Benjamin Disraeli.

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domain. Lady Wallinger had once wished to have seen the Castle, and
Coningsby was only too happy in the prospect of escorting her and Edith
over the place; but Oswald had then at once put his veto on the project,
as a thing forbidden; and which, if put in practice, his father would
never pardon. So it passed off, and now Oswald himself was at the gates
of that very domain with his friend who was about to enter them, his
friend whom he might never see again; that Coningsby who, from their
boyish days, had been the idol of his life; whom he had lived to see
appeal to his affections and his sympathy, and whom Oswald was now going
to desert in the midst of his lonely and unsolaced woe.

'I ought not to enter here,' said Oswald, holding the hand of Coningsby
as he hesitated to advance; 'and yet there are duties more sacred even
than obedience to a father. I cannot leave you thus, friend of my best
heart!'

The morning passed away in unceasing yet fruitless speculation on the
future. One moment something was to happen, the next nothing could
occur. Sometimes a beam of hope flashed over the fancy of Coningsby,
and jumping up from the turf, on which they were reclining, he seemed
to exult in his renovated energies; and then this sanguine paroxysm was
succeeded by a fit of depression so dark and dejected that nothing but
the presence of Oswald seemed to prevent Coningsby from flinging himself
into the waters of the Darl.

The day was fast declining, and the inevitable moment of separation was
at hand. Oswald wished to appear at the dinner-table of Hellingsley,
that no suspicion might arise in the mind of his father of his having
accompanied Coningsby home. But just as he was beginning to mention the
necessity of his departure, a flash of lightning seemed to transfix the
heavens. The sky was very dark; though studded here and there with dingy
spots. The young men sprang up at the same time.

'We had better get out of these trees,' said Oswald.

'We had better get to the Castle,' said Coningsby.

A clap of thunder that seemed to make the park quake broke over their
heads, followed by some thick drops. The Castle was close at hand;
Oswald had avoided entering it; but the impending storm was so menacing
that, hurried on by Coningsby, he could make no resistance; and, in a
few minutes, the companions were watching the tempest from the windows
of a room in Coningsby Castle.

The fork-lightning flashed and scintillated from every quarter of the
horizon: the thunder broke over the Castle, as if the keep were rocking
with artillery: amid the momentary pauses of the explosion, the rain was
heard descending like dissolving water-spouts.

Nor was this one of those transient tempests that often agitate
the summer. Time advanced, and its fierceness was little mitigated.
Sometimes there was a lull, though the violence of the rain never
appeared to diminish; but then, as in some pitched fight between
contending hosts, when the fervour of the field seems for a moment to
allay, fresh squadrons arrive and renew the hottest strife, so a low
moaning wind that was now at intervals faintly heard bore up a great
reserve of electric vapour, that formed, as it were, into field in
the space between the Castle and Hellingsley, and then discharged its
violence on that fated district.

Coningsby and Oswald exchanged looks. 'You must not think of going home
at present, my dear fellow,' said the first. 'I am sure your father
would not be displeased. There is not a being here who even knows you,
and if they did, what then?'

The servant entered the room, and inquired whether the gentlemen were
ready for dinner.

'By all means; come, my dear Millbank, I feel reckless as the tempest;
let us drown our cares in wine!'

Coningsby, in fact, was exhausted by all the agitation of the day, and
all the harassing spectres of the future. He found wine a momentary
solace. He ordered the servants away, and for a moment felt a degree of
wild satisfaction in the company of the brother of Edith.

Thus they sat for a long time, talking only of one subject, and
repeating almost the same things, yet both felt happier in being
together. Oswald had risen, and opening the window, examined the
approaching night. The storm had lulled, though the rain still fell; in
the west was a streak of light. In a quarter of an hour, he calculated
on departing. As he was watching the wind he thought he heard the sound
of wheels, which reminded him of Coningsby's promise to lend him a light
carriage for his return.

They sat down once more; they had filled their glasses for the last
time; to pledge to their faithful friendship, and the happiness of
Coningsby and Edith; when the door of the room opened, and there
appeared, MR. RIGBY!

END OF BOOK VII.




BOOK VIII.


CHAPTER I.


It was the heart of the London season, nearly four years ago, twelve
months having almost elapsed since the occurrence of those painful
passages at Hellingsley which closed the last book of this history, and
long lines of carriages an hour before midnight, up the classic mount of
St. James and along Piccadilly, intimated that the world were received
at some grand entertainment in Arlington Street.

