The confidence of the General partly reassured Mr. Worthivale.
‘You think, then, that we need not be anxious?’
‘Not in the least. I will manage matters with Rigsby. The old fellow will be flattered and proud to let us have the money. What are the mortgages called in?
‘All—all without exception. What can have taken the people I cannot conceive; what can they all want their money for simultaneously? It looks like a plot. If only two or three had given notice I should not have minded, but all—and all together! I cannot get over it. And Crudge acting for the lot—that is strange, is it not?’
‘Well, never mind,’ answered the General; ‘we know the worst. It is best to swallow a pill whole, not to take it in bits.’
‘But what is the sum to be paid over with Miss Rigsby? Will it suffice?’
‘No matter if it does not. It will stop a gap. I tell you the old fellow will be pleased to be asked to let us have the money we want. Those sort of people are flattered by having favours asked of them. Besides, it will be for his own daughter. He cannot refuse. I will make all right with him.’
‘If I may offer a suggestion, my lord, I would propose that you should see Mr. Rigsby at once. It is true we have been remiss about the payment of interest on the mortgages, and that may have frightened the holders. If we could pay off one or two at once it might allay the alarm of the rest, and they could be brought to withdraw their demands.’
‘There is three months’ grace,’ said Lord Ronald—‘plenty of time. Put the matter in the hands of our solicitor, let him write to this Crudge.’
‘No solicitor in the world can save us. We must have money.’
‘It really is too bad!’ exclaimed Lord Ronald, losing his temper. ‘It is your fault, Worthivale. You should not have allowed things to come to this pass. You have had the management of the estates; they are extensive. You should have drawn the purse-strings tighter.’
‘My lord,’ said the steward, hurt, ‘I beg you to remember that I have preached retrenchment to deaf ears.’
‘We have retrenched. We no longer go to town.’
‘That was not enough.’
‘Good Heaven! What would you have had us do, then?’