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.
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.
'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.
STRANGE REVELATIONS, AND MY GRANDFATHER HAS HIS LAST OUTBURST
My father and I stood at different windows, observing the unconcerned people below.
'Did you scheme to bring Prince Hermann over here as well?' I asked him.
He replied laughing: 'I really am not the wonderful wizard you think me, Richie. I left Prince Ernest's address as mine with Waddy in case the Frau Feld-Marschall should take it into her head to come. Further than that you must question Providence, which I humbly thank for its unfailing support, down to unexpected trifles. Only this—to you and to all of them: nothing bends me. I will not be robbed of the fruit of a lifetime.'
'Supposing I refuse?'
'You refuse, Richie, to restore the princess her character and the prince his serenity of mind at their urgent supplication? I am utterly unable to suppose it. You are married in the papers this morning. I grieve to say that the position of Prince Hermann is supremely ridiculous. I am bound to add he is a bold boy. It requires courage in one of the pretenders to the hand of the princess to undertake the office of intercessor, for he must know—the man must know in his heart that he is doing her no kindness. He does not appeal to me, you see. I have shown that my arrangements are unalterable. What he will make of your grandad! . . . Why on earth he should have been sent to—of all men in the world—your grandad, Richie!'
I was invited to sympathetic smiles of shrewd amusement.
He caught sight of friends, and threw up the window, saluting them.
The squire returned with my aunt Dorothy and Janet to behold the detested man communicating with the outer world from his own rooms. He shouted unceremoniously, 'Shut that window!' and it was easy to see that he had come back heavily armed for the offensive. 'Here, Mr. Richmond, I don't want all men to know you're in my apartments.'
'I forgot, sir, temporarily,' said my father, 'I had vacated the rooms for your convenience—be assured.'
An explanation on the subject of the rooms ensued between the old man and the ladies;—it did not improve his temper.
His sense of breeding, nevertheless, forced him to remark, 'I can't thank you, sir, for putting me under an obligation I should never have incurred myself.'
'Oh, I was happy to be of use to the ladies, Mr. Beltham, and require no small coin of exchange,' my father responded with the flourish of a pacifying hand. 'I have just heard from a posse of friends that the marriage is signalled in this morning's papers—numberless congratulations, I need not observe.'
'No, don't,' said the squire. 'Nobody'll understand them here, and I needn't ask you to sit down, because I don't want you to stop. I'll soon have done now; the game's played. Here, Harry, quick; has all that money been spent—no offence to you, but as a matter of business?'
'Not all, sir,' I was able to say.
'Yes, I think so.'
'It may be.'
'And liabilities besides?'
'There are some.'
'You're not a liar. That'll do for you.'
He turned to my aunt: her eyes had shut.
'Dorothy, you've sold out twenty-five thousand pounds' worth of stock. You're a truthful woman, as I said, and so I won't treat you like a witness in a box. You gave it to Harry to help him out of his scrape. Why, short of staring lunacy, did you pass it through the hands of this man? He sweated his thousands out of it at the start. Why did you make a secret of it to make the man think his nonsense?—Ma'am, behave like a lady and my daughter,' he cried, fronting her, for the sudden and blunt attack had slackened her nerves; she moved as though to escape, and was bewildered. I stood overwhelmed. No wonder she had attempted to break up the scene.
'Tell me your object, Dorothy Beltham, in passing the money through the hands of this man? Were you for helping him to be a man of his word? Help the boy—that I understand. However, you were mistress of your money! I've no right to complain, if you will go spending a fortune to whitewash the blackamoor! Well, it's your own, you'll say. So it is: so 's your character!'
The egregious mildness of these interjections could not long be preserved.
'You deceived me, ma'am. You wouldn't build school-houses, you couldn't subscribe to Charities, you acted parsimony, to pamper a scamp and his young scholar! You went to London—you did it in cool blood; you went to your stockbroker, and from the stockbroker to the Bank, and you sold out stock to fling away this big sum. I went to the Bank on business, and the books were turned over for my name, and there at "Beltham" I saw quite by chance the cross of the pen, and I saw your folly, ma'am; I saw it all in a shot. I went to the Bank on my own business, mind that. Ha! you know me by this time; I loathe spying; the thing jumped out of the book; I couldn't help seeing. Now I don't reckon how many positive fools go to make one superlative humbug; you're one of the lot, and I've learnt it.'
