Page:Court Royal.djvu/325

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313
A STARTLING PROPOSAL

‘What do you mean, Lucy?’

‘You are throwing your imperceptible threads round that simple young man, and binding him in bonds he will be powerless to rive away.’

‘What young man?’

‘My cousin Charles.’

‘Nonsense, Lucy!’ said Lady Grace, colouring slightly and looking vexed.

‘You cannot help yourself. You bewitch every one, down to old Jonathan the gardener, and Tom the stable boy. You cannot help it. You have thrown your glamour over my cousin. I can see it. When he leaves this place he will feel like the Swiss exiled from the Alpine air and roses to be pastrycook in Amsterdam. You remember that queer girl we had at the Lodge, and who ran away. You did the same with her, and she sent you a necklace in token of undying devotion. Now you are playing tricks with Charles. Take care that you do not encourage him to do something equally absurd. As for my father and Beavis, you know very well they would let themselves be cut to pieces in your service.’

On the twenty-second of the month, Mr. Cheek senior arrived, and was invited to dine at the Court, along with his son and the Worthivales. The old trader was highly gratified. He was struck with the grand staircase, the well-lighted magnificent rooms, rich with gilding, pictures, and silk curtains, with the livery servants, and the general ease and luxury. He was courteously received, somewhat ceremoniously, and he had a few words with the Duke, who made himself agreeable, as he could when he chose, by touching on a subject likely to delight the old man.

‘What a very nice fellow your son is, Mr. Cheek! He has enlivened our rather dull society of late. I do not know what we should have done without him. Beavis is our usual pièce de résistance, but Beavis has been out of sorts lately. We feel under a debt to you for having spared him so long.’

Mr. Cheek held up his head. ‘Your Grace is too complimentary.’

‘Not at all. I always speak my mind.’

The General came up. ‘I am glad to make your acquaintance, sir,’ said Lord Ronald; ‘though I owe you a grudge, and I do not know that I shall ever be Christian enough to forgive you. Your boy ought to have been in the army.’