Young Worthivale was vexed. The old man wanted tact, and he was doing mischief.
‘Beavis is coming with us,’ said Lord Saltcombe. ‘He wants a whiff of sea-breeze to take the office-dust out of his lungs, and blow the cobwebs from his brain.’
Beavis seized the opportunity to turn the conversation. He saw that the General irritated his nephew, without advancing the cause he had at heart. But the old man could not understand his tactics.
‘What a man you are, Worthivale!’ he said. Two minutes ago you were crying, “House on fire!” and now you are agog to be junketing with the girls. I will not be put off like this. You have stirred me up. I will have it out with Saltcombe.’
‘My time, then, is yours,’ said the Marquess, stiffly.
‘Very well,’ said the General, hotly. ‘You must marry.’
Lord Ronald did not answer; the question was not an easy one to answer.
‘You remind me of the magistrates of the old German towns, who had the bachelors before them on attaining their majority, and bade them marry within six weeks, or forfeit their rights of citizenship.’
‘There was sense in that. You must marry, Saltcombe.’
‘Uncle, I will contemplate the five Misses Sheepwash to-day with that view.’
‘Do not be absurd. You must marry money.’
‘Beavis,’ said the Marquess, aside, ‘you will be at the pier at half-past twelve.’
The General was angered by his nephew’s coolness.
‘Saltcombe,’ he said, ‘time enough has elapsed since that Palermo affair——’
‘For you to have learned, Uncle Ronald, that I will endure no allusion to it,’ said the Marquess, gravely, whilst his colour went.
The old man looked him full in the face, and Lord Saltcombe met his eye firmly. He said not another word, but turned with a sigh to the window. The Marquess beckoned to Beavis, and they left the room together.