“Dr Middleton says he is indebted to me: I am deeply in his debt,” he remarked.
“It is we who are in your debt for a lovely romance, my dear Sir Willoughby,” said Lady Busshe, incapable of taking a correction, so thoroughly had he imbued her with his fiction, or with the belief that she had a good story to circulate. Away she drove, rattling her tongue to Lady Culmer.
“A hat and horn, and she would be in the old figure of a post-boy on a hue-and-cry sheet,” said Mrs. Mountstuart.
Willoughby thanked the great lady for her services, and she complimented the polished gentleman on his noble self-possession. But she complained at the same time of being defrauded of her “charmer” Colonel De Craye, since luncheon. An absence of warmth in her compliment caused Willoughby to shrink and think the wretched shirt he had got from the world no covering after all: a breath flapped it.
“He comes to me to-morrow, I believe,” she said, reflecting on her superior knowledge of facts in comparison with Lady Busshe, who would presently be hearing of something novel, and exclaiming: “So, that is why you patronized the colonel!” And it was nothing of the sort, for Mrs. Mountstuart could honestly say she was not the woman to make a business of her pleasure.
“Horace is an enviable fellow,” said Willoughby, wise in The Book, which bids us ever, for an assuagement to fancy our friend’s condition worse than our own, and recommends the deglutition of irony as the most balsamic for wounds in the whole moral pharmacopoeia.
“I don’t know,” she replied, with a marked accent of deliberation.
“The colonel is to have you to himself to-morrow!”
“I can’t be sure of what I shall have in the colonel!”
“Your perpetual sparkler?”
Mrs. Mountstuart set her head in motion. She left the matter silent.
“I’ll come for him in the morning,” she said, and her carriage whirled her off. Either she had guessed it, or Clara had confided to her the treacherous passion of Horace De Craye.
However, the world was shut away from Patterne for the night.
SIR WILLOUGHBY AND HIS FRIEND HORACE DE CRAYE