The marriage of Adriana was not an event calculated to calm the uneasy and dissatisfied temperament of Endymion. The past rendered it impossible that this announcement should not in some degree affect him. Then the silence of his sister on such a subject was too significant; the silence even of Waldershare. Somehow or other, it seemed that all these once dear and devoted friends stood in different relations to him and to each other from what they once filled. They had become more near and intimate together, but he seemed without the pale; he, that Endymion, who once seemed the prime object, if not the centre, of all their thoughts and sentiment. And why was this? What was the influence that had swayed him to a line contrary to what was once their hopes and affections? Had he an evil genius? And was it she? Horrible thought!
The interview with Lady Montfort had been deeply interesting — had for a moment restored him to himself. Had it not been for this news, he might have returned home, soothed, gratified, even again indulging in dreams. But this news had made him ponder; had made him feel what he had lost, and forced him to ask himself what he had gained.
There was one thing he had gained, and that was the privilege of calling on Lady Montfort the next day. That was a fact that sometimes dissipated all the shadows. Under the immediate influence of her presence, he became spell-bound as of yore, and in the intoxication of her beauty, the brightness of her mind, and her ineffable attraction, he felt he would be content with any lot, provided he might retain her kind thoughts and pass much of his life in her society.
She was only staying three or four days in town, and was much engaged in the mornings; but Endymion called on her every afternoon, and sate talking with her till dinner-time, and they both dined very late. As he really on personal and domestic affairs never could have any reserve with her, he told her, in that complete confidence in which they always indulged, of the extraordinary revelation which his sister had made to him about the parliamentary qualification. Lady Montfort was deeply interested in this; she was even agitated, and looked very grave.
“I am sorry,” she said, “we know this. Things cannot remain now as they are. You cannot return the money, that would be churlish; besides, you cannot return all the advantages which it gained for you, and they must certainly be considered part of the gift, and the most precious; and then, too, it would betray what your sister rightly called a ‘sacred confidence.’ And yet something must be done — you must let me think. Do not mention it again.” And then they talked a little of public affairs. Lady Montfort saw no one, and heard from no one now; but judging from the journals, she thought the position of the government feeble. “There cannot be a Protectionist government,” she said; “and yet that is the only parliamentary party of importance. Things will go on till some blow, and perhaps a slight one, will upset you all. And then who is to succeed? I think some queer melange got up perhaps by Mr. Bertie Tremaine.”
The last day came. She parted from Endymion with kindness, but not with tenderness. He was choking with emotion, and tried to imitate her calmness.
“Am I to write to you?” he asked in a faltering voice.
“Of course you are,” she said, “every day, and tell me all the news.”
The Hainaults, and the Beaumaris, and Waldershare, did not return to England until some time after Easter. The marriage was to take place in June — Endymion was to be Waldershare’s best man. There were many festivities, and he was looked upon as an indispensable guest in all. Adriana received his congratulations with animation, but with affection. She thanked him for a bracelet which he had presented to her; “I value it more,” she said, “than all my other presents together, except what dear Waldershare has given to me.” Even with that exception, the estimate was high, for never a bride in any land ever received the number of splendid offerings which crowded the tables of Lord Hainault’s new palace, which he had just built in Park Lane. There was not a Neuchatel in existence, and they flourished in every community, who did not send her, at least, a riviere of brilliants. King Florestan and his queen sent offerings worthy of their resplendent throne and their invaluable friendship. But nothing surpassed, nothing approached, the contents of a casket, which, a day before the wedding, arrived at Hainault House. It came from a foreign land, and Waldershare superintended the opening of the case, and the appearance of a casket of crimson velvet, with genuine excitement. But when it was opened! There was a coronet of brilliants; a necklace of brilliants and emeralds, and all the stones more than precious; gems of Golconda no longer obtainable, and lustrous companions which only could have been created in the hot earth of Asia. From whom? Not a glimpse of meaning. All that was written, in a foreign handwriting on a sheet of notepaper, was, “For the Lady Viscountess Waldershare.”
“When the revolution comes,” said Lord Hainault, “Lord Waldershare and my daughter must turn jewellers. Their stock in trade is ready.”
