"My idea of an agreeable person," said Hugo Bohun, "is a person who agrees with me."
"Talking of singing, something is going to happen," said Miss Arundel.
A note was heard; a celebrated professor had entered the room and was seated at the piano, which he had just touched. There was a general and unconscious hush, and the countenance of Lord St. Aldegonde wore a rueful expression. But affairs turned out better than could be anticipated. A young and pretty girl, dressed in white, with a gigantic sash of dazzling beauty, played upon the violin with a grace, and sentimental and marvellous skill, and passionate expression, worthy of St. Cecilia. She was a Hungarian lady, and this was her English debut. Everybody praised her, and every body was pleased; and Lord St. Aldegonde, instead of being bored, took a wondrous rose out of his button-hole and presented it to her.
The performance only lasted half an hour, and then the ladies began to think of their bowers. Lady St. Aldegonde, before she quit the room, was in earnest conversation with her lord.
"I have arranged all that you wished, Granville," she said, speaking rapidly and holding a candlestick. "We are to see the castle to-morrow, and the gardens and the parks and every thing else, but you are not to be bored at all, and not to lose your shooting. The moors are sixteen miles off, but our host says, with an omnibus and a good team—and he will give you a first-rate one—you can do it in an hour and ten minutes, certainly an hour and a quarter; and you are to make your own party in the smoking-room to-night, and take a capital luncheon with you."
"All right: I shall ask the Yankee; and I should like to take that Hungarian girl too, if she would only fiddle to us at luncheon."
Next day the cardinal, with his secretary and his chaplain, arrived. Monsignore Catesby received his eminence at the station and knelt and kissed his hand as he stepped from the carriage. The monsignore had wonderfully manoeuvred that the whole of the household should have been marshalled to receive this prince of the Church, and perhaps have performed the same ceremony: no religious recognition, he assured them, in the least degree involved, only an act of not unusual respect to a foreign prince; but considering that the bishop of the diocese and his suite were that day expected, to say nothing of the Presbyterian guardian, probably arriving by the same train, Lothair would not be persuaded to sanction any ceremony whatever. Lady St. Jerome and Miss Arundel, however, did their best to compensate for this omission with reverences which a posture-master might have envied, and certainly would not have surpassed. They seemed to sink into the earth, and then slowly and supernaturally to emerge. The bishop had been at college with the cardinal and intimate with him, though they now met for the first time since his secession—a not uninteresting rencounter. The bishop was high-church, and would not himself have made a bad cardinal, being polished and plausible, well-lettered, yet quite a man of the world. He was fond of society, and justified his taste in this respect by the flattering belief that by his presence he was extending the power of the Church; certainly favoring an ambition which could not be described as being moderate. The bishop had no abstract prejudice against gentlemen who wore red hats, and under ordinary circumstances would have welcomed his brother churchman with unaffected cordiality, not to say sympathy; but in the present instance, however gracious his mien and honeyed his expressions, he only looked upon the cardinal as a dangerous rival, intent upon clutching from his fold the most precious of his flock, and he had long looked to this occasion as the one which might decide the spiritual welfare and career of Lothair. The odds were not to be despised. There were two monsignores in the room besides the cardinal, but the bishop was a man of contrivance and resolution, not easily disheartened or defeated. Nor was he without allies. He did not count much on the university don, who was to arrive on the morrow in the shape of the head of an Oxford house, though he was a don of magnitude. This eminent personage had already let Lothair slip from his influence. But the bishop had a subtle counsellor in his chaplain, who wore as good a cassock as any monsignore, and he brought with him also a trusty archdeacon in a purple coat, whose countenance was quite entitled to a place in the Acta Sanctorum.
It was amusing to observe the elaborate courtesy and more than Christian kindness which the rival prelates and their official followers extended to each other. But under all this unction on both sides were unceasing observation, and a vigilance that never flagged; and on both sides there was an uneasy but irresistible conviction that they were on the eve of one of the decisive battles of the social world. Lord Culloden also at length appeared with his daughters, Ladies Flora and Grizell. They were quite as tall as Mr. Putney Giles had reported, but very pretty, with radiant complexions, sunny blue eyes, and flaxen looks. Their dimples and white shoulders and small feet and hands were much admired. Mr. Giles also returned with Apollonia, and, at length, also appeared the rival of Lord Carisbrooke, his grace of Brecon.
Lothair had passed a happy morning, for he had contrived, without difficulty, to be the companion of Theodora during the greater part of it. As the duchess and Lady Corisande had already inspected the castle, they disappeared after breakfast to write letters; and, when the after-luncheon expedition took place, Lothair allotted them to the care of Lord Carisbrooke, and himself became the companion of Lady St. Jerome and Theodora.
Notwithstanding all his efforts in the smoking-room, St. Aldegonde had only been able to induce Colonel Campian to be his companion in the shooting expedition, and the colonel fell into the lure only through his carelessness and good-nature. He much doubted the discretion of his decision as he listened to Lord St. Aldegonde's reasons for the expedition, in their rapid journey to the moors.
"I do not suppose," he said, "we shall have any good sport; but when you are in Scotland, and come to me, as I hope you will, I will give you something you will like. But it is a great thing to get off seeing the Towers, and the gardens, and all that sort of thing. Nothing bores me so much as going over a man's house. Besides, we get rid of the women."
The meeting between the two guardians did not promise to be as pleasant as that between the bishop and the cardinal, but the crusty Lord Culloden was scarcely a match for the social dexterity of his eminence. The cardinal, crossing the room, with winning ceremony approached and addressed his colleague.
"We can have no more controversies, my lord, for our reign is over;" and he extended a delicate hand, which the surprised peer touched with a huge finger.
"Yes; it all depends on himself now," replied Lord Culloden, with a grim smile; "and I hope he will not make a fool of himself."
"What have you got for us to-night?" inquired Lothair of Mr. Giles, as the gentlemen rose from the dining-table.
Mr. Giles said he would consult his wife, but Lothair observing he would himself undertake that office, when he entered the saloon, addressed Apollonia. Nothing could be more skilful than the manner in which Mrs. Giles, in this party, assumed precisely the position which equally became her and suited her own views; at the same time the somewhat humble friend, but the trusted counsellor, of the Towers, she disarmed envy and conciliated consideration. Never obtrusive, yet always prompt and prepared with unfailing resource, and gifted apparently, with universal talents, she soon became the recognized medium by which every thing was suggested or arranged; and before eight-and-forty hours had passed she was described by duchesses and their daughters as that "dear Mrs. Giles."
"Monsieur Raphael and his sister came down in the train with us," said Mrs. Giles to Lothair; "the rest of the troupe will not be here until to-morrow; but they told me they could give you a perfect proverbe if your lordship would like it; and the Spanish conjuror is here; but I rather think, from what I gather, that the young ladies would like a dance."
"I do not much fancy acting the moment these great churchmen have arrived, and with cardinals and bishops I would rather not have dances the first-night. I almost wish we had kept the Hungarian lady for this evening."
"Shall I send for her? She is ready."
"The repetition would be too soon, and would show a great poverty of resources," said Lothair, smiling; "what we want is some singing."
"Mardoni ought to have been here to-day," said Mrs. Giles; "but he never keeps his engagements."
"I think our amateur materials are rather rich," said Lothair.
"There is Mrs. Campian," said Apollonia in a low voice; but Lothair shook his head.
"But, perhaps, if others set her the example," he added, after a pause; "Lady Corisande is first rate, and all her sisters sing; I will go and consult the duchess."
There was soon a stir in the room. Lady St. Aldegonde and her sisters approached the piano, at which was seated the eminent professor. A note was heard, and there was silence. The execution was exquisite; and, indeed, there are few things more dainty than the blended voices of three women. No one seemed to appreciate the performance more than Mrs. Campian, who, greatly attracted by what was taking place, turned a careless ear, even to the honeyed sentences of no less a personage than the lord-bishop.
After an interval Lady Corisande was handed to the piano by Lothair. She was in fine voice, and sang with wonderful effect. Mrs. Campian, who seemed much interested, softly rose, and stole to the outward circle of the group which had gathered round the instrument. When the sounds had ceased, amid the general applause her voice of admiration was heard. The duchess approached her, evidently prompted by the general wish, and expressed her hope that Mrs. Campian would now favor them. It was not becoming to refuse when others had contributed so freely to the general entertainment, but Theodora was anxious not to place herself in competition with those who had preceded her. Looking over a volume of music, she suggested to Lady Corisande a duet, in which the peculiarities of their two voices, which in character were quite different, one being a soprano and the other a contralto, might be displayed. And very seldom, in a private chamber, had any thing of so high a class been heard. Not a lip moved except those of the singers, so complete was the fascination, till the conclusion elicited a burst of irresistible applause.
"In imagination I am throwing endless bouquets," said Hugo Bohun.
"I wish we could induce her to give us a recitation from Alfieri," said Mrs. Putney Giles in a whisper to Lady St. Aldegonde. "I heard it once: it was the finest thing I ever listened to."
"But cannot we?" said Lady St. Aldegonde.
Apollonia shook her head. "She is extremely reserved. I am quite surprised that she sang; but she could not well refuse after your ladyship and your sisters had been so kind."
"But if the Lord of the Towers asks her," suggested Lady St. Aldegonde.
"No, no," said Mrs. Giles, "that would not do; nor would he. He knows she dislikes it. A word from Colonel Campian, and the thing would be settled; but it is rather absurd to invoke the authority of a husband for so light a matter."
"I should like so much to hear her," said Lady St. Aldegonde. "I think I will ask her myself. I will go and speak to mamma."
There was much whispering and consulting in the room, but unnoticed, as general conversation had now been resumed. The duchess sent for Lothair, and conferred with him; but Lothair seemed to shake his head. Then her grace rose and approached Colonel Campian, who was talking to Lord Culloden, and then the duchess and Lady St. Aldegonde went to Mrs. Campian. Then, after a short time, Lady St. Aldegonde rose and fetched Lothair.
