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me than the stage.'

'But you hear what this gentleman says,' said Villebecque, returning
her embrace. 'He tells you that his grandfather, my Lord Marquess, I
believe, sir, that every one, that - '

'Oh, no, no, no!' said Flora, shaking her head. 'He comes here because
he is generous, because he is a gentleman; and he wished to soothe the
soul that he knew was suffering. Thank him, my father, thank him for
me and before me, and promise in his presence that the stage and your
daughter have parted for ever.'

'Nay, Mademoiselle,' said Coningsby, advancing and venturing to take her
hand, a soft hand, 'make no such resolutions to-night. M. Villebecque
can have no other thought or object but your happiness; and, believe me,
'tis not I only, but all, who appreciate, and, if they were here, must
respect you.'

'I prefer respect to admiration,' said Flora; 'but I fear that respect
is not the appanage of such as I am.'

'All must respect those who respect themselves,' said Coningsby. 'Adieu,
Mademoiselle; I trust to-morrow to hear that you are yourself.' He bowed
to Villebecque and retired.

In the meantime affairs in the drawing-room assumed a very different
character from those behind the scenes. Coningsby returned to
brilliancy, groups apparently gushing with light-heartedness, universal
content, and Russian dances!

'And you too, do you dance the Russian dances, Mr. Coningsby?' said
Madame Colonna.

'I cannot dance at all,' said Coningsby, beginning a little to lose his
pride in the want of an accomplishment which at Eton he had thought it
spirited to despise.

'Ah! you cannot dance the Russian dances! Lucretia shall teach you,'
said the Princess; 'nothing will please her so much.'

On the present occasion the ladies were not so experienced in the
entertainment as the gentlemen; but there was amusement in being
instructed. To be disciplined by a Grand-duke or a Russian Princess
was all very well; but what even good-tempered Lady Gaythorp could not
pardon was, that a certain Mrs. Guy Flouncey, whom they were all of them
trying to put down and to keep down, on this, as almost on every
other occasion, proved herself a more finished performer than even the
Russians themselves.

Lord Monmouth had picked up the Guy Flounceys during a Roman winter.
They were people of some position in society. Mr. Guy Flouncey was a man
of good estate, a sportsman, proud of his pretty wife. Mrs. Guy Flouncey
was even very pretty, dressed in a style of ultra fashion. However, she
could sing, dance, act, ride, and talk, and all well; and was mistress
of the art of flirtation. She had amused the Marquess abroad, and had
taken care to call at Monmouth House the instant the _Morning Post_
apprised her he had arrived in England; the consequence was an
invitation to Coningsby. She came with a wardrobe which, in point of
variety, fancy, and fashion, never was surpassed. Morning and evening,
every day a new dress equally striking; and a riding habit that was the
talk and wonder of the whole neighbourhood. Mrs. Guy Flouncey created
far more sensation in the borough when she rode down the High Street,
than what the good people called the real Princesses.

At first the fine ladies never noticed her, or only stared at her over
their shoulders; everywhere sounded, in suppressed whispers, the fatal
question, 'Who is she?' After dinner they formed always into polite
groups, from which Mrs. Guy Flouncey was invariably excluded; and if
ever the Princess Colonna, impelled partly by goodnature, and partly
from having known her on the Continent, did kindly sit by her, Lady St.
Julians, or some dame equally benevolent, was sure, by an adroit appeal
to Her Highness on some point which could not be decided without moving,
to withdraw her from her pretty and persecuted companion.

