“He is perfectly well,” said Willoughby, aloud, quite distraught.
She acknowledged his just correction of her for running on to an extreme in low-toned converse, though they stood sufficiently isolated from the others. These had by this time been joined by Colonel De Craye, and were all chatting in a group—of himself, Willoughby horribly suspected.
Clara was gone from him! Gone! but he remembered his oath and vowed it again: not to Horace de Craye! She was gone, lost, sunk into the world of waters of rival men, and he determined that his whole force should be used to keep her from that man, the false friend who had supplanted him in her shallow heart, and might, if he succeeded, boast of having done it by simply appearing on the scene.
Willoughby intercepted Mrs. Mountstuart as she was passing over to Dr Middleton. “My dear lady! spare me a minute.”
De Craye sauntered up, with a face of the friendliest humour:
“Never was man like you, Willoughby, for shaking new patterns in a kaleidoscope.”
“Have you turned punster, Horace?” Willoughby replied, smarting to find yet another in the demon secret, and he draw Dr. Middleton two or three steps aside, and hurriedly begged him to abstain from prosecuting the subject with Clara.
“We must try to make her happy as we best can, sir. She may have her reasons—a young lady’s reasons!” He laughed, and left the Rev. Doctor considering within himself under the arch of his lofty frown of stupefaction.
De Craye smiled slyly and winningly as he shadowed a deep droop on the bend of his head before Clara, signifying his absolute devotion to her service, and this present good fruit for witness of his merits.
She smiled sweetly though vaguely. There was no concealment of their intimacy.
“The battle is over,” Vernon said quietly, when Willoughby had walked some paces beside Mrs. Mountstuart, adding: “You may expect to see Mr. Dale here. He knows.”
Vernon and Clara exchanged one look, hard on his part, in contrast with her softness, and he proceeded to the house. De Craye waited for a word or a promising look. He was patient, being self-assured, and passed on.
Clara linked her arm with her father’s once more, and said, on a sudden brightness: “Sirius, papa!” He repeated it in the profoundest manner: “Sirius! And is there,” he asked, “a feminine scintilla of sense in that?”
“It is the name of the star I was thinking of, dear papa.”
“It was the star observed by King Agamemnon before the sacrifice in Aulis. You were thinking of that? But, my love, my Iphigenia, you have not a father who will insist on sacrificing you.”
“Did I hear him tell you to humour me, papa?”
Dr Middleton humphed.
“Verily the dog-star rages in many heads,” he responded.