The Rev. Doctor smothered a yawn. The repression of it caused a second one, a real monster, to come, big as our old friend of the sea advancing on the chained-up Beauty.
Disconcerted by this damning evidence of indigestion, his countenance showed that he considered himself to have been too lenient to the wine of an unhusbanded hostess. He frowned terribly.
In the interval Laetitia told Vernon of Crossjay’s flight for the day, hastily bidding the master to excuse him: she had no time to hint the grounds of excuse. Vernon mentally made a guess.
Dr Middleton took his arm and discharged a volley at the crotchetty scholarship of Professor Crooklyn, whom to confute by book, he directed his march to the library. Having persuaded himself that he was dyspeptic, he had grown irascible. He denounced all dining out, eulogized Patterne Hall as if it were his home, and remembered he had dreamed in the night—a most humiliating sign of physical disturbance. “But let me find a house in proximity to Patterne, as I am induced to suppose I shall,” he said, “and here only am I to be met when I stir abroad.”
Laetitia went to her room. She was complacently anxious enough to prefer solitude and be willing to read. She was more seriously anxious about Crossjay than about any of the others. For Clara would be certain to speak very definitely, and how then could a gentleman oppose her? He would supplicate, and could she be brought to yield? It was not to be expected of a young lady who had turned from Sir Willoughby. His inferiors would have had a better chance. Whatever his faults, he had that element of greatness which excludes the intercession of pity. Supplication would be with him a form of condescension. It would be seen to be such. His was a monumental pride that could not stoop. She had preserved this image of the gentleman for a relic in the shipwreck of her idolatry. So she mused between the lines of her book, and finishing her reading and marking the page, she glanced down on the lawn. Dr. Middleton was there, and alone; his hands behind his back, his head bent. His meditative pace and unwonted perusal of the turf proclaimed that a non-sentimental jury within had delivered an unmitigated verdict upon the widow’s wine.
Laetitia hurried to find Vernon.
He was in the hall. As she drew near him, the laboratory door opened and shut.
“It is being decided,” said Laetitia.
Vernon was paler than the hue of perfect calmness.
“I want to know whether I ought to take to my heels like Crossjay, and shun the Professor,” he said.
They spoke in under-tones, furtively watching the door.
“I wish what she wishes, I am sure; but it will go badly with the boy,” said Laetitia.
“Oh, well, then I’ll take him,” said Vernon, “I would rather. I think I can manage it.”
Again the laboratory door opened. This time it shut behind Miss Middleton. She was highly flushed. Seeing them, she shook the storm from her brows, with a dead smile; the best piece of serenity she could put on for public wear.