Part 8 out of 9
The servant entered the room, and inquired whether the gentlemen were
ready for dinner.
'By all means; come, my dear Millbank, I feel reckless as the tempest; let
us drown our cares in wine!'
Coningsby, in fact, was exhausted by all the agitation of the day, and all
the harassing spectres of the future. He found wine a momentary solace. He
ordered the servants away, and for a moment felt a degree of wild
satisfaction in the company of the brother of Edith.
Thus they sat for a long time, talking only of one subject, and repeating
almost the same things, yet both felt happier in being together. Oswald
had risen, and opening the window, examined the approaching night. The
storm had lulled, though the rain still fell; in the west was a streak of
light. In a quarter of an hour, he calculated on departing. As he was
watching the wind he thought he heard the sound of wheels, which reminded
him of Coningsby's promise to lend him a light carriage for his return.
They sat down once more; they had filled their glasses for the last time;
to pledge to their faithful friendship, and the happiness of Coningsby and
Edith; when the door of the room opened, and there appeared, MR. RIGBY!
END OF BOOK VII.
It was the heart of the London season, nearly four years ago, twelve
months having almost elapsed since the occurrence of those painful
passages at Hellingsley which closed the last book of this history, and
long lines of carriages an hour before midnight, up the classic mount of
St. James and along Piccadilly, intimated that the world were received at
some grand entertainment in Arlington Street.
It was the town mansion of the noble family beneath whose roof at
Beaumanoir we have more than once introduced the reader, to gain whose
courtyard was at this moment the object of emulous coachmen, and to enter
whose saloons was to reward the martyr-like patience of their lords and
Among the fortunate who had already succeeded in bowing to their hostess
were two gentlemen, who, ensconced in a good position, surveyed the scene,
and made their observations on the passing guests. They were gentlemen
who, to judge from their general air and the great consideration with
which they were treated by those who were occasionally in their vicinity,
were personages whose criticism bore authority.
'I say, Jemmy,' said the eldest, a dandy who had dined with the Regent,
but who was still a dandy, and who enjoyed life almost as much as in the
days when Carlton House occupied the terrace which still bears its name.
'I say, Jemmy, what a load of young fellows there are! Don't know their
names at all. Begin to think fellows are younger than they used to be.
Amazing load of young fellows, indeed!'
At this moment an individual who came under the fortunate designation of a
young fellow, but whose assured carriage hardly intimated that this was
his first season in London, came up to the junior of the two critics, and
said, 'A pretty turn you played us yesterday at White's, Melton. We waited
dinner nearly an hour.'
'My dear fellow, I am infinitely sorry; but I was obliged to go down to
Windsor, and I missed the return train. A good dinner? Who had you?'
'A capital party, only you were wanted. We had Beaumanoir and Vere, and
Jack Tufton and Spraggs.'
'Was Spraggs rich?'
'Wasn't he! I have not done laughing yet. He told us a story about the
little Biron who was over here last year; I knew her at Paris; and an
Indian screen. Killing! Get him to tell it you. The richest thing you ever
'Who's your friend?' inquired Mr. Melton's companion, as the young man
'Sir Charles Buckhurst.'
'A--h! That is Sir Charles Buckhurst. Glad to have seen him. They say he
is going it.'
'He knows what he is about.'
'Egad! so they all do. A young fellow now of two or three and twenty knows
the world as men used to do after as many years of scrapes. I wonder where
there is such a thing as a greenhorn. Effie Crabbs says the reason he
gives up his house is, that he has cleaned out the old generation, and
that the new generation would clean him.'
'Buckhurst is not in that sort of way: he swears by Henry Sydney, a
younger son of the Duke, whom you don't know; and young Coningsby; a sort
of new set; new ideas and all that sort of thing. Beau tells me a good
deal about it; and when I was staying with the Everinghams, at Easter,
they were full of it. Coningsby had just returned from his travels, and
they were quite on the _qui vive_. Lady Everingham is one of their set. I
don't know what it is exactly; but I think we shall hear more of it.'
'A sort of animal magnetism, or unknown tongues, I take it from your
description,' said his companion.
'Well, I don't know what it is,' said Mr. Melton; 'but it has got hold of
all the young fellows who have just come out. Beau is a little bit
himself. I had some idea of giving my mind to it, they made such a fuss
about it at Everingham; but it requires a devilish deal of history, I
believe, and all that sort of thing.'
'Ah! that's a bore,' said his companion. 'It is difficult to turn to with
a new thing when you are not in the habit of it. I never could manage
Mr. Ormsby, passing by, stopped. 'They told me you had the gout,
Cassilis?' he said to Mr. Melton's companion.
'So I had; but I have found out a fellow who cures the gout instanter. Tom
Needham sent him to me. A German fellow. Pumicestone pills; sort of a
charm, I believe, and all that kind of thing: they say it rubs the gout
out of you. I sent him to Luxborough, who was very bad; cured him
directly. Luxborough swears by him.'
'Luxborough believes in the Millennium,' said Mr. Ormsby.
'But here's a new thing that Melton has been telling me of, that all the
world is going to believe in,' said Mr. Cassilis, 'something patronised by
'A very good patroness,' said Mr. Ormsby.
'Have you heard anything about it?' continued Mr. Cassilis. 'Young
Coningsby brought it from abroad; didn't you you say so, Jemmy?'
'No, no, my dear fellow; it is not at all that sort of thing.'
'But they say it requires a deuced deal of history,' continued Mr.
Cassilis. 'One must brush up one's Goldsmith. Canterton used to be the
fellow for history at White's. He was always boring one with William the
Conqueror, Julius Caesar, and all that sort of thing.'
'I tell you what,' said Mr. Ormsby, looking both sly and solemn, 'I should
not be surprised if, some day or another, we have a history about Lady
Everingham and young Coningsby.'
'Poh!' said Mr. Melton; 'he is engaged to be married to her sister, Lady
'The deuce!' said Mr. Ormsby; 'well, you are a friend of the family, and I
suppose you know.'
'He is a devilish good-looking fellow, that young Coningsby,' said Mr.
Cassilis. 'All the women are in love with him, they say. Lady Eleanor
Ducie quite raves about him.'
'By-the-bye, his grandfather has been very unwell,' said Mr. Ormsby,
'I saw Lady Monmouth here just now,' said Mr. Melton.
'Oh! he is quite well again,' said Mr. Ormsby.
'Got an odd story at White's that Lord Monmouth was going to separate from
her,' said Mr. Cassilis.
'No foundation,' said Mr. Ormsby, shaking his head.
'They are not going to separate, I believe,' said Mr. Melton; 'but I
rather think there was a foundation for the rumour.'
Mr. Ormsby still shook his head.
'Well,' continued Mr. Melton, 'all I know is, that it was looked upon last
winter at Paris as a settled thing.'
'There was some story about some Hungarian,' said Mr. Cassilis.
'No, that blew over,' said Mr. Melton; 'it was Trautsmansdorff the row was
All this time Mr. Ormsby, as the friend of Lord and Lady Monmouth,
remained shaking his head; but as a member of society, and therefore
delighting in small scandal, appropriating the gossip with the greatest
'I should think old Monmouth was not the sort of fellow to blow up a
woman,' said Mr. Cassilis.
'Provided she would leave him quietly,' said Mr. Melton.
'Yes, Lord Monmouth never could live with a woman more than two years,'
said Mr. Ormsby, pensively. 'And that I thought at the time rather an
objection to his marriage.'
We must now briefly revert to what befell our hero after those unhappy
occurrences in the midst of whose first woe we left him.
The day after the arrival of Mr. Rigby at the Castle, Coningsby quitted it
for London, and before a week had elapsed had embarked for Cadiz. He felt
a romantic interest in visiting the land to which Edith owed some blood,
and in acquiring the language which he had often admired as she spoke it.
A favourable opportunity permitted him in the autumn to visit Athens and
the AEgean, which he much desired. In the pensive beauties of that
delicate land, where perpetual autumn seems to reign, Coningsby found
solace. There is something in the character of Grecian scenery which
blends with the humour of the melancholy and the feelings of the
sorrowful. Coningsby passed his winter at Rome. The wish of his
grandfather had rendered it necessary for him to return to England
somewhat abruptly. Lord Monmouth had not visited his native country since
his marriage; but the period that had elapsed since that event had
considerably improved the prospects of his party. The majority of the Whig
Cabinet in the House of Commons by 1840 had become little more than
nominal; and though it was circulated among their friends, as if from the
highest authority, that 'one was enough,' there seemed daily a better
chance of their being deprived even of that magical unit. For the first
time in the history of this country since the introduction of the system
of parliamentary sovereignty, the Government of England depended on the
fate of single elections; and indeed, by a single vote, it is remarkable
to observe, the fate of the Whig Government was ultimately decided.
This critical state of affairs, duly reported to Lord Monmouth, revived
his political passions, and offered him that excitement which he was ever
seeking, and yet for which he had often sighed. The Marquess, too, was
weary of Paris. Every day he found it more difficult to be amused.
Lucretia had lost her charm. He, from whom nothing could be concealed,
perceived that often, while she elaborately attempted to divert him, her
mind was wandering elsewhere. Lord Monmouth was quite superior to all
petty jealousy and the vulgar feelings of inferior mortals, but his
sublime selfishness required devotion. He had calculated that a wife or a
mistress who might be in love with another man, however powerfully their
interests might prompt them, could not be so agreeable or amusing to their
friends and husbands as if they had no such distracting hold upon their
hearts or their fancy. Latterly at Paris, while Lucretia became each day
more involved in the vortex of society, where all admired and some adored
her, Lord Monmouth fell into the easy habit of dining in his private
rooms, sometimes tete-a-tete with Villebecque, whose inexhaustible tales
and adventures about a kind of society which Lord Monmouth had always
preferred infinitely to the polished and somewhat insipid circles in which
he was born, had rendered him the prime favourite of his great patron.
Sometimes Villebecque, too, brought a friend, male or otherwise, whom he
thought invested with the rare faculty of distraction: Lord Monmouth cared
not who or what they were, provided they were diverting.
Villebecque had written to Coningsby at Rome, by his grandfather's desire,
to beg him to return to England and meet Lord Monmouth there. The letter
was couched with all the respect and good feeling which Villebecque really
entertained for him whom he addressed; still a letter on such a subject
from such a person was not agreeable to Coningsby, and his reply to it was
direct to his grandfather; Lord Monmouth, however, had entirely given over
Coningsby had met at Paris, on his way to England, Lord and Lady
Everingham, and he had returned with them. This revival of an old
acquaintance was both agreeable and fortunate for our hero. The vivacity
of a clever and charming woman pleasantly disturbed the brooding memory of
Coningsby. There is no mortification however keen, no misery however
desperate, which the spirit of woman cannot in some degree lighten or
alleviate. About, too, to make his formal entrance into the great world,
he could not have secured a more valuable and accomplished female friend.
She gave him every instruction, every intimation that was necessary;
cleared the social difficulties which in some degree are experienced on
their entrance into the world even by the most highly connected, unless
they have this benign assistance; planted him immediately in the position
which was expedient; took care that he was invited at once to the right
houses; and, with the aid of her husband, that he should become a member
of the right clubs.
