Page:Court Royal.djvu/277

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precious. I must be off. I have made you the offer, and you have refused it. I can do no more. There is the paper. I have marked the paragraph with blue pencil.’

She thrust the deeds back in her bag, and, before the Duke had put his hand to the bell, left the room.

The Duke sat for some moments, rubbing his brow, trying to gather his thoughts. The visit was so short, Joanna’s manner so extraordinary, her offer so outrageous, that the old man was completely thrown out of his usual train by it. He shook his head and took up the Society paper. His eye was caught at once by the paragraph Joanna had pencilled. It was to the effect that the projected marriage between the Marquess of S———, heir to the most embarrassed Duke in the three kingdoms, and the daughter of a wealthy planter from the East Indies, was broken off owing to the ruinous condition of the Duke’s affairs, and to the fact that the father of the lady declined to allow his hard-won savings to be thrown away in washing the Duke’s hands. The editor added that it was satisfactory to know that some birds were sufficiently old not to be caught with Salt!

The state of excitement into which reading this threw the Duke alarmed Thompson, and he ran to summon aid. Mrs. Probus, on hearing that the Duke was ill, ordered one of the grooms to ride for the doctor, a hot bath to be got ready, a couple of bricks to be put into the kitchen fire for application to his Grace’s soles, and to direct that spirits and cordials should be taken at once to the Duke’s apartment.

When the General entered, followed by Lady Grace, he found Lucy already by the chair of the old man, vainly endeavouring to pacify him. The Duke tried to speak, but words failed him. He held the newspaper and waved it impatiently, and pointed to it with the other hand. Lucy had a glass of water, and entreated him to drink it, but he shook his head angrily.

Then the Archdeacon came in, leaning on Lord Saltcombe’s arm.

‘What is it? What is the matter? Is it a fit?’ he asked. ‘Bathe his temples with vinegar, give him sal volatile. The action of the heart must be stimulated.’

The Duke was irritated at the attempts to doctor him with cold water and compresses, with vinegar and cordials. After a moment of struggle he gasped forth, ‘Take this trash away. I am not ill. I am insulted. Get along with you,