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Title: Coningsby; Or, The New Generation
Author: Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield, 1804-1881
Language: English
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CONINGSBY

OR THE NEW GENERATION

By Benjamin Disraeli

Earl Of Beaconsfield



PUBLISHERS' NOTE


As a novelist, Benjamin Disraeli belongs to the early part of the
nineteenth century. "Vivian Grey" (1826-27) and "Sybil" (1845) mark
the beginning and the end of his truly creative period; for the two
productions of his latest years, "Lothair" (1870) and "Endymion" (1880),
add nothing to the characteristics of his earlier volumes except the
changes of feeling and power which accompany old age. His period, thus,
is that of Bulwer, Dickens, and Thackeray, and of the later years of Sir
Walter Scott--a fact which his prominence as a statesman during the last
decade of his life, as well as the vogue of "Lothair" and "Endymion,"
has tended to obscure. His style, his material, and his views of English
character and life all date from that earlier time. He was born in 1804
and died in 1881.

"Coningsby; or, The New Generation," published in 1844, is the best
of his novels, not as a story, but as a study of men, manners, and
principles. The plot is slight--little better than a device for
stringing together sketches of character and statements of political and
economic opinions; but these are always interesting and often brilliant.
The motive which underlies the book is political. It is, in brief, an
attempt to show that the political salvation of England was to be sought
in its aristocracy, but that this aristocracy was morally weak and
socially ineffective, and that it must mend its ways before its duty to
the state could be fulfilled. Interest in this aspect of the book has,
of course, to a large extent passed away with the political conditions
which it reflected. As a picture of aristocratic life in England in
the first part of the nineteenth century it has, however, enduring
significance and charm. Disraeli does not rank with the great writers
of English realistic fiction, but in this special field none of them
has surpassed him. From this point of view, accordingly, "Coningsby" is
appropriately included in this series.



TO HENRY HOPE


It is not because this work was conceived and partly executed amid the
glades and galleries of the DEEPDENE that I have inscribed it with your
name. Nor merely because I was desirous to avail myself of the most
graceful privilege of an author, and dedicate my work to the friend
whose talents I have always appreciated, and whose virtues I have ever
admired.

But because in these pages I have endeavoured to picture something of
that development of the new and, as I believe, better mind of England,
that has often been the subject of our converse and speculation.

In this volume you will find many a thought illustrated and many a
principle attempted to be established that we have often together
partially discussed and canvassed.

Doubtless you may encounter some opinions with which you may not
agree, and some conclusions the accuracy of which you may find cause
to question. But if I have generally succeeded in my object, to scatter
some suggestions that may tend to elevate the tone of public life,
ascertain the true character of political parties, and induce us for
the future more carefully to distinguish between facts and phrases,
realities and phantoms, I believe that I shall gain your sympathy, for
I shall find a reflex to their efforts in your own generous spirit and
enlightened mind.

GROSVENOR GATE: May Day 1844.



PREFACE


'CONINGSBY' was published in the year 1844. The main purpose of its
writer was to vindicate the just claims of the Tory party to be the
popular political confederation of the country; a purpose which he had,
more or less, pursued from a very early period of life. The occasion
was favourable to the attempt. The youthful mind of England had just
recovered from the inebriation of the great Conservative triumph of
1841, and was beginning to inquire what, after all, they had conquered
to preserve. It was opportune, therefore, to show that Toryism was not
a phrase, but a fact; and that our political institutions were the
embodiment of our popular necessities. This the writer endeavoured to do
without prejudice, and to treat of events and characters of which he had
some personal experience, not altogether without the impartiality of the
future.

It was not originally the intention of the writer to adopt the form
of fiction as the instrument to scatter his suggestions, but, after
reflection, he resolved to avail himself of a method which, in the
temper of the times, offered the best chance of influencing opinion.

In considering the Tory scheme, the author recognised in the CHURCH the
most powerful agent in the previous development of England, and the most
efficient means of that renovation of the national spirit at which
he aimed. The Church is a sacred corporation for the promulgation and
maintenance in Europe of certain Asian principles, which, although
local in their birth, are of divine origin, and of universal and eternal
application.

In asserting the paramount character of the ecclesiastical polity and
the majesty of the theocratic principle, it became necessary to ascend
to the origin of the Christian Church, and to meet in a spirit worthy
of a critical and comparatively enlightened age, the position of the
descendants of that race who were the founders of Christianity. The
modern Jews had long laboured under the odium and stigma of mediaeval
malevolence. In the dark ages, when history was unknown, the passions
of societies, undisturbed by traditionary experience, were strong, and
their convictions, unmitigated by criticism, were necessarily fanatical.
The Jews were looked upon in the middle ages as an accursed race, the
enemies of God and man, the especial foes of Christianity. No one in
those days paused to reflect that Christianity was founded by the Jews;
that its Divine Author, in his human capacity, was a descendant of King
David; that his doctrines avowedly were the completion, not the change,
of Judaism; that the Apostles and the Evangelists, whose names men daily
invoked, and whose volumes they embraced with reverence, were all Jews;
that the infallible throne of Rome itself was established by a Jew; and
that a Jew was the founder of the Christian Churches of Asia.

The European nations, relatively speaking, were then only recently
converted to a belief in Moses and in Christ; and, as it were, still
ashamed of the wild deities whom they had deserted, they thought they
atoned for their past idolatry by wreaking their vengeance on a race to
whom, and to whom alone, they were indebted for the Gospel they adored.

In vindicating the sovereign right of the Church of Christ to be the
perpetual regenerator of man, the writer thought the time had arrived
when some attempt should be made to do justice to the race which had
founded Christianity.

The writer has developed in another work ('Tancred') the views
respecting the great house of Israel which he first intimated in
'Coningsby.' No one has attempted to refute them, nor is refutation
possible; since all he has done is to examine certain facts in the truth
of which all agree, and to draw from them irresistible conclusions which
prejudice for a moment may shrink from, but which reason cannot refuse
to admit.

D.

GROSVENOR GATE: May 1894.



CONINGSBY



BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.


It was a bright May morning some twelve years ago, when a youth of still
tender age, for he had certainly not entered his teens by more than two
years, was ushered into the waiting-room of a house in the vicinity
of St. James's Square, which, though with the general appearance of
a private residence, and that too of no very ambitious character,
exhibited at this period symptoms of being occupied for some public
purpose.

The house-door was constantly open, and frequent guests even at this
early hour crossed the threshold. The hall-table was covered with sealed
letters; and the hall-porter inscribed in a book the name of every
individual who entered.

The young gentleman we have mentioned found himself in a room which
offered few resources for his amusement. A large table amply covered
with writing materials, and a few chairs, were its sole furniture,
except the grey drugget that covered the floor, and a muddy mezzotinto
of the Duke of Wellington that adorned its cold walls. There was not
even a newspaper; and the only books were the Court Guide and the London
Directory. For some time he remained with patient endurance planted
against the wall, with his feet resting on the rail of his chair; but
at length in his shifting posture he gave evidence of his restlessness,
rose from his seat, looked out of the window into a small side court of
the house surrounded with dead walls, paced the room, took up the Court
Guide, changed it for the London Directory, then wrote his name over
several sheets of foolscap paper, drew various landscapes and faces of
his friends; and then, splitting up a pen or two, delivered himself of a
yawn which seemed the climax of his weariness.

And yet the youth's appearance did not betoken a character that, if
the opportunity had offered, could not have found amusement and even
instruction. His countenance, radiant with health and the lustre of
innocence, was at the same time thoughtful and resolute. The expression
of his deep blue eyes was serious. Without extreme regularity of
features, the face was one that would never have passed unobserved. His
short upper lip indicated a good breed; and his chestnut curls clustered
over his open brow, while his shirt-collar thrown over his shoulders
was unrestrained by handkerchief or ribbon. Add to this, a limber and
graceful figure, which the jacket of his boyish dress exhibited to great
advantage.

Just as the youth, mounted on a chair, was adjusting the portrait of the
Duke, which he had observed to be awry, the gentleman for whom he had
been all this time waiting entered the room.

'Floreat Etona!' hastily exclaimed the gentleman, in a sharp voice; 'you
are setting the Duke to rights. I have left you a long time a prisoner;
but I found them so busy here, that I made my escape with some
difficulty.'

He who uttered these words was a man of middle size and age, originally
in all probability of a spare habit, but now a little inclined to
corpulency. Baldness, perhaps, contributed to the spiritual expression
of a brow, which was, however, essentially intellectual, and gave some
character of openness to a countenance which, though not ill-favoured,
was unhappily stamped by a sinister cast that was not to be mistaken.
His manner was easy, but rather audacious than well-bred. Indeed, while
a visage which might otherwise be described as handsome was spoilt by
a dishonest glance, so a demeanour that was by no means deficient in
self-possession and facility, was tainted by an innate vulgarity, which
in the long run, though seldom, yet surely developed itself.

The youth had jumped off his chair on the entrance of the gentleman, and
then taking up his hat, said:

'Shall we go to grandpapa now, sir?'

'By all means, my dear boy,' said the gentleman, putting his arm within
that of the youth; and they were just on the point of leaving
the waiting-room, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and two
individuals, in a state of great excitement, rushed into the apartment.

'Rigby! Rigby!' they both exclaimed at the same moment. 'By G----
they're out!'

'Who told you?'

'The best authority; one of themselves.'

'Who? who?'

'Paul Evelyn; I met him as I passed Brookes', and he told me that Lord
Grey had resigned, and the King had accepted his resignation.'

But Mr. Rigby, who, though very fond of news, and much interested in the
present, was extremely jealous of any one giving him information, was
sceptical. He declared that Paul Evelyn was always wrong; that it was
morally impossible that Paul Evelyn ever could be right; that he knew,
from the highest authority, that Lord Grey had been twice yesterday with
the King; that on the last visit nothing was settled; that if he had
been at the palace again to-day, he could not have been there before
twelve o'clock; that it was only now a quarter to one; that Lord Grey
would have called his colleagues together on his return; that at
least an hour must have elapsed before anything could possibly have
transpired. Then he compared and criticised the dates of every rumoured
incident of the last twenty-four hours, and nobody was stronger in dates
than Mr. Rigby; counted even the number of stairs which the minister
had to ascend and descend in his visit to the palace, and the time their
mountings and dismountings must have consumed, detail was Mr. Rigby's
forte; and finally, what with his dates, his private information, his
knowledge of palace localities, his contempt for Paul Evelyn, and his
confidence in himself, he succeeded in persuading his downcast and
disheartened friends that their comfortable intelligence had not the
slightest foundation.

They all left the room together; they were in the hall; the gentlemen
who brought the news looked somewhat depressed, but Mr. Rigby gay, even
amid the prostration of his party, from the consciousness that he had
most critically demolished a piece of political gossip and conveyed a
certain degree of mortification to a couple of his companions; when a
travelling carriage and four with a ducal coronet drove up to the house.
The door was thrown open, the steps dashed down, and a youthful noble
sprang from his chariot into the hall.

'Good morning, Rigby,' said the Duke.

'I see your Grace well, I am sure,' said Mr. Rigby, with a softened
manner.

'You have heard the news, gentlemen?' the Duke continued.

'What news? Yes; no; that is to say, Mr. Rigby thinks--'

'You know, of course, that Lord Lyndhurst is with the King?'

'It is impossible,' said Mr. Rigby.

'I don't think I can be mistaken,' said the Duke, smiling.

'I will show your Grace that it is impossible,' said Mr. Rigby, 'Lord
Lyndhurst slept at Wimbledon. Lord Grey could not have seen the King
until twelve o'clock; it is now five minutes to one. It is impossible,
therefore, that any message from the King could have reached Lord
Lyndhurst in time for his Lordship to be at the palace at this moment.'

'But my authority is a high one,' said the Duke.

'Authority is a phrase,' said Mr. Rigby; 'we must look to time and
place, dates and localities, to discover the truth.'

'Your Grace was saying that your authority--' ventured to observe Mr.
Tadpole, emboldened by the presence of a duke, his patron, to struggle
against the despotism of a Rigby, his tyrant.

'Was the highest,' rejoined the Duke, smiling, 'for it was Lord
Lyndhurst himself. I came up from Nuneham this morning, passed his
Lordship's house in Hyde Park Place as he was getting into his carriage
in full dress, stopped my own, and learned in a breath that the Whigs
were out, and that the King had sent for the Chief Baron. So I came on
here at once.'

'I always thought the country was sound at bottom,' exclaimed Mr. Taper,
who, under the old system, had sneaked into the Treasury Board.

Tadpole and Taper were great friends. Neither of them ever despaired
of the Commonwealth. Even if the Reform Bill were passed, Taper was
convinced that the Whigs would never prove men of business; and when his
friends confessed among themselves that a Tory Government was for the
future impossible, Taper would remark, in a confidential whisper, that
for his part he believed before the year was over the Whigs would be
turned out by the clerks.

'There is no doubt that there is considerable reaction,' said Mr.
Tadpole. The infamous conduct of the Whigs in the Amersham case has
opened the public mind more than anything.'

'Aldborough was worse,' said Mr. Taper.

'Terrible,' said Tadpole. 'They said there was no use discussing the
Reform Bill in our House. I believe Rigby's great speech on Aldborough
has done more towards the reaction than all the violence of the
Political Unions put together.'

'Let us hope for the best,' said the Duke, mildly. ''Tis a bold step on
the part of the Sovereign, and I am free to say I could have wished it
postponed; but we must support the King like men. What say you, Rigby?
You are silent.'

'I am thinking how very unfortunate it was that I did not breakfast with
Lyndhurst this morning, as I was nearly doing, instead of going down to
Eton.'

'To Eton! and why to Eton?'

'For the sake of my young friend here, Lord Monmouth's grandson. By the
bye, you are kinsmen. Let me present to your Grace, MR. CONINGSBY.'



CHAPTER II.


The political agitation which for a year and a half had shaken England
to its centre, received, if possible, an increase to its intensity and
virulence, when it was known, in the early part of the month of May,
1832, that the Prime Minister had tendered his resignation to the King,
which resignation had been graciously accepted.

The amendment carried by the Opposition in the House of Lords on the
evening of the 7th of May, that the enfranchising clauses of the
Reform Bill should be considered before entering into the question of
disfranchisement, was the immediate cause of this startling event. The
Lords had previously consented to the second reading of the Bill with
the view of preventing that large increase of their numbers with which
they had been long menaced; rather, indeed, by mysterious rumours than
by any official declaration; but, nevertheless, in a manner which had
carried conviction to no inconsiderable portion of the Opposition that
the threat was not without foundation.

During the progress of the Bill through the Lower House, the journals
which were looked upon as the organs of the ministry had announced with
unhesitating confidence, that Lord Grey was armed with what was then
called a 'carte blanche' to create any number of peers necessary to
insure its success. But public journalists who were under the control of
the ministry, and whose statements were never contradicted, were not
the sole authorities for this prevailing belief. Members of the House of
Commons, who were strong supporters of the cabinet, though not connected
with it by any official tie, had unequivocally stated in their places
that the Sovereign had not resisted the advice of his counsellors to
create peers, if such creation were required to carry into effect what
was then styled 'the great national measure.' In more than one instance,
ministers had been warned, that if they did not exercise that power with
prompt energy, they might deserve impeachment. And these intimations and
announcements had been made in the presence of leading members of the
Government, and had received from them, at least, the sanction of their
silence.

It did not subsequently appear that the Reform ministers had been
invested with any such power; but a conviction of the reverse, fostered
by these circumstances, had successfully acted upon the nervous
temperament, or the statesman-like prudence, of a certain section of the
peers, who consequently hesitated in their course; were known as being
no longer inclined to pursue their policy of the preceding session; had
thus obtained a title at that moment in everybody's mouth, the title of
'THE WAVERERS.'

Notwithstanding, therefore, the opposition of the Duke of Wellington and
of Lord Lyndhurst, the Waverers carried the second reading of the Reform
Bill; and then, scared at the consequences of their own headstrong
timidity, they went in a fright to the Duke and his able adviser to
extricate them from the inevitable result of their own conduct.
The ultimate device of these distracted counsels, where daring and
poltroonery, principle and expediency, public spirit and private
intrigue, each threw an ingredient into the turbulent spell, was the
celebrated and successful amendment to which we have referred.

But the Whig ministers, who, whatever may have been their faults, were
at least men of intellect and courage, were not to be beaten by 'the
Waverers.' They might have made terms with an audacious foe; they
trampled on a hesitating opponent. Lord Grey hastened to the palace.

Before the result of this appeal to the Sovereign was known, for its
effects were not immediate, on the second morning after the vote in the
House of Lords, Mr. Rigby had made that visit to Eton which had summoned
very unexpectedly the youthful Coningsby to London. He was the orphan
child of the youngest of the two sons of the Marquess of Monmouth. It
was a family famous for its hatreds. The eldest son hated his father;
and, it was said, in spite had married a lady to whom that father was
attached, and with whom Lord Monmouth then meditated a second alliance.
This eldest son lived at Naples, and had several children, but
maintained no connection either with his parent or his native country.
On the other hand, Lord Monmouth hated his younger son, who had married,
against his consent, a woman to whom that son was devoted. A system of
domestic persecution, sustained by the hand of a master, had eventually
broken up the health of its victim, who died of a fever in a foreign
country, where he had sought some refuge from his creditors.

His widow returned to England with her child; and, not having a
relation, and scarcely an acquaintance in the world, made an appeal to
her husband's father, the wealthiest noble in England and a man who was
often prodigal, and occasionally generous. After some time, and
more trouble, after urgent and repeated, and what would have seemed
heart-rending, solicitations, the attorney of Lord Monmouth called
upon the widow of his client's son, and informed her of his Lordship's
decision. Provided she gave up her child, and permanently resided in
one of the remotest counties, he was authorised to make her, in four
quarterly payments, the yearly allowance of three hundred pounds, that
being the income that Lord Monmouth, who was the shrewdest accountant in
the country, had calculated a lone woman might very decently exist upon
in a small market town in the county of Westmoreland.

Desperate necessity, the sense of her own forlornness, the utter
impossibility to struggle with an omnipotent foe, who, her husband had
taught her, was above all scruples, prejudices, and fears, and who,
though he respected law, despised opinion, made the victim yield. But
her sufferings were not long; the separation from her child, the bleak
clime, the strange faces around her, sharp memory, and the dull routine
of an unimpassioned life, all combined to wear out a constitution
originally frail, and since shattered by many sorrows. Mrs. Coningsby
died the same day that her father-in-law was made a Marquess. He
deserved his honours. The four votes he had inherited in the House of
Commons had been increased, by his intense volition and unsparing means,
to ten; and the very day he was raised to his Marquisate, he commenced
sapping fresh corporations, and was working for the strawberry leaf. His
honours were proclaimed in the London Gazette, and her decease was not
even noticed in the County Chronicle; but the altars of Nemesis are
beneath every outraged roof, and the death of this unhappy lady,
apparently without an earthly friend or an earthly hope, desolate and
deserted, and dying in obscure poverty, was not forgotten.

Coningsby was not more than nine years of age when he lost his last
parent; and he had then been separated from her for nearly three years.
But he remembered the sweetness of his nursery days. His mother,
too, had written to him frequently since he quitted her, and her fond
expressions had cherished the tenderness of his heart. He wept bitterly
when his schoolmaster broke to him the news of his mother's death. True
it was they had been long parted, and their prospect of again meeting
was vague and dim; but his mother seemed to him his only link to human
society. It was something to have a mother, even if he never saw her.
Other boys went to see their mothers! he, at least, could talk of his.
Now he was alone. His grandfather was to him only a name. Lord Monmouth
resided almost constantly abroad, and during his rare visits to England
had found no time or inclination to see the orphan, with whom he felt
no sympathy. Even the death of the boy's mother, and the consequent
arrangements, were notified to his master by a stranger. The letter
which brought the sad intelligence was from Mr. Rigby. It was the first
time that name had been known to Coningsby.

Mr. Rigby was member for one of Lord Monmouth's boroughs. He was the
manager of Lord Monmouth's parliamentary influence, and the auditor of
his vast estates. He was more; he was Lord Monmouth's companion when in
England, his correspondent when abroad; hardly his counsellor, for Lord
Monmouth never required advice; but Mr. Rigby could instruct him
in matters of detail, which Mr. Rigby made amusing. Rigby was not a
professional man; indeed, his origin, education, early pursuits, and
studies, were equally obscure; but he had contrived in good time to
squeeze himself into parliament, by means which no one could ever
comprehend, and then set up to be a perfect man of business. The world
took him at his word, for he was bold, acute, and voluble; with no
thought, but a good deal of desultory information; and though destitute
of all imagination and noble sentiment, was blessed with a vigorous,
mendacious fancy, fruitful in small expedients, and never happier than
when devising shifts for great men's scrapes.

They say that all of us have one chance in this life, and so it was with
Rigby. After a struggle of many years, after a long series of the
usual alternatives of small successes and small failures, after a
few cleverish speeches and a good many cleverish pamphlets, with a
considerable reputation, indeed, for pasquinades, most of which he
never wrote, and articles in reviews to which it was whispered he had
contributed, Rigby, who had already intrigued himself into a subordinate
office, met with Lord Monmouth.

He was just the animal that Lord Monmouth wanted, for Lord Monmouth
always looked upon human nature with the callous eye of a jockey. He
surveyed Rigby; and he determined to buy him. He bought him; with his
clear head, his indefatigable industry, his audacious tongue, and his
ready and unscrupulous pen; with all his dates, all his lampoons; all
his private memoirs, and all his political intrigues. It was a good
purchase. Rigby became a great personage, and Lord Monmouth's man.

Mr. Rigby, who liked to be doing a great many things at the same time,
and to astonish the Tadpoles and Tapers with his energetic versatility,
determined to superintend the education of Coningsby. It was a relation
which identified him with the noble house of his pupil, or, properly
speaking, his charge: for Mr. Rigby affected rather the graceful dignity
of the governor than the duties of a tutor. The boy was recalled
from his homely, rural school, where he had been well grounded by
a hard-working curate, and affectionately tended by the curate's
unsophisticated wife. He was sent to a fashionable school preparatory
to Eton, where he found about two hundred youths of noble families
and connections, lodged in a magnificent villa, that had once been
the retreat of a minister, superintended by a sycophantic Doctor of
Divinity, already well beneficed, and not despairing of a bishopric by
favouring the children of the great nobles. The doctor's lady, clothed
in cashmeres, sometimes inquired after their health, and occasionally
received a report as to their linen.

Mr. Rigby had a classical retreat, not distant from this establishment,
which he esteemed a Tusculum. There, surrounded by his busts and books,
he wrote his lampoons and articles; massacred a she liberal (it was
thought that no one could lash a woman like Rigby), cut up a rising
genius whose politics were different from his own, or scarified some
unhappy wretch who had brought his claims before parliament, proving,
by garbled extracts from official correspondence that no one could refer
to, that the malcontent instead of being a victim, was, on the contrary,
a defaulter. Tadpole and Taper would back Rigby for a 'slashing reply'
against the field. Here, too, at the end of a busy week, he found it
occasionally convenient to entertain a clever friend or two of equivocal
reputation, with whom he had become acquainted in former days of equal
brotherhood. No one was more faithful to his early friends than Mr.
Rigby, particularly if they could write a squib.

It was in this refined retirement that Mr. Rigby found time enough,
snatched from the toils of official life and parliamentary struggles,
to compose a letter on the study of History, addressed to Coningsby.
The style was as much like that of Lord Bolingbroke as if it had been
written by the authors of the 'Rejected Addresses,' and it began, 'My
dear young friend.' This polished composition, so full of good feeling
and comprehensive views, and all in the best taste, was not published.
It was only privately printed, and a few thousand copies were
distributed among select personages as an especial favour and mark
of high consideration. Each copy given away seemed to Rigby like a
certificate of character; a property which, like all men of dubious
repute, he thoroughly appreciated. Rigby intrigued very much that the
headmaster of Eton should adopt his discourse as a class-book. For this
purpose he dined with the Doctor, told him several anecdotes of the
King, which intimated personal influence at Windsor; but the headmaster
was inflexible, and so Mr. Rigby was obliged to be content with
having his Letter on History canonized as a classic in the Preparatory
Seminary, where the individual to whom it was addressed was a scholar.

This change in the life of Coningsby contributed to his happiness. The
various characters which a large school exhibited interested a young
mind whose active energies were beginning to stir. His previous
acquirements made his studies light; and he was fond of sports, in which
he was qualified to excel. He did not particularly like Mr. Rigby. There
was something jarring and grating in that gentleman's voice and modes,
from which the chords of the young heart shrank. He was not tender,
though perhaps he wished to be; scarcely kind: but he was good-natured,
at least to children. However, this connection was, on the whole, an
agreeable one for Coningsby. He seemed suddenly to have friends: he
never passed his holydays again at school. Mr. Rigby was so clever that
he contrived always to quarter Coningsby on the father of one of his
school-fellows, for Mr. Rigby knew all his school-fellows and all their
fathers. Mr. Rigby also called to see him, not unfrequently would give
him a dinner at the Star and Garter, or even have him up to town for
a week to Whitehall. Compared with his former forlorn existence, these
were happy days, when he was placed under the gallery as a member's son,
or went to the play with the butler!

When Coningsby had attained his twelfth year, an order was received from
Lord Monmouth, who was at Rome, that he should go at once to Eton.
This was the first great epoch of his life. There never was a youth
who entered into that wonderful little world with more eager zest than
Coningsby. Nor was it marvellous.

That delicious plain, studded with every creation of graceful
culture; hamlet and hall and grange; garden and grove and park; that
castle-palace, grey with glorious ages; those antique spires, hoar with
faith and wisdom, the chapel and the college; that river winding through
the shady meads; the sunny glade and the solemn avenue; the room in the
Dame's house where we first order our own breakfast and first feel we
are free; the stirring multitude, the energetic groups, the individual
mind that leads, conquers, controls; the emulation and the affection;
the noble strife and the tender sentiment; the daring exploit and the
dashing scrape; the passion that pervades our life, and breathes in
everything, from the aspiring study to the inspiring sport: oh! what
hereafter can spur the brain and touch the heart like this; can give us
a world so deeply and variously interesting; a life so full of quick and
bright excitement, passed in a scene so fair?



CHAPTER III.


Lord Monmouth, who detested popular tumults as much as he despised
public opinion, had remained during the agitating year of 1831 in his
luxurious retirement in Italy, contenting himself with opposing the
Reform Bill by proxy. But when his correspondent, Mr. Rigby, had
informed him, in the early part of the spring of 1832, of the
probability of a change in the tactics of the Tory party, and that
an opinion was becoming prevalent among their friends, that the great
scheme must be defeated in detail rather than again withstood on
principle, his Lordship, who was never wanting in energy when his own
interests were concerned, immediately crossed the Alps, and travelled
rapidly to England. He indulged a hope that the weight of his presence
and the influence of his strong character, which was at once shrewd and
courageous, might induce his friends to relinquish their half measure,
a course to which his nature was repugnant. At all events, if they
persisted in their intention, and the Bill went into committee, his
presence was indispensable, for in that stage of a parliamentary
proceeding proxies become ineffective.

The counsels of Lord Monmouth, though they coincided with those of the
Duke of Wellington, did not prevail with the Waverers. Several of these
high-minded personages had had their windows broken, and they were of
opinion that a man who lived at Naples was not a competent judge of the
state of public feeling in England. Besides, the days are gone by for
senates to have their beards plucked in the forum. We live in an age of
prudence. The leaders of the people, now, generally follow. The truth
is, the peers were in a fright. 'Twas a pity; there is scarcely a less
dignified entity than a patrician in a panic.

Among the most intimate companions of Coningsby at Eton, was Lord Henry
Sydney, his kinsman. Coningsby had frequently passed his holydays of
late at Beaumanoir, the seat of the Duke, Lord Henry's father. The
Duke sat next to Lord Monmouth during the debate on the enfranchising
question, and to while away the time, and from kindness of disposition,
spoke, and spoke with warmth and favour, of his grandson. The polished
Lord Monmouth bowed as if he were much gratified by this notice of one
so dear to him. He had too much tact to admit that he had never yet
seen his grandchild; but he asked some questions as to his progress
and pursuits, his tastes and habits, which intimated the interest of an
affectionate relative.

Nothing, however, was ever lost upon Lord Monmouth. No one had a more
retentive memory, or a more observant mind. And the next day, when he
received Mr. Rigby at his morning levee, Lord Monmouth performed this
ceremony in the high style of the old court, and welcomed his visitors
in bed, he said with imperturbable calmness, and as if he had been
talking of trying a new horse, 'Rigby, I should like to see the boy at
Eton.'

There might be some objection to grant leave to Coningsby at this
moment; but it was a rule with Mr. Rigby never to make difficulties, or
at least to persuade his patron that he, and he only, could remove
them. He immediately undertook that the boy should be forthcoming, and
notwithstanding the excitement of the moment, he went off next morning
to fetch him.

They arrived in town rather early; and Rigby, wishing to know how
affairs were going on, ordered the servant to drive immediately to the
head-quarters of the party; where a permanent committee watched every
phasis of the impending revolution; and where every member of the
Opposition, of note and trust, was instantly admitted to receive or to
impart intelligence.

It was certainly not without emotion that Coningsby contemplated his
first interview with his grandfather. All his experience of the ties of
relationship, however limited, was full of tenderness and rapture. His
memory often dwelt on his mother's sweet embrace; and ever and anon a
fitful phantom of some past passage of domestic love haunted his gushing
heart. The image of his father was less fresh in his mind; but still
it was associated with a vague sentiment of kindness and joy; and the
allusions to her husband in his mother's letters had cherished these
impressions. To notice lesser sources of influence in his estimate of
the domestic tie, he had witnessed under the roof of Beaumanoir the
existence of a family bound together by the most beautiful affections.
He could not forget how Henry Sydney was embraced by his sisters when he
returned home; what frank and fraternal love existed between his kinsman
and his elder brother; how affectionately the kind Duke had welcomed his
son once more to the house where they had both been born; and the dim
eyes, and saddened brows, and tones of tenderness, which rather looked
than said farewell, when they went back to Eton.

And these rapturous meetings and these mournful adieus were occasioned
only by a separation at the most of a few months, softened by constant
correspondence and the communication of mutual sympathy. But Coningsby
was to meet a relation, his near, almost his only, relation, for the
first time; the relation, too, to whom he owed maintenance, education;
it might be said, existence. It was a great incident for a great drama;
something tragical in the depth and stir of its emotions. Even the
imagination of the boy could not be insensible to its materials; and
Coningsby was picturing to himself a beneficent and venerable gentleman
pressing to his breast an agitated youth, when his reverie was broken by
the carriage stopping before the gates of Monmouth House.

The gates were opened by a gigantic Swiss, and the carriage rolled into
a huge court-yard. At its end Coningsby beheld a Palladian palace, with
wings and colonnades encircling the court.

A double flight of steps led into a circular and marble hall, adorned
with colossal busts of the Caesars; the staircase in fresco by Sir James
Thornhill, breathed with the loves and wars of gods and heroes. It led
into a vestibule, painted in arabesques, hung with Venetian girandoles,
and looking into gardens. Opening a door in this chamber, and proceeding
some little way down a corridor, Mr. Rigby and his companion arrived at
the base of a private staircase. Ascending a few steps, they reached a
landing-place hung with tapestry. Drawing this aside, Mr. Rigby opened a
door, and ushered Coningsby through an ante-chamber into a small saloon,
of beautiful proportions, and furnished in a brilliant and delicate
taste.

'You will find more to amuse you here than where you were before,' said
Mr. Rigby, 'and I shall not be nearly so long absent.' So saying, he
entered into an inner apartment.

The walls of the saloon, which were covered with light blue satin, held,
in silver panels, portraits of beautiful women, painted by Boucher.
Couches and easy chairs of every shape invited in every quarter to
luxurious repose; while amusement was afforded by tables covered with
caricatures, French novels, and endless miniatures of foreign dancers,
princesses, and sovereigns.

But Coningsby was so impressed with the impending interview with his
grandfather, that he neither sought nor required diversion. Now that the
crisis was at hand, he felt agitated and nervous, and wished that he was
again at Eton. The suspense was sickening, yet he dreaded still more the
summons. He was not long alone; the door opened; he started, grew pale;
he thought it was his grandfather; it was not even Mr. Rigby. It was
Lord Monmouth's valet.

'Monsieur Konigby?'

'My name is Coningsby,' said the boy.

'Milor is ready to receive you,' said the valet.

Coningsby sprang forward with that desperation which the scaffold
requires. His face was pale; his hand was moist; his heart beat with
tumult. He had occasionally been summoned by Dr. Keate; that, too,
was awful work, but compared with the present, a morning visit. Music,
artillery, the roar of cannon, and the blare of trumpets, may urge a man
on to a forlorn hope; ambition, one's constituents, the hell of previous
failure, may prevail on us to do a more desperate thing; speak in the
House of Commons; but there are some situations in life, such, for
instance, as entering the room of a dentist, in which the prostration of
the nervous system is absolute.

The moment had at length arrived when the desolate was to find a
benefactor, the forlorn a friend, the orphan a parent; when the youth,
after a childhood of adversity, was to be formally received into the
bosom of the noble house from which he had been so long estranged, and
at length to assume that social position to which his lineage entitled
him. Manliness might support, affection might soothe, the happy anguish
of such a meeting; but it was undoubtedly one of those situations
which stir up the deep fountains of our nature, and before which the
conventional proprieties of our ordinary manners instantaneously vanish.

Coningsby with an uncertain step followed his guide through a
bed-chamber, the sumptuousness of which he could not notice, into
the dressing-room of Lord Monmouth. Mr. Rigby, facing Coningsby as
he entered, was leaning over the back of a large chair, from which as
Coningsby was announced by the valet, the Lord of the house slowly rose,
for he was suffering slightly from the gout, his left hand resting on
an ivory stick. Lord Monmouth was in height above the middle size, but
somewhat portly and corpulent. His countenance was strongly marked;
sagacity on the brow, sensuality in the mouth and jaw. His head was
bald, but there were remains of the rich brown locks on which he once
prided himself. His large deep blue eye, madid and yet piercing,
showed that the secretions of his brain were apportioned, half to
voluptuousness, half to common sense. But his general mien was truly
grand; full of a natural nobility, of which no one was more sensible
than himself. Lord Monmouth was not in dishabille; on the contrary, his
costume was exact, and even careful. Rising as we have mentioned when
his grandson entered, and leaning with his left hand on his ivory cane,
he made Coningsby such a bow as Louis Quatorze might have bestowed on
the ambassador of the United Provinces. Then extending his right hand,
which the boy tremblingly touched, Lord Monmouth said:

'How do you like Eton?'

This contrast to the reception which he had imagined, hoped, feared,
paralysed the reviving energies of young Coningsby. He felt stupefied;
he looked almost aghast. In the chaotic tumult of his mind, his memory
suddenly seemed to receive some miraculous inspiration. Mysterious
phrases heard in his earliest boyhood, unnoticed then, long since
forgotten, rose to his ear. Who was this grandfather, seen not before,
seen now for the first time? Where was the intervening link of blood
between him and this superb and icy being? The boy sank into the chair
which had been placed for him, and leaning on the table burst into
tears.

Here was a business! If there were one thing which would have made Lord
Monmouth travel from London to Naples at four-and-twenty hours' notice,
it was to avoid a scene. He hated scenes. He hated feelings. He saw
instantly the mistake he had made in sending for his grandchild. He
was afraid that Coningsby was tender-hearted like his father. Another
tender-hearted Coningsby! Unfortunate family! Degenerate race! He
decided in his mind that Coningsby must be provided for in the Church,
and looked at Mr. Rigby, whose principal business it always was to
disembarrass his patron from the disagreeable.

Mr. Rigby instantly came forward and adroitly led the boy into the
adjoining apartment, Lord Monmouth's bedchamber, closing the door of the
dressing-room behind him.

'My dear young friend,' said Mr. Rigby, 'what is all this?'

A sob the only answer.

'What can be the matter?' said Mr. Rigby.

'I was thinking,' said Coningsby, 'of poor mamma!'

'Hush!' said Mr. Rigby; 'Lord Monmouth never likes to hear of people
who are dead; so you must take care never to mention your mother or your
father.'

In the meantime Lord Monmouth had decided on the fate of Coningsby. The
Marquis thought he could read characters by a glance, and in general
he was successful, for his natural sagacity had been nurtured by great
experience. His grandson was not to his taste; amiable no doubt, but
spooney.

We are too apt to believe that the character of a boy is easily read.
'Tis a mystery the most profound. Mark what blunders parents constantly
make as to the nature of their own offspring, bred, too, under their
eyes, and displaying every hour their characteristics. How often in the
nursery does the genius count as a dunce because he is pensive; while a
rattling urchin is invested with almost supernatural qualities because
his animal spirits make him impudent and flippant! The school-boy, above
all others, is not the simple being the world imagines. In that young
bosom are often stirring passions as strong as our own, desires not less
violent, a volition not less supreme. In that young bosom what burning
love, what intense ambition, what avarice, what lust of power; envy that
fiends might emulate, hate that man might fear!



CHAPTER IV.


'Come,' said Mr. Rigby, when Coningsby was somewhat composed, 'come with
me and we will see the house.'

So they descended once more the private staircase, and again entered the
vestibule.

'If you had seen these gardens when they were illuminated for a fête to
George IV.,' said Rigby, as crossing the chamber he ushered his charge
into the state apartments. The splendour and variety of the surrounding
objects soon distracted the attention of the boy, for the first time in
the palace of his fathers. He traversed saloon after saloon hung with
rare tapestry and the gorgeous products of foreign looms; filled with
choice pictures and creations of curious art; cabinets that sovereigns
might envy, and colossal vases of malachite presented by emperors.
Coningsby alternately gazed up to ceilings glowing with color and with
gold, and down upon carpets bright with the fancies and vivid with the
tints of Aubusson and of Axminster.

'This grandfather of mine is a great prince,' thought Coningsby, as
musing he stood before a portrait in which he recognised the features of
the being from whom he had so recently and so strangely parted. There
he stood, Philip Augustus, Marquess of Monmouth, in his robes of state,
with his new coronet on a table near him, a despatch lying at hand that
indicated the special mission of high ceremony of which he had been the
illustrious envoy, and the garter beneath his knee.

'You will have plenty of opportunities to look at the pictures,' said
Rigby, observing that the boy had now quite recovered himself. 'Some
luncheon will do you no harm after our drive;' and he opened the door of
another apartment.

It was a pretty room adorned with a fine picture of the chase; at a
round table in the centre sat two ladies interested in the meal to which
Rigby had alluded.

