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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 50. We Are All In My Father's Net
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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 50. We Are All In My Father's Net Post by :tessaru Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :733

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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 50. We Are All In My Father's Net


Journeying down by the mail-train in the face of a great sunken sunset broken with cloud, I chanced to ask myself what it was that I seriously desired to have. My purpose to curb my father was sincere and good; but concerning my heart's desires, whitherward did they point? I thought of Janet--she made me gasp for air; of Ottilia, and she made me long for earth. Sharp, as I write it, the distinction smote me. I might have been divided by an electrical shot into two halves, with such an equal force was I drawn this way and that, pointing nowhither. To strangle the thought of either one of them was like the pang of death; yet it did not strike me that I loved the two: they were apart in my mind, actually as if I had been divided. I passed the Riversley station under sombre sunset fires, saddened by the fancy that my old home and vivacious Janet were ashes, past hope. I came on the smell of salt air, and had that other spirit of woman around me, of whom the controlled seadeeps were an image, who spoke to my soul like starlight. Much wise counsel, and impatience of the wisdom, went on within me. I walked like a man with a yawning wound, and had to whip the sense of passion for a drug. Toward which one it strove I know not; it was blind and stormy as the night.

Not a boatman would take me across. The lights of the island lay like a crown on the water. I paced the ramparts, eyeing them, breathing the keen salt of thundering waves, until they were robbed of their magic by the coloured Fast.

It is, I have learnt, out of the conflict of sensations such as I then underwent that a young man's brain and morality, supposing him not to lean overmuch to sickly sentiment, becomes gradually enriched and strengthened, and himself shaped for capable manhood. I was partly conscious of a better condition in the morning; and a sober morning it was to me after my long sentinel's step to and fro. I found myself possessed of one key--whether the right one or not--wherewith to read the princess, which was never possible to me when I was under stress of passion, or of hope or despair; my perplexities over what she said, how she looked, ceased to trouble me. I read her by this strange light: that she was a woman who could only love intelligently--love, that is, in the sense of giving herself. She had the power of passion, and it could be stirred; but he who kindled it wrecked his chance if he could not stand clear in her intellect's unsparing gaze. Twice already she must have felt herself disillusioned by me. This third time, possibly, she blamed her own fatally credulous tenderness, not me; but it was her third awakening, and could affection and warmth of heart combat it? Her child's enthusiasm for my country had prepared her for the impression which the waxen mind of the dreamy invalid received deeply; and so, aided by the emotional blood of youth, she gave me place in her imagination, probing me still curiously, as I remembered, at a season when her sedate mind was attaining to joint deliberations with the impulsive overgenerous heart.

Then ensued for her the successive shocks of discernment. She knew the to have some of the vices, many follies, all the intemperateness of men who carve a way for themselves in the common roads, if barely they do that. And resembling common men (men, in a judgement elective as hers, common, however able), I was not assuredly to be separated by her from my associations; from the thought of my father, for example. Her look at him in the lake-palace library, and her manner in unfolding and folding his recent letter to her, and in one or two necessitated allusions, embraced a kind of grave, pitiful humour, beyond smiles or any outward expression, as if the acknowledgement that it was so quite obliterated the wonder that it should be so--that one such as he could exercise influence upon her destiny. Or she may have made her reckoning generally, not personally, upon our human destinies: it is the more likely, if, as I divine, the calm oval of her lifted eyelids contemplated him in the fulness of the recognition that this world, of which we hope unuttered things, can be shifted and swayed by an ignis-fatuus. The father of one now seen through, could hardly fail of being transfixed himself. It was horrible to think of. I would rather have added a vice to my faults than that she should have penetrated him.

Nearing the island, I was reminded of the early morning when I landed on the Flemish flats. I did not expect a similar surprise, but before my rowers had pulled in, the tall beaconhead of old Schwartz notified that his mistress might be abroad. Janet walked with her. I ran up the steps to salute them, and had Ottilia's hand in mine.

'Prince Ernest has arrived?'

'My father came yesterday evening.'

'Do you leave to-day?'

'I cannot tell; he will decide.'

It seemed a good omen, until I scanned Janet's sombre face.