My father airily begged leave to say: 'As to positive and superlative, Mr. Beltham, the three degrees of comparison are no longer of service except to the trader. I do not consider them to exist for ladies. Your positive is always particularly open to dispute, and I venture to assert I cap you your superlative ten times over.'
He talked the stuff for a diversion, presenting in the midst of us an incongruous image of smiles that filled me with I knew not what feelings of angry alienation, until I was somewhat appeased by the idea that he had not apprehended the nature of the words just spoken.
It seemed incredible, yet it was true; it was proved to be so to me by his pricking his ears and his attentive look at the mention of the word prepossessing him in relation to the money: Government.
The squire said something of Government to my aunt Dorothy, with sarcastical emphasis.
As the observation was unnecessary, and was wantonly thrown in by him, she seized on it to escape from her compromising silence: 'I know nothing of Government or its ways.'
She murmured further, and looked at Janet, who came to her aid, saying: 'Grandada, we've had enough talk of money, money! All is done that you wanted done. Stocks, Shares, Banks—we've gone through them all. Please, finish! Please, do. You have only to state what you have heard from Prince Hermann.'
Janet gazed in the direction of my father, carefully avoiding my eyes, but evidently anxious to shield my persecuted aunty.
'Speaking of Stocks and Shares, Miss Ilchester,' said my father, 'I myself would as soon think of walking into a field of scythe-blades in full activity as of dabbling in them. One of the few instances I remember of our Jorian stooping to a pun, is upon the contango: ingenious truly, but objectionable, because a pun. I shall not be guilty of repeating it. "The stockmarket is the national snapdragon bowl," he says, and is very amusing upon the Jews; whether quite fairly, Mr. Beltham knows better than I, on my honour.'
He appealed lightly to the squire, for thus he danced on the crater's brink, and had for answer,
'You're a cool scoundrel, Richmond.'
'I choose to respect you, rather in spite of yourself, I fear, sir,' said my father, bracing up.
'Did you hear my conversation with my daughter?'
'I heard, if I may say so, the lion taking his share of it.'
'All roaring to you, was it?'
'Mr. Beltham, we have our little peculiarities; I am accustomed to think of a steam-vent when I hear you indulging in a sentence of unusual length, and I hope it is for our good, as I thoroughly believe it is for yours, that you should deliver yourself freely.'
'So you tell me; like a stage lacquey!' muttered the old man, with surprising art in caricaturing a weakness in my father's bearing, of which I was cruelly conscious, though his enunciation was flowing. He lost his naturalness through forcing for ease in the teeth of insult.
'Grandada, aunty and I will leave you,' said Janet, waxing importunate.
'When I've done,' said he, facing his victim savagely. 'The fellow pretends he didn't understand. She's here to corroborate. Richmond, there, my daughter, Dorothy Beltham, there's the last of your fools and dupes. She's a truthful woman, I'll own, and she'll contradict me if what I say is not the fact. That twenty-five thousand from "Government" came out of her estate.'
'Out of be damned, sir! She's the person who paid it.'
'If the "damns" have set up, you may as well let the ladies go,' said I.
He snapped at me like a rabid dog in career.
'She's the person—one of your petticoat "Government"—who paid—do you hear me, Richmond?—the money to help you to keep your word: to help you to give your Balls and dinners too. She—I won't say she told you, and you knew it—she paid it. She sent it through her Mr. Bannerbridge. Do you understand now? You had it from her. My God! look at the fellow!'
A dreadful gape of stupefaction had usurped the smiles on my father's countenance; his eyes rolled over, he tried to articulate, and was indeed a spectacle for an enemy. His convulsed frame rocked the syllables, as with a groan, unpleasant to hear, he called on my aunt Dorothy by successive stammering apostrophes to explain, spreading his hands wide. He called out her Christian name. Her face was bloodless.
