Benjamin Disraeli.

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which all agreed must be pleasant; no strangers to amuse, or to be
amusing, but formed merely of four human beings who spent every day of
their lives in each other's society, between whom there was the most
complete sympathy and the most cordial good-will.

By noon they were all mounted on their steeds, and though the air was
warmed by a meridian sun shining in a clear sky, there was a gentle
breeze abroad, sweet and grateful; and moreover they soon entered the
wood and enjoyed the shelter of its verdant shade. The abbey looked
most picturesque when they first burst upon it; the nearer and wooded
hills, which formed its immediate background, just tinted by the
golden pencil of autumn, while the meads of the valley were still
emerald green; and the stream, now lost, now winding, glittered
here and there in the sun, and gave a life and sprightliness to the
landscape which exceeded even the effect of the more distant and
expansive lake.

They were received at the abbey by Mistress Pauncefort, who had
preceded them, and who welcomed them with a complacent smile. Cadurcis
hastened to assist Lady Annabel to dismount, and was a little confused
but very pleased when she assured him she needed no assistance but
requested him to take care of Venetia. He was just in time to receive
her in his arms, where she found herself without the slightest
embarrassment. The coolness of the cloisters was grateful after their
ride, and they lingered and looked upon the old fountain, and felt the
freshness of its fall with satisfaction which all alike expressed.
Lady Annabel and Venetia then retired for a while to free themselves
from their riding habits, and Cadurcis affectionately taking the arm
of Dr. Masham led him a few paces, and then almost involuntarily
exclaimed, 'My dear Doctor, I think I am the happiest fellow that ever

'That I trust you may always be, my dear boy,' said Dr. Masham; 'but
what has called forth this particular exclamation?'

'To feel that I am once more at Cadurcis; to feel that I am here once
more with you all; to feel that I never shall leave you again.'

'Not again?'

'Never!' said Cadurcis. 'The experience of these last few weeks, which
yet have seemed an age in my existence, has made me resolve never to
quit a society where I am persuaded I may obtain a degree of happiness
which what is called the world can never afford me.'

'What will your guardian say?'

'What care I?'

'A dutiful ward!'

'Poh! the relations between us were formed only to secure my welfare.
It is secured; it will be secured by my own resolution.'

'And what is that?' inquired Dr. Masham.

'To marry Venetia, if she will accept me.'

'And that you do not doubt.'

'We doubt everything when everything is at stake,' replied Lord
Cadurcis. 'I know that her consent would ensure my happiness; and when
I reflect, I cannot help being equally persuaded that it would secure
hers. Her mother, I think, would not be adverse to our union. And you,
my dear sir, what do you think?'

'I think,' said Dr. Masham, 'that whoever marries Venetia will marry
the most beautiful and the most gifted of God's creatures; I hope you
may marry her; I wish you to marry her; I believe you will marry her,
but not yet; you are too young, Lord Cadurcis.'

'Oh, no! my dear Doctor, not too young to marry Venetia. Remember I
have known her all my life, at least so long as I have been able to
form an opinion. How few are the men, my dear Doctor, who are so
fortunate as to unite themselves with women whom they have known, as I
have known Venetia, for more than seven long years!'

'During five of which you have never seen or heard of her.'

'Mine was the fault! And yet I cannot help thinking, as it may
probably turn out, as you yourself believe it will turn out, that
it is as well that we have been separated for this interval. It has
afforded me opportunities for observation which I should never have
enjoyed at Cadurcis; and although my lot either way could not have
altered the nature of things, I might have been discontented, I might
have sighed for a world which now I do not value. It is true I have
not seen Venetia for five years, but I find her the same, or changed
only by nature, and fulfilling all the rich promise which her
childhood intimated. No, my dear Doctor, I respect your opinion more
than that of any man living; but nobody, nothing, can persuade me that
I am not as intimately acquainted with Venetia's character, with all
her rare virtues, as if we had never separated.'

'I do not doubt it,' said the Doctor; 'high as you may pitch your
estimate you cannot overvalue her.'

'Then why should we not marry?'

'Because, my dear friend, although you may be perfectly acquainted
with Venetia, you cannot be perfectly acquainted with yourself.'

'How so?' exclaimed Lord Cadurcis in a tone of surprise, perhaps a
little indignant.

