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Endymion
by Benjamin Disraeli
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"That feeling is reciprocal," said Mr. Rodney. "If only because you were the son of my revered and right honourable friend, you would always be esteemed here. But you are esteemed, or, I may say beloved, for your own sake. We shall be proud to be considered with kindness by you, and I echo your wish that, though no longer living under the same roof, we may yet, and even often, meet. But do not say another word about the inconvenience you are occasioning us. The truth is, that although wherever we went the son of my revered and right honourable friend would have always commanded hospitality from us, there are many changes about to take place in our family which have made us for some time contemplate leaving Warwick Street. Affairs, especially of late, have gone pretty well with me in the world,—at least not badly; I have had friends, and I hope have proved not undeserving of them. I wish Sylvia, too, to live in an airier situation, near the park, so that she may ride every morning. Besides, I have a piece of news to communicate to you, which would materially affect our arrangements. We are going to lose Imogene."

"Ah! she is going to be married," said Endymion, blushing.

"She is going to be married," said Mr. Rodney gravely.

"To Mr. Waldershare?" said Endymion. "He almost said as much to me in a letter this morning. But I always thought so."

"No; not to Mr. Waldershare," said Mr. Rodney.

"Who is the happy man then?" said Endymion, agitated. "I truly call him so; for I think myself that Imogene is perfection."

"Imogene is about to be married to the Earl of Beaumaris."



CHAPTER LII

Simon, Earl of Montfort, with whom Endymion was so unexpectedly going to dine, may be said to have been a minor in his cradle. Under ordinary circumstances, his inheritance would have been one of the most considerable in England. His castle in the north was one of the glories of the land, and becomingly crowned his vast domain. Under the old parliamentary system, he had the greatest number of nomination boroughs possessed by any Whig noble. The character and conduct of an individual so qualified were naturally much speculated on and finely scanned. Nothing very decided transpired about them in his boyhood, but certainly nothing adverse. He was good-looking and athletic, and was said to be generous and good-natured, and when he went to Harrow, he became popular. In his eighteenth year, while he was in correspondence with his guardians about going to Christ Church, he suddenly left his country without giving any one notice of his intentions, and entered into, and fulfilled, a vast scheme of adventurous travel. He visited countries then rarely reached, and some of which were almost unknown. His flag had floated in the Indian Ocean, and he had penetrated the dazzling mysteries of Brazilian forests. When he was of age, he returned, and communicated with his guardians, as if nothing remarkable had happened in his life. Lord Montfort had inherited a celebrated stud, which the family had maintained for more than a century, and the sporting world remarked with satisfaction that their present representative appeared to take much interest in it. He had an establishment at Newmarket, and his horses were entered for all the great races of the kingdom. He appeared also at Melton, and conducted the campaign in a style becoming such a hero. His hunters and his cooks were both first-rate. Although he affected to take little interest in politics, the events of the time forced him to consider them and to act. Lord Grey wanted to carry his Reform Bill, and the sacrifice of Lord Montfort's numerous boroughs was a necessary ingredient in the spell. He was appealed to as the head of one of the greatest Whig houses, and he was offered a dukedom. He relinquished his boroughs without hesitation, but he preferred to remain with one of the oldest earldoms of England for his chief title. All honours, however, clustered about him, though he never sought them, and in the same year he tumbled into the Lord Lieutenancy of his country, unexpectedly vacant, and became the youngest Knight of the Garter.

Society was looking forward with the keenest interest to the impending season, when Lord Montfort would formally enter its spell-bound ranks, and multiform were the speculations on his destiny. He attended an early levee, in order that he might be presented—a needful ceremony which had not yet taken place—and then again quitted his country, and for years. He was heard of in every capital except his own. Wonderful exploits at St. Petersburg, and Paris, and Madrid, deeds of mark at Vienna, and eccentric adventures at Rome; but poor Melton, alas! expecting him to return every season, at last embalmed him, and his cooks, and his hunters, and his daring saddle, as a tradition,—jealous a little of Newmarket, whither, though absent, he was frequently transmitting foreign blood, and where his horses still ran, and were often victorious.

At last it would appear that the restless Lord Montfort had found his place, and that place was Paris. There he dwelt for years in Sybaritic seclusion. He built himself a palace, which he called a villa, and which was the most fanciful of structures, and full of every beautiful object which rare taste and boundless wealth could procure, from undoubted Raffaelles to jewelled toys. It was said that Lord Montfort saw no one; he certainly did not court or receive his own countrymen, and this perhaps gave rise to, or at least caused to be exaggerated, the tales that were rife of his profusion, and even his profligacy. But it was not true that he was entirely isolated. He lived much with the old families of France in their haughty faubourg, and was highly considered by them. It was truly a circle for which he was adapted. Lord Montfort was the only living Englishman who gave one an idea of the nobleman of the eighteenth century. He was totally devoid of the sense of responsibility, and he looked what he resembled. His manner, though simple and natural, was finished and refined, and, free from forbidding reserve, was yet characterised by an air of serious grace.

With the exception of the memorable year when he sacrificed his nomination boroughs to the cause for which Hampden died on the field and Sidney on the scaffold—that is to say, the Whig government of England—Lord Montfort had been absent for his country for ten years, and one day, in his statued garden at the Belvedere, he asked himself what he had gained by it. There was no subject, divine or human, in which he took the slightest interest. He entertained for human nature generally, and without any exception, the most cynical appreciation. He had a sincere and profound conviction, that no man or woman ever acted except from selfish and interested motives. Society was intolerable to him; that of his own sex and station wearisome beyond expression; their conversation consisted only of two subjects, horses and women, and he had long exhausted both. As for female society, if they were ladies, it was expected that, in some form or other, he should make love to them, and he had no sentiment. If he took refuge in the demi-monde, he encountered vulgarity, and that, to Lord Montfort, was insufferable. He had tried them in every capital, and vulgarity was the badge of all their tribe. He had attempted to read; a woman had told him to read French novels, but he found them only a clumsy representation of the life which, for years, he had practically been leading. An accident made him acquainted with Rabelais and Montaigne; and he had relished them, for he had a fine sense of humour. He might have pursued these studies, and perhaps have found in them a slight and occasional distraction, but a clever man he met at a guingette at Passy, whither he had gone to try to dissipate his weariness in disguise, had convinced him, that if there were a worthy human pursuit, an assumption which was doubtful, it was that of science, as it impressed upon man his utter insignificance.

No one could say Lord Montfort was a bad-hearted man, for he had no heart. He was good-natured, provided it brought him no inconvenience; and as for temper, his was never disturbed, but this not from sweetness of disposition, rather from a contemptuous fine taste, which assured him, that a gentleman should never be deprived of tranquillity in a world where nothing was of the slightest consequence.

The result of these reflections was, that he was utterly wearied with Belvedere and Paris, and as his mind was now rather upon science, he fancied he should like to return to a country where it flourished, and where he indulged in plans of erecting colossal telescopes, and of promoting inquiry into the origin of things. He thought that with science and with fishing, the only sport to which he still really clung, for he liked the lulling influence of running streams, and a pastime he could pursue in loneliness, existence might perhaps be endured.

Society was really surprised when they heard of the return of Lord Montfort to England. He came back in the autumn, so that there should be no season to encounter, and his flag was soon flying at his castle. There had been continuous attacks for years on the government for having made an absentee lord lieutenant of his country, and conferring the high distinction of the garter on so profligate a character. All this made his return more interesting and exciting.

A worthy nobleman of high rank and of the same county, who for the last five years everybody, shaking everybody's head, had been saying ought to have been lord lieutenant, had a great county function in his immediate neighbourhood in the late autumn, and had invited a large party to assist him in its celebration. It seemed right also to invite the lord lieutenant, but no one expected that he would make his appearance. On the contrary, the invitation was accepted, and the sensation was great. What would he be like, and what would he do, and was he so very wicked as the county newspaper said? He came, this wicked man, with his graceful presence and his diamond star, and everybody's heart palpitated with a due mixture of terror and admiration. The only exception to these feelings was the daughter of the house, the Lady Berengaria. She was then in her second season, but still unparagoned, for she was a fastidious, not to say disdainful lady. The highest had been at her feet, and sued in vain. She was a stirring spirit, with great ambition and a daring will; never content except in society, and influencing it—for which she was qualified by her grace and lively fancy, her ready though capricious sympathy, and her passion for admiration.

The function was successful, and the county full of enthusiasm for their lord lieutenant, whose manner quite cleared his character. The party did not break up, in fact the function was only an excuse for the party. There was sport of all kinds, and in the evenings a carnival—for Lady Berengaria required everybody about her to be gay and diverting—games and dances, and infinite frolic. Lord Montfort, who, to the surprise of every one, did not depart, spoke to her a little, and perhaps would not have spoken at all, had they not met in the hunting-field. Lady Berengaria was a first-rate horsewoman, and really in the saddle looked irresistible.

The night before the party, which had lasted a week, broke up, Lord Montfort came and sat by Lady Berengaria. He spoke about the run of the morning, and she replied in the same vein. "I have got a horse, Lady Berengaria, which I should like you to ride. Would you do so?"

"Certainly, and what sort of horse is it?"

