Page:Court Royal.djvu/157

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‘The invitation is kind,’ said Dulcina, ‘and if I did not fear trespassing on your goodness I should like to accept.’

‘Then accept,’ said Lady Elizabeth. ‘There—the matter is concluded. I gave orders for the rooms to be got ready before I left the Rectory.’

‘You are perhaps expecting visitors?’

‘Only Lord Saltcombe—he could be stowed anywhere if we were hard put to, but we are not. Our predecessor at Sleepy Hollow had fourteen children, and added to the Rectory to accommodate them. We have no family, and so there are any number of spare rooms.’

‘I am not in a visiting condition,’ protested Miss Rigsby; ‘my nerves are shaken; I have suffered a great deal.’

‘We will put you to rights,’ said Lady Elizabeth; ‘I understand all that is needed. I doctor the parish—I may almost say I feed it; my opinion is that most maladies proceed from overfeeding or underfeeding. With the poor it is over and underfeeding simultaneously; they overfeed themselves with heavy, lumpy pastry without much nutriment in it, that weighs like lead in them, and they underfeed themselves by not taking good blood and tissue-making diet. You understand me?’

‘I think so,’ answered Miss Rigsby, listlessly. The poor interested her little or nothing—she occupied her own entire horizon. ‘But I,’ she said, ‘eat neither what is lumpy, nor what is insufficient.’

‘My dear,’ said the Archdeaconess, ‘here in an inn you cannot have the requisite comforts. There is no house in the world like an English house for a person who is sick or convalescent. So it is settled that you come.’

‘I really am not up to meeting strangers and making conversation,’ said Dulcina.

‘Strangers! Oh, Saltcombe! He is my nephew; a nice young man, very agreeable. He will talk, and I can always talk. Besides, Miss Rigsby, if you are going to buy Shotley and settle among us, we must introduce you to the neighbours, when you are well.’

‘I do not think papa has settled about Shotley yet.’

‘I’ll go over the place with him. I will manage everything. I know the quality of the soil on which it is built, the nature of the drainage, and the water supply. I can tell you all the advantages and disadvantages of the place, and I should wish to have a word about the price. I do not choose to have