Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 88

It was August, and town was thinning fast. Parliament still lingered, but only for technical purposes; the political struggle of the session having terminated at the end of July. One social event was yet to be consummated — the marriages of Lothair’s cousins. They were to be married on the same day, at the same time, and in the same place. Westminster Abbey was to be the scene, and, as it was understood that the service was to be choral, great expectations of ecclesiastical splendor and effect were much anticipated by the fair sex. They were, however, doomed to disappointment, for, although the day was fine, the attendance numerous and brilliant beyond precedent, Lord Culloden would have “no popery.” Lord Carisbrooke, who was a ritualist, murmured, and was encouraged in his resistance by Lady Clanmorne and a party, but, as the Duke of Brecon was high and dry, there was a want of united action, and Lord Culloden had his way.

After the ceremony, the world repaired to the mansion of Lord Culloden in Belgrave Square, to inspect the presents, and to partake of a dinner called a breakfast. Cousin Lothair wandered about the rooms, and had the satisfaction of seeing a bracelet with a rare and splendid sapphire which he had given to Lady Flora, and a circlet of diamond stars which he had placed on the brow of the Duchess of Brecon. The St. Aldegondes were the only members of the Brentham family who were present. St. Aldegonde had a taste for marriages and public executions, and Lady St. Aldegonde wandered about with Lothair, and pointed out to him Corisande’s present to his cousins.

“I never was more disappointed than by your family leaving town so early this year,” he said.

“We were quite surprised.”

“I am sorry to bear your sister is indisposed.”

“Corisande! she is perfectly well.”

“I hope the duchess’s headache is better,” said Lothair. “She could not receive me when I called to say farewell, because she had a headache.”

“I never knew mamma to have a headache,” said Lady St. Aldegonde.

“I suppose you will be going to Brentham?”

“Next week.”’

“And Bertram too?”

“I fancy that we shall be all there.”

“I suppose we may consider now that the season is really over!”

“Yes; they stayed for this. I should not be surprised if every one in these rooms had disappeared by tomorrow.”

“Except myself,” said Lothair.

“Do you think of going abroad again?”

“One might as well go,” said Lothair, “as remain.”

“I wish Granville would take me to Paris. It seems so odd not to have seen Paris. All I want is to see the new streets and dine at a caf.”

“Well, you have an object; that is something,” said Lothair. “I have none.”

“Men have always objects,” said Lady St. Aldegonde. “They make business when they have none, or it makes itself. They move about, and it comes.”

“I have moved about a great deal,” said Lothair, “and nothing has come to me but disappointment. I think I shall take to croquet, like that curious gentleman I remember at Brentham.”

“Ah! you remember every thing.”

“It is not easy to forget any thing at Brentham,” said Lothair. “It is just two years ago. That was a happy time.”

“I doubt whether our reassembling will be quite as happy this year,” said Lady St. Aldegonde, in a serious tone. “This engagement of Bertram is an anxious business; I never saw papa before really fret. And there are other things which are not without vexation — at least to mamma.”

“I do not think I am a great favorite of your mamma,” said Lothair. “She once used to be very kind to me, but she is so no longer.”

“I am sure you mistake her,” said Lady St. Aldegonde, but not in a tone which indicated any confidence in her remark. “Mamma is anxious about my brother, and all that.”

“I believe the duchess thinks that I am in some way or other connected with this embarrassment; but I really had nothing to do with it, though I could not refuse my testimony to the charms of the young lady, and my belief she would make Bertram a happy man.”

“As for that, you know, Granville saw a great deal more of her, at least at Jerusalem, than you did, and he has said to mamma a great deal more than you have done.”

“Yes; but she thinks that, had it not been for me, Bertram would never have known the Phoebus family. She could not conceal that from me, and it has poisoned her mind.”

“Oh! do not use such words.”

“Yes; but they are true. And your sister is prejudiced against me also.”

“That I am sure she is not,” said Lady St. Aldegonde, quickly. “Corisande was always your friend.”

“Well, they refused to see me, when we may never meet again for months, perhaps for years,” said Lothair, “perhaps never.”

“What shocking things you are saying, my dear lord, today! Here, Lord Culloden wants you to return thanks for the bridesmaids. You must put on a merry face.”

The dreary day at last arrived, and very quickly, when Lothair was the only person left in town. When there is nobody you know in London, the million that go about are only voiceless phantoms. Solitude in a city is a trance. The motion of the silent beings with whom you have no speech or sympathy, only makes the dreamlike existence more intense. It is not so in the country; the voices of Nature are abundant, and, from the hum of insects to the fall of the avalanche, something is always talking to you.

Lothair shrank from the streets. He could not endure the dreary glare of St. James’s and the desert sheen of Pall Mall. He could mount his horse in the park, and soon lose himself in suburban roads that he once loved. Yes; it was irresistible; and he made a visit to Belmont. The house was dismantled, and the gardens shorn of their lustre, but still it was there; very fair in the sunshine, and sanctified in his heart. He visited every room that he had frequented, and lingered in her boudoir. He did not forget the now empty pavilion, and he plucked some flowers that she once loved, and pressed them to his lips, and placed them near his heart. He felt now what it was that made him unhappy: it was the want of sympathy.

He walked through the park to the residence of Mr. Phoebus, where he had directed his groom to meet him. His heart beat as he wandered along, and his eye was dim with tears. What characters and what scenes had he not become acquainted with since his first visit to Belmont! And, even now, when they had departed, or were absent, what influence were they not exercising over his life, and the life of those most intimate with him! Had it not been for his pledge to Theodora, it was far from improbable that he would now have been a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and all his hopes at Brentham, and his intimacy with the family on which he had most reckoned in life for permanent friendship and support, seemed to be marred and blighted by the witching eyes of that mirthful Euphrosyne, whose mocking words on the moonlit terrace at Belmont first attracted his notice to her. And then, by association of ideas, he thought of the general, and what his old commander had said at their last interview, reminding him of his fine castle, and expressing his conviction that the lord of such a domain must have much to do.

“I will try to do it,” said Lothair; “and will go down to Muriel tomorrow.”

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