Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 62

This recognition of Rome by Lothair evinced not only a consciousness of locality, but an interest in it not before exhibited; and the monsignore soon after seized the opportunity of drawing the mind of his companion to the past, and feeling how far he now realized the occurrences that immediately preceded his arrival in the city. But Lothair would not dwell on them. “I wish to think of nothing,” he said, “that happened before I entered this city: all I desire now is to know those to whom I am indebted for my preservation in a condition that seemed hopeless.”

“There is nothing hopeless with Divine aid,” said the monsignore; “but, humanly speaking, you are indebted for your preservation to English friends, long and intimately cherished. It is under their roof that you dwell, the Agostini palace, tenanted by Lord St. Jerome.”

“Lord St. Jerome!” murmured Lothair to himself.

“And the ladies of his house are those who, only with some slight assistance from my poor self, tended you throughout your most desperate state, and when we sometimes almost feared that mind and body were alike wrecked.”

“I have a dream of angels,” said Lothair; “and sometimes I listened to heavenly voices that I seemed to have heard before.”

“I am sure you have not forgotten the ladies of that house?” said Catesby, watching his countenance.

“No; one of them summoned me to meet her at Rome,” murmured Lothair, “and I am here.”

“That summons was divine,” said Catesby, “and only the herald of the great event that was ordained and has since occurred. In this holy city, Miss Arundel must ever count as the most sanctified of her sex.”

Lothair lapsed into silence, which subsequently appeared to be meditation, for, when the carriage stopped, and the monsignore assisted him to alight, he said, “I must see Lord St. Jerome.”

And, in the afternoon, with due and preparatory announcement, Lord St. Jerome waited on Lothair. The monsignore ushered him into the chamber, and, though he left them as it were alone, never quitted it. He watched them conversing, while he seemed to be arranging books and flowers; he hovered over the conference, dropping down on them at a critical moment, when the words became either languid or embarrassing. Lord St. Jerome was a hearty man, simple and high-bred. He addressed Lothair with all his former kindness, but with some degree of reserve, and even a dash of ceremony. Lothair was not insensible to the alteration in his manner, but could ascribe it to many causes. He was himself resolved to make an effort, when Lord St. Jerome arose to depart, and expressed the intention of Lady St. Jerome to wait on him on the morrow. “No, my dear lord,” said Lothair; “tomorrow I make my first visit, and it shall be to my best friends. I would try to come this evening, but they will not be alone; and I must see them alone if it be only once.”

This visit of the morrow rather pressed on the nervous system of Lothair. It was no slight enterprise, and called up many recollections. He brooded over his engagement during the whole evening, and his night was disturbed. His memory, long in a state of apathy, or curbed and controlled into indifference, seemed endowed with unnatural vitality, reproducing the history of his past life in rapid and exhausting tumult. All its scenes rose before him — Brentham, and Vauxe, and, Muriel — and closing with one absorbing spot, which, for a long time, it avoided, and in which all merged and ended — Belmont. Then came that anguish of the heart, which none can feel but those who in the youth of life have lost some one infinitely fascinating and dear, and the wild query why he, too, had not fallen on the fatal plain which had entombed all the hope and inspiration of his existence.

The interview was not so trying an incident as Lothair anticipated, as often under such circumstances occurs. Miss Arundel was not present; and, in the second place, although Lothair could not at first be insensible to a change in the manner of Lady St. Jerome, as well as in that of her lord, exhibiting as it did a degree of deference and ceremony which with her toward him were quite unusual, still the genial, gushing nature of this lively and enthusiastic woman, full of sympathy, soon asserted itself, and her heart was overflowing with sorrow for all his sufferings and gratitude for his escape.

“And, after all,” she said, “every thing must have been ordained; and, without these trials, and even calamities, that great event could not have been brought about which must make all hail you as the most favored of men.”

Lothair stared with a look of perplexity, and then said: “If I be the most favored of men, it is only because two angelic beings have deigned to minister to me in my sorrow, with a sweet devotion I can never forget, and, alas! can never repay.”

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