‘Bed, Richie!’ he waved to me. ’You drink no wine, you cannot stand dissipation as I do. Bed, my dear boy! I am a God, sir, inaccessible to mortal ailments! Seriously, dear boy, I have never known an illness in my life. I have killed my hundreds of poor devils who were for imitating me. This I boast—I boast constitution. And I fear, Richie, you have none of my superhuman strength. Added to that, I know I am watched over. I ask—I have: I scheme the tricks are in my hand! It may be the doing of my mother in heaven; there is the fact for you to reflect on. “Stand not in my way, nor follow me too far,” would serve me for a motto admirably, and you can put it in Latin, Richie. Bed! You shall turn your scholarship to account as I do my genius in your interest. On my soul, that motto in Latin will requite me. Now to bed.’
‘No,’ said I. ’You have got away from me once. I shall keep you in sight and hearing, if I have to lie at your door for it. You will go with me to London to-morrow. I shall treat you as a man I have to guard, and I shall not let you loose before I am quite sure of you.’
‘Loose!’ he exclaimed, throwing up an arm and a leg.
’I mean, sir, that you shall be in my presence wherever you are, and I will take care you don’t go far and wide. It’s useless to pretend astonishment. I don’t argue and I don’t beseech any further: I just sit on guard, as I would over a powder-cask.’
My father raised himself on an elbow. ‘The explosion,’ he said, examining his watch, ’occurred at about five minutes to eleven—we are advancing into the morning—last night. I received on your behalf the congratulations of friends Loftus, Alton, Segrave, and the rest, at that hour. So, my dear Richie, you are sitting on guard over the empty magazine.’
I listened with a throbbing forehead, and controlled the choking in my throat, to ask him whether he had touched the newspapers.
‘Ay, dear lad, I have sprung my mine in them,’ he replied.
‘You have sent word—?’
’I have despatched a paragraph to the effect, that the prince and princess have arrived to ratify the nuptial preliminaries.’
‘You expect it to appear this day?’
’Or else my name and influence are curiously at variance with the confidence I repose in them, Richie.’
‘Then I leave you to yourself,’ I said. ’Prince Ernest knows he has to expect this statement in the papers?’
‘We trumped him with that identical court-card, Richie.’
’Very well. To-morrow, after we have been to my grandfather, you and I part company for good, sir. It costs me too much.’
‘Dear old Richie,’ he laughed, gently. ’And now to bye-bye! My blessing on you now and always.’
He shut his eyes.
AN ENCOUNTER SHOWING MY FATHER’S GENIUS IN A STRONG LIGHT