On the afternoon of this day there was a half-holiday at the office, and Endymion had engaged to accompany Waldershare on some expedition. They had been talking together in his room where Waldershare was finishing his careless toilette, which however was never finished, and they had just opened the house door and were sallying forth when Colonel Albert rode up. He gave a kind nod to Endymion, but did not speak, and the companions went on. "By the by, Ferrars," said Waldershare, pressing his arm and bubbling with excitement, "I have found out who your colonel is. It is a wondrous tale, and I will tell it all to you as we go on."
Endymion had now passed three years of his life in London, and considering the hard circumstances under which he had commenced this career, he might on the whole look back to those years without dissatisfaction. Three years ago he was poor and friendless, utterly ignorant of the world, and with nothing to guide him but his own good sense. His slender salary had not yet been increased, but with the generosity and aid of his sister and the liberality of Mr. Vigo, he was easy in his circumstances. Through the Rodneys, he had become acquainted with a certain sort of miscellaneous life, a knowledge of which is highly valuable to a youth, but which is seldom attained without risk. Endymion, on the contrary, was always guarded from danger. Through his most unexpected connection with the Neuchatel family, he had seen something of life in circles of refinement and high consideration, and had even caught glimpses of that great world of which he read so much and heard people talk more, the world of the Lord Roehamptons and the Lady Montforts, and all those dazzling people whose sayings and doings form the taste, and supply the conversation, and leaven the existence of admiring or wondering millions.
None of these incidents, however, had induced any change in the scheme of his existence. Endymion was still content with his cleanly and airy garret; still dined at Joe's; was still sedulous at his office, and always popular with his fellow clerks. Seymour Hicks, indeed, who studied the "Morning Post" with intentness, had discovered the name of Endymion in the elaborate lists of attendants on Mrs. Neuchatel's receptions, and had duly notified the important event to his colleagues; but Endymion was not severely bantered on the occasion, for, since the withdrawal of St. Barbe from the bureau, the stock of envy at Somerset House was sensibly diminished.
His lodging at the Rodneys', however, had brought Endymion something more valuable than an innocuous familiarity with their various and suggestive life. In the friendship of Waldershare he found a rich compensation for being withdrawn from his school and deprived of his university. The care of his father had made Endymion a good classical scholar, and he had realised a degree of culture which it delighted the brilliant and eccentric Waldershare to enrich and to complete. Waldershare guided his opinions, and directed his studies, and formed his taste. Alone at night in his garret, there was no solitude, for he had always some book or some periodical, English or foreign, with which Waldershare had supplied him, and which he assured Endymion it was absolutely necessary that he should read and master.
Nor was his acquaintance with Baron Sergius less valuable, or less fruitful of results. He too became interested in Endymion, and poured forth to him, apparently without reserve, all the treasures of his vast experience of men and things, especially with reference to the conduct of external affairs. He initiated him in the cardinal principles of the policies of different nations; he revealed to him the real character of the chief actors in the scene. "The first requisite," Baron Sergius would say, "in the successful conduct of public affairs is a personal acquaintance with the statesmen engaged. It is possible that events may not depend now, so much as they did a century ago, on individual feeling, but, even if prompted by general principles, their application and management are always coloured by the idiosyncrasy of the chief actors. The great advantage which your Lord Roehampton, for example, has over all his colleagues in la haute politique, is that he was one of your plenipotentiaries at the Congress of Vienna. There he learned to gauge the men who govern the world. Do you think a man like that, called upon to deal with a Metternich or a Pozzo, has no advantage over an individual who never leaves his chair in Downing Street except to kill grouse? Pah! Metternich and Pozzo know very well that Lord Roehampton knows them, and they set about affairs with him in a totally different spirit from that with which they circumvent some statesman who has issued from the barricades of Paris."
Nor must it be forgotten that his debating society and the acquaintance which he had formed there, were highly beneficial to Endymion. Under the roof of Mr. Bertie Tremaine he enjoyed the opportunity of forming an acquaintance with a large body of young men of breeding, of high education, and full of ambition, that was a substitute for the society, becoming his youth and station, which he had lost by not going to the university.
With all these individuals, and with all their circles, Endymion was a favourite. No doubt his good looks, his mien—which was both cheerful and pensive—his graceful and quiet manners, all told in his favour, and gave him a good start, but further acquaintance always sustained the first impression. He was intelligent and well-informed, without any alarming originality, or too positive convictions. He listened not only with patience but with interest to all, and ever avoided controversy. Here are some of the elements of a man's popularity.
What was his intellectual reach, and what his real character, it was difficult at this time to decide. He was still very young, only on the verge of his twentieth year; and his character had no doubt been influenced, it might be suppressed, by the crushing misfortunes of his family. The influence of his sister was supreme over him. She had never reconciled herself to their fall. She had existed only on the solitary idea of regaining their position, and she had never omitted an occasion to impress upon him that he had a great mission, and that, aided by her devotion, he would fulfil it. What his own conviction on this subject was may be obscure. Perhaps he was organically of that cheerful and easy nature, which is content to enjoy the present, and not brood over the past. The future may throw light upon all these points; at present it may be admitted that the three years of seemingly bitter and mortifying adversity have not been altogether wanting in beneficial elements in the formation of his character and the fashioning of his future life.
Lady Montfort heard with great satisfaction from Mr. Neuchatel that Lord Roehampton was going to pay a visit to Hainault at Easter, and that he had asked himself. She playfully congratulated Mrs. Neuchatel on the subject, and spoke as if the affair was almost concluded. That lady, however, received the intimation with a serious, not to say distressed countenance. She said that she should be grieved to lose Adriana under any circumstances; but if her marriage in time was a necessity, she trusted she might be united to some one who would not object to becoming a permanent inmate of their house. What she herself desired for her daughter was a union with some clergyman, and if possible, the rector of their own parish. But it was too charming a dream to realise. The rectory at Hainault was almost in the Park, and was the prettiest house in the world, with the most lovely garden. She herself much preferred it to the great mansion—and so on.
Lady Montfort stared at her with impatient astonishment, and then said, "Your daughter, Mrs. Neuchatel, ought to make an alliance which would place her at the head of society."
"What a fearful destiny," said Mrs. Neuchatel, "for any one, but overwhelming for one who must feel the whole time that she occupies a position not acquired by her personal qualities!"
"Adriana is pretty," said Lady Montfort. "I think her more than pretty; she is highly accomplished and in every way pleasing. What can you mean, then, my dear madam, by supposing she would occupy a position not acquired by her personal qualities?"
Mrs. Neuchatel sighed and shook her head, and then said, "We need not have any controversy on this subject. I have no reason to believe there is any foundation for my fears. We all like and admire Lord Roehampton. It is impossible not to admire and like him. So great a man, and yet so gentle and so kind, so unaffected—I would say, so unsophisticated; but he has never given the slightest intimation, either to me or her father, that he seriously admired Adriana, and I am sure if he had said anything to her she would have told us."
"He is always here," said Lady Montfort, "and he is a man who used to go nowhere except for form. Besides, I know that he admires her, that he is in love with her, and I have not a doubt that he has invited himself to Hainault in order to declare his feelings to her."
"How very dreadful!" exclaimed Mrs. Neuchatel. "What are we to do?"
"To do!" said Lady Montfort; "why, sympathise with his happiness, and complete it. You will have a son-in-law of whom you may well be proud, and Adriana a husband who, thoroughly knowing the world, and women, and himself, will be devoted to her; will be a guide and friend, a guide that will never lecture, and a friend who will always charm, for there is no companion in the world like him, and I think I ought to know," added Lady Montfort, "for I always tell him that I was the last of his conquests, and I shall ever be grateful to him for his having spared to me so much of his society."
"Adriana on this matter will decide for herself," said Mrs. Neuchatel, in a serious tone, and with a certain degree of dignity. "Neither Mr. Neuchatel, nor myself, have ever attempted to control her feelings in this respect."
"Well, I am now about to see Adriana," said Lady Montfort; "I know she is at home. If I had not been obliged to go to Princedown, I would have asked you to let me pass Easter at Hainault myself."
On this very afternoon, when Myra, who had been walking in Regent's Park with her brother, returned home, she found Adriana agitated, and really in tears.
"What is all this, dearest?" inquired her friend.
"I am too unhappy," sobbed Adriana, and then she told Myra that she had had a visit from Lady Montfort, and all that had occurred in it. Lady Montfort had absolutely congratulated her on her approaching alliance with Lord Roehampton, and when she altogether disclaimed it, and expressed her complete astonishment at the supposition, Lady Montfort had told her she was not justified in giving Lord Roehampton so much encouragement and trifling with a man of his high character and position.
"Fancy my giving encouragement to Lord Roehampton!" exclaimed Adriana, and she threw her arms round the neck of the friend who was to console her.
"I agree with Lady Montfort," said Myra, releasing herself with gentleness from her distressed friend. "It may have been unconsciously on your part, but I think you have encouraged Lord Roehampton. He is constantly conversing with you, and he is always here, where he never was before, and, as Lady Montfort says, why should he have asked himself to pass the Easter at Hainault if it were not for your society?"
"He invited himself to Hainault, because he is so fond of papa," said Adriana.
