Page:Court Royal.djvu/258

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‘There is another thing,’ continued the Duke, ‘I wished to consult you about. I hear that the Revelstoke estates of the Stretchleighs are to be sold. Our great-grandmother was a Stretchleigh, and it is unendurable to me to think that some brewer, or builder, or successful army tailor should come down and buy the property, and inhabit the house once the home of gentlemen. I am thinking of buying it.’

‘Merciful powers!’ exclaimed Lord Ronald.

‘Why do you exclaim in this way? Is there anything exaggerated in this sentiment of respect for the home of our ancestors on the female side? Surely, Ronald, you are not touched with the utilitarian spirit of the age?’

‘But—where is the money to come from?’

‘Money can always be found for what is needful.’

‘But this is hardly a necessity, brother.’

‘Not a necessity, exactly, but almost a duty. All the country is invaded by rich tradesmen, and engineers who have been knighted for building bridges, and manufacturers out of the North. Our old country gentry are becoming extinct, I do my best to keep our neighbourhood select. There is no knowing what mischief a new man might do coming into our proximity. He would flood the country with nineteenth-century ideas, and subvert our tenants.’

‘Have you spoken to Worthivale about this?’

‘Not yet. I saw no need. He would combat it, of course. He is a good man, but narrow; pettifogging in his ideas, no breadth of view, always after reduction of outlay; never disposed to deal liberally with the tenants.’

‘You have taken no step in the matter, I trust.’

‘I cannot say that I have taken no step, but I have not yet bought the property. I have opened negotiations.’

‘Do nothing, I entreat you—do nothing till after the marriage.’

‘It may then be too late. The property may have passed into most objectionable hands.’

‘Consult Saltcombe. Consult Edward. For Heaven’s sake move no further without consideration.’

‘I have considered. You are very strange this morning, Ronald. I do not understand your manner or your mood.’

‘I am out of sorts. I am bewildered. Spend ten thousand on Fowelscombe and buy Revelstoke. Lord bless me!’ He recovered his composure. ‘Excuse me, Duke, you take me by