By Benjamin Disraeli
"I remember him a little boy," said the duchess, "a pretty little boy, but very shy. His mother brought him to us one day. She was a dear friend of mine; you know she was one of my bridesmaids?"
"And you have never seen him since, mamma?" inquired a married daughter, who looked like the younger sister of her mother.
"Never; he was an orphan shortly after; I have often reproached myself, but it is so difficult to see boys. Then, he never went to school, but was brought up in the Highlands with a rather savage uncle; and if he and Bertram had not become friends at Christchurch, I do not well see how we ever could have known him."
These remarks were made in the morning-room of Brentham, where the mistress of the mansion sat surrounded by her daughters, all occupied with various works. One knitted a purse, another adorned a slipper a third emblazoned a page. Beautiful forms in counsel leaned over frames embroidery, while two fair sisters more remote occasionally burst into melody as they tried the passages of a new air, which had been dedicated to them in the manuscript of some devoted friend.
The duchess, one of the greatest heiresses of Britain, singularly beautify and gifted with native grace, had married in her teens one of the wealthiest and most powerful of our nobles, and scarcely order than herself. Her husband was as distinguished for his appearance and his manners as his bride, and those who speculate on race were interested in watching the development of their progeny, who in form and color, and voice, and manner, and mind, were a reproduction of their parents, who seemed only the elder brother and sister of a gifted circle. The daughters with one exception came first, and all met the same fate. After seventeen years of a delicious home they were presented, and immediately married; and all to personages of high consideration. After the first conquest, this fate seemed as regular as the order of Nature. Then came a son, who was now at Christchurch, and then several others, some at school, and some scarcely out of the nursery. There was one daughter unmarried, and she was to be presented next season. Though the family likeness was still apparent in Lady Corisande, in general expression she differed from her sisters. They were all alike with their delicate aquiline noses, bright complexions, short upper lips, and eyes of sunny light. The beauty of Lady Corisande was even more distinguished and more regular, but whether it were the effect of her dark-brown hair and darker eyes, her countenance had not the lustre of the res, and its expression was grave and perhaps pensive.
The duke, though still young, and naturally of a gay and joyous temperament, had a high sense of duty, and strong domestic feelings. He was never wanting in his public place, and he was fond of his wife and his children; still more, proud of them. Every day when he looked into the glass, and gave the last touch to his consummate toilet, he offered his grateful thanks to Providence that his family was not unworthy of him.
His grace was accustomed to say that he had only one misfortune, and it was a great one; he had no home. His family had married so many heiresses, and he, consequently, possessed so many halls and castles, at all of which, periodically, he wished, from a right feeling, to reside, that there was no sacred spot identified with his life in which his heart, in the bustle and tumult of existence, could take refuge. Brentham was the original seat of his family, and he was even passionately fond of it; but it was remarkable how very short a period of his yearly life was passed under its stately roof. So it was his custom always to repair to Brentham the moment the season was over, and he would exact from his children, that, however short might be the time, they would be his companions under those circumstances. The daughters loved Brentham, and they loved to please their father; but the sons-in-law, though they were what is called devoted to their wives, and, unusual as it may seem, scarcely less attached to their legal parents, did not fall very easily into this arrangement. The country in August without sport was unquestionably to them a severe trial: nevertheless, they rarely omitted making their appearance, and, if they did occasionally vanish, sometimes to Cowes, sometimes to Switzerland, sometimes to Norway, they always wrote to their wives, and always alluded to their immediate or approaching return; and their letters gracefully contributed to the fund of domestic amusement.
And yet it would be difficult to find a fairer scene than Brentham offered, especially in the lustrous effulgence of a glorious English summer. It was an Italian palace of freestone; vast, ornate, and in scrupulous condition; its spacious and graceful chambers filled with treasures of art, and rising itself from statued and stately terraces. At their foot spread a gardened domain of considerable extent, bright with flowers, dim with coverts of rare shrubs, and musical with fountains. Its limit reached a park, with timber such as the midland counties only can produce. The fallow deer trooped among its ferny solitudes and gigantic oaks; but, beyond the waters of the broad and winding lake, the scene became more savage, and the eye caught the dark forms of the red deer on some jutting mount, shrinking with scorn from communion with his gentler brethren.
Lothair was the little boy whom the duchess remembered. He was a posthumous child, and soon lost a devoted mother. His only relation was one of his two guardians, a Scotch noble—a Presbyterian and a Whig. This uncle was a widower with some children, but they were girls, and, though Lothair was attached to them, too young to be his companions. Their father was a keen, hard man, honorable and just but with no softness of heart or manner. He guarded with precise knowledge and with unceasing vigilance over Lothair's vast inheritance, which was in many counties and in more than one kingdom; but he educated him in a Highland home, and when he had reached boyhood thought fit to send him to the High School of Edinburgh. Lothair passed a monotonous, if not a dull, life; but he found occasional solace in the scenes of a wild and beautiful nature, and delight in all the sports of the field and forest, in which he was early initiated and completely indulged. Although an Englishman, he was fifteen before he re-visited his country, and then his glimpses of England were brief, and to him scarcely satisfactory. He was hurried sometimes to vast domains, which he heard were his own; and sometimes whisked to the huge metropolis, where he was shown St. Paul's and the British-Museum. These visits left a vague impression of bustle without kindness and exhaustion without excitement; and he was glad to get back to his glens, to the moor and the mountain-streams.
His father, in the selection of his guardians, had not contemplated this system of education. While he secured by the appointment of his brother-in-law, the most competent and trustworthy steward of his son's fortune, he had depended on another for that influence which should mould the character, guide the opinions, and form the tastes of his child. The other guardian was a clergyman, his father's private tutor and heart-friend; scarcely his parent's senior, but exercising over him irresistible influence, for he was a man of shining talents and abounding knowledge, brilliant and profound. But unhappily, shortly after Lothair became an orphan, this distinguished man seceded from the Anglican communion, and entered the Church of Rome. From this moment there was war between the guardians. The uncle endeavored to drive his colleague from the trust: in this he failed, for the priest would not renounce his office. The Scotch noble succeeded, however, in making it a fruitless one: he thwarted every suggestion that emanated from the obnoxious quarter; and, indeed, the secret reason of the almost constant residence of Lothair in Scotland, and of his harsh education, was the fear of his relative, that the moment he crossed the border he might, by some mysterious process, fall under the influence that his guardian so much dreaded and detested.
There was however, a limit to these severe precautions, even before Lothair should reach his majority. His father had expressed in his will that his son should be educated at the University of Oxford, and at the same college of which he had been a member. His uncle was of opinion he complied with the spirit of this instruction by sending Lothair to the University of Edinburgh, which would give the last tonic to his moral system; and then commenced a celebrated chancery-suit, instituted by the Roman Catholic guardian, in order to enforce a literal compliance with the educational condition of the will. The uncle looked upon this movement as a popish plot, and had recourse to every available allegation and argument to baffle it: but ultimately in vain. With every precaution to secure his Protestant principles, and to guard against the influence, or even personal interference of his Roman Catholic guardian, the lord-chancellor decided that Lothair should be sent to Christchurch.
Here Lothair, who had never been favored with a companion of his own age and station, soon found a congenial one in the heir of Brentham. Inseparable in pastime, not dissociated even in study, sympathizing companionship soon ripened into fervent friendship. They lived so much together that the idea of separation became not only painful but impossible; and, when vacation arrived, and Brentham was to be visited by its future lord, what more natural than that it should be arranged that Lothair should be a visitor to his domain?
Although Lothair was the possessor of as many palaces and castles as the duke himself, it is curious that his first dinner at Brentham was almost his introduction into refined society. He had been a guest at the occasional banquets of his uncle; but these were festivals of the Picts and Scots; rude plenty and coarse splendor, with noise instead of conversation, and a tumult of obstructive defendants, who impeded, by their want of skill, the very convenience which they were purposed to facilitate. How different the surrounding scene! A table covered with flowers, bright with fanciful crystal, and porcelain that had belonged to sovereigns, who had given a name to its color or its form. As for those present, all seemed grace and gentleness, from the radiant daughters of the house to the noiseless attendants that anticipated all his wants, and sometimes seemed to suggest his wishes.
Lothair sat between two of the married daughters. They addressed him with so much sympathy that he was quite enchanted. When they asked their pretty questions and made their sparkling remarks, roses seemed to drop from their lips, and sometimes diamonds. It was a rather large party, for the Brentham family were so numerous that they themselves made a festival. There were four married daughters, the duke and two sons-in-law, a clergyman or two, and some ladies and gentlemen who were seldom absent from this circle, and who, by their useful talents and various accomplishments, alleviated the toil or cares of life from which even princes are not exempt.
When the ladies had retired to the duchess's drawing-room, all the married daughters clustered round their mother.
"Do you know, mamma, we all think him very, good-looking," said the youngest married daughter, the wife of the listless and handsome St. Aldegonde.
"And not at all shy," said Lady Montairy, "though reserved."
"I admire deep-blue eyes with dark lashes," said the duchess.
Notwithstanding the decision of Lady Montairy, Lothair was scarcely free from embarrassment when he rejoined the ladies; and was so afraid of standing alone, or talking only to men, that he was almost on the point of finding refuge in his dinner-companions, had not he instinctively felt that this would have been a social blunder. But the duchess relieved him: her gracious glance caught his at the right moment, and she rose and met him some way as he advanced. The friends had arrived so late, that Lothair had had only time to make a reverence of ceremony before dinner.
"It is not our first meeting," said her grace; "but that you cannot remember."
"Indeed I do," said Lothair, "and your grace gave me a golden heart."
"How can you remember such things," exclaimed the duchess, "which I had myself forgotten!"
"I have rather a good memory," replied Lothair; "and it is not wonderful that I should remember this, for it is the only present that ever was made me."
The evenings at Brentham were short, but they were sweet. It was a musical family, without being fanatical on the subject. There was always music, but it was not permitted that the guests should be deprived of other amusements. But music was the basis of the evening's campaigns. The duke himself sometimes took a second; the four married daughters warbled sweetly; but the great performer was Lady Corisande. When her impassioned tones sounded, there was a hushed silence in every chamber; otherwise, many things were said and done amid accompanying melodies, that animated without distracting even a whistplayer. The duke himself rather preferred a game of piquet or cart with Captain Mildmay, and sometimes retired with a troop to a distant, but still visible, apartment, where they played with billiard-balls games which were not billiards.
The ladies had retired, the duke had taken his glass of seltzer-water, and had disappeared. The gentry lingered and looked at each other, as if they were an assembly of poachers gathering for an expedition, and then Lord St. Aldegonde, tall, fair, and languid, said to Lothair, "do you smoke?"
"I should have thought Bertram would have seduced you by this time. Then let us try. Montairy will give you one of his cigarettes, so mild that his wife never finds him out."
The breakfast-room at Brentham was very bright. It opened on a garden of its own, which, at this season, was so glowing, and cultured into patterns so fanciful and finished, that it had the resemblance of a vast mosaic. The walls of the chamber were covered with bright drawings and sketches of our modern masters, and frames of interesting miniatures, and the meal was served on half a dozen or more round tables, which vied with each other in grace and merriment; brilliant as a cluster of Greek or Italian republics, instead of a great metropolitan table, like a central government absorbing all the genius and resources of the society.
Every scene In this life at Brentham charmed Lothair, who, though not conscious of being of a particularly gloomy temper, often felt that he had, somehow or other, hitherto passed through life rarely with pleasure, and never with joy.
After breakfast the ladies retired to their morning-room, and the gentlemen strolled to the stables, Lord St. Aldegonde lighting a Manilla cheroot of enormous length. As Lothair was very fond of horses, this delighted him. The stables at Brentham were rather too far from the house, but they were magnificent, and the stud worthy of them. It was numerous and choice, and, above all it was useful. It could supply, a readier number of capital riding-horses than any stable in England. Brentham was a great riding family. In the summer season the duke delighted to head a numerous troop, penetrate far into the country, and scamper home to a nine-o'clock dinner. All the ladies of the house were fond and fine horse-women. The mount of one of these riding-parties was magical. The dames and damsels vaulted on their barbs, and genets, and thorough-bred hacks, with such airy majesty; they were absolutely overwhelming with their bewildering habits and their bewitching hats.
Every thing was so new in this life at Brentham to Lothair, as well as so agreeable, that the first days passed by no means rapidly; for, though it sounds strange, time moves with equal slowness whether we experience many impressions or none. In a new circle every character is a study, and every incident an adventure; and the multiplicity of the images and emotions restrains the hours. But after a few days, though Lothair was not less delighted, for he was more so, he was astonished at the rapidity of time. The life was exactly the same, but equally pleasant; the same charming companions, the same refined festivity, the same fascinating amusements; but to his dismay Lothair recollected that nearly a fortnight had elapsed since his arrival. Lord St. Aldegonde also was on the wing; he was obliged to go to Cowes to see a sick friend, though he considerately left Bertha behind him. The other son-in-law remained, for he could not tear himself away from his wife. He was so distractedly fond of Lady Montairy that he would only smoke cigarettes. Lothair felt it was time to go, and he broke the circumstance to his friend Bertram.
These two "old fellows," as they mutually described each other, could not at all agree as to the course to be pursued. Bertram looked upon Lothair's suggestion as an act of desertion from himself. At their time of life, the claims of friendship are paramount. And where could Lothair go to? And what was there to do? Nowhere, and nothing. Whereas, if he would remain a little longer, as the duke expected and also the duchess, Bertram would go with him anywhere he liked, and do any thing he chose. So Lothair remained.
In the evening, seated by Lady Montairy, Lothair observed on her sister's singing, and said, "I never heard any of our great singers, but I cannot believe there is a finer voice in existence."
"Corisande's is a fine voice," said Lady Montairy, "but I admire her expression more than her tone; for there are certainly many finer voices, and some day you will hear them."
"But I prefer expression," said Lothair very decidedly.
"Ah, yes! doubtless," said Lady Montairy, who was working a purse, "and that's what we all want, I believe; at least we married daughters, they say. My brother, Granville St. Aldegonde, says we are all too much alike, and that Bertha St. Aldegonde would be parallel if she had no sisters."
"I don't at all agree with Lord St. Aldegonde," said Lothair, with energy. "I do not think it is possible to have too many relatives like you and your sisters."
Lady Montairy looked up with a smile, but she did not meet a smiling countenance. He seemed, what is called an earnest young man, this friend of her brother Bertram.
At this moment the duke sent swift messengers for all: to come, even the duchess, to partake in a new game just arrived from Russia, some miraculous combination of billiard-balls. Some rose directly, some lingering a moment arranging their work, but all were in motion. Corisande was at the piano, and disencumbering herself of some music. Lothair went up to her rather abruptly:
"Your singing," he said, "is the finest thing I ever heard. I am so happy that I am not going to leave Brentham to-morrow. There is no place in the world that I think equal to Brentham."
"And I love it, too, and no other place," she replied; "and I should be quite happy if I never left it."
Lord Montairy was passionately devoted to croquet. He flattered himself that he was the most accomplished male performer existing. He would have thought absolutely the most accomplished, were it not for the unrivalled feats of Lady Montairy. She was the queen of croquet. Her sisters also used the mallet with admirable skill, but not like Georgina. Lord Montairy always looked forward to his summer croquet at Brentham. It was a great croquet family, the Brentham family; even listless Lord St. Aldegonde would sometimes play, with a cigar never out of his mouth. They did not object to his smoking in the air. On the contrary, "they rather liked it." Captain Mildmay, too, was a brilliant hand, and had written a treatise on croquet—the best going.
There was a great croquet-party one morning at Brentham. Some neighbors had been invited who loved the sport. Mr. Blenkinsop a grave young gentleman, whose countenance never relaxed while he played, and who was understood, to give his mind entirely up to croquet. He was the owner of the largest estate in the county, and it was thought would have very much liked to have allied himself with one of the young ladies of the house of Brentham; but these flowers were always plucked so quickly, that his relations with the distinguished circle never grew more intimate than croquet. He drove over with some fine horses, and several cases and bags containing instruments and weapons for the fray. His sister came with him, who had forty thousand pounds, but, they said, in some mysterious manner dependent on his consent to her marriage; and it was added that Mr. Blenkinsop would not allow his sister to marry because he would miss her so much in his favorite pastime. There were some other morning visitors, and one or two young curates in cassocks.
It seemed to Lothair a game of great deliberation and of more interest than gayety, though sometimes a cordial cheer, and sometimes a ringing laugh of amiable derision, notified a signal triumph or a disastrous failure. But the scene was brilliant: a marvellous lawn, the duchess's Turkish tent with its rich hangings, and the players themselves, the prettiest of all the spectacle, with their coquettish hats, and their half-veiled and half-revealed under-raiment scarlet and silver, or blue and gold, made up a sparkling and modish scene.
Lothair, who had left the players for a while, and was regaining the lawn, met the duchess.
"Your grace is not going to leave us, I hope?" he said, rather anxiously.
"For a moment. I have long promised to visit the new dairy; and I think this a good opportunity."
"I wish I might be your companion," said Lothair; and, invited, he was by her grace's side.
They turned into a winding walk of thick and fragrant shrubs, and, after a while, they approached a dell, surrounded with, high trees that environed it with perpetual shade; in the centre of the dell was apparently a Gothic shrine, fair in design and finished in execution, and this was the duchess's new dairy. A pretty sight is a first-rate dairy, with its flooring of fanciful tiles, and its cool and shrouded chambers, its stained windows and its marble slabs, and porcelain pans of cream, and plenteous platters of fantastically-formed butter.
"Mrs. Woods and her dairy-maids look like a Dutch picture," said the duchess. "Were you ever in Holland?"
"I have never been anywhere," said Lothair.
"You should travel," said the duchess.
"I have no wish," said Lothair.
"The duke has given me some Coreean fowls," said the duchess to Mrs. Woods, when they had concluded their visit. "Do you think you could take care of them for me?"
"Well, Grace, I am sure I will do my best; but then they are very, troublesome, and I was not fortunate with my Cochin. I had rather they were sent to the aviary, Grace, if it were all the same."
"I should so like to see the aviary," said Lothair.
"Well, we will go."
And this rather extended their walk, and withdrew them more from the great amusement of the day.
"I wish your grace would do me a great favor," said Lothair, abruptly breaking a rather prolonged silence.
"And what is that?" said the duchess.
"It is a very great favor," repeated Lothair.
"If it be in my power to grant it, its magnitude would only be an additional recommendation."
"Well," said Lothair, blushing deeply, and speaking with much agitation, "I would ask your grace's permission to offer my hand to your daughter."
The duchess I looked amazed. "Corisande!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, to Lady Corisande."
"Corisande," replied the duchess, after a pause, "has absolutely not yet entered the world. Corisande is a child; and you—you, my dear friend—I am sure you will pardon me If I say, so—you are not very much older than Corisande."
"I have no wish to enter the world," said Lothair, with much decision.
"I am not an enemy to youthful marriages," said the duchess. "I married early myself, and my children married early; and I am very happy, and I hope they are; but some experience of society before we settle is most desirable, and is one of the conditions, I cannot but believe, of that felicity which we all seek."
"I hate society," said Lothair. "I would never go out of my domestic circle, if it were the circle I contemplate."
"My dear young friend," said the duchess, "you could hardly have seen enough of society to speak with so much decision."
"I have seen quite enough of it," said Lothair. "I went to an evening party last season—I came up from Christchurch on purpose for it—and if ever they catch me at another, they shall inflict any penalty they please."
"I fear it was a stupid party," said the duchess, smiling, and glad to turn, if possible, the conversation into a lighter vein.
"No, it was a very grand party, I believe, and not exactly stupid—it was not, that; but I was disgusted with all I saw and all I heard. It seemed to me a mass of affectation, falsehood, and malignity."
"Oh! dear," said the duchess, "how very dreadful! But I did not mean merely going to parties for society; I meant knowledge of the world, and that experience which enables us to form sound opinions on the affairs of life."
"Oh! as for that," said Lothair, "my, opinions are already formed on every subject; that is to say, every subject of importance; and, what is more, they will never change."
"I could not say that of Corisande," said the duchess.
"I think we agree on all the great things," said Lothair, musingly. "Her church views may be a little higher than mine, but I do not anticipate any permanent difficulty on that head. Although my uncle made me go to kirk, I always hated it and always considered myself a churchman. Then, as to churches themselves, she is in favor of building churches, and so am I; and schools—there is no quantity of schools I would not establish. My opinion is, you cannot have too much education, provided it be founded on a religious basis. I would sooner renounce the whole of my inheritance than consent to secular education."
"I should be sorry to see any education but a religious education," remarked the duchess.
"Well, then," said Lothair, "that is our life, or a great part of it. To complete it, here is that to which I really wish to devote my existence, and in which I instinctively feel Lady Corisande would sympathize with me—the extinction of pauperism."
"That is a vast subject;" said the duchess.
"It is the terror of Europe and the disgrace of Britain," said Lothair; "and I am resolved to grapple with it. It seems to me that pauperism is not an affair so much of wages as of dwellings. If the working-classes were properly lodged, at their present rate of wages, they would be richer. They would be healthier and happier at the same cost. I am so convinced of this, that the moment I am master, I shall build two thousand cottages on any estates. I have the designs already."
"I am much in favor of improved dwellings for the poor," said the duchess; "but then you must take care that your dwellings are cottages, and not villas like my cousin's, the Duke of Luton."
"I do not think I shall make that mistake," replied Lothair. "It constantly engages my thought. I am wearied of hearing of my wealth, and I am conscious it has never brought me any happiness. I have lived a great deal alone, dearest duchess, and thought much of these things, but I feel now I should be hardly equal to the effort, unless I had a happy home to, fall back upon."
"And you will have a happy home in due time," said the duchess; "and with such good and great thoughts you deserve one. But take the advice of one who loved your mother, and who would extend to you the same affection as to her own children; before you take a step which cannot be recalled, see a little more of the world."
Lothair shook his head. "No," he said, after a pause. "My idea of perfect society is being married as I propose, and paying visits to Brentham; and when the visits to Brentham ceased, then I should like you and the duke to pay visits to us."
"But that would be a fairy-tale," said the duchess.
So they walked on in silence.
Suddenly and abruptly Lothair turned to the duchess and said, "Does your grace see objection to my speaking to your daughter?"
"Dear friend, indeed, yes. What you would say would only agitate and disturb Corisande. Her character is not yet formed, and its future is perplexing, at least to me," murmured the mother. "She has not the simple nature of her sisters. It is a deeper and more complicated mind, and I watch its development with fond, but anxious interest." Then, in a lighter tone, she added, "You do not know very much of us. Try to know more. Everybody under this roof views you with regard, and you are the brother friend of our eldest son. Wherever we are, you will always find a home; but do not touch again upon this subject, at least at present, for it distresses me." And then she took his arm, and pressed it, and by this time they had gained the croquet-ground.
One of the least known squares in London is Hexham Square, though it is one of the oldest. Not that it is very remote from the throng of existence, but it is isolated in a dingy district of silent and decaying streets. Once it was a favored residence of opulence and power, and its architecture still indicates its former and prouder destiny. But its noble mansions are now divided and broken up into separate dwellings, or have been converted into chambers and offices. Lawyers, and architects, and agents, dwell in apartments where the richly-sculptured chimney-pieces, the carved and gilded pediments over the doors, and sometimes even the painted ceilings, tell a tale of vanished stateliness and splendor.
A considerable portion of the north side of the square is occupied by one house standing in a courtyard, with iron gates to the thoroughfare. This is Hexham House, and where Lord Hexham lived in the days of the first Georges. It is reduced in size since his time, two considerable wings, having been pulled down about sixty years ago, and their materials employed in building some residences of less pretension. But the body of the dwelling-house remains, and the court-yard, though reduced in size, has been retained.
Hexham House has an old oak entrance-hall panelled with delicacy, and which has escaped the rifling of speculators in furniture; and out of it rises a staircase of the same material, of a noble character, adorned occasionally with figures; armorial animals holding shields, and sometimes a grotesque form rising from fruits and flowers, all doubtless the work of some famous carver. The staircase led to a corridor, on which several doors open, and through one of these, at the moment of our history, a man, dressed in a dark cassock, and holding a card in his hand, was entering a spacious chamber, meagrely, but not shabbily, furnished. There was a rich cabinet and a fine picture. In the next room, not less spacious, but which had a more inhabited look, a cheerful fire, tables covered with books and papers, and two individuals busily at work with their pens; he gave the card to a gentleman who wore also the cassock, and who stood before the fire with a book in his hand, and apparently dictating to one of the writers.
"Impossible!" said the gentleman shaking his head; "I could not even go in, as Monsignore Berwick is with his eminence."
"But what shall I do?" said the attendant; "his eminence said that when Mr. Giles called he never was to be denied."
"The monsignore has been here a long time; you must beg Mr. Giles to wait. Make him comfortable; give him a newspaper; not the Tablet, the Times; men like Mr. Giles love reading the advertisements. Or stop, give him this, his eminence's lecture on geology; it will show him the Church has no fear of science. Ah! there's my bell; Mr. Giles will not have to wait long." So saying, the gentleman put down his volume and disappeared, through an antechamber, into a farther apartment.
It was a library, of moderate dimensions, and yet its well-filled shelves contained all the weapons of learning and controversy which the deepest and the most active of ecclesiastical champions could require. It was unlike modern libraries, for it was one in which folios greatly predominated; and they stood in solemn and sometimes magnificent array, for they bore, many of them, on their ancient though costly bindings, the proofs that they had belonged to many a prince and even sovereign of the Church. Over the mantel-piece hung a portrait of his holiness Pius IX., and on the table, in the midst of many papers, was an ivory crucifix.
The master of the library had risen from his seat when the chief secretary entered, and was receiving an obeisance. Above the middle height, his stature seemed magnified by the attenuation of his form. It seemed that the soul never had so frail and fragile a tenement. He was dressed in a dark cassock with a red border, and wore scarlet stockings; and over his cassock a purple tippet, and on his breast a small golden cross. His countenance was naturally of an extreme pallor, though at this moment slightly flushed with the animation of a deeply-interesting conference. His cheeks were hollow, and his gray eyes seemed sunk into his clear and noble brow, but they flashed with irresistible penetration. Such was Cardinal Grandison.
"All that I can do is," said his eminence, when his visitor was, ushered out, and slightly shrugging his shoulders, "is to get it postponed until I go to Rome, and even then I must not delay my visit. This crossing the Alps in winter is a trial—but we must never repine; and there is nothing which we must not encounter to prevent incalculable mischief. The publication of the Scotch hierarchy at this moment will destroy the labors of years. And yet they will not see it! I cannot conceive who is urging them, for I am sure they must have some authority from home.—You have something for me, Chidioch," he added inquiringly, for his keen eye caught the card.
"I regret to trouble your eminence when you need repose, but the bearer of this card seems to have been importunate, and to have appealed to, your name and personal orders;" and he gave the cardinal the card.
"Yes," said the cardinal, looking at the card with much interest; "this is a person I must always see."
And so, in due course, they ushered into the library a gentleman with a crimson and well-stuffed bag, of a composed yet cheerful aspect, who addressed the cardinal with respect but without embarrassment, saying, "I am ashamed to trouble your eminence with only matters of form—absolutely mere matters of form; but I obey, Sir, your own instructions."
"It is not for me to depreciate form," replied the cardinal; "and in business there are no mere matters of form."
"Merely the wood accounts," continued the visitor; "they must be approved by both the guardians or the money cannot be received by the bankers. Your eminence, you see, has sanctioned the felling, and authorized the sales, and these are the final accounts, which must be signed before we pay in."
"Give them to me," said the cardinal, stretching out both his hands as he received a mass of paper folios. His eminence resumed his chair, and hastily examined the sheets. "Ah!" he said, "no ordinary felling—it reaches, over seven counties. By-the-by, Bracewood Forest—what about the enclosure? I have heard no more of it." Then, murmuring to himself—"Grentham Wood—how well I remember Grentham Wood, with his dear father!"
"If we could sign today," said the visitor in a tone of professional cajolery; "time is important."
"And if shall not be wasted," replied the cardinal. "But I must look over the accounts. I doubt not all is quite regular, but I wish to make myself a little familiar with the scene of action; perhaps to recall the past," he added. "You shall have them to-morrow, Mr. Giles."
"Your eminence will have very different accounts to settle in a short time," said Mr. Giles, smiling. "We are hard at work; it takes three of our clerks constantly occupied."
"But you have yet got time."
"I don't know that," said Mr. Giles. "The affairs are very large. And the mines—they give us the greatest trouble. Our Mr. James Roundell was two months in Wales last year about them. It took up the whole of his vacation. And your eminence must remember that time flies. In less than eight months he will be of age."
"Very true," said the cardinal; "time indeed flies, and so much to be done! By-the-by, Mr. Giles, have you by any chance heard any thing lately of my child?"
"I have heard of him a good deal of late, for a client of ours, Lord Montairy, met him at Brentham this summer, and was a long time there with him. After that, I hear, he went deer-stalking with some of his young friends; but he is not very fond of Scotland; had rather too much of it, I suspect; but the truth is, sir, I saw him this very day."
"Some affairs have brought him up to town, and I rather doubt whether he will return to Oxford—at least, so he talks."
"Ah! I have never seen him since he was an infant, I might say," said the cardinal. "I suppose I shall see him again, if only when I resign my trust; but I know not. And yet few things would be more interesting to me than to meet him!"
Mr. Giles seemed moved, for him almost a little embarrassed; he seemed to blush, and then he cleared his throat. "It would be too great a liberty," said Mr. Giles, "I feel that very much—and yet, if your eminence would condescend, though I hardly suppose it possible, his lordship is really going to do us the honor of dining with us to-day; only a few friends, and if your eminence could make the sacrifice, and it were not an act of too great presumption, to ask your eminence to join our party."
"I never eat and I never drink," said the cardinal. "I am sorry, to say I cannot. I like dinner society very much. You see the world, and you hear things which you do not hear otherwise. For a time I presumed to accept invitations, though I sat with an empty plate, but, though the world was indulgent to me, I felt that my habits were an embarrassment to the happier feasters: it was not fair, and so I gave it up. But I tell you what, Mr. Giles: I shall be in your quarter this evening: perhaps you would permit me to drop in and pay my respects to Mrs. Giles—I have wished to do so before."
Mr. Giles was a leading partner in the firm of Roundells, Giles, and Roundell, among the most eminent solicitors of Lincoln's Inn. He, in those days of prolonged maturity, might be described as still a young man. He had inherited from his father not only a large share in a first-rate business, but no inconsiderable fortune; and though he had, in her circles, a celebrated wife, he had no children. He was opulent and prosperous, with no cares and anxieties of his own, and loved his profession, for which he was peculiarly qualified, being a man of uncommon sagacity, very difficult to deceive, and yet one who sympathized with his clients, who were all personally attached to him, and many of whom were among the distinguished personages of the realm.
During an important professional visit to Ireland, Mr. Giles had made the acquaintance of Miss Apollonia Smylie, the niece of an Irish peer; and, though the lady was much admired and courted, had succeeded, after a time, in inducing her to become the partner of his life.
Mrs. Giles, or, as she described herself, Mrs. Putney Giles, taking advantage of a second and territorial Christian name of her husband, was a showy woman; decidedly handsome, unquestionably accomplished, and gifted with energy and enthusiasm which far exceeded even her physical advantages. Her principal mission was to destroy the papacy and to secure Italian unity. Her lesser impulses were to become acquainted with the aristocracy, and to be herself surrounded by celebrities. Having a fine house in Tyburnia, almost as showy as herself, and a husband who was never so happy as when gratifying her wishes, she did not find it difficult in a considerable degree to pursue and even accomplish her objects. The Putney Giles gave a great many dinners, and Mrs. Putney received her world frequently, if not periodically. As they entertained with profusion, her well-lighted saloons were considerably attended. These assemblies were never dull; the materials not being ordinary, often startling, sometimes even brilliant, occasionally rather heterogeneous. For, though being a violent Protestant, and of extreme conservative opinions, her antipapal antipathies and her Italian predilections frequently involved her with acquaintances not so distinguished as she deemed herself for devotion to the cause of order and orthodoxy. It was rumored that the brooding brow of Mazzini had been observed in her rooms, and there was no sort of question that she had thrown herself in ecstatic idolatry at the feet of the hero of Caprera.
On the morning of the day on which he intended to visit Cardinal Grandison, Mr. Giles, in his chambers at Lincoln's Inn, was suddenly apprised, by a clerk, that an interview with him was sought by a client no less distinguished than Lothair.
Although Mr. Giles sat opposite two rows of tin boxes, each of which was numbered, and duly inscribed with the name of Lothair and that of the particular estate to which it referred, Mr. Giles, though he had had occasional communications with his client, was personally unacquainted with him. He viewed, therefore, with no ordinary curiosity the young man who was ushered into his room; a shapely youth slightly above the middle height; of simple, but distinguished mien, with a countenance naturally pale, though somewhat bronzed by a life of air and exercise, and a profusion of dark-auburn hair.
And for what could Lothair be calling on Mr. Giles?
It seems that one of Lothair's intimate companions had got into a scrape, and under these circumstances had what is styled "made a friend" of Lothair; that is to say, confided to him his trouble, and asked his advice, with a view, when given, of its being followed by an offer of assistance.
Lothair, though inexperienced, and very ingenuous, was not devoid of a certain instinctive perception of men and, things, which rendered it difficult for him to be an easy prey. His natural disposition, and his comparatively solitary education, had made him a keen observer, and he was one who meditated over his observations. But he was naturally generous and sensible of kindness; and this was a favorite companion—next to Bertram, his most intimate.
Lothair was quite happy in the opportunity of soothing a perturbed spirit whose society had been to him a source of so much gratification.
It was not until Lothair had promised to extricate his friend from his whelming difficulties, that, upon examination, he found the act on his part was not so simple and so easy as he had assumed it to be. His guardians had apportioned to him an allowance in every sense adequate to his position; and there was no doubt, had he wished to exceed it for any legitimate purpose, not the slightest difficulty on their part would have been experienced.
Such a conjuncture had never occurred. Lothair was profuse, but he was not prodigal. He gratified all his fancies, but they were not ignoble ones; and he was not only sentimentally, but systematically, charitable. He had a great number of fine horses, and he had just paid for an expensive yacht. In a word, he spent a great deal of money, and until he called at his bankers to learn what sums were at his disposition he was not aware that he had overdrawn his account.
This was rather awkward. Lothair wanted a considerable sum, and he wanted it at once. Irrespective of the consequent delay, he shrunk from any communication with his guardians. From his uncle he had become, almost insensibly, estranged, and with his other guardian he had never had the slightest communication. Under these circumstances he recalled the name of the solicitor of the trustees, between whom and himself there had been occasional correspondence; and, being of a somewhat impetuous disposition, he rode off at once from his hotel to Lincoln's Inn.
Mr. Giles listened to the narrative with unbroken interest and unswerving patience, with his eyes fixed on his client, and occasionally giving a sympathetic nod.
"And so," concluded Lothair, "I thought I would come to you."
"We are honored," said Mr. Giles. "And, certainly, it is quite absurd that your lordship should want money, and for a worthy purpose, and not be able to command it. Why! the balance in the name of the trustees never was so great as at this moment; and this very day, or to-morrow at farthest, I shall pay no less than eight-and-thirty thousand pounds timber-money to the account."
"Well, I don't want a fifth of that," said Lothair.
"Your lordship has an objection to apply to the trustees?" inquired Mr. Giles.
"That is the point of the whole of my statement," said Lothair somewhat impatiently.
"And yet it is the right and regular thing," said Mr. Giles.
"It may be right and it may be regular, but it is out of the question."
"Then we will say no more about it. What I want to prevent," said Mr. Giles, musingly, "is any thing absurd happening. There is no doubt if your lordship went into the street and said you wanted ten thousand pounds, or a hundred thousand, fifty people would supply you immediately—but you would have to pay for it. Some enormous usury! That would be bad; but the absurdity of the thing would be greater than the mischief. Roundells, Giles, and Roundell could not help you in that manner. That is not our business. We are glad to find money for our clients at a legal rate of interest, and the most moderate rate feasible. But then there must be security, and the best security. But here we must not conceal it from ourselves, my lord, we have no security whatever. At this moment your lordship has no property. An insurance-office might do it with a policy. They might consider that they had a moral security; but still it would be absurd. There is something absurd in your lordship having to raise money. Don't you think I could see these people," said Mr. Giles, "and talk to them, and gain a little time? We only want a little time."
"No," said Lothair, in a peremptory tone. "I said I would do it, and it must be done, and at once. Sooner than there should be delay, I would rather go into the street, as you suggest, and ask the first man I met to lend me the money. My word has been given, and I do not care what I pay to fulfil my word."
"We must not think of such things," said Mr. Giles, shaking his head. "All I want your lordship to understand is the exact position. In this case we have no security. Roundells, Giles, and Roundell cannot move without security. It would be against our articles of partnership. But Mr. Giles, as a private individual, may do what he likes. I will let your lordship have the money, and I will take no security whatever—not even a note of hand. All that I ask for is that your lordship should write me a letter, saying you have urgent need for a sum of money (mentioning amount) for an honorable purpose, in which your feelings are deeply interested—and that will do. If any thing happens to your lordship before this time next year, why, I think the trustees could hardly refuse repaying the money; and if they did, why then," added Mr. Giles, "I suppose it will be all the same a hundred years hence."
"You have conferred on me the greatest obligation," said Lothair, with much earnestness. "Language cannot express what I feel. I am not too much used to kindness, and I only hope that I may live to show my sense of yours."
"It is really no great affair, my lord," said Mr. Giles. "I did not wish to make difficulties, but it was my duty to put the matter clearly before you. What I propose I could to do is really nothing. I could do no less; I should have felt quite absurd if your lordship had gone into the money-market."
"I only hope," repeated Lothair, rising and offering Mr. Giles his hand, "that life may give me some occasion to prove my gratitude."
"Well, my lord," replied Mr. Giles, "if your lordship wish to repay me for any little interest I have shown in your affairs, you can do that, over and over again, and at once."
"By a very great favor, by which Mrs. Giles and myself would be deeply gratified. We have a few friends who honor us by dining with us to-day in Hyde Park Gardens. If your lordship would add the great distinction your presence—"
"I should only be too much honored," exclaimed Lothair: "I suppose about eight," and he left the room; and Mr. Giles telegraphed instantly the impending event to Apollonia.
It was a great day for Apollonia; not only to have Lothair at her right hand at dinner, but the prospect of receiving a cardinal in the evening. But she was equal to it; though so engrossed, indeed, in the immediate gratification of her hopes and wishes, that she could scarcely dwell sufficiently on the coming scene of triumph and social excitement.
The repast was sumptuous; Lothair thought the dinner would never end, there were so many dishes, and apparently all of the highest pretension. But if his simple tastes had permitted him to take an interest in these details, which, they did not, he would have been assisted by a gorgeous menu of gold and white typography, that was by the side of each guest. The table seemed literally to groan under vases and gigantic flagons, and, in its midst, rose a mountain of silver, on which apparently all the cardinal virtues, several of the pagan deities, and Britannia herself, illustrated with many lights a glowing inscription, which described the fervent feelings of a grateful client.
There were many guests—the Dowager of Farringford, a lady of quality, Apollonia's great lady, who exercised under this roof much social tyranny; in short, was rather fine; but who, on this occasion, was somewhat cowed by the undreamt-of presence of Lothair. She had not yet met him, and probably never would have met him, had she not had the good fortune of dining at his lawyer's. However, Lady Farringford was placed a long way from Lothair, having been taken down to dinner by Mr. Giles; and so, by the end of the first course, Lady Farringford had nearly resumed her customary despotic vein, and was beginning to indulge in several kind observations, cheapening to her host and hostess, and indirectly exalting herself; upon which Mr. Giles took an early easy opportunity of apprising Lady Farringford, that she had nearly met Cardinal Grandison at dinner, and that his eminence would certainly pay his respects to Mrs. Putney Giles in the evening. As Lady Farringford was at present a high ritualist and had even been talked of as "going to Rome," this intelligence was stunning, and it was observed that her ladyship was unusually subdued during the whole of the second course.
On the right of Lothair sat the wife of a vice-chancellor, a quiet and pleasing lady, to whom Lothair, with natural good breeding, paid snatches of happy attention, when he could for a moment with propriety withdraw himself from the blaze of Apollonia's coruscating conversation. Then there was a rather fierce-looking Red Ribbon, medalled, as well as be-starred, and the Red Ribbon's wife, with a blushing daughter, in spite of, her parentage not yet accustomed to stand fire. A partner and his unusually numerous family had the pleasure also of seeing Lothair for the first time, and there were no less than four M.P.s, one of whom was even in office.
Apollonia was stating to Lothair, with perspicuity, the reasons which quite induced her to believe that the Gulf-Stream had changed its course, and the political and social consequences that might accrue.
"The religious sentiment of the Southern races must be wonderfully affected by a more rigorous climate," said Apollonia. "I cannot doubt," she continued, "that a series of severe winters at Rome might put an end to Romanism."
"But is there any fear that a reciprocal influence might be exercised on the Northern nations?" inquired Lothair. "Would there be any apprehension of our Protestantism becoming proportionately relaxed?"
"Of course not," said Apollonia. "Truth cannot be affected by climate. Truth is truth, alike in Palestine and Scandinavia."
"I wonder what the cardinal would think of this," said Lothair, "who, you tell me, is coming to you this evening?"
"Yes, I am most interested to see him, though he is the most puissant of our foes. Of course he would take refuge in sophistry; and science, you know, they deny."
"Cardinal Grandison is giving some lectures on science," said the vice-chancellor's lady, quietly.
"It is remorse," said Apollonia. "Their clever men can never forget that unfortunate affair of Galileo, and think they can divert the indignation of the ninteenth century by mock zeal about red sandstone or the origin of species."
"And are you afraid of the Gulf-Stream?" inquired Lothair of his calmer neighbor.
"I think we want more evidence of a change. The vice-chancellor and myself went down to a place we have near town, on Saturday, where there is a very nice piece of water; indeed, some people call it a lake; but it was quite frozen, and my boys wanted to skate, but that I would not permit."
"You believe in the Gulf-Stream to that extent," said Lothair—"no skating."
The cardinal came, early; the ladies had not long left the dining-room. They were agitated when his name was announced; even Apollonia's heart beat; but then that might be accounted for by the inopportune recollection of an occasional correspondence with Caprera.
Nothing could exceed the simple suavity with which the cardinal appeared, approached, and greeted them. He thanked Apollonia for her permission to pay his respects to her, which he had long wished to do; and then they were all presented, and he said exactly the right thing to every one. He must have heard of them all before, or read their characters in their countenances. In a few minutes they were all listening to his eminence with enchanted ease, as, sitting on the sofa by his hostess, he described to them the ambassadors who had just arrived from Japan, and with whom he had relations of interesting affairs. The Japanese government had exhibited enlightened kindness to some of his poor people who had barely escaped martyrdom. Much might be expected from the Mikado, evidently a man of singular penetration and elevated views; and his eminence looked as if the mission of Yokohama would speedily end in an episcopal see; but he knew where he was and studiously avoided all controversial matter.
After all, the Mikado himself was not more remarkable than this prince of the Church in a Tyburnian drawing-room habited in his pink cassock and cape, and waving, as he spoke, with careless grace, his pink barrette.
The ladies thought the gentlemen rejoined them too soon, but Mr. Giles, when he was apprised of the arrival of the cardinal, thought it right to precipitate the symposium. With great tact, when the cardinal rose to greet him, Mr. Giles withdrew his eminence from those surrounding, and, after a brief interchange of whispered words, quitted him and then brought forward and presented Lothair to the cardinal, and left them.
"This is not the first time that we should have met," said the cardinal, "but my happiness is so great at this moment that, though I deplore, I will not dwell on, the past."
"I am, nevertheless, grateful to you, sir, for many services, and have more than once contemplated taking the liberty of personally assuring your a eminence of my gratitude."
"I think we might sit down," said the cardinal, looking around; and then he led Lothair into an open but interior saloon, where none were yet present, and where they seated themselves on a sofa and were soon engaged in apparently interesting converse.
In the mean time the world gradually filled the principal saloon of Apollonia, and, when it approached overflowing, occasionally some persons passed the line, and entered the room in which the cardinal and his ward were seated, and then, as if conscious of violating some sacred place, drew back. Others, on the contrary, with coarser curiosity, were induced to invade the chamber from the mere fact that the cardinal was to be seen there.
"My geographical instinct," said the cardinal to Lothair, "assures me that I can regain the staircase through these rooms, without rejoining the busy world; so I shall bid you good-night and even presume to give you my blessing;" and his eminence glided away.
When Lothair returned to the saloon it was so crowded that he was not observed; exactly what he liked; and he stood against the wall watching all that passed, not without amusement. A lively, social parasite, who had dined there, and had thanked his stars at dinner that Fortune had, decreed he should meet Lothair, had been cruising for his prize all the time that Lothair had been conversing with the cardinal and was soon at his side.
"A strange scene this!" said the parasite.
"Is it unusual?" inquired Lothair.
"Such a medley! How can they can be got together, I marvel—priests and philosophers, legitimists, and carbonari! Wonderful woman, Mrs. Putney Giles!"
"She is very entertaining," said Lothair, "and seems to me clever."
"Remarkably so," said the parasite, who had been on the point of satirizing his hostess, but, observing the quarter of the wind, with rapidity went in for praise. "An extraordinary woman. Your lordship had a long talk with the cardinal."
"I had the honor of some conversation with Cardinal Grandison," said Lothair, drawing up.
"I wonder what the cardinal would have said if he had met Mazzini here?"
"Mazzini! Is he here?"
"Not now; but I have seen him here," said the parasite, "and our host such a Tory! That makes the thing so amusing;" and then the parasite went on making small personal observations on the surrounding scene, and every now and then telling little tales of great people with whom, it appeared, he was intimate—all concerted fire to gain the very great social fortress he was now besieging. The parasite was so full of himself, and so anxious to display himself to advantage, that with all his practice it was some time before he perceived he did not make all the way he could wish with Lothair; who was courteous, but somewhat monosyllabic and absent.
"Your lordship is struck by that face?" said the parasite.
Was Lothair struck by that face? And what was it?
He had exchanged glances with that face during the last ten minutes, and the mutual expression was not one of sympathy but curiosity blended, on the part of the face, with an expression, if not of disdain, of extreme reserve.
It was the face of a matron, apparently of not many summers, for her shapely figure was still slender, though her mien was stately. But it was the countenance that had commanded the attention of Lothair: pale, but perfectly Attic in outline, with the short upper lip and the round chin, and a profusion of dark-chestnut hair bound by a Grecian fillet, and on her brow a star.
"Yes I am struck by that face. Who is it?"
"If your lordship could only get a five-franc piece of the last French Republic, 1850, you would know. I dare say the money-changers could get you one. All the artists of Paris, painters, and sculptors, and medallists, were competing to produce a face worthy of representing 'La R publique fran aise;' nobody was satisfied, when Oudine caught a girl of not seventeen, and, with a literal reproduction of Nature, gained the prize with unanimity."
"And, though years have passed, the countenance has not changed; perhaps improved."
"It is a countenance that will bear, perhaps even would require, maturity," said Lothair; "but she is no longer 'La R publique fran aise;' what is she now?"
"She is called Theodora, though married, I believe, to an Englishman, a friend of Garibaldi. Her birth unknown; some say an Italian, some a Pole; all sorts of stories. But she speaks every language, is ultra-cosmopolitan, and has invented a new religion."
"A new religion!"
"Would your lordship care to be introduced to her? I know her enough for that. Shall we go up to her?"
"I have made so many now acquaintances to-day," said, Lothair, as it were starting from a reverie, "and indeed heard so many new things, that I think I had better say good-night;" and he graciously retired.
About the same time that Lothair had repaired to the residence of Mr. Giles, Monsignore Berwick, whose audience of the cardinal in the morning had preceded that of the legal adviser of the trustees, made his way toward one of the noblest mansions in St. James's Square, where resided Lord St. Jerome.
It was a mild winter evening; a little fog still hanging about, but vanquished by the cheerful lamps, and the voice of the muffin-bell was just heard at intervals; a genial sound that calls up visions of trim and happy hearths. If we could only so contrive our lives as to go into the country for the first note of the nightingale, and return to town for the first note of the muffin-bell, existence, it is humbly presumed, might be more enjoyable.
Monsignore Berwick was a young man, but looking younger from a countenance almost of childhood; fair, with light-blue eyes, and flaxen hair and delicate features. He was the last person you would have fixed upon as a born Roman; but Nature, in one of the freaks of race, had resolved that his old Scottish blood should be reasserted, though his: ancestors had sedulously blended it, for, many generations, with that of the princely houses of the eternal city. The monsignore was the greatest statesman of Rome, formed and favored by Antonelli and probably his successor.
The mansion of Lord St. Jerome was a real family mansion, built by his ancestors a century and a half ago, when they believed that, from its central position, its happy contiguity to the court, the senate, and the seats of government, they at last, in St. James's Square, had discovered a site which could defy the vicissitudes of fashion, and not share the fate of the river palaces, which they had been obliged in turn to relinquish. And in a considerable degree they were right in their anticipation; for, although they have somewhat unwisely, permitted the clubs to invade too successfully their territory, St. James's Square may be looked upon as our Faubourg St. Germain, and a great patrician residing there dwells in the heart of that free and noble life of which he ought to be a part.
A marble hall and a marble staircase, lofty chambers with silk or tapestried hangings, gilded cornices, and painted ceilings, gave a glimpse of almost Venetian splendor, and rare in our metropolitan houses of this age; but the first dwellers in St. James's Square had tender and inspiring recollections of the Adrian bride, had frolicked in St. Mark's, and glided in adventurous gondolas. The monsignore was ushered into a chamber bright with lights and a blazing fire, and welcomed with extreme cordiality by his hostess, who was then alone. Lady St. Jerome was still the young wife of a nobleman not old. She was the daughter of a Protestant house, but, during a residence at Rome after her marriage, she had reverted to the ancient faith, which she professed with the enthusiastic convictions of a convert. Her whole life was dedicated to the triumph of the Catholic cause; and, being a woman of considerable intelligence and of an ardent mind, she had become a recognized power in the great confederacy which has so much influenced the human race, and which has yet to play perhaps a mighty part in the fortunes of the world.
"I was in great hopes that the cardinal would have met you at dinner," said Lady St. Jerome, "but he wrote only this afternoon to say unexpected business would prevent him, but he would be here in the evening, though late."
"It must be something sudden, for I was with his eminence this morning, and he then contemplated our meeting here."
"Nothing from abroad?"
"I should think not, or it would be known to me. There is nothing new from abroad this afternoon: my time has been spent in writing, not receiving, dispatches."
"And all well, I hope?"
"This Scotch business plagues us. So far as Scotland is concerned, it is quite ripe; but the cardinal counsels delay on account of this country, and he has such a consummate knowledge of England, that—"
At this moment Lord St Jerome entered the room—a grave but gracious personage, polished but looking silent, though he immediately turned the conversation to the weather. The monsignore began denouncing English fogs; but Lord St. Jerome maintained that, on the whole, there were not more fogs in England than in any other country; "and as for the French," he added, "I like their audacity, for, when they revolutionized the calendar, they called one of their months Brumaire."
Then came in one of his lordships chaplains, who saluted the monsignore with reverence, and immediately afterward a beautiful young lady, his niece, Clare Arundel.
The family were living in a convenient suite of small rooms on the ground-floor, called the winter-rooms so dinner was announced by the doors of an adjoining chamber being thrown open, and there they saw, in the midst of a chamber hung with green silk and adorned with some fine cabinet-pictures, a small round table, bright and glowing.
It was a lively dinner. Lord St. Jerome loved conversation, though he never conversed. "There must be an audience," he would say, "and I am the audience." The partner of his life, whom he never ceased admiring, had originally fascinated him by her conversational talents; and, even if Nature had not impelled her, Lady St. Jerome was too wise a woman to relinquish the spell. The monsignore could always, when necessary, sparkle with anecdote or blaze with repartee; and all the chaplains, who abounded in this house, were men of bright abilities, not merely men of reading, but of the world, learned in the world's ways, and trained to govern mankind by versatility of their sympathies. It was a dinner where there could not be two conversations going on, and where even the silent take their share in the talk by their sympathy.
And among the silent, as silent even as Lord St. Jerome, was Miss Arundel; and yet her large violet eyes, darker even than her dark-brown hair, and gleaming with intelligence, and her rich face mantling with emotion, proved she was not insensible to the witty passages and the bright and interesting narratives that were sparkling and flowing about her.
The gentlemen left the dining-room with the ladies, in the Continental manner. Lady St. Jerome, who was leaning on the arm of the monsignore, guided him into a saloon farther than the one they had reentered, and then seating herself said, "You were telling me about Scotland, that you yourself thought it ripe."
"Unquestionably. The original plan was to have established our hierarchy when the Kirk split up; but that would have been a mistake, it was not then ripe. There would have been a fanatical reaction. There is always a tendency that way in Scotland: as it is, at this moment, the Establishment and the Free Kirk are mutually sighing for some compromise which may bring them together and, if the proprietors would give up their petty patronage, some flatter themselves it might be arranged. But we are thoroughly well informed, and have provided for all this. We sent two of our best men into Scotland some time ago, and they have invented a new church, called the United Presbyterians. John Knox himself was never more violent, or more mischievous. The United Presbyterians will do the business: they will render Scotland simply impossible to live in; and then, when the crisis arrives, the distracted and despairing millions will find refuge in the bosom of their only mother. That is why, at home, we wanted no delay in the publication of the bull and the establishment of the hierarchy."
"But the cardinal says no?"
"And must be followed. For these islands he has no equal. He wishes great reserve at present. Affairs here are progressing, gradually but surely. But it is Ireland where matters are critical, or will be soon."
"Ireland! I thought there was a sort of understanding there—at least for the present."
The monsignore shook his head. "What do you think of an American invasion of Ireland?"
"An American invasion!"
"Even so; nothing more probable, and nothing more to be deprecated by us. Now that the civil war in America is over, the Irish soldiery are resolved to employ their experience and their weapons in their own land; but they have no thought for the interest of the Holy See, or the welfare of our holy religion. Their secret organization is tampering with the people and tampering with the priests. The difficulty of Ireland is that the priests and the people will consider every thing in a purely Irish point of view. To gain some local object, they will encourage the principles of the most lawless liberalism, which naturally land them in Fenianism and atheism. And the danger is not foreseen, because the Irish political object of the moment is alone looked to."
"But surely they can be guided?"
"We want a statesman in Ireland. We have never been able to find one; we want a man like the cardinal. But the Irish will have a native for their chief. We caught Churchill young, and educated him in the Propaganda; but he has disappointed us. At first all seemed well; he was reserved and austere; and we heard with satisfaction that he was unpopular. But, now that critical times are arriving, his peasant-blood cannot resist the contagion. He proclaims the absolute equality of all religious, and of the power of the state to confiscate ecclesiastical property, and not restore it to us, but alienate it forever. For the chance of subverting the Anglican Establishment, he is favoring a policy which will subvert religion itself. In his eagerness he cannot see that the Anglicans have only a lease of our property, a lease which is rapidly expiring."
"This is sad."
"It is perilous, and difficult to deal with. But it must be dealt with. The problem is to suppress Fenianism, and not to strengthen the Protestant confederacy."
"And you left Rome for this? We understood you were coming for something else," said Lady St. Jerome, in a significant tone.
"Yes, yes, I have been there, and I have seen him."
"And have you succeeded?"
"No; and no one will—at least at present."
"Is all lost, then? Is the Malta scheme again on the carpet?"
"Our Holy Church in built upon a rock," said the monsignore, "but not upon the rock of Malta. Nothing is lost; Antonelli is calm and sanguine, though, rest assured, there is no doubt about what I tell you. France has washed her hands of us."
"Where, then, are we to look for aid?" exclaimed Lady St. Jerome, "against the assassins and atheists? Austria, the alternative ally, is no longer near you; and if she were—that I should ever live to say it—even Austria is our foe."
"Poor Austria!" said the monsignore with an unctuous sneer. "Two things made her a nation; she was German and she was Catholic, and now she is neither."
"But you alarm me, my dear lord, with your terrible news. We once thought that Spain would be our protector, but we hear bad news from Spain."
"Yes," said the monsignore, "I think it highly probable that, before a few years have elapsed, every government in Europe will be atheistical except France. Vanity will always keep France the eldest son of the Church, even if she wear a bonnet rouge. But, if the Holy Father keep Rome, these strange changes will only make the occupier of the chair of St. Peter more powerful. His subjects will be In every clime and every country, and then they will be only his subjects. We shall get rid of the difficulty of the divided allegiance, Lady St. Jerome, which plagued our poor forefathers so much."
"If we keep Rome," said Lady St. Jerome.
"And we shall. Let Christendom give us her prayers for the next few years, and Pio Nono will become the most powerful monarch In Europe, and perhaps the only one."
"I hear a sound," exclaimed Lady St. Jerome. "Yes! the cardinal has come. Let us greet him."
But as they were approaching the saloon the cardinal met them, and waved them back. "We will return," he said, "to our friends immediately, but I want to say one word to you both."
He made them sit down. "I am a little restless," he said, and stood before the fire. "Something interesting has happened; nothing to do with public affairs. Do not pitch your expectations too high—but still of importance, and certainly of great interest—at least to me. I have seen my child—my ward."
"Indeed an event!" said Lady St. Jerome, evidently much interested.
"And what is he like?" inquired the monsignore.
"All that one could wish. Extremely good-looking, highly bred, and most ingenuous; a considerable intelligence, and not untrained; but the most absolutely unaffected person I ever encountered."
"Ah! if he had been trained by your eminence," sighed Lady St. Jerome. "Is it too late?"
"'Tis an immense position," murmured Berwick.
"What good might he not do?" said Lady St. Jerome; "and if he be so ingenuous, it seems impossible that he can resist the truth."
"Your ladyship is a sort of cousin of his," said the cardinal, musingly.
"Yes; but very remote. I dare say he would not acknowledge the tie. But we are kin; we have the same blood in our veins."
"You should make his acquaintance," said the cardinal.
"I more than desire it. I hear he has been terribly neglected, brought up among the most dreadful people, entirely infidels and fanatics."
"He has been nearly two years at Oxford," said the cardinal. "That may have mitigated the evil."
"Ah! but you, my lord cardinal, you must interfere. Now that you at last know him, you must undertake the great task; you must save him."
"We must all pray, as I pray every morn and every night," said the cardinal, "for the conversion of England."
"Or the conquest," murmured Berwick.
As the cardinal was regaining his carriage on leaving Mrs. Giles's party, there was, about the entrance of the house, the usual gathering under such circumstances; some zealous linkboys marvellously familiar with London life, and some midnight loungers, who thus take their humble share of the social excitement, and their happy chance of becoming acquainted with some of the notables of the wondrous world of which they form the base. This little gathering, ranged at the instant into stricter order by the police to facilitate the passage of his eminence, prevented the progress of a passenger, who exclaimed in an audible, but not noisy voice, as if, he were ejaculating to himself, "A bas les pretres!"
This exclamation, unintelligible to the populace, was noticed only by the only person who understood it. The cardinal, astonished at the unusual sound—for, hitherto, he had always found the outer world of London civil; or at least indifferent—threw his penetrating glance at the passenger, and caught clearly the visage on which the lamplight fully shone. It was a square, sinewy face, closely shaven, with the exception of a small but thick mustache, brown as the well-cropped hair, and blending with the hazel eye; a calm, but determined countenance; clearly not that of an Englishman, for he wore ear-rings.
The carriage drove off, and the passenger, somewhat forcing his way through the clustering group, continued his course until he reached the cab-stand near the Marble Arch, when he engaged a vehicle and ordered to be driven to Leicester Square. That quarter of the town exhibits an animated scene toward the witching hour; many lights and much population, illuminated coffee-houses, the stir of a large theatre, bands of music in the open air, and other sounds, most of them gay, and some festive. The stranger, whose compact figure was shrouded by a long fur cape, had not the appearance of being influenced by the temptation of amusement. As he stopped in the square and looked around him, the expression of his countenance was moody, perhaps even anxious. He seemed to be making observations on the locality, and, after a few minutes, crossed the open space and turned up into a small street which opened into the square. In this street was a coffee-house of some pretension, connected indeed with an hotel, which had been formed out of two houses, and therefore possessed no inconsiderable accommodation.
The coffee-room was capacious, and adorned in a manner which intimated it was not kept by an Englishman, or much used by Englishmen. The walls were painted in frescoed arabesques. There were many guests, principally seated at small tables of marble, and on benches and chairs covered with a coarse crimson velvet. Some were sipping coffee, some were drinking wine, others were smoking or playing dominoes, or doing both; while many were engaged in reading the foreign journals which abounded.
An ever-vigilant waiter was at the side of the stranger the instant he entered, and wished to know his pleasure. The stranger was examining with his keen eye every individual in the room while this question was asked and repeated.
"What would I wish?" said the stranger, having concluded his inspection, and as it were summoning back his recollection. "I would wish to see, and at once, one Mr. Perroni, who, I believe, lives here."
"Why, 'tis the master!" exclaimed the waiter.
"Well, then, go and tell the master that I want him."
"But the master is much engaged," said the waiter, "—particularly."
"I dare say; but you will go and tell him that I particularly want to see him."
The waiter, though prepared to be impertinent to any one else, felt that one was speaking to him who must be obeyed, and, with a subdued, but hesitating manner, said, "There is a meeting to-night up-stairs, where the master is secretary, and it is difficult to see him; but, if I could see him, what name am I to give?"
"You will go to him instantly," said the stranger, "and you will tell him that he is wanted by Captain Bruges."
The waiter was not long absent, and returning with an obsequious bow, he invited the stranger to follow him to a private room, where he was alone only for a few seconds, for the door opened and he was joined by Perroni.
"Ah! my general," exclaimed the master of the coffee-house, and he kissed the stranger's hand. "You received my telegram?"
"I am here. Now what is your business?"
"There is business, and great business, if you will do it; business for you."
"Well, I am a soldier, and soldiering is my trade, and I do not much care what I do in that way, provided it is not against the good cause. But I must tell you at once, friend Perroni, I am not a man who will take a leap in the dark. I must form my own staff, and I must have my commissariat secure."
"My general, you will be master of your own terms. The Standing Committee of the Holy Alliance of Peoples are sitting upstairs at this moment. They were unanimous in sending for you. See them; judge for yourself; and, rest assured, you will be satisfied."
"I do not much like having to do with committees," said the general. "However, let it be as you like—I will see them."
"I had better just announce your arrival," said Perroni. "And will you not take something, my general after your travel you must be wearied."
"A glass of sugar-and-water. You know, I am not easily tired. And, I agree with you, it is better to come to business at once: so prepare them."
The Standing Committee of the Holy Alliance of Peoples all rose, although they were extreme republicans, when the general entered. Such is the magical influence of a man of action over men of the pen an the tongue. Had it been, instead of a successful military leader, an orator that had inspired Europe, or a journalist who had rights of the human race, the Standing Committee would have only seen men of their own kidney, who, having been favored with happier opportunities than themselves, had reaped a harvest which, equally favored, they might here have garnered.
"General," said Felix Drolin, the president, who was looked upon by the brotherhood as a statesman, for he had been in his time, a member of a provisional government, "this seat is for you," and he pointed to one on his right hand. "You are ever welcome; and I hope you bring good tidings, and good fortune."
"I am glad to be among my friends, and I may say," looking around, "my comrades. I hope I may bring you better fortune than my tidings."
"But now they have left Rome," said the president, "every day we expect good news."
"Ay, ay! he has left Rome, but he has not left Rome with the door open. I hope it is not on such gossip you have sent for me. You have something on hand. What is it?"
"You shall hear it from the fountain-head," said the president, "fresh from New York," and he pointed to an individual seated in the centre of the table.
"Ah! Colonel Finucane," said the general, "I have not forgotten James River. You did that well. What is the trick now?"
Whereupon a tall, lean man, with a decided brogue, but speaking through his nose, rose from his seat and informed the general that the Irish people were organized and ready to rise; that they had sent their deputies to New York; all they wanted were arms and officers; that the American brethren had agreed to supply them with both, and amply; and that considerable subscriptions were raising for other purposes. What they now required was a commander-in-chief equal to the occasion, and in whom all would have confidence; and therefore they had telegraphed for the general.
"I doubt not our friends over the water would send us plenty of rifles," said the general, "if we could only manage to land them; and, I think, I know men now in the States from whom I could form a good staff; but how about the people of Ireland? What evidence have we that they will rise, if we land?"
"The best," said the president. "We have a head-centre here, Citizen Desmond, who will give you the most recent and the most authentic intelligence on that head."
"The whole country is organized," said the head-centre; "we could put three hundred thousand men in the field at any time in a fortnight. The movement is not sectarian; it pervades all classes and all creeds. All that we want are officers and arms."
"Hem!" said the general; "and as to your other supplies? Any scheme of commissariat?"
"There will be no lack of means," replied the head-centre. "There is no country where so much money is hoarded as in Ireland. But, depend upon it, so far as the commissariat is concerned, the movement will be self-supporting."