Page:Court Royal.djvu/324

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who knows himself to be safest and happiest when he is on the solid ground.

He showed sufficient deference to the rank and age of his Grace, and the General and the Archdeacon, to conciliate their favour. With the Marquess he was freer, though always respectful, and Lord Saltcombe said once or twice to Beavis that he liked his cousin, and hoped to see a good deal of him. He invited him to come in the shooting season, and placed his horses at his disposal for hunting. He was asked to take frequent strolls with Lady Grace, and Lucy and the Marquess, when Lord Saltcombe naturally fell to Lucy, and Charles to be companion to Lady Grace. These walks were delightful to Lucy, as her sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks testified. Lady Grace enjoyed them, for Charles was always amusing, sometimes interesting. He was a man with a good deal of shrewd observation of men and manners, which he used to good effect in conversation. Lady Grace had a sweet voice, thoroughly schooled, and as Charles sang well, with a mellow tenor, and knew his notes fairly, they practised duets together partly to please themselves, chiefly to give pleasure to the Duke.

The young man was sensible of the charms of Lady Grace; he had never before been in the society of a perfect English lady, and a perfect English lady is the noblest and most admirable of the products of centuries of refinement. The culture of the English lady is a culture of the entire woman, mind and soul, as well as of body, perfect refinement and exquisite delicacy in manner, in movement, in intonation, in thought, and in expression. No man can escape the attractions of such a woman; it seizes him, it raises him, it humbles him. It raises him by inspiring him with the desire to be worthy to associate with such nobility; it humbles him by making him conscious of his own shortcomings.

Charles Cheek had been so little in the society of ladies of any sort, and was so ignorant of the ladies of the best English society, that this association with Lady Grace exercised over him quite irresistible fascination. He was uneasy when a day passed without his seeing her, and when out of her presence the recollection of her words, and the pleasant way in which she spoke them, formed his great delight. It can hardly be said that he loved her, it was certain that he worshipped her.

‘Grace dear,’ said Lucy one day to her friend, ‘take care what you are about.’