"And what are those might I ask?" inquired Lothair.
"In reality, not much. I would get rid of the religion."
"Get rid of the religion!" said Lothair.
"You have got rid of it once," said the professor.
"You have altered, you have what people call reformed it," said Lothair; "but you have not abolished or banished it from the university."
"The shock would not be greater, nor so great, as the change from the papal to the Reformed faith. Besides, universities have nothing to do with religion."
"I thought universities were universal," said Lothair, "and had something to do with every thing."
"I cannot conceive any society of any kind without religion," said the lady.
Lothair glanced at her beautiful brow with devotion as she uttered these words.
Colonel Campian began to talk about horses. After that the professor proved to him that he was related to Edmund Campian, the Jesuit; and then he got to the Gunpowder Plot, which, he was not sure, if successful, might not have beneficially influenced the course of our history. Probably the Irish difficulty would not then have existed.
"I dislike plots," said the lady; "they always fail."
"And, whatever their object, are they not essentially immoral?" said Lothair.
"I have more faith in ideas than in persons," said the lady. "When a truth is uttered, it will, sooner or later, be recognized. It is only an affair of time. It is better that it should mature and naturally germinate than be forced."
"You would reduce us to lotus-eaters," exclaimed the professor. "Action is natural to man. And what, after all, are conspiracies and revolutions but great principles in violent action?"
"I think you must be an admirer of repose," said Lothair to the lady, in a low voice.
"Because I have seen something of action in my life;" said the lady, "and it is an experience of wasted energies and baffled thoughts."
When they returned to the saloon, the colonel and the professor became interested in the constitution and discipline of the American universities. Lothair hung about the lady, who was examining some views of Oxford, and who was ascertaining what she had seen and what she had omitted to visit. They were thinking of returning home on the morrow.
"Without seeing Blenheim?" said Lothair.
"Without seeing Blenheim," said the lady; "I confess to a pang; but I shall always associate with that name your great kindness to us."
"But cannot we for once enter into a conspiracy together," said Lothair, "and join in a happy plot and contrive to go? Besides, I could take you to the private gardens, for the duke has given me a perpetual order, and they are really exquisite."
The lady seemed to smile.
"Theodora," said the colonel, speaking from the end of the room, "what have you settled about your train to-morrow?"
"We want, to stay another day here," said Theodora, "and go to Blenheim."
They were in the private gardens at Blenheim. The sun was brilliant over the ornate and yet picturesque scene.
"Beautiful, is it not?" exclaimed Lothair.
"Yes, certainly beautiful," said Theodora. "But, do you know, I do not feel altogether content in these fine gardens? The principle of exclusion on which they are all founded is to me depressing. I require in all things sympathy. You would not agree with me in this. The manners of your country are founded on exclusion."
"But, surely, there are times and places when one would like to be alone."
"Without doubt," said the lady; "only I do not like artificial loneliness. Even your parks, which all the world praises, do not quite satisfy me. I prefer a forest where all may go—even the wild beasts."
"But forests are not at command," said Lothair.
"So you make a solitude and call it peace," said the lady, with a slight smile. "For my part, my perfect life would be a large and beautiful village. I admire Nature, but I require the presence of humanity. Life in great cities is too exhausting; but in my village there should be air, streams, and beautiful trees, a picturesque scene, but enough of my fellow-creatures to insure constant duty."
"But the fulfilment of duty and society, founded on what you call the principle of exclusion, are not incompatible," said Lothair.
"No, but difficult. What should be natural becomes an art; and in every art it is only the few who can be first rate."
"I have an ambition to be a first-rate artist in that respect," said Lothair, thoughtfully.
"That does you much honor," she replied, "for you necessarily embark in a most painful enterprise. The toiling multitude have their sorrows, which, I believe, will some day be softened, and obstacles hard to overcome; but I have always thought that the feeling of satiety, almost inseparable from large possessions, is a surer cause of misery than ungratified desires."
"It seems to me that there is a great deal to do," said Lothair.
"I think so," said the lady.
"Theodora," said the colonel, who was a little in advance with the professor, and turning round his head, "this reminds me of Mirabel," and he pointed to the undulating banks covered with rare shrubs, and touching the waters of the lake.
"And where is Mirabel?" said Lothair.
"It was a green island in the Adriatic," said the lady, "which belonged to Colonel Campian; we lost it in the troubles. Colonel Campian was very fond of it. I try to persuade him that our home was of volcanic origin, and has only vanished and subsided into its native bed."
"And were not you fond of it?"
"I never think of the past," said the lady.
"Oxford is not the first place where I had the pleasure of meeting you," Lothair ventured at length to observe.
"Yes, we have met before, in Hyde Park Gardens. Our hostess is a clever woman, and has been very kind to some friends of mine."
"And have you seen her lately?"
"She comes to see us sometimes. We do not live in London, but in the vicinity. We only go to London for the opera, of which we are devotees. We do not at all enter general society; Colonel Campian only likes people who interest or amuse him, and he is fortunate in having rather a numerous acquaintance of that kind."
"Rare fortune!" said Lothair.
"Colonel Campian lived a great deal at Paris before we marred," said the lady, "and in a circle of considerable culture and excitement. He is social, but not conventional."
"And you—are you conventional?"
"Well, I live only for climate and the affections," said the lady "I am fond of society that pleases me, that is, accomplished and natural and ingenious; otherwise I prefer being alone. As for atmosphere, as I look upon it as the main source of felicity, you may be surprised that I should reside in your country. I should myself like to go to America, but that would not suit Colonel Campian; and, if we are to live in Europe, we must live in England. It is not pleasant to reside in a country where, if you happen to shelter or succor a friend, you may be subject to a domiciliary visit."
The professor stopped to deliver a lecture or address on the villa of Hadrian. Nothing could be more minute or picturesque than his description of that celebrated pleasaunce. It was varied by portraits of the emperor and some of his companions, and, after a rapid glance at the fortunes of the imperial patriciate, wound up with some conclusions favorable to communism. It was really very clever, and would have made the fortune of a literary society.
"I wonder if they had gravel-walks in the villa of Hadrian?" said the colonel. "What I admire most in your country, my lord, are your gravel-walks, though that lady would not agree with me that matter."
"You are against gravel-walks," said Lothair.
"Well, I cannot bring myself to believe that they had gravel-walks in the garden of Eden," said the lady.
They had a repast at Woodstock, too late for luncheon, too early for dinner, but which it was agreed should serve as the latter meal.
"That suits me exactly," said the lady; "I am a great foe to dinners, and indeed to all meals. I think when the good time comes we shall give up eating in public, except perhaps fruit on a green bank with music."
It was a rich twilight as they drove home, the lady leaning back in the carriage silent. Lothair sat opposite to her, and gazed upon a countenance on which the moon began to glisten, and which seemed unconscious of all human observation.
He had read of such countenances in Grecian dreams; in Corinthian temples, in fanes of Ephesus, in the radiant shadow of divine groves.
When they had arrived at the hotel, Colonel Campian proposed that they should come in and have some coffee; but Theodora did not enforce this suggestion; and Lothair, feeling that she might be wearied, gracefully though unwillingly waived the proposal. Remembering that on the noon of the morrow they were to depart, with a happy inspiration, as he said farewell, he asked permission to accompany them to the station.
Lothair walked away with the professor, who seemed in a conservative vein, and graciously disposed to make several concessions to the customs of an ancient country. Though opposed to the land laws, he would operate gradually, and gave Lothair more than one receipt how to save the aristocracy. Lothair would have preferred talking about the lady they had just quitted, but, as he soon found the professor could really give him no information about her, he let the subject drop.
But not out of his own mind. He was glad to be alone and brood over the last two days. They were among the most interesting of his life. He had encountered a character different from any he had yet met, had listened to new views, and his intelligence had been stimulated by remarks made casually, in easy conversation, and yet to him pregnant with novel and sometimes serious meaning. The voice, too, lingered in his ear, so hushed and deep, and yet so clear and sweet. He leaned over his mantel-piece in teeming reverie.
"And she is profoundly religious," he said to himself; "she can conceive no kind of society without religion. She has arrived at the same conclusion as myself. What a privilege it would be to speak to her on such subjects!"
After a restless night the morrow came. About eleven o'clock Lothair ventured to call on his new friends. The lady was alone; she was standing by the window, reading an Italian newspaper, which she folded up and placed aside when Lothair was announced.
"We propose to walk to the station," said Theodora; "the servants have gone on. Colonel Campian has a particular aversion to moving with any luggage. He restricts me to this," she said, pointing to her satchel, in which she had placed the foreign newspaper, "and for that he will not be responsible."
"It was most kind of you to permit me to accompany you this morning," said Lothair; "I should have been grieved to have parted abruptly last night."
"I could not refuse such a request," said the lady; "but do you know, I never like to say farewell, even for four-and-twenty hours? One should vanish like a spirit."
"Then I have erred," said Lothair, "against your rules and principles."
"Say my fancies," said the lady, "my humors, my whims. Besides, this is not a farewell. You will come and see us. Colonel Campian tells me you have promised to give us that pleasure."
"It will be the greatest pleasure to me," said Lothair; "I can conceive nothing greater." And then hesitating a little, and a little blushing, he added, "When do you think I might come?"
"Whenever you like," said the lady; "you will always find me at home. My life is this: I ride every day very early, and far into the country, so I return tamed some two or three hours after noon, and devote myself to my friends. We are at home every evening, except opera nights; and let me tell you, because it is not the custom generally among your compatriots, we are always at home on Sundays."
Colonel Campian entered the room; the moment of departure was at hand. Lothair felt the consolation of being their companion to the station. He had once hoped it might be possible to be their companion in the train; but he was not encouraged.
"Railways have elevated and softened the lot of man," said Theodora, "and Colonel Campian views them with almost a religious sentiment. But I cannot read in a railroad, and the human voice is distressing to me amid the whirl and the whistling, and the wild panting of the loosened megatheria who drag us. And then those terrible grottos—it is quite a descent of Proserpine; so I have no resources but my thoughts."
