Julia interposed a decided negative to the proposal; an ordinarily unlucky thing to do with bibulous husbands, and the captain looked uncomfortably checked; but when he seemed to be collecting to assert himself, the humour of her remark, ‘Now, no bravado, William,’ disarmed him.
‘Bravado, my sweet chuck?’
’Won’t another bottle be like flashing your sword after you’ve won the day?’ said she.
He slung his arm round her, and sent a tremendous whisper into my ear—’A perfect angel!’
I started for London next day, more troubled aesthetically regarding the effect produced on me by this order of perfect angels than practically anxious about material affairs, though it is true that when I came into proximity with my father, the thought of his all but purely mechanical power of making money spin, fly, and vanish, like sparks from a fire-engine, awakened a serious disposition in me to bring our monetary partnership to some definite settlement. He was living in splendour, next door but one to the grand establishment he had driven me to from Dipwell in the old days, with Mrs. Waddy for his housekeeper once more, Alphonse for his cook. Not living on the same scale, however, the troubled woman said. She signified that it was now the whirlwind. I could not help smiling to see how proud she was of him, nevertheless, as a god-like charioteer—in pace, at least.
‘Opera to-night,’ she answered my inquiries for him, admonishing me by her tone that I ought not to be behindhand in knowing his regal rules and habits. Praising his generosity, she informed me that he had spent one hundred pounds, and offered a reward of five times the sum, for the discovery of Mabel Sweetwinter. ’Your papa never does things by halves, Mr. Harry!’ Soon after she was whimpering, ‘Oh, will it last?’ I was shown into the room called ‘The princess’s room,’ a miracle of furniture, not likely to be occupied by her, I thought, the very magnificence of the apartment striking down hope in my heart like cold on a nerve. Your papa says the whole house is to be for you, Mr. Harry, when the happy day comes.’ Could it possibly be that he had talked of the princess? I took a hasty meal and fortified myself with claret to have matters clear with him before the night was over.