'And who is to have the blue ribbon, Lord Eskdale?' said the Duchess to
that nobleman, as he entered and approached to pay his respects.
'If I were Melbourne, I would keep it open,' replied his Lordship. 'It is
a mistake to give away too quickly.'
'But suppose they go out,' said her Grace.
'Oh! there is always a last day to clear the House. But they will be in
another year. The cliff will not be sapped before then. We made a mistake
last year about the ladies.'
'I know you always thought so.'
'Quarrels about women are always a mistake. One should make it a rule to
give up to them, and then they are sure to give up to us.'
'You have no great faith in our firmness?'
'Male firmness is very often obstinacy: women have always something
better, worth all qualities; they have tact.'
'A compliment to the sex from so finished a critic as Lord Eskdale is
But at this moment the arrival of some guests terminated the conversation,
and Lord Eskdale moved away, and approached a group which Lady Everingham
'My dear Lord Fitz-booby,' her Ladyship observed, 'in politics we require
faith as well as in all other things.'
Lord Fitz-booby looked rather perplexed; but, possessed of considerable
official experience, having held high posts, some in the cabinet, for
nearly a quarter of a century, he was too versed to acknowledge that he
had not understood a single word that had been addressed to him for the
last ten minutes. He looked on with the same grave, attentive stolidity,
occasionally nodding his head, as he was wont of yore when he received a
deputation on sugar duties or joint-stock banks, and when he made, as was
his custom when particularly perplexed, an occasional note on a sheet of
'An Opposition in an age of revolution,' continued Lady Everingham, 'must
be founded on principles. It cannot depend on mere personal ability and
party address taking advantage of circumstances. You have not enunciated a
principle for the last ten years; and when you seemed on the point of
acceding to power, it was not on a great question of national interest,
but a technical dispute respecting the constitution of an exhausted sugar
'If you are a Conservative party, we wish to know what you want to
conserve,' said Lord Vere.
'If it had not been for the Whig abolition of slavery,' said Lord Fitz-
booby, goaded into repartee, 'Jamaica would not have been an exhausted
'Then what you do want to conserve is slavery?' said Lord Vere.
'No,' said Lord Fitz-booby, 'I am never for retracing our steps.'
'But will you advance, will you move? And where will you advance, and how
will you move?' said Lady Everingham.
'I think we have had quite enough of advancing,' said his Lordship. 'I had
no idea your Ladyship was a member of the Movement party,' he added, with
a sarcastic grin.
'But if it were bad, Lord Fitz-booby, to move where we are, as you and
your friends have always maintained, how can you reconcile it to principle
to remain there?' said Lord Vere.
'I would make the best of a bad bargain,' said Lord Fitz-booby. 'With a
Conservative government, a reformed Constitution would be less dangerous.'
'Why?' said Lady Everingham. 'What are your distinctive principles that
render the peril less?'
'I appeal to Lord Eskdale,' said Lord Fitz-booby; 'there is Lady
Everingham turned quite a Radical, I declare. Is not your Lordship of
opinion that the country must be safer with a Conservative government than
with a Liberal?'
'I think the country is always tolerably secure,' said Lord Eskdale.
Lady Theresa, leaning on the arm of Mr. Lyle, came up at this moment, and
unconsciously made a diversion in favour of Lord Fitz-booby.
'Pray, Theresa,' said Lady Everingham, 'where is Mr. Coningsby?'
Let us endeavour to ascertain. It so happened that on this day Coningsby
and Henry Sydney dined at Grillion's, at an university club, where, among
many friends whom Coningsby had not met for a long time, and among
delightful reminiscences, the unconscious hours stole on. It was late when
they quitted Grillion's, and Coningsby's brougham was detained for a
considerable time before its driver could insinuate himself into the line,
which indeed he would never have succeeded in doing had not he fortunately
come across the coachman of the Duke of Agincourt, who being of the same
politics as himself, belonging to the same club, and always black-balling
the same men, let him in from a legitimate party feeling; so they arrived
in Arlington Street at a very late hour.
Coningsby was springing up the staircase, now not so crowded as it had
been, and met a retiring party; he was about to say a passing word to a
gentleman as he went by, when, suddenly, Coningsby turned deadly pale. The
gentleman could hardly be the cause, for it was the gracious and handsome
presence of Lord Beaumanoir: the lady resting on his arm was Edith. They
moved on while he was motionless; yet Edith and himself had exchanged
glances. His was one of astonishment; but what was the expression of hers?
She must have recognised him before he had observed her. She was
collected, and she expressed the purpose of her mind in a distant and
haughty recognition. Coningsby remained for a moment stupefied; then
suddenly turning back, he bounded downstairs and hurried into the cloak-
room. He met Lady Wallinger; he spoke rapidly, he held her hand, did not
listen to her answers, his eyes wandered about. There were many persons
present, at length he recognised Edith enveloped in her mantle. He went
forward, he looked at her, as if he would have read her soul; he said
something. She changed colour as he addressed her, but seemed instantly by
an effort to rally and regain her equanimity; replied to his inquiries
with extreme brevity, and Lady Wallinger's carriage being announced, moved
away with the same slight haughty salute as before, on the arm of Lord
Sadness fell over the once happy family of Millbank after the departure of
Coningsby from Hellingsley. When the first pang was over, Edith had found
some solace in the sympathy of her aunt, who had always appreciated and
admired Coningsby; but it was a sympathy which aspired only to soften
sorrow, and not to create hope. But Lady Wallinger, though she lengthened
her visit for the sake of her niece, in time quitted them; and then the
name of Coningsby was never heard by Edith. Her brother, shortly after the
sorrowful and abrupt departure of his friend, had gone to the factories,
where he remained, and of which, in future, it was intended that he should
assume the principal direction. Mr. Millbank himself, sustained at first
by the society of his friend Sir Joseph, to whom he was attached, and
occupied with daily reports from his establishment and the transaction of
the affairs with his numerous and busy constituents, was for a while
scarcely conscious of the alteration which had taken place in the
demeanour of his daughter. But when they were once more alone together, it
was impossible any longer to be blind to the great change. That happy and
equable gaiety of spirit, which seemed to spring from an innocent
enjoyment of existence, and which had ever distinguished Edith, was
wanting. Her sunny glance was gone. She was not indeed always moody and
dispirited, but she was fitful, unequal in her tone. That temper whose
sweetness had been a domestic proverb had become a little uncertain. Not
that her affection for her father was diminished, but there were snatches
of unusual irritability which momentarily escaped her, followed by bursts
of tenderness that were the creatures of compunction. And often, after
some hasty word, she would throw her arms round her father's neck with the
fondness of remorse. She pursued her usual avocations, for she had really
too well-regulated a mind, she was in truth a person of too strong an
intellect, to neglect any source of occupation and distraction. Her
flowers, her pencil, and her books supplied her with these; and music
soothed, and at times beguiled, her agitated thoughts. But there was no
joy in the house, and in time Mr. Millbank felt it.
Mr. Millbank was vexed, irritated, grieved. Edith, his Edith, the pride
and delight of his existence, who had been to him only a source of
exultation and felicity, was no longer happy, was perhaps pining away; and
there was the appearance, the unjust appearance that he, her fond father,
was the cause and occasion of all this wretchedness. It would appear that
the name of Coningsby, to which he now owed a great debt of gratitude, was
still doomed to bear him mortification and misery. Truly had the young man
said that there was a curse upon their two families. And yet, on
reflection, it still seemed to Mr. Millbank that he had acted with as much
wisdom and real kindness as decision. How otherwise was he to have acted?
The union was impossible; the speedier their separation, therefore,
clearly the better. Unfortunate, indeed, had been his absence from
Hellingsley; unquestionably his presence might have prevented the
catastrophe. Oswald should have hindered all this. And yet Mr. Millbank
could not shut his eyes to the devotion of his son to Coningsby. He felt
he could count on no assistance in this respect from that quarter. Yet how
hard upon him that he should seem to figure as a despot or a tyrant to his
own children, whom he loved, when he had absolutely acted in an inevitable
manner! Edith seemed sad, Oswald sullen; all was changed. All the objects
for which this clear-headed, strong-minded, kind-hearted man had been
working all his life, seemed to be frustrated. And why? Because a young
man had made love to his daughter, who was really in no manner entitled to
As the autumn drew on, Mr. Millbank found Hellingsley, under existing
circumstances, extremely wearisome; and he proposed to his daughter that
they should pay a visit to their earlier home. Edith assented without
difficulty, but without interest. And yet, as Mr. Millbank immediately
perceived, the change was a judicious one; for certainly the spirits of
Edith seemed to improve after her return to their valley. There were more
objects of interest: change, too, is always beneficial. If Mr. Millbank
had been aware that Oswald had received a letter from Coningsby, written
before he quitted Spain, perhaps he might have recognised a more
satisfactory reason for the transient liveliness of his daughter which had
so greatly gratified him.
About a month after Christmas, the meeting of Parliament summoned Mr.
Millbank up to London; and he had wished Edith to accompany him. But
London in February to Edith, without friends or connections, her father
always occupied and absent from her day and night, seemed to them all, on
reflection, to be a life not very conducive to health or cheerfulness, and
therefore she remained with her brother. Oswald had heard from Coningsby
again from Rome; but at the period he wrote he did not anticipate his
return to England. His tone was affectionate, but dispirited.
Lady Wallinger went up to London after Easter for the season, and Mr.
Millbank, now that there was a constant companion for his daughter, took a
house and carried Edith back with him to London. Lady Wallinger, who had
great wealth and great tact, had obtained by degrees a not inconsiderable
position in society. She had a fine house in a fashionable situation, and
gave profuse entertainments. The Whigs were under obligations to her
husband, and the great Whig ladies were gratified to find in his wife a
polished and pleasing person, to whom they could be courteous without any
annoyance. So that Edith, under the auspices of her aunt, found herself at
once in circles which otherwise she might not easily have entered, but
which her beauty, grace, and experience of the most refined society of the
Continent, qualified her to shine in. One evening they met the Marquis of
Beaumanoir, their friend of Rome and Paris, and admirer of Edith, who from
that time was seldom from their side. His mother, the Duchess, immediately
called both on the Millbanks and the Wallingers; glad, not only to please
her son, but to express that consideration for Mr. Millbank which the Duke
always wished to show. It was, however, of no use; nothing would induce
Mr. Millbank ever to enter what he called aristocratic society. He liked
the House of Commons; never paired off; never missed a moment of it;
worked at committees all the morning, listened attentively to debates all
the night; always dined at Bellamy's when there was a house; and when
there was not, liked dining at the Fishmongers' Company, the Russia
Company, great Emigration banquets, and other joint-stock festivities.
That was his idea of rational society; business and pleasure combined; a
good dinner, and good speeches afterwards.
