Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 16

Lothair began to meditate on two great ideas — the reconciliation of Christendom, and the influence of architecture on religion. If the differences between the Roman and Anglican Churches, and between the papacy and Protestantism generally arose, as Father Coleman assured him, and seemed to prove, in mere misconception, reconciliation, though difficult, did not seem impossible, and appeared to be one of the most efficient modes of defeating the atheists. It was a result which, of course, mainly depended on the authority of Reason; but the power of the imagination might also be enlisted in the good cause through the influence of the fine arts, of which the great mission is to excite, and at the same time elevate, the feelings of the human family. Lothair found himself frequently in a reverie over Miss Arundel’s ideal fane; and, feeling that he had the power of buying up a district in forlorn Westminster, and raising there a temple to the living God, which might influence the future welfare of millions, and even effect the salvation of his country, he began to ask himself whether he could incur the responsibility of shrinking from the fulfilment of this great duty.

Lothair could not have a better adviser on the subject of the influence of architecture on religion than Monsignore Catesby. Monsignore Catesby had been a pupil of Pugin; his knowledge of ecclesiastical architecture was only equalled by his exquisite taste. To hear him expound the mysteries of symbolical art, and expatiate on the hidden revelations of its beauteous forms, reached even to ecstasy. Lothair hung upon his accents like a neophyte. Conferences with Father Coleman on those points of faith on which they did not differ, followed up by desultory remarks on those points of faith on which they ought not to differ — critical discussions with Monsignore Catesby on cathedrals, their forms, their purposes, and the instances in several countries in which those forms were most perfect and those purposes best secured — occupied a good deal of time; and yet these engaging pursuits were secondary in real emotion to his frequent conversations with Miss Arundel in whose society every day he took a strange and deeper interest.

She did not extend to him that ready sympathy which was supplied by the two priests. On the contrary, when he was apt to indulge in those speculations which they always encouraged, and rewarded by adroit applause, she was often silent, throwing on him only the scrutiny of those violet yes, whose glance was rather fascinating than apt to captivate. And yet he was irresistibly drawn to her, and, once recalling the portrait in the gallery, he ventured to murmur that they were kinsfolk.

“Oh! I have no kin, no country,” said Miss Arundel. “These are not times for kin and country. I have given up all these things for my Master!”

“But are our times so trying as that?” inquired Lothair.

“They are times for new crusades,” said Miss Arundel, with energy, “though it may be of a different character from the old. If I were a man, I would draw my sword for Christ. There are as great deeds to be done as the siege of Ascalon, or even as the freeing of the Holy Sepulchre.”

In the midst of a profound discussion with Father Coleman on Mariolatry, Lothair, rapt in reverie, suddenly introduced the subject of Miss Arundel. “I wonder what will be her lot?” he exclaimed.

“It seems to, me to be settled,” said Father Coleman. “She will be the bride of the Church.”

“Indeed?” and he started, and even changed color.

“She deems it her vocation,” said Father Coleman.

“And yet, with such gifts, to be immured in a convent,” said Lothair.

“That would not necessarily follow,” replied Father Coleman. “Miss Arundel may occupy a position in which she may exercise much influence for the great cause which absorbs her being.”

“There is a divine energy about her,” said Lothair, almost speaking to himself. “It could not have been given for little ends.”

“If Miss Arundel could meet with a spirit as and as energetic as her own,” said Father. Coleman, “Her fate might be different. She has no thoughts which are not great, and no purposes which are not sublime. But for the companion of her life she would require no less than a Godfrey de Bouillon.”

Lothair began to find the time pass very rapidly at Vauxe. Easter week had nearly vanished; Vauxe had been gay during the last few days. Every day some visitors came down from London; sometimes they returned in the evening; sometimes they passed the night at Vauxe, and returned to town in the morning with large bouquets. Lothair felt it was time for him to interfere, and he broke his intention to Lady St. Jerome; but Lady St. Jerome would not hear of it. So he muttered something about business.

“Exactly,” she said; “everybody has business, and I dare say you have a great deal. But Vauxe is exactly the place for persons who have business. You go up to town by an early train, and then you return exactly in time for dinner, and bring us all the news from the clubs.”

Lothair was beginning to say something, but Lady St. Jerome, who, when necessary, had the rare art of not listening without offending the speaker, told him that they did not intend themselves to return to town for a week or so, and that she knew Lord St. Jerome would be greatly annoyed if Lothair did not remain.

Lothair remained; and he went up to town one or two mornings to transact business; that is to say, to see a celebrated architect and to order plans for a cathedral, in which all the purposes of those sublime and exquisite structures were to be realized. The drawings would take a considerable time to prepare, and these must be deeply considered. So Lothair became quite domiciliated at Vauxe: he went up to town in the morning, and returned, as it were, to his home; everybody delighted to welcome him, and yet he seemed not expected. His rooms were called after his name; and the household treated him as one of the family.

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