Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 12

Mrs. Million arrived, and kept her promise; only three carriages-and-four! Out of the first descended the mighty lady herself, with some noble friends, who formed the most distinguished part of her suite: out of the second came her physician, Dr. Sly; her toad-eater, Miss Gusset; her secretary, and her page. The third carriage bore her groom of the chambers, and three female attendants. There were only two men servants to each equipage; nothing could be more moderate, or, as Miss Gusser said, “in better taste.”

Mrs. Million, after having granted the Marquess a private interview in her private apartments, signified her imperial intention of dining in public, which, as she had arrived late, she trusted she might do in her travelling dress. The Marquess kotooed like a first-rate mandarin, and vowed “that her will was his conduct.”

The whole suite of apartments were thrown open, and were crowded with guests. Mrs. Million entered; she was leaning on the Marquess’ arm, and in a travelling dress, namely, a crimson silk pelisse, hat and feathers, with diamond ear-rings, and a rope of gold round her neck. A train of about twelve persons, consisting of her noble fellow-travellers, toad-eaters, physicians, secretaries, &c. &c. &c. followed. The entree of Her Majesty could not have created a greater sensation than did that of Mrs. Million. All fell back. Gartered peers, and starred ambassadors, and baronets with blood older than the creation, and squires, to the antiquity of whose veins chaos was a novelty; all retreated, with eyes that scarcely dared to leave the ground; even Sir Plantagenet Pure, whose family had refused a peerage regularly every century, now, for the first time in his life, seemed cowed, and in an awkward retreat to make way for the approaching presence, got entangled with the Mameluke boots of my Lord Alhambra.

At last a sofa was gained, and the great lady was seated, and the sensation having somewhat subsided, conversation was resumed; and the mighty Mrs. Million was not slightly abused, particularly by those who had bowed lowest at her entree; and now the Marquess of Carabas, as was wittily observed by Mr. Septimus Sessions, a pert young barrister, “went the circuit,” that is to say, made the grand tour of the suite of apartments, making remarks to every one of his guests, and keeping up his influence in the county.

“Ah, my Lord Alhambra! this is too kind; and how is your excellent father, and my good friend? Sir Plantagenet, yours most sincerely! we shall have no difficulty about that right of common. Mr. Leverton, I hope you find the new plough work well; your son, sir, will do the county honour. Sir Godfrey, I saw Barton upon that point, as I promised. Lady Julia, I am rejoiced to see ye at Château Desir, more blooming than ever! Good Mr. Stapylton Toad, so that little change was effected: My Lord Devildrain, this is a pleasure indeed!”

“Why, Ernest Clay,” said Mr. Buckhurst Stanhope, “I thought Alhambra wore a turban; I am quite disappointed.”

“Not in the country. Stanhope; here he only sits cross-legged on an ottoman, and carves his venison with an ataghan.”

“Well, I am glad he does not wear a turban; that would be bad taste, I think,” said Fool Stanhope. “Have you read his poem?”

“A little. He sent me a copy, and as I am in the habit of lighting my pipe or so occasionally with a leaf, why I cannot help occasionally seeing a line: it seems quite first-rate.”

“Indeed!” said Fool Stanhope; “I must get it.”

“My dear Puff! I am quite glad to find you here,” said Mr. Cayenne, a celebrated reviewer, to Mr. Partenopex Puff, a small author and smaller wit. “Have you seen Middle Ages lately?”

“Not very lately,” drawled Mr. Partenopex, “I breakfasted with him before I left town, and met a Professor Bopp there, a very interesting man, and Principal of the celebrated University of Heligoland, the model of the London.”

“Ah, indeed! talking of the London, is Foaming Fudge to come in for Cloudland?”

“Doubtless! Oh! he is a prodigious fellow! What do you think Booby says? He says that Foaming Fudge can do more than any man in Great Britain; that he had one day to plead in the King’s Bench, spout at a tavern, speak in the House, and fight a duel; and that he found time for everything but the last.”

“Excellent!” laughed Mr. Cayenne.

Mr. Partenopex Puff was reputed, in a certain set, a sayer of good things, but he was a modest wit, and generally fathered his bon mots on his valet Booby, his monkey, or his parrot.

“I saw you in the last number,” said Cayenne. “From the quotations from your own works, I imagine the review of your own book was by yourself?”

“What do you think Booby said?”

“Mr. Puff, allow me to introduce you to Lord Alhambra,” said Ernest Clay, by which means Mr. Puff’s servant’s last good thing was lost.

“Mr. Clay, are you an archer?” asked Cynthia Courtown.

“No, fair Dian; but I can act Endymion.”

“I don’t know what you mean. Go away.”

“Aubrey Vere, welcome to —— shire. Have you seen Prima Donna?”

“No; is he here? How did you like his last song in the Age?”

“His last song! Pooh! pooh! he only supplies the scandal.”

“Groves,” said Sir Hanway Etherington, “have you seen the newspaper this morning? Baron Crupper has tried fifteen men for horse-stealing at York, and acquitted every one.”

“Well then, Sir Hanway, I think his Lordship’s remarkable wrong; for when a man gets a horse to suit him, if he loses it, ‘tisn’t so easy to suit himself again. That’s the ground I stand upon.”

All this time the Marquess of Carabas had wanted Vivian Grey twenty times, but that gentleman had not appeared. The important moment arrived, and his Lordship offered his arm to Mrs. Million, who, as the Gotha Almanack says, “takes precedence of all Archduchesses, Grand Duchesses, Duchesses, Princesses, Landgravines, Margravines, Palsgravines, &c. &c. &c.”

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