Edith was aware that Coningsby had returned to England, for her brother
had heard from him on his arrival; but Oswald had not heard since. A
season in London only represented in the mind of Edith the chance, perhaps
the certainty, of meeting Coningsby again; of communing together over the
catastrophe of last summer; of soothing and solacing each other's
unhappiness, and perhaps, with the sanguine imagination of youth,
foreseeing a more felicitous future. She had been nearly a fortnight in
town, and though moving frequently in the same circles as Coningsby, they
had not yet met. It was one of those results which could rarely occur; but
even chance enters too frequently in the league against lovers. The
invitation to the assembly at ---- House was therefore peculiarly
gratifying to Edith, since she could scarcely doubt that if Coningsby were
in town, which her casual inquiries of Lord Beaumanoir induced her to
believe was the case, he would be present. Never, therefore, had she
repaired to an assembly with such a flattering spirit; and yet there was a
fascinating anxiety about it that bewilders the young heart.
In vain Edith surveyed the rooms to catch the form of that being, whom for
a moment she had never ceased to cherish and muse over. He was not there;
and at the very moment when, disappointed and mortified, she most required
solace, she learned from Mr. Melton that Lady Theresa Sydney, whom she
chanced to admire, was going to be married, and to Mr. Coningsby!
What a revelation! His silence, perhaps his shunning of her were no longer
inexplicable. What a return for all her romantic devotion in her sad
solitude at Hellingsley. Was this the end of their twilight rambles, and
the sweet pathos of their mutual loves? There seemed to be no truth in
man, no joy in life! All the feelings that she had so generously lavished,
all returned upon herself. She could have burst into a passion of tears
and buried herself in a cloister.
Instead of that, civilisation made her listen with a serene though
tortured countenance; but as soon as it was in her power, pleading a
headache to Lady Wallinger, she effected, or thought she had effected, her
escape from a scene which harrowed her heart.
As for Coningsby, he passed a sleepless night, agitated by the unexpected
presence of Edith and distracted by the manner in which she had received
him. To say that her appearance had revived all his passionate affection
for her would convey an unjust impression of the nature of his feelings.
His affection had never for a moment swerved; it was profound and firm.
But unquestionably this sudden vision had brought before him, in startling
and more vivid colours, the relations that subsisted between them. There
was the being whom he loved and who loved him; and whatever were the
barriers which the circumstances of life placed against their union, they
were partakers of the solemn sacrament of an unpolluted heart.
Coningsby, as we have mentioned, had signified to Oswald his return to
England: he had hitherto omitted to write again; not because his spirit
faltered, but he was wearied of whispering hope without foundation, and
mourning over his chagrined fortunes. Once more in England, once more
placed in communication with his grandfather, he felt with increased
conviction the difficulties which surrounded him. The society of Lady
Everingham and her sister, who had been at the same time her visitor, had
been a relaxation, and a beneficial one, to a mind suffering too much from
the tension of one idea. But Coningsby had treated the matrimonial project
of his gay-minded hostess with the courteous levity in which he believed
it had first half originated. He admired and liked Lady Theresa; but there
was a reason why he should not marry her, even had his own heart not been
absorbed by one of those passions from which men of deep and earnest
character never emancipate themselves.
After musing and meditating again and again over everything that had
occurred, Coningsby fell asleep when the morning had far advanced,
resolved to rise when a little refreshed and find out Lady Wallinger, who,
he felt sure, would receive him with kindness.
Yet it was fated that this step should not be taken, for while he was at
breakfast, his servant brought him a letter from Monmouth House, apprising
him that his grandfather wished to see him as soon as possible on urgent
Lord Monmouth was sitting in the same dressing-room in which he was first
introduced to the reader; on the table were several packets of papers that
were open and in course of reference; and he dictated his observations to
Monsieur Villebecque, who was writing at his left hand.
Thus were they occupied when Coningsby was ushered into the room.
'You see, Harry,' said Lord Monmouth, 'that I am much occupied to-day, yet
the business on which I wish to communicate with you is so pressing that
it could not be postponed.' He made a sign to Villebecque, and his
secretary instantly retired.
'I was right in pressing your return to England,' continued Lord Monmouth
to his grandson, who was a little anxious as to the impending
communication, which he could not in any way anticipate. 'These are not
times when young men should be out of sight. Your public career will
commence immediately. The Government have resolved on a dissolution. My
information is from the highest quarter. You may be astonished, but it is
a fact. They are going to dissolve their own House of Commons.
Notwithstanding this and the Queen's name, we can beat them; but the race
requires the finest jockeying. We can't give a point. Tadpole has been
here to me about Darlford; he came specially with a message, I may say an
appeal, from one to whom I can refuse nothing; the Government count on the
seat, though with the new Registration 'tis nearly a tie. If we had a good
candidate we could win. But Rigby won't do. He is too much of the old
clique; used up; a hack; besides, a beaten horse. We are assured the name
of Coningsby would be a host; there is a considerable section who support
the present fellow who will not vote against a Coningsby. They have
thought of you as a fit person, and I have approved of the suggestion. You
will, therefore, be the candidate for Darlford with my entire sanction and
support, and I have no doubt you will be successful. You may be sure I
shall spare nothing: and it will be very gratifying to me, after being
robbed of all our boroughs, that the only Coningsby who cares to enter
Parliament, should nevertheless be able to do so as early as I could
Coningsby the rival of Mr. Millbank on the hustings of Darlford!
Vanquished or victorious, equally a catastrophe! The fierce passions, the
gross insults, the hot blood and the cool lies, the ruffianism and the
ribaldry, perhaps the domestic discomfiture and mortification, which he
was about to be the means of bringing on the roof he loved best in the
world, occurred to him with anguish. The countenance of Edith, haughty and
mournful last night, rose to him again. He saw her canvassing for her
father, and against him. Madness! And for what was he to make this
terrible and costly sacrifice For his ambition? Not even for that Divinity
or Daemon for which we all immolate so much! Mighty ambition, forsooth, to
succeed to the Rigbys! To enter the House of Commons a slave and a tool;
to move according to instructions, and to labour for the low designs of
petty spirits, without even the consolation of being a dupe. What sympathy
could there exist between Coningsby and the 'great Conservative party,'
that for ten years in an age of revolution had never promulgated a
principle; whose only intelligible and consistent policy seemed to be an
attempt, very grateful of course to the feelings of an English Royalist,
to revive Irish Puritanism; who when in power in 1835 had used that power
only to evince their utter ignorance of Church principles; and who were at
this moment, when Coningsby was formally solicited to join their ranks, in
open insurrection against the prerogatives of the English Monarchy?
'Do you anticipate then an immediate dissolution, sir?' inquired Coningsby
after a moment's pause.
'We must anticipate it; though I think it doubtful. It may be next month;
it may be in the autumn; they may tide over another year, as Lord Eskdale
thinks, and his opinion always weighs with me. He is very safe. Tadpole
believes they will dissolve at once. But whether they dissolve now, or in
a month's time, or in the autumn, or next year, our course is clear. We
must declare our intentions immediately. We must hoist our flag. Monday
next, there is a great Conservative dinner at Darlford. You must attend
it; that will be the finest opportunity in the world for you to announce
'Don't you think, sir,' said Coningsby, 'that such an announcement would
be rather premature? It is, in fact, embarking in a contest which may last
a year; perhaps more.'
'What you say is very true,' said Lord Monmouth; 'no doubt it is very
troublesome; very disgusting; any canvassing is. But we must take things
as we find them. You cannot get into Parliament now in the good old
gentlemanlike way; and we ought to be thankful that this interest has been
fostered for our purpose.'
Coningsby looked on the carpet, cleared his throat as if about to speak,
and then gave something like a sigh.
'I think you had better be off the day after to-morrow,' said Lord
Monmouth. 'I have sent instructions to the steward to do all he can in so
short a time, for I wish you to entertain the principal people.'
'You are most kind, you are always most kind to me, dear sir,' said
Coningsby, in a hesitating tone, and with an air of great embarrassment,
'but, in truth, I have no wish to enter Parliament.'
'What?' said Lord Monmouth.
'I feel that I am not sufficiently prepared for so great a responsibility
as a seat in the House of Commons,' said Coningsby.
'Responsibility!' said Lord Monmouth, smiling. 'What responsibility is
there? How can any one have a more agreeable seat? The only person to whom
you are responsible is your own relation, who brings you in. And I don't
suppose there can be any difference on any point between us. You are
certainly still young; but I was younger by nearly two years when I first
went in; and I found no difficulty. There can be no difficulty. All you
have got to do is to vote with your party. As for speaking, if you have a
talent that way, take my advice; don't be in a hurry. Learn to know the
House; learn the House to know you. If a man be discreet, he cannot enter
Parliament too soon.'
'It is not exactly that, sir,' said Coningsby.
'Then what is it, my dear Harry? You see to-day I have much to do; yet as
your business is pressing, I would not postpone seeing you an hour. I
thought you would have been very much gratified.'
'You mentioned that I had nothing to do but to vote with my party, sir,'
replied Coningsby. 'You mean, of course, by that term what is understood
by the Conservative party.'
'Of course; our friends.'
'I am sorry,' said Coningsby, rather pale, but speaking with firmness, 'I
am sorry that I could not support the Conservative party.'
'By ----!' exclaimed Lord Monmouth, starting in his seat, 'some woman has
got hold of him, and made him a Whig!'
'No, my dear grandfather,' said Coningsby, scarcely able to repress a
smile, serious as the interview was becoming, 'nothing of the kind, I
assure you. No person can be more anti-Whig.'
'I don't know what you are driving at, sir,' said Lord Monmouth, in a
hard, dry tone.
'I wish to be frank, sir,' said Coningsby, 'and am very sensible of your
goodness in permitting me to speak to you on the subject. What I mean to
say is, that I have for a long time looked upon the Conservative party as
a body who have betrayed their trust; more from ignorance, I admit, than
from design; yet clearly a body of individuals totally unequal to the
exigencies of the epoch, and indeed unconscious of its real character.'
'You mean giving up those Irish corporations?' said Lord Monmouth. 'Well,
between ourselves, I am quite of the same opinion. But we must mount
higher; we must go to '28 for the real mischief. But what is the use of
lamenting the past? Peel is the only man; suited to the times and all
that; at least we must say so, and try to believe so; we can't go back.
And it is our own fault that we have let the chief power out of the hands
of our own order. It was never thought of in the time of your great-
grandfather, sir. And if a commoner were for a season permitted to be the
nominal Premier to do the detail, there was always a secret committee of
great 1688 nobles to give him his instructions.'
'I should be very sorry to see secret committees of great 1688 nobles
again,' said Coningsby.
'Then what the devil do you want to see?' said Lord Monmouth.
'Political faith,' said Coningsby, 'instead of political infidelity.'
'Hem!' said Lord Monmouth.
