Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 94

There was a splendid royal yacht, though not one belonging to our gracious Sovereign, lying in one of Her Majesty’s southern ports, and the yacht was convoyed by a smart frigate. The crews were much ashore, and were very popular, for they spent a great deal of money. Everybody knew what was the purpose of their bright craft, and every one was interested in it. A beautiful Englishwoman had been selected to fill a foreign and brilliant throne occupied by a prince, who had been educated in our own country, who ever avowed his sympathies with “the inviolate island of the sage and free.” So in fact there was some basis for the enthusiasm which was felt on this occasion by the inhabitants of Nethampton. What every one wanted to know was when she would sail. Ah! that was a secret that could hardly be kept for the eight-and-forty hours preceding her departure, and therefore, one day, with no formal notice, all the inhabitants of Nethampton were in gala; streets and ships dressed out with the flags of all nations; the church bells ringing; and busy little girls running about with huge bouquets.

At the very instant expected, the special train was signalled, and drove into the crimson station amid the thunder of artillery, the blare of trumpets, the beating of drums, and cheers from thousands even louder and longer than the voices of the cannon. Leaning on the arm of her brother, and attended by the Princess of Montserrat, and the Honourable Adriana Neuchatel, Baron Sergius, the Duke of St. Angelo, the Archbishop of Tyre, and Lord Waldershare, the daughter of William Ferrars, gracious, yet looking as if she were born to empire, received the congratulatory address of the mayor and corporation and citizens of Nethampton, and permitted her hand to be kissed, not only by his worship, but by at least two aldermen.

They were on the waters, and the shores of Albion, fast fading away, had diminished to a speck. It is a melancholy and tender moment, and Myra was in her ample and splendid cabin and alone. “It is a trial,” she felt, “but all that I love and value in this world are in this vessel,” and she thought of Endymion and Adriana. The gentlemen were on deck, chiefly smoking or reconnoitring their convoy through their telescopes.

“I must say,” said Waldershare, “it was a grand idea of our kings making themselves sovereigns of the sea. The greater portion of this planet is water; so we at once became a first-rate power. We owe our navy entirely to the Stuarts. King James the Second was the true founder and hero of the British navy. He was the worthy son of his admirable father, that blessed martyr, the restorer at least, if not the inventor, of ship money; the most patriotic and popular tax that ever was devised by man. The Nonconformists thought themselves so wise in resisting it, and they have got the naval estimates instead!”

The voyage was propitious, the weather delightful, and when they had entered the southern waters Waldershare confessed that he felt the deliciousness of life. If the scene and the impending events, and their own fair thoughts, had not been adequate to interest them, there were ample resources at their command; all the ladies were skilled musicians, their concerts commenced at sunset, and the sweetness of their voices long lingered over the moonlit waters.

Adriana, one evening, bending over the bulwarks of the yacht, was watching the track of phosphoric light, struck into brilliancy from the dark blue waters by the prow of their rapid vessel. “It is a fascinating sight, Miss Neuchatel, and it seems one might gaze on it for ever.”

“Ah! Lord Waldershare, you caught me in a reverie.”

“What more sweet?”

“Well, that depends on its subject. To tell the truth, I was thinking that these lights resembled a little your conversation; all the wondrous things you are always saying or telling us.”

The archbishop was a man who never recurred to the past. One could never suppose that Endymion and himself had been companions in their early youth, or, so far as their intercourse was concerned, that there was such a place in the world as Hurstley. One night, however, as they were pacing the deck together, he took the arm of Endymion, and said, “I trace the hand of Providence in every incident of your sister’s life. What we deemed misfortunes, sorrows, even calamities, were forming a character originally endowed with supreme will, and destined for the highest purposes. There was a moment at Hurstley when I myself was crushed to the earth, and cared not to live; vain, short-sighted mortal! Our great Master was at that moment shaping everything to His ends, and preparing for the entrance into His Church of a woman who may be, who will be, I believe, another St. Helena.”

“We have not spoken of this subject before,” said Endymion, “and I should not have cared had our silence continued, but I must now tell you frankly, the secession of my sister from the Church of her fathers was to me by no means a matter of unmixed satisfaction.”

“The time will come when you will recognise it as the consummation of a Divine plan,” said the archbishop.

“I feel great confidence that my sister will never be the slave of superstition,” said Endymion. “Her mind is too masculine for that; she will remember that the throne she fills has been already once lost by the fatal influence of the Jesuits.”

