Then a thought of her flower-like drapery and face caused him fervently to hope she had escaped the storm.
Calling at the West park-lodge he heard that Miss Middleton had been seen passing through the gate with Master Crossjay; but she had not been seen coming back. Mr. Vernon Whitford had passed through half an hour later.
“After his young man!” said the colonel.
The lodge-keeper’s wife and daughter knew of Master Crossjay’s pranks; Mr. Whitford, they said, had made inquiries about him and must have caught him and sent him home to change his dripping things; for Master Crossjay had come back, and had declined shelter in the lodge; he seemed to be crying; he went away soaking over the wet grass, hanging his head. The opinion at the lodge was that Master Crossjay was unhappy.
“He very properly received a wigging from Mr. Whitford, I have no doubt,” said Colonel Do Craye.
Mother and daughter supposed it to be the case, and considered Crossjay very wilful for not going straight home to the Hall to change his wet clothes; he was drenched.
Do Craye drew out his watch. The time was ten minutes past eleven. If the surmise he had distantly spied was correct, Miss Middleton would have been caught in the storm midway to her destination. By his guess at her character (knowledge of it, he would have said), he judged that no storm would daunt her on a predetermined expedition. He deduced in consequence that she was at the present moment flying to her friend, the charming brunette Lucy Darleton.
Still, as there was a possibility of the rain having been too much for her, and as he had no other speculation concerning the route she had taken, he decided upon keeping along the road to Rendon, with a keen eye at cottage and farmhouse windows.
VERNON IN PURSUIT
The lodge-keeper had a son, who was a chum of Master Crossjay’s, and errant-fellow with him upon many adventures; for this boy’s passion was to become a gamekeeper, and accompanied by one of the head-gamekeeper’s youngsters, he and Crossjay were in the habit of rangeing over the country, preparing for a profession delightful to the tastes of all three. Crossjay’s prospective connection with the mysterious ocean bestowed the title of captain on him by common consent; he led them, and when missing for lessons he was generally in the society of Jacob Croom or Jonathan Fernaway. Vernon made sure of Crossjay when he perceived Jacob Croom sitting on a stool in the little lodge-parlour. Jacob’s appearance of a diligent perusal of a book he had presented to the lad, he took for a decent piece of trickery. It was with amazement that he heard from the mother and daughter, as well as Jacob, of Miss Middleton’s going through the gate before ten o’clock with Crossjay beside her, the latter too hurried to spare a nod to Jacob. That she, of all on earth, should be encouraging Crossjay to truancy was incredible. Vernon had to fall back upon Greek and Latin aphoristic shots at the sex to believe it.