Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 34. I Gain A Perception Of Princely State
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 34. I Gain A Perception Of Princely State Post by :tessaru Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :2560

Click below to download : The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 34. I Gain A Perception Of Princely State (Format : PDF)

The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 34. I Gain A Perception Of Princely State

BOOK V CHAPTER XXXIV. I GAIN A PERCEPTION OF PRINCELY STATE

I had a visit from Prince Ernest, nominally one of congratulation on my escape. I was never in my life so much at any man's mercy: he might have fevered me to death with reproaches, and I expected them on hearing his name pronounced at the door. I had forgotten the ways of the world. For some minutes I listened guardedly to his affable talk. My thanks for the honour done me were awkward, as if they came upon reflection. The prince was particularly civil and cheerful. His relative, he said, had written of me in high terms--the very highest, declaring that I was blameless in the matter, and that, though he had sent the horse back to my stables, he fully believed in the fine qualities of the animal, and acknowledged his fault in making it a cause of provocation. To all of which I assented with easy nods.

'Your Shakespeare, I think,' said the prince, 'has a scene of young Frenchmen praising their horses. I myself am no stranger to the enthusiasm: one could not stake life and honour on a nobler brute. Pardon me if I state my opinion that you young Englishmen of to-day are sometimes rather overbearing in your assumption of a superior knowledge of horseflesh. We Germans in the Baltic provinces and in the Austrian cavalry think we have a right to a remark or two; and if we have not suborned the testimony of modern history, the value of our Hanoverian troopers is not unknown to one at least of your Generals. However, the odds are that you were right and Otto wrong, and he certainly put himself in the wrong to defend his ground.'

I begged him to pass a lenient sentence upon fiery youth. He assured me that he remembered his own. Our interchange of courtesies was cordially commonplace: we walked, as it were, arm-in-arm on thin ice, rivalling one another's gentlemanly composure. Satisfied with my discretion, the prince invited me to the lake-palace, and then a week's shooting in Styria to recruit. I thanked him in as clear a voice as I could command:

'Your Highness, the mine flourishes, I trust?'

'It does; I think I may say it does,' he replied. 'There is always the want of capital. What can be accomplished, in the present state of affairs, your father performs, on the whole, well. You smile--but I mean extraordinarily well. He has, with an accountant at his elbow, really the genius of management. He serves me busily, and, I repeat, well. A better employment for him than the direction of Court theatricals?'

'Undoubtedly it is.'

'Or than bestriding a bronze horse, personifying my good ancestor! Are you acquainted with the Chancellor von Redwitz?'

'All I know of him, sir, is that he is fortunate to enjoy the particular confidence of his master.'

'He has a long head. But, now, he is a disappointing man in action; responsibility overturns him. He is the reverse of Roy, whose advice I do not take, though I'm glad to set him running. Von Redwitz is in the town. He shall call on you, and amuse an hour or so of your convalescence.'

I confessed that I began to feel longings for society.

Prince Ernest was kind enough to quit me without unmasking. I had not to learn that the simplest visits and observations of ruling princes signify more than lies on the surface. Interests so highly personal as theirs demand from them a decent insincerity.