'Address my daughter respectfully, sir, will you! I won't have your infernal familiarities!' roared the squire.
'He is my brother-in-law,' said Dorothy, reposing on the courage of her blood, now that the worst had been spoken. 'Forgive me, Mr. Richmond, for having secretly induced you to accept the loan from me.'
'Loan!' interjected the squire. 'They fell upon it like a pair of kites. You'll find the last ghost of a bone of your loan in a bill, and well picked. They've been doing their bills: I've heard that.'
My father touched the points of his fingers on his forehead, straining to think, too theatrically, but in hard earnest, I believe. He seemed to be rising on tiptoe.
'Oh, madam! Dear lady! my friend! Dorothy, my sister! Better a thousand times that I had married, though I shrank from a heartless union! This money?—it is not—'
The old man broke in: 'Are you going to be a damned low vulgar comedian and tale of a trumpet up to the end, you Richmond? Don't think you'll gain anything by standing there as if you were jumping your trunk from a shark. Come, sir, you're in a gentleman's rooms; don't pitch your voice like a young jackanapes blowing into a horn. Your gasps and your spasms, and howl of a yawning brute! Keep your menagerie performances for your pantomime audiences. What are you meaning? Do you pretend you're astonished? She's not the first fool of a woman whose money you've devoured, with your "Madam," and "My dear" and mouthing and elbowing your comedy tricks; your gabble of "Government" protection, and scandalous advertisements of the by-blow of a star-coated rapscallion. If you've a recollection of the man in you, show your back, and be off, say you've fought against odds—I don't doubt you have, counting the constables—and own you're a villain: plead guilty, and be off and be silent, and do no more harm. Is it "Government" still?'
My aunt Dorothy had come round to me. She clutched my arm to restrain me from speaking, whispering:
'Harry, you can't save him. Think of your own head.' She made me irresolute, and I was too late to check my father from falling into the trap.
'Oh! Mr. Beltham,' he said, 'you are hard, sir. I put it to you: had you been in receipt of a secret subsidy from Government for a long course of years—'
'How long?' the squire interrupted.
Prompt though he would have been to dismiss the hateful person, he was not, one could see, displeased to use the whip upon so exciteable and responsive a frame. He seemed to me to be basely guilty of leading his victim on to expose himself further.
'There's no necessity for "how long,"' I said.
The old man kept the question on his face.
My father reflected.
'I have to hit my memory, I am shattered, sir. I say, you would be justified, amply justified—'
'How long?' was reiterated.
'I can at least date it from the period of my marriage.'
'From the date when your scoundrelism first touches my family, that's to say! So "Government" agreed to give you a stipend to support your wife!'
'Mr. Beltham, I breathe with difficulty. It was at that period, on the death of a nobleman interested in restraining me—I was his debtor for kindnesses . . . my head is whirling! I say, at that period, upon the recommendation of friends of high standing, I began to agitate for the restitution of my rights. From infancy——'
'To the deuce, your infancy! I know too much about your age. Just hark, you Richmond! none of your "I was a child" to provoke compassion from women. I mean to knock you down and make you incapable of hurting these poor foreign people you trapped. They defy you, and I'll do my best to draw your teeth. Now for the annuity. You want one to believe 'you thought you frightened "Government," eh?'
'Annual proof was afforded me, sir.'
'Oh! annual! through Mr. Charles Adolphus Bannerbridge, deceased!'
Janet stepped up to my aunt Dorothy to persuade her to leave the room, but she declined, and hung by me, to keep me out of danger, as she hoped, and she prompted me with a guarding nervous squeeze of her hand on my arm to answer temperately when I was questioned:
'Harry, do you suspect Government paid that annuity?'
'Not now, certainly.'
'Tell the man who 'tis you suspect.'
My aunt Dorothy said: 'Harry is not bound to mention his suspicions.'
'Tell him yourself, then.'
'Does it matter—?'
