The squire coughed out an emphatic ‘Never!’ and fortified it with an oath as he repeated it upon a fuller breath.
‘Sir, I will condescend to entreat you to grant this permission,’ said Mr. Richmond, urgently.
‘No, never: I won’t!’ rejoined the squire, red in the face from a fit of angry coughing. ’I won’t; but stop, put down that boy; listen to me, you Richmond! I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I ’ll—if you swear on a Bible, like a cadger before a bench of magistrates, you’ll never show your face within a circuit o’ ten miles hereabouts, and won’t trouble the boy if you meet him, or my daughter or me, or any one of us-hark ye, I’ll do this: let go the boy, and I’ll give ye five hundred—I’ll give ye a cheque on my banker for a thousand pounds; and, hark me out, you do this, you swear, as I said, on the servants’ Bible, in the presence of my butler and me, “Strike you dead as Ananias and t’ other one if you don’t keep to it,” do that now, here, on the spot, and I’ll engage to see you paid fifty pounds a year into the bargain. Stop! and I’ll pay your debts under two or three hundred. For God’s sake, let go the boy! You shall have fifty guineas on account this minute. Let go the boy! And your son—there, I call him your son—your son, Harry Richmond, shall inherit from me; he shall have Riversley and the best part of my property, if not every bit of it. Is it a bargain? Will you swear? Don’t, and the boy’s a beggar, he’s a stranger here as much as you. Take him, and by the Lord, you ruin him. There now, never mind, stay, down with him. He’s got a cold already; ought to be in his bed; let the boy down!’
‘You offer me money,’ Mr. Richmond answered.
’That is one of the indignities belonging to a connection with a man like you. You would have me sell my son. To see my afflicted wife I would forfeit my heart’s yearnings for my son; your money, sir, I toss to the winds; and I am under the necessity of informing you that I despise and loathe you. I shrink from the thought of exposing my son to your besotted selfish example. The boy is mine; I have him, and he shall traverse the wilderness with me. By heaven! his destiny is brilliant. He shall be hailed for what he is, the rightful claimant of a place among the proudest in the land; and mark me, Mr. Beltham, obstinate sensual old man that you are! I take the boy, and I consecrate my life to the duty of establishing him in his proper rank and station, and there, if you live and I live, you shall behold him and bow your grovelling pig’s head to the earth, and bemoan the day, by heaven! when you,—a common country squire, a man of no origin, a creature with whose blood we have mixed ours—and he is stone-blind to the honour conferred on him—when you in your besotted stupidity threatened to disinherit Harry Richmond.’