The interest of the town was now divided between the danger of the government and the new preacher who electrified the world at St. Rosicrucius. The Rev. Nigel Penruddock was not at all a popular preacher according to the vulgar acceptation of the term. He disdained all cant and clap-trap. He preached Church principles with commanding eloquence, and he practised them with unceasing devotion. His church was always open, yet his schools were never neglected; there was a perfect choir, a staff of disciplined curates, young and ascetic, while sacred sisters, some of patrician blood, fearless and prepared for martyrdom, were gliding about all the back slums of his ferocious neighbourhood. How came the Whigs to give such a church to such a person? There must have been some mistake. But how came it that all the Whig ladies were among the most devoted of his congregation? The government whips did not like it; at such a critical period too, when it was necessary to keep the Dissenters up to the mark! And there was Lady Montfort and Lady Roehampton never absent on a Sunday, and their carriages, it was whispered, were often suspiciously near to St. Rosicrucius on week-days. Mr. Sidney Wilton too was frequently in Lady Roehampton’s pew, and one day, absolutely my lord himself, who unfortunately was rarely seen at church — but then, as is well known, critical despatches always arrive on a Sunday morning — was successfully landed in her pew by Lady Roehampton, and was very much struck indeed by what he heard. “The fact is,” as he afterwards observed, “I wish we had such a fellow on our bench in the House of Commons.”
About this time also there was another event, which, although not of so general an interest, much touched the feelings of Endymion, and this was the marriage of the Earl of Beaumaris with Imogene. It was solemnised in as private and quiet a manner as possible. Waldershare was the best man, and there were no bridesmaids. The only other persons invited by Mr. Rodney, who gave away the bride, were Endymion and Mr. Vigo.
One morning, a few days before the wedding, Sylvia, who had written to ask Lady Roehampton for an interview, called by appointment in St. James’ Square. Sylvia was received by Lady Roehampton in her boudoir, and the interview was long. Sylvia, who by nature was composed, and still more so by art, was pale and nervous when she arrived, so much so that her demeanour was noticed by the groom of the chambers; but when she departed, her countenance was flushed and radiant, though it was obvious that she had been shedding tears. On the morning of the wedding, Lady Roehampton in her lord’s brougham called for Endymion at the Albany, and then they went together to the vestry of St. James’ Church. Lord Beaumaris and Mr. Waldershare had arrived. The bridegroom was a little embarrassed when he was presented to Lady Roehampton. He had made up his mind to be married, but not to be introduced to a stranger, and particularly a lady; but Mr. Waldershare fluttered over them and put all right. It was only the perplexity of a moment, for the rest of the wedding party now appeared. Imogene, who was in a travelling dress, was pale and serious, but transcendently beautiful. She attempted to touch Lady Roehampton’s hand with her lips when Myra welcomed her, but Lady Roehampton would not permit this, and kissed her. Everybody was calm during the ceremony except Endymion, who had been silent the whole morning. He stood by the altar with that convulsion of the throat and that sickness of the heart which accompany the sense of catastrophe. He was relieved by some tears which he easily concealed. Nobody noticed him, for all were thinking of themselves. After the ceremony, they all returned to the vestry, and Lady Roehampton with the others signed the registry. Lord and Lady Beaumaris instantly departed for the continent.
“A strange event!” exclaimed Lady Roehampton, as she threw herself back in the brougham and took her brother’s hand. “But not stranger than what has happened to ourselves. Fortune seems to attend on our ruined home. I thought the bride looked beautiful.”
Endymion was silent.
“You are not gay this morning, my dear,” said Lady Roehampton; “they say that weddings are depressing. Now I am in rather high spirits. I am very glad that Imogene has become Lady Beaumaris. She is beautiful, and dangerously beautiful. Do you know, my Endymion, I have had some uneasy moments about this young lady. Women are prescient in these matters, and I have observed with anxiety that you admired her too much yourself.”
“I am sure you had no reason, Myra,” said Endymion, blushing deeply.
“Certainly not from what you said, my dear. It was from what you did not say that I became alarmed. You seldom mentioned her name, and when I referred to her, you always turned the conversation. However, that is all over now. She is Countess of Beaumaris,” added Myra, dwelling slowly and with some unction on the title, “and may be a powerful friend to you; and I am Countess of Roehampton, and am your friend, also not quite devoid of power. And there are other countesses, I suspect, on whose good wishes you may rely. If we cannot shape your destiny, there is no such thing as witchcraft. No, Endymion, marriage is a mighty instrument in your hands. It must not be lightly used. Come in and lunch; my lord is at home, and I know he wants to see you.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07