You have, indeed, done for them more than you should. Lucy’s money——'
‘Now, no more on that point,’ interrupted his father. ‘We shall have it again, certainly.’
‘The only thing that could have saved the family was a plain and bald statement of its difficulties and desperate condition, and that they would have refused to listen to. They buoy themselves up on hopes that are fallacious, and trust to a Providence to save them that expects every man to take the first steps towards saving himself.’
‘Heaven knows I have preached retrenchment, but my words have been unheeded. Now take the books under your arm and come with me. They will be assembled by this time.’
Father and son walked through the park to Court Royal. Neither spoke; their thoughts depressed them. They entered the General’s private sitting-room, and saw there Lord Edward, Lord Ronald, and the Marquess. At the door was Lady Grace. She put up her hand to stay Beavis. ‘Please let me in also. Saltcombe has told me a little, I want now to know all.’
He hesitated, but without waiting for a refusal she passed in.
‘Grace!’ exclaimed Lord Ronald, ‘this may not be. It is rude to show a lady the door, but I cannot help myself when business is in consideration.’
‘I know what the business is,’ she answered, ‘and I am interested in it as well as you.’ She ran to the Archdeacon, and nestled on a stool at his side, took his right arm and put it over her shoulder. ‘Uncle Edward, speak a word for me.’
‘Let her stay,’ said the Archdeacon. ‘A woman’s wit is sometimes worth more than a man’s wisdom.’
‘Thank you, uncle!’ She pressed his hand.
The General occupied a hard chair with a straight back. He had crossed his legs and folded his arms. His face was grave and set. The Archdeacon sat in a lounging chair and kept his arm round his niece, sometimes raising his wrinkled hand to stroke her smooth hair. Lord Saltcombe stood in the window looking out. The steward opened proceedings by describing the condition of the finances. Two mortgages had been already called up, and another he feared every day would be so. Those already noted were on Court Royal and Kingsbridge. Rumour had no doubt been busy with their name, for bills had poured in from all quarters, tradesmen’s bills