“That is clever criticism, upon my word, Miss Middleton! So he would. And there we have two letters dropped. But he’d do it in a groan, so that it wouldn’t count for more than a ghost of one; and everything goes on the stage, since it’s only the laugh we want on the brink of the action. Besides you are to suppose the performance before a London audience, who have a native opposite to the aspirate and wouldn’t bear to hear him spoil a joke, as if he were a lord or a constable. It’s an instinct of the English democracy. So with my bit of coin turning over and over in an undecided way, whether it shall commit suicide to supply me a supper, I behold a pair of Spanish eyes like violet lightning in the black heavens of that favoured clime. Won’t you have violet?”
“Violet forbids my impersonation.”
“But the lustre on black is dark violet blue.”
“You remind me that I have no pretension to black.”
Colonel De Craye permitted himself to take a flitting gaze at Miss Middleton’s eyes. “Chestnut,” he said. “Well, and Spain is the land of chestnuts.”
“Then it follows that I am a daughter of Spain.”
“By positive deduction.”
“And do I behold Patrick?”
“As one looks upon a beast of burden.”
Miss Middleton’s exclamation was louder than the matter of the dialogue seemed to require. She caught her hands up.
In the line of the outer extremity of the rhododendron, screened from the house windows, young Crossjay lay at his length, with his head resting on a doubled arm, and his ivy-wreathed hat on his cheek, just where she had left him, commanding him to stay. Half-way toward him up the lawn, she saw the poor boy, and the spur of that pitiful sight set her gliding swiftly. Colonel De Craye followed, pulling an end of his moustache.
Crossjay jumped to his feet.
“My dear, dear Crossjay!” she addressed him and reproached him. “And how hungry you must be! And you must be drenched! This is really too had.”
“You told me to wait here,” said Crossjay, in shy self-defence.
“I did, and you should not have done it, foolish boy! I told him to wait for me here before luncheon, Colonel De Craye, and the foolish, foolish boy!—he has had nothing to eat, and he must have been wet through two or three times:—because I did not come to him!”
“Quite right. And the lava might overflow him and take the mould of him, like the sentinel at Pompeii, if he’s of the true stuff.”
“He may have caught cold, he may have a fever.”
“He was under your orders to stay.”
“I know, and I cannot forgive myself. Run in, Crossjay, and change your clothes. Oh, run, run to Mrs. Montague, and get her to give you a warm bath, and tell her from me to prepare some dinner for you. And change every garment you have. This is unpardonable of me. I said—’not for politics!’—I begin to think I have not a head for anything. But could it be imagined that Crossjay would not move for the dinner-bell! through all that rain! I forgot you, Crossjay. I am so sorry; so sorry! You shall make me pay any forfeit you like. Remember, I am deep, deep in your debt. And now let me see you run fast. You shall come in to dessert this evening.”