Part 6 out of 9
political engagements which he could not comprehend, and which, in
general, are vomited with as much facility as they are swallowed.
The people of Darlford, who, as long as the contest for their
representation remained between Mr. Rigby and the abstraction called
Liberal Principles, appeared to be very indifferent about the result, the
moment they learned that for the phrase had been substituted a substance,
and that, too, in the form of a gentleman who was soon to figure as their
resident neighbour, became excited, speedily enthusiastic. All the bells
of all the churches rang when Mr. Millbank commenced his canvass; the
Conservatives, on the alert, if not alarmed, insisted on their champion
also showing himself in all directions; and in the course of four-and-
twenty hours, such is the contagion of popular feeling, the town was
divided into two parties, the vast majority of which were firmly convinced
that the country could only be saved by the return of Mr. Rigby, or
preserved from inevitable destruction by the election of Mr. Millbank.
The results of the two canvasses were such as had been anticipated from
the previous reports of the respective agents and supporters. In these
days the personal canvass of a candidate is a mere form. The whole country
that is to be invaded has been surveyed and mapped out before entry; every
position reconnoitred; the chain of communications complete. In the
present case, as was not unusual, both candidates were really supported by
numerous and reputable adherents; and both had good grounds for believing
that they would be ultimately successful. But there was a body of the
electors sufficiently numerous to turn the election, who would not promise
their votes: conscientious men who felt the responsibility of the duty
that the constitution had entrusted to their discharge, and who would not
make up their minds without duly weighing the respective merits of the two
rivals. This class of deeply meditative individuals are distinguished not
only by their pensive turn of mind, but by a charitable vein that seems to
pervade their being. Not only will they think of your request, but for
their parts they wish both sides equally well. Decision, indeed, as it
must dash the hopes of one of their solicitors, seems infinitely painful
to them; they have always a good reason for postponing it. If you seek
their suffrage during the canvass, they reply, that the writ not having
come down, the day of election is not yet fixed. If you call again to
inform them that the writ has arrived, they rejoin, that perhaps after all
there may not be a contest. If you call a third time, half dead with
fatigue, to give them friendly notice that both you and your rival have
pledged yourselves to go to the poll, they twitch their trousers, rub
their hands, and with a dull grin observe,
'Well, sir, we shall see.'
'Come, Mr. Jobson,' says one of the committee, with an insinuating smile,
'give Mr. Millbank one.'
'Jobson, I think you and I know each other,' says a most influential
supporter, with a knowing nod.
'Yes, Mr. Smith, I should think we did.'
'Come, come, give us one.'
'Well, I have not made up my mind yet, gentlemen.'
'Jobson!' says a solemn voice, 'didn't you tell me the other night you
wished well to this gentleman?'
'So I do; I wish well to everybody,' replies the imperturbable Jobson.
'Well, Jobson,' exclaims another member of the committee, with a sigh,
'who could have supposed that you would have been an enemy?'
'I don't wish to be no enemy to no man, Mr. Trip.'
'Come, Jobson,' says a jolly tanner, 'if I wanted to be a Parliament man,
I don't think you could refuse me one!'
'I don't think I could, Mr. Oakfield.'
'Well, then, give it to my friend.'
'Well, sir, I'll think about it.'
'Leave him to me,' says another member of the committee, with a
significant look. 'I know how to get round him. It's all right.'
'Yes, leave him to Hayfield, Mr. Millbank; he knows how to manage him.'
But all the same, Jobson continues to look as little tractable and lamb-
like as can be well fancied.
And here, in a work which, in an unpretending shape, aspires to take
neither an uninformed nor a partial view of the political history of the
ten eventful years of the Reform struggle, we should pause for a moment to
observe the strangeness, that only five years after the reconstruction of
the electoral body by the Whig party, in a borough called into political
existence by their policy, a manufacturing town, too, the candidate
comprising in his person every quality and circumstance which could
recommend him to the constituency, and his opponent the worst specimen of
the Old Generation, a political adventurer, who owed the least
disreputable part of his notoriety to his opposition to the Reform Bill;
that in such a borough, under such circumstances, there should be a
contest, and that, too, one of a very doubtful issue.
What was the cause of this? Are we to seek it in the 'Reaction' of the
Tadpoles and the Tapers? That would not be a satisfactory solution.
Reaction, to a certain extent, is the law of human existence. In the
particular state of affairs before us, England after the Reform Act, it
never could be doubtful that Time would gradually, and in some instances
rapidly, counteract the national impulse of 1832. There never could have
been a question, for example, that the English counties would have
reverted to their natural allegiance to their proprietors; but the results
of the appeals to the third Estate in 1835 and 1837 are not to be
accounted for by a mere readjustment of legitimate influences.
The truth is, that, considerable as are the abilities of the Whig leaders,
highly accomplished as many of them unquestionably must be acknowledged in
parliamentary debate, experienced in council, sedulous in office, eminent
as scholars, powerful from their position, the absence of individual
influence, and of the pervading authority of a commanding mind, have been
the cause of the fall of the Whig party.
Such a supremacy was generally acknowledged in Lord Grey on the accession
of this party to power: but it was the supremacy of a tradition rather
than of a fact. Almost at the outset of his authority his successor was
indicated. When the crisis arrived, the intended successor was not in the
Whig ranks. It is in this virtual absence of a real and recognised leader,
almost from the moment that they passed their great measure, that we must
seek a chief cause of all that insubordination, all those distempered
ambitions, and all those dark intrigues, that finally broke up, not only
the Whig government, but the Whig party; demoralised their ranks, and sent
them to the country, both in 1835 and 1837, with every illusion, which had
operated so happily in their favour in 1832, scattered to the winds. In
all things we trace the irresistible influence of the individual.
And yet the interval that elapsed between 1835 and 1837 proved, that there
was all this time in the Whig array one entirely competent to the office
of leading a great party, though his capacity for that fulfilment was too
LORD JOHN RUSSELL has that degree of imagination, which, though evinced
rather in sentiment than expression, still enables him to generalise from
the details of his reading and experience; and to take those comprehensive
views, which, however easily depreciated by ordinary men in an age of
routine, are indispensable to a statesman in the conjunctures in which we
live. He understands, therefore, his position; and he has the moral
intrepidity which prompts him ever to dare that which his intellect
assures him is politic. He is consequently, at the same time, sagacious
and bold in council. As an administrator he is prompt and indefatigable.
He is not a natural orator, and labours under physical deficiencies which
even a Demosthenic impulse could scarcely overcome. But he is experienced
in debate, quick in reply, fertile in resource, takes large views, and
frequently compensates for a dry and hesitating manner by the expression
of those noble truths that flash across the fancy, and rise spontaneously
to the lip, of men of poetic temperament when addressing popular
assemblies. If we add to this, a private life of dignified repute, the
accidents of his birth and rank, which never can be severed from the man,
the scion of a great historic family, and born, as it were, to the
hereditary service of the State, it is difficult to ascertain at what
period, or under what circumstances, the Whig party have ever possessed,
or could obtain, a more efficient leader.
But we must return to the Darlford election. The class of thoughtful
voters was sufficiently numerous in that borough to render the result of
the contest doubtful to the last; and on the eve of the day of nomination
both parties were equally sanguine.
Nomination-day altogether is an unsatisfactory affair. There is little to
be done, and that little mere form. The tedious hours remain, and no one
can settle his mind to anything. It is not a holiday, for every one is
serious; it is not business, for no one can attend to it; it is not a
contest, for there is no canvassing; nor an election, for there is no
poll. It is a day of lounging without an object, and luncheons without an
appetite; of hopes and fears; confidence and dejection; bravado bets and
secret hedging; and, about midnight, of furious suppers of grilled bones,
brandy-and-water, and recklessness.
The president and vice-president of the Conservative Association, the
secretary and the four solicitors who were agents, had impressed upon Mr.
Rigby that it was of the utmost importance, and must produce a great moral
effect, if he obtain the show of hands. With his powers of eloquence and
their secret organisation, they flattered themselves it might be done.
With this view, Rigby inflicted a speech of more than two hours' duration
on the electors, who bore it very kindly, as the mob likes, above all
things, that the ceremonies of nomination-day should not be cut short:
moreover, there is nothing that the mob likes so much as a speech. Rigby
therefore had, on the whole, a far from unfavourable audience, and he
availed himself of their forbearance. He brought in his crack theme, the
guillotine, and dilated so elaborately upon its qualities, that one of the
gentlemen below could not refrain from exclaiming, 'I wish you may get
it.' This exclamation gave Mr. Rigby what is called a great opening,
which, like a practised speaker, he immediately seized. He denounced the
sentiment as 'un-English,' and got much cheered. Excited by this success,
Rigby began to call everything else 'un-English' with which he did not
agree, until menacing murmurs began to rise, when he shifted the subject,
and rose into a grand peroration, in which he assured them that the eyes
of the whole empire were on this particular election; cries of 'That's
true,' from all sides; and that England expected every man to do his duty.
'And who do you expect to do yours?' inquired a gentleman below,' about
that 'ere pension?'
'Rigby,' screeched a hoarse voice, 'don't you mind; you guv it them well.'
'Rigby, keep up your spirits, old chap: we will have you.'
'Now!' said a stentorian voice; and a man as tall as Saul looked round
him. This was the engaged leader of the Conservative mob; the eye of every
one of his minions was instantly on him. 'Now! Our young Queen and our Old
Institutions! Rigby for ever!'
This was a signal for the instant appearance of the leader of the Liberal
mob. Magog Wrath, not so tall as Bully Bluck, his rival, had a voice
almost as powerful, a back much broader, and a countenance far more
forbidding. 'Now, my boys, the Queen and Millbank for ever!'
These rival cries were the signals for a fight between the two bands of
gladiators in the face of the hustings, the body of the people little
interfering. Bully Bluck seized Magog Wrath's colours; they wrestled, they
seized each other; their supporters were engaged in mutual contest; it
appeared to be a most alarming and perilous fray; several ladies from the
windows screamed, one fainted; a band of special constables pushed their
way through the mob; you heard their staves resounded on the skulls of all
who opposed them, especially the little boys: order was at length
restored; and, to tell the truth, the only hurts inflicted were those
which came from the special constables. Bully Bluck and Magog Wrath, with
all their fierce looks, flaunting colours, loud cheers, and desperate
assaults, were, after all, only a couple of Condottieri, who were cautious
never to wound each other. They were, in fact, a peaceful police, who kept
the town in awe, and prevented others from being mischievous who were more
inclined to do harm. Their hired gangs were the safety-valves for all the
scamps of the borough, who, receiving a few shillings per head for their
nominal service, and as much drink as they liked after the contest, were
bribed and organised into peace and sobriety on the days in which their
excesses were most to be apprehended.
Now Mr. Millbank came forward: he was brief compared with Mr. Rigby; but
clear and terse. No one could misunderstand him. He did not favour his
hearers with any history, but gave them his views about taxes, free trade,
placemen, and pensioners, whoever and wherever they might be.
'Hilloa, Rigby, about that 'ere pension?'
'Millbank for ever! We will have him.'
'Never mind, Rigby, you'll come in next time.'
Mr. Millbank was energetic about resident representatives, but did not
understand that a resident representative meant the nominee of a great
Lord, who lived in a great castle; great cheering. There was a Lord once
who declared that, if he liked, he would return his negro valet to
Parliament; but Mr. Millbank thought those days were over. It remained for
the people of Darlford to determine whether he was mistaken.