"And surely that is sufficient," murmured Lothair.
"Not when the past is expelled," said the lady.
"But the future," said Lothair.
"Yes, that is ever interesting, but so vague that it sometimes induces slumber."
The bell sounded; Lothair handed the lady to her compartment.
"Our Oxford visit," she said, "has been a great success, and mainly through you."
The colonel was profuse in his cordial farewells, and it seemed they would never have ended had not the train moved.
Lothair remained upon the platform until it was out of sight, and then exclaimed, "Is it a dream, or shall I ever see her again?"
Lothair reached London late in the afternoon. Among the notes and cards and letters on his table was a long and pressing dispatch from Mr. Putney Giles awaiting his judgment and decision on many points.
"The central inauguration, if I may use the term," said Mr. Putney Giles, "is comparatively easy. It is an affair of expense and of labor—great labor; I may say unremitting labor. But your lordship will observe the other points are not mere points of expense and labor. We have to consult the feelings of several counties where your lordship cannot be present, at least certainly not on this occasion, and yet where an adequate recognition of those sentiments which ought to exist between the proprietor and all classes connected with him ought to be secured. Then Scotland: Scotland is a very difficult business to manage. It is astonishing how the sentiment lingers in that country connected with its old independence. I really am quite surprised at it. One of your lordship's most important tenants wrote to me only a few days back that great dissatisfaction would prevail among your lordship's friends and tenantry in Scotland, if that country on this occasion were placed on the same level as a mere English county. It must be recognized as a kingdom. I almost think it would be better if we could persuade Lord Culloden, not to attend the English inauguration, but remain in the kingdom of Scotland, and take the chair and the lead throughout the festal ceremonies. A peer of the realm, and your lordship's guardian, would impart something of national character to the proceedings, and this, with a judicious emblazoning on some of the banners of the royal arms of Scotland, might have a conciliatory effect. One should always conciliate. But your lordship, upon all these points, and especially with reference to Lord Culloden, must be a much better judge than I am."
Lothair nearly gave a groan. "I almost wish," he thought, "my minority would never end. I am quite satisfied with things as they are. What is the kingdom of Scotland to me and all these counties? I almost begin to feel that satiety which she said was inseparable from vast possessions."
A letter from Bertram, reminding him that he had not dined at White's as he had promised, and suggesting some new arrangement, and another from Monsignore Catesby, earnestly urging him to attend a most peculiar and solemn function of the Church next Sunday evening, where the cardinal would officiate and preach, and in which Lady St. Jerome and Miss Arundel were particularly interested, did not restore his equanimity.
A dinner at White's! He did not think he could stand a dinner at White's. Indeed, he was not sure that he could stand any dinner anywhere, especially in this hot weather. There was a good deal in what she said: "One ought to eat alone."
The ecclesiastical function was a graver matter. It had been long contemplated, often talked about, and on occasions looked forward to by him even with a certain degree of eagerness. He wished he had had an opportunity of speaking with her on these matters. She was eminently religious; that she had voluntarily avowed. And he felt persuaded that no light or thoughtless remark could fall from those lips. He wondered to what Church she belonged? Protestant or papal? Her husband, being an American, was probably a Protestant, but he was a gentleman of the South, and with nothing puritanical about him. She was a European, and probably of a Latin race. In all likelihood she was a Roman Catholic.
It was Wednesday evening, and his valet reminded him that he was engaged to dine with Lord and Lady Montairy.
Lothair sighed. He was so absorbed by his new feelings that he shrunk from society with a certain degree of aversion. He felt it quite out of his power to fulfil his engagement. He sent an excuse. It was Lothair's first excuse. In short, he "threw over" the Montairys, to whom he was so much attached, whom he so much admired, and whose society he had hitherto so highly prized.
To "throw over" a host is the most heinous of social crimes. It ought never to be pardoned. It disjoints a party, often defeats the combinations which might affect the results of a season, and generally renders the society incoherent and unsatisfactory. If the outrage could ever be condoned, it might be in the instance of a young man very inexperienced, the victim of some unexpected condition of nervous feelings over which the defaulter has really no control.
It was evening, and the restless Lothair walked forth without a purpose, and in a direction which he rarely visited. "It is a wonderful place," said he, "this London; a nation, not a city; with a population greater than some kingdoms, and districts as different as if they were under different governments and spoke different languages. And what do I know of it? I have been living here six months, and my life has been passed in a park, two or three squares, and half a dozen streets!"
So he walked on and soon crossed Oxford Street, like the Rhine a natural boundary, and then got into Portland Place, and then found himself in the New Road, and then he hailed a cruising Hansom, which he had previously observed was well horsed.
"'Tis the gondola of London," said Lothair as he sprang in.
"Drive on till I tell you to stop."
And the Hansom drove on, through, endless boulevards, some bustling, some dingy, some tawdry and flaring, some melancholy and mean; rows of garden gods, planted on the walls of yards full of vases and divinities of concrete, huge railway halls, monster hotels, dissenting chapels in the form of Gothic churches, quaint ancient almshouses that were once built in the fields, and tea-gardens and stingo-houses and knackers' yards. They were in a district far beyond the experience of Lothair, which indeed had been exhausted when he had passed Eustonia, and from that he had been long separated. The way was broad but ill-lit, with houses of irregular size but generally of low elevation, and sometimes detached in smoke-dried gardens. The road was becoming a bridge which crossed a canal, with barges and wharves and timber-yards, when their progress was arrested by a crowd. It seemed a sort of procession; there was a banner, and the lamp-light fell upon a religious emblem. Lothair was interested, and desired the driver not to endeavor to advance. The procession was crossing the road and entering a building.
"It's a Roman Catholic chapel," said a bystander in answer to Lothair. "I believe it is a meeting about one of their schools. They always have banners."
"I think I will get out," said Lothair to his driver. "This, I suppose, will pay your fare."
The man stared with delight at the sovereign in his astonished palm, and in gratitude suggested that he should remain and wait for the gentleman, but the restless Lothair declined the proposal.
"Sir, sir," said the man, leaning down his head as low as possible from his elevated seat, and speaking in a hushed voice, "you are a real gentleman. Do you know what all this is?"
"Yes, yes; some meeting about a Roman Catholic school."
The man shook his head. "You are a real gentleman, and I will tell you the truth. They meet about the schools of the order of St. Joseph—over the left—it is a Fenian meeting."
"A Fenian meeting?"
"Ay, ay, and you cannot enter that place without a ticket. Just you try! However, if a gentleman like you wants to go, you shall have my ticket," said the cab-driver; "and here it is. And may I drive to-morrows as true a gentleman as I have driven to-day!"
So saying, he took a packet from his breast-pocket, and opening it offered to Lothair a green slip of paper, which was willingly accepted. "I should like above all things to go," he said, and he blended with the rear of those who were entering the building. The collector of the tickets stared at Lothair and scrutinized his pass, but all was in order, and Lothair was admitted.
He passed through a house and a yard, at the bottom of which was a rather spacious building. When he entered it, he saw in an instant it was not a chapel. It was what is called a temperance-hall, a room to be hired for public assemblies, with a raised platform at the end, on which were half a dozen men. The hall was tolerably full, and Lothair came in among the last. There were some children sitting on a form placed against the wall of the room, each with a bun which kept them quiet; the banner belonged to this school, and was the banner of St. Joseph.
A man dressed like a pries and known as Father O'Molloy, came forward. He was received with signs of much sympathy, succeeded by complete silence. He addressed them in a popular and animated style on the advantages of education. They knew what that was, and then they cheered.. Education taught them to know their rights. But what was the use of knowing their rights unless they enforced them? That was not to be done by prayer-books, but by something else, and something else wanted a subscription.
This was the object of the meeting and the burden of all the speeches which followed, and which were progressively more outspoken than the adroit introductory discourse. The Saxon was denounced, sometimes with coarseness, but sometimes in terms of picturesque passion; the vast and extending organization of the brotherhood was enlarged on, the great results at hand intimated; the necessity of immediate exertion on the part of every individual pressed with emphasis. All these views and remarks received from the audience an encouraging response; and when Lothair observed men going round with boxes, and heard the clink of coin, he felt very embarrassed as to what he should do when asked to contribute to a fund raised to stimulate and support rebellion against his sovereign. He regretted the rash restlessness which had involved him in such a position.
The collectors approached Lothair, who was standing at the end of the room opposite to the platform, where the space was not crowded.
"I should like to speak to Father O'Molloy," said Lothair; "he is a priest, and will understand my views."
"He is a priest here," said one of the collectors with a sardonic laugh, "but I am glad to say you will not find his name in the directory. Father O'Molloy is on the platform and engaged."
"If you want to speak to the father, speak from where you are," said the other collector. "Here, silence! a gentleman wants to address the meeting."
And there was silence, and Lothair felt extremely embarrassed, but he was not wanting, though it was the first time in his life that he had addressed a public meeting.
"Gentlemen," said Lothair, "I really had no wish to intrude upon you; all I desired was to speak to Father O'Molloy. I wished to tell him that it would have given me pleasure to subscribe to these schools. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I respect the Roman Catholic religion. But I can do nothing that will imply the slightest sanction of the opinions I have heard expressed this evening. For your own sakes—" but here a yell arose which forever drowned his voice.
"A spy, a spy!" was the general exclamation. "We are betrayed! Seize him! Knock him over!" and the whole meeting seemed to have turned their backs on the platform and to be advancing on the unfortunate Lothair. Two of the leaders on the platform at the same time leaped down from it, to direct as it were the enraged populace.
But at this moment a man who had been in the lower part of the hall, in the vicinity of Lothair and standing alone, pushed forward, and by his gestures and general mien arrested somewhat the crowd, so that the two leaders who leaped from the platform and bustled through the crowd came in contact with him.
