Page:Court Royal.djvu/331

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319
RETRIBUTION

crops—as is correct, to those living in the country—and on land. Lazarus said nothing. So passed ten minutes.

‘Let us proceed to business,’ said the soliciter, looking at his watch. ‘By the way, I bear a note for you, sir, from Messrs. Levi and Moses, who hold the seventeen thousand pound mortgage on Alvington; and also the second, on the same estate, for twenty thousand. I am instructed to act for them. Both must be met in three months from date.’

A silence ensued, broken only by a little, quickly subdued chuckle in the window.

Then Beavis opened proceedings, by stating that the sudden calling up of mortgages at a time when rents had had to be reduced twenty to twenty-five per cent, all round, and when some rents were in arrear for two and three years, at a time, moreover, when land was at an unprecedentedly low value, was very inconvenient to the Duke, and that he desired the mortgagees to reconsider their demand, and allow time for the recovery of the farmers, when, in the event of his not being able to transfer the mortgages, or himself find the amount, land would have to be sold.

The solicitor replied that he was acting both for Mr. Emmanuel and for Messrs. Levi and Moses, and he could say that his clients were not disposed to be harsh, but to accord every reasonable indulgence. They, however, did not participate in the sanguine view entertained by his Grace. They believed that rents would fall still lower, that the golden day of British agriculture was set, and the whole industry menaced with extinction. Holding this, they were anxious with promptitude to release their money, that they might invest it elsewhere.

‘But, if you proceed to extremities, you will be selling land when it hardly reaches twenty-five years’ purchase.’

‘Better that than sell when it will not fetch twenty years’ purchase. I have heard of desirable properties in North Devon in the market, and not a bid made for them at fifteen.’

‘But this is in South Devon.’

Mr. Grudge shrugged his shoulders,

‘What, then, do you propose, or demand?’ asked the General.

‘We are ready to meet your convenience as far as possible. I am instructed to yield so far as this—half the total at the expiration of three months from date of notice, the rest in two equal portions, at intervals of three months.’