Vivian Grey, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 3

“This is very kind of you, Grey! I was afraid my note might not have caught you. You have not breakfasted? Really I wish you would take up your quarters in Carabas House, for I want you now every moment.”

“What is the urgent business of this morning?”

“Oh! I have seen Bromley.”

“Hah!”

“And everything most satisfactory, I did not go into detail; I left that for you: but I ascertained sufficient to convince me that management is now alone required.”

“Well, my Lord, I trust that will not be wanting.”

“No, Vivian; you have opened my eyes to the situation in which fortune has placed me. The experience of every day only proves the truth and soundness of your views. Fortunate, indeed, was the hour in which we met.”

“My Lord, I do trust that it was a meeting which neither of us will live to repent.”

“Impossible! my dear friend, I do not hesitate to say that I would not change my present lot for that of any Peer of this realm; no, not for that of His Majesty’s most favoured counsellor. What! with my character and my influence, and my connections, I to be a tool! I, the Marquess of Carabas! I say nothing of my own powers; but, as you often most justly and truly observe, the world has had the opportunity of judging of them; and I think I may recur, without vanity, to the days in which my voice had some weight in the Royal Councils. And, as I have often remarked, I have friends, I have you, Vivian. My career is before you. I know what I should have done at your age; not to say what I did do. I to be a tool! The very last person that ought to be a tool. But I see my error: you have opened my eyes, and blessed be the hour in which we met. But we must take care how we act, Vivian; we must be wary; eh! Vivian, wary, wary. People must know what their situations are; eh! Vivian?”

“Exceedingly useful knowledge; but I do not exactly understand the particular purport of your Lordship’s last observation.”

“You do not, eh?” asked the Peer; and he fixed his eyes as earnestly and expressively as he possibly could upon his young companion. “Well, I thought not. I was positive it was not true,” continued the Marquess in a murmur.

“What, my Lord?”

“Oh! nothing, nothing; people talk at random, at random, at random. I feel confident you quite agree with me; eh! Vivian?”

“Really, my Lord, I fear I am unusually dull this morning.”

“Dull! no, no; you quite agree with me. I feel confident you do. People must be taught what their situations are; that is what I was saying, Vivian. My Lord Courtown,” added the Marquess, in a whisper, “is not to have everything his own way; eh! Vivian?”

“Oh, oh!” thought Vivian; “this, then, is the result of that admirable creature, Miss Felix Lorraine, staying a week with her dear friend, Lady Courtown.” “My Lord, it would be singular if, in the Carabas party, the Carabas interest was not the predominant one.”

“I knew you thought so. I could not believe for a minute that you could think otherwise: but some people take such strange ideas into their heads, I cannot account for them. I felt confident what would be your opinion. My Lord Courtown is not to carry everything before him in the spirit that I have lately observed; or rather, in the spirit which I understand, from very good authority, is exhibited. Eh! Vivian; that is your opinion, is not it?”

“Oh! my dear Marquess, we must think alike on this, as on all points.”

“I knew it. I felt confident as to your sentiments upon this subject. I cannot conceive why some people take such strange ideas into their heads! I knew that you could not disagree with me upon this point. No, no, no; my Lord Courtown must feel which is the predominant interest, as you so well express it. How choice your expressions always are! I do not know how it is, but you always hit upon the right expression, Vivian. The predominant interest, the pre-do-mi-nant in-te-rest. To be sure. What! with my high character and connections, with my stake in society, was it to be expected that I, the Marquess of Carabas, was going to make any move which compromised the predominancy of my interests? No, no, no, my Lord Courtown; the predominant interest must be kept predominant; eh! Vivian?”

“To be sure, my Lord; explicitness and decision will soon arrange any désagrémens.”

“I have been talking to Lady Carabas, Vivian, upon the expediency of her opening the season early. I think a course of parliamentary dinners would produce a good effect. It gives a tone to a political party.”

“Certainly; the science of political gastronomy has never been sufficiently studied.”

“Egad! Vivian, I am in such spirits this morning. This business of Bromley so delights me; and finding you agree with me about Lord Courtown, I was confident as to your sentiments on that point. But some people take such strange ideas into their heads! To be sure, to be sure, the predominant interest, mine, that is to say ours, Vivian, is the predominant interest. I have no idea of the predominant interest not being predominant; that would be singular! I knew you would agree with me; we always agree. ’Twas a lucky hour when we met. Two minds so exactly alike! I was just your very self when I was young; and as for you, my career is before you.”

Here entered Mr. Sadler with the letters.

“One from Courtown. I wonder if he has seen Mounteney. Mounteney is a very good-natured fellow, and I think might be managed. Ah! I wish you could get hold of him, Vivian; you would soon bring him round. What it is to have brains, Vivian!” and here the Marquess shook his head very pompously, and at the same time tapped very significantly on his left temple. “Hah! what, what is all this? Here, read it, read it, man; I have no head to-day.”

Vivian took the letter, and his quick eye dashed through its contents in a second. It was from Lord Courtown, and dated far in the country. It talked of private communications, and premature conduct, and the suspicious, not to say dishonourable, behaviour of Mr. Vivian Grey: it trusted that such conduct was not sanctioned by his Lordship, but “nevertheless obliged to act with decision, regretted the necessity,” &c. &c. &c. &c. In short, Lord Courtown had deserted, and recalled his pledge as to the official appointment promised to Mr. Cleveland, “because that promise was made while he was the victim of delusions created by the representations of Mr. Grey.”

“What can all this mean, my Lord?”

The Marquess swore a fearful oath, and threw another letter.

“This is from Lord Beaconsfield, my Lord,” said Vivian, with a face pallid as death, “and apparently the composition of the same writer; at least, it is the same tale, the same refacimento of lies, and treachery, and cowardice, doled out with diplomatic politesse. But I will off to —— shire instantly. It is not yet too late to save everything. This is Wednesday; on Thursday afternoon I shall be at Norwood Park. Thank God! I came this morning.”

The face of the Marquess, who was treacherous as the wind, seemed already to indicate “Adieu! Mr. Vivian Grey!” but that countenance exhibited some very different passions when it glanced over the contents of the next epistle. There was a tremendous oath and a dead silence. His Lordship’s florid countenance turned as pale as that of his companion. The perspiration stole down in heavy drops. He gasped for breath!

“Good God! my Lord, what is the matter?”

“The matter!” howled the Marquess, “the matter! That I have been a vain, weak, miserable fool!” and then there was another oath, and he flung the letter to the other side of the table.

It was the official congé of the Most Noble Sydney Marquess of Carabas. His Majesty had no longer any occasion for his services. His successor was Lord Courtown!

We will not affect to give any description of the conduct of the Marquess of Carabas at this moment. He raved, he stamped, he blasphemed! but the whole of his abuse was levelled against his former “monstrous clever” young friend; of whose character he had so often boasted that his own was she prototype, but who was now an adventurer, a swindler, a scoundrel, a liar, a base, deluding, flattering, fawning villain, &c. &c. &c. &c,

“My Lord,” said Vivian.

“I will not hear you; out on your fair words! They have duped me enough already. That I, with my high character and connections! that I, the Marquess of Carabas, should have been the victim of the arts of a young scoundrel!”

Vivian’s fist was once clenched, but it was only for a moment. The Marquess leant back in his chair with his eyes shut. In the agony of the moment a projecting tooth of his upper jaw had forced itself through his under lip, and from the wound the blood was flowing freely over his dead white countenance. Vivian left the room.

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