Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 19

It seemed that the duchess and Lady St. Jerome were intimate, for they called each other by their Christian names, and kissed each other. The young ladies also were cordial. Her grace greeted Lothair with heartiness; Lady Corisande with some reserve. Lothair thought she looked very radiant and very proud.

It was some time since they had all met — not since the end of the last season — so there was a great deal to talk about. There had been deaths and births and marriages which required a flying comment — all important events; deaths which solved many difficulties, heirs to estates which were not expected, and weddings which surprised everybody.

“And have you seen Selina?” inquired Lady St. Jerome.

“Not yet; except mamma, this is our first visit,” replied the duchess.

“Ah! that is real friendship. She came down to Vauxe the other day, but I did not think she was looking well. She frets herself too much about her boys; she does not know what to do with them. They will not go into the Church, and they have no fortune for the Guards.”

“I understood that Lord Plantagenet was to be a civil engineer,” said Lady Corisande.

“And Lord Albert Victor to have a sheep-walk in Australia,” continued Lady St. Jerome.

“They say that a lord must not go to the bar,” said Miss Arundel. “It seems to me very unjust.”

“Alfred Beaufort went the circuit,” said Lady Corisande, “but I believe they drove him into Parliament.”

“You will miss your friend Bertram at Oxford,” said the duchess, addressing Lothair.

“Indeed,” said Lothair, rather confused, for he was himself a defaulter in collegiate attendance. “I was just going to write to him to see whether one could not keep half a term.”

“Oh! nothing will prevent his taking his degree,” said the duchess, “but I fear there must be some delay. There is a vacancy for our county — Mr. Sandstone is dead, and they insist upon returning Bertram. I hope he will be of age before the nomination. The duke is much opposed to it; he wishes him to wait; but in these days it is not so easy for young men to get into Parliament. It is not as it used to be; we cannot choose.”

“This is an important event,” said Lothair to Lady Corisande.

“I think it is; nor do I believe Bertram is too young for public life. These are not times to be laggard.”

“There is no doubt they are very serious times,” said Lothair.

“I have every confidence in Bertram — in his ability and his principles.”

The ladies began to talk about the approaching drawing-room and Lady Corisande’s presentation, and Lothair thought it right to make his obeisance and withdraw. He met in the hall Father Coleman, who was in fact looking after him, and would have induced him to repair to the father’s room and hold some interesting conversation, but Lothair was not so congenial as usual. He was even abrupt, and the father, who never pressed any thing, assuming that Lothair had some engagement, relinquished with a serene brow, but not without chagrin, what he had deemed might have proved a golden opportunity.

And yet Lothair had no engagement, and did not know where to go or what to do with himself. But he wanted to be alone, and of all persons in the world at that moment, he had a sort of instinct that the one he wished least to converse with was Father Coleman.

“She has every confidence in his principles,” said Lothair to himself as he mounted his horse, “and his principles were mine six months ago, when I was at Brentham. Delicious Brentham! It seems like a dream; but every thing seems like a dream; I hardly know whether life is agony or bliss.”

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