“Father, what is the use of trying to shirk the thing just because it is disagreeable?” she asked earnestly. “Do you suppose that it is more pleasant to me to talk about it than it is for you? I know that you are not to blame about it. I know that dear James was very thoughtless and extravagant, and that the times are crushing. But to go on like this is only to go to ruin. It would be better for us to live in a cottage on a couple of hundred a year than to try to keep our heads above water here, which we cannot do. Sooner or later these people, Quest, or whoever they are, will want their money back, and then, if they cannot have it, they will sell the place over our heads. I believe that man Quest wants to get it himself—that is what I believe —and set up as a country gentleman. Father, I know it is a dreadful thing to say, but we ought to leave Honham.”
“Leave Honham!” said the old gentleman, jumping up in his agitation; “what nonsense you talk, Ida. How can I leave Honham? It would kill me at my age. How can I do it? And, besides, who is to look after the farms and all the business? No, no, we must hang on and trust to Providence. Things may come round, something may happen, one can never tell in this world.”
“If we do not leave Honham, then Honham will leave us,” answered his daughter, with conviction. “I do not believe in chances. Chances always go the wrong way—against those who are looking for them. We shall be absolutely ruined, that is all.”
“Well, perhaps you are right, perhaps you are right, my dear,” said the old Squire wearily. “I only hope that my time may come first. I have lived here all my life, seventy years and more, and I know that I could not live anywhere else. But God’s will be done. And now, my dear, go to bed.”
She leant down and kissed him, and as she did so saw that his eyes were filled with tears. Not trusting herself to speak, for she felt for him too deeply to do so, she turned away and went, leaving the old man sitting there with his grey head bowed upon his breast.
The day following that of the conversation just described was one of those glorious autumn mornings which sometimes come as a faint compensation for the utter vileness and bitter disappointment of the season that in this country we dignify by the name of summer. Notwithstanding his vigils and melancholy of the night before, the Squire was up early, and Ida, who between one thing and another had not had the best of nights, heard his loud cheery voice shouting about the place for “George.”
Looking out of her bedroom window, she soon perceived that functionary himself, a long, lean, powerful-looking man with a melancholy face and a twinkle in his little grey eyes, hanging about the front steps. Presently her father emerged in a brilliant but ancient dressing gown, his white locks waving on the breeze.