'You will not see us out for the rest of the day, Harry,' said she.

'That is your arrangement?'

'It is.'

'Your own?'

'Mine, if you like.'

There was something hard in her way of speaking, as though she blamed me, and the princess were under her protection against me. She vouchsafed no friendly significance of look and tone.

In spite of my readiness to criticize her (which in our language means condemn) for always assuming leadership with whomsoever she might be, I was impressed by the air of high-bred friendliness existing between her and the princess. Their interchange was pleasant to hear. Ottilia had caught the spirit of her frank manner of speech; and she, though in a less degree, the princess's fine ease and sweetness. They conversed, apparently, like equal minds. On material points, Janet unhesitatingly led. It was she who brought the walk to a close.

'Now, Harry, you had better go and have a little sleep. I should like to speak to you early.'

Ottilia immediately put her hand out to me.

I begged permission to see her to her door.

Janet replied for her, indicating old Schwartz: 'We have a protector, you see, six feet and a half.'

An hour later, Schwartz was following her to the steps of her hotel. She saw me, and waited. For a wonder, she displayed reluctance in disburdening herself of what she had to say. 'Harry, you know that he has come? He and Prince Ernest came together. Get him to leave the island at once: he can return to-morrow. Grandada writes of wishing to see him. Get him away to-day.'

'Is the prince going to stay here?' I asked.

'No. I daresay I am only guessing; I hope so. He has threatened the prince.'

'What with?'

'Oh! Harry, can't you understand? I'm no reader of etiquette, but even I can see that the story of a young princess travelling over to England alone to visit... and you..., and her father fetching her away! The prince is almost at his mercy, unless you make the man behave like a gentleman. This is exactly the thing Miss Goodwin feared!'

'But who's to hear of the story?' said I.

Janet gave an impatient sigh.

'Do you mean that my father has threatened to publish it, Janet?'

'I won't say he has. He has made the prince afraid to move: that I think is true.'

'Did the princess herself mention it to you?'

'She understands her situation, I am sure.'

'Did she speak of "the man," as you call him?'

'Yes: not as I do. You must try by-and-by to forgive me. Whether he set a trap or not, he has decoyed her--don't frown at words--and it remains for you to act as I don't doubt you will; but lose no time. Determine. Oh! if I were a man!'

'You would muzzle us?'

'Muzzle, or anything you please; I would make any one related to me behave honourably. I would give him the alternative...'

'You foolish girl! suppose he took it?'

'I would make him feel my will. He should not take it. Keep to the circumstances, Harry. If you have no control over him--I should think I was not fit to live, in such a position! No control over him at a moment like this? and the princess in danger of having her reputation hurt! Surely, Harry! But why should I speak to you as if you were undecided!'

'Where is he?'

'At the house where you sleep. He surrendered his rooms here very kindly.'

'Aunty has seen him?'

Janet blushed: I thought I knew why. It was for subtler reasons than I should have credited her with conceiving.

'She sent for him, at my request, late last night. She believed her influence would be decisive. So do I. She could not even make the man perceive that he was acting--to use her poor dear old-fashioned word--reprehensibly in frightening the prince to further your interests. From what I gathered he went off in a song about them. She said he talked so well! And aunty Dorothy, too! I should nearly as soon have expected grandada to come in for his turn of the delusion. How I wish he was here! Uberly goes by the first boat to bring him down. I feel with Miss Goodwin that it will be a disgrace for all of us--the country's disgrace. As for our family!... Harry, and your name! Good-bye. Do your best.'

I was in the mood to ask, 'On behalf of the country?' She had, however, a glow and a ringing articulation in her excitement that forbade trifling; a minute's reflection set me weighing my power of will against my father's. I nodded to her.

'Come to us when you are at liberty,' she called.

I have said that I weighed my power of will against my father's. Contemplation of the state of the scales did not send me striding to meet him. Let it be remembered--I had it strongly in memory that he habitually deluded himself under the supposition that the turn of all events having an aspect of good fortune had been planned by him of old, and were offered to him as the legitimately-won fruits of a politic life. While others deemed him mad, or merely reckless, wild, a creature living for the day, he enjoyed the conceit of being a profound schemer, in which he was fortified by a really extraordinary adroitness to take advantage of occurrences: and because he was prompt in an emergency, and quick to profit of a crisis, he was deluded to imagine that he had created it. Such a man would be with difficulty brought to surrender his prize.