Chancellor von Redwitz called on me, and amused me with secret anecdotes of all the royal Houses of Germany, amusing chiefly through the veneration he still entertained for them. The grave senior was doing his utmost to divert one of my years. The immoralities of blue blood, like the amours of the Gods, were to his mind tolerable, if not beneficial to mankind, and he presumed I should find them toothsome. Nay, he besought me to coincide in his excuses of a widely charming young archduchess, for whom no estimable husband of a fitting rank could anywhere be discovered, so she had to be bestowed upon an archducal imbecile; and hence--and hence--Oh, certainly! Generous youth and benevolent age joined hands of exoneration over her. The princess of Satteberg actually married, under covert, a colonel of Uhlans at the age of seventeen; the marriage was quashed, the colonel vanished, the princess became the scandalous Duchess of Ilm-Ilm, and was surprised one infamous night in the outer court of the castle by a soldier on guard, who dragged her into the guard-room and unveiled her there, and would have been summarily shot for his pains but for the locket on his breast, which proved him to be his sovereign's son.--A perfect romance, Mr. Chancellor. We will say the soldier son loved a delicate young countess in attendance on the duchess. The countess spies the locket, takes it to the duchess, is reprimanded, when behold! the locket opens, and Colonel von Bein appears as in his blooming youth, in Lancer uniform.--Young sir, your piece of romance has exaggerated history to caricature. Romances are the destruction of human interest. The moment you begin to move the individuals, they are puppets. 'Nothing but poetry, and I say it who do not read it'--(Chancellor von Redwitz is the speaker)'nothing but poetry makes romances passable: for poetry is the everlastingly and embracingly human. Without it your fictions are flat foolishness, non-nourishing substance--a species of brandy and gruel!--diet for craving stomachs that can support nothing solider, and must have the weak stuff stiffened. Talking of poetry, there was an independent hereditary princess of Leiterstein in love with a poet!--a Leonora d'Este!--This was no Tasso. Nevertheless, she proposed to come to nuptials. Good, you observe? I confine myself to the relation of historical circumstances; in other words, facts; and of good or bad I know not.'

Chancellor von Redwitz smoothed the black silk stocking of his crossed leg, and set his bunch of seals and watch-key swinging. He resumed, entirely to amuse me,

'The Princess Elizabeth of Leiterstein promised all the qualities which the most solicitous of paternal princes could desire as a guarantee for the judicious government of the territory to be bequeathed to her at his demise. But, as there is no romance to be extracted from her story, I may as well tell you at once that she did not espouse the poet.'

'On the contrary, dear Mr. Chancellor, I am interested in the princess. Proceed, and be as minute as you please.'

'It is but a commonplace excerpt of secret historical narrative buried among the archives of the Family, my good Mr. Richmond. The Princess Elizabeth thoughtlessly pledged her hand to the young sonneteer. Of course, she could not fulfil her engagement.'

'Why not?'

'You see, you are impatient for romance, young gentleman.'

'Not at all, Mr. Chancellor. I do but ask a question.'

'You fence. Your question was dictated by impatience.'

'Yes, for the facts and elucidations!

'For the romance, that is. You wish me to depict emotions.'

Hereupon this destroyer of temper embrowned his nostrils with snuff, adding,--'I am unable to.'

'Then one is not to learn why the princess could not fulfil her engagement?'

'Judged from the point of view of the pretender to the supreme honour of the splendid alliance, the fault was none of hers. She overlooked his humble, his peculiarly dubious, birth.'

'Her father interposed?'

'No.'

'The Family?'

'Quite inefficacious to arrest her determinations.'

'What then--what was in her way?'

'Germany.'

'What?'

'Great Germany, young gentleman. I should have premised that, besides mental, she had eminent moral dispositions,--I might term it the conscience of her illustrious rank. She would have raised the poet to equal rank beside her had she possessed the power. She could and did defy the Family, and subdue her worshipping father, the most noble prince, to a form of paralysis of acquiescence--if I make myself understood. But she was unsuccessful in her application for the sanction of the Diet.'

'The Diet?'

'The German Diet. Have you not lived among us long enough to know that the German Diet is the seat of domestic legislation for the princely Houses of Germany? A prince or a princess may say, "I will this or that." The Diet says, "Thou shalt not"; pre-eminently, "Thou shalt not mix thy blood with that of an impure race, nor with blood of inferiors." Hence, we have it what we see it, a translucent flood down from the topmost founts of time. So we revere it. "Qua man and woman," the Diet says, by implication, "do as you like, marry in the ditches, spawn plentifully. Qua prince and princess, No! Your nuptials are nought. Or would you maintain them a legal ceremony, and be bound by them, you descend, you go forth; you are no reigning sovereign, you are a private person." His Serene Highness the prince was thus prohibited from affording help to his daughter. The princess was reduced to the decision either that she, the sole child born of him in legal wedlock, would render him qua prince childless, or that she would--in short, would have her woman's way. The sovereignty of Leiterstein continued uninterruptedly with the elder branch. She was a true princess.'

