Page:Court Royal.djvu/138

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like to know what you have here; what to admire. Then, on another occasion, I shall be better able to enter into the merits of the pictures. You see, ma’am, with so much that is wonderful about one, the mind becomes bewildered. I will not look at the paintings to-day, I will look only at the china and the furniture.’

‘Certainly,’ said the housekeeper, ‘what you say is just. I will give you a printed catalogue—privately printed, you understand.’

‘That is a magnificent inlaid Florentine cabinet,’ said Joanna; ‘worth a hundred guineas. Oh, what treasures you have here!’

‘Treasures indeed,’ said Mrs. Probus; ‘you see their Graces the Dukes of Kingsbridge have always been patrons of art, and have collected beautiful things in their travels through Europe.’

‘If only there were to be a sale here——'

‘Sale!’ exclaimed the housekeeper; ‘good heavens above! What do you mean? Sale!—sale in a Ducal mansion! Young woman, restrain your tongue. The word is indecent.’

She tossed her head, frowned, and walked forward stiffly, expressing disgust in every rustle of her silk gown and in the very creak of her shoes.

‘I beg your pardon, ma’am. I was dazzled, and did not know what I was talking about.’

‘Oh,’ said Mrs. Probus, ‘that alters the case. Now we are in the wing containing the private apartments. Here everything is more modern and comfortable. You admire the flowers I perceive. Yes, there are camellia and ferns in the corridor. If you like it, I will conduct you over the conservatories—not now—presently. His Grace sets great store on the greenhouses and the winter-garden.’

‘Dear ma’am, I should so greatly like to see them. I love flowers above everything in the world. I have only five little pots at home, on the roof, and one of them contains a bit of wild heather I dug up with my scissors, on the rare occasion of a holiday. Now that I am away, I do not know who will attend to my poor plants, and whether I shall find them alive when I return. I have no one in the world whom I can ask to do a thing for me.’

‘This is the apartment of Lord Ronald,’ said the housekeeper. ‘I will not show you in there. It contains nothing of interest—that is, nothing very extraordinary. His lordship was a soldier, and loves to have everything plain. No doubt