'Yes, it matters. I'll break every plank he walks on, and strip him stark till he flops down shivering into his slough—a convicted common swindler, with his dinners and Balls and his private bands! Richmond, you killed one of my daughters; t' other fed you, through her agent, this Mr. Charles Adolphus Bannerbridge, from about the date of your snaring my poor girl and carrying her off behind your postillions—your trotting undertakers! and the hours of her life reckoned in milestones. She's here to contradict me, if she can. Dorothy Beltham was your "Government" that paid the annuity.'
I took Dorothy Beltham into my arms. She was trembling excessively, yet found time to say, 'Bear up, dearest; keep still.' All I thought and felt foundered in tears.
For a while I heard little distinctly of the tremendous tirade which the vindictive old man, rendered thrice venomous by the immobility of the petrified large figure opposed to him, poured forth. My poor father did not speak because he could not; his arms dropped; and such was the torrent of attack, with its free play of thunder and lightning in the form of oaths, epithets, short and sharp comparisons, bitter home thrusts and most vehement imprecatory denunciations, that our protesting voices quailed. Janet plucked at my aunt Dorothy's dress to bear her away.
'I can't leave my father,' I said.
'Nor I you, dear,' said the tender woman; and so we remained to be scourged by this tongue of incarnate rage.
'You pensioner of a silly country spinster!' sounded like a return to mildness. My father's chest heaved up.
I took advantage of the lull to make myself heard: I did but heap fuel on fire, though the old man's splenetic impetus had partly abated.
'You Richmond! do you hear him? he swears he's your son, and asks to be tied to the stake beside you. Disown him, and I'll pay you money and thank you. I'll thank my God for anything short of your foul blood in the family. You married the boy's mother to craze and kill her, and guttle her property. You waited for the boy to come of age to swallow what was settled on him. You wait for me to lie in my coffin to pounce on the strongbox you think me the fool to toss to a young donkey ready to ruin all his belongings for you! For nine-and-twenty years you've sucked the veins of my family, and struck through my house like a rotting-disease. Nine-and-twenty years ago you gave a singing-lesson in my house: the pest has been in it ever since! You breed vermin in the brain to think of you! Your wife, your son, your dupes, every soul that touches you, mildews from a blight! You were born of ropery, and you go at it straight, like a webfoot to water. What's your boast?—your mother's disgrace! You shame your mother. Your whole life's a ballad o' bastardy. You cry up the woman's infamy to hook at a father. You swell and strut on her pickings. You're a cock forced from the smoke of the dunghill! You shame your mother, damned adventurer! You train your boy for a swindler after your own pattern; you twirl him in your curst harlequinade to a damnation as sure as your own. The day you crossed my threshold the devils danced on their flooring. I've never seen the sun shine fair on me after it. With your guitar under the windows, of moonlight nights! your Spanish fopperies and trickeries! your French phrases and toeings! I was touched by a leper. You set your traps for both my girls: you caught the brown one first, did you, and flung her second for t' other, and drove a tandem of 'em to live the spangled hog you are; and down went the mother of the boy to the place she liked better, and my other girl here—the one you cheated for her salvation—you tried to cajole her from home and me, to send her the same way down. She stuck to decency. Good Lord! you threatened to hang yourself, guitar and all. But her purse served your turn. For why? You 're a leech. I speak before ladies or I'd rip your town-life to shreds. Your cause! your romantic history! your fine figure! every inch of you 's notched with villany! You fasten on every moneyed woman that comes in your way. You've outdone Herod in murdering the innocents, for he didn't feed on 'em, and they've made you fat. One thing I'll say of you: you look the beastly thing you set yourself up for. The kindest blow to you 's to call you impostor.'
He paused, but his inordinate passion of speech was unsated: his white lips hung loose for another eruption.
I broke from my aunt Dorothy to cross over to my father, saying on the way: 'We 've heard enough, sir. You forget the cardinal point of invective, which is, not to create sympathy for the person you assail.'
