These conversations play the very deuce with one’s story. We had intended to have commenced this book with something quite terrific, a murder or a marriage; and all our great ideas have ended in a lounge. After all, it is, perhaps, the most natural termination. In life, surely man is not always as monstrously busy as he appears to be in novels and romances. We are not always in action, not always making speeches or making money, or making war, or making love. Occasionally we talk, about the weather generally; sometimes about, ourselves; oftener about our friends; as often about our enemies, at least, those who have any; which, in my opinion, is the vulgarest of all possessions.
But we must get on.
Mr. Cleveland and Mrs. Felix Lorraine again met, and the gentleman scarcely appeared to be aware that this meeting was not their first. The lady sighed and remonstrated. She reproached Mr. Cleveland with passages of letters. He stared, and deigned not a reply to an artifice which he considered equally audacious and shallow. There was a scene. Vivian was forced to interfere; but as he deprecated all explanation, his interference was of little avail; and, as it was ineffectual for one party and uncalled for by the other, it was, of course, not encouraged. The presence of Mrs. Cleveland did not tend to assist Mrs. Felix in that self-control which, with all her wildness, she could appositely practise. In the presence of the Clevelands she was fitful, capricious, perplexing; sometimes impertinent, sometimes humble; but always ill at ease, and never charming.
Peculiar, however, as was her conduct in this particular relation, it was in all others, at this moment, most exemplary. Her whole soul seemed concentrated in the success of the approaching struggle. No office was too mechanical for her attention, or too elaborate for her enthusiastic assiduity. Her attentions were not confined merely to Vivian and the Marquess, but were lavished with equal generosity on their colleagues. She copied letters for Sir Berdmore, and composed letters for Lord Courtown, and construed letters to Lord Beaconsfield; they, in return, echoed her praises to her delighted relative, who was daily congratulated on the possession of “such a fascinating sister in law.”
“Well, Vivian,” said Mrs. Lorraine, to that young gentleman, the day previous to his departure from Buckhurst Lodge, “you are going to leave me behind you.”
“Yes! I hope you will not want me. I am very annoyed at not being able to go to town with you, but Lady Courtown is so pressing! and I have really promised so often to stay a week with her, that I thought it was better to make out my promise at once than in six months hence.”
“Well! I am exceedingly sorry, for you really are so useful! and the interest you take in everything is so encouraging, that I very much fear we shall not be able to get on without you. The important hour draws nigh.”
“It does, indeed, Vivian; and I assure you that there is no person awaiting it with intenser interest than myself. I little thought,” she added, in a low but distinct voice, “I little thought, when I first reached England, that I should ever again be interested in anything in this world.”
Vivian was silent, for he had nothing to say.
“Vivian!” very briskly resumed Mrs. Lorraine, “I shall get you to frank all my letters for me. I shall never trouble the Marquess again. Do you know, it strikes me you will make a very good speaker!”
“You flatter me exceedingly; suppose you give me a few lessons.”
“But you must leave off some of your wicked tricks, Vivian! You must not improvise parliamentary papers!”
“Improvise papers, Mrs. Lorraine! What can you mean?”
“Oh! nothing. I never mean anything.”
“But you must have had some meaning.”
“Some meaning! Yes, I dare say I had; I meant; I meant; do you think it will rain to-day?”
“Every prospect of a hard frost. I never knew before that I was an improvisatore.”
“Nor I. Have you heard from papa lately? I suppose he is quite in spirits at your success?”
“My father is a man who seldom gives way to any elation of mind.”
“Ah, indeed! a philosopher, I have no doubt, like his son.”
“I have no claims to the title of philosopher, although I have had the advantage of studying in the school of Mrs. Felix Lorraine.”
“What do you mean? If I thought you meant to be impertinent, I really would; but I excuse you; I think the boy means well.”
“The boy ‘means nothing; he never means anything.’”
“Come, Vivian! we are going to part. Do not let us quarrel the last day. There, there is a sprig of myrtle for you!
What! not accept my foolish flower?
Nay, then, I am indeed unblest!
and now you want it all! Unreasonable young man! If I were not the kindest lady in the land I should tear this sprig into a thousand pieces sooner; but come, my child! you shall have it. There! it looks quite imposing in your button-hole. How handsome you look to-day!”
“How agreeable you are! I love compliments!”
“Ah, Vivian! will you never give me credit for anything but a light and callous heart? Will you never be convinced that, that; but why make this humiliating confession? Oh! no, let me be misunderstood for ever! The time may come when Vivian Grey will find that Amalia Lorraine was — ”
“Was what, madam?”
“You shall choose the word, Vivian.”
“Say, then, my friend.”
“’Tis a monosyllable full of meaning, and I will not quarrel with it. And now, adieu! Heaven prosper you! Believe me, that my first thoughts and my last are for you and of you!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:07