'Ah, Mr. Rigby!' said the eldest, yet young and beautiful, and speaking,
though with fluency, in a foreign accent, 'come and tell me some news.
Have you seen Milor?' and then she threw a scrutinizing glance from a
dark flashing eye at his companion.

'Let me present to your Highness,' said Rigby, with an air of some
ceremony, 'Mr. Coningsby.'

'My dear young friend,' said the lady, extending her white hand with
an air of joyous welcome, 'this is Lucretia, my daughter. We love you
already. Lord Monmouth will be so charmed to see you. What beautiful
eyes he has, Mr. Rigby. Quite like Milor.'

The young lady, who was really more youthful than Coningsby, but of a
form and stature so developed that she appeared almost a woman, bowed
to the guest with some ceremony, and a faint sullen smile, and then
proceeded with her Perigord pie.

'You must be so hungry after your drive,' said the elder lady, placing
Coningsby at her side, and herself filling his plate.

This was true enough; and while Mr. Rigby and the lady talked an
infinite deal about things which he did not understand, and persons
of whom he had never heard, our little hero made his first meal in his
paternal house with no ordinary zest; and renovated by the pasty and
a glass of sherry, felt altogether a different being from what he
was, when he had undergone the terrible interview in which he began to
reflect he had considerably exposed himself. His courage revived,
his senses rallied, he replied to the interrogations of the lady with
calmness, but with promptness and propriety. It was evident that he had
made a favourable impression on her Highness, for ever and anon she put
a truffle or some delicacy in his plate, and insisted upon his taking
some particular confectionery, because it was a favourite of her own.
When she rose, she said,--

'In ten minutes the carriage will be at the door; and if you like, my
dear young friend, you shall be our beau.'

'There is nothing I should like so much,' said Coningsby.

'Ah!' said the lady, with the sweetest smile, 'he is frank.'

The ladies bowed and retired; Mr. Rigby returned to the Marquess, and
the groom of the chambers led Coningsby to his room.

This lady, so courteous to Coningsby, was the Princess Colonna, a Roman
dame, the second wife of Prince Paul Colonna. The prince had first
married when a boy, and into a family not inferior to his own. Of this
union, in every respect unhappy, the Princess Lucretia was the sole
offspring. He was a man dissolute and devoted to play; and cared for
nothing much but his pleasures and billiards, in which latter he was
esteemed unrivalled. According to some, in a freak of passion, according
to others, to cancel a gambling debt, he had united himself to his
present wife, whose origin was obscure; but with whom he contrived to
live on terms of apparent cordiality, for she was much admired, and
made the society of her husband sought by those who contributed to his
enjoyment. Among these especially figured the Marquess of Monmouth,
between whom and Prince Colonna the world recognised as existing the
most intimate and entire friendship, so that his Highness and his family
were frequent guests under the roof of the English nobleman, and now
accompanied him on a visit to England.



CHAPTER V.

In the meantime, while ladies are luncheoning on Perigord pie, or
coursing in whirling britskas, performing all the singular ceremonies of
a London morning in the heart of the season; making visits where nobody
is seen, and making purchases which are not wanted; the world is in
agitation and uproar. At present the world and the confusion are limited
to St. James's Street and Pall Mall; but soon the boundaries and the
tumult will be extended to the intended metropolitan boroughs; to-morrow
they will spread over the manufacturing districts. It is perfectly
evident, that before eight-and-forty hours have passed, the country will
be in a state of fearful crisis. And how can it be otherwise? Is it not
a truth that the subtle Chief Baron has been closeted one whole hour
with the King; that shortly after, with thoughtful brow and compressed
lip, he was marked in his daring chariot entering the courtyard of
Apsley House? Great was the panic at Brookes', wild the hopes of
Carlton Terrace; all the gentlemen who expected to have been made peers
perceived that the country was going to be given over to a rapacious
oligarchy.

In the meantime Tadpole and Taper, who had never quitted for an instant
the mysterious head-quarters of the late Opposition, were full of
hopes and fears, and asked many questions, which they chiefly answered
themselves.

'I wonder what Lord Lyndhurst will say to the king,' said Taper.

'He has plenty of pluck,' said Tadpole.

'I almost wish now that Rigby had breakfasted with him this morning,'
said Taper.

'If the King be firm, and the country sound,' said Tadpole, 'and Lord
Monmouth keep his boroughs, I should not wonder to see Rigby made a
privy councillor.'

'There is no precedent for an under-secretary being a privy councillor,'
said Taper.

'But we live in revolutionary times,' said Tadpole.

'Gentlemen,' said the groom of the chambers, in a loud voice, entering
the room, 'I am desired to state that the Duke of Wellington is with the
King.'

'There _is_ a Providence!' exclaimed an agitated gentleman, the patent
of whose intended peerage had not been signed the day that the Duke had
quited office in 1830.

'I always thought the King would be firm,' said Mr. Tadpole.

'I wonder who will have the India Board,' said Taper.

At this moment three or four gentlemen entered the room in a state of
great bustle and excitement; they were immediately surrounded.

'Is it true?' 'Quite true; not the slightest doubt. Saw him myself. Not
at all hissed; certainly not hooted. Perhaps a little hissed. One
fellow really cheered him. Saw him myself. Say what they like, there is
reaction.' 'But Constitution Hill, they say?' 'Well, there was a sort
of inclination to a row on Constitution Hill; but the Duke quite firm;
pistols, and carriage doors bolted.'

Such may give a faint idea of the anxious inquiries and the satisfactory
replies that were occasioned by the entrance of this group.

'Up, guards, and at them!' exclaimed Tadpole, rubbing his hands in a fit
of patriotic enthusiasm.

Later in the afternoon, about five o'clock, the high change of political
gossip, when the room was crowded, and every one had his rumour, Mr.
Rigby looked in again to throw his eye over the evening papers, and
catch in various chit-chat the tone of public or party feeling on the
'crisis.' Then it was known that the Duke had returned from the
King, having accepted the charge of forming an administration. An
administration to do what? Portentous question! Were concessions to
be made? And if so, what? Was it altogether impossible, and too late,
'stare super vias antiquas?' Questions altogether above your Tadpoles
and your Tapers, whose idea of the necessities of the age was that they
themselves should be in office.

Lord Eskdale came up to Mr. Rigby. This peer was a noble Croesus,
acquainted with all the gradations of life; a voluptuary who could be a
Spartan; clear-sighted, unprejudiced, sagacious; the best judge in the
world of a horse or a man; he was the universal referee; a quarrel about
a bet or a mistress was solved by him in a moment, and in a manner which
satisfied both parties. He patronised and appreciated the fine arts,
though a jockey; respected literary men, though he only read French
novels; and without any affectation of tastes which he did not possess,
was looked upon by every singer and dancer in Europe as their natural
champion. The secret of his strong character and great influence was his
self-composure, which an earthquake or a Reform Bill could not disturb,
and which in him was the result of temperament and experience. He was
an intimate acquaintance of Lord Monmouth, for they had many tastes
in common; were both men of considerable, and in some degree similar
abilities; and were the two greatest proprietors of close boroughs in
the country.

'Do you dine at Monmouth House to-day?' inquired Lord Eskdale of Mr.
Rigby.

'Where I hope to meet your lordship. The Whig papers are very subdued,'
continued Mr. Rigby.

'Ah! they have not the cue yet,' said Lord Eskdale.

'And what do you think of affairs?' inquired his companion.

'I think the hounds are too hot to hark off now,' said Lord Eskdale.

'There is one combination,' said Rigby, who seemed meditating an attack
on Lord Eskdale's button.

'Give it us at dinner,' said Lord Eskdale, who knew his man, and made an
adroit movement forwards, as if he were very anxious to see the _Globe_
newspaper.

In the course of two or three hours these gentlemen met again in the
green drawing-room of Monmouth House. Mr. Rigby was sitting on a sofa
by Lord Monmouth, detailing in whispers all his gossip of the morn:
Lord Eskdale murmuring quaint inquiries into the ear of the Princess
Lucretia.

Madame Colonna made remarks alternately to two gentlemen, who paid her
assiduous court. One of these was Mr. Ormsby; the school, the college,
and the club crony of Lord Monmouth, who had been his shadow through
life; travelled with him in early days, won money with him at play, had
been his colleague in the House of Commons; and was still one of his
nominees. Mr. Ormsby was a millionaire, which Lord Monmouth liked. He
liked his companions to be very rich or very poor; be his equals, able
to play with him at high stakes, or join him in a great speculation; or
to be his tools, and to amuse and serve him. There was nothing which he
despised and disliked so much as a moderate fortune.

The other gentleman was of a different class and character. Nature had
intended Lucian Gay for a scholar and a wit; necessity had made him a
scribbler and a buffoon. He had distinguished himself at the University;
but he had no patrimony, nor those powers of perseverance which success
in any learned profession requires. He was good-looking, had great
animal spirits, and a keen sense of enjoyment, and could not drudge.
Moreover he had a fine voice, and sang his own songs with considerable
taste; accomplishments which made his fortune in society and completed
his ruin. In due time he extricated himself from the bench and merged
into journalism, by means of which he chanced to become acquainted with
Mr. Rigby. That worthy individual was not slow in detecting the treasure
he had lighted on; a wit, a ready and happy writer, a joyous and
tractable being, with the education, and still the feelings and manners,
of a gentleman. Frequent were the Sunday dinners which found Gay a
guest at Mr. Rigby's villa; numerous the airy pasquinades which he
left behind, and which made the fortune of his patron. Flattered by
the familiar acquaintance of a man of station, and sanguine that he had
found the link which would sooner or later restore him to the polished
world that he had forfeited, Gay laboured in his vocation with
enthusiasm and success. Willingly would Rigby have kept his treasure
to himself; and truly he hoarded it for a long time, but it oozed out.
Rigby loved the reputation of possessing the complete art of
society. His dinners were celebrated at least for their guests. Great
intellectual illustrations were found there blended with rank and high
station. Rigby loved to patronise; to play the minister unbending and
seeking relief from the cares of council in the society of authors,
artists, and men of science. He liked dukes to dine with him and hear
him scatter his audacious criticisms to Sir Thomas or Sir Humphry.
They went away astounded by the powers of their host, who, had he not
fortunately devoted those powers to their party, must apparently have
rivalled Vandyke, or discovered the safety-lamp.

Now in these dinners, Lucian Gay, who had brilliant conversational
powers, and who possessed all the resources of boon companionship, would
be an invaluable ally. He was therefore admitted, and inspired both
by the present enjoyment, and the future to which it might lead, his
exertions were untiring, various, most successful. Rigby's dinners
became still, more celebrated. It, however, necessarily followed that
the guests who were charmed by Gay, wished Gay also to be their guest.
Rigby was very jealous of this, but it was inevitable; still by constant
manoeuvre, by intimations of some exercise, some day or other, of
substantial patronage in his behalf, by a thousand little arts by
which he carved out work for Gay which often prevented him accepting
invitations to great houses in the country, by judicious loans of
small sums on Lucian's notes of hand and other analogous devices, Rigby
contrived to keep the wit in a fair state of bondage and dependence.

One thing Rigby was resolved on: Gay should never get into Monmouth
House. That was an empyrean too high for his wing to soar in. Rigby kept
that social monopoly distinctively to mark the relation that subsisted
between them as patron and client. It was something to swagger about
when they were together after their second bottle of claret. Rigby kept
his resolution for some years, which the frequent and prolonged absence
of the Marquess rendered not very difficult. But we are the creatures
of circumstances; at least the Rigby race particularly. Lord Monmouth
returned to England one year, and wanted to be amused. He wanted a
jester: a man about him who would make him, not laugh, for that was
impossible, but smile more frequently, tell good stories, say good
things, and sing now and then, especially French songs. Early in life
Rigby would have attempted all this, though he had neither fun, voice,
nor ear. But his hold on Lord Monmouth no longer depended on the mere
exercise of agreeable qualities, he had become indispensable to his
lordship, by more serious if not higher considerations. And what with
auditing his accounts, guarding his boroughs, writing him, when absent,
gossip by every post and when in England deciding on every question and
arranging every matter which might otherwise have ruffled the sublime
repose of his patron's existence, Rigby might be excused if he shrank a
little from the minor part of table wit, particularly when we remember
all his subterranean journalism, his acid squibs, and his malicious
paragraphs, and, what Tadpole called, his 'slashing articles.'

These 'slashing articles' were, indeed, things which, had they appeared
as anonymous pamphlets, would have obtained the contemptuous reception
which in an intellectual view no compositions more surely deserved; but
whispered as the productions of one behind the scenes, and appearing in
the pages of a party review, they were passed off as genuine coin, and
took in great numbers of the lieges, especially in the country. They
were written in a style apparently modelled on the briefs of those sharp
attorneys who weary advocates with their clever commonplace; teasing
with obvious comment, and torturing with inevitable inference. The
affectation of order in the statement of facts had all the lucid method
of an adroit pettifogger. They dealt much in extracts from newspapers,
quotations from the _Annual Register_, parallel passages in forgotten
speeches, arranged with a formidable array of dates rarely accurate.
When the writer was of opinion he had made a point, you may be sure
the hit was in italics, that last resource of the Forcible Feebles. He
handled a particular in chronology as if he were proving an alibi at
the Criminal Court. The censure was coarse without being strong, and
vindictive when it would have been sarcastic. Now and then there was
a passage which aimed at a higher flight, and nothing can be conceived
more unlike genuine feeling, or more offensive to pure taste. And
yet, perhaps, the most ludicrous characteristic of these facetious
gallimaufreys was an occasional assumption of the high moral and
admonitory tone, which when we recurred to the general spirit of
the discourse, and were apt to recall the character of its writer,
irresistibly reminded one of Mrs. Cole and her prayer-book.

To return to Lucian Gay. It was a rule with Rigby that no one, if
possible, should do anything for Lord Monmouth but himself; and as a
jester must be found, he was determined that his Lordship should have
the best in the market, and that he should have the credit of furnishing
the article. As a reward, therefore, for many past services, and a fresh
claim to his future exertions, Rigby one day broke to Gay that the hour
had at length arrived when the highest object of reasonable ambition
on his part, and the fulfilment of one of Rigby's long-cherished and
dearest hopes, were alike to be realised. Gay was to be presented to
Lord Monmouth and dine at Monmouth House.

The acquaintance was a successful one; very agreeable to both parties.
Gay became an habitual guest of Lord Monmouth when his patron was in
England; and in his absence received frequent and substantial marks
of his kind recollection, for Lord Monmouth was generous to those who
amused him.

In the meantime the hour of dinner is at hand. Coningsby, who had lost
the key of his carpet-bag, which he finally cut open with a penknife
that he found on his writing-table, and the blade of which he broke
in the operation, only reached the drawing-room as the figure of his
grandfather, leaning on his ivory cane, and following his guests,
was just visible in the distance. He was soon overtaken. Perceiving
Coningsby, Lord Monmouth made him a bow, not so formal a one as in the
morning, but still a bow, and said, 'I hope you liked your drive.'



CHAPTER VI.


A little dinner, not more than the Muses, with all the guests clever,
and some pretty, offers human life and human nature under very
favourable circumstances. In the present instance, too, every one was
anxious to please, for the host was entirely well-bred, never selfish in
little things, and always contributed his quota to the general fund of
polished sociability.

Although there was really only one thought in every male mind present,
still, regard for the ladies, and some little apprehension of the
servants, banished politics from discourse during the greater part
of the dinner, with the occasional exception of some rapid and flying
allusion which the initiated understood, but which remained a mystery
to the rest. Nevertheless an old story now and then well told by Mr.
Ormsby, a new joke now and then well introduced by Mr. Gay, some
dashing assertion by Mr. Rigby, which, though wrong, was startling;
this agreeable blending of anecdote, jest, and paradox, kept everything
fluent, and produced that degree of mild excitation which is desirable.
Lord Monmouth sometimes summed up with an epigrammatic sentence, and
turned the conversation by a question, in case it dwelt too much on the
same topic. Lord Eskdale addressed himself principally to the ladies;
inquired after their morning drive and doings, spoke of new fashions,
and quoted a letter from Paris. Madame Colonna was not witty, but she
had that sweet Roman frankness which is so charming. The presence of
a beautiful woman, natural and good-tempered, even if she be not a
L'Espinasse or a De Stael, is animating.

Nevertheless, owing probably to the absorbing powers of the forbidden
subject, there were moments when it seemed that a pause was impending,
and Mr. Ormsby, an old hand, seized one of these critical instants to
address a good-natured question to Coningsby, whose acquaintance he had
already cultivated by taking wine with him.

'And how do you like Eton?' asked Mr. Ormsby.

It was the identical question which had been presented to Coningsby in
the memorable interview of the morning, and which had received no reply;
or rather had produced on his part a sentimental ebullition that had
absolutely destined or doomed him to the Church.

'I should like to see the fellow who did not like Eton,' said Coningsby,
briskly, determined this time to be very brave.

'Gad I must go down and see the old place,' said Mr. Ormsby, touched by
a pensive reminiscence. 'One can get a good bed and bottle of port at
the Christopher, still?'

'You had better come and try, sir,' said Coningsby. 'If you will come
some day and dine with me at the Christopher, I will give you such a
bottle of champagne as you never tasted yet.'

The Marquess looked at him, but said nothing.

'Ah! I liked a dinner at the Christopher,' said Mr. Ormsby; 'after
mutton, mutton, mutton, every day, it was not a bad thing.'

'We had venison for dinner every week last season,' said Coningsby;
'Buckhurst had it sent up from his park. But I don't care for dinner.
Breakfast is my lounge.'

'Ah! those little rolls and pats of butter!' said Mr. Ormsby. 'Short
commons, though. What do you think we did in my time? We used to send
over the way to get a mutton-chop.'

'I wish you could see Buckhurst and me at breakfast,' said Coningsby,
'with a pound of Castle's sausages!'

'What Buckhurst is that, Harry?' inquired Lord Monmouth, in a tone of
some interest, and for the first time calling him by his Christian name.

'Sir Charles Buckhurst, sir, a Berkshire man: Shirley Park is his
place.'

'Why, that must be Charley's son, Eskdale,' said Lord Monmouth; 'I had
no idea he could be so young.'

'He married late, you know, and had nothing but daughters for a long
time.'

'Well, I hope there will be no Reform Bill for Eton,' said Lord
Monmouth, musingly.

The servants had now retired.

'I think, Lord Monmouth,' said Mr. Rigby, 'we must ask permission to
drink one toast to-day.'

'Nay, I will myself give it,' he replied. 'Madame Colonna, you will, I
am sure, join us when we drink, THE DUKE!'

'Ah! what a man!' exclaimed the Princess. 'What a pity it is you have
a House of Commons here! England would be the greatest country in
the world if it were not for that House of Commons. It makes so much
confusion!'

'Don't abuse our property,' said Lord Eskdale; 'Lord Monmouth and I have
still twenty votes of that same body between us.'

'And there is a combination,' said Rigby, 'by which you may still keep
them.'

'Ah! now for Rigby's combination,' said Lord Eskdale.

'The only thing that can save this country,' said Rigby, 'is a coalition
on a sliding scale.'

'You had better buy up the Birmingham Union and the other bodies,' said
Lord Monmouth; 'I believe it might all be done for two or three hundred
thousand pounds; and the newspapers too. Pitt would have settled this
business long ago.'

'Well, at any rate, we are in,' said Rigby, 'and we must do something.'

'I should like to see Grey's list of new peers,' said Lord Eskdale.
'They say there are several members of our club in it.'

'And the claims to the honour are so opposite,' said Lucian Gay; 'one,
on account of his large estate; another, because he has none; one,
because he has a well-grown family to perpetuate the title; another,
because he has no heir, and no power of ever obtaining one.'

'I wonder how he will form his cabinet,' said Lord Monmouth; 'the old
story won't do.'

'I hear that Baring is to be one of the new cards; they say it will
please the city,' said Lord Eskdale. 'I suppose they will pick out
of hedge and ditch everything that has ever had the semblance of
liberalism.'

'Affairs in my time were never so complicated,' said Mr. Ormsby.

'Nay, it appears to me to lie in a nutshell,' said Lucian Gay; 'one
party wishes to keep their old boroughs, and the other to get their new
peers.'



CHAPTER VII.


The future historian of the country will be perplexed to ascertain what
was the distinct object which the Duke of Wellington proposed to himself
in the political manoeuvres of May, 1832. It was known that the passing
of the Reform Bill was a condition absolute with the King; it was
unquestionable, that the first general election under the new law must
ignominiously expel the Anti-Reform Ministry from power; who would then
resume their seats on the Opposition benches in both Houses with the
loss not only of their boroughs, but of that reputation for political
consistency, which might have been some compensation for the
parliamentary influence of which they had been deprived. It is difficult
to recognise in this premature effort of the Anti-Reform leader to
thrust himself again into the conduct of public affairs, any indications
of the prescient judgment which might have been expected from such a
quarter. It savoured rather of restlessness than of energy; and, while
it proved in its progress not only an ignorance on his part of the
public mind, but of the feelings of his own party, it terminated
under circumstances which were humiliating to the Crown, and painfully
significant of the future position of the House of Lords in the new
constitutional scheme.

The Duke of Wellington has ever been the votary of circumstances. He
cares little for causes. He watches events rather than seeks to produce
them. It is a characteristic of the military mind. Rapid combinations,
the result of quick, vigilant, and comprehensive glance, are generally
triumphant in the field: but in civil affairs, where results are
not immediate; in diplomacy and in the management of deliberative
assemblies, where there is much intervening time and many counteracting
causes, this velocity of decision, this fitful and precipitate action,
are often productive of considerable embarrassment, and sometimes of
terrible discomfiture. It is remarkable that men celebrated for military
prudence are often found to be headstrong statesmen. In civil life
a great general is frequently and strangely the creature of impulse;
influenced in his political movements by the last snatch of information;
and often the creature of the last aide-de-camp who has his ear.

We shall endeavour to trace in another chapter the reasons which on
this as on previous and subsequent occasions, induced Sir Robert Peel to
stand aloof, if possible, from official life, and made him reluctant
to re-enter the service of his Sovereign. In the present instance, even
temporary success could only have been secured by the utmost decision,
promptness, and energy. These were all wanting: some were afraid to
follow the bold example of their leader; many were disinclined. In
eight-and-forty hours it was known there was a 'hitch.'

The Reform party, who had been rather stupefied than appalled by the
accepted mission of the Duke of Wellington, collected their scattered
senses, and rallied their forces. The agitators harangued, the mobs
hooted. The City of London, as if the King had again tried to seize the
five members, appointed a permanent committee of the Common Council to
watch the fortunes of the 'great national measure,' and to report daily.
Brookes', which was the only place that at first was really frightened
and talked of compromise, grew valiant again; while young Whig heroes
jumped upon club-room tables, and delivered fiery invectives. Emboldened
by these demonstrations, the House of Commons met in great force, and
passed a vote which struck, without disguise, at all rival powers in the
State; virtually announced its supremacy; revealed the forlorn position
of the House of Lords under the new arrangement; and seemed to lay for
ever the fluttering phantom of regal prerogative.

It was on the 9th of May that Lord Lyndhurst was with the King, and on
the 15th all was over. Nothing in parliamentary history so humiliating
as the funeral oration delivered that day by the Duke of Wellington
over the old constitution, that, modelled on the Venetian, had governed
England since the accession of the House of Hanover. He described his
Sovereign, when his Grace first repaired to his Majesty, as in a
state of the greatest 'difficulty and distress,' appealing to his
never-failing loyalty to extricate him from his trouble and vexation.
The Duke of Wellington, representing the House of Lords, sympathises
with the King, and pledges his utmost efforts for his Majesty's
relief. But after five days' exertion, this man of indomitable will and
invincible fortunes, resigns the task in discomfiture and despair, and
alleges as the only and sufficient reason for his utter and hopeless
defeat, that the House of Commons had come to a vote which ran counter
to the contemplated exercise of the prerogative.

From that moment power passed from the House of Lords to another
assembly. But if the peers have ceased to be magnificoes, may it
not also happen that the Sovereign may cease to be a Doge? It is not
impossible that the political movements of our time, which seem on
the surface to have a tendency to democracy, may have in reality a
monarchical bias.

In less than a fortnight's time the House of Lords, like James II.,
having abdicated their functions by absence, the Reform Bill passed; the
ardent monarch, who a few months before had expressed his readiness to
go down to Parliament, in a hackney coach if necessary, to assist its
progress, now declining personally to give his assent to its provisions.

In the protracted discussions to which this celebrated measure gave
rise, nothing is more remarkable than the perplexities into which the
speakers of both sides are thrown, when they touch upon the nature of
the representative principle. On one hand it was maintained, that, under
the old system, the people were virtually represented; while on the
other, it was triumphantly urged, that if the principle be conceded, the
people should not be virtually, but actually, represented. But who are
the people? And where are you to draw a line? And why should there
be any? It was urged that a contribution to the taxes was the
constitutional qualification for the suffrage. But we have established
a system of taxation in this country of so remarkable a nature, that the
beggar who chews his quid as he sweeps a crossing, is contributing
to the imposts! Is he to have a vote? He is one of the people, and he
yields his quota to the public burthens.

Amid these conflicting statements, and these confounding conclusions, it
is singular that no member of either House should have recurred to
the original character of these popular assemblies, which have always
prevailed among the northern nations. We still retain in the antique
phraseology of our statutes the term which might have beneficially
guided a modern Reformer in his reconstructive labours.

When the crowned Northman consulted on the welfare of his kingdom, he
assembled the ESTATES of his realm. Now an estate is a class of the
nation invested with political rights. There appeared the estate of the
clergy, of the barons, of other classes. In the Scandinavian kingdoms
to this day, the estate of the peasants sends its representatives to the
Diet. In England, under the Normans, the Church and the Baronage were
convoked, together with the estate of the Community, a term which then
probably described the inferior holders of land, whose tenure was
not immediate of the Crown. This Third Estate was so numerous, that
convenience suggested its appearance by representation; while the
others, more limited, appeared, and still appear, personally. The Third
Estate was reconstructed as circumstances developed themselves. It was a
Reform of Parliament when the towns were summoned.

In treating the House of the Third Estate as the House of the People,
and not as the House of a privileged class, the Ministry and Parliament
of 1831 virtually conceded the principle of Universal Suffrage. In this
point of view the ten-pound franchise was an arbitrary, irrational, and
impolitic qualification. It had, indeed, the merit of simplicity, and so
had the constitutions of Abbé Siéyès. But its immediate and inevitable
result was Chartism.

But if the Ministry and Parliament of 1831 had announced that the time
had arrived when the Third Estate should be enlarged and reconstructed,
they would have occupied an intelligible position; and if, instead of
simplicity of elements in its reconstruction, they had sought, on the
contrary, various and varying materials which would have neutralised the
painful predominance of any particular interest in the new scheme, and
prevented those banded jealousies which have been its consequences, the
nation would have found itself in a secure condition. Another class not
less numerous than the existing one, and invested with privileges not
less important, would have been added to the public estates of the
realm; and the bewildering phrase 'the People' would have remained,
what it really is, a term of natural philosophy, and not of political
science.

During this eventful week of May, 1832, when an important revolution
was effected in the most considerable of modern kingdoms, in a manner
so tranquil, that the victims themselves were scarcely conscious at
the time of the catastrophe, Coningsby passed his hours in unaccustomed
pleasures, and in novel excitement. Although he heard daily from the
lips of Mr. Rigby and his friends that England was for ever lost, the
assembled guests still contrived to do justice to his grandfather's
excellent dinners; nor did the impending ruin that awaited them
prevent the Princess Colonna from going to the Opera, whither she
very good-naturedly took Coningsby. Madame Colonna, indeed, gave such
gratifying accounts of her dear young friend, that Coningsby became
daily a greater favourite with Lord Monmouth, who cherished the idea
that his grandson had inherited not merely the colour of his eyes, but
something of his shrewd and fearless spirit.

With Lucretia, Coningsby did not much advance. She remained silent and
sullen. She was not beautiful; pallid, with a lowering brow, and an eye
that avoided meeting another's. Madame Colonna, though good-natured,
felt for her something of the affection for which step-mothers are
celebrated. Lucretia, indeed, did not encourage her kindness, which
irritated her step-mother, who seemed seldom to address her but to rate
and chide; Lucretia never replied, but looked dogged. Her father, the
Prince, did not compensate for this treatment. The memory of her mother,
whom he had greatly disliked, did not soften his heart. He was a man
still young; slender, not tall; very handsome, but worn; a haggard
Antinous; his beautiful hair daily thinning; his dress rich and
effeminate; many jewels, much lace. He seldom spoke, but was polished,
though moody.

At the end of the week, Coningsby returned to Eton. On the eve of
his departure, Lord Monmouth desired his grandson to meet him in his
apartments on the morrow, before quitting his roof. This farewell visit
was as kind and gracious as the first one had been repulsive. Lord
Monmouth gave Coningsby his blessing and ten pounds; desired that he
would order a dress, anything he liked, for the approaching Montem,
which Lord Monmouth meant to attend; and informed his grandson that he
should order that in future a proper supply of game and venison should
be forwarded to Eton for the use of himself and his friends.



CHAPTER VIII.


After eight o'clock school, the day following the return of Coningsby,
according to custom, he repaired to Buckhurst's room, where Henry
Sydney, Lord Vere, and our hero held with him their breakfast mess. They
were all in the fifth form, and habitual companions, on the river or on
the Fives' Wall, at cricket or at foot-ball. The return of Coningsby,
their leader alike in sport and study, inspired them to-day with unusual
spirits, which, to say the truth, were never particularly depressed.
Where he had been, what he had seen, what he had done, what sort of
fellow his grandfather was, whether the visit had been a success; here
were materials for almost endless inquiry. And, indeed, to do them
justice, the last question was not the least exciting to them; for the
deep and cordial interest which all felt in Coningsby's welfare far
outweighed the curiosity which, under ordinary circumstances, they
would have experienced on the return of one of their companions from
an unusual visit to London. The report of their friend imparted to
them unbounded satisfaction, when they learned that his relative was a
splendid fellow; that he had been loaded with kindness and favours; that
Monmouth House, the wonders of which he rapidly sketched, was hereafter
to be his home; that Lord Monmouth was coming down to Montem; that
Coningsby was to order any dress he liked, build a new boat if he chose;
and, finally, had been pouched in a manner worthy of a Marquess and a
grandfather.

'By the bye,' said Buckhurst, when the hubbub had a little subsided, 'I
am afraid you will not half like it, Coningsby; but, old fellow, I
had no idea you would be back this morning; I have asked Millbank to
breakfast here.'

A cloud stole over the clear brow of Coningsby.

'It was my fault,' said the amiable Henry Sydney; 'but I really wanted
to be civil to Millbank, and as you were not here, I put Buckhurst up to
ask him.'

'Well,' said Coningsby, as if sullenly resigned, 'never mind; but why
should you ask an infernal manufacturer?'

'Why, the Duke always wished me to pay him some attention,' said
Lord Henry, mildly. 'His family were so civil to us when we were at
Manchester.'

'Manchester, indeed!' said Coningsby; 'if you knew what I do about
Manchester! A pretty state we have been in in London this week past with
your Manchesters and Birminghams!'

'Come, come, Coningsby,' said Lord Vere, the son of a Whig minister; 'I
am all for Manchester and Birmingham.'

'It is all up with the country, I can tell you,' said Coningsby, with
the air of one who was in the secret.

'My father says it will all go right now,' rejoined Lord Vere. 'I had a
letter from my sister yesterday.'

'They say we shall all lose our estates, though,' said Buckhurst; 'I
know I shall not give up mine without a fight. Shirley was besieged, you
know, in the civil wars; and the rebels got infernally licked.'

'I think that all the people about Beaumanoir would stand by the Duke,'
said Lord Henry, pensively.

'Well, you may depend upon it you will have it very soon,' said
Coningsby. 'I know it from the best authority.'

'It depends on whether my father remains in,' said Lord Vere. 'He is the
only man who can govern the country now. All say that.'

At this moment Millbank entered. He was a good looking boy, somewhat
shy, and yet with a sincere expression in his countenance. He was
evidently not extremely intimate with those who were now his companions.
Buckhurst, and Henry Sydney, and Vere, welcomed him cordially. He looked
at Coningsby with some constraint, and then said:

'You have been in London, Coningsby?'

'Yes, I have been there during all the row.'

'You must have had a rare lark.'

'Yes, if having your windows broken by a mob be a rare lark. They could
not break my grandfather's, though. Monmouth House is in a court-yard.
All noblemen's houses should be in court-yards.'

'I was glad to see it all ended very well,' said Millbank.

'It has not begun yet,' said Coningsby.

'What?' said Millbank.

'Why, the revolution.'

'The Reform Bill will prevent a revolution, my father says,' said
Millbank.

'By Jove! here's the goose,' said Buckhurst.

At this moment there entered the room a little boy, the scion of a noble
house, bearing a roasted goose, which he had carried from the kitchen of
the opposite inn, the Christopher. The lower boy or fag, depositing
his burthen, asked his master whether he had further need of him; and
Buckhurst, after looking round the table, and ascertaining that he had
not, gave him permission to retire; but he had scarcely disappeared,
when his master singing out, 'Lower boy, St. John!' he immediately
re-entered, and demanded his master's pleasure, which was, that he
should pour some water in the teapot. This being accomplished, St. John
really made his escape, and retired to a pupil-room, where the bullying
of a tutor, because he had no derivations, exceeded in all probability
the bullying of his master, had he contrived in his passage from the
Christopher to have upset the goose or dropped the sausages.

In their merry meal, the Reform Bill was forgotten. Their thoughts were
soon concentrated in their little world, though it must be owned that
visions of palaces and beautiful ladies did occasionally flit over the
brain of one of the company. But for him especially there was much of
interest and novelty. So much had happened in his absence! There was a
week's arrears for him of Eton annals. They were recounted in so fresh
a spirit, and in such vivid colours, that Coningsby lost nothing by his
London visit. All the bold feats that had been done, and all the bright
things that had been said; all the triumphs, and all the failures,
and all the scrapes; how popular one master had made himself, and how
ridiculous another; all was detailed with a liveliness, a candour, and
a picturesque ingenuousness, which would have made the fortune of a
Herodotus or a Froissart.

'I'll tell you what,' said Buckhurst, 'I move that after twelve we five
go up to Maidenhead.'

'Agreed; agreed!'



CHAPTER IX.


Millbank was the son of one of the wealthiest manufacturers in
Lancashire. His father, whose opinions were of a very democratic bent,
sent his son to Eton, though he disapproved of the system of education
pursued there, to show that he had as much right to do so as any duke in
the land. He had, however, brought up his only boy with a due prejudice
against every sentiment or institution of an aristocratic character,
and had especially impressed upon him in his school career, to avoid the
slightest semblance of courting the affections or society of any member
of the falsely-held superior class.

The character of the son as much as the influence of the father, tended
to the fulfilment of these injunctions. Oswald Millbank was of a
proud and independent nature; reserved, a little stern. The early and
constantly-reiterated dogma of his father, that he belonged to a class
debarred from its just position in the social system, had aggravated the
grave and somewhat discontented humour of his blood. His talents were
considerable, though invested with no dazzling quality. He had not that
quick and brilliant apprehension, which, combined with a memory of rare
retentiveness, had already advanced Coningsby far beyond his age,
and made him already looked to as the future hero of the school. But
Millbank possessed one of those strong, industrious volitions whose
perseverance amounts almost to genius, and nearly attains its results.
Though Coningsby was by a year his junior, they were rivals. This
circumstance had no tendency to remove the prejudice which Coningsby
entertained against him, but its bias on the part of Millbank had a
contrary effect.

The influence of the individual is nowhere so sensible as at school.
There the personal qualities strike without any intervening and
counteracting causes. A gracious presence, noble sentiments, or a happy
talent, make their way there at once, without preliminary inquiries as
to what set they are in, or what family they are of, how much they
have a-year, or where they live. Now, on no spirit had the influence of
Coningsby, already the favourite, and soon probably to become the idol,
of the school, fallen more effectually than on that of Millbank, though
it was an influence that no one could suspect except its votary or its
victim.

At school, friendship is a passion. It entrances the being; it tears
the soul. All loves of after-life can never bring its rapture, or its
wretchedness; no bliss so absorbing, no pangs of jealousy or despair
so crushing and so keen! What tenderness and what devotion; what
illimitable confidence; infinite revelations of inmost thoughts; what
ecstatic present and romantic future; what bitter estrangements and what
melting reconciliations; what scenes of wild recrimination, agitating
explanations, passionate correspondence; what insane sensitiveness, and
what frantic sensibility; what earthquakes of the heart and whirlwinds
of the soul are confined in that simple phrase, a schoolboy's
friendship! Tis some indefinite recollection of these mystic passages of
their young emotion that makes grey-haired men mourn over the memory
of their schoolboy days. It is a spell that can soften the acerbity of
political warfare, and with its witchery can call forth a sigh even amid
the callous bustle of fashionable saloons.

The secret of Millbank's life was a passionate admiration and affection
for Coningsby. Pride, his natural reserve, and his father's injunctions,
had, however, hitherto successfully combined to restrain the slightest
demonstration of these sentiments. Indeed, Coningsby and himself
were never companions, except in school, or in some public game. The
demeanour of Coningsby gave no encouragement to intimacy to one, who,
under any circumstances, would have required considerable invitation to
open himself. So Millbank fed in silence on a cherished idea. It was
his happiness to be in the same form, to join in the same sport, with
Coningsby; occasionally to be thrown in unusual contact with him,
to exchange slight and not unkind words. In their division they were
rivals; Millbank sometimes triumphed, but to be vanquished by Coningsby
was for him not without a degree of mild satisfaction. Not a gesture,
not a phrase from Coningsby, that he did not watch and ponder over and
treasure up. Coningsby was his model, alike in studies, in manners,
or in pastimes; the aptest scholar, the gayest wit, the most graceful
associate, the most accomplished playmate: his standard of excellent.
Yet Millbank was the very last boy in the school who would have had
credit given him by his companions for profound and ardent feeling. He
was not indeed unpopular. The favourite of the school like Coningsby, he
could, under no circumstances, ever have become; nor was he qualified
to obtain that general graciousness among the multitude, which the sweet
disposition of Henry Sydney, or the gay profusion of Buckhurst, acquired
without any effort. Millbank was not blessed with the charm of manner.
He seemed close and cold; but he was courageous, just, and inflexible;
never bullied, and to his utmost would prevent tyranny. The little boys
looked up to him as a stern protector; and his word, too, throughout the
school was a proverb: and truth ranks a great quality among boys. In
a word, Millbank was respected by those among whom he lived; and
school-boys scan character more nicely than men suppose.

