A Damsel in Distress (Chapter 8, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 8

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.

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