Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 48

This considerable rise in the life of Endymion, after the first excitement occasioned by its announcement to him had somewhat subsided, was not contemplated by him with unmixed feelings of satisfaction. It seemed to terminate many relations of life, the value of which he had always appreciated, but which now, with their impending conclusion, he felt, and felt keenly, had absolutely contributed to his happiness. There was no great pang in quitting his fellow-clerks, except Trenchard, whom he greatly esteemed. But poor little Warwick Street had been to him a real home, if unvarying kindness, and sedulous attention, and the affection of the eyes and heart, as well as of the mouth, can make a hearth. He hoped he might preserve the friendship of Waldershare, which their joint intimacy with the prince would favour; but still he could hardly flatter himself that the delightful familiarity of their past lives could subsist. Endymion sighed, and then he sighed again. He felt sad. Because he was leaving the humble harbour of refuge, the entrance to which, even in the darkest hour of his fallen fortunes, was thought somewhat of an indignity, and was about to assume a position which would not have altogether misbecome the earliest expectations of his life? That seems unreasonable; but mankind, fortunately, are not always governed by reason, but by sentiment, and often by very tender sentiment.

When Endymion, sitting in his little room, analysed his feelings, he came to the conclusion that his sadness was occasioned by his having to part from Imogene. It often requires an event in life, and an unexpected one, to make us clearly aware of the existence of feelings which have long influenced us. Never having been in a position in which the possibility of uniting his fate to another could cross his mind for a moment, he had been content with the good fortune which permitted a large portion of his life to be passed in the society of a woman who, unconsciously both to him and to herself, had fascinated him. The graceful child who, four or five years ago, had first lit him to his garret, without losing any of her rare and simple ingenuousness, had developed into a beautiful and accomplished woman. There was a strong resemblance between Imogene and her sister, but Imogene was a brunette. Her countenance indicated far more intellect and character than that of Sylvia. Her brow was delicately pencilled and finely arched, and her large dark eyes gleamed with a softness and sweetness of expression, which were irresistibly attractive, and seemed to indicate sympathy with everything that was good and beautiful. Her features were not so regular as her sister’s; but when she smiled, her face was captivating.

Endymion had often listened, half with fondness and half with scepticism, to Waldershare dilating, according to his wont, on the high character and qualities of Imogene, whom he persisted in believing he was preparing for a great career. “How it will come about I cannot say,” he would remark; “but it will come. If my legitimate sovereign were on the throne, and I in the possession of my estates, which were graciously presented by the usurper to the sausage-makers, or some other choice middle-class corporation, I would marry her myself. But that is impossible. That would only be asking her to share my ruin. I want her to live in palaces, and perhaps, in my decline of life, make me her librarian, like Casanova. I should be content to dine in her hall every day beneath the salt, and see her enter with her state, amid the flourish of trumpets.” And now, strange to say, Endymion was speculating on the fate of Imogene, and, as he thought, in a more practical spirit. Six hundred a year, he thought, was not a very large income; but it was an income, and one which a year ago he never contemplated possessing until getting grey in the public service. Why not realise perfect happiness at once? He could conceive no bliss greater than living with Imogene in one of those little villas, even if semi-detached, which now are numbered by tens of thousands, and which were then beginning to shoot out their suburban antennae in every direction of our huge metropolis. He saw her in his mind’s eye in a garden of perpetual sunshine, breathing of mignonette and bright with roses, and waiting for him as he came down from town and his daily labours, in the cheap and convenient omnibus. What a delightful companion to welcome him! How much to tell her, and how much to listen to! And then their evenings with a delicious book or some delightful music! What holidays, too, of romantic adventure! The vine-clad Rhine, perhaps Switzerland; at any rate, the quaint old cities of Flanders, and the winding valley of the Meuse. They could live extremely well on six hundred a year, yes, with all the real refinements of existence. And all their genuine happiness was to be sacrificed for utterly fantastic and imaginary gratifications, which, if analysed, would be found only to be efforts to amuse and astonish others.

It did not yet occur to Endymion that his garden could not always be sunshiny; that cares crop up in villas, even semi-detached, as well as joys; that he would have children, and perhaps too many; that they would be sick, and that doctors’ bills would soon put a stop to romantic excursions; that his wife would become exhausted with nursing and clothing and teaching them; that she herself would become an invalid, and moped to death; that his resources would every day bear a less proportion to his expenditure; and that wanting money, he would return too often from town a harassed husband to a jaded wife!

