“The Grand Jury.”
“Well, how could he be serving on a Grand Jury if his head was affected as you say?”
“You don’t know England,” he assured her. “Ten to one as a County magnate he stickled for it, and the High Sheriff put him on the panel to keep him amused.”
“But a Grand Jury deals sometimes with matters of life and death, does it not?”
“Often, but only in the first instance. It finds a true bill usually, and sends the cause down to be tried by judge and jury, who dispose of it. Actually the incompetence of a grand juror or two doesn’t count, if the scandal be not too glaring. . . . But I see your drift. It will be a point for the other side, no matter how lunatic the document, that after perpetrating it he was still thought capable by the High Sheriff of his county.”
“I do not know that the point struck me. I was wondering—” Here she broke off. The thought, in fact, uppermost in her mind was that he had not suggested her voyaging to England with him.
“It is a point, anyway,” he persisted. “But it won’t stand against Huskisson’s documentary proof of lunacy. . . . You see, the greater part of the property was entailed, and the poor old fool couldn’t touch it. But there’s an unentailed estate in Devonshire—Downton by name—worth about two thousand a year. By a will made in ’41, when his mind was admittedly sound, he left it to me with a charge upon it of five hundred for Lady Caroline. By a second, made three years later and duly witnessed, he left her Downton for her life; and with that I chose not to quarrel, though I could have brought evidence that he was unfit to make any will. I agreed with the infernal woman to let things stand on that. But now, being at daggers drawn with me, she digs up (if you please) a will made in ’46 and apparently sane in wording, by which, without any provision for the heir-at-law, the whole bagful, real and personal, goes to her, to be used by her and willed away, as she pleases; this, although she well knows I can prove Sir Thomas to have been a blethering idiot at the time.”
“Is it worth while?”
“Worth while?” he echoed, as if doubtful that she had understood. “The woman is doing it out of spite, of course. Very likely she is fool enough to think that, fixed here with the Atlantic between us, I shall give her the double gratification of annoying me and letting her win by default.”
“It is a large sum,” she mused.
“Of course it is,” he agreed sharply. “An estate yielding two thousand pounds interest. You would not suggest my letting it go, I should hope!”
“Certainly not, if you cannot afford it.”
“If it were a twentieth part of the sum, I’d not be jockeyed out of it.” He laughed harshly. “As men go, I am well-to-do: but, dear, has it never occurred to you to wonder what this place and its household cost me?”
She answered with a small wry smile. “Often it has occurred to me. Often I tell myself that I am wicked to accept, as you are foolish perhaps to give, all this luxury.”