Page:Court Royal.djvu/272

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accommodate itself to circumstances, the financial position of the family would have been convalescent, and we should not now be wondering whether life or death is heavier in the scale of fate. Love of splendour, reckless improvidence, have made the deficit grow in geometrical proportions. Firmness—excuse my saying it—courage to grapple with the evil, have been wanting, and the evil has grown to such a head that it is almost past grappling with.’

‘Really, Mr. Beavis Worthivale,’ said the General, testily, ‘you forget our grey hairs. You are a young man, and you are lecturing men old enough to be your grandfathers.’

‘I think, Mr. Beavis, you are too strong in your expressions,’ said the Archdeacon.

His father, shocked beyond power of speech, seized him by the arms, and held up his hand in warning to be cautious.

‘He is right,’ said Lady Grace. ‘Uncle Ronald, do not be angry. He speaks the truth because he is too true a friend to withhold it from us.’

Beavis slightly bowed to her, and went on, ‘Safety may yet be had, but at a price. The only possible way out of the labyrinth of debt is for the Duke and the Marquess to resolve on the sale of some of the estates. Unfortunately, a worse time for the sale of land could not have befallen us. I believe that good properties do not now fetch five-and-twenty years’ purchase, and some are put up to auction and find no buyers. Still, let us hope for the best. Fowelscombe is worth two thousand a year; at thirty years’ purchase that would be sixty thousand; add another ten thousand for the house and timber and exceptionally beautiful situation, that makes seventy thousand. With that you can pay off Mr. Emmanuel and one of the other smaller mortgages. I should advise, sell also the manorial rights in Kingsbridge. The town will buy those, and give a good price for them.’

‘Really! really!’ exclaimed the General, ‘I cannot endure this. Sell the manor from which the Duke takes his title! What next?’

‘Expenses will have to be cut down at least a half, the number of servants reduced, and the Marquess must make up his mind to continue living in the country, and keeping Kingsbridge House, Piccadilly, closed.’

‘Put a bill in the window, “To be let furnished,” and so make a few guineas,’ gasped the General.

Lady Grace got up from her stool and put her arm through