Page:Court Royal.djvu/323

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311
A STARTLING PROPOSAL

Mrs. Probus, the senior footmen, the coachman, and the lady’s maid of Lady Grace put their heads together, and concluded that the true remedy lay in a reduction of the establishment. Lord Ronald must go. Lord Edward must not be there so much, and he must not bring that ‘drefful Lady Elizabeth, as is so mean, and pokes her nose into everything.’

‘Far be it from me to suggest,’ said Mr. Blomfield, ‘that Lady Grace is not heartily welcome to all we have, and to the best of everything; still, her ladyship can’t be kept on nothing. She really ought to be married and go. The Marquess is different. We must put up with him; he is the heir, and will be Dook some day.’

‘But if you send away Lady Grace, I must go too,’ argued the lady’s-maid.

‘Under those circumstances,’ said the butler, ‘we will make an effort, and keep her,’

Upstairs, at the same time. Lady Grace was with Lucy going over the list of servants.

‘Dear Lucy, it is very painful. I can’t bear to send one away, they are all so nice, and good, and obliging. It is not that I care for myself, but that I fear they will never get another place where they will all be so happy and comfortable together.’

Owing to the tension of spirits at the Court, Beavis and Charles Cheek were there a great deal. Charles had been introduced as the cousin of Beavis and Lucy, and as his manners were gentlemanly, and his conversation pleasant, and his spirits unflagging, he was a welcome guest. Neither he nor Mr. Worthivale had thought it necessary to mention his relations to the monokeratic system, of which possibly the ducal family had never heard. Even if they had, Charles would have been received with perfect readiness as the kinsman of Lucy and her father. Lady Grace herself urged Beavis to bring his cousin whenever he could, to cheer the Marquess, and draw the minds of her uncles from the absorbing care.

Charles Cheek was very amusing; he was full of good stories, and had the tact to be agreeable without forcing himself into prominence. Indeed, he appeared at his best in this society. He knew what good manners were, and no one who saw him suspected the effort it was to him to maintain himself at ease among them. He was like a tight-rope dancer, who seems to be composed and assured on his cord aloft, but