He had, in fact, perhaps by sympathetic action, succeeded in striking the same springs of pathos in her which animated his lively endeavour to produce it in himself.
He kissed her hand; then released it, quitting his chair to bend above her soothingly.
“Do not weep, Laetitia, you see that I do not; I can smile. Help me to bear it; you must not unman me.”
She tried to stop her crying, but self-pity threatened to rain all her long years of grief on her head, and she said: “I must go . . . I am unfit . . . good-night, Sir Willoughby.”
Fearing seriously that he had sunk his pride too low in her consideration, and had been carried farther than he intended on the tide of pathos, he remarked: “We will speak about Crossjay to-morrow. His deceitfulness has been gross. As I said, I am grievously offended by deception. But you are tired. Good-night, my dear friend.”
“Good-night, Sir Willoughby.”
She was allowed to go forth.
Colonel De Craye coming up from the smoking-room, met her and noticed the state of her eyelids, as he wished her goodnight. He saw Willoughby in the room she had quitted, but considerately passed without speaking, and without reflecting why he was considerate.
Our hero’s review of the scene made him, on the whole, satisfied with his part in it. Of his power upon one woman he was now perfectly sure:—Clara had agonized him with a doubt of his personal mastery of any. One was a poor feast, but the pangs of his flesh during the last few days and the latest hours caused him to snatch at it, hungrily if contemptuously. A poor feast, she was yet a fortress, a point of succour, both shield and lance; a cover and an impetus. He could now encounter Clara boldly. Should she resist and defy him, he would not be naked and alone; he foresaw that he might win honour in the world’s eye from his position—a matter to be thought of only in most urgent need. The effect on him of his recent exercise in pathos was to compose him to slumber. He was for the period well satisfied.
His attendant imps were well satisfied likewise, and danced around about his bed after the vigilant gentleman had ceased to debate on the question of his unveiling of himself past forgiveness of her to Laetitia, and had surrendered to sleep the present direction of his affairs.
LAETITIA DALE DISCOVERS A SPIRITUAL CHANGE AND DR MIDDLETON A PHYSICAL
Clara tripped over the lawn in the early morning to Laetitia to greet her. She broke away from a colloquy with Colonel De Craye under Sir Willoughby’s windows. The colonel had been one of the bathers, and he stood like a circus-driver flicking a wet towel at Crossjay capering.
“My dear, I am very unhappy!” said Clara.
“My dear, I bring you news,” Laetitia replied.