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delicate subject to ask questions about portraits, and he refrained.
Still, when he was rising to leave the room, the impulse was
irresistible. He said to Mr. Millbank, 'By whom is that portrait, sir?'

The countenance of Millbank became disturbed; it was not an expression
of tender reminiscence that fell upon his features. On the contrary, the
expression was agitated, almost angry.

'Oh! that is by a country artist,' he said,' of whom you never heard,'
and moved away.

They found Miss Millbank in the drawing-room; she was sitting at a round
table covered with working materials, apparently dressing a doll.

'Nay,' thought Coningsby, 'she must be too old for that.'

He addressed her, and seated himself by her side. There were several
dolls on the table, but he discovered, on examination, that they were
pincushions; and elicited, with some difficulty, that they were making
for a fancy fair about to be held in aid of that excellent institution,
the Manchester Athenaeum. Then the father came up and said,

'My child, let us have some tea;' and she rose and seated herself at the
tea-table. Coningsby also quitted his seat, and surveyed the apartment.

There were several musical instruments; among others, he observed a
guitar; not such an instrument as one buys in a music shop, but such an
one as tinkles at Seville, a genuine Spanish guitar. Coningsby repaired
to the tea-table.

'I am glad that you are fond of music, Miss Millbank.'

A blush and a bow.

'I hope after tea you will be so kind as to touch the guitar.'

Signals of great distress.

'Were you ever at Birmingham?'

'Yes:' a sigh.

'What a splendid music-hall! They should build one at Manchester.'

'They ought,' in a whisper.

The tea-tray was removed; Coningsby was conversing with Mr. Millbank,
who was asking him questions about his son; what he thought of Oxford;
what he thought of Oriel; should himself have preferred Cambridge; but
had consulted a friend, an Oriel man, who had a great opinion of Oriel;
and Oswald's name had been entered some years back. He rather regretted
it now; but the thing was done. Coningsby, remembering the promise of
the guitar, turned round to claim its fulfilment, but the singer
had made her escape. Time elapsed, and no Miss Millbank reappeared.
Coningsby looked at his watch; he had to go three miles to the train,
which started, as his friend of the previous night would phrase it, at
9.45.

'I should be happy if you remained with us,' said Mr. Millbank; 'but as
you say it is out of your power, in this age of punctual travelling
a host is bound to speed the parting guest. The carriage is ready for
you.'

'Farewell, then, sir. You must make my adieux to Miss Millbank, and
accept my thanks for your great kindness.'

'Farewell, Mr. Coningsby,' said his host, taking his hand, which he
retained for a moment, as if he would say more. Then leaving it, he
repeated with a somewhat wandering air, and in a voice of emotion,
'Farewell, farewell, Mr. Coningsby.'




CHAPTER V.


Towards the end of the session of 1836, the hopes of the Conservative
party were again in the ascendant. The Tadpoles and the Tapers had
infused such enthusiasm into all the country attorneys, who, in their
turn, had so bedeviled the registration, that it was whispered in the
utmost confidence, but as a flagrant truth, that Reaction was at length
'a great fact.' All that was required was the opportunity; but as the
existing parliament was not two years old, and the government had an
excellent working majority, it seemed that the occasion could scarcely
be furnished. Under these circumstances, the backstairs politicians,
not content with having by their premature movements already seriously
damaged the career of their leader, to whom in public they pretended to
be devoted, began weaving again their old intrigues about the court, and
not without effect.

It was said that the royal ear lent itself with no marked repugnance to
suggestions which might rid the sovereign of ministers, who, after all,
were the ministers not of his choice, but of his necessity. But William
IV., after two failures in a similar attempt, after his respective
embarrassing interviews with Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, on their
return to office in 1832 and 1835, was resolved never to make another
move unless it were a checkmate. The king, therefore, listened and
smiled, and loved to talk to his favourites of his private feelings and
secret hopes; the first outraged, the second cherished; and a little of
these revelations of royalty was distilled to great personages, who
in their turn spoke hypothetically to their hangers-on of royal
dispositions, and possible contingencies, while the hangers-on and
go-betweens, in their turn, looked more than they expressed; took
county members by the button into a corner, and advised, as friends, the
representatives of boroughs to look sharply after the next registration.

