Lothair, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 39

Lothair was quite glad to see Mr. Putney Giles. That gentleman indeed was a universal favorite. He was intelligent, acquainted with every thing except theology and metaphysics, to oblige, a little to patronize, never made difficulties, and always overcame them. His bright blue eyes, open forehead, and sunny face, indicated a man fall of resources, and with a temper of natural sweetness.

The lawyer and his noble client had a great deal of business to transact. Lothair was to know his position in detail preparatory to releasing his guardians from their responsibilities, and assuming the management of his own affairs. Mr. Putney Giles was a first-rate man of business. With all his pleasant, easy manner, he was precise and methodical, and was not content that his client should be less master of his own affairs than his lawyer. The mornings passed over a table covered with dispatch boxes and piles of ticketed and banded papers, and then they looked after the workmen who were preparing for the impending festivals, or rode over the estate.

“That is our weak point,” said Mr. Putney Giles, pointing to a distant part of the valley. “We ought to have both sides of the valley. Your lordship will have to consider whether you can devote the two hundred thousand pounds of the second and extinct trust to a better purpose than in obtaining that estate.”

Lothair had always destined that particular sum for the cathedral, the raising of which was to have been the first achievement of his majority; but he did not reply.

In a few days the guests began to arrive, but gradually. The duke and duchess and Lady Corisande came the first, and were one day alone with Lothair, for Mr. Putney Giles had departed to fetch Apollonia.

Lothair was unaffectedly gratified at not only receiving his friends at his own castle, but under these circumstances of intimacy. They had been the first persons who had been kind to him, and he really loved the whole family. They arrived rather late, but he would show them to their rooms — and they were choice ones — himself, and then they dined together in the small green dining-room. Nothing could be more graceful or more cordial than the whole affair. The duchess seemed to beam with affectionate pleasure as Lothair fulfilled his duties as their host; the duke praised the claret, and he seldom praised any thing; while Lady Corisande only regretted that the impending twilight had prevented her from seeing the beautiful country, and expressed lively interest in the morrow’s inspection of the castle and domain. Sometimes her eyes met those of Lothair, and she was so happy that she unconsciously smiled.

“And-tomorrow,” said Lothair, “I am delighted to say, we shall have to ourselves; at least all the morning. We will see the castle first, and then, after luncheon, we will drive about everywhere.”

“Everywhere,” said Corisande.

“It was very nice your asking us first, and alone,” said the duchess.

“It was very nice in your coming, dear duchess,” said Lothair, “and most kind — as you ever are to me.”

“Duke of Brecon is coming to you on Thursday,” said the duke; “he told me so at White’s.”

“Perhaps you would like to know, duchess, whom you are going to meet,” said Lothair.

“I should much like to hear. Pray tell us.”

“It is a rather formidable array,” said Lothair, and he took out a paper. “First, there are all the notables of the county. I do not know any of them personally, so I wrote to each of them a letter, as well as sending them a formal invitation. I thought that was right.”

“Quite right,” said the duchess. “Nothing could be more proper.”

“Well, the first person, of course, is the lord-lieutenant. He is coming.”

“By-the-by, let me see, who is your lord-lieutenant?” said the duke.

“Lord Agramont.”

“To be sure. I was at college with him; a very good fellow; but I have never met him since, except once at Boodle’s; and I never saw a man so red and gray, and I remember him such a good-looking fellow! He must have lived immensely in the country, and never thought of his person,” said the duke in a tone of pity, and playing with his mustache.

“Is there a Lady Agramont?” inquired the duchess.

“Oh, yes! and she also honors me with her presence,” said Lothair.

“And who was Lady Agramont?”

“Oh! his cousin,” said the duke. “The Agramonts always marry their cousins. His father did the same thing. They are so shy. It is a family that never was in society, and never will be. I was at Agramont Castle once when I was at college, and I never shall forget it. We used to sit down forty or fifty every day to dinner, entirely maiden aunts and clergymen, and that sort of thing. However, I shall be truly glad to see Agramont again, for, notwithstanding all these disadvantages, he is a thoroughly good fellow.”

“Then there is the high-sheriff,” continued Lothair; “and both the county members and their wives; and Mrs. High–Sheriff too. I believe there is some tremendous question respecting the precedency of this lady. There is no doubt that, in the county, the high-sheriff takes precedence of every one, even of the lord-lieutenant; but how about his wife? Perhaps your grace could aid me? Mr. Putney Giles said he would write about it to the Heralds’ College.”

“I should give her the benefit of any doubt,” said the duchess.

“And then our bishop is coming;” said Lothair.

“Oh! I am so glad you have asked the bishop,” said Lady Corisande.

“There could be no doubt about it,” said Lothair.

“I do not know how his lordship will get on with one of my guardians, the cardinal; but his eminence is not here in a priestly character; and, as for that, there is less chance of his differing with the cardinal than with my other guardian Lord Culloden, who is a member of the Free Kirk.”

“Is Lord Culloden coming?” said the duchess.

“Yes, and with two daughters, Flora and Grizell. I remember my cousins, good-natured little girls; but Mr. Putney Giles tells me that the shortest is six feet high.”

“I think we shall have a very amusing party,” said the duchess.

“You know all the others,” said Lothair. “No, by-the-by, there is the dean of my college coming, and Monsignore Catesby, a great friend of the St. Jeromes.”

Lady Corisande looked grave.

“The St. Jeromes will be here tomorrow,” continued Lothair, “and the Montairys and the St. Aldegondes. I have half an idea that Bertram and Carisbrooke and Hugo Bohun will be here to-night — Duke of Brecon on Thursday; and that, I think, is all, except an American lady and gentleman, whom, I think, you will like — great friends of mine; I knew them this year at Oxford, and the were very kind to me. He is a man of considerable fortune; they have lived at Paris a good deal.”

“I have known Americans who lived at Paris,” said the duke; “very good sort of people, and no end of money some of them.”

“I believe Colonel Campian has large estates in the South,” said Lothair; “but, though really I have no right to speak of his affairs, he must have suffered very much.”

“Well, he has the consolation of suffering in a good cause,” said the duke. “I shall be happy to make his acquaintance. I look upon an American gentleman with large estates in the South as a real aristocrat; and; whether he gets his rents, or whatever his returns may be, or not, I should always treat him with respect.”

“I have heard the American women are very pretty,” said Lady Corisande.

“Mrs. Campian is very distinguished,” said Lothair; “but I think she was an Italian.”

“They promise to be an interesting addition to our party,” said the duchess, and she rose.


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