Again, there was his love for me. 'Pater est, Pamphile;--difficile est.' How was this vast conceit of a not unreal paternal love to be encountered? The sense of honour and of decency might appeal to him personally; would either of them get a hearing if he fancied them to be standing in opposition to my dearest interests? I, unhappily, as the case would be sure to present itself to him, appeared the living example of his eminently politic career. After establishing me the heir of one of the wealthiest of English commoners, would he be likely to forego any desperate chance of ennobling me by the brilliant marriage? His dreadful devotion to me extinguished the hope that he would, unless I should happen to be particularly masterful in dealing with him. I heard his nimble and overwhelming volubility like a flood advancing. That could be withstood, and his arguments and persuasions. But by what steps could I restrain the man himself? I said 'the man,' as Janet did. He figured in my apprehensive imagination as an engine more than as an individual. Lassitude oppressed me. I felt that I required every access of strength possible, physical besides moral, in anticipation of our encounter, and took a swim in sea-water, which displaced my drowsy fit, and some alarming intimations of cowardice menacing a paralysis of the will: I had not altogether recovered from my gipsy drubbing. And now I wanted to have the contest over instantly. It seemed presumable that my father had slept at my lodgings. There, however, the report of him was, that he had inspected the rooms, highly complimented the owner of them, and vanished.

Returning to the pier, I learnt that he had set sail in his hired yacht for the sister town on the Solent, at an early hour:--for what purpose? I knew of it too late to intercept it. One of the squire's horses trotted me over; I came upon Colonel Hibbert Segrave near the Club-house, and heard that my father was off again:

'But your German prince and papa-in-law shall be free of the Club for the next fortnight,' said he, and cordially asked to have the date of the marriage. My face astonished him. He excused himself for speaking of this happy event so abruptly. A sting of downright anger drove me back at a rapid canter. It flashed on me that this Prince Ernest, whose suave fashion of depressing me, and philosophical skill in managing his daughter, had induced me to regard him as a pattern of astuteness, was really both credulous and feeble, or else supremely unsuspecting: and I was confirmed in the latter idea on hearing that he had sailed to visit the opposite harbour and docks on board my father's yacht. Janet shared my secret opinion.

'The prince is a gentleman,' she said.

Her wrath and disgust were unspeakable. My aunt Dorothy blamed her for overdue severity. 'The prince, I suppose, goes of his own free will where he pleases.'

Janet burst out, 'Oh! can't you see through it, aunty? The prince goes about without at all knowing that the person who takes him--Harry sees it--is making him compromise himself: and by-and-by the prince will discover that he has no will of his own, whatever he may wish to resolve upon doing.'

'Is he quite against Harry?' asked my aunt Dorothy.

'Dear aunty, he 's a prince, and a proud man. He will never in his lifetime consent to... to what you mean, without being hounded into it. I haven't the slightest idea whether anything will force him. I know that the princess would have too much pride to submit, even to save her name. But it 's her name that 's in danger. Think of the scandal to a sovereign princess! I know the signification of that now; I used to laugh at Harry's "sovereign princess." She is one, and thorough! there is no one like her. Don't you understand, aunty, that the intrigue, plot--I don't choose to be nice upon terms--may be perfectly successful, and do good to nobody. The prince may be tricked; the princess, I am sure, will not.'

Janet's affectation of an intimate and peculiar knowledge of the princess was a show of her character that I was accustomed to: still, it was evident they had conversed much, and perhaps intimately. I led her to tell me that the princess had expressed no views upon my father. 'He does not come within her scope, Harry.' 'Scope' was one of Janet's new words, wherewith she would now and then fall to seasoning a serviceable but savourless outworn vocabulary of the common table. In spite of that and other offences, rendered prominent to me by the lifting of her lip and her frown when she had to speak of my father, I was on her side, not on his. Her estimation of the princess was soundly based. She discerned exactly the nature of Ottilia's entanglement, and her peril.

