Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 73

The season at Paris, which commenced towards the end of the year, was a lively one, and especially interesting to Endymion, who met there a great many of his friends. After his visit to the baths he had travelled alone for a few weeks, and saw some famous places of which he had long heard. A poet was then sitting on the throne of Bavaria, and was realising his dreams in the creation of an ideal capital. The Black Forest is a land of romance. He saw Walhalla, too, crowning the Danube with the genius of Germany, as mighty as the stream itself. Pleasant it is to wander among the quaint cities here clustering together: Nuremberg with all its ancient art, imperial Augsburg, and Wurzburg with its priestly palace, beyond the splendour of many kings. A summer in Suabia is a great joy.

But what a contrast to the Rue de la Paix, bright and vivacious, in which he now finds himself, and the companion of the Neuchatel family! Endymion had only returned to Paris the previous evening, and the Neuchatels had preceded him by a week; so they had seen everybody and could tell him everything. Lord and Lady Beaumaris were there, and Mrs. Rodney their companion, her husband detained in London by some mysterious business; it was thought a seat in parliament, which Mr. Tadpole had persuaded him might be secured on a vacancy occasioned by a successful petition. They had seen the Count of Ferroll, who was going to dine with them that day, and Endymion was invited to meet him. It was Adriana’s first visit to Paris, and she seemed delighted with it; but Mrs. Neuchatel preferred the gay capital when it was out of season. Mr. Neuchatel himself was always in high spirits — sanguine and self-satisfied. He was an Orleanist, had always been so, and sympathised with the apparently complete triumph of his principles —“real liberal principles, no nonsense; there was more gold in the Bank of France than in any similar establishment in Europe. After all, wealth is the test of the welfare of a people, and the test of wealth is the command of the precious metals. Eh! Mr. Member of Parliament?” And his eye flashed fire, and he seemed to smack his lips at the very thought and mention of these delicious circumstances.

They were in a jeweller’s shop, and Mrs. Neuchatel was choosing a trinket for a wedding present. She seemed infinitely distressed. “What do you think of this, Adriana? It is simple and in good taste. I should like it for myself, and yet I fear it might not be thought fine enough.”

“This is pretty, mamma, and new,” and she held before her mother a bracelet of much splendour.

“Oh, no! that will never do, dear Adriana; they will say we are purse-proud.”

“I am afraid they will always say that, mamma,” and she sighed.

“It is a long time since we all separated,” said Endymion to Adriana.

“Months! Mr. Sidney Wilton said you were the first runaway. I think you were quite right. Your new life now will be fresh to you. If you had remained, it would only have been associated with defeat and discomfiture.”

“I am so happy to be in parliament, that I do not think I could ever associate such a life with discomfiture.”

“Does it make you very happy?” said Adriana, looking at him rather earnestly.

“Very happy.”

“I am glad of that.”

The Neuchatels had a house at Paris — one of the fine hotels of the First Empire. It was inhabited generally by one of the nephews, but it was always ready to receive them with every luxury and every comfort. But Mrs. Neuchatel herself particularly disliked Paris, and she rarely accompanied her husband in his frequent but brief visits to the gay city. She had yielded on this occasion to the wish of Adriana, whom she had endeavoured to bring up in a wholesome prejudice against French taste and fashions.

The dinner today was exquisite, in a chamber of many-coloured marbles, and where there was no marble there was gold, and when the banquet was over, they repaired to saloons hung with satin of a delicate tint which exhibited to perfection a choice collection of Greuse and Vanloo. Mr. Sidney Wilton dined there as well as the Count of Ferroll, some of the French ministers, and two or three illustrious Orleanist celebrities of literature, who acknowledged and emulated the matchless conversational powers of Mrs. Neuchatel. Lord and Lady Beaumaris and Mrs. Rodney completed the party.

Sylvia was really peerless. She was by birth half a Frenchwoman, and she compensated for her deficiency in the other moiety, by a series of exquisite costumes, in which she mingled with the spell-born fashion of France her own singular genius in dress. She spoke not much, but looked prettier than ever; a little haughty, and now and then faintly smiling. What was most remarkable about her was her convenient and complete want of memory. Sylvia had no past. She could not have found her way to Warwick Street to save her life. She conversed with Endymion with ease and not without gratification, but from all she said, you might have supposed that they had been born in the same sphere, and always lived in the same sphere, that sphere being one peopled by duchesses and countesses and gentlemen of fashion and ministers of state.

Lady Beaumaris was different from her sister almost in all respects, except in beauty, though her beauty even was of a higher style than that of Mrs. Rodney. Imogene was quite natural, though refined. She had a fine disposition. All her impulses were good and naturally noble. She had a greater intellectual range than Sylvia, and was much more cultivated. This she owed to her friendship with Mr. Waldershare, who was entirely devoted to her, and whose main object in life was to make everything contribute to her greatness. “I hope he will come here next week,” she said to Endymion. “I heard from him today. He is at Venice. And he gives me such lovely descriptions of that city, that I shall never rest till I have seen it and glided in a gondola.”

“Well, that you can easily do.”

“Not so easily. It will never do to interfere with my lord’s hunting — and when hunting is over there is always something else — Newmarket, or the House of Lords, or rook-shooting.”

“I must say there is something delightful about Paris, which you meet nowhere else,” said Mr. Sidney Wilton to Endymion. “For my part, it has the same effect on me as a bottle of champagne. When I think of what we were doing at this time last year — those dreadful November cabinets — I shudder! By the by, the Count of Ferroll says there is a chance of Lady Montfort coming here; have you heard anything?”

Endymion knew all about it, but he was too discreet even to pretend to exclusive information on that head. He thought it might be true, but supposed it depended on my lord.

“Oh! Montfort will never come. He will bolt at the last moment when the hall is full of packages. Their very sight will frighten him, and he will steal down to Princedown and read ‘Don Quixote.’”

Sidney Wilton was quite right. Lady Montfort arrived without her lord. “He threw me over almost as we were getting into the carriage, and I had quite given it up when dear Lady Roehampton came to my rescue. She wanted to see her brother, and — here we are.”

The arrival of these two great ladies gave a stimulant to gaieties which were already excessive. The court and the ministers rivalled the balls and the banquets which were profusely offered by the ambassadors and bankers. Even the great faubourg relaxed, and its halls of high ceremony and mysterious splendour were opened to those who in London had extended to many of their order a graceful and abounding hospitality. It was with difficulty, however, that they persuaded Lady Montfort to honour with her presence the embassy of her own court.

“I dined with those people once,” she said to Endymion, “but I confess when I thought of those dear Granvilles, their entrees stuck in my throat.”

There was, however, no lack of diplomatic banquets for the successor of Louise of Savoy. The splendid hotel of the Count of Ferroll was the scene of festivals not to be exceeded in Paris, and all in honour of this wondrous dame. Sometimes they were feasts, sometimes they were balls, sometimes they were little dinners, consummate and select, sometimes large receptions, multifarious and amusing. Her pleasure was asked every morn, and whenever she was disengaged, she issued orders to his devoted household. His boxes at opera or play were at her constant disposal; his carriages were at her command, and she rode, in his society, the most beautiful horses in Paris.

The Count of Ferroll had wished that both ladies should have taken up their residence at his mansion.

“But I think we had better not,” said Lady Montfort to Myra. “After all, there is nothing like ‘my crust of bread and liberty,’ and so I think we had better stay at the Bristol.”


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