‘I never take tea with meat. What is it this morning? Kidneys? Kidneys above all. No tea, Beavis, coffee for me; less tannin in it. Can you conceive anything more calculated to give dyspepsia than to immerse meat in a fluid charged with tannin? You convert it at one stroke into leather, and make demands on the gastric juice which it is not qualified to perform. No, tea is poison; give me coffee.’
‘Certainly, my dear father,’ said Beavis with a smile. ‘I fear I have something to communicate which will disagree with you more than tea.’
‘Then reserve it.’
‘I must not. We must act upon it at once.’
Mr. Worthivale sighed. ‘I enjoyed myself so greatly last night. Indeed, I do not think I have spent such a happy ten days as these last since I was a boy. Well, what is it?’
Then Beavis told his father what he had seen that morning early on his return from Court Royal. Mr. Worthivale was annoyed. ‘One cannot get along a week without unpleasantnesses,’ he said peevishly. ‘Really, at my time of life I expect relief from worries.’
‘Where did you leave your keys?’
‘I cannot say for certain. Yes, I can. I am positive: that is, I think I locked everything up as usual, and put the keys in my trousers pocket. I generally—I may say always—do so on principle. But yesterday I was in such a hurry about the ball. My time and thoughts were in such requisition that I may have committed the oversight of leaving them in the bookcase. I was not at the office at all after half-past three, and then I was there for an hour only. There was no money in the drawers.’
‘No, but there was information concerning the Duke’s affairs worth to some people a good deal of money.’
‘It would certainly be annoying if stupid gossip got about concerning the family embarrassments.’
‘I do not allude to gossip.’
‘I’ll tell you what I will do, Beavis. I’ll ring for the girl, and then we will examine her together. I see no cause for alarm. She can neither read nor write.’
‘Who told you so?’
‘A Mrs. Delany, in whose service she was before she came to us. Touch the bell, Beavis.’
In response to the summons Emily appeared.
‘Look here,’ said the steward; ‘send the other girl to me.