The stranger was evidently not of the class or country of the rest assembled. He had a military appearance, and spoke with a foreign accent when he said, "This is no spy. Keep your people off."
"And who are you?" inquired the leader thus addressed.
"One accustomed to be obeyed," said the stranger.
"You may be a spy yourself," said the leader.
"I will not undertake to say that there are no spies in this room," said the stranger, "but this person is not one, and anybody who touches this person will touch this person at his peril. Stand off, men!" And they stood off. The wave retreated backward, leaving the two leaders in front. A couple of hundred men, a moment before apparently full of furious passion and ready to take refuge in the violence of fear, were cowed by a single human being.
"Why, you are not afraid of one man?" said the leaders, ashamed of their following. "Whatever betides, no one unknown shall leave this room, or it will be Bow Street to-morrow morning."
"Nevertheless," said the stranger, "two unknown men will leave this room and with general assent. If any one touches this person or myself I will shoot him dead," and he drew out his revolver, "and as for the rest, look at that," he added, giving a paper to the leader of the Fenian Lodge, "and then give it me back again."
The leader of the Fenian Lodge glanced at the paper; he grew pale, then scarlet, folded the paper with great care and returned it reverentially to the stranger, then looking round to the assembly and waving his hand he said, "All right, the gentlemen are to go."
"Well, you have got out of a scrape, young air," said the stranger to Lothair when they had escaped from the hall.
"And how can I express my gratitude to you?" Lothair replied.
"Poh!" said the stranger, "a mere affair of common duty. But what surprises me is how you got your pass-ticket."
Lothair told him all.
"They manage their affairs in general wonderfully close," said the stranger, "but I have no opinion of them. I have just returned from Ireland, where I thought I would go and see what they really are after. No real business in them. Their treason is a fairy tale, and their sedition a child talking in its sleep."
They walked together about half a mile, and then the stranger said, "At the end of this we shall get into the City Road, and the land again of omnibus and public conveyances, and I shall wish you good night."
"But it is distressing to me to part thus," said Lothair. "Pray let me call and pay my respects to my benefactor."
"No claim to any such title," said the stranger; "I am always glad to be of use. I will not trouble you to call on me, for, frankly, I have no wish to increase the circle of my acquaintance. So, good-night; and, as you seem to be fond of a little life, take my advice, and never go about unarmed."
The Fenian adventure furnished the distraction which Lothair required It broke that absorbing spell of sentiment which is the delicious but enervating privilege of the youthful heart; yet, when Lothair woke in the morning from his well-earned slumbers, the charm returned, and he fell at once into a reverie of Belmont, and a speculation when he might really pay his first visit there. Not to-day—that was clearly out of the question. They had separated only yesterday, and yet it seemed an age, and the adventure of another world. There are moods of feeling which defy alike time and space.
But on the morrow, Friday, he might venture to go. But, then, would to-morrow ever come? It seemed impossible. How were the intervening hours to pass? The world, however, was not so devoid of resources as himself, and had already appropriated his whole day. And, first, Monsignore Catesby came to breakfast with him, talking of every thing that was agreeable or interesting, but in reality bent on securing his presence at the impending ecclesiastical ceremony of high import, where his guardian was to officiate, and where the foundation was to be laid of the reconciliation of all churches in the bosom of the true one. Then, in the afternoon, Lothair had been long engaged to a match of pigeon-shooting, in which pastime Bertram excelled. It seemed there was to be a most exciting sweepstakes to-day, in which the flower of England were to compete; Lothair among them, and for the first time.
This great exploit of arms was to be accomplished at the Castle in the Air, a fantastic villa near the banks of the Thames, belonging to the Duke of Brecon. His grace had been offended by the conduct or the comments of the outer world, which in his pastime had thwarted or displeased him in the free life of Battersea. The Duke of Brecon was a gentleman easily offended, but not one of those who ever confined their sense of injury to mere words. He prided himself on "putting down" any individual or body of men who chose to come into collision with him. And so in the present instance he formed a club of pigeon-shooters, and lent them his villa for their rendezvous and enjoyment. The society was exquisite, exclusive, and greatly sought after. And the fine ladies, tempted, of course, by the beauty of the scene, honored and inspired the competing confederates by their presence.
The Castle in the Air was a colossal thatched cottage, built by a favorite of, King George IV. It was full of mandarins and pagodas and green dragons, and papered with birds of many colors and with vast tails. The gardens were pretty, and the grounds park-like, with some noble cedars and some huge walnut-trees.
The Duke of Brecon was rather below the middle size, but he had a singularly athletic frame not devoid of symmetry. His head was well placed on his broad shoulders, and his mien was commanding. He was narrow-minded and prejudiced, but acute, and endowed with an unbending will. He was an eminent sportsman, and brave even to brutality. His boast was that he had succeeded in every thing he had attempted, and he would not admit the possibility of future failure. Though still a very young man, he had won the Derby, training his own horse; and he successfully managed a fine stud in defiance of the ring, whom it was one of the secret objects of his life to extirpate. Though his manner to men was peremptory, cold, and hard, he might be described as popular, for there existed a superstitious belief in his judgment, and it was known that in some instances, when he had been consulted, he had given more than advice. It could not be said that he was beloved, but he was feared and highly considered. Parasites were necessary to him, though he despised them.
The Duke of Brecon was an avowed admirer, of Lady Corisande, and was intimate with her family. The duchess liked him much, and was often seen at ball or assembly on his arm. He had such excellent principles, she said; was so straight-forward, so true and firm. It was whispered that even Lady Corisande had remarked that the Duke of Brecon was the only young man of the time who had "character." The truth is, the duke, though absolute and hard to men, could be soft and deferential to women, and such an exception to a general disposition has a charm. It was said, also, that he had, when requisite, a bewitching smile.
If there were any thing or any person in the world that St. Aldegonde hated more than another, it was the Duke of Brecon. Why St. Aldegonde hated him was not very clear, for they had never crossed each other, nor were the reasons for his detestation, which he occasionally gave, entirely satisfactory: sometimes it was because the duke drove piebalds; sometimes because he had a large sum in the funds, which St. Aldegonde thought disgraceful for a duke; sometimes because he wore a particular hat, though, with respect to this last allegation, it does not follow that St. Aldegonde was justified in his criticism, for in all these matters St. Aldegonde was himself very deficient, and had once strolled up St. James's Street with his dishevelled looks crowned with a wide-awake. Whatever might be the cause, St. Aldegonde generally wound up—"I tell you what, Bertha, if Corisande marries that follow, I have made up my mind to go to the Indian Ocean. It is a country I never have seen, and Pinto tells me you cannot do it well under five years."
"I hope you will take me, Grenville, with you," said Lady St. Aldegonde, "because it is highly probable Corisande will marry the duke; mamma, you know, likes him so much."
"Why cannot Corisande marry Carisbrooke?" said St. Aldegonde, pouting; "he is a really good fellow, much better-looking, and so far as land is concerned, which after all is the only thing, has as large an estate as the duke."
"Well, these things depend a little upon taste," said Lady St. Aldegonde.
"No, no," said St. Aldegonde; "Corisande must marry Carisbrooke. Your father would not like my going to the Indian Archipelago and not returning for five years, perhaps never returning. Why should Corisande break up our society?—why are people so selfish? I never could go to Brentham again if the Duke of Brecon is always to be there, giving his opinion, and being what your mother calls 'straightforward'—I hate a straightforward fellow. As Pinto says, if every man were straightforward in his opinions, there would be no conversation. The fun of talk is to find out what a man really thinks, then contrast it with the enormous lies he has been telling all dinner, and, perhaps, all his life."
It was a favorable day for the Castle in the Air; enough, but not too much sun, and a gentle breeze. Some pretty feet, not alone, were sauntering in the gardens, some pretty lips lingered in the rooms sipping tea; but the mass of the fair visitors, marvellously attired, were assembled at the scene of action, seated on chairs and in groups, which assumed something of the form of an amphitheatre. There were many gentlemen in attendance on them, or independent spectators of the sport. The field was large, not less than forty competitors, and comprising many of the best shots in England. The struggle therefore, was long and ably maintained; but, as the end approached, it was evident that the contest would be between Bertram, Lothair, and the Duke of Brecon.
Lady St. Aldegonde and Lady Montairy were there and their unmarried sister. The married sisters were highly excited in favor of their brother, but Lady Corisande said nothing. At last Bertram missed a bird, or rather his bird, which he had hit, escaped, and fell beyond the enclosure. Lothair was more successful, and it seemed that it might be a tie between him and the duke. His grace, when called, advanced with confident composure, and apparently killed both his birds, when, at this moment, a dog rushed forward and chased one of the mortally-struck pigeons. The blue-rock, which was content to die by the hand of a duke, would not deign to be worried by a dog, and it frantically moved its expiring wings, scaled the paling, and died. So Lothair won the prize.
"Well," said Lady Montairy to Lothair, "as Bertram was not to win, I am glad it was you."
"And you will not congratulate me?" said Lothair to Lady Corisande.
She rather shook her head. "A tournament of doves," she said. "I would rather see you all in the lists of Ashby."
Lothair had to dine this day with one of the vanquished. This was Mr. Brancepeth, celebrated for his dinners, still more for his guests. Mr. Brancepeth was a grave young man. It was supposed that he was always meditating over the arrangement of his menus, or the skilful means by which he could assemble together the right persons to partake of them. Mr. Brancepeth had attained the highest celebrity in his peculiar career. To dine with Mr. Brancepeth was a social incident that was mentioned. Royalty had consecrated his banquets, and a youth of note was scarcely a graduate of society who had not been his guest. There was one person, however, who, in this respect, had not taken his degree, and, as always happens under such circumstances, he was the individual on whom Mr. Brancepeth was most desirous to confer it; and this was St. Aldegonde. In vain Mr. Brancepeth had approached him with vast cards of invitation to hecatombs, and with insinuating little notes to dinners sans fa on; proposals which the presence of princes might almost construe into a command, or the presence of some one even more attractive than princes must invest with irresistible charm. It was all in vain. "Not that I dislike Brancepeth," said St. Aldegonde; "I rather like him: I like a man who can do only one thing, but does that well. But then I hate dinners."
