not write so pressingly unless he had found the right person for you.’
‘But I should prefer to find the right person myself.’
‘Where? In the walled garden in which, as you say, a man of self-respect immures himself. No woman with self-respect will come over the wall to you; you must go about to see women.’
‘I do not want to see any, much less to have one hang herself round my neck. The more she is weighted with gold the more burdensome she will be to me. Besides, here I have the society of the best and sweetest women that ever bloomed outside Paradise, Grace and Lucy; they have spoiled me for others.’
‘You cannot decline Lord Edward’s invitation. It is too urgent to be neglected, couched in too tender a tone to be denied. You must go.’
‘I shall return as I go. I want rest; to be left alone.’
‘You cannot be left alone. Go out of the world if you want rest. You are building yourself, like a child, a sand castle against the advancing tide; the waves will sweep your walls away and overwhelm you. You desire the impossible. As your uncle says, you have duties to perform, and you will not be the coward to shirk them. You may have to sacrifice much that is dear to you, but every man is made better by self-sacrifice. You are not happy as you are, wasting your days in reading books that do not interest you, following sports that do not amuse you, and collecting cups and saucers that are valueless to you. The books weary you because they are books, and your proper study is life. Your sports fail to distract you because you pursue such poor and wretched game, and the cups and saucers—’ Beavis did not finish his sentence; his brow was red, he was excited, angry—his face expressed contempt.
Lord Saltcombe did not interrupt him. Beavis went on: ‘My father and I devote our lives to your affairs, which are desperate; but we are met at every turn by your inactivity. We cannot save you because you will not put out a finger by which you can be caught. For the sake of your father, your uncles, your sister, throw aside this paralysing indifference and bestir yourself. You must marry, and marry an heiress, such as your uncle has found for you because you would not put your head outside your walled garden to find one for yourself. You—you must save the family. You alone can