'A true woman,' said I, thinking the sneer weighty.

The Chancellor begged me to recollect that he had warned me there was no romance to be expected.

I bowed; and bowed during the remainder of the interview.

Chancellor von Redwitz had performed his mission. The hours of my convalescence were furnished with food for amusement sufficient to sustain a year's blockade; I had no further longing for society, but I craved for fresh air intensely.

Did Ottilia know that this iron law, enforced with the might of a whole empire, environed her, held her fast from any motion of heart and will? I could not get to mind that the prince had hinted at the existence of such a law. Yet why should he have done so? The word impossible, in which he had not been sparing when he deigned to speak distinctly, comprised everything. More profitable than shooting empty questions at the sky was the speculation on his project in receiving me at the palace, and that was dark. My father, who might now have helped me, was off on duty again.

I found myself driving into Sarkeld with a sense of a whirlwind round my head; wheels in multitudes were spinning inside, striking sparks for thoughts. I met an orderly in hussar uniform of blue and silver, trotting on his errand. There he was; and whether many were behind him or he stood for the army in its might, he wore the trappings of an old princely House that nestled proudly in the bosom of its great jealous Fatherland. Previously in Sarkeld I had noticed members of the diminutive army to smile down on them. I saw the princely arms and colours on various houses and in the windows of shops. Emblems of a small State, they belonged to the history of the Empire. The Court-physician passed with a bit of ribbon in his buttonhole. A lady driving in an open carriage encouraged me to salute her. She was the wife of the Prince's Minister of Justice. Upon what foundation had I been building?

A reflection of the ideas possessing me showed Riversley, my undecorated home of rough red brick, in the middle of barren heaths. I entered the palace, I sent my respects to the prince. In return, the hour of dinner was ceremoniously named to me: ceremony damped the air. I had been insensible to it before, or so I thought, the weight was now so crushing. Arms, emblems, colours, liveries, portraits of princes and princesses of the House, of this the warrior, that the seductress, burst into sudden light. What had I to do among them?

The presence of the living members of the Family was an extreme physical relief.

For the moment, beholding Ottilia, I counted her but as one of them. She welcomed me without restraint.

We chattered pleasantly at the dinner-table.

'Ah! You missed our French troupe,' said the margravine.'

'Yes,' said I, resigning them to her. She nodded:

'And one very pretty little woman they had, I can tell you--for a Frenchwoman.'

'You thought her pretty? Frenchwomen know what to do with their brains and their pins, somebody has said.'

'And exceedingly well said, too. Where is that man Roy? Good things always remind me of him.'

The question was addressed to no one in particular. The man happened to be my father, I remembered. A second allusion to him was answered by Prince Ernest:

'Roy is off to Croatia to enrol some dozens of cheap workmen. The strength of those Croats is prodigious, and well looked after they work. He will be back in three or four or more days.'

'You have spoilt a good man,' rejoined the margravine; 'and that reminds me of a bad one--a cutthroat. Have you heard of that creature, the princess's tutor? Happily cut loose from us, though! He has published a book--a horror! all against Scripture and Divine right! Is there any one to defend him now, I should like to ask?'

'I,' said Ottilia.

'Gracious me! you have not read the book?'

'Right through, dear aunt, with all respect to you.'

'It 's in the house?'

'It is in my study.'

'Then I don't wonder! I don't wonder!' the margravine exclaimed.

'Best hear what the enemy has to say,' Prince Ernest observed.

'Excellently argued, papa, supposing that he be an enemy.'

'An enemy as much as the fox is the enemy of the poultry-yard, and the hound is the enemy of the fox!' said the margravine.

'I take your illustration, auntie,' said Ottilia. 'He is the enemy of chickens, and only does not run before the numbers who bark at him. My noble old Professor is a resolute truth-seeker: he raises a light to show you the ground you walk on. How is it that you, adoring heroes as you do, cannot admire him when he stands alone to support his view of the truth! I would I were by him! But I am, whenever I hear him abused.'

