Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 7

Mr. Giles was a leading partner in the firm of Roundells, Giles, and Roundell, among the most eminent solicitors of Lincoln’s Inn. He, in those days of prolonged maturity, might be described as still a young man. He had inherited from his father not only a large share in a first-rate business, but no inconsiderable fortune; and though he had, in her circles, a celebrated wife, he had no children. He was opulent and prosperous, with no cares and anxieties of his own, and loved his profession, for which he was peculiarly qualified, being a man of uncommon sagacity, very difficult to deceive, and yet one who sympathized with his clients, who were all personally attached to him, and many of whom were among the distinguished personages of the realm.

During an important professional visit to Ireland, Mr. Giles had made the acquaintance of Miss Apollonia Smylie, the niece of an Irish peer; and, though the lady was much admired and courted, had succeeded, after a time, in inducing her to become the partner of his life.

Mrs. Giles, or, as she described herself, Mrs. Putney Giles, taking advantage of a second and territorial Christian name of her husband, was a showy woman; decidedly handsome, unquestionably accomplished, and gifted with energy and enthusiasm which far exceeded even her physical advantages. Her principal mission was to destroy the papacy and to secure Italian unity. Her lesser impulses were to become acquainted with the aristocracy, and to be herself surrounded by celebrities. Having a fine house in Tyburnia, almost as showy as herself, and a husband who was never so happy as when gratifying her wishes, she did not find it difficult in a considerable degree to pursue and even accomplish her objects. The Putney Giles gave a great many dinners, and Mrs. Putney received her world frequently, if not periodically. As they entertained with profusion, her well-lighted saloons were considerably attended. These assemblies were never dull; the materials not being ordinary, often startling, sometimes even brilliant, occasionally rather heterogeneous. For, though being a violent Protestant, and of extreme conservative opinions, her antipapal antipathies and her Italian predilections frequently involved her with acquaintances not so distinguished as she deemed herself for devotion to the cause of order and orthodoxy. It was rumored that the brooding brow of Mazzini had been observed in her rooms, and there was no sort of question that she had thrown herself in ecstatic idolatry at the feet of the hero of Caprera.

On the morning of the day on which he intended to visit Cardinal Grandison, Mr. Giles, in his chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, was suddenly apprised, by a clerk, that an interview with him was sought by a client no less distinguished than Lothair.

Although Mr. Giles sat opposite two rows of tin boxes, each of which was numbered, and duly inscribed with the name of Lothair and that of the particular estate to which it referred, Mr. Giles, though he had had occasional communications with his client, was personally unacquainted with him. He viewed, therefore, with no ordinary curiosity the young man who was ushered into his room; a shapely youth slightly above the middle height; of simple, but distinguished mien, with a countenance naturally pale, though somewhat bronzed by a life of air and exercise, and a profusion of dark-auburn hair.

And for what could Lothair be calling on Mr. Giles?

It seems that one of Lothair’s intimate companions had got into a scrape, and under these circumstances had what is styled “made a friend” of Lothair; that is to say, confided to him his trouble, and asked his advice, with a view, when given, of its being followed by an offer of assistance.

Lothair, though inexperienced, and very ingenuous, was not devoid of a certain instinctive perception of men and, things, which rendered it difficult for him to be an easy prey. His natural disposition, and his comparatively solitary education, had made him a keen observer, and he was one who meditated over his observations. But he was naturally generous and sensible of kindness; and this was a favorite companion — next to Bertram, his most intimate.

Lothair was quite happy in the opportunity of soothing a perturbed spirit whose society had been to him a source of so much gratification.

It was not until Lothair had promised to extricate his friend from his whelming difficulties, that, upon examination, he found the act on his part was not so simple and so easy as he had assumed it to be. His guardians had apportioned to him an allowance in every sense adequate to his position; and there was no doubt, had he wished to exceed it for any legitimate purpose, not the slightest difficulty on their part would have been experienced.

Such a conjuncture had never occurred. Lothair was profuse, but he was not prodigal. He gratified all his fancies, but they were not ignoble ones; and he was not only sentimentally, but systematically, charitable. He had a great number of fine horses, and he had just paid for an expensive yacht. In a word, he spent a great deal of money, and until he called at his bankers to learn what sums were at his disposition he was not aware that he had overdrawn his account.