'Because it is impossible. No young man of eighteen ever possessed
such precious knowledge. I esteem and admire you; I give you every
credit for a good heart and a sound head; but it is impossible, at
your time of life, that your character can be formed; and, until it
be, you may marry Venetia and yet be a very miserable man.'

'It is formed,' said his lordship firmly; 'there is not a subject
important to a human being on which my opinions are not settled.'

'You may live to change them all,' said the Doctor, 'and that very

'Impossible!' said Lord Cadurcis. 'My dear Doctor, I cannot understand
you; you say that you hope, that you wish, even that you believe that
I shall marry Venetia; and yet you permit me to infer that our union
will only make us miserable. What do you wish me to do?'

'Go to college for a term or two.'

'Without Venetia! I should die.'

'Well, if you be in a dying state you can return.'

'You joke, my dear Doctor.'

'My dear boy, I am perfectly serious.'

'But she may marry somebody else?'

'I am your only rival,' said the Doctor, with a smile; 'and though
even friends can scarcely be trusted under such circumstances, I
promise you not to betray you.'

'Your advice is not very pleasant,' said his lordship.

'Good advice seldom is,' said the Doctor.

'My dear Doctor, I have made up my mind to marry her, and marry her at
once. I know her well, you admit that yourself. I do not believe that
there ever was a woman like her, that there ever will be a woman like
her. Nature has marked her out from other women, and her education
has not been less peculiar. Her mystic breeding pleases me. It
is something to marry a wife so fair, so pure, so refined, so
accomplished, who is, nevertheless, perfectly ignorant of the world.
I have dreamt of such things; I have paced these old cloisters when a
boy and when I was miserable at home, and I have had visions, and
this was one. I have sighed to live alone with a fair spirit for my
minister. Venetia has descended from heaven for me, and for me alone.
I am resolved I will pluck this flower with the dew upon its leaves.'

'I did not know I was reasoning with a poet,' said the Doctor, with a
smile. 'Had I been conscious of it, I would not have been so rash.'

'I have not a grain of poetry in my composition,' said his lordship;
'I never could write a verse; I was notorious at Eton for begging all
their old manuscripts from boys when they left school, to crib from;
but I have a heart, and I can feel. I love Venetia, I have always
loved her, and, if possible, I will marry her, and marry her at once.'


The reappearance of the ladies at the end of the cloister terminated
this conversation, the result of which was rather to confirm Lord
Cadurcis in his resolution of instantly urging his suit, than the
reverse. He ran forward to greet his friends with a smile, and took
his place by the side of Venetia, whom, a little to her surprise, he
congratulated in glowing phrase on her charming costume. Indeed she
looked very captivating, with a pastoral hat, then much in fashion,
and a dress as simple and as sylvan, both showing to admirable
advantage her long descending hair, and her agile and springy figure.

Cadurcis proposed that they should ramble over the abbey, he talked of
projected alterations, as if he really had the power immediately to
effect them, and was desirous of obtaining their opinions before any
change was made. So they ascended the staircase which many years
before Venetia had mounted for the first time with her mother, and
entered that series of small and ill-furnished rooms in which Mrs.
Cadurcis had principally resided, and which had undergone no change.
The old pictures were examined; these, all agreed, never must move;
and the new furniture, it was settled, must be in character with the
building. Lady Annabel entered into all the details with an interest
and animation which rather amused Dr. Masham. Venetia listened and
suggested, and responded to the frequent appeals of Cadurcis to her
judgment with an unconscious equanimity not less diverting.

'Now here we really can do something,' said his lordship as they
entered the saloon, or rather refectory; 'here I think we may effect
wonders. The tapestry must always remain. Is it not magnificent,
Venetia? But what hangings shall we have? We must keep the old chairs,
I think. Do you approve of the old chairs, Venetia? And what shall we
cover them with? Shall it be damask? What do you think, Venetia? Do
you like damask? And what colour shall it be? Shall it be crimson?
Shall it be crimson damask, Lady Annabel? Do you think Venetia would
like crimson damask? Now, Venetia, do give us the benefit of your

Then they entered the old gallery; here was to be a great
transformation. Marvels were to be effected in the old gallery,
and many and multiplied were the appeals to the taste and fancy of

'I think,' said Lord Cadurcis, 'I shall leave the gallery to be
arranged when I am settled. The rooms and the saloon shall be done at
once, I shall give orders for them to begin instantly. Whom do you
recommend, Lady Annabel? Do you think there is any person at Southport
who could manage to do it, superintended by our taste? Venetia, what
do you think?'