A brother of Henry Sydney, quartered in Lancashire, had been wounded
recently in a riot, and had received great kindness from the Millbank
family, in whose immediate neighbourhood the disturbance had occurred.
The kind Duke had impressed on Henry Sydney to acknowledge with
cordiality to the younger Millbank at Eton, the sense which his family
entertained of these benefits; but though Henry lost neither time nor
opportunity in obeying an injunction, which was grateful to his own
heart, he failed in cherishing, or indeed creating, any intimacy
with the object of his solicitude. A companionship with one who was
Coningsby's relative and most familiar friend, would at the first
glance have appeared, independently of all other considerations, a most
desirable result for Millbank to accomplish. But, perhaps, this
very circumstance afforded additional reasons for the absence of all
encouragement with which he received the overtures of Lord Henry.
Millbank suspected that Coningsby was not affected in his favour, and
his pride recoiled from gaining, by any indirect means, an intimacy
which to have obtained in a plain and express manner would have deeply
gratified him. However, the urgent invitation of Buckhurst and
Henry Sydney, and the fear that a persistence in refusal might be
misinterpreted into churlishness, had at length brought Millbank to
their breakfast-mess, though, when he accepted their invitation, he did
not apprehend that Coningsby would have been present.

It was about an hour before sunset, the day of this very breakfast, and
a good number of boys, in lounging groups, were collected in the
Long Walk. The sports and matches of the day were over. Criticism had
succeeded to action in sculling and in cricket. They talked over the
exploits of the morning; canvassed the merits of the competitors, marked
the fellow whose play or whose stroke was improving; glanced at another,
whose promise had not been fulfilled; discussed the pretensions, and
adjudged the palm. Thus public opinion is formed. Some, too, might
be seen with their books and exercises, intent on the inevitable
and impending tasks. Among these, some unhappy wight in the remove,
wandering about with his hat, after parochial fashion, seeking relief
in the shape of a verse. A hard lot this, to know that you must be
delivered of fourteen verses at least in the twenty-four hours, and to
be conscious that you are pregnant of none. The lesser boys, urchins of
tender years, clustered like flies round the baskets of certain vendors
of sugary delicacies that rested on the Long Walk wall. The pallid
countenance, the lacklustre eye, the hoarse voice clogged with
accumulated phlegm, indicated too surely the irreclaimable and hopeless
votary of lollypop, the opium-eater of schoolboys.

'It is settled, the match to-morrow shall be between Aquatics and
Drybobs,' said a senior boy; who was arranging a future match at
cricket.

'But what is to be done about Fielding major?' inquired another. 'He has
not paid his boating money, and I say he has no right to play among the
Aquatics before he has paid his money.'

'Oh! but we must have Fielding major, he is such a devil of a swipe.'

'I declare he shall not play among the Aquatics if he does not pay his
boating money. It is an infernal shame.'

'Let us ask Buckhurst. Where is Buckhurst?'

'Have you got any toffy?' inquired a dull looking little boy, in a
hoarse voice, of one of the vendors of scholastic confectionery.

'Tom Trot, sir.'

'No; I want toffy.'

'Very nice Tom Trot, sir.'

'No, I want toffy; I have been eating Tom Trot all day.'

'Where is Buckhurst? We must settle about the Aquatics.'

'Well, I for one will not play if Fielding major plays amongst the
Aquatics. That is settled.'

'Oh! nonsense; he will pay his money if you ask him.'

'I shall not ask him again. The captain duns us every day. It is an
infernal shame.'

'I say, Burnham, where can one get some toffy? This fellow never has
any.'

'I will tell you; at Barnes' on the bridge. The best toffy in the
world.'

'I will go at once. I must have some toffy.'

'Just help me with this verse, Collins,' said one boy to another, in an
imploring tone, 'that's a good fellow.'

'Well, give it us: first syllable in _fabri_ is short; three false
quantities in the two first lines! You're a pretty one. There, I have
done it for you.'

'That's a good fellow.'

'Any fellow seen Buckhurst?'

'Gone up the river with Coningsby and Henry Sydney.'

'But he must be back by this time. I want him to make the list for the
match to-morrow. Where the deuce can Buckhurst be?'

And now, as rumours rise in society we know not how, so there was
suddenly a flying report in this multitude, the origin of which no one
in his alarm stopped to ascertain, that a boy was drowned.

Every heart was agitated.

What boy? When, where, how? Who was absent? Who had been on the river
to-day? Buckhurst. The report ran that Buckhurst was drowned. Great were
the trouble and consternation. Buckhurst was ever much liked; and now no
one remembered anything but his good qualities.

'Who heard it was Buckhurst?' said Sedgwick, captain of the school,
coming forward.

'I heard Bradford tell Palmer it was Buckhurst,' said a little boy.

'Where is Bradford?'

'Here.'

'What do you know about Buckhurst?'

'Wentworth told me that he was afraid Buckhurst was drowned. He heard it
at the Brocas; a bargeman told him about a quarter of an hour ago.'

'Here is Wentworth! Here is Wentworth!' a hundred voices exclaimed, and
they formed a circle round him.

'Well, what did you hear, Wentworth?' asked Sedgwick.

'I was at the Brocas, and a bargee told me that an Eton fellow had been
drowned above Surley, and the only Eton boat above Surley to-day, as I
can learn, is Buckhurst's four-oar. That is all.'

There was a murmur of hope.

'Oh! come, come,' said Sedgwick, 'there is come chance. Who is with
Buckhurst; who knows?'

'I saw him walk down to the Brocas with Vere,' said a boy.

'I hope it is not Vere,' said a little boy, with a tearful eye; 'he
never lets any fellow bully me.'

'Here is Maltravers,' halloed out a boy; 'he knows something.'

'Well, what do you know, Maltravers?'

'I heard Boots at the Christopher say that an Eton fellow was drowned,
and that he had seen a person who was there.'

'Bring Boots here,' said Sedgwick.

Instantly a band of boys rushed over the way, and in a moment the
witness was produced.

'What have you heard, Sam, about this accident?' said Sedgwick.

'Well, sir, I heard a young gentleman was drowned above Monkey Island,'
said Boots.

'And no name mentioned?'

'Well, sir, I believe it was Mr. Coningsby.'

A general groan of horror.

'Coningsby, Coningsby! By Heavens I hope not,' said Sedgwick.

'I very much fear so,' said Boots; 'as how the bargeman who told me saw
Mr. Coningsby in the Lock House laid out in flannels.'

'I had sooner any fellow had been drowned than Coningsby,' whispered one
boy to another.

'I liked him, the best fellow at Eton,' responded his companion, in a
smothered tone.

'What a clever fellow he was!'

'And so deuced generous!'

'He would have got the medal if he had lived.'

'And how came he to be drowned? for he was such a fine swimmer!'

'I heerd Mr. Coningsby was saving another's life,' continued Boots in
his evidence, 'which makes it in a manner more sorrowful.'

'Poor Coningsby!' exclaimed a boy, bursting into tears: 'I move the
whole school goes into mourning.'

'I wish we could get hold of this bargeman,' said Sedgwick. 'Now stop,
stop, don't all run away in that mad manner; you frighten the people.
Charles Herbert and Palmer, you two go down to the Brocas and inquire.'

But just at this moment, an increased stir and excitement were evident
in the Long Walk; the circle round Sedgwick opened, and there appeared
Henry Sydney and Buckhurst.

There was a dead silence. It was impossible that suspense could be
strained to a higher pitch. The air and countenance of Sydney and
Buckhurst were rather excited than mournful or alarmed. They needed no
inquiries, for before they had penetrated the circle they had become
aware of its cause.

Buckhurst, the most energetic of beings, was of course the first to
speak. Henry Sydney indeed looked pale and nervous; but his companion,
flushed and resolute, knew exactly how to hit a popular assembly, and at
once came to the point.

'It is all a false report, an infernal lie; Coningsby is quite safe, and
nobody is drowned.'

There was a cheer that might have been heard at Windsor Castle. Then,
turning to Sedgwick, in an undertone Buckhurst added,

'It _is_ all right, but, by Jove! we have had a shaver. I will tell you
all in a moment, but we want to keep the thing quiet, and so let the
fellows disperse, and we will talk afterwards.'

In a few moments the Long Walk had resumed its usual character; but
Sedgwick, Herbert, and one or two others turned into the playing fields,
where, undisturbed and unnoticed by the multitude, they listened to the
promised communication of Buckhurst and Henry Sydney.

'You know we went up the river together,' said Buckhurst. 'Myself, Henry
Sydney, Coningsby, Vere, and Millbank. We had breakfasted together, and
after twelve agreed to go up to Maidenhead. Well, we went up much higher
than we had intended. About a quarter of a mile before we had got to the
Lock we pulled up; Coningsby was then steering. Well, we fastened the
boat to, and were all of us stretched out on the meadow, when Millbank
and Vere said they should go and bathe in the Lock Pool. The rest of us
were opposed; but after Millbank and Vere had gone about ten minutes,
Coningsby, who was very fresh, said he had changed his mind and should
go and bathe too. So he left us. He had scarcely got to the pool when he
heard a cry. There was a fellow drowning. He threw off his clothes and
was in in a moment. The fact is this, Millbank had plunged in the pool
and found himself in some eddies, caused by the meeting of two currents.
He called out to Vere not to come, and tried to swim off. But he was
beat, and seeing he was in danger, Vere jumped in. But the stream was
so strong, from the great fall of water from the lasher above, that Vere
was exhausted before he could reach Millbank, and nearly sank himself.
Well, he just saved himself; but Millbank sank as Coningsby jumped in.
What do you think of that?'

'By Jove!' exclaimed Sedgwick, Herbert, and all. The favourite oath of
schoolboys perpetuates the divinity of Olympus.

'And now comes the worst. Coningsby caught Millbank when he rose, but
he found himself in the midst of the same strong current that had before
nearly swamped Vere. What a lucky thing that he had taken into his head
not to pull to-day! Fresher than Vere, he just managed to land Millbank
and himself. The shouts of Vere called us, and we arrived to find the
bodies of Millbank and Coningsby apparently lifeless, for Millbank was
quite gone, and Coningsby had swooned on landing.'

'If Coningsby had been lost,' said Henry Sydney, 'I never would have
shown my face at Eton again.'

'Can you conceive a position more terrible?' said Buckhurst. 'I declare
I shall never forget it as long as I live. However, there was the Lock
House at hand; and we got blankets and brandy. Coningsby was soon all
right; but Millbank, I can tell you, gave us some trouble. I thought it
was all up. Didn't you, Henry Sydney?'

'The most fishy thing I ever saw,' said Henry Sydney.

'Well, we were fairly frightened here,' said Sedgwick. 'The first
report was, that you had gone, but that seemed without foundation; but
Coningsby was quite given up. Where are they now?'

'They are both at their tutors'. I thought they had better keep quiet.
Vere is with Millbank, and we are going back to Coningsby directly; but
we thought it best to show, finding on our arrival that there were all
sorts of rumours about. I think it will be best to report at once to my
tutor, for he will be sure to hear something.'

'I would if I were you.'



CHAPTER X.


What wonderful things are events! The least are of greater importance
than the most sublime and comprehensive speculations! In what fanciful
schemes to obtain the friendship of Coningsby had Millbank in his
reveries often indulged! What combinations that were to extend over
years and influence their lives! But the moment that he entered the
world of action, his pride recoiled from the plans and hopes which his
sympathy had inspired. His sensibility and his inordinate self-respect
were always at variance. And he seldom exchanged a word with the being
whose idea engrossed his affection.

And now, suddenly, an event had occurred, like all events, unforeseen,
which in a few, brief, agitating, tumultuous moments had singularly and
utterly changed the relations that previously subsisted between him and
the former object of his concealed tenderness. Millbank now stood with
respect to Coningsby in the position of one who owes to another the
greatest conceivable obligation; a favour which time could permit him
neither to forget nor to repay. Pride was a sentiment that could no
longer subsist before the preserver of his life. Devotion to that being,
open, almost ostentatious, was now a duty, a paramount and absorbing
tie. The sense of past peril, the rapture of escape, a renewed relish
for the life so nearly forfeited, a deep sentiment of devout gratitude
to the providence that had guarded over him, for Millbank was an
eminently religious boy, a thought of home, and the anguish that might
have overwhelmed his hearth; all these were powerful and exciting
emotions for a young and fervent mind, in addition to the peculiar
source of sensibility on which we have already touched. Lord Vere, who
lodged in the same house as Millbank, and was sitting by his bedside,
observed, as night fell, that his mind wandered.

The illness of Millbank, the character of which soon transpired, and was
soon exaggerated, attracted the public attention with increased interest
to the circumstances out of which it had arisen, and from which the
parties principally concerned had wished to have diverted notice. The
sufferer, indeed, had transgressed the rules of the school by bathing at
an unlicensed spot, where there were no expert swimmers in attendance,
as is customary, to instruct the practice and to guard over the lives of
the young adventurers. But the circumstances with which this violation
of rules had been accompanied, and the assurance of several of the party
that they had not themselves infringed the regulations, combined with
the high character of Millbank, made the authorities not over anxious
to visit with penalties a breach of observance which, in the case of
the only proved offender, had been attended with such impressive
consequences. The feat of Coningsby was extolled by all as an act
of high gallantry and skill. It confirmed and increased the great
reputation which he already enjoyed.

'Millbank is getting quite well,' said Buckhurst to Coningsby a few days
after the accident. 'Henry Sydney and I are going to see him. Will you
come?'

'I think we shall be too many. I will go another day,' replied
Coningsby.

So they went without him. They found Millbank up and reading.

'Well, old fellow,' said Buckhurst, 'how are you? We should have come up
before, but they would not let us. And you are quite right now, eh?'

'Quite. Has there been any row about it?'

'All blown over,' said Henry Sydney; 'C*******y behaved like a trump.'

'I have seen nobody yet,' said Millbank; 'they would not let me till
to-day. Vere looked in this morning and left me this book, but I was
asleep. I hope they will let me out in a day or two. I want to thank
Coningsby; I never shall rest till I have thanked Coningsby.'

'Oh, he will come to see you,' said Henry Sydney; 'I asked him just now
to come with us.'

'Yes!' said Millbank, eagerly; 'and what did he say?'

'He thought we should be too many.'

'I hope I shall see him soon,' said Millbank, 'somehow or other.'

'I will tell him to come,' said Buckhurst.

'Oh! no, no, don't tell him to come,' said Millbank. 'Don't bore him.'

'I know he is going to play a match at fives this afternoon,' said
Buckhurst, 'for I am one.'

'And who are the others?' inquired Millbank.

'Herbert and Campbell.'

'Herbert is no match for Coningsby,' said Millbank.

And then they talked over all that had happened since his absence; and
Buckhurst gave him a graphic report of the excitement on the afternoon
of the accident; at last they were obliged to leave him.

'Well, good-bye, old fellow; we will come and see you every day. What
can we do for you? Any books, or anything?'

'If any fellow asks after me,' said Millbank, 'tell him I shall be glad
to see him. It is very dull being alone. But do not tell any fellow to
come if he does not ask after me.'

Notwithstanding the kind suggestions of Buckhurst and Henry Sydney,
Coningsby could not easily bring himself to call on Millbank. He felt a
constraint. It seemed as if he went to receive thanks. He would rather
have met Millbank again in school, or in the playing fields. Without
being able then to analyse his feelings, he shrank unconsciously from
that ebullition of sentiment, which in more artificial circles is
described as a scene. Not that any dislike of Millbank prompted him to
this reserve. On the contrary, since he had conferred a great obligation
on Millbank, his prejudice against him had sensibly decreased. How it
would have been had Millbank saved Coningsby's life, is quite another
affair. Probably, as Coningsby was by nature generous, his sense of
justice might have struggled successfully with his painful sense of the
overwhelming obligation. But in the present case there was no element
to disturb his fair self-satisfaction. He had greatly distinguished
himself; he had conferred on his rival an essential service; and the
whole world rang with his applause. He began rather to like Millbank;
we will not say because Millbank was the unintentional cause of his
pleasurable sensations. Really it was that the unusual circumstances had
prompted him to a more impartial judgment of his rival's character.
In this mood, the day after the visit of Buckhurst and Henry Sydney,
Coningsby called on Millbank, but finding his medical attendant with
him, Coningsby availed himself of that excuse for going away without
seeing him.

The next day he left Millbank a newspaper on his way to school, time not
permitting a visit. Two days after, going into his room, he found on his
table a letter addressed to 'Harry Coningsby, Esq.'

ETON, May--, 1832.

'DEAR CONINGSBY, I very much fear that you must think me a very
ungrateful fellow, because you have not heard from me before; but I was
in hopes that I might get out and say to you what I feel; but whether I
speak or write, it is quite impossible for me to make you understand the
feelings of my heart to you. Now, I will say at once, that I have always
liked you better than any fellow in the school, and always thought you
the cleverest; indeed, I always thought that there was no one like you;
but I never would say this or show this, because you never seemed to
care for me, and because I was afraid you would think I merely wanted to
con with you, as they used to say of some other fellows, whose names I
will not mention, because they always tried to do so with Henry Sydney
and you. I do not want this at all; but I want, though we may not speak
to each other more than before, that we may be friends; and that you
will always know that there is nothing I will not do for you, and that
I like you better than any fellow at Eton. And I do not mean that this
shall be only at Eton, but afterwards, wherever we may be, that you will
always remember that there is nothing I will not do for you. Not because
you saved my life, though that is a great thing, but because before that
I would have done anything for you; only, for the cause above mentioned,
I would not show it. I do not expect that we shall be more together than
before; nor can I ever suppose that you could like me as you like Henry
Sydney and Buckhurst, or even as you like Vere; but still I hope you
will always think of me with kindness now, and let me sign myself, if
ever I do write to you, 'Your most attached, affectionate, and devoted
friend,

'OSWALD MILLBANK.'



CHAPTER XI.


About a fortnight after this nearly fatal adventure on the river, it was
Montem. One need hardly remind the reader that this celebrated
ceremony, of which the origin is lost in obscurity, and which now occurs
triennially, is the tenure by which Eton College holds some of its
domains. It consists in the waving of a flag by one of the scholars, on
a mount near the village of Salt Hill, which, without doubt, derives its
name from the circumstance that on this day every visitor to Eton, and
every traveller in its vicinity, from the monarch to the peasant, are
stopped on the road by youthful brigands in picturesque costume, and
summoned to contribute 'salt,' in the shape of coin of the realm, to
the purse collecting for the Captain of Eton, the senior scholar on the
Foundation, who is about to repair to King's College, Cambridge.

On this day the Captain of Eton appears in a dress as martial as his
title: indeed, each sixth-form boy represents in his uniform, though not
perhaps according to the exact rules of the Horse Guards, an officer of
the army. One is a marshal, another an ensign. There is a lieutenant,
too; and the remainder are sergeants. Each of those who are intrusted
with these ephemeral commissions has one or more attendants, the number
of these varying according to his rank. These servitors are selected
according to the wishes of the several members of the sixth form, out of
the ranks of the lower boys, that is, those boys who are below the
fifth form; and all these attendants are arrayed in a variety of fancy
dresses. The Captain of the Oppidans and the senior Colleger next to
the Captain of the school, figure also in fancy costume, and are called
'Saltbearers.' It is their business, together with the twelve senior
Collegers of the fifth form, who are called 'Runners,' and whose
costume is also determined by the taste of the wearers, to levy the
contributions. And all the Oppidans of the fifth form, among whom ranked
Coningsby, class as 'Corporals;' and are severally followed by one or
more lower boys, who are denominated 'Polemen,' but who appear in their
ordinary dress.

It was a fine, bright morning; the bells of Eton and Windsor rang
merrily; everybody was astir, and every moment some gay equipage
drove into the town. Gaily clustering in the thronged precincts of
the College, might be observed many a glistening form: airy Greek or
sumptuous Ottoman, heroes of the Holy Sepulchre, Spanish Hidalgos who
had fought at Pavia, Highland Chiefs who had charged at Culloden, gay in
the tartan of Prince Charlie. The Long Walk was full of busy groups in
scarlet coats or fanciful uniforms; some in earnest conversation, some
criticising the arriving guests; others encircling some magnificent
hero, who astounded them with his slashed doublet or flowing plume.

A knot of boys, sitting on the Long Walk wall, with their feet swinging
in the air, watched the arriving guests of the Provost.

'I say, Townshend,' said one, 'there's Grobbleton; he _was_ a bully. I
wonder if that's his wife? Who's this? The Duke of Agincourt. He wasn't
an Eton fellow? Yes, he was. He was called Poictiers then. Oh! ah!
his name is in the upper school, very large, under Charles Fox. I say,
Townshend, did you see Saville's turban? What was it made of? He says
his mother brought it from Grand Cairo. Didn't he just look like the
Saracen's Head? Here are some Dons. That's Hallam! We'll give him a
cheer. I say, Townshend, look at this fellow. He doesn't think small
beer of himself. I wonder who he is? The Duke of Wellington's valet come
to say his master is engaged. Oh! by Jove, he heard you! I wonder if the
Duke will come? Won't we give him a cheer!'

'By Jove! who is this?' exclaimed Townshend, and he jumped from the
wall, and, followed by his companions, rushed towards the road.

Two britskas, each drawn by four grey horses of mettle, and each
accompanied by outriders as well mounted, were advancing at a rapid
pace along the road that leads from Slough to the College. But they were
destined to an irresistible check. About fifty yards before they had
reached the gate that leads into Weston's Yard, a ruthless but splendid
Albanian, in crimson and gold embroidered jacket, and snowy camise,
started forward, and holding out his silver-sheathed yataghan commanded
the postilions to stop. A Peruvian Inca on the other side of the road
gave a simultaneous command, and would infallibly have transfixed the
outriders with an arrow from his unerring bow, had they for an instant
hesitated. The Albanian Chief then advanced to the door of the carriage,
which he opened, and in a tone of great courtesy, announced that he was
under the necessity of troubling its inmates for 'salt.' There was no
delay. The Lord of the equipage, with the amiable condescension of a
'grand monarque,' expressed his hope that the collection would be an
ample one, and as an old Etonian, placed in the hands of the Albanian
his contribution, a magnificent purse, furnished for the occasion, and
heavy with gold.

'Don't be alarmed, ladies,' said a very handsome young officer,
laughing, and taking off his cocked hat.

'Ah!' exclaimed one of the ladies, turning at the voice, and starting a
little. 'Ah! it is Mr. Coningsby.'

Lord Eskdale paid the salt for the next carriage. 'Do they come down
pretty stiff?' he inquired, and then, pulling forth a roll of bank-notes
from the pocket of his pea-jacket, he wished them good morning.

The courtly Provost, then the benignant Goodall, a man who, though his
experience of life was confined to the colleges in which he had passed
his days, was naturally gifted with the rarest of all endowments, the
talent of reception; and whose happy bearing and gracious manner,
a smile ever in his eye and a lively word ever on his lip, must be
recalled by all with pleasant recollections, welcomed Lord Monmouth
and his friends to an assemblage of the noble, the beautiful, and the
celebrated gathered together in rooms not unworthy of them, as you
looked upon their interesting walls, breathing with the portraits of the
heroes whom Eton boasts, from Wotton to Wellesley. Music sounded in
the quadrangle of the College, in which the boys were already quickly
assembling. The Duke of Wellington had arrived, and the boys were
cheering a hero, who was an Eton field-marshal. From an oriel window
in one of the Provost's rooms, Lord Monmouth, surrounded by every
circumstance that could make life delightful, watched with some
intentness the scene in the quadrangle beneath.

'I would give his fame,' said Lord Monmouth, 'if I had it, and my
wealth, to be sixteen.'

Five hundred of the youth of England, sparkling with health, high
spirits, and fancy dresses, were now assembled in the quadrangle.
They formed into rank, and headed by a band of the Guards, thrice they
marched round the court. Then quitting the College, they commenced their
progress 'ad Montem.' It was a brilliant spectacle to see them defiling
through the playing fields, those bowery meads; the river sparkling
in the sun, the castled heights of Windsor, their glorious landscape;
behind them, the pinnacles of their College.

The road from Eton to Salt Hill was clogged with carriages; the broad
fields as far as eye could range were covered with human beings. Amid
the burst of martial music and the shouts of the multitude, the band of
heroes, as if they were marching from Athens, or Thebes, or Sparta, to
some heroic deed, encircled the mount; the ensign reaches its summit,
and then, amid a deafening cry of 'Floreat Etona!' he unfurls, and
thrice waves the consecrated standard.

'Lord Monmouth,' said Mr. Rigby to Coningsby, 'wishes that you should
beg your friends to dine with him. Of course you will ask Lord Henry and
your friend Sir Charles Buckhurst; and is there any one else that you
would like to invite?'

'Why, there is Vere,' said Coningsby, hesitating, 'and--'

'Vere! What Lord Vere?' said Rigby. 'Hum! He is one of your friends, is
he? His father has done a great deal of mischief, but still he is Lord
Vere. Well, of course, you can invite Vere.'

'There is another fellow I should like to ask very much,' said
Coningsby, 'if Lord Monmouth would not think I was asking too many.'

'Never fear that; he sent me particularly to tell you to invite as many
as you liked.'

'Well, then, I should like to ask Millbank.'

'Millbank!' said Mr. Rigby, a little excited, and then he added, 'Is
that a son of Lady Albinia Millbank?'

'No; his mother is not a Lady Albinia, but he is a great friend of mine.
His father is a Lancashire manufacturer.'

'By no means,' exclaimed Mr. Rigby, quite agitated. 'There is nothing
in the world that Lord Monmouth dislikes so much as Manchester
manufacturers, and particularly if they bear the name of Millbank. It
must not be thought of, my dear Harry. I hope you have not spoken to
the young man on the subject. I assure you it is out of the question.
It would make Lord Monmouth quite ill. It would spoil everything, quite
upset him.'

It was, of course, impossible for Coningsby to urge his wishes against
such representations. He was disappointed, rather amazed; but Madame
Colonna having sent for him to introduce her to some of the scenes and
details of Eton life, his vexation was soon absorbed in the pride of
acting in the face of his companions as the cavalier of a beautiful
lady, and becoming the cicerone of the most brilliant party that had
attended Montem. He presented his friends, too, to Lord. Monmouth, who
gave them a cordial invitation to dine with him at his hotel at Windsor,
which they warmly accepted. Buckhurst delighted the Marquess by his
reckless genius. Even Lucretia deigned to appear amused; especially
when, on visiting the upper school, the name of CARDIFF, the title Lord
Monmouth bore in his youthful days, was pointed out to her by Coningsby,
cut with his grandfather's own knife on the classic panels of that
memorable wall in which scarcely a name that has flourished in our
history, since the commencement of the eighteenth century, may not be
observed with curious admiration.

It was the humour of Lord Monmouth that the boys should be entertained
with the most various and delicious banquet that luxury could devise or
money could command. For some days beforehand orders had been given for
the preparation of this festival. Our friends did full justice to their
Lucullus; Buckhurst especially, who gave his opinion on the most refined
dishes with all the intrepidity of saucy ignorance, and occasionally
shook his head over a glass of Hermitage or Côte Rôtie with a
dissatisfaction which a satiated Sybarite could not have exceeded.
Considering all things, Coningsby and his friends exhibited a great deal
of self-command; but they were gay, even to the verge of frolic. But
then the occasion justified it, as much as their youth. All were in high
spirits. Madame Colonna declared that she had met nothing in England
equal to Montem; that it was a Protestant Carnival; and that its only
fault was that it did not last forty days. The Prince himself was all
animation, and took wine with every one of the Etonians several times.
All went on flowingly until Mr. Rigby contradicted Buckhurst on some
point of Eton discipline, which Buckhurst would not stand. He rallied
Mr. Rigby roundly, and Coningsby, full of champagne, and owing Rigby
several years of contradiction, followed up the assault. Lord Monmouth,
who liked a butt, and had a weakness for boisterous gaiety, slily
encouraged the boys, till Rigby began to lose his temper and get noisy.

The lads had the best of it; they said a great many funny things,
and delivered themselves of several sharp retorts; whereas there was
something ridiculous in Rigby putting forth his 'slashing' talents
against such younkers. However, he brought the infliction on himself by
his strange habit of deciding on subjects of which he knew nothing, and
of always contradicting persons on the very subjects of which they were
necessarily masters.

To see Rigby baited was more amusement to Lord Monmouth even than
Montem. Lucian Gay, however, when the affair was getting troublesome,
came forward as a diversion. He sang an extemporaneous song on the
ceremony of the day, and introduced the names of all the guests at the
dinner, and of a great many other persons besides. This was capital! The
boys were in raptures, but when the singer threw forth a verse about Dr.
Keate, the applause became uproarious.

'Good-bye, my dear Harry,' said Lord Monmouth, when he bade his
grandson farewell. 'I am going abroad again; I cannot remain in this
Radical-ridden country. Remember, though I am away, Monmouth House is
your home, at least so long as it belongs to me. I understand my tailor
has turned Liberal, and is going to stand for one of the metropolitan
districts, a friend of Lord Durham; perhaps I shall find him in it when
I return. I fear there are evil days for the NEW GENERATION!'

END OF BOOK I.



BOOK II.



CHAPTER I.


It was early in November, 1834, and a large shooting party was assembled
at Beaumanoir, the seat of that great nobleman, who was the father
of Henry Sydney. England is unrivalled for two things, sporting and
politics. They were combined at Beaumanoir; for the guests came not
merely to slaughter the Duke's pheasants, but to hold council on the
prospects of the party, which it was supposed by the initiated, began at
this time to indicate some symptoms of brightening.

The success of the Reform Ministry on their first appeal to the new
constituency which they had created, had been fatally complete. But the
triumph was as destructive to the victors as to the vanquished.

'We are too strong,' prophetically exclaimed one of the fortunate
cabinet, which found itself supported by an inconceivable majority of
three hundred. It is to be hoped that some future publisher of private
memoirs may have preserved some of the traits of that crude and
short-lived parliament, when old Cobbett insolently thrust Sir Robert
from the prescriptive seat of the chief of opposition, and treasury
understrappers sneered at the 'queer lot' that had arrived from Ireland,
little foreseeing what a high bidding that 'queer lot' would eventually
command. Gratitude to Lord Grey was the hustings-cry at the end of 1832,
the pretext that was to return to the new-modelled House of Commons
none but men devoted to the Whig cause. The successful simulation,
like everything that is false, carried within it the seeds of its
own dissolution. Ingratitude to Lord Grey was more the fashion at the
commencement of 1834, and before the close of that eventful year, the
once popular Reform Ministry was upset, and the eagerly-sought Reformed
Parliament dissolved!

It can scarcely be alleged that the public was altogether unprepared for
this catastrophe. Many deemed it inevitable; few thought it imminent.
The career of the Ministry, and the existence of the Parliament, had
indeed from the first been turbulent and fitful. It was known, from
authority, that there were dissensions in the cabinet, while a House
of Commons which passed votes on subjects not less important than
the repeal of a tax, or the impeachment of a judge, on one night, and
rescinded its resolutions on the following, certainly established
no increased claims to the confidence of its constituents in its
discretion. Nevertheless, there existed at this period a prevalent
conviction that the Whig party, by a great stroke of state, similar in
magnitude and effect to that which in the preceding century had changed
the dynasty, had secured to themselves the government of this country
for, at least, the lives of the present generation. And even the
well-informed in such matters were inclined to look upon the perplexing
circumstances to which we have alluded rather as symptoms of a want
of discipline in a new system of tactics, than as evidences of any
essential and deeply-rooted disorder.

The startling rapidity, however, of the strange incidents of 1834; the
indignant, soon to become vituperative, secession of a considerable
section of the cabinet, some of them esteemed too at that time among
its most efficient members; the piteous deprecation of 'pressure from
without,' from lips hitherto deemed too stately for entreaty, followed
by the Trades' Union, thirty thousand strong, parading in procession
to Downing-street; the Irish negotiations of Lord Hatherton, strange
blending of complex intrigue and almost infantile ingenuousness; the
still inexplicable resignation of Lord Althorp, hurriedly followed by
his still more mysterious resumption of power, the only result of his
precipitate movements being the fall of Lord Grey himself, attended by
circumstances which even a friendly historian could scarcely describe
as honourable to his party or dignified to himself; latterly, the
extemporaneous address of King William to the Bishops; the vagrant
and grotesque apocalypse of the Lord Chancellor; and the fierce
recrimination and memorable defiance of the Edinburgh banquet, all these
impressive instances of public affairs and public conduct had
combined to create a predominant opinion that, whatever might be the
consequences, the prolonged continuance of the present party in power
was a clear impossibility.

It is evident that the suicidal career of what was then styled the
Liberal party had been occasioned and stimulated by its unnatural excess
of strength. The apoplectic plethora of 1834 was not less fatal than
the paralytic tenuity of 1841. It was not feasible to gratify so many
ambitions, or to satisfy so many expectations. Every man had his double;
the heels of every placeman were dogged by friendly rivals ready to trip
them up. There were even two cabinets; the one that met in council, and
the one that met in cabal. The consequence of destroying the legitimate
Opposition of the country was, that a moiety of the supporters of
Government had to discharge the duties of Opposition.

Herein, then, we detect the real cause of all that irregular and
unsettled carriage of public men which so perplexed the nation after the
passing of the Reform Act. No government can be long secure without a
formidable Opposition. It reduces their supporters to that tractable
number which can be managed by the joint influences of fruition and of
hope. It offers vengeance to the discontented, and distinction to the
ambitious; and employs the energies of aspiring spirits, who otherwise
may prove traitors in a division or assassins in a debate.

The general election of 1832 abrogated the Parliamentary Opposition of
England, which had practically existed for more than a century and
a half. And what a series of equivocal transactions and mortifying
adventures did the withdrawal of this salutary restraint entail on the
party which then so loudly congratulated themselves and the country that
they were at length relieved from its odious repression! In the hurry of
existence one is apt too generally to pass over the political history
of the times in which we ourselves live. The two years that followed the
Reform of the House of Commons are full of instruction, on which a young
man would do well to ponder. It is hardly possible that he could rise
from the study of these annals without a confirmed disgust for political
intrigue; a dazzling practice, apt at first to fascinate youth, for it
appeals at once to our invention and our courage, but one which really
should only be the resource of the second-rate. Great minds must trust
to great truths and great talents for their rise, and nothing else.

While, however, as the autumn of 1834 advanced, the people of this
country became gradually sensible of the necessity of some change in the
councils of their Sovereign, no man felt capable of predicting by what
means it was to be accomplished, or from what quarry the new materials
were to be extracted. The Tory party, according to those perverted views
of Toryism unhappily too long prevalent in this country, was held to
be literally defunct, except by a few old battered crones of office,
crouched round the embers of faction which they were fanning, and
muttering 'reaction' in mystic whispers. It cannot be supposed indeed
for a moment, that the distinguished personage who had led that party in
the House of Commons previously to the passing of the act of 1832, ever
despaired in consequence of his own career. His then time of life, the
perfection, almost the prime, of manhood; his parliamentary practice,
doubly estimable in an inexperienced assembly; his political knowledge;
his fair character and reputable position; his talents and tone as a
public speaker, which he had always aimed to adapt to the habits and
culture of that middle class from which it was concluded the benches of
the new Parliament were mainly to be recruited, all these were qualities
the possession of which must have assured a mind not apt to be disturbed
in its calculations by any intemperate heats, that with time and
patience the game was yet for him.

Unquestionably, whatever may have been insinuated, this distinguished
person had no inkling that his services in 1834 might be claimed by
his Sovereign. At the close of the session of that year he had quitted
England with his family, and had arrived at Rome, where it was his
intention to pass the winter. The party charges that have imputed to him
a previous and sinister knowledge of the intentions of the Court, appear
to have been made not only in ignorance of the personal character, but
of the real position, of the future minister.

It had been the misfortune of this eminent gentleman when he first
entered public life, to become identified with a political connection
which, having arrogated to itself the name of an illustrious historical
party, pursued a policy which was either founded on no principle
whatever, or on principles exactly contrary to those which had always
guided the conduct of the great Tory leaders. The chief members of this
official confederacy were men distinguished by none of the conspicuous
qualities of statesmen. They had none of the divine gifts that govern
senates and guide councils. They were not orators; they were not men of
deep thought or happy resource, or of penetrative and sagacious minds.
Their political ken was essentially dull and contracted. They expended
some energy in obtaining a defective, blundering acquaintance with
foreign affairs; they knew as little of the real state of their own
country as savages of an approaching eclipse. This factious league had
shuffled themselves into power by clinging to the skirts of a great
minister, the last of Tory statesmen, but who, in the unparalleled
and confounding emergencies of his latter years, had been forced,
unfortunately for England, to relinquish Toryism. His successors
inherited all his errors without the latent genius, which in him might
have still rallied and extricated him from the consequences of his
disasters. His successors did not merely inherit his errors; they
exaggerated, they caricatured them. They rode into power on a springtide
of all the rampant prejudices and rancorous passions of their time.
From the King to the boor their policy was a mere pandering to
public ignorance. Impudently usurping the name of that party of
which nationality, and therefore universality, is the essence,
these pseudo-Tories made Exclusion the principle of their political
constitution, and Restriction the genius of their commercial code.

The blind goddess that plays with human fortunes has mixed up the memory
of these men with traditions of national glory. They conducted to a
prosperous conclusion the most renowned war in which England has ever
been engaged. Yet every military conception that emanated from their
cabinet was branded by their characteristic want of grandeur. Chance,
however, sent them a great military genius, whom they treated for a long
time with indifference, and whom they never heartily supported until
his career had made him their master. His transcendent exploits, and
European events even greater than his achievements, placed in the
manikin grasp of the English ministry, the settlement of Europe.

The act of the Congress of Vienna remains the eternal monument of their
diplomatic knowledge and political sagacity. Their capital feats were
the creation of two kingdoms, both of which are already erased from
the map of Europe. They made no single preparation for the inevitable,
almost impending, conjunctures of the East. All that remains of
the pragmatic arrangements of the mighty Congress of Vienna is the
mediatisation of the petty German princes.

But the settlement of Europe by the pseudo-Tories was the dictate of
inspiration compared with their settlement of England. The peace of
Paris found the government of this country in the hands of a body of men
of whom it is no exaggeration to say that they were ignorant of every
principle of every branch of political science. So long as our domestic
administration was confined merely to the raising of a revenue, they
levied taxes with gross facility from the industry of a country too busy
to criticise or complain. But when the excitement and distraction of
war had ceased, and they were forced to survey the social elements
that surrounded them, they seemed, for the first time, to have become
conscious of their own incapacity. These men, indeed, were the mere
children of routine. They prided themselves on being practical men. In
the language of this defunct school of statesmen, a practical man is a
man who practises the blunders of his predecessors.