"Her grace tells me," said Theodora, "that Colonel Campian wishes me to give a recitation. I cannot believe that such a performance can ever be generally interesting, especially in a foreign language, and I confess that I would rather not exhibit. But I do not like to be churlish when all are so amiable and compliant, and her grace tells me that it cannot well be postponed, for this is the last quiet night we shall have. What I want is a screen, and I must be a moment alone, before I venture on these enterprises. I require it to create the ideal presence."
Lothair and Bertram arranged the screen, the duchess and Lady St. Aldegonde glided about, and tranquilly intimated what was going to occur, so that, without effort, there was in a moment complete silence and general expectation. Almost unnoticed Mrs. Campian had disappeared, whispering a word as she passed to the eminent conductor, who was still seated at the piano. The company had almost unconsciously grouped themselves in the form of a theatre, the gentlemen generally standing behind the ladies who were seated. There were some bars of solemn music, and then, to an audience not less nervous than herself, Theodora came forward as Electra in that beautiful appeal to Clytemnestra, where she veils her mother's guilt even while she intimates her more than terrible suspicion of its existence, and makes one last desperate appeal of pathetic duty in order to save her parent and her fated house:
"O amata madre, Che fai? Non credo io, no, che ardente fiamma Il cor ti avvampi."
The ineffable grace of her action, simple without redundancy, her exquisite elocution, her deep yet controlled passion, and the magic of a voice thrilling even in a whisper—this form of Phidias with the genius of Sophocles—entirely enraptured a fastidious audience. When she ceased, there was an outburst of profound and unaffected appreciation; and Lord St. Aldegonde, who had listened in a sort of ecstasy, rushed forward, with a countenance as serious as the theme, to offer his thanks and express his admiration.
And then they gathered round her—all these charming women and some of these admiring men—as she would have resumed her seat, and entreated her once more—only once more—to favor them. She caught the adoring glance of the lord of the Towers, and her eyes seemed to inquire what she should do. "There will be many strangers here to-morrow," said Lothair, "and next week all the world. This is a delight only for the initiated," and he entreated her to gratify them.
"It shall be Alfieri's ode to America, then," said Theodora, "if you please."
"She is a Roman, I believe," said Lady St. Jerome to his eminence, "but not, alas! a child of the Church. Indeed, I fear her views generally are advanced," and she shook her head.
"At present," said the cardinal, "this roof and this visit may influence her. I should like to see such powers engaged in the cause of God."
The cardinal was an entire believer in female influence, and a considerable believer in his influence over females; and he had good cause for his convictions. The catalogue of his proselytes was numerous and distinguished. He had not only converted a duchess and several countesses, but he had gathered into his fold a real Mary Magdalen. In the height of her beauty and her fame, the most distinguished member of the demi-monde had suddenly thrown up her golden whip and jingling reins, and cast herself at the feet of the cardinal. He had a right, therefore, to be confident; and, while his exquisite taste and consummate cultivation rendered it impossible that he should not have been deeply gratified by the performance of Theodora, he was really the whole time considering the best means by which such charms and powers could be enlisted in the cause of the Church.
After the ladies had retired, the gentlemen talked for a few minutes over the interesting occurrence of the evening.
"Do you know," said the bishop to the duke and some surrounding auditors, "fine as was the Electra, I preferred the ode to the tragedy? There was a tumult of her brow, especially in the address to Liberty, that was sublime—quite a Moenad look."
"What do you think of it, Carry?" said St. Aldegonde to Lord Carisbrooke.
"Brecon says she puts him in mind of Ristori."
"She is not in the least like Ristori, or any one else," said St. Aldegonde. "I never heard, I never saw any one like her. I'll tell you what—you must take care what you say about her in the smoking-room, for her husband will be there, and an excellent fellow too. We went together to the moors this morning, and he did not bore me in the least. Only, if I had known as much about his wife as I do now, I would have stayed at home, and passed my morning with the women."
St. Aldegonde loved to preside over the mysteries of the smoking-room. There, enveloped in his Egyptian robe, occasionally blurting out some careless or headstrong paradox to provoke discussion among others, which would amuse himself, rioting in a Rabelaisan anecdote, and listening with critical delight to endless memoirs of horses and prima-donnas, St. Aldegonde was never bored. Sometimes, too, when he could get hold of an eminent traveller, or some individual distinguished for special knowledge, St. Aldegonde would draw him out with skill; himself displaying an acquaintance with the particular topic which often surprised his habitual companions, for St. Aldegonde professed never to read; but he had no ordinary abilities, and an original turn of mind and habit of life, which threw him in the way of unusual persons of all classes; from whom he imbibed or extracted a vast variety of queer, always amusing, and not altogether useless information.
"Lothair has only one weakness," he said to Colonel Campian as the ladies disappeared; "he does not smoke. Carry, you will come?"
"Well, I do not think I shall to-night," said Lord Carisbrooke. Lady Corisande, it appears, particularly disapproved of smoking.
"Hum!" said St. Aldegonde; "Duke of Brecon, I know, will come, and Hugo and Bertram. My brother Montairy would give his ears to come, but is afraid of his wife; and then there is the monsignore, a most capital fellow, who knows every thing."
There were other gatherings, before the midnight bell struck at the Towers, which discussed important affairs, though they might not sit so late as the smoking-party. Lady St. Aldegonde had a reception in her room as well as her lord. There the silent observation of the evening found avenging expression in sparkling criticism, and the summer lightning, though it generally blazed with harmless brilliancy, occasionally assumed a more arrowy character. The gentlemen of the smoking-room have it not all their own way quite as much as they think. If, indeed, a new school of Athens were to be pictured, the sages and the students might be represented in exquisite dressing-gowns, with slippers rarer than the lost one of Cinderella, and brandishing beautiful brushes over tresses still more fair. Then is the time when characters are never more finely drawn, or difficult social questions more accurately solved; knowledge without reasoning and truth without logic—the triumph of intuition! But we must not profane the mysteries of Bona Dea.
The archdeacon and the chaplain had also been in council with the bishop in his dressing-room, who, while he dismissed them with his benison, repeated his apparently satisfactory assurance that something would happen "the first thing after breakfast."
Lothair did not smoke, but he did not sleep. He was absorbed by the thought of Theodora. He could not but be conscious, and so far he was pleased by the consciousness, that she was as fascinating to others as to himself. What then? Even with the splendid novelty of his majestic home, and all the excitement of such an incident in his life, and the immediate prospect of their again meeting, he had felt, and even acutely, their separation. Whether it were the admiration of her by others which proved his own just appreciation, or whether it were the unobtrusive display of exquisite accomplishments, which, with all their intimacy, she had never forced on his notice—whatever the cause, her hold upon his heart and life, powerful as it was before, had strengthened. Lothair could not conceive existence tolerable without her constant presence; and with her constant presence existence would be rapture. It had come to that. All his musings, all his profound investigation and high resolve, all his sublime speculations on God and man, and life, and immortality, and the origin of things, and religious truth, ended in an engrossing state of feeling, which could be denoted in that form and in no other.
What, then, was his future? It seemed dark and distressing. Her constant presence his only happiness; her constant presence impossible. He seemed on an abyss.
In eight-and-forty hours or so one of the chief provinces of England would be blazing with the celebration of his legal accession to his high estate. If any one in the queen's dominions had to be fixed upon as the most fortunate and happiest of her subjects, it might well be Lothair. If happiness depend on lofty station, his ancient and hereditary rank was of the highest; if, as there seems no doubt, the chief source of felicity in this country is wealth, his vast possessions and accumulated treasure could not easily be rivalled, while he had a matchless advantage over those who pass, or waste, their gray and withered lives in acquiring millions, in his consummate and healthy youth. He had bright abilities, and a brighter heart. And yet the unknown truth was, that this favored being, on the eve of this critical event, was pacing his chamber agitated and infinitely disquieted, and struggling with circumstances and feelings over which alike he seemed to have no control, and which seemed to have been evoked without the exercise of his own will, or that of any other person.
"I do not think I can blame myself," he said; "and I am sure I cannot blame her. And yet—"
He opened his window and looked upon the moonlit garden, which filled the fanciful quadrangle. The light of the fountain seemed to fascinate his eye, and the music of its fall soothed him into reverie. The distressful images that had gathered round his heart gradually vanished, and all that remained to him was the reality of his happiness. Her beauty and her grace, the sweet stillness of her searching intellect, and the refined pathos of her disposition, only occurred to him, and he dwelt on them with spell-bound joy.
The great clock of the Towers sounded two.
"Ah!" said Lothair, "I must try to sleep. I have got to see the bishop to-morrow morning. I wonder what he wants?"
