It is a relief to turn from the contemplation of these tortured souls to the pleasanter picture presented by Lord Marshmoreton. Here, undeniably, we have a man without a secret sorrow, a man at peace with this best of all possible worlds. Since his visit to George a second youth seems to have come upon Lord Marshmoreton. He works in his rose-garden with a new vim, whistling or even singing to himself stray gay snatches of melodies popular in the ’eighties.
Hear him now as he toils. He has a long garden-implement in his hand, and he is sending up the death-rate in slug circles with a devastating rapidity.
And the boom is a death-knell. As it rings softly out on the pleasant spring air, another stout slug has made the Great Change.
It is peculiar, this gaiety. It gives one to think. Others have noticed it, his lordship’s valet amongst them.
“I give you my honest word, Mr. Keggs,” says the valet, awed, “this very morning I ’eard the old devil a-singing in ’is barth! Chirruping away like a blooming linnet!”
“Lor!” says Keggs, properly impressed.
“And only last night ’e gave me ’arf a box of cigars and said I was a good, faithful feller! I tell you, there’s somethin’ happened to the old buster—you mark my words!”
Over this complex situation the mind of Keggs, the butler, played like a searchlight. Keggs was a man of discernment and sagacity. He had instinct and reasoning power. Instinct told him that Maud, all unsuspecting the change that had taken place in Albert’s attitude toward her romance, would have continued to use the boy as a link between herself and George: and reason, added to an intimate knowledge of Albert, enabled him to see that the latter must inevitably have betrayed her trust. He was prepared to bet a hundred pounds that Albert had been given letters to deliver and had destroyed them. So much was clear to Keggs. It only remained to settle on some plan of action which would re-establish the broken connection. Keggs did not conceal a tender heart beneath a rugged exterior: he did not mourn over the picture of two loving fellow human beings separated by a misunderstanding; but he did want to win that sweepstake.
His position, of course, was delicate. He could not got to Maud and beg her to confide in him. Maud would not understand his motives, and might leap to the not unjustifiable conclusion that he had been at the sherry. No! Men were easier to handle than women. As soon as his duties would permit—and in the present crowded condition of the house they were arduous—he set out for George’s cottage.
“I trust I do not disturb or interrupt you, sir,” he said, beaming in the doorway like a benevolent high priest. He had doffed his professional manner of austere disapproval, as was his custom in moments of leisure.