It was, indeed, rather difficult work the first few days for Mrs. Guy
Flouncey, especially immediately after dinner. It is not soothing to
one's self-love to find oneself sitting alone, pretending to look at
prints, in a fine drawing-room, full of fine people who don't speak
to you. But Mrs. Guy Flouncey, after having taken Coningsby Castle by
storm, was not to be driven out of its drawing-room by the tactics
even of a Lady St. Julians. Experience convinced her that all that was
required was a little patience. Mrs. Guy had confidence in herself, her
quickness, her ever ready accomplishments, and her practised powers of
attraction. And she was right. She was always sure of an ally the moment
the gentlemen appeared. The cavalier who had sat next to her at dinner
was only too happy to meet her again. More than once, too, she had
caught her noble host, though a whole garrison was ever on the watch to
prevent her, and he was greatly amused, and showed that he was greatly
amused by her society. Then she suggested plans to him to divert his
guests. In a country-house the suggestive mind is inestimable. Somehow
or other, before a week passed, Mrs. Guy Flouncey seemed the soul of
everything, was always surrounded by a cluster of admirers, and with
what are called 'the best men' ever ready to ride with her, dance
with her, act with her, or fall at her feet. The fine ladies found it
absolutely necessary to thaw: they began to ask her questions after
dinner. Mrs. Guy Flouncey only wanted an opening. She was an adroit
flatterer, with a temper imperturbable, and gifted with a ceaseless
energy of conferring slight obligations. She lent them patterns for new
fashions, in all which mysteries she was very versant; and what with
some gentle glozing and some gay gossip, sugar for their tongues and
salt for their tails, she contrived pretty well to catch them all.


Nothing could present a greater contrast than the respective interiors
of Coningsby and Beaumanoir. That air of habitual habitation, which so
pleasingly distinguished the Duke's family seat, was entirely wanting
at Coningsby. Everything, indeed, was vast and splendid; but it seemed
rather a gala-house than a dwelling; as if the grand furniture and
the grand servants had all come down express from town with the grand
company, and were to disappear and to be dispersed at the same time. And
truly there were manifold traces of hasty and temporary arrangement;
new carpets and old hangings; old paint, new gilding; battalions of odd
French chairs, squadrons of queer English tables; and large tasteless
lamps and tawdry chandeliers, evidently true cockneys, and only taking
the air by way of change. There was, too, throughout the drawing-rooms
an absence of all those minor articles of ornamental furniture that are
the offering of taste to the home we love. There were no books neither;
few flowers; no pet animals; no portfolios of fine drawings by our
English artists like the album of the Duchess, full of sketches by
Landseer and Stanfield, and their gifted brethren; not a print even,
except portfolios of H. B.'s caricatures. The modes and manners of the
house were not rural; there was nothing of the sweet order of a country
life. Nobody came down to breakfast; the ladies were scarcely seen
until dinner-time; they rolled about in carriages together late in the
afternoon as if they were in London, or led a sort of factitious boudoir
life in their provincial dressing-rooms.

The Marquess sent for Coningsby the morning after his arrival and asked
him to breakfast with him in his private rooms. Nothing could be
more kind or more agreeable than his grandfather. He appeared to be
interested in his grandson's progress, was glad to find Coningsby had
distinguished himself at Eton, solemnly adjured him not to neglect his
French. A classical education, he said, was a very admirable thing, and
one which all gentlemen should enjoy; but Coningsby would find some day
that there were two educations, one which his position required, and
another which was demanded by the world. 'French, my dear Harry,' he
continued, 'is the key to this second education. In a couple of years
or so you will enter the world; it is a different thing to what you read
about. It is a masquerade; a motley, sparkling multitude, in which
you may mark all forms and colours, and listen to all sentiments and
opinions; but where all you see and hear has only one object, plunder.
When you get into this crowd you will find that Greek and Latin are not
so much diffused as you imagine. I was glad to hear you speaking French
yesterday. Study your accent. There are a good many foreigners here with
whom you may try your wing a little; don't talk to any of them too
much. Be very careful of intimacies. All the people here are good
acquaintance; at least pretty well. Now, here,' said the Marquess,
taking up a letter and then throwing it on the table again, 'now here is
a man whom I should like you to know, Sidonia. He will be here in a few
days. Lay yourself out for him if you have the opportunity. He is a
man of rare capacity, and enormously rich. No one knows the world like
Sidonia. I never met his equal; and 'tis so pleasant to talk with one
that can want nothing of you.'

