Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 14

Eighteen hundred and thirty-two, the darkest and most distressing year in the life of Mr. Ferrars, closed in comparative calm and apparent content. He was himself greatly altered, both in manner and appearance. He was kind and gentle, but he was silent and rarely smiled. His hair was grizzled, and he began to stoop. But he was always employed, and was interested in his labours.

His sanguine wife bore up against their misfortunes with far more animation. She was at first amused with her new life, and when she was accustomed to it, she found a never-failing resource in her conviction of a coming reaction. Mrs. Ferrars possessed most feminine qualities, and many of them in excess. She could not reason, but her intuition was remarkable. She was of opinion that “these people never could go on,” and that they must necessarily be succeeded by William and his friends. In vain her husband, when she pressed her views and convictions on him, would shake his head over the unprecedented majority of the government, and sigh while he acknowledged that the Tories absolutely did not now command one fifth of the House of Commons; his shakes and sighs were equally disregarded by her, and she persisted in her dreams of riding upon elephants.

After all Mrs. Ferrars was right. There is nothing more remarkable in political history than the sudden break-up of the Whig party after their successful revolution of 1832. It is one of the most striking instances on record of all the elements of political power being useless without a commanding individual will. During the second year of their exile in the Berkshire hills, affairs looked so black that it seemed no change could occur except further and more calamitous revolution. Zenobia went to Vienna that she might breathe the atmosphere of law and order, and hinted to Mrs. Ferrars that probably she should never return — at least not until Parliament met, when she trusted the House of Lords, if they were not abolished in the interval, would save the country. And yet at the commencement of the following year an old colleague of Mr. Ferrars apprised him, in the darkest and deepest confidence, that “there was a screw loose,” and he must “look out for squalls.”

In the meantime Mr. Ferrars increased and established his claims on his party, if they ever did rally, by his masterly articles in their great Review, which circumstances favoured and which kept up that increasing feeling of terror and despair which then was deemed necessary for the advancement of Conservative opinions.

At home a year or more had elapsed without change. The occasional appearance of Nigel Penruddock was the only event. It was to all a pleasing, and to some of the family a deeply interesting one. Nigel, though a student and devoted to the holy profession for which he was destined, was also a sportsman. His Christianity was muscular, and Endymion, to whom he had taken a fancy, became the companion of his pastimes. All the shooting of the estate was at Nigel’s command, but as there were no keepers, it was of course very rough work. Still it was a novel and animating life for Endymion; and though the sport was slight, the pursuit was keen. Then Nigel was a great fisherman, and here their efforts had a surer return, for they dwelt in a land of trout streams, and in their vicinity was a not inconsiderable river. It was an adventure of delight to pursue some of these streams to their source, throwing, as they rambled on, the fly in the rippling waters. Myra, too, took some pleasure in these fishing expeditions, carrying their luncheon and a German book in her wallet, and sitting quietly on the bank for hours, when they had fixed upon some favoured pool for a prolonged campaign.

Every time that Nigel returned home, a difference, and a striking difference, was observed in him. His person, of course, became more manly, his manner more assured, his dress more modish. It was impossible to deny that he was extremely good-looking, interesting in his discourse, and distinguished in his appearance. Endymion idolised him. Nigel was his model. He imitated his manner, caught the tone of his voice, and began to give opinions on subjects, sacred and profane.

After a hard morning’s march, one day, as they were lolling on the turf amid the old beeches and the juniper, Nigel said —

“What does Mr. Ferrars mean you to be, Endymion?”

“I do not know,” said Endymion, looking perplexed.

“But I suppose you are to be something?”

“Yes; I suppose I must be something; because papa has lost his fortune.”

“And what would you like to be?”

“I never thought about it,” said Endymion.

“In my opinion there is only one thing for a man to be in this age,” said Nigel peremptorily; “he should go into the Church.”

“The Church!” said Endymion.

“There will soon be nothing else left,” said Nigel. “The Church must last for ever. It is built upon a rock. It was founded by God; all other governments have been founded by men. When they are destroyed, and the process of destruction seems rapid, there will be nothing left to govern mankind except the Church.”

“Indeed!” said Endymion; “papa is very much in favour of the Church, and, I know, is writing something about it.”

“Yes, but Mr. Ferrars is an Erastian,” said Nigel; “you need not tell him I said so, but he is one. He wants the Church to be the servant of the State, and all that sort of thing, but that will not do any longer. This destruction of the Irish bishoprics has brought affairs to a crisis. No human power has the right to destroy a bishopric. It is a divinely-ordained office, and when a diocese is once established, it is eternal.”

“I see,” said Endymion, much interested.

“I wish,” continued Nigel, “you were two or three years older, and Mr. Ferrars could send you to Oxford. That is the place to understand these things, and they will soon be the only things to understand. The rector knows nothing about them. My father is thoroughly high and dry, and has not the slightest idea of Church principles.”

“Indeed!” said Endymion.

“It is quite a new set even at Oxford,” continued Nigel; “but their principles are as old as the Apostles, and come down from them, straight.”

“That is a long time ago,” said Endymion.

“I have a great fancy,” continued Nigel, without apparently attending to him, “to give you a thorough Church education. It would be the making of you. You would then have a purpose in life, and never be in doubt or perplexity on any subject. We ought to move heaven and earth to induce Mr. Ferrars to send you to Oxford.”

“I will speak to Myra about it,” said Endymion.

“I said something of this to your sister the other day,” said Nigel, “but I fear she is terribly Erastian. However, I will give you something to read. It is not very long, but you can read it at your leisure, and then we will talk over it afterwards, and perhaps I may give you something else.”

Endymion did not fail to give a report of this conversation and similar ones to his sister, for he was in the habit of telling her everything. She listened with attention, but not with interest, to his story. Her expression was kind, but hardly serious. Her wondrous eyes gave him a glance of blended mockery and affection. “Dear darling,” she said, “if you are to be a clergyman, I should like you to be a cardinal.”


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53