The following day was a Thursday and on Thursdays, as has been stated, Belpher Castle was thrown open to the general public between the hours of two and four. It was a tradition of long standing, this periodical lowering of the barriers, and had always been faithfully observed by Lord Marshmoreton ever since his accession to the title. By the permanent occupants of the castle the day was regarded with mixed feelings. Lord Belpher, while approving of it in theory, as he did of all the family traditions—for he was a great supporter of all things feudal, and took his position as one of the hereditary aristocracy of Great Britain extremely seriously—heartily disliked it in practice. More than once he had been obliged to exit hastily by a further door in order to keep from being discovered by a drove of tourists intent on inspecting the library or the great drawing-room; and now it was his custom to retire to his bedroom immediately after lunch and not to emerge until the tide of invasion had ebbed away.
Keggs, the butler, always looked forward to Thursdays with pleasurable anticipation. He enjoyed the sense of authority which it gave him to herd these poor outcasts to and fro among the surroundings which were an every-day commonplace to himself. Also he liked hearing the sound of his own voice as it lectured in rolling periods on the objects of interest by the way-side. But even to Keggs there was a bitter mixed with the sweet. No one was better aware than himself that the nobility of his manner, excellent as a means of impressing the mob, worked against him when it came to a question of tips. Again and again had he been harrowed by the spectacle of tourists, huddled together like sheep, debating among themselves in nervous whispers as to whether they could offer this personage anything so contemptible as half a crown for himself and deciding that such an insult was out of the question. It was his endeavour, especially towards the end of the proceedings, to cultivate a manner blending a dignity fitting his position with a sunny geniality which would allay the timid doubts of the tourist and indicate to him that, bizarre as the idea might seem, there was nothing to prevent him placing his poor silver in more worthy hands.
Possibly the only member of the castle community who was absolutely indifferent to these public visits was Lord Marshmoreton. He made no difference between Thursday and any other day. Precisely as usual he donned his stained corduroys and pottered about his beloved garden; and when, as happened on an average once a quarter, some visitor, strayed from the main herd, came upon him as he worked and mistook him for one of the gardeners, he accepted the error without any attempt at explanation, sometimes going so far as to encourage it by adopting a rustic accent in keeping with his appearance. This sort thing tickled the simple-minded peer.