Mr. Waldershare was delighted when the great secret was out, and he found that the ministry intended to dissolve, and not resign. It was on a Monday that Lord John Russell made this announcement, and Waldershare met Endymion in the lobby of the House of Commons. “I congratulate you, my dear boy; your fellows, at least, have pluck. If they lose, which I think they will, they will have gained at least three months of power, and irresponsible power. Why! they may do anything in the interval, and no doubt will. You will see; they will make their chargers consuls. It beats the Bed–Chamber Plot, and I always admired that. One hundred days! Why, the Second Empire lasted only one hundred days. But what days! what excitement! They were worth a hundred years at Elba.”
“Your friends do not seem quite so pleased as you are,” said Endymion.
“My friends, as you call them, are old fogies, and want to divide the spoil among the ancient hands. It will be a great thing for Peel to get rid of some of these old friends. A dissolution permits the powerful to show their power. There is Beaumaris, for example; now he will have an opportunity of letting them know who Lord Beaumaris is. I have a dream; he must be Master of the Horse. I shall never rest till I see Imogene riding in that golden coach, and breaking the line with all the honours of royalty.”
“Mr. Ferrars,” said the editor of a newspaper, seizing his watched-for opportunity as Waldershare and Endymion separated, “do you think you could favour me this evening with Mr. Sidney Wilton’s address? We have always supported Mr. Wilton’s views on the corn laws, and if put clearly and powerfully before the country at this junction, the effect might be great, perhaps even, if sustained, decisive.”
Eight-and-forty hours and more had elapsed since the conversation between Endymion and Lady Montfort; they had not been happy days. For the first time during their acquaintance there had been constraint and embarrassment between them. Lady Montfort no longer opposed his views, but she did not approve them. She avoided the subject; she looked uninterested in all that was going on around her; talked of joining her lord and going a-fishing; felt he was right in his views of life. “Dear Simon was always right,” and then she sighed, and then she shrugged her pretty shoulders. Endymion, though he called on her as usual, found there was nothing to converse about; politics seemed tacitly forbidden, and when he attempted small talk Lady Montfort seemed absent — and once absolutely yawned.
What amazed Endymion still more was, that, under these rather distressing circumstances, he did not find adequate support and sympathy in his sister. Lady Roehampton did not question the propriety of his decision, but she seemed quite as unhappy and as dissatisfied as Lady Montfort.
“What you say, dearest Endymion, is quite unanswerable, and I alone perhaps can really know that; but what I feel is, I have failed in life. My dream was to secure you greatness, and now, when the first occasion arrives, it seems I am more than powerless.”
“Dearest sister! you have done so much for me.”
“Nothing,” said Lady Roehampton; “what I have done for you would have been done by every sister in this metropolis. I dreamed of other things; I fancied, with my affection and my will, I could command events, and place you on a pinnacle. I see my folly now; others have controlled your life, not I— as was most natural; natural, but still bitter.”
“It is so, Endymion. Let us deceive ourselves no longer. I ought not to have rested until you were in a position which would have made you a master of your destiny.”
“But if there should be such a thing as destiny, it will not submit to the mastery of man.”
“Do not split words with me; you know what I mean; you feel what I mean; I mean much more than I say, and you understand much more than I say. My lord told me to ask you to dine with us, if you called, but I will not ask you. There is no joy in meeting at present. I feel as I felt in our last year at Hurstley.”
“Oh! don’t say that, dear Myra!” and Endymion sprang forward and kissed her very much. “Trust me; all will come right; a little patience, and all will come right.”
“I have had patience enough in life,” said Lady Roehampton; “years of patience, the most doleful, the most dreary, the most dark and tragical. And I bore it all, and I bore it well, because I thought of you, and had confidence in you, and confidence in your star; and because, like an idiot, I had schooled myself to believe that, if I devoted my will to you, that star would triumph.”
So, the reader will see, that our hero was not in a very serene and genial mood when he was buttonholed by the editor in the lobby, and, it is feared, he was unusually curt with that gentleman, which editors do not like, and sometimes reward with a leading article in consequence, on the character and career of our political chief, perhaps with some passing reference to jacks-inoffice, and the superficial impertinence of private secretaries. These wise and amiable speculators on public affairs should, however, sometimes charitably remember that even ministers have their chagrins, and that the trained temper and imperturbable presence of mind of their aides-decamp are not absolutely proof to all the infirmities of human nature.
Endymion had returned home from the lobby, depressed and dispirited. The last incident of our life shapes and colours our feelings. Ever since he had settled in London, his life might be said to have been happy, gradually and greatly prosperous. The devotion of his sister and the eminent position she had achieved, the friendship of Lady Montfort, and the kindness of society, who had received him with open arms, his easy circumstances after painful narrowness of means, his honourable and interesting position — these had been the chief among many other causes which had justly rendered Endymion Ferrars a satisfied and contented man. And it was more than to be hoped that not one of these sources would be wanting in his future. And yet he felt dejected, even to unhappiness. Myra figured to his painful consciousness only as deeply wounded in her feelings, and he somehow the cause; Lady Montfort, from whom he had never received anything but smiles and inspiring kindness, and witty raillery, and affectionate solicitude for his welfare, offended and estranged. And as for society, perhaps it would make a great difference in his position if he were no longer a private secretary to a cabinet minister and only a simple clerk; he could not, even at this melancholy moment, dwell on his impending loss of income, though that increase at the time had occasioned him, and those who loved him, so much satisfaction. And yet was he in fault? Had his decision been a narrow-minded and craven one? He could not bring himself to believe so — his conscience assured him that he had acted rightly. After all that he had experienced, he was prepared to welcome an obscure, but could not endure a humiliating position.
It was a long summer evening. The House had not sat after the announcement of the ministers. The twilight lingered with a charm almost as irresistible as among woods and waters. Endymion had been engaged to dine out, but had excused himself. Had it not been for the Montfort misunderstanding, he would have gone; but that haunted him. He had not called on her that day; he really had not courage to meet her. He was beginning to think that he might never see her again; never, certainly, on the same terms. She had the reputation of being capricious, though she had been constant in her kindness to him. Never see her again, or only see her changed! He was not aware of the fulness of his misery before; he was not aware, until this moment, that unless he saw her every day life would be intolerable.
He sat down at his table, covered with notes in every female handwriting except the right one, and with cards of invitation to banquets and balls and concerts, and “very earlies,” and carpet dances — for our friend was a very fashionable young man — but what is the use of even being fashionable, if the person you love cares for you no more? And so out of very wantonness, instead of opening notes sealed or stamped with every form of coronet, he took up a business-like epistle, closed only with a wafer, and saying in drollery, “I should think a dun,” he took out a script receipt for 20,000 pounds consols, purchased that morning in the name of Endymion Ferrars, Esq. It was enclosed in half a sheet of note-paper, on which were written these words, in a handwriting which gave no clue of acquaintanceship, or even sex: “Mind — you are to send me your first frank.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07