Crossjay did not run. He touched her hand.
“You said something?”
“What did I say, Crossjay?”
“What did I promise?”
“Name it, my dear boy.”
He mumbled, “. . . kiss me.”
Clara plumped down on him, enveloped him and kissed him.
The affectionately remorseful impulse was too quick for a conventional note of admonition to arrest her from paying that portion of her debt. When she had sped him off to Mrs Montague, she was in a blush.
“Dear, dear Crossjay!” she said, sighing.
“Yes, he’s a good lad,” remarked the colonel. “The fellow may well be a faithful soldier and stick to his post, if he receives promise of such a solde. He is a great favourite with you.”
“He is. You will do him a service by persuading Willoughby to send him to one of those men who get boys through their naval examination. And, Colonel De Craye, will you be kind enough to ask at the dinner-table that Crossjay may come in to dessert?”
“Certainly,” said he, wondering.
“And will you look after him while you are here? See that no one spoils him. If you could get him away before you leave, it would be much to his advantage. He is born for the navy and should be preparing to enter it now.”
“Certainly, certainly,” said De Craye, wondering more.
“I thank you in advance.”
“Shall I not be usurping . . .”
“No, we leave to-morrow.”
“For a day?”
“It will be longer.”
“A week? I shall not see you again?”
“I fear not.”
Colonel De Craye controlled his astonishment; he smothered a sensation of veritable pain, and amiably said: “I feel a blow, but I am sure you would not willingly strike. We are all involved in the regrets.”
Miss Middleton spoke of having to see Mrs. Montague, the housekeeper, with reference to the bath for Crossjay, and stepped off the grass. He bowed, watched her a moment, and for parallel reasons, running close enough to hit one mark, he commiserated his friend Willoughby. The winning or the losing of that young lady struck him as equally lamentable for Willoughby.
AN AGED AND A GREAT WINE
The leisurely promenade up and down the lawn with ladies and deferential gentlemen, in anticipation of the dinner-bell, was Dr. Middleton’s evening pleasure. He walked as one who had formerly danced (in Apollo’s time and the young god Cupid’s), elastic on the muscles of the calf and foot, bearing his broad iron-grey head in grand elevation. The hard labour of the day approved the cooling exercise and the crowning refreshments of French cookery and wines of known vintages. He was happy at that hour in dispensing wisdom or nugae to his hearers,