'Never!' exclaimed the mob. 'Millbank for ever! Rigby in the river! No
niggers, no walets!'
'Three groans for Rigby.'
'His language ain't as purty as the Lunnun chap's,' said a critic below;
'but he speaks from his 'art: and give me the man who 'as got a 'art.'
'That's your time of day, Mr. Robinson.'
'Now!' said Magog Wrath, looking around. 'Now, the Queen and Millbank for
The show of hands was entirely in favour of Mr. Millbank. Scarcely a hand
was held up for Mr. Rigby below, except by Bully Bluck and his
praetorians. The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative
Association, the Secretary, and the four agents, severally and
respectively went up to Mr. Rigby and congratulated him on the result, as
it was a known fact, 'that the show of hands never won.'
The eve of polling-day was now at hand. This is the most critical period
of an election. All night parties in disguise were perambulating the
different wards, watching each other's tactics; masks, wigs, false noses,
gentles in livery coats, men in female attire, a silent carnival of
manoeuvre, vigilance, anxiety, and trepidation. The thoughtful voters
about this time make up their minds; the enthusiasts who have told you
twenty times a-day for the last fortnight, that they would get up in the
middle of the night to serve you, require the most watchful cooping; all
the individuals who have assured you that 'their word is their bond,'
Two of the Rigbyites met in the market-place about an hour after midnight.
'Well, how goes it?' said one.
'I have been the rounds. The blunt's going like the ward-pump. I saw a man
come out of Moffatt's house, muffled up with a mask on. I dodged him. It
'You don't mean that, do you? D----e, I'll answer for Moffatt.'
'I never thought he was a true man.'
'I could not see him; but I met young Gunning and told him.'
'Young Gunning! That won't do.'
'I thought he was as right as the town clock.'
'So did I, once. Hush! who comes here? The enemy, Franklin and Sampson
Potts. Keep close.'
'I'll speak to them. Good night, Potts. Up rather late to-night?'
'All fair election time. You ain't snoring, are you?'
'Well, I hope the best man will win.'
'I am sure he will.'
'You must go for Moffatt early, to breakfast at the White Lion; that's
your sort. Don't leave him, and poll him your-self. I am going off to
Solomon Lacey's. He has got four Millbankites cooped up very drunk, and I
want to get them quietly into the country before daybreak.'
'Tis polling-day! The candidates are roused from their slumbers at an
early hour by the music of their own bands perambulating the town, and
each playing the 'conquering hero' to sustain the courage of their jaded
employers, by depriving them of that rest which can alone tranquillise the
nervous system. There is something in that matin burst of music, followed
by a shrill cheer from the boys of the borough, the only inhabitants yet
up, that is very depressing.
The committee-rooms of each candidate are soon rife with black reports;
each side has received fearful bulletins of the preceding night campaign;
and its consequences as exemplified in the morning, unprecedented
tergiversations, mysterious absences; men who breakfast with one side and
vote with the other; men who won't come to breakfast; men who won't leave
At ten o'clock Mr. Rigby was in a majority of twenty-eight.
The polling was brisk and equal until the middle of the day, when it
became slack. Mr. Rigby kept a majority, but an inconsiderable one. Mr.
Millbank's friends were not disheartened, as it was known that the leading
members of Mr. Rigby's committee had polled; whereas his opponent's were
principally reserved. At a quarter-past two there was great cheering and
uproar. The four voters in favour of Millbank, whom Solomon Lacey had
cooped up, made drunk, and carried into the country, had recovered iheir
senses, made their escape, and voted as they originally intended. Soon
after this, Mr. Millbank was declared by his committee to be in a majority
of one, but the committee of Mr. Rigby instantly posted a placard, in
large letters, to announce that, on the contrary, their man was in a
majority of nine.
'If we could only have got another registration,' whispered the principal
agent to Mr. Rigby, at a quarter-past four.
'You think it's all over, then?'
'Why, I do not see now how we can win. We have polled all our dead men,
and Millbank is seven ahead.'
'I have no doubt we shall be able to have a good petition,' said the
consoling chairman of the Conservative Association.
It was not with feelings of extreme satisfaction that Mr. Rigby returned
to London. The loss of Hellingsley, followed by the loss of the borough to
Hellingsley's successful master, were not precisely the incidents which
would be adduced as evidence of Mr. Rigby's good management or good
fortune. Hitherto that gentleman had persuaded the world that he was not
only very clever, but that he was also always in luck; a quality which
many appreciate more even than capacity. His reputation was unquestionably
damaged, both with his patron and his party. But what the Tapers and the
Tadpoles thought or said, what even might be the injurious effect on his
own career of the loss of this election, assumed an insignificant
character when compared with its influence on the temper and disposition
of the Marquess of Monmouth.
And yet his carriage is now entering the courtyard of Monmouth House, and,
in all probability, a few minutes would introduce him to that presence
before which he had, ere this, trembled. The Marquess was at home, and
anxious to see Mr. Rigby. In a few minutes that gentleman was ascending
the private staircase, entering the antechamber, and waiting to be
received in the little saloon, exactly as our Coningsby did more than five
years ago, scarcely less agitated, but by feelings of a very different
'Well, you made a good fight of it,' exclaimed the Marquess, in a cheerful
and cordial tone, as Mr. Rigby entered his dressing-room. 'Patience! We
shall win next time.'
This reception instantly reassured the defeated candidate, though its
contrast to that which he expected rather perplexed him. He entered into
the details of the election, talked rapidly of the next registration, the
propriety of petitioning; accustomed himself to hearing his voice with its
habitual volubility in a chamber where he had feared it might not sound
for some time.
'D----n politics!' said the Marquess. 'These fellows are in for this
Parliament, and I am really weary of the whole affair. I begin to think
the Duke was right, and it would have been best to have left them to
themselves. I am glad you have come up at once, for I want you. The fact
is, I am going to be married.'
This was not a startling announcement to Mr. Rigby; he was prepared for
it, though scarcely could have hoped that he would have been favoured with
it on the present occasion, instead of a morose comment on his
misfortunes. Marriage, then, was the predominant idea of Lord Monmouth at
the present moment, in whose absorbing interest all vexations were
forgotten. Fortunate Rigby! Disgusted by the failure of his political
combinations, his disappointments in not dictating to the county and not
carrying the borough, and the slight prospect at present of obtaining the
great object of his ambition, Lord Monmouth had resolved to precipitate
his fate, was about to marry immediately, and quit England.
'You will be wanted, Rigby,' continued the Marquess. 'We must have a
couple of trustees, and I have thought of you as one. You know you are my
executor; and it is better not to bring in unnecessarily new names into
the management of my affairs. Lord Eskdale will act with you.'
Rigby then, after all, was a lucky man. After such a succession of
failures, he had returned only to receive fresh and the most delicate
marks of his patron's good feeling and consideration. Lord Monmouth's
trustee and executor! 'You know you are my executor.' Sublime truth! It
ought to be blazoned in letters of gold in the most conspicuous part of
Rigby's library, to remind him perpetually of his great and impending
destiny. Lord Monmouth's executor, and very probably one of his residuary
legatees! A legatee of some sort he knew he was. What a splendid _memento
mori_! What cared Rigby for the borough of Darlford? And as for his
political friends, he wished them joy of their barren benches. Nothing was
lost by not being in this Parliament.
It was then with sincerity that Rigby offered his congratulations to his
patron. He praised the judicious alliance, accompanied by every
circumstance conducive to worldly happiness; distinguished beauty, perfect
temper, princely rank. Rigby, who had hardly got out of his hustings'
vein, was most eloquent in his praises of Madame Colonna.
'An amiable woman,' said Lord Monmouth, 'and very handsome. I always
admired her; and an agreeable person too; I dare say a very good temper,
but I am not going to marry her.'
'Might I then ask who is--'
'Her step-daughter, the Princess Lucretia,' replied the Marquess, quietly,
and looking at his ring.
Here was a thunderbolt! Rigby had made another mistake. He had been
working all this time for the wrong woman! The consciousness of being a
trustee alone sustained him. There was an inevitable pause. The Marquess
would not speak however, and Rigby must. He babbled rather incoherently
about the Princess Lucretia being admired by everybody; also that she was
the most fortunate of women, as well as the most accomplished; he was just
beginning to say he had known her from a child, when discretion stopped
his tongue, which had a habit of running on somewhat rashly; but Rigby,
though he often blundered in his talk, had the talent of extricating
himself from the consequence of his mistakes.
'And Madame must be highly gratified by all this?' observed Mr. Rigby,
with an enquiring accent. He was dying to learn how she had first received
the intelligence, and congratulated himself that his absence at his
contest had preserved him from the storm.
'Madame Colonna knows nothing of our intentions,' said Lord Monmouth. 'And
by the bye, that is the very business on which I wish to see you, Rigby. I
wish you to communicate them to her. We are to be married, and
immediately. It would gratify me that the wife of Lucretia's father should
attend our wedding. You understand exactly what I mean, Rigby; I must have
no scenes. Always happy to see the Princess Colonna under my roof; but
then I like to live quietly, particularly at present; harassed as I have
been by the loss of these elections, by all this bad management, and by
all these disappointments on subjects in which I was led to believe
success was certain. Madame Colonna is at home;' and the Marquess bowed
Mr. Rigby out of the room.
The departure of Sidonia from Coningsby Castle, in the autumn, determined
the Princess Lucretia on a step which had for some time before his arrival
occupied her brooding imagination. Nature had bestowed on this lady an
ambitious soul and a subtle spirit; she could dare much and could execute
finely. Above all things she coveted power; and though not free from the
characteristic susceptibility of her sex, the qualities that could engage
her passions or fascinate her fancy must partake of that intellectual
eminence which distinguished her. Though the Princess Lucretia in a short
space of time had seen much of the world, she had as yet encountered no
hero. In the admirers whom her rank, and sometimes her intelligence,
assembled around her, her master had not yet appeared. Her heart had not
trembled before any of those brilliant forms whom she was told her sex
admired; nor did she envy any one the homage which she did not appreciate.
There was, therefore, no disturbing element in the worldly calculations
which she applied to that question which is, to woman, what a career is to
man, the question of marriage. She would marry to gain power, and
therefore she wished to marry the powerful. Lord Eskdale hovered around
her, and she liked him. She admired his incomparable shrewdness; his
freedom from ordinary prejudices; his selfishness which was always good-
natured, and the imperturbability that was not callous. But Lord Eskdale
had hovered round many; it was his easy habit. He liked clever women,
young, but who had seen something of the world. The Princess Lucretia
pleased him much; with the form and mind of a woman even in the nursery.
He had watched her development with interest; and had witnessed her launch
in that world where she floated at once with as much dignity and
consciousness of superior power, as if she had braved for seasons its
waves and its tempests.
Musing over Lord Eskdale, the mind of Lucretia was drawn to the image of
his friend; her friend; the friend of her parents. And why not marry Lord
Monmouth? The idea pleased her. There was something great in the
conception; difficult and strange. The result, if achieved, would give her
all that she desired. She devoted her mind to this secret thought. She had
no confidants. She concentrated her intellect on one point, and that was
to fascinate the grandfather of Coningsby, while her step-mother was
plotting that she should marry his grandson. The volition of Lucretia
Colonna was, if not supreme, of a power most difficult to resist. There
was something charm-like and alluring in the conversation of one who was
silent to all others; something in the tones of her low rich voice which
acted singularly on the nervous system. It was the voice of the serpent;
indeed, there was an undulating movement in Lucretia, when she approached
you, which irresistibly reminded you of that mysterious animal.
