Opposite to him facing the light a young man lounged in a great leather chair. The visitors in Francis Markrute’s library nearly always faced the light, while he himself had his back to it.
There was no doubt about this visitor’s nation! He was flamboyantly English. If you had wished to send a prize specimen of the race to a World’s Fair you could not have selected anything finer. He was perhaps more Norman than Saxon, for his hair was dark though his eyes were blue, and the marks of breeding in the creature showed as plainly as in a Derby winner. Francis Markrute always smoked his cigars to the end, if he were at leisure and the weed happened to be a good one, but Lord Tancred (Tristram Lorrimer Guiscard Guiscard, 24th Baron Tancred, of Wrayth in the County of Suffolk) flung his into the grate after a few whiffs, and he laughed with a slightly whimsical bitterness as he went on with the conversation.
“Yes, Francis, my friend, the game here is played out; I am thirty, and there is nothing interesting left for me to do but emigrate to Canada, for a while at least, and take up a ranch.”
“Wrayth mortgaged heavily, I suppose?” said Mr. Markrute, quietly.
“Pretty well, and the Northern property, too. When my mother’s jointure is paid there is not a great deal left this year, it seems. I don’t mind much; I had a pretty fair time before these beastly Radicals made things so difficult.”
The financier nodded, and the young man went on: “My forbears got rid of what they could; there was not much ready money to come into and one had to live!”
Francis Markrute smoked for a minute thoughtfully.
“Naturally,” he said at last. “Only the question is—for how long? I understand a plunge, if you settle its duration; it is the drifting and trusting to chance, and a gradual sinking which seem to me a poor game. Did you ever read de Musset’s ’Rolla’?”
“The fellow who had arrived at his last night, and to whom the little girl was so kind? Yes: well?”
“You reminded me of Jacques Rolla, that is all.”
“Oh, come! It is not as bad as that!” Lord Tancred exclaimed—and he laughed. “I can collect a few thousands still, even here, and I can go to Canada. I believe there is any quantity of money to be made there with a little capital, and it is a nice, open-air life. I just looked in this afternoon on my way back from Scotland to tell you I should be going out to prospect, about the end of November and could not join you for the pheasants on the 20th, as you were good enough to ask me to do.”
The financier half closed his eyes. When he did this there was always something of importance working in his brain.
“You have not any glaring vices, Tancred,” he said. “You are no gambler either on the turf or at cards. You are not over addicted to expensive ladies. You are cultivated, for a sportsman, and you have made one or two decent speeches in the House of Lords. You are, in fact, rather a fine specimen of your class. It seems a pity you should have to shut down and go to the Colonies.”