Page:Court Royal.djvu/135

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a good deal of money. The pickings had been considerable. But the pickings were too considerable, the living too good, the work too light to be resigned hastily, and Mrs. Probus felt that it would be banishment to hyperborean night to be consigned to an almshouse for the rest of her days, away from the splendour of the Ducal system, illumined only by the flicker of consciousness that the almshouses had been founded for the reception of worn-out Ducal retainers. So, though Mrs. Probus often spoke of retiring, she postponed the evil day.

Her little sitting-room, into which she introduced Joanna, was furnished with memorials of the Eveleighs. Over the chimney-piece, of course, was the portrait of the present Duke; over the sideboard, the picture of the late Duke. On the cheffonier were the silver tea-kettle given her by the Duke on her marriage, and a silver salver with a long inscription, presented to the late lamented coachman on his completion of the fiftieth year of service. On all sides were presents—remembrances of the Dowager Duchess Anna Maria, of the late Duchess Sophia. On her bosom she bore a brooch containing the hair of the Marquess and Lady Grace, whom she had nursed as infants; and about her finger was a white ring woven of silver hair, cut from the head of Frederick Augustus, sixth Duke of Kingsbridge, Marquess of Saltcombe, Viscount Churchstowe, Baron Portlemouth, Baronet, Grand Commander of the Bath, Knight of the Garter, of Saint Patrick, of the Black Eagle, etc. etc. etc., cut off his head when she had laid him out for burial.

Mrs. Probus was proud to show the house to Joanna. When she learned that Joanna was the new servant come to the Lodge, she understood at once that she had been sent down there to be impressed, and Mrs. Probus was never happier than when stamping the Ducal family on young minds. A reverent fear and love of the family was the best preservative youth could have against the trials and temptations of life. It would save a girl from flightiness. Everyone who moved in the Kingsbridge system was respectable to the tips of little finger and little toe. Imprudence was impossible to one nurtured in the Kingsbridge atmosphere. When the butler heard of a young man who had taken to drinking and gone to the bad, ‘Poor fellow,’ he said, ‘if only he could have been received as a stableboy here!’ When the housekeeper was told of a young woman who had lost her character, ‘How dreadful!’ she exclaimed; ‘would that she had been kitchen-