It was the town mansion of the noble family beneath whose roof at
Beaumanoir we have more than once introduced the reader, to gain whose
courtyard was at this moment the object of emulous coachmen, and to
enter whose saloons was to reward the martyr-like patience of their
lords and ladies.

Among the fortunate who had already succeeded in bowing to their hostess
were two gentlemen, who, ensconced in a good position, surveyed the
scene, and made their observations on the passing guests. They
were gentlemen who, to judge from their general air and the great
consideration with which they were treated by those who were
occasionally in their vicinity, were personages whose criticism bore
authority.

'I say, Jemmy,' said the eldest, a dandy who had dined with the Regent,
but who was still a dandy, and who enjoyed life almost as much as in the
days when Carlton House occupied the terrace which still bears its name.
'I say, Jemmy, what a load of young fellows there are! Don't know their
names at all. Begin to think fellows are younger than they used to be.
Amazing load of young fellows, indeed!'

At this moment an individual who came under the fortunate designation
of a young fellow, but whose assured carriage hardly intimated that
this was his first season in London, came up to the junior of the two
critics, and said, 'A pretty turn you played us yesterday at White's,
Melton. We waited dinner nearly an hour.'

'My dear fellow, I am infinitely sorry; but I was obliged to go down to
Windsor, and I missed the return train. A good dinner? Who had you?'

'A capital party, only you were wanted. We had Beaumanoir and Vere, and
Jack Tufton and Spraggs.'

'Was Spraggs rich?'

'Wasn't he! I have not done laughing yet. He told us a story about the
little Biron who was over here last year; I knew her at Paris; and an
Indian screen. Killing! Get him to tell it you. The richest thing you
ever heard!'

'Who's your friend?' inquired Mr. Melton's companion, as the young man
moved away.

'Sir Charles Buckhurst.'

'A - h! That is Sir Charles Buckhurst. Glad to have seen him. They say he
is going it.'

'He knows what he is about.'

'Egad! so they all do. A young fellow now of two or three and twenty
knows the world as men used to do after as many years of scrapes. I
wonder where there is such a thing as a greenhorn. Effie Crabbs says
the reason he gives up his house is, that he has cleaned out the old
generation, and that the new generation would clean him.'

'Buckhurst is not in that sort of way: he swears by Henry Sydney, a
younger son of the Duke, whom you don't know; and young Coningsby; a
sort of new set; new ideas and all that sort of thing. Beau tells me
a good deal about it; and when I was staying with the Everinghams,
at Easter, they were full of it. Coningsby had just returned from his
travels, and they were quite on the _qui vive_. Lady Everingham is one
of their set. I don't know what it is exactly; but I think we shall hear
more of it.'

'A sort of animal magnetism, or unknown tongues, I take it from your
description,' said his companion.

'Well, I don't know what it is,' said Mr. Melton; 'but it has got hold
of all the young fellows who have just come out. Beau is a little bit
himself. I had some idea of giving my mind to it, they made such a fuss
about it at Everingham; but it requires a devilish deal of history, I
believe, and all that sort of thing.'

'Ah! that's a bore,' said his companion. 'It is difficult to turn to
with a new thing when you are not in the habit of it. I never could
manage charades.'

Mr. Ormsby, passing by, stopped. 'They told me you had the gout,
Cassilis?' he said to Mr. Melton's companion.

'So I had; but I have found out a fellow who cures the gout instanter.
Tom Needham sent him to me. A German fellow. Pumicestone pills; sort
of a charm, I believe, and all that kind of thing: they say it rubs the
gout out of you. I sent him to Luxborough, who was very bad; cured him
directly. Luxborough swears by him.'

'Luxborough believes in the Millennium,' said Mr. Ormsby.

'But here's a new thing that Melton has been telling me of, that all the
world is going to believe in,' said Mr. Cassilis, 'something patronised
by Lady Everingham.'

'A very good patroness,' said Mr. Ormsby.

'Have you heard anything about it?' continued Mr. Cassilis. 'Young
Coningsby brought it from abroad; didn't you you say so, Jemmy?'

'No, no, my dear fellow; it is not at all that sort of thing.'