"So much the better, if he is to be your husband. That will be an additional element of domestic happiness."
"O Myra! that you should say such things!" exclaimed Adriana.
"That I should marry Lord Roehampton."
"I never said anything of the kind. Whom you should marry is a question you must decide for yourself. All that I said was, that if you marry Lord Roehampton, it is fortunate he is so much liked by Mr. Neuchatel."
"I shall not marry Lord Roehampton," said Adriana with some determination, "and if he has condescended to think of marrying me," she continued, "as Lady Montfort says, I think his motives are so obvious that if I felt for him any preference it would be immediately extinguished."
"Ah! now you are going to ride your hobby, my dear Adriana. On that subject we never can agree; were I an heiress, I should have as little objection to be married for my fortune as my face. Husbands, as I have heard, do not care for the latter too long. Have more confidence in yourself, Adriana. If Lord Roehampton wishes to marry you, it is that he is pleased with you personally, that he appreciates your intelligence, your culture, your accomplishments, your sweet disposition, and your gentle nature. If in addition to these gifts you have wealth, and even great wealth, Lord Roehampton will not despise it, will not—for I wish to put it frankly—be uninfluenced by the circumstances, for Lord Roehampton is a wise man; but he would not marry you if he did not believe that you would make for him a delightful companion in life, that you would adorn his circle and illustrate his name."
"Ah! I see you are all in the plot against me," said Adriana. "I have no friend."
"My dear Adriana, I think you are unreasonable; I could say even unkind."
"Oh! pardon me, dear Myra," said Adriana, "but I really am so very unhappy."
"About what? You are your own mistress in this matter. If you do not like to marry Lord Roehampton, nobody will attempt to control you. What does it signify what Lady Montfort says? or anybody else, except your own parents, who desire nothing but your happiness? I should never have mentioned Lord Roehampton to you had you not introduced the subject yourself. And all that I meant to say was, what I repeat, that your creed that no one can wish to marry you except for your wealth is a morbid conviction, and must lead to unhappiness; that I do not believe that Lord Roehampton is influenced in his overture, if he make one, by any unworthy motive, and that any woman whose heart is disengaged should not lightly repudiate such an advance from such a man, by which, at all events, she should feel honoured."
"But my heart is engaged," said Adriana in an almost solemn tone.
"Oh! that is quite a different thing!" said Myra, turning pale.
"Yes!" said Adriana; "I am devoted to one whose name I cannot now mention, perhaps will never mention, but I am devoted to him. Yes!" she added with fire, "I am not altogether so weak a thing as the Lady Montforts and some other persons seem to think me—I can feel and decide for myself, and it shall never be said of me that I purchased love."
There was to be no great party at Hainault; Lord Roehampton particularly wished that there should be no fine folks asked, and especially no ambassadors. All that he wanted was to enjoy the fresh air, and to ramble in the forest, of which he had heard so much, with the young ladies.
"And, by the by, Miss Ferrars," said Mr. Neuchatel, "we must let what we were talking about the other day drop. Adriana has been with me quite excited about something Lady Montfort said to her. I soothed her and assured her she should do exactly as she liked, and that neither I nor her mother had any other wishes on such a subject than her own. The fact is, I answered Lady Montfort originally only half in earnest. If the thing might have happened, I should have been content—but it really never rested on my mind, because such matters must always originate with my daughter. Unless they come from her, with me they are mere fancies. But now I want you to help me in another matter, if not more grave, more businesslike. My lord must be amused, although it is a family party. He likes his rubber; that we can manage. But there must be two or three persons that he is not accustomed to meet, and yet who will interest him. Now, do you know, Miss Ferrars, whom I think of asking?"
"Not I, my dear sir."
"What do you think of the colonel?" said Mr. Neuchatel, looking in her face with a rather laughing eye.
"Well, he is very agreeable," said Myra, "and many would think interesting, and if Lord Roehampton does not know him, I think he would do very well."
"Well, but Lord Roehampton knows all about him," said Mr. Neuchatel.
"Well, that is an advantage," said Myra.
"I do not know," said Mr. Neuchatel. "Life is a very curious thing, eh, Miss Ferrars? One cannot ask one person to meet another even in one's own home, without going through a sum of moral arithmetic."
"Is it so?" said Myra.
"Well, Miss Ferrars," said Mr. Neuchatel, "I want your advice and I want your aid; but then it is a long story, at which I am rather a bad hand," and Mr. Neuchatel hesitated. "You know," he said, suddenly resuming, "you once asked me who Colonel Albert was."
"But I do not ask you now," said Myra, "because I know."
"Hah, hah!" exclaimed Mr. Neuchatel, much surprised.
"And what you want to know is," continued Myra, "whether Lord Roehampton would have any objection to meet Prince Florestan?"
"That is something; but that is comparatively easy. I think I can manage that. But when they meet—that is the point. But, in the first place, I should like very much to know how you became acquainted with the secret."
"In a very natural way; my brother was my information," she replied.
"Ah! now you see," continued Mr. Neuchatel, with a serious air, "a word from Lord Roehampton in the proper quarter might be of vast importance to the prince. He has a large inheritance, and he has been kept out of it unjustly. Our house has done what we could for him, for his mother, Queen Agrippina, was very kind to my father, and the house of Neuchatel never forgets its friends. But we want something else, we want the British Government to intimate that they will not disapprove of the restitution of the private fortune of the prince. I have felt my way with the premier; he is not favourable; he is prejudiced against the prince; and so is the cabinet generally; and yet all difficulties would vanish at a word from Lord Roehampton."
"Well, this is a good opportunity for you to speak to him," said Myra.
"Hem!" said Mr. Neuchatel, "I am not so sure about that. I like Lord Roehampton, and, between ourselves, I wish he were first minister. He understands the Continent, and would keep things quiet. But, do you know, Miss Ferrars, with all his playful, good-tempered manner, as if he could not say a cross word or do an unkind act, he is a very severe man in business. Speak to him on business, and he is completely changed. His brows knit, he penetrates you with the terrible scrutiny of that deep-set eye; he is more than stately, he is austere. I have been up to him with deputations—the Governor of the Bank, and all the first men in the City, half of them M.P.s, and they trembled before him like aspens. No, it will not do for me to speak to him, it will spoil his visit. I think the way will be this; if he has no objection to meet the prince, we must watch whether the prince makes a favourable impression on him, and if that is the case, and Lord Roehampton likes him, what we must do next is this—you must speak to Lord Roehampton."
"Yes, Miss Ferrars, you. Lord Roehampton likes ladies. He is never austere to them, even if he refuses their requests, and sometimes he grants them. I thought first of Mrs. Neuchatel speaking to him, but my wife will never interfere in anything in which money is concerned; then I thought Adriana might express a hope when they were walking in the garden, but now that is all over; and so you alone remain. I have great confidence in you," added Mr. Neuchatel, "I think you would do it very well. Besides, my lord rather likes you, for I have observed him often go and sit by you at parties, at our house."
"Yes, he is very high-bred in that," said Myra, gravely and rather sadly; "and the fact of my being a dependent, I have no doubt, influences him."
"We are all dependents in this house," said Mr. Neuchatel with his sweetest smile; "and I depend upon Miss Ferrars."
Affairs on the whole went on in a promising manner. The weather was delightful, and Lord Roehampton came down to Hainault just in time for dinner, the day after their arrival, and in the highest spirits. He seemed to be enjoying a real holiday; body and mind were in a like state of expansion; he was enchanted with the domain; he was delighted with the mansion, everything pleased and gratified him, and he pleased and gratified everybody. The party consisted only of themselves, except one of the nephews, with whom indeed Lord Roehampton was already acquainted; a lively youth, a little on the turf, not too much, and this suited Lord Roehampton, who was a statesman of the old aristocratic school, still bred horses, and sometimes ran one, and in the midst of an European crisis could spare an hour to Newmarket. Perhaps it was his only affectation.
Mrs. Neuchatel, by whom he was seated, had the happy gift of conversation; but the party was of that delightful dimension, that it permitted talk to be general. Myra sate next to Lord Roehampton, and he often addressed her. He was the soul of the feast, and yet it is difficult to describe his conversation; it was a medley of graceful whim, interspersed now and then with a very short anecdote of a very famous person, or some deeply interesting reminiscence of some critical event. Every now and then he appealed to Adriana, who sate opposite to him in the round table, and she trusted that her irrepressible smiles would not be interpreted into undue encouragement.
Lord Roehampton had no objection to meet Prince Florestan, provided there were no other strangers, and the incognito was observed. He rather welcomed the proposal, observing he liked to know public men personally; so, you can judge of their calibre, which you never can do from books and newspapers, or the oral reports of their creatures or their enemies. And so on the next day Colonel Albert was expected.
Lord Roehampton did not appear till luncheon; he had received so many boxes from Downing Street which required his attention. "Business will follow one," he said; "yesterday I thought I had baffled it. I do not like what I shall do without my secretaries. I think I shall get you young ladies to assist me."
"You cannot have better secretaries," said Mr. Neuchatel; "Miss Ferrars often helps me."
