‘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