'Before I support Conservative principles,' continued Coningsby, 'I merely
wish to be informed what those principles aim to conserve. It would not
appear to be the prerogative of the Crown, since the principal portion of
a Conservative oration now is an invective against a late royal act which
they describe as a Bed-chamber plot. Is it the Church which they wish to
conserve? What is a threatened Appropriation Clause against an actual
Church Commission in the hands of Parliamentary Laymen? Could the Long
Parliament have done worse? Well, then, if it is neither the Crown nor the
Church, whose rights and privileges this Conservative party propose to
vindicate, is it your House, the House of Lords, whose powers they are
prepared to uphold? Is it not notorious that the very man whom you have
elected as your leader in that House, declares among his Conservative
adherents, that henceforth the assembly that used to furnish those very
Committees of great revolution nobles that you mention, is to initiate
nothing; and, without a struggle, is to subside into that undisturbed
repose which resembles the Imperial tranquillity that secured the
frontiers by paying tribute?'
'All this is vastly fine,' said Lord Monmouth; 'but I see no means by
which I can attain my object but by supporting Peel. After all, what is
the end of all parties and all politics? To gain your object. I want to
turn our coronet into a ducal one, and to get your grandmother's barony
called out of abeyance in your favour. It is impossible that Peel can
refuse me. I have already purchased an ample estate with the view of
entailing it on you and your issue. You will make a considerable alliance;
you may marry, if you please, Lady Theresa Sydney. I hear the report with
pleasure. Count on my at once entering into any arrangement conducive to
'My dear grandfather, you have ever been to me only too kind and
'To whom should I be kind but to you, my own blood, that has never crossed
me, and of whom I have reason to be proud? Yes, Harry, it gratifies me to
hear you admired and to learn your success. All I want now is to see you
in Parliament. A man should be in Parliament early. There is a sort of
stiffness about every man, no matter what may be his talents, who enters
Parliament late in life; and now, fortunately, the occasion offers. You
will go down on Friday; feed the notabilities well; speak out; praise
Peel; abuse O'Connell and the ladies of the Bed-chamber; anathematise all
waverers; say a good deal about Ireland; stick to the Irish Registration
Bill, that's a good card; and, above all, my dear Harry, don't spare that
fellow Millbank. Remember, in turning him out you not only gain a vote for
the Conservative cause and our coronet, but you crush my foe. Spare
nothing for that object; I count on you, boy.'
'I should grieve to be backward in anything that concerned your interest
or your honour, sir,' said Coningsby, with an air of great embarrassment.
'I am sure you would, I am sure you would,' said Lord Monmouth, in a tone
of some kindness.
'And I feel at this moment,' continued Coningsby, 'that there is no
personal sacrifice which I am not prepared to make for them, except one.
My interests, my affections, they should not be placed in the balance, if
yours, sir, were at stake, though there are circumstances which might
involve me in a position of as much mental distress as a man could well
endure; but I claim for my convictions, my dear grandfather, a generous
'I can't follow you, sir,' said Lord Monmouth, again in his hard tone.
'Our interests are inseparable, and therefore there can never be any
sacrifice of conduct on your part. What you mean by sacrifice of
affections, I don't comprehend; but as for your opinions, you have no
business to have any other than those I uphold. You are too young to form
'I am sure I wish to express them with no unbecoming confidence,' replied
Coningsby; 'I have never intruded them on your ear before; but this being
an occasion when you yourself said, sir, I was about to commence my public
career, I confess I thought it was my duty to be frank; I would not entail
on myself long years of mortification by one of those ill-considered
entrances into political life which so many public men have cause to
'You go with your family, sir, like a gentleman; you are not to consider
your opinions, like a philosopher or a political adventurer.'
'Yes, sir,' said Coningsby, with animation, 'but men going with their
families like gentlemen, and losing sight of every principle on which the
society of this country ought to be established, produced the Reform
'D---- the Reform Bill!' said Lord Monmouth; 'if the Duke had not
quarrelled with Lord Grey on a Coal Committee, we should never have had
the Reform Bill. And Grey would have gone to Ireland.'
'You are in as great peril now as you were in 1830,' said Coningsby.
'No, no, no,' said Lord Monmouth; 'the Tory party is organised now; they
will not catch us napping again: these Conservative Associations have done
'But what are they organised for?' said Coningsby. 'At the best to turn
out the Whigs. And when you have turned out the Whigs, what then? You may
get your ducal coronet, sir. But a duke now is not so great a man as a
baron was but a century back. We cannot struggle against the irresistible
stream of circumstances. Power has left our order; this is not an age for
factitious aristocracy. As for my grandmother's barony, I should look upon
the termination of its abeyance in my favour as the act of my political
extinction. What we want, sir, is not to fashion new dukes and furbish up
old baronies, but to establish great principles which may maintain the
realm and secure the happiness of the people. Let me see authority once
more honoured; a solemn reverence again the habit of our lives; let me see
property acknowledging, as in the old days of faith, that labour is his
twin brother, and that the essence of all tenure is the performance of
duty; let results such as these be brought about, and let me participate,
however feebly, in the great fulfilment, and public life then indeed
becomes a noble career, and a seat in Parliament an enviable distinction.'
'I tell you what it is, Harry,' said Lord Monmouth, very drily, 'members
of this family may think as they like, but they must act as I please. You
must go down on Friday to Darlford and declare yourself a candidate for
the town, or I shall reconsider our mutual positions. I would say, you
must go to-morrow; but it is only courteous to Rigby to give him a
previous intimation of your movement. And that cannot be done to-day. I
sent for Rigby this morning on other business which now occupies me, and
find he is out of town. He will return to-morrow; and will be here at
three o'clock, when you can meet him. You will meet him, I doubt not, like
a man of sense,' added Lord Monmouth, looking at Coningsby with a glance
such as he had never before encountered, 'who is not prepared to sacrifice
all the objects of life for the pursuit of some fantastical puerilities.'
His Lordship rang a bell on his table for Villebecque; and to prevent any
further conversation, resumed his papers.
It would have been difficult for any person, unconscious of crime, to have
felt more dejected than Coningsby when he rode out of the court-yard of
Monmouth House. The love of Edith would have consoled him for the
destruction of his prosperity; the proud fulfilment of his ambition might
in time have proved some compensation for his crushed affections; but his
present position seemed to offer no single source of solace. There came
over him that irresistible conviction that is at times the dark doom of
all of us, that the bright period of our life is past; that a future
awaits us only of anxiety, failure, mortification, despair; that none of
our resplendent visions can ever be realised: and that we add but one more
victim to the long and dreary catalogue of baffled aspirations.
Nor could he indeed by any combination see the means to extricate himself
from the perils that were encompassing him. There was something about his
grandfather that defied persuasion. Prone as eloquent youth generally is
to believe in the resistless power of its appeals, Coningsby despaired at
once of ever moving Lord Monmouth. There had been a callous dryness in his
manner, an unswerving purpose in his spirit, that at once baffled all
attempts at influence. Nor could Coningsby forget the look he received
when he quitted the room. There was no possibility of mistaking it; it
said at once, without periphrasis, 'Cross my purpose, and I will crush
This was the moment when the sympathy, if not the counsels, of friendship
might have been grateful. A clever woman might have afforded even more
than sympathy; some happy device that might have even released him from
the mesh in which he was involved. And once Coningsby had turned his
horse's head to Park Lane to call on Lady Everingham. But surely if there
were a sacred secret in the world, it was the one which subsisted between
himself and Edith. No, that must never be violated. Then there was Lady
Wallinger; he could at least speak with freedom to her. He resolved to
tell her all. He looked in for a moment at a club to take up the 'Court
Guide' and find her direction. A few men were standing in a bow window. He
heard Mr. Cassilis say,
'So Beau, they say, is booked at last; the new beauty, have you heard?'
'I saw him very sweet on her last night,' rejoined his companion. 'Has she
'Deuced deal, they say,' replied Mr. Cassilis.' The father is a cotton
lord, and they all have loads of tin, you know. Nothing like them now.'
'He is in Parliament, is not he?'
''Gad, I believe he is,' said Mr. Cassilis; 'I never know who is in
Parliament in these days. I remember when there were only ten men in the
House of Commons who were not either members of Brookes' or this place.
Everything is so deuced changed.'
'I hear 'tis an old affair of Beau,' said another gentleman. 'It was all
done a year ago at Rome or Paris.'
'They say she refused him then,' said Mr. Cassilis.
'Well, that is tolerably cool for a manufacturer's daughter,' said his
friend. 'What next?'
'I wonder how the Duke likes it?' said Mr. Cassilis.
'Or the Duchess?' added one of his friends.
'Or the Everinghams?' added the other.
'The Duke will be deuced glad to see Beau settled, I take it,' said Mr.
'A good deal depends on the tin,' said his friend.
Coningsby threw down the 'Court Guide' with a sinking heart. In spite of
every insuperable difficulty, hitherto the end and object of all his
aspirations and all his exploits, sometimes even almost unconsciously to
himself, was Edith. It was over. The strange manner of last night was
fatally explained. The heart that once had been his was now another's. To
the man who still loves there is in that conviction the most profound and
desolate sorrow of which our nature is capable. All the recollection of
the past, all the once-cherished prospects of the future, blend into one
bewildering anguish. Coningsby quitted the club, and mounting his horse,
rode rapidly out of town, almost unconscious of his direction. He found
himself at length in a green lane near Willesden, silent and undisturbed;
he pulled up his horse, and summoned all his mind to the contemplation of
Edith was lost. Now, should he return to his grandfather, accept his
mission, and go down to Darlford on Friday? Favour and fortune, power,
prosperity, rank, distinction would be the consequence of this step; might
not he add even vengeance? Was there to be no term to his endurance? Might
not he teach this proud, prejudiced manufacturer, with all his virulence
and despotic caprices, a memorable lesson? And his daughter, too, this
betrothed, after all, of a young noble, with her flush futurity of
splendour and enjoyment, was she to hear of him only, if indeed she heard
of him at all, as of one toiling or trifling in the humbler positions of
existence; and wonder, with a blush, that he ever could have been the hero
of her romantic girlhood? What degradation in the idea? His cheek burnt at
the possibility of such ignominy!
It was a conjuncture in his life that required decision. He thought of his
companions who looked up to him with such ardent anticipations of his
fame, of delight in his career, and confidence in his leading; were all
these high and fond fancies to be balked? On the very threshold of life
was he to blunder? 'Tis the first step that leads to all, and his was to
be a wilful error. He remembered his first visit to his grandfather, and
the delight of his friends at Eton at his report on his return. After
eight years of initiation was he to lose that favour then so highly
prized, when the results which they had so long counted on were on the
very eve of accomplishment? Parliament and riches, and rank and power;
these were facts, realities, substances, that none could mistake. Was he
to sacrifice them for speculations, theories, shadows, perhaps the vapours
of a green and conceited brain? No, by heaven, no! He was like Caesar by
the starry river's side, watching the image of the planets on its fatal
waters. The die was cast.
