The breakfast-room at Brentham was very bright. It opened on a garden of its own, which, at this season, was so glowing, and cultured into patterns so fanciful and finished, that it had the resemblance of a vast mosaic. The walls of the chamber were covered with bright drawings and sketches of our modern masters, and frames of interesting miniatures, and the meal was served on half a dozen or more round tables, which vied with each other in grace and merriment; brilliant as a cluster of Greek or Italian republics, instead of a great metropolitan table, like a central government absorbing all the genius and resources of the society.
Every scene In this life at Brentham charmed Lothair, who, though not conscious of being of a particularly gloomy temper, often felt that he had, somehow or other, hitherto passed through life rarely with pleasure, and never with joy.
After breakfast the ladies retired to their morning-room, and the gentlemen strolled to the stables, Lord St. Aldegonde lighting a Manilla cheroot of enormous length. As Lothair was very fond of horses, this delighted him. The stables at Brentham were rather too far from the house, but they were magnificent, and the stud worthy of them. It was numerous and choice, and, above all it was useful. It could supply, a readier number of capital riding-horses than any stable in England. Brentham was a great riding family. In the summer season the duke delighted to head a numerous troop, penetrate far into the country, and scamper home to a nine-o’clock dinner. All the ladies of the house were fond and fine horse-women. The mount of one of these riding-parties was magical. The dames and damsels vaulted on their barbs, and genets, and thorough-bred hacks, with such airy majesty; they were absolutely overwhelming with their bewildering habits and their bewitching hats.
Every thing was so new in this life at Brentham to Lothair, as well as so agreeable, that the first days passed by no means rapidly; for, though it sounds strange, time moves with equal slowness whether we experience many impressions or none. In a new circle every character is a study, and every incident an adventure; and the multiplicity of the images and emotions restrains the hours. But after a few days, though Lothair was not less delighted, for he was more so, he was astonished at the rapidity of time. The life was exactly the same, but equally pleasant; the same charming companions, the same refined festivity, the same fascinating amusements; but to his dismay Lothair recollected that nearly a fortnight had elapsed since his arrival. Lord St. Aldegonde also was on the wing; he was obliged to go to Cowes to see a sick friend, though he considerately left Bertha behind him. The other son-in-law remained, for he could not tear himself away from his wife. He was so distractedly fond of Lady Montairy that he would only smoke cigarettes. Lothair felt it was time to go, and he broke the circumstance to his friend Bertram.
These two “old fellows,” as they mutually described each other, could not at all agree as to the course to be pursued. Bertram looked upon Lothair’s suggestion as an act of desertion from himself. At their time of life, the claims of friendship are paramount. And where could Lothair go to? And what was there to do? Nowhere, and nothing. Whereas, if he would remain a little longer, as the duke expected and also the duchess, Bertram would go with him anywhere he liked, and do any thing he chose. So Lothair remained.
In the evening, seated by Lady Montairy, Lothair observed on her sister’s singing, and said, “I never heard any of our great singers, but I cannot believe there is a finer voice in existence.”
“Corisande’s is a fine voice,” said Lady Montairy, “but I admire her expression more than her tone; for there are certainly many finer voices, and some day you will hear them.”
“But I prefer expression,” said Lothair very decidedly.
“Ah, yes! doubtless,” said Lady Montairy, who was working a purse, “and that’s what we all want, I believe; at least we married daughters, they say. My brother, Granville St. Aldegonde, says we are all too much alike, and that Bertha St. Aldegonde would be parallel if she had no sisters.”
“I don’t at all agree with Lord St. Aldegonde,” said Lothair, with energy. “I do not think it is possible to have too many relatives like you and your sisters.”
Lady Montairy looked up with a smile, but she did not meet a smiling countenance. He seemed, what is called an earnest young man, this friend of her brother Bertram.
At this moment the duke sent swift messengers for all: to come, even the duchess, to partake in a new game just arrived from Russia, some miraculous combination of billiard-balls. Some rose directly, some lingering a moment arranging their work, but all were in motion. Corisande was at the piano, and disencumbering herself of some music. Lothair went up to her rather abruptly:
“Your singing,” he said, “is the finest thing I ever heard. I am so happy that I am not going to leave Brentham tomorrow. There is no place in the world that I think equal to Brentham.”
“And I love it, too, and no other place,” she replied; “and I should be quite happy if I never left it.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:49