content to reckon as a cipher. He seems to me to be one who has either been wrecked when first starting, or as one who has never yet started on the great voyage of adventure—which is life. He cannot have undergone shipwreck—that is impossible, or I should have heard of his disaster; now he is about to start. He has been waiting for the precious lading to fill the empty hold of his heart. Now that is in, the anchor will be weighed, the pennant run to mast-top, the white sails be spread; and with a cheer from all of us who stand on the shore, the gallant vessel will start.’
‘I believe you are right, Grace,’ said Lucy.
‘I do long so to see my future sister-in-law; my heart yearns to love her. Do not be jealous, darling, nothing will ever make me love another as I love you. No one can ever be to me the sweet, strong, enduring friend—the sister that you have been. Do you know, I have been teasing Uncle Ronald about Dulcina. I don’t like the name, do you? He has seen her. When he heard they were at Plymouth, he went down to call on them in Saltcombe’s yacht. I have asked him a thousand questions about her, but I cannot get much out of the General. Men are so funny; they have no descriptive faculty. All he can say is that she is amiable. Well, amiable is one of those unpleasant words which mean nothing—worse than nothing. When you don’t want to say an unkind thing about persons, and you know no good of them, you describe them as amiable. I am sure Uncle Ronald does not mean that. It is only his clumsy man’s way of describing a lady. She has auburn hair and a pale face. I managed to extract that from him, and the father is tall and burnt brown. Uncle Ronald can tell me much more about Mr. Rigsby than he can about Dulcina.’
The Archdeacon and Lady Elizabeth arrived. The excellent curate could be trusted to manage the parish, feed all the fledglings on sop, and the adults on wind. Lord Edward hastened at once to the Duke’s room before he went to his own apartments. The Duke was expecting him, excited, but disguising his excitement. For the last hour he had been looking at his watch every five minutes. The brothers greeted each other with great cordiality.
‘Have I not managed well?’ asked the Archdeacon. ‘Who will deny that I am a man of business?’
‘I am much indebted to you, Edward. Without your help we should never have got Saltcombe away from this place. I hope she is a suitable person.’