letter, and she saw that Grace was sacrificing herself solely for the sake of her father and brother. Did she realise the greatness of the sacrifice? Was the preservation of the estates worth it?
Lucy was glad of an opportunity to be with her brother one day to talk to him on the subject.
Beavis was looking careworn and sad. He knew that Lady Grace was engaged to Charles Cheek. The money advanced on the security of the furniture and plate had assured him of that. He took Lucy’s arm. They were walking in the garden under a brick wall, against which oranges and limes were trained. The scent of orange flowers was on the air. During a frost mats were placed over these trees, otherwise they were exposed, and flowered and fruited in the open air. Lucy plucked a twig of orange blossom, and, holding it between her fingers lightly, looked into the flower. ‘Beavis,’ she said, ‘I shall be picking these blossoms some time this year for the adornment of Grace. I had as soon be putting them about her in her coffin. You also would be happier that it were so.’
She did not look at her brother.
Though they were comparatively seldom together, she and her brother thought alike, felt alike, loved alike, as twins, each with the same disinterested and transparent love.
‘No, Lucy,’ answered Beavis, ‘it is well as it is. The family must be saved, and no salvation is possible without sacrifice. The sacrifice the gods demand is always of the best and purest. They refused that of Saltcombe; it was great, but not great enough. Iphigenia must suffer that the wind may swell the slack sails again.’
‘But the Duke will never consent.’
‘He must consent. He will do so under protest to save the family; that is always the first consideration with him. He would cheerfully sacrifice himself, if called to do so, in such a cause.’
‘Would it not be best that the sacrifice should be made by him—that the bulk of the property should be sold rather than that dear Grace herself should be forced into this most unsuitable connection?’
‘I do not think she will be unhappy. Charles is amiable; he is not brilliant, and she will lead him.’
‘I am sure she does not love him.’
‘I am not sure that he loves her. He is struck with her, that is all. He cannot ask of her what he does not give himself.