Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 87

A day or two after this adventure of the crucifix, Lothair met Bertram, who said to him, “By-the-by, if you want to see my people before they leave town, you must call at once.”

“You do not mean that,” replied Lothair, much surprised. “Why, the duchess told me, only three or four days ago, that they should not leave town until the end of the first week of August. They are going to the weddings.”

“I do not know what my mother said to you, my dear fellow, but they go to Brentham the day after tomorrow, and will not return. The duchess has been for a long time wishing this, but Corisande would stay. She thought they would only bother themselves about my affairs, and there was more distraction for them in town. But now they are going, and it is for Corisande they go. She is not well, and they have suddenly resolved to depart.”

“Well, I am very sorry to hear it,” said Lothair; “I shall call at Crecy House. Do you think they will see me?”

“Certain.”

“And what are your plans?”

“I have none,” said Bertram. “I suppose I must not leave my father alone at this moment. He has behaved well; very kindly, indeed. I have nothing to complain of. But still all is vague, and I feel somehow or other I ought to be about him.”

“Have you heard from our dear friends abroad?”

“Yes,” said Bertram, with a sigh, “Euphrosyne writes to me; but I believe St. Aldegonde knows more about their views and plans than I do. He and Mr. Phoebus correspond much. I wish to Heaven they were here, or rather that we were with them!” he added, with another sigh. “How happy we all were, at Jerusalem! How I hate London! And Brentham worse. I shall have to go to a lot of agricultural dinners and all sorts of things. The duke expects it, and I am bound now to do every thing to please him. What do you think of doing?”

“I neither know nor care,” said Lothair, in a tone of great despondency.

“You are a little hipped.”

“Not a little. I suppose it is the excitement of the last two years that has spoiled me for ordinary life. But I find the whole thing utterly intolerable, and regret now that I did not rejoin the staff of the general. I shall never have such a chance again. It was a mistake; but one is born to blunder.”

Lothair called at Crecy House. The hall-porter was not sure whether the duchess was at home, and the groom of the chambers went to see. Lothair had never experienced this form. When the groom of the chambers came down again, he gave her grace’s compliments; but she had a headache, and was obliged to lie down, and was sorry she could not see Lothair, who went away livid.

Crecy House was only yards from St. James’s Square, and Lothair repaired to an accustomed haunt. He was not in a humor for society, and yet he required sympathy. There were some painful associations with the St. Jerome family, and yet they had many charms. And the painful associations had been greatly removed by their easy and cordial reception of him, and the charms had been renewed and increased by subsequent intercourse. After all, they were the only people who had always been kind to him. And, if they had erred in a great particular, they had been animated by pure, and even sacred, motives. And had they erred? Were not his present feelings of something approaching to desolation a fresh proof that the spirit of man can alone be sustained by higher relations than merely human ones? So he knocked at the door, and Lady St. Jerome was at home. She had not a headache; there were no mysterious whisperings between hall-porters and grooms of the chamber, to ascertain whether he was one of the initiated. Whether it were London or Vauxe, the eyes of the household proved that he was ever a welcome and cherished guest.

Lady St. Jerome was alone, and rose from her writing-table to receive him. And then — for she was a lady who never lost a moment — she resumed some work, did not interfere with their conversation. Her talking resources were so happy and inexhaustible, that it signified little that her visitor, who was bound in that character to have something to say, was silent and moody.

“My lord,” she continued, “has taken the Palazzo Agostini for a term. I think we should always pass our winters at Rome under any circumstances, but — the cardinal has spoken to you about the great event — if that comes off, of which, between ourselves, whatever the world may say, I believe there is no sort of doubt, we should not think of being absent from Rome for a day during the council.”

“Why! it may last years,” said Lothair. “There is no reason why it should not last the Council of Trent. It has in reality much more to do.”

“We do things quicker now,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“That depends on what there is to do. To revive faith is more difficult than to create it.”

“There will be no difficulty when the Church has assembled,” said Lady St. Jerome. “This sight of the universal Fathers coming from the uttermost ends of the earth to bear witness to the truth will at once sweep away all the vain words and vainer thoughts of this unhappy century. It will be what they call a great fact, dear Lothair; and when the Holy Spirit descends upon their decrees, my firm belief is the whole world will rise as it were from a trance, and kneel before the divine tomb of St. Peter.”

“Well, we shall see,” said Lothair.

“The cardinal wishes you very much to attend the council. He wishes you to attend it as an Anglican, representing with a few others our laity. He says it would have the very best effect for religion.”

“He spoke to me.”

“And you agreed to go?”

“I have not refused him. If I thought I could do any good I am not sure I would not go,” said Lothair; “but, from what I have seen of the Roman court, there is little hope of reconciling our differences. Rome is stubborn. Now, look at the difficulty they make about the marriage of a Protestant and one of their own communion. It to cruel, and I think on their part unwise.”

“The sacrament of marriage is of ineffable holiness,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“I do not wish to deny that,” said Lothair, “but I see no reason why I should not marry a Roman Catholic if I liked, without the Roman Church interfering and entirely regulating my house and home.”

“I wish you would speak to Father Coleman about this,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“I have had much talk with Father Coleman about many things in my time,” said Lothair, “but not about this. By-the-by, have you any news of the monsignore?”

“He is in Ireland, arranging about the Oecumenical Council. They do not understand these matters there as well as we do in England, and his holiness, by the cardinal’s advice, has sent the monsignore to put things right.”

“All the Father Colemans in the world cannot alter the state of affairs about mixed marriages,” said Lothair; “they can explain, but they cannot alter. I want change in this matter, and Rome never changes.”

“It is impossible for the Church to change,” said Lady St. Jerome, “because it is Truth.”

“Is Miss Arundel at home?” said Lothair.

“I believe so,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“I never see her now,” he said, discontentedly. “She never goes to balls, and she never rides. Except occasionally under this roof, she is invisible.”

‘“Clare does not go any longer into society,” said Lady St. Jerome.

“Why?”

“Well, it is a secret,” said Lady St. Jerome, with some disturbance of countenance and speaking in a lower tone; “at least at present; and yet I can hardly on such a subject wish that there should be a secret from you — Clare is about to take the veil.”

“Then I have not a friend left in the world,” said Lothair, in a despairing tone.

Lady St. Jerome looked at him with an anxious glance. “Yes,” she continued; “I do not wish to conceal it from you, that for a time we could have wished it otherwise — it has been, it is a trying event for my lord and myself — but the predisposition, which was always strong, has ended in a determination so absolute, that we recognize the Divine purpose in her decision, and we bow to it.”

“I do not bow to it,” said Lothair; “I think it barbarous and unwise.”

“Hush, hush! dear friend.”

“And does the cardinal approve of this step?”

“Entirely.”

“Then my confidence in him is entirely destroyed,” said Lothair.

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