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Sir Roderick looked at her incredulously, then he laughed.
"But of course!" he said. "I realise that they, like you and Vulcan, are now my responsibility. Well, the house is big enough. I am prepared to provide for as many as you like! "
Astara flung her arms around his neck.
"I thought you would say that, and it will make things so much easier."
"I see you are expecting me to live to a ripe old age, and still have my uses, " Sir Roderick remarked, but his eyes were twinkling.
"You will certainly disappoint us if you do anything so stupid as to die," Vulcan remarked.
"Get off with you both!" Sir Roderick said. "I can see that my role in the future is going to be very different from what it was in the past a nursemaid an aged grandfather oh, well, I have done everything else in my life so far. I might as well try that!"
He laughed again and with his arm round Astara he walked with them into the Hall.
Outside a Phaeton with a team of four chestnuts as magnificent as those which belonged to William was waiting.
The luggage in the charge of Chang had already gone ahead.
Astara looked at the horses with delight.
"Vulcan is thrilled with his wedding present!" she exclaimed, "but like a great many other things you will have to look after them until we return."
"That is what I intend to do," Sir Roderick replied, "and they will give you something to think about when you are riding a refractory mule!"
"I shall dream about them at night," Vulcan promised, "unless they make Astara jealous."
"I shall be, if you think or dream of anything except me," she said.
She put her hand in his as she spoke and they ran down the steps together and he helped her into the Phaeton.
"Good-bye, darling Uncle Roderick!" she cried. "Take care of yourself."
"That is what I am saying to you," he answered.
As he spoke Vulcan signalled to the grooms to let the horses go while one of them sprang up into the seat behind.
It was still early in the morning, but the sunshine glinted on the lake, on the trees, on the silver bridles of the horses, and the diamond ring on Astara s finger.
Sir Roderick watched until they were out of sight, then with a sigh he walked back into the house and across the Hall.
He did not go to the Salon but into the Library.
Standing on his desk was the miniature of Charlotte Beverley which along with several other things belonging to her mother Astara had left in his keeping.
Sir Roderick stood for a moment looking at the miniature, _ then he picked it up in his hands.
"Are you satisfied, Charlotte?" he asked. "I knew that Vulcan was exactly the man you would want as a son-in-law, and that Astara, like all your sex, would never be able to resist a man who ignored her!"
He smiled a little wistfully. Then as he put the miniature down again he added: "I suppose you know, wherever you are, how much I still miss you! But now I shall be sharing your grandchildren with you, and that will be some consolation to me at any rate."
As he finished speaking Sir Roderick walked from the desk to the window and stood looking out at the lake.
Golden in the sunshine it was the colour of Astara's hair, as it had been of her mothers.