But the determined and the persevering need never despair of gaining their object in this world. And this very day, riding home from the Castle in the Air, Mr. Brancepeth overtook St. Aldegonde, who was lounging about on a rough Scandinavian cob, as dishevelled as himself, listless and groomless. After riding together for twenty minutes, St. Aldegonde informed Mr. Brancepeth, as was his general custom with his companions, that he was bored to very extinction, and that he did not know what he should do with himself for the rest of the day. "If I could only get Pinto to go with me, I think I would run down to the Star and Garter, or perhaps to Hampton Court."
"You will not be able to get Pinto today," said Mr. Brancepeth, "for he dines with me."
"What an unlucky fellow I am!" exclaimed St. Aldegonde, entirely to himself. "I had made up my mind to dine with Pinto to-day."
"And why should you not? Why not meet Pinto at my house?"
"Well, that is not my way," said St. Aldegonde, but not in a decided tone. "You know I do not like strangers, and crowds of wine-glasses, and what is called all the delicacies of the season."
"You will meet no one that you do not know and like. It is a little dinner I made for—" and he mentioned Lothair.
"I like Lothair," said St. Aldegonde, dreamily. "He is a nice boy."
"Well, you will have him and Pinto to yourself."
The large fish languidly rose and swallowed the bait, and the exulting Mr. Brancepeth cantered off to Hill Street to give the necessary instructions.
Mr. Pinto was one of the marvels of English society; the most sought after of all its members, though no one could tell you exactly why. He was a little oily Portuguese, middle-aged, corpulent, and somewhat bald, with dark eyes of sympathy, not unmixed with humor. No one knew who he was, and in a country the most scrutinizing as to personal details, no one inquired or cared to know. A quarter of a century ago an English noble had caught him in his travels, and brought him young to England, where he had always remained. From the favorite of an individual, he had become the oracle of a circle, and then the idol of society. All this time his manner remained unchanged. He was never at any time either humble or pretentious. Instead of being a parasite, everybody flattered him; and instead of being a hanger-on of society, society hung on Pinto.
It must have been the combination of many pleasing qualities, rather than the possession of any commanding one, that created his influence. He certainly was not a wit yet he was always gay, and always said things that made other people merry. His conversation was sparkling, interesting, and fluent, yet it was observed he never gave an opinion on any subject and never told an anecdote. Indeed, he would sometimes remark, when a man fell into his anecdotage, it was a sign for him to retire from the world. And yet Pinto rarely opened his mouth without everybody being stricken with mirth. He had the art of viewing common things in a fanciful light, and the rare gift of raillery which flattered the self-love of those whom it seemed sportively not to spare. Sometimes those who had passed a fascinating evening with Pinto would try to remember on the morrow what he had said, and could recall nothing. He was not an intellectual Croesus, but his pockets were full of six-pences.
One of the ingredients of his social spell was no doubt his manner, which was tranquil even when he was droll. He never laughed except with his eyes, and delivered himself of his most eccentric fancies in an unctuous style. He had a rare gift of mimicry, which he used with extreme reserve, and therefore was proportionately effective when displayed. Add to all this, a sweet voice, a soft hand, and a disposition both soft and sweet, like his own Azores. It was understood that Pinto was easy in his circumstances, though no one know where these circumstances were. His equipage was worthy of his position, and in his little house in May Fair he sometimes gave a dinner to a fine lady, who was as proud of the event as the Queen of Sheba of her visit to Solomon the Great.
When St. Aldegonde arrived in Hill Street, and slouched into the saloon with as uncouth and graceless a general mien as a handsome and naturally graceful man could contrive to present, his keen though listless glance at once revealed to him that he was as he described it at dinner to Hugo Bohun in a social jungle, in which there was a great herd of animals that he particularly disliked, namely, what he entitled "swells." The scowl on his distressed countenance at first intimated a retreat; but after a survey, courteous to his host, and speaking kindly to Lothair as he passed on, he made a rush to Mr. Pinto, and, cordially embracing him, said, "Mind we sit together."
The dinner was not a failure, though an exception to the polished ceremony of the normal Brancepeth banquet. The host headed his table, with the Duke of Brecon on his right and Lothair on his left hand, and "swells" of calibre in their vicinity; but St. Aldegonde sat far away, next to Mr. Pinto, and Hugo Bohun on the other side of that gentleman. Hugo Bohun loved swells, but he loved St. Aldegonde more. The general conversation in the neighborhood of Mr. Brancepeth did not flag: they talked of the sport of the morning, and then, by association of ideas, of every other sport. And then from the sports of England they ranged to the sports of every other country. There were several there who had caught salmon in Norway and killed tigers in Bengal, and visited those countries only for that purpose. And then they talked of horses, and then they talked of women.
Lothair was rather silent; for in this society of ancients, the youngest of whom was perhaps not less than five-and-twenty, and some with nearly a lustre added to that mature period, he felt the awkward modesty of a freshman. The Duke of Brecon talked much, but never at length. He decided every thing, at least to his own satisfaction; and if his opinion were challenged, remained unshaken, and did not conceal it.
All this time a different scene was enacting at the other end of the table. St. Aldegonde, with his back turned to his other neighbor, hung upon the accents of Mr. Pinto, and Hugo Bohun imitated St. Aldegonde. What Mr. Pinto said or was saying was quite inaudible, for he always spoke low, and in the present case he was invisible, like an ortolan smothered in vine-leaves; but every now and then St. Aldegonde broke into a frightful shout, and Hugo Bohun tittered immensely. Then St. Aldegonde, throwing himself back in his chair, and talking to himself or the ceiling, would exclaim, "Best thing I ever heard," while Hugo nodded sympathy with a beaming smile.
The swells now and then paused in their conversation and glanced at the scene of disturbance.
"They seem highly amused there," said Mr. Brancepeth. "I wish they would pass it on."
"I think St. Aldegonde," said the Duke of Brecon, "is the least conventional man of my acquaintance."
Notwithstanding this stern sneer, a practiced general like Mr. Brancepeth felt he had won the day. All his guests would disperse and tell the world that they had dined with him and met St. Aldegonde, and to-morrow there would be a blazoned paragraph in the journals commemorating the event, and written as if by a herald. What did a little disturb his hospitable mind was that St. Aldegonde literally tasted nothing. He did not care so much for his occasionally leaning on the table with both his elbows, but that he should pass by every dish was distressing. So Mr. Brancepeth whispered to his own valet—a fine gentleman, who stood by his master's chair and attended on no one else, except, when requisite, his master's immediate neighbor—and desired him to suggest to St. Aldegonde whether the side-table might not provide, under the difficulties, some sustenance. St. Aldegonde seemed quite gratified by the attention, and said he should like to have some cold meat. Now, that was the only thing the side-table, bounteous as was its disposition, could not provide. All the joints of the season were named in vain, and pies and preparations of many climes. But nothing would satisfy St. Aldegonde but cold meat.
"Well, now I shall begin my dinner," he said to Pinto, when he was at length served. "What surprises me most in you is your English. There is not a man who speaks such good English as you do."
"English is an expressive language," said Mr. Pinto, "but not difficult to master. Its range is limited. It consists, as far as I can observe, of four words: 'nice,' 'jolly,' 'charming,' and 'bore;' and some grammarians add 'fond.'"
When the guests rose and returned to the saloon, St. Aldegonde was in high spirits, and talked to every one, even to the Duke of Brecon, whom he considerately reminded of his defeat in the morning, adding that from what he had seen of his grace's guns he had no opinion of them, and that he did not believe that breech-loaders suited pigeon-shooting.
Finally, when he bade farewell to his host, St. Aldegonde assured him that he "never in his life made so good a dinner, and that Pinto had never been so rich."
When the party broke up, the majority of the guests went, sooner or later, to a ball that was given this evening by Lady St. Jerome. Others, who never went to balls, looked forward with refined satisfaction to a night of unbroken tobacco. St. Aldegonde went to play whist at the house of a lady who lived out of town. "I like the drive home," he said; "the morning air is so refreshing when one has lost one's money."
A ball at St. Jerome House was a rare event, but one highly appreciated. It was a grand mansion, with a real suite of state apartments, including a genuine ballroom in the Venetian style, and lighted with chandeliers of rock-crystal. Lady St. Jerome was a woman of taste and splendor and romance, who could do justice to the scene and occasion. Even Lord St. Jerome, quiet as he seemed, in these matters was popular with young men. It was known that Lord St. Jerome gave, at his ball suppers, the same champagne that he gave at his dinners, and that was of the highest class. In short, a patriot. We talk with wondering execration of the great poisoners of past ages, the Borgias, the inventor of aqua tofana, and the amiable Marchioness de Brinvilliers; but Pinto was of opinion that there were more social poisoners about in the present day than in the darkest, and the most demoralized periods, and then none of them are punished; which is so strange, he would add, as they are all found out.
Lady St. Jerome received Lothair, as Pinto said, with extreme unction. She looked in his eyes, she retained his hand, she said that what she had heard had made her so happy. And then, when he was retiring, she beckoned him back and said she must have some tea, and, taking his arm, they walked away together. "I have so much to tell you," she said, "and every thing is so interesting. I think we are on the eve of great events. The monsignore told me your heart was with us. It must be. They are your own thoughts, your own wishes. We are realizing your own ideal. I think next Sunday will be remembered as a great day in English history; the commencement of a movement that may save every thing. The monsignore, I know, has told you all."
