‘Mrs. Delany’s husband is a colonel, sir.’
‘A colonel!’ echoed Mr. Worthivale, looking offended and disgusted. ‘What is a colonel? Nothing.’
‘Then,’ continued Joanna, running over the uniforms in Mr. Lazarus’s store with a mental eye, ‘there was a field-marshal, and an admiral of the Blue, and half-a-dozen generals, and a silk cassock, red hood, and college cap.’
The steward silenced her with a wave of the hand.
‘What I particularly wish you to understand, Joan, from the beginning is how you are to comport yourself at the door should his grace, or Lord Edward, or Lord Ronald, or the marquess, or Lady Grace ring the bell. Emily and you will have alternate afternoons at home. She likes to go out every other day, and I dare say you will be glad to do the same; exercise and fresh air are good for health. When Emily is out you will answer the bell. Open that photographic album on the table, and look at the first carte-de-visite—no, cabinet-size portrait. You perceive a venerable gentleman with white hair and fine aristocratic countenance. That is the duke. He does not come here often. He cannot walk so far. If he comes, the carriage brings him. You cannot mistake him if you observe his waxlike complexion, and if you notice that the carriage stands at the gate. It is essential that you make no mistake in addressing him. I could pardon a lapse with the others, but not with him; so impress his features on your memory. When you open the door to him, mind you curtsey. Can you curtsey? The art is dying out. Ask Emily to put you in the way, and practise it till you are proficient. You must address the duke as “your grace.” He will probably say, “My child, is Mr. Worthivale at home?” Then you curtsey a second time and say, “Yes, your grace.” If I am out—which God forbid!—then say, “No, your grace.” If you are uncertain, say, “Will it please your grace to step in, and I will inquire.” You understand?’
‘Turn the page, and you will see two dignified gentlemen. One is Lord Ronald, the other Lord Edward. Look at them well. They are like the duke, but have not quite his presence and beauty. They are his brothers—younger brothers, of course—which accounts for their slight inferiority; of course, I mean relative—relative only to his grace. You address them each as “my lord.” “Is Mr. Worthivale at home?” “Yes, my lord,” or “No, my lord,” as the case may be. Here,