Page:Court Royal.djvu/130

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‘Very fine trees on the other side. Unfortunately, the trees are not now in leaf, so that they do not show to advantage. I always think that a park tree in winter is like a man of family without a landed estate. You know he is great, but he does not look it.’

‘I saw the trees, sir.’

‘Well, Joan. That is your name, is it not? The wall encloses the park, and the trees you saw grow in the park enclosed by that wall.’

‘Yes, sir, I understand.’

‘The park covers nearly—not quite—a thousand acres, and some of the timber is magnificent.’ After a pause, to allow of the absorption and assimilation of what he had communicated, Mr. Worthivale said slowly, ‘That park is Court Royal.’

‘Does it belong to this house, sir?’ asked Joanna, with affected simplicity.

Mr. Worthivale fell back against the mantelshelf, dropped his coat-tails, which must have touched the bars of the grate, as an odour of singed wool pervaded the room. ‘Good heavens! what are you thinking of? You must indeed be ignorant, very ignorant, to suppose that so magnificent a park could belong to this humble residence. This house is Court Royal Lodge. Not, you understand, the lodge at the park gates, but an ornate cottage situated on a patch of ground cut out from the park, where was once an overgrown, ragged, and unsightly bed of laurels. His grace was pleased to erect the lodge for my late father. It is the house of the steward. I am the steward.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘And the park and the land as far as you can see—that is to say, almost all, not quite all—belongs to his grace the Duke of Kingsbridge. I am the steward of his grace. Now you understand my position.’

‘Yes, sir, and I am to be housemaid to the steward of his grace the Duke of Kingsbridge?’

‘Quite so,’ said Mr. Worthivale; ‘you have grasped the situation. Bless my soul! I have burnt my tail. I thought I smelt something. How can I have done that? Now, what I want you particularly to understand, Joan, from the outset is this—the proper manner in which to address those of the ducal family who do me the honour of calling. As it happens, one or other comes here nearly every day. You, of course, have not had to do with people of title at Mrs. Delany’s?’