"You shall see to-morrow. It is not far off. I like to have some horses always near," and then he walked away.

It was a dark chestnut of matchless beauty. Lady Berengaria, who was of an emphatic nature, was loud in her admiration of its beauty and its hunting qualities.

"I agree with you," said Lord Montfort, "that it will spoil you for any other horse, and therefore I shall ask permission to leave it here for your use."

The party broke up, but, strange to say, Lord Montfort did not depart. It was a large family. Lady Berengaria had several sisters; her eldest brother was master of the hounds, and her younger brothers were asserting their rights as cadets, and killing their father's pheasants. There was also a number of cousins, who were about the same age, and were always laughing, though it was never quite clear what it was about. An affectation of gaiety may be sometimes detected in youth.

As Lord Montfort always had the duty of ushering the lady of the house to dinner, he never had the opportunity of conversing with Lady Berengaria, even had he wished it; but it was not all clear that he did wish it, and it seemed that he talked as much to her sisters and the laughing cousins as to herself, but still he did not go away, which was most strange, and commenced to be embarrassing.

At last one evening, both her parents slumbering, one over the newspaper and the other over her work, and the rest of the party in a distant room playing at some new game amid occasional peals of laughter, Lord Montfort, who had been sitting for some time by Lady Berengaria's side, and only asking now and then a question, though often a searching one, in order to secure her talking to him, rather abruptly said, "I wonder if anything would ever induce you to marry me?"

This was the most startling social event of the generation. Society immediately set a-wondering how it would turn out, and proved very clearly that it must turn out badly. Men who knew Montfort well at Paris looked knowing, and said they would give it six months.

But the lady was as remarkable a woman as the bridegroom was in his sex. Lady Berengaria was determined to be the Queen of Society, and had confidence in her unlimited influence over man. It is, however, rather difficult to work on the feelings of a man who has no heart. This she soon found out, and to her dismay, but she kept it a profound secret. By endless ingenuity on her part, affairs went on very well much longer than the world expected, and long enough to fulfil the object of Lady Berengaria's life. Lord Montfort launched his wife well, and seemed even content to be occasionally her companion until she had mounted the social throne. He was proud of her as he would be of one of his beautiful horses; but when all the world had acknowledged the influence of Berengaria, he fell into one of his old moods, and broke to her that he could bear it no longer, and that he must retire from society. Lady Montfort looked distressed, but, resolved under no circumstances to be separated from her husband, whom she greatly admired, and to whom, had he wished it, she could have become even passionately attached, signified her readiness to share his solitude. But she then found out that this was not what he wanted. It was not only retirement from society, but retirement from Lady Montfort, that was indispensable. In short, at no time of his perverse career had Lord Montfort been more wilful.

During the last years of his residence in Paris, when he was shut up in his delicious Belvedere, he had complained much of the state of his health, and one of his principal pursuits was consulting the faculty on this interesting subject. The faculty were unanimous in their opinion that the disorder from which their patient was suffering was Ennui. This persistent opinion irritated him, and was one of the elements of his decision to leave the country. The unexpected distraction that followed his return to his native land had made him neglect or forget his sad indisposition, but it appears that it had now returned, and in an aggravated form. Unhappily the English physicians took much the same view of the case as their French brethren. They could find nothing organically wrong in the constitution or condition of Lord Montfort, and recommended occupation and society. At present he shrank with some disgust at the prospect of returning to France, and he had taken it into his head that the climate of Montfort did not agree with him. He was convinced that he must live in the south of England. One of the most beautiful and considerable estates in that favoured part of our country was virtually in the market, and Lord Montfort, at the cost of half a million, became the proprietor of Princedown. And here he announced that he should dwell and die.

This state of affairs was a bitter trial to the proudest woman in England, but Lady Montfort was also one of the most able. She resisted nothing, sympathised with all his projects, and watched her opportunity when she could extract from his unconscious good-nature some reasonable modification of them. And she ultimately succeeded in establishing a modus vivendi. He was to live and die at Princedown; that was settled; but if he ever came to town, to consult his physicians, for example, he was always to inhabit Montfort House, and if she occasionally required a whiff of southern air, she was to have her rooms always ready for her at Princedown. She would not interfere with him in the least; he need not even see her, if he were too unwell. Then as to the general principle of his life, it was quite clear that he was not interested in anything, and never would be interested in anything; but there was no reason that he should not be amused. This distinction between interest and amusement rather pleased, and seemed to satisfy Lord Montfort—but then it was difficult to amuse him. The only thing that ever amused him, he said, were his wife's letters, and as he was the most selfish as well as the most polite of men, he requested her to write to him every day. Great personages, who are selfish and whimsical, are generally surrounded by parasites and buffoons, but this would not suit Lord Montfort; he sincerely detested flattery, and he wearied in eight-and-forty hours of the most successful mountebank in society. What he seemed inclined to was the society of men of science, of travellers in rare parts, and of clever artists; in short, of all persons who had what he called "idiosyncrasy." Civil engineering was then beginning to attract general attention, and Lord Montfort liked the society of civil engineers; but what he liked most were self-formed men, and to learn the secret of their success, and how they made their fortune. After the first fit of Princedown was over, Lord Montfort found that it was impossible, even with all its fascination, to secure a constant, or sufficient, presence of civil engineers in such distant parts, and so he got into the habit of coming up to Montfort House, that he might find companions and be amused. Lady Montfort took great pains that he should not be disappointed, and catered for him with all the skill of an accomplished chef. Then, when the occasion served, she went down to Princedown herself with welcome guests—and so it turned out, that circumstances, which treated by an ordinary mind must have led to a social scandal, were so adroitly manipulated, that the world little apprehended the real and somewhat mortifying state of affairs. With the utmost license of ill-nature, they could not suppose that Lord and Lady Montfort, living under the same roof, might scarcely see each other for weeks, and that his communications with her, and indeed generally, were always made in writing.

Lady Monfort never could agree with her husband in the cardinal assumption of his philosophy. One of his reasons for never doing anything was, that there was nothing for him to attain. He had got everything. Here they at once separated in their conclusions. Lady Montfort maintained they had got nothing. "What," she would say, "are rank and wealth to us? We were born to them. We want something that we were not born to. You reason like a parvenu. Of course, if you had created your rank and your riches, you might rest on your oars, and find excitement in the recollection of what you had achieved. A man of your position ought to govern the country, and it always was so in the old days. Your family were prime ministers; why not you, with as much talent, and much more knowledge?"

"You would make a very good prime minister, Berengaria."

"Ah! you always jest, I am serious."

"And so am I. If I ever am to work, I would sooner be a civil engineer than a prime minister."

Nothing but the indomitable spirit of Lady Montfort could fight successfully against such obstacles to her schemes of power as were presented by the peculiar disposition of her lord. Her receptions every Saturday night during the season were the most important of social gatherings, but she held them alone. It was by consummate skill that she had prevailed upon her lord occasionally appearing at the preceding banquets, and when they were over, he flitted for an instant and disappeared. At first, he altogether refused, but then Lady Montfort would introduce Royalty, always kind, to condescend to express a wish to dine at Montfort House, and that was a gracious intimation it was impossible not to act upon, and then, as Lady Montfort would say, "I trust much to the periodical visits of that dear Queen of Mesopotamia. He must entertain her, for his father was her lover."

In this wonderful mystification, by which Lord Montfort was made to appear as living in a society which he scarcely ever entered, his wife was a little assisted by his visits to Newmarket, which he even frequently attended. He never made a bet or a new acquaintance, but he seemed to like meeting men with whom he had been at school. There is certainly a magic in the memory of school-boy friendships; it softens the heart, and even affects the nervous system of those who have no hearts. Lord Montfort at Newmarket would ask half a dozen men who had been at school with him, and were now members of the Jockey Club, to be his guests, and the next day all over the heath, and after the heath, all over Mayfair and Belgravia, you heard only one speech, "I dined yesterday," or "the other day," as the case might be, "with Montfort; out and out the best dinner I ever had, and such an agreeable fellow; the wittiest, the most amusing, certainly the most charming fellow that ever lived; out and out! It is a pity he does not show a little more." And society thought the same; they thought it a pity, and a great one, that this fascinating being of whom they rarely caught a glimpse, and who to them took the form of a wasted and unsympathising phantom, should not show a little more and delight them. But the most curious thing was, that however rapturous were his guests, the feelings of their host after they had left him, were by no means reciprocal. On the contrary, he would remark to himself, "Have I heard a single thing worth remembering? Not one."



CHAPTER LIII

Endymion was a little agitated when he arrived at the door of Montfort House, a huge family mansion, situate in a court-yard and looking into the Green Park. When the door was opened he found himself in a large hall with many servants, and he was ushered through several rooms on the ground floor, into a capacious chamber dimly lighted, where there were several gentlemen, but not his hostess. His name was announced, and then a young man came up to him and mentioned that Lord and Lady Montfort would soon be present, and then talked to him about the weather. The Count of Ferroll arrived after Endymion, and then another gentleman whose name he could not catch. Then while he was making some original observations on the east wind, and, to confess the truth, feeling anything but at his ease, the folding doors of a further chamber brilliantly lighted were thrown open, and almost at the same moment Lady Montfort entered, and, taking the Count of Ferroll's arm, walked into the dining-room. It was a round table, and Endymion was told by the same gentleman who had already addressed him, that he was to sit by Lady Montfort.