Not exactly; the Oxford visit had deranged a little the plans of the monsignore, but he had partially communicated the vast scheme. It seems there was a new society to be instituted for the restoration of Christendom. The change of name from Christendom to Europe had proved a failure and a disastrous one. "And what wonder?" said Lady St. Jerome. "Europe is not even a quarter of the globe, as the philosophers pretended it was. There is already a fifth division, and probably there will be many more, as the philosophers announce it impossible." The cardinal was to inaugurate the institution on Sunday next at the Jesuits' Church, by one of his celebrated sermons. It was to be a function of the highest class. All the faithful of consideration were to attend, but the attendance was not to be limited to the faithful. Every sincere adherent of church principles who was in a state of prayer and preparation, was solicited to be present and join in the holy and common work of restoring to the Divine Master His kingdom upon earth with its rightful name.
It was a brilliant ball. All the "nice" people in London were there. All the young men who now will never go to balls were present. This was from respect to the high character of Lord St. Jerome. Clare Arundel looked divine, dressed in a wondrous white robe garlanded with violets, just arrived from Paris, a present from her god-mother, the Duchess of Lorrain-Sehulenbourg. On her head a violet-wreath, deep and radiant as her eyes, and which admirably contrasted with her dark golden-brown hair.
Lothair danced with her, and never admired her more. Her manner toward him was changed. It was attractive, even alluring. She smiled on him, she addressed him in tones of sympathy, even of tenderness. She seemed interested in all he was doing; she flattered him by a mode which is said to be irresistible to a man, by talking only of himself. When the dance had finished, he offered to attend her to the tea-room. She accepted the invitation even with cordiality.
"I think I must have some tea," she said, "and I like to go with my kinsman."
Just before supper was announced, Lady St. Jerome told Lothair, to his surprise, that he was to attend Miss Arundel to the great ceremony. "It is Clare's ball," said Lady St. Jerome, "given in her honor, and you are to take care of her."
"I am more than honored," said Lothair. "But does Miss Arundel wish it, for, to tell you the truth, I thought I had rather abused her indulgence this evening?"
"Of course she wishes it," said Lady St. Jerome. "Who should lead her out on such an occasion—her own ball—than the nearest and dearest relation she has in the world, except ourselves?"
Lothair made no reply to this unanswerable logic, but was as surprised as he was gratified. He recalled the hour when the kinship was, at the best, but coldly recognized, the inscrutable haughtiness, even distrust, with which Miss Arundel listened to the exposition of his views and feelings, and the contrast which her past mood presented to her present brilliant sympathy and cordial greeting. But he yielded to the magic of the flowing hour. Miss Arundel, seemed, indeed, quite a changed being to-night, full of vivacity, fancy, feeling—almost fun. She was witty, and humorous, and joyous, and fascinating. As he fed her with cates as delicate as her lips, and manufactured for her dainty beverages which would not outrage their purity, Lothair, at last, could not refrain from intimating his sense of her unusual but charming joyousness.
"No," she said, turning round with animation, "my natural disposition, always repressed, because I have felt overwhelmed by the desolation of the world. But now I have hope; I have more than hope, I have joy. I feel sure this idea of the restoration of Christendom comes from Heaven. It has restored me to myself, and has given me a sense of happiness in this life which I never could contemplate. But what is the climax of my joy is, that you, after all my own blood, and one in whose career I have ever felt the deepest interest, should be ordained to lay, as it were, the first stone of this temple of divine love."
It was break of day when Lothair jumped into his brougham. "Thank Heaves," he exclaimed, "it is at last Friday!"
There is something very pleasant in a summer suburban ride in the valley of the Thames. London transforms itself into bustling Knightsbridge, and airy Brompton, brightly and gracefully, lingers cheerfully in the long, miscellaneous, well-watered King's-road, and only says farewell when you come to an abounding river and a picturesque bridge. The boats were bright upon the waters when Lothair crossed it, and his dark chestnut barb, proud of its resplendent form, curveted with joy when it reached a green common, studded occasionally with a group of pines and well bedecked with gorse. After this he pursued the public road for a couple of miles until he observed on his left hand a gate on which was written "private road," and here he stopped. The gate was locked, but, when Lothair assured the keeper that he was about to visit Belmont, he was permitted to enter.
He entered a green and winding lane, fringed with tall elms, and dim with fragrant shade, and, after proceeding about half a mile, came to a long, low-built lodge, with a thatched and shelving roof, and surrounded by a rustic colonnade covered with honeysuckle. Passing through the gate at hand, he found himself in a road winding through gently-undulating banks of exquisite turf, studded with rare shrubs, and, occasionally, rarer trees. Suddenly the confined scene expanded; wide lawns spread out before him, shadowed with the dark forms of many huge cedars, and blazing with flower-beds of every hue. The house was also apparent, a stately mansion of hewn stone, with wings and a portico of Corinthian columns, and backed by deep woods.
This was Belmont, built by a favorite minister of state, to whom a grateful and gracious sovereign had granted a slice of a royal park whereon to raise a palace and a garden, and find occasionally Tusculan repose.
The lady of the mansion was at home, and, though Lothair was quite prepared for this, his heart beat. The inner hall was of noble proportion, and there were ranged in it many Roman busts, and some ancient slabs and altars of marble. These had been collected some century ago by the minister; but what immediately struck the eye of Lothair were two statues by an American artist, and both of fame, the Sybil and the Cleopatra. He had heard of these, but had never seen them, and could not refrain from lingering a moment to gaze upon their mystical and fascinating beauty.
He proceeded through two spacious and lofty chambers, of which it was evident the furniture was new. It was luxurious and rich, and full of taste; but there was no attempt to recall the past in the details; no cabinets and clocks of French kings, or tables of French queens, no chairs of Venetian senators, no candelabra, that had illumined Doges of Genoa, no ancient porcelain of rare schools, and ivory carvings and choice enamels. The walls were hung with master-pieces of modern art, chiefly of the French school, Ingres and Delaroche and Scheffer.
The last saloon led into a room of smaller dimensions, opening on the garden, and which Lothair at first thought must be a fernery, it seemed so full of choice and expanding specimens of that beautiful and multiform plant; but, when his eye had become a little accustomed to the scene and to the order of the groups, he perceived they were only the refreshing and profuse ornaments of a regularly furnished and inhabited apartment. In its centre was a table covered with writing-materials and books and some music. There was a chair before the table, so placed as if some one had only recently quitted it; a book was open, but turned upon its face, with an ivory cutter by its side. It would seem that the dweller in the chamber might not be far distant. The servant invited Lothair to be seated, and, saying that Mrs. Campian must be in the garden, proceeded to inform his mistress of the arrival of a guest.
The room opened on a terrace adorned with statues and orange-trees, and descending gently into a garden in the Italian style, in the centre of which was a marble fountain of many figures. The grounds were not extensive, but they were only separated from the royal park by a wire fence, so that the scene seemed alike rich and illimitable. On the boundary was a summer-house in the shape of a classic temple, one of those pavilions of pleasure which nobles loved to raise in the last century.
As Lothair beheld the scene with gratification, the servant reappeared on the step of the terrace and invited him to descend. Guiding him through the garden, the servant retired as Lothair recognized Mrs. Campian approaching them.
She gave her hand to Lothair and welcomed him cordially but with serenity. They mutually exchanged hopes that their return to town had been agreeable. Lothair could not refrain from expressing how pleased he was with Belmont.
"I am glad you approve of our hired home," said Theodora; "I think we were fortunate in finding one that suits our tastes and habits. We love pictures and statues and trees and flowers, and yet we love our friends, and our friends are people who live in cities."
"I think I saw two statues to-day of which I have often heard," said Lothair.
"The Sibyl and Cleopatra! Yes Colonel Campian is rather proud of possessing them. He collects only modern art, for which I believe there is a great future, though some of our friends think it is yet in its cradle."
"I am very sorry to say," said Lothair, "that I know very little about art, or indeed any thing else, but I admire what is beautiful. I know something about architecture, at least church architecture."
"Well, religion has produced some of our finest buildings," said Theodora; "there is no question of that; and as long as they are adapted to what takes place in them they are admirable. The fault I find in modern churches in this country is, that there is little relation between the ceremonies and the structure. Nobody seems now conscious that every true architectural form has a purpose. But I think the climax of confused ideas is capped when dissenting chapels are built like cathedrals."
"Ah! to build a cathedral!" exclaimed Lothair, "that is a great enterprise. I wish I might show you some day some drawings I have of a projected cathedral."
"A projected cathedral!" said Theodora. "Well, I must confess to you I never could comprehend the idea of a Protestant cathedral."
"But I am not quite sure," said Lothair, blushing and agitated, "that it will be a Protestant cathedral. I have not made up my mind about that."
Theodora glanced at him, unobserved, with her wonderful gray eyes; a sort of supernatural light seemed to shoot from beneath their long dark lashes and read his inmost nature. They were all this time returning, as she had suggested, to the house. Rather suddenly she said, "By-the-by, as you are so fond of art, I ought to have asked you whether you would like to see a work by the sculptor of Cleopatra, which arrived when we were at Oxford. We have placed it on a pedestal in the temple. It is the Genius of Freedom. I may say I was assisting at its inauguration when your name was announced to me."
Lothair caught at this proposal, and they turned and approached the temple. Some workmen were leaving the building as they entered, and one or two lingered.
Upon a pedestal of porphyry rose the statue of a female in marble. Though veiled with drapery which might have become the Goddess of Modesty, admirable art permitted the contour of the perfect form to be traced. The feet were without sandals, and the undulating breadth of one shoulder, where the drapery was festooned, remained uncovered. One expected with such a shape some divine visage. That was not wanting; but humanity was asserted in the transcendent brow, which beamed with sublime thought and profound enthusiasm.
Some would have sighed that such beings could only be pictured in a poet's or an artist's dream, but Lothair felt that what he beheld with rapture was no ideal creation, and that he was in the presence of the inspiring original.
"It is too like!" he murmured.
"It is the most successful recurrence to the true principles of art in modern sculpture," said a gentleman on his right hand.
