Page:Court Royal.djvu/64

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my best heart’s blood to save them from ruin, for they are the worthiest people in the world. But I am not blind to their faults. Look there’—he pointed to a row of handsome alms-houses in the ‘cottage-Gothic’ style, each with its pretty garden before it—‘Here live superannuated servants of the family rent-free, on pensions. Yonder is the school, entirely supported by his Grace.’

‘Almshouses are mischievous institutions; they superinduce a habit of improvidence.’

‘That may be true. According to modern doctrine, charity impoverishes. To give to the poor is to harm them, and should be made penal. The survivals of the old world do not see his.’

‘Why should the Duke maintain a school? He should throw the cost on the rates and have a Board.’

‘So he should; but he thinks it his duty and privilege to provide the children of all who live on his land with education free of cost, and with religious instruction on the principles of the Established Church. He belongs to a past order of ideas, and that is his view. We who belong to the new order object to gratuitous and to denominational education. The Duke is a patriarch, full of patriarchal notions of obligation to and care for all who belong to him. He would provide for everyone born on his estates if he were able, like the Incas of old Peru.’

‘That interferes with individualism,’ said Crudge.

‘Of course it does; but he belongs to the old school of moral responsibilities. The General, Lord Ronald, belongs to the old school in military ideas; and the Archdeacon, Lord Edward, belongs to the old school in theology. The Marquess has an honourable soul, but he belongs to the old school of Laissez faire. Lady Grace belongs to the old school of sweet womanly culture. Not one of them has any idea how near the edge of the precipice they stand. They look on political dangers as the rocks in their course, and not on financial breakers among which they are running and in which they will go to pieces. It is true that they know they have not the wealth which once belonged to the family; but they sigh over the past without bestirring themselves for the present. What is to be done for these blind people? To rob them of their illusion is impossible. It circulates in their blood. To save them in spite of themselves—how is that to be done?’

The solicitor listened attentively. He said, with a smile, ‘Before the Flood they married, and that did not arrest the