“You will not be betrayed.”
“I can trust you . . . ?”
“I go home to-morrow before breakfast.”
“Permit me to escort you upstairs.”
“If you please: but I see no one here either to-night or tomorrow.”
“It is for the privilege of seeing the last of you.”
Young Crossjay listened to the drumming of his head. Somewhere in or over the cavity a drummer rattled tremendously.
Sir Willoughby’s laboratory door shut with a slam.
Crossjay tumbled himself off the ottoman. He stole up to the unclosed drawing-room door, and peeped. Never was a boy more thoroughly awakened. His object was to get out of the house and go through the night avoiding everything human, for he was big with information of a character that he knew to be of the nature of gunpowder, and he feared to explode. He crossed the hall. In the passage to the scullery he ran against Colonel De Craye.
“So there you are,” said the colonel, “I’ve been hunting you.”
Crossjay related that his bedroom door was locked and the key gone, and Sir Willoughby sitting up in the laboratory.
Colonel De Craye took the boy to his own room, where Crossjay lay on a sofa, comfortably covered over and snug in a swelling pillow; but he was restless; he wanted to speak, to bellow, to cry; and he bounced round to his left side, and bounced to his right, not knowing what to think, except that there was treason to his adored Miss Middleton.
“Why, my lad, you’re not half a campaigner,” the colonel called out to him; attributing his uneasiness to the material discomfort of the sofa: and Crossjay had to swallow the taunt, bitter though it was. A dim sentiment of impropriety in unburdening his overcharged mind on the subject of Miss Middleton to Colonel De Craye restrained him from defending himself; and so he heaved and tossed about till daybreak. At an early hour, while his hospitable friend, who looked very handsome in profile half breast and head above the sheets, continued to slumber, Crossjay was on his legs and away. “He says I’m not half a campaigner, and a couple of hours of bed are enough for me,” the boy thought proudly, and snuffed the springing air of the young sun on the fields. A glance back at Patterne Hall dismayed him, for he knew not how to act, and he was immoderately combustible, too full of knowledge for self-containment; much too zealously excited on behalf of his dear Miss Middleton to keep silent for many hours of the day.
THE REV. DR. MIDDLETON, CLARA, AND SIR WILLOUGHBY
When Master Crossjay tumbled down the stairs, Laetitia was in Clara’s room, speculating on the various mishaps which might have befallen that battered youngster; and Clara listened anxiously after Laetitia had run out, until she heard Sir Willoughby’s voice; which in some way satisfied her that the boy was not in the house.