Page:Court Royal.djvu/56

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The Marquess of Saltcombe, who was also in the room, was a handsome man of about forty, with dark hair, dark eyes, and military moustache. The rest of his face was shaven. His eyes were fine, but wanting in fire; indeed, the general expression of his face lacked animation. He was grave, dignified, with a pleasant smile, which he put on when spoken to, but the smile never mounted to his face spontaneously. He laughed without merriment, argued without enthusiasm, pitied without sympathy, and acted without impulse. He had been in the army, but had left it; not caring for political life he had not attempted to enter Parliament. He lived at home, was too inert to go to town, and entered without eagerness into country pursuits.

Other gentlemen were present, but Mr. Crudge did not notice them particularly. Among the ladies present the only one who was conspicuous was Lady Grace Eveleigh, the daughter of the Duke. She was tall, like the rest of the family, and had the family refinement and nobility of type; but to this was added great purity and sweetness, and a very gentle, almost pleading manner. Mr. Worthivale introduced the lawyer to the Marquess, who was nearest to the door, and was apparently expecting their arrival. Then Lord Saltcombe took on himself the task of introducing Mr. Crudge to his father and uncles and sister. The Duke slightly rose from his seat and bowed with courtesy, but without encouragement; Lord Edward held out his hand, and made some general remark, his kind face relaxing into a friendly expression. Lord Ronald shook hands and said a few words. The lawyer felt that, although he had moved in all sorts of society, he was as a fish out of water here. The brothers looked on him as a stranger from another sphere, whose presence must be tolerated, who would never rise even to the level of acquaintanceship. The Duke exchanged a few words with him on the weather, and the drive from the station, and on the prospect of a branch line being made to Kingsbridge, ‘which,’ said he, ‘I shall oppose,’ and then turned to the vicar and Sir Edward Sheepwash, and continued with them a conversation which had been interrupted by the introduction of Mr. Crudge.

The Marquess and Worthivale engaged him in desultory talk, and after a while shook him off. Then Lady Grace, seeing that the lawyer looked ill at ease, drew towards him, and provoked a conversation as lively as was possible under the conditions of their having no points in common.