Venetia was standing at the window, rather apart from her companions,
looking at the old garden. Lord Cadurcis joined her. 'Ah! it has been
sadly neglected since my poor mother's time. We could not do much in
those days, but still she loved this garden. I must depend upon you
entirely to arrange my garden, Venetia. This spot is sacred to you.
You have not forgotten our labours here, have you, Venetia? Ah! those
were happy days, and these shall be more happy still. This is your
garden; it shall always be called Venetia's garden.'

'I would have taken care of it when you were away, but - '

'But what?' inquired Lord Cadurcis anxiously.

'We hardly felt authorised,' replied Venetia calmly. 'We came at first
when you left Cadurcis, but at last it did not seem that our presence
was very acceptable.'

'The brutes!' exclaimed Lord Cadurcis.

'No, no; good simple people, they were unused to orders from strange
masters, and they were perplexed. Besides, we had no right to

'No right to interfere! Venetia, my little fellow-labourer, no
right to interfere! Why all is yours! Fancy your having no right to
interfere at Cadurcis!'

Then they proceeded to the park and wandered to the margin of the
lake. There was not a spot, not an object, which did not recall
some adventure or incident of childhood. Every moment Lord Cadurcis
exclaimed, 'Venetia! do you remember this?' 'Venetia! have you
forgotten that?' and every time Venetia smiled, and proved how
faithful was her memory by adding some little unmentioned trait to the
lively reminiscences of her companion.

'Well, after all,' said Lord Cadurcis with a sigh, 'my poor mother was
a strange woman, and, God bless her! used sometimes to worry me out
of my senses! but still she always loved you. No one can deny that.
Cherbury was a magic name with her. She loved Lady Annabel, and she
loved you, Venetia. It ran in the blood, you see. She would be happy,
quite happy, if she saw us all here together, and if she knew - '

'Plantagenet,' said Lady Annabel, 'you must build a lodge at this
end of the park. I cannot conceive anything more effective than an
entrance from the Southport road in this quarter.'

'Certainly, Lady Annabel, certainly we must build a lodge. Do not you
think so, Venetia?'

'Indeed I think it would be a great improvement,' replied Venetia;
'but you must take care to have a lodge in character with the abbey.'

'You shall make a drawing for it,' said Lord Cadurcis; 'it shall be
built directly, and it shall be called Venetia Lodge.'

The hours flew away, loitering in the park, roaming in the woods. They
met Mistress Pauncefort and her friends loaded with plunder, and they
offered to Venetia a trophy of their success; but when Venetia, merely
to please their kind hearts, accepted their tribute with cordiality,
and declared there was nothing she liked better, Lord Cadurcis would
not be satisfied unless he immediately commenced nutting, and each
moment he bore to Venetia the produce of his sport, till in time she
could scarcely sustain the rich and increasing burden. At length they
bent their steps towards home, sufficiently wearied to look forward
with welcome to rest and their repast, yet not fatigued, and
exhilarated by the atmosphere, for the sun was now in its decline,
though in this favoured season there were yet hours enough remaining
of enchanting light.

In the refectory they found, to the surprise of all but their host, a
banquet. It was just one of those occasions when nothing is
expected and everything is welcome and surprising; when, from the
unpremeditated air generally assumed, all preparation startles and
pleases; when even ladies are not ashamed to eat, and formality
appears quite banished. Game of all kinds, teal from the lake,
and piles of beautiful fruit, made the table alike tempting and
picturesque. Then there were stray bottles of rare wine disinterred
from venerable cellars; and, more inspiriting even than the choice
wine, a host under the influence of every emotion, and swayed by every
circumstance that can make a man happy and delightful. Oh! they were
very gay, and it seemed difficult to believe that care or sorrow,
or the dominion of dark or ungracious passions, could ever disturb
sympathies so complete and countenances so radiant.