Lord Monmouth was not insensible to the spell, though totally unconscious
of its purpose. He found the society of Lucretia very agreeable to him;
she was animated, intelligent, original; her inquiries were stimulating;
her comments on what she saw, and heard, and read, racy and often
indicating a fine humour. But all this was reserved for his ear. Before
her parents, as before all others, Lucretia was silent, a little scornful,
never communicating, neither giving nor seeking amusement, shut up in
Lord Monmouth fell therefore into the habit of riding and driving with
Lucretia alone. It was an arrangement which he found made his life more
pleasant. Nor was it displeasing to Madame Colonna. She looked upon Lord
Monmouth's fancy for Lucretia as a fresh tie for them all. Even the
Prince, when his wife called his attention to the circumstance, observed
it with satisfaction. It was a circumstance which represented in his mind
a continuance of good eating and good drinking, fine horses, luxurious
baths, unceasing billiards.
In this state of affairs appeared Sidonia, known before to her step-
mother, but seen by Lucretia for the first time. Truly, he came, saw, and
conquered. Those eyes that rarely met another's were fixed upon his
searching yet unimpassioned glance. She listened to that voice, full of
music yet void of tenderness; and the spirit of Lucretia Colonna bowed
before an intelligence that commanded sympathy, yet offered none.
Lucretia naturally possessed great qualities as well as great talents.
Under a genial influence, her education might have formed a being capable
of imparting and receiving happiness. But she found herself without a
guide. Her father offered her no love; her step-mother gained from her no
respect. Her literary education was the result of her own strong mind and
inquisitive spirit. She valued knowledge, and she therefore acquired it.
But not a single moral principle or a single religious truth had ever been
instilled into her being. Frequent absence from her own country had by
degrees broken off even an habitual observance of the forms of her creed;
while a life of undisturbed indulgence, void of all anxiety and care,
while it preserved her from many of the temptations to vice, deprived her
of that wisdom 'more precious than rubies,' which adversity and
affliction, the struggles and the sorrows of existence, can alone impart.
Lucretia had passed her life in a refined, but rather dissolute society.
Not indeed that a word that could call forth a maiden blush, conduct that
could pain the purest feelings, could be heard or witnessed in those
polished and luxurious circles. The most exquisite taste pervaded their
atmosphere; and the uninitiated who found themselves in those perfumed
chambers and those golden saloons, might believe, from all that passed
before them, that their inhabitants were as pure, as orderly, and as
irreproachable as their furniture. But among the habitual dwellers in
these delicate halls there was a tacit understanding, a prevalent doctrine
that required no formal exposition, no proofs and illustrations, no
comment and no gloss; which was indeed rather a traditional conviction
than an imparted dogma; that the exoteric public were, on many subjects,
the victims of very vulgar prejudices, which these enlightened personages
wished neither to disturb nor to adopt.
A being of such a temper, bred in such a manner; a woman full of intellect
and ambition, daring and lawless, and satiated with prosperity, is not
made for equable fortunes and an uniform existence. She would have
sacrificed the world for Sidonia, for he had touched the fervent
imagination that none before could approach; but that inscrutable man
would not read the secret of her heart; and prompted alike by pique, the
love of power, and a weariness of her present life, Lucretia resolved on
that great result which Mr. Rigby is now about to communicate to the
About half-an-hour after Mr. Rigby had entered that lady's apartments it
seemed that all the bells of Monmouth House were ringing at the same time.
The sound even reached the Marquess in his luxurious recess; who
immediately took a pinch of snuff, and ordered his valet to lock the door
of the ante-chamber. The Princess Lucretia, too, heard the sounds; she was
lying on a sofa, in her boudoir, reading the _Inferno_, and immediately
mustered her garrison in the form of a French maid, and gave directions
that no one should be admitted. Both the Marquess and his intended bride
felt that a crisis was at hand, and resolved to participate in no scenes.
The ringing ceased; there was again silence. Then there was another ring;
a short, hasty, and violent pull; followed by some slamming of doors. The
servants, who were all on the alert, and had advantages of hearing and
observation denied to their secluded master, caught a glimpse of Mr. Rigby
endeavouring gently to draw back into her apartment Madame Colonna,
furious amid his deprecatory exclamations.
'For heaven's sake, my dear Madame; for your own sake; now really; now I
assure you; you are quite wrong; you are indeed; it is a complete
misapprehension; I will explain everything. I entreat, I implore, whatever
you like, just what you please; only listen.'
Then the lady, with a mantling visage and flashing eye, violently closing
the door, was again lost to their sight. A few minutes after there was a
moderate ring, and Mr. Rigby, coming out of the apartments, with his
cravat a little out of order, as if he had had a violent shaking, met the
servant who would have entered.
'Order Madame Colonna's travelling carriage,' he exclaimed in a loud
voice, 'and send Mademoiselle Conrad here directly. I don't think the
fellow hears me,' added Mr. Rigby, and following the servant, he added in
a low tone and with a significant glance, 'no travelling carriage; no
Mademoiselle Conrad; order the britska round as usual.'
Nearly another hour passed; there was another ring; very moderate indeed.
The servant was informed that Madame Colonna was coming down, and she
appeared as usual. In a beautiful morning dress, and leaning on the arm of
Mr. Rigby, she descended the stairs, and was handed into her carriage by
that gentleman, who, seating himself by her side, ordered them to drive to
Lord Monmouth having been informed that all was calm, and that Madame
Colonna, attended by Mr. Rigby, had gone to Richmond, ordered his
carriage, and accompanied by Lucretia and Lucian Gay, departed immediately
for Blackwall, where, in whitebait, a quiet bottle of claret, the society
of his agreeable friends, and the contemplation of the passing steamers,
he found a mild distraction and an amusing repose.
Mr. Rigby reported that evening to the Marquess on his return, that all
was arranged and tranquil. Perhaps he exaggerated the difficulties, to
increase the service; but according to his account they were considerable.
It required some time to make Madame Colonna comprehend the nature of his
communication. All Rigby's diplomatic skill was expended in the gradual
development. When it was once fairly put before her, the effect was
appalling. That was the first great ringing of bells. Rigby softened a
little what he had personally endured; but he confessed she sprang at him
like a tigress balked of her prey, and poured forth on him a volume of
epithets, many of which Rigby really deserved. But after all, in the
present instance, he was not treacherous, only base, which he always was.
Then she fell into a passion of tears, and vowed frequently that she was
not weeping for herself, but only for that dear Mr. Coningsby, who had
been treated so infamously and robbed of Lucretia, and whose heart she
knew must break. It seemed that Rigby stemmed the first violence of her
emotion by mysterious intimations of an important communication that he
had to make; and piquing her curiosity, he calmed her passion. But really
having nothing to say, he was nearly involved in fresh dangers. He took
refuge in the affectation of great agitation which prevented exposition.
The lady then insisted on her travelling carriage being ordered and
packed, as she was determined to set out for Rome that afternoon. This
little occurrence gave Rigby some few minutes to collect himself, at the
end of which he made the Princess several announcements of intended
arrangements, all of which pleased her mightily, though they were so
inconsistent with each other, that if she had not been a woman in a
passion, she must have detected that Rigby was lying. He assured her
almost in the same breath, that she was never to be separated from them,
and that she was to have any establishment in any country she liked. He
talked wildly of equipages, diamonds, shawls, opera-boxes; and while her
mind was bewildered with these dazzling objects, he, with intrepid
gravity, consulted her as to the exact amount she would like to have
apportioned, independent of her general revenue, for the purposes of
At the end of two hours, exhausted by her rage and soothed by these
visions, Madame Colonna having grown calm and reasonable, sighed and
murmured a complaint, that Lord Monmouth ought to have communicated this
important intelligence in person. Upon this Rigby instantly assured her,
that Lord Monmouth had been for some time waiting to do so, but in
consequence of her lengthened interview with Rigby, his Lordship had
departed for Richmond with Lucretia, where he hoped that Madame Colonna
and Mr. Rigby would join him. So it ended, with a morning drive and
suburban dinner; Rigby, after what he had gone through, finding no
difficulty in accounting for the other guests not being present, and
bringing home Madame Colonna in the evening, at times almost as gay and
good-tempered as usual, and almost oblivious of her disappointment.
When the Marquess met Madame Colonna he embraced her with great
courtliness, and from that time consulted her on every arrangement. He
took a very early occasion of presenting her with a diamond necklace of
great value. The Marquess was fond of making presents to persons to whom
he thought he had not behaved very well, and who yet spared him scenes.
The marriage speedily followed, by special license, at the villa of the
Right Hon. Nicholas Rigby, who gave away the bride. The wedding was very
select, but brilliant as the diamond necklace: a royal Duke and Duchess,
Lady St. Julians, and a few others. Mr. Ormsby presented the bride with a
bouquet of precious stones, and Lord Eskdale with a French fan in a
diamond frame. It was a fine day; Lord Monmouth, calm as if he were
winning the St. Leger; Lucretia, universally recognised as a beauty; all
the guests gay, the Princess Colonna especially.
The travelling carriage is at the door which is to bear away the happy
pair. Madame Colonna embraces Lucretia; the Marquess gives a grand bow:
they are gone. The guests remain awhile. A Prince of the blood will
propose a toast; there is another glass of champagne quaffed, another
ortolan devoured; and then they rise and disperse. Madame Colonna leaves
with Lady St. Julians, whose guest for a while she is to become. And in a
few minutes their host is alone.
Mr. Rigby retired into his library: the repose of the chamber must have
been grateful to his feelings after all this distraction. It was spacious,
well-stored, classically adorned, and opened on a beautiful lawn. Rigby
threw himself into an ample chair, crossed his legs, and resting his head
on his arm, apparently fell into deep contemplation.
He had some cause for reflection, and though we did once venture to affirm
that Rigby never either thought or felt, this perhaps may be the exception
that proves the rule.
He could scarcely refrain from pondering over the strange event which he
had witnessed, and at which he had assisted.
It was an incident that might exercise considerable influence over his
fortunes. His patron married, and married to one who certainly did not
offer to Mr. Rigby such a prospect of easy management as her step-mother!
Here were new influences arising; new characters, new situations, new
contingencies. Was he thinking of all this? He suddenly jumps up, hurries
to a shelf and takes down a volume. It is his interleaved peerage, of
which for twenty years he had been threatening an edition. Turning to the
Marquisate of Monmouth, he took up his pen and thus made the necessary
'_Married, second time, August 3rd, 1837, The Princess Lucretia Colonna,
daughter of Prince Paul Colonna, born at Rome, February 16th, 1819._'
That was what Mr. Rigby called 'a great fact.' There was not a peerage-
compiler in England who had that date save himself.
