burglars, my throat from their murderous knife. Save now my heart from despair. I offer you my hand; let us walk together down the flowery path of life, with the roses blushing in our way and the doves cooing over our heads, and with plenty to eat and drink on the journey. Spend, Joanna, what money you like, eat what dainties you desire, dress in what clothes you fancy, and pic-nic when and where you will. Oh, Joanna, “O, that we two were maying,” as the song goes, together through life without a Thresher at our side as a sharer of our pudding! Cease to consider me as your master, and accept me as your husband.’
Then Joanna burst into a ringing laugh.
‘Too late, Mr. Lazarus, too late!—not permissible after twelve o’clock.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘This is the first of April, and you are trying to make of me an April fool.’
‘I am serious. I protest, most serious.’
‘Then,’ said she, ‘it is yourself that you have succeeded in converting into a most egregious April fool.’
Mr. Charles Cheek was supposed to know nothing of the difficulties of the family, till Lady Grace spoke to him so plainly on the subject. He had, however, heard something from the steward, whose mouth could not keep silence, and his father had told him plainly what he knew. From Mr. Worthivale he heard of the fresh trouble caused by the death of the Archdeacon. Nothing further had passed between him and Lady Grace. She was friendly, and he remained fascinated. There it stopped.
Lord Saltcombe had at last been roused to take a decided step. The General told him of the Duke’s objection to the sale of anything, and of the necessity under which they lay of at once finding money. The honour of the house was at stake, and the Marquess visited his father, and was closeted with him for an hour.