And they were carried out. It was well for Dermot that, as a convalescent in his mother’s house, he was sheltered from all counter influences, such as his easy good nature might not have withstood; and under that shelter it was his purpose to abide until the voyage which would take him out of reach for a time, and bring him home ready for his fresh start.
Of course Lady Diana hated the notion of the voyage, and though her brother advised her not to oppose it, yet to the last I think she entertained hopes that it would end in Harold’s going alone.
When Harold came in and told me that Dermot Tracy’s horses, English and Irish, were all sold, and named the sum that they had realised, my spirits leaped up, and I was certain, after such a voluntary sacrifice, the dear old companion of my childhood would be a joy and exultation to us all, instead of a sorrow and a grief.
In the Easter recess our Northchester member had his house full, and among his guests was one of the most influential men of the day, who, though not a cabinet minister himself, was known to have immense influence with Government and in Parliament, from his great weight and character.
Eustace and I were invited to meet him, also Lady Diana and her daughter and son, who was called well now, though far from strong. When the gentlemen came out of the dining-room, Eustace and Dermot came up to us, the former much excited, and saying, “Lucy, you must make preparations. They are all coming to luncheon to-morrow at Arghouse.”
“Yes, Sir James (the great man himself), and Mr. Vernon, and the General, and all the party. I asked them all. Sir James has heard of the potteries, and of my system, and of the reformation I have effected, and there being no strikes, and no nothing deleterious— undesirable I mean—and the mechanics having an interest, he wants to see for himself—to inspect personally—that he may name it in Parliament in illustration of a scheme he is about to propose. So Mr. Vernon will bring him over to see the Hydriot works to-morrow, and I have asked them to luncheon. Only think—named in Parliament! Don’t you think now it might lead to a baronetcy, Tracy?”
“Or a peerage,” quoth naughty Viola, out of reach of mother or Harold. “My Lord Hardbake would be a sweet title.”
“I should revive the old honours of the family,” said Eustace, not catching the bit of wickedness. “Calldron of Arghouse was an old barony. Lord Calldron of Arghouse! Should you object, Miss Tracy?”
“Earthen pot or copper kettle? Which?” laughed Viola. “Ah! there’s Miss Vernon going to sing. I want to hear her,” and she jumped up.
“Sit down, Dermot, in my place; you are not to stand.”
She threaded her way to the piano, followed by Eustace, who still viewed himself as her suitor.