Page:Court Royal.djvu/200

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The Duke had pretended to pass over the care of the property to his son, and he no longer enquired into the balance; that the Marquess was expected to see to; but he amused himself with details, the complaints of the farmers, their demands for fresh buildings, their applications for drainage operations. These he took up, and it gave a zest to his drives to inspect the farms and see the proposed improvements. This was a little vexatious to the steward, who endeavoured to cut down expenses. The tenants knew that they were sure of a favourable answer from his Grace, and therefore applied direct to him.

The Duke had his private account at the bank; a modest sum of a thousand pounds was always paid in to this account, on which he drew independently of the house. The cost of keeping up Court Royal, the wages, the housekeeping, the gardens, belonged to a separate account, with which he did not concern himself. That was under the control of Lucy and her father; subject, of course, to Lady Grace, if she chose to supervise it, but this she never did.

The general accounts, the rent roll, the receipts, the outlay on the estates, the charges on the property, the interest on the mortgages and loans, these the Marquess was supposed to examine every half-year; but he did so in a careless, impatient manner, and refused to take an interest in the property. Time enough, he thought, when forced to do so, on his succession to the estates.

‘Sit down, Herbert,’ said the Duke, when Lord Saltcombe entered. ‘We must have a little quiet conversation together. You are going to Plymouth; it is well, you must be with your fiancée as much as you can to learn each other’s characters and habits. I confess to a little surprise. I had thought you would have been guided in your choice less by caprice. Still—you are the judge of what is best for yourself. In the matter of fortune everything is satisfactory, and perhaps that is not a point to be disregarded, as our fortunes are not exactly what they were. The property was heavily burdened when it came to me; still, I have lived very quietly of late, and a margin must be left to turn over and extinguish such debts as were formerly contracted.’

The Marquess looked down.

‘You have been shut out from the world for some years, Herbert. That has not met with my approval. Your place was in London, and you ought to have been in Parliament.