Involuntarily she sighed.
“There is a train at three,” said De Craye, with splendid promptitude.
“Yes, and one at five. We dine with Mrs. Mountstuart tonight. And I have a passion for solitude! I think I was never intended for obligations. The moment I am bound I begin to brood on freedom.”
“Ladies who say that, Miss Middleton!. . .”
“What of them?”
“They’re feeling too much alone.”
She could not combat the remark: by her self-assurance that she had the principle of faithfulness, she acknowledged to herself the truth of it:—there is no freedom for the weak. Vernon had said that once. She tried to resist the weight of it, and her sheer inability precipitated her into a sense of pitiful dependence.
Half an hour earlier it would have been a perilous condition to be traversing in the society of a closely scanning reader of fair faces. Circumstances had changed. They were at the gates of the park.
“Shall I leave you?” said De Craye.
“Why should you?” she replied.
He bent to her gracefully.
The mild subservience flattered Clara’s languor. He had not compelled her to be watchful on her guard, and she was unaware that he passed it when she acquiesced to his observation, “An anticipatory story is a trap to the teller.”
“It is,” she said. She had been thinking as much.
He threw up his head to consult the brain comically with a dozen little blinks.
“No, you are right, Miss Middleton, inventing beforehand never prospers; ’t is a way to trip our own cleverness. Truth and mother-wit are the best counsellors: and as you are the former, I’ll try to act up to the character you assign me.”
Some tangle, more prospective than present, seemed to be about her as she reflected. But her intention being to speak to Willoughby without subterfuge, she was grateful to her companion for not tempting her to swerve. No one could doubt his talent for elegant fibbing, and she was in the humour both to admire and adopt the art, so she was glad to be rescued from herself. How mother-wit was to second truth she did not inquire, and as she did not happen to be thinking of Crossjay, she was not troubled by having to consider how truth and his tale of the morning would be likely to harmonize.
Driving down the park, she had full occupation in questioning whether her return would be pleasing to Vernon, who was the virtual cause of it, though he had done so little to promote it: so little that she really doubted his pleasure in seeing her return.
In which the sensitiveness of sir Willoughby is explained: And he receives much instruction