At the urgent request of Cadurcis, Venetia sang to them; and while she
sang, the expression of her countenance and voice harmonising with the
arch hilarity of the subject, Plantagenet for a moment believed that
he beheld the little Venetia of his youth, that sunny child so full
of mirth and grace, the very recollection of whose lively and bright
existence might enliven the gloomiest hour and lighten the heaviest

Enchanted by all that surrounded him, full of hope, and joy, and
plans of future felicity, emboldened by the kindness of the daughter,
Cadurcis now ventured to urge a request to Lady Annabel, and the
request was granted, for all seemed to feel that it was a day on which
nothing was to be refused to their friend. Happy Cadurcis! The child
had a holiday, and it fancied itself a man enjoying a triumph. In
compliance, therefore, with his wish, it was settled that they should
all walk back to the hall; even Dr. Masham declared he was competent
to the exertion, but perhaps was half entrapped into the declaration
by the promise of a bed at Cherbury. This consent enchanted Cadurcis,
who looked forward with exquisite pleasure to the evening walk with


Although the sun had not set, it had sunk behind the hills leading
to Cherbury when our friends quitted the abbey. Cadurcis, without
hesitation, offered his arm to Venetia, and whether from a secret
sympathy with his wishes, or merely from some fortunate accident, Lady
Annabel and Dr. Masham strolled on before without busying themselves
too earnestly with their companions.

'And how do you think our expedition to Cadurcis has turned out?'
inquired the young lord, of Venetia, 'Has it been successful?'

'It has been one of the most agreeable days I ever passed,' was the

'Then it has been successful,' rejoined his lordship; 'for my only
wish was to amuse you.'

'I think we have all been equally amused,' said Venetia. 'I never knew
mamma in such good spirits. I think ever since you returned she has
been unusually light-hearted.'

'And you: has my return lightened only her heart, Venetia?'

'Indeed it has contributed to the happiness of every one.'

'And yet, when I first returned, I heard you utter a complaint; the
first that to my knowledge ever escaped your lips.'

'Ah! we cannot be always equally gay.'

'Once you were, dear Venetia.'

'I was a child then.'

'And I, I too was a child; yet I am happy, at least now that I am with

'Well, we are both happy now.'

'Oh! say that again, say that again, Venetia; for indeed you made me
miserable when you told me that you had changed. I cannot bear that
you, Venetia, should ever change.'

'It is the course of nature, Plantagenet; we all change, everything
changes. This day that was so bright is changing fast.'

'The stars are as beautiful as the sun, Venetia.'

'And what do you infer?'

'That Venetia, a woman, is as beautiful as Venetia, a little girl; and
should be as happy.'

'Is beauty happiness, Plantagenet?'

'It makes others happy, Venetia; and when we make others happy we
should be happy ourselves.'

'Few depend upon my influence, and I trust all of them are happy.'

'No one depends upon your influence more than I do.'

'Well, then, be happy always.'

'Would that I might! Ah, Venetia! can I ever forget old days? You were
the solace of my dark childhood; you were the charm that first taught
me existence was enjoyment. Before I came to Cherbury I never was
happy, and since that hour - Ah, Venetia! dear, dearest Venetia! who is
like to you?'

'Dear Plantagenet, you were always too kind to me. Would we were
children once more!'

'Nay, my own Venetia! you tell me everything changes, and we must not
murmur at the course of nature. I would not have our childhood back
again, even with all its joys, for there are others yet in store for
us, not less pure, not less beautiful. We loved each other then,
Venetia, and we love each other now.'

'My feelings towards you have never changed, Plantagenet; I heard
of you always with interest, and I met you again with heartfelt

'Oh, that morning! Have you forgotten that morning? Do you know, you
will smile very much, but I really believe that I expected to see my
Venetia still a little girl, the very same who greeted me when I first
arrived with my mother and behaved so naughtily! And when I saw you,
and found what you had become, and what I ought always to have known
you must become, I was so confused I entirely lost my presence of
mind. You must have thought me very awkward, very stupid?'

'Indeed, I was rather gratified by observing that you could not meet
us again without emotion. I thought it told well for your heart, which
I always believed to be most kind, at least, I am sure, to us.'

'Kind! oh, Venetia! that word but ill describes what my heart ever
was, what it now is, to you. Venetia! dearest, sweetest Venetia!
can you doubt for a moment my feelings towards your home, and what
influence must principally impel them? Am I so dull, or you so blind,
Venetia? Can I not express, can you not discover how much, how
ardently, how fondly, how devotedly, I, I, I love you?'

'I am sure we always loved each other, Plantagenet.'

'Yes! but not with this love; not as I love you now!'

Venetia stared.

