“Ah, well, it won’t last long, poor gentleman!” the worthy lady said to herself, in allusion to Sir John’s uninvaded sanctum; “let him enjoy his pigstye while he can. When his wife comes she will soon have the place swept clean out for him.”
So the papers, and the books, and the pipes, and the tobacco-tins were left heaped up all over the tables and chairs, and the fox-terriers sat in high places on the sofa cushions; and the brothers smoked their pipes after their meals, emptied their ashes on to the tables, threw their empty soda-water bottles into a corner of the room, wore their slippers at all hours, and lapsed, in fact, into all those delightful methods of living at ease practised by the vicious nature inherent in man when he is unchecked by female influence; whilst Mrs. Eccles groaned in silence, but possessed her soul in patience by reason of that change which she knew to be coming over the internal economy of Kynaston Hall.
Maurice Kynaston reclines at ease in the most comfortable arm-chair in the room, his feet reposing upon a second chair; his pipe is in his mouth, and his hands in his trouser pockets; he wears a loose, gray shooting-jacket, and Sir John’s favourite terrier, Vic, has curled herself into a little round white ball upon his outstretched legs. Maurice has just been reading his morning’s correspondence, and a letter from Helen, announcing that her grandfather is ill and confined to his room by bronchitis, is still in his hand. He looks gloomily and abstractedly into the red logs of the wood fire. The door opens.
“Any orders for the stable, Captain?”
“None to-day, Mrs. Eccles.”
“You are not going out hunting?”
“No, I am going to take a rest. By the way, Mrs. Eccles, I shall be leaving to-morrow, so you can see about packing my things.”
“Dear me! sir, I hope we shall see you again, at the wedding.”
“Very unlikely; I don’t like weddings, Mrs. Eccles; the only one I ever mean to dance at is yours. When you get married, you let me know.”
“Law! sir, how you do go on!” said the old lady, laughing; not ill-pleased at the imputation. “Dear me,” she went on, looking round the room uneasily, “did I ever see such a mess in all my born days. Now Sir John is out, sir, I suppose you couldn’t let me——”
“Certainly not—if you mean bring in a broom and a dust-pan! Just let me catch you at it, that’s all!”
The housekeeper shook her head with a resigned sigh.
“Ah, well! it can’t last long; when Miss Vera comes she’ll turn the whole place inside-out, and all them nasty pipes, and dogs and things will be cleared away.”
“Do you think so?” suddenly sitting upright in his chair. “Wait a bit, Mrs. Eccles; don’t go yet. Do you think Miss Vera will have things her own way with my brother?”
“Oh! sir, what do you ask me for?” she answered, with discreet evasiveness. “Surely you must know more about Miss Vera than I can tell you.”