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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 49. Which Foreshadows A General Gathering
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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 49. Which Foreshadows A General Gathering Post by :tessaru Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :1782

Click below to download : The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 49. Which Foreshadows A General Gathering (Format : PDF)

The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 49. Which Foreshadows A General Gathering

BOOK VII CHAPTER XLIX. WHICH FORESHADOWS A GENERAL GATHERING

At our Riversley station I observed the squire, in company with Captain Bulsted, jump into a neighbouring carriage. I joined them, and was called upon to answer various inquiries. The squire gave me one of his short tight grasps of the hand, in which there was warmth and shyness, our English mixture. The captain whispered in my ear: 'He oughtn't to be alone.'

'How's the great-grandmother of the tribe?' said I.

Captain Bulsted nodded, as if he understood, but was at sea until I mentioned the bottle of rum and the remarkable length of that old lady's measurement.

'Ay, to be sure! a grand old soul,' he said. 'You know that scum of old, Harry.'

I laughed, and so did he, at which I laughed the louder.

'He laughs, I suppose, because his party's got a majority in the House,' said the squire.

'We gave you a handsome surplus this year, sir.'

'Sweated out of the country's skin and bone, ay!'

'You were complimented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer!'

'Yes, that fellow's compliments are like a cabman's, and cry fool:--he never thanks you but when he's overpaid.'

Captain Bulsted applauded the sarcasm.

'Why did you keep out of knowledge all this time, Hal?' my grandfather asked.

I referred him to the captain.

'Hang it,' cried Captain Bulsted, 'do you think I'd have been doing duty for you if I'd known where to lay hold of you.'

'Well, if you didn't shake hands with me, you touched my toes,' said I, and thanked him with all my heart for his kindness to an old woman on the point of the grave. I had some fun to flavour melancholy with.

My grandfather resumed his complaint: 'You might have gone clean off, and we none the wiser.'

'Are we quite sure that his head's clean on?' said the mystified captain.

'Of course we should run to him, wherever he was, if he was down on his back,' the squire muttered.

'Ay, ay, sir; of course,' quoth Captain William, frowning to me to reciprocate this relenting mood. 'But, Harry, where did you turn off that night? We sat up expecting you. My poor Julia was in a terrible fright, my lad. Eh? speak up.'

I raised the little finger.

'Oh, oh,' went he, happily reassured; but, reflecting, added: 'A bout of it?'

I dropped him a penitent nod.

'That's bad, though,' said he.

'Then why did you tip me a bottle of rum, Captain William?'

'By George, Harry, you've had a crack o' the sconce,' he exclaimed, more sagaciously than he was aware of.

My grandfather wanted to keep me by his side in London until we two should start for the island next day; but his business was in the city, mine toward the West. We appointed to meet two hours after reaching the terminus.

He turned to me while giving directions to his man.

'You 've got him down there, I suppose?'

'My father's in town, sir. He shall keep away,' I said.

'Humph! I mayn't object to see him.'

This set me thinking.

Captain Bulsted--previously asking me in a very earnest manner whether I was really all right and sound--favoured me with a hint:

'The squire has plunged into speculations of his own, or else he is peeping at somebody else's. No danger of the dad being mixed up with Companies? Let's hope not. Julia pledged her word to Janet that I would look after the old squire. I suppose I can go home this evening? My girl hates to be alone.'

'By all means,' said I; and the captain proposed to leave the squire at his hotel, in the event of my failing to join him in the city.

'But don't fail, if you can help it,' he urged me; 'for things somehow, my dear Harry, appear to me to look like the compass when the needle gives signs of atmospheric disturbance. My only reason for saying so is common observation. You can judge for yourself that he is glad to have you with him.'

I told the captain I was equally glad; for, in fact, my grandfather's quietness and apparently friendly disposition tempted me to petition for a dower for the princess at once, so that I might be in the position to offer Prince Ernest on his arrival a distinct alternative; supposing--it was still but a supposition--Ottilia should empower me. Incessant dialogues of perpetually shifting tendencies passed between Ottilia and me in my brain--now dark, now mildly fair, now very wild, on one side at least. Never, except by downright force of will, could I draw from the phantom of her one purely irrational outcry, so deeply-rooted was the knowledge of her nature and mind; and when I did force it, I was no gainer: a puppet stood in her place--the vision of Ottilia melted out in threads of vapour.