Before we close this slight narrative of the domestic incidents that
occurred in the family of his grandfather since Coningsby quitted the
Castle, we must not forget to mention what happened to Villebecque and
Flora. Lord Monmouth took a great liking to the manager. He found him very
clever in many things independently of his profession; he was useful to
Lord Monmouth, and did his work in an agreeable manner. And the future
Lady Monmouth was accustomed to Flora, and found her useful too, and did
not like to lose her. And so the Marquess, turning all the circumstances
in his mind, and being convinced that Villebecque could never succeed to
any extent in England in his profession, and probably nowhere else,
appointed him, to Villebecque's infinite satisfaction, intendant of his
household, with a considerable salary, while Flora still lived with her
Another year elapsed; not so fruitful in incidents to Coningsby as the
preceding ones, and yet not unprofitably passed. It had been spent in the
almost unremitting cultivation of his intelligence. He had read deeply and
extensively, digested his acquisitions, and had practised himself in
surveying them, free from those conventional conclusions and those
traditionary inferences that surrounded him. Although he had renounced his
once cherished purpose of trying for University honours, an aim which he
found discordant with the investigations on which his mind was bent, he
had rarely quitted Cambridge. The society of his friends, the great
convenience of public libraries, and the general tone of studious life
around, rendered an University for him a genial residence. There is a
moment in life, when the pride and thirst of knowledge seem to absorb our
being, and so it happened now to Coningsby, who felt each day stronger in
his intellectual resources, and each day more anxious and avid to increase
them. The habits of public discussion fostered by the Debating Society
were also for Coningsby no Inconsiderable tie to the University. This was
the arena in which he felt himself at home. The promise of his Eton days
was here fulfilled. And while his friends listened to his sustained
argument or his impassioned declamation, the prompt reply or the apt
retort, they looked forward with pride through the vista of years to the
time when the hero of the youthful Club should convince or dazzle in the
senate. It is probable then that he would have remained at Cambridge with
slight intervals until he had taken his degree, had not circumstances
occurred which gave altogether a new turn to his thoughts.
When Lord Monmouth had fixed his wedding-day he had written himself to
Coningsby to announce his intended marriage, and to request his grandson's
presence at the ceremony. The letter was more than kind; it was warm and
generous. He assured his grandson that this alliance should make no
difference in the very ample provision which he had long intended for him;
that he should ever esteem Coningsby his nearest relative; and that, while
his death would bring to Coningsby as considerable an independence as an
English gentleman need desire, so in his lifetime Coningsby should ever be
supported as became his birth, breeding, and future prospects. Lord
Monmouth had mentioned to Lucretia, that he was about to invite his
grandson to their wedding, and the lady had received the intimation with
satisfaction. It so happened that a few hours after, Lucretia, who now
entered the private rooms of Lord Monmouth without previously announcing
her arrival, met Villebecque with the letter to Coningsby in his hand.
Lucretia took it away from him, and said it should be posted with her own
letters. It never reached its destination. Our friend learnt the marriage
from the newspapers, which somewhat astounded him; but Coningsby was fond
of his grandfather, and he wrote Lord Monmouth a letter of congratulation,
full of feeling and ingenuousness, and which, while it much pleased the
person to whom it was addressed, unintentionally convinced him that
Coningsby had never received his original communication. Lord Monmouth
spoke to Villebecque, who could throw sufficient light upon the subject,
but it was never mentioned to Lady Monmouth. The Marquess was a man who
always found out everything, and enjoyed the secret.
Rather more than a year after the marriage, when Coningsby had completed
his twenty-first year, the year which he had passed so quietly at
Cambridge, he received a letter from his grandfather, informing him that
after a variety of movements Lady Monmouth and himself were established in
Paris for the season, and desiring that he would not fail to come over as
soon as practicable, and pay them as long a visit as the regulations of
the University would permit. So, at the close of the December term,
Coningsby quitted Cambridge for Paris.
Passing through London, he made his first visit to his banker at Charing
Cross, on whom he had periodically drawn since he commenced his college
life. He was in the outer counting-house, making some inquiries about a
letter of credit, when one of the partners came out from an inner room,
and invited him to enter. This firm had been for generations the bankers
of the Coningsby family; and it appeared that there was a sealed box in
their possession, which had belonged to the father of Coningsby, and they
wished to take this opportunity of delivering it to his son. This
communication deeply interested him; and as he was alone in London, at an
hotel, and on the wing for a foreign country, he requested permission at
once to examine it, in order that he might again deposit it with them: so
he was shown into a private room for that purpose. The seal was broken;
the box was full of papers, chiefly correspondence: among them was a
packet described as letters from 'my dear Helen,' the mother of Coningsby.
In the interior of this packet there was a miniature of that mother. He
looked at it; put it down; looked at it again and again. He could not be
mistaken. There was the same blue fillet in the bright hair. It was an
exact copy of that portrait which had so greatly excited his attention
when at Millbank! This was a mysterious and singularly perplexing
incident. It greatly agitated him. He was alone in the room when he made
the discovery. When he had recovered himself, he sealed up the contents of
the box, with the exception of his mother's letters and the miniature,
which he took away with him, and then re-delivered it to his banker for
custody until his return.
Coningsby found Lord and Lady Monmouth in a splendid hotel in the Faubourg
St. Honore, near the English Embassy. His grandfather looked at him with
marked attention, and received him with evident satisfaction. Indeed, Lord
Monmouth was greatly pleased that Harry had come to Paris; it was the
University of the World, where everybody should graduate. Paris and London
ought to be the great objects of all travellers; the rest was mere
It cannot be denied that between Lucretia and Coningsby there existed from
the first a certain antipathy; and though circumstances for a short time
had apparently removed or modified the aversion, the manner of the lady
when Coningsby was ushered into her boudoir, resplendent with all that
Parisian taste and luxury could devise, was characterised by that frigid
politeness which had preceded the days of their more genial acquaintance.
If the manner of Lucretia were the same as before her marriage, a
considerable change might however be observed in her appearance. Her fine
form had become more developed; while her dress, that she once neglected,
was elaborate and gorgeous, and of the last mode. Lucretia was the fashion
of Paris; a great lady, greatly admired. A guest under such a roof,
however, Coningsby was at once launched into the most brilliant circles of
Parisian society, which he found fascinating.
The art of society is, without doubt, perfectly comprehended and
completely practised in the bright metropolis of France. An Englishman
cannot enter a saloon without instantly feeling he is among a race more
social than his compatriots. What, for example, is more consummate than
the manner in which a French lady receives her guests! She unites graceful
repose and unaffected dignity, with the most amiable regard for others.
She sees every one; she speaks to every one; she sees them at the right
moment; she says the right thing; it is utterly impossible to detect any
difference in the position of her guests by the spirit in which she
welcomes them. There is, indeed, throughout every circle of Parisian
society, from the chateau to the cabaret, a sincere homage to intellect;
and this without any maudlin sentiment. None sooner than the Parisians can
draw the line between factitious notoriety and honest fame; or sooner
distinguished between the counterfeit celebrity and the standard
reputation. In England, we too often alternate between a supercilious
neglect of genius and a rhapsodical pursuit of quacks. In England when a
new character appears in our circles, the first question always is, 'Who
is he?' In France it is, 'What is he?' In England, 'How much a-year?' In
France, 'What has he done?'
About a week after Coningsby's arrival in Paris, as he was sauntering on
the soft and sunny Boulevards, soft and sunny though Christmas, he met
'So you are here?' said Sidonia. 'Turn now with me, for I see you are only
lounging, and tell me when you came, where you are, and what you have done
since we parted. I have been here myself but a few days.'
There was much to tell. And when Coningsby had rapidly related all that
had passed, they talked of Paris. Sidonia had offered him hospitality,
until he learned that Lord Monmouth was in Paris, and that Coningsby was
'I am sorry you cannot come to me,' he remarked; 'I would have shown you
everybody and everything. But we shall meet often.'
'I have already seen many remarkable things,' said Coningsby; 'and met
many celebrated persons. Nothing strikes me more in this brilliant city
than the tone of its society, so much higher than our own. What an absence
of petty personalities! How much conversation, and how little gossip! Yet
nowhere is there less pedantry. Here all women are as agreeable as is the
remarkable privilege in London of some half-dozen. Men too, and great men,
develop their minds. A great man in England, on the contrary, is generally
the dullest dog in company. And yet, how piteous to think that so fair a
civilisation should be in such imminent peril!'
'Yes! that is a common opinion: and yet I am somewhat sceptical of its
truth,' replied Sidonia. 'I am inclined to believe that the social system
of England is in infinitely greater danger than that of France. We must
not be misled by the agitated surface of this country. The foundations of
its order are deep and sure. Learn to understand France. France is a
kingdom with a Republic for its capital. It has been always so, for
centuries. From the days of the League to the days of the Sections, to the
days of 1830. It is still France, little changed; and only more national,
for it is less Frank and more Gallic; as England has become less Norman
and more Saxon.'
'And it is your opinion, then, that the present King may maintain
'Every movement in this country, however apparently discordant, seems to
tend to that inevitable end. He would not be on the throne if the nature
of things had not demanded his presence. The Kingdom of France required a
Monarch; the Republic of Paris required a Dictator. He comprised in his
person both qualifications; lineage and intellect; blood for the
provinces, brains for the city.'
'What a position! what an individual!' exclaimed Coningsby. 'Tell me,' he
added, eagerly, 'what is he? This Prince of whom one hears in all
countries at all hours; on whose existence we are told the tranquillity,
almost the civilisation, of Europe depends, yet of whom we receive
accounts so conflicting, so contradictory; tell me, you who can tell me,
tell me what he is.'
Sidonia smiled at his earnestness. 'I have a creed of mine own,' he
remarked, 'that the great characters of antiquity are at rare epochs
reproduced for our wonder, or our guidance. Nature, wearied with
mediocrity, pours the warm metal into an heroic mould. When circumstances
at length placed me in the presence of the King of France, I recognised,
'But is there no danger,' resumed Coningsby, after the pause of a few
moments, 'that the Republic of Paris may absorb the Kingdom of France?'
'I suspect the reverse,' replied Sidonia. 'The tendency of advanced
civilisation is in truth to pure Monarchy. Monarchy is indeed a government
which requires a high degree of civilisation for its full development. It
needs the support of free laws and manners, and of a widely-diffused
intelligence. Political compromises are not to be tolerated except at
periods of rude transition. An educated nation recoils from the imperfect
vicariate of what is called a representative government. Your House of
Commons, that has absorbed all other powers in the State, will in all
probability fall more rapidly than it rose. Public opinion has a more
direct, a more comprehensive, a more efficient organ for its utterance,
than a body of men sectionally chosen. The Printing-press is a political
element unknown to classic or feudal times. It absorbs in a great degree
the duties of the Sovereign, the Priest, the Parliament; it controls, it
educates, it discusses. That public opinion, when it acts, would appear in
the form of one who has no class interests. In an enlightened age the
Monarch on the throne, free from the vulgar prejudices and the corrupt
interests of the subject, becomes again divine!'
At this moment they reached that part of the Boulevards which leads into
the Place of the Madeleine, whither Sidonia was bound; and Coningsby was
about to quit his companion, when Sidonia said:
'I am only going a step over to the Rue Tronchet to say a few words to a
friend of mine, M. P----s. I shall not detain you five minutes; and you
should know him, for he has some capital pictures, and a collection of
Limoges ware that is the despair of the dilettanti.'
So saying they turned down by the Place of the Madeleine, and soon entered
the court of the hotel of M. P----s. That gentleman received them in his
gallery. After some general conversation, Coningsby turned towards the
pictures, and left Sidonia with their host. The collection was rare, and
interested Coningsby, though unacquainted with art. He sauntered on from
picture to picture until he reached the end of the gallery, where an open
door invited him into a suite of rooms also full of pictures and objects
of curiosity and art. As he was entering a second chamber, he observed a
lady leaning back in a cushioned chair, and looking earnestly on a
picture. His entrance was unheard and unnoticed, for the lady's back was
to the door; yet Coningsby, advancing in an angular direction, obtained
nearly a complete view of her countenance. It was upraised, gazing on the
picture with an expression of delight; the bonnet thrown back, while the
large sable cloak of the gazer had fallen partly off. The countenance was
more beautiful than the beautiful picture. Those glowing shades of the
gallery to which love, and genius, and devotion had lent their
inspiration, seemed without life and lustre by the radiant expression and
expressive presence which Coningsby now beheld.
