My grandfather had been clearing his throat two or three times.
’I ‘m ready to finish and get rid of you, Richmond.’
My father bowed.
’I am gone, sir. I feel I am all but tongue-tied. Think that it is Harry who petitions you to ensure his happiness. To-day I guarantee-it.’
The old man turned an inquiring eyebrow upon me. Janet laid her hand on him. He dismissed the feline instinct to prolong our torture, and delivered himself briskly.
’Richmond, your last little bit of villany ’s broken in the egg. I separate the boy from you: he’s not your accomplice there, I’m glad to know. You witched the lady over to pounce on her like a fowler, you threatened her father with a scandal, if he thought proper to force the trap; swore you ’d toss her to be plucked by the gossips, eh? She’s free of you! You got your English and your Germans here to point their bills, and stretch their necks, and hiss, if this gentleman—and your newspapers!—if he didn’t give up to you like a funky traveller to a highwayman. I remember a tale of a clumsy Turpin, who shot himself when he was drawing the pistol out of his holsters to frighten the money-bag out of a market farmer. You’ve done about the same, you Richmond; and, of all the damned poor speeches I ever heard from a convicted felon, yours is the worst—a sheared sheep’d ha’ done it more respectably, grant the beast a tongue! The lady is free of you, I tell you. Harry has to thank you for that kindness. She—what is it, Janet? Never mind, I’ve got the story—she didn’t want to marry; but this prince, who called on me just now, happened to be her father’s nominee, and he heard of your scoundrelism, and he behaved like a man and a gentleman, and offered himself, none too early nor too late, as it turns out; and the princess, like a good girl, has made amends to her father by accepting him. I’ve the word of this Prince Hermann for it. Now you can look upon a game of stale-mate. If I had gone to the prince, it wouldn’t have been to back your play; but, if you hadn’t been guilty of the tricks of a blackguard past praying for, this princess would never have been obliged to marry a man to protect her father and herself. They sent him here to stop any misunderstanding. He speaks good English, so that’s certain. Your lies will be contradicted, every one of ’em, seriatim, in to-morrow’s newspapers, setting the real man in place of the wrong one; and you ’ll draw no profit from them in your fashionable world, where you ’ve been grinning lately, like a blackamoor’s head on a conjuror’s plate—the devil alone able to account for the body and joinings. Now you can be off.’