoughby has been at him with the tune of gentleman, and has laid hold of him by one ear. When I say ‘her obedience,’ she is not in a situation, nor in a condition to be led blindly by anybody. She must rely on herself, do everything herself. It’s a knot that won’t bear touching by any hand save hers.”
“I fear . . .” said Laetitia.
“Have no such fear.”
“If it should come to his positively refusing.”
“He faces the consequences.”