‘The news is of a joyful nature,’ said the steward.
‘Yes, I suppose so,’ answered Lucy, faintly, and her eyes fell involuntarily before the observant look of her brother.
‘Stay a bit,’ said the steward; ‘I had clean forgotten old Barberry, who is in the kitchen waiting to speak to me. My memory is going, I believe. It was high time for me to recall Beavis to assist me. I shall be back directly.’
Mr. Worthivale left the room.
‘You have heard, Lucy,’ said Beavis in a low tone.
‘Yes, dear, I have heard what I presume you allude to—that the Marquess is engaged.’
‘It is both his father’s wish and that of his uncles. I urged it strongly on him.’
‘I am very glad,’ said Lucy; ‘I hope she is worthy of him. Grace is startled, and does not know what to make of the tidings. She ought to rejoice, but cannot till she knows the lady.’
Beavis took his sister’s head between his hands and kissed her on the forehead. ‘What is for the good of the house gives us the greatest happiness,’ he said.
She looked him frankly in the eyes and smiled, but there was moisture in her eyes and her lips quivered. She saw that Beavis had read the secret of her heart, which she had never confessed even to herself. She pressed his hand to her bosom. Then Mr. Worthivale came in.
‘Tiresome old man!’ said the steward. ‘Like all the rest, Barberry wants something. The farmer must have a new calves’ house, and the cotter a fresh pigsty. No one is content with the accommodation that suited his forefathers. Barberry came here with a box for Joan, which he had brought in his cart from the station, and being here, thought he might as well make a demand on his Grace’s pocket. I have said I would look to the linney. He wants to have one for his carrier’s cart. I can’t see that the Duke is bound to build him one. If a man buys a donkey his Grace must build a shed for it; and if a woman catches a bullfinch the Duke must provide her with a cage. Hark! Good Lord, what is the matter?’ He ran to the door and opened it.
‘What is that noise? Who is squalling?’
‘Please, sir,’ said Emily, ‘it is only Joanna.’
‘Only Joanna! Has she scalded herself? What is the noise about? Send her down to me. Why are you laughing?’