Now commenced that Condition-of-England Question of which our generation
hears so much. During five-and-twenty years every influence that can
develop the energies and resources of a nation had been acting with
concentrated stimulation on the British Isles. National peril and
national glory; the perpetual menace of invasion, the continual triumph
of conquest; the most extensive foreign commerce that was ever conducted
by a single nation; an illimitable currency; an internal trade supported
by swarming millions whom manufacturers and inclosure-bills summoned
into existence; above all, the supreme control obtained by man over
mechanic power, these are some of the causes of that rapid advance of
material civilisation in England, to which the annals of the world can
afford no parallel. But there was no proportionate advance in our moral
civilisation. In the hurry-skurry of money-making, men-making, and
machine-making, we had altogether outgrown, not the spirit, but the
organisation, of our institutions.

The peace came; the stimulating influences suddenly ceased; the people,
in a novel and painful position, found themselves without guides.
They went to the ministry; they asked to be guided; they asked to be
governed. Commerce requested a code; trade required a currency; the
unfranchised subject solicited his equal privilege; suffering labour
clamoured for its rights; a new race demanded education. What did the
ministry do?

They fell into a panic. Having fulfilled during their lives the duties
of administration, they were frightened because they were called upon,
for the first time, to perform the functions of government. Like all
weak men, they had recourse to what they called strong measures. They
determined to put down the multitude. They thought they were imitating
Mr. Pitt, because they mistook disorganisation for sedition.

Their projects of relief were as ridiculous as their system of coercion
was ruthless; both were alike founded in intense ignorance. When we
recall Mr. Vansittart with his currency resolutions; Lord Castlereagh
with his plans for the employment of labour; and Lord Sidmouth with his
plots for ensnaring the laborious; we are tempted to imagine that the
present epoch has been one of peculiar advances in political ability,
and marvel how England could have attained her present pitch under a
series of such governors.

We should, however, be labouring under a very erroneous impression. Run
over the statesmen that have figured in England since the accession
of the present family, and we may doubt whether there be one, with the
exception perhaps of the Duke of Newcastle, who would have been a worthy
colleague of the council of Mr. Perceval, or the early cabinet of Lord
Liverpool. Assuredly the genius of Bolingbroke and the sagacity of
Walpole would have alike recoiled from such men and such measures. And
if we take the individuals who were governing England immediately before
the French Revolution, one need only refer to the speeches of Mr. Pitt,
and especially to those of that profound statesman and most instructed
man, Lord Shelburne, to find that we can boast no remarkable superiority
either in political justice or in political economy. One must attribute
this degeneracy, therefore, to the long war and our insular position,
acting upon men naturally of inferior abilities, and unfortunately, in
addition, of illiterate habits.

In the meantime, notwithstanding all the efforts of the political
Panglosses who, in evening Journals and Quarterly Reviews were
continually proving that this was the best of all possible governments,
it was evident to the ministry itself that the machine must stop. The
class of Rigbys indeed at this period, one eminently favourable to that
fungous tribe, greatly distinguished themselves. They demonstrated in a
manner absolutely convincing, that it was impossible for any person to
possess any ability, knowledge, or virtue, any capacity of reasoning,
any ray of fancy or faculty of imagination, who was not a supporter of
the existing administration. If any one impeached the management of a
department, the public was assured that the accuser had embezzled;
if any one complained of the conduct of a colonial governor, the
complainant was announced as a returned convict. An amelioration of
the criminal code was discountenanced because a search in the parish
register of an obscure village proved that the proposer had not been
born in wedlock. A relaxation of the commercial system was denounced
because one of its principal advocates was a Socinian. The inutility of
Parliamentary Reform was ever obvious since Mr. Rigby was a member of
the House of Commons.

To us, with our _Times_ newspaper every morning on our breakfast-table,
bringing, on every subject which can interest the public mind, a degree
of information and intelligence which must form a security against
any prolonged public misconception, it seems incredible that only
five-and-twenty years ago the English mind could have been so ridden
and hoodwinked, and that, too, by men of mean attainments and moderate
abilities. But the war had directed the energies of the English people
into channels by no means favourable to political education. Conquerors
of the world, with their ports filled with the shipping of every clime,
and their manufactories supplying the European continent, in the art
of self-government, that art in which their fathers excelled, they had
become literally children; and Rigby and his brother hirelings were the
nurses that frightened them with hideous fables and ugly words.

Notwithstanding, however, all this successful mystification, the
Arch-Mediocrity who presided, rather than ruled, over this Cabinet
of Mediocrities, became hourly more conscious that the inevitable
transition from fulfilling the duties of an administration to performing
the functions of a government could not be conducted without talents and
knowledge. The Arch-Mediocrity had himself some glimmering traditions
of political science. He was sprung from a laborious stock, had received
some training, and though not a statesman, might be classed among
those whom the Lord Keeper Williams used to call 'statemongers.' In a
subordinate position his meagre diligence and his frigid method might
not have been without value; but the qualities that he possessed were
misplaced; nor can any character be conceived less invested with the
happy properties of a leader. In the conduct of public affairs his
disposition was exactly the reverse of that which is the characteristic
of great men. He was peremptory in little questions, and great ones he
left open.

In the natural course of events, in 1819 there ought to have been a
change of government, and another party in the state should have entered
into office; but the Whigs, though they counted in their ranks at that
period an unusual number of men of great ability, and formed, indeed, a
compact and spirited opposition, were unable to contend against the new
adjustment of borough influence which had occurred during the war,
and under the protracted administration by which that war had been
conducted. New families had arisen on the Tory side that almost rivalled
old Newcastle himself in their electioneering management; and it was
evident that, unless some reconstruction of the House of Commons could
be effected, the Whig party could never obtain a permanent hold of
official power. Hence, from that period, the Whigs became Parliamentary
Reformers.

It was inevitable, therefore, that the country should be governed by the
same party; indispensable that the ministry should be renovated by new
brains and blood. Accordingly, a Mediocrity, not without repugnance, was
induced to withdraw, and the great name of Wellington supplied his place
in council. The talents of the Duke, as they were then understood, were
not exactly of the kind most required by the cabinet, and his colleagues
were careful that he should not occupy too prominent a post; but
still it was an impressive acquisition, and imparted to the ministry a
semblance of renown.

There was an individual who had not long entered public life, but who
had already filled considerable, though still subordinate offices.
Having acquired a certain experience of the duties of administration,
and distinction for his mode of fulfilling them, he had withdrawn
from his public charge; perhaps because he found it a barrier to the
attainment of that parliamentary reputation for which he had already
shown both a desire and a capacity; perhaps because, being young and
independent, he was not over-anxious irremediably to identify his career
with a school of politics of the infallibility of which his experience
might have already made him a little sceptical. But he possessed the
talents that were absolutely wanted, and the terms were at his own
dictation. Another, and a very distinguished Mediocrity, who would not
resign, was thrust out, and Mr. Peel became Secretary of State.

From this moment dates that intimate connection between the Duke
of Wellington and the present First Minister, which has exercised a
considerable influence over the career of individuals and the course of
affairs. It was the sympathetic result of superior minds placed among
inferior intelligences, and was, doubtless, assisted by a then mutual
conviction, that the difference of age, the circumstance of sitting in
different houses, and the general contrast of their previous pursuits
and accomplishments, rendered personal rivalry out of the question. From
this moment, too, the domestic government of the country assumed a new
character, and one universally admitted to have been distinguished by a
spirit of enlightened progress and comprehensive amelioration.

A short time after this, a third and most distinguished Mediocrity died;
and Canning, whom they had twice worried out of the cabinet, where they
had tolerated him some time in an obscure and ambiguous position, was
recalled just in time from his impending banishment, installed in the
first post in the Lower House, and intrusted with the seals of the
Foreign Office. The Duke of Wellington had coveted them, nor could Lord
Liverpool have been insensible to his Grace's peculiar fitness for such
duties; but strength was required in the House of Commons, where they
had only one Secretary of State, a young man already distinguished, yet
untried as a leader, and surrounded by colleagues notoriously incapable
to assist him in debate.

The accession of Mr. Canning to the cabinet, in a position, too, of
surpassing influence, soon led to a further weeding of the Mediocrities,
and, among other introductions, to the memorable entrance of Mr.
Huskisson. In this wise did that cabinet, once notable only for the
absence of all those qualities which authorise the possession of power,
come to be generally esteemed as a body of men, who, for parliamentary
eloquence, official practice, political information, sagacity in
council, and a due understanding of their epoch, were inferior to none
that had directed the policy of the empire since the Revolution.

If we survey the tenor of the policy of the Liverpool Cabinet during the
latter moiety of its continuance, we shall find its characteristic to be
a partial recurrence to those frank principles of government which
Mr. Pitt had revived during the latter part of the last century from
precedents that had been set us, either in practice or in dogma, during
its earlier period, by statesmen who then not only bore the title,
but professed the opinions, of Tories. Exclusive principles in the
constitution, and restrictive principles in commerce, have grown up
together; and have really nothing in common with the ancient character
of our political settlement, or the manners and customs of the English
people. Confidence in the loyalty of the nation, testified by munificent
grants of rights and franchises, and favour to an expansive system of
traffic, were distinctive qualities of the English sovereignty, until
the House of Commons usurped the better portion of its prerogatives. A
widening of our electoral scheme, great facilities to commerce, and the
rescue of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects from the Puritanic yoke,
from fetters which have been fastened on them by English Parliaments in
spite of the protests and exertions of English Sovereigns; these were
the three great elements and fundamental truths of the real Pitt system,
a system founded on the traditions of our monarchy, and caught from the
writings, the speeches, the councils of those who, for the sake of these
and analogous benefits, had ever been anxious that the Sovereign of
England should never be degraded into the position of a Venetian Doge.

It is in the plunder of the Church that we must seek for the primary
cause of our political exclusion, and our commercial restraint. That
unhallowed booty created a factitious aristocracy, ever fearful that
they might be called upon to regorge their sacrilegious spoil. To
prevent this they took refuge in political religionism, and paltering
with the disturbed consciences, or the pious fantasies, of a portion of
the people, they organised them into religious sects. These became the
unconscious Praetorians of their ill-gotten domains. At the head
of these religionists, they have continued ever since to govern, or
powerfully to influence this country. They have in that time pulled
down thrones and churches, changed dynasties, abrogated and remodelled
parliaments; they have disfranchised Scotland and confiscated Ireland.
One may admire the vigour and consistency of the Whig party, and
recognise in their career that unity of purpose that can only spring
from a great principle; but the Whigs introduced sectarian religion,
sectarian religion led to political exclusion, and political exclusion
was soon accompanied by commercial restraint.

It would be fanciful to assume that the Liverpool Cabinet, in their
ameliorating career, was directed by any desire to recur to the
primordial tenets of the Tory party. That was not an epoch when
statesmen cared to prosecute the investigation of principles. It was
a period of happy and enlightened practice. A profounder policy is the
offspring of a time like the present, when the original postulates of
institutions are called in question. The Liverpool Cabinet unconsciously
approximated to these opinions, because from careful experiment they
were convinced of their beneficial tendency, and they thus bore an
unintentional and impartial testimony to their truth. Like many men, who
think they are inventors, they were only reproducing ancient wisdom.

But one must ever deplore that this ministry, with all their talents and
generous ardour, did not advance to principles. It is always perilous to
adopt expediency as a guide; but the choice may be sometimes imperative.
These statesmen, however, took expediency for their director, when
principle would have given them all that expediency ensured, and much
more.

This ministry, strong in the confidence of the sovereign, the
parliament, and the people, might, by the courageous promulgation of
great historical truths, have gradually formed a public opinion, that
would have permitted them to organise the Tory party on a broad, a
permanent, and national basis. They might have nobly effected a complete
settlement of Ireland, which a shattered section of this very cabinet
was forced a few years after to do partially, and in an equivocating
and equivocal manner. They might have concluded a satisfactory
reconstruction of the third estate, without producing that convulsion
with which, from its violent fabrication, our social system still
vibrates. Lastly, they might have adjusted the rights and properties
of our national industries in a manner which would have prevented that
fierce and fatal rivalry that is now disturbing every hearth of the
United Kingdom.

We may, therefore, visit on the _laches_ of this ministry the
introduction of that new principle and power into our constitution which
ultimately may absorb all, AGITATION. This cabinet, then, with so much
brilliancy on its surface, is the real parent of the Roman Catholic
Association, the Political Unions, the Anti-Corn-Law League.

There is no influence at the same time so powerful and so singular as
that of individual character. It arises as often from the weakness of
the character as from its strength. The dispersion of this clever and
showy ministry is a fine illustration of this truth. One morning the
Arch-Mediocrity himself died. At the first blush, it would seem that
little difficulties could be experienced in finding his substitute. His
long occupation of the post proved, at any rate, that the qualification
was not excessive. But this cabinet, with its serene and blooming
visage, had been all this time charged with fierce and emulous
ambitions. They waited the signal, but they waited in grim repose.
The death of the nominal leader, whose formal superiority, wounding no
vanity, and offending no pride, secured in their councils equality among
the able, was the tocsin of their anarchy. There existed in this cabinet
two men, who were resolved immediately to be prime ministers; a third
who was resolved eventually to be prime minister, but would at any rate
occupy no ministerial post without the lead of a House of Parliament;
and a fourth, who felt himself capable of being prime minister, but
despaired of the revolution which could alone make him one; and who
found an untimely end when that revolution had arrived.

Had Mr. Secretary Canning remained leader of the House of Commons under
the Duke of Wellington, all that he would have gained by the death of
Lord Liverpool was a master. Had the Duke of Wellington become Secretary
of State under Mr. Canning he would have materially advanced his
political position, not only by holding the seals of a high department
in which he was calculated to excel, but by becoming leader of the
House of Lords. But his Grace was induced by certain court intriguers to
believe that the King would send for him, and he was also aware that Mr.
Peel would no longer serve under any ministry in the House of Commons.
Under any circumstances it would have been impossible to keep the
Liverpool Cabinet together. The struggle, therefore, between the Duke of
Wellington and 'my dear Mr. Canning' was internecine, and ended somewhat
unexpectedly.

And here we must stop to do justice to our friend Mr. Rigby, whose
conduct on this occasion was distinguished by a bustling dexterity which
was quite charming. He had, as we have before intimated, on the credit
of some clever lampoons written during the Queen's trial, which were,
in fact, the effusions of Lucian Gay, wriggled himself into a sort of
occasional unworthy favour at the palace, where he was half butt and
half buffoon. Here, during the interregnum occasioned by the death, or
rather inevitable retirement, of Lord Liverpool, Mr. Rigby contrived
to scrape up a conviction that the Duke was the winning horse, and in
consequence there appeared a series of leading articles in a notorious
evening newspaper, in which it was, as Tadpole and Taper declared, most
'slashingly' shown, that the son of an actress could never be tolerated
as a Prime Minister of England. Not content with this, and never
doubting for a moment the authentic basis of his persuasion, Mr. Rigby
poured forth his coarse volubility on the subject at several of the new
clubs which he was getting up in order to revenge himself for having
been black-balled at White's.

What with arrangements about Lord Monmouth's boroughs, and the lucky
bottling of some claret which the Duke had imported on Mr. Rigby's
recommendation, this distinguished gentleman contrived to pay almost
hourly visits at Apsley House, and so bullied Tadpole and Taper that
they scarcely dared address him. About four-and-twenty hours before the
result, and when it was generally supposed that the Duke was in, Mr.
Rigby, who had gone down to Windsor to ask his Majesty the date of some
obscure historical incident, which Rigby, of course, very well knew,
found that audiences were impossible, that Majesty was agitated, and
learned, from an humble but secure authority, that in spite of all his
slashing articles, and Lucian Gay's parodies of the Irish melodies,
Canning was to be Prime Minister.

This would seem something of a predicament! To common minds; there are
no such things as scrapes for gentlemen with Mr. Rigby's talents for
action. He had indeed, in the world, the credit of being an adept in
machinations, and was supposed ever to be involved in profound and
complicated contrivances. This was quite a mistake. There was nothing
profound about Mr. Rigby; and his intellect was totally incapable of
devising or sustaining an intricate or continuous scheme. He was, in
short, a man who neither felt nor thought; but who possessed, in a
very remarkable degree, a restless instinct for adroit baseness. On the
present occasion he got into his carriage, and drove at the utmost speed
from Windsor to the Foreign Office. The Secretary of State was engaged
when he arrived; but Mr. Rigby would listen to no difficulties. He
rushed upstairs, flung open the door, and with agitated countenance, and
eyes suffused with tears, threw himself into the arms of the astonished
Mr. Canning.

'All is right,' exclaimed the devoted Rigby, in broken tones; 'I have
convinced the King that the First Minister must be in the House of
Commons. No one knows it but myself; but it is certain.'

We have seen that at an early period of his career, Mr. Peel withdrew
from official life. His course had been one of unbroken prosperity; the
hero of the University had become the favourite of the House of Commons.
His retreat, therefore, was not prompted by chagrin. Nor need it have
been suggested by a calculating ambition, for the ordinary course of
events was fast bearing to him all to which man could aspire. One
might rather suppose, that he had already gained sufficient experience,
perhaps in his Irish Secretaryship, to make him pause in that career of
superficial success which education and custom had hitherto chalked out
for him, rather than the creative energies of his own mind. A thoughtful
intellect may have already detected elements in our social system which
required a finer observation, and a more unbroken study, than the gyves
and trammels of office would permit. He may have discovered that the
representation of the University, looked upon in those days as the
blue ribbon of the House of Commons, was a sufficient fetter without
unnecessarily adding to its restraint. He may have wished to reserve
himself for a happier occasion, and a more progressive period. He may
have felt the strong necessity of arresting himself in his rapid career
of felicitous routine, to survey his position in calmness, and to
comprehend the stirring age that was approaching.

For that, he could not but be conscious that the education which he had
consummated, however ornate and refined, was not sufficient. That age
of economical statesmanship which Lord Shelburne had predicted in 1787,
when he demolished, in the House of Lords, Bishop Watson and the
Balance of Trade, which Mr. Pitt had comprehended; and for which he was
preparing the nation when the French Revolution diverted the public mind
into a stronger and more turbulent current, was again impending, while
the intervening history of the country had been prolific in events which
had aggravated the necessity of investigating the sources of the wealth
of nations. The time had arrived when parliamentary preeminence could no
longer be achieved or maintained by gorgeous abstractions borrowed from
Burke, or shallow systems purloined from De Lolme, adorned with Horatian
points, or varied with Virgilian passages. It was to be an age of
abstruse disquisition, that required a compact and sinewy intellect,
nurtured in a class of learning not yet honoured in colleges, and which
might arrive at conclusions conflicting with predominant prejudices.

Adopting this view of the position of Mr. Peel, strengthened as it is by
his early withdrawal for a while from the direction of public affairs,
it may not only be a charitable but a true estimate of the motives which
influenced him in his conduct towards Mr. Canning, to conclude that he
was not guided in that transaction by the disingenuous rivalry
usually imputed to him. His statement in Parliament of the determining
circumstances of his conduct, coupled with his subsequent and almost
immediate policy, may perhaps always leave this a painful and ambiguous
passage in his career; but in passing judgment on public men, it behoves
us ever to take large and extended views of their conduct; and previous
incidents will often satisfactorily explain subsequent events, which,
without their illustrating aid, are involved in misapprehension or
mystery.

It would seem, therefore, that Sir Robert Peel, from an early period,
meditated his emancipation from the political confederacy in which
he was implicated, and that he has been continually baffled in this
project. He broke loose from Lord Liverpool; he retired from Mr.
Canning. Forced again into becoming the subordinate leader of the
weakest government in parliamentary annals, he believed he had at length
achieved his emancipation, when he declared to his late colleagues,
after the overthrow of 1830, that he would never again accept a
secondary position in office. But the Duke of Wellington was too old a
tactician to lose so valuable an ally. So his Grace declared after the
Reform Bill was passed, as its inevitable result, that thenceforth
the Prime Minister must be a member of the House of Commons; and this
aphorism, cited as usual by the Duke's parasites as demonstration of his
supreme sagacity, was a graceful mode of resigning the preeminence which
had been productive of such great party disasters. It is remarkable
that the party who devised and passed the Reform Bill, and who, in
consequence, governed the nation for ten years, never once had their
Prime Minister in the House of Commons: but that does not signify; the
Duke's maxim is still quoted as an oracle almost equal in prescience
to his famous query, 'How is the King's government to be carried on?'
a question to which his Grace by this time has contrived to give a
tolerably practical answer.

Sir Robert Peel, who had escaped from Lord Liverpool, escaped from Mr.
Canning, escaped even from the Duke of Wellington in 1832, was at
length caught in 1834; the victim of ceaseless intriguers, who neither
comprehended his position, nor that of their country.



CHAPTER II.


Beaumanoir was one of those Palladian palaces, vast and ornate, such
as the genius of Kent and Campbell delighted in at the beginning of the
eighteenth century. Placed on a noble elevation, yet screened from the
northern blast, its sumptuous front, connected with its far-spreading
wings by Corinthian colonnades, was the boast and pride of the midland
counties. The surrounding gardens, equalling in extent the size of
ordinary parks, were crowded with temples dedicated to abstract virtues
and to departed friends. Occasionally a triumphal arch celebrated a
general whom the family still esteemed a hero; and sometimes a votive
column commemorated the great statesman who had advanced the family a
step in the peerage. Beyond the limits of this pleasance the hart and
hind wandered in a wilderness abounding in ferny coverts and green and
stately trees.

The noble proprietor of this demesne had many of the virtues of his
class; a few of their failings. He had that public spirit which became
his station. He was not one of those who avoided the exertions and the
sacrifices which should be inseparable from high position, by the hollow
pretext of a taste for privacy, and a devotion to domestic joys. He
was munificent, tender, and bounteous to the poor, and loved a flowing
hospitality. A keen sportsman, he was not untinctured by letters,
and had indeed a cultivated taste for the fine arts. Though an ardent
politician, he was tolerant to adverse opinions, and full of amenity
to his opponents. A firm supporter of the corn-laws, he never refused
a lease. Notwithstanding there ran through his whole demeanour and the
habit of his mind, a vein of native simplicity that was full of charm,
his manner was finished. He never offended any one's self-love. His good
breeding, indeed, sprang from the only sure source of gentle manners,
a kind heart. To have pained others would have pained himself. Perhaps,
too, this noble sympathy may have been in some degree prompted by the
ancient blood in his veins, an accident of lineage rather rare with the
English nobility. One could hardly praise him for the strong affections
that bound him to his hearth, for fortune had given him the most
pleasing family in the world; but, above all, a peerless wife.

The Duchess was one of those women who are the delight of existence. She
was sprung from a house not inferior to that with which she had blended,
and was gifted with that rare beauty which time ever spares, so that she
seemed now only the elder sister of her own beautiful daughters. She,
too, was distinguished by that perfect good breeding which is the result
of nature and not of education: for it may be found in a cottage, and
may be missed in a palace. 'Tis a genial regard for the feelings of
others that springs from an absence of selfishness. The Duchess, indeed,
was in every sense a fine lady; her manners were refined and full of
dignity; but nothing in the world could have induced her to appear bored
when another was addressing or attempting to amuse her. She was not one
of those vulgar fine ladies who meet you one day with a vacant stare, as
if unconscious of your existence, and address you on another in a tone
of impertinent familiarity. Her temper, perhaps, was somewhat quick,
which made this consideration for the feelings of others still more
admirable, for it was the result of a strict moral discipline acting
on a good heart. Although the best of wives and mothers, she had some
charity for her neighbours. Needing herself no indulgence, she could be
indulgent; and would by no means favour that strait-laced morality
that would constrain the innocent play of the social body. She was
accomplished, well read, and had a lively fancy. Add to this that
sunbeam of a happy home, a gay and cheerful spirit in its mistress, and
one might form some faint idea of this gracious personage.

The eldest son of this house was now on the continent; of his
two younger brothers, one was with his regiment and the other was
Coningsby's friend at Eton, our Henry Sydney. The two eldest daughters
had just married, on the same day, and at the same altar; and the
remaining one, Theresa, was still a child.

The Duke had occupied a chief post in the Household under the late
administration, and his present guests chiefly consisted of his former
colleagues in office. There were several members of the late cabinet,
several members for his Grace's late boroughs, looking very much like
martyrs, full of suffering and of hope. Mr. Tadpole and Mr. Taper were
also there; they too had lost their seats since 1832; but being men of
business, and accustomed from early life to look about them, they had
already commenced the combinations which on a future occasion were to
bear them back to the assembly where they were so missed.

Taper had his eye on a small constituency which had escaped the fatal
schedules, and where he had what they called a 'connection;' that is to
say, a section of the suffrages who had a lively remembrance of Treasury
favours once bestowed by Mr. Taper, and who had not been so liberally
dealt with by the existing powers. This connection of Taper was in time
to leaven the whole mass of the constituent body, and make it rise in
full rebellion against its present liberal representative, who being
one of a majority of three hundred, could get nothing when he called at
Whitehall or Downing Street.

Tadpole, on the contrary, who was of a larger grasp of mind than
Taper, with more of imagination and device but not so safe a man, was
coquetting with a manufacturing town and a large constituency, where he
was to succeed by the aid of the Wesleyans, of which pious body he had
suddenly become a fervent admirer. The great Mr. Rigby, too, was a guest
out of Parliament, nor caring to be in; but hearing that his friends had
some hopes, he thought he would just come down to dash them.

The political grapes were sour for Mr. Rigby; a prophet of evil, he
preached only mortification and repentance and despair to his late
colleagues. It was the only satisfaction left Mr. Rigby, except assuring
the Duke that the finest pictures in his gallery were copies, and
recommending him to pull down Beaumanoir, and rebuild it on a design
with which Mr. Rigby would furnish him.

The battue and the banquet were over; the ladies had withdrawn; and the
butler placed fresh claret on the table.

'And you really think you could give us a majority, Tadpole?' said the
Duke.

Mr. Tadpole, with some ceremony, took a memorandum-book out of his
pocket, amid the smiles and the faint well-bred merriment of his
friends.

'Tadpole is nothing without his book,' whispered Lord Fitz-Booby.

'It is here,' said Mr. Tadpole, emphatically patting his volume, 'a
clear working majority of twenty-two.'

'Near sailing that!' cried the Duke.

'A far better majority than the present Government have,' said Mr.
Tadpole.

'There is nothing like a good small majority,' said Mr. Taper, 'and a
good registration.'

'Ay! register, register, register!' said the Duke. 'Those were immortal
words.'

'I can tell your Grace three far better ones,' said Mr. Tadpole, with a
self-complacent air. 'Object, object, object!'

'You may register, and you may object,' said Mr. Rigby, 'but you will
never get rid of Schedule A and Schedule B.'

'But who could have supposed two years ago that affairs would be in
their present position?' said Mr. Taper, deferentially.

'I foretold it,' said Mr. Rigby. 'Every one knows that no government now
can last twelve months.'

'We may make fresh boroughs,' said Taper. 'We have reduced Shabbyton at
the last registration under three hundred.'

'And the Wesleyans!' said Tadpole. 'We never counted on the Wesleyans!'

'I am told these Wesleyans are really a respectable body,' said Lord
Fitz-Booby. 'I believe there is no material difference between their
tenets and those of the Establishment. I never heard of them much till
lately. We have too long confounded them with the mass of Dissenters,
but their conduct at several of the later elections proves that they are
far from being unreasonable and disloyal individuals. When we come in,
something should be done for the Wesleyans, eh, Rigby?'

'All that your Lordship can do for the Wesleyans is what they will very
shortly do for themselves, appropriate a portion of the Church Revenues
to their own use.'

'Nay, nay,' said Mr. Tadpole with a chuckle, 'I don't think we shall
find the Church attacked again in a hurry. I only wish they would try! A
good Church cry before a registration,' he continued, rubbing his hands;
'eh, my Lord, I think that would do.'

'But how are we to turn them out?' said the Duke.

'Ah!' said Mr. Taper, 'that is a great question.'

'What do you think of a repeal of the Malt Tax?' said Lord Fitz-Booby.
'They have been trying it on in ----shire, and I am told it goes down
very well.'

'No repeal of any tax,' said Taper, sincerely shocked, and shaking his
head; 'and the Malt Tax of all others. I am all against that.'

'It is a very good cry though, if there be no other,' said Tadpole.

'I am all for a religious cry,' said Taper. 'It means nothing, and, if
successful, does not interfere with business when we are in.'

'You will have religious cries enough in a short time,' said Mr. Rigby,
rather wearied of any one speaking but himself, and thereat he commenced
a discourse, which was, in fact, one of his 'slashing' articles in petto
on Church Reform, and which abounded in parallels between the present
affairs and those of the reign of Charles I. Tadpole, who did not
pretend to know anything but the state of the registration, and Taper,
whose political reading was confined to an intimate acquaintance with
the Red Book and Beatson's Political Index, which he could repeat
backwards, were silenced. The Duke, who was well instructed and liked
to be talked to, sipped his claret, and was rather amused by Rigby's
lecture, particularly by one or two statements characterised by Rigby's
happy audacity, but which the Duke was too indolent to question. Lord
Fitz-Booby listened with his mouth open, but rather bored. At length,
when there was a momentary pause, he said:

'In my time, the regular thing was to move an amendment on the address.'

'Quite out of the question,' exclaimed Tadpole, with a scoff.

'Entirely given up,' said Taper, with a sneer.

'If you will drink no more claret, we will go and hear some music,' said
the Duke.



CHAPTER III.


A breakfast at Beaumanoir was a meal of some ceremony. Every guest was
expected to attend, and at a somewhat early hour. Their host and hostess
set them the example of punctuality. 'Tis an old form rigidly adhered to
in some great houses, but, it must be confessed, does not contrast
very agreeably with the easier arrangements of establishments of less
pretension and of more modern order.

The morning after the dinner to which we have been recently introduced,
there was one individual absent from the breakfast-table whose
non-appearance could scarcely be passed over without notice; and several
inquired with some anxiety, whether their host were indisposed.

'The Duke has received some letters from London which detain him,'
replied the Duchess. 'He will join us.'

'Your Grace will be glad to hear that your son Henry is very well,' said
Mr. Rigby; 'I heard of him this morning. Harry Coningsby enclosed me a
letter for his grandfather, and tells me that he and Henry Sydney had
just had a capital run with the King's hounds.'

'It is three years since we have seen Mr. Coningsby,' said the Duchess.
'Once he was often here. He was a great favourite of mine. I hardly ever
knew a more interesting boy.'

'Yes, I have done a great deal for him,' said Mr. Rigby. 'Lord Monmouth
is fond of him, and wishes that he should make a figure; but how any one
is to distinguish himself now, I am really at a loss to comprehend.'

'But are affairs so very bad?' said the Duchess, smiling. 'I thought
that we were all regaining our good sense and good temper.'

'I believe all the good sense and all the good temper in England are
concentrated in your Grace,' said Mr. Rigby, gallantly.

'I should be sorry to be such a monopolist. But Lord Fitz-Booby was
giving me last night quite a glowing report of Mr. Tadpole's prospects
for the nation. We were all to have our own again; and Percy to carry
the county.'

'My dear Madam, before twelve months are past, there will not be
a county in England. Why should there be? If boroughs are to be
disfranchised, why should not counties be destroyed?'

At this moment the Duke entered, apparently agitated. He bowed to his
guests, and apologised for his unusual absence. 'The truth is,' he
continued, 'I have just received a very important despatch. An event has
occurred which may materially affect affairs. Lord Spencer is dead.'

A thunderbolt in a summer sky, as Sir William Temple says, could not
have produced a greater sensation. The business of the repast ceased in
a moment. The knives and forks were suddenly silent. All was still.

'It is an immense event,' said Tadpole.

'I don't see my way,' said Taper.

'When did he die?' said Lord Fitz-Booby.

'I don't believe it,' said Mr. Rigby.

'They have got their man ready,' said Tadpole.

'It is impossible to say what will happen,' said Taper.

'Now is the time for an amendment on the address,' said Fitz-Booby.

'There are two reasons which convince me that Lord Spencer is not dead,'
said Mr. Rigby.

'I fear there is no doubt of it,' said the Duke, shaking his head.

'Lord Althorp was the only man who could keep them together,' said Lord
Fitz-Booby.

'On the contrary,' said Tadpole. 'If I be right in my man, and I have
no doubt of it, you will have a radical programme, and they will be
stronger than ever.'

'Do you think they can get the steam up again?' said Taper, musingly.

'They will bid high,' replied Tadpole. 'Nothing could be more
unfortunate than this death. Things were going on so well and so
quietly! The Wesleyans almost with us!'

'And Shabbyton too!' mournfully exclaimed Taper. 'Another registration
and quiet times, and I could have reduced the constituency to two
hundred and fifty.'

'If Lord Spencer had died on the 10th,' said Rigby, 'it must have been
known to Henry Rivers. And I have a letter from Henry Rivers by this
post. Now, Althorp is in Northamptonshire, mark that, and Northampton is
a county--'

'My dear Rigby,' said the Duke, 'pardon me for interrupting you.
Unhappily, there is no doubt Lord Spencer is dead, for I am one of his
executors.'

This announcement silenced even Mr. Rigby, and the conversation now
entirely merged in speculations on what would occur. Numerous were
the conjectures hazarded, but the prevailing impression was, that this
unforeseen event might embarrass those secret expectations of Court
succour in which a certain section of the party had for some time reason
to indulge.

From the moment, however, of the announcement of Lord Spencer's death, a
change might be visibly observed in the tone of the party at Beaumanoir.
They became silent, moody, and restless. There seemed a general, though
not avowed, conviction that a crisis of some kind or other was at hand.
The post, too, brought letters every day from town teeming with fanciful
speculations, and occasionally mysterious hopes.

'I kept this cover for Peel,' said the Duke pensively, as he loaded his
gun on the morning of the 14th. 'Do you know, I was always against his
going to Rome.'

'It is very odd,' said Tadpole, 'but I was thinking of the very same
thing.'

'It will be fifteen years before England will see a Tory Government,'
said Mr. Rigby, drawing his ramrod, 'and then it will only last five
months.'

'Melbourne, Althorp, and Durham, all in the Lords,' said Taper. 'Three
leaders! They must quarrel.'

'If Durham come in, mark me, he will dissolve on Household Suffrage and
the Ballot,' said Tadpole.

'Not nearly so good a cry as Church,' replied Taper.

'With the Malt Tax,' said Tadpole. 'Church, without the Malt Tax, will
not do against Household Suffrage and Ballot.'

'Malt Tax is madness,' said Taper. 'A good farmer's friend cry without
Malt Tax would work just as well.'

'They will never dissolve,' said the Duke. 'They are so strong.'

'They cannot go on with three hundred majority,' said Taper. 'Forty is
as much as can be managed with open constituencies.'

'If he had only gone to Paris instead of Rome!' said the Duke.

'Yes,' said Mr. Rigby, 'I could have written to him then by every post,
and undeceived him as to his position.'

'After all he is the only man,' said the Duke; 'and I really believe the
country thinks so.'

'Pray, what is the country?' inquired Mr. Rigby. 'The country is
nothing; it is the constituency you have to deal with.'

'And to manage them you must have a good cry,' said Taper. 'All now
depends upon a good cry.'

'So much for the science of politics,' said the Duke, bringing down a
pheasant. 'How Peel would have enjoyed this cover!'

'He will have plenty of time for sport during his life,' said Mr. Rigby.

On the evening of the 15th of November, a despatch arrived at
Beaumanoir, informing his Grace that the King had dismissed the Whig
Ministry, and sent for the Duke of Wellington. Thus the first agitating
suspense was over; to be succeeded, however, by expectation still more
anxious. It was remarkable that every individual suddenly found that he
had particular business in London which could not be neglected. The Duke
very properly pleaded his executorial duties; but begged his guests on
no account to be disturbed by his inevitable absence. Lord Fitz-Booby
had just received a letter from his daughter, who was indisposed at
Brighton, and he was most anxious to reach her. Tadpole had to receive
deputations from Wesleyans, and well-registered boroughs anxious to
receive well-principled candidates. Taper was off to get the first job
at the contingent Treasury, in favour of the Borough of Shabbyton.
Mr. Rigby alone was silent; but he quietly ordered a post-chaise at
daybreak, and long before his fellow guests were roused from their
slumbers, he was halfway to London, ready to give advice, either at the
pavilion or at Apsley House.



CHAPTER IV.


Although it is far from improbable that, had Sir Robert Peel been in
England in the autumn of 1834, the Whig government would not have been
dismissed; nevertheless, whatever may now be the opinion of the policy
of that measure; whether it be looked on as a premature movement which
necessarily led to the compact reorganisation of the Liberal party,
or as a great stroke of State, which, by securing at all events a
dissolution of the Parliament of 1832, restored the healthy balance of
parties in the Legislature, questions into which we do not now wish
to enter, it must be generally admitted, that the conduct of every
individual eminently concerned in that great historical transaction was
characterised by the rarest and most admirable quality of public
life, moral courage. The Sovereign who dismissed a Ministry apparently
supported by an overwhelming majority in the Parliament and the nation,
and called to his councils the absent chief of a parliamentary section,
scarcely numbering at that moment one hundred and forty individuals, and
of a party in the country supposed to be utterly discomfited by a
recent revolution; the two ministers who in this absence provisionally
administered the affairs of the kingdom in the teeth of an enraged
and unscrupulous Opposition, and perhaps themselves not sustained by
a profound conviction, that the arrival of their expected leader would
convert their provisional into a permanent position; above all
the statesman who accepted the great charge at a time and under
circumstances which marred probably the deep projects of his own
prescient sagacity and maturing ambition; were all men gifted with a
high spirit of enterprise, and animated by that active fortitude which
is the soul of free governments.

It was a lively season, that winter of 1834! What hopes, what fears, and
what bets! From the day on which Mr. Hudson was to arrive at Rome to the
election of the Speaker, not a contingency that was not the subject of
a wager! People sprang up like mushrooms; town suddenly became full.
Everybody who had been in office, and everybody who wished to be in
office; everybody who had ever had anything, and everybody who ever
expected to have anything, were alike visible. All of course by mere
accident; one might meet the same men regularly every day for a month,
who were only 'passing through town.'

