Page:Court Royal.djvu/248

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and then when he had got that he would have deserted her. Bless my soul! Did I plant coffee, and slave for all these years away from my native land, sacrificing my life and disorganising my liver, to find money for a parcel of needy noblemen?’ Am I to send my dear Dulcina among wolves, who will tear from her the flesh and leave only the bones?’

‘This is not possible, James.’

‘It not only is possible, but it is so. I charged Lord Saltcombe with the beggarly trick to his face, and he was unable to answer me. He slunk from my presence like a whipped dog. Now, Eliza, how do you think my darling will bear the disappointment?’

‘My dear James, you need not fear. That sweet Dulcina possesses so sound a judgment and so cool a head that I am sure, when all the circumstances have been placed before her, she will bear the loss like a martyr.’

‘My poor dear! like a martyr. O my child! my child!’

‘Do not be uneasy, James. I exercise great influence over Dulcina. I will break to her the news you have so graciously favoured me with. Perhaps you will talk to her yourself about it to-morrow, after breakfast.’

‘I fear it will be a cruel disappointment.’

‘Disappointments meet us poor women wherever we tread,’ said Miss Stokes, with a sigh.

Next day at breakfast Mr. Rigsby was uncomfortable. He had not slept much, troubled with the thought of the distressing duty awaiting execution. At breakfast he crumbled his toast, upset his egg, and dawdled over his coffee. Dulcina looked limp and lachrymose.

When breakfast was over Miss Stokes went into the conservatory, so as to be out of hearing, yet near at hand. The time had arrived for the dreaded disclosure. How much had Miss Stokes already told Dulcina? The father wished he knew.

‘Come and sit by me on the sofa, darling child,’ he said. ‘You are not looking well, I am sure you have been suffering. And now I have to increase your trouble by speaking on a most unsatisfactory subject.’ He looked round at his daughter. Her face expressed no emotion. ‘I am not a father who would stand in the way if his child desired something very much; the happiness of you, Dulcina, is paramount to every consideration. I do not know to what extent your affections have been engaged, whether your heart would break should