Mr. Wilton was at Charing Cross, on his way to his office, when a lady saluted him from her carriage, which then drew up to the pavement and stopped.
“We have just arrived,” said Lady Montfort, “and I want you to give me a little dinner today. My lord is going to dine with an Old Bailey lawyer, who amuses him, and I do not like to be left, the first day, on the pave.”
“I can give you a rather large dinner, if you care to come,” said Mr. Wilton, “but I fear you will not like it. I have got some House of Commons men dining with me today, and one or two of the other House to meet them. My sister Georgina has very good-naturedly promised to come, with her husband, and I have just written a note to the Duchess Dowager of Keswick, who often helps me — but I fear this sort of thing would hardly suit you.”
“On the contrary, I think it will be very amusing. Only do not put me between two of your colleagues. Anybody amuses me for once. A new acquaintance is like a new book. I prefer it, even if bad, to a classic.”
The dinner party today at Mr. Wilton’s was miscellaneous, and not heterogeneous enough to produce constraint, only to produce a little excitement — some commoners high in office, and the Treasury whip, several manufacturers who stood together in the room, and some metropolitan members. Georgina’s husband, who was a lord-inwaiting, and a great swell, in a green riband, moved about with adroit condescension, and was bewitchingly affable. The manufacturing members whispered to each other that it was a wise thing to bring the two Houses together, but when Her Grace the Duchess Dowager of Keswick was announced, they exchanged glances of astounded satisfaction, and felt that the government, which had been thought to be in a somewhat rickety condition, would certainly stand.
Berengaria came a little late, not very. She thought it had been earlier, but it was not. The duchess dowager opened her eyes with wonderment when she beheld Lady Montfort, but the company in general were not in the least aware of the vast social event that was occurring. They were gratified in seeing another fine lady, but did not, of course, rank her with a duchess.
The dinner went off better than Mr. Wilton could have hoped, as it was impossible to place a stranger by Lady Montfort. He sate in the middle of his table with the duchess dowager on his right hand, and Berengaria, who was taken out by the green riband, on the other. As he knew the green riband would be soon exhausted, he devoted himself to Lady Montfort, and left the duchess to her own resources, which were considerable, and she was soon laying down her opinions on men and things to her other neighbours with much effect. The manufacturers talked shop to each other in whispers, that is to say, mixed House of Commons tattle about bills and committees with news from Manchester and Liverpool, and the West Riding. The metropolitan members, then a more cosmopolitan body and highly miscellaneous in their character and pursuits, were louder, and perhaps more easy, even ventured to talk across the table when near its end, and enticed the peers into discussions on foreign politics.
Mr. Sidney Wilton having been delightful, thought it necessary to observe that he feared Lady Montfort had been bored. “I have been, and am, extremely amused,” she replied; “and now tell me, who is that young man at the very end of the table?”
“That is my private secretary, Mr. Ferrars.”
“A brother of Lady Roehampton.”
“Present him to me after dinner.”
Endymion knew Lady Montfort by sight, though she did not know him. He had seen her more than once at the receptions of Mrs. Neuchatel, where, as indeed in every place, she was the cynosure. He was much astonished at meeting her at this party today — almost as surprised as the duchess dowager, for Endymion, who was of an observant nature, was beginning to comprehend society and all its numerous elements, and schools, and shades, and classes. When they entered the saloon, Mr. Wilton led Endymion up to Lady Montfort at once, and she immediately inquired after his sister. “Do you think,” she said, “Lady Roehampton would see me tomorrow if I called on her?”
“If I were Lady Roehampton, I would,” said Endymion.
Lady Montfort looked at him with a glance of curious scrutiny; not smiling, and yet not displeased. “I will write her a little note in the morning,” said Lady Montfort thoughtfully. “One may leave cards for ever. Mr. Wilton tells me you are quite his right hand.”
“Mr. Wilton is too kind to me,” said Endymion. “One could not be excused for not doing one’s best for such a master.”
“You like people to be kind to you?” said Lady Montfort.
“Well, I have not met with so much kindness in this world as to become insensible to it.”
“You are too young to be melancholy,” said Lady Montfort; “are you older than Lady Roehampton?”
“We are twins.”
“Twins! and wonderfully like too! Is it not thought so?”
“I have sometimes heard it mentioned.”
“Oh, it is striking!” said Lady Montfort, and she motioned to him to sit down by her; and then she began to talk politics, and asked him what the members thought at dinner of the prospects of the government, and what he had heard of the malcontent movement that they said was in petto. Endymion replied that Mr. Sharpset, the Secretary of the Treasury, did not think much of it.
“Well, I wish I did not,” said Lady Montfort. “However, I will soon find out something about it. I have only just come to town; but I intend to open my house, immediately. Now I must go. What are you going to do with yourself tomorrow? I wish you would come and dine with Lord Montfort. It will be quite without form, a few agreeable and amusing people; Lord Montfort must be amused. It seems a reasonable fancy, but very difficult to realise; and now you shall ask for my carriage, and tomorrow I hope to be able to tell Lady Roehampton what very great pleasure I have had in making the acquaintance of her brother.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07