Page:Court Royal.djvu/74

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was greatly admired by the ladies and liked by his brother-officers, and accepted this as his due. Then the Duke found that his son was unable to live on the annual sum allowed him. He heard that the Marquess was in debt, and he wrote him a stately reprimand, but he said to Lord Ronald, ‘It is natural. He must live up to his name and title. It is unfortunate that the property is so burdened and shrunk.’

After that, rumours got abroad that Lord Saltcombe had been entangled in an intrigue which was not creditable—with an actress according to one version, with a married woman according to another. Nothing very definite was known, and it was sedulously kept from the ears of the Duke, Lord Edward, and Lady Grace.

Lord Ronald alone knew the particulars, but he was reserved. He never mentioned the matter to anyone.

Presently the news came that the Marquess was ill at Palermo. ‘I did not know that he had gone abroad,’ said the Duke. ‘Ah! I see there have been signs of activity in Etna, no doubt he went to witness an eruption.’

A few months after, Saltcombe returned home, with the General, who had gone out to him.

Lord Saltcombe was greatly altered, apparently a broken man.

He had been brought to the edge of the grave by typhoid fever, ‘owing,’ explained the Duke, ‘to the absence of sanitary arrangements, which are indeed deficient in the best Continental hotels. I sent out our own medical attendant, otherwise Saltcombe would have been bled to death by those Italian Sangrados.’

Gradually the Marquess recovered from his illness, but though his physical health was restored, his elasticity of spirit, his energy of character, were gone. He remained a prey to apathy, and, as he made no effort to shake this off, habit made it permanent. No one inquired into the truth of the rumours that had circulated, the best-disposed persons rejected them as slanderous gossip.

The Marquess left the army, remained at Court Royal, and settled into the uniform existence of a country gentleman.

When Mr. Worthivale told his son that the marriage of the Marquess was to solve the family difficulties, he expressed his hope and conviction of the entire Kingsbridge family. The Duke was desirous of seeing his son settled before he died, and both the General and the Archdeacon urged him to bestir him-