Now was the time for men to come forward who had never despaired of
their country. True they had voted for the Reform Bill, but that was to
prevent a revolution. And now they were quite ready to vote against the
Reform Bill, but this was to prevent a dissolution. These are the true
patriots, whose confidence in the good sense of their countrymen and in
their own selfishness is about equal. In the meantime, the hundred and
forty threw a grim glance on the numerous waiters on Providence, and
amiable trimmers, who affectionately enquired every day when news might
be expected of Sir Robert. Though too weak to form a government, and
having contributed in no wise by their exertions to the fall of the
late, the cohort of Parliamentary Tories felt all the alarm of men who
have accidentally stumbled on some treasure-trove, at the suspicious
sympathy of new allies. But, after all, who were to form the government,
and what was the government to be? Was it to be a Tory government, or an
Enlightened-Spirit-of-the-Age Liberal-Moderate-Reform government; was it
to be a government of high philosophy or of low practice; of principle
or of expediency; of great measures or of little men? A government of
statesmen or of clerks? Of Humbug or of Humdrum? Great questions these,
but unfortunately there was nobody to answer them. They tried the Duke;
but nothing could be pumped out of him. All that he knew, which he
told in his curt, husky manner, was, that he had to carry on the King's
government. As for his solitary colleague, he listened and smiled, and
then in his musical voice asked them questions in return, which is the
best possible mode of avoiding awkward inquiries. It was very unfair
this; for no one knew what tone to take; whether they should go down to
their public dinners and denounce the Reform Act or praise it; whether
the Church was to be re-modelled or only admonished; whether Ireland was
to be conquered or conciliated.

'This can't go on much longer,' said Taper to Tadpole, as they reviewed
together their electioneering correspondence on the 1st of December; 'we
have no cry.'

'He is half way by this time,' said Tadpole; 'send an extract from a
private letter to the _Standard_, dated Augsburg, and say he will be
here in four days.'

At last he came; the great man in a great position, summoned from Rome
to govern England. The very day that he arrived he had his audience with
the King.

It was two days after this audience; the town, though November, in a
state of excitement; clubs crowded, not only morning rooms, but halls
and staircases swarming with members eager to give and to receive
rumours equally vain; streets lined with cabs and chariots, grooms and
horses; it was two days after this audience that Mr. Ormsby, celebrated
for his political dinners, gave one to a numerous party. Indeed his
saloons to-day, during the half-hour of gathering which precedes dinner,
offered in the various groups, the anxious countenances, the inquiring
voices, and the mysterious whispers, rather the character of an Exchange
or Bourse than the tone of a festive society.

Here might be marked a murmuring knot of greyheaded privy-councillors,
who had held fat offices under Perceval and Liverpool, and who looked
back to the Reform Act as to a hideous dream; there some middle-aged
aspirants might be observed who had lost their seats in the convulsion,
but who flattered themselves they had done something for the party
in the interval, by spending nothing except their breath in fighting
hopeless boroughs, and occasionally publishing a pamphlet, which really
produced less effect than chalking the walls. Light as air, and proud as
a young peacock, tripped on his toes a young Tory, who had contrived to
keep his seat in a Parliament where he had done nothing, but who thought
an Under-Secretaryship was now secure, particularly as he was the son of
a noble Lord who had also in a public capacity plundered and blundered
in the good old time. The true political adventurer, who with dull
desperation had stuck at nothing, had never neglected a treasury note,
had been present at every division, never spoke when he was asked to be
silent, and was always ready on any subject when they wanted him to open
his mouth; who had treated his leaders with servility even behind their
backs, and was happy for the day if a future Secretary of the Treasury
bowed to him; who had not only discountenanced discontent in the party,
but had regularly reported in strict confidence every instance of
insubordination which came to his knowledge; might there too be detected
under all the agonies of the crisis; just beginning to feel the
dread misgiving, whether being a slave and a sneak were sufficient
qualifications for office, without family or connection. Poor fellow!
half the industry he had wasted on his cheerless craft might have made
his fortune in some decent trade!

In dazzling contrast with these throes of low ambition, were some
brilliant personages who had just scampered up from Melton, thinking it
probable that Sir Robert might want some moral lords of the bed-chamber.
Whatever may have been their private fears or feelings, all however
seemed smiling and significant, as if they knew something if they chose
to tell it, and that something very much to their own satisfaction.
The only grave countenance that was occasionally ushered into the room
belonged to some individual whose destiny was not in doubt, and who was
already practising the official air that was in future to repress the
familiarity of his former fellow-stragglers.

'Do you hear anything?' said a great noble who wanted something in the
general scramble, but what he knew not; only he had a vague feeling he
ought to have something, having made such great sacrifices.

'There is a report that Clifford is to be Secretary to the Board of
Control,' said Mr. Earwig, whose whole soul was in this subaltern
arrangement, of which the Minister of course had not even thought; 'but
I cannot trace it to any authority.'

'I wonder who will be their Master of the Horse,' said the great noble,
loving gossip though he despised the gossiper.

'Clifford has done nothing for the party,' said Mr. Earwig.

'I dare say Rambrooke will have the Buckhounds,' said the great noble,
musingly.

'Your Lordship has not heard Clifford's name mentioned?' continued Mr.
Earwig.

'I should think they had not come to that sort of thing,' said the great
noble, with ill-disguised contempt.' The first thing after the Cabinet
is formed is the Household: the things you talk of are done last;' and
he turned upon his heel, and met the imperturbable countenance and clear
sarcastic eye of Lord Eskdale.

'You have not heard anything?' asked the great noble of his brother
patrician.

'Yes, a great deal since I have been in this room; but unfortunately it
is all untrue.'

'There is a report that Rambrooke is to have the Buck-hounds; but I
cannot trace it to any authority.'

'Pooh!' said Lord Eskdale.

'I don't see that Rambrooke should have the Buckhounds any more than
anybody else. What sacrifices has he made?'

'Past sacrifices are nothing,' said Lord Eskdale. 'Present sacrifices
are the thing we want: men who will sacrifice their principles and join
us.'

'You have not heard Rambrooke's name mentioned?'

'When a Minister has no Cabinet, and only one hundred and forty
supporters in the House of Commons, he has something else to think of
than places at Court,' said Lord Eskdale, as he slowly turned away to
ask Lucian Gay whether it were true that Jenny Colon was coming over.

Shortly after this, Henry Sydney's father, who dined with Mr. Ornisby,
drew Lord Eskdale into a window, and said in an undertone:

'So there is to be a kind of programme: something is to be written.'

'Well, we want a cue,' said Lord Eskdale. 'I heard of this last night:
Rigby has written something.'

The Duke shook his head.

'No; Peel means to do it himself.'

But at this moment Mr. Ornisby begged his Grace to lead them to dinner.

'Something is to be written.' It is curious to recall the vague terms
in which the first projection of documents, that are to exercise a vast
influence on the course of affairs or the minds of nations, is often
mentioned. This 'something to be written' was written; and speedily; and
has ever since been talked of.

We believe we may venture to assume that at no period during the
movements of 1834-5 did Sir Robert Peel ever believe in the success
of his administration. Its mere failure could occasion him little
dissatisfaction; he was compensated for it by the noble opportunity
afforded to him for the display of those great qualities, both moral and
intellectual, which the swaddling-clothes of a routine prosperity had
long repressed, but of which his opposition to the Reform Bill had
given to the nation a significant intimation. The brief administration
elevated him in public opinion, and even in the eye of Europe; and it
is probable that a much longer term of power would not have contributed
more to his fame.

The probable effect of the premature effort of his party on his future
position as a Minister was, however, far from being so satisfactory. At
the lowest ebb of his political fortunes, it cannot be doubted that Sir
Robert Peel looked forward, perhaps through the vista of many years, to
a period when the national mind, arrived by reflection and experience
at certain conclusions, would seek in him a powerful expositor of its
convictions. His time of life permitted him to be tranquil in adversity,
and to profit by its salutary uses. He would then have acceded to power
as the representative of a Creed, instead of being the leader of a
Confederacy, and he would have been supported by earnest and enduring
enthusiasm, instead of by that churlish sufferance which is the
result of a supposed balance of advantages in his favour. This is
the consequence of the tactics of those short-sighted intriguers, who
persisted in looking upon a revolution as a mere party struggle, and
would not permit the mind of the nation to work through the inevitable
phases that awaited it. In 1834, England, though frightened at the
reality of Reform, still adhered to its phrases; it was inclined,
as practical England, to maintain existing institutions; but, as
theoretical England, it was suspicious that they were indefensible.

No one had arisen either in Parliament, the Universities, or the Press,
to lead the public mind to the investigation of principles; and not
to mistake, in their reformations, the corruption of practice for
fundamental ideas. It was this perplexed, ill-informed, jaded, shallow
generation, repeating cries which they did not comprehend, and wearied
with the endless ebullitions of their own barren conceit, that Sir
Robert Peel was summoned to govern. It was from such materials, ample
in quantity, but in all spiritual qualities most deficient; with
great numbers, largely acred, consoled up to their chins, but without
knowledge, genius, thought, truth, or faith, that Sir Robert Peel was to
form a 'great Conservative party on a comprehensive basis.' That he
did this like a dexterous politician, who can deny? Whether he realised
those prescient views of a great statesman in which he had doubtless
indulged, and in which, though still clogged by the leadership of 1834,
he may yet find fame for himself and salvation for his country, is
altogether another question. His difficult attempt was expressed in
an address to his constituents, which now ranks among state papers.
We shall attempt briefly to consider it with the impartiality of the
future.



CHAPTER V.


The Tamworth Manifesto of 1834 was an attempt to construct a
party without principles; its basis therefore was necessarily
Latitudinarianism; and its inevitable consequence has been Political
Infidelity.

At an epoch of political perplexity and social alarm, the confederation
was convenient, and was calculated by aggregation to encourage the timid
and confused. But when the perturbation was a little subsided, and
men began to inquire why they were banded together, the difficulty of
defining their purpose proved that the league, however respectable, was
not a party. The leaders indeed might profit by their eminent position
to obtain power for their individual gratification, but it was
impossible to secure their followers that which, after all, must be the
great recompense of a political party, the putting in practice of their
opinions; for they had none.

There was indeed a considerable shouting about what they called
Conservative principles; but the awkward question naturally arose, what
will you conserve? The prerogatives of the Crown, provided they are not
exercised; the independence of the House of Lords, provided it is not
asserted; the Ecclesiastical estate, provided it is regulated by a
commission of laymen. Everything, in short, that is established, as long
as it is a phrase and not a fact.

In the meantime, while forms and phrases are religiously cherished in
order to make the semblance of a creed, the rule of practice is to
bend to the passion or combination of the hour. Conservatism assumes in
theory that everything established should be maintained; but adopts
in practice that everything that is established is indefensible. To
reconcile this theory and this practice, they produce what they call
'the best bargain;' some arrangement which has no principle and no
purpose, except to obtain a temporary lull of agitation, until the mind
of the Conservatives, without a guide and without an aim, distracted,
tempted, and bewildered, is prepared for another arrangement, equally
statesmanlike with the preceding one.

Conservatism was an attempt to carry on affairs by substituting the
fulfilment of the duties of office for the performance of the functions
of government; and to maintain this negative system by the mere
influence of property, reputable private conduct, and what are called
good connections. Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from
Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for Antiquity,
it offers no redress for the Present, and makes no preparation for the
Future. It is obvious that for a time, under favourable circumstances,
such a confederation might succeed; but it is equally clear, that on
the arrival of one of those critical conjunctures that will periodically
occur in all states, and which such an unimpassioned system is even
calculated ultimately to create, all power of resistance will be
wanting: the barren curse of political infidelity will paralyse all
action; and the Conservative Constitution will be discovered to be a
Caput Mortuum.



CHAPTER VI.


In the meantime, after dinner, Tadpole and Taper, who were among the
guests of Mr. Ormsby, withdrew to a distant sofa, out of earshot, and
indulged in confidential talk.

'Such a strength in debate was never before found on a Treasury bench,'
said Mr. Tadpole; 'the other side will be dumbfounded.'

'And what do you put our numbers at now?' inquired Mr. Taper.

'Would you take fifty-five for our majority?' rejoined Mr. Tadpole.

'It is not so much the tail they have, as the excuse their junction will
be for the moderate, sensible men to come over,' said Taper. 'Our friend
Sir Everard for example, it would settle him.'

'He is a solemn impostor,' rejoined Mr. Tadpole; 'but he is a baronet
and a county member, and very much looked up to by the Wesleyans. The
other men, I know, have refused him a peerage.'

'And we might hold out judicious hopes,' said Taper.

'No one can do that better than you,' said Tadpole. 'I am apt to say too
much about those things.'

'I make it a rule never to open my mouth on such subjects,' said Taper.
'A nod or a wink will speak volumes. An affectionate pressure of the
hand will sometimes do a great deal; and I have promised many a peerage
without committing myself, by an ingenious habit of deference which
cannot be mistaken by the future noble.'

'I wonder what they will do with Rigby,' said Tadpole.

'He wants a good deal,' said Taper.

'I tell you what, Mr. Taper, the time is gone by when a Marquess of
Monmouth was Letter A, No. 1.'

'Very true, Mr. Tadpole. A wise man would do well now to look to
the great middle class, as I said the other day to the electors of
Shabbyton.'

'I had sooner be supported by the Wesleyans,' said Mr. Tadpole, 'than by
all the marquesses in the peerage.'

'At the same time,' said Mr. Taper, 'Rigby is a considerable man. If we
want a slashing article--'

'Pooh!' said Mr. Tadpole. 'He is quite gone by. He takes three months
for his slashing articles. Give me the man who can write a leader. Rigby
can't write a leader.'

'Very few can,' said Mr. Taper. 'However, I don't think much of the
press. Its power is gone by. They overdid it.'

'There is Tom Chudleigh,' said Tadpole. 'What is he to have?'

'Nothing, I hope,' said Taper. 'I hate him. A coxcomb! Cracking his
jokes and laughing at us.'

'He has done a good deal for the party, though,' said Tadpole. 'That,
to be sure, is only an additional reason for throwing him over, as he
is too far committed to venture to oppose us. But I am afraid from
something that dropped to-day, that Sir Robert thinks he has claims.'

'We must stop them,' said Taper, growing pale. 'Fellows like Chudleigh,
when they once get in, are always in one's way. I have no objection to
young noblemen being put forward, for they are preferred so rapidly,
and then their fathers die, that in the long run they do not practically
interfere with us.'

'Well, his name was mentioned,' said Tadpole. 'There is no concealing
that.'

'I will speak to Earwig,' said Taper. 'He shall just drop into
Sir Robert's ear by chance, that Chudleigh used to quiz him in the
smoking-room. Those little bits of information do a great deal of good.'

'Well, I leave him to you,' said Tadpole. 'I am heartily with you
in keeping out all fellows like Chudleigh. They are very well for
opposition; but in office we don't want wits.'

'And when shall we have the answer from Knowsley?' inquired Taper. 'You
anticipate no possible difficulty?'

'I tell you it is "carte blanche,"' replied Tadpole. 'Four places in
the cabinet. Two secretaryships at the least. Do you happen to know any
gentleman of your acquaintance, Mr. Taper, who refuses Secretaryships
of State so easily, that you can for an instant doubt of the present
arrangement?'

'I know none indeed,' said Mr. Taper, with a grim smile.

'The thing is done,' said Mr. Tadpole.

'And now for our cry,' said Mr. Taper.

'It is not a Cabinet for a good cry,' said Tadpole; 'but then, on the
other hand, it is a Cabinet that will sow dissension in the opposite
ranks, and prevent them having a good cry.'

'Ancient institutions and modern improvements, I suppose, Mr. Tadpole?'

'Ameliorations is the better word, ameliorations. Nobody knows exactly
what it means.'

'We go strong on the Church?' said Mr. Taper.

'And no repeal of the Malt Tax; you were right, Taper. It can't be
listened to for a moment.'

'Something might be done with prerogative,' said Mr. Taper; 'the King's
constitutional choice.'

'Not too much,' replied Mr. Tadpole. 'It is a raw time yet for
prerogative.'

'Ah! Tadpole,' said Mr. Taper, getting a little maudlin; 'I often think,
if the time should ever come, when you and I should be joint Secretaries
of the Treasury!'

'We shall see, we shall see. All we have to do is to get into
Parliament, work well together, and keep other men down.'

'We will do our best,' said Taper. 'A dissolution you hold inevitable?'

'How are you and I to get into Parliament if there be not one? We must
make it inevitable. I tell you what, Taper, the lists must prove a
dissolution inevitable. You understand me? If the present Parliament
goes on, where shall we be? We shall have new men cropping up every
session.'

'True, terribly true,' said Mr. Taper. 'That we should ever live to see
a Tory government again! We have reason to be very thankful.'

'Hush!' said Mr. Tadpole. 'The time has gone by for Tory governments;
what the country requires is a sound Conservative government.'

'A sound Conservative government,' said Taper, musingly. 'I understand:
Tory men and Whig measures.'



CHAPTER VII.


Amid the contentions of party, the fierce struggles of ambition, and the
intricacies of political intrigue, let us not forget our Eton friends.
During the period which elapsed from the failure of the Duke of
Wellington to form a government in 1832, to the failure of Sir Robert
Peel to carry on a government in 1835, the boys had entered, and
advanced in youth. The ties of friendship which then united several of
them had only been confirmed by continued companionship. Coningsby
and Henry Sydney, and Buckhurst and Vere, were still bound together by
entire sympathy, and by the affection of which sympathy is the only
sure spring. But their intimacies had been increased by another familiar
friend. There had risen up between Coningsby and Millbank mutual
sentiments of deep, and even ardent, regard. Acquaintance had developed
the superior qualities of Millbank. His thoughtful and inquiring mind,
his inflexible integrity, his stern independence, and yet the engaging
union of extreme tenderness of heart with all this strength of
character, had won the goodwill, and often excited the admiration, of
Coningsby. Our hero, too, was gratified by the affectionate deference
that was often shown to him by one who condescended to no other
individual; he was proud of having saved the life of a member of their
community whom masters and boys alike considered; and he ended by loving
the being on whom he had conferred a great obligation.

The friends of Coningsby, the sweet-tempered and intelligent Henry
Sydney, the fiery and generous Buckhurst, and the calm and sagacious
Vere, had ever been favourably inclined to Millbank, and had they not
been, the example of Coningsby would soon have influenced them. He had
obtained over his intimates the ascendant power, which is the destiny
of genius. Nor was this submission of such spirits to be held cheap.
Although they were willing to take the colour of their minds from him,
they were in intellect and attainments, in personal accomplishments and
general character, the leaders of the school; an authority not to be
won from five hundred high-spirited boys without the possession of great
virtues and great talents.

As for the dominion of Coningsby himself, it was not limited to the
immediate circle of his friends. He had become the hero of Eton; the
being of whose existence everybody was proud, and in whose career every
boy took an interest. They talked of him, they quoted him, they imitated
him. Fame and power are the objects of all men. Even their partial
fruition is gained by very few; and that too at the expense of social
pleasure, health, conscience, life. Yet what power of manhood in
passionate intenseness, appealing at the same time to the subject and
the votary, can rival that which is exercised by the idolised chieftain
of a great public school? What fame of after days equals the rapture of
celebrity that thrills the youthful poet, as in tones of rare emotion he
recites his triumphant verses amid the devoted plaudits of the flower
of England? That's fame, that's power; real, unquestioned, undoubted,
catholic. Alas! the schoolboy, when he becomes a man, finds that power,
even fame, like everything else, is an affair of party.

Coningsby liked very much to talk politics with Millbank. He heard
things from Millbank which were new to him. Himself, as he supposed, a
high Tory, which he was according to the revelation of the Rigbys, he
was also sufficiently familiar with the hereditary tenets of his Whig
friend, Lord Vere. Politics had as yet appeared to him a struggle
whether the country was to be governed by Whig nobles or Tory nobles;
and he thought it very unfortunate that he should probably have to enter
life with his friends out of power, and his family boroughs destroyed.
But in conversing with Millbank, he heard for the first time of
influential classes in the country who were not noble, and were yet
determined to acquire power. And although Millbank's views, which were
of course merely caught up from his father, without the intervention of
his own intelligence, were doubtless crude enough, and were often very
acutely canvassed and satisfactorily demolished by the clever prejudices
of another school, which Coningsby had at command, still they were,
unconsciously to the recipient, materials for thought, and insensibly
provoked in his mind a spirit of inquiry into political questions, for
which he had a predisposition.

It may be said, indeed, that generally among the upper boys there might
be observed at this time, at Eton, a reigning inclination for political
discussion. The school truly had at all times been proud of its
statesmen and its parliamentary heroes, but this was merely a
superficial feeling in comparison with the sentiment which now first
became prevalent. The great public questions that were the consequence
of the Reform of the House of Commons, had also agitated their young
hearts. And especially the controversies that were now rife respecting
the nature and character of ecclesiastical establishments, wonderfully
addressed themselves to their excited intelligence. They read their
newspapers with a keen relish, canvassed debates, and criticised
speeches; and although in their debating society, which had been
instituted more than a quarter of a century, discussion on topics of
the day was prohibited, still by fixing on periods of our history when
affairs were analogous to the present, many a youthful orator contrived
very effectively to reply to Lord John, or to refute the fallacies of
his rival.

As the political opinions predominant in the school were what in
ordinary parlance are styled Tory, and indeed were far better entitled
to that glorious epithet than the flimsy shifts which their fathers were
professing in Parliament and the country; the formation and the fall
of Sir Robert Peel's government had been watched by Etonians with great
interest, and even excitement. The memorable efforts which the Minister
himself made, supported only by the silent votes of his numerous
adherents, and contending alone against the multiplied assaults of his
able and determined foes, with a spirit equal to the great occasion, and
with resources of parliamentary contest which seemed to increase
with every exigency; these great and unsupported struggles alone were
calculated to gain the sympathy of youthful and generous spirits. The
assault on the revenues of the Church; the subsequent crusade against
the House of Lords; the display of intellect and courage exhibited
by Lord Lyndhurst in that assembly, when all seemed cowed and
faint-hearted; all these were incidents or personal traits apt to stir
the passions, and create in breasts not yet schooled to repress emotion,
a sentiment even of enthusiasm. It is the personal that interests
mankind, that fires their imagination, and wins their hearts. A cause is
a great abstraction, and fit only for students; embodied in a party, it
stirs men to action; but place at the head of that party a leader who
can inspire enthusiasm, lie commands the world. Divine faculty! Rare and
incomparable privilege! A parliamentary leader who possesses it, doubles
his majority; and he who has it not, may shroud himself in artificial
reserve, and study with undignified arrogance an awkward haughtiness,
but he will nevertheless be as far from controlling the spirit as from
captivating the hearts of his sullen followers.

However, notwithstanding this general feeling at Eton, in 1835, in
favour of 'Conservative principles,' which was, in fact, nothing more
than a confused and mingled sympathy with some great political truths,
which were at the bottom of every boy's heart, but nowhere else; and
with the personal achievements and distinction of the chieftains of
the party; when all this hubbub had subsided, and retrospection, in the
course of a year, had exercised its moralising influence over the
more thoughtful part of the nation, inquiries, at first faint and
unpretending, and confined indeed for a long period to limited, though
inquisitive, circles, began gently to circulate, what Conservative
principles were.

These inquiries, urged indeed with a sort of hesitating scepticism,
early reached Eton. They came, no doubt, from the Universities. They
were of a character, however, far too subtile and refined to exercise
any immediate influence over the minds of youth. To pursue them required
previous knowledge and habitual thought. They were not yet publicly
prosecuted by any school of politicians, or any section of the public
press. They had not a local habitation or a name. They were whispered in
conversation by a few. A tutor would speak of them in an esoteric vein
to a favourite pupil, in whose abilities he had confidence, and whose
future position in life would afford him the opportunity of influencing
opinion. Among others, they fell upon the ear of Coningsby. They were
addressed to a mind which was prepared for such researches.

There is a Library at Eton formed by the boys and governed by the boys;
one of those free institutions which are the just pride of that noble
school, which shows the capacity of the boys for self-government, and
which has sprung from the large freedom that has been wisely conceded
them, the prudence of which confidence has been proved by their rarely
abusing it. This Library has been formed by subscriptions of the present
and still more by the gifts of old Etonians. Among the honoured names of
these donors may be remarked those of the Grenvilles and Lord Wellesley;
nor should we forget George IV., who enriched the collection with a
magnificent copy of the Delphin Classics. The Institution is governed
by six directors, the three first Collegers and the three first Oppidans
for the time being; and the subscribers are limited to the one hundred
senior members of the school.

It is only to be regretted that the collection is not so extensive at
it is interesting and choice. Perhaps its existence is not so generally
known as it deserves to be. One would think that every Eton man would
be as proud of his name being registered as a donor in the Catalogue of
this Library, as a Venetian of his name being inscribed in the Golden
Book. Indeed an old Etonian, who still remembers with tenderness the
sacred scene of youth, could scarcely do better than build a Gothic
apartment for the reception of the collection. It cannot be doubted that
the Provost and fellows would be gratified in granting a piece of ground
for the purpose.

Great were the obligations of Coningsby to this Eton Library. It
introduced him to that historic lore, that accumulation of facts and
incidents illustrative of political conduct, for which he had imbibed an
early relish. His study was especially directed to the annals of his
own country, in which youth, and not youth alone, is frequently so
deficient. This collection could afford him Clarendon and Burnet, and
the authentic volumes of Coxe: these were rich materials for one anxious
to be versed in the great parliamentary story of his country. During
the last year of his stay at Eton, when he had completed his eighteenth
year, Coningsby led a more retired life than previously; he read much,
and pondered with all the pride of acquisition over his increasing
knowledge.

And now the hour has come when this youth is to be launched into a world
more vast than that in which he has hitherto sojourned, yet for which
this microcosm has been no ill preparation. He will become more wise;
will he remain as generous? His ambition may be as great; will it be as
noble? What, indeed, is to be the future of this existence that is now
to be sent forth into the great aggregate of entities? Is it an ordinary
organisation that will jostle among the crowd, and be jostled? Is it a
finer temperament, susceptible of receiving the impressions and imbibing
the inspirations of superior yet sympathising spirits? Or is it a
primordial and creative mind; one that will say to his fellows, 'Behold,
God has given me thought; I have discovered truth, and you shall
believe?'

The night before Coningsby left Eton, alone in his room, before he
retired to rest, he opened the lattice and looked for the last time upon
the landscape before him; the stately keep of Windsor, the bowery meads
of Eton, soft in the summer moon and still in the summer night. He gazed
upon them; his countenance had none of the exultation, that under such
circumstances might have distinguished a more careless glance, eager
for fancied emancipation and passionate for a novel existence. Its
expression was serious, even sad; and he covered his brow with his hand.

END OF BOOK II.



BOOK III.



CHAPTER I.


There are few things more full of delight and splendour, than to travel
during the heat of a refulgent summer in the green district of some
ancient forest.

In one of our midland counties there is a region of this character,
to which, during a season of peculiar lustre, we would introduce the
reader.

It was a fragment of one of those vast sylvan tracts wherein Norman
kings once hunted, and Saxon outlaws plundered; and although the plough
had for centuries successfully invaded brake and bower, the relics
retained all their original character of wildness and seclusion.
Sometimes the green earth was thickly studded with groves of huge and
vigorous oaks, intersected with those smooth and sunny glades, that seem
as if they must be cut for dames and knights to saunter on. Then again
the undulating ground spread on all sides, far as the eye could range,
covered with copse and fern of immense growth. Anon you found yourself
in a turfy wilderness, girt in apparently by dark woods. And when you
had wound your way a little through this gloomy belt, the landscape
still strictly sylvan, would beautifully expand with every combination
and variety of woodland; while in its centre, the wildfowl covered the
waters of a lake, and the deer basked on the knolls that abounded on its
banks.

It was in the month of August, some six or seven years ago, that a
traveller on foot, touched, as he emerged from the dark wood, by the
beauty of this scene, threw himself under the shade of a spreading tree,
and stretched his limbs on the turf for enjoyment rather than repose.
The sky was deep-coloured and without a cloud, save here and there
a minute, sultry, burnished vapour, almost as glossy as the heavens.
Everything was still as it was bright; all seemed brooding and basking;
the bee upon its wing was the only stirring sight, and its song the only
sound.

The traveller fell into a reverie. He was young, and therefore his
musings were of the future. He had felt the pride of learning, so
ennobling to youth; he was not a stranger to the stirring impulses of a
high ambition, though the world to him was as yet only a world of books,
and all that he knew of the schemes of statesmen and the passions of
the people, were to be found in their annals. Often had his fitful fancy
dwelt with fascination on visions of personal distinction, of future
celebrity, perhaps even of enduring fame. But his dreams were of another
colour now. The surrounding scene, so fair, so still, and sweet; so
abstracted from all the tumult of the world, its strife, its passions,
and its cares: had fallen on his heart with its soft and subduing
spirit; had fallen on a heart still pure and innocent, the heart of
one who, notwithstanding all his high resolves and daring thoughts, was
blessed with that tenderness of soul which is sometimes linked with an
ardent imagination and a strong will. The traveller was an orphan, more
than that, a solitary orphan. The sweet sedulousness of a mother's
love, a sister's mystical affection, had not cultivated his early
susceptibility. No soft pathos of expression had appealed to his
childish ear. He was alone, among strangers calmly and coldly kind.
It must indeed have been a truly gentle disposition that could have
withstood such hard neglect. All that he knew of the power of the softer
passions might be found in the fanciful and romantic annals of schoolboy
friendship.

And those friends too, so fond, so sympathising, so devoted, where were
they now? Already they were dispersed; the first great separation of
life had been experienced; the former schoolboy had planted his foot on
the threshold of manhood. True, many of them might meet again; many of
them the University must again unite, but never with the same feelings.
The space of time, passed in the world before they again met, would be
an age of sensation, passion, experience to all of them. They would meet
again with altered mien, with different manners, different voices. Their
eyes would not shine with the same light; they would not speak the same
words. The favourite phrases of their intimacy, the mystic sounds that
spoke only to their initiated ear, they would be ashamed to use them.
Yes, they might meet again, but the gushing and secret tenderness was
gone for ever.

Nor could our pensive youth conceal it from himself that it was
affection, and mainly affection, that had bound him to these dear
companions. They could not be to him what he had been to them. His had
been the inspiring mind that had guided their opinions, formed their
tastes, directed the bent and tenor of their lives and thoughts.
Often, indeed, had he needed, sometimes he had even sighed for,
the companionship of an equal or superior mind; one who, by the
comprehension of his thought, and the richness of his knowledge, and the
advantage of his experience, might strengthen and illuminate and guide
his obscure or hesitating or unpractised intelligence. He had scarcely
been fortunate in this respect, and he deeply regretted it; for he was
one of those who was not content with excelling in his own circle, if
he thought there was one superior to it. Absolute, not relative
distinction, was his noble aim.

Alone, in a lonely scene, he doubly felt the solitude of his life and
mind. His heart and his intellect seemed both to need a companion.
Books, and action, and deep thought, might in time supply the want of
that intellectual guide; but for the heart, where was he to find solace?

Ah! if she would but come forth from that shining lake like a beautiful
Ondine! Ah, if she would but step out from the green shade of that
secret grove like a Dryad of sylvan Greece! O mystery of mysteries, when
youth dreams his first dream over some imaginary heroine!

Suddenly the brooding wildfowl rose from the bosom of the lake, soared
in the air, and, uttering mournful shrieks, whirled in agitated tumult.
The deer started from their knolls, no longer sunny, stared around, and
rushed into the woods. Coningsby raised his eyes from the turf on which
they had been long fixed in abstraction, and he observed that the azure
sky had vanished, a thin white film had suddenly spread itself over the
heavens, and the wind moaned with a sad and fitful gust.

He had some reason to believe that on the other side of the opposite
wood the forest was intersected by a public road, and that there were
some habitations. Immediately rising, he descended at a rapid pace into
the valley, passed the lake, and then struck into the ascending wood on
the bank opposite to that on which he had mused away some precious time.

The wind howled, the branches of the forest stirred, and sent forth
sounds like an incantation. Soon might be distinguished the various
voices of the mighty trees, as they expressed their terror or their
agony. The oak roared, the beech shrieked, the elm sent forth its deep
and long-drawn groan; while ever and anon, amid a momentary pause, the
passion of the ash was heard in moans of thrilling anguish.

Coningsby hurried on, the forest became less close. All that he aspired
to was to gain more open country. Now he was in a rough flat land,
covered only here and there with dwarf underwood; the horizon bounded at
no great distance by a barren hill of moderate elevation. He gained its
height with ease. He looked over a vast open country like a wild common;
in the extreme distance hills covered with woods; the plain intersected
by two good roads: the sky entirely clouded, but in the distance black
as ebony.

A place of refuge was at hand: screened from his first glance by some
elm-trees, the ascending smoke now betrayed a roof, which Coningsby
reached before the tempest broke. The forest-inn was also a farmhouse.
There was a comfortable-enough looking kitchen; but the ingle nook was
full of smokers, and Coningsby was glad to avail himself of the only
private room for the simple meal which they offered him, only eggs and
bacon; but very welcome to a pedestrian, and a hungry one.

As he stood at the window of his little apartment, watching the large
drops that were the heralds of a coming hurricane, and waiting for his
repast, a flash of lightning illumined the whole country, and a horseman
at full speed, followed by his groom, galloped up to the door.

The remarkable beauty of the animal so attracted Coningsby's attention
that it prevented him catching even a glimpse of the rider, who rapidly
dismounted and entered the inn. The host shortly after came in and asked
Coningsby whether he had any objection to a gentleman, who was driven
there by the storm, sharing his room until it subsided. The consequence
of the immediate assent of Coningsby was, that the landlord retired and
soon returned, ushering in an individual, who, though perhaps ten years
older than Coningsby, was still, according to Hippocrates, in the period
of lusty youth. He was above the middle height, and of a distinguished
air and figure; pale, with an impressive brow, and dark eyes of great
intelligence.

'I am glad that we have both escaped the storm,' said the stranger;
'and I am greatly indebted to you for your courtesy.' He slightly and
graciously bowed, as he spoke in a voice of remarkable clearness; and
his manner, though easy, was touched with a degree of dignity that was
engaging.

'The inn is a common home,' replied Coningsby, returning his salute.

'And free from cares,' added the stranger. Then, looking through
the window, he said, 'A strange storm this. I was sauntering in the
sunshine, when suddenly I found I had to gallop for my life. 'Tis more
like a white squall in the Mediterranean than anything else.'

'I never was in the Mediterranean,' said Coningsby. 'There is nothing I
should like so much as to travel.'

'You are travelling,' rejoined his companion. 'Every moment is travel,
if understood.'

'Ah! but the Mediterranean!' exclaimed Coningsby. 'What would I not give
to see Athens!'

'I have seen it,' said the stranger, slightly shrugging his shoulders;'
and more wonderful things. Phantoms and spectres! The Age of Ruins is
past. Have you seen Manchester?'

'I have seen nothing,' said Coningsby; 'this is my first wandering. I am
about to visit a friend who lives in this county, and I have sent on
my baggage as I could. For myself, I determined to trust to a less
common-place conveyance.'

'And seek adventures,' said the stranger, smiling, 'Well, according to
Cervantes, they should begin in an inn.'

'I fear that the age of adventures is past, as well as that of ruins,'
replied Coningsby.

'Adventures are to the adventurous,' said the stranger.

At this moment a pretty serving-maid entered the room. She laid the
dapper cloth and arranged the table with a self-possession quite
admirable. She seemed unconscious that any being was in the chamber
except herself, or that there were any other duties to perform in life
beyond filling a saltcellar or folding a napkin.

'She does not even look at us,' said Coningsby, when she had quitted the
room; 'and I dare say is only a prude.'

'She is calm,' said the stranger, 'because she is mistress of her
subject; 'tis the secret of self-possession. She is here as a duchess at
court.'

They brought in Coningsby's meal, and he invited the stranger to join
him. The invitation was accepted with cheerfulness.

''Tis but simple fare,' said Coningsby, as the maiden uncovered the
still hissing bacon and the eggs, that looked like tufts of primroses.

'Nay, a national dish,' said the stranger, glancing quickly at the
table, 'whose fame is a proverb. And what more should we expect under
a simple roof! How much better than an omelette or a greasy olla, that
they would give us in a posada! 'Tis a wonderful country this England!
What a napkin! How spotless! And so sweet; I declare 'tis a perfume.
There is not a princess throughout the South of Europe served with the
cleanliness that meets us in this cottage.'

'An inheritance from our Saxon fathers?' said Coningsby. 'I apprehend
the northern nations have a greater sense of cleanliness, of propriety,
of what we call comfort?'

'By no means,' said the stranger; 'the East is the land of the Bath.
Moses and Mahomet made cleanliness religion.'

'You will let me help you?' said Coningsby, offering him a plate which
he had filled.

'I thank you,' said the stranger, 'but it is one of my bread days. With
your permission this shall be my dish;' and he cut from the large loaf a
supply of crusts.

''Tis but unsavoury fare after a gallop,' said Coningsby.

'Ah! you are proud of your bacon and your eggs,' said the stranger,
smiling, 'but I love corn and wine. They are our chief and our oldest
luxuries. Time has brought us substitutes, but how inferior! Man has
deified corn and wine! but not even the Chinese or the Irish have raised
temples to tea and potatoes.'

'But Ceres without Bacchus,' said Coningsby, 'how does that do? Think
you, under this roof, we could Invoke the god?'

'Let us swear by his body that we will try,' said the stranger.

Alas! the landlord was not a priest to Bacchus. But then these inquiries
led to the finest perry in the world. The young men agreed they had
seldom tasted anything more delicious; they sent for another bottle.
Coningsby, who was much interested by his new companion, enjoyed himself
amazingly.

A cheese, such as Derby alone can produce, could not induce the stranger
to be even partially inconstant to his crusts. But his talk was as
vivacious as if the talker had been stimulated by the juices of the
finest banquet. Coningsby had never met or read of any one like this
chance companion. His sentences were so short, his language so racy, his
voice rang so clear, his elocution was so complete. On all subjects his
mind seemed to be instructed, and his opinions formed. He flung out a
result in a few words; he solved with a phrase some deep problem that
men muse over for years. He said many things that were strange, yet
they immediately appeared to be true. Then, without the slightest air of
pretension or parade, he seemed to know everybody as well as everything.
Monarchs, statesmen, authors, adventurers, of all descriptions and of
all climes, if their names occurred in the conversation, he described
them in an epigrammatic sentence, or revealed their precise position,
character, calibre, by a curt dramatic trait. All this, too, without any
excitement of manner; on the contrary, with repose amounting almost
to nonchalance. If his address had any fault in it, it was rather a
deficiency of earnestness. A slight spirit of mockery played over his
speech even when you deemed him most serious; you were startled by his
sudden transitions from profound thought to poignant sarcasm. A very
singular freedom from passion and prejudice on every topic on which
they treated, might be some compensation for this want of earnestness,
perhaps was its consequence. Certainly it was difficult to ascertain his
precise opinions on many subjects, though his manner was frank even to
abandonment. And yet throughout his whole conversation, not a stroke of
egotism, not a word, not a circumstance escaped him, by which you could
judge of his position or purposes in life. As little did he seem to care
to discover those of his companion. He did not by any means monopolise
the conversation. Far from it; he continually asked questions, and
while he received answers, or had engaged his fellow-traveller in any
exposition of his opinion or feelings, he listened with a serious and
fixed attention, looking Coningsby in the face with a steadfast glance.

