“Time is not lost in conversing with Miss Dale,” said Willoughby.
The light was tender to her complexion where she sat in partial shadow.
De Craye asked whether Crossjay had been caught.
Laetitia murmured a kind word for the boy. Willoughby examined her embroidery.
The ladies Eleanor and Isabel appeared.
They invited her to take carriage exercise with them.
Laetitia did not immediately answer, and Willoughby remarked: “Miss Dale has been reproving Horace for idleness and I recommend you to enlist him to do duty, while I relieve him here.”
The ladies had but to look at the colonel. He was at their disposal, if they would have him. He was marched to the carriage.
Laetitia plied her threads.
“Colonel De Craye spoke of Crossjay,” she said. “May I hope you have forgiven the poor boy, Sir Willoughby?”
He replied: “Plead for him.”
“I wish I had eloquence.”
“In my opinion you have it.”
“If he offends, it is never from meanness. At school, among comrades, he would shine. He is in too strong a light; his feelings and his moral nature are over-excited.”
“That was not the case when he was at home with you.”
“I am severe; I am stern.”
“A Spartan mother!”
“My system of managing a boy would be after that model: except in this: he should always feet that he could obtain forgiveness.”
“Not at the expense of justice?”
“Ah! young creatures are not to be arraigned before the higher Courts. It seems to me perilous to terrify their imaginations. If we do so, are we not likely to produce the very evil we are combating? The alternations for the young should be school and home: and it should be in their hearts to have confidence that forgiveness alternates with discipline. They are of too tender an age for the rigours of the world; we are in danger of hardening them. I prove to you that I am not possessed of eloquence. You encouraged me to speak, Sir Willoughby.”
“You speak wisely, Laetitia.”
“I think it true. Will not you reflect on it? You have only to do so to forgive him. I am growing bold indeed, and shall have to beg forgiveness for myself.”
“You still write? you continue to work with your pen?” said Willoughby.
“A little; a very little.”
“I do not like you to squander yourself, waste yourself, on the public. You are too precious to feed the beast. Giving out incessantly must end by attenuating. Reserve yourself for your friends. Why should they be robbed of so much of you? Is it not reasonable to assume that by lying fallow you would be more enriched for domestic life? Candidly, had I authority I would confiscate your pen: I would ‘away with that bauble’. You will not often find me quoting Cromwell, but his words apply in this instance. I would say rather, that lancet. Perhaps it is the more correct term. It bleeds you, it wastes you. For what? For a breath of fame!”