“Quite so, Quest; quite so,” answered the Squire quietly. “I had no idea that you looked at these matters in such a light. Certainly the world has changed a good deal since I was a young man, and I do not think it has changed much for the better. But you will want your luncheon; it is hungry work talking about foreclosures.” Mr. Quest had not used this unpleasant word, but the Squire had seen his drift. “Come into the next room,” and he led the way to the drawing-room, where Ida was sitting reading the Times.
“Ida,” he said, with an affectation of heartiness which did not, however, deceive his daughter, who knew how to read every change of her dear father’s face, “here is Mr. Quest. Take him in to luncheon, my love. I will come presently. I want to finish a note.”
Then he returned to the vestibule and sat down in his favourite old oak chair.
“Ruined,” he said to himself. “I can never get the money as things are, and there will be a foreclosure. Well, I am an old man and I hope that I shall not live to see it. But there is Ida. Poor Ida! I cannot bear to think of it, and the old place too, after all these generations—after all these generations!”
Ida shook hands coldly enough with the lawyer, for whom she cherished a dislike not unmixed with fear. Many women are by nature gifted with an extraordinary power of intuition which fully makes up for their deficiency in reasoning force. They do not conclude from the premisses of their observation, they know that this man is to be feared and that trusted. In fact, they share with the rest of breathing creation that self-protective instinct of instantaneous and almost automatic judgment, given to guard it from the dangers with which it is continually threatened at the hands of man’s over-mastering strength and ordered intelligence. Ida was one of these. She knew nothing to Mr. Quest’s disadvantage, indeed she always heard him spoken of with great respect, and curiously enough she liked his wife. But she could not bear the man, feeling in her heart that he was not only to be avoided on account of his own hidden qualities, but that he was moreover an active personal enemy.
They went into the dining-room, where the luncheon was set, and while Ida allowed Mr. Quest to cut her some cold boiled beef, an operation in which he did not seem to be very much at home, she came to a rapid conclusion in her own mind. She had seen clearly enough from her father’s face that his interview with the lawyer had been of a most serious character, but she knew that the chances were that she would never be able to get its upshot out of him, for the old gentleman had a curious habit of keeping such unpleasant matters to himself until he was absolutely forced by circumstances to reveal them. She also knew that her father’s affairs were in a most critical condition, for this she had extracted from him on the previous night, and that if any remedy was to be attempted it must be attempted at once, and on some heroic scale. Therefore, she made up her mind to ask her bete noire, Mr. Quest, what the truth might be.