'Oh! you come in with your infernal fine language, do you!' the old man thundered at me. 'I 'll just tell you at once, young fellow—'
My aunt Dorothy supplicated his attention. 'One error I must correct.' Her voice issued from a contracted throat, and was painfully thin and straining, as though the will to speak did violence to her weaker nature. 'My sister loved Mr. Richmond. It was to save her life, because I believed she loved him much and would have died, that Mr. Richmond—in pity—offered her his hand, at my wish': she bent her head: 'at my cost. It was done for me. I wished it; he obeyed me. No blame—' her dear mouth faltered. 'I am to be accused, if anybody.'
She added more firmly: 'My money would have been his. I hoped to spare his feelings, I beg his forgiveness now, by devoting some of it, unknown to him, to assist him. That was chiefly to please myself, I see, and I am punished.'
'Well, ma'am,' said the squire, calm at white heat; 'a fool's confession ought to be heard out to the end. What about the twenty-five thousand?'
'I hoped to help my Harry.'
'Why didn't you do it openly?'
She breathed audible long breaths before she could summon courage to say: 'His father was going to make an irreparable sacrifice. I feared that if he knew this money came from me he would reject it, and persist.'
Had she disliked the idea of my father's marrying?
The old man pounced on the word sacrifice. 'What sacrifice, ma'am? What's the sacrifice?'
I perceived that she could not without anguish, and perhaps peril of a further exposure, bring herself to speak, and explained: 'It relates to my having tried to persuade my father to marry a very wealthy lady, so that he might produce the money on the day appointed. Rail at me, sir, as much as you like. If you can't understand the circumstances without a chapter of statements, I'm sorry for you. A great deal is due to you, I know; but I can't pay a jot of it while you go on rating my father like a madman.'
'Harry!' either my aunt or Janet breathed a warning.
I replied that I was past mincing phrases. The folly of giving the tongue an airing was upon me: I was in fact invited to continue, and animated to do it thoroughly, by the old man's expression of face, which was that of one who says, 'I give you rope,' and I dealt him a liberal amount of stock irony not worth repeating; things that any cultivated man in anger can drill and sting the Boeotian with, under the delusion that he has not lost a particle of his self-command because of his coolness. I spoke very deliberately, and therefore supposed that the words of composure were those of prudent sense. The error was manifest. The women saw it. One who has indulged his soul in invective will not, if he has power in his hand, be robbed of his climax with impunity by a cool response that seems to trifle, and scourges.
I wound up by thanking my father for his devotion to me: I deemed it, I said, excessive and mistaken in the recent instance, but it was for me.
Upon this he awoke from his dreamy-looking stupefaction.
'Richie does me justice. He is my dear boy. He loves me: I love him. None can cheat us of that. He loves his wreck of a father. You have struck me to your feet, Mr. Beltham.'
'I don't want to see you there, sir; I want to see you go, and not stand rapping your breast-bone, sounding like a burst drum, as you are,' retorted the unappeasable old man.
I begged him in exasperation to keep his similes to himself.
Janet and my aunt Dorothy raised their voices.
My father said: 'I am broken.'
He put out a swimming hand that trembled when it rested, like that of an aged man grasping a staff. I feared for a moment he was acting, he spoke so like himself, miserable though he appeared: but it was his well-known native old style in a state of decrepitude.
'I am broken,' he repeated. 'I am like the ancient figure of mortality entering the mouth of the tomb on a sepulchral monument, somewhere, by a celebrated sculptor: I have seen it: I forget the city. I shall presently forget names of men. It is not your abuse, Mr. Beltham. I should have bowed my head to it till the storm passed. Your facts . . . Oh! Miss Beltham, this last privilege to call you dearest of human beings! my benefactress! my blessing! Do not scorn me, madam.'
'I never did; I never will; I pitied you,' she cried, sobbing.
The squire stamped his foot.