'And yet she has come to me; she has braved everything to come.' I might say that, to liken her to the women who break rules and read duties by their own light, but I could not cheat my knowledge of her. Mrs. Waddy met me in the hall of my father's house, as usual, pressing, I regretted to see, one hand to her side. 'Her heart,' she said, 'was easily set pitty-pat now.' She had been, by her master's orders, examined by two of the chief physicians of the kingdom, 'baronets both.' They advised total rest. As far as I could apprehend, their baronetcies and doings in high regions had been of more comfort than their prescriptions.

'What I am I must be,' she said, meekly; 'and I cannot quit his service till he's abroad again, or I drop. He has promised me a monument. I don't want it; but it shows his kindness.'

A letter from Heriot informed me that the affair between Edbury and me was settled: he could not comprehend how.

'What is this new Jury of Honour? Who are the jurymen?' he asked, and affected wit.

I thanked him for a thrashing in a curt reply.

My father had left the house early in the morning. Mrs. Waddy believed that he meant to dine that evening at the season's farewell dinner of the Trump-Trick Club: 'Leastways, Tollingby has orders to lay out his gentlemen's-dinners' evening-suit. Yesterday afternoon he flew down to Chippenden, and was home late. To-day he's in the City, or one of the squares. Lady Edbury's--ah! detained in town with the jaundice or toothache. He said he was sending to France for a dentist: or was it Germany, for some lady's eyes? I am sure I don't know. Well or ill, so long as you're anything to him, he will abound. Pocket and purse! You know him by this time, Mr. Harry. Oh, my heart!'

A loud knock at the door had brought on the poor creature's palpitations.

This visitor was no other than Prince Ernest. The name on his card was Graf von Delzenburg, and it set my heart leaping to as swift a measure as Mrs. Waddy's.

Hearing that I was in the house, he desired to see me.

We met, with a formal bow.

'I congratulate you right heartily upon being out of the list of the nekron,' he said, civilly. 'I am on my way to one of your watering-places, whither my family should have preceded me. Do you publish the names and addresses of visitors daily, as it is the custom with us?'

I relieved his apprehensions on that head: 'Here and there, rarely; and only at the hotels, I believe.' The excuse was furnished for offering the princess's address.

'Possibly, in a year or two, we may have the pleasure of welcoming you at Sarkeld,' said the prince, extending his hand. 'Then, you have seen the Countess of Delzenburg?'

'On the day of her arrival, your Highness. Ladies of my family are staying on the island.'

'Ah?'

He paused, and invited me to bow to him. We bowed thus in the room, in the hall, and at the street-door.

For what purpose could he have called on my father? To hear the worst at once? That seemed likely, supposing him to have lost his peculiar confidence in the princess, of which the courtly paces he had put me through precluded me from judging.

But I guessed acutely that it was not his intention to permit of my meeting Ottilia a second time. The blow was hard: I felt it as if it had been struck already, and thought I had gained resignation, until, like a man reprieved on his road to execution, the narrowed circle of my heart opened out to the breadth of the world in a minute. Returning from the city, I hurried to my father's house, late in the afternoon, and heard that he had started to overtake the prince, leaving word that the prince was to be found at his address in the island. No doubt could exist regarding the course I was bound to take. I drove to my grandfather, stated my case to him, and by sheer vehemence took the wind out of his sails; so that when I said, 'I am the only one alive who can control my father,' he answered mildly, 'Seems t' other way,' and chose a small snort for the indulgence of his private opinion.

'What! this princess came over alone, and is down driving out with my girl under an alias?' he said, showing sour aversion at the prospect of a collision with the foreign species, as expressive as the ridge of a cat's back.

Temple came to dine with us, so I did not leave him quite to himself, and Temple promised to accompany him down to the island.

'Oh, go, if you like,' the fretted old man dismissed me:

'I've got enough to think over. Hold him fast to stand up to me within forty-eight hours, present time; you know who I mean; I've got a question or two for him. How he treats his foreign princes and princesses don't concern me. I'd say, like the Prevention-Cruelty-Animal's man to the keeper of the menagerie, "Lecture 'em, wound their dignity, hurt their feelings, only don't wop 'em." I don't wish any harm to them, but what the deuce they do here nosing after my grandson!... There, go; we shall be having it out ha' done with to-morrow or next day. I've run the badger to earth, else I'm not fit to follow a scent.'

He grumbled at having to consume other than his Riversley bread, butter, beef, and ale for probably another fortnight. One of the boasts of Riversley was, that while the rest of the world ate and drank poison, the Grange lived on its own solid substance, defying malefactory Radical tricksters.

Temple was left to hear the rest. He had the sweetest of modest wishes for a re-introduction to Ottilia.

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