Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 97

When Endymion arrived in London he found among his letters two brief notes from Lady Montfort; one hurriedly written at Montfort Castle at the moment of her departure, and another from Princedown, with these words only, “All is over.” More than a week had elapsed since the last was written, and he had already learnt from the newspapers that the funeral had taken place. It was a painful but still necessary duty to fulfil, to write to her, which he did, but he received no answer to his letter of sympathy, and to a certain degree, of condolence. Time flew on, but he could not venture to write again, and without any absolute cause for his discomfort, he felt harassed and unhappy. He had been so accustomed all his life to exist under the genial influence of women that his present days seemed lone and dark. His sister and Berengaria, two of the most gifted and charming beings in the world, had seemed to agree that their first duty had ever been to sympathise with his fortunes and to aid them. Even his correspondence with Myra was changed. There was a tone of constraint in their communications; perhaps it was the great alteration in her position that occasioned it? His heart assured him that such was not the case. He felt deeply and acutely what was the cause. The subject most interesting to both of them could not be touched on. And then he thought of Adriana, and contrasted his dull and solitary home in Hill Street with what it might have been, graced by her presence, animated by her devotion, and softened by the sweetness of her temper.

Endymion began to feel that the run of his good fortune was dried. His sister, when he had a trouble, would never hear of this; she always held that the misery and calamities of their early years had exhausted the influence of their evil stars, and apparently she had been right, and perhaps she would have always been right had he not been perverse, and thwarted her in the most important circumstances of his life.

In this state of mind, there was nothing for him to do but to plunge into business; and affairs of state are a cure for many cares and sorrows. What are our petty annoyances and griefs when we have to guard the fortunes and the honour of a nation?

The November cabinets had commenced, and this brought all the chiefs to town, Sidney Wilton among them; and his society was always a great pleasure to Endymion; the only social pleasure now left to him was a little dinner at Mr. Wilton’s, and little dinners there abounded. Mr. Wilton knew all the persons that he was always thinking about, but whom, it might be noticed, they seemed to agree now rarely to mention. As for the rest, there was nobody to call upon in the delightful hours between official duties and dinner. No Lady Roehampton now, no brilliant Berengaria, and not even the gentle Imogene with her welcome smile. He looked in at the Coventry Club, a club of fashion, and also much frequented by diplomatists. There were a good many persons there, and a foreign minister immediately buttonholed the Under–Secretary of State.

“I called at the Foreign Office today,” said the foreign minister. “I assure you it is very pressing.”

“I had the American with me,” said Endymion, “and he is very lengthy. However, as to your business, I think we might talk it over here, and perhaps settle it.” And so they left the room together.

“I wonder what is going to happen to that gentleman,” said Mr. Ormsby, glancing at Endymion, and speaking to Mr. Cassilis.

“Why?” replied Mr. Cassilis, “is anything up?”

“Will he marry Lady Montfort?”

“Poh!” said Mr. Cassilis.

“You may poh!” said Mr. Ormsby, “but he was a great favourite.”

“Lady Montfort will never marry. She had always a poodle, and always will have. She was never so liee with Ferrars as with the Count of Ferroll, and half a dozen others. She must have a slave.”

“A very good mistress with thirty thousand a year.”

“She has not that,” said Mr. Cassilis doubtingly.

“What do you put Princedown at?” said Mr. Ormsby.

“That I can tell you to a T,” replied Mr. Cassilis, “for it was offered to me when old Rambrooke died. You will never get twelve thousand a year out of it.”

“Well, I will answer for half a million consols,” said Ormsby, “for my lawyer, when he made a little investment for me the other day, saw the entry himself in the bank-books; our names are very near, you know — M, and O. Then there is her jointure, something like ten thousand a year.”

“No, no; not seven.”

“Well, that would do.”

“And what is the amount of your little investment in consols altogether, Ormsby?”

“Well, I believe I top Montfort,” said Mr. Ormsby with a complacent smile, “but then you know, I am not a swell like you; I have no land.”

“Lady Montfort, thirty thousand a year,” said Mr. Cassilis musingly. “She is only thirty. She is a woman who will set the Thames on fire, but she will never marry. Do you dine today, by any chance, with Sidney Wilton?”

When Endymion returned home this evening, he found a letter from Lady Montfort. It was a month since he had written to her. He was so nervous that he absolutely for a moment could not break the seal, and the palpitation of his heart was almost overpowering.

