Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 47

On the morrow, the early celebration in the chapel was numerously attended. The duchess and her daughters, Lady Agramont, and Mrs. Ardenne, were among the faithful; but what encouraged and gratified the bishop was, that the laymen, on whom he less relied, were numerously represented. The lord-lieutenant, Lord Carisbrooke, Lord Montairy, Bertram, and Hugo Bohun accompanied Lothair to the altar.

After the celebration, Lothair retired to his private apartments. It was arranged that he was to join his assembled friends at noon, when he would receive their congratulations, and some deputations from the county.

At noon, therefore, preparatively preceded by Mr. Putney Giles, whose thought was never asleep, and whose eye was on every thing, the guardians, the cardinal, and the Earl of Culloden, waited on Lothair to accompany him to his assembled friends, and, as it were, launch him into the world.

They were assembled at one end of the chief gallery, and in a circle. Although the deputations would have to advance the whole length of the chamber, Lothair and his guardians entered from a side apartment. Even with this assistance he felt very nervous. There was no lack of feeling, and, among many, of deep feeling, on this occasion, but there was an equal and a genuine exhibition of ceremony.

The lord-lieutenant was the first person who congratulated Lothair, though the high-sheriff had pushed forward for that purpose, but, in his awkward precipitation, he got involved with the train of the Hon. Lady Clotworthy, who bestowed on him such a withering glance, that he felt a routed man, and gave up the attempt. There were many kind and some earnest words. Even St. Aldegonde acknowledged the genius of the occasion. He was grave, graceful, and dignified, and, addressing Lothair by his title, he said, “that he hoped he would meet in life that happiness which he felt confident he deserved.” Theodora said nothing, though her lips seemed once to move; but she retained for a moment Lothair’s hand, and the expression of her countenance touched his innermost heart. Lady Corisande beamed with dazzling beauty. Her countenance was joyous, radiant; her mien imperial and triumphant. She gave her hand with graceful alacrity to Lothair, and said in a hushed tone, but every word of which reached his ear, “One of the happiest hours of my life was eight o’clock this morning.”

The lord-lieutenant and the county members then retired to the other end of the gallery, and ushered in the deputation of the magistracy of the county, congratulating their new brother, for Lothair had just been appointed to the bench, on his secession to his estates. The lord-lieutenant himself read the address, to which Lothair replied with a propriety all acknowledged. Then came the address of the mayor and corporation of Grandchester, of which city Lothair was hereditary high-steward; and then that of his tenantry, which was cordial and characteristic. And here many were under the impression that this portion of the proceedings would terminate; but it was not so. There had been some whispering between the bishop and the archdeacon, and the Rev. Dionysius Smylie had, after conference with his superiors, twice left the chamber. It seems that the clergy had thought fit to take this occasion of congratulating Lothair on his great accession and the proportionate duties which it would fall on him to fulfil. The bishop approached Lothair and addressed him in a whisper. Lothair seemed surprised and a little agitated, but apparently bowed assent. Then the bishop and his staff proceeded to the end of the gallery and introduced a diocesan deputation, consisting of archdeacons and rural deans, who presented to Lothair a most uncompromising address, and begged his acceptance of a bible and prayer-book richly bound, and borne by the Rev. Dionysius Smylie on a cushion of velvet.

The habitual pallor of the cardinal’s countenance became unusually wan; the cheek of Clare Arundel was a crimson flush; Monsignore Catesby bit his lip; Theodora looked with curious seriousness, as if she were observing the manners of a foreign country; St. Aldegonde snorted, and pushed his hand through his hair, which had been arranged in unusual order. The great body of those present, unaware that this deputation was unexpected, were unmoved.

It was a trial for Lothair, and scarcely a fair one. He was not unequal to it, and what he said was esteemed, at the moment, by all parties as satisfactory; though the archdeacon, in secret conclave, afterward observed that he dwelt more on religion than on the Church, and spoke of the Church of Christ and not of the Church of England. He thanked them for their present of volumes, which all must reverence or respect.

While all this was taking place within the Towers, vast bodies of people were assembling without. Besides the notables of the county and his tenantry and their families, which drained all the neighboring villages, Lothair had forwarded several thousand tickets to the mayor and corporation of Grandchester, for distribution among their fellow-townsmen, who were invited to dine at Muriel and partake of the festivities of the day, and trains were hourly arriving with their eager and happy guests. The gardens were at once open for their unrestricted pleasure, but at two o’clock, according to the custom of the county under such circumstances, Lothair held what, in fact, was a lev e, or rather a drawing-room, when every person who possessed a ticket was permitted, and even invited and expected, to pass through the whole range of the state apartments of Muriel Towers, and at the same time pay their respects to, and make the acquaintance of, their lord.

