Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 86

The world goes on with its aching hearts and its smiling faces, and very often, when a year has revolved, the world finds out there was no sufficient cause for the sorrows or the smiles. There is too much unnecessary anxiety in the world, which is apt too hastily to calculate the consequences of any unforeseen event, quite forgetting that, acute as it is in observation, the world, where the future is concerned, is generally wrong. The duchess would have liked to have buried herself in the shades of Brentham, but Lady Corisande, who deported herself as if there were no care at Crecy House except that occasioned by her brother’s rash engagement, was of opinion that “mamma would only brood over this vexation in the country,” and that it would be much better not to anticipate the close of the waning season. So the duchess and her lovely daughter were seen everywhere where they ought to be seen, and appeared the pictures of serenity and satisfaction.

As for Bertram’s affair itself, under the manipulation of St. Aldegonde, it began to assume a less anxious and more practicable aspect. The duke was desirous to secure his son’s happiness, but wished nothing to be done rashly. If, for example, in a year’s time or so, Bertram continued in the same mind, his father would never be an obstacle to his well-considered wishes. In the mean time, an opportunity might offer of making the acquaintance of the young lady and her friends.

And, in the mean time, the world went on dancing, and betting, and banqueting, and making speeches, and breaking hearts and heads, till the time arrived when social stock is taken, the results of the campaign estimated and ascertained, and the question asked, “Where do you think of going this year?”

“We shall certainly winter at Rome,” said Lady St. Jerome to Lady Clanmorne, who was paying a morning visit. “I wish you could induce Lord Clanmorne to join us.”

“I wish so, too,” said the lady, “but that is impossible. He never will give up his hunting.”

“I am sure there are more foxes in the Campagna than at Vauxe,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“I suppose you have heard of what they call the double event?” said Lady Clanmorne.

“No.”

“Well, it is quite true; Mr. Bohun told me last night, and he always knows every thing.”

“Every thing!” said Lady St. Jerome; “but what is it that he knows now?”

“Both the Ladies Falkirk are to be married! And on the same day.”

“But to whom?”

“Whom should you think?”

“I will not even guess,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“Clare,” she said to Miss Arundel, who was engaged apart, “you always find out conundrums. Lady Clanmorne has got some news for us. Lady Flora Falkirk and her sister are going to be married, and on the same day. And to whom, think you?”

“Well, I should think that somebody has made Lord Carisbrooke a happy man,” said Miss Arundel.

“Very good,” said Lady Clanmorne. “I think Lady Flora will make an excellent Lady Carisbrooke. He is not quite as tall as she is, but he is a man of inches. And now for Lady Grizell.”

“My powers of divination are quite exhausted,” said Miss Arundel.

“Well, I will not keep you in suspense,” said Lady Clanmorne. “Lady Grizell is to be Duchess of Brecon.”

“Duchess of Brecon!” exclaimed both Miss Arundel and Lady St. Jerome.

“I always admired the ladies,” said Miss Arundel. “We met them at a country-house last year, and I thought them pleasing in every way — artless and yet piquant; but I did not anticipate their fate being so soon sealed.”

“And so brilliantly,” added Lady St. Jerome.

“You met them at Muriel Towers,” said Lady Clanmorne. “I heard of you there: a most distinguished party. There was an American lady there, was there not? a charming person, who sang, and acted, and did all sorts of things.”

“Yes; there was. I believe, however, she was an Italian, married to an American.”

“Have you seen much of your host at Muriel Towers?” said Lady Clanmorne.

“We see him frequently,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“Ah! yes, I remember; I met him at Vauxe the other day. He is a great admirer of yours,” Lady Clanmorne added, addressing Miss Arundel.

“Oh! we are friends, and have long been so,” said Miss Arundel, and she left the room.

“Clare does not recognize admirers,” said Lady St. Jerome, gravely.

“I hope the ecclesiastical fancy is not reviving,” said Lady Clanmorne. “I was half in hopes that the lord of Muriel Towers might have deprived the Church of its bride.”