She and my aunt Dorothy passed the afternoon with Ottilia, while I crossed the head of the street, looking down at the one house, where the princess was virtually imprisoned, either by her father's express injunction or her own discretion. And it was as well that she should not be out. The yachting season had brought many London men to the island. I met several who had not forgotten the newspaper-paragraph assertions and contradictions. Lord Alton, Admiral Loftus, and others were on the pier and in the outfitters' shops, eager for gossip, as the languid stretch of indolence inclines men to be. The Admiral asked me for the whereabout of Prince Ernest's territory. He too said that the prince would be free of the Club during his residence, adding:

'Where is he?'--not a question demanding an answer. The men might have let the princess go by, but there would have been questions urgently demanding answers had she been seen by their women.

Late in the evening my father's yacht was sighted from the pier. Just as he reached his moorings, and his boat was hauled round, the last steamer came in. Sharp-eyed Janet saw the squire on board among a crowd, and Temple next to him, supporting his arm.

'Has grandada been ill?' she exclaimed.

My chief concern was to see my father's head rising in the midst of the crowd, uncovering repeatedly. Prince Ernest and General Goodwin were behind him, stepping off the lower pier-platform. The General did not look pleased. My grandfather, with Janet holding his arm, in the place of Temple, stood waiting to see that his man had done his duty by the luggage.

My father, advancing, perceived me, and almost taking the squire into his affectionate salutation, said:

'Nothing could be more opportune than your arrival, Mr. Beltham.'

The squire rejoined: 'I wanted to see you, Mr. Richmond; and not in public.'

'I grant the private interview, sir, at your convenience.'

Janet went up to General Goodwin. My father talked to me, and lost a moment in shaking Temple's hand and saying kind things.

'Name any hour you please, Mr. Beltham,' he resumed; 'meantime, I shall be glad to effect the introduction between Harry's grandfather and his Highness Prince Ernest of Eppenwelzen-Sarkeld.'

He turned. General Goodwin was hurrying the prince up the steps, the squire at the same time retreating hastily. I witnessed the spectacle of both parties to the projected introduction swinging round to make their escape. My father glanced to right and left. He covered in the airiest fashion what would have been confusion to another by carrying on a jocose remark that he had left half spoken to Temple, and involved Janet in it, and soon--through sheer amiable volubility and his taking manner--the squire himself for a minute or so.

'Harry, I have to tell you she is not unhappy,' Janet whispered rapidly. 'She is reading of one of our great men alive now. She is glad to be on our ground.' Janet named a famous admiral, kindling as a fiery beacon to our blood. She would have said more: she looked the remainder; but she could have said nothing better fitted to spur me to the work she wanted done. Mournfulness dropped on me like a cloud in thinking of the bright little princess of my boyhood, and the Ottilia of to-day, faithful to her early passion for our sea-heroes and my country, though it had grievously entrapped her. And into what hands! Not into hands which could cast one ray of honour on a devoted head. The contrast between the sane service--giving men she admired, and the hopping skipping social meteor, weaver of webs, thrower of nets, who offered her his history for a nuptial acquisition, was ghastly, most discomforting. He seemed to have entangled us all.

He said that he had. He treated me now confessedly as a cipher. The prince, the princess, my grandfather, and me--he had gathered us together, he said. I heard from him that the prince, assisted by him in the part of an adviser, saw no way of cutting the knot but by a marriage. All were at hand for a settlement of the terms:--Providence and destiny were dragged in.

'Let's have no theatrical talk,' I interposed.

'Certainly, Richie; the plainest English,' he assented.

This was on the pier, while he bowed and greeted passing figures. I dared not unlink my arm, for fear of further mischief. I got him to my rooms, and insisted on his dining there.

'Dry bread will do,' he said.

My anticipations of the nature of our wrestle were correct. But I had not expected him to venture on the assertion that the prince was for the marriage. He met me at every turn with this downright iteration. 'The prince consents: he knows his only chance is to yield. I have him fast.'

'How?' I inquired.

'How, Richie? Where is your perspicuity? I have him here. I loosen a thousand tongues on him. I--'

'No, not on him; on the princess, you mean.'