Lothair stood with his chief friends near him, the ladies, however, seated, and every one passed — farmers and townsmen and honest folk, down to the stokers of the trains from Grandchester, with whose presence St. Aldegonde was much pleased, and whom he carefully addressed as they passed by.

After this great reception they all dined in pavilions in the park — one thousand tenantry by themselves, and at a fixed hour; the miscellaneous multitude in a huge crimson tent, very lofty, with many flags, and in which was served a banquet that never stopped till sunset, so that in time all might be satisfied; the notables and deputations, with the guests in the house, lunched in the armory. It was a bright day, and there was unceasing music.

In the course of the afternoon Lothair visited the pavilions, where his health was proposed, and pledged — in the first by one of his tenants, and in the other by a workman, both orators of repute; and he addressed and thanked his friends. This immense multitude, orderly and joyous, roamed about the parks and gardens, or danced on a platform which the prescient experience of Mr. Giles had provided for them in a due locality, and whiled away the pleasant hours, in expectation a little feverish of the impending fireworks, which, there was a rumor, were to be on a scale and in a style of which neither Grandchester nor the county had any tradition.

“I remember your words at Blenheim,” said Lothair to Theodora. “You cannot say the present party is founded on the principle of exclusion.”

In the mean time, about six o’clock, Lothair dined in his great hall with his two hundred guests at a banquet where all the resources of nature and art seemed called upon to contribute to its luxury and splendor. The ladies, who had never before dined at a public dinner, were particularly delighted. They were delighted by the speeches, though they had very few; they were delighted by the national anthem, all rising; particularly, they were delighted by “three-times-three, and one cheer more,” and “hip, hip.” It seemed to their unpractised ears like a great naval battle, or the end of the world, or any thing else of unimaginable excitement, tumult, and confusion.

The lord-lieutenant proposed Lothair’s health, and dexterously made his comparative ignorance of the subject the cause of his attempting a sketch of what he hoped might be the character of the person whose health he proposed. Every one intuitively felt the resemblance was just, and even complete, and Lothair confirmed their kind and sanguine anticipations by his terse and well-considered reply. His proposition of the ladies’ healths was a signal that the carriages were ready to take them, as arranged, to Muriel Mere.

The sun had set in glory over the broad expanse of waters still glowing in the dying beam; the people were assembled in thousands on the borders of the lake, in the centre of which was an island with a pavilion. Fanciful barges and gondolas of various shapes and colors were waiting for Lothair and his party, to carry them over to the pavilion, where they found a repast which became the hour and the scene — coffee and ices and whimsical drinks, which sultanas would sip in Arabian tales. No sooner were they seated than the sound of music was heard — distant, but now nearer, till there came floating on the lake, until it rested before the pavilion, a gigantic shell, larger than the building itself, but holding in its golden and opal seats Signor Mardoni and all his orchestra.

Then came a concert rare in itself, but ravishing in the rosy twilight; and in about half an hour, when the rosy twilight had subsided into a violet eve, and when the white moon that had only gleamed began to glitter, the colossal shell again moved on, and Lothair and his companions, embarking once more in their gondolas, followed it in procession about the lake. He carried in his own bark the duchess, Theodora, and the lord-lieutenant, and was rowed by a crew in Venetian dresses. As he handed Theodora to her seat, the impulse was irresistible — he pressed her hand to his lips.

Suddenly a rocket rose with a hissing rush from the pavilion. It was instantly responded to from every quarter of the lake. Then the island seemed on fire, and the scene of their late festivity became a brilliant palace, with pediments and columns and statues, bright in the blaze of colored flame. For half an hour the sky seemed covered with blue lights and the bursting forms of many-colored stars; golden fountains, like the eruption of a marine volcano, rose from different parts of the water; the statued palace on the island changed and became a forest glowing with green light; and finally a temple of cerulean tint, on which appeared in huge letters of prismatic color the name of Lothair.

The people cheered, but even the voice of the people was overcome by troops of rockets rising from every quarter of the lake, and by the thunder of artillery. When the noise and the smoke had both subsided, the name of Lothair still legible on the temple but the letters quite white, it was perceived that on every height for fifty miles round they had fired a beacon.

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