Page:Court Royal.djvu/178

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plantations of Ceylon, far from society and from settled habitations.

When she had been taken to her rooms the Marquess went to his own. He was followed by Beavis, who had kept in the background. He had observed Miss Rigsby as attentively as had his sister. He was unnoticed, and able to study her unrestrainedly. From his love for Lord Saltcombe, and because he had himself urged him to this engagement, he was eager to judge favourably of Dulcina; but in spite of this prepossession he was unfavourably impressed. It was not merely her complexion and tasteless dress which displeased his critical eye. He thought he saw in her a selfish, querulous spirit, and a lack of womanly tenderness. The geniality of her father, his eagerness to forestall her wishes, to screen her from all vexations, met with no recognition, were accepted as a right, and awoke no gratitude.

When he came into Lord Saltcombe’s room he found his friend in the arm-chair by the fire, his head resting in his hand, seeming pale and dispirited. The Marquess looked up, and with a faint smile said, ‘Well, old fellow, come to congratulate me? Satisfied with what you have done? Now, tell me, on your honour, your opinion of ma fiancée.’

Beavis was confused. He felt some self-reproach. He could not expect that his friend would find happiness at the side of such a dry stick as Dulcina.

‘What do you think of her?’ asked Lord Saltcombe again.

‘I have had only a glimpse. I have not as yet exchanged a word with her.’

‘Tell me frankly, are you struck with her?’

‘I will speak to you frankly. She is not bad looking at all. We are so accustomed here to see lovely complexions, that one spoilt by the sun of the south seems to us strange. She has a profusion of warm-coloured hair and good teeth!’

‘This is not fair, Beavis. You are cataloguing what I am competent to catalogue myself. She has a nose, and eyes, and fingers and feet. The latter small, the ankles good.’

‘What do you want?’

‘What do you think of her character?’

‘Now you are unreasonable with me, Saltcombe. I have seen her for a few moments only, and you demand what you have no right to expect, and what would be unfair to her. I will tell you more after I have had a talk with her.’