'But they say it requires a deuced deal of history,' continued Mr.
Cassilis. 'One must brush up one's Goldsmith. Canterton used to be the
fellow for history at White's. He was always boring one with William the
Conqueror, Julius Caesar, and all that sort of thing.'

'I tell you what,' said Mr. Ormsby, looking both sly and solemn, 'I
should not be surprised if, some day or another, we have a history about
Lady Everingham and young Coningsby.'

'Poh!' said Mr. Melton; 'he is engaged to be married to her sister, Lady
Theresa.'

'The deuce!' said Mr. Ormsby; 'well, you are a friend of the family, and
I suppose you know.'

'He is a devilish good-looking fellow, that young Coningsby,' said Mr.
Cassilis. 'All the women are in love with him, they say. Lady Eleanor
Ducie quite raves about him.'

'By-the-bye, his grandfather has been very unwell,' said Mr. Ormsby,
looking mysteriously.

'I saw Lady Monmouth here just now,' said Mr. Melton.

'Oh! he is quite well again,' said Mr. Ormsby.

'Got an odd story at White's that Lord Monmouth was going to separate
from her,' said Mr. Cassilis.

'No foundation,' said Mr. Ormsby, shaking his head.

'They are not going to separate, I believe,' said Mr. Melton; 'but I
rather think there was a foundation for the rumour.'

Mr. Ormsby still shook his head.

'Well,' continued Mr. Melton, 'all I know is, that it was looked upon
last winter at Paris as a settled thing.'

'There was some story about some Hungarian,' said Mr. Cassilis.

'No, that blew over,' said Mr. Melton; 'it was Trautsmansdorff the row
was about.'

All this time Mr. Ormsby, as the friend of Lord and Lady Monmouth,
remained shaking his head; but as a member of society, and therefore
delighting in small scandal, appropriating the gossip with the greatest
avidity.

'I should think old Monmouth was not the sort of fellow to blow up a
woman,' said Mr. Cassilis.

'Provided she would leave him quietly,' said Mr. Melton.

'Yes, Lord Monmouth never could live with a woman more than two years,'
said Mr. Ormsby, pensively. 'And that I thought at the time rather an
objection to his marriage.'

We must now briefly revert to what befell our hero after those unhappy
occurrences in the midst of whose first woe we left him.

The day after the arrival of Mr. Rigby at the Castle, Coningsby quitted
it for London, and before a week had elapsed had embarked for Cadiz. He
felt a romantic interest in visiting the land to which Edith owed some
blood, and in acquiring the language which he had often admired as she
spoke it. A favourable opportunity permitted him in the autumn to visit
Athens and the AEgean, which he much desired. In the pensive beauties
of that delicate land, where perpetual autumn seems to reign, Coningsby
found solace. There is something in the character of Grecian scenery
which blends with the humour of the melancholy and the feelings of
the sorrowful. Coningsby passed his winter at Rome. The wish of his
grandfather had rendered it necessary for him to return to England
somewhat abruptly. Lord Monmouth had not visited his native country
since his marriage; but the period that had elapsed since that event had
considerably improved the prospects of his party. The majority of the
Whig Cabinet in the House of Commons by 1840 had become little more than
nominal; and though it was circulated among their friends, as if from
the highest authority, that 'one was enough,' there seemed daily a
better chance of their being deprived even of that magical unit. For the
first time in the history of this country since the introduction of the
system of parliamentary sovereignty, the Government of England depended
on the fate of single elections; and indeed, by a single vote, it is
remarkable to observe, the fate of the Whig Government was ultimately
decided.

This critical state of affairs, duly reported to Lord Monmouth, revived
his political passions, and offered him that excitement which he was
ever seeking, and yet for which he had often sighed. The Marquess, too,
was weary of Paris. Every day he found it more difficult to be amused.
Lucretia had lost her charm. He, from whom nothing could be concealed,
perceived that often, while she elaborately attempted to divert him, her
mind was wandering elsewhere. Lord Monmouth was quite superior to all
petty jealousy and the vulgar feelings of inferior mortals, but his
sublime selfishness required devotion. He had calculated that a wife
or a mistress who might be in love with another man, however powerfully
their interests might prompt them, could not be so agreeable or amusing
to their friends and husbands as if they had no such distracting hold
upon their hearts or their fancy. Latterly at Paris, while Lucretia
became each day more involved in the vortex of society, where all
admired and some adored her, Lord Monmouth fell into the easy habit of
dining in his private rooms, sometimes tête-à-tête with Villebecque,
whose inexhaustible tales and adventures about a kind of society which
Lord Monmouth had always preferred infinitely to the polished and
somewhat insipid circles in which he was born, had rendered him the
prime favourite of his great patron. Sometimes Villebecque, too, brought
a friend, male or otherwise, whom he thought invested with the rare
faculty of distraction: Lord Monmouth cared not who or what they were,
provided they were diverting.