Then what was to be done after luncheon? Would he ride, or would he drive? And where should they drive and ride to? But Lord Roehampton did not much care to drive, and was tired of riding. He would rather walk and ramble about Hainault. He wanted to see the place, and the forest and the fern, and perhaps hear one of those nightingales that they had talked of in Portland Place. But Mrs. Neuchatel did not care to walk, and Mr. Neuchatel, though it was a holiday in the City, had a great many letters to write, and so somehow or other it ended in Lord Roehampton and the two young ladies walking out together, and remaining so long and so late, that Mrs. Neuchatel absolutely contemplated postponing the dinner hour.
"We shall just be in time, dear Mrs. Neuchatel," said Myra; "Lord Roehampton has gone up to his rooms. We have heard a nightingale, and Lord Roehampton insisted upon our sitting on the trunk of a tree till it ceased—and it never ceased."
Colonel Albert, who had arrived, was presented to Lord Roehampton before dinner. Lord Roehampton received him with stately courtesy. As Myra watched, not without interest, the proceeding, she could scarcely believe, as she marked the lofty grace and somewhat haughty mien of Lord Roehampton, that it could be the same being of frolic and fancy, and even tender sentiment, with whom she had been passing the preceding hours.
Colonel Albert sate next to Myra at dinner, and Lord Roehampton between Mrs. Neuchatel and her daughter. His manner was different to-day, not less pleased and pleasing, but certainly more restrained. He encouraged Mrs. Neuchatel to occupy the chief part in conversation, and whispered to Adriana, who became somewhat uneasy; but the whispers mainly consisted of his delight in their morning adventures. When he remarked that it was one of the most agreeable days of his life, she became a little alarmed. Then he addressed Colonel Albert across the table, and said that he had heard from Mr. Neuchatel that the colonel had been in America, and asked some questions about public men, which brought him out. Colonel Albert answered with gentleness and modesty, never at any length, but in language which indicated, on all the matters referred to, thought and discrimination.
"I suppose their society is like the best society in Manchester?" said Lord Roehampton.
"It varies in different cities," said Colonel Albert. "In some there is considerable culture, and then refinement of life always follows."
"Yes, but whatever they may be, they will always be colonial. What is colonial necessarily lacks originality. A country that borrows its language, its laws, and its religion, cannot have its inventive powers much developed. They got civilised very soon, but their civilisation was second-hand."
"Perhaps their inventive powers may develop themselves in other ways," said the prince. "A nation has a fixed quantity of invention, and it will make itself felt."
"At present," said Lord Roehampton, "the Americans, I think, employ their invention in imaginary boundary lines. They are giving us plenty of trouble now about Maine."
After dinner they had some music; Lord Roehampton would not play whist. He insisted on comparing the voices of his companions with that of the nightingales of the morning. He talked a great deal to Adriana, and Colonel Albert, in the course of the evening much to Myra, and about her brother. Lord Roehampton more than once had wished to tell her, as he had already told Miss Neuchatel, how delightful had been their morning; but on every occasion he had found her engaged with the colonel.
"I rather like your prince," he had observed to Mr. Neuchatel, as they came from the dining-room. "He never speaks without thinking; very reserved, I apprehend. They say, an inveterate conspirator."
"He has had enough of that," said Mr. Neuchatel. "I believe he wants to be quiet."
"That class of man is never quiet," said Lord Roehampton.
"But what can he do?" said Mr. Neuchatel.
"What can he not do? Half Europe is in a state of chronic conspiracy."
"You must keep us right, my dear lord. So long as you are in Downing Street I shall sleep at nights."
"Miss Ferrars," said Lord Roehampton abruptly to Mr. Neuchatel, "must have been the daughter of William Ferrars, one of my great friends in old days. I never knew it till to-day, and she did not tell me, but it flashed across me from something she said."
"Yes, she is his daughter, and is in mourning for him at this moment. She has had sorrows," said Mr. Neuchatel. "I hope they have ceased. It was one of the happiest days of my life when she entered this family."
"Ah!" said Lord Roehampton.
The next day, after they had examined the famous stud and stables, there was a riding party, and in the evening Colonel Albert offered to perform some American conjuring tricks, of which he had been speaking in the course of the day. This was a most wonderful performance, and surprised and highly amused everybody. Colonel Albert was the last person who they expected would achieve such marvels; he was so quiet, not to say grave. They could hardly credit that he was the same person as he poured floods of flowers over Myra from her own borrowed pocket-handkerchief, and without the slightest effort or embarrassment, robbed Lord Roehampton of his watch, and deposited it in Adriana's bosom. It was evident that he was a complete master of slight-of-hand.
"Characteristic!" murmured Lord Roehampton to himself.
It was the day after this, that Myra being in the music room and alone, Lord Roehampton opened the door, looked in, and then said, "Where is Miss Neuchatel?"
"I think she is on the terrace."
"Let us try to find her, and have one of our pleasant strolls. I sadly want one, for I have been working very hard all this morning, and half the night."
"I will be with you, Lord Roehampton, in a moment."
"Do not let us have anybody else," he said, as she left the room.
They were soon on the terrace, but Adriana was not there.
"We must find her," said Lord Roehampton; "you know her haunts. Ah! what a delight it is to be in this air and this scene after those dreadful boxes! I wish they would turn us out. I think they must soon."
"Now for the first time," said Myra, "Lord Roehampton is not sincere."
"Then you think me always sincere?" he replied.
"I have no reason to think you otherwise."
"That is very true," said Lord Roehampton, "truer perhaps than you imagine." Then rather abruptly he said, "You know Colonel Albert very well?"
"Pretty well. I have seen him here frequently, and he is also a friend of my brother."
"Ah! a friend of your brother." Then, after a slight pause, he said, "He is an interesting man."
"I think so," said Myra. "You know all about him, of course."
"Well, he looks unhappy, I think, and worn."
"One is never worn when one is young," said Lord Roehampton.
"He must have great anxieties and great sorrows," said Myra. "I cannot imagine a position more unfortunate than that of an exiled prince."
"I can," said Lord Roehampton. "To have the feelings of youth and the frame of age."
Myra was silent, one might say dumbfounded. She had just screwed herself up to the task which Mr. Neuchatel had imposed on her, and was about to appeal to the good offices of Lord Roehampton in favour of the prince, when he had indulged in a remark which was not only somewhat strange, but from the manner in which it was introduced hardly harmonised with her purpose.
"Yes, I would give up everything," said Lord Roehampton. "I would even be an exile to be young; to hear that Miss Ferrars deems me interesting and good-looking, though worn."
"What is going to happen?" thought Myra. "Will the earth open to receive me?"
"You are silent," said Lord Roehampton. "You will not speak, you will not sigh, you will not give a glance of consolation or even pity. But I have spoken too much not to say more. Beautiful, fascinating being, let me at least tell you of my love."
Myra could not speak, but put her left hand to her face. Gently taking her other hand, Lord Roehampton pressed it to his lips. "From the first moment I met you, my heart was yours. It was love at first sight; indeed I believe in no other. I was amused with the projects of my friend, and I availed myself of them, but not unfairly. No one can accuse me of trifling with the affections of your sweet companion, and I must do her the justice to say that she did everything to convince me that she shrank from my attentions. But her society was an excuse to enjoy yours. I was an habitual visitor in town that I might cherish my love, and, dare I say it, I came down here to declare it. Do not despise it, dearest of women; it is not worthy of you, but it is not altogether undeserving. It is, as you kindly believed it,—it is sincere!"
On the following day, Mr. Neuchatel had good-naturedly invited Endymion down to Hainault, and when he arrived there, a servant informed him that Miss Ferrars wished to see him in her room.
It was a long interview and an agitated one, and when she had told her tale, and her brother had embraced her, she sat for a time in silence, holding his hand, and intimating, that, for a while, she wished that neither of them should speak. Suddenly, she resumed, and said, "Now you know all, dear darling; it is so sudden, and so strange, that you must be almost as much astounded as gratified. What I have sighed for, and prayed for—what, in moments of inspiration, I have sometimes foreseen—has happened. Our degradation is over. I seem to breathe for the first time for many years. I see a career, ay, and a great one; and what is far more important, I see a career for you."
"At this moment, dear Myra, think only of yourself."
"You are myself," she replied, rather quickly, "never more so than at this moment;" and then she said in a tone more subdued, and even tender, "Lord Roehampton has every quality and every accident of life that I delight in; he has intellect, eloquence, courage, great station and power; and, what I ought perhaps more to consider, though I do not, a sweet disposition and a tender heart. There is every reason why we should be happy—yes, very happy. I am sure I shall sympathise with him; perhaps, I may aid him; at least, he thinks so. He is the noblest of men. The world will talk of the disparity of our years; but Lord Roehampton says that he is really the younger of the two, and I think he is right. My pride, my intense pride, never permitted to me any levity of heart."
"And when is it to happen?" inquired Endymion.
"Not immediately. I could not marry till a year had elapsed after our great sorrow; and it is more agreeable, even to him, that our union should be delayed till the session is over. He wants to leave England; go abroad; have a real holiday. He has always had a dream of travelling in Spain; well, we are to realise the dream. If we could get off at the end of July, we might go to Paris, and then to Madrid, and travel in Andalusia in the autumn, and then catch the packet at Gibraltar, and get home just in time for the November cabinets."