The sun set; the twilight spell fell upon his soul; the exaltation of his
spirit died away. Beautiful thoughts, full of sweetness and tranquillity
and consolation, came clustering round his heart like seraphs. He thought
of Edith in her hours of fondness; he thought of the pure and solemn
moments when to mingle his name with the heroes of humanity was his
aspiration, and to achieve immortal fame the inspiring purpose of his
life. What were the tawdry accidents of vulgar ambition to him? No
domestic despot could deprive him of his intellect, his knowledge, the
sustaining power of an unpolluted conscience. If he possessed the
intelligence in which he had confidence, the world would recognise his
voice even if not placed upon a pedestal. If the principles of his
philosophy were true, the great heart of the nation would respond to their
expression. Coningsby felt at this moment a profound conviction which
never again deserted him, that the conduct which would violate the
affections of the heart, or the dictates of the conscience, however it may
lead to immediate success, is a fatal error. Conscious that he was perhaps
verging on some painful vicissitude of his life, he devoted himself to a
love that seemed hopeless, and to a fame that was perhaps a dream.
It was under the influence of these solemn resolutions that he wrote, on
his return home, a letter to Lord Monmouth, in which he expressed all that
affection which he really felt for his grandfather, and all the pangs
which it cost him to adhere to the conclusions he had already announced.
In terms of tenderness, and even humility, he declined to become a
candidate for Darlford, or even to enter Parliament, except as the master
of his own conduct.
Lady Monmouth was reclining on a sofa in that beautiful boudoir which had
been fitted up under the superintendence of Mr. Rigby, but as he then
believed for the Princess Colonna. The walls were hung with amber satin,
painted by Delaroche with such subjects as might be expected from his
brilliant and picturesque pencil. Fair forms, heroes and heroines in
dazzling costume, the offspring of chivalry merging into what is commonly
styled civilisation, moved in graceful or fantastic groups amid palaces
and gardens. The ceiling, carved in the deep honeycomb fashion of the
Saracens, was richly gilt and picked out in violet. Upon a violet carpet
of velvet was represented the marriage of Cupid and Psyche.
It was about two hours after Coningsby had quitted Monmouth House, and
Flora came in, sent for by Lady Monmouth as was her custom, to read to her
as she was employed with some light work.
''Tis a new book of Sue,' said Lucretia. 'They say it is good.'
Flora, seated by her side, began to read. Reading was an accomplishment
which distinguished Flora; but to-day her voice faltered, her expression
was uncertain; she seemed but imperfectly to comprehend her page. More
than once Lady Monmouth looked round at her with an inquisitive glance.
Suddenly Flora stopped and burst into tears.
'O! madam,' she at last exclaimed, 'if you would but speak to Mr.
Coningsby, all might be right!'
'What is this?' said Lady Monmouth, turning quickly on the sofa; then,
collecting herself in an instant, she continued with less abruptness, and
more suavity than usual, 'Tell me, Flora, what is it; what is the matter?'
'My Lord,' sobbed Flora, 'has quarrelled with Mr. Coningsby.'
An expression of eager interest came over the countenance of Lucretia.
'Why have they quarrelled?'
'I do not know they have quarrelled; it is not, perhaps, a right term; but
my Lord is very angry with Mr. Coningsby.'
'Not very angry, I should think, Flora; and about what?'
'Oh! very angry, madam,' said Flora, shaking her head mournfully. 'My Lord
told M. Villebecque that perhaps Mr. Coningsby would never enter the house
'Was it to-day?' asked Lucretia.
'This morning. Mr. Coningsby has only left this hour or two. He will not
do what my Lord wishes, about some seat in the Chamber. I do not know
exactly what it is; but my Lord is in one of his moods of terror: my
father is frightened even to go into his room when he is so.'
'Has Mr. Rigby been here to-day?' asked Lucretia.
'Mr. Rigby is not in town. My father went for Mr. Rigby this morning
before Mr. Coningsby came, and he found that Mr. Rigby was not in town.
That is why I know it.'
Lady Monmouth rose from her sofa, and walked once or twice up and down the
room. Then turning to Flora, she said, 'Go away now: the book is stupid;
it does not amuse me. Stop: find out all you can for me about the quarrel
before I speak to Mr. Coningsby.'
Flora quitted the room. Lucretia remained for some time in meditation;
then she wrote a few lines, which she despatched at once to Mr. Rigby.
What a great man was the Right Honourable Nicholas Rigby! Here was one of
the first peers of England, and one of the finest ladies in London, both
waiting with equal anxiety his return to town; and unable to transact two
affairs of vast importance, yet wholly unconnected, without his
interposition! What was the secret of the influence of this man, confided
in by everybody, trusted by none? His counsels were not deep, his
expedients were not felicitous; he had no feeling, and he could create no
sympathy. It is that, in most of the transactions of life, there is some
portion which no one cares to accomplish, and which everybody wishes to be
achieved. This was always the portion of Mr. Rigby. In the eye of the
world he had constantly the appearance of being mixed up with high
dealings, and negotiations and arrangements of fine management, whereas in
truth, notwithstanding his splendid livery and the airs he gave himself in
the servants' hall, his real business in life had ever been, to do the
Mr. Rigby had been shut up much at his villa of late. He was concocting,
you could not term it composing, an article, a 'very slashing article,'
which was to prove that the penny postage must be the destruction of the
aristocracy. It was a grand subject, treated in his highest style. His
parallel portraits of Rowland Hill the conqueror of Almarez and Rowland
Hill the deviser of the cheap postage were enormously fine. It was full of
passages in italics, little words in great capitals, and almost drew
tears. The statistical details also were highly interesting and novel.
Several of the old postmen, both twopenny and general, who had been in
office with himself, and who were inspired with an equal zeal against that
spirit of reform of which they had alike been victims, supplied him with
information which nothing but a breach of ministerial duty could have
furnished. The prophetic peroration as to the irresistible progress of
democracy was almost as powerful as one of Rigby's speeches on Aldborough
or Amersham. There never was a fellow for giving a good hearty kick to the
people like Rigby. Himself sprung from the dregs of the populace, this was
disinterested. What could be more patriotic and magnanimous than his
Jeremiads over the fall of the Montmorencis and the Crillons, or the
possible catastrophe of the Percys and the Manners! The truth of all this
hullabaloo was that Rigby had a sly pension which, by an inevitable
association of ideas, he always connected with the maintenance of an
aristocracy. All his rigmarole dissertations on the French revolution were
impelled by this secret influence; and when he wailed over 'la guerre aux
chateaux,' and moaned like a mandrake over Nottingham Castle in flames,
the rogue had an eye all the while to quarter-day!
Arriving in town the day after Coningsby's interview with his grandfather,
Mr. Rigby found a summons to Monmouth House waiting him, and an urgent
note from Lucretia begging that he would permit nothing to prevent him
seeing her for a few minutes before he called on the Marquess.
Lucretia, acting on the unconscious intimation of Flora, had in the course
of four-and-twenty hours obtained pretty ample and accurate details of the
cause of contention between Coningsby and her husband. She could inform
Mr. Rigby not only that Lord Monmouth was highly incensed against his
grandson, but that the cause of their misunderstanding arose about a seat
in the House of Commons, and that seat too the one which Mr. Rigby had
long appropriated to himself, and over whose registration he had watched
with such affectionate solicitude.
Lady Monmouth arranged this information like a firstrate artist, and gave
it a grouping and a colour which produced the liveliest effect upon her
confederate. The countenance of Rigby was almost ghastly as he received
the intelligence; a grin, half of malice, half of terror, played over his
'I told you to beware of him long ago,' said Lady Monmouth. 'He is, he has
ever been, in the way of both of us.'
'He is in my power,' said Rigby. 'We can crush him!'
'He is in love with the daughter of Millbank, the man who bought
'Hah!' exclaimed Lady Monmouth, in a prolonged tone.
'He was at Coningsby all last summer, hanging about her. I found the
younger Millbank quite domiciliated at the Castle; a fact which, of
itself, if known to Lord Monmouth, would ensure the lad's annihilation.'
'And you kept this fine news for a winter campaign, my good Mr. Rigby,'
said Lady Monmouth, with a subtle smile. 'It was a weapon of service. I
give you my compliments.'
'The time is not always ripe,' said Mr. Rigby.
'But it is now most mature. Let us not conceal it from ourselves that,
since his first visit to Coningsby, we have neither of us really been in
the same position which we then occupied, or believed we should occupy. My
Lord, though you would scarcely believe it, has a weakness for this boy;
and though I by my marriage, and you by your zealous ability, have
apparently secured a permanent hold upon his habits, I have never doubted
that when the crisis comes we shall find that the golden fruit is plucked
by one who has not watched the garden. You take me? There is no reason why
we two should clash together: we can both of us find what we want, and
more securely if we work in company.'
'I trust my devotion to you has never been doubted, dear madam.'
'Nor to yourself, dear Mr. Rigby. Go now: the game is before you. Rid me
of this Coningsby, and I will secure you all that you want. Doubt not me.
There is no reason. I want a firm ally. There must be two.'
'It shall be done,' said Rigby; 'it must be done. If once the notion gets
wind that one of the Castle family may perchance stand for Darlford, all
the present combinations will be disorganised. It must be done at once. I
know that the Government will dissolve.'
'So I hear for certain,' said Lucretia. 'Be sure there is no time to lose.
What does he want with you to-day?'
'I know not: there are so many things.'
'To be sure; and yet I cannot doubt he will speak of this quarrel. Let not
the occasion be lost. Whatever his mood, the subject may be introduced. If
good, you will guide him more easily; if dark, the love for the
Hellingsley girl, the fact of the brother being in his castle, drinking
his wine, riding his horses, ordering about his servants; you will omit no
details: a Millbank quite at home at Coningsby will lash him to madness!
'Tis quite ripe. Not a word that you have seen me. Go, go, or he may hear
that you have arrived. I shall be at home all the morning. It will be but
gallant that you should pay me a little visit when you have transacted
your business. You understand. _Au revoir!_'
Lady Monmouth took up again her French novel; but her eyes soon glanced
over the page, unattached by its contents. Her own existence was too
interesting to find any excitement in fiction. It was nearly three years
since her marriage; that great step which she ever had a conviction was to
lead to results still greater. Of late she had often been filled with a
presentiment that they were near at hand; never more so than on this day.
Irresistible was the current of associations that led her to meditate on
freedom, wealth, power; on a career which should at the same time dazzle
the imagination and gratify her heart. Notwithstanding the gossip of
Paris, founded on no authentic knowledge of her husband's character or
information, based on the haphazard observations of the floating
multitude, Lucretia herself had no reason to fear that her influence over
Lord Monmouth, if exerted, was materially diminished. But satisfied that
he had formed no other tie, with her ever the test of her position, she
had not thought it expedient, and certainly would have found it irksome,
to maintain that influence by any ostentatious means. She knew that Lord
Monmouth was capricious, easily wearied, soon palled; and that on men who
have no affections, affection has no hold. Their passions or their
fancies, on the contrary, as it seemed to her, are rather stimulated by
neglect or indifference, provided that they are not systematic; and the
circumstance of a wife being admired by one who is not her husband
sometimes wonderfully revives the passion or renovates the respect of him
who should be devoted to her.
