Page:Court Royal.djvu/193

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far. No question she has left her address with Emily. I will ring and inquire.’

Beavis stayed his father. ‘I am sure she has not. This is a more serious matter than you suppose. I never liked the looks of the girl; she was too clever.’

‘That comes of education; the over-education of this nineteenth century.’

‘But she can neither read nor write.’

‘Oh! I beg your pardon. I mean the reverse. She is clever because not overtaxed by Board School masters straining poor, underfed brains to reach standards that are far above their level.’

‘Whence did she come?’

‘From Plymouth, from Colonel Delany’s—a very respectable family. He is connected by marriage with the Pomeroys. I do not know who Mrs. Delany was, but of course she is a lady, and she wrote in highest commendation of the girl.’

‘Let me see the letter.’

‘It is somewhere in the office; I think I can find it; follow me. But mind, Beavis,’ said the steward, stopping at the door, and holding up his finger; remember what I have said about drinking tea with meat. You deliberately tan your food, and yet you expect to digest it. As well eat sole-leather.’

The old man fumbled in his drawers.

‘I thought I had put it in this pigeon-hole, among sundries. It seems to have made itself wings and gone.’

‘I have little doubt Joanna has taken it.’

‘She could not read or write,’ said Mr. Worthivale.

‘If she does not read, why did she pull out the ledgers? If she does not write, who made a précis of the debts and income of the family in the little note-book I saw?’

‘It may have been in my handwriting. I often take odd scraps of paper and figure on them the revenue of the Kingsbridge estates, and the outgoings, and try to extract some comfort from them. I dare say you will find a score of such balances in the wastepaper basket.’

‘They ought not to be there.’

‘Who is the wiser? I put initials to the debts.’

‘What I saw was not in your handwriting, and was done very clearly and systematically. It was done by some one experienced in bookkeeping—that is the only point that shakes my conviction that the girl has bled your books.’

‘What was the back of the account-book like?’