Lord Monmouth, who was never greater than in adversity, and whose
favourite excitement was to aim at the impossible, had never been more
resolved on a Dukedom than when the Reform Act deprived him of the
twelve votes which he had accumulated to attain that object. While
all his companions in discomfiture were bewailing their irretrievable
overthrow, Lord Monmouth became almost a convert to the measure, which
had furnished his devising and daring mind, palled with prosperity, and
satiated with a life of success, with an object, and the stimulating
enjoyment of a difficulty.

He had early resolved to appropriate to himself a division of the county
in which his chief seat was situate; but what most interested him,
because it was most difficult, was the acquisition of one of the
new boroughs that was in his vicinity, and in which he possessed
considerable property. The borough, however, was a manufacturing town,
and returning only one member, it had hitherto sent up to Westminster a
radical shopkeeper, one Mr. Jawster Sharp, who had taken what is called
'a leading part' in the town on every 'crisis' that had occurred since
1830; one of those zealous patriots who had got up penny subscriptions
for gold cups to Lord Grey; cries for the bill, the whole bill, and
nothing but the bill; and public dinners where the victual was devoured
before grace was said; a worthy who makes speeches, passes resolutions,
votes addresses, goes up with deputations, has at all times the
necessary quantity of confidence in the necessary individual; confidence
in Lord Grey; confidence in Lord Durham; confidence in Lord Melbourne:
and can also, if necessary, give three cheers for the King, or three
groans for the Queen.

But the days of the genus Jawster Sharp were over in this borough as
well as in many others. He had contrived in his lustre of agitation
to feather his nest pretty successfully; by which he had lost public
confidence and gained his private end. Three hungry Jawster Sharps,
his hopeful sons, had all become commissioners of one thing or another;
temporary appointments with interminable duties; a low-church son-in-law
found himself comfortably seated in a chancellor's living; and several
cousins and nephews were busy in the Excise. But Jawster Sharp himself
was as pure as Cato. He had always said he would never touch the public
money, and he had kept his word. It was an understood thing that Jawster
Sharp was never to show his face again on the hustings of Darlford; the
Liberal party was determined to be represented in future by a man of
station, substance, character, a true Reformer, but one who wanted
nothing for himself, and therefore might, if needful, get something for
them. They were looking out for such a man, but were in no hurry. The
seat was looked upon as a good thing; a contest certainly, every place
is contested now, but as certainly a large majority. Notwithstanding
all this confidence, however, Reaction or Registration, or some other
mystification, had produced effects even in this creature of the Reform
Bill, the good Borough of Darlford. The borough that out of gratitude
to Lord Grey returned a jobbing shopkeeper twice to Parliament as its
representative without a contest, had now a Conservative Association,
with a banker for its chairman, and a brewer for its vice-president, and
four sharp lawyers nibbing their pens, noting their memorandum-books,
and assuring their neighbours, with a consoling and complacent air, that
'Property must tell in the long run.' Whispers also were about, that
when the proper time arrived, a Conservative candidate would certainly
have the honour of addressing the electors. No name mentioned, but it
was not concealed that he was to be of no ordinary calibre; a tried man,
a distinguished individual, who had already fought the battle of the
constitution, and served his country in eminent posts; honoured by
the nation, favoured by his sovereign. These important and encouraging
intimations were ably diffused in the columns of the Conservative
journal, and in a style which, from its high tone, evidently
indicated no ordinary source and no common pen. Indeed, there appeared
occasionally in this paper, articles written with such unusual vigour,
that the proprietors of the Liberal journal almost felt the necessity
of getting some eminent hand down from town to compete with them. It was
impossible that they could emanate from the rival Editor. They knew well
the length of their brother's tether. Had they been more versant in the
periodical literature of the day, they might in this 'slashing' style
have caught perhaps a glimpse of the future candidate for their borough,
the Right Honourable Nicholas Rigby.

