Lord Saltcombe not—not—excuse the expression—come to the scratch. I have favoured your acquaintance with him because I have believed him an admirable match. But, my dear, all is not gold that glitters. It is, as the Latin grammar tells us, human to err. I have learned circumstances which have altered my view of Lord Saltcombe’s character, and made me doubt whether the engagement is to your advantage. I am a plain business man, and I look to the business side of everything. I have made inquiries, and my inquiries have dissatisfied me. The connection with the Kingsbridge family, the title, the position, that seemed so splendid that I was dazzled. But there are spots in the sun, craters in the moon, blots on ducal escutcheons.’
Miss Rigsby became uneasy; she looked at her father, then at the breakfast-table, then on the floor.
‘I have learned, to my surprise, that the Kingsbridge family are bankrupt; they are living on the very verge of ruin. Only the hesitation of their creditors saves from a fall which will be a scandal throughout England.’
‘Papa! I cannot think it.’
‘I assure you, my darling, it is true. I have seen the list of mortgages. I know precisely the condition of their affairs. They are in the hands of the Jews. You saw the splendour in which they live. That is all paid for out of other people’s money. They put on a glittering mask to cover ruin. The Marquess is penniless. If you marry him he will look to you for his pocket-money, for cigars, and tailor’s bill—go to you whenever he wants a new pair of boots or a handkerchief. It is true you will receive his title, but in return you will maintain him like a poor relation.’
Mr. Rigsby kept his eyes fixed on his daughter whilst he spoke. He was afraid of her fainting, and he was ready to call Miss Stokes to his aid. But Dulcina listened to him with composure; she bit her lip and frowned, and ripped the binding off a cushion on the sofa, but said nothing.
‘A handsome sum which I was prepared to pay over on your marriage would have gone at once to the Jews, to stop their greedy jaws and stave off the fall of the house. The Duke, the Marquess, Lord Ronald, and Lord Edward are calculating on my death, when they may use up the whole of my—that is, your fortune in washing clean the family estates. What those estates are likely to be worth in a few years, with bad seasons, and American corn and frozen meat coming in on