"Lord Montfort is a little late to-day," she said, "but he wished me not to wait for him. And how are you after our parliamentary banquet?" she said, turning to Endymion; "I will introduce you to the Count of Ferroll."

The Count of Ferroll was a young man, and yet inclined to be bald. He was chief of a not inconsiderable mission at our court. Though not to be described as a handsome man, his countenance was striking; a brow of much intellectual development, and a massive jaw. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with a slender waist. He greeted Endymion with a penetrating glance, and then with a winning smile.

The Count of Ferroll was the representative of a kingdom which, if not exactly created, had been moulded into a certain form of apparent strength and importance by the Congress of Vienna. He was a noble of considerable estate in a country where possessions were not extensive or fortunes large, though it was ruled by an ancient, and haughty, and warlike aristocracy. Like his class, the Count of Ferroll had received a military education; but when that education was completed, he found but a feeble prospect of his acquirements being called into action. It was believed that the age of great wars had ceased, and that even revolutions were for the future to be controlled by diplomacy. As he was a man of an original, not to say eccentric, turn of mind, the Count of Ferroll was not contented with the resources and distraction of his second-rate capital. He was an eminent sportsman, and, for some time, took refuge and found excitement in the breadth of his dark forests, and in the formation of a stud, which had already become celebrated. But all this time, even in the excitement of the chase, and in the raising of his rare-breed steeds, the Count of Ferroll might be said to have been brooding over the position of what he could scarcely call his country, but rather an aggregation of lands baptized by protocols, and christened and consolidated by treaties which he looked upon as eminently untrustworthy. One day he surprised his sovereign, with whom he was a favourite, by requesting to be appointed to the legation at London, which was vacant. The appointment was at once made, and the Count of Ferroll had now been two years at the Court of St. James'.

The Count of Ferroll was a favourite in English society, for he possessed every quality which there conduces to success. He was of great family and of distinguished appearance, munificent and singularly frank; was a dead-shot, and the boldest of riders, with horses which were the admiration alike of Melton and Newmarket. The ladies also approved of him, for he was a consummate waltzer, and mixed with a badinage gaily cynical a tone that could be tender and a bewitching smile.

But his great friend was Lady Montfort. He told her everything, and consulted her on everything; and though he rarely praised anybody, it had reached her ears that the Count of Ferroll had said more than once that she was a greater woman than Louise of Savoy or the Duchesse de Longueville.

There was a slight rustling in the room. A gentleman had entered and glided into his unoccupied chair, which his valet had guarded. "I fear I am not in time for an oyster," said Lord Montfort to his neighbour.

The gentleman who had first spoken to Endymion was the secretary of Lord Montfort; then there was a great genius who was projecting a suspension bridge over the Tyne, and that was in Lord Montfort's country. A distinguished officer of the British Museum completed the party with a person who sate opposite Endymion, and whom in the dim twilight he had not recognised, but whom he now beheld with no little emotion. It was Nigel Penruddock. They had not met since his mother's funeral, and the associations of the past agitated Endymion. They exchanged recognitions; that of Nigel was grave but kind.

The conversation was what is called general, and a great deal on suspension bridges. Lord Montfort himself led off on this, in order to bring out his distinguished guest. The Count of Ferroll was also interested on this subject, as his own government was making inquiries on the matter. The gentleman from the British Museum made some remarks on the mode in which the ancient Egyptians moved masses of granite, and quoted Herodotus to the civil engineer. The civil engineer had never heard of Herodotus, but he said he was going to Egypt in the autumn by desire of Mehemet Ali, and he would undertake to move any mass which was requisite, even if it were a pyramid itself. Lady Montfort, without disturbing the general conversation, whispered in turns to the Count of Ferroll and Endymion, and told the latter that she had paid a visit to Lady Roehampton in the morning—a most delightful visit. There was no person she admired so much as his sister; she quite loved her. The only person who was silent was Nigel, but Lady Montfort, who perceived everything, addressed him across the table with enthusiasm about some changes he had made in the services of some church, and the countenance of Nigel became suffused like a young saint who has a glimpse of Paradise.

After dinner Lady Montfort led Endymion to her lord, and left him seated by his host. Lord Montfort was affable and natural in his manner. He said, "I have not yet made the acquaintance of Lady Roehampton, for I never go out; but I hope to do so, for Lady Montfort tells me she is quite captivating."

"She is a very good sister," said Endymion.

"Lady Montfort has told me a great deal about yourself, and all of it I was glad to hear. I like young men who rise by their merits, and Mr. Sidney Wilton tells Lady Montfort that yours are distinguished."

"Mr. Sidney Wilton is a kind master, sir."

"Well, I was his fag at Harrow, and I thought him so," said Lord Montfort. "And now about your office; tell me what you do. You were not there first, Lady Montfort says. Where were you first? Tell me all about it. I like detail."

It was impossible to resist such polished and amiable curiosity, and Endymion gratified it with youthful grace. He even gave Lord Montfort a sketch of St. Barbe, inspired probably by the interview of the morning. Lord Montfort was quite amused with this, and said he should so much like to know Mr. St. Barbe. It was clear, when the party broke up, that Endymion had made a favourable impression, for Lord Montfort said, "You came here to-day as Lady Montfort's friend, but you must come in future as mine also. And will you understand, I dine at home every day when I am in town, and I give you a general invitation. Come as often as you like; you will be always welcome. Only let the house know your intention an hour before dinner-time, as I have a particular aversion to the table being crowded, or seeing an empty chair."

Lady Montfort had passed much of the evening in earnest conversation with Nigel, and when the guests quitted the room, Nigel and Endymion walked away together.



CHAPTER LIV

The meeting between Nigel and Endymion was not an ordinary one, and when they were at length alone, neither of them concealed his feelings of pleasure and surprise at its occurrence. Nigel had been a curate in the northern town which was defended by Lord Montfort's proud castle, and his labours and reputation had attracted the attention of Lady Montfort. Under the influence of his powerful character, the services of his church were celebrated with a precision and an imposing effect, which soon occasioned a considerable excitement in the neighbourhood, in time even in the county. The pulpit was frequently at his command, for his rector, who had imbibed his Church views, was not equal to the task of propagating them, and the power and fame of Nigel as a preacher began to be much rumoured. Although the church at which he officiated was not the one which Lady Montfort usually attended, she was soon among his congregation and remained there. He became a constant guest at the castle, and Lady Montfort presented his church with a reredos of alabaster. She did more than this. Her enthusiasm exceeded her selfishness, for though the sacrifice was great which would deprive her of the ministrations and society of Nigel in the country, she prevailed upon the prime minister to prefer him to a new church in London, which had just fallen vacant, and which, being situated in a wealthy and populous district, would afford him the opportunity of making known to the world his eloquence and genius. This was Nigel's simple, yet not uneventful history; and then, in turn, he listened to Endymion's brief but interesting narrative of his career, and then they agreed to adjourn to Endymion's chambers and have a good talk over the past and the present.

"That Lady Montfort is a great woman," said Nigel, standing with his back to the fire. "She has it in her to be another Empress Helena."

"Indeed!"

"I believe she has only one thought, and that the only thought worthy the human mind—the Church. I was glad to meet you at her house. You have cherished, I hope, those views which in your boyhood you so fervently and seriously embraced."

"I am rather surprised," said Endymion, not caring to answer this inquiry, "at a Whig lady entertaining such high views in these matters. The Liberal party rather depends on the Low Church."

"I know nothing about Whigs or Tories or Liberals, or any other new names which they invent," said Nigel. "Nor do I know, or care to know, what Low Church means. There is but one Church, and it is catholic and apostolic; and if we act on its principles, there will be no need, and there ought to be no need, for any other form of government."

"Well, those are very distinct views," said Endymion, "but are they as practical as they are clear?"

"Why should they not be practical? Everything is practical which we believe; and in the long run, which is most likely that we should believe, what is taught by God, or what is taught by man?"

"I confess," said Endymion, "that in all matters, both civil and religious, I incline to what is moderate and temperate. I always trace my dear father's sad end, and all the terrible events in my family, to his adopting in 1829 the views of the extreme party. If he had only followed the example and the advice of his best friend, Mr. Sidney Wilton, what a different state of affairs might have occurred!"

"I know nothing about politics," said Nigel. "By being moderate and temperate in politics I suppose you mean being adroit, and doing that which is expedient and which will probably be successful. But the Church is founded on absolute truth, and teaches absolute truth, and there can be no compromise on such matters."

"Well, I do not know," said Endymion, "but surely there are many very religious people, who do not accept without reserve everything that is taught by the Church. I hope I am a religious person myself, and yet, for example, I cannot give an unreserved assent to the whole of the Athanasian Creed."

"The Athanasian Creed is the most splendid ecclesiastical lyric ever poured forth by the genius of man. I give to every clause of it an implicit assent. It does not pretend to be divine; it is human, but the Church has hallowed it, and the Church ever acts under the influence of the Divine Spirit. St. Athanasius was by far the greatest man that ever existed. If you cavil at his creed, you will soon cavil at other symbols. I was prepared for infidelity in London, but I confess, my dear Ferrars, you alarm me. I was in hopes that your early education would have saved you from this backsliding."

