Page:Court Royal.djvu/181

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and the mouths of the Erme, the Avon, and the Yealm, is like that of Penzance. Oranges, myrtles, geraniums grow in the open air, and frosts do not fall sharply on the vegetation in winter.

With an ebbing tide the Marquess took a party down the creek in his yacht to Bolt Head. The sun was brilliant, and under the rocks on the sands the air was so soft and summery that luncheon was spread and taken out of doors. They returned by moonlight. The yacht was illuminated with coloured lanterns; an awning was spread on deck to cut off the falling dews; a band played, and the party danced. The villagers along the shore turned out to watch the glittering vessel as she ran up with the flowing tide, and listen to the strains of music wafted over the water.

Miss Rigsby caught cold on this expedition, and could not appear for a few days. Lord Saltcombe inquired after her health formally two or three times every day, and secretly felt relieved that he was off duty for a while.

When Dulcina reappeared in public her nose was red and glistening—red because it had been much rubbed, glistening because glycerine had been applied to reduce the soreness of the organ. Miss Rigsby’s temper had not been at its prime whilst she was unwell, and Miss Stokes’ patience and good nature were tried. Dulcina was not even pleased with the Marquess. The trip in the yacht had been planned by him. ‘Who ever heard of such nonsense,’ she said, ‘as a picnic and a dance al fresco at Christmas! Did the creature want to kill me? Is he tired of me already?’

‘Oh, dearest Dullie,’ answered the aunt, ‘forgive him. He has become delirious with love. He cannot do enough to please you. He is always inventing some excuse to be with you. If he acted foolishly, forgive; you have driven the wits out of him. I never saw devotion so delicate, and at the same time so passionate, in all my experience.’

‘That is not saying much,’ snapped Dulcina. ‘You haven’t had much experience of love, aunt, I will be bound.’

Never was Mr. Rigsby in finer feather than at Court Royal. At dinner he worked the conversation into the groove of coffee-planting, in which he could run for hours. Then, when he had got it on his subject, he poured forth his experience on coffee, and absorbed the entire conversation till coffee itself came in on a silver tray and stopped his mouth. He talked also a good deal on Indian affairs, and pretended intimacy with all