every afternoon. What will become of him? He is too aged to take another situation, and I hear that gentlemen are putting down their carriages everywhere. Then there is Mr. MacCabe, the head-gardener. He has been so civil. I have been afraid of him sometimes. I feared he would scold when I swept the houses of flowers. But he only smiled, though the loss of the cherished blossoms went to his heart, I know. And Jonathan—he has always shown himself so eager to oblige. Lucy! what trouble he took over that rock work for my Alpine garden, and in piling it up he crushed one of his fingers and lost the nail. And Jane, my maid! I give her so much trouble; I am untidy with my things. There, there—I must cry—but it is not for myself; it is only because we shall have to part with all these nice, kind servants, and because papa will be miserable anywhere else, and Uncle Ronald without plenty of room for his lathe, and Saltcombe without his yacht, and his fishing and shooting. He cares for nothing else, and these will be taken from him. He will have Beavis.’
‘Beavis, you may be sure, will cling to him to the last.’
‘Yes,’ said Lady Grace, and she patted her friend’s hand, which she held between her own, and looked thoughtfully before her, ‘and your father will always be with mine! Oh, what a blessing it is to have dear, faithful friends. Let everything else go. These precious, golden hearts are above all that the world can give.’ After a silence she said reverently, ‘And they are God’s gift, to comfort us.’ Both were affected, and said nothing for several minutes, but Lucy stooped and kissed Lady Grace’s hand.
‘Lucy,’ said the latter after awhile, ‘I thought you told me that Mr. Cheek was going to help us.’
‘We thought he would, but when it came to the point he drew back, and made ridiculous conditions.’
‘Surely he had all but promised, had he not?’
‘I cannot say that. My dear father was very sanguine when he returned from town. He told us that he had managed everything beautifully, and that we had no more occasion for anxiety, as our relative, who was a millionaire, would come to the rescue. Dear papa’s ducks are all swans, and he is hopeful on the smallest grounds. When Mr. Cheek came here, he did not even go over the estates, he simply came and went again. He did not even attend the meeting.’
‘But you say he made some sort of offer.’