Page:Court Royal.djvu/134

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with all she saw. She stood watching the fallow deer, till she was frightened by the rush past her, on wing, of a pheasant. The wood-pigeons were flying in hundreds from one beech clump to another, rejoicing over the fallen masts. The afternoon sun shone yellow over the front of Court Royal, making the windows glitter like sheets of gold leaf. Joanna went round to the back of the house, and delivered her letter and message. She was taken into the servants’ hall, where some of the maids were receiving visitors from Kingsbridge, and stuffing them with veal pie, ham, tarts and clotted cream. They ate cream with their ham, heaped it on their bread, and jam on top of the cream equally deep; they drank it with their tea, and filled the cups with lump sugar till the lumps stood out of the tea like Ararat above the flood. Some of the servants’ friends had brought their children with them; these over-ate themselves, were unwell, retired, and came back to repeat the process.

Joanna looked on in amazement. She was invited to take her place with the rest, but declined, as she had dined recently.

Then the housekeeper came in, smiled benevolently on the visitors, bade them enjoy themselves, and called Joanna away to see round the Court.

The housekeeper had been bred in the traditions of the knowledge and love and fear of the great Kingsbridge family. Her father had been a footman, her mother (a lady’s maid in the service of the late Duke), who had married and kept the lodge. The first recollection of her infant mind was being noticed as a healthy, pretty child, by the late Dowager Duchess. She had been educated, gratis, at the school supported by his Grace, a school which had in its window the Ducal arms and supporters in stained glass, and outside, in the gable, the Ducal coronet and initials of Bevis, seventh Duke of Kingsbridge. At an early age she had served the family by opening the gates of the drive, and had worshipped the family with curtsies before she had been found old enough to go to church and worship God. Then she had been taken into the Court, and been a servant there all her life, first in one capacity, then in another, till she married the red-faced coachman, who wore a white wig and sat on a hammercloth emblazoned with the Ducal arms. Upon the death of the coachman, Mrs. Probus returned to the great house as housekeeper. It was unnecessary for her to do so. She had saved, during her long service,