Page:Court Royal.djvu/266

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‘I cannot believe it.*

‘Lucy! Nor do I. What is the meaning of this? I am like a deaf person at a play, or as one who comes in at the second act and sees much movement, but is unable to lay hold of the threads of the plot. Uncle Edward, Aunt Elizabeth, Uncle Ronald, all seemed to me bent on this marriage. Beavis advised it. What made it so desirable? I asked Beavis at the ball, but he would tell me nothing. I am afraid this rupture will disappoint them. Uncle Ronald’s face and cuff at dinner showed me he was disturbed. Why is he disturbed? What is there so attractive in Dulcina Rigsby?’

Instead of answering these questions Lucy said, ‘My father says that Lord Saltcombe is looking wretchedly ill, so white, and hollow under the eyes.’

‘Lucy! I must see him. Amuse the Duke whilst I run to the lodge. I cannot bear that my brother should be there unhappy and unwell, and I not see him and know the reason of his distress and sickness. I shall not be gone long. Make some excuse for my absence.’

In a very few minutes Lady Grace was in the park. She was in pale blue silk evening dress; she had thrown a cloak over her shoulders, and a light knitted woollen shawl over her head. The deer started as she passed, but when they heard her voice they came after her, thrusting their noses against her hand. She walked quickly, and when she reached the steward’s lodge a little colour was in her delicate cheeks.

‘Emily,’ she said to the maid who opened the door, ‘is Lord Saltcombe here?’

‘Yes, my lady. He is in the study with Mr. Beavis.’

‘They will excuse my interrupting them,’ she said, passed down the passage, lightly tapped at the door, and in another moment was in her brother’s arms. Beavis withdrew, but not before Lady Grace, who never forgot what was due to every one, had put her hand into his and thanked him with her eyes. Her heart was too full to speak. The fine lips were quivering, and tears were trembling in her eyes like dew in the calyx of a flower.

She made her brother stand away from her at arm’s length and looked at him.

‘Oh, Herbert!’ she said, in a low plaintive voice, ‘you have suffered. Oh, my dear, dear brother, I must know all. You cannot conceive the pain it is to me to be shut out from all the mysteries that surround you. You have no one but