'I daresay you discard nothing that the wretch has taught you!'

'Nothing! nothing!' said Ottilia, and made my heart live.

The grim and taciturn Baroness Turckems, sitting opposite to her, sighed audibly.

'Has the princess been trying to convert you?' the margravine asked her.

'Trying? no, madam. Reading? yes.'

'My good Turckems! you do not get your share of sleep?'

'It is her Highness the princess who despises sleep.'

'See there the way with your free-thinkers! They commence by treading under foot the pleasantest half of life, and then they impose their bad habits on their victims. Ottilia! Ernest! I do insist upon having lights extinguished in the child's apartments by twelve o'clock at midnight.'

'Twelve o'clock is an extraordinary latitude for children,' said Ottilia, smiling.

The prince, with a scarce perceptible degree of emphasis, said,

'Women born to rule must be held exempt from nursery restrictions.'

Here the conversation opened to let me in. More than once the margravine informed me that I was not the equal of my father.

'Why,' said she, 'why can't you undertake this detestable coal-mine, and let your father disport himself?'

I suggested that it might be because I was not his equal. She complimented me for inheriting a spark of Roy's brilliancy.

I fancied there was a conspiracy to force me back from my pretensions by subjecting me to the contemplation of my bare self and actual condition. Had there been, I should have suffered from less measured strokes. The unconcerted design to humiliate inferiors is commonly successfuller than conspiracy.

The prince invited me to smoke with him, and talked of our gradual subsidence in England to one broad level of rank through the intermixture by marriage of our aristocracy, squirearchy, and merchants.

'Here it is not so,' he said; 'and no democratic rageings will make it so. Rank, with us, is a principle. I suppose you have not read the Professor's book? It is powerful--he is a powerful man. It can do no damage to the minds of persons destined by birth to wield authority--none, therefore, to the princess. I would say to you--avoid it. For those who have to carve their way, it is bad. You will enter your Parliament, of course? There you have a fine career.'

He asked me what I had made of Chancellor von Redwitz.

I perceived that Prince Ernest could be cool and sagacious in repairing what his imprudence or blindness had left to occur: that he must have enlightened his daughter as to her actual position, and was most dexterously and devilishly flattering her worldly good sense by letting it struggle and grow, instead of opposing her. His appreciation of her intellect was an idolatry; he really confided in it, I knew; and this reacted upon her. Did it? My hesitations and doubts, my fantastic raptures and despair, my loss of the power to appreciate anything at its right value, revealed the madness of loving a princess.

There were preparations for the arrival of an important visitor. The margravine spoke of him emphatically. I thought it might be her farcically pompous way of announcing my father's return, and looked pleased, I suppose, for she added, 'Do you know Prince Hermann? He spends most of his time in Eberhardstadt. He is cousin of the King, a wealthy branch; tant soit peu philosophe, a ce qu'on dit; a traveller. They say he has a South American complexion. I knew him a boy; and his passion is to put together what Nature has unpieced, bones of fishes and animals. Il faut passer le temps. He adores the Deluge. Anything antediluvian excites him. He can tell us the "modes" of those days; and, if I am not very much misinformed, he still expects us to show him the very latest of these. Happily my milliner is back from Paris. Ay, and we have fossils in our neighbourhood, though, on my honour, I don't know where--somewhere; the princess can guide him, and you can help at the excavations. I am told he would go through the crust of earth for the backbone of an idio--ilio-something-saurus.'

I scrutinized Prince Hermann as rarely my observation had dwelt on any man. He had the German head, wide, so as seemingly to force out the ears; honest, ready, interested eyes in conversation; parched lips; a rather tropically-coloured skin; and decidedly the manners of a gentleman to all, excepting his retinue of secretaries, valets, and chasseurs--his 'blacks,' he called them. They liked him. One could not help liking him.