Lord Monmouth had invited Coningsby to take a drive with him in the
afternoon. The Marquess wished to show a part of his domain to the
Ambassadress. Only Lucretia, he said, would be with them, and there was
a place for him. This invitation was readily accepted by Coningsby, who
was not yet sufficiently established in the habits of the house exactly
to know how to pass his morning. His friend and patron, Mr. Rigby, was
entirely taken up with the Grand-duke, whom he was accompanying all
over the neighbourhood, in visits to manufactures, many of which Rigby
himself saw for the first time, but all of which he fluently explained
to his Imperial Highness. In return for this, he extracted much
information from the Grand-duke on Russian plans and projects, materials
for a 'slashing' article against the Russophobia that he was preparing,
and in which he was to prove that Muscovite aggression was an English
interest, and entirely to be explained by the want of sea-coast, which
drove the Czar, for the pure purposes of commerce, to the Baltic and the

When the hour for the drive arrived, Coningsby found Lucretia, a young
girl when he had first seen her only four years back, and still his
junior, in that majestic dame who had conceded a superb recognition to
him the preceding eve. She really looked older than Madame Colonna; who,
very beautiful, very young-looking, and mistress of the real arts of
the toilet, those that cannot be detected, was not in the least altered
since she first so cordially saluted Coningsby as her dear young friend
at Monmouth House.

The day was delightful, the park extensive and picturesque, the
Ambassadress sparkling with anecdote, and occasionally, in a low voice,
breathing a diplomatic hint to Lord Monmouth, who bowed his graceful
consciousness of her distinguished confidence. Coningsby occasionally
took advantage of one of those moments, when the conversation ceased to
be general, to address Lucretia, who replied in calm, fine smiles, and
in affable monosyllables. She indeed generally succeeded in conveying an
impression to those she addressed, that she had never seen them before,
did not care to see them now, and never wished to see them again. And
all this, too, with an air of great courtesy.

They arrived at the brink of a wooded bank; at their feet flowed a
fine river, deep and rushing, though not broad; its opposite bank the
boundary of a richly-timbered park.

'Ah! this is beautiful!' exclaimed the Ambassadress. 'And is that yours,
Lord Monmouth?'

'Not yet,' said the Marquess. 'That is Hellingsley; it is one of the
finest places in the county, with a splendid estate; not so considerable
as Coningsby, but very great. It belongs to an old, a very old man,
without a relative in the world. It is known that the estate will be
sold at his death, which may be almost daily expected. Then it is mine.
No one can offer for it what I can afford. For it gives me this division
of the county, Princess. To possess Hellingsley is one of my objects.'
The Marquess spoke with an animation unusual with him, almost with a
degree of excitement.

The wind met them as they returned, the breeze blew rather freshly.
Lucretia all of a sudden seemed touched with unusual emotion. She was
alarmed lest Lord Monmouth should catch cold; she took a kerchief from
her own well-turned throat to tie round his neck. He feebly resisted,
evidently much pleased.

The Princess Lucretia was highly accomplished. In the evening, having
refused several distinguished guests, but instantly yielding to the
request of Lord Monmouth, she sang. It was impossible to conceive a
contralto of more thrilling power, or an execution more worthy of the
voice. Coningsby, who was not experienced in fine singing, listened as
if to a supernatural lay, but all agreed it was of the highest class of
nature and of art; and the Grand-duke was in raptures. Lucretia received
even his Highness' compliments with a graceful indifference. Indeed, to
those who watched her demeanour, it might be remarked that she seemed to
yield to none, although all bowed before her.

Madame Colonna, who was always kind to Coningsby, expressed to him
her gratification from the party of the morning. It must have been
delightful, she assured Coningsby, for Lord Monmouth to have had both
Lucretia and his grandson with him; and Lucretia too, she added, must
have been so pleased.

Coningsby could not make out why Madame Colonna was always intimating
to him that the Princess Lucretia took such great interest in his
existence, looked forward with such gratification to his society,
remembered with so much pleasure the past, anticipated so much happiness
from the future. It appeared to him that he was to Lucretia, if not an
object of repugnance, as he sometimes fancied, certainly one only of
absolute indifference; but he said nothing. He had already lived long
enough to know that it is unwise to wish everything explained.

In the meantime his life was agreeable. Every day, he found, added to
his acquaintance. He was never without a companion to ride or to shoot
with; and of riding Coningsby was very fond. His grandfather, too, was
continually giving him goodnatured turns, and making him of consequence
in the Castle: so that all the guests were fully impressed with the
importance of Lord Monmouth's grandson. Lady St. Julians pronounced him
distinguished; the Ambassadress thought diplomacy should be his part,
as he had a fine person and a clear brain; Madame Colonna spoke of him
always as if she took intense interest in his career, and declared she
liked him almost as much as Lucretia did; the Russians persisted
in always styling him 'the young Marquess,' notwithstanding the
Ambassador's explanations; Mrs. Guy Flouncey made a dashing attack
on him; but Coningsby remembered a lesson which Lady Everingham had
graciously bestowed on him. He was not to be caught again easily.
Besides, Mrs. Guy Flouncey laughed a little too much, and talked a
little too loud.