"Dear Myra! how wonderful it all seems!" involuntarily exclaimed Endymion.
"Yes, but more wonderful things will happen. We have now got a lever to move the world. Understand, my dear Endymion, that nothing is to be announced at present. It will be known only to this family, and the Penruddocks. I am bound to tell them, even immediately; they are friends that never can be forgotten. I have always kept up my correspondence with Mrs. Penruddock. Besides, I shall tell her in confidence, and she is perfectly to be depended on. I am going to ask my lord to let Mr. Penruddock marry us."
"Oh! that will be capital," said Endymion.
"There is another person, by the by, who must know it, at least my lord says so," said Myra, "and that is Lady Montfort; you have heard of that lady and her plans. Well, she must be told—at least, sooner or later. She will be annoyed, and she will hate me. I cannot help it; every one is hated by somebody."
During the three months that had to elapse before the happy day, several incidents occurred that ought to be noted. In the first place, Lady Montfort, though disappointed and very much astonished, bore the communication from Lord Roehampton more kindly than he had anticipated. Lord Roehampton made it by letter, and his letters to women were more happy even than his despatches to ministers, and they were unrivalled. He put the matter in the most skilful form. Myra had been born in a social position not inferior to his own, and was the daughter of one of his earliest political friends. He did not dilate too much on her charms and captivating qualities, but sufficiently for the dignity of her who was to become his wife. And then he confessed to Lady Montfort how completely his heart and happiness were set on Lady Roehampton being welcomed becomingly by his friends; he was well aware, that in these matters things did not always proceed as one could wish, but this was the moment, and this the occasion, to test a friend, and he believed he had the dearest, the most faithful, the most fascinating, and the most powerful in Lady Montfort.
"Well, we must put the best face upon it," exclaimed that lady; "he was always romantic. But, as he says, or thinks, what is the use of friends if they do not help you in a scrape?"
So Lady Montfort made the acquaintance of Myra, and welcomed her new acquaintance cordially. She was too fine a judge of beauty and deportment not to appreciate them, even when a little prejudice lurked behind. She was amused also, and a little gratified, by being in the secret; presented Myra with a rare jewel, and declared that she should attend the wedding; though when the day arrived, she was at Princedown, and could not, unfortunately, leave her lord.
About the end of June, a rather remarkable paragraph appeared in the journal of society:
"We understand that His Royal Highness Prince Florestan, who has been for some little time in this country, has taken the mansion in Carlton Gardens, recently occupied by the Marquis of Katterfelto. The mansion is undergoing very considerable repairs, but it is calculated that it will be completed in time for the reception of His Royal Highness by the end of the autumn; His Royal Highness has taken the extensive moors of Dinniewhiskie for the coming season."
In the earlier part of July, the approaching alliance of the Earl of Roehampton with Miss Ferrars, the only daughter of the late Right Honourable William Pitt Ferrars, of Hurstley Hall, in the county of Berks, was announced, and great was the sensation, and innumerable the presents instantly ordered.
But on no one did the announcement produce a greater effect than on Zenobia; that the daughter of her dearest friend should make so interesting and so distinguished an alliance was naturally most gratifying to her. She wrote to Myra a most impassioned letter, as if they had only separated yesterday, and a still longer and more fervent one to Lord Roehampton; Zenobia and he had been close friends in other days, till he wickedly changed his politics, and was always in office and Zenobia always out. This was never to be forgiven. But the bright lady forgot all this now, and sent to Myra the most wondrous bracelet of precious stones, in which the word "Souvenir" was represented in brilliants, rubies, and emeralds.
"For my part," said Myra to Endymion, "my most difficult task are the bridesmaids. I am to have so many, and know so few. I feel like a recruiting sergeant. I began to Adriana, but my lord helps me very much out of his family, and says, when we have had a few family dinners, all will be right."
Endymion did not receive the banter he expected at the office. The event was too great for a jest. Seymour Hicks, with a serious countenance, said Ferrars might get anywhere now,—all the ministerial receptions of course. Jawett said there would be no ministerial receptions soon; they were degrading functions. Clear-headed Trenchard congratulated him quietly, and said, "I do not think you will stay much longer among us, but we shall always remember you with interest."
At last the great day arrived, and at St. George's, Hanover Square, the Right Honourable the Earl of Roehampton, K.G., was united to Miss Ferrars. Mr. Penruddock joined their hands. His son Nigel had been invited to assist him, but did not appear, though Myra had written to him. The great world assembled in force, and Endymion observed Mr. and Mrs. Rodney and Imogene in the body of the church. After the ceremony there was an entertainment in Portland Place, and the world ate ortolans and examined the presents. These were remarkable for number and splendour. Myra could not conceal her astonishment at possessing so many friends; but it was the fashion for all Lord Roehampton's acquaintance to make him offerings, and to solicit his permission to present gifts to his bride. Mr. Neuchatel placed on her brow a diamond tiara, and Mrs. Neuchatel encircled her neck with one of her diamond necklaces. "I should like to give the other one to Adriana," she observed, "but Adriana says that nothing will ever induce her to wear jewels." Prince Florestan presented Lady Roehampton with a vase which had belonged to his mother, and which had been painted by Boucher for Marie Antoinette. It was matchless, and almost unique.
Not long after this, Lord Beaumaris, with many servants and many guns, took Waldershare and Endymion down with him to Scotland.
The end of the season is a pang to society. More hopes have been baffled than realised. There is something melancholy in the last ball, though the music ever seems louder, and the lights more glaring than usual. Or it may be, the last entertainment is that hecatomb they call a wedding breakfast, which celebrates the triumph of a rival. That is pleasant. Society, to do it justice, struggles hard to revive in other scenes the excitement that has expired. It sails to Cowes, it scuds to bubbling waters in the pine forests of the continent, it stalks even into Scotland; but it is difficult to restore the romance that has been rudely disturbed, and to gather again together the threads of the intrigue that have been lost in the wild flight of society from that metropolis, which is now described as "a perfect desert"—that is to say, a park or so, two or three squares, and a dozen streets where society lives; where it dines, and dances, and blackballs, and bets, and spouts.
But to the world in general, the mighty million, to the professional classes, to all men of business whatever, the end of the season is the beginning of carnival. It is the fulfilment of the dream over which they have been brooding for ten months, which has sustained them in toil, lightened anxiety, and softened even loss. It is air, it is health, it is movement, it is liberty, it is nature—earth, sea, lake, moor, forest, mountain, and river. From the heights of the Engadine to Margate Pier, there is equal rapture, for there is an equal cessation of routine.
Few enjoy a holiday more than a young clerk in a public office, who has been bred in a gentle home, and enjoyed in his boyhood all the pastimes of gentlemen. Now he is ever toiling, with an uncertain prospect of annual relaxation, and living hardly. Once on a time, at the paternal hall, he could shoot, or fish, or ride, every day of his life, as a matter of course; and now, what would he not give for a good day's sport? Such thoughts had frequently crossed the mind of Endymion when drudging in London during the autumn, and when all his few acquaintances were away. It was, therefore, with no ordinary zest that he looked forward to the unexpected enjoyment of an unstinted share of some of the best shooting in the United Kingdom. And the relaxation and the pastime came just at the right moment, when the reaction, from all the excitement attendant on the marvellous change in his sister's position, would have made him, deprived of her consoling society, doubly sensible of his isolated position.
It so happened that the moors of Lord Beaumaris were contiguous to the celebrated shootings of Dinniewhiskie, which were rented by Prince Florestan, and the opportunity now offered which Waldershare desired of making the acquaintance of the prince in an easy manner. Endymion managed this cleverly. Waldershare took a great fancy to the prince. He sympathised with him, and imparted to Endymion his belief that they could not do a better thing than devote their energies to a restoration of his rights. Lord Beaumaris, who hated foreigners, but who was always influenced by Waldershare, also liked the prince, and was glad to be reminded by his mentor that Florestan was half an Englishman, not to say a whole one, for he was an Eton boy. What was equally influential with Lord Beaumaris was, that the prince was a fine shot, and indeed a consummate sportsman, and had in his manners that calm which is rather unusual with foreigners, and which is always pleasing to an English aristocrat. So in time they became intimate, sported much together, and visited each other at their respective quarters. The prince was never alone. What the county paper described as distinguished foreigners were perpetually paying him visits, long or short, and it did not generally appear that these visits were influenced by a love of sport. One individual, who arrived shortly after the prince, remained, and, as was soon known, was to remain permanently. This was a young gentleman, short and swarthy, with flashing eyes and a black moustache, known by the name of the Duke of St. Angelo, but who was really only a cadet of that illustrious house. The Duke of St. Angelo took the management of the household of the prince—was evidently the controller; servants trembled at his nod, and he rode any horse he liked; he invited guests, and arranged the etiquette of the interior. He said one day very coolly to Waldershare: "I observe that Lord Beaumaris and his friends never rise when the prince moves."
"Why should we?"
"His rank is recognised and guaranteed by the Treaty of Vienna," said the Duke of St. Angelo, with an arrogant air.
"His princely rank," replied Waldershare, "but not his royalty."
"That is a mere refinement," said the duke contemptuously.