The correspondence between Lady Montfort and Endymion had resumed its ancient habit. They wrote to each other every day, and one day she told him that she had purchased a house, and that she must come up to town to examine and to furnish it. She probably should be a month in London, and remaining there until the end of the season, in whose amusements and business, of course, she could not share. She should “be at papa’s,” though he and his family were in town; but that was no reason why Endymion should not call on her. And he came, and called every day. Lady Montfort was full of her new house; it was in Carlton Gardens, the house she always wished, always intended to have. There is nothing like will; everybody can do exactly what they like in this world, provided they really like it. Sometimes they think they do, but in general, it is a mistake. Lady Montfort, it seemed, was a woman who always could do what she liked. She could do what she liked with Endymion Ferrars; that was quite certain. Supposed by men to have a strong will and a calm judgment, he was a nose of wax with this woman. He was fascinated by her, and he had been fascinated now for nearly ten years. What would be the result of this irresistible influence upon him? Would it make or mar those fortunes that once seemed so promising? The philosophers of White’s and the Coventry were generally of opinion that he had no chance.
Lady Montfort was busy every morning with her new house, but she never asked Endymion to accompany her, though it seemed natural to do so. But he saw her every day, and “papa,” who was a most kind and courtly gentleman, would often ask him, “if he had nothing better to do,” to dine there, and he dined there frequently; and if he were engaged, he was always of opinion that he had nothing better to do.
At last, however, the season was over; the world had gone to Goodwood, and Lady Montfort was about to depart to Princedown. It was a dreary prospect for Endymion, and he could not conceal his feelings. He could not help saying one day, “Do you know, now that you are going I almost wish to die.”
Alas! she only laughed. But he looked grave. “I am very unhappy,” he sighed rather than uttered.
She looked at him with seriousness. “I do not think our separation need be very long. Papa and all my family are coming to me in September to pay me a very long visit. I really do not see why you should not come too.”
Endymion’s countenance mantled with rapture. “If I might come, I think I should be the happiest of men!”
The month that was to elapse before his visit, Endymion was really, as he said, the happiest of men; at least, the world thought him so. He seemed to walk upon tip-toe. Parliament was prorogued, office was consigned to permanent secretaries, and our youthful statesman seemed only to live to enjoy, and add to, the revelry of existence. Now at Cowes, now stalking in the Highlands, dancing at balls in the wilderness, and running races of fantastic feats, full of health, and frolic, and charm; he was the delight of society, while, the whole time, he had only one thought, and that was the sacred day when he should again see the being whom he adored, and that in her beautiful home, which her presence made more lovely.
Yes! he was again at Princedown, in the bosom of her family; none others there; treated like one of themselves. The courtly father pressed his hand; the amiable and refined mother smiled upon him; the daughters, pretty, and natural as the air, treated him as if they were sisters, and even the eldest son, who generally hates you, after a little stiffness, announced in a tone never questioned under the family roof, that “Ferrars was a first-rate shot.”
And so a month rolled on; immensely happy, as any man who has loved, and loved in a beautiful scene, alone can understand. One morning Lady Montfort said to him, “I must go up to London about my house. I want to go and return the same day. Do you know, I think you had better come with me? You shall give me a luncheon in Hill Street, and we shall be back by the last train. It will be late, but we shall wake in the morning in the country, and that I always think a great thing.”
And so it happened; they rose early and arrived in town in time to give them a tolerably long morning. She took him to her house in Carlton Gardens, and showed to him exactly how it was all she wanted; accommodation for a first-rate establishment; and then the reception rooms, few houses in London could compare with them; a gallery and three saloons. Then they descended to the dining-room. “It is a dining-room, not a banqueting hall,” she said, “which we had at Montfort House, but still it is much larger than most dining-rooms in London. But, I think this room, at least I hope you do, quite charming,” and she took him to a room almost as large as the dining-room, and looking into the garden. It was fitted up with exquisite taste; calm subdued colouring, with choice marble busts of statesmen, ancient and of our times, but the shelves were empty.
“They are empty,” she said, “but the volumes to fill them are already collected. Yes,” she added in a tremulous voice, and slightly pressing the arm on which she leant. “If you will deign to accept it, this is the chamber I have prepared for you.”
“Dearest of women!” and he took her hand.
“Yes,” she murmured, “help me to realise the dream of my life;” and she touched his forehead with her lips.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07