‘For, Richie,’ said he, ’you may not know—and it is not to win your thanks I inform you of it—that I labour unremittingly in my son’s interests. I have established him, on his majority, in Germany, at a Court. My object now is to establish him in England. Promise me that it shall be the decided endeavour of your energies and talents to rise to the height I point out to you? You promise, I perceive,’ he added, sharp in detecting the unpleasant predicament of a boy who is asked to speak priggishly. So then I could easily promise with a firm voice. He dropped certain explosive hints, which reminded me of the funny ideas of my state and greatness I had when a child. I shrugged at them; I cared nothing for revelations to come by-and-by. My object was to unite my father and grandfather on terms of friendship.
This was the view that now absorbed and fixed my mind. To have him a frequent visitor at Riversley, if not a resident in the house, enlivening them all, while I, perhaps, trifled a cavalry sabre, became one of my settled dreams. The difficult part of the scheme appeared to me the obtaining of my father’s consent. I mentioned it, and he said immediately that he must have his freedom. ‘Now, for instance,’ said he, ’what is my desire at this moment? I have always a big one perched on a rock in the distance; but I speak of my present desire. And let it be supposed that the squire is one of us: we are returning to England. Well, I want to show you a stork’s nest. We are not far enough South for the stork to build here. It is a fact, Richie, that I do want to show you the bird for luck, and as a feature of the country. And in me, a desire to do a thing partakes of the impetus of steam.
Well, you see we are jogging home to England. I resist myself for duty’s sake: that I can do. But if the squire were here with his yea and his nay, by heavens! I should be off to the top of the Rhine like a tornado. I submit to circumstances: I cannot, and I will not, be dictated to by men.’
‘That seems to me rather unreasonable,’ I remonstrated.
‘It is; I am ashamed of it,’ he answered. ’Do as you will, Richie; set me down at Riversley, but under no slight, mark you. I keep my honour intact, like a bottled cordial; my unfailing comfort in adversity! I hand it to you, my son, on my death-bed, and say, “You have there the essence of my life. Never has it been known of me that I swallowed an insult."’
‘Then, papa, I shall have a talk with the squire.’
‘Make good your ground in the castle,’ said he. ’I string a guitar outside. You toss me a key from the walls. If there is room, and I have leisure, I enter. If not, you know I am paving your way in other quarters. Riversley, my boy, is an excellent foothold and fortress: Riversley is not the world. At Riversley I should have to wear a double face, and, egad! a double stomach-bag, like young Jack feeding with the giant—one full of ambition, the other of provender. That place is our touchstone to discover whether we have prudence. We have, I hope. And we will have, Mr. Temple, a pleasant day or two in Paris.’