Page:Court Royal.djvu/136

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maid at Court Royal!’ As the monks and nuns of old believed that salvation was hardly possible outside the cloister, the domestics in the Kingsbridge constellation held that no one went to hell from Court Royal or Kingsbridge House, Piccadilly. The same feeling pervaded the entire estate. The tenants were steeped in it. They were all respectable; the farmers Conservative, churchgoers, and temperate; their wives clean and rosy-cheeked, attending to their dairies themselves, and curtseying like schoolgirls, and standing with their hands under their aprons, when visited by one of the family. The cottagers reared their children to abstain from evil and do that which is good, because there was a great Duke far above them who knew everything that went on upon his estates, and who, if the children were clean and respectable, would take them up into service in the Great House, and provide for them and make them happy for ever. No more moral, respectable, orderly, religious people were to be found in the West of England than those on the Kingsbridge estate; but all this morality, respectability, order, and religion rested on the foundation of the love and fear of the Duke. One Sunday, when the Rector’s wife was catechising the school children, she inquired who were ‘the elect people of God,’ whereupon they responded, as with one voice, ‘The tenants of the Duke, ma’am.’ And what they said, they believed.

Mrs. Probus took Joanna up the grand staircase, turning and glancing at her face at the landings, to see that the proper expression of wondering awe was there. She bade her look at the pictures, and narrated the hackneyed story of their acquisition on the Continent by the great Duke who was a general in the reign of George I. The keen eyes of the girl were in every corner, not on the pictures, which she did not understand, but on the cabinets, the Chinese vases, the pile carpet, the exotic ferns. In the state drawing-room she made a halt, and caught her breath.

‘O my goodness!’ she gasped; ‘the Chippendale!’

‘The what?’

‘The Chippendale!’ exclaimed Joanna. ‘What first quality chairs and tables and cabinets. Why, they are worth a pot of money, just now that the fashion runs on Chippendale.’

‘Of course the furniture is valuable,’ said Mrs. Probus with dignity. ‘But pray do not speak of it as though it were about to be sold at an auction.’

‘And the china!’ cried Joanna excitedly. ‘That pair of