o’clock the steward and Lord Ronald left, and then he flung himself on the sofa, and fell asleep.
That same evening Lady Grace had been in conference with Lucy in her own bedroom, as she prepared to go to rest. She was in a pretty blue dressing-gown, her hair falling about her shoulders loosely. The lady’s maid had been dismissed, and Lucy and she were alone together.
‘Tell me truly, Lucy. The meeting has led to no good results?’
‘No, dear. I hear that half the amount of two of the mortgages must be paid forthwith, and the rest in two instalments within a twelvemonth. But that is not all. Two more mortgages held by Jews are called in, and so—— Worst of all is the terrible one on Loddiswell.’
‘And the money is nowhere forthcoming?’
Lucy shook her head.
‘Then what will be done?’
‘A great deal of the property will be sold.’
‘And Court Royal—must that go?’
‘Beavis thinks so. Land sells very badly now.’
‘I shall not have to part with you, Lucy?’
‘No’—and Lucy nestled into her friend’s side—‘never, never. Oh, my darling!’
‘For myself I do not care. If I cannot have my greenhouses and gardens, no one can deprive me of the green lanes and flowery coombs. I can be happy anywhere with you and papa, and Uncle Ronald and my brother. But I do not know how the others will bear it. Dear papa—I fear it will kill him. Uncle Ronald and Saltcombe are looking miserable. Did you observe Uncle Edward last night? I never saw his face so drawn and colourless. He was very bent and feeble. I asked him what ailed him. He smiled sadly and said, “Only a general break-up.” He takes this to heart, and he is not a strong man like the General. I suppose the dreadful truth must be told papa shortly. I must manage to be present so as to soothe him. He will be fearfully excited. If I can but hold his hands I may be of some good in keeping him cool. What is to be done about Mrs. Probus? Dear, good creature, she is bound up with us and cannot live away from us; and I do not think papa would be happy if he thought she were not in the house; she understands his little fancies. Then old Mr. Rowley, the coachman, with his red face. Oh, Lucy! he has been so comfortable here with us, just driving papa out