This person was a young man, though more than ten years older than Lothair. His appearance was striking. Above the middle height, his form, athletic though lithe and symmetrical, was crowned by a countenance aquiline but delicate, and from many circumstances of a remarkable radiancy. The lustre of his complexion, the fire of his eye, and his chestnut hair in profuse curls, contributed much to this dazzling effect. A thick but small mustache did not conceal his curved lip or the scornful pride of his distended nostril, and his beard, close but not long, did not veil the singular beauty of his mouth. It was an arrogant face, daring and vivacious, yet weighted with an expression of deep and haughty thought.
The costume of this gentleman was rich and picturesque. Such extravagance of form and color is sometimes encountered in the adventurous toilet of a country house, but rarely experienced in what might still be looked upon as a morning visit in the metropolis.
"You know Mr. Phoebus?" asked a low, clear voice, and turning round Lothair was presented to a person so famous that even Lothair had heard of him.
Mr. Phoebus was the most successful, not to say the most eminent, painter of the age. He was the descendant of a noble family of Gascony that had emigrated to England from France in the reign of Louis XIV. Unquestionably they had mixed their blood frequently during the interval and the vicissitudes of their various life; but, in Gaston Phoebus, Nature, as is sometimes her wont, had chosen to reproduce exactly the original type. He was the Gascon noble of the sixteenth century, with all his brilliancy, bravery, and boastfulness, equally vain, arrogant, and eccentric, accomplished in all the daring or the graceful pursuits of man, yet nursed in the philosophy of our times.
"It is presumption in my talking about such things," said Lothair; "but might I venture to ask what you may consider the true principles of art?"
"ARYAN principles," said Mr. Phoebus; "not merely the study of Nature, but of beautiful Nature; the art of design in a country inhabited by a first-rate race, and where the laws, the manners, the customs, are calculated to maintain the health and beauty of a first-rate race. In a greater or less degree, these conditions obtained from the age of Pericles to the age of Hadrian in pure Aryan communities, but Semitism began then to prevail, and ultimately triumphed. Semitism has destroyed art; it taught man to despise his own body, and the essence of art is to honor the human frame."
"I am afraid I ought not to talk about such things," said Lothair; "but, if by Semitism you mean religion, surely the Italian painters inspired by Semitism did something."
"Great things," said Mr. Phoebus—"some of the greatest. Semitism gave them subjects, but the Renaissance gave them Aryan art, and it gave that art to a purely Aryan race. But Semitism rallied in the shape of the Reformation, and swept all away. When Leo the Tenth was pope, popery was pagan; popery is now Christian, and art is extinct."
"I cannot enter into such controversies," said Lothair. "Every day I feel more and more I am extremely ignorant."
"Do not regret it," said Mr. Phoebus. "What you call ignorance is your strength. By ignorance you mean a want of knowledge of books. Books are fatal; they are the curse of the human race. Nine-tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense. The greatest misfortune that ever befell man was the invention of printing. Printing has destroyed education. Art is a great thing, and Science is a great thing; but all that art and science can reveal can be taught by man and by his attributes—his voice, his hand, his eye. The essence of education is the education of the body. Beauty and health are the chief sources of happiness. Men should live in the air; their exercises should be regular, varied, scientific. To render his body strong and supple is the first duty of man. He should develop and completely master the whole muscular system. What I admire in the order to which you belong is that they do live in the air; that they excel in athletic sports; that they can only speak one language; and that they never read. This is not a complete education, but it is the highest education since the Greek."
"What you say I feel encouraging," said Lothair, repressing a smile, "for I myself live very much in the air, and am fond of all sports; but I confess I am often ashamed of being so poor a linguist, and was seriously thinking that I ought to read."
"No doubt every man should combine an intellectual with a physical training," replied Mr. Phoebus; "but the popular conception of the means is radically wrong. Youth should attend lectures on art and science by the most illustrious professors, and should converse together afterward on what they have heard. They should learn to talk; it is a rare accomplishment, and extremely healthy. They should have music always at their meals. The theatre, entirely remodelled and reformed, and, under a minister of state, should be an important element of education. I should not object to the recitation of lyric poetry. That is enough. I would not have a book in the house, or even see a newspaper."
"These are Aryan principles?" said Lothair.
"They are," said Mr. Phoebus; "and of such principles, I believe, a great revival is at hand. We shall both live to see another Renaissance."
"And our artist here," said Lothair, pointing to the statue, "you are of opinion that he is asserting these principles?"
"Yes; because he has produced the Aryan form by studying the Aryan form. Phidias never had a finer model, and he has not been unequal to it."
"I fancied," said Lothair, in a lower and inquiring tone, though Mrs. Campian had some time before glided out of the pavilion, and was giving directions to the workmen—"I fancied I had heard that Mrs. Campian was a Roman."
"The Romans were Greeks," said Mr. Phoebus, "and in this instance the Phidian type came out. It has not been thrown away. I believe Theodora has inspired as many painters and sculptors as any Aryan goddess. I look upon her as such, for I know nothing more divine."
"I fear the Phidian type is very rare," said Lothair.
"In nature and in art there must always be surpassing instances," said Mr. Phoebus. "It is a law, and a wise one; but, depend upon it, so strong and perfect a type as the original Aryan must be yet abundant among the millions, and may be developed. But for this you want great changes in your laws. It is the first duty of a state to attend to the frame and health of the subject. The Spartans understood this. They permitted no marriage the probable consequences of which might be a feeble progeny; they even took measures to secure a vigorous one. The Romans doomed the deformed to immediate destruction. The union of the races concerns the welfare of the commonwealth much too nearly to be intrusted to individual arrangement. The fate of a nation will ultimately depend upon the strength and health of the population. Both France and England should look to this; they have cause. As for our mighty engines of war in the hands of a puny race, it will be the old story of the lower empire and the Greek fire. Laws should be passed to secure all this, and some day they will be. But nothing can be done until the Aryan races are extricated from Semitism."
Lothair returned to town in a not altogether satisfactory state of mind. He was not serene or content. On the contrary, he was rather agitated and perplexed. He could not say he regretted his visit. He had seen her, and he had seen her to great advantage. He had seen much too that was pleasing, and had heard also many things that, if not pleasing, were certainly full of interest. And yet, when he cantered back over the common, the world somehow did not seem to him so bright and exhilarating as in the ambling morn. Was it because she was not alone? And yet why should he expect she should be alone? She had many friends, and she was as accessible to them as to himself. And yet a conversation with her, as in the gardens of Blenheim, would have been delightful, and he had rather counted on it. Nevertheless, it was a great thing to know men like Mr. Phoebus, and hear their views on the nature of things. Lothair was very young, and was more thoughtful than studious. His education hitherto had been, according to Mr. Phoebus, on the right principle, and chiefly in the open air; but he was intelligent and susceptible, and in the atmosphere of Oxford, now stirred with many thoughts, he had imbibed some particles of knowledge respecting the primeval races which had permitted him to follow the conversation of Mr. Phoebus not absolutely in a state of hopeless perplexity. He determined to confer with Father Coleman on the Aryan race and the genius of Semitism. As he returned through the park, he observed the duchess, and Lady Corisande in their barouche, resting for a moment in the shade, with Lord Carisbrooke on one side and the Duke of Brecon on the other.
As he was dressing for dinner, constantly brooding on one thought, the cause of his feeling of disappointment occurred to him. He had hoped in this visit to have established some basis of intimacy, and to have ascertained his prospect and his means of occasionally seeing her. But he had done nothing of the kind. He could not well call again at Belmont under a week, but even then Mr. Phoebus or some one else might be there. The world seemed dark. He wished he had never gone to Oxford. However a man may plan his life, he is the creature of circumstances. The unforeseen happens and upsets every thing. We are mere puppets.
He sat next to an agreeable woman at dinner, who gave him an interesting account of a new singer she had heard the night before at the opera—a fair Scandinavian, fresh as a lily and sweet as a nightingale.
"I was resolved to go and hear her," said the lady; "my sister Feodore, at Paris, had written to me so much about her. Do you know, I have never been to the opera for an age! That alone was quite a treat to me. I never go to the opera, nor to the play, nor to any thing else. Society has become so large and so exacting, that I have found out one never gets any amusement."
"Do you know, I never was at the opera?" said Lothair.
"I am not at all surprised; and when you go—which I suppose you will some day—what will most strike you is, that you will not see a single person you ever saw in your life."
"Yes; it shows what a mass of wealth and taste and refinement there is in this wonderful metropolis of ours, quite irrespective of the circles in which we move, and which we once thought entirely engrossed them."
After the ladies had retired, Bertram, who dined at the same house, moved up to him; and Hugo Bohun came over and took the vacant seat on his other side.
"What have you been doing with yourself?" said Hugo. "We have not seen you for a week."
"I went down to Oxford about some horses," said Lothair.
"Fancy going down to Oxford about some horses in the heart of the season," said Hugo. "I believe you are selling us, and that, as the Scorpion announces, you are going to be married."
"To whom?" said Lothair.
"Ah! that is the point. It is a dark horse at present, and we want you to tell us."
"Why do not you marry, Hugo?" said Bertram.
"I respect the institution," said Hugo, "which is admitting something in these days; and I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man."
"It makes a woman and it mars a man, you think?" said Lothair.
"But I do not exactly see how your view would work practically," said Bertram.
"Well my view is a social problem," said Hugo, "and social problems are the fashion at present. It would be solved through the exceptions, which prove the principle. In the first place, there are your swells who cannot avoid the halter—you are booked when you are born; and then there are moderate men like myself, who have their weak moments. I would not answer for myself if I could find an affectionate family with good shooting and first-rate claret."
"There must be many families with such conditions," said Lothair.
Hugo shook his head. "You try. Sometimes the wine is good and the shooting bad; sometimes the reverse; sometimes both are excellent, but then the tempers and the manners are equally bad."
"I vote we three do something to-morrow," said Bertram.
"What shall it be?" said Hugo.
"I vote we row down to Richmond at sunset and dine, and then drive our teams up by moonlight. What say you, Lothair?"