'Madam,' my father bowed gently. 'I was under heaven's special protection—I thought so. I feel I have been robbed—I have not deserved it! Oh! madam, no: it was your generosity that I did not deserve. One of the angels of heaven persuaded me to trust in it. I did not know. . . . Adieu, madam. May I be worthy to meet you!—Ay, Mr. Beltham, your facts have committed the death-wound. You have taken the staff out of my hand: you have extinguished the light. I have existed—ay, a pensioner, unknowingly, on this dear lady's charity; to her I say no more. To you, sir, by all that is most sacred to a man-by the ashes of my mother! by the prospects of my boy! I swear the annuity was in my belief a tangible token that my claims to consideration were in the highest sources acknowledged to be just. I cannot speak! One word to you, Mr. Beltham: put me aside, I am nothing:—Harry Richmond!—his fortunes are not lost; he has a future! I entreat you—he is your grandson—give him your support; go this instant to the prince—no! you will not deny your countenance to Harry Richmond: let him abjure my name; let me be nameless in his house. And I promise you I shall be unheard of both in Christendom and Heathendom: I have no heart except for my boy's nuptials with the princess: this one thing, to see him the husband of the fairest and noblest lady upon earth, with all the life remaining in me I pray for! I have won it for him. I have a moderate ability, immense devotion. I declare to you, sir, I have lived, actually subsisted, on this hope! and I have directed my efforts incessantly, sleeplessly, to fortify it. I die to do it! I implore you, sir, go to the prince. If I' (he said this touchingly) 'if I am any further in anybody's way, it is only as a fallen tree.' But his inveterate fancifulness led him to add: 'And that may bridge a cataract.'
My grandfather had been clearing his throat two or three times.
'I 'm ready to finish and get rid of you, Richmond.'
My father bowed.
'I am gone, sir. I feel I am all but tongue-tied. Think that it is Harry who petitions you to ensure his happiness. To-day I guarantee-it.'
The old man turned an inquiring eyebrow upon me. Janet laid her hand on him. He dismissed the feline instinct to prolong our torture, and delivered himself briskly.
'Richmond, your last little bit of villany 's broken in the egg. I separate the boy from you: he's not your accomplice there, I'm glad to know. You witched the lady over to pounce on her like a fowler, you threatened her father with a scandal, if he thought proper to force the trap; swore you 'd toss her to be plucked by the gossips, eh? She's free of you! You got your English and your Germans here to point their bills, and stretch their necks, and hiss, if this gentleman—and your newspapers!—if he didn't give up to you like a funky traveller to a highwayman. I remember a tale of a clumsy Turpin, who shot himself when he was drawing the pistol out of his holsters to frighten the money-bag out of a market farmer. You've done about the same, you Richmond; and, of all the damned poor speeches I ever heard from a convicted felon, yours is the worst—a sheared sheep'd ha' done it more respectably, grant the beast a tongue! The lady is free of you, I tell you. Harry has to thank you for that kindness. She—what is it, Janet? Never mind, I've got the story—she didn't want to marry; but this prince, who called on me just now, happened to be her father's nominee, and he heard of your scoundrelism, and he behaved like a man and a gentleman, and offered himself, none too early nor too late, as it turns out; and the princess, like a good girl, has made amends to her father by accepting him. I've the word of this Prince Hermann for it. Now you can look upon a game of stale-mate. If I had gone to the prince, it wouldn't have been to back your play; but, if you hadn't been guilty of the tricks of a blackguard past praying for, this princess would never have been obliged to marry a man to protect her father and herself. They sent him here to stop any misunderstanding. He speaks good English, so that's certain. Your lies will be contradicted, every one of 'em, seriatim, in to-morrow's newspapers, setting the real man in place of the wrong one; and you 'll draw no profit from them in your fashionable world, where you 've been grinning lately, like a blackamoor's head on a conjuror's plate—the devil alone able to account for the body and joinings. Now you can be off.'
I went up to my father. His plight was more desperate than mine, for I had resembled the condemned before the firing-party, to whom the expected bullet brings a merely physical shock. He, poor man, heard his sentence, which is the heart's pang of death; and how fondly and rootedly he had clung to the idea of my marriage with the princess was shown in his extinction after this blow.
My grandfather chose the moment as a fitting one to ask me for the last time to take my side.
I replied, without offence in the tones of my voice, that I thought my father need not lose me into the bargain, after what he had suffered that day.
He just as quietly rejoined with a recommendation to me to divorce myself for good and all from a scoundrel.