"But let us be calm, my dear Nigel. Do you mean to say, that I am to be considered an infidel or an apostate, because, although I fervently embrace all the vital truths of religion, and try, on the whole, to regulate my life by them, I may have scruples about believing, for example, in the personality of the Devil?"

"If the personality of Satan be not a vital principle of your religion, I do not know what is. There is only one dogma higher. You think it is safe, and I daresay it is fashionable, to fall into this lax and really thoughtless discrimination between what is and what is not to be believed. It is not good taste to believe in the Devil. Give me a single argument against his personality which is not applicable to the personality of the Deity. Will you give that up; and if so, where are you? Now mark me; you and I are young men—you are a very young man. This is the year of grace 1839. If these loose thoughts, which you have heedlessly taken up, prevail in this country for a generation or so—five and twenty or thirty years—we may meet together again, and I shall have to convince you that there is a God."



CHAPTER LV

The balance of parties in the House of Commons, which had been virtually restored by Sir Robert Peel's dissolution of 1834, might be said to be formally and positively established by the dissolution of parliament in the autumn of 1837, occasioned by the demise of the crown. The ministerial majority became almost nominal, while troubles from all quarters seemed to press simultaneously upon them: Canadian revolts, Chartist insurrections, Chinese squabbles, and mysterious complications in Central Asia, which threatened immediate hostilities with Persia, and even with one of the most powerful of European empires. In addition to all this, the revenue continually declined, and every day the general prejudice became more intense against the Irish policy of the ministry. The extreme popularity of the Sovereign, reflecting some lustre on her ministers, had enabled them, though not without difficulty, to tide through the session of 1838; but when parliament met in 1839 their prospects were dark, and it was known that there was a section of the extreme Liberals who would not be deeply mortified if the government were overthrown. All efforts, therefore, political and social, and particularly the latter, in which the Whigs excelled, were to be made to prevent or to retard the catastrophe.

Lady Montfort and Lady Roehampton opened their houses to the general world at an unusually early period. Their entertainments rivalled those of Zenobia, who with unflagging gallantry, her radiant face prescient of triumph, stopped her bright vis-a-vis and her tall footmen in the midst of St. James' Street or Pall Mall, while she rapidly inquired from some friendly passer-by whom she had observed, "Tell me the names of the Radical members who want to turn out the government, and I will invite them directly."

Lady Montfort had appropriated the Saturdays, as was her custom and her right; so Myra, with the advice of Lord Roehampton, had fixed on Wednesdays for her receptions.

"I should have liked to have taken Wednesdays," said Zenobia, "but I do not care to seem to be setting up against Lady Roehampton, for her mother was my dearest friend. Not that I think any quarter ought to be shown to her after joining those atrocious Whigs, but to be sure she was corrupted by her husband, whom I remember the most thorough Tory going. To be sure, I was a Whig myself in those days, so one must not say too much about it, but the Whigs then were gentlemen. I will tell you what I will do. I will receive both on Saturdays and Wednesdays. It is an effort, and I am not as young as I was, but it will only be for a season or less, for I know these people cannot stand. It will be all over by May."

Prince Florestan had arrived in town, and was now settled in his mansion in Carlton Terrace. It was the fashion among the creme de la creme to keep aloof from him. The Tories did not love revolutionary dynasties, and the Whigs being in office could not sanction a pretender, and one who, they significantly intimated with a charitable shrug of the shoulders, was not a very scrupulous one. The prince himself, though he was not insensible to the charms of society, and especially of agreeable women, was not much chagrined by this. The world thought that he had fitted up his fine house, and bought his fine horses, merely for the enjoyment of life. His purposes were very different. Though his acquaintances were limited, they were not undistinguished, and he lived with them in intimacy. There had arisen between himself and Mr. Waldershare the closest alliance both of thought and habits. They were rarely separated. The prince was also a frequent guest at the Neuchatels', and was a favourite with the head of the house.

The Duke of St. Angelo controlled the household at Carlton Gardens with skill. The appointments were finished and the cuisine refined. There was a dinner twice a week, from which Waldershare was rarely absent, and to which Endymion, whom the prince always treated with kindness, had a general invitation. When he occasionally dined there he met always several foreign guests, and all men apparently of mark—at any rate, all distinguished by their intelligence. It was an interesting and useful house for a young man, and especially a young politician, to frequent. Endymion heard many things and learnt many things which otherwise would not have met his ear or mind. The prince encouraged conversation, though himself inclined to taciturnity. When he did speak, his terse remarks and condensed views were striking, and were remembered. On the days on which he did not receive, the prince dined at the Travellers' Club, to which Waldershare had obtained his introduction, and generally with Waldershare, who took this opportunity of gradually making his friend acquainted with eminent and influential men, many of whom in due time became guests at Carlton Terrace. It was clear, indeed, that these club-dinners were part of a system.

The prince, soon after his arrival in town, while riding, had passed Lady Roehampton's carriage in the park, and he had saluted her with a grave grace which distinguished him. She was surprised at feeling a little agitated by this rencontre. It recalled Hainault, her not mortifying but still humble position beneath that roof, the prince's courtesy to her under those circumstances, and, indeed, his marked preference for her society. She felt it something like ingratitude to treat him with neglect now, when her position was so changed and had become so elevated. She mentioned to Lord Roehampton, while they were dining alone, that she should like to invite the prince to her receptions, and asked his opinion on the point. Lord Roehampton shrugged his shoulders and did not encourage her. "You know, my darling, our people do not much like him. They look upon him as a pretender, as having forfeited his parole, and as a refugee from justice. I have no prejudices against him myself, and perhaps in the same situation might have acted in the same manner; but if he is to be admitted into society, it should hardly be at a ministerial reception, and of all houses, that of one who holds my particular post."

"I know nothing about his forfeiting his parole," said Lady Roehampton; "the charge is involved in mystery, and Mr. Waldershare told me it was an entire fabrication. As for his being a pretender, he seems to me as legitimate a prince as most we meet; he was born in the purple, and his father was recognised by every government in Europe except our own. As for being a refugee from justice, a prince in captivity has certainly a right to escape if he can, and his escape was romantic. However, I will not contest any decision of yours, for I think you are always right. Only I am disappointed, for, to say nothing of the unkindness, I cannot help feeling our not noticing him is rather shabby."

There was silence, a longer silence than usually occurred in tete-a-tete dinners between Lord and Lady Roehampton. To break the silence he began to converse on another subject, and Lady Roehampton replied to him cheerfully, but curtly. He saw she was vexed, and this great man, who was at that time meditating one of the most daring acts of modern diplomacy, who had the reputation, in the conduct of public affairs, of not only being courageous, but of being stern, inflexible, unfeeling, and unscrupulous beyond ordinary statesmen, who had passed his mornings in writing a menacing despatch to a great power and intimating combinations to the ambassadors of other first-rate states which they almost trembled to receive, was quite upset by seeing his wife chagrined. At last, after another embarrassing pause, he said gaily, "Do you know, my dear Myra, I do not see why you should not ask Prince Florestan. It is you that ask him, not I. That is one of the pleasant results of our system of political entertainments. The guests come to pay their respects to the lady of the house, so no one is committed. The prince may visit you on Wednesday just as well as the leaders of the opposition who want our places, or the malcontent Radicals who they say are going to turn us out."

So Prince Florestan was invited to Lady Roehampton's receptions, and he came; and he never missed one. His visits were brief. He appeared, made his bow, had the pleasure of some slight conversation with her, and then soon retired. Received by Lady Roehampton, in time, though sluggishly, invitations arrived from other houses, but he rarely availed himself of them. He maintained in this respect great reserve, and was accustomed to say that the only fine lady in London who had ever been kind to him was Lady Roehampton.

All this time Endymion, who was now thoroughly planted in society, saw a great deal of the Neuchatels, who had returned to Portland Place at the beginning of February. He met Adriana almost every evening, and was frequently invited to the house—to the grand dinners now, as well as the domestic circle. In short, our Endymion was fast becoming a young man of fashion and a personage. The brother of Lady Roehampton had now become the private secretary of Mr. Sydney Wilton and the great friend of Lady Montfort. He was indeed only one of the numerous admirers of that lady, but he seemed not the least smiled on. There was never anything delightful at Montfort House at which he was not present, or indeed in any other place, for under her influence, invitations from the most distinguished houses crowded his mantelpiece and were stuck all round his looking-glass. Endymion in this whirl of life did not forget his old friends. He took care that Seymour Hicks should have a frequent invitation to Lady Roehampton's assemblies. Seymour Hicks only wanted a lever to raise the globe, and this introduction supplied him with one. It was astonishing how he made his way in society, and though, of course, he never touched the empyrean regions in which Endymion now breathed, he gradually, and at last rapidly, planted himself in a world which to the uninitiated figures as the very realm of nobility and fashion, and where doubtless is found a great fund of splendour, refinement, and amusement. Seymour Hicks was not ill-favoured, and was always well dressed, and he was very civil, but what he really owed his social advancement to was his indomitable will. That quality governs all things, and though the will of Seymour Hicks was directed to what many may deem a petty or a contracted purpose, life is always interesting when you have a purpose and live in its fulfilment. It appeared from what he told Endymion that matters at the office had altered a good deal since he left it. The retirement of St. Barbe was the first brick out of the wall; now, which Endymion had not yet heard, the brother of Trenchard had most unexpectedly died, and that gentleman come into a good estate. "Jawett remains, and is also the editor of the 'Precursor,' but his new labours so absorb his spare time that he is always at the office of the paper. So it is pretty well all over with the table at Joe's. I confess I could not stand it any longer, particularly after you left. I have got into the junior Pan-Ionian; and I am down for the senior; I cannot get in for ten years, but when I do it will be a coup; the society there is tiptop, a cabinet minister sometimes, and very often a bishop."



