Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 11

The Standing Committee of the Holy Alliance of Peoples all rose, although they were extreme republicans, when the general entered. Such is the magical influence of a man of action over men of the pen an the tongue. Had it been, instead of a successful military leader, an orator that had inspired Europe, or a journalist who had rights of the human race, the Standing Committee would have only seen men of their own kidney, who, having been favored with happier opportunities than themselves, had reaped a harvest which, equally favored, they might here have garnered.

“General,” said Felix Drolin, the president, who was looked upon by the brotherhood as a statesman, for he had been in his time, a member of a provisional government, “this seat is for you,” and he pointed to one on his right hand. “You are ever welcome; and I hope you bring good tidings, and good fortune.”

“I am glad to be among my friends, and I may say,” looking around, “my comrades. I hope I may bring you better fortune than my tidings.”

“But now they have left Rome,” said the president, “every day we expect good news.”

“Ay, ay! he has left Rome, but he has not left Rome with the door open. I hope it is not on such gossip you have sent for me. You have something on hand. What is it?”

“You shall hear it from the fountain-head,” said the president, “fresh from New York,” and he pointed to an individual seated in the centre of the table.

“Ah! Colonel Finucane,” said the general, “I have not forgotten James River. You did that well. What is the trick now?”

Whereupon a tall, lean man, with a decided brogue, but speaking through his nose, rose from his seat and informed the general that the Irish people were organized and ready to rise; that they had sent their deputies to New York; all they wanted were arms and officers; that the American brethren had agreed to supply them with both, and amply; and that considerable subscriptions were raising for other purposes. What they now required was a commander-inchief equal to the occasion, and in whom all would have confidence; and therefore they had telegraphed for the general.

“I doubt not our friends over the water would send us plenty of rifles,” said the general, “if we could only manage to land them; and, I think, I know men now in the States from whom I could form a good staff; but how about the people of Ireland? What evidence have we that they will rise, if we land?”

“The best,” said the president. “We have a head-centre here, Citizen Desmond, who will give you the most recent and the most authentic intelligence on that head.”

“The whole country is organized,” said the head-centre; “we could put three hundred thousand men in the field at any time in a fortnight. The movement is not sectarian; it pervades all classes and all creeds. All that we want are officers and arms.”

“Hem!” said the general; “and as to your other supplies? Any scheme of commissariat?”

“There will be no lack of means,” replied the head-centre. “There is no country where so much money is hoarded as in Ireland. But, depend upon it, so far as the commissariat is concerned, the movement will be self-supporting.”

“Well, we shall see,” said, the general; “I am sorry it is an Irish affair, though, to be sure, what else could it be? I am not fond of Irish affairs: whatever may be said, and however plausible things may look, in an Irish business there is always a priest at the bottom of it. I hate priests. By-the-by, I was stopped on my way here by a cardinal getting into his carriage. I thought I had burnt all those vehicles when I was at Rome with Garibaldi in ‘48. A cardinal in his carriage! I had no idea you permitted that sort of cattle in London.”

“London is a roost for every bird,” said Felix Drolin.

“Very few of the priests favor this movement,” said Desmond.

“Then you have a great power against you,” said the general, in “addition to England.”

“They are not exactly against; the bulk of them are too national for that; but Rome does not sanction — you understand?”

“I understand enough,” said the general, “to see that we must not act with precipitation. An Irish business is a thing to be turned over several times.”

“But yet,” said a Pole, “what hope for humanity except from the rising of an oppressed nationality? We have offered ourselves on the altar, and in vain! Greece is too small, and Roumania — though both of them are ready to do any thing; but they would be the mere tools of Russia. Ireland alone remains, and she is at our feet.”

“The peoples will never succeed until they have a fleet,” said a German. “Then you could land as many rifles as you like, or any thing else. To have a fleet we rose against Denmark in my country, but we have been betrayed. Nevertheless, Germany will yet be united, and she can only be united as a republic. Then she will be the mistress of the seas.”

“That is the mission of Italy,” said Perroni. “Italy — with the traditions of Genoa, Venice, Pisa — Italy is plainly indicated as the future mistress of the seas.”

“I beg your pardon,” said the German; “the future mistress of the sees is the land of the Viking. It is the forests of the Baltic that will build the Best of the future. You have no timber in Italy.”

“Timber is no longer wanted,” said Perroni. “Nor do I know of what will be formed the fleets of the future. But the sovereignty of the seas depends upon seamen, and the nautical genius of the Italians —”

“Comrades,” said the general, “we have discussed to-night a great subject. For my part I have travelled rather briskly, as you wished it. I should like to sleep on this affair.”

“’Tis most reasonable,” said the president. “Our refreshment at council is very spare,” he continued, and he pointed to a vase of water and some glasses ranged round it in the middle of the table; “but we always drink one toast, general, before we separate. It is to one whom you love, and whom you have served well. Fill glasses, brethren and now ‘TO MARY-ANNE.’”

If they had been inspired by the grape, nothing could be more animated and even excited than all their countenances suddenly became. The cheer might have been heard in the coffee-room, as they expressed, in the phrases of many languages, the never-failing and never-flagging enthusiasm invoked by the toast of their mistress.

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