“I don’t know what to make of it at all,” said Dick gloomily.
“All I can make of it is,” the tranter said, raising his whip, arranging his different joints and muscles, and motioning to the horse to move on, “that if you can’t read a maid’s mind by her motions, nature d’seem to say thou’st ought to be a bachelor. Clk, clk! Smiler!” And the tranter moved on.
Dick held Smart’s rein firmly, and the whole concern of horse, cart, and man remained rooted in the lane. How long this condition would have lasted is unknown, had not Dick’s thoughts, after adding up numerous items of misery, gradually wandered round to the fact that as something must be done, it could not be done by staying there all night.
Reaching home he went up to his bedroom, shut the door as if he were going to be seen no more in this life, and taking a sheet of paper and uncorking the ink-bottle, he began a letter. The dignity of the writer’s mind was so powerfully apparent in every line of this effusion that it obscured the logical sequence of facts and intentions to an appreciable degree; and it was not at all clear to a reader whether he there and then left off loving Miss Fancy Day; whether he had never loved her seriously, and never meant to; whether he had been dying up to the present moment, and now intended to get well again; or whether he had hitherto been in good health, and intended to die for her forthwith.
He put this letter in an envelope, sealed it up, directed it in a stern handwriting of straight dashes—easy flourishes being rigorously excluded. He walked with it in his pocket down the lane in strides not an inch less than three feet long. Reaching her gate he put on a resolute expression—then put it off again, turned back homeward, tore up his letter, and sat down.
That letter was altogether in a wrong tone—that he must own. A heartless man-of-the-world tone was what the juncture required. That he rather wanted her, and rather did not want her—the latter for choice; but that as a member of society he didn’t mind making a query in jaunty terms, which could only be answered in the same way: did she mean anything by her bearing towards him, or did she not?
This letter was considered so satisfactory in every way that, being put into the hands of a little boy, and the order given that he was to run with it to the school, he was told in addition not to look behind him if Dick called after him to bring it back, but to run along with it just the same. Having taken this precaution against vacillation, Dick watched his messenger down the road, and turned into the house whistling an air in such ghastly jerks and starts, that whistling seemed to be the act the very furthest removed from that which was instinctive in such a youth.
The letter was left as ordered: the next morning came and passed—and no answer. The next. The next. Friday night came. Dick resolved that if no answer or sign were given by her the next day, on Sunday he would meet her face to face, and have it all out by word of mouth.