"On the contrary, a clear distinction, and specifically made in the treaty. I do not think the prince himself would desire such a ceremony, and let me recommend you, duke," added Waldershare, "not to go out of your way to insist on these points. They will not increase the prince's popularity."
"The time will come, and before long, when the Treaty of Vienna, with its clear distinctions, will be at the bottom of the Red Sea," said the Duke of St. Angelo, "and then no one will sit when His Majesty rises."
"Amen!" said Waldershare. "All diplomacy since the Treaty of Utrecht seems to me to be fiddle-faddle, and the country rewarded the great man who made that treaty by an attainder."
Endymion returned to town towards the end of September, Waldershare went to Paris, and Lord Beaumaris and the prince, who had become intimate, repaired together to Conington, the seat of Lord Beaumaris, to kill pheasants. Even the Rodneys, who had gone to the Rhine this year, had not returned. Endymion had only the society of his fellow clerks. He liked Trenchard, who was acute, full of official information, and of gentle breeding. Still it must be confessed that Endymion felt the change in his society. Seymour Hicks was hardly a fit successor to Waldershare, and Jawett's rabid abstractions on government were certainly not so interesting as la haute politique of the Duke of St. Angelo. Were it not for the letters which he constantly received from his sister, he would have felt a little despondent. As it was, he renewed his studies in his pleasant garret, trained himself in French and German, and got up several questions for the Union.
The month seemed very long, but it was not unprofitably spent. The Rodneys were still absent. They had not returned as they had intended direct to England, but had gone to Paris to meet Mr. Waldershare.
At the end of October there was a semi-official paragraph announcing the approaching meeting of the Cabinet, and the movements of its members. Some were in the north, and some were in the south; some were killing the last grouse, and some, placed in green ridings, were blazing in battues. But all were to be at their post in ten days, and there was a special notification that intelligence had been received of the arrival of Lord and Lady Roehampton at Gibraltar.
Lady Roehampton, in her stately mansion in St. James' Square, found life very different from what she had experienced in her Andalusian dream. For three months she had been the constant companion of one of the most fascinating of men, whose only object had been to charm and delight her. And in this he had entirely succeeded. From the moment they arrived in London, however, they seemed to be separated, and although when they met, there was ever a sweet smile and a kind and playful word for her, his brow, if not oppressed with care, was always weighty with thought. Lord Roehampton was little at his office; he worked in a spacious chamber on the ground floor of his private residence, and which was called the Library, though its literature consisted only of Hansard, volumes of state papers, shelves of treatises, and interminable folios of parliamentary reports. He had not been at home a week before the floor of the apartment was literally covered with red boxes, all containing documents requiring attention, and which messengers were perpetually bringing or carrying away. Then there were long meetings of the Cabinet almost daily, and daily visits from ambassadors and foreign ministers, which prevented the transaction of the current business, and rendered it necessary that Lord Roehampton should sit up late in his cabinet, and work sometimes nearly till the hours of dawn. There had been of course too some arrears of business, for secretaries of state cannot indulge with impunity in Andalusian dreams, but Lord Roehampton was well served. His under-secretaries of state were capable and experienced men, and their chief had not been altogether idle in his wanderings. He had visited Paris, and the capital of France in those days was the capital of diplomacy. The visit of Lord Roehampton had settled some questions which might have lingered for years, and had given him that opportunity of personal survey which to a statesman is invaluable.
Although it was not the season, the great desert had, comparatively speaking, again become peopled. There were many persons in town, and they all called immediately on Lady Roehampton. The ministerial families and the diplomatic corps alone form a circle, but there is also a certain number of charming people who love London in November, and lead there a wondrous pleasant life of real amusement, until their feudal traditions and their domestic duties summon them back to their Christmas homes.
Lord and Lady Roehampton gave constant dinners, and after they had tried two or three, he expressed his wish to his wife that she should hold a small reception after these dinners. He was a man of great tact, and he wished to launch his wife quietly and safely on the social ocean. "There is nothing like practising before Christmas, my love," he would say; "you will get your hand in, and be able to hold regular receptions in the spring." And he was quite right. The dinners became the mode, and the assemblies were eagerly appreciated. The Secretary of the Treasury whispered to an Under-Secretary of State,—"This marriage was a coup. We have got another house."
Myra had been a little anxious about the relations between Lord Roehampton and her brother. She felt, with a woman's instinct, that her husband might not be overpleased by her devotion to Endymion, and she could not resist the conviction that the disparity of age which is easily forgotten in a wife, and especially in a wife who adores you, assumes a different, and somewhat distasteful character, when a great statesman is obliged to recognise it in the shape of a boyish brother-in-law. But all went right, for the sweetness of Lord Roehampton's temper was inexhaustible. Endymion had paid several visits to St. James' square before Myra could seize the opportunity, for which she was ever watching, to make her husband and her brother acquainted.
"And so you are one of us," said Lord Roehampton, with his sweetest smile and in his most musical tone, "and in office. We must try to give you a lift." And then he asked Endymion who was his chief, and how he liked him, and then he said, "A good deal depends on a man's chief. I was under your grandfather when I first entered parliament, and I never knew a pleasanter man to do business with. He never made difficulties; he always encouraged one. A younker likes that."
Lady Roehampton was desirous of paying some attention to all those who had been kind to her brother; particularly Mr. Waldershare and Lord Beaumaris—and she wished to invite them to her house. "I am sure Waldershare would like to come," said Endymion, "but Lord Beaumaris, I know, never goes anywhere, and I have myself heard him say he never would."
"Yes, my lord was telling me Lord Beaumaris was quite farouche, and it is feared that we may lose him. That would be sad," said Myra, "for he is powerful."
"I should like very much if you could give me a card for Mr. Trenchard," said Endymion; "he is not in society, but he is quite a gentleman."
"You shall have it, my dear. I have always liked Mr. Trenchard, and I dare say, some day or other, he may be of use to you."
The Neuchatels were not in town, but Myra saw them frequently, and Mr. Neuchatel often dined in St. James' Square—but the ladies always declined every invitation of the kind. They came up from Hainault to see Myra, but looked as if nothing but their great affection would prompt such a sacrifice, and seemed always pining for Arcadia. Endymion, however, not unfrequently continued his Sunday visits to Hainault, to which Mr. Neuchatel had given him a general welcome. This young gentleman, indeed, soon experienced a considerable change in his social position. Invitations flocked to him, and often from persons whom he did not know, and who did not even know him. He went by the name of Lady Roehampton's brother, and that was a sufficient passport.
"We are trying to get up a carpet dance to-night," said Belinda to a fair friend. "What men are in town?"
"Well, there is Mr. Waldershare, who has just left me."
"I have asked him.
"Then there is Lord Willesden and Henry Grantley—I know they are passing through town—and there is the new man, Lady Roehampton's brother."
"I will send to Lord Willesden and Henry Grantley immediately, and perhaps you will send a card, which I will write here, for me to the new man."
And in this way Mr. Ferrars soon found that he was what is called "everywhere."
One of the most interesting acquaintances that Lady Roehampton made was a colleague of her husband, and that was Mr. Sidney Wilton, once the intimate friend of her father. He had known herself and her brother when they were children, indeed from the cradle. Mr. Sidney Wilton was in the perfection of middle life, and looked young for his years. He was tall and pensive, and naturally sentimental, though a long political career, for he had entered the House of Commons for the family borough the instant he was of age, had brought to this susceptibility a salutary hardness. Although somewhat alienated from the friend of his youth by the course of affairs, for Mr. Sidney Wilton had followed Lord Roehampton, while Mr. Ferrars had adhered to the Duke of Wellington, he had not neglected Ferrars in his fall, but his offers of assistance, frankly and generously made, had been coldly though courteously rejected, and no encouragement had been given to the maintenance of their once intimate acquaintance.
Mr. Sidney Wilton was much struck by the appearance of Lady Roehampton. He tried to compare the fulfilment of her promise with the beautiful and haughty child whom he used to wonder her parents so extravagantly spoiled. Her stature was above the average height of women and finely developed and proportioned. But it was in the countenance—in the pellucid and commanding brow, the deep splendour of her dark blue eyes softened by long lashes, her short upper lip, and the rich profusion of her dark chestnut hair—that his roused memory recalled the past; and he fell into a mood of agitated contemplation.
The opportunities which he enjoyed of cultivating her society were numerous, and Mr. Wilton missed none. He was frequently her guest, and being himself the master of a splendid establishment, he could offer her a hospitality which every one appreciated. Lord Roehampton was peculiarly his political chief, and they had always been socially intimate. As the trusted colleague of her husband—as one who had known her in her childhood, and as himself a man singularly qualified, by his agreeable conversation and tender and deferential manner, to make his way with women—Mr. Sidney Wilton had no great difficulty, particularly in that happy demi-season which precedes Christmas, in establishing relations of confidence and intimacy with Lady Roehampton.
