Page:Court Royal.djvu/338

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hard, and I may have to call on you to assist me. The mortgagees have a power of sale, and they will exercise it. What will remain to us out of the wreck, I suppose not even Beavis can tell.’

Late in the evening, Worthivale arrived. He was in such a condition of confused misery, that he could not collect his thoughts sufficiently to advise what should be done. He produced his books, but in his bewildered state of mind could make nothing out of them.

‘The disgrace!’ moaned the General. ‘The humiliation to our proud name.’

‘You are a soldier,’ said Lord Saltcombe.

‘There are some things past the endurance even of a soldier,’ answered Lord Ronald.

‘Where is the Archdeacon?’ asked the steward. ‘His opinion would be invaluable now.’

‘He has gone to bed,’ answered the General. ‘He is not feeling well. He is much dispirited by the events of to-day. To-morrow he must return to Sleepy Hollow.’

Then the steward and Lord Ronald began to spin cobwebs—cobwebs that needed but the breath of common-sense to blow them away.

Lord Norwich was the brother of the late Duchess. He was getting old and infirm, and he had not been down to visit the Duke lately in Devon. Lord Ronald thought of him. He was wealthy. Why should not he come to the rescue? The Marquess and Grace were his sister’s children. Lord Saltcombe reminded them that his son, the Hon. Norfolk Broad, was not likely to consent; he had spent a great deal on the turf, and would probably run through the property when his father died.

Then Worthivale suggested the taking in hand of the oil-shale works. Oil had not been extracted from them before in sufficient quantities to be remunerative, because the wrong sort of crushers had been employed. The Marquess replied that if the crushers squeezed out gold, then it would be worth while getting them, not otherwise.

‘Perhaps the Archdeacon will think of something; he is an eminently practical man,’ said the General. ‘I dare say he has gone to bed early to consider the matter between the sheets, and he will be ripe with a proposal to-morrow.’

Thus sat the three the greater part of the night; the Marquess was the only one who kept his head clear. At three