The finely-arched brow was a little elevated, the soft dark eyes were
fully opened, the nostril of the delicate nose slightly dilated, the
small, yet rich, full lips just parted; and over the clear, transparent
visage, there played a vivid glance of gratified intelligence.
The lady rose, advanced towards the picture, looked at it earnestly for a
few moments, and then, turning in a direction opposite to Coningsby,
walked away. She was somewhat above the middle stature, and yet could
scarcely be called tall; a quality so rare, that even skilful dancers do
not often possess it, was hers; that elastic gait that is so winning, and
so often denotes the gaiety and quickness of the spirit.
The fair object of his observation had advanced into other chambers, and
as soon as it was becoming, Coningsby followed her. She had joined a lady
and gentleman, who were examining an ancient carving in ivory. The
gentleman was middle-aged and portly; the elder lady tall and elegant, and
with traces of interesting beauty. Coningsby heard her speak; the words
were English, but the accent not of a native.
In the remotest part of the room, Coningsby, apparently engaged in
examining some of that famous Limoges ware of which Sidonia had spoken,
watched with interest and intentness the beautiful being whom he had
followed, and whom he concluded to be the child of her companions. After
some little time, they quitted the apartment on their return to the
gallery; Coningsby remained behind, caring for none of the rare and
fanciful objects that surrounded him, yet compelled, from the fear of
seeming obtrusive, for some minutes to remain. Then he too returned to the
gallery, and just as he had gained its end, he saw the portly gentleman in
the distance shaking hands with Sidonia, the ladies apparently expressing
their thanks and gratification to M. P----s, and then all vanishing by the
door through which Coningsby had originally entered.
'What a beautiful countrywoman of yours!' said M. P----s, as Coningsby
'Is she my countrywoman? I am glad to hear it; I have been admiring her,'
'Yes,' said M. P----s, 'it is Sir Wallinger: one of your deputies; don't
you know him?'
'Sir Wallinger!' said Coningsby, 'no, I have not that honour.' He looked
'Sir Joseph Wallinger,' said Sidonia, 'one of the new Whig baronets, and
member for ----. I know him. He married a Spaniard. That is not his
daughter, but his niece; the child of his wife's sister. It is not easy to
find any one more beautiful.'
END OF BOOK V.
The knowledge that Sidonia was in Paris greatly agitated Lady Monmouth.
She received the intimation indeed from Coningsby at dinner with
sufficient art to conceal her emotion. Lord Monmouth himself was quite
pleased at the announcement. Sidonia was his especial favourite; he knew
so much, had such an excellent judgment, and was so rich. He had always
something to tell you, was the best man in the world to bet on, and never
wanted anything. A perfect character according to the Monmouth ethics.
In the evening of the day that Coningsby met Sidonia, Lady Monmouth made a
little visit to the charming Duchess de G----t who was 'at home' every
other night in her pretty hotel, with its embroidered white satin
draperies, its fine old cabinets, and ancestral portraits of famous name,
brave marshals and bright princesses of the olden time, on its walls.
These receptions without form, yet full of elegance, are what English 'at
homes' were before the Continental war, though now, by a curious
perversion of terms, the easy domestic title distinguishes in England a
formally-prepared and elaborately-collected assembly, in which everything
and every person are careful to be as little 'homely' as possible. In
France, on the contrary, 'tis on these occasions, and in this manner, that
society carries on that degree and kind of intercourse which in England we
attempt awkwardly to maintain by the medium of that unpopular species of
visitation styled a morning call; which all complain that they have either
to make or to endure.
Nowhere was this species of reception more happily conducted than at the
Duchess de G----t's. The rooms, though small, decorated with taste,
brightly illumined; a handsome and gracious hostess, the Duke the very
pearl of gentlemen, and sons and daughters worthy of such parents. Every
moment some one came in, and some one went away. In your way from a
dinner to a ball, you stopped to exchange agreeable _on dits_. It seemed
that every woman was pretty, every man a wit. Sure you were to find
yourself surrounded by celebrities, and men were welcomed there, if they
were clever, before they were famous, which showed it was a house that
regarded intellect, and did not seek merely to gratify its vanity by being
surrounded by the distinguished.
Enveloped in a rich Indian shawl, and leaning back on a sofa, Lady
Monmouth was engaged in conversation with the courtly and classic Count
M----e, when, on casually turning her head, she observed entering the
saloon, Sidonia. She just caught his form bowing to the Duchess, and
instantly turned her head and replunged into her conversation with
increased interest. Lady Monmouth was a person who had the power of seeing
all about her, everything and everybody, without appearing to look. She
was conscious that Sidonia was approaching her neighbourhood. Her heart
beat in tumult; she dreaded to catch the eye of that very individual whom
she was so anxious to meet. He was advancing towards the sofa.
Instinctively, Lady Monmouth turned from the Count, and began speaking
earnestly to her other neighbour, a young daughter of the house, innocent
and beautiful, not yet quite fledged, trying her wings in society under
the maternal eye. She was surprised by the extreme interest which her
grand neighbour suddenly took in all her pursuits, her studies, her daily
walks in the Bois de Boulogne. Sidonia, as the Marchioness had
anticipated, had now reached the sofa. But no, it was to the Count, and
not to Lady Monmouth that he was advancing; and they were immediately
engaged in conversation. After some little time, when she had become
accustomed to his voice, and found her own heart throbbing with less
violence, Lucretia turned again, as if by accident, to the Count, and met
the glance of Sidonia. She meant to have received him with haughtiness,
but her self-command deserted her; and slightly rising from the sofa, she
welcomed him with a countenance of extreme pallor and with some
His manner was such as might have assisted her, even had she been more
troubled. It was marked by a degree of respectful friendliness. He
expressed without reserve his pleasure at meeting her again; inquired much
how she had passed her time since they last parted; asked more than once
after the Marquess. The Count moved away; Sidonia took his seat. His ease
and homage combined greatly relieved her. She expressed to him how kind
her Lord would consider his society, for the Marquess had suffered in
health since Sidonia last saw him. His periodical gout had left him, which
made him ill and nervous. The Marquess received his friends at dinner
every day. Sidonia, particularly amiable, offered himself as a guest for
the following one.
'And do you go to the great ball to-morrow?' inquired Lucretia, delighted
with all that had occurred.
'I always go to their balls,' said Sidonia, 'I have promised.'
There was a momentary pause; Lucretia happier than she had been for a long
time, her face a little flushed, and truly in a secret tumult of sweet
thoughts, remembered she had been long there, and offering her hand to
Sidonia, bade him adieu until to-morrow, while he, as was his custom, soon
repaired to the refined circle of the Countess de C-s-l-ne, a lady whose
manners he always mentioned as his fair ideal, and whose house was his
Before to-morrow comes, a word or two respecting two other characters of
this history connected with the family of Lord Monmouth. And first of
Flora. La Petite was neither very well nor very happy. Her hereditary
disease developed itself; gradually, but in a manner alarming to those who
loved her. She was very delicate, and suffered so much from the weakness
of her chest, that she was obliged to relinquish singing. This was really
the only tie between her and the Marchioness, who, without being a petty
tyrant, treated her often with unfeeling haughtiness. She was, therefore,
now rarely seen in the chambers of the great. In her own apartments she
found, indeed, some distraction in music, for which she had a natural
predisposition, but this was a pursuit that only fed the morbid passion of
her tender soul. Alone, listening only to sweet sounds, or indulging in
soft dreams that never could be realised, her existence glided away like a
vision, and she seemed to become every day more fair and fragile. Alas!
hers was the sad and mystic destiny to love one whom she never met, and by
whom, if she met him, she would scarcely, perhaps, be recognised. Yet in
that passion, fanciful, almost ideal, her life was absorbed; nor for her
did the world contain an existence, a thought, a sensation, beyond those
that sprang from the image of the noble youth who had sympathised with her
in her sorrows, and had softened the hard fortunes of dependence by his
generous sensibility. Happy that, with many mortifications, it was still
her lot to live under the roof of one who bore his name, and in whose
veins flowed the same blood! She felt indeed for the Marquess, whom she so
rarely saw, and from whom she had never received much notice, prompted, it
would seem, by her fantastic passion, a degree of reverence, almost of
affection, which seemed occasionally, even to herself, as something
inexplicable and without reason.
As for her fond step-father, M. Villebecque, the world fared very
differently with him. His lively and enterprising genius, his ready and
multiform talents, and his temper which defied disturbance, had made their
way. He had become the very right hand of Lord Monmouth; his only
counsellor, his only confidant; his secret agent; the minister of his
will. And well did Villebecque deserve this trust, and ably did he
maintain himself in the difficult position which he achieved. There was
nothing which Villebecque did not know, nothing which he could not do,
especially at Paris. He was master of his subject; in all things the
secret of success, and without which, however they may from accident
dazzle the world, the statesman, the orator, the author, all alike feel
the damning consciousness of being charlatans.
Coningsby had made a visit to M. Villebecque and Flora the day after his
arrival. It was a recollection and a courtesy that evidently greatly
gratified them. Villebecque talked very much and amusingly; and Flora,
whom Coningsby frequently addressed, very little, though she listened with
great earnestness. Coningsby told her that he thought, from all he heard,
she was too much alone, and counselled her to gaiety. But nature, that had
made her mild, had denied her that constitutional liveliness of being
which is the graceful property of French women. She was a lily of the
valley, that loved seclusion and the tranquillity of virgin glades. Almost
every day, as he passed their _entresol_, Coningsby would look into
Villebecque's apartments for a moment, to ask after Flora.
Sidonia was to dine at Lord Monmouth's the day after he met Lucretia, and
afterwards they were all to meet at a ball much talked of, and to which
invitations were much sought; and which was to be given that evening by
the Baroness S. de R----d.
Lord Monmouth's dinners at Paris were celebrated. It was generally agreed
that they had no rivals; yet there were others who had as skilful cooks,
others who, for such a purpose, were equally profuse in their expenditure.
What, then, was the secret spell of his success? The simplest in the
world, though no one seemed aware of it. His Lordship's plates were always
hot: whereas at Paris, in the best appointed houses, and at dinners which,
for costly materials and admirable art in their preparation, cannot be
surpassed, the effect is always considerably lessened, and by a mode the
most mortifying: by the mere circumstance that every one at a French
dinner is served on a cold plate. The reason of a custom, or rather a
necessity, which one would think a nation so celebrated for their
gastronomical taste would recoil from, is really, it is believed, that the
ordinary French porcelain is so very inferior that it cannot endure the
preparatory heat for dinner. The common white pottery, for example, which
is in general use, and always found at the cafes, will not bear vicinage
to a brisk kitchen fire for half-an-hour. Now, if we only had that treaty
of commerce with France which has been so often on the point of
completion, the fabrics of our unrivalled potteries, in exchange for their
capital wines, would be found throughout France. The dinners of both
nations would be improved: the English would gain a delightful beverage,
and the French, for the first time in their lives, would dine off hot
plates. An unanswerable instance of the advantages of commercial
The guests at Lord Monmouth's to-day were chiefly Carlists, individuals
bearing illustrious names, that animate the page of history, and are
indissolubly bound up with the glorious annals of their great country.
