‘Let me find the money. Decline this five thousand. It will be a relief to my mind that I have stopped one additional loan. I have my half-pay, and am able to put aside some money. I have more than I want. If I drop this into the gulf it is only a drop. I know I am robbing my heirs without benefiting the house; but then—the house is my heir. I should leave everything to my dear niece, except a little remembrance to Lucy and yourself. When that hard-faced lawyer comes, tell him the five thousand is not wanted. Damn it, Beavis, I have a mind to throw all my savings into the same hole, but then——’
‘No, my Lord, you must not do this. It will only prolong the agony, and rob Lady Grace, as you say, of what in the end she may need. We must get a clear view of the situation before anything further is done.’
A tap sounded at the door, and Lord Saltcombe entered.
‘You here, Beavis! Good morning, Uncle Ronald. I heard that Worthivale had been rampaging after me, and suspected you had trapped him. I overslept myself. I sat up very late last night.’
‘Doing nothing, I suppose,’ said the General, dryly.
‘Exactly—doing nothing,’ answered the Marquess, slightly colouring.
‘We have been discussing family affairs,’ said Lord Ronald; ‘family embarrassments, I had better say.’
‘Then I am in the way. I will withdraw.’
‘Stay, Saltcombe, we want you to look into matters.’
‘My dear uncle, I am at Mr. Worthivale’s service every morning, whenever he calls me, to sign leases, audit accounts, and consent to the reduction of rent. I limit him to an hour; I cannot allow more time than that. The office exercises a soporific influence on my brain.’
‘You really must be serious. Matters are desperate. Do you know that a lawyer is coming here to-day about a transfer?’
‘Well! a transfer is not a nitro-glycerine bomb. I am impatient to make it. I am going to take Grace and Lucy out in the yacht. We must catch the tide. The Sheepwashes are going to meet us at Portsmouth. We are bound for Eddystone.’
‘Saltcombe, you do not know how in earnest I am,’ said the General; ‘I entreat you to stay. I have much to talk to you about, and Beavis here has more.’