The health of Lord Monmouth was the subject which never was long absent
from the vigilance or meditation of Lucretia. She was well assured that
his life was no longer secure. She knew that after their marriage he had
made a will, which secured to her a large portion of his great wealth in
case of their having no issue, and after the accident at Paris all hope in
that respect was over. Recently the extreme anxiety which Lord Monmouth
had evinced about terminating the abeyance of the barony to which his
first wife was a co-heiress in favour of his grandson, had alarmed
Lucretia. To establish in the land another branch of the house of
Coningsby was evidently the last excitement of Lord Monmouth, and perhaps
a permanent one. If the idea were once accepted, notwithstanding the limit
to its endowment which Lord Monmouth might at the first start contemplate,
Lucretia had sufficiently studied his temperament to be convinced that all
his energies and all his resources would ultimately be devoted to its
practical fulfilment. Her original prejudice against Coningsby and
jealousy of his influence had therefore of late been considerably
aggravated; and the intelligence that for the first time there was a
misunderstanding between Coningsby and her husband filled her with
excitement and hope. She knew her Lord well enough to feel assured that
the cause for displeasure in the present instance could not be a light
one; she resolved instantly to labour that it should not be transient; and
it so happened that she had applied for aid in this endeavour to the very
individual in whose power it rested to accomplish all her desire, while in
doing so he felt at the same time he was defending his own position and
advancing his own interests.
Lady Monmouth was now waiting with some excitement the return of Mr.
Rigby. His interview with his patron was of unusual length. An hour, and
more than an hour, had elapsed. Lady Monmouth again threw aside the book
which more than once she had discarded. She paced the room, restless
rather than disquieted. She had complete confidence in Rigby's ability for
the occasion; and with her knowledge of Lord Monmouth's character, she
could not contemplate the possibility of failure, if the circumstances
were adroitly introduced to his consideration. Still time stole on: the
harassing and exhausting process of suspense was acting on her nervous
system. She began to think that Rigby had not found the occasion
favourable for the catastrophe; that Lord Monmouth, from apprehension of
disturbing Rigby and entailing explanations on himself, had avoided the
necessary communication; that her skilful combination for the moment had
missed. Two hours had now elapsed, and Lucretia, in a state of
considerable irritation, was about to inquire whether Mr. Rigby were with
his Lordship when the door of her boudoir opened, and that gentleman
'How long you have been!' exclaimed Lady Monmouth. 'Now sit down and tell
me what has passed.'
Lady Monmouth pointed to the seat which Flora had occupied.
'I thank your Ladyship,' said Mr. Rigby, with a somewhat grave and yet
perplexed expression of countenance, and seating himself at some little
distance from his companion, 'but I am very well here.'
There was a pause. Instead of responding to the invitation of Lady
Monmouth to communicate with his usual readiness and volubility, Mr. Rigby
was silent, and, if it were possible to use such an expression with regard
to such a gentleman, apparently embarrassed.
'Well,' said Lady Monmouth, 'does he know about the Millbanks?'
'Everything,' said Mr. Rigby.
'And what did he say?'
'His Lordship was greatly shocked,' replied Mr. Rigby, with a pious
expression of features. 'Such monstrous ingratitude! As his Lordship very
justly observed, "It is impossible to say what is going on under my own
roof, or to what I can trust."'
'But he made an exception in your favour, I dare say, my dear Mr. Rigby,'
said Lady Monmouth.
'Lord Monmouth was pleased to say that I possessed his entire confidence,'
said Mr. Rigby, 'and that he looked to me in his difficulties.'
'Very sensible of him. And what is to become of Mr. Coningsby?'
'The steps which his Lordship is about to take with reference to the
establishment generally,' said Mr. Rigby, 'will allow the connection that
at present subsists between that gentleman and his noble relative, now
that Lord Monmouth's eyes are open to his real character, to terminate
naturally, without the necessity of any formal explanation.'
'But what do you mean by the steps he is going to take in his
'Lord Monmouth thinks he requires change of scene.'
'Oh! is he going to drag me abroad again?' exclaimed Lady Monmouth, with
'Why, not exactly,' said Mr. Rigby, rather demurely.
'I hope he is not going again to that dreadful castle in Lancashire.'
'Lord Monmouth was thinking that, as you were tired of Paris, you might
find some of the German Baths agreeable.'
'Why, there is nothing that Lord Monmouth dislikes so much as a German
'Exactly,' said Mr. Rigby.
'Then how capricious in him wanting to go to them?'
'He does not want to go to them!'
'What do you mean, Mr. Rigby?' said Lady Monmouth, in a lower voice, and
looking him full in the face with a glance seldom bestowed.
There was a churlish and unusual look about Rigby. It was as if malignant,
and yet at the same time a little frightened, he had screwed himself into
'I mean what Lord Monmouth means. He suggests that if your Ladyship were
to pass the summer at Kissengen, for example, and a paragraph in the
_Morning Post_ were to announce that his Lordship was about to join you
there, all awkwardness would be removed; and no one could for a moment
take the liberty of supposing, even if his Lordship did not ultimately
reach you, that anything like a separation had occurred.'
'A separation!' said Lady Monmouth.
'Quite amicable,' said Mr. Rigby. 'I would never have consented to
interfere in the affair, but to secure that most desirable point.'
'I will see Lord Monmouth at once,' said Lucretia, rising, her natural
pallor aggravated into a ghoul-like tint.
'His Lordship has gone out,' said Mr. Rigby, rather stubbornly.
'Our conversation, sir, then finishes; I wait his return.' She bowed
'His Lordship will never return to Monmouth House again.'
Lucretia sprang from the sofa.
'Miserable craven!' she exclaimed. 'Has the cowardly tyrant fled? And he
really thinks that I am to be crushed by such an instrument as this! Pah!
He may leave Monmouth House, but I shall not. Begone, sir!'
'Still anxious to secure an amicable separation,' said Mr. Rigby, 'your
Ladyship must allow me to place the circumstances of the case fairly
before your excellent judgment. Lord Monmouth has decided upon a course:
you know as well as I that he never swerves from his resolutions. He has
left peremptory instructions, and he will listen to no appeal. He has
empowered me to represent to your Ladyship that he wishes in every way to
consider your convenience. He suggests that everything, in short, should
be arranged as if his Lordship were himself unhappily no more; that your
Ladyship should at once enter into your jointure, which shall be made
payable quarterly to your order, provided you can find it convenient to
live upon the Continent,' added Mr. Rigby, with some hesitation.
'And suppose I cannot?'
'Why, then, we will leave your Ladyship to the assertion of your rights.'
'I beg your Ladyship's pardon. I speak as the friend of the family, the
trustee of your marriage settlement, well known also as Lord Monmouth's
executor,' said Mr. Rigby, his countenance gradually regaining its usual
callous confidence, and some degree of self-complacency, as he remembered
the good things which he enumerated.
'I have decided,' said Lady Monmouth. 'I will assert my rights. Your
master has mistaken my character and his own position. He shall rue the
day that he assailed me.'
'I should be sorry if there were any violence,' said Mr. Rigby,
'especially as everything is left to my management and control. An office,
indeed, which I only accepted for your mutual advantage. I think, upon
reflection, I might put before your Ladyship some considerations which
might induce you, on the whole, to be of opinion that it will be better
for us to draw together in this business, as we have hitherto, indeed,
throughout an acquaintance now of some years.' Rigby was assuming all his
usual tone of brazen familiarity.
'Your self-confidence exceeds even Lord Monmouth's estimate of it,' said
'Now, now, you are unkind. Your Ladyship mistakes my position. I am
interfering in this business for your sake. I might have refused the
office. It would have fallen to another, who would have fulfilled it
without any delicacy and consideration for your feelings. View my
interposition in that light, my dear Lady Monmouth, and circumstances will
assume altogether a new colour.'
'I beg that you will quit the house, sir.'
Mr. Rigby shook his head. 'I would with pleasure, to oblige you, were it
in my power; but Lord Monmouth has particularly desired that I should take
up my residence here permanently. The servants are now my servants. It is
useless to ring the bell. For your Ladyship's sake, I wish everything to
be accomplished with tranquillity, and, if possible, friendliness and good
feeling. You can have even a week for the preparations for your departure,
if necessary. I will take that upon myself. Any carriages, too, that you
desire; your jewels, at least all those that are not at the bankers'. The
arrangement about your jointure, your letters of credit, even your
passport, I will attend to myself; only too happy if, by this painful
interference, I have in any way contributed to soften the annoyance which,
at the first blush, you may naturally experience, but which, like
everything else, take my word, will wear off.'
'I shall send for Lord Eskdale,' said Lady Monmouth. 'He is a gentleman.'
'I am quite sure,' said Mr. Rigby, 'that Lord Eskdale will give you the
same advice as myself, if he only reads your Ladyship's letters,' he added
slowly, 'to Prince Trautsmansdorff.'
'My letters?' said Lady Monmouth.
'Pardon me,' said Rigby, putting his hand in his pocket, as if to guard
some treasure, 'I have no wish to revive painful associations; but I have
them, and I must act upon them, if you persist in treating me as a foe,
who am in reality your best friend; which indeed I ought to be, having the
honour of acting as trustee under your marriage settlement, and having
known you so many years.'
'Leave me for the present alone,' said Lady Monmouth. 'Send me my servant,
if I have one. I shall not remain here the week which you mention, but
quit at once this house, which I wish I had never entered. Adieu! Mr.
Rigby, you are now lord of Monmouth House, and yet I cannot help feeling
you too will be discharged before he dies.'
Mr. Rigby made Lady Monmouth a bow such as became the master of the house,
and then withdrew.
A paragraph in the _Morning Post_, a few days after his interview with his
grandfather, announcing that Lord and Lady Monmouth had quitted town for
the baths of Kissengen, startled Coningsby, who called the same day at
Monmouth House in consequence. There he learnt more authentic details of
their unexpected movements. It appeared that Lady Monmouth had certainly
departed; and the porter, with a rather sceptical visage, informed
Coningsby that Lord Monmouth was to follow; but when, he could not tell.
At present his Lordship was at Brighton, and in a few days was about to
take possession of a villa at Richmond, which had for some time been
fitting up for him under the superintendence of Mr. Rigby, who, as
Coningsby also learnt, now permanently resided at Monmouth House. All this
intelligence made Coningsby ponder. He was sufficiently acquainted with
the parties concerned to feel assured that he had not learnt the whole
truth. What had really taken place, and what was the real cause of the
occurrences, were equally mystical to him: all he was convinced of was,
that some great domestic revolution had been suddenly effected.
Coningsby entertained for his grandfather a sincere affection. With the
exception of their last unfortunate interview, he had experienced from
Lord Monmouth nothing but kindness both in phrase and deed. There was also
something in Lord Monmouth, when he pleased it, rather fascinating to
young men; and as Coningsby had never occasioned him any feelings but
pleasurable ones, he was always disposed to make himself delightful to his
grandson. The experience of a consummate man of the world, advanced in
life, detailed without rigidity to youth, with frankness and facility, is
bewitching. Lord Monmouth was never garrulous: he was always pithy, and
could be picturesque. He revealed a character in a sentence, and detected
the ruling passion with the hand of a master. Besides, he had seen
everybody and had done everything; and though, on the whole, too indolent
for conversation, and loving to be talked to, these were circumstances
which made his too rare communications the more precious.