CHAPTER LVI

Endymion was glad to meet Baron Sergius one day when he dined with Prince Florestan. There were several distinguished foreigners among the guests, who had just arrived. They talked much, and with much emphasis. One of them, the Marquis of Vallombrosa, expatiated on the Latin race, their great qualities, their vivacity, invention, vividness of perception, chivalrous valour, and sympathy with tradition. The northern races detested them, and the height of statesmanship was to combine the Latin races into an organised and active alliance against the barbarism which menaced them. There had been for a short time a vacant place next to Endymion, when Baron Sergius, according to his quiet manner, stole into the room and slipped into the unoccupied seat. "It is some time since we met," he said, "but I have heard of you. You are now a public man, and not a public character. That is a not unsatisfactory position."

The prince listened apparently with much interest to the Marquis of Vallombrosa, occasionally asked him a question, and promoted discussion without himself giving any opinion. Baron Sergius never spoke except to Endymion, and then chiefly social inquiries about Lord and Lady Roehampton, their good friends the Neuchatels, and frequently about Mr. Sidney Wilton, whom, it appeared, he had known years ago, and intimately. After dinner the guests, on the return to the saloon, ranged themselves in a circle, but not too formally, and the prince moving round addressed each of them in turn. When this royal ceremony was concluded, the prince motioned to the Marquis of Vallombrosa to accompany him, and then they repaired to an adjacent salon, the door of which was open, but where they could converse without observation. The Duke of St. Angelo amused the remaining guests with all the resources of a man practised in making people feel at their ease, and in this he was soon greatly assisted by Mr. Waldershare, who was unable to dine with the prince to-day, but who seemed to take much interest in this arrival of the representatives of the Latin race.

Baron Sergius and Endymion were sitting together rather apart from the rest. The baron said, "You have heard to-day a great deal about the Latin race, their wondrous qualities, their peculiar destiny, their possible danger. It is a new idea, or rather a new phrase, that I observe is now getting into the political world, and is probably destined to produce consequences. No man will treat with indifference the principle of race. It is the key of history, and why history is often so confused is that it has been written by men who were ignorant of this principle and all the knowledge it involves. As one who may become a statesman and assist in governing mankind, it is necessary that you should not be insensible to it; whether you encounter its influence in communities or in individuals, its qualities must ever be taken into account. But there is no subject which more requires discriminating knowledge, or where your illustrating principle, if you are not deeply founded, may not chance to turn out a will-o'-the-wisp. Now this great question of the Latin race, by which M. de Vallombrosa may succeed in disturbing the world—it might be well to inquire where the Latin race is to be found. In the North of Italy, peopled by Germans and named after Germans, or in the South of Italy, swarming with the descendants of Normans and Arabs? Shall we find the Latin race in Spain, stocked by Goths, and Moors, and Jews? Or in France, where there is a great Celtic nation, occasionally mingled with Franks? Now I do not want to go into the origin of man and nations—I am essentially practical, and only endeavour to comprehend that with which I have personally to deal, and that is sufficiently difficult. In Europe I find three great races with distinct qualities—the Teutons, the Sclaves, and the Celts; and their conduct will be influenced by those distinctive qualities. There is another great race which influences the world, the Semites. Certainly, when I was at the Congress of Vienna, I did not believe that the Arabs were more likely to become a conquering race again than the Tartars, and yet it is a question at this moment whether Mehemet Ali, at their head, may not found a new empire in the Mediterranean. The Semites are unquestionably a great race, for among the few things in this world which appear to be certain, nothing is more sure than that they invented our alphabet. But the Semites now exercise a vast influence over affairs by their smallest though most peculiar family, the Jews. There is no race gifted with so much tenacity, and such skill in organisation. These qualities have given them an unprecedented hold over property and illimitable credit. As you advance in life, and get experience in affairs, the Jews will cross you everywhere. They have long been stealing into our secret diplomacy, which they have almost appropriated; in another quarter of a century they will claim their share of open government. Well, these are races; men and bodies of men influenced in their conduct by their particular organisation, and which must enter into all the calculations of a statesman. But what do they mean by the Latin race? Language and religion do not make a race—there is only one thing which makes a race, and that is blood."

"But the prince," said Endymion inquiringly; "he seemed much interested in what M. de Vallombrosa was saying; I should like to know what his opinions are about the Latin race."

"The prince rarely gives an opinion," said the baron. "Indeed, as you well know, he rarely speaks; he thinks and he acts."

"But if he acts on wrong information," continued Endymion, "there will probably be only one consequence."

"The prince is very wise," said the baron; "and, trust me, knows as much about mankind, and the varieties of mankind, as any one. He may not believe in the Latin race, but he may choose to use those who do believe in it. The weakness of the prince, if he have one, is not want of knowledge, or want of judgment, but an over-confidence in his star, which sometimes seduces him into enterprises which he himself feels at the time are not perfectly sound."



CHAPTER LVII

The interest of the town was now divided between the danger of the government and the new preacher who electrified the world at St. Rosicrucius. The Rev. Nigel Penruddock was not at all a popular preacher according to the vulgar acceptation of the term. He disdained all cant and clap-trap. He preached Church principles with commanding eloquence, and he practised them with unceasing devotion. His church was always open, yet his schools were never neglected; there was a perfect choir, a staff of disciplined curates, young and ascetic, while sacred sisters, some of patrician blood, fearless and prepared for martyrdom, were gliding about all the back slums of his ferocious neighbourhood. How came the Whigs to give such a church to such a person? There must have been some mistake. But how came it that all the Whig ladies were among the most devoted of his congregation? The government whips did not like it; at such a critical period too, when it was necessary to keep the Dissenters up to the mark! And there was Lady Montfort and Lady Roehampton never absent on a Sunday, and their carriages, it was whispered, were often suspiciously near to St. Rosicrucius on week-days. Mr. Sidney Wilton too was frequently in Lady Roehampton's pew, and one day, absolutely my lord himself, who unfortunately was rarely seen at church—but then, as is well known, critical despatches always arrive on a Sunday morning—was successfully landed in her pew by Lady Roehampton, and was very much struck indeed by what he heard. "The fact is," as he afterwards observed, "I wish we had such a fellow on our bench in the House of Commons."

About this time also there was another event, which, although not of so general an interest, much touched the feelings of Endymion, and this was the marriage of the Earl of Beaumaris with Imogene. It was solemnised in as private and quiet a manner as possible. Waldershare was the best man, and there were no bridesmaids. The only other persons invited by Mr. Rodney, who gave away the bride, were Endymion and Mr. Vigo.

One morning, a few days before the wedding, Sylvia, who had written to ask Lady Roehampton for an interview, called by appointment in St. James' Square. Sylvia was received by Lady Roehampton in her boudoir, and the interview was long. Sylvia, who by nature was composed, and still more so by art, was pale and nervous when she arrived, so much so that her demeanour was noticed by the groom of the chambers; but when she departed, her countenance was flushed and radiant, though it was obvious that she had been shedding tears. On the morning of the wedding, Lady Roehampton in her lord's brougham called for Endymion at the Albany, and then they went together to the vestry of St. James' Church. Lord Beaumaris and Mr. Waldershare had arrived. The bridegroom was a little embarrassed when he was presented to Lady Roehampton. He had made up his mind to be married, but not to be introduced to a stranger, and particularly a lady; but Mr. Waldershare fluttered over them and put all right. It was only the perplexity of a moment, for the rest of the wedding party now appeared. Imogene, who was in a travelling dress, was pale and serious, but transcendently beautiful. She attempted to touch Lady Roehampton's hand with her lips when Myra welcomed her, but Lady Roehampton would not permit this, and kissed her. Everybody was calm during the ceremony except Endymion, who had been silent the whole morning. He stood by the altar with that convulsion of the throat and that sickness of the heart which accompany the sense of catastrophe. He was relieved by some tears which he easily concealed. Nobody noticed him, for all were thinking of themselves. After the ceremony, they all returned to the vestry, and Lady Roehampton with the others signed the registry. Lord and Lady Beaumaris instantly departed for the continent.

"A strange event!" exclaimed Lady Roehampton, as she threw herself back in the brougham and took her brother's hand. "But not stranger than what has happened to ourselves. Fortune seems to attend on our ruined home. I thought the bride looked beautiful."

Endymion was silent.

