Page:Court Royal.djvu/67

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less foot against each jamb of the mantelpiece, smoking and looking dreamily into the coals.

‘Well, Beavis, seen your friend tucked in between the sheets?’

‘No friend of mine,’ answered the son. ‘I never saw him before you introduced him to Court Royal.’

‘Look here,’ said Mr. Worthivale, pointing with the mouthpiece of his pipe at a book that lay open on the table, page downwards, to mark the place. ‘I’ve been reading Ouida’s last. What do you think of the story, Beavis? I rather like it.’

‘Never read anything of Ouida’s in my life,’ answered the young man. ‘Don’t care if I never do. Now I want a word with you on business, father, if you can spare me ten minutes.’

‘Business!’ sighed the steward. ‘Eternally business. After I had done my work for the day, as I hoped, in dropped that solicitor, Crudge, to badger me; and now that I thought to drowse over my pipe and Ouida, in you come, blowing a blast of business cold in my face to rouse me. No, I’ll talk no business to-night. Pour yourself out a glass of cold whisky and water, and smoke a cigar, and then to bed. You will have to find a tumbler for yourself. There are plenty in the pantry, with thumb-marks imprinted on their rims. I told Emily to put out two whilst you are here, but the girl’s head is like a sieve. She is courting, I presume. The sugar-bowl is empty; the housekeeper has forgotten to fill that. When I say empty, I am wrong; there is a cake of brown moist sugar at the bottom, solid as pie-crust. The lumps of white had been tumbled in on top—to save trouble, I suppose.’

‘I really must have a word on business with you to-night, father. The solicitor from Exeter will be here to-morrow morning.’

‘Well, what of that?’

‘He will come about the mortgage; and what I want to say concerns the family we alike love, and would save from ruin.’

‘Ruin! Fiddlestick’s ends!’

‘My dear father, the situation is desperate.’

‘My dear Beavis,’ answered Mr. Worthivale testily, ‘I am steward, and I ought to know the state of affairs better than anyone else, and I refuse to have it spoken of as desperate.’