just before the treat and the Christmas tree. I have her money in my pocket now—listen how it rattles—thirty-nine shillings in all. She will get her cards with seventy-eight shillings on them, just thirty-nine shillings allowed her for putting in her money to-day, to receive it out with interest to-morrow. It is preposterous. I believe she borrowed the sum for the occasion. I refuse to be treasurer and secretary to the charitable clubs if you wink at such flagrant cases.’
‘My dear Elizabeth, there is no one else in the parish capable of managing the clubs. As to Betty Perkins, consider how poor she is, with a husband given to drink, and five children.’
‘Rules are rules,’ said Lady Elizabeth.
‘Yes, my dear, but justice must be tempered with mercy.’
‘I do not think the clubs and alms do good. The people take what is given them as a right. They are not grateful; they do not come to church a bit the better for being bribed at the rate of five pounds per house to come.’
‘We cannot give up the clubs, Elizabeth. They really are a great comfort to the people.’
‘You pauperise them, Edward. Well?’ to the man-servant who appeared at the door; ‘what is it, Thomas?’
‘Please, my lady, there is a gentleman in the drawing-room who wants to see his lordship.’
‘Let me look at the card,’ said the Archdeaconess. ‘Rigsby! Rigsby—I do not know the name. Some traveller for a wine merchant, I suppose.’
‘Bless me!’ exclaimed Lord Edward Eveleigh, when, by his wife’s kind permission, he was allowed to look at the card; ‘my old college friend Rigsby. I thought he was in Ceylon, coffee-growing. I heard he had realised a great fortune. Excuse me, my dear Elizabeth. Settle Betty Perkins as you like—that is, no, let her off this time, and I will have a talk with her. She will be more regular next year. Elizabeth, I must ask Rigsby to lunch.’
‘There is cold mutton and mince,’ answered Lady Elizabeth. ‘Also tapioca pudding.’
‘I haven’t seen Rigsby for forty years—no, not for forty years. I must insist on his paying us a visit. You can manage it, Elizabeth?’
‘The sheets in the best bedroom are aired.’
The Archdeacon hastened into the parlour, where he found a tall brown man, with grey hair, seated, awaiting him.