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?’