The cabinets were over: the government had decided on their measures, and put them in a state of preparation, and they were about to disperse for a month. The seat of Lord Roehampton was in the extreme north of England, and a visit to it was inconvenient at this moment, and especially at this season. The department of Lord Roehampton was very active at this time, and he was unwilling that the first impression by his wife of her future home should be experienced at a season little favourable to the charms of a northern seat. Mr. Sidney Wilton was the proprietor of the most beautiful and the most celebrated villa in England; only twenty miles from town, seated on a wooded crest of the swan-crowned Thames, with gardens of delight, and woods full of pheasants, and a terrace that would have become a court, glancing over a wide expanse of bower and glade, studded with bright halls and delicate steeples, and the smoke of rural homes.
It was arranged that Lord and Lady Roehampton should pass their Christmas at Gaydene with Mr. Sidney Wilton, stay as long as they liked, go where they chose, but make it their headquarters. It was a most successful visit; for a great deal of business was done, as well as pleasure enjoyed. The ambassadors, who were always a little uneasy at Christmas when everybody is away, and themselves without country homes, were all invited down for that week. Lord Roehampton used to give them audiences after the shooting parties. He thought it was a specific against their being too long. He used to say, "The first dinner-bell often brings things to a point." After Christmas there was an ever-varying stream of company, chiefly official and parliamentary. The banquet and the battue did not always settle the business, the clause, or the schedule, which the guests often came down to Gaydene ostensibly to accomplish, but they sent men back to town with increased energy and good humour, and kept the party in heart. Towards the end of the month the premier came down, and for him the Blue Ribbon Covert had been reserved, though he really cared little for sport. It was an eighteenth century tradition that knights of the garter only had been permitted to shoot this choice preserve, but Mr. Sidney Wilton, in this advanced age, did not of course revive such an ultra-exclusive practice, and he was particular in arranging the party to include Mr. Jorrocks. This was a Radical member to whom considerable office had been given at the reconstruction of 1835, when it was necessary that the Whigs should conciliate the Mountain. He was a pretentious, underbred, half-educated man, fluent with all the commonplaces of middle-class ambition, which are humorously called democratic opinions, but at heart a sycophant of the aristocracy. He represented, however, a large and important constituency, and his promotion was at first looked upon as a masterpiece of management. The Mountain, who knew Jorrocks by heart, and felt that they had in their ranks men in every sense his superior, and that he could be no representative of their intelligence and opinions, and so by degrees prepare for their gradual admission to the sacred land, at first sulked over the promotion of their late companion, and only did not publicly deride it from the feeling that by so doing they might be playing the game of the ministry. At the time of which we are writing, having become extremely discontented and wishing to annoy the government, they even affected dissatisfaction at the subordinate position which Jorrocks occupied in the administration, and it was generally said—had become indeed the slang of the party—that the test of the sincerity of the ministry to Liberal principles was to put Jorrocks in the cabinet. The countenance of the premier when this choice programme was first communicated to him was what might have been expected had he learnt of the sudden descent upon this isle of an invading force, and the Secretary of the Treasury whispered in confidence to one or two leaders of the Mountain, "that if they did not take care they would upset the government."
"That is exactly what we want to do," was the reply.
So it will be seen that the position of the ministry, previous to the meeting of parliament in 1839, was somewhat critical. In the meantime, its various members, who knew their man, lavished every practicable social attention on Jorrocks. The dinners they gave him were doubled; they got their women to call on his women; and Sidney Wilton, a member of an illustrious garter family, capped the climax by appointing him one of the party to shoot the Blue Ribbon Covert.
Mr. Wilton had invited Endymion to Gaydene, and, as his stay there could only be brief, had even invited him to repeat the visit. He was, indeed, unaffectedly kind to one whom he remembered so young, and was evidently pleased with him.
One evening, a day or two before the break-up of the party, while some charming Misses Playfellow, with an impudent brother, who all lived in the neighbourhood, were acting charades, Mr. Wilton said to Lady Roehampton, by whose side he was sitting in the circle—
"I have had a very busy morning about my office. There is to be a complete revolution in it. The whole system is to be reconstructed; half the present people are to be pensioned off, and new blood is to be introduced. It struck me that this might be an opening for your brother. He is in the public service—that is something; and as there are to be so many new men, there will be no jealousy as to his promotion. If you will speak to him about it, and he likes it, I will appoint him one of the new clerks; and then, if he also likes it, he shall be my private secretary. That will give him position, and be no mean addition to his income, you know, if we last—but that depends, I suppose, on Mr. Jorrocks."
Lady Roehampton communicated all this to her brother on her return to London. "It is exactly what I wished," she said. "I wanted you to be private secretary to a cabinet minister, and if I were to choose any one, except, of course, my lord, it would be Mr. Wilton. He is a perfect gentleman, and was dear papa's friend. I understand you will have three hundred a year to begin with, and the same amount as his secretary. You ought to be able to live with ease and propriety on six hundred a year—and this reminds me of what I have been thinking of before we went to Gaydene. I think now you ought to have a more becoming residence. The Rodneys are good people, I do not doubt, and I dare say we shall have an opportunity of proving our sense of their services; but they are not exactly the people that I care for you to live with, and, at any rate, you cannot reside any longer in a garret. I have taken some chambers in the Albany, therefore, for you, and they shall be my contribution to your housekeeping. They are not badly furnished, but they belonged to an old general officer, and are not very new-fashioned; but we will go together and see them to-morrow, and I dare say I shall soon be able to make them comme il faut."
This considerable rise in the life of Endymion, after the first excitement occasioned by its announcement to him had somewhat subsided, was not contemplated by him with unmixed feelings of satisfaction. It seemed to terminate many relations of life, the value of which he had always appreciated, but which now, with their impending conclusion, he felt, and felt keenly, had absolutely contributed to his happiness. There was no great pang in quitting his fellow-clerks, except Trenchard, whom he greatly esteemed. But poor little Warwick Street had been to him a real home, if unvarying kindness, and sedulous attention, and the affection of the eyes and heart, as well as of the mouth, can make a hearth. He hoped he might preserve the friendship of Waldershare, which their joint intimacy with the prince would favour; but still he could hardly flatter himself that the delightful familiarity of their past lives could subsist. Endymion sighed, and then he sighed again. He felt sad. Because he was leaving the humble harbour of refuge, the entrance to which, even in the darkest hour of his fallen fortunes, was thought somewhat of an indignity, and was about to assume a position which would not have altogether misbecome the earliest expectations of his life? That seems unreasonable; but mankind, fortunately, are not always governed by reason, but by sentiment, and often by very tender sentiment.
When Endymion, sitting in his little room, analysed his feelings, he came to the conclusion that his sadness was occasioned by his having to part from Imogene. It often requires an event in life, and an unexpected one, to make us clearly aware of the existence of feelings which have long influenced us. Never having been in a position in which the possibility of uniting his fate to another could cross his mind for a moment, he had been content with the good fortune which permitted a large portion of his life to be passed in the society of a woman who, unconsciously both to him and to herself, had fascinated him. The graceful child who, four or five years ago, had first lit him to his garret, without losing any of her rare and simple ingenuousness, had developed into a beautiful and accomplished woman. There was a strong resemblance between Imogene and her sister, but Imogene was a brunette. Her countenance indicated far more intellect and character than that of Sylvia. Her brow was delicately pencilled and finely arched, and her large dark eyes gleamed with a softness and sweetness of expression, which were irresistibly attractive, and seemed to indicate sympathy with everything that was good and beautiful. Her features were not so regular as her sister's; but when she smiled, her face was captivating.
Endymion had often listened, half with fondness and half with scepticism, to Waldershare dilating, according to his wont, on the high character and qualities of Imogene, whom he persisted in believing he was preparing for a great career. "How it will come about I cannot say," he would remark; "but it will come. If my legitimate sovereign were on the throne, and I in the possession of my estates, which were graciously presented by the usurper to the sausage-makers, or some other choice middle-class corporation, I would marry her myself. But that is impossible. That would only be asking her to share my ruin. I want her to live in palaces, and perhaps, in my decline of life, make me her librarian, like Casanova. I should be content to dine in her hall every day beneath the salt, and see her enter with her state, amid the flourish of trumpets." And now, strange to say, Endymion was speculating on the fate of Imogene, and, as he thought, in a more practical spirit. Six hundred a year, he thought, was not a very large income; but it was an income, and one which a year ago he never contemplated possessing until getting grey in the public service. Why not realise perfect happiness at once? He could conceive no bliss greater than living with Imogene in one of those little villas, even if semi-detached, which now are numbered by tens of thousands, and which were then beginning to shoot out their suburban antennae in every direction of our huge metropolis. He saw her in his mind's eye in a garden of perpetual sunshine, breathing of mignonette and bright with roses, and waiting for him as he came down from town and his daily labours, in the cheap and convenient omnibus. What a delightful companion to welcome him! How much to tell her, and how much to listen to! And then their evenings with a delicious book or some delightful music! What holidays, too, of romantic adventure! The vine-clad Rhine, perhaps Switzerland; at any rate, the quaint old cities of Flanders, and the winding valley of the Meuse. They could live extremely well on six hundred a year, yes, with all the real refinements of existence. And all their genuine happiness was to be sacrificed for utterly fantastic and imaginary gratifications, which, if analysed, would be found only to be efforts to amuse and astonish others.