Lord Monmouth, though he had been absent from England since 1832, had
obtained from his vigilant correspondent a current knowledge of all that
had occurred in the interval: all the hopes, fears, plans, prospects,
manoeuvres, and machinations; their rise and fall; how some had bloomed,
others were blighted; not a shade of reaction that was not represented
to him; not the possibility of an adhesion that was not duly reported;
he could calculate at Naples at any time, within ten, the result of a
dissolution. The season of the year had prevented him crossing the Alps
in 1834, and after the general election he was too shrewd a practiser
in the political world to be deceived as to the ultimate result. Lord
Eskdale, in whose judgment he had more confidence than in that of any
individual, had told him from the first that the pear was not ripe;
Rigby, who always hedged against his interest by the fulfilment of his
prophecy of irremediable discomfiture, was never very sanguine. Indeed,
the whole affair was always considered premature by the good judges;
and a long time elapsed before Tadpole and Taper recovered their secret
influence, or resumed their ostentatious loquacity, or their silent
insolence.

The pear, however, was now ripe. Even Lord Eskdale wrote that after
the forthcoming registration a bet was safe, and Lord Monmouth had the
satisfaction of drawing the Whig Minister at Naples into a cool thousand
on the event. Soon after this he returned to England, and determined
to pay a visit to Coningsby Castle, feast the county, patronise the
borough, diffuse that confidence in the party which his presence never
failed to do; so great and so just was the reliance in his unerring
powers of calculation and his intrepid pluck. Notwithstanding Schedule
A, the prestige of his power had not sensibly diminished, for his
essential resources were vast, and his intellect always made the most of
his influence.

True, however, to his organisation, Lord Monmouth, even to save his
party and gain his dukedom, must not be bored. He, therefore, filled his
castle with the most agreeable people from London, and even secured for
their diversion a little troop of French comedians. Thus supported, he
received his neighbours with all the splendour befitting his immense
wealth and great position, and with one charm which even immense wealth
and great position cannot command, the most perfect manner in the world.
Indeed, Lord Monmouth was one of the most finished gentlemen that
ever lived; and as he was good-natured, and for a selfish man even
good-humoured, there was rarely a cloud of caprice or ill-temper to
prevent his fine manners having their fair play. The country neighbours
were all fascinated; they were received with so much dignity and
dismissed with so much grace. Nobody would believe a word of the stories
against him. Had he lived all his life at Coningsby, fulfilled every
duty of a great English nobleman, benefited the county, loaded the
inhabitants with favours, he would not have been half so popular as he
found himself within a fortnight of his arrival with the worst county
reputation conceivable, and every little squire vowing that he would not
even leave his name at the Castle to show his respect.

Lord Monmouth, whose contempt for mankind was absolute; not a
fluctuating sentiment, not a mournful conviction, ebbing and flowing
with circumstances, but a fixed, profound, unalterable instinct; who
never loved any one, and never hated any one except his own children;
was diverted by his popularity, but he was also gratified by it. At
this moment it was a great element of power; he was proud that, with a
vicious character, after having treated these people with unprecedented
neglect and contumely, he should have won back their golden opinions
in a moment by the magic of manner and the splendour of wealth. His
experience proved the soundness of his philosophy.

Lord Monmouth worshipped gold, though, if necessary, he could squander
it like a caliph. He had even a respect for very rich men; it was his
only weakness, the only exception to his general scorn for his species.
Wit, power, particular friendships, general popularity, public opinion,
beauty, genius, virtue, all these are to be purchased; but it does not
follow that you can buy a rich man: you may not be able or willing to
spare enough. A person or a thing that you perhaps could not buy, became
invested, in the eyes of Lord Monmouth, with a kind of halo amounting
almost to sanctity.

As the prey rose to the bait, Lord Monmouth resolved they should be
gorged. His banquets were doubled; a ball was announced; a public
day fixed; not only the county, but the principal inhabitants of the
neighbouring borough, were encouraged to attend; Lord Monmouth wished
it, if possible, to be without distinction of party. He had come to
reside among his old friends, to live and die where he was born.
The Chairman of the Conservative Association and the Vice President
exchanged glances, which would have become Tadpole and Taper; the
four attorneys nibbed their pens with increased energy, and vowed that
nothing could withstand the influence of the aristocracy 'in the long
run.' All went and dined at the Castle; all returned home overpowered
by the condescension of the host, the beauty of the ladies, several real
Princesses, the splendour of his liveries, the variety of his viands,
and the flavour of his wines. It was agreed that at future meetings of
the Conservative Association, they should always give 'Lord Monmouth
and the House of Lords!' superseding the Duke of Wellington, who was to
figure in an after-toast with the Battle of Waterloo.