Mr. Rodney and Sylvia were at Conington on a visit to Lord Beaumaris, hunting. It was astonishing how Sylvia had ridden to the hounds, mounted on the choicest steeds, and in a scarlet habit which had been presented to her by Mr. Vigo. She had created quite an enthusiasm in the field, and Lord Beaumaris was proud of his guests. When Endymion parted with his sister at the Albany, where they had been examining his rooms, he had repaired to Warwick Street, with some expectation that the Rodneys would have returned from Conington, and he intended to break to his host the impending change in his life. The Rodneys, however, had not arrived, and so he ascended to his room, where he had been employed in arranging his books and papers, and indulging in the reverie which we have indicated. When he came downstairs, wishing to inquire about the probable arrival of his landlord, Endymion knocked at the door of the parlour where they used to assemble, and on entering, found Imogene writing.

“How do you do, Mr. Ferrars?” she said, rising. “I am writing to Sylvia. They are not returning as soon as they intended, and I am to go down to Conington by an early train tomorrow.”

“I want to see Mr. Rodney,” said Endymion moodily.

“Can I write anything to him, or tell him anything?” said Imogene.

“No,” continued Endymion in a melancholy tone. “I can tell you what I wanted to say. But you must be occupied now, going away, and unexpectedly, tomorrow. It seems to me that every one is going away.”

“Well, we have lost the prince, certainly,” said Imogene, “and I doubt whether his rooms will be ever let again.”

“Indeed!” said Endymion.

“Well, I only know what Mr. Waldershare tells me. He says that Mr. Rodney and Mr. Vigo have made a great speculation, and gained a great deal of money; but Mr. Rodney never speaks to me of such matters, nor indeed does Sylvia. I am myself very sorry that the prince has gone, for he interested me much.”

“Well, I should think Mr. Rodney would not be very sorry to get rid of me then,” said Endymion.

“O Mr. Ferrars! why should you say or think such things! I am sure that my brother and sister, and indeed every one in this house, always consider your comfort and welfare before any other object.”

“Yes,” said Endymion, “you have all been most kind to me, and that makes me more wretched at the prospect of leaving you.”

“But there is no prospect of that?”

“A certainty, Imogene; there is going to be a change in my life,” and then he told her all.

“Well,” said Imogene, “it would be selfish not to be happy at what I hear; but though I hope I am happy, I need not be joyful. I never used to be nervous, but I am afraid I am getting so. All these great changes rather shake me. This adventure of the prince — as Mr. Waldershare says, it is history. Then Miss Myra’s great marriage, and your promotion — although they are exactly what we used to dream about, and wished a fairy would accomplish, and somehow felt that, somehow or other, they must happen — yet now they have occurred, one is almost as astounded as delighted. We certainly have been very happy in Warwick Street, at least I have been, all living as it were together. But where shall we be this time next year? All scattered, and perhaps not even the Rodneys under this roof. I know not how it is, but I dread leaving the roof where one has been happy.”

“Oh! you know you must leave it one day or other, Imogene. You are sure to marry; that you cannot avoid.”

“Well, I am not by any means sure about that,” said Imogene. “Mr. Waldershare, in educating me, as he says, as a princess, has made me really neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, nor even that coarser but popular delicacy never forgotten. I could not unite my life with a being who was not refined in mind and in manners, and the men of my class in life, who are the only ones after all who might care to marry me, shock my taste, I am ashamed to say so. I am not sure it is not wicked to think it even; but so it is.”

“Why do you not marry Waldershare?” said Endymion.

“That would be madness! I do not know any alliance that could prove more unfortunate. Mr. Waldershare must never marry. All people of imagination, they say, are difficult to live with; but a person who consists solely of imagination, like Mr. Waldershare, who has indeed no other attribute — before a year was past, married, he would fly to the desert or to La Trappe, commit terrible scandals from mere weariness of feeling, write pasquinades against the wife of his bosom, and hold us both up to the fierce laughter of the world. No, no; he is the best, the dearest, and the most romantic of friends; tender as a father, and sometimes as wise, for genius can be everything. He is going to rise early tomorrow, which he particularly dislikes, because he will not let me go to the station alone; though I tell him, as I often tell him, those are the becoming manners of my class.”

“But you might meet a person of the refinement you require,” said Endymion, “with a moderate and yet a sufficient income, who would not be unworthy of you.”

“I doubt it,” said Imogene.

“But, do not doubt it, dear Imogene,” said Endymion, advancing; “such charms as yours, both of body and of mind, such a companion in life, so refined, so accomplished, and yet endowed with such clear sense, and such a sweet disposition — believe me”——

But at this moment a splendid equipage drove up to the door, with powdered footmen and long canes behind, and then a terrible rap, like the tattoo of a field-marshal.

“Good gracious! what is all this?” exclaimed Imogene.

“It is my sister,” said Endymion, blushing; “it is Lady Roehampton.”

“I must go to her myself,” said Imogene; “I cannot have the servant attend upon your sister.”

Endymion remained silent and confused. Imogene was some little time at the carriage-door, for Lady Roehampton had inquiries to make after Sylvia and other courteous things to say, and then Imogene returned, and said to Endymion, “Lady Roehampton wishes you to go with her directly on some particular business.”

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