'I thought we could not love each other more than we did,
Plantagenet,' at length she said. 'Do you remember the jewel that you
gave me? I always wore it until you seemed to forget us, and then I
thought it looked so foolish! You remember what is inscribed on it:
brother I always loved you; had I indeed been your sister I could not
have loved you more warmly and more truly.'

'I am not your brother, Venetia; I wish not to be loved as a brother:
and yet I must be loved by you, or I shall die.'

'What then do you wish?' inquired Venetia, with great simplicity.

'I wish you to marry me,' replied Lord Cadurcis.

'Marry!' exclaimed Venetia, with a face of wonder. 'Marry! Marry you!
Marry you, Plantagenet!'

'Ay! is that so wonderful? I love you, and if you love me, why should
we not marry?'

Venetia was silent and looked upon the ground, not from agitation,
for she was quite calm, but in thought; and then she said, 'I never
thought of marriage in my life, Plantagenet; I have no intention, no
wish to marry; I mean to live always with mamma.'

'And you shall always live with mamma, but that need not prevent you
from marrying me,' he replied. 'Do not we all live together now? What
will it signify if you dwell at Cadurcis and Lady Annabel at Cherbury?
Is it not one home? But at any rate, this point shall not be an
obstacle; for if it please you we will all live at Cherbury.'

'You say that we are happy now, Plantagenet; oh! let us remain as we

'My own sweet girl, my sister, if you please, any title, so it be one
of fondness, your sweet simplicity charms me; but, believe me, it
cannot be as you wish; we cannot remain as we are unless we marry.'

'Why not?'

'Because I shall be wretched and must live elsewhere, if indeed I can
live at all.'

'Oh, Plantagenet! indeed I thought you were my brother; when I found
you after so long a separation as kind as in old days, and kinder
still, I was so glad; I was so sure you loved me; I thought I had the
kindest brother in the world. Let us not talk of any other love. It
will, indeed it will, make mamma so miserable!'

'I am greatly mistaken,' replied Lord Cadurcis, who saw no obstacles
to his hopes in their conversation hitherto, 'if, on the contrary, our
union would not prove far from disagreeable to your mother, Venetia; I
will say our mother, for indeed to me she has been one.'

'Plantagenet,' said Venetia, in a very earnest tone, 'I love you
very much; but, if you love me, press me on this subject no more at
present. You have surprised, indeed you have bewildered me. There are
thoughts, there are feelings, there are considerations, that must be
respected, that must influence me. Nay! do not look so sorrowful,
Plantagenet. Let us be happy now. To-morrow, only to-morrow, and
to-morrow we are sure to meet, we will speak further of all this; but
now, now, for a moment let us forget it, if we can forget anything so
strange. Nay! you shall smile!'

He did. Who could resist that mild and winning glance! And indeed Lord
Cadurcis was scarcely disappointed, and not at all mortified at his
reception, or, as he esteemed it, the progress of his suit. The
conduct of Venetia he attributed entirely to her unsophisticated
nature and the timidity of a virgin soul. It made him prize even more
dearly the treasure that he believed awaited him. Silent, then, though
for a time they both struggled to speak on different subjects, silent,
and almost content, Cadurcis proceeded, with the arm of Venetia locked
in his and ever and anon unconsciously pressing it to his heart. The
rosy twilight had faded away, the stars were stealing forth, and the
moon again glittered. With a soul softer than the tinted shades of eve
and glowing like the heavens, Cadurcis joined his companions as they
entered the gardens of Cherbury. When they had arrived at home it
seemed that exhaustion had suddenly succeeded all the excitement
of the day. The Doctor, who was wearied, retired immediately. Lady
Annabel pressed Cadurcis to remain and take tea, or, at least to ride
home; but his lordship, protesting that he was not in the slightest
degree fatigued, and anticipating their speedy union on the morrow,
bade her good night, and pressing with fondness the hand of Venetia,
retraced his steps to the now solitary abbey.


Cadurcis returned to the abbey, but not to slumber. That love of
loneliness which had haunted him from his boyhood, and which ever
asserted its sway when under the influence of his passions, came over
him now with irresistible power. A day of enjoyment had terminated,
and it left him melancholy. Hour after hour he paced the moon-lit
cloisters of his abbey, where not a sound disturbed him, save the

Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliVenetia → online text (page 15 of 38)