With these feelings, Coningsby resolved, the moment that he learned that
his grandfather was established at Richmond, to pay him a visit. He was
informed that Lord Monmouth was at home, and he was shown into a drawing-
room, where he found two French ladies in their bonnets, whom he soon
discovered to be actresses. They also had come down to pay a visit to his
grandfather, and were by no means displeased to pass the interval that
must elapse before they had that pleasure in chatting with his grandson.
Coningsby found them extremely amusing; with the finest spirits in the
world, imperturbable good temper, and an unconscious practical philosophy
that defied the devil Care and all his works. And well it was that he
found such agreeable companions, for time flowed on, and no summons
arrived to call him to his grandfather's presence, and no herald to
announce his grandfather's advent. The ladies and Coningsby had exhausted
badinage; they had examined and criticised all the furniture, had rifled
the vases of their prettiest flowers; and Clotilde, who had already sung
several times, was proposing a duet to Ermengarde, when a servant entered,
and told the ladies that a carriage was in attendance to give them an
airing, and after that Lord Monmouth hoped they would return and dine with
him; then turning to Coningsby, he informed him, with his lord's
compliments, that Lord Monmouth was sorry he was too much engaged to see
Nothing was to be done but to put a tolerably good face upon it. 'Embrace
Lord Monmouth for me,' said Coningsby to his fair friends, 'and tell him I
think it very unkind that he did not ask me to dinner with you.'
Coningsby said this with a gay air, but really with a depressed spirit. He
felt convinced that his grandfather was deeply displeased with him; and as
he rode away from the villa, he could not resist the strong impression
that he was destined never to re-enter it. Yet it was decreed otherwise.
It so happened that the idle message which Coningsby had left for his
grandfather, and which he never seriously supposed for a moment that his
late companions would have given their host, operated entirely in his
favour. Whatever were the feelings with respect to Coningsby at the bottom
of Lord Monmouth's heart, he was actuated in his refusal to see him not
more from displeasure than from an anticipatory horror of something like a
scene. Even a surrender from Coningsby without terms, and an offer to
declare himself a candidate for Darlford, or to do anything else that his
grandfather wished, would have been disagreeable to Lord Monmouth in his
present mood. As in politics a revolution is often followed by a season of
torpor, so in the case of Lord Monmouth the separation from his wife,
which had for a long period occupied his meditation, was succeeded by a
vein of mental dissipation. He did not wish to be reminded by anything or
any person that he had still in some degree the misfortune of being a
responsible member of society. He wanted to be surrounded by individuals
who were above or below the conventional interests of what is called 'the
World.' He wanted to hear nothing of those painful and embarrassing
influences which from our contracted experience and want of enlightenment
we magnify into such undue importance. For this purpose he wished to have
about him persons whose knowledge of the cares of life concerned only the
means of existence, and whose sense of its objects referred only to the
sources of enjoyment; persons who had not been educated in the idolatry of
Respectability; that is to say, of realising such an amount of what is
termed character by a hypocritical deference to the prejudices of the
community as may enable them, at suitable times, and under convenient
circumstances and disguises, to plunder the public. This was the Monmouth
With these feelings, Lord Monmouth recoiled at this moment from grandsons
and relations and ties of all kinds. He did not wish to be reminded of his
identity, but to swim unmolested and undisturbed in his Epicurean dream.
When, therefore, his fair visitors; Clotilde, who opened her mouth only to
breathe roses and diamonds, and Ermengarde, who was so good-natured that
she sacrificed even her lovers to her friends; saw him merely to exclaim
at the same moment, and with the same voices of thrilling joyousness,--
'Why did not you ask him to dinner?'
And then, without waiting for his reply, entered with that rapidity of
elocution which Frenchwomen can alone command into the catalogue of his
charms and accomplishments, Lord Monmouth began to regret that he really
had not seen Coningsby, who, it appeared, might have greatly contributed
to the pleasure of the day. The message, which was duly given, however,
settled the business. Lord Monmouth felt that any chance of explanations,
or even allusions to the past, was out of the question; and to defend
himself from the accusations of his animated guests, he said,
'Well, he shall come to dine with you next time.'
There is no end to the influence of woman on our life. It is at the bottom
of everything that happens to us. And so it was, that, in spite of all the
combinations of Lucretia and Mr. Rigby, and the mortification and
resentment of Lord Monmouth, the favourable impression he casually made on
a couple of French actresses occasioned Coningsby, before a month had
elapsed since his memorable interview at Monmouth House, to receive an
invitation again to dine with his grandfather.
The party was agreeable. Clotilde and Ermengarde had wits as sparkling as
their eyes. There was a manager of the Opera, a great friend of
Villebecque, and his wife, a splendid lady, who had been a prima donna of
celebrity, and still had a commanding voice for a chamber; a Carlist
nobleman who lived upon his traditions, and who, though without a sou,
could tell of a festival given by his family, before the revolution, which
had cost a million of francs; and a Neapolitan physician, in whom Lord
Monmouth had great confidence, and who himself believed in the elixir
vitae, made up the party, with Lucian Gay, Coningsby, and Mr. Rigby. Our
hero remarked that Villebecque on this occasion sat at the bottom of the
table, but Flora did not appear.
In the meantime, the month which brought about this satisfactory and at
one time unexpected result was fruitful also in other circumstances still
more interesting. Coningsby and Edith met frequently, if to breathe the
same atmosphere in the same crowded saloons can be described as meeting;
ever watching each other's movements, and yet studious never to encounter
each other's glance. The charms of Miss Millbank had become an universal
topic, they were celebrated in ball-rooms, they were discussed at clubs:
Edith was the beauty of the season. All admired her, many sighed even to
express their admiration; but the devotion of Lord Beaumanoir, who always
hovered about her, deterred them from a rivalry which might have made the
boldest despair. As for Coningsby, he passed his life principally with the
various members of the Sydney family, and was almost daily riding with
Lady Everingham and her sister, generally accompanied by Lord Henry and
his friend Eustace Lyle, between whom, indeed, and Coningsby there were
relations of intimacy scarcely less inseparable. Coningsby had spoken to
Lady Everingham of the rumoured marriage of her elder brother, and found,
although the family had not yet been formally apprised of it, she
entertained little doubt of its ultimate occurrence. She admired Miss
Millbank, with whom her acquaintance continued slight; and she wished, of
course, that her brother should marry and be happy. 'But Percy is often in
love,' she would add, 'and never likes us to be very intimate with his
inamoratas. He thinks it destroys the romance; and that domestic
familiarity may compromise his heroic character. However,' she added, 'I
really believe that will be a match.'
On the whole, though he bore a serene aspect to the world, Coningsby
passed this month in a state of restless misery. His soul was brooding on
one subject, and he had no confidant: he could not resist the spell that
impelled him to the society where Edith might at least be seen, and the
circle in which he lived was one in which her name was frequently
mentioned. Alone, in his solitary rooms in the Albany, he felt all his
desolation; and often a few minutes before he figured in the world,
apparently followed and courted by all, he had been plunged in the darkest
fits of irremediable wretchedness.
He had, of course, frequently met Lady Wallinger, but their salutations,
though never omitted, and on each side cordial, were brief. There seemed
to be a tacit understanding between them not to refer to a subject
fruitful in painful reminiscences.
The season waned. In the fulfilment of a project originally formed in the
playing-fields of Eton, often recurred to at Cambridge, and cherished with
the fondness with which men cling to a scheme of early youth, Coningsby,
Henry Sydney, Vere, and Buckhurst had engaged some moors together this
year; and in a few days they were about to quit town for Scotland. They
had pressed Eustace Lyle to accompany them, but he, who in general seemed
to have no pleasure greater than their society, had surprised them by
declining their invitation, with some vague mention that he rather thought
he should go abroad.
It was the last day of July, and all the world were at a breakfast given,
at a fanciful cottage situate in beautiful gardens on the banks of the
Thames, by Lady Everingham. The weather was as bright as the romances of
Boccaccio; there were pyramids of strawberries, in bowls colossal enough
to hold orange-trees; and the choicest band filled the air with enchanting
strains, while a brilliant multitude sauntered on turf like velvet, or
roamed in desultory existence amid the quivering shades of winding walks.
'My fete was prophetic,' said Lady Everingham, when she saw Coningsby. 'I
am glad it is connected with an incident. It gives it a point.'
'You are mystical as well as prophetic. Tell me what we are to celebrate.'
'Theresa is going to be married.'
'Then I, too, will prophesy, and name the hero of the romance, Eustace
'You have been more prescient than I,' said Lady Everingham, 'perhaps
because I was thinking too much of some one else.'
'It seems to me an union which all must acknowledge perfect. I hardly know
which I love best. I have had my suspicions a long time; and when Eustace
refused to go to the moors with us, though I said nothing, I was
'At any rate,' said Lady Everingham, sighing, with a rather smiling face,
'we are kinsfolk, Mr. Coningsby; though I would gladly have wished to have
'Were those your thoughts, dear lady? Ever kind to me! Happiness,' he
added, in a mournful tone, 'I fear can never be mine.'
'Ah! 'tis a tale too strange and sorrowful for a day when, like Seged, we
must all determine to be happy.'
'You have already made me miserable.'
'Here comes a group that will make you gay,' said Coningsby as he moved
on. Edith and the Wallingers, accompanied by Lord Beaumanoir, Mr. Melton,
and Sir Charles Buckhurst, formed the party. They seemed profuse in their
congratulations to Lady Everingham, having already learnt the intelligence
from her brother.
Coningsby stopped to speak to Lady St. Julians, who had still a daughter
to marry. Both Augustina, who was at Coningsby Castle, and Clara Isabella,
who ought to have been there, had each secured the right man. But Adelaide
Victoria had now appeared, and Lady St. Julians had a great regard for the
favourite grandson of Lord Monmouth, and also for the influential friend
of Lord Vere and Sir Charles Buckhurst. In case Coningsby did not
determine to become her son-in-law himself, he might counsel either of his
friends to a judicious decision on an inevitable act.
'Strawberries and cream?' said Lord Eskdale to Mr. Ormsby, who seemed
occupied with some delicacies.
'Egad! no, no, no; those days are passed. I think there is a little
easterly wind with all this fine appearance.'
'I am for in-door nature myself,' said Lord Eskdale. 'Do you know, I do
not half like the way Monmouth is going on? He never gets out of that
villa of his. He should change his air more. Tell him.'
'It is no use telling him anything. Have you heard anything of Miladi?'
'I had a letter from her to-day: she writes in good spirits. I am sorry it
broke up, and yet I never thought it would last so long.'
'I gave them two years,' said Mr. Ormsby. 'Lord Monmouth lived with his
first wife two years. And afterwards with the Mirandola at Milan, at least
nearly two years; it was a year and ten months. I must know, for he called
me in to settle affairs. I took the lady to the baths at Lucca, on the
pretence that Monmouth would meet us there. He went to Paris. All his
great affairs have been two years. I remember I wanted to bet Cassilis, at
White's, on it when he married; but I thought, being his intimate friend;
the oldest friend he has, indeed, and one of his trustees; it was perhaps
as well not to do it.'
