So engrossed was his lordship in his meditations that a voice spoke at his elbow ere he became aware of Sir Thomas himself, standing by his side.
"Well, Spennie, my boy," said the knight. "Time to dress for dinner, I think. Eh? Eh?"
He was plainly in high good humor. The thought of the distinguished company he was to entertain that night had changed him temporarily, as with some wave of a fairy wand, into a thing of joviality and benevolence. One could almost hear the milk of human kindness gurgling and splashing within him. The irony of fate! To-night, such was his mood, a dutiful nephew could have come and felt in his pockets and helped himself—if circumstances had been different. Oh, woman, woman, how you bar us from paradise!
His lordship gurgled a wordless reply, thrusting the fateful letter hastily into his pocket. He would break the news anon. Soon—not yet—later on—in fact, anon!
"Up in your part, my boy?" continued Sir Thomas. "You mustn't spoil the play by forgetting your lines. That wouldn't do!"
His eye was caught by the envelope that Spennie had dropped. A momentary lapse from the jovial and benevolent was the result. His fussy little soul abhorred small untidinesses.
"Dear me," he said, stooping, "I wish people would not drop paper about the house. I cannot endure a litter." He spoke as if somebody had been