"I cannot, I am engaged. I am engaged to go to the opera."
"Fancy going to the opera in this sweltering weather!" exclaimed Bertram.
"He must be going to be married," said Hugo.
And yet on the following evening, though the weather was quite as sultry and he was not going to be married, to the opera Lothair went. While the agreeable lady the day before was dilating at dinner on this once famous entertainment, Lothair remembered that a certain person went there every Saturday evening, and he resolved that he should at least have the satisfaction of seeing her.
It was altogether a new scene for Lothair, and, being much affected by music, he found the general influence so fascinating that some little time elapsed before he was sufficiently master of himself to recur to the principal purpose of his presence. His box was on the first tier, where he could observe very generally and yet himself be sufficiently screened. As an astronomer surveys the starry heavens until his searching sight reaches the desired planet, so Lothair's scrutinizing vision wandered till his eye at length lighted on the wished-for orb. In the circle above his own, opposite to him but nearer the stage, he recognized the Campians. She had a star upon her forehead, as when he first met her some six months ago; it seemed an age.
Now what should he do? He was quite unlearned in the social habits of an opera-house. He was not aware that he had the privilege of paying the lady a visit in her box, and, had he been so, he was really so shy in little things that he never could have summoned resolution to open the door of his own box and request an attendant to show him that of Mrs. Campian. He had contrived to get to the opera for the first time in his life, and the effort seemed to have exhausted his social enterprise. So h remained still, with his glass fixed very constantly on Mrs. Campian, and occasionally giving himself up to the scene. The performance did not sustain the first impression. There were rival prima-donnas, and they indulged in competitive screams; the choruses were coarse, and the orchestra much too noisy. But the audience were absorbed or enthusiastic. We may be a musical nation, but our taste would seem to require some refinement.
There was a stir in Mrs. Campian's box: a gentleman entered and seated himself. Lothair concluded he was an invited guest, and envied him. In about a quarter of an hour the gentleman bowed and retired, and another person came in, and one whom Lothair recognized as a young man who had been sitting during the first act in a stall beneath him. The system of paying visits at the opera then flashed upon his intelligence, as some discovery in science upon a painful observer. Why should he not pay a visit too? But how to do it? At last he was bold enough to open the door of his own box and go forth, but he could find no attendant, and some persons passing his open door, and nearly appropriating his lodge, in a fit of that nervous embarrassment which attends inexperience in little things, he secured his rights by returning baffled to his post.
There had been a change in Mrs. Campian's box in the interval. Colonel Campian had quitted it, and Mr. Phoebus occupied his place. Whether it were disappointment at his own failure or some other cause, Lothair felt annoyed. He was hot and cold by turns; felt awkward and blundering; fancied people were looking at him; that in some inexplicable sense he was ridiculous; wished he had never gone to the opera.
As time, and considerable time, elapsed, he became even miserable. Mr. Phoebus never moved, and Mrs. Campian frequently conversed with him. More than one visitor had in the interval paid their respects to the lady, but Mr. Phoebus never moved. They did not stay, perhaps because Mr. Phoebus never moved.
Lothair never liked that fellow from the first. Sympathy and antipathy share our being as day and darkness share our lives. Lothair had felt an antipathy for Mr. Phoebus the moment he saw him. He had arrived at Belmont yesterday before Lothair, and he had outstayed him. These might be Arian principles, but they were not the principles of good-breeding.
Lothair determined to go home, and never to come to the opera again. He opened the door of his box with firmness, and slammed it with courage; he had quite lost his shyness, was indeed ready to run a muck with any one who crossed him. The slamming of the door summoned a scudding attendant from a distant post, who with breathless devotion inquired whether Lothair wanted any thing.
"Yes, I want you to show me the way to Mrs. Campian's box."
"Tier above, No. 22," said the box-keeper.
"Ay, ay; but conduct me to it," said Lothair, and he presented the man with an overpowering honorarium.
"Certainly, my lord," said the attendant.
"He knows me," thought Lothair; but it was not so. When the British nation is at once grateful and enthusiastic, they always call you "my lord."
But in his progress, to "No. 22, tier above," all his valor evaporated, and when the box-door was opened he felt very much like a convict on the verge of execution; he changed color, his legs tottered, his heart beat, and he made his bow with a confused vision. The serenity of Theodora somewhat reassured him, and he seated himself, and even saluted Mr. Phoebus.
The conversation was vapid and conventional—remarks about the opera and its performers—even the heat of the weather was mentioned. Lothair had come, and he had nothing to say. Mrs. Campian seemed much interested in the performance; so, if he had had any thing to say, there was no opportunity of expressing it. She had not appeared to be so engrossed with the music before his arrival. In the mean time that Phoebus would not move; a quarter of an hour elapsed, and that Phoebus would not move. Lothair could not stand it any longer; he rose and bowed.
"Are you going?" said Theodora. "Colonel Campian will be here in a moment; he will be quite grieved not to see you."
But Lothair was inflexible. "Perhaps," she added, "we may see you to-morrow night?"
"Never," said Lothair to himself, as he clinched his teeth; "my visit to Belmont was my first and my last. The dream is over."
He hurried to a club in which he had been recently Initiated, and of which the chief purpose is to prove to mankind that night to a wise man has its resources as well as gaudy day. Here striplings mature their minds in the mysteries of whist, and stimulate their intelligence by playing at stakes which would make their seniors look pale; here matches are made; and odds are settled, and the cares or enterprises of life are soothed or stimulated by fragrant cheroots or beakers of Badminton. Here, in the society of the listless and freakish St. Aldegonde, and Hugo Bohun, and Bertram, and other congenial spirits, Lothair consigned to oblivion the rival churches of Christendom, the Aryan race, and the genius of Semitism.
It was an hour past dawn when he strolled home. London is often beautiful in summer at that hour, the architectural lines clear and defined in the smokeless atmosphere, and ever and anon a fragrant gale from gardened balconies wafted in the blue air. Nothing is stirring except wagons of strawberries and asparagus, and no one visible except a policeman or a member of Parliament returning from a late division, where they have settled some great question that need never have been asked. Eve has its spell of calmness and consolation, but dawn brings hope and joy.
But not to Lothair. Young, sanguine, and susceptible, he had, for a moment, yielded to the excitement of the recent scene, but with his senses stilled by the morning air, and free from the influence of Bertram's ready sympathy, and Hugo Bohun's gay comments on human life, and all the wild and amusing caprice, and daring wilfulness, and grand affectation, that distinguish and inspire a circle of patrician youth, there came over him the consciousness that to him something dark had occurred, something bitter and disappointing and humiliating, and that the breaking morn would not bring to him a day so bright and hopeful as his former ones.
At first he fell into profound slumber: it was the inevitable result of the Badminton and the late hour. There was a certain degree of physical exhaustion which commanded repose. But the slumber was not long, and his first feeling, for it could not be called thought, was that some great misfortune had occurred to him; and then the thought following the feeling brought up the form of the hated Phoebus. After that he had no real sleep, but a sort of occasional and feverish doze with intervals of infinite distress, waking always to a consciousness of inexpressible mortification and despair.
About one o'clock, relinquishing all hope of real and refreshing slumber, he rang his bell, and his valet appearing informed him that Father Coleman had called, and the monsignore had called, and that now the cardinal's secretary had just called, but the valet had announced that his lord was indisposed. There was also a letter from Lady St. Jerome. This news brought a new train of feeling. Lothair remembered that this was the day of the great ecclesiastical function, under the personal auspices of the cardinal, at which indeed Lothair hid never positively promised to assist, his presence at which he had sometimes thought they pressed unreasonably, not to say even indelicately, but at which he had perhaps led them, not without cause, to believe that he would be present. Of late the monsignore had assumed that Lothair had promised to attend it.
Why should he not? The world was all vanity. Never did he feel more convinced than at this moment of the truth of his conclusion, that if religion were a real thing, man should live for it alone; but then came the question of the Churches. He could not bring himself without a pang to contemplate a secession from the Church of his fathers. He took refuge in the wild but beautiful thought of a reconciliation between Rome and England. If the consecration of the whole of his fortune to that end could assist in effecting the purpose, he would cheerfully make the sacrifice. He would then go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, and probably conclude his days in a hermitage on Mount Athos.
In the mean time he rose, and, invigorated by his bath, his thoughts became in a slight degree more mundane. They recurred to the events of the last few days of his life, but in a spirit of self-reproach and of conscious vanity and weakness. Why, he had not known her a week! This was Sunday morning, and last Sunday he had attended St. Mary's and offered up his earnest supplications for the unity of Christendom. That was then his sovereign hope and thought. Singular that a casual acquaintance with a stranger, a look, a glance, a word, a nothing, should have so disturbed his spirit and distracted his mind.
And then he fell into an easy-chair, with a hair-brush in either hand, and conjured up in reverie all that had passed since that wondrous morn when he addressed her by the road-side, until the last dark hour when they parted—and forever. There was not a word she had uttered to him, or to any one else, that he did not recall; not a glance, not a gesture—her dress, her countenance, her voice, her hair. And what scenes had all this passed in! What refined and stately loveliness! Blenheim, and Oxford, and Belmont! They became her. Ah! why could not life consist of the perpetual society of such delightful people in such delightful places?
His valet entered and informed him that the monsignore had returned, and would not be denied. Lothair roused himself from his delicious reverie, and his countenance became anxious and disquieted. He would have struggled against the intrusion, and was murmuring resistance to his hopeless attendant, who shook his head, when the monsignore glided into the room without permission, as the valet disappeared.
It was a wonderful performance: the monsignore had at the same time to make a reconnoissance and to take up a position—to find out what Lothair intended to do, and yet to act and speak as if he was acquainted with those intentions, and was not only aware of, but approved them. He seemed hurried and yet tranquil, almost breathless with solicitude and yet conscious of some satisfactory consummation. His tones were at all times hushed, but to-day he spoke in a whisper, though a whisper of emphasis, and the dark eyes of his delicate aristocratic visage peered into Lothair, even when he was making a remark which seemed to require no scrutiny.