It was not without emotion that Coningsby beheld for the first time the
castle that bore his name. It was visible for several miles before he
even entered the park, so proud and prominent was its position, on the
richly-wooded steep of a considerable eminence. It was a castellated
building, immense and magnificent, in a faulty and incongruous style
of architecture, indeed, but compensating in some degree for these
deficiencies of external taste and beauty by the splendour and
accommodation of its exterior, and which a Gothic castle, raised
according to the strict rules of art, could scarcely have afforded. The
declining sun threw over the pile a rich colour as Coningsby approached
it, and lit up with fleeting and fanciful tints the delicate foliage of
the rare shrubs and tall thin trees that clothed the acclivity on which
it stood. Our young friend felt a little embarrassed when, without a
servant and in a hack chaise, he drew up to the grand portal, and
a crowd of retainers came forth to receive him. A superior servant
inquired his name with a stately composure that disdained to be
supercilious. It was not without some degree of pride and satisfaction
that the guest replied, 'Mr. Coningsby.' The instantaneous effect was
magical. It seemed to Coningsby that he was borne on the shoulders
of the people to his apartment; each tried to carry some part of his
luggage; and he only hoped his welcome from their superiors might be as
hearty.




CHAPTER VI.


It appeared to Coningsby in his way to his room, that the Castle was in
a state of great excitement; everywhere bustle, preparation, moving to
and fro, ascending and descending of stairs, servants in every
corner; orders boundlessly given, rapidly obeyed; many desires, equal
gratification. All this made him rather nervous. It was quite unlike
Beaumanoir. That also was a palace, but it was a home. This, though it
should be one to him, seemed to have nothing of that character. Of
all mysteries the social mysteries are the most appalling. Going to
an assembly for the first time is more alarming than the first battle.
Coningsby had never before been in a great house full of company. It
seemed an overwhelming affair. The sight of the servants bewildered him;
how then was he to encounter their masters?

That, however, he must do in a moment. A groom of the chambers indicates
the way to him, as he proceeds with a hesitating yet hurried step
through several ante-chambers and drawing-rooms; then doors are suddenly
thrown open, and he is ushered into the largest and most sumptuous
saloon that he had ever entered. It was full of ladies and gentlemen.
Coningsby for the first time in his life was at a great party. His
immediate emotion was to sink into the earth; but perceiving that no
one even noticed him, and that not an eye had been attracted to his
entrance, he regained his breath and in some degree his composure, and
standing aside, endeavoured to make himself, as well as he could, master
of the land.

Not a human being that he had ever seen before! The circumstance of not
being noticed, which a few minutes since he had felt as a relief, became
now a cause of annoyance. It seemed that he was the only person standing
alone whom no one was addressing. He felt renewed and aggravated
embarrassment, and fancied, perhaps was conscious, that he was blushing.
At length his ear caught the voice of Mr. Rigby. The speaker was not
visible; he was at a distance surrounded by a wondering group, whom he
was severally and collectively contradicting, but Coningsby could not
mistake those harsh, arrogant tones. He was not sorry indeed that Mr.
Rigby did not observe him. Coningsby never loved him particularly, which
was rather ungrateful, for he was a person who had been kind, and, on
the whole, serviceable to him; but Coningsby writhed, especially as he
grew older, under Mr. Rigby's patronising air and paternal tone. Even in
old days, though attentive, Coningsby had never found him affectionate.
Mr. Rigby would tell him what to do and see, but never asked him what
he wished to do and see. It seemed to Coningsby that it was always
contrived that he should appear the _protégé_, or poor relation, of a
dependent of his family. These feelings, which the thought of Mr. Rigby
had revived, caused our young friend, by an inevitable association of
ideas, to remember that, unknown and unnoticed as he might be, he was
the only Coningsby in that proud Castle, except the Lord of the Castle
himself; and he began to be rather ashamed of permitting a sense of his
inexperience in the mere forms and fashions of society so to oppress
him, and deprive him, as it were, of the spirit and carriage which
became alike his character and his position. Emboldened and greatly
restored to himself, Coningsby advanced into the body of the saloon.

