Page:Court Royal.djvu/268

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The first council of which we have given the acts was of a private nature. It had no pretentions to œcumenicity. It was a synod, not a council. It had been convoked in the interests of the Kingsbridge House, but had been attended by the Worthivale family only.

The aspect of affairs was now so desperate that a council was summoned to meet as soon as Lord Edward arrived from Sleepy Hollow.

The steward had called his son to his aid, and Beavis had gone carefully through the accounts—not an easy task, for his father was unsystematic.

‘What we want,’ said Mr. Worthivale, ‘is to gain time. Give us a little space in which to look about, and we will find another wealthy heiress for Lord Saltcombe. There are as good fish in the sea as they that come out of it.’ He clung to this forlorn hope.

Beavis spent several days over the accounts. He examined all the mortgages, the notes of hand; he investigated the expenditure in its several branches, and brought all into form. His time in a lawyer’s office stood him in good stead. He had acquired system, and a power of analysis lacking in his father.

Lord Edward arrived. To her great regret, Lady Elizabeth was unable to accompany him. Lent was approaching, and she had to arrange the services and appoint the preachers. Moreover, it was thought unadvisable for her to be away just then. A faint and hectic tinge of opinion had manifested itself in the pellucid brain of the excellent curate.

Whilst Beavis was at work his father continually interrupted him with explanations that were unnecessary, apologies for his own conduct that were uncalled for, and proposals that were inadmissible.

‘Lord Ronald spoke rather sharply to me the other day,’ he said. ‘He almost laid the blame on me for having got the family into such a condition.’

‘You have no occasion for self-reproach,’ said Beavis. ‘If it had been possible to effect anything, you would have done it.