splendid ornaments seemed in the cold daylight to have lost their sparkle, and to be sensible of the general sorrow, decay, and humiliation.
‘The pictures must come down,’ said Lord Saltcombe. ‘The Rubens at Kingsbridge House can be disposed of to the National Gallery, which is short of examples of that master.’
‘Will the nation care to spend thousands on fleshy Dutchwomen? I doubt it.’
‘Some of the paintings in this room are valuable,’ said the Marquess. ‘Let us have them down, and they can be measured for their cases. That Murillo was bought by the first Duke off the easel of the painter. These Gerard Dows are more interesting than beautiful. There is an Adoration by Porbus, with Philip II. and Alva as two of the Wise Men. Here is a Turner purchased by my father, undescribed by Mr. Ruskin.’
‘The Reynolds’ portraits—what of them?’
‘We will not part with family pictures if we can help it. Let them remain suspended. There is a large Morland with its clump of dark trees, and a pretty Gainsborough, a fine example and worth a large sum. These must certainly come down.’
Lord Saltcombe and the General were standing in the middle of the room, which was strewn with treasures. Most of the silver was packed, only that left out which was reserved for use. The china was about, some being packed in hay; the jewels in their trays were spread out on the tables; the pictures were unhung—when—the door opened, and Lady Grace entered with Mr. Charles Cheek and Lucy.
Lady Grace saw in a moment what was being done, and coloured and stood still. Lucy also understood the situation, and was seized with a fit of trembling. The occasion of their entry was this—Charles had said, in the course of conversation, that he had never seen the state rooms, whereupon Lady Grace, unaware of what was taking place, had volunteered to show him through them.
‘Packing for removal to town,’ said the General. ‘Rather late in the season, but better late than never.’
Charles Cheek was not deceived. He drew back. He was moved. It was sad to see the break-up of a noble family, to stand, so to speak, beside its deathbed. He withdrew from the room at once, and halted on the staircase outside the door and with agitation in his voice and face and manner, he said,