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surprise. Do nothing till I have had another talk with you about it.’

‘My dear Ronald, what does it concern you whether I buy Revelstoke or not? I am buying to suit my own notions, and, though I value your opinions, I am not bound to submit to them. Now I really must attack my letters. I will detain you no longer. My conscience reproaches me for having taken up so much of your precious time; pray return to your turning of knobs.’


CHAPTER XXXV.
A CARD CASTLE.

Lord Ronald returned to his room and spent the rest of the day in turning. The days were short, and he made the most of the little light. His hand wanted its usual steadiness, or his mind wandered to other matters; for he spoiled several of the knobs he worked at that afternoon.

He was engaged on the twenty-sixth in the gathering dusk when he heard a step behind him, and looked round. ‘Mercy on me!’ he exclaimed, and cut into and spoiled the twenty-sixth knob. ‘What is the meaning of this?’

He saw the Marquess before him, worn, white, hollow-eyed. ‘Good Heavens, Saltcombe! How come you here? What has happened? What is the matter with you? Have you been ill?’

‘Do not overwhelm me with questions, uncle,’ answered Lord Saltcombe. ‘I can answer but one at a time.’

‘But this is amazing. Why have you not written? What do you mean by dropping on one from the sky without warning?’

‘There, uncle, leave the lathe. I want a word with you. I have matters of importance to communicate. Come out of your workshop into the other room.’

‘I am at your service. Merciful powers! what a pack of troubles and bewilderments come upon one all at once! First, Worthivale bursts in on me, then the Duke drops down on me, and now you spring on me like a ghost—my senses are stupefied or scared away. No bad news, I hope? Take that chair by the fire. How pale, how ill you look! Tell me the truth, Herbert, have you been sick?’