"You are not gay this morning, my dear," said Lady Roehampton; "they say that weddings are depressing. Now I am in rather high spirits. I am very glad that Imogene has become Lady Beaumaris. She is beautiful, and dangerously beautiful. Do you know, my Endymion, I have had some uneasy moments about this young lady. Women are prescient in these matters, and I have observed with anxiety that you admired her too much yourself."

"I am sure you had no reason, Myra," said Endymion, blushing deeply.

"Certainly not from what you said, my dear. It was from what you did not say that I became alarmed. You seldom mentioned her name, and when I referred to her, you always turned the conversation. However, that is all over now. She is Countess of Beaumaris," added Myra, dwelling slowly and with some unction on the title, "and may be a powerful friend to you; and I am Countess of Roehampton, and am your friend, also not quite devoid of power. And there are other countesses, I suspect, on whose good wishes you may rely. If we cannot shape your destiny, there is no such thing as witchcraft. No, Endymion, marriage is a mighty instrument in your hands. It must not be lightly used. Come in and lunch; my lord is at home, and I know he wants to see you."



CHAPTER LVIII

What was most remarkable, and most interesting, in the character of Berengaria was her energy. She had the power of exciting others to action in a degree rarely possessed. She had always some considerable object in contemplation, occasionally more than one, and never foresaw difficulties. Her character was, however, singularly feminine; she never affected to be a superior woman. She never reasoned, did not read much, though her literary taste was fine and fastidious. Though she required constant admiration and consequently encouraged it, she was not a heartless coquette. Her sensibility was too quick, and as the reign of her favourites was sometimes brief, she was looked upon as capricious. The truth is, what seemed whimsical in her affections was occasioned by the subtlety of her taste, which was not always satisfied by the increased experience of intimacy. Whenever she made a friend not unworthy of her, she was constant and entirely devoted.

At present, Berengaria had two great objects; one was to sustain the Whig government in its troubles, and the other was to accomplish an unprecedented feat in modern manners, and that was no less than to hold a tournament, a real tournament, in the autumn, at the famous castle of her lord in the North of England.

The lord-lieutenant had not been in his county for two years; he had even omitted to celebrate Christmas at his castle, which had shocked everybody, for its revelry was looked upon almost as the tenure by which the Montforts held their estates. His plea of ill health, industriously circulated by all his agents, obtained neither sympathy nor credence. His county was rather a weak point with Lord Montfort, for though he could not bear his home, he was fond of power, and power depended on his territorial influence. The representation of his county by his family, and authority in the local parliamentary boroughs, were the compensations held out to him for the abolition of his normal seats. His wife dexterously availed herself of this state of affairs to obtain his assent to her great project, which, it would appear, might not only amuse him, but, in its unprecedented magnificence and novelty, must sweep away all discontents, and gratify every class.

Lord Montfort had placed unlimited resources at the disposal of Berengaria for the fulfilment of her purpose, and at times even showed some not inconsiderable though fitful interest in her progress. He turned over the drawings of the various costumes and armour with a gracious smile, and, having picked up on such subjects a great deal of knowledge, occasionally made suggestions which were useful and sometimes embarrassing. The heralds were all called into council, and Garter himself deigned to regulate the order of proceedings. Some of the finest gentlemen in London, of both parties in the state, passed the greater part of their spring mornings in jousting, and in practising all the manoeuvres of the lists. Lady Montfort herself was to be the Queen of the Tournament, and she had prevailed on Lady Roehampton to accept the supreme office of Queen of Beauty.

It was the early part of May, and Zenobia held one of her great assemblies. Being in high good humour, sanguine and prophetic of power, she had asked all the great Whig ladies, and, the times being critical, they had come. Berengaria seemed absorbed by the details of her tournament. She met many of her knights, and she conferred with them all; the Knight of the Bleeding Heart, the Knight of Roses, the Knight of the Crystal Shield.

Endymion, who was not to be a knight, but a gentleman-at-arms in attendance on the Queen of the Tournament, mentioned that Prince Florestan much wished to be a jouster; he had heard this from the Duke of St. Angelo, and Lady Montfort, though she did not immediately sanction, did not absolutely refuse, the request.

Past midnight, there was a sudden stir in the saloons. The House of Commons had broken up and many members were entering. There had been a division on the Jamaica question, and the ministers had only a majority of five. The leader of the House of Commons had intimated, not to say announced, their consequent resignation.

"Have you heard what they say?" said Endymion anxiously to Lady Montfort.

"Yes, I heard; but do not look so grave."

"Do I look grave?"

"As if it were the last day."

"I fear it is."

"I am not so sure. I doubt whether Sir Robert thinks it ripe enough; and after all, we are not in a minority. I do not see why we should have resigned. I wish I could see Lord Roehampton."

Affairs did not proceed so rapidly as the triumphant Zenobia expected. They were out, no question about that; but it was not so certain who was in. A day passed and another day, and even Zenobia, who knew everything before anybody, remained in the dark. The suspense became protracted and even more mysterious. Almost a week had elapsed; noble lords and right honourable gentlemen were calling on Sir Robert every morning, according to the newspapers, but no one could hear from any authority of any appointments being really made. At last, there was a whisper very late one night at Crockford's, which was always better informed on these matters than the political clubs, and people looked amazed, and stared incredulously in each other's face. But it was true; there was a hitch, and in four-and-twenty hours the cause of the hitch was known. It seemed that the ministry really had resigned, but Berengaria, Countess of Montfort, had not followed their example.

What a dangerous woman! even wicked! Zenobia was for sending her to the Tower at once. "It was clearly impossible," she declared, "for Sir Robert to carry on affairs with such a Duchesse de Longueville always at the ear of our young Queen, under the pretence forsooth of being the friend of Her Majesty's youth."

This was the famous Bed-Chamber Plot, in which the Conservative leaders, as is now generally admitted, were decidedly in error, and which terminated in the return of the Whigs to office.

"But we must reconstruct," said Lady Montfort to the prime minister. "Sidney Wilton must be Secretary of State. And you," she said to Endymion, when she communicated to him the successful result of her interference, "you will go with him. It is a great thing at your age to be private secretary to a Secretary of State."



CHAPTER LIX

Montfort Castle was the stronghold of England against the Scotch invader. It stood on a high and vast table-land, with the town of Montfort on one side at its feet, and on the other a wide-spreading and sylvan domain, herded with deer of various races, and terminating in pine forests; beyond them moors and mountains. The donjon keep, tall and grey, that had arrested the Douglas, still remained intact, and many an ancient battlement; but the long list of the Lords of Montfort had successively added to the great structure according to the genius of the times, so that still with the external appearance generally of a feudal castle, it combined in its various courts and quadrangle all the splendour and convenience of a modern palace.

But though it had witnessed many scenes and sights, and as strange ones as any old walls in this ancient land, it may be doubted whether the keep of Montfort ever looked down on anything more rare than the life that was gathering and disporting itself in its towers and halls, and courts and parks, and forest chase, in the memorable autumn of this year.

Berengaria had repaired to her castle full of triumph; her lord, in high good humour, admiring his wife for her energy, yet with a playful malice apparently enjoying the opportunity of showing that the chronology of her arrangements was confused, and her costume incorrect. They had good-naturedly taken Endymion down with them; for travelling to the Border in those times was a serious affair for a clerk in a public office. Day after day the other guests arrived; the rivals in the tourney were among the earliest, for they had to make themselves acquainted with the land which was to be the scene of their exploits. There came the Knights of the Griffin, and the Dragon, and the Black Lion and the Golden Lion, and the Dolphin and the Stag's Head, and they were all always scrupulously addressed by their chivalric names, instead of by the Tommys and the Jemmys that circulated in the affectionate circle of White's, or the Gusseys and the Regys of Belgravian tea-parties. After a time duly appeared the Knight of the White Rose, whose armour shielded the princely form of Florestan; and this portion of the company was complete when the Black Knight at length reached the castle, who had been detained by his attendance on a conference at St. James', in the character of the Count of Ferroll.

If anything could add to the delight and excitement of Berengaria, it would seem to be the arrival of the Count of Ferroll.

Other guests gradually appeared, who were to sustain other characters in the great pageant. There was the Judge of Peace, and the Knight Marshal of the Lists, and the Jester, who was to ride on a caparisoned mule trapped with bells, and himself bearing a sceptre. Mr. Sidney Wilton came down, who had promised to be King of the Tournament; and, though rather late, for my lord had been detained by the same cause as the Count of Ferroll, at length arrived the Queen of Beauty herself.

If the performance, to which all contiguous Britain intended to repair—for irrespective of the railroads, which now began sensibly to affect the communications in the North of England, steamers were chartering from every port for passengers to the Montfort tournament within one hundred miles' distance—were equal to the preparation, the affair must be a great success. The grounds round the castle seemed to be filled every day with groups of busy persons in fanciful costume, all practising their duties and rehearsing their parts; swordsmen and bowmen, and seneschals and esquires, and grooms and pages, and heralds in tabards, and pursuivants, and banner-bearers. The splendid pavilions of the knights were now completed, and the gorgeous throne of the Queen of Beauty, surrounded by crimson galleries, tier above tier, for thousands of favoured guests, were receiving only their last stroke of magnificence. The mornings passed in a feverish whirl of curiosity, and preparation, and excitement, and some anxiety. Then succeeded the banquet, where nearly one hundred guests were every day present; but the company were so absorbed in the impending event that none expected or required, in the evenings, any of the usual schemes or sources of amusement that abound in country houses. Comments on the morning, and plans for the morrow, engrossed all thought and conversation, and my lord's band was just a due accompaniment that filled the pauses when perplexities arrested talk, or deftly blended with some whispered phrase almost as sweet or thrilling as the notes of the cornet-a-piston.

