Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 51

The morning after, Endymion was emerging from the court-yard of the Albany, in order to call on Mr. Rodney, who, as he learnt from a casual remark in a letter from Waldershare, would be in town. The ladies were left behind for the last week of hunting, but business called Mr. Rodney home. Waldershare wrote to Endymion in the highest spirits, and more than once declared that he was the happiest of men. Just as Endymion had entered Piccadilly, he was stopped by a once familiar face; it was St. Barbe, who accosted him with great warmth, and as usual began to talk about himself. “You are surprised to see me,” he said. “It is two years since we met. Well, I have done wonders; carried all before me. By Jove, sir, I can walk into a minister’s private room with as much ease as I were entering the old den. The ambassadors are hand and glove with me. There are very few things I do not know. I have made the fortune of the ‘Chuck–Farthing,’ trebled its circulation, and invented a new style, which has put me at the head of all ‘our own correspondents.’ I wish you were at Paris; I would give you a dinner at the Rocher, which would make up for all our dinners at that ferocious ruffian, Joe’s. I gave a dinner the other day to forty of them, all ‘our own correspondents,’ or such like. Do you know, my dear fellow, when I looked round the room, there was not a man who had not done his best to crush me; running down my works or not noticing them, or continually dilating on Gushy as if the English public would never read anything else. Now, that was Christian-like of me, was not it? God, sir, if they only had but one neck, and I had been the Emperor Nero — but, I will not dwell on it; I hate them. However, it suits me to take the other line at present. I am all for fraternity and that sort of thing, and give them dinners. There is a reason why, but there is no time to talk about that now. I shall want their sweet voices — the hounds! But, my dear fellow, I am truly glad to see you. Do you know, I always liked you; and how come you to be in this quarter this fine morning?”

“I live in the Albany,” said Endymion.

“You live in the Albany!” repeated St. Barbe, with an amazed and perturbed expression. “I knew I could not be a knight of the garter, or a member of White’s — the only two things an Englishman cannot command; but I did think I might some day live in the Albany. It was my dream. And you live there! Gracious! what an unfortunate fellow I am! I do not see how you can live in the Albany with your salary; I suppose they have raised you.”

“I have left Somerset House,” said Endymion, “and am now at the Board of Trade, and am private secretary to Mr. Sidney Wilton.”

“Oh!” said St. Barbe; “then we have friends at court. You may do something for me, if I only knew what I wanted. They have no decorations here. Curse this aristocratic country, they want all the honours to themselves. I should like to be in the Board of Trade, and would make some sacrifice for it. The proprietors of the ‘Chuck–Farthing’ pay well; they pay like gentlemen; though, why I say so I do not exactly know, for no gentleman ever paid me anything. But, if I could be Secretary of the Board of Trade, or get 1500 pounds a year secure, I would take it; and I dare say I could get employed on some treaties, as I speak French, and then I might get knighted.”

“Well, I think you are very well off,” said Endymion; “carrying, as you say, everything before you. What more can you want?”

“I hate the craft,” said St. Barbe, with an expression of genuine detestation; “I should like to show them all up before I died. I suppose it was your sister marrying a lord that got you on in this way. I could have married a countess myself, but then, to be sure, she was only a Polish one, and hard up. I never had a sister; I never had any luck in life at all. I wish I had been a woman. Women are the only people who get on. A man works all his life, and thinks he has done a wonderful thing if, with one leg in the grave and no hair on his head, he manages to get a coronet; and a woman dances at a ball with some young fellow or other, or sits next to some old fellow at dinner and pretends she thinks him charming, and he makes her a peeress on the spot. Oh! it is a disgusting world; it must end in revolution. Now you tell your master, Mr. Sidney Wilton, that if he wants to strengthen the institutions of this country, the government should establish an order of merit, and the press ought to be represented in it. I do not speak only for myself; I speak for my brethren. Yes, sir, I am not ashamed of my order.”

And so they bade each other farewell.

“Unchanged,” thought Endymion, as he crossed Piccadilly; “the vainest, the most envious, and the most amusing of men! I wonder what he will do in life.”

Mr. Rodney was at home, had just finished his breakfast, read his newspaper, and was about to “go into the City.” His costume was perfect. Mr. Rodney’s hat seemed always a new one. Endymion was a little embarrassed by this interview, for he had naturally a kind heart, and being young, it was still soft. The Rodneys had been truly good to him, and he was attached to them. Imogene had prepared Mr. Rodney for the change in Endymion’s life, and Endymion himself had every reason to believe that in a worldly point of view the matter was entirely insignificant to his old landlord. Still his visit this morning ratified a permanent separation from those with whom he had lived for a long time, and under circumstances of sympathy and family connection which were touching. He retained Mr. Rodney’s hand for a moment as he expressed, and almost in faltering tones, his sorrow at their separation and his hope that their friendly connection might be always cherished.

“That feeling is reciprocal,” said Mr. Rodney. “If only because you were the son of my revered and right honourable friend, you would always be esteemed here. But you are esteemed, or, I may say beloved, for your own sake. We shall be proud to be considered with kindness by you, and I echo your wish that, though no longer living under the same roof, we may yet, and even often, meet. But do not say another word about the inconvenience you are occasioning us. The truth is, that although wherever we went the son of my revered and right honourable friend would have always commanded hospitality from us, there are many changes about to take place in our family which have made us for some time contemplate leaving Warwick Street. Affairs, especially of late, have gone pretty well with me in the world — at least not badly; I have had friends, and I hope have proved not undeserving of them. I wish Sylvia, too, to live in an airier situation, near the park, so that she may ride every morning. Besides, I have a piece of news to communicate to you, which would materially affect our arrangements. We are going to lose Imogene.”

“Ah! she is going to be married,” said Endymion, blushing.

“She is going to be married,” said Mr. Rodney gravely.

“To Mr. Waldershare?” said Endymion. “He almost said as much to me in a letter this morning. But I always thought so.”

“No; not to Mr. Waldershare,” said Mr. Rodney.

“Who is the happy man then?” said Endymion, agitated. “I truly call him so; for I think myself that Imogene is perfection.”

“Imogene is about to be married to the Earl of Beaumaris.”

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