'On him. The princess is the willing party; she and you are one. On him, I say. 'Tis but a threat: I hold it in terrorem. And by heaven, son Richie, it assures me I have not lived and fought for nothing. "Now is the day and now is the hour." On your first birthday, my boy, I swore to marry you to one of the highest ladies upon earth: she was, as it turns out, then unborn. No matter: I keep my oath. Abandon it? pooh! you are--forgive me--silly. Pardon me for remarking it, you have not that dashing courage--never mind. The point is, I have my prince in his trap. We are perfectly polite, but I have him, and he acknowledges it; he shrugs: love has beaten him. Very well. And observe: I permit no squire-of-low-degree insinuations; none of that. The lady--all earthly blessings on her!--does not stoop to Harry Richmond. I have the announcement in the newspapers. I maintain it the fruit of a life of long and earnest endeavour, legitimately won, by heaven it is! and with the constituted authorities of my native land against me. Your grandad proposes formally for the princess to-morrow morning.'

He maddened me. Merely to keep him silent I burst out in a flux of reproaches as torrent-like as his own could be; and all the time I was wondering whether it was true that a man who talked as he did, in his strain of florid flimsy, had actually done a practical thing.

The effect of my vehemence was to brace him and make him sedately emphatic. He declared himself to have gained entire possession of the prince's mind. He repeated his positive intention to employ his power for my benefit. Never did power of earth or of hell seem darker to me than he at that moment, when solemnly declaiming that he was prepared to forfeit my respect and love, die sooner than 'yield his prince.' He wore a new aspect, spoke briefly and pointedly, using the phrases of a determined man, and in voice and gesture signified that he had us all in a grasp of iron. The charge of his having plotted to bring it about he accepted with exultation.

'I admit,' he said, 'I did not arrange to have Germany present for a witness besides England, but since he is here, I take advantage of the fact, and to-morrow you will see young Eckart down.'

I cried out, as much enraged at my feebleness to resist him, as in disgust of his unscrupulous tricks.

'Ay, you have not known me, Richie,' said he. 'I pilot you into harbour, and all you can do is just the creaking of the vessel to me. You are in my hands. I pilot you. I have you the husband of the princess within the month. No other course is open to her. And I have the assurance that she loses nothing by it. She is yours, my son.'

'She will not be. You have wrecked my last chance. You cover me with dishonour.'

'You are a youngster, Richie. 'Tis the wish of her heart. Probably while you and I are talking it over, the prince is confessing that he has no escape. He has not a loophole! She came to you; you take her. I am far from withholding my admiration of her behaviour; but there it is--she came. Not consent? She is a ruined woman if she refuses!'

'Through you, through you!--through my father!'

'Have you both gone mad?'

'Try to see this,' I implored him. 'She will not be subjected by any threats. The very whisper of one will make her turn from me...'

He interrupted. 'Totally the contrary. The prince acknowledges that you are master of her affections.'

'Consistently with her sense of honour and respect for us.'

'Tell me of her reputation, Richie.'

'You pretend that you can damage it!'

'Pretend? I pretend in the teeth of all concerned to establish her happiness and yours, and nothing human shall stop me. I have you grateful to me before your old dad lays his head on his last pillow. And that reminds me: I surrender my town house and furniture to you. Waddy has received the word. By the way, should you hear of a good doctor for heart-disease, tell me: I have my fears for the poor soul.'

He stood up, saying, 'Richie, I am not like Jorian, to whom a lodging-house dinner is no dinner, and an irreparable loss, but I must have air. I go forth on a stroll.'

It was impossible for me to allow it. I stopped him.

We were in the midst of a debate as to his right of personal freedom, upon the singularity of which he commented with sundry ejaculations, when Temple arrived and General Goodwin sent up his card. Temple and I left the general closeted with my father, and stood at the street-door. He had seen the princess, having at her request been taken to present his respects to her by Janet. How she looked, what she said, he was dull in describing; he thought her lively, though she was pale. She had mentioned my name, 'kindly,' he observed. And he knew, or suspected, the General to be an emissary from the prince. But he could not understand the exact nature of the complication, and plagued me with a mixture of blunt inquiries and the delicate reserve proper to him so much that I had to look elsewhere for counsel and sympathy. Janet had told him everything; still he was plunged in wonder, tempting me to think the lawyer's mind of necessity bourgeois, for the value of a sentiment seemed to have no weight in his estimation of the case. Nor did he appear disinclined to excuse my father. Some of his remarks partly swayed me, in spite of my seeing that they were based on the supposition of an 'all for love' adventure of a mad princess. They whispered a little hope, when I was adoring her passionately for being the reverse of whatever might have given hope a breath.