'You study much?' he addressed the princess at table.

She answered: 'I throw aside books, now you have come to open the earth and the sea.'

From that time the topics started on every occasion were theirs; the rest of us ran at their heels, giving tongue or not.

To me Prince Hermann was perfectly courteous. He had made English friends on his travels; he preferred English comrades in adventure to any other: thought our East Indian empire the most marvellous thing the world had seen, and our Indian Government cigars very smokeable upon acquaintance. When stirred, he bubbled with anecdote. 'Not been there,' was his reply to the margravine's tentatives for gossip of this and that of the German Courts. His museum, hunting, and the Opera absorbed and divided his hours. I guessed his age to be mounting forty. He seemed robust; he ate vigorously. Drinking he conscientiously performed as an accompanying duty, and was flushed after dinner, burning for tobacco and a couch for his length. Then he talked of the littleness of Europe and the greatness of Germany; logical postulates fell in collapse before him. America to America, North and South; India to Europe. India was for the land with the largest sea-board. Mistress of the Baltic, of the North Sea and the East, as eventually she must be, Germany would claim to take India as a matter of course, and find an outlet for the energies of the most prolific and the toughest of the races of mankind,--the purest, in fact, the only true race, properly so called, out of India, to which it would return as to its source, and there create an empire magnificent in force and solidity, the actual wedding of East and West; an empire firm on the ground and in the blood of the people, instead of an empire of aliens, that would bear comparison to a finely fretted cotton-hung palanquin balanced on an elephant's back, all depending on the docility of the elephant (his description of Great Britain's Indian Empire). 'And mind me,' he said, 'the masses of India are in character elephant all over, tail to proboscis! servile till they trample you, and not so stupid as they look. But you've done wonders in India, and we can't forget it. Your administration of Justice is worth all your battles there.'

This was the man: a milder one after the evaporation of his wine in speech, and peculiarly moderate on his return, exhaling sandal-wood, to the society of the ladies.

Ottilia danced with Prince Hermann at the grand Ball given in honour of him. The wives and daughters of the notables present kept up a buzz of comment on his personal advantages, in which, I heard it said, you saw his German heart, though he had spent the best years of his life abroad. Much court was paid to him by the men. Sarkeld visibly expressed satisfaction. One remark, 'We shall have his museum in the town!' left me no doubt upon the presumed object of his visit: it was uttered and responded to with a depth of sentiment that showed how lively would be the general gratitude toward one who should exhilarate the place by introducing cases of fish-bones.

So little did he think of my presence, that returning from a ride one day, he seized and detained the princess's hand. She frowned with pained surprise, but unresistingly, as became a young gentlewoman's dignity. Her hand was rudely caught and kept in the manner of a boisterous wooer--a Harry the Fifth or lusty Petruchio. She pushed her horse on at a bound. Prince Hermann rode up head to head with her gallantly, having now both hands free of the reins, like an Indian spearing the buffalo--it was buffalo courtship; and his shout of rallying astonishment at her resistance, 'What? What?' rang wildly to heighten the scene, she leaning constrained on one side and he bending half his body's length; a strange scene for me to witness.

They proceeded with old Schwartz at their heels doglike. It became a question for me whether I should follow in the bitter track, and further the question whether I could let them escape from sight. They wound up the roadway, two figures and one following, now dots against the sky, now a single movement in the valley, now concealed, buried under billows of forest, making the low noising of the leaves an intolerable whisper of secresy, and forward I rushed again to see them rounding a belt of firs or shadowed by rocks, solitary on shorn fields, once more dipping to the forest, and once more emerging, vanishing. When I had grown sure of their reappearance from some point of view or other, I spied for them in vain. My destiny, whatever it might be, fluttered over them; to see them seemed near the knowing of it, and not to see them, deadly. I galloped, so intent on the three in the distance, that I did not observe a horseman face toward me, on the road: it was Prince Hermann. He raised his hat; I stopped short, and he spoke:

'Mr. Richmond, permit me to apologize to you. I have to congratulate you, it appears. I was not aware.--However, the princess has done me the favour to enlighten me. How you will manage, I can't guess, but that is not my affair. I am a man of honour; and, on my honour, I conceived that I was invited here to decide, as my habit is, on the spot, if I would, or if I would not. I speak clearly to you, no doubt. There could be no hesitation in the mind of a man of sense. My way is prompt and blunt; I am sorry I gave you occasion to reflect on it. There! I have been deceived--deceived myself, let's say. Sharp methods play the devil with you now and then. To speak the truth,--perhaps you won't care to listen to it,--family arrangements are the best; take my word for it, they are the best. And in the case of princesses of the Blood!--Why, look you, I happen to be suitable. It 's a matter of chance, like your height, complexion, constitution. One is just what one is born to be, eh? You have your English notions, I my German; but as a man of the world in the bargain, and "gentleman," I hope, I should say, that to take a young princess's fancy, and drag her from her station is not--of course, you know that the actual value of the title goes if she steps down? Very well. But enough said; I thought I was in a clear field. We are used to having our way cleared for us, nous autres. I will not detain you.'

We saluted gravely, and I rode on at a mechanical pace, discerning by glimpses the purport of what I had heard, without drawing warmth from it. The man's outrageously royal way of wooing, in contempt of minor presences and flimsy sentiment, made me jealous of him, notwithstanding his overthrow.

I was in the mood to fall entirely into my father's hands, as I did by unbosoming myself to him for the first time since my heart had been under the charm. Fresh from a rapid course of travel, and with the sense of laying the prince under weighty obligations, he made light of my perplexity, and at once delivered himself bluntly: 'She plights her hand to you in the presence of our good Peterborough.' His plans were shaped on the spot. 'We start for England the day after to-morrow to urge on the suit, Richie. Our Peterborough is up at the chateau. The Frau Feldmarschall honours him with a farewell invitation: you have a private interview with the princess at midnight in the library, where you are accustomed to read, as a student of books should, my boy at a touch of the bell, or mere opening of the door, I see that Peterborough comes to you. It will not be a ceremony, but a binding of you both by your word of honour before a ghostly gentleman.' He informed me that his foresight had enlisted and detained Peterborough for this particular moment and identical piece of duty, which seemed possible, and in a singular manner incited me to make use of Peterborough. For the princess still denied me the look of love's intelligence, she avoided me, she still kept to the riddle, and my delicacy went so far that I was restrained from writing. I agreed with my father that we could not remain in Germany; but how could I quit the field and fly to England on such terms? I composed the flattest letter ever written, requesting the princess to meet me about midnight in the library, that I might have the satisfaction of taking my leave of her; and this done, my spirits rose, and it struck me my father was practically wise, and I looked on Peterborough as an almost supernatural being. If Ottilia refused to come, at least I should know my fate. Was I not bound in manly honour to be to some degree adventurous?

So I reasoned in exclamations, being, to tell truth, tired of seeming to be what I was not quite, of striving to become what I must have divined that I never could quite attain to. So my worthier, or ideal, self fell away from me. I was no longer devoted to be worthy of a woman's love, but consenting to the plot to entrap a princess. I was somewhat influenced, too, by the consideration, which I regarded as a glimpse of practical wisdom, that Prince Ernest was guilty of cynical astuteness in retaining me as his guest under manifold disadvantages. Personal pride stood up in arms, and my father's exuberant spirits fanned it. He dwelt loudly on his services to the prince, and his own importance and my heirship to mighty riches. He made me almost believe that Prince Ernest hesitated about rejecting me; nor did it appear altogether foolish to think so, or why was I at the palace? I had no head for reflections.

My father diverted me by levelling the whole battery of his comic mind upon Peterborough, who had a heap of manuscript, directed against heretical German theologians, to pack up for publication in his more congenial country: how different, he ejaculated, from this nest--this forest of heresy, where pamphlets and critical essays were issued without let or hindrance, and, as far as he could see, no general reprobation of the Press, such as would most undoubtedly, with one voice, hail any strange opinions in our happy land at home! Whether he really understood the function my father prepared him for, I cannot say. The invitation to dine and pass a night at the lake-palace flattered him immensely.