As time flew on, there were changes of visitors, chiefly among the
single men. At the end of the first week after Coningsby's arrival, Lord
Eskdale appeared, bringing with him Lucian Gay; and soon after followed
the Marquess of Beaumanoir and Mr. Melton. These were all heroes who,
in their way, interested the ladies, and whose advent was hailed
with general satisfaction. Even Lucretia would relax a little to Lord
Eskdale. He was one of her oldest friends, and with a simplicity of
manner which amounted almost to plainness, and with rather a cynical
nonchalance in his carriage towards men, Lord Eskdale was invariably a
favourite with women. To be sure his station was eminent; he was noble,
and very rich, and very powerful, and these are qualities which tell as
much with the softer as the harsher sex; but there are individuals with
all these qualities who are nevertheless unpopular with women. Lord
Eskdale was easy, knew the world thoroughly, had no prejudices, and,
above all, had a reputation for success. A reputation for success has as
much influence with women as a reputation for wealth has with men. Both
reputations may be, and often are, unjust; but we see persons daily make
good fortunes by them all the same. Lord Eskdale was not an impostor;
and though he might not have been so successful a man had he not been
Lord Eskdale, still, thrown over by a revolution, he would have lighted
on his legs.

The arrival of this nobleman was the occasion of giving a good turn to
poor Flora. He went immediately to see his friend Villebecque and his
troop. Indeed it was a sort of society which pleased Lord Eskdale more
than that which is deemed more refined. He was very sorry about 'La
Petite;' but thought that everything would come right in the long run;
and told Villebecque that he was glad to hear him well spoken of here,
especially by the Marquess, who seemed to take to him. As for Flora, he
was entirely against her attempting the stage again, at least for the
present, but as she was a good musician, he suggested to the Princess
Lucretia one night, that the subordinate aid of Flora might be of
service to her, and permit her to favour her friends with some pieces
which otherwise she must deny to them. This suggestion was successful;
Flora was introduced occasionally, soon often, to their parties in the
evening, and her performances were in every respect satisfactory. There
was nothing to excite the jealousy of Lucretia either in her style or
her person. And yet she sang well enough, and was a quiet, refined,
retiring, by no means disagreeable person. She was the companion of
Lucretia very often in the morning as well as in the illumined saloon;
for the Princess was devoted to the art in which she excelled. This
connexion on the whole contributed to the happiness of poor Flora. True
it was, in the evening she often found herself sitting or standing alone
and no one noticing her; she had no dazzling quality to attract men of
fashion, who themselves love to worship ever the fashionable. Even
their goddesses must be _à la mode_. But Coningsby never omitted an
opportunity to show Flora some kindness under these circumstances.
He always came and talked to her, and praised her singing, and would
sometimes hand her refreshments and give her his arm if necessary. These
slight attentions coming from the grandson of Lord Monmouth were for
the world redoubled in their value, though Flora thought only of their
essential kindness; all in character with that first visit which dwelt
on the poor girl's memory, though it had long ago escaped that of her
visitor. For in truth Coningsby had no other impulse for his conduct but

Thus we have attempted to give some faint idea how life glided away at
the Castle the first fortnight that Coningsby passed there. Perhaps we
ought not to omit that Mrs. Guy Flouncey, to the infinite disgust of
Lady St. Julians, who had a daughter with her, successfully entrapped
the devoted attentions of the young Marquess of Beaumanoir, who was
never very backward if a lady would take trouble enough; while his
friend, Mr. Melton, whose barren homage Lady St. Julians wished
her daughter ever particularly to shun, employed all his gaiety,
good-humour, frivolity, and fashion in amusing that young lady, and with
irresistible effect. For the rest, they continued, though they had only
partridges to shoot, to pass the morning without weariness. The weather
was fine; the stud numerous; all might be mounted. The Grand-duke and
his suite, guided by Mr. Rigby, had always some objects to visit, and
railroads returned them just in time for the banquet with an appetite
which they had earned, and during which Rigby recounted their
achievements, and his own opinions.