'I perceive,' said Coningsby, pursuing a strain of thought which the
other had indicated, 'that you have great confidence in the influence
of individual character. I also have some confused persuasions of that
kind. But it is not the Spirit of the Age.'

'The age does not believe in great men, because it does not possess
any,' replied the stranger. 'The Spirit of the Age is the very thing
that a great man changes.'

'But does he not rather avail himself of it?' inquired Coningsby.

'Parvenus do,' rejoined his companion; 'but not prophets, great
legislators, great conquerors. They destroy and they create.'

'But are these times for great legislators and great conquerors?' urged
Coningsby.

'When were they wanted more?' asked the stranger. 'From the throne to
the hovel all call for a guide. You give monarchs constitutions to
teach them sovereignty, and nations Sunday-schools to inspire them with
faith.'

'But what is an individual,' exclaimed Coningsby, 'against a vast public
opinion?'

'Divine,' said the stranger. 'God made man in His own image; but the
Public is made by Newspapers, Members of Parliament, Excise Officers,
Poor Law Guardians. Would Philip have succeeded if Epaminondas had not
been slain? And if Philip had not succeeded? Would Prussia have existed
had Frederick not been born? And if Frederick had not been born? What
would have been the fate of the Stuarts if Prince Henry had not died,
and Charles I., as was intended, had been Archbishop of Canterbury?'

'But when men are young they want experience,' said Coningsby; 'and when
they have gained experience, they want energy.'

'Great men never want experience,' said the stranger.

'But everybody says that experience--'

'Is the best thing in the world, a treasure for you, for me, for
millions. But for a creative mind, less than nothing. Almost everything
that is great has been done by youth.'

'It is at least a creed flattering to our years,' said Coningsby, with a
smile.

'Nay,' said the stranger; 'for life in general there is but one decree.
Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret. Do not
suppose,' he added, smiling, 'that I hold that youth is genius; all that
I say is, that genius, when young, is divine. Why, the greatest captains
of ancient and modern times both conquered Italy at five-and-twenty!
Youth, extreme youth, overthrew the Persian Empire. Don John of Austria
won Lepanto at twenty-five, the greatest battle of modern time; had it
not been for the jealousy of Philip, the next year he would have been
Emperor of Mauritania. Gaston de Foix was only twenty-two when he stood
a victor on the plain of Ravenna. Every one remembers Condé and Rocroy
at the same age. Gustavus Adolphus died at thirty-eight. Look at his
captains: that wonderful Duke of Weimar, only thirty-six when he died.
Banier himself, after all his miracles, died at forty-five. Cortes was
little more than thirty when he gazed upon the golden cupolas of Mexico.
When Maurice of Saxony died at thirty-two, all Europe acknowledged the
loss of the greatest captain and the profoundest statesman of the age.
Then there is Nelson, Clive; but these are warriors, and perhaps you may
think there are greater things than war. I do not: I worship the Lord
of Hosts. But take the most illustrious achievements of civil prudence.
Innocent III., the greatest of the Popes, was the despot of Christendom
at thirty-seven. John de Medici was a Cardinal at fifteen, and according
to Guicciardini, baffled with his statecraft Ferdinand of Arragon
himself. He was Pope as Leo X. at thirty-seven. Luther robbed even him
of his richest province at thirty-five. Take Ignatius Loyola and John
Wesley, they worked with young brains. Ignatius was only thirty when he
made his pilgrimage and wrote the "Spiritual Exercises." Pascal wrote
a great work at sixteen, and died at thirty-seven, the greatest of
Frenchmen.

'Ah! that fatal thirty-seven, which reminds me of Byron, greater even as
a man than a writer. Was it experience that guided the pencil of Raphael
when he painted the palaces of Rome? He, too, died at thirty-seven.
Richelieu was Secretary of State at thirty-one. Well then, there were
Bolingbroke and Pitt, both ministers before other men left off cricket.
Grotius was in great practice at seventeen, and Attorney-General at
twenty-four. And Acquaviva; Acquaviva was General of the Jesuits,
ruled every cabinet in Europe, and colonised America before he was
thirty-seven. What a career!' exclaimed the stranger; rising from his
chair and walking up and down the room; 'the secret sway of Europe! That
was indeed a position! But it is needless to multiply instances! The
history of Heroes is the history of Youth.'

'Ah!' said Coningsby, 'I should like to be a great man.'

The stranger threw at him a scrutinising glance. His countenance was
serious. He said in a voice of almost solemn melody:

'Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes
heroes.'

'You seem to me a hero,' said Coningsby, in a tone of real feeling,
which, half ashamed of his emotion, he tried to turn into playfulness.

'I am and must ever be,' said the stranger, 'but a dreamer of dreams.'
Then going towards the window, and changing into a familiar tone as if
to divert the conversation, he added, 'What a delicious afternoon! I
look forward to my ride with delight. You rest here?'

'No; I go on to Nottingham, where I shall sleep.'

'And I in the opposite direction.' And he rang the bell, and ordered his
horse.

'I long to see your mare again,' said Coningsby. 'She seemed to me so
beautiful.'

'She is not only of pure race,' said the stranger, 'but of the highest
and rarest breed in Arabia. Her name is "the Daughter of the Star."
She is a foal of that famous mare, which belonged to the Prince of the
Wahabees; and to possess which, I believe, was one of the principal
causes of war between that tribe and the Egyptians. The Pacha of Egypt
gave her to me, and I would not change her for her statue in pure gold,
even carved by Lysippus. Come round to the stable and see her.'

They went out together. It was a soft sunny afternoon; the air fresh
from the rain, but mild and exhilarating.

The groom brought forth the mare. 'The Daughter of the Star' stood
before Coningsby with her sinewy shape of matchless symmetry; her
burnished skin, black mane, legs like those of an antelope, her little
ears, dark speaking eye, and tail worthy of a Pacha. And who was her
master, and whither was she about to take him?

Coningsby was so naturally well-bred, that we may be sure it was not
curiosity; no, it was a finer feeling that made him hesitate and think a
little, and then say:

'I am sorry to part.'

'I also,' said the stranger. 'But life is constant separation.'

'I hope we may meet again,' said Coningsby.

'If our acquaintance be worth preserving,' said the stranger, 'you may
be sure it will not be lost.'

'But mine is not worth preserving,' said Coningsby, earnestly. 'It is
yours that is the treasure. You teach me things of which I have long
mused.'

The stranger took the bridle of 'the Daughter of the Star,' and turning
round with a faint smile, extended his hand to his companion.

'Your mind at least is nurtured with great thoughts,' said Coningsby;
'your actions should be heroic.'

'Action is not for me,' said the stranger; 'I am of that faith that the
Apostles professed before they followed their master.'

He vaulted into his saddle, 'the Daughter of the Star' bounded away as
if she scented the air of the Desert from which she and her rider had
alike sprung, and Coningsby remained in profound meditation.



CHAPTER II.


The day after his adventure at the Forest Inn, Coningsby arrived at
Beaumanoir. It was several years since he had visited the family of his
friend, who were indeed also his kin; and in his boyish days had often
proved that they were not unmindful of the affinity. This was a visit
that had been long counted on, long promised, and which a variety of
circumstances had hitherto prevented. It was to have been made by the
schoolboy; it was to be fulfilled by the man. For no less a character
could Coningsby under any circumstances now consent to claim, since he
was closely verging to the completion of his nineteenth year; and it
appeared manifest that if it were his destiny to do anything great,
he had but few years to wait before the full development of his power.
Visions of Gastons de Foix and Maurices of Saxony, statesmen giving
up cricket to govern nations, beardless Jesuits plunged in profound
abstraction in omnipotent cabinets, haunted his fancy from the moment he
had separated from his mysterious and deeply interesting companion. To
nurture his mind with great thoughts had ever been Coningsby's inspiring
habit. Was it also destined that he should achieve the heroic?

There are some books, when we close them; one or two in the course of
our life, difficult as it may be to analyse or ascertain the cause; our
minds seem to have made a great leap. A thousand obscure things receive
light; a multitude of indefinite feelings are determined. Our intellect
grasps and grapples with all subjects with a capacity, a flexibility,
and a vigour, before unknown to us. It masters questions hitherto
perplexing, which are not even touched or referred to in the volume just
closed. What is this magic? It is the spirit of the supreme author, by
a magentic influence blending with our sympathising intelligence, that
directs and inspires it. By that mysterious sensibility we extend to
questions which he has not treated, the same intellectual force which he
has exercised over those which he has expounded. His genius for a time
remains in us. 'Tis the same with human beings as with books. All of us
encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words
that make us think for ever.

There are men whose phrases are oracles; who condense in a sentence the
secrets of life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character or
illustrates an existence. A great thing is a great book; but greater
than all is the talk of a great man.

And what is a great man? Is it a Minister of State? Is it a victorious
General? A gentleman in the Windsor uniform? A Field Marshal covered
with stars? Is it a Prelate, or a Prince? A King, even an Emperor?
It may be all these; yet these, as we must all daily feel, are not
necessarily great men. A great man is one who affects the mind of his
generation: whether he be a monk in his cloister agitating Christendom,
or a monarch crossing the Granicus, and giving a new character to the
Pagan World.

Our young Coningsby reached Beaumanoir in a state of meditation. He also
desired to be great. Not from the restless vanity that sometimes
impels youth to momentary exertion, by which they sometimes obtain a
distinction as evanescent as their energy. The ambition of our hero was
altogether of a different character. It was, indeed, at present not a
little vague, indefinite, hesitating, inquiring, sometimes desponding.
What were his powers? what should be his aim? were often to him, as to
all young aspirants, questions infinitely perplexing and full of pain.
But, on the whole, there ran through his character, notwithstanding his
many dazzling qualities and accomplishments, and his juvenile celebrity,
which has spoiled so much promise, a vein of grave simplicity that was
the consequence of an earnest temper, and of an intellect that would be
content with nothing short of the profound.

His was a mind that loved to pursue every question to the centre. But
it was not a spirit of scepticism that impelled this habit; on the
contrary, it was the spirit of faith. Coningsby found that he was born
in an age of infidelity in all things, and his heart assured him that a
want of faith was a want of nature. But his vigorous intellect could not
take refuge in that maudlin substitute for belief which consists in
a patronage of fantastic theories. He needed that deep and enduring
conviction that the heart and the intellect, feeling and reason united,
can alone supply. He asked himself why governments were hated,
and religions despised? Why loyalty was dead, and reverence only a
galvanised corpse?

These were indeed questions that had as yet presented themselves to his
thought in a crude and imperfect form; but their very occurrence showed
the strong predisposition of his mind. It was because he had not found
guides among his elders, that his thoughts had been turned to the
generation that he himself represented. The sentiment of veneration was
so developed in his nature, that he was exactly the youth that would
have hung with enthusiastic humility on the accents of some sage of old
in the groves of Academus, or the porch of Zeno. But as yet he had found
age only perplexed and desponding; manhood only callous and desperate.
Some thought that systems would last their time; others, that something
would turn up. His deep and pious spirit recoiled with disgust and
horror from such lax, chance-medley maxims, that would, in their
consequences, reduce man to the level of the brutes. Notwithstanding
a prejudice which had haunted him from his childhood, he had, when
the occasion offered, applied to Mr. Rigby for instruction, as one
distinguished in the republic of letters, as well as the realm of
politics; who assumed the guidance of the public mind, and, as the
phrase runs, was looked up to. Mr. Rigby listened at first to the
inquiries of Coningsby, urged, as they ever were, with a modesty and
deference which do not always characterise juvenile investigations, as
if Coningsby were speaking to him of the unknown tongues. But Mr.
Rigby was not a man who ever confessed himself at fault. He caught
up something of the subject as our young friend proceeded, and was
perfectly prepared, long before he had finished, to take the whole
conversation into his own hands.

Mr. Rigby began by ascribing everything to the Reform Bill, and then
referred to several of his own speeches on Schedule A. Then he told
Coningsby that want of religious Faith was solely occasioned by want of
churches; and want of Loyalty, by George IV. having shut himself up too
much at the cottage in Windsor Park, entirely against the advice of Mr.
Rigby. He assured Coningsby that the Church Commission was operating
wonders, and that with private benevolence, he had himself subscribed
1,000_l._, for Lord Monmouth, we should soon have churches enough. The
great question now was their architecture. Had George IV. lived all
would have been right. They would have been built on the model of the
Budhist pagoda. As for Loyalty, if the present King went regularly to
Ascot races, he had no doubt all would go right. Finally, Mr. Rigby
impressed on Coningsby to read the Quarterly Review with great
attention; and to make himself master of Mr. Wordy's History of the late
War, in twenty volumes, a capital work, which proves that Providence was
on the side of the Tories.

Coningsby did not reply to Mr. Rigby again; but worked on with his own
mind, coming often enough to sufficiently crude conclusions, and often
much perplexed and harassed. He tried occasionally his inferences on his
companions, who were intelligent and full of fervour. Millbank was more
than this. He was of a thoughtful mood; had also caught up from a new
school some principles, which were materials for discussion. One way or
other, however, before he quitted Eton there prevailed among this circle
of friends, the initial idea doubtless emanating from Coningsby, an
earnest, though a rather vague, conviction that the present state of
feeling in matters both civil and religious was not healthy; that there
must be substituted for this latitudinarianism something sound and deep,
fervent and well defined, and that the priests of this new faith must be
found among the New Generation; so that when the bright-minded rider
of 'the Daughter of the Star' descanted on the influence of individual
character, of great thoughts and heroic actions, and the divine power of
youth and genius, he touched a string that was the very heart-chord of
his companion, who listened with fascinated enthusiasm as he introduced
him to his gallery of inspiring models.

Coningsby arrived at Beaumanoir at a season when men can neither hunt
nor shoot. Great internal resources should be found in a country family
under such circumstances. The Duke and Duchess had returned from London
only a few days with their daughter, who had been presented this year.
They were all glad to find themselves again in the country, which they
loved and which loved them. One of their sons-in-law and his wife, and
Henry Sydney, completed the party.

There are few conjunctures in life of a more startling interest, than to
meet the pretty little girl that we have gambolled with in our boyhood,
and to find her changed in the lapse of a very few years, which in some
instances may not have brought a corresponding alteration in our own
appearance, into a beautiful woman. Something of this flitted over
Coningsby's mind, as he bowed, a little agitated from his surprise, to
Lady Theresa Sydney. All that he remembered had prepared him for beauty;
but not for the degree or character of beauty that he met. It was a
rich, sweet face, with blue eyes and dark lashes, and a nose that we
have no epithet in English to describe, but which charmed in Roxalana.
Her brown hair fell over her white and well turned shoulders in long and
luxuriant tresses. One has met something as brilliant and dainty in a
medallion of old Sèvres, or amid the terraces and gardens of Watteau.

Perhaps Lady Theresa, too, might have welcomed him with more freedom
had his appearance also more accorded with the image which he had left
behind. Coningsby was a boy then, as we described him in our first
chapter. Though only nineteen now, he had attained his full stature,
which was above the middle height, and time had fulfilled that promise
of symmetry in his figure, and grace in his mien, then so largely
intimated. Time, too, which had not yet robbed his countenance of any
of its physical beauty, had strongly developed the intellectual charm
by which it had ever been distinguished. As he bowed lowly before the
Duchess and her daughter, it would have been difficult to imagine a
youth of a mien more prepossessing and a manner more finished.

A manner that was spontaneous; nature's pure gift, the reflex of his
feeling. No artifice prompted that profound and polished homage. Not one
of those influences, the aggregate of whose sway produces, as they tell
us, the finished gentleman, had ever exercised its beneficent power on
our orphan, and not rarely forlorn, Coningsby. No clever and refined
woman, with her quick perception, and nice criticism that never offends
our self-love, had ever given him that education that is more precious
than Universities. The mild suggestions of a sister, the gentle raillery
of some laughing cousin, are also advantages not always appreciated at
the time, but which boys, when they have become men, often think over
with gratitude, and a little remorse at the ungracious spirit in
which they were received. Not even the dancing-master had afforded his
mechanical aid to Coningsby, who, like all Eton boys of his generation,
viewed that professor of accomplishments with frank repugnance. But even
in the boisterous life of school, Coningsby, though his style was free
and flowing, was always well-bred. His spirit recoiled from that gross
familiarity that is the characteristic of modern manners, and which
would destroy all forms and ceremonies merely because they curb and
control their own coarse convenience and ill-disguised selfishness. To
women, however, Coningsby instinctively bowed, as to beings set apart
for reverence and delicate treatment. Little as his experience was
of them, his spirit had been fed with chivalrous fancies, and he
entertained for them all the ideal devotion of a Surrey or a Sydney.
Instructed, if not learned, as books and thought had already made him in
men, he could not conceive that there were any other women in the world
than fair Geraldines and Countesses of Pembroke.

There was not a country-house in England that had so completely the air
of habitual residence as Beaumanoir. It is a charming trait, and
very rare. In many great mansions everything is as stiff, formal, and
tedious, as if your host were a Spanish grandee in the days of the
Inquisition. No ease, no resources; the passing life seems a solemn
spectacle in which you play a part. How delightful was the morning room
at Beaumanoir; from which gentlemen were not excluded with that assumed
suspicion that they can never enter it but for felonious purposes.
Such a profusion of flowers! Such a multitude of books! Such a various
prodigality of writing materials! So many easy chairs too, of so many
shapes; each in itself a comfortable home; yet nothing crowded. Woman
alone can organise a drawing-room; man succeeds sometimes in a library.
And the ladies' work! How graceful they look bending over their
embroidery frames, consulting over the arrangement of a group, or the
colour of a flower. The panniers and fanciful baskets, overflowing with
variegated worsted, are gay and full of pleasure to the eye, and give an
air of elegant business that is vivifying. Even the sight of employment
interests.

Then the morning costume of English women is itself a beautiful work of
art. At this period of the day they can find no rivals in other climes.
The brilliant complexions of the daughters of the north dazzle in
daylight; the illumined saloon levels all distinctions. One should see
them in their well-fashioned muslin dresses. What matrons, and what
maidens! Full of graceful dignity, fresher than the morn! And the
married beauty in her little lace cap. Ah, she is a coquette! A charming
character at all times; in a country-house an invaluable one.

A coquette is a being who wishes to please. Amiable being! If you do not
like her, you will have no difficulty in finding a female companion of
a different mood. Alas! coquettes are but too rare. 'Tis a career that
requires great abilities, infinite pains, a gay and airy spirit. 'Tis
the coquette that provides all amusement; suggests the riding party,
plans the picnic, gives and guesses charades, acts them. She is the
stirring element amid the heavy congeries of social atoms; the soul of
the house, the salt of the banquet. Let any one pass a very agreeable
week, or it may be ten days, under any roof, and analyse the cause of
his satisfaction, and one might safely make a gentle wager that his
solution would present him with the frolic phantom of a coquette.

'It is impossible that Mr. Coningsby can remember me!' said a clear
voice; and he looked round, and was greeted by a pair of sparkling eyes
and the gayest smile in the world.

It was Lady Everingham, the Duke's married daughter.



CHAPTER III.


'And you walked here!' said Lady Everingham to Coningsby, when the stir
of arranging themselves at dinner had subsided. 'Only think, papa, Mr.
Coningsby walked here! I also am a great walker.'

'I had heard much of the forest,' said Coningsby.

'Which I am sure did not disappoint you,' said the Duke.

'But forests without adventures!' said Lady Everingham, a little
shrugging her pretty shoulders.

'But I had an adventure,' said Coningsby.

'Oh! tell it us by all means!' said the Lady, with great animation.
'Adventures are my weakness. I have had more adventures than any one.
Have I not had, Augustus?' she added, addressing her husband.

'But you make everything out to be an adventure, Isabel,' said Lord
Everingham. I dare say that Mr. Coningsby's was more substantial.' And
looking at our young friend, he invited him to inform them.

'I met a most extraordinary man,' said Coningsby.

'It should have been a heroine,' exclaimed Lady Everingham.

'Do you know anybody in this neighbourhood who rides the finest Arab in
the world?' asked Coningsby. 'She is called "the Daughter of the Star,"
and was given to her rider by the Pacha of Egypt.'

'This is really an adventure,' said Lady Everingham, interested.

'The Daughter of the Star!' said Lady Theresa. 'What a pretty name!
Percy has a horse called "Sunbeam."'

'A fine Arab, the finest in the world!' said the Duke, who was fond of
horse. 'Who can it be?'

'Can you throw any light on this, Mr. Lyle?' asked the Duchess of a
young man who sat next her.

He was a neighbour who had joined their dinner-party, Eustace Lyle,
a Roman Catholic, and the richest commoner in the county; for he had
succeeded to a great estate early in his minority, which had only this
year terminated.

'I certainly do not know the horse,' said Mr. Lyle; 'but if Mr.
Coningsby would describe the rider, perhaps--'

'He is a man something under thirty,' said Coningsby, 'pale, with dark
hair. We met in a sort of forest-inn during a storm. A most singular
man! Indeed, I never met any one who seemed to me so clever, or to say
such remarkable things.'

'He must have been the spirit of the storm,' said Lady Everingham.

'Charles Verney has a great deal of dark hair,' said Lady Theresa. 'But
then he is anything but pale, and his eyes are blue.'

'And certainly he keeps his wonderful things for your ear, Theresa,'
said her sister.

'I wish that Mr. Coningsby would tell us some of the wonderful things he
said,' said the Duchess, smiling.

'Take a glass of wine first with my mother, Coningsby,' said Henry
Sydney, who had just finished helping them all to fish.

Coningsby had too much tact to be entrapped into a long story. He
already regretted that he had been betrayed into any allusion to the
stranger. He had a wild, fanciful notion, that their meeting ought to
have been preserved as a sacred secret. But he had been impelled to
refer to it in the first instance by the chance observation of Lady
Everingham; and he had pursued his remark from the hope that the
conversation might have led to the discovery of the unknown. When he
found that his inquiry in this respect was unsuccessful, he was willing
to turn the conversation. In reply to the Duchess, then, he generally
described the talk of the stranger as full of lively anecdote and
epigrammatic views of life; and gave them, for example, a saying of an
illustrious foreign Prince, which was quite new and pointed, and which
Coningsby told well. This led to a new train of discourse. The Duke also
knew this illustrious foreign Prince, and told another story of him; and
Lord Everingham had played whist with this illustrious foreign Prince
often at the Travellers', and this led to a third story; none of them
too long. Then Lady Everingham came in again, and sparkled agreeably.
She, indeed, sustained throughout dinner the principal weight of the
conversation; but, as she asked questions of everybody, all seemed to
contribute. Even the voice of Mr. Lyle, who was rather bashful, was
occasionally heard in reply. Coningsby, who had at first unintentionally
taken a more leading part than he aspired to, would have retired
into the background for the rest of the dinner, but Lady Everingham
continually signalled him out for her questions, and as she sat opposite
to him, he seemed the person to whom they were principally addressed.

At length the ladies rose to retire. A very great personage in a
foreign, but not remote country, once mentioned to the writer of these
pages, that he ascribed the superiority of the English in political
life, in their conduct of public business and practical views of
affairs, in a great measure to 'that little half-hour' that separates,
after dinner, the dark from the fair sex. The writer humbly submitted,
that if the period of disjunction were strictly limited to a 'little
half-hour,' its salutary consequences for both sexes need not be
disputed, but that in England the 'little half-hour' was too apt
to swell into a term of far more awful character and duration. Lady
Everingham was a disciple of the 'very little half-hour' school; for, as
she gaily followed her mother, she said to Coningsby, whose gracious lot
it was to usher them from the apartment:

'Pray do not be too long at the Board of Guardians to-day.'

These were prophetic words; for no sooner were they all again seated,
than the Duke, filling his glass and pushing the claret to Coningsby,
observed,

'I suppose Lord Monmouth does not trouble himself much about the New
Poor Law?'

'Hardly,' said Coningsby. 'My grandfather's frequent absence from
England, which his health, I believe, renders quite necessary, deprives
him of the advantage of personal observation on a subject, than which I
can myself conceive none more deeply interesting.'

'I am glad to hear you say so,' said the Duke, 'and it does you great
credit, and Henry too, whose attention, I observe, is directed very much
to these subjects. In my time, the young men did not think so much of
such things, and we suffer consequently. By the bye, Everingham,
you, who are a Chairman of a Board of Guardians, can give me some
information. Supposing a case of out-door relief--'

'I could not suppose anything so absurd,' said the son-in-law.

'Well,' rejoined the Duke, 'I know your views on that subject, and it
certainly is a question on which there is a good deal to be said. But
would you under any circumstances give relief out of the Union, even if
the parish were to save a considerable sum?'

'I wish I knew the Union where such a system was followed,' said Lord
Everingham; and his Grace seemed to tremble under his son-in-law's
glance.

The Duke had a good heart, and not a bad head. If he had not made in
his youth so many Latin and English verses, he might have acquired
considerable information, for he had a natural love of letters, though
his pack were the pride of England, his barrel seldom missed, and his
fortune on the turf, where he never betted, was a proverb. He was good,
and he wished to do good; but his views were confused from want of
knowledge, and his conduct often inconsistent because a sense of duty
made him immediately active; and he often acquired in the consequent
experience a conviction exactly contrary to that which had prompted his
activity.

His Grace had been a great patron and a zealous administrator of the New
Poor Law. He had been persuaded that it would elevate the condition of
the labouring class. His son-in-law, Lord Everingham, who was a Whig,
and a clearheaded, cold-blooded man, looked upon the New Poor Law as
another Magna Charta. Lord Everingham was completely master of the
subject. He was himself the Chairman of one of the most considerable
Unions of the kingdom. The Duke, if he ever had a misgiving, had no
chance in argument with his son-in-law. Lord Everingham overwhelmed
him with quotations from Commissioners' rules and Sub-commissioners'
reports, statistical tables, and references to dietaries. Sometimes with
a strong case, the Duke struggled to make a fight; but Lord Everingham,
when he was at fault for a reply, which was very rare, upbraided his
father-in-law with the abuses of the old system, and frightened him with
visions of rates exceeding rentals.

Of late, however, a considerable change had taken place in the Duke's
feelings on this great question. His son Henry entertained strong
opinions upon it, and had combated his father with all the fervour of a
young votary. A victory over his Grace, indeed, was not very difficult.
His natural impulse would have enlisted him on the side, if not of
opposition to the new system, at least of critical suspicion of its
spirit and provisions. It was only the statistics and sharp acuteness
of his son-in-law that had, indeed, ever kept him to his colours. Lord
Henry would not listen to statistics, dietary tables, Commissioners'
rides, Sub-commissioners' reports. He went far higher than his father;
far deeper than his brother-in-law. He represented to the Duke that the
order of the peasantry was as ancient, legal, and recognised an order as
the order of the nobility; that it had distinct rights and privileges,
though for centuries they had been invaded and violated, and permitted
to fall into desuetude. He impressed upon the Duke that the parochial
constitution of this country was more important than its political
constitution; that it was more ancient, more universal in its influence;
and that this parochial constitution had already been shaken to its
centre by the New Poor Law. He assured his father that it would never be
well for England until this order of the peasantry was restored to its
pristine condition; not merely in physical comfort, for that must vary
according to the economical circumstances of the time, like that of
every class; but to its condition in all those moral attributes which
make a recognised rank in a nation; and which, in a great degree, are
independent of economics, manners, customs, ceremonies, rights, and
privileges.

'Henry thinks,' said Lord Everingham, 'that the people are to be fed by
dancing round a May-pole.'

'But will the people be more fed because they do not dance round a
May-pole?' urged Lord Henry.

'Obsolete customs!' said Lord Everingham.

'And why should dancing round a May-pole be more obsolete than holding a
Chapter of the Garter?' asked Lord Henry.

The Duke, who was a blue ribbon, felt this a home thrust. 'I must say,'
said his Grace, 'that I for one deeply regret that our popular customs
have been permitted to fall so into desuetude.'

'The Spirit of the Age is against such things,' said Lord Everingham.

'And what is the Spirit of the Age?' asked Coningsby.

'The Spirit of Utility,' said Lord Everingham.

'And you think then that ceremony is not useful?' urged Coningsby,
mildly.

'It depends upon circumstances,' said Lord Everingham. 'There are some
ceremonies, no doubt, that are very proper, and of course very useful.
But the best thing we can do for the labouring classes is to provide
them with work.'

'But what do you mean by the labouring classes, Everingham?' asked Lord
Henry. 'Lawyers are a labouring class, for instance, and by the bye
sufficiently provided with work. But would you approve of Westminster
Hall being denuded of all its ceremonies?'

'And the long vacation being abolished?' added Coningsby.

'Theresa brings me terrible accounts of the sufferings of the poor about
us,' said the Duke, shaking his head.

'Women think everything to be suffering!' said Lord Everingham.

'How do you find them about you, Mr. Lyle?' continued the Duke.

'I have revived the monastic customs at St. Genevieve,' said the young
man, blushing. 'There is an almsgiving twice a-week.'

'I am sure I wish I could see the labouring classes happy,' said the
Duke.

'Oh! pray do not use, my dear father, that phrase, the labouring
classes!' said Lord Henry. 'What do you think, Coningsby, the other day
we had a meeting in this neighbourhood to vote an agricultural petition
that was to comprise all classes. I went with my father, and I was
made chairman of the committee to draw up the petition. Of course, I
described it as the petition of the nobility, clergy, gentry, yeomanry,
and peasantry of the county of ----; and, could you believe it,
they struck out _peasantry_ as a word no longer used, and inserted
_labourers_.'

'What can it signify,' said Lord Everingham, 'whether a man be called a
labourer or a peasant?'

'And what can it signify,' said his brother-in-law, 'whether a man be
called Mr. Howard or Lord Everingham?'

They were the most affectionate family under this roof of Beaumanoir,
and of all members of it, Lord Henry the sweetest tempered, and yet it
was astonishing what sharp skirmishes every day arose between him and
his brother-in-law, during that 'little half-hour' that forms so happily
the political character of the nation. The Duke, who from experience
felt that a guerilla movement was impending, asked his guests whether
they would take any more claret; and on their signifying their dissent,
moved an adjournment to the ladies.

They joined the ladies in the music-room. Coningsby, not experienced
in feminine society, and who found a little difficulty from want
of practice in maintaining conversation, though he was desirous
of succeeding, was delighted with Lady Everingham, who, instead of
requiring to be amused, amused him; and suggested so many subjects,
and glanced at so many topics, that there never was that cold, awkward
pause, so common with sullen spirits and barren brains. Lady Everingham
thoroughly understood the art of conversation, which, indeed, consists
of the exercise of two fine qualities. You must originate, and you must
sympathise; you must possess at the same time the habit of communicating
and the habit of listening. The union is rather rare, but irresistible.

Lady Everingham was not a celebrated beauty, but she was something
infinitely more delightful, a captivating woman. There were combined,
in her, qualities not commonly met together, great vivacity of mind with
great grace of manner. Her words sparkled and her movements charmed.
There was, indeed, in all she said and did, that congruity that
indicates a complete and harmonious organisation. It was the same just
proportion which characterised her form: a shape slight and undulating
with grace; the most beautifully shaped ear; a small, soft hand; a foot
that would have fitted the glass slipper; and which, by the bye, she
lost no opportunity of displaying; and she was right, for it was a
model.

Then there was music. Lady Theresa sang like a seraph: a rich voice, a
grand style. And her sister could support her with grace and sweetness.
And they did not sing too much. The Duke took up a review, and looked
at Rigby's last slashing article. The country seemed ruined, but it
appeared that the Whigs were still worse off than the Tories. The
assassins had committed suicide. This poetical justice is pleasing. Lord
Everingham, lounging in an easy chair, perused with great satisfaction
his _Morning Chronicle_, which contained a cutting reply to Mr. Rigby's
article, not quite so 'slashing' as the Right Honourable scribe's
manifesto, but with some searching mockery, that became the subject and
the subject-monger.

Mr. Lyle seated himself by the Duchess, and encouraged by her amenity,
and speaking in whispers, became animated and agreeable, occasionally
patting the lap-dog. Coningsby stood by the singers, or talked with
them when the music had ceased: and Henry Sydney looked over a volume
of Strutt's _Sports and Pastimes_, occasionally, without taking his eyes
off the volume, calling the attention of his friends to his discoveries.

Mr. Lyle rose to depart, for he had some miles to return; he came
forward with some hesitation, to hope that Coningsby would visit his
bloodhounds, which Lord Henry had told him Coningsby had expressed
a wish to do. Lady Everingham remarked that she had not been at St.
Genevieve since she was a girl, and it appeared Lady Theresa had never
visited it. Lady Everingham proposed that they should all ride over
on the morrow, and she appealed to her husband for his approbation,
instantly given, for though she loved admiration, and he apparently was
an iceberg, they were really devoted to each other. Then there was a
consultation as to their arrangements. The Duchess would drive over in
her pony chair with Theresa. The Duke, as usual, had affairs that
would occupy him. The rest were to ride. It was a happy suggestion, all
anticipated pleasure; and the evening terminated with the prospect of
what Lady Everingham called an adventure.

The ladies themselves soon withdrew; the gentlemen lingered for a
while; the Duke took up his candle, and bid his guests good night; Lord
Everingham drank a glass of Seltzer water, nodded, and vanished. Lord
Henry and his friend sat up talking over the past. They were too young
to call them old times; and yet what a life seemed to have elapsed since
they had quitted Eton, dear old Eton! Their boyish feelings, and still
latent boyish character, developed with their reminiscences.

'Do you remember Bucknall? Which Bucknall? The eldest: I saw him the
other day at Nottingham; he is in the Rifles. Do you remember that day
at Sirly Hall, that Paulet had that row with Dickinson? Did you like
Dickinson? Hum! Paulet was a good fellow. I tell you who was a good
fellow, Paulet's little cousin. What! Augustus Le Grange? Oh! I liked
Augustus Le Grange. I wonder where Buckhurst is? I had a letter from him
the other day. He has gone with his uncle to Paris. We shall find him at
Cambridge in October. I suppose you know Millbank has gone to Oriel. Has
he, though! I wonder who will have our room at Cookesley's? Cookesley
was a good fellow! Oh, capital! How well he behaved when there was that
row about our going out with the hounds? Do you remember Vere's face? It
makes me laugh now when I think of it. I tell you who was a good fellow,
Kangaroo Gray; I liked him. I don't know any fellow who sang a better
song!'

'By the bye,' said Coningsby, 'what sort of fellow is Eustace Lyle? I
rather liked his look.'

'Oh! I will tell you all about him,' said Lord Henry. 'He is a great
ally of mine, and I think you will like him very much. It is a Roman
Catholic family, about the oldest we have in the county, and the
wealthiest. You see, Lyle's father was the most violent ultra Whig,
and so were all Eustace's guardians; but the moment he came of age, he
announced that he should not mix himself up with either of the parties
in the county, and that his tenantry might act exactly as they thought
fit. My father thinks, of course, that Lyle is a Conservative, and that
he only waits the occasion to come forward; but he is quite wrong. I
know Lyle well, and he speaks to me without disguise. You see 'tis an
old Cavalier family, and Lyle has all the opinions and feelings of his
race. He will not ally himself with anti-monarchists, and democrats,
and infidels, and sectarians; at the same time, why should he support a
party who pretend to oppose these, but who never lose an opportunity
of insulting his religion, and would deprive him, if possible, of
the advantages of the very institutions which his family assisted in
establishing?'

'Why, indeed? I am glad to have made his acquaintance,' said Coningsby.
'Is he clever?'

'I think so,' said Lord Henry. 'He is the most shy fellow, especially
among women, that I ever knew, but he is very popular in the county. He
does an amazing deal of good, and is one of the best riders we have. My
father says, the very best; bold, but so very certain.'

'He is older than we are?'

'My senior by a year: he is just of age.'

'Oh, ah! twenty-one. A year younger than Gaston de Foix when he won
Ravenna, and four years younger than John of Austria when he won
Lepanto,' observed Coningsby, musingly. 'I vote we go to bed, old
fellow!'



CHAPTER IV.


In a valley, not far from the margin of a beautiful river, raised on a
lofty and artificial terrace at the base of a range of wooded heights,
was a pile of modern building in the finest style of Christian
architecture. It was of great extent and richly decorated. Built of
a white and glittering stone, it sparkled with its pinnacles in the
sunshine as it rose in strong relief against its verdant background.
The winding valley, which was studded, but not too closely studded, with
clumps of old trees, formed for a great extent on either side of the
mansion a grassy demesne, which was called the Lower Park; but it was
a region bearing the name of the Upper Park, that was the peculiar and
most picturesque feature of this splendid residence. The wooded heights
that formed the valley were not, as they appeared, a range of hills.
Their crest was only the abrupt termination of a vast and enclosed
tableland, abounding in all the qualities of the ancient chase: turf and
trees, a wilderness of underwood, and a vast spread of gorse and fern.
The deer, that abounded, lived here in a world as savage as themselves:
trooping down in the evening to the river. Some of them, indeed, were
ever in sight of those who were in the valley, and you might often
observe various groups clustered on the green heights above the mansion,
the effect of which was most inspiriting and graceful. Sometimes in the
twilight, a solitary form, magnified by the illusive hour, might be seen
standing on the brink of the steep, large and black against the clear
sky.

We have endeavoured slightly to sketch St. Geneviève as it appeared to
our friends from Beaumanoir, winding into the valley the day after
Mr. Lyle had dined with them. The valley opened for about half-a-mile
opposite the mansion, which gave to the dwellers in it a view over an
extensive and richly-cultivated country. It was through this district
that the party from Beaumanoir had pursued their way. The first glance
at the building, its striking situation, its beautiful form, its
brilliant colour, its great extent, a gathering as it seemed of
galleries, halls, and chapels, mullioned windows, portals of clustered
columns, and groups of airy pinnacles and fretwork spires, called forth
a general cry of wonder and of praise.

The ride from Beaumanoir had been delightful; the breath of summer in
every breeze, the light of summer on every tree. The gay laugh of
Lady Everingham rang frequently in the air; often were her sunny eyes
directed to Coningsby, as she called his attention to some fair object
or some pretty effect. She played the hostess of Nature, and introduced
him to all the beauties.

