Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 46

The end of the season is a pang to society. More hopes have been baffled than realised. There is something melancholy in the last ball, though the music ever seems louder, and the lights more glaring than usual. Or it may be, the last entertainment is that hecatomb they call a wedding breakfast, which celebrates the triumph of a rival. That is pleasant. Society, to do it justice, struggles hard to revive in other scenes the excitement that has expired. It sails to Cowes, it scuds to bubbling waters in the pine forests of the continent, it stalks even into Scotland; but it is difficult to restore the romance that has been rudely disturbed, and to gather again together the threads of the intrigue that have been lost in the wild flight of society from that metropolis, which is now described as “a perfect desert”— that is to say, a park or so, two or three squares, and a dozen streets where society lives; where it dines, and dances, and blackballs, and bets, and spouts.

But to the world in general, the mighty million, to the professional classes, to all men of business whatever, the end of the season is the beginning of carnival. It is the fulfilment of the dream over which they have been brooding for ten months, which has sustained them in toil, lightened anxiety, and softened even loss. It is air, it is health, it is movement, it is liberty, it is nature — earth, sea, lake, moor, forest, mountain, and river. From the heights of the Engadine to Margate Pier, there is equal rapture, for there is an equal cessation of routine.

Few enjoy a holiday more than a young clerk in a public office, who has been bred in a gentle home, and enjoyed in his boyhood all the pastimes of gentlemen. Now he is ever toiling, with an uncertain prospect of annual relaxation, and living hardly. Once on a time, at the paternal hall, he could shoot, or fish, or ride, every day of his life, as a matter of course; and now, what would he not give for a good day’s sport? Such thoughts had frequently crossed the mind of Endymion when drudging in London during the autumn, and when all his few acquaintances were away. It was, therefore, with no ordinary zest that he looked forward to the unexpected enjoyment of an unstinted share of some of the best shooting in the United Kingdom. And the relaxation and the pastime came just at the right moment, when the reaction, from all the excitement attendant on the marvellous change in his sister’s position, would have made him, deprived of her consoling society, doubly sensible of his isolated position.

It so happened that the moors of Lord Beaumaris were contiguous to the celebrated shootings of Dinniewhiskie, which were rented by Prince Florestan, and the opportunity now offered which Waldershare desired of making the acquaintance of the prince in an easy manner. Endymion managed this cleverly. Waldershare took a great fancy to the prince. He sympathised with him, and imparted to Endymion his belief that they could not do a better thing than devote their energies to a restoration of his rights. Lord Beaumaris, who hated foreigners, but who was always influenced by Waldershare, also liked the prince, and was glad to be reminded by his mentor that Florestan was half an Englishman, not to say a whole one, for he was an Eton boy. What was equally influential with Lord Beaumaris was, that the prince was a fine shot, and indeed a consummate sportsman, and had in his manners that calm which is rather unusual with foreigners, and which is always pleasing to an English aristocrat. So in time they became intimate, sported much together, and visited each other at their respective quarters. The prince was never alone. What the county paper described as distinguished foreigners were perpetually paying him visits, long or short, and it did not generally appear that these visits were influenced by a love of sport. One individual, who arrived shortly after the prince, remained, and, as was soon known, was to remain permanently. This was a young gentleman, short and swarthy, with flashing eyes and a black moustache, known by the name of the Duke of St. Angelo, but who was really only a cadet of that illustrious house. The Duke of St. Angelo took the management of the household of the prince — was evidently the controller; servants trembled at his nod, and he rode any horse he liked; he invited guests, and arranged the etiquette of the interior. He said one day very coolly to Waldershare: “I observe that Lord Beaumaris and his friends never rise when the prince moves.”

“Why should we?”

“His rank is recognised and guaranteed by the Treaty of Vienna,” said the Duke of St. Angelo, with an arrogant air.

“His princely rank,” replied Waldershare, “but not his royalty.”

“That is a mere refinement,” said the duke contemptuously.

“On the contrary, a clear distinction, and specifically made in the treaty. I do not think the prince himself would desire such a ceremony, and let me recommend you, duke,” added Waldershare, “not to go out of your way to insist on these points. They will not increase the prince’s popularity.”

“The time will come, and before long, when the Treaty of Vienna, with its clear distinctions, will be at the bottom of the Red Sea,” said the Duke of St. Angelo, “and then no one will sit when His Majesty rises.”

“Amen!” said Waldershare. “All diplomacy since the Treaty of Utrecht seems to me to be fiddle-faddle, and the country rewarded the great man who made that treaty by an attainder.”

Endymion returned to town towards the end of September, Waldershare went to Paris, and Lord Beaumaris and the prince, who had become intimate, repaired together to Conington, the seat of Lord Beaumaris, to kill pheasants. Even the Rodneys, who had gone to the Rhine this year, had not returned. Endymion had only the society of his fellow clerks. He liked Trenchard, who was acute, full of official information, and of gentle breeding. Still it must be confessed that Endymion felt the change in his society. Seymour Hicks was hardly a fit successor to Waldershare, and Jawett’s rabid abstractions on government were certainly not so interesting as la haute politique of the Duke of St. Angelo. Were it not for the letters which he constantly received from his sister, he would have felt a little despondent. As it was, he renewed his studies in his pleasant garret, trained himself in French and German, and got up several questions for the Union.

The month seemed very long, but it was not unprofitably spent. The Rodneys were still absent. They had not returned as they had intended direct to England, but had gone to Paris to meet Mr. Waldershare.

At the end of October there was a semi-official paragraph announcing the approaching meeting of the Cabinet, and the movements of its members. Some were in the north, and some were in the south; some were killing the last grouse, and some, placed in green ridings, were blazing in battues. But all were to be at their post in ten days, and there was a special notification that intelligence had been received of the arrival of Lord and Lady Roehampton at Gibraltar.

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