Page:Court Royal.djvu/383

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‘I shall go to church with her and never get out of it again. We shall carry the church with its solemnity and oppressiveness and mustiness into our married life. Our tendencies are diverse as those of a balloon and a diving-bell. We shall have as little intellectual sympathy as John Bright and a “Blackwood,” which he was cutting and trying to read. I belong too much to Bohemia, with the city of Prague as my Jerusalem.’

‘If that be so, you are in a false position, and must leave it.’

‘I cannot,’ answered Charles. ‘I cannot do so without cruelty. The family are in straits for money. My father has undertaken to pay off the most pressing mortgages and debts. If the marriage does not come off they will be utterly ruined. Do you know I stopped the sale of their pictures, plate, and jewels? All were being packed to send to London; when I got Lady Grace’s promise, I galloped to town on the back of an engine, and got my father to advance the necessary money to stop the sale.’

‘Does Lady Grace marry you to save her family?’

‘I do not know that she is aware of the compact—but—I suppose she must,’ he added humbly. ‘She never would take me for myself. The brazen pot and the earthen pot are going to float down the stream together, and we shall have to keep our distance for fear of jars.’

Joanna stood on the pier looking out at the promontory of Mount Batten that seemed to landlock the harbour. The moon was behind the citadel, steeping the Barbican in night, but the water beyond flashed like quicksilver. She folded her arms under her wraps. Charles tried to read her face, but there was no moonlight on it, and the pier-lantern was high above, casting a shadow over her.

‘Well, Joe, what do you think?’

‘Give me time to consider.’

‘I am in this position. If I marry her I shall gain that which you have bidden me aim for, and shall have pleased my father, and saved a worthy family from utter destruction. On the other hand, I shall have sacrificed my independence and cut myself off from the rollicking life that suits me. I shall live in a social strait-waistcoat, and I hate restraint. If I do not go through with the matter I shall make the governor furious; he will never forgive me, and the Duke will go to pieces. Is it honourable and fair for me to back out?’