The importunity of pain saved her.
“Does he think I can change again? Am I treated as something won in a lottery? To stay here is indeed more than I can bear. And if he is calculating—Mr. Whitford, if he calculates on another change, his plotting to keep me here is inconsiderate, not very wise. Changes may occur in absence.”
“Wise or not, he has the right to scheme his best to keep you.”
She looked on Vernon with a shade of wondering reproach.
“Why? What right?”
“The right you admit when you ask him to release you. He has the right to think you deluded; and to think you may come to a better mood if you remain—a mood more agreeable to him, I mean. He has that right absolutely. You are bound to remember also that you stand in the wrong. You confess it when you appeal to his generosity. And every man has the right to retain a treasure in his hand if he can. Look straight at these facts.”
“You expect me to be all reason!”
“Try to be. It’s the way to learn whether you are really in earnest.”
“I will try. It will drive me to worse!”
“Try honestly. What is wisest now is, in my opinion, for you to resolve to stay. I speak in the character of the person you sketched for yourself as requiring. Well, then, a friend repeats the same advice. You might have gone with your father: now you will only disturb him and annoy him. The chances are he will refuse to go.”
“Are women ever so changeable as men, then? Papa consented; he agreed; he had some of my feeling; I saw it. That was yesterday. And at night! He spoke to each of us at night in a different tone from usual. With me he was hardly affectionate. But when you advise me to stay, Mr. Whitford, you do not perhaps reflect that it would be at the sacrifice of all candour.”
“Regard it as a probational term.”
“It has gone too far with me.”
“Take the matter into the head: try the case there.”
“Are you not counselling me as if I were a woman of intellect?”
The crystal ring in her voice told him that tears were near to flowing.
He shuddered slightly. “You have intellect,” he said, nodded, and crossed the lawn, leaving her. He had to dress.
She was not permitted to feel lonely, for she was
immediately joined by
Colonel De Craye.
Crossjay darted up to her a nose ahead of the colonel.
“I say, Miss Middleton, we’re to have the whole day to ourselves, after morning lessons. Will you come and fish with me and see me bird’s-nest?”
“Not for the satisfaction of beholding another cracked crown, my son,” the colonel interposed: and bowing to Clara: “Miss Middleton is handed over to my exclusive charge for the day, with her consent?”
“I scarcely know,” said she, consulting a sensation of languor that seemed to contain some reminiscence. “If I am here. My father’s plans are uncertain. I will speak to him. If I am here, perhaps Crossjay would like a ride in the afternoon.”