Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 19

Disappointment and distress, it might be said despair, seemed fast settling again over the devoted roof of Hurstley, after a three years’ truce of tranquillity. Even the crushing termination of her worldly hopes was forgotten for the moment by Mrs. Ferrars in her anguish at the prospect of separation from Endymion. Such a catastrophe she had never for a moment contemplated. True it was she had been delighted with the scheme of his entering the Foreign Office, but that was on the assumption that she was to enter office herself, and that, whatever might be the scene of the daily labours of her darling child, her roof should be his home, and her indulgent care always at his command. But that she was absolutely to part with Endymion, and that, at his tender age, he was to be launched alone into the wide world, was an idea that she could not entertain, or even comprehend. Who was to clothe him, and feed him, and tend him, and save him from being run over, and guide and guard him in all the difficulties and dangers of this mundane existence? It was madness, it was impossible. But Mr. Ferrars, though gentle, was firm. No doubt it was to be wished that the event could have been postponed for a year; but its occurrence, unless all prospect of establishment in life were surrendered, was inevitable, and a slight delay would hardly render the conditions under which it happened less trying. Though Endymion was only sixteen, he was tall and manly beyond his age, and during the latter years of his life, his naturally sweet temper and genial disposition had been schooled in self-discipline and self-sacrifice. He was not to be wholly left to strangers; Mr. Ferrars had spoken to Rodney about receiving him, at least for the present, and steps would be taken that those who presided over his office would be influenced in his favour. The appointment was certainly not equal to what had been originally anticipated; but still the department, though not distinguished, was highly respectable, and there was no reason on earth, if the opportunity offered, that Endymion should not be removed from his present post to one in the higher departments of the state. But if this opening were rejected, what was to be the future of their son? They could not afford to send him to the University, nor did Mr. Ferrars wish him to take refuge in the bosom of the Church. As for the army, they had now no interest to acquire commissions, and if they could succeed so far, they could not make him an allowance, which would permit him to maintain himself as became his rank. The civil service remained, in which his grandfather had been eminent, and in which his own parent, at any rate, though the victim of a revolution, had not disgraced himself. It seemed, under the circumstances, the natural avenue for their child. At least, he thought it ought to be tried. He wished nothing to be settled without the full concurrence of Endymion himself. The matter should be put fairly and clearly before him, “and for this purpose,” concluded Mr. Ferrars, “I have just sent for him to my room;” and he retired.

The interview between the father and the son was long. When Endymion left the room his countenance was pale, but its expression was firm and determined. He went forth into the garden, and there he saw Myra. “How long you have been!” she said; “I have been watching for you. What is settled?”

He took her arm, and in silence led her away into one of the glades Then he said: “I have settled to go, and I am resolved, so long as I live, that I will never cost dear papa another shilling. Things here are very bad, quite as bad as you have sometimes fancied. But do not say anything to poor mamma about them.”

Mr. Ferrars resolved that Endymion should go to London immediately, and the preparations for his departure were urgent. Myra did everything. If she had been the head of a family she could not have been more thoughtful or apparently more experienced. If she had a doubt, she stepped over to Mrs. Penruddock and consulted her. As for Mrs. Ferrars, she had become very unwell, and unable to attend to anything. Her occasional interference, fitful and feverish, and without adequate regard to circumstances, only embarrassed them. But, generally speaking, she kept to her own room, and was always weeping.

The last day came. No one pretended not to be serious and grave. Mrs. Ferrars did not appear, but saw Endymion alone. She did not speak, but locked him in her arms for many minutes, and then kissed him on the forehead, and, by a gentle motion, intimating that he should retire, she fell back on her sofa with closed eyes. He was alone for a short time with his father after dinner. Mr. Ferrars said to him: “I have treated you in this matter as a man, and I have entire confidence in you. Your business in life is to build up again a family which was once honoured.”

Myra was still copying inventories when he returned to the drawing-room. “These are for myself,” she said, “so I shall always know what you ought to have. Though you go so early, I shall make your breakfast tomorrow,” and, leaning back on the sofa, she took his hand. “Things are dark, and I fancy they will be darker; but brightness will come, somehow or other, to you, darling, for you are born for brightness. You will find friends in life, and they will be women.”