I took my father's arm: he was not in a state to move away unsupported.
My aunt Dorothy stood weeping; Janet was at the window, no friend to either of us.
I said to her, 'You have your wish.'
She shook her head, but did not look back.
My grandfather watched me, step by step, until I had reached the door.
'You're going, are you?' he said. 'Then I whistle you off my fingers!'
An attempt to speak was made by my father in the doorway. He bowed wide of the company, like a blind man. I led him out.
Dimness of sight spared me from seeing certain figures, which were at the toll-bar of the pier, on the way to quit our shores. What I heard was not of a character to give me faith in the sanity of the companion I had chosen. He murmured it at first to himself:
'Waddy shall have her monument!'
My patience was not proof against the repetition of it aloud to me. Had I been gentler I might have known that his nature was compelled to look forward to something, and he discerned nothing in the future, save the task of raising a memorial to a faithful servant.
THE HEIRESS PROVES THAT SHE INHERITS THE FEUD AND I GO DRIFTING
My grandfather lived eight months after a scene that had afforded him high gratification at the heaviest cost a plain man can pay for his pleasures: it killed him.
My father's supple nature helped him to survive it in apparently unimpeded health, so that the world might well suppose him unconquerable, as he meant that it should. But I, who was with him, knew, though he never talked of his wounds, they had been driven into his heart. He collapsed in speech, and became what he used to call 'one of the ordinary nodding men,' forsaken of his swamping initiative. I merely observed him; I did not invite his confidences, being myself in no mood to give sympathy or to receive it. I was about as tender in my care of him as a military escort bound to deliver up a captive alive.
I left him at Bulsted on my way to London to face the creditors. Adversity had not lowered the admiration of the captain and his wife for the magnificent host of those select and lofty entertainments which I was led by my errand to examine in the skeleton, and with a wonder as big as theirs, but of another complexion: They hung about him, and perused and petted him quaintly; it was grotesque; they thought him deeply injured: by what, by whom, they could not say; but Julia was disappointed in me for refraining to come out with a sally on his behalf. He had quite intoxicated their imaginations. Julia told me of the things he did not do as marvellingly as of the things he did or had done; the charm, it seemed, was to find herself familiar with him to the extent of all but nursing him and making him belong to her. Pilgrims coming upon the source of the mysteriously-abounding river, hardly revere it the less because they love it more when they behold the babbling channels it issues from; and the sense of possession is the secret, I suppose. Julia could inform me rapturously that her charge had slept eighteen hours at a spell. His remarks upon the proposal to fetch a doctor, feeble in themselves, were delicious to her, because they recalled his old humour to show his great spirit, and from her and from Captain William in turn I was condemned to hear how he had said this and that of the doctor, which in my opinion might have been more concise. 'Really, deuced good indeed!' Captain William would exclaim. 'Don't you see it, Harry, my boy? He denies the doctor has a right to cast him out of the world on account of his having been the official to introduce him, and he'll only consent to be visited when he happens to be as incapable of resisting as upon their very first encounter.'
The doctor and death and marriage, I ventured to remind the captain, had been riddled in this fashion by the whole army of humourists and their echoes.
