Page:Court Royal.djvu/256

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to keep down the enormous outlay. The servants think it their duty to blaze abroad the splendour of the house by lavish waste. The requirements of the establishment are very great.’

‘I do hope Lucy will not by hint even let Grace suppose that there is trouble in the air.’

‘Rely on her.’

‘Then no one need know of this confounded worry except myself and Saltcombe. There, there, be of good cheer, the cloud is passing.’

Lord Ronald went to the Duke’s apartments. He found his brother disturbed, his face was wanting in its wonted serenity.

‘Ronald,’ said the Duke, ‘no letter again this morning from that provoking boy. I cannot understand it. In my day no son would have dreamed of leaving his father without notice of his proceedings. Can it be that love has turned his head? If so, the sooner he is married and brought to a sober mind and sense of his obligations, the better.’

‘You see, brother,’ said the General, ‘ladies are exacting. No doubt Miss Dulcina is not happy without Herbert about her, and love-making is one of the labours of Hercules. When he comes home he is fagged, and fain to throw himself in a chair and go to sleep. Take my word for it—that is it. Miss Rigsby has only written twice to Grace, once a line of thanks for her reception here, the other a mere half-page of nothing, that took her one minute by the clock to write.’

‘Nothing can excuse neglect of duty to a parent,’ said the Duke. ‘When I was young I was taught to discharge duty first, and take pleasure after. The spirit of this age is other; duties are blown away as feathered seeds, and only pleasure is regarded. I thought better of Herbert.’

‘My dear Duke, you must excuse him. Love-making demoralises a man. It is like an election, it upsets everything. No doubt, now that Saltcombe has emerged from his chrysalis, he is flying about.’

‘It would not take him ten minutes to write me a line. I am not exacting. I do not require four sides crossed, but I expect the recognition of what is due from a son to a father. I am put out.’

Lord Ronald had nothing to say to this.

‘Hitherto,’ continued the Duke, ‘I have had no reason to complain of Herbert; he has been a respectful, obedient son. He was extravagant some years ago, and I have no doubt