“The influence of the Jesuits is the influence of Divine truth,” said his companion. “And how is it possible for such influence not to prevail? What you treat as defeats, discomfitures, are events which you do not comprehend. They are incidents all leading to one great end — the triumph of the Church — that is, the triumph of God.”

“I will not decide what are great ends; I am content to ascertain what is wise conduct. And it would not be wise conduct, in my opinion, for the King to rest upon the Jesuits.”

“The Jesuits never fell except from conspiracy against them. It is never the public voice that demands their expulsion or the public effort that accomplishes it. It is always the affair of sovereigns and statesmen, of politicians, of men, in short, who feel that there is a power at work, and that power one not favourable to their schemes or objects of government.”

“Well, we shall see,” said Endymion; “I candidly tell you, I hope the Jesuits will have as little influence in my brother-in-law’s kingdom as in my own country.”

“As little!” said Nigel, somewhat sarcastically; “I should be almost content if the holy order in every country had as much influence as they now have in England.”

“I think your Grace exaggerates.”

“Before two years are past,” said the archbishop, speaking very slowly, “I foresee that the Jesuits will be privileged in England, and the hierarchy of our Church recognised.”

It was a delicious afternoon; it had been sultry, but the sun had now greatly declined, when the captain of the yacht came down to announce to the Queen that they were in sight of her new country, and she hastened on deck to behold the rapidly nearing shore. A squadron of ships of war had stood out to meet her, and in due time the towers and spires of a beautiful city appeared, which was the port of the capital, and itself almost worthy of being one. A royal barge, propelled by four-and-twenty rowers, and bearing the lord chamberlain, awaited the queen, and the moment her Majesty and the Princess of Montserrat had taken their seats, salutes thundered from every ship of war, responded to by fort and battery ashore.

When they landed, they were conducted by chief officers of the court to a pavilion which faced the western sky, now glowing like an opal with every shade of the iris, and then becoming of a light green colour varied only by some slight clouds burnished with gold. A troop of maidens brought flowers as bright as themselves, and then a company of pages advanced, and kneeling, offered to the Queen chocolate in a crystal cup.

According to the programme drawn up by the heralds, and every tittle of it founded on precedents, the King and the royal carriages were to have met the travellers on their arrival at the metropolis; but there are feelings which heralds do not comprehend, and which defy precedents. Suddenly there was a shout, a loud cheer, and a louder salute. Some one had arrived unexpectedly. A young man, stately but pale, moved through the swiftly receding crowd, alone and unattended, entered the pavilion, advanced to the Queen, kissed her hand, and then both her cheeks, just murmuring, “My best beloved, this, this indeed is joy.”

The capital was fortified, and the station was without the walls; here the royal carriages awaited them. The crowd was immense; the ramparts on this occasion were covered with people. It was an almost sultry night, with every star visible, and clear and warm and sweet. As the royal carriage crossed the drawbridge and entered the chief gates, the whole city was in an instant suddenly illuminated — in a flash. The architectural lines of the city walls, and of every street, were indicated, and along the ramparts at not distant intervals were tripods, each crowned with a silver flame, which cast around the radiance of day.

He held and pressed her hand as in silence she beheld the wondrous scene. They had to make a progress of some miles; the way was kept throughout by soldiery and civic guards, while beyond them was an infinite population, all cheering and many of them waving torches. They passed through many streets, and squares with marvellous fountains, until they arrived at the chief and royal street, which has no equal in the world. It is more than a mile long, never swerving from a straight line, broad, yet the houses so elevated that they generally furnish the shade this ardent clime requires. The architecture of this street is so varied that it never becomes monotonous, some beautiful church, or palace, or ministerial hotel perpetually varying the effect. All the windows were full on this occasion, and even the roofs were crowded. Every house was covered with tapestry, and the line of every building was marked out by artificial light. The moon rose, but she was not wanted; it was as light as day.

They were considerate enough not to move too rapidly through this heart of the metropolis, and even halted at some stations, where bands of music and choirs of singers welcomed and celebrated them. They moved on more quickly afterwards, made their way through a pretty suburb, and then entered a park. At the termination of a long avenue was the illumined and beautiful palace of the Prince of Montserrat, where Myra was to reside and repose until the momentous morrow, when King Florestan was publicly to place on the brow of his affianced bride the crown which to his joy she had consented to share.

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