‘I am in the office of the Duke’s lawyer in town; but I am not to continue in a solicitor’s office.’
‘Why not? The affairs of the family will give you plenty of occupation. Believe me, my boy, there are more pickings to be got out of tottering than standing houses.’
Young Worthivale walked on without answering. He struck a match and lighted a cigar.
‘The parrots in Jamaica used to eat nuts,’ said Crudge, ‘in the days of their ignorance. They have learned to do better for themselves now. They put their claws into the wool of a sheep and swing themselves, bob, bob, bob, against the side of the creature till with their beaks they get at the fat about the kidney, and they make their repast off that. Better than nuts that, eh? You’ve your hold on a fat wether; I wish I had your place. All I can say is, bob, bob, bob, till you get at the fat!’
Beavis said nothing, but set his lips tight on his cigar and puffed rapidly.
‘I must confess,’ said Crudge, ‘that what I have seen to-day will remain with me as long as I live. What a remarkable family! The dignity, stateliness, old-worldishness of the lot makes them interesting. They belong to the past. I seem to have come out of Madame Tussaud’s, and to have seen waxwork notabilities. I hope you are not offended; I mean no offence. Do you remember the story in the “Arabian Nights” of the man—a Kalendar, I dare say—who got into a palace where everyone was petrified except a prince, who was semi-petrified? I feel like that Kalendar. I am not sure that you are not half-fossilised also. I do not see how anyone can live in this enchanted atmosphere and not be enchanted.’
‘I see what you mean,’ said young Worthivale. ‘You are right, the atmosphere in Court Royal is not that of the nineteenth century, but of the last.’
‘There are different atmospheres at different levels,’ said Crudge. ‘Theirs is too exalted for me. At the top of Mont Blanc men’s ears and noses bleed; and I have had great oppression there aloft. I breathe freer now I am down again with you. But you—you belong to the upper crust, after a fashion!’
‘Yes,’ said Beavis, laughing, ‘after the fashion of the pigeon in the pie; it has its feet there, but the feet only, I was at table to-day, but not one of the family. My father and sister belong to this exclusive world; they have been like