Page:Court Royal.djvu/197

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CHAPTER XXVI.
UNSTABLE AS WATER.

Three days after the grand ball the Rigsbys left. Miss Rigsby had not appeared at the tenants’ ball; she was tired, and did not feel well. The rumour of the projected marriage had got about, and the tenants would have liked to have seen their future Duchess, but she was ungracious; she disliked vulgar people and would not appear, to the disappointment of the tenants and of the Duke, who thought that, in this matter, she did not act with the consideration proper to her position.

The Marquess and she had seen a good deal of each other, and everything seemed favourable to a marriage. Mr. Rigsby held long conferences with the Duke, and came away greatly impressed with his urbanity, and still more impressed with the conviction that he had made his own wisdom and importance clear to the Duke. Miss Rigsby had convinced herself that she was in love with the Marquess. Miss Stokes assured her of the passion that consumed the bosom of her lover. Lord Saltcombe did not in any way vary in his behaviour; always courteous and considerate, ready to be with her on every occasion, conversing on her reminiscences of Ceylon, and attracting her attention to what was interesting in the country that was shortly to be her home. She had no appreciation of what was good in art, and he amused himself and her in endeavouring to instil into her some of the first principles of taste.

The day after the departure of the Rigsbys Beavis went to his friend’s rooms. He found the Marquess in his arm-chair among a heap of papers that he had torn up and cast about him on the floor. He was so deep in his thoughts, which were of a painful nature, that he did not notice the entrance of Beavis. At his first word he started and sprang up bewildered, unable at once to recognise the speaker.

‘You are, I hear, going to Plymouth, Saltcombe?’

‘I—Plymouth!—oh yes, I forgot. To be sure, yes, Beavis, I am going there for a while. How hot it is in the room!’

The Marquess went to the window and threw it open, drew a long breath, passed his red silk handkerchief over his brow, and then returning to his chair, said, ‘Oh, Beavis! you