Page:Court Royal.djvu/241

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‘I was there,’ said Mr. Rigsby. ‘So was my daughter, Dulcina. Did you not see our names in the paper?’

‘I may have done so, but did not notice them. Mine was not there, and that stirred my bile. Talking of bile, what do you drink, Rigsby?’

‘I have been so long out of England that I cannot satiate myself on bottled ale.’

‘You must not do it. Beer is bilious; fatal in this confounded climate, where the liver simply goes to sleep. You have to goad it to do its work. It is like Pickwick’s fat boy. I don’t approve of claret. Sherry is poison. Whisky and water is what I recommend.’

‘We must talk of something else,’ said the planter.

‘Well, I suppose you are right, but somehow the liver is common ground on which all old Indians meet for a cosy gossip; old asperities are rubbed off, old grudges forgotten. It is a sort of bond, binding us into brotherhood. Tear us away to other scenes and pastures new, sweep us along in the eddy of politics, or any other eddy you like to mention, we always come back to liver, touch ground there, and are thankful. We may differ in politics, religion, in pursuits, we are one in liver.’

‘I should like a word with you in the strictest confidence.’

‘Certainly, no one is here to overhear us. Remember; let whisky and water be your drink—cold, and no sugar.’

Mr. Rigsby looked about him; no one was within earshot. ‘We must not sit longer here,’ he said, ‘it is chilly; let us stroll up and down, and I will speak to you about my affairs, with the understanding that it goes no further.’

‘Good Heavens!’ gasped Captain Ottley. ‘Not money! Don’t say you want to borrow money. My liver will not stand it. Anything but that!’

‘I am abundantly well off,’ said the planter. ‘I am, I may say, in affluent circumstances. It is precisely my wealth which has drawn me into an affair from which I do not see my way out. By some fatality I have been brought into rather intimate relations with the Duke of Kingsbridge and his family.’

‘Does he want to borrow money? I have heard that his head is under water.’

‘I knew his brother, Lord Edward Eveleigh, at college. I happened to be in Somersetshire, at Glastonbury, and I called on him. He and Lady Elizabeth were very kind, they invited me and my daughter to their house, and there we met Lord Saltcombe, the eldest—no, the only son of the Duke. He