form you of it. If the young people love each other so dearly that your daughter is ready to make the sacrifice, then I have nothing to say against the marriage; but I think it well that both she and you should be made aware of the character of the man to whom she is about to entrust the happiness of her life. I have shown you that there is reason to believe that the marriage is desired by the family for the sake of your money. You are not perhaps aware why it is that the Marquess has not been married already.’
‘No, I do not know.’
‘I will tell you. Because of a scandal. He ran away with a beautiful woman, the wife of a respectable man of business. The woman is now an actress. You have seen her, Palma Kaminska.
Mr. Rigsby looked at him with pale face and open mouth.
‘He fell in love with her a few years ago, and carried her away with him to Sicily. After a while they parted, but whether the scandal has stood in the way of a woman of character accepting him as husband, or whether he has never ceased to love her, I cannot say. She disappeared for a while; where she has been living, whether under his protection or not, I do not know. You saw her yesterday. You noticed his agitation when an accident happened to her.’
‘Merciful Heaven!’ exclaimed Mr. Rigsby, putting his hands to his brow, and leaning his elbows on the table. ‘What a wicked world this is! I wish I were back in Ceylon!’
‘He visited the house where she lodged, after the accident. Let us hope it was only to say good-bye for ever, before marrying your daughter.’
‘If this be true he never shall marry my daughter. Oh dear, oh dear! What misery might have ensued had she become his—and this not have come out till after! Poor Dulcina! But—’ he raised himself on one elbow—‘I cannot understand your motive coming here and telling me this. What is the happiness of Dulcina to you? What concern is it of yours whether I lose my fortune among titled adventurers?’
‘None at all,’ answered the Jew drily.
‘I don’t believe a word about the actress,’ exclaimed the planter desperately. ‘Why should I not use my money, if I please, to extricate the estate? It will come to my daughter in the end. I shall not lose my money. Whatever I do is for my child. As for this scandalous story, I don’t and I won’t believe it. I will ask Saltcombe the truth about it myself.’