Page:Court Royal.djvu/389

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‘I hope,’ said Lucy, warmly, ‘with all my heart I do hope that it will never come off.’

‘I see no other means of escape open. It must take place.’

Lucy was not happy. She took an opportunity of speaking alone to Charles Cheek.

‘Mr. Cheek, you must excuse my temerity. I have been brought up with Lady Grace from childhood, and I care for her as my own soul. I do, do hope you love her.’

‘Of course I do. But now,’ said the young man, gravely, ‘now that I have you all to myself, Cousin Lucy, you must be candid with me. I want particularly to know what are Lady Grace’s feelings towards me.’

‘She regards you very highly.’

‘If the property could be saved without the incumbrance of Charles Cheek, I suppose she would be well content?’

‘That is not a fair question to ask, and I will not answer it.’

‘Cousin Lucy,’ he said, ‘I am like Jacob at the foot of the ladder whose top reaches into heaven, and Lady Grace is an angel standing on it, high, very high up. She beckons me to ascend, and I want her to come down to me. Till one yields there can be no rapprochement. Which is it to be?’

‘How can you ask? For her to descend is inconceivable. You must go up.’

He shook his head. ‘do not care for such altitudes. The air is too thin, the light too strong, and it is deadly cold. I like the warmth of earth and its somewhat crass atmosphere.’

‘You would drag her down!’

‘Am I sacrilegious? I think her very perfect, quite angelic, but insufficiently human.’

‘What do you mean by human—that which is gross? Lady Grace can never become that. Human she is in the best sense. She shows you what human nature may become, not what it usually is.’

‘Quite so—natura, about-to-become. I like the present; there is unrest in a future participle. Cousin Lucy, to every substance, humanity not excepted, there are three conditions possible: the solid, the fluid, and the gaseous. I am in the first, she is in the last. I am not even, and have no desire to be, in the transition stage. She must condense and descend, or I must evaporate, and that I won’t do.’

‘Go higher, always higher!’ said Lucy, eagerly.

‘The desire to do so is not in me. It is a strain to me to