They are the phantoms of a past, but real Aristocracy; an Aristocracy that
was founded on an intelligible principle; which claimed great privileges
for great purposes; whose hereditary duties were such, that their
possessors were perpetually in the eye of the nation, and who maintained,
and, in a certain point of view justified, their pre-eminence by constant
It pleased Lord Monmouth to show great courtesies to a fallen race with
whom he sympathised; whose fathers had been his friends in the days of his
hot youth; whose mothers he had made love to; whose palaces had been his
home; whose brilliant fetes he remembered; whose fanciful splendour
excited his early imagination; and whose magnificent and wanton luxury had
developed his own predisposition for boundless enjoyment. Soubise and his
suppers; his cutlets and his mistresses; the profuse and embarrassed De
Lauragais, who sighed for 'entire ruin,' as for a strange luxury, which
perpetually eluded his grasp; these were the heroes of the olden time that
Lord Monmouth worshipped; the wisdom of our ancestors which he
appreciated; and he turned to their recollection for relief from the
vulgar prudence of the degenerate days on which he had fallen: days when
nobles must be richer than other men, or they cease to have any
It was impossible not to be struck by the effective appearance of Lady
Monmouth as she received her guests in grand toilet preparatory to the
ball; white satin and minever, a brilliant tiara. Her fine form, her
costume of a fashion as perfect as its materials were sumptuous, and her
presence always commanding and distinguished, produced a general effect to
which few could be insensible. It was the triumph of mien over mere beauty
The hotel of Madame S. de R----d is not more distinguished by its profuse
decoration, than by the fine taste which has guided the vast expenditure.
Its halls of arabesque are almost without a rival; there is not the
slightest embellishment in which the hand and feeling of art are not
recognised. The rooms were very crowded; everybody distinguished in Paris
was there: the lady of the Court, the duchess of the Faubourg, the wife of
the financier, the constitutional Throne, the old Monarchy, the modern
Bourse, were alike represented. Marshals of the Empire, Ministers of the
Crown, Dukes and Marquesses, whose ancestors lounged in the Oeil de Boeuf;
diplomatists of all countries, eminent foreigners of all nations, deputies
who led sections, members of learned and scientific academies,
occasionally a stray poet; a sea of sparkling tiaras, brilliant bouquets,
glittering stars, and glowing ribbons, many beautiful faces, many famous
ones: unquestionably the general air of a firstrate Parisian saloon, on a
great occasion, is not easily equalled. In London there is not the variety
of guests; nor the same size and splendour of saloons. Our houses are too
small for reception.
Coningsby, who had stolen away from his grandfather's before the rest of
the guests, was delighted with the novelty of the splendid scene. He had
been in Paris long enough to make some acquaintances, and mostly with
celebrated personages. In his long fruitless endeavour to enter the saloon
in which they danced, he found himself hustled against the illustrious
Baron von H----t, whom he had sat next to at dinner a few days before at
'It is more difficult than cutting through the Isthmus of Panama, Baron,'
said Coningsby, alluding to a past conversation.
'Infinitely,' replied M. de H., smiling; 'for I would undertake to cut
through the Isthmus, and I cannot engage that I shall enter this ball-
Time, however, brought Coningsby into that brilliant chamber. What a blaze
of light and loveliness! How coquettish are the costumes! How vivid the
flowers! To sounds of stirring melody, beautiful beings move with grace.
Grace, indeed, is beauty in action.
Here, where all are fair and everything is attractive, his eye is suddenly
arrested by one object, a form of surpassing grace among the graceful,
among the beauteous a countenance of unrivalled beauty.
She was young among the youthful; a face of sunshine amid all that
artificial light; her head placed upon her finely-moulded shoulders with a
queen-like grace; a coronet of white roses on her dark brown hair; her
only ornament. It was the beauty of the picture-gallery.
The eye of Coningsby never quitted her. When the dance ceased, he had an
opportunity of seeing her nearer. He met her walking with her cavalier,
and he was conscious that she observed him. Finally he remarked that she
resumed a seat next to the lady whom he had mistaken for her mother, but
had afterwards understood to be Lady Wallinger.
Coningsby returned to the other saloons: he witnessed the entrance and
reception of Lady Monmouth, who moved on towards the ball-room. Soon after
this, Sidonia arrived; he came in with the still handsome and ever
courteous Duke D----s. Observing Coningsby, he stopped to present him to
the Duke. While thus conversing, the Duke, who is fond of the English,
observed, 'See, here is your beautiful countrywoman that all the world are
talking of. That is her uncle. He brings to me letters from one of your
lords, whose name I cannot recollect.'
And Sir Joseph and his lovely niece veritably approached. The Duke
addressed them: asked them in the name of his Duchess to a concert on the
next Thursday; and, after a thousand compliments, moved on. Sidonia
stopped; Coningsby could not refrain from lingering, but stood a little
apart, and was about to move away, when there was a whisper, of which,
without hearing a word, he could not resist the impression that he was the
subject. He felt a little embarrassed, and was retiring, when he heard
Sidonia reply to an inquiry of the lady, 'The same,' and then, turning to
Coningsby, said aloud, 'Coningsby, Miss Millbank says that you have
Coningsby started, advanced, coloured a little, could not conceal his
surprise. The lady, too, though more prepared, was not without confusion,
and for an instant looked down. Coningsby recalled at that moment the long
dark eyelashes, and the beautiful, bashful countenance that had so charmed
him at Millbank; but two years had otherwise effected a wonderful change
in the sister of his school-day friend, and transformed the silent,
embarrassed girl into a woman of surpassing beauty and of the most
graceful and impressive mien.
'It is not surprising that Mr. Coningsby should not recollect my niece,'
said Sir Joseph, addressing Sidonia, and wishing to cover their mutual
embarrassment; 'but it is impossible for her, or for anyone connected with
her, not to be anxious at all times to express to him our sense of what we
all owe him.'
Coningsby and Miss Millbank were now in full routine conversation,
consisting of questions; how long she had been at Paris; when she had
heard last from Millbank; how her father was; also, how was her brother.
Sidonia made an observation to Sir Joseph on a passer-by, and then himself
moved on; Coningsby accompanying his new friends, in a contrary direction,
to the refreshment-room, to which they were proceeding.
'And you have passed a winter at Rome,' said Coningsby. 'How I envy you! I
feel that I shall never be able to travel.'
'And why not?'
'Life has become so stirring, that there is ever some great cause that
keeps one at home.'
'Life, on the contrary, so swift, that all may see now that of which they
once could only read.'
'The golden and silver sides of the shield,' said Coningsby, with a smile.
'And you, like a good knight, will maintain your own.'
'No, I would follow yours.'
'You have not heard lately from Oswald?'
'Oh, yes; I think there are no such faithful correspondents as we are; I
only wish we could meet.'
'You will soon; but he is such a devotee of Oxford; quite a monk; and you,
too, Mr. Coningsby, are much occupied.'
'Yes, and at the same time as Millbank. I was in hopes, when I once paid
you a visit, I might have found your brother.'
'But that was such a rapid visit,' said Miss Millbank.
'I always remember it with delight,' said Coningsby.
'You were willing to be pleased; but Millbank, notwithstanding Rome,
commands my affections, and in spite of this surrounding splendour, I
could have wished to have passed my Christmas in Lancashire.'
'Mr. Millbank has lately purchased a very beautiful place in the county. I
became acquainted with Hellingsley when staying at my grandfather's.'
'Ah! I have never seen it; indeed, I was much surprised that papa became
its purchaser, because he never will live there; and Oswald, I am sure,
could never be tempted to quit Millbank. You know what enthusiastic ideas
he has of his order?'
'Like all his ideas, sound, and high, and pure. I always duly appreciated
your brother's great abilities, and, what is far more important, his lofty
mind. When I recollect our Eton days, I cannot understand how more than
two years have passed away without our being together. I am sure the fault
is mine. I might now have been at Oxford instead of Paris. And yet,' added
Coningsby, 'that would have been a sad mistake, since I should not have
had the happiness of being here.
'Oh, yes, that would have been a sad mistake,' said Miss Millbank.
'Edith,' said Sir Joseph, rejoining his niece, from whom he had been
momentarily separated, 'Edith, that is Monsieur Thiers.'
In the meantime Sidonia reached the ball-room, and sitting near the
entrance was Lady Monmouth, who immediately addressed him. He was, as
usual, intelligent and unimpassioned, and yet not without a delicate
deference which is flattering to women, especially if not altogether
unworthy of it. Sidonia always admired Lucretia, and preferred her society
to that of most persons. But the Lady was in error in supposing that she
had conquered or could vanquish his heart. Sidonia was one of those men,
not so rare as may be supposed, who shrink, above all things, from an
adventure of gallantry with a woman in a position. He had neither time nor
temper for sentimental circumvolutions. He detested the diplomacy of
passion: protocols, protracted negotiations, conferences, correspondence,
treaties projected, ratified, violated. He had no genius for the tactics
of intrigue; your reconnoiterings, and marchings, and countermarchings,
sappings, and minings, assaults, sometimes surrenders, and sometimes
repulses. All the solemn and studied hypocrisies were to him infinitely
wearisome; and if the movements were not merely formal, they irritated
him, distracted his feelings, disturbed the tenor of his mind, deranged
his nervous system. Something of the old Oriental vein influenced him in
his carriage towards women. He was oftener behind the scenes of the Opera-
house than in his box; he delighted, too, in the society of _etairai_;
Aspasia was his heroine. Obliged to appear much in what is esteemed pure
society, he cultivated the acquaintance of clever women, because they
interested him; but in such saloons his feminine acquaintances were merely
psychological. No lady could accuse him of trifling with her feelings,
however decided might be his predilection for her conversation. He yielded
at once to an admirer; never trespassed by any chance into the domain of
sentiment; never broke, by any accident or blunder, into the irregular
paces of flirtation; was a man who notoriously would never diminish by
marriage the purity of his race; and one who always maintained that
passion and polished life were quite incompatible. He liked the drawing-
room, and he liked the Desert, but he would not consent that either should
trench on their mutual privileges.
The Princess Lucretia had yielded herself to the spell of Sidonia's
society at Coningsby Castle, when she knew that marriage was impossible.
But she loved him; and with an Italian spirit. Now they met again, and she
was the Marchioness of Monmouth, a very great lady, very much admired, and
followed, and courted, and very powerful. It is our great moralist who
tells us, in the immortal page, that an affair of gallantry with a great
lady is more delightful than with ladies of a lower degree. In this he
contradicts the good old ballad; but certain it is that Dr. Johnson
announced to Boswell, 'Sir, in the case of a Countess the imagination is
But Sidonia was a man on whom the conventional superiorities of life
produced as little effect as a flake falling on the glaciers of the high
Alps. His comprehension of the world and human nature was too vast and
complete; he understood too well the relative value of things to
appreciate anything but essential excellence; and that not too much. A
charming woman was not more charming to him because she chanced to be an
empress in a particular district of one of the smallest planets; a
charming woman under any circumstances was not an unique animal. When
Sidonia felt a disposition to be spellbound, he used to review in his
memory all the charming women of whom he had read in the books of all
literatures, and whom he had known himself in every court and clime, and
the result of his reflections ever was, that the charming woman in
question was by no means the paragon, which some who had read, seen, and
thought less, might be inclined to esteem her. There was, indeed, no
subject on which Sidonia discoursed so felicitously as on woman, and none
on which Lord Eskdale more frequently endeavoured to attract him. He would
tell you Talmudical stories about our mother Eve and the Queen of Sheba,
which would have astonished you. There was not a free lady of Greece,
Leontium and Phryne, Lais, Danae, and Lamia, the Egyptian girl Thonis,
respecting whom he could not tell you as many diverting tales as if they
were ladies of Loretto; not a nook of Athenseus, not an obscure scholiast,
not a passage in a Greek orator, that could throw light on these
personages, which was not at his command. What stories he would tell you
about Marc Antony and the actress Cytheris in their chariot drawn by
tigers! What a character would he paint of that Flora who gave her gardens
to the Roman people! It would draw tears to your eyes. No man was ever so
learned in the female manners of the last centuries of polytheism as
Sidonia. You would have supposed that he had devoted his studies
peculiarly to that period if you had not chanced to draw him to the
Italian middle ages. And even these startling revelations were almost
eclipsed by his anecdotes of the Court of Henry III. of France, with every
character of which he was as familiar as with the brilliant groups that at
this moment filled the saloons of Madame de R----d.