"I owe my knighthood to you," said Prince Florestan to Lady Roehampton, "as I do everything in this country that is agreeable."

"You cannot be my knight," replied Lady Roehampton, "because I am told I am the sovereign of all the chivalry, but you have my best wishes."

"All that I want in life," said the prince, "are your good wishes."

"I fear they are barren."

"No, they are inspiring," said the prince with unusual feeling. "You brought me good fortune. From the moment I saw you, light fell upon my life."

"Is not that an exaggerated phrase?" said Lady Roehampton with a smile, "because I happened to get you a ticket for a masquerade."

"I was thinking of something else," said the prince pensively; "but life is a masquerade; at least mine has been."

"I think yours, sir, is a most interesting life," said Lady Roehampton, "and, were I you, I would not quarrel with my destiny."

"My destiny is not fulfilled," said the prince. "I have never quarrelled with it, and am least disposed to do so at this moment."

"Mr. Sidney Wilton was speaking to me very much the other day about your royal mother, sir, Queen Agrippina. She must have been fascinating."

"I like fascinating women," said the prince, "but they are rare."

"Perhaps it is better it should be so," said Lady Roehampton, "for they are apt—are they not?—to disturb the world."

"I confess I like to be bewitched," said the prince, "and I do not care how much the world is disturbed."

"But is not the world very well as it is?" said Lady Roehampton. "Why should we not be happy and enjoy it?"

"I do enjoy it," replied Prince Florestan, "especially at Montfort Castle; I suppose there is something in the air that agrees with one. But enjoyment of the present is consistent with objects for the future."

"Ah! now you are thinking of your great affairs—of your kingdom. My woman's brain is not equal to that."

"I think your brain is quite equal to kingdoms," said the prince, with a serious expression, and speaking in even a lower voice, "but I was not thinking of my kingdom. I leave that to fate; I believe it is destined to be mine, and therefore occasions me thought but not anxiety. I was thinking of something else than kingdoms, and of which unhappily I am not so certain—of which I am most uncertain—of which I fear I have no chance—and yet which is dearer to me than even my crown."

"What can that be?" said Lady Roehampton, with unaffected wonderment.

"'Tis a secret of chivalry," said Prince Florestan, "and I must never disclose it."

"It is a wonderful scene," said Adriana Neuchatel to Endymion, who had been for some time conversing with her. "I had no idea that I should be so much amused by anything in society. But then, it is so unlike anything one has ever seen."

Mrs. Neuchatel had not accompanied her husband and her daughter to the Montfort Tournament. Mr. Neuchatel required a long holiday, and after the tournament he was to take Adriana to Scotland. Mrs. Neuchatel shut herself up at Hainault, which it seemed she had never enjoyed before. She could hardly believe it was the same place, freed from its daily invasions by the House of Commons and the Stock Exchange. She had never lived so long without seeing an ambassador or a cabinet minister, and it as quite a relief. She wandered in the gardens, and drove her pony-chair in forest glades. She missed Adriana very much, and for a few days always expected her to enter the room when the door opened; and then she sighed, and then she flew to her easel, or buried herself in some sublime cantata of her favourite master, Beethoven. Then came the most wonderful performance of the whole day, and that was the letter, never missed, to Adriana. Considering that she lived in solitude, and in a spot with which her daughter was quite familiar, it was really marvellous that the mother should every day be able to fill so many interesting and impassioned pages. But Mrs. Neuchatel was a fine penwoman; her feelings were her facts, and her ingenious observations of art and nature were her news. After the first fever of separation, reading was always a resource to her, for she was a great student. She was surrounded by all the literary journals and choice publications of Europe, and there scarcely was a branch of science and learning with which she was not sufficiently familiar to be able to comprehend the stir and progress of the European mind. Mrs. Neuchatel had contrived to get rid of the chief cook by sending him on a visit to Paris, so she could, without cavil, dine off a cutlet and seltzer-water in her boudoir. Sometimes, not merely for distraction, but more from a sense of duty, she gave festivals to her schools; and when she had lived like a princely prisoner of state alone for a month, or rather like one on a desert isle who sighs to see a sail, she would ask a great geologist and his wife to pay her a visit, or some professor, who, though himself not worth a shilling, had some new plans, which really sounded quite practical, for the more equal distribution of wealth.

"And who is your knight?" said Endymion.

Adriana looked distressed.

"I mean, whom do you wish to win?"

"Oh, I should like them all to win!"

"That is good-natured, but then there would be no distinction. I know who is going to wear your colours—the Knight of the Dolphin."

"I hope nothing of that kind will happen," said Adriana, agitated. "I know that some of the knights are going to wear ladies' colours, but I trust no one will think of wearing mine. I know the Black Knight wears Lady Montfort's."

"He cannot," said Endymion hastily. "She is first lady to the Queen of Beauty; no knight can wear the colours of the Queen. I asked Sir Morte d'Arthur himself, and he told me there was no doubt about it, and that he had consulted Garter before he came down."

"Well, all I know is that the Count of Ferroll told me so," said Adriana; "I sate next to him at dinner."

"He shall not wear her colours," said Endymion quite angrily. "I will speak to the King of the Tournament about it directly."

"Why, what does it signify?" said Adriana.

"You thought it signified when I told you Regy Sutton was going to wear your colours."

"Ah! that is quite a different business," said Adriana, with a sigh.

Reginald Sutton was a professed admirer of Adriana, rode with her whenever he could, and danced with her immensely. She gave him cold encouragement, though he was the best-looking and best-dressed youth in England; but he was a determined young hero, not gifted with too sensitive nerves, and was a votary of the great theory that all in life was an affair of will, and that endowed with sufficient energy he might marry whom he liked. He accounted for his slow advance in London by the inimical presence of Mrs. Neuchatel, who he felt, or fancied, did not sympathise with him; while, on the contrary, he got on very well with the father, and so he was determined to seize the present opportunity. The mother was absent, and he himself in a commanding position, being one of the knights to whose exploits the eyes of all England were attracted.

Lord Roehampton was seated between an ambassadress and Berengaria, indulging in gentle and sweet-voiced raillery; the Count of Ferroll was standing beside Lady Montfort, and Mr. Wilton was opposite to the group. The Count of Ferroll rarely spoke, but listened to Lady Montfort with what she called one of his dark smiles.

"All I know is, she will never pardon you for not asking her," said Lord Roehampton. "I saw Bicester the day I left town, and he was very grumpy. He said that Lady Bicester was the only person who understood tournaments. She had studied the subject."

"I suppose she wanted to be the Queen of Beauty," said Berengaria.

"You are too severe, my dear lady. I think she would have been contented with a knight wearing her colours."

"Well, I cannot help it," said Berengaria, but somewhat doubtingly. And then, after a moment's pause, "She is too ugly."

"Why, she came to my fancy ball, and it is not five years ago, as Mary Queen of Scots!"

"That must have been after the Queen's decapitation," said Berengaria.

"I wonder you did not ask Zenobia," said Mr. Wilton.

"Of course I asked her, but I knew she would not come. She is in one of her hatreds now. She said she would have come, only she had half-promised to give a ball to the tenants at Merrington about that time, and she did not like to disappoint them. Quite touching, was it not?"

"A touch beyond the reach of art," said Mr. Wilton; "almost worthy of yourself, Lady Montfort."

"And what do you think of all this?" asked Lord Montfort of Nigel Penruddock, who, in a cassock that swept the ground, had been stalking about the glittering salons like a prophet who had been ordained in Mayfair, but who had now seated himself by his host.

"I am thinking of what is beneath all this," replied Nigel. "A great revivication. Chivalry is the child of the Church; it is the distinctive feature of Christian Europe. Had it not been for the revival of Church principles, this glorious pageant would never have occurred. But it is a pageant only to the uninitiated. There is not a ceremony, a form, a phrase, a costume, which is not symbolic of a great truth or a high purpose."

"I do not think Lady Montfort is aware of all this," said her lord.

"Oh yes!" said Nigel. "Lady Montfort is a great woman—a woman who could inspire crusades and create churches. She might, and she will, I trust, rank with the Helenas and the Matildas."

Lord Montfort gave a little sound, but so gentle that it was heard probably but by himself, which in common language would be styled a whistle—an articulate modulation of the breath which in this instance expressed a sly sentiment of humorous amazement.

"Well, Mr. Ferrars," said Mr. Neuchatel, with a laughing eye, to that young gentleman, as he encountered Endymion passing by, "and how are you getting on? Are we to see you to-morrow in a Milanese suit?"

"I am only a page," said Endymion.

"Well, well, the old Italian saying is, 'A page beats a knight,' at least with the ladies."

