“Not if they have stern masters to teach them their daily lessons, and some of the lessons of existence.”
“Vernon Whitford is not stern enough?”
“Mr. Whitford has to contend with other influences here.”
“Not with Willoughby.”
He understood her. She touched the delicate indication firmly. The man’s, heart respected her for it; not many girls could be so thoughtful or dare to be so direct; he saw that she had become deeply serious, and he felt her love of the boy to be maternal, past maiden sentiment.
By this light of her seriousness, the posting of her letter in a distant village, not entrusting it to the Hall post-box, might have import; not that she would apprehend the violation of her private correspondence, but we like to see our letter of weighty meaning pass into the mouth of the public box.
Consequently this letter was important. It was to suppose a sequency in the conduct of a variable damsel. Coupled with her remark about the Veil, and with other things, not words, breathing from her (which were the breath of her condition), it was not unreasonably to be supposed. She might even be a very consistent person. If one only had the key of her!
She spoke once of an immediate visit to London, supposing that she could induce her father to go. De Craye remembered the occurrence in the Hall at night, and her aspect of distress.
They raced along Aspenwell Common to the ford; shallow, to the chagrin of young Crossjay, between whom and themselves they left a fitting space for his rapture in leading his pony to splash up and down, lord of the stream.
Swiftness of motion so strikes the blood on the brain that our thoughts are lightnings, the heart is master of them.
De Craye was heated by his gallop to venture on the angling question: “Am I to hear the names of the bridesmaids?”
The pace had nerved Clara to speak to it sharply: “There is no need.”
“Have I no claim?”
She was mute.
“Miss Lucy Darleton, for instance; whose name I am almost as much in love with as Crossjay.”
“She will not be bridesmaid to me.”
“She declines? Add my petition, I beg.”
“To all? or to her?”
“Do all the bridesmaids decline?”
“The scene is too ghastly.”
“Girls have grown sick of it.”
“Of weddings? We’ll overcome the sickness.”
“Not with Miss Darleton? You tempt my eloquence.”
“You wish it?”
“To win her consent? Certainly.”
“Do I wish that?”
“Marriage!” exclaimed Clara, dashing into the ford, fearful of her ungovernable wildness and of what it might have kindled.—You, father! you have driven me to unmaidenliness!—She forgot Willoughby, in her father, who would not quit a comfortable house for her all but prostrate beseeching; would not bend his mind to her explanations, answered her with the horrid iteration of such deaf misunderstanding as may be associated with a tolling bell.