Villebecque had written to Coningsby at Rome, by his grandfather's
desire, to beg him to return to England and meet Lord Monmouth there.
The letter was couched with all the respect and good feeling which
Villebecque really entertained for him whom he addressed; still a letter
on such a subject from such a person was not agreeable to Coningsby, and
his reply to it was direct to his grandfather; Lord Monmouth, however,
had entirely given over writing letters.

Coningsby had met at Paris, on his way to England, Lord and Lady
Everingham, and he had returned with them. This revival of an old
acquaintance was both agreeable and fortunate for our hero. The vivacity
of a clever and charming woman pleasantly disturbed the brooding memory
of Coningsby. There is no mortification however keen, no misery however
desperate, which the spirit of woman cannot in some degree lighten or
alleviate. About, too, to make his formal entrance into the great
world, he could not have secured a more valuable and accomplished
female friend. She gave him every instruction, every intimation that
was necessary; cleared the social difficulties which in some degree are
experienced on their entrance into the world even by the most highly
connected, unless they have this benign assistance; planted him
immediately in the position which was expedient; took care that he was
invited at once to the right houses; and, with the aid of her husband,
that he should become a member of the right clubs.

'And who is to have the blue ribbon, Lord Eskdale?' said the Duchess to
that nobleman, as he entered and approached to pay his respects.

'If I were Melbourne, I would keep it open,' replied his Lordship. 'It
is a mistake to give away too quickly.'

'But suppose they go out,' said her Grace.

'Oh! there is always a last day to clear the House. But they will be
in another year. The cliff will not be sapped before then. We made a
mistake last year about the ladies.'

'I know you always thought so.'

'Quarrels about women are always a mistake. One should make it a rule to
give up to them, and then they are sure to give up to us.'

'You have no great faith in our firmness?'

'Male firmness is very often obstinacy: women have always something
better, worth all qualities; they have tact.'

'A compliment to the sex from so finished a critic as Lord Eskdale is
appreciated.'

But at this moment the arrival of some guests terminated the
conversation, and Lord Eskdale moved away, and approached a group which
Lady Everingham was enlightening.

'My dear Lord Fitz-booby,' her Ladyship observed, 'in politics we
require faith as well as in all other things.'

Lord Fitz-booby looked rather perplexed; but, possessed of considerable
official experience, having held high posts, some in the cabinet, for
nearly a quarter of a century, he was too versed to acknowledge that he
had not understood a single word that had been addressed to him for the
last ten minutes. He looked on with the same grave, attentive stolidity,
occasionally nodding his head, as he was wont of yore when he received
a deputation on sugar duties or joint-stock banks, and when he made,
as was his custom when particularly perplexed, an occasional note on a
sheet of foolscap paper.

'An Opposition in an age of revolution,' continued Lady Everingham,
'must be founded on principles. It cannot depend on mere personal
ability and party address taking advantage of circumstances. You have
not enunciated a principle for the last ten years; and when you seemed
on the point of acceding to power, it was not on a great question of
national interest, but a technical dispute respecting the constitution
of an exhausted sugar colony.'

'If you are a Conservative party, we wish to know what you want to
conserve,' said Lord Vere.

'If it had not been for the Whig abolition of slavery,' said Lord
Fitz-booby, goaded into repartee, 'Jamaica would not have been an
exhausted sugar colony.'

'Then what you do want to conserve is slavery?' said Lord Vere.

'No,' said Lord Fitz-booby, 'I am never for retracing our steps.'

'But will you advance, will you move? And where will you advance, and
how will you move?' said Lady Everingham.

'I think we have had quite enough of advancing,' said his Lordship. 'I
had no idea your Ladyship was a member of the Movement party,' he added,
with a sarcastic grin.

'But if it were bad, Lord Fitz-booby, to move where we are, as you
and your friends have always maintained, how can you reconcile it to
principle to remain there?' said Lord Vere.

