During the early days of the Minister’s illness, when, as we have seen, all the political world of England were turning their coaches and six towards the Castle Inn, it came to be the custom for Julia to go every morning to the little bridge over the Kennet, thence to watch the panorama of departures and arrivals; and for Sir George to join her there without excuse or explanation, and as if, indeed, nothing in the world were more natural. As the Earl’s illness continued to detain all who desired to see him—from the Duke of Grafton’s parliamentary secretary to the humblest aspirant to a tide-waitership—Soane was not the only one who had time on his hands and sought to while it away in the company of the fair. The shades of Preshute churchyard, which lies in the bosom of the trees, not three bowshots from the Castle Inn and hard by the Kennet, formed the chosen haunt of one couple. A second pair favoured a seat situate on the west side of the Castle Mound, and well protected by shrubs from the gaze of the vulgar. And there were others.
These Corydons, however, were at ease; they basked free from care in the smiles of their Celias. But Soane, in his philandering, had to do with black care that would be ever at his elbow; black care, that always when he was not with Julia, and sometimes while he talked to her, would jog his thoughts, and draw a veil before the future. The prospect of losing Estcombe, of seeing the family Lares broken and cast out, and the family stem, tender and young, yet not ungracious, snapped off short, wrung a heart that belied his cold exterior. Moreover, when all these had been sacrificed, he was his own judge how far he