“That could never be,” said Lady St. Jerome; “though, if it could have been, a source of happiness to Lord St. Jerome and myself would not have been wanting. We greatly regard our kinsman, but, between ourselves,” added Lady St. Jerome in a low voice, “it was supposed that he was attached to the American lady of whom you were speaking.”

“And where is she now?”

“I have heard nothing of late. Lothair was in Italy at the same time as ourselves, and was ill there, under our roof; so we saw a great deal of him. Afterward he travelled for his health, and has now just returned from the East.”

A visitor was announced, and Lady Clanmorne retired.

Nothing happens as you expect. On his voyage home Lothair had indulged in dreams of renewing his intimacy at Crecy House, around whose hearth all his sympathies were prepared to cluster. The first shock to this romance was the news he received of the impending union of Lady Corisande with the Duke of Brecon. And, what with this unexpected obstacle to intimacy, and the domestic embarrassments occasioned by Bertram’s declaration, he had become a stranger to a roof which had so filled his thoughts. It seemed to him that he could not enter the house either as the admirer of the daughter or as the friend of her brother. She was probably engaged to another, and, as Bertram’s friend and fellow-traveller, he fancied he was looked upon by the family as one who had in some degree contributed to their mortification. Much of this was imaginary, but Lothair was very sensitive, and the result was that he ceased to call at Crecy House, and for some time, kept aloof from the duchess and her daughter, when he met them in general society. He was glad to hear from Bertram and St. Aldegonde that the position of the former was beginning to soften at home, and that the sharpness of his announcement was passing away. And, when he had clearly ascertained that the contemplated union of Lady Corisande with the duke was certainly not to take place, Lothair began to reconnoitre, and try to resume his original position. But his reception was not encouraging, at least not sufficiently cordial for one who by nature was retiring and reserved. Lady Corisande was always kind, and after some time he danced with her again. But there were no invitations to luncheon from the duchess; they never asked him to dinner. His approaches were received with courtesy, but he was not courted.

The announcement of the marriage of the Duke of Brecon did not, apparently, in any degree, distress Lady Corisande. On the contrary, she expressed much satisfaction at her two young friends settling in life with such success and splendor. The ambition both of Lady Flora and Lady Grizell was that Corisande should be a bridesmaid. This would be a rather awkward post to occupy under the circumstances, so she embraced both, and said that she loved them both so equally, that she would not give a preference to either, and therefore, though she certainly would attend their wedding, she would refrain from taking part in the ceremony.

The duchess went with Lady Corisande one morning to Mr. Ruby’s to choose a present from her daughter to each of the young ladies. Mr. Ruby in a back shop poured forth his treasures of bracelets, and rings, and lockets. The presents must be similar in value and in beauty, and yet there must be some difference between them; so it was a rather long and troublesome investigation, Mr. Ruby, as usual, varying its monotony, or mitigating its wearisomeness, by occasionally, or suddenly, exhibiting some splendid or startling production of his art. The parure of an empress, the bracelets of grand-duchesses, a wonderful fan that was to flutter in the hands of majesty, had all in due course appeared, as well as the black pearls and yellow diamonds that figure and flash on such occasions, before eyes so favored and so fair.

At last — for, like a prudent general, Mr. Ruby had always a great reserve — opening a case, he said, “There!” and displayed a crucifix of the most exquisite workmanship and the most precious materials.

“I have no hesitation in saying the rarest jewel which this century has produced. See! the figure by Monti; a masterpiece. Every emerald in the cross a picked stone. These corners, your grace is aware,” said Mr. Ruby, condescendingly, “contain the earth of the holy places at Jerusalem. It has been shown to no one but your grace.”

“It is indeed most rare and beautiful,” said the duchess, “and most interesting, too, from containing the earth of the holy places. A commission, of course?”

“From one of our most eminent patrons,” and then he mentioned Lothair’s name.

Lady Corisande looked agitated.

“Not for himself,” said Mr. Ruby.

Lady Corisande seemed relieved.

“It is a present to a young lady — Miss Arundel.”

Lady Corisande changed color, and, turning away, walked toward a case of works of art, which was in the centre of the shop, and appeared to be engrossed in their examination.

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