Now that you are about to be married I expect you will take your proper position in the social and political constellations. I hope this union is one of genuine affection.’
‘I trust it meets with your approval.’
‘I have nothing against it. The young lady has been properly educated, the family is respectable. The Rigsbys of Lincolnshire are known; they have been settled in that most dismal of counties for several centuries. They have a Baronet in the family—a late creation. Well, in these days one must not be too nice.’ After a pause, the Duke went on: ‘You are quite right to go to Plymouth. I wish you there to take a good suite of rooms in the Royal Hotel, and live up to your station. Take some of your own servants with you; your valet, and your own riding and driving horses, and your groom. I should advise a dog-cart and a drag. I am not one to encourage extravagance, indeed I hate display, it is vulgar; but your position demands a certain amount of appearance. You are the representative of the house, now that I am a poor broken creature, and cannot show in public. An Eveleigh must always maintain his dignity. I beg you to remember this. Never let yourself down.’
Lord Saltcombe, not knowing what answer to make, bowed. His father accepted this movement as a sign of submission to his will.
‘One thing more. I believe you have not as yet made your fiancée a present. This, of course, you must do. I have looked through the family jewels, but see nothing that quite answers the purpose. I should like you to spare no expense; run up to town and choose out a suitable present, a diamond necklet or tiara. It is possible you may not have the sum sufficient at your command. I have therefore drawn you a blank cheque on my private account. Fill in the sum when you know what you want.’
‘I cannot—my father.’
‘You must, Herbert. It is my desire. I shall be annoyed if you give your betrothed a present unworthy of a future Duchess of Kingsbridge.’
Lord Saltcombe was too agitated to speak.
‘Herbert,’ continued the old Duke, ‘I give my full consent to this union, and I ask the Almighty on my knees to shower His richest blessing upon it. May you be happy as I was happy with your dear, never-to-be-forgotten mother. You deserve it. A blessing is attached to filial obedience, and you have