Library of Alexandria
“I wonder what will become of Ralph Denmead,” said Lady Tresidder, “it is one of the saddest cases I ever heard of; the poor boy seems to be left without a single relation.” “Yes,” said Sir John, musingly. “Just the way with these old decayed families, they dwindle slowly away and then become extinct. There was no spirit or energy in poor Denmead, the man was a mere hermit and knew nothing of the world or he wouldn’t have made such a mull of his affairs.” “Yet Ralph seems to have the energy of ten people,” said Lady Tresidder, glancing as she walked at the river which wound its peaceful way through the park and reflected in the afternoon light the early spring tints of the wooded bank on its further side. At no great distance a boat glided swiftly over the calm water: in the stern sat a dark-haired, handsome girl of nineteen, while the vigorous little rower seemed to be not more than eleven. “Poor little chap,” said Sir John, “he is terribly cut up about his fathers death. I wish we could have kept him here a few days longer, but it’s better that he should be put at once into his guardian’s hands. There’s no fear that Sir Matthew Mactavish will not do all that’s right for him, if only for the sake of his own reputation.” “I suppose he is a very charitable man,” said Lady Tresidder. “Oh, yes, extremely charitable, and very well thought of. For myself, I frankly own I don’t like the way in which he mixes up speculation and philanthropy, and I’m not at all sure that he was always a good adviser to poor Denmead. But he’ll be kind enough to Ralph I’ve no doubt. The boy is his godson, and Denmead was one of his oldest friends. By the bye he was to be at the Rectory by five o’clock, and the boy ought to be there to receive him. They had better be landing, and Mabel can drive him to Whinhaven in the pony chaise.” He began to make vigorous signals to the occupants of the boat, who somewhat reluctantly came ashore and slowly mounted the rising ground to the house. “Come in and have some tea while they are putting in Ranger,” said Lady Tresidder, kindly. “Sir John thinks you ought to be at the Rectory when your guardian arrives, and Mab will like a drive with you.” Ralph grew grave at the thought of a return to the desolate Rectory with its darkened windows and awful stillness; he sighed as he followed comfortable motherly Lady Tresidder into the drawing-room where flowers and well-used books and a cosy tea-table, and some needle work, just put aside, gave a curiously homelike air to the whole place.