It did not yet occur to Endymion that his garden could not always be sunshiny; that cares crop up in villas, even semi-detached, as well as joys; that he would have children, and perhaps too many; that they would be sick, and that doctors' bills would soon put a stop to romantic excursions; that his wife would become exhausted with nursing and clothing and teaching them; that she herself would become an invalid, and moped to death; that his resources would every day bear a less proportion to his expenditure; and that wanting money, he would return too often from town a harassed husband to a jaded wife!
Mr. Rodney and Sylvia were at Conington on a visit to Lord Beaumaris, hunting. It was astonishing how Sylvia had ridden to the hounds, mounted on the choicest steeds, and in a scarlet habit which had been presented to her by Mr. Vigo. She had created quite an enthusiasm in the field, and Lord Beaumaris was proud of his guests. When Endymion parted with his sister at the Albany, where they had been examining his rooms, he had repaired to Warwick Street, with some expectation that the Rodneys would have returned from Conington, and he intended to break to his host the impending change in his life. The Rodneys, however, had not arrived, and so he ascended to his room, where he had been employed in arranging his books and papers, and indulging in the reverie which we have indicated. When he came downstairs, wishing to inquire about the probable arrival of his landlord, Endymion knocked at the door of the parlour where they used to assemble, and on entering, found Imogene writing.
"How do you do, Mr. Ferrars?" she said, rising. "I am writing to Sylvia. They are not returning as soon as they intended, and I am to go down to Conington by an early train to-morrow."
"I want to see Mr. Rodney," said Endymion moodily.
"Can I write anything to him, or tell him anything?" said Imogene.
"No," continued Endymion in a melancholy tone. "I can tell you what I wanted to say. But you must be occupied now, going away, and unexpectedly, to-morrow. It seems to me that every one is going away."
"Well, we have lost the prince, certainly," said Imogene, "and I doubt whether his rooms will be ever let again."
"Indeed!" said Endymion.
"Well, I only know what Mr. Waldershare tells me. He says that Mr. Rodney and Mr. Vigo have made a great speculation, and gained a great deal of money; but Mr. Rodney never speaks to me of such matters, nor indeed does Sylvia. I am myself very sorry that the prince has gone, for he interested me much."
"Well, I should think Mr. Rodney would not be very sorry to get rid of me then," said Endymion.
"O Mr. Ferrars! why should you say or think such things! I am sure that my brother and sister, and indeed every one in this house, always consider your comfort and welfare before any other object."
"Yes," said Endymion, "you have all been most kind to me, and that makes me more wretched at the prospect of leaving you."
"But there is no prospect of that?"
"A certainty, Imogene; there is going to be a change in my life," and then he told her all.
"Well," said Imogene, "it would be selfish not to be happy at what I hear; but though I hope I am happy, I need not be joyful. I never used to be nervous, but I am afraid I am getting so. All these great changes rather shake me. This adventure of the prince—as Mr. Waldershare says, it is history. Then Miss Myra's great marriage, and your promotion—although they are exactly what we used to dream about, and wished a fairy would accomplish, and somehow felt that, somehow or other, they must happen—yet now they have occurred, one is almost as astounded as delighted. We certainly have been very happy in Warwick Street, at least I have been, all living as it were together. But where shall we be this time next year? All scattered, and perhaps not even the Rodneys under this roof. I know not how it is, but I dread leaving the roof where one has been happy."
"Oh! you know you must leave it one day or other, Imogene. You are sure to marry; that you cannot avoid."
"Well, I am not by any means sure about that," said Imogene. "Mr. Waldershare, in educating me, as he says, as a princess, has made me really neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, nor even that coarser but popular delicacy never forgotten. I could not unite my life with a being who was not refined in mind and in manners, and the men of my class in life, who are the only ones after all who might care to marry me, shock my taste, I am ashamed to say so. I am not sure it is not wicked to think it even; but so it is."
"Why do you not marry Waldershare?" said Endymion.
"That would be madness! I do not know any alliance that could prove more unfortunate. Mr. Waldershare must never marry. All people of imagination, they say, are difficult to live with; but a person who consists solely of imagination, like Mr. Waldershare, who has indeed no other attribute—before a year was past, married, he would fly to the desert or to La Trappe, commit terrible scandals from mere weariness of feeling, write pasquinades against the wife of his bosom, and hold us both up to the fierce laughter of the world. No, no; he is the best, the dearest, and the most romantic of friends; tender as a father, and sometimes as wise, for genius can be everything. He is going to rise early to-morrow, which he particularly dislikes, because he will not let me go to the station alone; though I tell him, as I often tell him, those are the becoming manners of my class."
"But you might meet a person of the refinement you require," said Endymion, "with a moderate and yet a sufficient income, who would not be unworthy of you."
"I doubt it," said Imogene.
"But, do not doubt it, dear Imogene," said Endymion, advancing; "such charms as yours, both of body and of mind, such a companion in life, so refined, so accomplished, and yet endowed with such clear sense, and such a sweet disposition—believe me"——
But at this moment a splendid equipage drove up to the door, with powdered footmen and long canes behind, and then a terrible rap, like the tattoo of a field-marshal.
"Good gracious! what is all this?" exclaimed Imogene.
"It is my sister," said Endymion, blushing; "it is Lady Roehampton."
"I must go to her myself," said Imogene; "I cannot have the servant attend upon your sister."
Endymion remained silent and confused. Imogene was some little time at the carriage-door, for Lady Roehampton had inquiries to make after Sylvia and other courteous things to say, and then Imogene returned, and said to Endymion, "Lady Roehampton wishes you to go with her directly on some particular business."
Endymion liked his new official life very much. Whitehall was a great improvement on Somerset House, and he had sufficient experience of the civil service to duly appreciate the advantage of being permanently quartered in one of the chief departments of the state, instead of obscurely labouring in a subordinate office, with a limited future, and detached from all the keenly interesting details of public life. But it was not this permanent and substantial advantage which occasioned him such lively and such novel pleasure, as the fact of his being a private secretary, and a private secretary to a cabinet minister.
The relations between a minister and his secretary are, or at least should be, among the finest that can subsist between two individuals. Except the married state, there is none in which so great a degree of confidence is involved, in which more forbearance ought to be exercised, or more sympathy ought to exist. There is usually in the relation an identity of interest, and that of the highest kind; and the perpetual difficulties, the alternations of triumph and defeat, develop devotion. A youthful secretary will naturally feel some degree of enthusiasm for his chief, and a wise minister will never stint his regard for one in whose intelligence and honour he finds he can place confidence.
There never was a happier prospect of these relations being established on the most satisfactory basis than in the instance of Endymion and his new master. Mr. Sidney Wilton was a man of noble disposition, fine manners, considerable culture, and was generally gracious. But he was disposed to be more than gracious to Endymion, and when he found that our young friend had a capacity for work—that his perception was quick and clear—that he wrote with facility—never made difficulties—was calm, sedulous, and patient, the interest which Mr. Wilton took in him as the son of William Ferrars, and, we must add, as the brother of Lady Roehampton, became absorbed in the personal regard which the minister soon entertained for his secretary. Mr. Wilton found a pleasure in forming the mind of Endymion to the consideration and comprehension of public affairs; he spoke to him both of men and things without reserve; revealed to him the characters of leading personages on both sides, illustrated their antecedents, and threw light upon their future; taught him the real condition of parties in parliament, rarely to be found in newspapers; and finally, when he was sufficiently initiated, obtained for his secretary a key for his cabinet boxes, which left little of the business of government unknown to Endymion.
Such great confidence, and that exhibited by one who possessed so many winning qualities, excited in the breast of Endymion the most lively feelings of gratitude and respect. He tried to prove them by the vigilant and unwearying labour with which he served his master, and he served him every day more effectually, because every day he became more intimate with the mind and method of Mr. Wilton. Every one to a certain degree is a mannerist; every one has his ways; and a secretary will be assisted in the transaction of business if a vigilant observation has made him acquainted with the idiosyncrasy of his chief.
The regulations of the office which authorise a clerk, appointed to a private secretaryship, to deviate from the routine duties of the department, and devote his time entirely to the special requirements of his master, of course much assisted Endymion, and proved also a pleasant relief, for he had had enough at Somerset House of copying documents and drawing up formal reports. But it was not only at Whitehall that he saw Mr. Wilton, and experienced his kindness. Endymion was a frequent guest under Mr. Wilton's roof, and Mr. Wilton's establishment was one of the most distinguished in London. They met also much in the evenings, and always at Lady Roehampton's, where Mr. Wilton was never absent. Whenever and wherever they met, even if they had been working together the whole morning, Mr. Wilton always greeted Endymion with the utmost consideration—because he knew such a recognition would raise Endymion in the eyes of the social herd, who always observe little things, and generally form from them their opinions of great affairs.
Mr. Wilton was at Charing Cross, on his way to his office, when a lady saluted him from her carriage, which then drew up to the pavement and stopped.
"We have just arrived," said Lady Montfort, "and I want you to give me a little dinner to-day. My lord is going to dine with an Old Bailey lawyer, who amuses him, and I do not like to be left, the first day, on the pave."
"I can give you a rather large dinner, if you care to come," said Mr. Wilton, "but I fear you will not like it. I have got some House of Commons men dining with me to-day, and one or two of the other House to meet them. My sister Georgina has very good-naturedly promised to come, with her husband, and I have just written a note to the Duchess Dowager of Keswick, who often helps me—but I fear this sort of thing would hardly suit you."