'You should have made the bet with himself,' said Lord Eskdale, 'and then
there never would have been a separation.'
'Hah, hah, hah! Do you know, I feel the wind?'
About an hour after this, Coningsby, who had just quitted the Duchess,
met, on a terrace by the river, Lady Wallinger, walking with Mrs. Guy
Flouncey and a Russian Prince, whom that lady was enchanting. Coningsby
was about to pass with some slight courtesy, but Lady Wallinger stopped
and would speak to him, on slight subjects, the weather and the fete, but
yet adroitly enough managed to make him turn and join her. Mrs. Guy
Flouncey walked on a little before with her Russian admirer. Lady
Wallinger followed with Coningsby.
'The match that has been proclaimed to-day has greatly surprised me,' said
'Indeed!' said Coningsby: 'I confess I was long prepared for it. And it
seems to me the most natural alliance conceivable, and one that every one
'Lady Everingham seems much surprised at it.'
'Ah! Lady Everingham is a brilliant personage, and cannot deign to observe
'Do you know, Mr. Coningsby, that I always thought you were engaged to
'Indeed, we were informed more than a month ago that you were positively
going to be married to her.'
'I am not one of those who can shift their affections with such rapidity,
Lady Wallinger looked distressed. 'You remember our meeting you on the
stairs at ---- House, Mr. Coningsby?'
'Painfully. It is deeply graven on my brain.'
'Edith had just been informed that you were going to be married to Lady
'Not surely by him to whom she is herself going to be married?' said
'I am not aware that she is going to be married to any one. Lord
Beaumanoir admires her, has always admired her. But Edith has given him no
encouragement, at least gave him no encouragement as long as she believed;
but why dwell on such an unhappy subject, Mr. Coningsby? I am to blame; I
have been to blame perhaps before, but indeed I think it cruel, very
cruel, that Edith and you are kept asunder.'
'You have always been my best, my dearest friend, and are the most amiable
and admirable of women. But tell me, is it indeed true that Edith is not
going to be married?'
At this moment Mrs. Guy Flouncey turned round, and assuring Lady Wallinger
that the Prince and herself had agreed to refer some point to her about
the most transcendental ethics of flirtation, this deeply interesting
conversation was arrested, and Lady Wallinger, with becoming suavity, was
obliged to listen to the lady's lively appeal of exaggerated nonsense and
the Prince's affected protests, while Coningsby walked by her side, pale
and agitated, and then offered his arm to Lady Wallinger, which she
accepted with an affectionate pressure. At the end of the terrace they met
some other guests, and soon were immersed in the multitude that thronged
'There is Sir Joseph,' said Lady Wallinger, and Coningsby looked up, and
saw Edith on his arm. They were unconsciously approaching them. Lord
Beaumanoir was there, but he seemed to shrink into nothing to-day before
Buckhurst, who was captivated for the moment by Edith, and hearing that no
knight was resolute enough to try a fall with the Marquess, was impelled
by his talent for action to enter the lists. He had talked down everybody,
unhorsed every cavalier. Nobody had a chance against him: he answered all
your questions before you asked them; contradicted everybody with the
intrepidity of a Rigby; annihilated your anecdotes by historiettes
infinitely more piquant; and if anybody chanced to make a joke which he
could not excel, declared immediately that it was a Joe Miller. He was
absurd, extravagant, grotesque, noisy; but he was young, rattling, and
interesting, from his health and spirits. Edith was extremely amused by
him, and was encouraging by her smile his spiritual excesses, when they
all suddenly met Lady Wallinger and Coningsby.
The eyes of Edith and Coningsby met for the first time since they so
cruelly encountered on the staircase of ---- House. A deep, quick blush
suffused her face, her eyes gleamed with a sudden coruscation; suddenly
and quickly she put forth her hand.
Yes! he presses once more that hand which permanently to retain is the
passion of his life, yet which may never be his! It seemed that for the
ravishing delight of that moment he could have borne with cheerfulness all
the dark and harrowing misery of the year that had passed away since he
embraced her in the woods of Hellingsley, and pledged his faith by the
waters of the rushing Darl.
He seized the occasion which offered itself, a moment to walk by her side,
and to snatch some brief instants of unreserved communion.
'Forgive me!' she said.
'Ah! how could you ever doubt me?' said Coningsby.
'I was unhappy.'
'And now we are to each other as before?'
'And will be, come what come may.'
END OF BOOK VIII.
It was merry Christmas at St. Genevieve. There was a yule log blazing on
every hearth in that wide domain, from the hall of the squire to the
peasant's roof. The Buttery Hatch was open for the whole week from noon to
sunset; all comers might take their fill, and each carry away as much bold
beef, white bread, and jolly ale as a strong man could bear in a basket
with one hand. For every woman a red cloak, and a coat of broadcloth for
every man. All day long, carts laden with fuel and warm raiment were
traversing the various districts, distributing comfort and dispensing
cheer. For a Christian gentleman of high degree was Eustace Lyle.
Within his hall, too, he holds his revel, and his beauteous bride welcomes
their guests, from her noble parents to the faithful tenants of the house.
All classes are mingled in the joyous equality that becomes the season, at
once sacred and merry. There are carols for the eventful eve, and mummers
for the festive day.
The Duke and Duchess, and every member of the family, had consented this
year to keep their Christmas with the newly-married couple. Coningsby,
too, was there, and all his friends. The party was numerous, gay, hearty,
and happy; for they were all united by sympathy.
They were planning that Henry Sydney should be appointed Lord of Misrule,
or ordained Abbot of Unreason at the least, so successful had been his
revival of the Mummers, the Hobby-horse not forgotten. Their host had
entrusted to Lord Henry the restoration of many old observances; and the
joyous feeling which this celebration of Christmas had diffused throughout
an extensive district was a fresh argument in favour of Lord Henry's
principle, that a mere mechanical mitigation of the material necessities
of the humbler classes, a mitigation which must inevitably be limited, can
never alone avail sufficiently to ameliorate their condition; that their
condition is not merely 'a knife and fork question,' to use the coarse and
shallow phrase of the Utilitarian school; that a simple satisfaction of
the grosser necessities of our nature will not make a happy people; that
you must cultivate the heart as well as seek to content the belly; and
that the surest means to elevate the character of the people is to appeal
to their affections.
There is nothing more interesting than to trace predisposition. An
indefinite, yet strong sympathy with the peasantry of the realm had been
one of the characteristic sensibilities of Lord Henry at Eton. Yet a
schoolboy, he had busied himself with their pastimes and the details of
their cottage economy. As he advanced in life the horizon of his views
expanded with his intelligence and his experience; and the son of one of
the noblest of our houses, to whom the delights of life are offered with
fatal facility, on the very threshold of his career he devoted his time
and thought, labour and life, to one vast and noble purpose, the elevation
of the condition of the great body of the people.
'I vote for Buckhurst being Lord of Misrule,' said Lord Henry: 'I will be
content with being his gentleman usher.'
'It shall be put to the vote,' said Lord Vere.
'No one has a chance against Buckhurst,' said Coningsby.
'Now, Sir Charles,' said Lady Everingham, 'your absolute sway is about to
commence. And what is your will?'
'The first thing must be my formal installation,' said Buckhurst. 'I vote
the Boar's head be carried in procession thrice round the hall, and Beau
shall be the champion to challenge all who may question my right. Duke,
you shall be my chief butler, the Duchess my herb-woman. She is to walk
before me, and scatter rosemary. Coningsby shall carry the Boar's head;
Lady Theresa and Lady Everingham shall sing the canticle; Lord Everingham
shall be marshal of the lists, and put all in the stocks who are found
sober and decorous; Lyle shall be the palmer from the Holy Land, and Vere
shall ride the Hobby-horse. Some must carry cups of Hippocras, some
lighted tapers; all must join in chorus.'
He ceased his instructions, and all hurried away to carry them into
effect. Some hastily arrayed themselves in fanciful dresses, the ladies in
robes of white, with garlands of flowers; some drew pieces of armour from
the wall, and decked themselves with helm and hauberk; others waved
ancient banners. They brought in the Boar's head on a large silver dish,
and Coningsby raised it aloft. They formed into procession, the Duchess
distributing rosemary; Buckhurst swaggering with all the majesty of
Tamerlane, his mock court irresistibly humorous with their servility; and
the sweet voice of Lady Everingham chanting the first verse of the
canticle, followed in the second by the rich tones of Lady Theresa:
Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.
The Boar's heade in hande bring I,
With garlandes gay and rosemary:
I pray you all singe merrily,
Qui estis in convivio.
Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.
The Boar's heade I understande
Is the chief servyce in this lande
Loke whereever it be fande,
Servite cum cantico.
The procession thrice paraded the hall. Then they stopped; and the Lord of
Misrule ascended his throne, and his courtiers formed round him in circle.
Behind him they held the ancient banners and waved their glittering arms,
and placed on a lofty and illuminated pedestal the Boar's head covered
with garlands. It was a good picture, and the Lord of Misrule sustained
his part with untiring energy. He was addressing his court in a pompous
rhapsody of merry nonsense, when a servant approached Coningsby, and told
him that he was wanted without.
Our hero retired unperceived. A despatch had arrived for him from London.
Without any prescience of its purpose, he nevertheless broke the seal with
a trembling hand. His presence was immediately desired in town: Lord
Monmouth was dead.
This was a crisis in the life of Coningsby; yet, like many critical
epochs, the person most interested in it was not sufficiently aware of its
character. The first feeling which he experienced at the intelligence was
sincere affliction. He was fond of his grandfather; had received great
kindness from him, and at a period of life when it was most welcome. The
neglect and hardships of his early years, instead of leaving a prejudice
against one who, by some, might be esteemed their author, had by their
contrast only rendered Coningsby more keenly sensible of the solicitude
and enjoyment which had been lavished on his happy youth.
The next impression on his mind was undoubtedly a natural and reasonable
speculation on the effect of this bereavement on his fortunes. Lord
Monmouth had more than once assured Coningsby that he had provided for him
as became a near relative to whom he was attached, and in a manner which
ought to satisfy the wants and wishes of an English gentleman. The
allowance which Lord Monmouth had made him, as considerable as usually
accorded to the eldest sons of wealthy peers, might justify him in
estimating his future patrimony as extremely ample. He was aware, indeed,
that at a subsequent period his grandfather had projected for him fortunes
of a still more elevated character. He looked to Coningsby as the future
representative of an ancient barony, and had been purchasing territory
with the view of supporting the title. But Coningsby did not by any means
firmly reckon on these views being realised. He had a suspicion that in
thwarting the wishes of his grandfather in not becoming a candidate for
Darlford, he had at the moment arrested arrangements which, from the tone
of Lord Monmouth's communication, he believed were then in progress for
that purpose; and he thought it improbable, with his knowledge of his
grandfather's habits, that Lord Monmouth had found either time or
inclination to resume before his decease the completion of these plans.
Indeed there was a period when, in adopting the course which he pursued
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