Page:Court Royal.djvu/179

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‘You are evading my question. I want your first impressions.’

‘Then you shall have them. I think she has been spoiled. What has been spoiled it will be your place to restore. What lies below the surface, what has been crippled and what stunted by mismanagement, I cannot tell. I never will believe in any woman being other than an angel.’

‘Is it possible to make good what is broken?’

‘There are crippled hearts as well as crippled limbs. Miss Rigsby is young: kindness and firmness may put the crippled heart to rights; it is only warped by having been allowed to twist as it liked, unrestrained.’

‘Thank you, Beavis. You set me a task. You are determined to make me work against my will. I am marrying without love, without regard even, because it is a family necessity. Perhaps the union will turn out well in spite of its being loveless. The French system of mariage de convenance is not so bad as novelists would have us suppose, and the love matches these misleaders of youth extol are generally disastrous. Young folks idealise each other, and their marriage is a miserable disenchantment. Where two take each other without any expectation of finding any treasure, every discovery of a good quality, every peaceful pleasure in marriage, comes on them as a surprise, and they are delighted in the end to find each other worth having.’

The Marquess laughed, but constrainedly. Beavis looked at him sadly, sympathetically. He was afraid to speak. He doubted what to say.

Mr. Rigsby gave his key to a manservant, who unpacked his portmanteau for him. He had been accustomed to attend on himself, and was impatient of having this taken from him. He stood with his hands in his pockets, looking on. Then he went to his daughter’s room, tapped, and walked in.

‘Well, Dullie, what do you think of this? Is not the house magnificent? Did you ever see such livery before, and such a lot of it? Buff and scarlet, red plush breeches—’

‘Really, James,’ exclaimed Miss Stokes, ‘would you—would you be more constrained in tongue before ladies?’

‘Lord bless me!’ exclaimed the old planter, ‘what is wrong? If they wear ’em, mayn’t one speak of them?’

‘Papa!’ cried Dalcina, ‘you must observe the decencies of speech, if not before me, before the great folks here.’

‘Great folks,’ said Mr. Rigsby; ‘I believe you, Dullie.