'I would make the best of a bad bargain,' said Lord Fitz-booby. 'With
a Conservative government, a reformed Constitution would be less
dangerous.'

'Why?' said Lady Everingham. 'What are your distinctive principles that
render the peril less?'

'I appeal to Lord Eskdale,' said Lord Fitz-booby; 'there is Lady
Everingham turned quite a Radical, I declare. Is not your Lordship of
opinion that the country must be safer with a Conservative government
than with a Liberal?'

'I think the country is always tolerably secure,' said Lord Eskdale.

Lady Theresa, leaning on the arm of Mr. Lyle, came up at this moment,
and unconsciously made a diversion in favour of Lord Fitz-booby.

'Pray, Theresa,' said Lady Everingham, 'where is Mr. Coningsby?'

Let us endeavour to ascertain. It so happened that on this day Coningsby
and Henry Sydney dined at Grillion's, at an university club, where,
among many friends whom Coningsby had not met for a long time, and among
delightful reminiscences, the unconscious hours stole on. It was late
when they quitted Grillion's, and Coningsby's brougham was detained for
a considerable time before its driver could insinuate himself into the
line, which indeed he would never have succeeded in doing had not he
fortunately come across the coachman of the Duke of Agincourt, who being
of the same politics as himself, belonging to the same club, and always
black-balling the same men, let him in from a legitimate party feeling;
so they arrived in Arlington Street at a very late hour.

Coningsby was springing up the staircase, now not so crowded as it had
been, and met a retiring party; he was about to say a passing word to a
gentleman as he went by, when, suddenly, Coningsby turned deadly pale.
The gentleman could hardly be the cause, for it was the gracious and
handsome presence of Lord Beaumanoir: the lady resting on his arm was
Edith. They moved on while he was motionless; yet Edith and himself
had exchanged glances. His was one of astonishment; but what was the
expression of hers? She must have recognised him before he had observed
her. She was collected, and she expressed the purpose of her mind in
a distant and haughty recognition. Coningsby remained for a moment
stupefied; then suddenly turning back, he bounded downstairs and hurried
into the cloak-room. He met Lady Wallinger; he spoke rapidly, he held
her hand, did not listen to her answers, his eyes wandered about. There
were many persons present, at length he recognised Edith enveloped in
her mantle. He went forward, he looked at her, as if he would have read
her soul; he said something. She changed colour as he addressed her,
but seemed instantly by an effort to rally and regain her equanimity;
replied to his inquiries with extreme brevity, and Lady Wallinger's
carriage being announced, moved away with the same slight haughty salute
as before, on the arm of Lord Beaumanoir.




CHAPTER II.


Sadness fell over the once happy family of Millbank after the departure
of Coningsby from Hellingsley. When the first pang was over, Edith
had found some solace in the sympathy of her aunt, who had always
appreciated and admired Coningsby; but it was a sympathy which aspired
only to soften sorrow, and not to create hope. But Lady Wallinger,
though she lengthened her visit for the sake of her niece, in time
quitted them; and then the name of Coningsby was never heard by Edith.
Her brother, shortly after the sorrowful and abrupt departure of his
friend, had gone to the factories, where he remained, and of which, in
future, it was intended that he should assume the principal direction.
Mr. Millbank himself, sustained at first by the society of his friend
Sir Joseph, to whom he was attached, and occupied with daily reports
from his establishment and the transaction of the affairs with his
numerous and busy constituents, was for a while scarcely conscious of
the alteration which had taken place in the demeanour of his daughter.
But when they were once more alone together, it was impossible any
longer to be blind to the great change. That happy and equable gaiety of
spirit, which seemed to spring from an innocent enjoyment of existence,
and which had ever distinguished Edith, was wanting. Her sunny glance
was gone. She was not indeed always moody and dispirited, but she was
fitful, unequal in her tone. That temper whose sweetness had been a
domestic proverb had become a little uncertain. Not that her affection
for her father was diminished, but there were snatches of unusual
irritability which momentarily escaped her, followed by bursts of
tenderness that were the creatures of compunction. And often, after some
hasty word, she would throw her arms round her father's neck with the
fondness of remorse. She pursued her usual avocations, for she had
really too well-regulated a mind, she was in truth a person of
too strong an intellect, to neglect any source of occupation and
distraction. Her flowers, her pencil, and her books supplied her with



Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliConingsby → online text (page 32 of 39)