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CHAPTER IX. ANETH.
Charles Consinor, ninth Earl of Roane, was considerably discouraged at the moment when Luke the butler placed the big blue government envelope upon his table, thoughtfully leaving it at the top of the daily heap of missives from impatient creditors.

During a gay and dissipated life, his lordship had seen the ample fortune left him by his father gradually melt away, until now, in his old age, he found it difficult to secure sufficient funds to enable him to maintain a respectable position in the world. He had been ably assisted in his extravagances by his only son, the Viscount Roger Consinor, who for twenty years past had performed his full share in dissipating the family fortunes.

Aside from their mutual prodigality, however, the two men had little in common. The father was reckless, open-handed and careless of consequences, indulging himself frankly in such dissipations as most men are careful to hide. The son was reserved and sullen, and posed as a man eminently respectable, confining his irregularities mainly to the gaming table. Between them they had loaded the estates with mortgages and sold every stick and stone that could be sold. At last the inevitable happened and they faced absolute ruin.{105}

There seemed no way out of their difficulties. The viscount had unfortunately married a wife with no resources whatever, although her family connections were irreproachable. The poor viscountess had been a confirmed invalid ever since her baby girl was born, some eighteen years before, and was merely tolerated in the big, half-ruined London mansion, being neglected alike by her husband and her father-in-law, who had both come to look upon her as a useless incumbrance. More than that, they resented the presence of a young, awkward girl in the house, and for that reason banished Aneth at twelve to a girl’s school in Cheshire, where she had remained, practically forgotten, until her eighteenth year. Then the lady preceptress shipped her home because her tuition fee was not promptly paid.

Aneth found her mother so confirmed in the selfish habits of the persistent invalid, that the girl’s society, fresh and cheery though it proved, only irritated her nerves. She found her father, the morose viscount, absolutely indifferent and unresponsive to her desire to be loved and admitted into his companionship. But old Lord Roane, her grandfather, had still a weakness for a pretty face, and Aneth was certainly pretty. Moreover, she was sweet and pure and maidenly, and no one was better able to admire and appreciate such qualities than the worn-out roué whose life had been mainly spent in the society of light women. So he took the girl to his evil old heart, and loved her, and tried to prevent her discovering how unworthy he was{106} of her affection. The love for his granddaughter became the one unselfish, honest love of his life, and it assisted wonderfully in restoring in him some portion of his long-lost self-respect.

Aneth, finding no other friend in the gloomy establishment that was now her home, soon became devoted, in turn, to her grandsire, and although she was shrewd enough, in spite of her inexperience, to realize that his life had been, and still was, somewhat coarse and dissipated, she fondly imagined that her influence would, to an extent, reclaim him—which it actually did, but only to an extent.

There was little concealment in the family circle as to the state of their finances. Father and son quarreled openly about the division of what little money could be raised on the overburdened estates, and the girl was not long in realizing the difficulties of their position. If the viscount had nothing to gamble with, he became insufferable and almost brutal in his manner; if Lord Roane could not afford to dine at the club and amuse himself afterward, he was irritable and abusive to all with whom he came in contact, save only his granddaughter. The household expenses were matters of credit, and the wages of the servants were greatly in arrears.

And so, when the affairs of the family had become well-nigh desperate, the big blue envelope with the government stamp arrived, and like magic all their difficulties dissolved.{107}

A newly appointed cabinet minister—a man whom Lord Roane had reason to consider an enemy rather than a friend—had for some surprising and unknown reason interested himself in Roane’s behalf, and the result was a diplomatic post for him in Egypt under Lord Cromer, and a position for the viscount in the Egyptian Department of Finance. The appointments were lucrative and honorable, and indicated the Government’s perfect confidence in both father and son.

Lord Roane was astounded. Never would he have dared demand such consideration, and to have these honors thrust upon him at a time when they would practically rescue his name and fortune from ruin was almost unbelievable.

He accepted the appointment with alacrity, joyful at the prospect of a winter in gay Cairo. Roger shared his father’s felicity, because the gaming in the oriental city would be more fascinating than that of London, where people had begun to frown when he entered a room. The invalid viscountess hoped Egypt would benefit her health. Aneth welcomed any change from the horrible condition in which they had existed latterly.

“Grandfather,” said she, gravely, “our gracious Queen has given to you and to my father positions of great trust. I am sure that you will personally do your duty loyally, and with credit to our honored name; but I’m afraid for father. Will you promise me to keep him from car............
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