Page:Court Royal.djvu/50

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to Mr. Christopher Worthivale by his Grace, Beavis, seventh Duke of Kingsbridse, G.C.B., as a small testimonial of esteem, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his stewardship. Above this hung a painting in oils, by a local artist, of Court Royal; and on each side of it a portrait, also in oils, the one of a favourite horse of the late Duke, the other of a favourite dog of the late dowager Duchess.

Mr. Christopher Worthivale entered, whilst Mr. Crudge was studying these pictures. He was a hale, fresh-coloured man of about five-and-fifty, in a light grey coat and a white waistcoat. He entered briskly, rubbing his hands. Judging by his appearance and manner, one would have supposed that the property of the Duke was in a flourishing and unencumbered condition, and that the steward’s management of it had been most successful. Not a shadow lay on his cheerful face. His manner was perfectly easy. On his left-hand little finger he wore a ring with a red cornelian, on which were cut the three pheons of Worthivale of Worthivale, an old respectable Cornish family which he claimed to represent.

‘Allow me to introduce myself,’ said Mr. Crudge. ‘My name is familiar to you—Crudge, solicitor, Exeter. I have come on business about which we have had some correspondence.’

‘Ah! Mr. Crudge, to be sure. The maid got hold of your name wrong. I did not anticipate the pleasure. Gooche was what she said. Pray take a seat. Neither your name nor business are strange to me. Mutual accommodation, eh? Do sit down. Really, I am delighted to see you. You could not have done me a greater pleasure.’

The expression of Mr. Worthivale’s face belied his words. On hearing the name of his visitor some of his cheerfulness had faded from his countenance and his lips twitched.

‘I entreat you to be seated,’ he went on, nervously offering one chair, then another, then, noticing an arm-chair, rolling that up, then falling back on a fourth, a low light seat of papier maché. ‘You have come a long way. By coach? May I offer you refreshments?’

‘Thank you, I will not take anything. My time is precious. If you have no objection, I would like at once to proceed to business.’

‘Oh! business,’ echoed Mr. Worthivale, taking out his pocket-handkerchief, and dusting the books on the table. ‘Dear me! how provoking the servants are. They take advantage of there being no lady in the house to neglect the primary