“Where’s Pollington?” he called, and sent word for his man Pollington to bring big fishing-boots and waterproof wrappers.
An urgent debate within him was in progress.
Should he go forth alone on his chance of discovering Clara and forgiving her under his umbrella and cloak? or should he prevent De Craye from going forth alone on the chance he vaunted so impudently?
“You will offend me, Horace, if you insist,” he said.
“Regard me as an instrument of destiny, Willoughby,” replied De Craye.
“Then we go in company.”
“But that’s an addition of one that cancels the other by conjunction, and’s worse than simple division: for I can’t trust my wits unless I rely on them alone, you see.”
“Upon my word, you talk at times most unintelligible stuff, to be frank with you, Horace. Give it in English.”
“’Tis not suited, perhaps, to the genius of the language, for I thought I talked English.”
“Oh, there’s English gibberish as well as Irish, we know!”
“And a deal foolisher when they do go at it; for it won’t bear squeezing, we think, like Irish.”
“Where!” exclaimed the ladies, “where can she be! The storm is terrible.”
Laetitia suggested the boathouse.
“For Crossjay hadn’t a swim this morning!” said De Craye.
No one reflected on the absurdity that Clara should think of taking Crossjay for a swim in the lake, and immediately after his breakfast: it was accepted as a suggestion at least that she and Crossjay had gone to the lake for a row.
In the hopefulness of the idea, Willoughby suffered De Craye to go on his chance unaccompanied. He was near chuckling. He projected a plan for dismissing Crossjay and remaining in the boathouse with Clara, luxuriating in the prestige which would attach to him for seeking and finding her. Deadly sentiments intervened. Still he might expect to be alone with her where she could not slip from him.
The throwing open of the hall-doors for the gentlemen presented a framed picture of a deluge. All the young-leaved trees were steely black, without a gradation of green, drooping and pouring, and the song of rain had become an inveterate hiss.
The ladies beholding it exclaimed against Clara, even apostrophized her, so dark are trivial errors when circumstances frown. She must be mad to tempt such weather: she was very giddy; she was never at rest. Clara! Clara! how could you be so wild! Ought we not to tell Dr. Middleton?
Laetitia induced them to spare him.
“Which way do you take?” said Willoughby, rather fearful that his companion was not to be got rid of now.
“Any way,” said De Craye. “I chuck up my head like a halfpenny, and go by the toss.”
This enraging nonsense drove off Willoughby. De Craye saw him cast a furtive eye at his heels to make sure he was not followed, and thought, “Jove! he may be fond of her. But he’s not on the track. She’s a determined girl, if I’m correct. She’s a girl of a hundred thousand. Girls like that make the right sort of wives for the right men. They’re the girls to make men think of marrying. To-morrow! only give me a chance. They stick to you fast when they do stick.”