the same?’ said Mr. Cheek. ‘Nothing for it but a smash-up. Seen the accounts. Balance bad. I—even I—with the Monokeros on my back, couldn’t afford it.’
‘You have never seen this sort of life before,’ said the steward, reproachfully, ‘and so—it rather surprises you. Splendid, is it not? and so homely and genial too.’
‘Won’t go on,’ said the man of business. ‘Can’t do it on the balance. Col-lapse.’
‘I hope not—I trust not.’
‘I can help them. I can save them.’
‘I knew it, I was sure of it,’ exclaimed the delighted steward.
‘I see they like Charlie, and Charlie likes to be on this shelf. I don’t. I ain’t suited to it. Set me on end on the floor. Don’t roll me up and chuck me aloft on a top shelf. Charlie can take that place, and he shall. I like to see him there.’
‘He conducts himself very well, but what has he to do with the present emergency?’
‘Everything. Charlie shall make Lady Grace his missus. Then he’ll belong to the aristocracy, whatever I may be.’
‘What!’ Mr. Worthivale sprang back, and his hat fell off.
‘Charlie shall make his proposals to Lady Grace, and I’ll find two hundred thousand pounds to clear off such of the mortgages as are now troublesome. The Monokeros is still alive, and bringing in money for Charlie and his deary. If this ain’t a handsome offer, show me one that is. If you don’t like my shop, go to another.’
‘Are you mad? You must be mad!’ exclaimed the steward, too amazed to be indignant. ‘Your son and SHE! What are you thinking of?’
‘What am I thinking of? Mutual accommodation. As you said to me, I want blood and they want money. Is it a deal?’
Mr. Worthivale stared at his guest, and remained rooted to the spot.
‘Madman!’ he gasped. ‘Is nothing sacred with you?’
‘As you like,’ said the trader, indifferently. ‘Take my offer or reject it. I can do without better than you.’
‘Not a word of this raving nonsense to a soul,’ said Mr. Worthivale, grasping his arm. ‘Lord! I wouldn’t have any one hear of this for all I am worth.’
‘As you like,’ said Mr. Cheek, putting his hands in his pockets. ‘Those are my terms.’