Page:Court Royal.djvu/387

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The white light was spreading in the eastern sky, and the moon, struck with paralysis, failed and became dim.

‘Joe!’ he said, and covered his eyes. ‘Now only, when about to lose you, do I begin to realise what you are to me.’

He looked up, looked around, she was gone.


Charles Cheek returned to Court Royal Lodge. He had lost his brightness. He was troubled about himself and about Joanna. He had become engaged to Lady Grace without being really in love with her. He liked a free and easy life, and the formalities of Court Royal were intolerable to him. He liked variety, and one day at the Park was like another. He was naturally of a joyous and careless spirit, and he was forced by circumstances to think, and think seriously; hating responsibilities, he had entangled himself in a net of them, and saw no way of escape out of them.

The Duke said one day to his daughter, that it was well to encourage the young man to be at the Court, for he heard he was very well off, and it was high time for Lucy to get married.

‘He is gentlemanly and agreeable. He knows his place. We must not be selfish and keep Lucy to ourselves.’

Lady Grace turned her face aside. It did not occur to the Duke as possible that young Cheek looked higher.

‘Should this come about, as I hope it will,’ said the old man, ‘it will be our duty and pleasure to make a handsome provision for Lucy. She has been devoted to you and to our whole house. We must not deal shabbily in the matter. I will speak to Worthivale about it.’

‘For pity’s sake, papa, not a word,’ entreated his daughter, laying her delicate hands on his arm, whilst a little colour fluttered about her face, like the flush of the cloud when touched by the setting sun.

‘As you will,’ said the Duke; ‘I only suggested it; but in these delicate matters a stranger’s hand must not meddle.’

Lucy watched her friend closely. She knew that Lady Grace had no dislike to Charles; she knew also that she did not love him. Lucy was able to read her heart like an open