At this moment the steward entered. “Jackson,” said the Colonel, in the very same tone he was speaking in, “put up my race-horses to auction by public advertisement.”
“But, sir, Jenny has got to run at Derby, and the brown colt at Nottingham, and the six-year-old gelding at a handicap at Chester, and the chestnut is entered for the Syllinger next year.”
“Sell them with their engagements.”
“And the trainer, sir?”
“Give him his warning.”
“And the jockey?”
“Discharge him on the spot, and take him by the ear out of the premises before he poisons the lot. Keep one of the stable-boys, and let my groom do the rest.”
“But who is to take them to the place of auction, sir?”
“Nobody. I’ll have the auction here, and sell them where they stand. Submit all your books of account to this young gentleman.”
The steward looked a little blue, and Walter remonstrated gently. “To me, father?”
“Why, you can cipher, can’t ye?”
“Rather; it is the best thing I do.”
“And you have been in trade, haven’t ye?”
“Then you will detect plenty of swindles, if you find out one in ten. Above all, cut down my expenditure to my income. A gentleman of the nineteenth century, sharpened by trade, can easily do that. Sell Clifford Hall? I’d rather live on the rabbits and the pigeons and the blackbirds, and the carp in the pond, and drive to church in the wheelbarrow.”
So for a time Walter administered his father’s estate, and it was very instructive. Oh! the petty frauds—the swindles of agency—a term which, to be sure, is derived from the Latin word “agere,” to do—the cobweb of petty commissions—the flat bribes—the smooth hush-money!
Walter soon cut the expenses down to the income, which was ample, and even paid off the one mortgage that encumbered this noble estate at five per cent., only four per cent. of which was really fingered by the mortgagee; the balance went to a go-between, though no go-between was ever wanted, for any solicitor in the country would have found the money in a week at four per cent.
The old gentleman was delighted, and engaged his own son as steward at a liberal salary; and so Walter Clifford found employment and a fair income without going away from home again.
Whilst Mr. Bartley’s business was improving under Hope’s management, Hope himself was groaning under his entire separation from his daughter. Bartley had promised him this should not be; but among Hope’s good qualities was a singular fidelity to his employers, and he was also a man who never broke his word. So when Bartley showed him that the true parentage of Grace Hope—now called Mary Bartley—could never be disguised unless her memory of him was interrupted and puzzled before she grew older, and that she as well as the world must be made to believe Bartley was her father, he assented, and it was two years before he ventured to come near his own daughter.