He and Julia fancied me cold to my father's merits. Fond as they were of the squire, they declared war against him in private, they criticized Janet, they thought my aunt Dorothy slightly wrong in making a secret of her good deed: my father was the victim. Their unabated warmth consoled me in the bitterest of seasons. He found a home with them at a time when there would have been a battle at every step. The world soon knew that my grandfather had cast me off, and with this foundation destroyed, the entire fabric of the Grand Parade fell to the ground at once. The crash was heavy. Jorian DeWitt said truly that what a man hates in adversity is to see 'faces'; meaning that the humanity has gone out of them in their curious observation of you under misfortune. You see neither friends nor enemies. You are too sensitive for friends, and are blunted against enemies. You see but the mask of faces: my father was sheltered from that. Julia consulted his wishes in everything; she set traps to catch his whims, and treated them as birds of paradise; she could submit to have the toppling crumpled figure of a man, Bagenhope, his pensioner and singular comforter, in her house. The little creature was fetched out of his haunts in London purposely to soothe my father with performances on his ancient clarionet, a most querulous plaintive instrument in his discoursing, almost the length of himself; and she endured the nightly sound of it in the guest's blue bedroom, heroically patient, a model to me. Bagenhope drank drams: she allowanced him. He had known my father's mother, and could talk of her in his cups: his playing, and his aged tunes, my father said, were a certification to him that he was at the bottom of the ladder. Why that should afford him peculiar comfort, none of us could comprehend. 'He was the humble lover of my mother, Richie,' I heard with some confusion, and that he adored her memory. The statement was part of an entreaty to me to provide liberally for Bagenhope's pension before we quitted England. 'I am not seriously anxious for much else,' said my father. Yet was he fully conscious of the defeat he had sustained and the catastrophe he had brought down upon me: his touch of my hand told me that, and his desire for darkness and sleep. He had nothing to look to, nothing to see twinkling its radiance for him in the dim distance now; no propitiating Government, no special Providence. But he never once put on a sorrowful air to press for pathos, and I thanked him. He was a man endowed to excite it in the most effective manner, to a degree fearful enough to win English sympathies despite his un-English faults. He could have drawn tears in floods, infinite pathetic commiseration, from our grangousier public, whose taste is to have it as it may be had to the mixture of one-third of nature in two-thirds of artifice. I believe he was expected to go about with this beggar's petition for compassion, and it was a disappointment to the generous, for which they punished him, that he should have abstained. And moreover his simple quietude was really touching to true-hearted people. The elements of pathos do not permit of their being dispensed from a stout smoking bowl. I have to record no pathetic field-day. My father was never insincere in emotion.
I spared his friends, chums, associates, excellent men of a kind, the trial of their attachment by shunning them. His servants I dismissed personally, from M. Alphonse down to the coachman Jeremy, whose speech to me was, that he should be happy to serve my father again, or me, if he should happen to be out of a situation when either of us wanted him, which at least showed his preference for employment: on the other hand, Alphonse, embracing the grand extremes of his stereotyped national oratory, where 'SI JAMAIS,' like the herald Mercury new-mounting, takes its august flight to set in the splendour of 'ausqu'n LA MORT,' declared all other service than my father's repugnant, and vowed himself to a hermitage, remote from condiments. They both meant well, and did but speak the diverse language of their blood. Mrs. Waddy withdrew a respited heart to Dipwell; it being, according to her experiences, the third time that my father had relinquished house and furniture to go into eclipse on the Continent after blazing over London. She strongly recommended the Continent for a place of restoration, citing his likeness to that animal the chameleon, in the readiness with which he forgot himself among them that knew nothing of him. We quitted Bulsted previous to the return of the family to Riversley. My grandfather lay at the island hotel a month, and was brought home desperately ill. Lady Edbury happened to cross the channel with us. She behaved badly, I thought; foolishly, my father said. She did as much as obliqueness of vision and sharpness of feature could help her to do to cut him in the presence of her party: and he would not take nay. It seemed in very bad taste on his part; he explained to me off-handedly that he insisted upon the exchange of a word or two for the single purpose of protecting her from calumny. By and by it grew more explicable to me how witless she had been to give gossip a handle in the effort to escape it. She sent for him in Paris, but he did not pay the visit.
My grandfather and I never saw one another again. He had news of me from various quarters, and I of him from one; I was leading a life in marked contrast from the homely Riversley circle of days: and this likewise was set in the count of charges against my father. Our Continental pilgrimage ended in a course of riotousness that he did not participate in, and was entirely innocent of, but was held accountable for, because he had been judged a sinner.
'I am ordered to say,' Janet wrote, scrupulously obeying the order, 'that if you will leave Paris and come home, and not delay in doing it, your grandfather will receive you on the same footing as heretofore.'
As heretofore! in a letter from a young woman supposed to nourish a softness!
I could not leave my father in Paris, alone; I dared not bring him to London. In wrath at what I remembered, I replied that I was willing to return to Riversley if my father should find a welcome as well.