“Be off, quick!” Vernon cut him short and pushed on.
The tramp and Crossjay were audible to him; Crossjay spurning the consolations of the professional sad man.
Vernon spun across the fields, timing himself by his watch to reach Rendon station ten minutes before eleven, though without clearly questioning the nature of the resolution which precipitated him. Dropping to the road, he had better foothold than on the slippery field-path, and he ran. His principal hope was that Clara would have missed her way. Another pelting of rain agitated him on her behalf. Might she not as well be suffered to go?—and sit three hours and more in a railway-carriage with wet feet!
He clasped the visionary little feet to warm them on his breast.—But Willoughby’s obstinate fatuity deserved the blow!—But neither she nor her father deserved the scandal. But she was desperate. Could reasoning touch her? if not, what would? He knew of nothing. Yesterday he had spoken strongly to Willoughby, to plead with him to favour her departure and give her leisure to sound her mind, and he had left his cousin, convinced that Clara’s best measure was flight: a man so cunning in a pretended obtuseness backed by senseless pride, and in petty tricks that sprang of a grovelling tyranny, could only be taught by facts.
Her recent treatment of him, however, was very strange; so strange that he might have known himself better if he had reflected on the bound with which it shot him to a hard suspicion. De Craye had prepared the world to hear that he was leaving the Hall. Were they in concert? The idea struck at his heart colder than if her damp little feet had been there.
Vernon’s full exoneration of her for making a confidant of himself, did not extend its leniency to the young lady’s character when there was question of her doing the same with a second gentleman. He could suspect much: he could even expect to find De Craye at the station.
That idea drew him up in his run, to meditate on the part he should play; and by drove little Dr. Corney on the way to Rendon and hailed him, and gave his cheerless figure the nearest approach to an Irish bug in the form of a dry seat under an umbrella and water-proof covering.
“Though it is the worst I can do for you, if you decline to supplement it with a dose of hot brandy and water at the Dolphin,” said he: “and I’ll see you take it, if you please. I’m bound to ease a Rendon patient out of the world. Medicine’s one of their superstitions, which they cling to the harder the more useless it gets. Pill and priest launch him happy between them.—’And what’s on your conscience, Pat?—It’s whether your blessing, your Riverence, would disagree with another drop. Then put the horse before the cart, my son, and you shall have the two in harmony, and God speed ye!’—Rendon station, did you say, Vernon? You shall have my prescription at the Railway Arms, if you’re hurried. You have the look. What is it? Can I help?”