"It is one of the most important days for England that have happened in our time," said the monsignore. "Lady St. Jerome thinks of nothing else. All our nobility will be there—the best blood in England—and some others who sympathize with the unity of the Church, the real question. Nothing has ever gratified the cardinal more than your intended presence. He sent to you this morning. He would have called himself, bat he has much to go through today. His eminence said to me: 'It is exactly what I want. Whatever way be our differences, and they are really slight, what I want is to show to the world that the sons of the Church will unite for the cause of Divine truth. It is the only course that can save society.' When Lady St. Jerome told him that you were coming this evening, his eminence was so affected that—"
"But I never said I was coming this evening," said Lothair, rather dryly, and resolved to struggle, "either to Lady St. Jerome or to any one else. I said I would think of it."
"But for a Christian to think of duty is to perform it," said the monsignore. "To be ignorant of a duty is a sin, but to be aware of duty, and not to fulfil it, is heinous."
"But is it a duty?" said Lothair, rather doggedly.
"What! to serve God and save society? Do you doubt it? Have you read the 'Declaration of Geneva?' They have declared war against the Church, the state, and the domestic principle. All the great truths and laws on which the family reposes are denounced. Have you seen Garibaldi's letter? When it was read, and spoke of the religion of God being propagated throughout the world, there was a universal cry of 'No, no! no religion!' But the religion of God was soon so explained as to allay all their fears. It is the religion of science. Instead of Adam, our ancestry is traced to the most grotesque of creatures, thought is phosphorus, the soul complex nerves, and our moral sense a secretion of sugar. Do you want these views in England? Rest assured they are coming. And how are we to contend against them? Only by Divine truth. And where is Divine truth? In the Church of Christ—in the gospel of order, peace, and purity."
Lothair rose, and paced the room with his eyes on the ground.
"I wish I had been born in the middle ages," he exclaimed, "or on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, or in some other planet: anywhere, or at any time, but in this country and in this age!"
"That thought is not worthy of you, my lord," said Catesby. "It is a great privilege to live in this country and in this age. It is a great privilege, in the mighty contest between the good and the evil principle, to combat for the righteous. They stand face to face now, as they have stood before. There is Christianity, which, by revealing the truth, has limited the license of human reason; there is that human reason which resists revelation as a bondage—which insists upon being atheistical, or polytheistical, or pantheistical—which looks upon the requirements of obedience, justice, truth, and purity, as limitations of human freedom. It is to the Church that God has committed the custody and execution of His truth and law. The Church, as witness, teacher, and judge, contradicts and offends the spirit of license to the quick. This is why it is hated; this is why it is to be destroyed, and why they are preparing a future of rebellion, tyranny, falsehood, and degrading debauchery. The Church alone can save us, and you are asked to supplicate the Almighty to-night, under circumstances of deep hope, to favor the union of churchmen, and save the human race from the impending deluge."
Lothair threw himself again into his seat and sighed. "I am rather indisposed today, my dear monsignore, which is unusual with me, and scarcely equal to such a theme, doubtless of the deepest interest to me and to all. I myself wish, as you well know, that all mankind were praying under the same roof. I shall continue in seclusion this morning. Perhaps you will permit me to think over what you have said with so much beauty and force."
"I had forgotten that I had a letter to deliver to you," said Catesby; and he drew from his breast-pocket a note which he handed to Lothair, who opened it quite unconscious of the piercing and even excited observation of his companion.
Lothair read the letter with a changing countenance, and then he read it again and blushed deeply. The letter was from Miss Arundel. After a slight pause, without looking up, he said, "Nine o'clock is the hour, I believe."
"Yes," said the monsignore rather eagerly, "but, were I you, I would be earlier than that. I would order my carnage at eight. If you will permit me, I will order it for you. You are not quite well. It will save you some little trouble, people coming into the room and all that, and the cardinal will be there by eight o'clock."
"Thank you," said Lothair; "have the kindness then, my dear monsignore, to order my brougham for me at half-past eight and just say that I can see no one. Adieu!"
And the priest glided away.
Lothair remained the whole morning in a most troubled state, pacing his rooms, leaning sometimes with his arm upon the mantel-piece, and his face buried in his arm, and often he sighed. About half-past five he rang for his valet and, dressed, and in another hour he broke his fast—a little soup, a cutlet, and a glass or two of claret. And then he looked at his watch; and he looked at his watch every five minutes for the next hour.
He was in deep reverie, when the servant announced that his carriage was ready. He started as from a dream, then pressed his hand to his eyes, and kept it there for some moments, and then, exclaiming, "Jacta est alea," he descended the stairs.
"Where to, my lord?" inquired the servant when he had entered the carriage.
Lothair seemed to hesitate, and then he said, "To Belmont."
"Belmont is the only house I know that is properly lighted," said Mr. Phoebus, and he looked with complacent criticism round the brilliant saloons. "I would not visit any one who had gas in his house; but even in palaces I find lamps—it is too dreadful. When they came here first, there was an immense chandelier suspended in each of these rooms, pulling down the ceilings, dwarfing the apartments, leaving the guests all in darkness, and throwing all the light on the roof. The chandelier is the great abomination of furniture; it makes a noble apartment look small. And then they say you cannot light rooms without chandeliers! Look at these—need any thing be more brilliant? And all the light in the right place—on those who are in the chamber. All light should come from the side of a room, and if you choose to have candelabra like these you can always secure sufficient."
Theodora was seated on a sofa, in conversation with a lady of distinguished mien and with the countenance of a Roman empress. There were various groups in the room, standing or seated. Colonel Campian was attending a lady to the piano where a celebrity presided, a gentleman with cropped head and a long black beard. The lady was of extraordinary beauty—one of those faces one encounters in Asia Minor, rich, glowing, with dark fringed eyes of tremulous lustre; a figure scarcely less striking, of voluptuous symmetry. Her toilet was exquisite—perhaps a little too splendid for the occasion, but abstractedly of fine taste—and she held, as she sang, a vast bouquet entirely of white stove-flowers. The voice was as sweet as the stephanopolis, and the execution faultless. It seemed the perfection of chamber-singing—no shrieks and no screams, none of those agonizing experiments which result from the fatal competition of rival prima-donnas.
She was singing when Lothair was ushered in. Theodora rose and greeted him with friendliness. Her glance was that of gratification at his arrival, but the performance prevented any conversation save a few kind remarks interchanged in a hashed tone. Colonel Campian came up: he seemed quite delighted at renewing his acquaintance with Lothair, and began to talk rather too loudly, which made some of the gentlemen near the piano turn round with glances of wondering reproach. This embarrassed his newly-arrived guest, who in his distress caught the bow of a lady who recognized him, and whom he instantly remembered as Mrs. Putney Giles. There was a vacant chair by her side, and he was glad to occupy it.
"Who is that lady?" inquired Lothair of his companion, when the singing ceased.
"That is Madame Phoebus," said Mrs. Giles.
"Madame Phoebus!" exclaimed Lothair, with an unconscious feeling of some relief. "She is a very beautiful woman. Who was she?"
"She is a Cantacuzene, a daughter of the famous Greek merchant. The Cantcuzenes, you know, are great people, descendants of the Greek emperors. Her uncle is prince of Samos. Mr. Cantacuzene was very much opposed to the match, but I think quite wrong. Mr. Phoebus is a most distinguished man, and the alliance is of the happiest. Never was such mutual devotion."
"I am not surprised," said Lothair, wonderfully relieved.
"Her sister Euphrosyne is in the room," continued Mrs. Giles, "the most extraordinary resemblance to her. There is just the difference between the matron and the maiden; that is all. They are nearly of the same age, and before the marriage might have been mistaken for each other. The most charming thing in the world is to hear the two sisters sing together. I hope they may to-night. I know the family very well. It was Mrs. Cantacuzene who introduced me to Theodora. You know it is quite en r gle to call her Theodora. All the men call her Theodora; 'the divine Theodora' is, I believe, the right thing."
"And do you call her Theodora?" asked Lothair, rather dryly.
"Why, no," said Mrs. Giles, a little confused. "We are not intimate, at least not very, Ms. Campian has been at my house, and I have been here two et three times; not so often as I could wish, for Mr. Giles, you see, does not like servants and horses to be used on Sundays—and no more do I—and on weekdays he is too much engaged or too tired to come out this distance; so you see—"
The singing had ceased, and Theodora approached them. Addressing Lothair, she said: "The Princess of Tivoli wishes that you should be presented to her."
The Princess of Tivoli was a Roman dame of one of the most illustrious houses, but who now lived at Paris. She had in her time taken an active part in Italian politics, and had sacrificed to the cause to which she was devoted the larger part of a large fortune. What had been spared, however, permitted her to live in the French capital with elegance, if not with splendor; and her saloon was the gathering roof, in Paris, of almost every one who was celebrated for genius or accomplishments. Though reputed to be haughty and capricious, she entertained for Theodora an even passionate friendship, and now visited England only to see her.
"Madame Campian has been telling me of all the kind things you did for her at Oxford," said the princess. "Some day you must show me Oxford, but it must be next year. I very much admire the free university life. Tell me now, at Oxford you still have the Protestant religion?"
Lothair ventured to bow assent.
"Ah! that is well," continued the princess. "I advise you to keep it. If we had only had the Protestant religion in Italy, things would have been very different. You are fortunate in this country in having the Protestant religion and a real nobility. Tell me now, in your constitution, if the father sits in the Upper Chamber, the son sits in the Lower House—that I know; but is there any majorat at attached to his seat?"
"Not at present."
"You sit in the Lower House, of course?"
"I am not old enough to sit in either House," said Lothair, "but when I am of age, which I shall be when I have the honor of showing Oxford to your highness, I must sit in the Upper House, for I have not the blessing of a living father."