Willoughby had not leisure to sound the depth of Dr. Middleton’s compliment. He had seen Clara gliding out of the room during the delivery; and his fear returned on him that, not being won, she was lost.
“She has gone.” Her father noticed her absence. “She does not waste time in her mission to procure that astonishing product of a shallow soil, her reasons; if such be the object of her search. But no: it signifies that she deems herself to have need of composure—nothing more. No one likes to be turned about; we like to turn ourselves about; and in the question of an act to be committed, we stipulate that it shall be our act—girls and others. After the lapse of an hour, it will appear to her as her act. Happily, Willoughby, we do not dine away from Patterne to-night.”
“It may be attributable to a sense of deserving, but I could plead guilty to a weakness for old Port to-day.”
“There shall be an extra bottle, sir.”
“All going favourably with you, as I have no cause to doubt,” said Dr Middleton, with the motion of wafting his host out of the library.
SHOWS THE DIVINING ARTS OF A PERCEPTIVE MIND
Starting from the Hall a few minutes before Dr. Middleton and Sir Willoughby had entered the drawing-room overnight, Vernon parted company with Colonel De Craye at the park-gates, and betook himself to the cottage of the Dales, where nothing had been heard of his wanderer; and he received the same disappointing reply from Dr. Corney, out of the bedroom window of the genial physician, whose astonishment at his covering so long a stretch of road at night for news of a boy like Crossjay—gifted with the lives of a cat—became violent and rapped Punch-like blows on the window-sill at Vernon’s refusal to take shelter and rest. Vernon’s excuse was that he had “no one but that fellow to care for”, and he strode off, naming a farm five miles distant. Dr. Corney howled an invitation to early breakfast to him, in the event of his passing on his way back, and retired to bed to think of him. The result of a variety of conjectures caused him to set Vernon down as Miss Middleton’s knight, and he felt a strong compassion for his poor friend. “Though,” thought he, “a hopeless attachment is as pretty an accompaniment to the tune of life as a gentleman might wish to have, for it’s one of those big doses of discord which make all the minor ones fit in like an agreeable harmony, and so he shuffles along as pleasantly as the fortune-favoured, when they come to compute!”