Page:Court Royal.djvu/72

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hurt poor Lucy Worthivale, on whom the obligation devolved when her friend was from home.

Lord Saltcombe’s cabinet was not invaded or interfered with. There he kept his hunting-whips, his guns, his fishing-rods, and the walls were adorned with the heads and brushes of foxes, tiger skins, and antlers of red deer. In one corner was an easel, for he sometimes painted. Against the wall a cottage piano, which he sometimes played. Also a rack of budding-knives and grafting tools, for he sometimes gardened. In the window hung a cage with a canary, which he sometimes fed, sometimes starved, and sometimes overfed. One wall was occupied by his library, a mixed collection of books: Rabelais, S. Thomas à Kempis, Jean Paul, Spielhagen, Herbert Spencer, ‘The Lyra Messianica’ and Algernon Swinburne, Victor Hugo, Emile Souvestre, Zola, The Duke of Argyll, Thackeray, ‘Explorations of Africa,’ and ‘Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible,’ with ‘Cometh up as a Flower’ and ‘Is Life worth Living?’ thrust in between the volumes, and a pamphlet on Poultry upon the top of it.

Beavis Worthivale had known the Marquess from childhood, but it cannot be said that he understood him. In fact, no one understood him, yet everyone liked him. He resembled an audience-chamber, accessible to all, containing a closet of which no one possessed the key. He spent his time in reading or in out-door pursuits, yet he had no favourite study and no darling occupation. He was accomplished, knew several languages, was a fair classic, fond of history, and liked books of travel. He read whatever came in his way, changing his style, and subject, and language for the sake of contrast. He skimmed the work he took in hand, but never studied it. Reading with him was a distraction, not a pursuit; a narcotic which enabled him to forget life and its burdens.

The Marquess was already forty, was full of the vigour and beauty of manhood, but it was easy to see that life was to him without object; that he exacted of it little, and cared little for it. Always amiable, cheerful, agreeable, with plenty of conversation and pleasant humour, he was attractive in society, but was unattracted by it. He could enter into an argument, but was indifferent to the side on which he argued. He argued to kill an hour, not to convince an opponent. His uncle, the Archdeacon, was sometimes alarmed about him, lest he should become a sceptic; but he was deficient in the earnestness of purpose which would make him take a line. He accepted