never become her brother’s confidant, and she knew that it was well for him to find a sympathetic woman’s soul to which he could open his inmost thoughts. Such a woman she trusted Dulcina Rigsby would prove. She was ready to receive her with love because she was Saltcombe’s ideal, and his ideal must be perfect.
Lucy was not as much with her as usual. Lucy was a ready, intelligent, active manager; she saw to everything. Mrs. Probus was old and slow. At her father’s request, Lucy took on her own shoulders the care of preparing for the visitors and the entertainments. She was pleased to be occupied, she worked restlessly, she was not quiet for one moment in the day. Lady Grace reproached her for doing everything herself, without imposing any task on her.
‘Yours will come when the house is full, and you have to entertain,’ answered Lucy; ‘leave me to make preparations.’ Lucy was the inseparable companion of Lady Grace, her right hand; she loved her with an adoring devotion, received all her thoughts, and devoted herself to ward off all unpleasantnesses from her friend.
Lady Grace was in the room prepared for Miss Rigsby, adjoining which was another for her aunt, Miss Stokes. She was arranging the flowers on the dressing-table, some white jessamine and pink geranium, and a spray of maidenhair fern. She only touched them with the points of her taper fingers, and they fell into place.
‘Do you know, dearest,’ she said to Lucy, ‘I believe that this engagement will make me perfectly happy. It has been a trouble to me that Saltcombe has been here so long without pursuits, squandering his life and his brilliant talents. I have never understood him, though he has stood nearer to me than anyone else. He is melancholy, as though lamenting something, but he has nothing to regret; or as longing for something, but he has made no effort to attain what he longs for. Which is it? That has been a puzzle to me, and it has distressed me to be unable to unriddle it. Now he has found some one after his own heart, and now real life will open to him. He will put forth his energies, he will wake out of a dream, and we shall find that he will make for himself a place in the history of the present time. All our ancestors have been men of note, though one or two noted only as spendthrifts; yet all have taken some part in politics, or as patrons of literature or art and I cannot believe my brother will be