General Goodwin, followed by my father, came down and led me aside after I had warned Temple not to let my father elude him. The General was greatly ruffled. 'Clara tells me she can rely on you,' he said. 'I am at the end of my arguments with that man, short of sending him to the lock-up. You will pardon me, Mr. Harry; I foresaw the scrapes in store for you, and advised you.'

'You did, General,' I confessed. 'Will you tell me what it is Prince Ernest is in dread of?'

'A pitiable scandal, sir; and if he took my recommendation, he would find instant means of punishing the man who dares to threaten him. You know it.'

I explained that I was aware of the threat, not of the degree of the prince's susceptibility; and asked him if he had seen the princess.

'I have had the honour,' he replied, stiffly. 'You gain nothing with her by this infamous proceeding.'

I swallowed my anger, and said, 'Do you accuse me, General?'

'I do not accuse you,' he returned, unbendingly. 'You chose your path some ten or twelve years ago, and you must take the consequences. I foresaw it; but this I will say, I did not credit the man with his infernal cleverness. If I speak to you at all, I must speak my mind. I thought him a mere buffoon and spendthrift, flying his bar-sinister story for the sake of distinction. He has schemed up to this point successfully: he has the prince in his toils. I would cut through them, as I have informed Prince Ernest. I daresay different positions lead to different reasonings; the fellow appears to have a fascination over him. Your father, Mr. Harry, is guilty now--he is guilty, I reiterate, now of a piece of iniquity that makes me ashamed to own him for a countryman.'

The General shook himself erect. 'Are you unable to keep him in?' he asked.

My nerves were pricking and stinging with the insults I had to listen to, and conscience's justification of them.

He repeated the question.

'I will do what I can,' I said, unsatisfactorily to myself and to him, for he transposed our situations, telling me the things he would say and do in my place; things not dissimilar to those I had already said and done, only more toweringly enunciated; and for that reason they struck me as all the more hopelessly ineffectual, and made me despair.

My dumbness excited his ire. 'Come,' said he; 'the lady is a spoilt child. She behaved foolishly; but from your point of view you should feel bound to protect her on that very account. Do your duty, young gentleman. He is, I believe, fond of you, and if so, you have him by a chain. I tell you frankly, I hold you responsible.'

His way of speaking of the princess opened an idea of the world's, in the event of her name falling into its clutches.

I said again, 'I will do what I can,' and sang out for Temple.

He was alone. My father had slipped from him to leave a card at the squire's hotel. General Goodwin touched Temple on the shoulder kindly, in marked contrast to his treatment of me, and wished us good-night. Nothing had been heard of my father by Janet, but while I was sitting with her, at a late hour, his card was brought up, and a pencilled entreaty for an interview the next morning.

'That will suit grandada,' Janet said. 'He commissioned me before going to bed to write the same for him.'

She related that the prince was in a state of undisguised distraction. From what I could comprehend--it appeared incredible--he regarded his daughter's marriage as the solution of the difficulty, the sole way out of the meshes.

'Is not that her wish?' said Temple; perhaps with a wish of his own.

'Oh, if you think a lady like the Princess Ottilia is led by her wishes,' said Janet. Her radiant perception of an ideal in her sex (the first she ever had) made her utterly contemptuous toward the less enlightened.

We appointed the next morning at half-past eleven for my father's visit.

'Not a minute later,' Janet said in my ear, urgently. 'Don't--don't let him move out of your sight, Harry! The princess is convinced you are not to blame.'

I asked her whether she had any knowledge of the squire's designs.