"Do you not think it very absurd," said Endymion, "that the Count of Ferroll says he shall wear Lady Montfort's colours? Lady Montfort is only the first lady of the Queen of Beauty, and she can wear no colours except the Queen's. Do not you think somebody ought to interfere?"

"Hem! The Count of Ferroll is a man who seldom makes a mistake," said Mr. Neuchatel.

"So everybody says," said Endymion rather testily; "but I do not see that."

"Now, you are a very young man," said Mr. Neuchatel, "and I hope you will some day be a statesman. I do not see why you should not, if you are industrious and stick to your master, for Mr. Sidney Wilton is a man who will always rise; but, if I were you, I would keep my eyes very much on the Count of Ferroll, for, depend on it, he is one of those men who sooner or later will make a noise in the world."

Adriana came up at this moment, leaning on the arm of the Knight of the Dolphin, better known as Regy Sutton. They came from the tea-room. Endymion moved away with a cloud on his brow, murmuring to himself, "I am quite sick of the name of the Count of Ferroll."

The jousting-ground was about a mile from the castle, and though it was nearly encircled by vast and lofty galleries, it was impossible that accommodation could be afforded on this spot to the thousands who had repaired from many parts of the kingdom to the Montfort Tournament. But even a hundred thousand people could witness the procession from the castle to the scene of action. That was superb. The sun shone, and not one of the breathless multitude was disappointed.

There came a long line of men-at-arms and musicians and trumpeters and banner-bearers of the Lord of the Tournament, and heralds in tabards, and pursuivants, and then the Herald of the Tournament by himself, whom the people at first mistook for the Lord Mayor.

Then came the Knight Marshal on a caparisoned steed, himself in a suit of gilt armour, and in a richly embroidered surcoat. A band of halberdiers preceded the King of the Tournament, also on a steed richly caparisoned, and himself clad in robes of velvet and ermine, and wearing a golden crown.

Then on a barded Arab, herself dressed in cloth of gold, parti-coloured with violet and crimson, came, amidst tremendous cheering, the Queen of Beauty herself. Twelve attendants bore aloft a silken canopy, which did not conceal from the enraptured multitude the lustre of her matchless loveliness. Lady Montfort, Adriana, and four other attendant ladies, followed her majesty, two by two, each in gorgeous attire, and on a charger that vied in splendour with its mistress. Six pages followed next, in violet and silver.

The bells of a barded mule announced the Jester, who waved his sceptre with unceasing authority, and pelted the people with admirably prepared impromptus. Some in the crowd tried to enter into a competition of banter, but they were always vanquished.

Soon a large army of men-at-arms and the sounds of most triumphant music stopped the general laughter, and all became again hushed in curious suspense. The tallest and the stoutest of the Border men bore the gonfalon of the Lord of the Tournament. That should have been Lord Montfort himself; but he had deputed the office to his cousin and presumptive heir. Lord Montfort was well represented, and the people cheered his cousin Odo heartily, as in his suit of golden armour richly chased, and bending on his steed, caparisoned in blue and gold, he acknowledged their fealty with a proud reverence.

The other knights followed in order, all attended by their esquires and their grooms. Each knight was greatly applauded, and it was really a grand sight to see them on their barded chargers and in their panoply; some in suits of engraved Milanese armour, some in German suits of fluted polished steel; some in steel armour engraved and inlaid with gold. The Black Knight was much cheered, but no one commanded more admiration than Prince Florestan, in a suit of blue damascened armour, and inlaid with silver roses.

Every procession must end. It is a pity, for there is nothing so popular with mankind. The splendid part of the pageant had passed, but still the people gazed and looked as if they would have gazed for ever. The visitors at the castle, all in ancient costume, attracted much notice. Companies of swordsmen and bowmen followed, till at last the seneschal of the castle, with his chamberlains and servitors, closed the spell-bound scene.



CHAPTER LX

The jousting was very successful; though some were necessarily discomfited, almost every one contrived to obtain some distinction. But the two knights who excelled and vanquished every one except themselves were the Black Knight and the Knight of the White Rose. Their exploits were equal at the close of the first day, and on the second they were to contend for the principal prize of the tournament, for which none else were entitled to be competitors. This was a golden helm, to be placed upon the victor's brow by the Queen of Beauty.

There was both a banquet and a ball on this day, and the excitement between the adventures of the morning and the prospects of the morrow was great. The knights, freed from their armour, appeared in fanciful dresses of many-coloured velvets. All who had taken part in the pageant retained their costumes, and the ordinary guests, if they yielded to mediaeval splendour, successfully asserted the taste of Paris and its sparkling grace, in their exquisite robes, and wreaths and garlands of fantastic loveliness.

Berengaria, full of the inspiration of success, received the smiling congratulations of everybody, and repaid them with happy suggestions, which she poured forth with inexhaustible yet graceful energy. The only person who had a gloomy air was Endymion. She rallied him. "I shall call you the Knight of the Woeful Countenance if you approach me with such a visage. What can be the matter with you?"

"Nothing," repeated Endymion, looking rather away.

The Knight of the Dolphin came up and said, "This is a critical affair to-morrow, my dear Lady Montfort. If the Count Ferroll is discomfited by the prince, it may be a casus belli. You ought to get Lord Roehampton to interfere and prevent the encounter."

"The Count of Ferroll will not be discomfited," said Lady Montfort. "He is one of those men who never fail."

"Well, I do not know," said the Knight of the Dolphin musingly. "The prince has a stout lance, and I have felt it."

"He had the best of it this morning," said Endymion rather bitterly. "Every one thought so, and that it was very fortunate for the Count of Ferroll that the heralds closed the lists."

"It might have been fortunate for others," rejoined Lady Montfort. "What is the general opinion?" she added, addressing the Knight of the Dolphin. "Do not go away, Mr. Ferrars. I want to give you some directions about to-morrow."

"I do not think I shall be at the place to-morrow," muttered Endymion.

"What!" exclaimed Berengaria; but at this moment Mr. Sidney Wilton came up and said, "I have been looking at the golden helm. It is entrusted to my care as King of the Tournament. It is really so beautiful, that I think I shall usurp it."

"You will have to settle that with the Count of Ferroll," said Berengaria.

"The betting is about equal," said the Knight of the Dolphin.

"Well, we must have some gloves upon it," said Berengaria.

Endymion walked away.

He walked away, and the first persons that met his eye were the prince and the Count of Ferroll in conversation. It was sickening. They seemed quite gay, and occasionally examined together a paper which the prince held in his hand, and which was an official report by the heralds of the day's jousting. This friendly conversation might apparently have gone on for ever had not the music ceased and the count been obliged to seek his partner for the coming dance.

"I wonder you can speak to him," said Endymion, going up to the prince. "If the heralds had not—many think, too hastily—closed the lists this morning, you would have been the victor of the day."

"My dear child! what can you mean?" said the prince. "I believe everything was closed quite properly, and as for myself, I am entirely satisfied with my share of the day's success."

"If you had thrown him," said Endymion, "he could not with decency have contended for the golden helm."

"Oh! that is what you deplore," said the prince. "The Count of Ferroll and I shall have to contend for many things more precious than golden helms before we die."

"I believe he is a very overrated man," said Endymion.

"Why?" said the prince.

"I detest him," said Endymion.

"That is certainly a reason why you should not overrate him," said the prince.

"There seems a general conspiracy to run him up," said Endymion with pique.

"The Count of Ferroll is the man of the future," said the prince calmly.

"That is what Mr. Neuchatel said to me yesterday. I suppose he caught it from you."

"It is an advantage, a great advantage, for me to observe the Count of Ferroll in this intimate society," said the prince, speaking slowly, "perhaps even to fathom him. But I am not come to that yet. He is a man neither to love nor to detest. He has himself an intelligence superior to all passion, I might say all feeling; and if, in dealing with such a being, we ourselves have either, we give him an advantage."

"Well, all the same, I hope you will win the golden helm to-morrow," said Endymion, looking a little perplexed.

"The golden casque that I am ordained to win," said the prince, "is not at Montfort Castle. This, after all, is but Mambrino's helmet."

A knot of young dandies were discussing the chances of the morrow as Endymion was passing by, and as he knew most of them he joined the group.

"I hope to heaven," said one, "that the Count of Ferroll will beat that foreign chap to-morrow; I hate foreigners."

"So do I," said a second, and there was a general murmur of assent.

"The Count of Ferroll is as much a foreigner as the prince," said Endymion rather sharply.

"Oh! I don't call him a foreigner at all," said the first speaker. "He is a great favourite at White's; no one rides cross country like him, and he is a deuced fine shot in the bargain."

"I will back Prince Florestan against him either in field or cover," said Endymion.

"Well, I don't know your friend," said the young gentleman contemptuously, "so I cannot bet."

"I am sure your friend, Lady Montfort, my dear Dymy, will back the Count of Ferroll," lisped a third young gentleman.

This completed the programme of mortification, and Endymion, hot and then cold, and then both at the same time, bereft of repartee, and wishing the earth would open and Montfort Castle disappear in its convulsed bosom, stole silently away as soon as practicable, and wandered as far as possible from the music and the bursts of revelry.

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