The bishop was particularly playful on the morrow at breakfast. Though his face beamed with Christian kindness, there was a twinkle in his eye which seemed not entirely superior to mundane self-complacency, even to a sense of earthly merriment. His seraphic raillery elicited sympathetic applause from the ladies, especially from the daughters of the house of Brentham, who laughed occasionally, even before his angelic jokes were well launched. His lambent flashes sometimes even played over the cardinal, whose cerulean armor, nevertheless, remained always unscathed. Monsignore Chidioch, however, who would once unnecessarily rush to the aid of his chief, was tumbled over by the bishop with relentless gayety, to the infinite delight of Lady Corisande, who only wished it had been that dreadful Monsignore Catesby. But, though less demonstrative, apparently not the least devout, of his lordship's votaries, were the Lady Flora and the Lady Grizell. These young gentlewomen, though apparently gifted with appetites becoming their ample, but far from graceless, forms, contrived to satisfy all the wants of nature without taking their charmed vision for a moment off the prelate, or losing a word which escaped his consecrated lips. Sometimes even they ventured to smile, and then they looked at their father and sighed. It was evident, notwithstanding their appetites and their splendid complexions, which would have become the Aurora of Guido, that these young ladies had some secret sorrow which required a confidante. Their visit to Muriel Towers was their introduction to society, for the eldest had only just attained sweet seventeen. Young ladies under these circumstances always fall in love, but with their own sex. Lady Flora and Lady Grizell both fell in love with Lady Corisande, and before the morning had passed away she had become their friend and counsellor, and the object of their devoted adoration. It seems that their secret sorrow had its origin in that mysterious religious sentiment which agitates or affects every class and condition of man, and which creates or destroys states, though philosophers are daily assuring us "that there is nothing in it." The daughters of the Earl of Culloden could not stand any longer the Free Kirk, of which their austere parent was a fiery votary. It seems that they had been secretly converted to the Episcopal Church of Scotland by a governess, who pretended to be a daughter of the Covenant, but who was really a niece of the primus, and, as Lord Culloden accurately observed, when he ignominiously dismissed her, "a Jesuit in disguise." From that moment there had been no peace in his house. His handsome and gigantic daughters, who had hitherto been all meekness, and who had obeyed him as they would a tyrant father of the feudal ages, were resolute, and would not compromise their souls. They humbly expressed their desire to enter a convent, or to become at least sisters of mercy. Lord Culloden raged and raved, and delivered himself of cynical taunts, but to no purpose. The principle that forms Free Kirks is a strong principle, and takes many forms, which the social Polyphemes, who have only one eye, cannot perceive. In his desperate confusion, he thought that change of scene might be a diversion when things were at the worst, and this was the reason that he had, contrary to his original intention, accepted the invitation of his ward.
Lady Corisande was exactly the guide the girls required. They sat on each side of her, each holding her hand, which they frequently pressed to their lips. As her form was slight, though of perfect grace and symmetry, the contrast between herself and her worshippers was rather startling; but her noble brow, full of thought and purpose, the firmness of her chiselled lip, and the rich fire of her glance vindicated her post as the leading spirit.
They breakfasted in a room which opened on a gallery, and at the other end of the gallery was an apartment similar to the breakfast-room, which was the male morning-room, and where the world could find the newspapers, or join in half an hour's talk over the intended arrangements of the day. When the breakfast-party broke up, the bishop approached Lothair, and looked at him earnestly.
"I am at your lordship's service," said Lothair, and they quitted the breakfast-room together. Half-way down the gallery they met Monsignore Catesby, who had in his hand a number, just arrived, of a newspaper which was esteemed an Ultramontane organ. He bowed as he passed them, with an air of some exultation, and the bishop and himself exchanged significant smiles, which, however, meant different things. Quitting the gallery, Lothair led the way to his private apartments; and, opening the door, ushered in the bishop.
Now, what was contained in the Ultramontane organ which apparently occasioned so much satisfaction to Monsignore Catesby? A deftly drawn-up announcement of some important arrangements which had been deeply planned. The announcement would be repeated In all the daily papers, which were hourly expected. The world was informed that his eminence, Cardinal Grandison, now on a visit at Muriel Towers to his ward, Lothair, would celebrate high mass on the ensuing Sunday in the city which was the episcopal capital of the bishop's see, and afterward preach on the present state of the Church of Christ. As the bishop must be absent from his cathedral that day, and had promised to preach in the chapel at Muriel, there was something dexterous in thus turning his lordship's flank, and desolating his diocese when he was not present to guard it from the fiery dragon. It was also remarked that there would be an unusual gathering of the Catholic aristocracy for the occasion. The rate of lodgings in the city had risen in consequence. At the end of the paragraph it was distinctly contradicted that Lothair had entered the Catholic Church. Such a statement was declared to be "premature," as his guardian, the cardinal, would never sanction his taking such a step until he was the master of his own actions; the general impression left by the whole paragraph being, that the world was not to be astonished if the first stop of Lothair, on accomplishing his majority, was to pursue the very course which was now daintily described as premature.
At luncheon the whole party were again assembled. The newspapers had arrived in the interval, and had been digested. Every one was aware of the popish plot, as Hugo Bohun called it. The bishop, however, looked serene, and, if not as elate as in the morning, calm and content. He sat by the duchess, and spoke to her in a low voice, and with seriousness. The monsignore watched every expression.
When the duchess rose, the bishop accompanied her into the recess of a window, and she said: "You may depend upon me; I cannot answer for the duke. It is not the early rising; he always rises early in the country, but he likes to read his letters before he dresses, and that sort of thing. I think you had better speak to Lady Corisande yourself."
What had taken place at the interview of the bishop with Lothair, and what had elicited from the duchess an assurance that the prelate might depend upon her, generally transpired, in consequence of some confidential communications, in the course of the afternoon. It appeared that the right reverend lord had impressed, and successfully, on Lothair, the paramount duty of commencing the day of his majority by assisting in an early celebration of the most sacred rite of the Church. This, in the estimation of the bishop, though he had not directly alluded to the subject in the interview, but had urged the act on higher grounds, would be a triumphant answer to the insidious and calumnious paragraphs which had circulated during the last six months, and an authentic testimony that Lothair was not going to quit the Church of his fathers.
This announcement, however, produced consternation in the opposite camp. It seemed to more than neutralize the anticipated effect of the programme, and the deftly-conceived paragraph. Monsignore Catesby went about whispering that he feared Lothair was going to overdo it; and considering what he had to go through on Monday, if it were only for considerations of health, an early celebration was inexpedient. He tried the duchess—about whom he was beginning to hover a good deal—as he fancied she was of an impressible disposition, and gave some promise of results; but here the ground had been too forcibly preoccupied: then he flew to Lady St. Aldegonde, but he had the mortification of learning, from her lips, that she herself contemplated being a communicant at the same time. Lady Corisande had been before him. All the energies of that young lady were put forth in order that Lothair should be countenanced on this solemn occasion. She conveyed to the bishop before dinner the results of her exertions.
"You may count on Alberta St. Aldegonde and Victoria Montairy, and, I think, Lord Montairy also, if she presses him, which she has promised to do. Bertram must kneel by his friend at such a time. I think Lord Carisbrooke may: Duke of Brecon, I can say nothing about at present."
"Lord St. Aldegonde?" said the bishop.
Lady Corisande shook her head.
There had been a conclave in the bishop's room before dinner, in which the interview of the morning was discussed.
"It was successful; scarcely satisfactory," said the bishop. "He is a very clever fellow, and knows a great deal. They have got hold of him, and he has all the arguments at his fingers' ends. When I came to the point, he began to demur; I saw what was passing through his mind, and I said at once: 'Your views are high: so are mine: so are those of the Church. It is a sacrifice, undoubtedly, in a certain sense. No sound theologian would maintain the simplicity of the elements; but that does not involve the coarse interpretation of the dark ages.'"
"Good, good," said the archdeacon; "and what is it your lordship did not exactly like?"
"He fenced too much; and he said more than once, and in a manner I did not like, that, whatever were his views as to the Church, he thought he could on the whole conscientiously partake of this rite as administered by the Church of England."
"Every thing depends on this celebration," said the chaplain; "after that his doubts and difficulties will dispel."
"We must do our best that he is well supported," said the archdeacon.
"No fear of that," said the bishop. "I have spoken to some of our friends. We may depend on the duchess and her daughters—all admirable women; and they will do what they can with others. It will be a busy day, but I have expressed my hope that the heads of the household may be able to attend. But the county notables arrive to-day, and I shall make it a point with them, especially the lord-lieutenant."
"It should be known," said the chaplain. "I will send a memorandum to the Guardian."
"And John Bull," said the bishop.
The lord-lieutenant and Lady Agramont, and their daughter, Lady Ida Alice, arrived to-day; and the high-sheriff, a manufacturer, a great liberal who delighted in peers, but whose otherwise perfect felicity to-day was a little marred and lessened by the haunting and restless fear that Lothair was not duly aware that he took precedence of the lord-lieutenant. Then there were Sir Hamlet Clotworthy, the master of the hounds, and a capital man of business; and the Honorable Lady Clotworthy, a haughty dame who ruled her circle with tremendous airs and graces, but who was a little subdued in the empyrean of Muriel Towers. The other county member, Mr. Ardenne, was a refined gentleman, and loved the arts. He had an ancient pedigree, and knew everybody else's, which was not always pleasant. What he most prided himself on was being the hereditary owner of a real deer—park the only one, he asserted, in the county. Other persons had parks which had deer in them, but that was quite a different thing. His wife was a pretty woman, and the inspiring genius of archeological societies, who loved their annual luncheon in her Tudor Halls, and illustrated by their researches the deeds and dwellings of her husband's ancient race.
The clergy of the various parishes on the estate all dined at the Towers to-day, in order to pay their respects to their bishop. "Lothair's oecumenical council," said Hugo Bohun, as he entered the crowded room, and looked around him with an air of not ungraceful impertinence. Among the clergy was Mr. Smylie, the brother of Apollonia.
A few years ago, Mr. Putney Giles had not unreasonably availed himself of the position which he so usefully and so honorably filled, to recommend this gentleman to the guardians of Lothair to fill a vacant benefice. The Reverend Dionysius Smylie had distinguished himself at Trinity College, Dublin, and had gained a Hebrew scholarship there; after that he had written a work on the Revelations, which clearly settled the long-controverted point whether Rome in the great apocalypse was signified by Babylon. The bishop shrugged his shoulders when he received Mr. Smylie's papers, the examining chaplain sighed, and the archdeacon groaned. But man is proverbially short-sighted. The doctrine of evolution affords no instances so striking as those of sacerdotal development. Placed under the favoring conditions of clime and soil, the real character of the Reverend Dionysius Smylie gradually, but powerfully, developed itself. Where he now ministered, he was attended by acolytes, and incensed by thurifers. The shoulders of a fellow countryman were alone equal to the burden of the enormous cross which preceded him; while his ecclesiastical wardrobe furnished him with many colored garments, suited to every season of the year, and every festival of the Church.
At first there was indignation, and rumors or prophecies that we should soon have another case of perversion, and that Mr. Smylie was going over to Rome; but these superficial commentators misapprehended the vigorous vanity of the man. "Rome may come to me," said Mr. Smylie, "and it is perhaps the best thing it could do. This is the real Church without Romish error."
The bishop and his reverend stuff, who were at first so much annoyed at the preferment of Mr. Smylie, had now, with respect to him, only one duty, and that was to restrain his exuberant priestliness; but they fulfilled that duty in a kindly and charitable spirit; and, when the Reverend Dionysius Smylie was appointed chaplain to Lothair, the bishop did not shrug his shoulders, the chaplain did not sigh, nor the archdeacon groan.
The party was so considerable to-day that they dined in the great hall. When it was announced to Lothair that his lordship's dinner was served, and he offered his arm to his destined companion, he looked around, and, then in an audible voice, and with a stateliness becoming such an incident, called upon the high-sheriff to lead the duchess to the table. Although that eminent personage had been thinking of nothing else for days, and during the last half-hour had felt as a man feels, and can only feel, who knows that some public function is momentarily about to fall to his perilous discharge, he was taken quite aback, changed color, and lost his head. But the band of Lothair, who were waiting at the door of the apartment to precede the procession to the hall, striking up at this moment "The Roast Beef of Old England," reanimated his heart; and, following Lothair, and preceding all the other guests down the gallery, and through many chambers, he experienced the proudest moment of a life of struggle, ingenuity, vicissitude, and success.
Under all this flowing festivity there was already a current of struggle and party passion. Serious thoughts and some anxiety occupied the minds of several of the guests, amid the variety of proffered dishes and sparkling wines, and the subdued strains of delicate music. This disquietude did not touch Lothair. He was happy to find himself in his ancestral hall, surrounded by many whom he respected, and by some whom he loved. He was an excellent host, which no one can be who does not combine a good heart with high breeding.
Theodora was rather far from him, but he could catch her grave, sweet countenance at an angle of the table, as she bowed her head to Mr. Ardenne, the county member, who was evidently initiating her in all the mysteries of deer-parks. The cardinal sat near him, winning over, though without apparent effort, the somewhat prejudiced Lady Agramont. His eminence could converse with more facility than others, for he dined off biscuits and drank only water.
Lord Culloden had taken out Lady St. Jerome, who expended on him all the resources of her impassioned tittle-tattle, extracting only grim smiles; and Lady Corisande had fallen to the happy lot of the Duke of Brecon; according to the fine perception of Clare Arundel—and women are very quick in these discoveries—the winning horse. St. Aldegonde had managed to tumble in between Lady Flora and Lady Grizell, and seemed immensely amused.
The duke inquired of Lothair how many he could dine in his hall.
"We must dine more than two hundred on Monday," he replied.
"And now, I should think, we have only a third of that number," said his grace. "It will be a tight fit."
"Mr. Putney Giles has had a drawing made, and every seat apportioned. We shall just do it."
"I fear you will have too busy a day on Monday," said the cardinal, who had caught up the conversation.
"Well, you know, sir, I do not sit up smoking with Lord St. Aldegonde."
After dinner, Lady Corisande seated herself by Mrs. Campian. "You must have thought me very rude," she said, "to have left you so suddenly at tea, when the bishop looked into the room; but he wanted me on a matter of the greatest importance. I must, therefore, ask your pardon. You naturally would not feel on this matter as we all do, or most of us do," she added with some hesitation; "being—pardon me—a foreigner, and the question involving national as well as religious feelings;" and then, somewhat hurriedly, but with emotion, she detailed to Theodora all that had occurred respecting the early celebration on Monday, and the opposition it was receiving from the cardinal and his friends. It was a relief to Lady Corisande thus to express all her feelings on a subject on which she had been brooding the whole day.
"You mistake," said Theodora, quietly, when Lady Corisande had finished. "I am much interested in what you tell me. I should deplore our friend falling under the influence of the Romish priesthood."
"And yet there is danger of it," said Lady Corisande, "more than danger," she added in a low but earnest voice. "You do not know what a conspiracy is going on, and has been going on for months, to effect this end. I tremble."
"That is the last thing I ever do," said Theodora, with a faint, sweet smile. "I hope, but I never tremble."
"You have seen the announcement in the newspapers to-day!" said Lady Corisande.
"I think, if they were certain of their prey, they would be more reserved," said Theodora.
"There is something in that," said Lady Corisande, musingly. "You know not what a relief it is to me to speak to you on this matter. Mamma agrees with me, and so do my sisters; but still they may agree with me because they are my mamma and my sisters; but I look upon our nobility joining the Church of Rome as the greatest calamity that has ever happened to England. Irrespective of all religious considerations, on which I will not presume to touch, it is an abnegation of patriotism; and in this age, when all things are questioned, a love of our country seems to me the one sentiment to cling to."
"I know no higher sentiment," said Theodora in a low voice, and yet which sounded like the breathing of some divine shrine, and her Athenian eye met the fiery glance of Lady Corisande with an expression of noble sympathy.
"I am so glad that I spoke to you on this matter," said Lady Corisande, "for there is something in you which encourages me. As you say, if they were certain, they would be silent; and yet, from what I hear, their hopes are high. You know," she added in a whisper, "that he has absolutely engaged to raise a popish cathedral. My brother, Bertram, has seen the model in his rooms."
"I have known models that were never realized," said Theodora.
"Ah! you are hopeful; you said you were hopeful. It is a beautiful disposition. It is not mine," she added, with a sigh.
"It should be," said Theodora; "you were not born to sigh. Sighs should be for those who have no country, like myself; not for the daughters of England—the beautiful daughters of proud England."
"But you have your husband's country, and that is proud and great."
"I have only one country, and it is not my husband's; and I have only one thought, and it is to set it free."
"It is a noble one," said Lady Corisande, "as I am sure are all your thoughts. There are the gentlemen; I am sorry they have come. There," she added, as Monsignore Catesby entered the room, "there is his evil genius."
"But you have baffled him," said Theodora.
"Ah," said Lady Corisande, with a long-drawn sigh. "Their manoeuvres never cease. However, I think Monday must be safe. Would you come?" she said, with a serious, searching glance, and in a kind of coaxing murmur.
"I should be an intruder, my dear lady," said Theodora, declining the suggestion; "but, so far as hoping that our friend will never join the Church of Rome, you will have ever my ardent wishes."
Theodora might have added her belief, for Lothair had never concealed from her a single thought or act of his life in this respect. She knew all and had weighed every thing, and flattered herself that their frequent and unreserved conversations had not confirmed his belief in the infallibility of the Church of Rome, and perhaps of some other things.
It had been settled that there should be dancing this evening—all the young ladies had wished it. Lothair danced with Lady Flora Falkirk, and her sister, Lady Grizell, was in the same quadrille. They moved about like young giraffes in an African forest, but looked bright and happy. Lothair liked his cousins; their inexperience and innocence, and the simplicity with which they exhibited and expressed their feelings, had in them something bewitching. Then the rough remembrance of his old life at Falkirk and its contrast with the present scene had in it something stimulating. They were his juniors by several years, but they were always gentle and kind to him; and sometimes it seemed he was the only person whom they, too, had found kind and gentle. He called his cousin, too, by her Christian name, and he was amused, standing by this beautiful giantess, and calling her Flora. There were other amusing circumstances in the quadrille; not the least, Lord St. Aldegonde dancing with Mrs. Campian. The wonder of Lady St. Aldegonde was only equalled by her delight.
The lord-lieutenant was standing by the duke, in a comer of the saloon, observing, not with dissatisfaction, his daughter, Lady Ida Alice, dancing with Lothair.
"Do you know this is the first time I ever had the honor of meeting a cardinal?" he said.
"And we never expected that it would happen to either of us in this country when we were at Christchurch together," replied the duke.
"Well, I hope every thing is for the best," said Lord Agramont. "We are to have all these gentlemen in our good city of Grandchester, to-morrow."
"So I understand."
"You read that paragraph in the newspapers? Do you think there is any thing in it?"
"About our friend? It would be a great misfortune."
"The bishop says there is nothing in it," said the lord-lieutenant.
"Well, he ought to know. I understand he has had some serious conversation recently with our friend?"
"Yes; he has spoken to me about it. Are you going to attend the early celebration tomorrow? It is not much to my taste; a little new-fangled, I think; but I shall go, as they say it will do good."
"I am glad of that; it is well that he should be impressed at this moment with the importance and opinion of his county."
"Do you know I never saw him before?" said the lord-lieutenant. "He is winning."
"I know no youth," said the duke, "I would not except my own son, and Bertram has never given me an uneasy moment, of whom I have a better opinion, both as to heart and head. I should deeply deplore his being smashed by a Jesuit."
The dancing had ceased for a moment; there was a stir; Lord Carisbrooke was enlarging, with unusual animation, to an interested group, about a new dance at Paris—the new dance. Could they not have it here? Unfortunately, he did not know its name, and could not describe its figure; but it was something new; quite new; they got it at Paris. Princess Metternich dances it. He danced it with her, and she taught it him; only he never could explain any thing, and indeed never did exactly make it out. "But you danced it with a shawl, and then two ladies hold the shawl, and the cavaliers pass under it. In fact, it is the only thing; it is the new dance at Paris."
What a pity that any thing so delightful should be so indefinite and perplexing, and indeed impossible, which rendered it still more desirable! If Lord Carisbrooke only could have remembered its name, or a single step in its figure—it was so tantalizing!
"Do not you think so?" said Hugo Bohun to Mrs. Campian, who was sitting apart, listening to Lord St. Aldegonde's account of his travels in the United States, which he was very sorry he ever quitted. And then they inquired to what Mr. Bohun referred, and then he told them all that had been said.
"I know what he means," said Mrs. Campian. "It is not a French dance; it is a Moorish dance."
"That woman knows everything, Hugo," said Lord St. Aldegonde in a solemn whisper. And then he called to his wife. "Bertha, Mrs. Campian will tell you all about this dance that Carisbrooke is making such a mull of. Now, look here, Bertha; you must get the Campians to come to us as soon as possible. They are going to Scotland from this place, and there is no reason, if you manage it well, why they should not come on to us at once. Now, exert yourself."
"I will do all I can, Granville."
"It is not French, it is Moorish; it is called the Tangerine," said Theodora to her surrounding votaries. "You begin with a circle."
"But how are we to dance without the music?" said Lady Montairy.
"Ah! I wish I had known this," said Theodora, "before dinner, and I think I could have dotted down something that would have helped us. But let me see," and she went up to the eminent professor, with whom she was well acquainted, and said, "Signor Ricci, it begins so," and she hummed divinely a fantastic air, which, after a few moments' musing, he reproduced; "and then it goes off into what they call in Spain a saraband. Is there a shawl in the room?"
"My mother has always a shawl in reserve," said Bertram, "particularly when she pays visits to houses where there are galleries;" and he brought back a mantle of Cashmere.
"Now, Signor Ricci," said Mrs. Campian, and she again hummed an air, and moved forward at the same time with brilliant grace, waving at the end the shawl.
The expression of her countenance, looking round to Signor Ricci, as she was moving on to see whether he had caught her idea, fascinated Lothair.
"It is exactly what I told you," said Lord Carisbrooke, "and, I can assure you, it is the only dance now. I am very glad I remembered it."
"I see it all," said Signor Ricci, as Theodora rapidly detailed to him the rest of the figure. "And at any rate it will be the Tangerine with variations."
"Let me have the honor of being your partner in this great enterprise," said Lothair; "you are the inspiration of Muriel."
"Oh! I am very glad I can do any thing, however slight, to please you and your friends. I like them all; but particularly Lady Corisande."
A new dance in a country-house is a festival of frolic grace. The incomplete knowledge, and the imperfect execution, are themselves causes of merry excitement, in their contrast with the unimpassioned routine and almost unconscious practice of traditionary performances. And gay and frequent were the bursts of laughter from the bright and airy band who were proud to be the scholars of Theodora. The least successful among them was perhaps Lord Carisbrooke.
"Princess Metternich must have taught you wrong, Carisbrooke," said Hugo Bohun.
They ended with a waltz, Lothair dancing with Miss Arundel. She accepted his offer to take some tea on its conclusion. While they were standing at the table, a little withdrawn from the others, and he holding a sugar-basin, she said in a low voice, looking on her cup and not at him, "the cardinal is vexed about the early celebration; he says it should have been at midnight."
"I am sorry he is vexed," said Lothair.
"He was going to speak to you himself," continued Miss Arundel; "but he felt a delicacy about it. He had thought that your common feelings respecting the Church might have induced you if not to consult, at least to converse, with him on the subject; I mean as your guardian."
"It might have been perhaps as well," said Lothair; "but I also feel a delicacy on these matters."
"There ought to be none on such matters," continued Miss Arundel, "when every thing is at stake."
"I do not see that I could have taken any other course than I have done," said.Lothair. "It can hardly be wrong. The bishop's church views are sound."
"Sound!" said Miss Arundel; "moonshine instead of sunshine."
"Moonshine would rather suit a midnight than a morning celebration," said Lothair; "would it not?"
"A fair repartee, but we are dealing with a question that cannot be settled by jests. See," she said with great seriousness, putting down her cup and taking again his offered arm, "you think you are only complying with a form befitting your position and the occasion. You deceive yourself. You are hampering your future freedom by this step, and they know it. That is why it was planned. It was not necessary; nothing can be necessary so pregnant with evil. You might have made, you might yet make, a thousand excuses. It is a rite which hardly suits the levity of the hour, even with their feelings; but, with your view of its real character, it is sacrilege. What at is occurring tonight might furnish you with scruples?" And she looked up in his face.
"I think you take an exaggerated view of what I contemplate," said Lothair. "Even with your convictions, it may be an imperfect rite; but it never can be an injurious one."
"There can be no compromise on such matters," said Miss Arundel. "The Church knows nothing of imperfect rites. They are all perfect, because they are all divine; any deviation from them is heresy, and fatal. My convictions on this subject are your convictions; act up to them."
"I am sure, if thinking of these matters would guide a man right—" said Lothair, with a sigh, and he stopped.
"Human thought will never guide you; and very justly, when you have for a guide Divine truth. You are now your own master; go at once to its fountain-head; go to Rome, and then all your perplexities will vanish, and forever."
"I do not see much prospect of my going to Rome," said Lothair, "at least at present."
"Well," said Miss Arundel, "in a few weeks I hope to be there; and if so, I hope never to quit it."
"Do not say that; the future is always unknown."
"Not yours," said Miss Arundel. "Whatever you think, you will go to Rome. Mark my words. I summon you to meet me at Rome."
There can be little doubt, generally speaking, that it is more satisfactory to pass Sunday in the country than in town. There is something in the essential stillness of country-life, which blends harmoniously with the ordinance of the most divine of our divine laws. It is pleasant, too, when the congregation breaks up, to greet one's neighbors; to say kind words to kind faces; to hear some rural news profitable to learn, which sometimes enables you to do some good, and sometimes prevents others from doing some harm. A quiet, domestic walk, too, in the afternoon, has its pleasures; and so numerous and so various are the sources of interest in the country, that, though it be Sunday, there is no reason why your walk should not have an object.
But Sunday in the country, with your house full of visitors, is too often an exception to this general truth. It is a trial. Your guests cannot always be at church, and, if they could, would not like it. There is nothing to interest or amuse them; no sport; no castles or factories to visit; no adventurous expeditions; no gay music in the morn, and no light dance in the evening. There is always danger of the day becoming a course of heavy meals and stupid walks, for the external scene and all teeming circumstances, natural and human, though full of concern to you, are to your visitors an insipid blank.
How did Sunday go off at Muriel Towers?
In the first place, there was a special train, which, at an early hour, took the cardinal and his suite and the St. Jerome family to Grandchester, where they were awaited with profound expectation. But the Anglican portion of the guests were not without their share of ecclesiastical and spiritual excitement, for the bishop was to preach this day in the chapel of the Towers, a fine and capacious sanctuary of florid Gothic, and hit lordship was a sacerdotal orator of repute.
It had been announced that the breakfast-hour was to be somewhat earlier. The ladies in general were punctual, and seemed conscious of some great event impending. The Ladies Flora and Grizell entered with, each in her hand, a prayer-book of purple velvet, adorned with a decided cross, the gift of the primus. Lord Culloden, at the request of Lady Corisande, had consented to their hearing the bishop, which he would not do himself. He passed his morning in finally examining the guardians' accounts, the investigation of which he conducted and concluded, during the rest of the day, with Mr. Putney Giles. Mrs. Campian did not leave her room. Lord St. Aldegonde came down late, and looked about him with an uneasy, ill-humored air.
Whether it were the absence of Theodora, or some other cause, he was brusk, ungracious, scowling, and silent, only nodding to the bishop, who benignly saluted him, refusing every dish that was offered; then getting up, and helping himself at the side-table, making a great noise with the carving instruments, and flouncing down his plate when he resumed his seat. Nor was his costume correct. All the other gentlemen, though their usual morning-dresses were sufficiently fantastic—trunk-hose of every form, stockings bright as paroquets, wondrous shirts, and velvet-coats of every tint—habited themselves to-day, both as regards form and color, in a style indicative of the subdued gravity of their feelings. Lord St. Aldegonde had on his shooting-jacket of brown velvet and a pink-shirt and no cravat, and his rich brown locks, always, to a certain degree, neglected, were peculiarly dishevelled.
Hugo Bohun, who was not afraid of him, and was a high-churchman, being, in religion, and in all other matters, always on the side of the duchesses, said: "Well, St. Aldegonde, are you going to chapel in that dress?" But St. Aldegonde would not answer; he gave a snort, and glanced at Hugo, with the eye of a gladiator.
The meal was over. The bishop was standing near the mantel-piece talking to the ladies, who were clustered round him; the archdeacon and the chaplain and some other clergy a little in the background; Lord St. Aldegonde, who, whether there were a fire or not, always stood with his back to the fireplace with his hands in his pockets, moved discourteously among them, assumed his usual position, and listened, as it were, grimly, for a few moments to their talk; then he suddenly exclaimed in a loud voice, and with the groan of a rebellious Titan, "How I hate Sunday!"
"Granville!" exclaimed Lady St. Aldegonde, turning pale. There was a general shudder.
"I mean in a country-house," said Lord St. Aldegonde. "Of course, I mean in a country-house. I do not dislike it when alone, and I do not dislike it in London. But Sunday in a country-house is infernal."
"I think it is now time for us to go," said the bishop, walking away with dignified reserve, and they all dispersed.
The service was choral and intoned; for, although the Rev. Dionysius Smylie had not yet had time or opportunity, as was his intention, to form and train a choir from the household of the Towers, he had secured from his neighboring parish and other sources external and effective aid in that respect. The parts of the service were skillfully distributed, and rarely were a greater number of priests enlisted in a more imposing manner. A good organ was well played; the singing, as usual, a little too noisy; there was an anthem and an introit—but no incense, which was forbidden by the bishop; and, though there were candles on the altar, they were not permitted to be lighted.
The sermon was most successful; the ladies returned with elate and animated faces, quite enthusiastic and almost forgetting in their satisfaction the terrible outrage of Lord St. Aldegonde. He himself had by this time repented of what he had done, and recovered his temper, and greeted his wife with a voice and look which indicated to her practised senses the favorable change.
"Bertha," he said, "you know I did not mean any thing personal to the bishop in what I said. I do not like bishops; I think there is no use in them; but I have no objection to him personally; I think him an agreeable man; not at all a bore. Just put it right, Bertha. But I tell you what, Bertha, I cannot go to church here. Lord Culloden does not go, and he is a very religious man. He is the man I most agree with on these matters. I am a free-church man, and there is on end of it. I cannot go this afternoon. I do not approve of the whole thing. It is altogether against my conscience. What I mean to do, if I can manage it, is to take a real long walk with the Campians."
Mrs. Campian appeared at luncheon. The bishop was attentive to her; even cordial. He was resolved she should not feel he was annoyed by her not having been a member of his congregation in the morning. Lady Corisande too had said to him: "I wish so much you would talk to Mrs. Campian; she is a sweet, noble creature, and so clever! I feel that she might be brought to view things in the right light."
"I never know," said the bishop, "how to deal with these American ladies. I never can make out what they believe, or what they disbelieve. It is a sort of confusion between Mrs. Beecher Stowe and the Fifth Avenue congregation and—Barnum," he added with a twinkling eye.
The second service was late; the dean preached. The lateness of the hour permitted the lord-lieutenant and those guests who had arrived only the previous day to look over the castle, or ramble about the gardens. St. Aldegonde succeeded in his scheme of a real long walk with the Campians, which Lothair, bound to listen to the head of his college, was not permitted to share.
In the evening Signor Mardoni, who had arrived, and Madame Isola Bella, favored them with what they called sacred music; principally prayers from operas and a grand Stabat Mater.
Lord Culloden invited Lothair into a farther saloon, where they might speak without disturbing the performers or the audience.
"I'll just take advantage, my dear boy," said Lord Culloden, in a tone of unusual tenderness, and of Doric accent, "of the absence of these gentlemen to have a little quiet conversation with you. Though I have not seen so much of you of late as in old days, I take a great interest in you, no doubt of that, and I was very pleased to see how good-natured you were to the girls. You have romped with them when they were little ones. Now, in a few hours, you will be master of a great inheritance, and I hope it will profit ye. I have been over the accounts with Mr. Giles, and I was pleased to hear that you had made yourself properly acquainted with them in detail. Never you sign any paper without reading It first, and knowing well what it means. You will have to sign a release to us if you be satisfied, and that you may easily be. My poor brother-in-law left you as large an income as may be found on this side Trent, but I will be bound he would stare if he saw the total of the whole of your rent-roll, Lothair. Your affairs have been well administered, though I say it who ought not. But it is not my management only, or principally, that has done it. It is the progress of the country, and you owe the country a good deal, and you should never forget you are born to be a protector of its liberties, civil and religious. And if the country sticks to free trade, and would enlarge its currency, and be firm to the Protestant faith, it will, under Divine Providence, continue to progress.
"And here, my boy, I'll just say a word, in no disagreeable manner, about your religious principles. There are a great many stories about, and perhaps they are not true, and I am sure I hope they are not. If popery were only just the sign of the cross, and music, and censer-pots, though I think them all superstitious, I'd be free to leave them alone if they would leave me. But popery is a much deeper thing than that, Lothair, and our fathers found it out. They could not stand it, and we should be a craven crew to stand it now. A man should be master in his own house. You will be taking a wife, some day; at least it is to be hoped so; and how will you like one of these monsignores to be walking into her bedroom, eh; and talking to her alone when he pleases, and where he pleases; and when you want to consult your wife, which a wise man should often do, to find there is another mind between hers and yours? There's my girls, they are just two young geese, and they have a hankering after popery, having had a Jesuit in the house. I do not know what has become of the women. They are for going into a convent, and they are quite right in that, for if they be papists they will not find a husband easily in Scotland, I ween.
"And as for you, my boy, they will be telling you that it is only just this and just that, and there's no great difference, and what not; but I tell you that, if once you embrace the scarlet lady, you are a tainted corpse. You'll not be able to order your dinner without a priest, and they will ride your best horses without saying with your leave or by your leave."
The concert in time ceased; there was a stir in the room; the Rev. Dionysius Smylie moved about mysteriously, and ultimately seemed to make an obeisance before the bishop. It was time for prayers.
"Shall you go?" said Lord St. Aldegonde to Mrs. Campian, by whom he was sitting.
"I like to pray alone," she answered.
"As for that," said Aldegonde, "I am not clear we ought to pray at all, either in public or private. It seems very arrogant in us to dictate to an all-wise Creator what we desire."
"I believe in the efficacy of prayer," said Theodora.
"And I believe in you," said St. Aldegonde, after a momentary pause.
On the morrow, the early celebration in the chapel was numerously attended. The duchess and her daughters, Lady Agramont, and Mrs. Ardenne, were among the faithful; but what encouraged and gratified the bishop was, that the laymen, on whom he less relied, were numerously represented. The lord-lieutenant, Lord Carisbrooke, Lord Montairy, Bertram, and Hugo Bohun accompanied Lothair to the altar.
After the celebration, Lothair retired to his private apartments. It was arranged that he was to join his assembled friends at noon, when he would receive their congratulations, and some deputations from the county.
At noon, therefore, preparatively preceded by Mr. Putney Giles, whose thought was never asleep, and whose eye was on every thing, the guardians, the cardinal, and the Earl of Culloden, waited on Lothair to accompany him to his assembled friends, and, as it were, launch him into the world.
They were assembled at one end of the chief gallery, and in a circle. Although the deputations would have to advance the whole length of the chamber, Lothair and his guardians entered from a side apartment. Even with this assistance he felt very nervous. There was no lack of feeling, and, among many, of deep feeling, on this occasion, but there was an equal and a genuine exhibition of ceremony.
The lord-lieutenant was the first person who congratulated Lothair, though the high-sheriff had pushed forward for that purpose, but, in his awkward precipitation, he got involved with the train of the Hon. Lady Clotworthy, who bestowed on him such a withering glance, that he felt a routed man, and gave up the attempt. There were many kind and some earnest words. Even St. Aldegonde acknowledged the genius of the occasion. He was grave, graceful, and dignified, and, addressing Lothair by his title, he said, "that he hoped he would meet in life that happiness which he felt confident he deserved." Theodora said nothing, though her lips seemed once to move; but she retained for a moment Lothair's hand, and the expression of her countenance touched his innermost heart. Lady Corisande beamed with dazzling beauty. Her countenance was joyous, radiant; her mien imperial and triumphant. She gave her hand with graceful alacrity to Lothair, and said in a hushed tone, but every word of which reached his ear, "One of the happiest hours of my life was eight o'clock this morning."
The lord-lieutenant and the county members then retired to the other end of the gallery, and ushered in the deputation of the magistracy of the county, congratulating their new brother, for Lothair had just been appointed to the bench, on his secession to his estates. The lord-lieutenant himself read the address, to which Lothair replied with a propriety all acknowledged. Then came the address of the mayor and corporation of Grandchester, of which city Lothair was hereditary high-steward; and then that of his tenantry, which was cordial and characteristic. And here many were under the impression that this portion of the proceedings would terminate; but it was not so. There had been some whispering between the bishop and the archdeacon, and the Rev. Dionysius Smylie had, after conference with his superiors, twice left the chamber. It seems that the clergy had thought fit to take this occasion of congratulating Lothair on his great accession and the proportionate duties which it would fall on him to fulfil. The bishop approached Lothair and addressed him in a whisper. Lothair seemed surprised and a little agitated, but apparently bowed assent. Then the bishop and his staff proceeded to the end of the gallery and introduced a diocesan deputation, consisting of archdeacons and rural deans, who presented to Lothair a most uncompromising address, and begged his acceptance of a bible and prayer-book richly bound, and borne by the Rev. Dionysius Smylie on a cushion of velvet.
The habitual pallor of the cardinal's countenance became unusually wan; the cheek of Clare Arundel was a crimson flush; Monsignore Catesby bit his lip; Theodora looked with curious seriousness, as if she were observing the manners of a foreign country; St. Aldegonde snorted, and pushed his hand through his hair, which had been arranged in unusual order. The great body of those present, unaware that this deputation was unexpected, were unmoved.
It was a trial for Lothair, and scarcely a fair one. He was not unequal to it, and what he said was esteemed, at the moment, by all parties as satisfactory; though the archdeacon, in secret conclave, afterward observed that he dwelt more on religion than on the Church, and spoke of the Church of Christ and not of the Church of England. He thanked them for their present of volumes, which all must reverence or respect.
While all this was taking place within the Towers, vast bodies of people were assembling without. Besides the notables of the county and his tenantry and their families, which drained all the neighboring villages, Lothair had forwarded several thousand tickets to the mayor and corporation of Grandchester, for distribution among their fellow-townsmen, who were invited to dine at Muriel and partake of the festivities of the day, and trains were hourly arriving with their eager and happy guests. The gardens were at once open for their unrestricted pleasure, but at two o'clock, according to the custom of the county under such circumstances, Lothair held what, in fact, was a lev e, or rather a drawing-room, when every person who possessed a ticket was permitted, and even invited and expected, to pass through the whole range of the state apartments of Muriel Towers, and at the same time pay their respects to, and make the acquaintance of, their lord.
Lothair stood with his chief friends near him, the ladies, however, seated, and every one passed—farmers and townsmen and honest folk, down to the stokers of the trains from Grandchester, with whose presence St. Aldegonde was much pleased, and whom he carefully addressed as they passed by.
After this great reception they all dined in pavilions in the park—one thousand tenantry by themselves, and at a fixed hour; the miscellaneous multitude in a huge crimson tent, very lofty, with many flags, and in which was served a banquet that never stopped till sunset, so that in time all might be satisfied; the notables and deputations, with the guests in the house, lunched in the armory. It was a bright day, and there was unceasing music.
In the course of the afternoon Lothair visited the pavilions, where his health was proposed, and pledged—in the first by one of his tenants, and in the other by a workman, both orators of repute; and he addressed and thanked his friends. This immense multitude, orderly and joyous, roamed about the parks and gardens, or danced on a platform which the prescient experience of Mr. Giles had provided for them in a due locality, and whiled away the pleasant hours, in expectation a little feverish of the impending fireworks, which, there was a rumor, were to be on a scale and in a style of which neither Grandchester nor the county had any tradition.
"I remember your words at Blenheim," said Lothair to Theodora. "You cannot say the present party is founded on the principle of exclusion."
In the mean time, about six o'clock, Lothair dined in his great hall with his two hundred guests at a banquet where all the resources of nature and art seemed called upon to contribute to its luxury and splendor. The ladies, who had never before dined at a public dinner, were particularly delighted. They were delighted by the speeches, though they had very few; they were delighted by the national anthem, all rising; particularly, they were delighted by "three-times-three, and one cheer more," and "hip, hip." It seemed to their unpractised ears like a great naval battle, or the end of the world, or any thing else of unimaginable excitement, tumult, and confusion.
The lord-lieutenant proposed Lothair's health, and dexterously made his comparative ignorance of the subject the cause of his attempting a sketch of what he hoped might be the character of the person whose health he proposed. Every one intuitively felt the resemblance was just, and even complete, and Lothair confirmed their kind and sanguine anticipations by his terse and well-considered reply. His proposition of the ladies' healths was a signal that the carriages were ready to take them, as arranged, to Muriel Mere.
The sun had set in glory over the broad expanse of waters still glowing in the dying beam; the people were assembled in thousands on the borders of the lake, in the centre of which was an island with a pavilion. Fanciful barges and gondolas of various shapes and colors were waiting for Lothair and his party, to carry them over to the pavilion, where they found a repast which became the hour and the scene—coffee and ices and whimsical drinks, which sultanas would sip in Arabian tales. No sooner were they seated than the sound of music was heard—distant, but now nearer, till there came floating on the lake, until it rested before the pavilion, a gigantic shell, larger than the building itself, but holding in its golden and opal seats Signor Mardoni and all his orchestra.
Then came a concert rare in itself, but ravishing in the rosy twilight; and in about half an hour, when the rosy twilight had subsided into a violet eve, and when the white moon that had only gleamed began to glitter, the colossal shell again moved on, and Lothair and his companions, embarking once more in their gondolas, followed it in procession about the lake. He carried in his own bark the duchess, Theodora, and the lord-lieutenant, and was rowed by a crew in Venetian dresses. As he handed Theodora to her seat, the impulse was irresistible—he pressed her hand to his lips.
Suddenly a rocket rose with a hissing rush from the pavilion. It was instantly responded to from every quarter of the lake. Then the island seemed on fire, and the scene of their late festivity became a brilliant palace, with pediments and columns and statues, bright in the blaze of colored flame. For half an hour the sky seemed covered with blue lights and the bursting forms of many-colored stars; golden fountains, like the eruption of a marine volcano, rose from different parts of the water; the statued palace on the island changed and became a forest glowing with green light; and finally a temple of cerulean tint, on which appeared in huge letters of prismatic color the name of Lothair.
The people cheered, but even the voice of the people was overcome by troops of rockets rising from every quarter of the lake, and by the thunder of artillery. When the noise and the smoke had both subsided, the name of Lothair still legible on the temple but the letters quite white, it was perceived that on every height for fifty miles round they had fired a beacon.
The ball at Muriel which followed the concert on the lake was one of those balls which, it would seem, never would end. All the preliminary festivities, instead of exhausting the guests of Lothair, appeared only to have excited them, and rendered them more romantic and less tolerant of the routine of existence. They danced in the great gallery, which was brilliant and crowded, and they danced as they dance in a festive dream, with joy and the enthusiasm of gayety. The fine ladies would sanction no exclusiveness. They did not confine their inspiring society, as is sometimes too often the case, to the Brecons and the Bertrams and the Carisbrookes; they danced fully and freely with the youth of the county, and felt that in so doing they were honoring and gratifying their host.
At one o'clock they supped in the armory, which was illuminated for the first time, and a banquet in a scene so picturesque and resplendent renovated not merely their physical energies. At four o'clock the duchess and a few others quietly disappeared, but her daughters remained, and St. Aldegonde danced endless reels, which was a form in which he preferred to worship Terpsichore. Perceiving by an open window that it was dawn, he came up to Lothair and said, "This is a case of breakfast."
Happy and frolicsome suggestion! The invitations circulated, and it was soon known that they were all to gather at the matin meal.
"I am so sorry that her grace has retired," said Hugo Bohun to Lady St. Aldegonde, as he fed her with bread and butter, "because she always likes early breakfasts in the country."
The sun was shining as the guests of the house retired, and sank into couches from which it seemed they never could rise again; but, long after this, the shouts of servants and the scuffle of carriages intimated that the company in general were not so fortunate and expeditious in their retirement from the scene; and the fields were all busy, and even the towns awake, when the great body of the wearied but delighted wassailers returned from celebrating the majority of Lothair.
In the vast and statesmanlike programme of the festivities of the week, which had been prepared by Mr and Mrs. Putney Giles, something of interest and importance had been appropriated to the morrow, but it was necessary to erase all this; and for a simple reason—no human being on the morrow morn even appeared—one might say, even stirred. After all the gay tumult in which even thousands had joined, Muriel Towers on the morrow presented a scene which only could have been equalled by the castle in the fairy tale inhabited by the Sleeping Beauty.
At length, about two hours after noon, bells began to sound which were not always answered. Then a languid household prepared a meal of which no one for a time partook, till at last a monsignore appeared, and a rival Anglican or two. Then St. Aldegonde came in with a troop of men who had been bathing in the mere, and called loudly for kidneys, which happened to be the only thing not at hand, as is always the case. St. Aldegonde always required kidneys when he had sat up all night and bathed. "But the odd thing is," he said, "you never can get any thing to eat in these houses. Their infernal cooks spoil every thing. That's why I hate staying with Bertha's people in the north at the end of the year. What I want in November is a slice of cod and a beefsteak, and by Jove I never could get them; I was obliged to come to town. If is no joke to have to travel three hundred miles for a slice of cod and a beefsteak."
Notwithstanding all this, however, such is the magic of custom, that by sunset civilization had resumed its reign at Muriel Towers. The party were assembled before dinner in the saloon, and really looked as fresh and bright as if the exhausting and tumultuous yesterday had never happened. The dinner, too, notwithstanding the criticism of St. Aldegonde, was first rate, and pleased palates not so simply fastidious as his own. The bishop and his suite were to depart on the morrow, but the cardinal was to remain. His eminence talked much to Mrs. Campian, by whom, from the first, he was much struck. He was aware that she was born a Roman, and was not surprised that, having married a citizen of the United States, her sympathies were what are styled liberal; but this only stimulated his anxious resolution to accomplish her conversion, both religious and political. He recognized in her a being whose intelligence, imagination, and grandeur of character, might be of invaluable service to the Church.
In the evening Monsieur Raphael and his sister, and their colleagues, gave a representation which was extremely well done. There was no theatre at Muriel, but Apollonia had felicitously arranged a contiguous saloon for the occasion, and, as everybody was at ease in an arm-chair, they all agreed it was preferable to a regular theatre.
On the morrow they were to lunch with the mayor and corporation of Grandchester, and view some of the principal factories; on the next day the county gave a dinner to Lothair in their hall, the lord-lieutenant in the chair; on Friday there was to be a ball at Grandchester given by the county and city united to celebrate the great local event. It was whispered that this was to be a considerable affair. There was not an hour of the week that was not appropriated to some festive ceremony.
It happened on the morning of Friday, the cardinal being alone with Lothair, transacting some lingering business connected with the guardianship, and on his legs as he spoke, that he said: "We live in such a happy tumult here, my dear child, that I have never had an opportunity of speaking to you on one or two points which interest me and should not be uninteresting to you. I remember a pleasant morning-walk we had in the park at Vauxe, when we began a conversation which we never finished. What say you to a repetition of our stroll? 'Tis a lovely day, and I dare say we might escape by this window, and gain some green retreat without any one disturbing us."
"I am quite of your eminence's mind," said Lothair, taking up a wide-awake, "and I will lead you where it is not likely we shall be disturbed."
So, winding their way through the pleasure-grounds, they entered by a wicket a part of the park where the sunny glades soon wandered among the tall fern and wild groves of venerable oaks.
"I sometimes feel," said the cardinal, "that I may have been too punctilious in avoiding conversation with you on a subject the most interesting and important to man. But I felt a delicacy in exerting my influence as a guardian on a subject my relations to which, when your dear father appointed me to that office, were so different from those which now exist. But you are now your own master; I can use no control over you but that influence which the words of truth must always exercise over an ingenuous mind."
His eminence paused for a moment and looked at his companion; but Lothair remained silent, with his eyes fixed upon the ground.
"It has always been a source of satisfaction, I would even say consolation, to me," resumed the cardinal, "to know you were a religious man; that your disposition was reverential, which is the highest order of temperament, and brings us nearest to the angels. But we live in times of difficulty and danger—extreme difficulty and danger; a religious disposition may suffice for youth in the tranquil hour, and he may find, in due season, his appointed resting-place: but these are days of imminent peril; the soul requires a sanctuary. Is yours at hand?"
The cardinal paused, and Lothair was obliged to meet a direct appeal. He said then, after a momentary hesitation: "When you last spoke to me, sir, on these grave matters, I said I was in a state of great despondency. My situation now is not so much despondent as perplexed."
"And I wish you to tell me the nature of your perplexity," replied the cardinal, "for there is no anxious embarrassment of mind which Divine truth cannot disentangle and allay."
"Well," said Lothair, "I must say I am often perplexed at the differences which obtrude themselves between Divine truth and human knowledge."
"Those are inevitable," said the cardinal. "Divine truth being unchangeable, and human knowledge changing every century; rather, I should say, every generation."
"Perhaps, instead of human knowledge, I should have said human progress," rejoined Lothair.
"Exactly," said the cardinal, "but what is progress? Movement. But what if it be movement in the wrong direction? What if it be a departure from Divine truth?"
"But I cannot understand why religion should be inconsistent with civilization," said Lothair.
"Religion is civilization," said the cardinal; "the highest: it is a reclamation of man from savageness by the Almighty. What the world calls civilization, as distinguished from religion, is a retrograde movement, and will ultimately lead us back to the barbarism from which we have escaped. For instance, you talk of progress: what is the chief social movement of all the countries that three centuries ago separated from the unity of the Church of Christ? The rejection of the sacrament of Christian matrimony. The introduction of the law of divorce, which is, in fact, only a middle term to the abolition of marriage. What does that mean? The extinction of the home and the household on which God has rested civilization. If there be no home, the child belongs to the state, not to the parent. The state educates the child, and without religion, because the state in a country of progress acknowledges no religion. For every man is not only to think as he likes, but to write and to speak as he likes, and to sow with both hands broadcast, where he will, errors, heresies, and blasphemies, without any authority on earth to restrain the scattering of this seed of universal desolation. And this system, which would substitute for domestic sentiment and Divine belief the unlimited and licentious action of human intellect and human will, is called progress. What is it but a revolt against God?"
"I am sure I wish there were only one Church and one religion," said Lothair.
"There is only one Church and only one religion," said the cardinal; "all other forms and phrases are mere phantasms, without root, or substance, or coherency. Look at that unhappy Germany, once so proud of its Reformation. What they call the leading journal tells us to-day, that it is a question there whether four-fifths or three-fourths of the population believe in Christianity. Some portion of it has already gone back, I understand, to Number Nip. Look at this unfortunate land, divided, subdivided, parcelled out in infinite schism, with new oracles every day, and each more distinguished for the narrowness of his intellect or the loudness of his lungs; once the land of saints and scholars, and people in pious pilgrimages, and finding always solace and support in the divine offices of an ever-present Church, which were a true though a faint type of the beautiful future that awaited man. Why, only three centuries of this rebellion against the Most High have produced throughout the world, on the subject the most important that man should possess a clear, firm faith, an anarchy of opinion, throwing out every monstrous and fantastic form, from a caricature of the Greek philosophy to a revival of fetichism."
"It is a chaos," said Lothair, with a sigh.
"From which I wish to save you," said the cardinal, with some eagerness. "This is not a time to hesitate. You must be for God, or for Antichrist. The Church calls upon her children."
"I am not unfaithful to the Church," said Lothair, "which was the Church of my fathers."
"The Church of England," said the cardinal. "It was mine. I think of it ever with tenderness and pity. Parliament made the Church of England, and Parliament will unmake the Church of England. The Church of England is not the Church of the English. Its fate is sealed. It will soon become a sect, and all sects are fantastic. It will adopt new dogmas, or it will abjure old ones; any thing to distinguish it from the non-conforming herd in which, nevertheless, it will be its fate to merge. The only consoling hope is that, when it falls, many of its children, by the aid of the Blessed Virgin, may return to Christ."
"What I regret, sir," said Lothair, "is that the Church of Rome should have placed itself in antagonism with political liberty. This adds to the difficulties which the religious cause has to encounter; for it seems impossible to deny that political freedom is now the sovereign passion of communities."
"I cannot admit," replied the cardinal, "that the Church is in antagonism with political freedom. On the contrary, in my opinion, there can be no political freedom which is not founded on Divine authority; otherwise it can be at the best but a specious phantom of license inevitably terminating in anarchy. The rights and liberties of the people of Ireland have no advocates except the Church; because, there, political freedom is founded on Divine authority; but if you mean by political freedom the schemes of the illuminati and the freemasons, which perpetually torture the Continent, all the dark conspiracies of the secret societies, there, I admit, the Church is in antagonism with such aspirations after liberty; those aspirations, in fact, are blasphemy and plunder; and, if the Church were to be destroyed, Europe would be divided between the atheist and the communist."
There was a pause; the conversation had unexpectedly arrived at a point where neither party cared to pursue it. Lothair felt he had said enough; the cardinal was disappointed with what Lothair had said. His eminence felt that his late ward was not in that ripe state of probation which he had fondly anticipated; but, being a man not only of vivid perception, but also of fertile resource, while he seemed to close the present conversation, he almost immediately pursued his object by another combination of means. Noticing an effect of scenery which pleased him, reminded him of Styria, and so on, he suddenly said: "You should travel."
"Well, Bertram wants me to go to Egypt with him," said Lothair.
"A most interesting country," said the cardinal, "and well worth visiting. It is astonishing what a good guide old Herodotus still is in that land! But you should know something of Europe before you go there. Egypt is rather a land to end with. A young man should visit the chief capitals of Europe, especially the seats of learning and the arts. If my advice were asked by a young man who contemplated travelling on a proper scale, I should say begin with Rome. Almost all that Europe contains is derived from Rome. It is always best to go to the fountain-head, to study the original. The society too, there, is delightful; I know none equal to it. That, if you please, is civilization—pious and refined. And the people—all so gifted and so good—so kind, so orderly, so charitable, so truly virtuous. I believe the Roman people to be the best people that ever lived, and this too while the secret societies have their foreign agents in every quarter, trying to corrupt them, but always in vain. If an act of political violence occurs, you may be sure it is confined entirely to foreigners."
"Our friends the St. Jeromes are going to Rome," said Lothair.
"Well, and that would be pleasant for you. Think seriously of this, my dear, young friend. I could be of some little service to you if you go to Rome, which, after all, every man ought to do. I could put you, in the way of easily becoming acquainted with all the right people, who would take care that you saw Rome with profit and advantage."
Just at this moment, in a winding glade, they were met abruptly by a third person. All seemed rather to start at the sudden rencounter; and then Lothair eagerly advanced and welcomed the stranger with a proffered hand.
"This is a most unexpected, but to me most agreeable, meeting," he said. "You must now be my guest."
"That would be a great honor," said the stranger, "but one I cannot enjoy. I had to wait at the station a couple of hours or so for my train, and they told me if I strolled here I. should find some pretty country. I have been so pleased with it, that I fear I have strolled too long, and I literally have not an instant at my command," and he hurried away.
"Who is that person?" asked the cardinal with some agitation.
"I have not the slightest idea," said Lothair. "All I know is, he once saved my life."
"And all I know is," said the cardinal, "he once threatened mine."
"Strange!" said Lothair, and then he rapidly recounted to the cardinal his adventure at the Fenian meeting.
"Strange!" echoed his eminence.
Mrs. Campian did not appear at luncheon, which was observed but not noticed. Afterward, while Lothair was making some arrangements for the amusement of his guests, and contriving that they should fit in with the chief incident of the day, which was the banquet given to him by the county, and which it was settled the ladies were not to attend, the colonel took him aside and said, "I do not think that Theodora will care to go out to-day."
"She is not unwell, I hope?"
"Not exactly—but she has had some news, some news of some friends, which has disturbed her. And, if you will excuse me, I will request your permission not to attend the dinner to-day, which I had hoped to have had the honor of doing. But I think our plans must be changed a little. I almost think we shall not go to Scotland after all."
"There is not the slightest necessity for your going to the dinner. You will have plenty to keep you in countenance at home. Lord St. Aldegonde is not going, nor I fancy any of them. I shall take the duke with me and Lord Culloden, and, if you do not go, I shall take Mr. Putney Giles. The lord-lieutenant will meet us there. I am sorry about Mrs. Campian, because I know she is not ever put out by little things. May I not see her in the course of the day? I should be very sorry that the day should pass over without seeing her."
"Oh! I dare say she will see you in the course of the day, before you go."
"When she likes. I shall not go out to-day; I shall keep in my rooms, always at her commands. Between ourselves, I shall not be sorry to have a quiet morning and collect my ideas a little. Speech-making is a new thing for me. I wish you would tell me what to say to the county."
Lothair had appropriated to the Campians one of the most convenient and complete apartments in the castle. It consisted of four chambers, one of them a saloon which had been fitted up for his mother when she married; a pretty saloon, hung with pale-green silk, and portraits and scenes inlaid by Vanloo and Boucher. It was rather late in the afternoon when Lothair received a message from Theodora in reply to the wish that he had expressed of seeing her.
When he entered the room, she was not seated; her countenance was serious. She advanced, and thanked him for wishing to see her, and regretted she could not receive him at an earlier hour. "I fear it may have inconvenienced you," she added; "but my mind has been much disturbed, and too agitated for conversation."
"Even now I may be an intruder?"
"No, it is past; on the contrary, I wish to speak to you; indeed, you are the only person with whom I could speak," and she sat down.
Her countenance, which was unusually pale when he entered, became flushed. "It is not a subject for the festive hour of your life," she said, "but I cannot resist my fate."
"Your fate must always interest me," murmured Lothair.
"Yes; but my fate is the fate of ages and of nations," said Theodora, throwing up her head with that tumult of the brow which he had once before noticed. "Amid the tortures of my spirit at this moment, not the least is that there is only one person I can appeal to, and he is one to whom I have no right to make that appeal."
"If I be that person," said Lothair, "you have every right, for I am devoted to you."
"Yes; but it is not personal devotion that is the qualification needed. It is not sympathy with me that would authorize such an appeal. It must be sympathy with a cause, and a cause for which, I fear, you do not—perhaps I should say you cannot—feel."
"Why?" said Lothair.
"Why should you feel for my fallen country, who are the proudest citizen of the proudest of lands? Why should you feel for its debasing thraldom—you who, in the religious mystification of man, have, at least, the noble privilege of being a Protestant?"
"You speak of Rome?"
"Yes, of the only thought I have, or ever had. I speak of that country which first impressed upon the world a general and enduring form of masculine virtue; the land of liberty, and law, and eloquence, and military genius, now garrisoned by monks, and governed by a doting priest."