On his legs, wearing his blue ribbon and bending his head frequently
to a lady who was seated on a sofa, and continually addressed him,
Coningsby recognised his grandfather. Lord Monmouth was somewhat balder
than four years ago, when he had come down to Montem, and a little
more portly perhaps; but otherwise unchanged. Lord Monmouth
never condescended to the artifices of the toilet, and, indeed,
notwithstanding his life of excess, had little need of them. Nature had
done much for him, and the slow progress of decay was carried off by his
consummate bearing. He looked, indeed, the chieftain of a house of whom
a cadet might be proud.

For Coningsby, not only the chief of his house, but his host too. In
either capacity he ought to address Lord Monmouth. To sit down to dinner
without having previously paid his respects to his grandfather, to whom
he was so much indebted, and whom he had not seen for so many years,
struck him not only as uncourtly, but as unkind and ungrateful, and,
indeed, in the highest degree absurd. But how was he to do it? Lord
Monmouth seemed deeply engaged, and apparently with some very great
lady. And if Coningsby advanced and bowed, in all probability he would
only get a bow in return. He remembered the bow of his first interview.
It had made a lasting impression on his mind. For it was more than
likely Lord Monmouth would not recognise him. Four years had not
sensibly altered Lord Monmouth, but four years had changed Harry
Coningsby from a schoolboy into a man. Then how was he to make himself
known to his grandfather? To announce himself as Coningsby, as his
Lordship's grandson, seemed somewhat ridiculous: to address his
grandfather as Lord Monmouth would serve no purpose: to style Lord
Monmouth 'grandfather' would make every one laugh, and seem stiff and
unnatural. What was he to do? To fall into an attitude and exclaim,
'Behold your grandchild!' or, 'Have you forgotten your Harry?'

Even to catch Lord Monmouth's glance was not an easy affair; he was
much occupied on one side by the great lady, on the other were several
gentlemen who occasionally joined in the conversation. But something
must be done.

There ran through Coningsby's character, as we have before mentioned, a
vein of simplicity which was not its least charm. It resulted, no doubt,
in a great degree from the earnestness of his nature. There never was a
boy so totally devoid of affectation, which was remarkable, for he had a
brilliant imagination, a quality that, from its fantasies, and the
vague and indefinite desires it engenders, generally makes those whose
characters are not formed, affected. The Duchess, who was a fine judge
of character, and who greatly regarded Coningsby, often mentioned this
trait as one which, combined with his great abilities and acquirements
so unusual at his age, rendered him very interesting. In the present
instance it happened that, while Coningsby was watching his grandfather,
he observed a gentleman advance, make his bow, say and receive a few
words and retire. This little incident, however, made a momentary
diversion in the immediate circle of Lord Monmouth, and before they
could all resume their former talk and fall into their previous
positions, an impulse sent forth Coningsby, who walked up to Lord
Monmouth, and standing before him, said,

'How do you do, grandpapa?'

Lord Monmouth beheld his grandson. His comprehensive and penetrating
glance took in every point with a flash. There stood before him one of
the handsomest youths he had ever seen, with a mien as graceful as his
countenance was captivating; and his whole air breathing that freshness
and ingenuousness which none so much appreciates as the used man of the
world. And this was his child; the only one of his blood to whom he had
been kind. It would be exaggeration to say that Lord Monmouth's heart
was touched; but his goodnature effervesced, and his fine taste was
deeply gratified. He perceived in an instant such a relation might be
a valuable adherent; an irresistible candidate for future elections: a
brilliant tool to work out the Dukedom. All these impressions and ideas,
and many more, passed through the quick brain of Lord Monmouth ere the
sound of Coningsby's words had seemed to cease, and long before the
surrounding guests had recovered from the surprise which they had
occasioned them, and which did not diminish, when Lord Monmouth,
advancing, placed his arms round Coningsby with a dignity of affection



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