We went up to the chateau to fetch him.

A look of woe was on Peterborough's countenance when we descended at the palace portals: he had forgotten his pipe.

'You shall smoke one of the prince's,' my father said. Peterborough remarked to me,--'We shall have many things to talk over in England.'

'No tobacco allowed on the premises at Riversley, I 'm afraid,' said I.

He sighed, and bade me jocosely to know that he regarded tobacco as just one of the consolations of exiles and bachelors.

'Peterborough, my good friend, you are a hero!' cried my father. 'He divorces tobacco to marry!'

'Permit me,' Peterborough interposed, with an ingenuous pretension to subtle waggery, in itself very comical,--'permit me; no legitimate union has taken place between myself and tobacco!'

'He puts an end to the illegitimate union between himself and tobacco that he may marry according to form!' cried my father.

We entered the palace merrily, and presently Peterborough, who had worn a studious forehead in the midst of his consenting laughter, observed, 'Well, you know, there is more in that than appears on the surface.'

His sweet simpleton air of profundity convulsed me. I handed my father the letter addressed to the princess to entrust it to the charge of one of the domestics, thinking carelessly at the time that Ottilia now stood free to make appointments and receive communications, and moreover that I was too proud to condescend to subterfuge, except this minor one, in consideration for her, of making it appear that my father, and not I, was in communication with her. My fit of laughter clung. I dressed chuckling. The margravine was not slow to notice and comment on my hilarious readiness.

'Roy,' she said, 'you have given your son spirit. One sees he has your blood when you have been with him an hour.'

'The season has returned, if your Highness will let it be Spring,' said my father.

'Far fetched!--from the Lower Danube!' she ejaculated in mock scorn to excite his sprightliness, and they fell upon a duologue as good as wit for the occasion.

Prince Hermann had gone. His departure was mentioned with the ordinary commonplaces of regret. Ottilia was unembarrassed, both in speaking of him and looking at me. We had the Court physician and his wife at table, Chancellor von Redwitz and his daughter, and General Happenwyll, chief of the prince's contingent, a Prussian at heart, said to be a good officer on the strength of a military book of some sort that he had full leisure to compose. The Chancellor's daughter and Baroness Turckems enclosed me.

I was questioned by the baroness as to the cause of my father's unexpected return. 'He is generally opportune,' she remarked.

'He goes with me to England,' I said.

'Oh! he goes,' said she; and asked why we were honoured with the presence of Mr. Peterborough that evening. There had always been a smouldering hostility between her and my father.

To my surprise, the baroness spoke of Ottilia by her name.

'Ottilia must have mountain air. These late hours destroy her complexion. Active exercise by day and proper fatigue by night time--that is my prescription.'

'The princess,' I replied, envying Peterborough, who was placed on one side of her, 'will benefit, I am sure, from mountain air. Does she read excessively? The sea--'

'The sea I pronounce bad for her--unwholesome,' returned the baroness. 'It is damp.'

I laughed.

'Damp,' she reiterated. 'The vapours, I am convinced, affect mind and body. That excursion in the yacht did her infinite mischief. The mountains restored her. They will again, take my word for it. Now take you my word for it, they will again. She is not too strong in constitution, but in order to prescribe accurately one must find out whether there is seated malady. To ride out in the night instead of reposing! To drive on and on, and not reappear till the night of the next day--I ask you, is it sensible? Does it not approach mania?'

'The princess--?' said I.

'Ottilia has done that.'

'Baroness, can I believe you?--and alone?'

A marvellous twinkle of shuffle appeared in the small slate-coloured eyes I looked at under their roofing of thick black eyebrows.

'Alone,' she said. 'That is, she was precautious to have her giant to protect her from violence. There you have a glimmering of reason in her; and all of it that I can see.'