This was rather awkward. Lothair wanted a considerable sum, and he wanted it at once. Irrespective of the consequent delay, he shrunk from any communication with his guardians. From his uncle he had become, almost insensibly, estranged, and with his other guardian he had never had the slightest communication. Under these circumstances he recalled the name of the solicitor of the trustees, between whom and himself there had been occasional correspondence; and, being of a somewhat impetuous disposition, he rode off at once from his hotel to Lincoln’s Inn.

Mr. Giles listened to the narrative with unbroken interest and unswerving patience, with his eyes fixed on his client, and occasionally giving a sympathetic nod.

“And so,” concluded Lothair, “I thought I would come to you.”

“We are honored,” said Mr. Giles. “And, certainly, it is quite absurd that your lordship should want money, and for a worthy purpose, and not be able to command it. Why! the balance in the name of the trustees never was so great as at this moment; and this very day, or tomorrow at farthest, I shall pay no less than eight-and-thirty thousand pounds timber-money to the account.”

“Well, I don’t want a fifth of that,” said Lothair.

“Your lordship has an objection to apply to the trustees?” inquired Mr. Giles.

“That is the point of the whole of my statement,” said Lothair somewhat impatiently.

“And yet it is the right and regular thing,” said Mr. Giles.

“It may be right and it may be regular, but it is out of the question.”

“Then we will say no more about it. What I want to prevent,” said Mr. Giles, musingly, “is any thing absurd happening. There is no doubt if your lordship went into the street and said you wanted ten thousand pounds, or a hundred thousand, fifty people would supply you immediately — but you would have to pay for it. Some enormous usury! That would be bad; but the absurdity of the thing would be greater than the mischief. Roundells, Giles, and Roundell could not help you in that manner. That is not our business. We are glad to find money for our clients at a legal rate of interest, and the most moderate rate feasible. But then there must be security, and the best security. But here we must not conceal it from ourselves, my lord, we have no security whatever. At this moment your lordship has no property. An insurance-office might do it with a policy. They might consider that they had a moral security; but still it would be absurd. There is something absurd in your lordship having to raise money. Don’t you think I could see these people,” said Mr. Giles, “and talk to them, and gain a little time? We only want a little time.”

“No,” said Lothair, in a peremptory tone. “I said I would do it, and it must be done, and at once. Sooner than there should be delay, I would rather go into the street, as you suggest, and ask the first man I met to lend me the money. My word has been given, and I do not care what I pay to fulfil my word.”

“We must not think of such things,” said Mr. Giles, shaking his head. “All I want your lordship to understand is the exact position. In this case we have no security. Roundells, Giles, and Roundell cannot move without security. It would be against our articles of partnership. But Mr. Giles, as a private individual, may do what he likes. I will let your lordship have the money, and I will take no security whatever — not even a note of hand. All that I ask for is that your lordship should write me a letter, saying you have urgent need for a sum of money (mentioning amount) for an honorable purpose, in which your feelings are deeply interested — and that will do. If any thing happens to your lordship before this time next year, why, I think the trustees could hardly refuse repaying the money; and if they did, why then,” added Mr. Giles, “I suppose it will be all the same a hundred years hence.”

“You have conferred on me the greatest obligation,” said Lothair, with much earnestness. “Language cannot express what I feel. I am not too much used to kindness, and I only hope that I may live to show my sense of yours.”

“It is really no great affair, my lord,” said Mr. Giles. “I did not wish to make difficulties, but it was my duty to put the matter clearly before you. What I propose I could to do is really nothing. I could do no less; I should have felt quite absurd if your lordship had gone into the money-market.”

“I only hope,” repeated Lothair, rising and offering Mr. Giles his hand, “that life may give me some occasion to prove my gratitude.”

“Well, my lord,” replied Mr. Giles, “if your lordship wish to repay me for any little interest I have shown in your affairs, you can do that, over and over again, and at once.”

“How so?”

“By a very great favor, by which Mrs. Giles and myself would be deeply gratified. We have a few friends who honor us by dining with us today in Hyde Park Gardens. If your lordship would add the great distinction your presence —”

“I should only be too much honored,” exclaimed Lothair: “I suppose about eight,” and he left the room; and Mr. Giles telegraphed instantly the impending event to Apollonia.


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