The dinner was always firstrate; the evening never failed; music,
dancing, and the theatre offered great resources independently of the
soul-subduing sentiment harshly called flirtation, and which is the
spell of a country house. Lord Monmouth was satisfied, for he had
scarcely ever felt wearied. All that he required in life was to be
amused; perhaps that was not all he required, but it was indispensable.
Nor was it wonderful that on the present occasion he obtained his
purpose, for there were half a hundred of the brightest eyes
and quickest brains ever on the watch or the whirl to secure him
distraction. The only circumstance that annoyed him was the non-arrival
of Sidonia. Lord Monmouth could not bear to be disappointed. He could
not refrain from saying, notwithstanding all the resources and all the
exertions of his guests,

'I cannot understand why Sidonia does not come. I wish Sidonia were

'So do I,' said Lord Eskdale; 'Sidonia is the only man who tells one
anything new.'

'We saw Sidonia at Lord Studcaster's,' said Lord Beaumanoir. 'He told
Melton he was coming here.'

'You know he has bought all Studcaster's horses,' said Mr. Melton.

'I wonder he does not buy Studcaster himself,' said Lord Monmouth; 'I
would if I were he; Sidonia can buy anything,' he turned to Mrs. Guy

'I wonder who Sidonia is,' thought Mrs. Guy Flouncey, but she was
determined no one should suppose she did not know.

At length one day Coningsby met Madame Colonna in the vestibule before

'Milor is in such good temper, Mr. Coningsby,' she said; 'Monsieur de
Sidonia has arrived.'

About ten minutes before dinner there was a stir in the chamber.
Coningsby looked round. He saw the Grand-duke advancing, and holding out
his hand in a manner the most gracious. A gentleman, of distinguished
air, but with his back turned to Coningsby, was bowing as he received
his Highness' greeting. There was a general pause in the room. Several
came forward: even the Marquess seemed a little moved. Coningsby could
not resist the impulse of curiosity to see this individual of whom he
had heard so much. He glided round the room, and caught the countenance
of his companion in the forest inn; he who announced to him, that 'the
Age of Ruins was past.'


Sidonia was descended from a very ancient and noble family of Arragon,
that, in the course of ages, had given to the state many distinguished
citizens. In the priesthood its members had been peculiarly eminent.
Besides several prelates, they counted among their number an Archbishop
of Toledo; and a Sidonia, in a season of great danger and difficulty,
had exercised for a series of years the paramount office of Grand

Yet, strange as it may sound, it is nevertheless a fact, of which there
is no lack of evidence, that this illustrious family during all this
period, in common with two-thirds of the Arragonese nobility, secretly
adhered to the ancient faith and ceremonies of their fathers; a belief
in the unity of the God of Sinai, and the rights and observances of the
laws of Moses.

Whence came those Mosaic Arabs whose passages across the strait from
Africa to Europe long preceded the invasion of the Mohammedan Arabs, it
is now impossible to ascertain. Their traditions tell us that from time
immemorial they had sojourned in Africa; and it is not improbable that
they may have been the descendants of some of the earlier dispersions;
like those Hebrew colonies that we find in China, and who probably
emigrated from Persia in the days of the great monarchies. Whatever may
have been their origin in Africa, their fortunes in Southern Europe
are not difficult to trace, though the annals of no race in any age can
detail a history of such strange vicissitudes, or one rife with more
touching and romantic incident. Their unexampled prosperity in the
Spanish Peninsula, and especially in the south, where they had become
the principal cultivators of the soil, excited the jealousy of the
Goths; and the Councils of Toledo during the sixth and seventh
centuries attempted, by a series of decrees worthy of the barbarians who
promulgated them, to root the Jewish Arabs out of the land. There is no
doubt the Council of Toledo led, as directly as the lust of Roderick,
to the invasion of Spain by the Moslemin Arabs. The Jewish population,
suffering under the most sanguinary and atrocious persecution, looked to
their sympathising brethren of the Crescent, whose camps already gleamed
on the opposite shore. The overthrow of the Gothic kingdoms was as much
achieved by the superior information which the Saracens received from
their suffering kinsmen, as by the resistless valour of the Desert. The
Saracen kingdoms were established. That fair and unrivalled civilisation

Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliConingsby → online text (page 17 of 39)