'Old Schwartz is a very faithful servant,' said I, thinking that she resembled the old Warhead in visage.

'A dog's obedience to the master's whims you call faithfulness! Hem!' The baroness coughed dryly.

I whispered: 'Does Prince Ernest--is he aware?'

'You are aware,' retorted the baroness, 'that what a man idolizes he won't see flaw in. Remember, I am something here, or I am nothing.'

The enigmatical remark was received by me decorously as a piece of merited chastisement. Nodding with gravity, I expressed regrets that the sea did not please her, otherwise I could have offered her a yacht for a cruise. She nodded stiffly. Her mouth shut up a smile, showing more of the door than the ray. The dinner, virtually a German supper, ended in general conversation on political affairs, preceded and supported by a discussion between the Prussian-hearted General and the Austrian-hearted margravine. Prince Ernest, true to his view that diplomacy was the weapon of minor sovereigns, held the balance, with now a foot in one scale, now in the other; a politic proceeding, so long as the rival powers passively consent to be weighed.

We trifled with music, made our bow to the ladies, and changed garments for the smoking-room. Prince Ernest smoked his one cigar among guests. The General, the Chancellor, and the doctor, knew the signal for retirement, and rose simultaneously with the discharge of his cigar-end in sparks on the unlit logwood pile. My father and Mr. Peterborough kept their chairs.

There was, I felt with relief, no plot, for nothing had been definitely assented to by me. I received Prince Ernest's proffer of his hand, on making my adieux to him, with a passably clear conscience.

I went out to the library. A man came in for orders; I had none to give. He saw that the shutters were fixed and the curtains down, examined my hand-lamp, and placed lamps on the reading-desk and mantel-piece. Bronze busts of sages became my solitary companions. The room was long, low and dusky, voluminously and richly hung with draperies at the farther end, where a table stood for the prince to jot down memoranda, and a sofa to incline him to the relaxation of romance-reading. A door at this end led to the sleeping apartments of the West wing of the palace. Where I sat the student had ranges of classical volumes in prospect and classic heads; no other decoration to the walls. I paced to and fro and should have flung myself on the sofa but for a heap of books there covered from dust, perhaps concealed, that the yellow Parisian volumes, of which I caught sight of some new dozen, might not be an attraction to the eyes of chance-comers. At the lake-palace the prince frequently gave audience here. He had said to me, when I stated my wish to read in the library, 'You keep to the classical department?' I thought it possible he might not like the coloured volumes to be inspected; I had no taste for a perusal of them. I picked up one that fell during my walk, and flung it back, and disturbed a heap under cover, for more fell, and there I let them lie.

Ottilia did not keep me waiting.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 35. The Scene In The Lake-Palace Library The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 35. The Scene In The Lake-Palace Library

The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 35. The Scene In The Lake-Palace Library
BOOK V CHAPTER XXXV. THE SCENE IN THE LAKE-PALACE LIBRARYI was humming the burden of Gothe's Zigeunerlied, a favourite one with me whenever I had too much to think of, or nothing. A low rush of sound from the hall-doorway swung me on my heel, and I saw her standing with a silver lamp raised in her right hand to the level of her head, as if she expected to meet obscurity. A thin blue Indian scarf mufed her throat and shoulders. Her hair was loosely knotted. The lamp's full glow illumined and shadowed her. She was like a statue of
PREVIOUS BOOKS

The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 33. What Came Of A Shilling The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 33. What Came Of A Shilling

The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 5 - Chapter 33. What Came Of A Shilling
BOOK V CHAPTER XXXIII. WHAT CAME OF A SHILLINGThe surgeon, who attended us both, loudly admired our mutual delicacy in sparing arteries and vital organs: but a bullet cuts a rougher pathway than the neat steel blade, and I was prostrate when the prince came to press my hand on his departure for his quarters at Laibach. The utterly unreasonable nature of a duel was manifested by his declaring to me, that he was now satisfied I did not mean to insult him and then laugh at him. We must regard it rather as a sudorific for feverish blood and brains.
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT