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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 51. An Encounter Showing My Father's Genius In A Strong Light
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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 51. An Encounter Showing My Father's Genius In A Strong Light Post by :tessaru Category :Long Stories Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :1879

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The Adventures Of Harry Richmond - Book 7 - Chapter 51. An Encounter Showing My Father's Genius In A Strong Light


The morning was sultry with the first rising of the sun. I knew that Ottilia and Janet would be out. For myself, I dared not leave the house. I sat in my room, harried by the most penetrating snore which can ever have afflicted wakeful ears. It proclaimed so deep-seated a peacefulness in the bosom of the disturber, and was so arrogant, so ludicrous, and inaccessible to remonstrance, that it sounded like a renewal of our midnight altercation on the sleeper's part. Prolonged now and then beyond all bounds, it ended in the crashing blare whereof utter wakefulness cannot imagine honest sleep to be capable, but a playful melody twirled back to the regular note. He was fast asleep on the sitting-room sofa, while I walked fretting and panting. To this twinship I seemed condemned. In my heart nevertheless there was a reserve of wonderment at his apparent astuteness and resolution, and my old love for him whispered disbelief in his having disgraced me. Perhaps it was wilful self-deception. It helped me to meet him with a better face.

We both avoided the subject of our difference for some time: he would evidently have done so altogether, and used his best and sweetest manner to divert me: but when I struck on it, asking him if he had indeed told me the truth last night, his features clouded as though with an effort of patience. To my consternation, he suddenly broke away, with his arms up, puffing and stammering, stamping his feet. He would have a truce--he insisted on a truce, I understood him to exclaim, and that I was like a woman, who would and would not, and wanted a master. He raved of the gallant down-rightedness of the young bloods of his day, and how splendidly this one and that had compassed their ends by winning great ladies, lawfully, or otherwise. For several minutes he was in a state of frenzy, appealing to his pattern youths of a bygone generation, as to moral principles--stuttering, and of a dark red hue from the neck to the temples. I refrained from a scuffle of tongues. Nor did he excuse himself after he had cooled. His hand touched instinctively for his pulse, and, with a glance at the ceiling, he exclaimed, 'Good Lord!' and brought me to his side. 'These wigwam houses check my circulation,' said he. 'Let us go out-let us breakfast on board.'

The open air restored him, and he told me that he had been merely oppressed by the architect of the inferior classes, whose ceiling sat on his head. My nerves, he remarked to me, were very exciteable. 'You should take your wine, Richie,--you require it. Your dear mother had a low-toned nervous system.' I was silent, and followed him, at once a captive and a keeper.

This day of slackened sails and a bright sleeping water kept the yachtsmen on land; there was a crowd to meet the morning boat. Foremost among those who stepped out of it was the yellow-haired Eckart, little suspecting what the sight of him signalled to me. I could scarcely greet him at all, for in him I perceived that my father had fully committed himself to his plot, and left me nothing to hope. Eckart said something of Prince Hermann. As we were walking off the pier, I saw Janet conversing with Prince Ernest, and the next minute Hermann himself was one of the group. I turned to Eckart for an explanation.

'Didn't I tell you he called at your house in London and travelled down with me this morning!' said Eckart.

My father looked in the direction of the princes, but his face was for the moment no index. They bowed to Janet, and began talking hurriedly in the triangle of road between her hotel, the pier, and the way to the villas: passing on, and coming to a full halt, like men who are not reserving their minds. My father stept out toward them. He was met by Prince Ernest. Hermann turned his back.

It being the hour of the appointment, I delivered Eckart over to Temple's safe-keeping, and went up to Janet. 'Don't be late, Harry,' she said.

I asked her if she knew the object of the meeting appointed by my grandfather.

She answered impatiently, 'Do get him away from the prince.' And then: 'I ought to tell you the princess is well, and so on--pardon me just now: Grandada is kept waiting, and I don't like it.'

Her actual dislike was to see Prince Ernest in dialogue with my father, it seemed to me; and the manner of both, which was, one would have said, intimate, anything but the manner of adversaries. Prince Ernest appeared to affect a pleasant humour; he twice, after shaking my father's hand, stepped back to him, as if to renew some impression. Their attitude declared them to be on the best of terms. Janet withdrew her attentive eyes from observing them, and threw a world of meaning into her abstracted gaze at me. My father's advance put her to flight.

Yet she gave him the welcome of a high-bred young woman when he entered the drawing-room of my grandfather's hotel-suite. She was alone, and she obliged herself to accept conversation graciously. He recommended her to try the German Baths for the squire's gout, and evidently amused her with his specific probations for English persons designing to travel in company, that they should previously live together in a house with a collection of undisciplined chambermaids, a musical footman, and a mad cook: to learn to accommodate their tempers. 'I would add a touch of earthquake, Miss Ilchester, just to make sure that all the party know one another's edges before starting.' This was too far a shot of nonsense for Janet, whose native disposition was to refer to lunacy or stupidity, or trickery, whatsoever was novel to her understanding. 'I, for my part,' said he, 'stipulate to have for comrade no man who fancies himself a born and stamped chieftain, no inveterate student of maps, and no dog with a turn for feeling himself pulled by the collar. And that reminds me you are amateur of dogs. Have you a Pomeranian boar-hound?'

'No,' said Janet; 'I have never even seen one'

'That high.' My father raised his hand flat.

'Bigger than our Newfoundlands!'

'Without exaggeration, big as a pony. You will permit me to send you one, warranted to have passed his distemper, which can rarely be done for our human species, though here and there I venture to guarantee my man as well as my dog.'

Janet interposed her thanks, declining to take the dog, but he dwelt on the dog's charms, his youth, stature, appearance, fitness, and grandeur, earnestly. I had to relieve her apprehensions by questioning where the dog was.

'In Germany,' he said.

It was not improbable, nor less so that the dog was in Pomerania likewise.

The entry of my aunt Dorothy, followed by my grandfather, was silent.

'Be seated,' the old man addressed us in a body, to cut short particular salutations.

My father overshadowed him with drooping shoulders.

Janet wished to know whether she was to remain.

'I like you by me always,' he answered, bluff and sharp.

'We have some shopping to do,' my aunt Dorothy murmured, showing she was there against her will.

'Do you shop out of London?' said my father; and for some time he succeeded in making us sit for the delusive picture of a comfortable family meeting.

My grandfather sat quite still, Janet next to him. 'When you've finished, Mr. Richmond,' he remarked.

'Mr. Beltham, I was telling Miss Beltham that I join in the abuse of London exactly because I love it. A paradox! she says. But we seem to be effecting a kind of insurance on the life of the things we love best by crying them down violently. You have observed it? Denounce them--they endure for ever! So I join any soul on earth in decrying our dear London. The naughty old City can bear it.'

There was a clearing of throats. My aunt Dorothy's foot tapped the floor.

'But I presume you have done me the honour to invite me to this conference on a point of business, Mr. Beltham?' said my father, admonished by the hint.

'I have, sir,' the squire replied.

'And I also have a point. And, in fact, it is urgent, and with your permission, Mr. Beltham, I will lead the way.'

'No, sir, if you please.

I'm a short speaker, and go to it at once, and I won't detain you a second after you've answered me.'

My father nodded to this, with the conciliatory comment that it was business-like.

The old man drew out his pocket-book.

'You paid a debt,' he said deliberately, 'amounting to twenty-one thousand pounds to my grandson's account.'

'Oh! a debt! I did, sir. Between father and boy, dad and lad; debts! ... but use your own terms, I pray you.'

'I don't ask you where that money is now. I ask you to tell me where you got it from.'

'You speak bluntly, my dear sir.'

'You won't answer, then?'

'You ask the question as a family matter? I reply with alacrity, to the best of my ability: and with my hand on my heart, Mr. Beltham, let me assure you, I very heartily desire the information to be furnished to me. Or rather--why should I conceal it? The sources are irregular, but a child could toddle its way to them--you take my indication. Say that I obtained it from my friends. My friends, Mr. Beltham, are of the kind requiring squeezing. Government, as my chum and good comrade, Jorian DeWitt, is fond of saying, is a sponge--a thing that when you dive deep enough to catch it gives liberal supplies, but will assuredly otherwise reverse the process by acting the part of an absorbent. I get what I get by force of arms, or I might have perished long since.'

'Then you don't know where you got it from, sir?'

'Technically, you are correct, sir.'

'A bird didn't bring it, and you didn't find it in the belly of a fish.'

'Neither of these prodigies. They have occurred in books I am bound to believe; they did not happen to me.'

'You swear to me you don't know the man, woman, or committee, who gave you that sum?'

'I do not know, Mr. Beltham. In an extraordinary history, extraordinary circumstances! I have experienced so many that I am surprised at nothing.'

'You suppose you got it from some fool?'

'Oh! if you choose to indict Government collectively?'

'You pretend you got it from Government?'

'I am termed a Pretender by some, Mr. Beltham. The facts are these: I promised to refund the money, and I fulfilled the promise. There you have the only answer I can make to you. Now to my own affair. I come to request you to demand the hand of the Princess of Eppenwelzen-Sarkeld on behalf of my son Harry, your grandson; and I possess the assurance of the prince, her father, that it will be granted. Doubtless you, sir, are of as old a blood as the prince himself. You will acknowledge that the honour brought to the family by an hereditary princess is considerable: it is something. I am prepared to accompany you to his Highness, or not, as you please. It is but a question of dotation, and a selection from one or two monosyllables.'

Janet shook her dress.

The squire replied: 'We 'll take that up presently. I haven't quite done. Will you tell me what agent paid you the sum of money?'

'The usual agent--a solicitor, Mr. Beltham; a gentleman whose business lay amongst the aristocracy; he is defunct; and a very worthy old gentleman he was, with a remarkable store of anecdotes of his patrons, very discreetly told: for you never heard a name from him.'

'You took him for an agent of Government, did you? why?'

'To condense a long story, sir, the kernel of the matter is, that almost from the hour I began to stir for the purpose of claiming my rights--which are transparent enough this old gentleman--certainly from no sinister motive, I may presume--commenced the payment of an annuity; not sufficient for my necessities, possibly, but warrant of an agreeable sort for encouraging my expectations; although oddly, this excellent old Mr. Bannerbridge invariably served up the dish in a sauce that did not agree with it, by advising me of the wish of the donator that I should abandon my Case. I consequently, in common with my friends, performed a little early lesson in arithmetic, and we came to the one conclusion open to reflective minds--namely, that I was feared.'

My aunt Dorothy looked up for the first time.

'Janet and I have some purchases to make,' she said.

The squire signified sharply that she must remain where she was.

'I think aunty wants fresh air; she had a headache last night,' said Janet.

I suggested that, as my presence did not seem to be required, I could take her on my arm for a walk to the pier-head.

Her face was burning; she would gladly have gone out, but the squire refused to permit it, and she nodded over her crossed hands, saying that she was in no hurry.

'Ha! I am,' quoth he.

'Dear Miss Beltham!' my father ejaculated solicitously. 'Here, sir, oblige me by attending to me,' cried the squire, fuming and blinking. 'I sent for you on a piece of business. You got this money through a gentleman, a solicitor, named Bannerbridge, did you?'

'His name was Bannerbridge, Mr. Beltham.'

'Dorothy, you knew a Mr. Bannerbridge?'

She faltered: 'I knew him.... Harry was lost in the streets of London when he was a little fellow, and the Mr. Bannerbridge I knew found him and took him to his house, and was very kind to him.'

'What was his Christian name?'

I gave them: 'Charles Adolphus.'

'The identical person!' exclaimed my father.

'Oh! you admit it,' said the squire. 'Ever seen him since the time Harry was lost, Dorothy?'

'Yes,' she answered. 'I have heard he is dead:

'Did you see him shortly before his death?'

'I happened to see him a short time before!

'He was your man of business, was he?'

'For such little business as I had to do.'

'You were sure you could trust him, eh?'


My aunt Dorothy breathed deeply.

'By God, ma'am, you're a truthful woman!'

The old man gave her a glare of admiration.

It was now my turn to undergo examination, and summoned by his apostrophe to meet his eyes, I could appreciate the hardness of the head I had to deal with.

'Harry, I beg your pardon beforehand; I want to get at facts; I must ask you what you know about where the money came from?'

I spoke of my attempts to discover the whence and wherefore of it.

'Government? eh?' he sneered.

'I really can't judge whether it came from that quarter,' said I.

'What do you think?--think it likely?'

I thought it unlikely, and yet likelier than that it should have come from an individual.

'Then you don't suspect any particular person of having sent it in the nick of time, Harry Richmond?'

I replied: 'No, sir; unless you force me to suspect you.'

He jumped in his chair, astounded and wrathful, confounded me for insinuating that he was a Bedlamite, and demanded the impudent reason of my suspecting him to have been guilty of the infernal folly.

I had but the reason to instance that he was rich and kind at heart.

'Rich! kind!' he bellowed. 'Just excuse me--I must ask for the purpose of my inquiry;--there, tell me, how much do you believe you 've got of that money remaining? None o' that Peterborough style of counting in the back of your pate. Say!'

There was a dreadful silence.

My father leaned persuasively forward.

'Mr. Beltham, I crave permission to take up the word. Allow me to remind you of the prize Harry has won. The prince awaits you to bestow on him the hand of his daughter--'

'Out with it, Harry,' shouted the squire.

'Not to mention Harry's seat in Parliament,' my father resumed, 'he has a princess to wife, indubitably one of the most enviable positions in the country! It is unnecessary to count on future honours; they may be alluded to. In truth, sir, we make him the first man in the country. Not necessarily Premier: you take my meaning: he possesses the combination of social influence and standing with political achievements, and rank and riches in addition--'

'I 'm speaking to my grandson, sir,' the squire rejoined, shaking himself like a man rained on. 'I 'm waiting for a plain answer, and no lie. You've already confessed as much as that the money you told me on your honour you put out to interest; psh!--for my grandson was smoke. Now let's hear him.'

My father called out: 'I claim a hearing! The money you speak of was put out to the very highest interest. You have your grandson in Parliament, largely acquainted with the principal members of society, husband of an hereditary princess! You have only at this moment to propose for her hand. I guarantee it to you. With that money I have won him everything. Not that I would intimate to you that princesses are purchaseable. The point is, I knew how to employ it.'

'In two months' time, the money in the Funds in the boy's name--you told me that.'

'You had it in the Funds in Harry Richmond's name, sir.'

'Well, sir, I'm asking him whether it's in the Funds now.'

'Oh! Mr. Beltham.'

'What answer's that?'

The squire was really confused by my father's interruption, and lost sight of me.

'I ask where it came from: I ask whether it's squandered?' he continued.

'Mr. Beltham, I reply that you have only to ask for it to have it; do so immediately.'

'What 's he saying?' cried the baffled old man.

'I give you a thousand times the equivalent of the money, Mr. Beltham.'

'Is the money there?'

'The lady is here.'

'I said money, sir.'

'A priceless honour and treasure, I say emphatically.' My grandfather's brows and mouth were gathering for storm. Janet touched his knee.

'Where the devil your understanding truckles, if you have any, I don't know,' he muttered. 'What the deuce--lady got to do with money!'

'Oh!' my father laughed lightly, 'customarily the alliance is, they say, as close as matrimony. Pardon me. To speak with becoming seriousness, Mr. Beltham, it was duly imperative that our son should be known in society, should be, you will apprehend me, advanced in station, which I had to do through the ordinary political channel. There could not but be a considerable expenditure for such a purpose.'

'In Balls, and dinners!'

'In everything that builds a young gentleman's repute.'

'You swear to me you gave your Balls and dinners, and the lot, for Harry Richmond's sake?'

'On my veracity, I did, sir!'

'Please don't talk like a mountebank. I don't want any of your roundabout words for truth; we're not writing a Bible essay. I try my best to be civil.'

My father beamed on him.

'I guarantee you succeed, sir. Nothing on earth can a man be so absolutely sure of as to succeed in civility, if he honestly tries at it. Jorian DeWitt,--by the way, you may not know him--an esteemed old friend of mine, says--that is, he said once--to a tolerably impudent fellow whom he had disconcerted with a capital retort, "You may try to be a gentleman, and blunder at it, but if you will only try to be his humble servant, we are certain to establish a common footing." Jorian, let me tell you, is a wit worthy of our glorious old days.'

My grandfather eased his heart with a plunging breath.

'Well, sir, I didn't ask you here for your opinion or your friend's, and I don't care for modern wit.'

'Nor I, Mr. Beltham, nor I! It has the reek of stable straw. We are of one mind on that subject. The thing slouches, it sprawls. It--to quote Jorian once more--is like a dirty, idle, little stupid boy who cannot learn his lesson and plays the fool with the alphabet. You smile, Miss Ilchester: you would appreciate Jorian. Modern wit is emphatically degenerate. It has no scintillation, neither thrust nor parry. I compare it to boxing, as opposed to the more beautiful science of fencing.'

'Well, sir, I don't want to hear your comparisons,' growled the squire, much oppressed. 'Stop a minute...'

'Half a minute to me, sir,' said my father, with a glowing reminiscence of Jorian DeWitt, which was almost too much for the combustible old man, even under Janet's admonition.

My aunt Dorothy moved her head slightly toward my father, looking on the floor, and he at once drew in.

'Mr. Beltham, I attend to you submissively.'

'You do? Then tell me what brought this princess to England?'

'The conviction that Harry had accomplished his oath to mount to an eminence in his country, and had made the step she is about to take less, I will say, precipitous: though I personally decline to admit a pointed inferiority.'

'You wrote her a letter.'

'That, containing the news of the attack on him and his desperate illness, was the finishing touch to the noble lady's passion.'

'Attack? I know nothing about an attack. You wrote her a letter and wrote her a lie. You said he was dying.'

'I had the boy inanimate on my breast when I despatched the epistle.'

'You said he had only a few days to live.'

'So in my affliction I feared.'

'Will you swear you didn't write that letter with the intention of drawing her over here to have her in your power, so that you might threaten you'd blow on her reputation if she or her father held out against you and all didn't go as you fished for it?'

My father raised his head proudly.

'I divide your query into two parts. I wrote, sir, to bring her to his side. I did not write with any intention to threaten.'

'You've done it, though.'

'I have done this,' said my father, toweringly: 'I have used the power placed in my hands by Providence to overcome the hesitations of a gentleman whose illustrious rank predisposes him to sacrifice his daughter's happiness to his pride of birth and station. Can any one confute me when I assert that the princess loves Harry Richmond?'

I walked abruptly to one of the windows, hearing a pitiable wrangling on the theme. My grandfather vowed she had grown wiser, my father protested that she was willing and anxious; Janet was appealed to. In a strangely-sounding underbreath, she said, 'The princess does not wish it.'

'You hear that, Mr. Richmond?' cried the squire.

He returned: 'Can Miss Ilchester say that the Princess Ottilia does not passionately love my son Harry Richmond? The circumstances warrant me in beseeching a direct answer.'

She uttered: 'No.'

I looked at her; she at me.

'You can conduct a case, Richmond,' the squire remarked.

My father rose to his feet. 'I can conduct my son to happiness and greatness, my dear sir; but to some extent I require your grandfatherly assistance; and I urge you now to present your respects to the prince and princess, and judge yourself of his Highness's disposition for the match. I assure you in advance that he welcomes the proposal.'

'I do not believe it,' said Janet, rising.

My aunt Dorothy followed her example, saying: 'In justice to Harry the proposal should be made. At least it will settle this dispute.'

Janet stared at her, and the squire threw his head back with an amazed interjection.

'What! You're for it now? Why, at breakfast you were all t' other way! You didn't want this meeting because you pooh-poohed the match.'

'I do think you should go,' she answered. 'You have given Harry your promise, and if he empowers you, it is right to make the proposal, and immediately, I think.'

She spoke feverishly, with an unsweet expression of face, that seemed to me to indicate vexedness at the squire's treatment of my father.

'Harry,' she asked me in a very earnest fashion, 'is it your desire? Tell your grandfather that it is, and that you want to know your fate. Why should there be any dispute on a fact that can be ascertained by crossing a street? Surely it is trifling.'

Janet stooped to whisper in the squire's ear.

He caught the shock of unexpected intelligence apparently; faced about, gazed up, and cried: 'You too! But I haven't done here. I 've got to cross-examine... Pretend, do you mean? Pretend I'm ready to go? I can release this prince just as well here as there.'

Janet laughed faintly.

'I should advise your going, grandada.'

'You a weathercock woman!' he reproached her, quite mystified, and fell to rubbing his head. 'Suppose I go to be snubbed?'

'The prince is a gentleman, grandada. Come with me. We will go alone. You can relieve the prince, and protect him.'

My father nodded: 'I approve.'

'And grandada--but it will not so much matter if we are alone, though,' Janet said.

'Speak out.'

'See the princess as well; she must be present.'

'I leave it to you,' he said, crestfallen.

Janet pressed my aunt Dorothy's hand.

'Aunty, you were right, you are always right. This state of suspense is bad all round, and it is infinitely worse for the prince and princess.'

My aunt Dorothy accepted the eulogy with a singular trembling wrinkle of the forehead.

She evidently understood that Janet had seen her wish to get released.

For my part, I shared my grandfather's stupefaction at their unaccountable changes. It appeared almost as if my father had won them over to baffle him. The old man tried to insist on their sitting down again, but Janet perseveringly smiled and smiled until he stood up. She spoke to him softly. He was one black frown; displeased with her; obedient, however.

Too soon after, I had the key to the enigmatical scene. At the moment I was contemptuous of riddles, and heard with idle ears Janet's promptings to him and his replies. 'It would be so much better to settle it here,' he said. She urged that it could not be settled here without the whole burden and responsibility falling upon him.

'Exactly,' interposed my father, triumphing.

Dorothy Beltham came to my side, and said, as if speaking to herself, while she gazed out of window, 'If a refusal, it should come from the prince.' She dropped her voice: 'The money has not been spent? Has it? Has any part of it been spent? Are you sure you have more than three parts of it?'

Now, that she should be possessed by the spirit of parsimony on my behalf at such a time as this, was to my conception insanely comical, and her manner of expressing it was too much for me. I kept my laughter under to hear her continue: 'What numbers are flocking on the pier! and there is no music yet. Tell me, Harry, that the money is all safe; nearly all; it is important to know; you promised economy.'

'Music did you speak of, Miss Beltham?' My father bowed to her gallantly. 'I chanced to overhear you. My private band performs to the public at midday.'

She was obliged to smile to excuse his interruption.

'What's that? whose band?' said the squire, bursting out of Janet's hand. 'A private band?'

Janet had a difficulty in resuming her command of him. The mention of the private band made him very restive.

'I 'm not acting on my own judgement at all in going to these foreign people,' he said to Janet. 'Why go? I can have it out here and an end to it, without bothering them and their interpreters.'

He sang out to me: 'Harry, do you want me to go through this form for you?--mn'd unpleasant!'

My aunt Dorothy whispered in my ear: 'Yes! yes!'

'I feel tricked!' he muttered, and did not wait for me to reply before he was again questioning my aunt Dorothy concerning Mr. Bannerbridge, and my father as to 'that sum of money.' But his method of interrogation was confused and pointless. The drift of it was totally obscure.

'I'm off my head to-day,' he said to Janet, with a sideshot of his eye at my father.

'You waste time and trouble, grandada,' said she.

He vowed that he was being bewildered, bothered by us all; and I thought I had never seen him so far below his level of energy; but I had not seen him condescend to put himself upon a moderately fair footing with my father. The truth was, that Janet had rigorously schooled him to bridle his temper, and he was no match for the voluble easy man without the freest play of his tongue.

'This prince!' he kept ejaculating.

'Won't you understand, grandada, that you relieve him, and make things clear by going?' Janet said.

He begged her fretfully not to be impatient, and hinted that she and he might be acting the part of dupes, and was for pursuing his inauspicious cross-examination in spite of his blundering, and the 'Where am I now?' which pulled him up. My father, either talking to my aunt Dorothy, to Janet, or to me, on ephemeral topics, scarcely noticed him, except when he was questioned, and looked secure of success in the highest degree consistent with perfect calmness.

'So you say you tell me to go, do you?' the squire called to me. 'Be good enough to stay here and wait. I don't see that anything's gained by my going: it's damned hard on me, having to go to a man whose language I don't know, and he don't know mine, on a business we're all of us in a muddle about. I'll do it if it's right. You're sure?'

He glanced at Janet. She nodded.

I was looking for this quaint and, to me, incomprehensible interlude to commence with the departure of the squire and Janet, when a card was handed in by one of the hotel-waiters.

'Another prince!' cried the squire. 'These Germans seem to grow princes like potatoes--dozens to a root! Who's the card for? Ask him to walk up. Show him into a quiet room. Does he speak English?'

'Does Prince Hermann of--I can't pronounce the name of the place--speak English, Harry?' Janet asked me.

'As well as you or I,' said I, losing my inattention all at once with a mad leap of the heart.

Hermann's presence gave light, fire, and colour to the scene in which my destiny had been wavering from hand to hand without much more than amusedly interesting me, for I was sure that I had lost Ottilia; I knew that too well, and worse could not happen. I had besides lost other things that used to sustain me, and being reckless, I was contemptuous, and listened to the talk about money with sublime indifference to the subject: with an attitude, too, I daresay. But Hermann's name revived my torment. Why had he come? to persuade the squire to control my father? Nothing but that would suffer itself to be suggested, though conjectures lying in shadow underneath pressed ominously on my mind.

My father had no doubts.

'A word to you, Mr. Beltham, before you go to Prince Hermann. He is an emissary, we treat him with courtesy, and if he comes to diplomatize we, of course, give a patient hearing. I have only to observe in the most emphatic manner possible that I do not retract one step. I will have this marriage: I have spoken! It rests with Prince Ernest.'

The squire threw a hasty glare of his eyes back as he was hobbling on Janet's arm. She stopped short, and replied for him.

'Mr. Beltham will speak for himself, in his own name. We are not concerned in any unworthy treatment of Prince Ernest. We protest against it.'

'Dear young lady!' said my father, graciously. 'I meet you frankly. Now tell me. I know you a gallant horsewoman: if you had lassoed the noble horse of the desert would you let him run loose because of his remonstrating? Side with me, I entreat you! My son is my first thought. The pride of princes and wild horses you will find wonderfully similar, especially in the way they take their taming when once they feel they are positively caught. We show him we have him fast--he falls into our paces on the spot! For Harry's sake--for the princess's, I beg you exert your universally--deservedly acknowledged influence. Even now--and you frown on me!--I cannot find it in my heart to wish you the sweet and admirable woman of the world you are destined to be, though you would comprehend me and applaud me, for I could not--no, not to win your favourable opinion!--consent that you should be robbed of a single ray of your fresh maidenly youth. If you must misjudge me, I submit. It is the price I pay for seeing you young and lovely. Prince Ernest is, credit me, not unworthily treated by me, if life is a battle, and the prize of it to the General's head. I implore you'--he lured her with the dimple of a lurking smile--'do not seriously blame your afflicted senior, if we are to differ. I am vastly your elder: you instil the doubt whether I am by as much the wiser of the two; but the father of Harry Richmond claims to know best what will ensure his boy's felicity. Is he rash? Pronounce me guilty of an excessive anxiety for my son's welfare; say that I am too old to read the world with the accuracy of a youthful intelligence: call me indiscreet: stigmatize me unlucky; the severest sentence a judge'--he bowed to her deferentially--'can utter; only do not cast a gaze of rebuke on me because my labour is for my son--my utmost devotion. And we know, Miss Ilchester, that the princess honours him with her love. I protest in all candour, I treat love as love; not as a weight in the scale; it is the heavenly power which dispenses with weighing! its ascendancy...'

The squire could endure no more, and happily so, for my father was losing his remarkably moderated tone, and threatening polysyllables. He had followed Janet, step for step, at a measured distance, drooping toward her with his winningest air, while the old man pulled at her arm to get her out of hearing of the obnoxious flatterer. She kept her long head in profile, trying creditably not to appear discourteous to one who addressed her by showing an open ear, until the final bolt made by the frenzied old man dragged her through the doorway. His neck was shortened behind his collar as though he shrugged from the blast of a bad wind. I believe that, on the whole, Janet was pleased. I will wager that, left to herself, she would have been drawn into an answer, if not an argument. Nothing would have made her resolution swerve, I admit.

They had not been out of the room three seconds when my aunt Dorothy was called to join them. She had found time to say that she hoped the money was intact.

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