Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 36

The lodge-gate of Belmont was opening as Lothair one morning approached it; a Hansom cab came forth, and in it was a person whose countenance was strongly marked on the memory of Lothair. It was that of his unknown friend at the Fenian meeting. Lothair instantly recognized and cordially saluted him, and his greeting, though hurriedly, was not ungraciously returned; but the vehicle did not stop. Lothair called to the driver to halt; but the driver, on the contrary, stimulated his steed, and in the winding lane was soon out of sight.

Theodora was not immediately visible. She was neither in her usual apartment nor in her garden; but it was only perhaps because Lothair was so full of his own impressions from his recent encounter at the lodge, that he did not observe that the demeanor of Mrs. Campian, when she appeared, was hardly marked by her habitual serenity. She entered the room hurriedly and spoke with quickness.

“Pray,” exclaimed Lothair, rather eagerly, “do tell me the name of the gentleman who has just called here.”

Theodora changed color, looked distressed, and was silent; unobserved, however, by Lothair, who, absorbed by his own highly-excited curiosity, proceeded to explain why he presumed to press for the information. “I am under great obligations to that person; I am not sure I may not say I owe him my life, but certainly an extrication from great dander and very embarrassing danger too. I never saw him but once, and he would not give me his name, and scarcely would accept my thanks. I wanted to stop his cab today, but it was impossible. He literally galloped off.”

“He is a foreigner,” said Mrs Campian, who had recovered herself; “he was a particular friend of my dear father; and when he visits England, which he does occasionally, he calls to see us.”

“Ah!” said Lothair, “I hope I shall soon have an opportunity of expressing to him my gratitude.”

“It was so like him not to give his name and to shrink from thanks,” said Mrs. Campian. “He never enters society, and makes no acquaintances.”

“I am sorry for that,” said Lothair, “for it is not only that he served me, but I was much taken with him, and felt that he was a person I should like to cultivate.”

“Yes, Captain Bruges is a remarkable man,” said Theodora; “he is not one to be forgotten.”

“Captain Bruges. That, then, is his name?”

“He is known by the name of Captain Bruges,” said Theodora, and she hesitated; and then speaking more quickly she added: “I cannot sanction, I cannot bear, any deception between you and this roof. Bruges is not his real name, nor is the title he assumes his real rank. He is not to be known, and not to be spoken of. He is one, and one of the most eminent, of the great family of sufferers in this world, but sufferers for a divine cause. I myself have been direly stricken in this struggle. When I remember the departed, it is not always easy to bear the thought. I keep it at the bottom of my heart; but this visit today has too terribly revived every thing. It is well that you only are here to witness my suffering, but you will not have to witness it again, for we will never again speak of these matters.”

Lothair was much touched: his good heart and his good taste alike dissuaded him from attempting commonplace consolation. He ventured to take her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Dear lady!” he murmured, and he led her to a seat. “I fear my foolish tattle has added to pain which I would gladly bear for you.”

They talked about nothings: about a new horse which Colonel Campian had just purchased, and which he wanted to show to Lothair; an old opera revived, but which sounded rather flat; something amusing that somebody had said, and something absurd which somebody had done. And then, when the ruffled feeling had been quite composed, and all had been brought back to the tenor of their usual pleasant life, Lothair said suddenly and rather gayly. “And now, dearest lady, I have a favor to ask. You know my majority is, to be achieved and to be celebrated next month. I hope that yourself and Colonel Campian will honor me by being my guests.”

Theodora did not at all look like a lady who had received a social attention of the most distinguished class. She looked embarrassed, and began to murmur something about Colonel Campian, and their never going into society.

“Colonel Campian is going to Scotland, and you are going with him,” said Lothair. “I know it, for he told me so, and said he could manage the visit to me, if you approved it, quite well. In fact, it will fit in with this Scotch visit.”

“There was some talk once about Scotland,” said Theodora, “but that was a long time ago. Many things have happened since then. I do not think the Scotch visit is by any means so settled as you think.”

“But, however that may be decided,” said Lothair, “there can be no reason why you should not come to me.”

“It is presumptuous in me, a foreigner, to speak of such matters,” said Theodora; “but I fancy that, in such celebrations as you contemplate, there is, or there should be, some qualification of blood or family connection for becoming your guests. We should be there quite strangers, and in everybody’s way, checking the local and domestic abandon which I should suppose is one of the charms of such meetings.”

“I have few relations and scarcely a connection,” said Lothair rather moodily. “I can only ask friends to celebrate my majority, and there are no friends whom I so much regard as those who live at Belmont.”

“It is very kind of you to say that, and to feel it; and I know that you would not say it if you did not feel it,” replied Theodora. “But still, I think it would be better that we should come to see you at a time when you are less engaged; perhaps you will take Colonel Campian down some day and give him some shooting.”

“All I can say is that, if you do not come, it will be the darkest, instead of the brightest, week in my life,” said Lothair. “In short, I feel I could not get through the business; I should be so mortified. I cannot restrain my feelings or arrange my countenance. Unless you come, the whole affair will be a complete failure, and worse than a failure.”

“Well, I will speak to Colonel Campian about it,” said Theodora, but with little animation.

“We will both speak to him about it now,” said Lothair, for the colonel at that moment entered the room and greeted Lothair, as was his custom, cordially.

“We are settling the visit to Muriel,” said Lothair; “I want to induce Mrs. Campian to come down a day or two before the rest, so that we may have the benefit of her counsel.”

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