"On the contrary, I think it will be very amusing. Only do not put me between two of your colleagues. Anybody amuses me for once. A new acquaintance is like a new book. I prefer it, even if bad, to a classic."
The dinner party to-day at Mr. Wilton's was miscellaneous, and not heterogeneous enough to produce constraint, only to produce a little excitement—some commoners high in office, and the Treasury whip, several manufacturers who stood together in the room, and some metropolitan members. Georgina's husband, who was a lord-in-waiting, and a great swell, in a green riband, moved about with adroit condescension, and was bewitchingly affable. The manufacturing members whispered to each other that it was a wise thing to bring the two Houses together, but when Her Grace the Duchess Dowager of Keswick was announced, they exchanged glances of astounded satisfaction, and felt that the government, which had been thought to be in a somewhat rickety condition, would certainly stand.
Berengaria came a little late, not very. She thought it had been earlier, but it was not. The duchess dowager opened her eyes with wonderment when she beheld Lady Montfort, but the company in general were not in the least aware of the vast social event that was occurring. They were gratified in seeing another fine lady, but did not, of course, rank her with a duchess.
The dinner went off better than Mr. Wilton could have hoped, as it was impossible to place a stranger by Lady Montfort. He sate in the middle of his table with the duchess dowager on his right hand, and Berengaria, who was taken out by the green riband, on the other. As he knew the green riband would be soon exhausted, he devoted himself to Lady Montfort, and left the duchess to her own resources, which were considerable, and she was soon laying down her opinions on men and things to her other neighbours with much effect. The manufacturers talked shop to each other in whispers, that is to say, mixed House of Commons tattle about bills and committees with news from Manchester and Liverpool, and the West Riding. The metropolitan members, then a more cosmopolitan body and highly miscellaneous in their character and pursuits, were louder, and perhaps more easy, even ventured to talk across the table when near its end, and enticed the peers into discussions on foreign politics.
Mr. Sidney Wilton having been delightful, thought it necessary to observe that he feared Lady Montfort had been bored. "I have been, and am, extremely amused," she replied; "and now tell me, who is that young man at the very end of the table?"
"That is my private secretary, Mr. Ferrars."
"A brother of Lady Roehampton."
"Present him to me after dinner."
Endymion knew Lady Montfort by sight, though she did not know him. He had seen her more than once at the receptions of Mrs. Neuchatel, where, as indeed in every place, she was the cynosure. He was much astonished at meeting her at this party to-day,—almost as surprised as the duchess dowager, for Endymion, who was of an observant nature, was beginning to comprehend society and all its numerous elements, and schools, and shades, and classes. When they entered the saloon, Mr. Wilton led Endymion up to Lady Montfort at once, and she immediately inquired after his sister. "Do you think," she said, "Lady Roehampton would see me to-morrow if I called on her?"
"If I were Lady Roehampton, I would," said Endymion.
Lady Montfort looked at him with a glance of curious scrutiny; not smiling, and yet not displeased. "I will write her a little note in the morning," said Lady Montfort thoughtfully. "One may leave cards for ever. Mr. Wilton tells me you are quite his right hand."
"Mr. Wilton is too kind to me," said Endymion. "One could not be excused for not doing one's best for such a master."
"You like people to be kind to you?" said Lady Montfort.
"Well, I have not met with so much kindness in this world as to become insensible to it."
"You are too young to be melancholy," said Lady Montfort; "are you older than Lady Roehampton?"
"We are twins."
"Twins! and wonderfully like too! Is it not thought so?"
"I have sometimes heard it mentioned."
"Oh, it is striking!" said Lady Montfort, and she motioned to him to sit down by her; and then she began to talk politics, and asked him what the members thought at dinner of the prospects of the government, and what he had heard of the malcontent movement that they said was in petto. Endymion replied that Mr. Sharpset, the Secretary of the Treasury, did not think much of it.
"Well, I wish I did not," said Lady Montfort. "However, I will soon find out something about it. I have only just come to town; but I intend to open my house, immediately. Now I must go. What are you going to do with yourself to-morrow? I wish you would come and dine with Lord Montfort. It will be quite without form, a few agreeable and amusing people; Lord Montfort must be amused. It seems a reasonable fancy, but very difficult to realise; and now you shall ask for my carriage, and to-morrow I hope to be able to tell Lady Roehampton what very great pleasure I have had in making the acquaintance of her brother."
The morning after, Endymion was emerging from the court-yard of the Albany, in order to call on Mr. Rodney, who, as he learnt from a casual remark in a letter from Waldershare, would be in town. The ladies were left behind for the last week of hunting, but business called Mr. Rodney home. Waldershare wrote to Endymion in the highest spirits, and more than once declared that he was the happiest of men. Just as Endymion had entered Piccadilly, he was stopped by a once familiar face; it was St. Barbe, who accosted him with great warmth, and as usual began to talk about himself. "You are surprised to see me," he said. "It is two years since we met. Well, I have done wonders; carried all before me. By Jove, sir, I can walk into a minister's private room with as much ease as I were entering the old den. The ambassadors are hand and glove with me. There are very few things I do not know. I have made the fortune of the 'Chuck-Farthing,' trebled its circulation, and invented a new style, which has put me at the head of all 'our own correspondents.' I wish you were at Paris; I would give you a dinner at the Rocher, which would make up for all our dinners at that ferocious ruffian, Joe's. I gave a dinner the other day to forty of them, all 'our own correspondents,' or such like. Do you know, my dear fellow, when I looked round the room, there was not a man who had not done his best to crush me; running down my works or not noticing them, or continually dilating on Gushy as if the English public would never read anything else. Now, that was Christian-like of me, was not it? God, sir, if they only had but one neck, and I had been the Emperor Nero—but, I will not dwell on it; I hate them. However, it suits me to take the other line at present. I am all for fraternity and that sort of thing, and give them dinners. There is a reason why, but there is no time to talk about that now. I shall want their sweet voices—the hounds! But, my dear fellow, I am truly glad to see you. Do you know, I always liked you; and how come you to be in this quarter this fine morning?"
"I live in the Albany," said Endymion.
"You live in the Albany!" repeated St. Barbe, with an amazed and perturbed expression. "I knew I could not be a knight of the garter, or a member of White's—the only two things an Englishman cannot command; but I did think I might some day live in the Albany. It was my dream. And you live there! Gracious! what an unfortunate fellow I am! I do not see how you can live in the Albany with your salary; I suppose they have raised you."
"I have left Somerset House," said Endymion, "and am now at the Board of Trade, and am private secretary to Mr. Sidney Wilton."
"Oh!" said St. Barbe; "then we have friends at court. You may do something for me, if I only knew what I wanted. They have no decorations here. Curse this aristocratic country, they want all the honours to themselves. I should like to be in the Board of Trade, and would make some sacrifice for it. The proprietors of the 'Chuck-Farthing' pay well; they pay like gentlemen; though, why I say so I do not exactly know, for no gentleman ever paid me anything. But, if I could be Secretary of the Board of Trade, or get 1500 pounds a year secure, I would take it; and I dare say I could get employed on some treaties, as I speak French, and then I might get knighted."
"Well, I think you are very well off," said Endymion; "carrying, as you say, everything before you. What more can you want?"
"I hate the craft," said St. Barbe, with an expression of genuine detestation; "I should like to show them all up before I died. I suppose it was your sister marrying a lord that got you on in this way. I could have married a countess myself, but then, to be sure, she was only a Polish one, and hard up. I never had a sister; I never had any luck in life at all. I wish I had been a woman. Women are the only people who get on. A man works all his life, and thinks he has done a wonderful thing if, with one leg in the grave and no hair on his head, he manages to get a coronet; and a woman dances at a ball with some young fellow or other, or sits next to some old fellow at dinner and pretends she thinks him charming, and he makes her a peeress on the spot. Oh! it is a disgusting world; it must end in revolution. Now you tell your master, Mr. Sidney Wilton, that if he wants to strengthen the institutions of this country, the government should establish an order of merit, and the press ought to be represented in it. I do not speak only for myself; I speak for my brethren. Yes, sir, I am not ashamed of my order."
And so they bade each other farewell.
"Unchanged," thought Endymion, as he crossed Piccadilly; "the vainest, the most envious, and the most amusing of men! I wonder what he will do in life."
Mr. Rodney was at home, had just finished his breakfast, read his newspaper, and was about to "go into the City." His costume was perfect. Mr. Rodney's hat seemed always a new one. Endymion was a little embarrassed by this interview, for he had naturally a kind heart, and being young, it was still soft. The Rodneys had been truly good to him, and he was attached to them. Imogene had prepared Mr. Rodney for the change in Endymion's life, and Endymion himself had every reason to believe that in a worldly point of view the matter was entirely insignificant to his old landlord. Still his visit this morning ratified a permanent separation from those with whom he had lived for a long time, and under circumstances of sympathy and family connection which were touching. He retained Mr. Rodney's hand for a moment as he expressed, and almost in faltering tones, his sorrow at their separation and his hope that their friendly connection might be always cherished.