Page:Court Royal.djvu/257

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spent more money than was judicious, but it runs in the family. I was extravagant at one time; my father—as you may remember, Ronald—never stopped to consider what a thing cost if it took his fancy; and my grandfather went to extremes in munificence. I should have been pained to see a mean, calculating spirit in Herbert. A gentleman must be open-handed.’

‘He has lived too quietly for some years. I am glad to see our comet run into sunlight again.’

‘Yes. Because I am too poorly to take my proper place in society, that is no reason why Saltcombe should live as a hermit. I shall insist, when he is married, on his being in town for the season.’

‘His wife will take care of that.’

‘I trust she will. I have been considering that he must have a residence of his own.’

‘Will he not live here?’

‘Certainly not. I should like it, but it would hardly do. The Marquess and Marchioness must have their own country house, with no divided authority in it. I would not have Grace the guest of my daughter-in-law, nor my daughter-in-law the guest of Grace in Court Royal. No, Ronald, I have been thinking of Fowelscombe. The house is out of repair, but it is a fine place. The grounds are delightful, that glorious drive down through an avenue of beeches for over a mile, and then the charming old house below, nestling among trees—what can be more suitable for the young couple? The house has been uninhabited for so long, and the grounds so neglected, that it will want a great deal doing to it. Still, some ten thousand pounds spent judiciously would make it comfortable.’

‘I am sure that Saltcombe would not wish it.’

‘Ronald,’ said the Duke, with some indignation, ‘unless the poisonous spirit of the age has infected Saltcombe more deeply than I anticipate, he will approve of whatever I ordain. I have written to an architect to examine and report on the condition of Fowelscombe, and I have requested a distinguished landscape gardener to look over the grounds and suggest improvements.’

‘But—my dear Duke.’

‘There is no but in the case—that is, no but is admissible. I wish it. That suffices.’

Lord Ronald looked down at his boots.