‘My fault, my lord. Bitterly regret it now—when too late. A mistake.’
‘It was a mistake. He is a daring fellow. He was hunting the other day, and took the hedges splendidly. No end of pluck in him. Sad pity he is not in the army.’
The delighted father watched his son all the evening. He did not talk much himself, and Lord Edward and the General found him difficult to get on with. The reason was that his attention was taken up in contemplating his son with admiration and wonder. He could not have been more astonished had he assisted at a miracle. Charles was at ease in this society. Charles could talk, and make the great people listen to him. After dinner Charles played and sang a solo, talked to Lucy Worthivale, and sent her into a fit of laughter, stood in the window in familiar discussion with the Marquess, then went to the Duke, conversed with him, then at his request sang a duet with Lady Grace. After that Charles was on an ottoman with the lady, talking to her in an animated way, expressing himself with his hands like a Frenchman, whilst her colour came and she smiled. She coloured because she remembered the words of Lucy.
Mr. Cheek was struck with her; her delicate beauty and purity impressed him. He was not afraid of her, but he had not the courage to get up from his place and walk across the room to speak to her. Presently she came over to him, and talked, and the old man felt as though a light shone round him, and a sense of reverence and holy love came upon him. He did not remember afterwards what she said, or what he answered, but thought that he had been in a dream. Afterwards, when she was at the piano again, he watched her, and shook his head, and smiled. Then he looked at Charles turning the pages of her music for her, and he said to himself, ‘Charles is a genius! It is not in me. The Duke and that old soldier chap didn’t pile it on too much. He is all they said, and more. Worthivale was right. This is the element in which he must swim.’
Mr. Cheek and the steward walked home together, Charles and Beavis went on before.
‘Are they not charming people? Is not the house quite perfect?’ asked Mr. Worthivale.
‘This the style of daily life?’ asked Mr. Cheek.
‘Always the same—of course.’
‘And the income, the debts, the mortgages, the outs always