It was nearly three years since Endymion had travelled down to Hurstley by the same coach that was now carrying him to London. Though apparently so uneventful, the period had not been unimportant in the formation, doubtless yet partial, of his character. And all its influences had been beneficial to him. The crust of pride and selfishness with which large prosperity and illimitable indulgence had encased a kind, and far from presumptuous, disposition had been removed; the domestic sentiments in their sweetness and purity had been developed; he had acquired some skills in scholarship and no inconsiderable fund of sound information; and the routine of religious thought had been superseded in his instance by an amount of knowledge and feeling on matters theological, unusual at his time of life. Though apparently not gifted with any dangerous vivacity, or fatal facility of acquisition, his mind seemed clear and painstaking, and distinguished by common sense. He was brave and accurate.

Mr. Rodney was in waiting for him at the inn. He seemed a most distinguished gentleman. A hackney coach carried them to Warwick Street, where he was welcomed by Mrs. Rodney, who was exquisitely dressed. There was also her sister, a girl not older than Endymion, the very image of Mrs. Rodney, except that she was a brunette — a brilliant brunette. This sister bore the romantic name of Imogene, for which she was indebted to her father performing the part of the husband of the heroine in Maturin’s tragedy of the “Castle of St. Aldobrand,” and which, under the inspiration of Kean, had set the town in a blaze about the time of her birth. Tea was awaiting him, and there was a mixture in their several manners of not ungraceful hospitality and the remembrance of past dependence, which was genuine and not uninteresting, though Endymion was yet too inexperienced to observe all this.

Mrs. Rodney talked very much of Endymion’s mother; her wondrous beauty, her more wondrous dresses; the splendour of her fetes and equipages. As she dilated on the past, she seemed to share its lustre and its triumphs. “The first of the land were always in attendance on her,” and for Mrs. Rodney’s part, she never saw a real horsewoman since her dear lady. Her sister did not speak, but listened with rapt attention to the gorgeous details, occasionally stealing a glance at Endymion — a glance of deep interest, of admiration mingled as it were both with reverence and pity.

Mr. Rodney took up the conversation if his wife paused. He spoke of all the leading statesmen who had been the habitual companions of Mr. Ferrars, and threw out several anecdotes respecting them from personal experience. “I knew them all,” continued Mr. Rodney, “I might say intimately;” and then he told his great anecdote, how he had been so fortunate as perhaps even to save the Duke’s life during the Reform Bill riots. “His Grace has never forgotten it, and only the day before yesterday I met him in St. James’ Street walking with Mr. Arbuthnot, and he touched his hat to me.”

All this gossip and good nature, and the kind and lively scene, saved Endymion from the inevitable pang, or at least greatly softened it, which accompanies our first separation from home. In due season, Mrs. Rodney observed that she doubted not Mr. Endymion, for so they ever called him, must be wearied with his journey, and would like to retire to his room; and her husband, immediately lighting a candle, prepared to introduce their new lodger to his quarters.

It was a tall house, which had recently been renovated, with a story added to it, and on this story was Endymion’s chamber; not absolutely a garret, but a modern substitute for that sort of apartment. “It is rather high,” said Mr. Rodney, half apologising for the ascent, “but Mr. Ferrars himself chose the room. We took the liberty of lighting a fire to-night.”

And the cheerful blaze was welcome. It lit up a room clean and not uncomfortable. Feminine solicitude had fashioned a toilette-table for him, and there was a bunch of geraniums in a blue vase on its sparkling dimity garniture. “I suppose you have in your bag all that you want at present?” said Mr. Rodney. “To-morrow we will unpack your trunks and arrange your things in their drawers; and after breakfast, if you please, I will show you your way to Somerset House.”

Somerset House! thought Endymion, as he stood before the fire alone. Is it so near as that? To-morrow, and I am to be at Somerset House! And then he thought of what they were doing at Hurstley — of that terrible parting with his mother, which made him choke — and of his father’s last words. And then he thought of Myra, and the tears stole down his cheek. And then he knelt down by his bedside and prayed.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19