The image of Edith Millbank was the last thought of Coningsby, as he sank
into an agitated slumber. To him had hitherto in general been accorded the
precious boon of dreamless sleep. Homer tells us these phantasms come from
Jove; they are rather the children of a distracted soul. Coningsby this
night lived much in past years, varied by painful perplexities of the
present, which he could neither subdue nor comprehend. The scene flitted
from Eton to the castle of his grandfather; and then he found himself
among the pictures of the Rue de Tronchet, but their owner bore the
features of the senior Millbank. A beautiful countenance that was
alternately the face in the mysterious picture, and then that of Edith,
haunted him under all circumstances. He woke little refreshed; restless,
and yet sensible of some secret joy.
He woke to think of her of whom he had dreamed. The light had dawned on
his soul. Coningsby loved.
Ah! what is that ambition that haunts our youth, that thirst for power or
that lust of fame that forces us from obscurity into the sunblaze of the
world, what are these sentiments so high, so vehement, so ennobling? They
vanish, and in an instant, before the glance of a woman!
Coningsby had scarcely quitted her side the preceding eve. He hung upon
the accents of that clear sweet voice, and sought, with tremulous
fascination, the gleaming splendour of those soft dark eyes. And now he
sat in his chamber, with his eyes fixed on vacancy. All thoughts and
feelings, pursuits, desires, life, merge in one absorbing sentiment.
It is impossible to exist without seeing her again, and instantly. He had
requested and gained permission to call on Lady Wallinger; he would not
lose a moment in availing himself of it. As early as was tolerably
decorous, and before, in all probability, they could quit their hotel,
Coningsby repaired to the Rue de Rivoli to pay his respects to his new
As he walked along, he indulged in fanciful speculations which connected
Edith and the mysterious portrait of his mother. He felt himself, as it
were, near the fulfilment of some fate, and on the threshold of some
critical discovery. He recalled the impatient, even alarmed, expressions
of Rigby at Montem six years ago, when he proposed to invite young
Millbank to his grandfather's dinner; the vindictive feud that existed
between the two families, and for which political opinion, or even party
passion, could not satisfactorily account; and he reasoned himself into a
conviction, that the solution of many perplexities was at hand, and that
all would be consummated to the satisfaction of every one, by his
unexpected but inevitable agency.
Coningsby found Sir Joseph alone. The worthy Baronet was at any rate no
participator in Mr. Millbank's vindictive feelings against Lord Monmouth.
On the contrary, he had a very high respect for a Marquess, whatever might
be his opinions, and no mean consideration for a Marquess' grandson.
Sir Joseph had inherited a large fortune made by commerce, and had
increased it by the same means. He was a middle-class Whig, had faithfully
supported that party in his native town during the days they wandered in
the wilderness, and had well earned his share of the milk and honey when
they had vanquished the promised land. In the springtide of Liberalism,
when the world was not analytical of free opinions, and odious
distinctions were not drawn between Finality men and progressive
Reformers, Mr. Wallinger had been the popular leader of a powerful body of
his fellow-citizens, who had returned him to the first Reformed
Parliament, and where, in spite of many a menacing registration, he had
contrived to remain. He had never given a Radical vote without the
permission of the Secretary of the Treasury, and was not afraid of giving
an unpopular one to serve his friends. He was not like that distinguished
Liberal, who, after dining with the late Whig Premier, expressed his
gratification and his gratitude, by assuring his Lordship that he might
count on his support on all popular questions.
'I want men who will support the government on all unpopular questions,'
replied the witty statesman.
Mr. Wallinger was one of these men. His high character and strong purse
were always in the front rank in the hour of danger. His support in the
House was limited to his votes; but in other places equally important, at
a meeting at a political club, or in Downing Street, he could find his
tongue, take what is called a 'practical' view of a question, adopt what
is called an 'independent tone,' reanimate confidence in ministers, check
mutiny, and set a bright and bold example to the wavering. A man of his
property, and high character, and sound views, so practical and so
independent, this was evidently the block from which a Baronet should be
cut, and in due time he figured Sir Joseph.
A Spanish gentleman of ample means, and of a good Catalan family, flying
during a political convulsion to England, arrived with his two daughters
at Liverpool, and bore letters of introduction to the house of Wallinger.
Some little time after this, by one of those stormy vicissitudes of
political fortune, of late years not unusual in the Peninsula, he returned
to his native country, and left his children, and the management of that
portion of his fortune that he had succeeded in bringing with him, under
the guardianship of the father of the present Sir Joseph. This gentleman
was about again to become an exile, when he met with an untimely end in
one of those terrible tumults of which Barcelona is the frequent scene.
The younger Wallinger was touched by the charms of one of his father's
wards. Her beauty of a character to which he was unaccustomed, her
accomplishments of society, and the refinement of her manners, conspicuous
in the circle in which he lived, captivated him; and though they had no
heir, the union had been one of great felicity. Sir Joseph was proud of
his wife; he secretly considered himself, though his 'tone' was as liberal
and independent as in old days, to be on the threshold of aristocracy, and
was conscious that Lady Wallinger played her part not unworthily in the
elevated circles in which they now frequently found themselves. Sir Joseph
was fond of great people, and not averse to travel; because, bearing a
title, and being a member of the British Parliament, and always moving
with the appendages of wealth, servants, carriages, and couriers, and
fortified with no lack of letters from the Foreign Office, he was
everywhere acknowledged, and received, and treated as a personage; was
invited to court-balls, dined with ambassadors, and found himself and his
lady at every festival of distinction.
The elder Millbank had been Joseph Wallinger's youthful friend. Different
as were their dispositions and the rate of their abilities, their
political opinions were the same; and commerce habitually connected their
interests. During a visit to Liverpool, Millbank had made the acquaintance
of the sister of Lady Wallinger, and had been a successful suitor for her
hand. This lady was the mother of Edith and of the schoolfellow of
Coningsby. It was only within a very few years that she had died; she had
scarcely lived long enough to complete the education of her daughter, to
whom she was devoted, and on whom she lavished the many accomplishments
that she possessed. Lady Wallinger having no children, and being very fond
of her niece, had watched over Edith with infinite solicitude, and finally
had persuaded Mr. Millbank, that it would be well that his daughter should
accompany them in their somewhat extensive travels. It was not, therefore,
only that nature had developed a beautiful woman out of a bashful girl
since Coningsby's visit to Millbank; but really, every means and every
opportunity that could contribute to render an individual capable of
adorning the most accomplished circles of life, had naturally, and without
effort, fallen to the fortunate lot of the manufacturer's daughter. Edith
possessed an intelligence equal to those occasions. Without losing the
native simplicity of her character, which sprang from the heart, and which
the strong and original bent of her father's mind had fostered, she had
imbibed all the refinement and facility of the polished circles in which
she moved. She had a clear head, a fine taste, and a generous spirit; had
received so much admiration, that, though by no means insensible to
homage, her heart was free; was strongly attached to her family; and,
notwithstanding all the splendour of Rome, and the brilliancy of Paris,
her thoughts were often in her Saxon valley, amid the green hills and busy
factories of Millbank.
Sir Joseph, finding himself alone with the grandson of Lord Monmouth, was
not very anxious that the ladies should immediately appear. He thought
this a good opportunity of getting at what are called 'the real feelings
of the Tory party;' and he began to pump with a seductive semblance of
frankness. For his part, he had never doubted that a Conservative
government was ultimately inevitable; had told Lord John so two years ago,
and, between themselves, Lord John was of the same opinion. The present
position of the Whigs was the necessary fate of all progressive parties;
could not see exactly how it would end; thought sometimes it must end in a
fusion of parties; but could not well see how that could be brought about,
at least at present. For his part, should be happy to witness an union of
the best men of all parties, for the preservation of peace and order,
without any reference to any particular opinions. And, in that sense of
the word, it was not at all impossible he might find it his duty some day
to support a Conservative government.
Sir Joseph was much astonished when Coningsby, who being somewhat
impatient for the entrance of the ladies was rather more abrupt than his
wont, told the worthy Baronet that he looked, upon a government without
distinct principles of policy as only a stop-gap to a wide-spread and
demoralising anarchy; that he for one could not comprehend how a free
government could endure without national opinions to uphold it; and that
governments for the preservation of peace and order, and nothing else, had
better be sought in China, or among the Austrians, the Chinese of Europe.
As for Conservative government, the natural question was, What do you mean
to conserve? Do you mean to conserve things or only names, realities or
merely appearances? Or, do you mean to continue the system commenced in
1834, and, with a hypocritical reverence for the principles, and a
superstitious adhesion to the forms, of the old exclusive constitution,
carry on your policy by latitudinarian practice?
Sir Joseph stared; it was the first time that any inkling of the views of
the New Generation had caught his ear. They were strange and unaccustomed
accents. He was extremely perplexed; could by no means make out what his
companion was driving at; at length, with a rather knowing smile,
expressive as much of compassion as comprehension, he remarked,
'Ah! I see; you are a regular Orangeman.'
'I look upon an Orangeman,' said Coningsby, 'as a pure Whig; the only
professor and practiser of unadulterated Whiggism.'
This was too much for Sir Joseph, whose political knowledge did not reach
much further back than the ministry of the Mediocrities; hardly touched
the times of the Corresponding Society. But he was a cautious man, and
never replied in haste. He was about feeling his way, when he experienced
the golden advantage of gaining time, for the ladies entered.
The heart of Coningsby throbbed as Edith appeared. She extended to him her
hand; her face radiant with kind expression. Lady Wallinger seemed
gratified also by his visit. She had much elegance in her manner; a calm,
soft address; and she spoke English with a sweet Doric irregularity. They
all sat down, talked of the last night's ball, of a thousand things. There
was something animating in the frank, cheerful spirit of Edith. She had a
quick eye both for the beautiful and the ridiculous, and threw out her
observations in terse and vivid phrases. An hour, and more than an hour,
passed away, and Coningsby still found some excuse not to depart. It
seemed that on this morning they were about to make an expedition into the
antique city of Paris, to visit some old hotels which retained their
character; especially they had heard much of the hotel of the Archbishop
of Sens, with its fortified courtyard. Coningsby expressed great interest
in the subject, and showed some knowledge. Sir Joseph invited him to join
the party, which of all things in the world was what he most desired.
