But Lord Saltcombe would make no advance. He took umbrage at the implied suspicions. Father and daughter must accept him on his own terms, or not at all.
‘Am I to understand,’ said he ‘that you refuse to give me any explanations as to your conduct with regard to that actress, and to relieve my mind with reference to the embarrassments of the Duke?’
Lord Saltcombe bowed.
‘Then I suppose your engagement to my daughter is at an end?’
‘I allow no liberties to be taken with me,’ said Lord Saltcombe. ‘I have rung for a cab.’
When Mr. Rigsby was out of the hotel, driving home to Stoke, ‘Lord bless me!’ he exclaimed, ‘how testy these aristocrats are! Impracticable people. Time the country were rid of them. I wish I were back in Ceylon!’
On reaching home, Mr. Rigsby told his man to ask Miss Stokes to do him the civility of speaking with him in the study.
Miss Stokes came sailing in with great dignity, wondering what Mr. Rigsby could want to say to her at that time of the evening in private. Sisters-in-law cannot be kept for ever in the cold, she argued with herself.
‘Would you mind shutting the door behind you?’ asked Mr. Rigsby, as Miss Stokes had left it modestly ajar, and stood near it herself.
‘Please come nearer. I have something I want very particularly to say to you.’
‘I am at your service, James,’ said Miss Stokes, shutting the door and advancing one step.
‘My dear Eliza,’ began the planter, standing on the hearth with his back to the fire, ‘the matter I wish to speak to you upon is a delicate one; between you and me, a very delicate one.’
‘I have been a widower for some years.’