Mr. Lyle had recognised them. He cantered forward with greetings on a
fat little fawn-coloured pony, with a long white mane and white flowing
tail, and the wickedest eye in the world. He rode by the side of the
Duchess, and indicated their gently-descending route.

They arrived, and the peacocks, who were sunning themselves on the
turrets, expanded their plumage to welcome them.

'I can remember the old house,' said the Duchess, as she took Mr. Lyle's
arm; 'and I am happy to see the new one. The Duke had prepared me for
much beauty, but the reality exceeds his report.'

They entered by a short corridor into a large hall. They would have
stopped to admire its rich roof, its gallery and screen; but their host
suggested that they should refresh themselves after their ride, and they
followed him through several apartments into a spacious chamber, its
oaken panels covered with a series of interesting pictures, representing
the siege of St. Geneviève by the Parliament forces in 1643: the various
assaults and sallies, and the final discomfiture of the rebels. In all
these figured a brave and graceful Sir Eustace Lyle, in cuirass and
buff jerkin, with gleaming sword and flowing plume. The sight of these
pictures was ever a source of great excitement to Henry Sydney, who
always lamented his ill-luck in not living in such days; nay, would
insist that all others must equally deplore their evil destiny.

'See, Coningsby, this battery on the Upper Park,' said Lord Henry.
'This did the business: how it rakes up the valley; Sir Eustace works it
himself. Mother, what a pity Beaumanoir was not besieged!'

'It may be,' said Coningsby.

'I always fancy a siege must be so interesting,' said Lady Everingham.
'It must be so exciting.'

'I hope the next siege may be at Beaumanoir, instead of St.
Geneviève,' said Lyle, laughing; 'as Henry Sydney has such a military
predisposition. Duchess, you said the other day that you liked
Malvoisie, and here is some.

  'Now broach me a cask of Malvoisie,
  Bring pasty from the doe;'

said the Duchess. 'That has been my luncheon.'

'A poetic repast,' said Lady Theresa.

'Their breeds of sheep must have been very inferior in old days,' said
Lord Everingham, 'as they made such a noise about their venison. For my
part I consider it a thing as much gone by as tilts and tournaments.'

'I am sorry that they have gone by,' said Lady Theresa.

'Everything has gone by that is beautiful,' said Lord Henry.

'Life is much easier,' said Lord Everingham.

'Life easy!' said Lord Henry. 'Life appears to me to be a fierce
struggle.'

'Manners are easy,' said Coningsby, 'and life is hard.'

'And I wish to see things exactly the reverse,' said Lord Henry. 'The
means and modes of subsistence less difficult; the conduct of life more
ceremonious.'

'Civilisation has no time for ceremony,' said Lord Everingham.

'How very sententious you all are!' said his wife. 'I want to see the
hall and many other things.' And they all rose.

There were indeed many other things to see: a long gallery, rich in
ancestral portraits, specimens of art and costume from Holbein to
Lawrence; courtiers of the Tudors, and cavaliers of the Stuarts,
terminating in red-coated squires fresh from the field, and gentlemen
buttoned up in black coats, and sitting in library chairs, with their
backs to a crimson curtain. Woman, however, is always charming; and the
present generation may view their mothers painted by Lawrence, as if
they were patronesses of Almack's; or their grandmothers by Reynolds,
as Robinettas caressing birds, with as much delight as they gaze on
the dewy-eyed matrons of Lely, and the proud bearing of the heroines
of Vandyke. But what interested them more than the gallery, or the rich
saloons, or even the baronial hall, was the chapel, in which art had
exhausted all its invention, and wealth offered all its resources.
The walls and vaulted roofs entirely painted in encaustic by the first
artists of Germany, and representing the principal events of the second
Testament, the splendour of the mosaic pavement, the richness of
the painted windows, the sumptuousness of the altar, crowned by a
masterpiece of Carlo Dolce and surrounded by a silver rail, the tone
of rich and solemn light that pervaded all, and blended all the various
sources of beauty into one absorbing and harmonious whole: all combined
to produce an effect which stilled them into a silence that lasted for
some minutes, until the ladies breathed their feelings in an almost
inarticulate murmur of reverence and admiration; while a tear stole to
the eye of the enthusiastic Henry Sydney.

Leaving the chapel, they sauntered through the gardens, until, arriving
at their limit, they were met by the prettiest sight in the world; a
group of little pony chairs, each drawn by a little fat fawn-coloured
pony, like the one that Mr. Lyle had been riding. Lord Henry drove his
mother; Lord Everingham, Lady Theresa; Lady Everingham was attended by
Coningsby. Their host cantered by the Duchess's side, and along winding
roads of easy ascent, leading through beautiful woods, and offering
charming landscapes, they reached in due time the Upper Park.

'One sees our host to great advantage in his own house,' said Lady
Everingham. 'He is scarcely the same person. I have not observed him
once blush. He speaks and moves with ease. It is a pity that he is not
more graceful. Above all things I like a graceful man.'

'That chapel,' said Coningsby, 'was a fine thing.'

'Very!' said Lady Everingham. 'Did you observe the picture over the
altar, the Virgin with blue eyes? I never observed blue eyes before in
such a picture. What is your favourite colour for eyes?'

Coningsby felt embarrassed: he said something rather pointless about
admiring everything that was beautiful.

'But every one has a favourite style; I want to know yours. Regular
features, do you like regular features? Or is it expression that pleases
you?'

'Expression; I think I like expression. Expression must be always
delightful.'

'Do you dance?'

'No; I am no great dancer. I fear I have few accomplishments. I am fond
of fencing.'

'I don't fence,' said Lady Everingham, with a smile. 'But I think you
are right not to dance. It is not in your way. You are ambitious, I
believe?' she added.

'I was not aware of it; everybody is ambitious.'

'You see I know something of your character. Henry has spoken of you to
me a great deal; long before we met,--met again, I should say, for we
are old friends, remember. Do you know your career much interests me? I
like ambitious men.'

There is something fascinating in the first idea that your career
interests a charming woman. Coningsby felt that he was perhaps driving
a Madame de Longueville. A woman who likes ambitious men must be no
ordinary character; clearly a sort of heroine. At this moment they
reached the Upper Park, and the novel landscape changed the current of
their remarks.

Far as the eye could reach there spread before them a savage sylvan
scene. It wanted, perhaps, undulation of surface, but that deficiency
was greatly compensated for by the multitude and prodigious size of the
trees; they were the largest, indeed, that could well be met with in
England; and there is no part of Europe where the timber is so huge.
The broad interminable glades, the vast avenues, the quantity of deer
browsing or bounding in all directions, the thickets of yellow gorse and
green fern, and the breeze that even in the stillness of summer was ever
playing over this table-land, all produced an animated and renovating
scene. It was like suddenly visiting another country, living among other
manners, and breathing another air. They stopped for a few minutes at
a pavilion built for the purposes of the chase, and then returned, all
gratified by this visit to what appeared to be the higher regions of the
earth.

As they approached the brow of the hill that hung over St. Geneviève,
they heard the great bell sound.

'What is that?' asked the Duchess.

'It is almsgiving day,' replied Mr. Lyle, looking a little embarrassed,
and for the first time blushing. 'The people of the parishes with which
I am connected come to St. Geneviève twice a-week at this hour.'

'And what is your system?' inquired Lord Everingham, who had stopped,
interested by the scene. 'What check have you?'

'The rectors of the different parishes grant certificates to those
who in their belief merit bounty according to the rules which I have
established. These are again visited by my almoner, who countersigns
the certificate, and then they present it at the postern-gate. The
certificate explains the nature of their necessities, and my steward
acts on his discretion.

'Mamma, I see them!' exclaimed Lady Theresa.

'Perhaps your Grace may think that they might be relieved without all
this ceremony,' said Mr. Lyle, extremely confused. 'But I agree with
Henry and Mr. Coningsby, that Ceremony is not, as too commonly supposed,
an idle form. I wish the people constantly and visibly to comprehend
that Property is their protector and their friend.'

'My reason is with you, Mr. Lyle,' said the Duchess, 'as well as my
heart.'

They came along the valley, a procession of Nature, whose groups an
artist might have studied. The old man, who loved the pilgrimage too
much to avail himself of the privilege of a substitute accorded to his
grey hairs, came in person with his grandchild and his staff. There also
came the widow with her child at the breast, and others clinging to her
form; some sorrowful faces, and some pale; many a serious one, and
now and then a frolic glance; many a dame in her red cloak, and many a
maiden with her light basket; curly-headed urchins with demure looks,
and sometimes a stalwart form baffled for a time of the labour which he
desired. But not a heart there that did not bless the bell that sounded
from the tower of St. Geneviève!



CHAPTER V.


'My fathers perilled their blood and fortunes for the cause of the
Sovereignty and Church of England,' said Lyle to Coningsby, as they were
lying stretched out on the sunny turf in the park of Beaumanoir,' and
I inherit their passionate convictions. They were Catholics, as their
descendant. No doubt they would have been glad to see their ancient
faith predominant in their ancient land; but they bowed, as I bow, to an
adverse and apparently irrevocable decree. But if we could not have the
Church of our fathers, we honoured and respected the Church of their
children. It was at least a Church; a 'Catholic and Apostolic Church,'
as it daily declares itself. Besides, it was our friend. When we were
persecuted by Puritanic Parliaments, it was the Sovereign and the Church
of England that interposed, with the certainty of creating against
themselves odium and mistrust, to shield us from the dark and relentless
bigotry of Calvinism.'

'I believe,' said Coningsby, 'that if Charles I. had hanged all the
Catholic priests that Parliament petitioned him to execute, he would
never have lost his crown.'

'You were mentioning my father,' continued Lyle. 'He certainly was a
Whig. Galled by political exclusion, he connected himself with that
party in the State which began to intimate emancipation. After all, they
did not emancipate us. It was the fall of the Papacy in England that
founded the Whig aristocracy; a fact that must always lie at the bottom
of their hearts, as, I assure you, it does of mine.

'I gathered at an early age,' continued Lyle, 'that I was expected to
inherit my father's political connections with the family estates. Under
ordinary circumstances this would probably have occurred. In times that
did not force one to ponder, it is not likely I should have recoiled
from uniting myself with a party formed of the best families in England,
and ever famous for accomplished men and charming women. But I enter
life in the midst of a convulsion in which the very principles of our
political and social systems are called in question. I cannot unite
myself with the party of destruction. It is an operative cause alien
to my being. What, then, offers itself? The Duke talks to me of
Conservative principles; but he does not inform me what they are. I
observe indeed a party in the State whose rule it is to consent to no
change, until it is clamorously called for, and then instantly to yield;
but those are Concessionary, not Conservative principles. This party
treats institutions as we do our pheasants, they preserve only to
destroy them. But is there a statesman among these Conservatives who
offers us a dogma for a guide, or defines any great political truth
which we should aspire to establish? It seems to me a, barren thing,
this Conservatism, an unhappy cross-breed; the mule of politics that
engenders nothing. What do you think of all this, Coningsby? I assure
you I feel confused, perplexed, harassed. I know I have public duties to
perform; I am, in fact, every day of my life solicited by all parties
to throw the weight of my influence in one scale or another; but I am
paralysed. I often wish I had no position in the country. The sense
of its responsibility depresses me; makes me miserable. I speak to you
without reserve; with a frankness which our short acquaintance scarcely
authorises; but Henry Sydney has so often talked to me of you, and
I have so long wished to know you, that I open my heart without
restraint.'

'My dear fellow,' said Coningsby, 'you have but described my feelings
when you depicted your own. My mind on these subjects has long been
a chaos. I float in a sea of troubles, and should long ago have
been wrecked had I not been sustained by a profound, however vague,
conviction, that there are still great truths, if we could but work them
out; that Government, for instance, should be loved and not hated, and
that Religion should be a faith and not a form.'

The moral influence of residence furnishes some of the most interesting
traits of our national manners. The presence of this power was very
apparent throughout the district that surrounded Beaumanoir. The ladies
of that house were deeply sensible of the responsibility of their
position; thoroughly comprehending their duties, they fulfilled them
without affectation, with earnestness, and with that effect which
springs from a knowledge of the subject. The consequences were visible
in the tone of the peasantry being superior to that which we too often
witness. The ancient feudal feeling that lingers in these sequestered
haunts is an instrument which, when skilfully wielded, may be productive
of vast social benefit. The Duke understood this well; and his family
had imbibed all his views, and seconded them. Lady Everingham, once more
in the scene of her past life, resumed the exercise of gentle offices,
as if she had never ceased to be a daughter of the house, and as if
another domain had not its claims upon her solicitude. Coningsby was
often the companion of herself and her sister in their pilgrimages
of charity and kindness. He admired the graceful energy, and thorough
acquaintance with details, with which Lady Everingham superintended
schools, organised societies of relief, and the discrimination which she
brought to bear upon individual cases of suffering or misfortune. He was
deeply interested as he watched the magic of her manner, as she melted
the obdurate, inspired the slothful, consoled the afflicted, and
animated with her smiles and ready phrase the energetic and the dutiful.
Nor on these occasions was Lady Theresa seen under less favourable
auspices. Without the vivacity of her sister, there was in her demeanour
a sweet seriousness of purpose that was most winning; and sometimes a
burst of energy, a trait of decision, which strikingly contrasted with
the somewhat over-controlled character of her life in drawing-rooms.

In the society of these engaging companions, time for Coningsby glided
away in a course which he sometimes wished nothing might disturb. Apart
from them, he frequently felt himself pensive and vaguely disquieted.
Even the society of Henry Sydney or Eustace Lyle, much as under
ordinary circumstances they would have been adapted to his mood, did not
compensate for the absence of that indefinite, that novel, that strange,
yet sweet excitement, which he felt, he knew not exactly how or why,
stealing over his senses. Sometimes the countenance of Theresa Sydney
flitted over his musing vision; sometimes the merry voice of Lady
Everingham haunted his ear. But to be their companion in ride or ramble;
to avoid any arrangement which for many hours should deprive him of
their presence; was every day with Coningsby a principal object.

One day he had been out shooting rabbits with Lyle and Henry Sydney, and
returned with them late to Beaumanoir to dinner. He had not enjoyed his
sport, and he had not shot at all well. He had been dreamy, silent, had
deeply felt the want of Lady Everingham's conversation, that was ever so
poignant and so interestingly personal to himself; one of the secrets of
her sway, though Coningsby was not then quite conscious of it. Talk to a
man about himself, and he is generally captivated. That is the real way
to win him. The only difference between men and women in this respect
is, that most women are vain, and some men are not. There are some men
who have no self-love; but if they have, female vanity is but a trifling
and airy passion compared with the vast voracity of appetite which in
the sterner sex can swallow anything, and always crave for more.

When Coningsby entered the drawing-room, there seemed a somewhat unusual
bustle in the room, but as the twilight had descended, it was at first
rather difficult to distinguish who was present. He soon perceived that
there were strangers. A gentleman of pleasing appearance was near a sofa
on which the Duchess and Lady Everingham were seated, and discoursing
with some volubility. His phrases seemed to command attention; his
audience had an animated glance, eyes sparkling with intelligence and
interest; not a word was disregarded. Coningsby did not advance as was
his custom; he had a sort of instinct, that the stranger was discoursing
of matters of which he knew nothing. He turned to a table, he took up a
book, which he began to read upside downwards. A hand was lightly placed
on his shoulder. He looked round, it was another stranger; who said,
however, in a tone of familiar friendliness,

'How do you do, Coningsby?'

It was a young man about four-and-twenty years of age, tall,
good-looking. Old recollections, his intimate greeting, a strong family
likeness, helped Coningsby to conjecture correctly who was the person
who addressed him. It was, indeed, the eldest son of the Duke, the
Marquis of Beaumanoir, who had arrived at his father's unexpectedly with
his friend, Mr. Melton, on their way to the north.

Mr. Melton was a gentleman of the highest fashion, and a great favourite
in society. He was about thirty, good-looking, with an air that
commanded attention, and manners, though facile, sufficiently finished.
He was communicative, though calm, and without being witty, had at his
service a turn of phrase, acquired by practice and success, which was,
or which always seemed to be, poignant. The ladies seemed especially to
be delighted at his arrival. He knew everything of everybody they cared
about; and Coningsby listened in silence to names which for the first
time reached his ears, but which seemed to excite great interest. Mr.
Melton frequently addressed his most lively observations and his most
sparkling anecdotes to Lady Everingham, who evidently relished all that
he said, and returned him in kind.

Throughout the dinner Lady Everingham and Mr. Melton maintained what
appeared a most entertaining conversation, principally about things and
persons which did not in any way interest our hero; who, however, had
the satisfaction of hearing Lady Everingham, in the drawing-room, say in
a careless tone to the Duchess.

'I am so glad, mamma, that Mr. Melton has come; we wanted some
amusement.'

What a confession! What a revelation to Coningsby of his infinite
insignificance! Coningsby entertained a great aversion for Mr. Melton,
but felt his spirit unequal to the social contest. The genius of
the untutored, inexperienced youth quailed before that of the
long-practised, skilful man of the world. What was the magic of this
man? What was the secret of this ease, that nothing could disturb, and
yet was not deficient in deference and good taste? And then his dress,
it seemed fashioned by some unearthly artist; yet it was impossible
to detect the unobtrusive causes of the general effect that was
irresistible. Coningsby's coat was made by Stultz; almost every fellow
in the sixth form had his coats made by Stultz; yet Coningsby fancied
that his own garment looked as if it had been furnished by some rustic
slopseller. He began to wonder where Mr. Melton got his boots from, and
glanced at his own, which, though made in St. James's Street, seemed to
him to have a cloddish air.

Lady Everingham was determined that Mr. Melton should see Beaumanoir to
the greatest advantage. Mr. Melton had never been there before, except
at Christmas, with the house full of visitors and factitious gaiety. Now
he was to see the country. Accordingly, there were long rides every day,
which Lady Everingham called expeditions, and which generally produced
some slight incident which she styled an adventure. She was kind to
Coningsby, but had no time to indulge in the lengthened conversations
which he had previously found so magical. Mr. Melton was always on
the scene, the monopolising hero, it would seem, of every thought, and
phrase, and plan. Coningsby began to think that Beaumanoir was not so
delightful a place as he had imagined. He began to think that he had
stayed there perhaps too long. He had received a letter from Mr. Rigby,
to inform him that he was expected at Coningsby Castle at the beginning
of September, to meet Lord Monmouth, who had returned to England, and
for grave and special reasons was about to reside at his chief seat,
which he had not visited for many years. Coningsby had intended to have
remained at Beaumanoir until that time; but suddenly it occurred to
him, that the Age of Ruins was past, and that he ought to seize the
opportunity of visiting Manchester, which was in the same county as the
castle of his grandfather. So difficult is it to speculate upon
events! Muse as we may, we are the creatures of circumstances; and the
unexpected arrival of a London dandy at the country-seat of an English
nobleman sent this representative of the New Generation, fresh from
Eton, nursed in prejudices, yet with a mind predisposed to inquiry
and prone to meditation, to a scene apt to stimulate both intellectual
processes; which demanded investigation and induced thought, the great
METROPOLIS OF LABOUR.

END OF BOOK III.



BOOK IV


CHAPTER I.


A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of
some great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers
of Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique
world, Art.

In modern ages, Commerce has created London; while Manners, in the most
comprehensive sense of the word, have long found a supreme capital in
the airy and bright-minded city of the Seine.

Art was to the ancient world, Science is to the modern: the distinctive
faculty. In the minds of men the useful has succeeded to the beautiful.
Instead of the city of the Violet Crown, a Lancashire village has
expanded into a mighty region of factories and warehouses. Yet, rightly
understood, Manchester is as great a human exploit as Athens.

The inhabitants, indeed, are not so impressed with their idiosyncrasy as
the countrymen of Pericles and Phidias. They do not fully comprehend the
position which they occupy. It is the philosopher alone who can conceive
the grandeur of Manchester, and the immensity of its future. There are
yet great truths to tell, if we had either the courage to announce or
the temper to receive them.



CHAPTER II.


A feeling of melancholy, even of uneasiness, attends our first entrance
into a great town, especially at night. Is it that the sense of all this
vast existence with which we have no connexion, where we are utterly
unknown, oppresses us with our insignificance? Is it that it is terrible
to feel friendless where all have friends?

Yet reverse the picture. Behold a community where you are unknown, but
where you will be known, perhaps honoured. A place where you have no
friends, but where, also, you have no enemies. A spot that has hitherto
been a blank in your thoughts, as you have been a cipher in its
sensations, and yet a spot, perhaps, pregnant with your destiny!

There is, perhaps, no act of memory so profoundly interesting as to
recall the careless mood and moment in which we have entered a town,
a house, a chamber, on the eve of an acquaintance or an event that has
given colour and an impulse to our future life.

What is this Fatality that men worship? Is it a Goddess?

Unquestionably it is a power that acts mainly by female agents. Women
are the Priestesses of Predestination.

Man conceives Fortune, but Woman conducts it.

It is the Spirit of Man that says, 'I will be great;' but it is the
Sympathy of Woman that usually makes him so.

It was not the comely and courteous hostess of the Adelphi Hotel,
Manchester, that gave occasion to these remarks, though she may deserve
them, and though she was most kind to our Coningsby as he came in late
at night very tired, and not in very good humour.

He had travelled the whole day through the great district of labour,
his mind excited by strange sights, and at length wearied by their
multiplication. He had passed over the plains where iron and coal
supersede turf and corn, dingy as the entrance of Hades, and flaming
with furnaces; and now he was among illumined factories with more
windows than Italian palaces, and smoking chimneys taller than Egyptian
obelisks. Alone in the great metropolis of machinery itself, sitting
down in a solitary coffee-room glaring with gas, with no appetite, a
whirling head, and not a plan or purpose for the morrow, why was he
there? Because a being, whose name even was unknown to him, had met him
in a hedge alehouse during a thunderstorm, and told him that the Age of
Ruins was past.

Remarkable instance of the influence of an individual; some evidence of
the extreme susceptibility of our hero.

Even his bedroom was lit by gas. Wonderful city! That, however, could be
got rid of. He opened the window. The summer air was sweet, even in this
land of smoke and toil. He feels a sensation such as in Lisbon or Lima
precedes an earthquake. The house appears to quiver. It is a sympathetic
affection occasioned by a steam-engine in a neighbouring factory.

Notwithstanding, however, all these novel incidents, Coningsby slept the
deep sleep of youth and health, of a brain which, however occasionally
perplexed by thought, had never been harassed by anxiety. He rose early,
freshened, and in fine spirits. And by the time the deviled chicken and
the buttered toast, that mysterious and incomparable luxury, which can
only be obtained at an inn, had disappeared, he felt all the delightful
excitement of travel.

And now for action! Not a letter had Coningsby; not an individual in
that vast city was known to him. He went to consult his kind hostess,
who smiled confidence. He was to mention her name at one place, his
own at another. All would be right; she seemed to have reliance in the
destiny of such a nice young man.

He saw all; they were kind and hospitable to the young stranger,
whose thought, and earnestness, and gentle manners attracted them. One
recommended him to another; all tried to aid and assist him. He entered
chambers vaster than are told of in Arabian fable, and peopled with
habitants more wondrous than Afrite or Peri. For there he beheld, in
long-continued ranks, those mysterious forms full of existence without
life, that perform with facility, and in an instant, what man can fulfil
only with difficulty and in days. A machine is a slave that neither
brings nor bears degradation; it is a being endowed with the greatest
degree of energy, and acting under the greatest degree of excitement,
yet free at the same time from all passion and emotion. It is,
therefore, not only a slave, but a supernatural slave. And why should
one say that the machine does not live? It breathes, for its breath
forms the atmosphere of some towns. It moves with more regularity than
man. And has it not a voice? Does not the spindle sing like a merry girl
at her work, and the steam-engine roar in jolly chorus, like a strong
artisan handling his lusty tools, and gaining a fair day's wages for a
fair day's toil?

Nor should the weaving-room be forgotten, where a thousand or fifteen
hundred girls may be observed in their coral necklaces, working like
Penelope in the daytime; some pretty, some pert, some graceful and
jocund, some absorbed in their occupation; a little serious some, few
sad. And the cotton you have observed in its rude state, that you have
seen the silent spinner change into thread, and the bustling weaver
convert into cloth, you may now watch as in a moment it is tinted
with beautiful colours, or printed with fanciful patterns. And yet the
mystery of mysteries is to view machines making machines; a spectacle
that fills the mind with curious, and even awful, speculation.

From early morn to the late twilight, our Coningsby for several days
devoted himself to the comprehension of Manchester. It was to him a new
world, pregnant with new ideas, and suggestive of new trains of thought
and feeling. In this unprecedented partnership between capital and
science, working on a spot which Nature had indicated as the fitting
theatre of their exploits, he beheld a great source of the wealth of
nations which had been reserved for these times, and he perceived that
this wealth was rapidly developing classes whose power was imperfectly
recognised in the constitutional scheme, and whose duties in the social
system seemed altogether omitted. Young as he was, the bent of his mind,
and the inquisitive spirit of the times, had sufficiently prepared him,
not indeed to grapple with these questions, but to be sensible of their
existence, and to ponder.

One evening, in the coffee-room of the hotel, having just finished his
well-earned dinner, and relaxing his mind for the moment in a fresh
research into the Manchester Guide, an individual, who had also been
dining in the same apartment, rose from his table, and, after lolling
over the empty fireplace, reading the framed announcements, looking
at the directions of several letters waiting there for their owners,
picking his teeth, turned round to Coningsby, and, with an air of uneasy
familiarity, said,--

'First visit to Manchester, sir?'

'My first.'

'Gentleman traveller, I presume?'

'I am a traveller.' said Coningsby.

'Hem! From south?'

'From the south.'

'And pray, sir, how did you find business as you came along? Brisk, I
dare say. And yet there is a something, a sort of a something; didn't
it strike you, sir, there was a something? A deal of queer paper about,
sir!'

'I fear you are speaking on a subject of which I know nothing,' said
Coningsby, smiling;' I do not understand business at all; though I am
not surprised that, being at Manchester, you should suppose so.'

'Ah! not in business. Hem! Professional?'

'No,' said Coningsby, 'I am nothing.'

'Ah! an independent gent; hem! and a very pleasant thing, too. Pleased
with Manchester, I dare say?' continued the stranger.

'And astonished,' said Coningsby; 'I think, in the whole course of my
life, I never saw so much to admire.'

'Seen all the lions, have no doubt?'

'I think I have seen everything,' said Coningsby, rather eager and with
some pride.

'Very well, very well,' exclaimed the stranger, in a patronising tone.
'Seen Mr. Birley's weaving-room, I dare say?'

'Oh! isn't it wonderful?' said Coningsby.

'A great many people.' said the stranger, with a rather supercilious
smile.

'But after all,' said Coningsby, with animation, 'it is the machinery
without any interposition of manual power that overwhelms me. It haunts
me in my dreams,' continued Coningsby; 'I see cities peopled with
machines. Certainly Manchester is the most wonderful city of modern
times!'

The stranger stared a little at the enthusiasm of his companion, and
then picked his teeth.

'Of all the remarkable things here,' said Coningsby, 'what on the whole,
sir, do you look upon as the most so?'

'In the way of machinery?' asked the stranger.

'In the way of machinery.'

'Why, in the way of machinery, you know,' said the stranger, very
quietly, 'Manchester is a dead letter.'

'A dead letter!' said Coningsby.

'Dead and buried,' said the stranger, accompanying his words with
that peculiar application of his thumb to his nose that signifies so
eloquently that all is up.

'You astonish me!' said Coningsby.

'It's a booked place though,' said the stranger, 'and no mistake. We
have all of us a very great respect for Manchester, of course; look upon
her as a sort of mother, and all that sort of thing. But she is behind
the times, sir, and that won't do in this age. The long and short of it
is, Manchester is gone by.'

'I thought her only fault might be she was too much in advance of the
rest of the country,' said Coningsby, innocently.

'If you want to see life,' said the stranger, 'go to Staleybridge or
Bolton. There's high pressure.'

'But the population of Manchester is increasing,' said Coningsby.

'Why, yes; not a doubt. You see we have all of us a great respect for
the town. It is a sort of metropolis of this district, and there is
a good deal of capital in the place. And it has some firstrate
institutions. There's the Manchester Bank. That's a noble institution,
full of commercial enterprise; understands the age, sir; high-pressure
to the backbone. I came up to town to see the manager to-day. I am
building a new mill now myself at Staleybridge, and mean to open it by
January, and when I do, I'll give you leave to pay another visit to Mr.
Birley's weaving-room, with my compliments.'

'I am very sorry,' said Coningsby, 'that I have only another day left;
but pray tell me, what would you recommend me most to see within a
reasonable distance of Manchester?'

'My mill is not finished,' said the stranger musingly, 'and though there
is still a great deal worth seeing at Staleybridge, still you had
better wait to see my new mill. And Bolton, let me see; Bolton, there is
nothing at Bolton that can hold up its head for a moment against my new
mill; but then it is not finished. Well, well, let us see. What a pity
this is not the 1st of January, and then my new mill would be at work! I
should like to see Mr. Birley's face, or even Mr. Ashworth's, that day.
And the Oxford Road Works, where they are always making a little change,
bit by bit reform, eh! not a very particular fine appetite, I suspect,
for dinner, at the Oxford Road Works, the day they hear of my new mill
being at work. But you want to see something tip-top. Well, there's
Millbank; that's regular slap-up, quite a sight, regular lion; if I were
you I would see Millbank.'

'Millbank!' said Coningsby; 'what Millbank?'

'Millbank of Millbank, made the place, made it himself. About three
miles from Bolton; train to-morrow morning at 7.25, get a fly at the
station, and you will be at Millbank by 8.40.'

'Unfortunately I am engaged to-morrow morning,' said Coningsby, 'and yet
I am most anxious, particularly anxious, to see Millbank.'

'Well, there's a late train,' said the stranger, '3.15; you will be
there by 4.30.'

'I think I could manage that,' said Coningsby.

'Do,' said the stranger; 'and if you ever find yourself at Staleybridge,
I shall be very happy to be of service. I must be off now. My train goes
at 9.15.' And he presented Coningsby with his card as he wished him good
night.

MR. G. O. A. HEAD, STALEYBRIDGE.



CHAPTER III.


In a green valley of Lancaster, contiguous to that district of factories
on which we have already touched, a clear and powerful stream flows
through a broad meadow land. Upon its margin, adorned, rather than
shadowed, by some old elm-trees, for they are too distant to serve
except for ornament, rises a vast deep red brick pile, which though
formal and monotonous in its general character, is not without a
certain beauty of proportion and an artist-like finish in its occasional
masonry. The front, which is of great extent, and covered with many
tiers of small windows, is flanked by two projecting wings in the same
style, which form a large court, completed by a dwarf wall crowned
with a light, and rather elegant railing; in the centre, the principal
entrance, a lofty portal of bold and beautiful design, surmounted by a
statue of Commerce.

This building, not without a degree of dignity, is what is technically,
and not very felicitously, called a mill; always translated by the
French in their accounts of our manufacturing riots, 'moulin;' and which
really was the principal factory of Oswald Millbank, the father of that
youth whom, we trust, our readers have not quite forgotten.

At some little distance, and rather withdrawn from the principal stream,
were two other smaller structures of the same style. About a quarter of
a mile further on, appeared a village of not inconsiderable size, and
remarkable from the neatness and even picturesque character of its
architecture, and the gay gardens that surrounded it. On a sunny
knoll in the background rose a church, in the best style of Christian
architecture, and near it was a clerical residence and a school-house
of similar design. The village, too, could boast of another public
building; an Institute where there were a library and a lecture-room;
and a reading-hall, which any one might frequent at certain hours, and
under reasonable regulations.

On the other side of the principal factory, but more remote, about
half-a-mile up the valley, surrounded by beautiful meadows, and built
on an agreeable and well-wooded elevation, was the mansion of
the mill-owner; apparently a commodious and not inconsiderable
dwelling-house, built in what is called a villa style, with a variety
of gardens and conservatories. The atmosphere of this somewhat striking
settlement was not disturbed and polluted by the dark vapour, which,
to the shame of Manchester, still infests that great town, for Mr.
Millbank, who liked nothing so much as an invention, unless it were an
experiment, took care to consume his own smoke.

The sun was declining when Coningsby arrived at Millbank, and the
gratification which he experienced on first beholding it, was not a
little diminished, when, on enquiring at the village, he was informed
that the hour was past for seeing the works. Determined not to
relinquish his purpose without a struggle, he repaired to the principal
mill, and entered the counting-house, which was situated in one of the
wings of the building.

'Your pleasure, sir?' said one of three individuals sitting on high
stools behind a high desk.

'I wish, if possible, to see the works.'

'Quite impossible, sir;' and the clerk, withdrawing his glance,
continued his writing. 'No admission without an order, and no admission
with an order after two o'clock.'

'I am very unfortunate,' said Coningsby.

'Sorry for it, sir. Give me ledger K. X., will you, Mr. Benson?'

'I think Mr. Millbank would grant me permission,' said Coningsby.

'Very likely, sir; to-morrow. Mr. Millbank is there, sir, but very much
engaged.' He pointed to an inner counting-house, and the glass doors
permitted Coningsby to observe several individuals in close converse.

'Perhaps his son, Mr. Oswald Millbank, is here?' inquired Coningsby.

'Mr. Oswald is in Belgium,' said the clerk.

'Would you give a message to Mr. Millbank, and say a friend of his son's
at Eton is here, and here only for a day, and wishes very much to see
his works?'

'Can't possibly disturb Mr. Millbank now, sir; but, if you like to sit
down, you can wait and see him yourself.'

Coningsby was content to sit down, though he grew very impatient at the
end of a quarter of an hour. The ticking of the clock, the scratching
of the pens of the three silent clerks, irritated him. At length, voices
were heard, doors opened, and the clerk said, 'Mr. Millbank is coming,
sir,' but nobody came; voices became hushed, doors were shut; again
nothing was heard, save the ticking of the clock and the scratching of
the pen.

At length there was a general stir, and they all did come forth, Mr.
Millbank among them, a well-proportioned, comely man, with a fair face
inclining to ruddiness, a quick, glancing, hazel eye, the whitest teeth,
and short, curly, chestnut hair, here and there slightly tinged with
grey. It was a visage of energy and decision.

He was about to pass through the counting-house with his companions,
with whom his affairs were not concluded, when he observed Coningsby,
who had risen.

'This gentleman wishes to see me?' he inquired of his clerk, who bowed
assent.

'I shall be at your service, sir, the moment I have finished with these
gentlemen.'

'The gentleman wishes to see the works, sir,' said the clerk.

'He can see the works at proper times,' said Mr. Millbank, somewhat
pettishly; 'tell him the regulations;' and he was about to go.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Coningsby, coming forward, and with an
air of earnestness and grace that arrested the step of the manufacturer.
'I am aware of the regulations, but would beg to be permitted to
infringe them.'

'It cannot be, sir,' said Mr. Millbank, moving.

'I thought, sir, being here only for a day, and as a friend of your
son--'

Mr. Millbank stopped and said,

'Oh! a friend of Oswald's, eh? What, at Eton?'

'Yes, sir, at Eton; and I had hoped perhaps to have found him here.'

'I am very much engaged, sir, at this moment,' said Mr. Millbank; 'I am
sorry I cannot pay you any personal attention, but my clerk will show
you everything. Mr. Benson, let this gentleman see everything;' and he
withdrew.

'Be pleased to write your name here, sir,' said Mr. Benson, opening
a book, and our friend wrote his name and the date of his visit to
Millbank:

  'HARRY CONINGSBY, Sept. 2, 1836.'

Coningsby beheld in this great factory the last and the most refined
inventions of mechanical genius. The building had been fitted up by a
capitalist as anxious to raise a monument of the skill and power of his
order, as to obtain a return for the great investment.

'It is the glory of Lancashire!' exclaimed the enthusiastic Mr. Benson.

The clerk spoke freely of his master, whom he evidently idolised, and
his great achievements, and Coningsby encouraged him. He detailed to
Coningsby the plans which Mr. Millbank had pursued, both for the moral
and physical well-being of his people; how he had built churches,
and schools, and institutes; houses and cottages on a new system of
ventilation; how he had allotted gardens; established singing classes.

'Here is Mr. Millbank,' continued the clerk, as he and Coningsby,
quitting the factory, re-entered the court.

Mr. Millbank was approaching the factory, and the moment that he
observed them, he quickened his pace.

'Mr. Coningsby?' he said, when he reached them. His countenance was
rather disturbed, and his voice a little trembled, and he looked on our
friend with a glance scrutinising and serious. Coningsby bowed.

'I am sorry that you should have been received at this place with
so little ceremony, sir,' said Mr. Millbank; 'but had your name been
mentioned, you would have found it cherished here.' He nodded to the
clerk, who disappeared.

Coningsby began to talk about the wonders of the factory, but Mr.
Millbank recurred to other thoughts that were passing in his mind. He
spoke of his son: he expressed a kind reproach that Coningsby should
have thought of visiting this part of the world without giving them
some notice of his intention, that he might have been their guest, that
Oswald might have been there to receive him, that they might have made
arrangements that he should see everything, and in the best manner; in
short, that they might all have shown, however slightly, the deep sense
of their obligations to him.

'My visit to Manchester, which led to this, was quite accidental,' said
Coningsby. 'I am bound for the other division of the county, to pay a
visit to my grandfather, Lord Monmouth; but an irresistible desire came
over me during my journey to view this famous district of industry. It
is some days since I ought to have found myself at Coningsby, and this
is the reason why I am so pressed.'

A cloud passed over the countenance of Millbank as the name of Lord
Monmouth was mentioned, but he said nothing. Turning towards Coningsby,
with an air of kindness:

'At least,' said he, 'let not Oswald hear that you did not taste our
salt. Pray dine with me to-day; there is yet an hour to dinner; and
as you have seen the factory, suppose we stroll together through the
village.'



CHAPTER IV.


The village clock struck five as Mr. Millbank and his guest entered the
gardens of his mansion. Coningsby lingered a moment to admire the beauty
and gay profusion of the flowers.

'Your situation,' said Coningsby, looking up the green and silent
valley, 'is absolutely poetic.'

'I try sometimes to fancy,' said Mr. Millbank, with a rather fierce
smile, 'that I am in the New World.'

They entered the house; a capacious and classic hall, at the end a
staircase in the Italian fashion. As they approached it, the sweetest
and the clearest voice exclaimed from above, 'Papa! papa!' and instantly
a young girl came bounding down the stairs, but suddenly seeing a
stranger with her father she stopped upon the landing-place, and was
evidently on the point of as rapidly retreating as she had advanced,
when Mr. Millbank waved his hand to her and begged her to descend. She
came down slowly; as she approached them her father said, 'A friend you
have often heard of, Edith: this is Mr. Coningsby.'