'I have not, on my honour,' she answered. 'But I hope... It is so miserable to think of this disgraceful thing! She is too firm to give way. She does not blame you. I am sure I do not; only, Harry, one always feels that if one were in another's place, in a case like this, I could and would command him. I would have him obey me. One is not born to accept disgrace even from a father. I should say, "You shall not stir, if you mean to act dishonourably." One is justified, I am sure, in breaking a tie of relationship that involves you in dishonour. Grandada has not spoken a word to me on the subject. I catch at straws. This thing burns me! Oh, good-night, Harry. I can't sleep.'

'Good-night,' she called softly to Temple on the stairs below. I heard the poor fellow murmuring good-night to himself in the street, and thought him happier than I. He slept at a room close to the hotel.

A note from Clara Goodwin adjured me, by her memory of the sweet, brave, gracious fellow she loved in other days, to be worthy of what I had been. The General had unnerved her reliance on me.

I sat up for my father until long past midnight. When he came his appearance reminded me of the time of his altercation with Baroness Turckems under the light of the blazing curtains: he had supped and drunk deeply, and he very soon proclaimed that I should find him invincible, which, as far as insensibility to the strongest appeals to him went, he was.

'Deny you love her, deny she loves you, deny you are one--I knot you fast!'

He had again seen Prince Ernest; so he said, declaring that the Prince positively desired the marriage; would have it. 'And I,' he dramatized their relative situations, 'consented.'

After my experience of that night, I forgive men who are unmoved by displays of humour. Commonly we think it should be irresistible. His description of the thin-skinned sensitive prince striving to run and dodge for shelter from him, like a fever-patient pursued by a North-easter, accompanied by dozens of quaint similes full of his mental laughter, made my loathing all the more acute. But I had not been an equal match for him previous to his taking wine; it was waste of breath and heart to contend with him. I folded my arms tight, sitting rigidly silent, and he dropped on the sofa luxuriously.

'Bed, Richie!' he waved to me. 'You drink no wine, you cannot stand dissipation as I do. Bed, my dear boy! I am a God, sir, inaccessible to mortal ailments! Seriously, dear boy, I have never known an illness in my life. I have killed my hundreds of poor devils who were for imitating me. This I boast--I boast constitution. And I fear, Richie, you have none of my superhuman strength. Added to that, I know I am watched over. I ask--I have: I scheme the tricks are in my hand! It may be the doing of my mother in heaven; there is the fact for you to reflect on. "Stand not in my way, nor follow me too far," would serve me for a motto admirably, and you can put it in Latin, Richie. Bed! You shall turn your scholarship to account as I do my genius in your interest. On my soul, that motto in Latin will requite me. Now to bed.'

'No,' said I. 'You have got away from me once. I shall keep you in sight and hearing, if I have to lie at your door for it. You will go with me to London to-morrow. I shall treat you as a man I have to guard, and I shall not let you loose before I am quite sure of you.'

'Loose!' he exclaimed, throwing up an arm and a leg.

'I mean, sir, that you shall be in my presence wherever you are, and I will take care you don't go far and wide. It's useless to pretend astonishment. I don't argue and I don't beseech any further: I just sit on guard, as I would over a powder-cask.'

My father raised himself on an elbow. 'The explosion,' he said, examining his watch, 'occurred at about five minutes to eleven--we are advancing into the morning--last night. I received on your behalf the congratulations of friends Loftus, Alton, Segrave, and the rest, at that hour. So, my dear Richie, you are sitting on guard over the empty magazine.'

I listened with a throbbing forehead, and controlled the choking in my throat, to ask him whether he had touched the newspapers.

'Ay, dear lad, I have sprung my mine in them,' he replied.

'You have sent word--?'

'I have despatched a paragraph to the effect, that the prince and princess have arrived to ratify the nuptial preliminaries.'

'You expect it to appear this day?'

'Or else my name and influence are curiously at variance with the confidence I repose in them, Richie.'

'Then I leave you to yourself,' I said. 'Prince Ernest knows he has to expect this statement in the papers?'

'We trumped him with that identical court-card, Richie.'

'Very well. To-morrow, after we have been to my grandfather, you and I part company for good, sir. It costs me too much.'

'Dear old Richie,' he laughed, gently. 'And now to bye-bye! My blessing on you now and always.'

He shut his eyes.

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