Lady Montfort thanked him for his kind letter, which she ought to have acknowledged before, but she had been very busy — indeed, quite overwhelmed with affairs. She wished to see him, but was sorry she could not ask him to come down to Princedown, as she was living in complete retirement, only her aunt with her, Lady Gertrude, whom, she believed, he knew. He was aware, probably, how good Lord Montfort had been to her. Sincerely she could say, nothing could have been more unexpected. If she could have seen her husband before the fatal moment, it would have been a consolation to her. He had always been kind to Endymion; she really believed sometimes that Lord Montfort was even a little attached to him. She should like Endymion to have some souvenir of her late husband. Would he choose something, or would he leave it to her?

One would rather agree, from the tone of this letter, that Mr. Cassilis knew what he was talking about. It fell rather odd on Endymion’s heart, and he passed a night of some disquietude; not one of those nights, exactly, when we feel that the end of the world has at length arrived, and that we are the first victim, but a night when you slumber rather than sleep, and wake with the consciousness of some indefinable chagrin.

This was a dull Christmas for Endymion Ferrars. He passed it, as he had passed others, at Gaydene, but what a contrast to the old assemblies there! Every source of excitement that could make existence absolutely fascinating seemed then to unite in his happy fate. Entrancing love and the very romance of domestic affection, and friendships of honour and happiness, and all the charms of an accomplished society, and the feeling of a noble future, and the present and urgent interest in national affairs — all gone, except some ambition which might tend to consequences not more successful than those that had ultimately visited his house with irreparable calamity.

The meeting of parliament was a great relief to Endymion. Besides his office, he had now the House of Commons to occupy him. He was never absent from his place; no little runnings up to Montfort House or Hill Street just to tell them the authentic news, or snatch a hasty repast with furtive delight, with persons still more delightful, and flattering one’s self all the time that, so far as absence was concerned, the fleetness of one’s gifted brougham horse really made it no difference between Mayfair and Bellamy’s.

Endymion had replied, but not very quickly, to Lady Montfort’s letter, and he had heard from her again, but her letter requiring no reply, the correspondence had dropped. It was the beginning of March when she wrote to him to say, that she was obliged to come to town to see her lawyer and transact some business; that she would be “at papa’s in Grosvenor Square,” though the house was shut up, on a certain day, that she much wished to see Endymion, and begged him to call on her.

It was a trying moment when about noon he lifted the knocker to Grosvenor Square. The door was not opened rapidly, and the delay made him more nervous. He almost wished the door would never open. He was shown into a small back room on the ground floor in which was a bookcase, and which chamber, in the language of Grosvenor Square, is called a library.

“Her ladyship will see you presently,” said the servant, who had come up from Princedown.

Endymion was standing before the fire, and as nervous as a man could well be. He sighed, and he sighed more than once. His breathing was oppressed; he felt that life was too short to permit us to experience such scenes and situations. He heard the lock of the door move, and it required all his manliness to endure it.

She entered; she was in weeds, but they became her admirably; her countenance was grave and apparently with an effort to command it. She did not move hurriedly, but held out both her hands to Endymion and retained his, and all without speaking. Her lips then seemed to move, when, rather suddenly, withdrawing her right hand, and placing it on his shoulder and burying her face in her arm, she wept.

He led her soothingly to a seat, and took a chair by her side. Not a word had yet been spoken by either of them; only a murmur of sympathy on the part of Endymion. Lady Montfort spoke first.

“I am weaker than I thought, but it is a great trial.” And then she said how sorry she was, that she could not receive him at Princedown; but she thought it best that he should not go there. “I have a great deal of business to transact — you would not believe how much. I do not dislike it, it occupies me, it employs my mind. I have led so active a life, that solitude is rather too much for me. Among other business, I must buy a town house, and that is the most difficult of all affairs. There never was so great a city with such small houses. I shall feel the loss of Montfort House, though I never used it half so much as I wished. I want a mansion; I should think you could help me in this. When I return to society, I mean to receive. There must be therefore good reception rooms; if possible, more than good. And now let us talk about our friends. Tell me all about your royal sister, and this new marriage; it rather surprised me, but I think it excellent. Ah! you can keep a secret, but you see it is no use having a secret with me. Even in solitude everything reaches me.”

“I assure you most seriously, that I can annex no meaning to what you are saying.”

“Then I can hardly think it true; and yet it came from high authority, and it was not told me as a real secret.”

“A marriage, and whose?”

“Miss Neuchatel’s — Adriana.”

“And to whom?” inquired Endymion, changing colour.

“To Lord Waldershare.”

“To Lord Waldershare!”

“And has not your sister mentioned it to you?”

“Not a word; it cannot be true.”

“I will give to you my authority,” said Lady Montfort. “Though I came here in the twilight of a hired brougham, and with a veil, I was caught before I could enter the house by, of all people in the world, Mrs. Rodney. And she told me this in what she called ‘real confidence,’ and it was announced to her in a letter from her sister, Lady Beaumaris. They seem all delighted with the match.”

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