Not a day elapsed without Coningsby being in the company of Edith. Time
was precious for him, for the spires and pinnacles of Cambridge already
began to loom in the distance, and he resolved to make the most determined
efforts not to lose a day of his liberty. And yet to call every morning in
the Rue de Rivoli was an exploit which surpassed even the audacity of
love! More than once, making the attempt, his courage failed him, and he
turned into the gardens of the Tuileries, and only watched the windows of
the house. Circumstances, however, favoured him: he received a letter from
Oswald Millbank; he was bound to communicate in person this evidence of
his friend's existence; and when he had to reply to the letter, he must
necessarily inquire whether his friend's relatives had any message to
transmit to him. These, however, were only slight advantages. What
assisted Coningsby in his plans and wishes was the great pleasure which
Sidonia, with whom he passed a great deal of his time, took in the society
of the Wallingers and their niece. Sidonia presented Lady Wallinger with
his opera-box during her stay at Paris; invited them frequently to his
agreeable dinner-parties; and announced his determination to give a ball,
which Lady Wallinger esteemed a delicate attention to Edith; while Lady
Monmouth flattered herself that the festival sprang from the desire she
had expressed of seeing the celebrated hotel of Sidonia to advantage.
Coningsby was very happy. His morning visits to the Rue de Rivoli seemed
always welcome, and seldom an evening elapsed in which he did not find
himself in the society of Edith. She seemed not to wish to conceal that
his presence gave her pleasure, and though she had many admirers, and had
an airy graciousness for all of them, Coningsby sometimes indulged the
exquisite suspicion that there was a flattering distinction in her
carriage to himself. Under the influence of these feelings, he began daily
to be more conscious that separation would be an intolerable calamity; he
began to meditate upon the feasibility of keeping a half term, and of
postponing his departure to Cambridge to a period nearer the time when
Edith would probably return to England.
In the meanwhile, the Parisian world talked much of the grand fete which
was about to be given by Sidonia. Coningsby heard much of it one day when
dining at his grandfather's. Lady Monmouth seemed very intent on the
occasion. Even Lord Monmouth half talked of going, though, for his part,
he wished people would come to him, and never ask him to their houses.
That was his idea of society. He liked the world, but he liked to find it
under his own roof. He grudged them nothing, so that they would not insist
upon the reciprocity of cold-catching, and would eat his good dinners
instead of insisting on his eating their bad ones.
'But Monsieur Sidonia's cook is a gem, they say,' observed an Attache of
'I have no doubt of it; Sidonia is a man of sense, almost the only man of
sense I know. I never caught him tripping. He never makes a false move.
Sidonia is exactly the sort of man I like; you know you cannot deceive
him, and that he does not want to deceive you. I wish he liked a rubber
more. Then he would be perfect.'
'They say he is going to be married,' said the Attache.
'Poh!' said Lord Monmouth.
'Married!' exclaimed Lady Monmouth. 'To whom?'
'To your beautiful countrywoman, "la belle Anglaise," that all the world
talks of,' said the Attache.
'And who may she be, pray?' said the Marquess. 'I have so many beautiful
'Mademoiselle Millbank,' said the Attache.
'Millbank!' said the Marquess, with a lowering brow. 'There are so many
Millbanks. Do you know what Millbank this is, Harry?' he inquired of his
grandson, who had listened to the conversation with a rather embarrassed
and even agitated spirit.
'What, sir; yes, Millbank?' said Coningsby.
'I say, do you know who this Millbank is?'
'Oh! Miss Millbank: yes, I believe, that is, I know a daughter of the
gentleman who purchased some property near you.'
'Oh! that fellow! Has he got a daughter here?'
'The most beautiful girl in Paris,' said the Attache.
'Lady Monmouth, have you seen this beauty, that Sidonia is going to
marry?' he added, with a fiendish laugh.
'I have seen the young lady,' said Lady Monmouth; 'but I had not heard
that Monsieur Sidonia was about to marry her.'
'Is she so very beautiful?' inquired another gentleman.
'Yes,' said Lady Monmouth, calm, but pale.
'Poh!' said the Marquess again.
'I assure you that it is a fact,' said the Attache, 'not at least an _on-
dit_. I have it from a quarter that could not well be mistaken.'
Behold a little snatch of ordinary dinner gossip that left a very painful
impression on the minds of three individuals who were present.
The name of Millbank revived in Lord Monmouth's mind a sense of defeat,
discomfiture, and disgust; Hellingsley, lost elections, and Mr. Rigby;
three subjects which Lord Monmouth had succeeded for a time in expelling
from his sensations. His lordship thought that, in all probability, this
beauty of whom they spoke so highly was not really the daughter of his
foe; that it was some confusion which had arisen from the similarity of
names: nor did he believe that Sidonia was going to marry her, whoever she
might be; but a variety of things had been said at dinner, and a number of
images had been raised in his mind that touched his spleen. He took his
wine freely, and, the usual consequence of that proceeding with Lord
Monmouth, became silent and sullen. As for Lady Monmouth, she had learnt
that Sidonia, whatever might be the result, was paying very marked
attention to another woman, for whom undoubtedly he was giving that very
ball which she had flattered herself was a homage to her wishes, and for
which she had projected a new dress of eclipsing splendour.
Coningsby felt quite sure that the story of Sidonia's marriage with Edith
was the most ridiculous idea that ever entered into the imagination of
man; at least he thought he felt quite sure. But the idlest and wildest
report that the woman you love is about to marry another is not
comfortable. Besides, he could not conceal from himself that, between the
Wallingers and Sidonia there existed a remarkable intimacy, fully extended
to their niece. He had seen her certainly on more than one occasion in
lengthened and apparently earnest conversation with Sidonia, who, by-the-
bye, spoke with her often in Spanish, and never concealed his admiration
of her charms or the interest he found in her society. And Edith; what,
after all, had passed between Edith and himself which should at all
gainsay this report, which he had been particularly assured was not a mere
report, but came from a quarter that could not well be mistaken? She had
received him with kindness. And how should she receive one who was the
friend and preserver of her only brother, and apparently the intimate and
cherished acquaintance of her future husband? Coningsby felt that sickness
of the heart that accompanies one's first misfortune. The illusions of
life seemed to dissipate and disappear. He was miserable; he had no
confidence in himself, in his future. After all, what was he? A dependent
on a man of very resolute will and passions. Could he forget the glance
with which Lord Monmouth caught the name of Millbank, and received the
intimation of Hellingsley? It was a glance for a Spagnoletto or a
Caravaggio to catch and immortalise. Why, if Edith were not going to marry
Sidonia, how was he ever to marry her, even if she cared for him? Oh! what
a future of unbroken, continuous, interminable misery awaited him! Was
there ever yet born a being with a destiny so dark and dismal? He was the
most forlorn of men, utterly wretched! He had entirely mistaken his own
character. He had no energy, no abilities, not a single eminent quality.
All was over!
It was fated that Lady Monmouth should not be present at that ball, the
anticipation of which had occasioned her so much pleasure and some pangs.
On the morning after that slight conversation, which had so disturbed the
souls, though unconsciously to each other, of herself and Coningsby, the
Marquess was driving Lucretia up the avenue Marigny in his phaeton. About
the centre of the avenue the horses took fright, and started off at a wild
pace. The Marquess was an experienced whip, calm, and with exertion still
very powerful. He would have soon mastered the horses, had not one of the
reins unhappily broken. The horses swerved; the Marquess kept his seat;
Lucretia, alarmed, sprang up, the carriage was dashed against the trunk of
a tree, and she was thrown out of it, at the very instant that one of the
outriders had succeeded in heading the equipage and checking the horses.
The Marchioness was senseless. Lord Monmouth had descended from the
phaeton; several passengers had assembled; the door of a contiguous house
was opened; there were offers of service, sympathy, inquiries, a babble of
tongues, great confusion.
'Get surgeons and send for her maid,' said Lord Monmouth to one of his
In the midst of this distressing tumult, Sidonia, on horseback, followed
by a groom, came up the avenue from the Champs Elysees. The empty phaeton,
reins broken, horses held by strangers, all the appearances of a
misadventure, attracted him. He recognised the livery. He instantly
dismounted. Moving aside the crowd, he perceived Lady Monmouth senseless
and prostrate, and her husband, without assistance, restraining the
injudicious efforts of the bystanders.
'Let us carry her in, Lord Monmouth,' said Sidonia, exchanging a
recognition as he took Lucretia in his arms, and bore her into the
dwelling that was at hand. Those who were standing at the door assisted
him. The woman of the house and Lord Monmouth only were present.
'I would hope there is no fracture,' said Sidonia, placing her on a sofa,
'nor does it appear to me that the percussion of the head, though
considerable, could have been fatally violent. I have caught her pulse.
Keep her in a horizontal position, and she will soon come to herself.'
The Marquess seated himself in a chair by the side of the sofa, which
Sidonia had advanced to the middle of the room. Lord Monmouth was silent
and very serious. Sidonia opened the window, and touched the brow of
Lucretia with water. At this moment M. Villebecque and a surgeon entered
'The brain cannot be affected, with that pulse,' said the surgeon; 'there
is no fracture.'
'How pale she is!' said Lord Monmouth, as if he were examining a picture.
'The colour seems to me to return,' said Sidonia.
The surgeon applied some restoratives which he had brought with him. The
face of the Marchioness showed signs of life; she stirred.
'She revives,' said the surgeon.
The Marchioness breathed with some force; again; then half-opened her
eyes, and then instantly closed them.
'If I could but get her to take this draught,' said the surgeon.
'Stop! moisten her lips first,' said Sidonia.
They placed the draught to her mouth; in a moment she put forth her hand
as if to repress them, then opened her eyes again, and sighed.
'She is herself,' said the surgeon.
'Lucretia!' said the Marquess.
'Sidonia!' said the Marchioness.
Lord Monmouth looked round to invite his friend to come forward.
'Lady Monmouth!' said Sidonia, in a gentle voice.
She started, rose a little on the sofa, stared around her. 'Where am I?'
'With me,' said the Marquess; and he bent forward to her, and took her
'Sidonia!' she again exclaimed, in a voice of inquiry.
'Is here,' said Lord Monmouth. 'He carried you in after our accident.'
'Accident! Why is he going to marry?'
The Marquess took a pinch of snuff.
There was an awkward pause in the chamber.
'I think now,' said Sidonia to the surgeon, 'that Lady Monmouth would take
She refused it.
'Try you, Sidonia,' said the Marquess, rather dryly.
'You feel yourself again?' said Sidonia, advancing.
'Would I did not!' said the Marchioness, with an air of stupor. 'What has
happened? Why am I here? Are you married?'
'She wanders a little,' said Sidonia.
The Marquess took another pinch of snuff.
'I could have borne even repulsion,' said Lady Monmouth, in a voice of
desolation, 'but not for another!'
'M. Villebecque!' said the Marquess.
Lord Monmouth looked at him with that irresistible scrutiny which would
daunt a galley-slave; and then, after a short pause, said, 'The carriage
should have arrived by this time. Let us get home.'
After the conversation at dinner which we have noticed, the restless and
disquieted Coningsby wandered about Paris, vainly seeking in the
distraction of a great city some relief from the excitement of his mind.
His first resolution was immediately to depart for England; but when, on
reflection, he was mindful that, after all, the assertion which had so
agitated him might really be without foundation, in spite of many
circumstances that to his regardful fancy seemed to accredit it, his firm
resolution began to waver.
These were the first pangs of jealousy that Coningsby had ever
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