They had not spoken for awhile, when Vernon said abruptly, “The boy’s future rather depends on you, Miss Middleton. I mean to leave as soon as possible, and I do not like his being here without me, though you will look after him, I have no doubt. But you may not at first see where the spoiling hurts him. He should be packed off at once to the crammer, before you are Lady Patterne. Use your influence. Willoughby will support the lad at your request. The cost cannot be great. There are strong grounds against my having him in London, even if I could manage it. May I count on you?”
“I will mention it: I will do my best,” said Miss Middleton, strangely dejected.
They were now on the lawn, where Sir Willoughby was walking with the ladies Eleanor and Isabel, his maiden aunts.
“You seem to have coursed the hare and captured the hart.” he said to his bride.
“Started the truant and run down the paedagogue,” said Vernon.
“Ay, you won’t listen to me about the management of that boy,” Sir Willoughby retorted.
The ladies embraced Miss Middleton. One offered up an ejaculation in eulogy of her looks, the other of her healthfulness: then both remarked that with indulgence young Crossjay could be induced to do anything. Clara wondered whether inclination or Sir Willoughby had disciplined their individuality out of them and made them his shadows, his echoes. She gazed from them to him, and feared him. But as yet she had not experienced the power in him which could threaten and wrestle to subject the members of his household to the state of satellites. Though she had in fact been giving battle to it for several months, she had held her own too well to perceive definitely the character of the spirit opposing her.
She said to the ladies, “Ah, no! Mr. Whitford has chosen the only method for teaching a boy like Crossjay.”
“I propose to make a man of him,” said Sir Willoughby.
“What is to become of him if he learns nothing?”
“If he pleases me, he will be provided for. I have never abandoned a dependent.”