She started; blushed very much; and then, with a trembling and uncertain
gait, advanced, put forth her hand with a wild unstudied grace, and said
in a tone of sensibility, 'How often have we all wished to see and to
thank you!'

This daughter of his host was of tender years; apparently she could
scarcely have counted sixteen summers. She was delicate and fragile, but
as she raised her still blushing visage to her father's guest, Coningsby
felt that he had never beheld a countenance of such striking and such
peculiar beauty.

'My only daughter, Mr. Coningsby, Edith; a Saxon name, for she is the
daughter of a Saxon.'

But the beauty of the countenance was not the beauty of the Saxons. It
was a radiant face, one of those that seem to have been touched in
their cradle by a sunbeam, and to have retained all their brilliancy and
suffused and mantling lustre. One marks sometimes such faces, diaphanous
with delicate splendour, in the southern regions of France. Her eye,
too, was the rare eye of Aquitaine; soft and long, with lashes drooping
over the cheek, dark as her clustering ringlets.

They entered the drawing-room.

'Mr. Coningsby,' said Millbank to his daughter, 'is in this part of the
world only for a few hours, or I am sure he would become our guest. He
has, however, promised to stay with us now and dine.'

'If Miss Millbank will pardon this dress,' said Coningsby, bowing an
apology for his inevitable frock and boots; the maiden raised her eyes
and bent her head.

The hour of dinner was at hand. Millbank offered to show Coningsby to
his dressing-room. He was absent but a few minutes. When he returned he
found Miss Millbank alone. He came somewhat suddenly into the room. She
was playing with her dog, but ceased the moment she observed Coningsby.

Coningsby, who since his practice with Lady Everingham, flattered
himself that he had advanced in small talk, and was not sorry that
he had now an opportunity of proving his prowess, made some lively
observations about pets and the breeds of lapdogs, but he was not
fortunate in extracting a response or exciting a repartee. He began then
on the beauty of Millbank, which he would on no account have avoided
seeing, and inquired when she had last heard of her brother. The young
lady, apparently much distressed, was murmuring something about Antwerp,
when the entrance of her father relieved her from her embarrassment.

Dinner being announced, Coningsby offered his arm to his fair companion,
who took it with her eyes fixed on the ground.

'You are very fond, I see, of flowers,' said Coningsby, as they moved
along; and the young lady said 'Yes.'

The dinner was plain, but perfect of its kind. The young hostess seemed
to perform her office with a certain degree of desperate determination.
She looked at a chicken and then at Coningsby, and murmured something
which he understood. Sometimes she informed herself of his tastes
or necessities in more detail, by the medium of her father, whom she
treated as a sort of dragoman; in this way: 'Would not Mr. Coningsby,
papa, take this or that, or do so and so?' Coningsby was always careful
to reply in a direct manner, without the agency of the interpreter; but
he did not advance. Even a petition for the great honour of taking a
glass of sherry with her only induced the beautiful face to bow. And yet
when she had first seen him, she had addressed him even with emotion.
What could it be? He felt less confidence in his increased power of
conversation. Why, Theresa Sydney was scarcely a year older than
Miss Millbank, and though she did not certainly originate like Lady
Everingham, he got on with her perfectly well.

Mr. Millbank did not seem to be conscious of his daughter's silence:
at any rate, he attempted to compensate for it. He talked fluently
and well; on all subjects his opinions seemed to be decided, and his
language was precise. He was really interested in what Coningsby had
seen, and what he had felt; and this sympathy divested his manner of the
disagreeable effect that accompanies a tone inclined to be dictatorial.
More than once Coningsby observed the silent daughter listening with
extreme attention to the conversation of himself and her father.

The dessert was remarkable. Millbank was proud of his fruit. A bland
expression of self-complacency spread over his features as he surveyed
his grapes, his peaches, his figs.

'These grapes have gained a medal,' he told Coningsby. 'Those too are
prize peaches. I have not yet been so successful with my figs. These
however promise, and perhaps this year I may be more fortunate.'

'What would your brother and myself have given for such a dessert at
Eton!' said Coningsby to Miss Millbank, wishing to say something, and
something too that might interest her.

She seemed infinitely distressed, and yet this time would speak.

'Let me give you some,' He caught by chance her glance immediately
withdrawn; yet it was a glance not only of beauty, but of feeling
and thought. She added, in a hushed and hurried tone, dividing very
nervously some grapes, 'I hardly know whether Oswald will be most
pleased or grieved when he hears that you have been here.'

'And why grieved?' said Coningsby.

'That he should not have been here to welcome you, and that your stay is
for so brief a time. It seems so strange that after having talked of you
for years, we should see you only for hours.'

'I hope I may return,' said Coningsby, 'and that Millbank may be here to
welcome me; but I hope I may be permitted to return even if he be not.'

But there was no reply; and soon after, Mr. Millbank talking of the
American market, and Coningsby helping himself to a glass of claret, the
daughter of the Saxon, looking at her father, rose and left the room, so
suddenly and so quickly that Coningsby could scarcely gain the door.

'Yes,' said Millbank, filling his glass, and pursuing some previous
observations, 'all that we want in this country is to be masters of our
own industry; but Saxon industry and Norman manners never will agree;
and some day, Mr. Coningsby, you will find that out.'

'But what do you mean by Norman manners?' inquired Coningsby.

'Did you ever hear of the Forest of Rossendale?' said Millbank. 'If
you were staying here, you should visit the district. It is an area of
twenty-four square miles. It was disforested in the early part of the
sixteenth century, possessing at that time eighty inhabitants.
Its rental in James the First's time was 120_l._ When the woollen
manufacture was introduced into the north, the shuttle competed with the
plough in Rossendale, and about forty years ago we sent them the Jenny.
The eighty souls are now increased to upwards of eighty thousand, and
the rental of the forest, by the last county assessment, amounts to more
than 50,000_l._, 41,000 per cent, on the value in the reign of James
I. Now I call that an instance of Saxon industry competing successfully
with Norman manners.'

'Exactly,' said Coningsby, 'but those manners are gone.'

'From Rossendale, 'said Millbank, with a grim smile; 'but not from
England.'

'Where do you meet them?'

'Meet them! In every place, at every hour; and feel them, too, in every
transaction of life.'

'I know, sir, from your son,' said Coningsby, inquiringly, 'that you are
opposed to an aristocracy.'

'No, I am not. I am for an aristocracy; but a real one, a natural one.'

'But, sir, is not the aristocracy of England,' said Coningsby, 'a real
one? You do not confound our peerage, for example, with the degraded
patricians of the Continent.'

'Hum!' said Millbank. 'I do not understand how an aristocracy can exist,
unless it be distinguished by some quality which no other class of the
community possesses. Distinction is the basis of aristocracy. If you
permit only one class of the population, for example, to bear arms, they
are an aristocracy; not one much to my taste; but still a great fact.
That, however, is not the characteristic of the English peerage. I have
yet to learn they are richer than we are, better informed, wiser, or
more distinguished for public or private virtue. Is it not monstrous,
then, that a small number of men, several of whom take the titles of
Duke and Earl from towns in this very neighbourhood, towns which they
never saw, which never heard of them, which they did not form, or
build, or establish, I say, is it not monstrous, that individuals
so circumstanced, should be invested with the highest of conceivable
privileges, the privilege of making laws? Dukes and Earls indeed! I say
there is nothing in a masquerade more ridiculous.'

'But do you not argue from an exception, sir?' said Coningsby. 'The
question is, whether a preponderance of the aristocratic principle in a
political constitution be, as I believe, conducive to the stability and
permanent power of a State; and whether the peerage, as established
in England, generally tends to that end? We must not forget in such an
estimate the influence which, in this country, is exercised over opinion
by ancient lineage.'

'Ancient lineage!' said Mr. Millbank; 'I never heard of a peer with an
ancient lineage. The real old families of this country are to be found
among the peasantry; the gentry, too, may lay some claim to old blood.
I can point you out Saxon families in this county who can trace their
pedigrees beyond the Conquest; I know of some Norman gentlemen whose
fathers undoubtedly came over with the Conqueror. But a peer with an
ancient lineage is to me quite a novelty. No, no; the thirty years of
the wars of the Roses freed us from those gentlemen. I take it, after
the battle of Tewkesbury, a Norman baron was almost as rare a being in
England as a wolf is now.'

'I have always understood,' said Coningsby, 'that our peerage was the
finest in Europe.'

'From themselves,' said Millbank, 'and the heralds they pay to paint
their carriages. But I go to facts. When Henry VII. called his first
Parliament, there were only twenty-nine temporal peers to be found,
and even some of them took their seats illegally, for they had been
attainted. Of those twenty-nine not five remain, and they, as the
Howards for instance, are not Norman nobility. We owe the English
peerage to three sources: the spoliation of the Church; the open
and flagrant sale of its honours by the elder Stuarts; and the
boroughmongering of our own times. Those are the three main sources of
the existing peerage of England, and in my opinion disgraceful ones. But
I must apologise for my frankness in thus speaking to an aristocrat.'

'Oh, by no means, sir, I like discussion. Your son and myself at Eton
have had some encounters of this kind before. But if your view of the
case be correct,' added Coningsby, smiling, 'you cannot at any rate
accuse our present peers of Norman manners.'

'Yes, I do: they adopted Norman manners while they usurped Norman
titles. They have neither the right of the Normans, nor do they fulfil
the duty of the Normans: they did not conquer the land, and they do not
defend it.'

'And where will you find your natural aristocracy?' asked Coningsby.

'Among those men whom a nation recognises as the most eminent for
virtue, talents, and property, and, if you please, birth and standing
in the land. They guide opinion; and, therefore, they govern. I am no
leveller; I look upon an artificial equality as equally pernicious with
a factitious aristocracy; both depressing the energies, and checking the
enterprise of a nation. I like man to be free, really free: free in his
industry as well as his body. What is the use of Habeas Corpus, if a man
may not use his hands when he is out of prison?'

'But it appears to me you have, in a great measure, this natural
aristocracy in England.'

'Ah, to be sure! If we had not, where should we be? It is the
counteracting power that saves us, the disturbing cause in the
calculations of short-sighted selfishness. I say it now, and I have said
it a hundred times, the House of Commons is a more aristocratic body
than the House of Lords. The fact is, a great peer would be a greater
man now in the House of Commons than in the House of Lords. Nobody
wants a second chamber, except a few disreputable individuals. It is
a valuable institution for any member of it who has no distinction,
neither character, talents, nor estate. But a peer who possesses all or
any of these great qualifications, would find himself an immeasurably
more important personage in what, by way of jest, they call the Lower
House.'

'Is not the revising wisdom of a senate a salutary check on the
precipitation of a popular assembly?'

'Why should a popular assembly, elected by the flower of a nation,
be precipitate? If precipitate, what senate could stay an assembly so
chosen? No, no, no! the thing has been tried over and over again;
the idea of restraining the powerful by the weak is an absurdity; the
question is settled. If we wanted a fresh illustration, we need only
look to the present state of our own House of Lords. It originates
nothing; it has, in fact, announced itself as a mere Court of
Registration of the decrees of your House of Commons; and if by any
chance it ventures to alter some miserable detail in a clause of a bill
that excites public interest, what a clatter through the country, at
Conservative banquets got up by the rural attorneys, about the power,
authority, and independence of the House of Lords; nine times nine, and
one cheer more! No, sir, you may make aristocracies by laws; you can
only maintain them by manners. The manners of England preserve it
from its laws. And they have substituted for our formal aristocracy an
essential aristocracy; the government of those who are distinguished by
their fellow-citizens.'

'But then it would appear,' said Coningsby, 'that the remedial action of
our manners has removed all the political and social evils of which you
complain?'

'They have created a power that may remove them; a power that has the
capacity to remove them. But in a great measure they still exist, and
must exist yet, I fear, for a long time. The growth of our civilisation
has ever been as slow as our oaks; but this tardy development is
preferable to the temporary expansion of the gourd.'

'The future seems to me sometimes a dark cloud.'

'Not to me,' said Mr. Millbank. 'I am sanguine; I am the Disciple of
Progress. But I have cause for my faith. I have witnessed advance. My
father has often told me that in his early days the displeasure of
a peer of England was like a sentence of death to a man. Why it was
esteemed a great concession to public opinion, so late as the reign of
George II., that Lord Ferrars should be executed for murder. The king of
a new dynasty, who wished to be popular with the people, insisted on
it, and even then he was hanged with a silken cord. At any rate we
may defend ourselves now,' continued Mr. Millbank, 'and, perhaps, do
something more. I defy any peer to crush me, though there is one who
would be very glad to do it. No more of that; I am very happy to see you
at Millbank, very happy to make your acquaintance,' he continued, with
some emotion, 'and not merely because you are my son's friend and more
than friend.'

The walls of the dining-room were covered with pictures of great merit,
all of the modern English school. Mr. Millbank understood no other, he
was wont to say! and he found that many of his friends who did, bought
a great many pleasing pictures that were copies, and many originals that
were very displeasing. He loved a fine free landscape by Lee, that gave
him the broad plains, the green lanes, and running streams of his own
land; a group of animals by Landseer, as full of speech and sentiment as
if they were designed by Aesop; above all, he delighted in the household
humour and homely pathos of Wilkie. And if a higher tone of imagination
pleased him, he could gratify it without difficulty among his favourite
masters. He possessed some specimens of Etty worthy of Venice when
it was alive; he could muse amid the twilight ruins of ancient cities
raised by the magic pencil of Danby, or accompany a group of fair
Neapolitans to a festival by the genial aid of Uwins.

Opposite Coningsby was a portrait, which had greatly attracted his
attention during the whole dinner. It represented a woman, young and of
a rare beauty. The costume was of that classical character prevalent in
this country before the general peace; a blue ribbon bound together as
a fillet her clustering chestnut curls. The face was looking out of the
canvas, and Coningsby never raised his eyes without catching its glance
of blended vivacity and tenderness.

There are moments when our sensibility is affected by circumstances of
a trivial character. It seems a fantastic emotion, but the gaze of this
picture disturbed the serenity of Coningsby. He endeavoured sometimes to
avoid looking at it, but it irresistibly attracted him. More than once
during dinner he longed to inquire whom it represented; but it is a
delicate subject to ask questions about portraits, and he refrained.
Still, when he was rising to leave the room, the impulse was
irresistible. He said to Mr. Millbank, 'By whom is that portrait, sir?'

The countenance of Millbank became disturbed; it was not an expression
of tender reminiscence that fell upon his features. On the contrary, the
expression was agitated, almost angry.

'Oh! that is by a country artist,' he said,' of whom you never heard,'
and moved away.

They found Miss Millbank in the drawing-room; she was sitting at a round
table covered with working materials, apparently dressing a doll.

'Nay,' thought Coningsby, 'she must be too old for that.'

He addressed her, and seated himself by her side. There were several
dolls on the table, but he discovered, on examination, that they were
pincushions; and elicited, with some difficulty, that they were making
for a fancy fair about to be held in aid of that excellent institution,
the Manchester Athenaeum. Then the father came up and said,

'My child, let us have some tea;' and she rose and seated herself at the
tea-table. Coningsby also quitted his seat, and surveyed the apartment.

There were several musical instruments; among others, he observed a
guitar; not such an instrument as one buys in a music shop, but such an
one as tinkles at Seville, a genuine Spanish guitar. Coningsby repaired
to the tea-table.

'I am glad that you are fond of music, Miss Millbank.'

A blush and a bow.

'I hope after tea you will be so kind as to touch the guitar.'

Signals of great distress.

'Were you ever at Birmingham?'

'Yes:' a sigh.

'What a splendid music-hall! They should build one at Manchester.'

'They ought,' in a whisper.

The tea-tray was removed; Coningsby was conversing with Mr. Millbank,
who was asking him questions about his son; what he thought of Oxford;
what he thought of Oriel; should himself have preferred Cambridge; but
had consulted a friend, an Oriel man, who had a great opinion of Oriel;
and Oswald's name had been entered some years back. He rather regretted
it now; but the thing was done. Coningsby, remembering the promise of
the guitar, turned round to claim its fulfilment, but the singer
had made her escape. Time elapsed, and no Miss Millbank reappeared.
Coningsby looked at his watch; he had to go three miles to the train,
which started, as his friend of the previous night would phrase it, at
9.45.

'I should be happy if you remained with us,' said Mr. Millbank; 'but as
you say it is out of your power, in this age of punctual travelling
a host is bound to speed the parting guest. The carriage is ready for
you.'

'Farewell, then, sir. You must make my adieux to Miss Millbank, and
accept my thanks for your great kindness.'

'Farewell, Mr. Coningsby,' said his host, taking his hand, which he
retained for a moment, as if he would say more. Then leaving it, he
repeated with a somewhat wandering air, and in a voice of emotion,
'Farewell, farewell, Mr. Coningsby.'



CHAPTER V.


Towards the end of the session of 1836, the hopes of the Conservative
party were again in the ascendant. The Tadpoles and the Tapers had
infused such enthusiasm into all the country attorneys, who, in their
turn, had so bedeviled the registration, that it was whispered in the
utmost confidence, but as a flagrant truth, that Reaction was at length
'a great fact.' All that was required was the opportunity; but as the
existing parliament was not two years old, and the government had an
excellent working majority, it seemed that the occasion could scarcely
be furnished. Under these circumstances, the backstairs politicians,
not content with having by their premature movements already seriously
damaged the career of their leader, to whom in public they pretended to
be devoted, began weaving again their old intrigues about the court, and
not without effect.

It was said that the royal ear lent itself with no marked repugnance to
suggestions which might rid the sovereign of ministers, who, after all,
were the ministers not of his choice, but of his necessity. But William
IV., after two failures in a similar attempt, after his respective
embarrassing interviews with Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, on their
return to office in 1832 and 1835, was resolved never to make another
move unless it were a checkmate. The king, therefore, listened and
smiled, and loved to talk to his favourites of his private feelings and
secret hopes; the first outraged, the second cherished; and a little of
these revelations of royalty was distilled to great personages, who
in their turn spoke hypothetically to their hangers-on of royal
dispositions, and possible contingencies, while the hangers-on and
go-betweens, in their turn, looked more than they expressed; took
county members by the button into a corner, and advised, as friends, the
representatives of boroughs to look sharply after the next registration.

Lord Monmouth, who was never greater than in adversity, and whose
favourite excitement was to aim at the impossible, had never been more
resolved on a Dukedom than when the Reform Act deprived him of the
twelve votes which he had accumulated to attain that object. While
all his companions in discomfiture were bewailing their irretrievable
overthrow, Lord Monmouth became almost a convert to the measure, which
had furnished his devising and daring mind, palled with prosperity, and
satiated with a life of success, with an object, and the stimulating
enjoyment of a difficulty.

He had early resolved to appropriate to himself a division of the county
in which his chief seat was situate; but what most interested him,
because it was most difficult, was the acquisition of one of the
new boroughs that was in his vicinity, and in which he possessed
considerable property. The borough, however, was a manufacturing town,
and returning only one member, it had hitherto sent up to Westminster a
radical shopkeeper, one Mr. Jawster Sharp, who had taken what is called
'a leading part' in the town on every 'crisis' that had occurred since
1830; one of those zealous patriots who had got up penny subscriptions
for gold cups to Lord Grey; cries for the bill, the whole bill, and
nothing but the bill; and public dinners where the victual was devoured
before grace was said; a worthy who makes speeches, passes resolutions,
votes addresses, goes up with deputations, has at all times the
necessary quantity of confidence in the necessary individual; confidence
in Lord Grey; confidence in Lord Durham; confidence in Lord Melbourne:
and can also, if necessary, give three cheers for the King, or three
groans for the Queen.

But the days of the genus Jawster Sharp were over in this borough as
well as in many others. He had contrived in his lustre of agitation
to feather his nest pretty successfully; by which he had lost public
confidence and gained his private end. Three hungry Jawster Sharps,
his hopeful sons, had all become commissioners of one thing or another;
temporary appointments with interminable duties; a low-church son-in-law
found himself comfortably seated in a chancellor's living; and several
cousins and nephews were busy in the Excise. But Jawster Sharp himself
was as pure as Cato. He had always said he would never touch the public
money, and he had kept his word. It was an understood thing that Jawster
Sharp was never to show his face again on the hustings of Darlford; the
Liberal party was determined to be represented in future by a man of
station, substance, character, a true Reformer, but one who wanted
nothing for himself, and therefore might, if needful, get something for
them. They were looking out for such a man, but were in no hurry. The
seat was looked upon as a good thing; a contest certainly, every place
is contested now, but as certainly a large majority. Notwithstanding
all this confidence, however, Reaction or Registration, or some other
mystification, had produced effects even in this creature of the Reform
Bill, the good Borough of Darlford. The borough that out of gratitude
to Lord Grey returned a jobbing shopkeeper twice to Parliament as its
representative without a contest, had now a Conservative Association,
with a banker for its chairman, and a brewer for its vice-president, and
four sharp lawyers nibbing their pens, noting their memorandum-books,
and assuring their neighbours, with a consoling and complacent air, that
'Property must tell in the long run.' Whispers also were about, that
when the proper time arrived, a Conservative candidate would certainly
have the honour of addressing the electors. No name mentioned, but it
was not concealed that he was to be of no ordinary calibre; a tried man,
a distinguished individual, who had already fought the battle of the
constitution, and served his country in eminent posts; honoured by
the nation, favoured by his sovereign. These important and encouraging
intimations were ably diffused in the columns of the Conservative
journal, and in a style which, from its high tone, evidently
indicated no ordinary source and no common pen. Indeed, there appeared
occasionally in this paper, articles written with such unusual vigour,
that the proprietors of the Liberal journal almost felt the necessity
of getting some eminent hand down from town to compete with them. It was
impossible that they could emanate from the rival Editor. They knew well
the length of their brother's tether. Had they been more versant in the
periodical literature of the day, they might in this 'slashing' style
have caught perhaps a glimpse of the future candidate for their borough,
the Right Honourable Nicholas Rigby.

Lord Monmouth, though he had been absent from England since 1832, had
obtained from his vigilant correspondent a current knowledge of all that
had occurred in the interval: all the hopes, fears, plans, prospects,
manoeuvres, and machinations; their rise and fall; how some had bloomed,
others were blighted; not a shade of reaction that was not represented
to him; not the possibility of an adhesion that was not duly reported;
he could calculate at Naples at any time, within ten, the result of a
dissolution. The season of the year had prevented him crossing the Alps
in 1834, and after the general election he was too shrewd a practiser
in the political world to be deceived as to the ultimate result. Lord
Eskdale, in whose judgment he had more confidence than in that of any
individual, had told him from the first that the pear was not ripe;
Rigby, who always hedged against his interest by the fulfilment of his
prophecy of irremediable discomfiture, was never very sanguine. Indeed,
the whole affair was always considered premature by the good judges;
and a long time elapsed before Tadpole and Taper recovered their secret
influence, or resumed their ostentatious loquacity, or their silent
insolence.

The pear, however, was now ripe. Even Lord Eskdale wrote that after
the forthcoming registration a bet was safe, and Lord Monmouth had the
satisfaction of drawing the Whig Minister at Naples into a cool thousand
on the event. Soon after this he returned to England, and determined
to pay a visit to Coningsby Castle, feast the county, patronise the
borough, diffuse that confidence in the party which his presence never
failed to do; so great and so just was the reliance in his unerring
powers of calculation and his intrepid pluck. Notwithstanding Schedule
A, the prestige of his power had not sensibly diminished, for his
essential resources were vast, and his intellect always made the most of
his influence.

True, however, to his organisation, Lord Monmouth, even to save his
party and gain his dukedom, must not be bored. He, therefore, filled his
castle with the most agreeable people from London, and even secured for
their diversion a little troop of French comedians. Thus supported, he
received his neighbours with all the splendour befitting his immense
wealth and great position, and with one charm which even immense wealth
and great position cannot command, the most perfect manner in the world.
Indeed, Lord Monmouth was one of the most finished gentlemen that
ever lived; and as he was good-natured, and for a selfish man even
good-humoured, there was rarely a cloud of caprice or ill-temper to
prevent his fine manners having their fair play. The country neighbours
were all fascinated; they were received with so much dignity and
dismissed with so much grace. Nobody would believe a word of the stories
against him. Had he lived all his life at Coningsby, fulfilled every
duty of a great English nobleman, benefited the county, loaded the
inhabitants with favours, he would not have been half so popular as he
found himself within a fortnight of his arrival with the worst county
reputation conceivable, and every little squire vowing that he would not
even leave his name at the Castle to show his respect.

Lord Monmouth, whose contempt for mankind was absolute; not a
fluctuating sentiment, not a mournful conviction, ebbing and flowing
with circumstances, but a fixed, profound, unalterable instinct; who
never loved any one, and never hated any one except his own children;
was diverted by his popularity, but he was also gratified by it. At
this moment it was a great element of power; he was proud that, with a
vicious character, after having treated these people with unprecedented
neglect and contumely, he should have won back their golden opinions
in a moment by the magic of manner and the splendour of wealth. His
experience proved the soundness of his philosophy.

Lord Monmouth worshipped gold, though, if necessary, he could squander
it like a caliph. He had even a respect for very rich men; it was his
only weakness, the only exception to his general scorn for his species.
Wit, power, particular friendships, general popularity, public opinion,
beauty, genius, virtue, all these are to be purchased; but it does not
follow that you can buy a rich man: you may not be able or willing to
spare enough. A person or a thing that you perhaps could not buy, became
invested, in the eyes of Lord Monmouth, with a kind of halo amounting
almost to sanctity.

As the prey rose to the bait, Lord Monmouth resolved they should be
gorged. His banquets were doubled; a ball was announced; a public
day fixed; not only the county, but the principal inhabitants of the
neighbouring borough, were encouraged to attend; Lord Monmouth wished
it, if possible, to be without distinction of party. He had come to
reside among his old friends, to live and die where he was born.
The Chairman of the Conservative Association and the Vice President
exchanged glances, which would have become Tadpole and Taper; the
four attorneys nibbed their pens with increased energy, and vowed that
nothing could withstand the influence of the aristocracy 'in the long
run.' All went and dined at the Castle; all returned home overpowered
by the condescension of the host, the beauty of the ladies, several real
Princesses, the splendour of his liveries, the variety of his viands,
and the flavour of his wines. It was agreed that at future meetings of
the Conservative Association, they should always give 'Lord Monmouth
and the House of Lords!' superseding the Duke of Wellington, who was to
figure in an after-toast with the Battle of Waterloo.

It was not without emotion that Coningsby beheld for the first time the
castle that bore his name. It was visible for several miles before he
even entered the park, so proud and prominent was its position, on the
richly-wooded steep of a considerable eminence. It was a castellated
building, immense and magnificent, in a faulty and incongruous style
of architecture, indeed, but compensating in some degree for these
deficiencies of external taste and beauty by the splendour and
accommodation of its exterior, and which a Gothic castle, raised
according to the strict rules of art, could scarcely have afforded. The
declining sun threw over the pile a rich colour as Coningsby approached
it, and lit up with fleeting and fanciful tints the delicate foliage of
the rare shrubs and tall thin trees that clothed the acclivity on which
it stood. Our young friend felt a little embarrassed when, without a
servant and in a hack chaise, he drew up to the grand portal, and
a crowd of retainers came forth to receive him. A superior servant
inquired his name with a stately composure that disdained to be
supercilious. It was not without some degree of pride and satisfaction
that the guest replied, 'Mr. Coningsby.' The instantaneous effect was
magical. It seemed to Coningsby that he was borne on the shoulders
of the people to his apartment; each tried to carry some part of his
luggage; and he only hoped his welcome from their superiors might be as
hearty.



CHAPTER VI.


It appeared to Coningsby in his way to his room, that the Castle was in
a state of great excitement; everywhere bustle, preparation, moving to
and fro, ascending and descending of stairs, servants in every
corner; orders boundlessly given, rapidly obeyed; many desires, equal
gratification. All this made him rather nervous. It was quite unlike
Beaumanoir. That also was a palace, but it was a home. This, though it
should be one to him, seemed to have nothing of that character. Of
all mysteries the social mysteries are the most appalling. Going to
an assembly for the first time is more alarming than the first battle.
Coningsby had never before been in a great house full of company. It
seemed an overwhelming affair. The sight of the servants bewildered him;
how then was he to encounter their masters?

That, however, he must do in a moment. A groom of the chambers indicates
the way to him, as he proceeds with a hesitating yet hurried step
through several ante-chambers and drawing-rooms; then doors are suddenly
thrown open, and he is ushered into the largest and most sumptuous
saloon that he had ever entered. It was full of ladies and gentlemen.
Coningsby for the first time in his life was at a great party. His
immediate emotion was to sink into the earth; but perceiving that no
one even noticed him, and that not an eye had been attracted to his
entrance, he regained his breath and in some degree his composure, and
standing aside, endeavoured to make himself, as well as he could, master
of the land.

Not a human being that he had ever seen before! The circumstance of not
being noticed, which a few minutes since he had felt as a relief, became
now a cause of annoyance. It seemed that he was the only person standing
alone whom no one was addressing. He felt renewed and aggravated
embarrassment, and fancied, perhaps was conscious, that he was blushing.
At length his ear caught the voice of Mr. Rigby. The speaker was not
visible; he was at a distance surrounded by a wondering group, whom he
was severally and collectively contradicting, but Coningsby could not
mistake those harsh, arrogant tones. He was not sorry indeed that Mr.
Rigby did not observe him. Coningsby never loved him particularly, which
was rather ungrateful, for he was a person who had been kind, and, on
the whole, serviceable to him; but Coningsby writhed, especially as he
grew older, under Mr. Rigby's patronising air and paternal tone. Even in
old days, though attentive, Coningsby had never found him affectionate.
Mr. Rigby would tell him what to do and see, but never asked him what
he wished to do and see. It seemed to Coningsby that it was always
contrived that he should appear the _protégé_, or poor relation, of a
dependent of his family. These feelings, which the thought of Mr. Rigby
had revived, caused our young friend, by an inevitable association of
ideas, to remember that, unknown and unnoticed as he might be, he was
the only Coningsby in that proud Castle, except the Lord of the Castle
himself; and he began to be rather ashamed of permitting a sense of his
inexperience in the mere forms and fashions of society so to oppress
him, and deprive him, as it were, of the spirit and carriage which
became alike his character and his position. Emboldened and greatly
restored to himself, Coningsby advanced into the body of the saloon.

On his legs, wearing his blue ribbon and bending his head frequently
to a lady who was seated on a sofa, and continually addressed him,
Coningsby recognised his grandfather. Lord Monmouth was somewhat balder
than four years ago, when he had come down to Montem, and a little
more portly perhaps; but otherwise unchanged. Lord Monmouth
never condescended to the artifices of the toilet, and, indeed,
notwithstanding his life of excess, had little need of them. Nature had
done much for him, and the slow progress of decay was carried off by his
consummate bearing. He looked, indeed, the chieftain of a house of whom
a cadet might be proud.

For Coningsby, not only the chief of his house, but his host too. In
either capacity he ought to address Lord Monmouth. To sit down to dinner
without having previously paid his respects to his grandfather, to whom
he was so much indebted, and whom he had not seen for so many years,
struck him not only as uncourtly, but as unkind and ungrateful, and,
indeed, in the highest degree absurd. But how was he to do it? Lord
Monmouth seemed deeply engaged, and apparently with some very great
lady. And if Coningsby advanced and bowed, in all probability he would
only get a bow in return. He remembered the bow of his first interview.
It had made a lasting impression on his mind. For it was more than
likely Lord Monmouth would not recognise him. Four years had not
sensibly altered Lord Monmouth, but four years had changed Harry
Coningsby from a schoolboy into a man. Then how was he to make himself
known to his grandfather? To announce himself as Coningsby, as his
Lordship's grandson, seemed somewhat ridiculous: to address his
grandfather as Lord Monmouth would serve no purpose: to style Lord
Monmouth 'grandfather' would make every one laugh, and seem stiff and
unnatural. What was he to do? To fall into an attitude and exclaim,
'Behold your grandchild!' or, 'Have you forgotten your Harry?'

Even to catch Lord Monmouth's glance was not an easy affair; he was
much occupied on one side by the great lady, on the other were several
gentlemen who occasionally joined in the conversation. But something
must be done.

There ran through Coningsby's character, as we have before mentioned, a
vein of simplicity which was not its least charm. It resulted, no doubt,
in a great degree from the earnestness of his nature. There never was a
boy so totally devoid of affectation, which was remarkable, for he had a
brilliant imagination, a quality that, from its fantasies, and the
vague and indefinite desires it engenders, generally makes those whose
characters are not formed, affected. The Duchess, who was a fine judge
of character, and who greatly regarded Coningsby, often mentioned this
trait as one which, combined with his great abilities and acquirements
so unusual at his age, rendered him very interesting. In the present
instance it happened that, while Coningsby was watching his grandfather,
he observed a gentleman advance, make his bow, say and receive a few
words and retire. This little incident, however, made a momentary
diversion in the immediate circle of Lord Monmouth, and before they
could all resume their former talk and fall into their previous
positions, an impulse sent forth Coningsby, who walked up to Lord
Monmouth, and standing before him, said,

'How do you do, grandpapa?'

Lord Monmouth beheld his grandson. His comprehensive and penetrating
glance took in every point with a flash. There stood before him one of
the handsomest youths he had ever seen, with a mien as graceful as his
countenance was captivating; and his whole air breathing that freshness
and ingenuousness which none so much appreciates as the used man of the
world. And this was his child; the only one of his blood to whom he had
been kind. It would be exaggeration to say that Lord Monmouth's heart
was touched; but his goodnature effervesced, and his fine taste was
deeply gratified. He perceived in an instant such a relation might be
a valuable adherent; an irresistible candidate for future elections: a
brilliant tool to work out the Dukedom. All these impressions and ideas,
and many more, passed through the quick brain of Lord Monmouth ere the
sound of Coningsby's words had seemed to cease, and long before the
surrounding guests had recovered from the surprise which they had
occasioned them, and which did not diminish, when Lord Monmouth,
advancing, placed his arms round Coningsby with a dignity of affection
that would have become Louis XIV., and then, in the high manner of the
old Court, kissed him on each cheek.

'Welcome to your home,' said Lord Monmouth. 'You have grown a great
deal.'

Then Lord Monmouth led the agitated Coningsby to the great lady, who was
a Princess and an Ambassadress, and then, placing his arm gracefully in
that of his grandson, he led him across the room, and presented him
in due form to some royal blood that was his guest, in the shape of
a Russian Grand-duke. His Imperial Highness received our hero as
graciously as the grandson of Lord Monmouth might expect; but no
greeting can be imagined warmer than the one he received from the lady
with whom the Grand-duke was conversing. She was a dame whose beauty was
mature, but still radiant. Her figure was superb; her dark hair crowned
with a tiara of curious workmanship. Her rounded arm was covered with
costly bracelets, but not a jewel on her finely formed bust, and the
least possible rouge on her still oval cheek. Madame Colonna retained
her charms.

The party, though so considerable, principally consisted of the guests
at the Castle. The suite of the Grand-duke included several counts and
generals; then there were the Russian Ambassador and his lady; and a
Russian Prince and Princess, their relations. The Prince and Princess
Colonna and the Princess Lucretia were also paying a visit to the
Marquess; and the frequency of these visits made some straight-laced
magnificoes mysteriously declare it was impossible to go to Coningsby;
but as they were not asked, it did not much signify. The Marquess knew
a great many very agreeable people of the highest _ton_, who took a more
liberal view of human conduct, and always made it a rule to presume the
best motives instead of imputing the worst. There was Lady St. Julians,
for example, whose position was of the highest; no one more sought; she
made it a rule to go everywhere and visit everybody, provided they had
power, wealth, and fashion. She knew no crime except a woman not
living with her husband; that was past pardon. So long as his presence
sanctioned her conduct, however shameless, it did not signify; but if
the husband were a brute, neglected his wife first, and then deserted
her; then, if a breath but sullies her name she must be crushed; unless,
indeed, her own family were very powerful, which makes a difference, and
sometimes softens immorality into indiscretion.

Lord and Lady Gaverstock were also there, who never said an unkind thing
of anybody; her ladyship was pure as snow; but her mother having been
divorced, she ever fancied she was paying a kind of homage to her
parent, by visiting those who might some day be in the same predicament.
There were other lords and ladies of high degree; and some who, though
neither lords nor ladies, were charming people, which Lord Monmouth
chiefly cared about; troops of fine gentlemen who came and went; and
some who were neither fine nor gentlemen, but who were very amusing
or very obliging, as circumstances required, and made life easy and
pleasant to others and themselves.

A new scene this for Coningsby, who watched with interest all that
passed before him. The dinner was announced as served; an affectionate
arm guides him at a moment of some perplexity.

'When did you arrive, Harry? We shall sit together. How is the Duchess?'
inquired Mr. Rigby, who spoke as if he had seen Coningsby for the first
time; but who indeed had, with that eye which nothing could escape,
observed his reception by his grandfather, marked it well, and inwardly
digested it.



CHAPTER VII.


There was to be a first appearance on the stage of Lord Monmouth's
theatre to-night, the expectation of which created considerable interest
in the party, and was one of the principal subjects of conversation at
dinner. Villebecque, the manager of the troop, had married the actress
Stella, once celebrated for her genius and her beauty; a woman who had
none of the vices of her craft, for, though she was a fallen angel,
there were what her countrymen style extenuating circumstances in
her declension. With the whole world at her feet, she had remained
unsullied. Wealth and its enjoyments could not tempt her, although
she was unable to refuse her heart to one whom she deemed worthy of
possessing it. She found her fate in an Englishman, who was the father
of her only child, a daughter. She thought she had met in him a hero, a
demi-god, a being of deep passion and original and creative mind; but
he was only a voluptuary, full of violence instead of feeling, and
eccentric, because he had great means with which he could gratify
extravagant whims. Stella found she had made the great and irretrievable
mistake. She had exchanged devotion for a passionate and evanescent
fancy, prompted at first by vanity, and daily dissipating under the
influence of custom and new objects. Though not stainless in conduct,
Stella was pure in spirit. She required that devotion which she had
yielded; and she separated herself from the being to whom she had made
the most precious sacrifice. He offered her the consoling compensation
of a settlement, which she refused; and she returned with a broken
spirit to that profession of which she was still the ornament and the
pride.

The animating principle of her career was her daughter, whom she
educated with a solicitude which the most virtuous mother could not
surpass. To preserve her from the stage, and to secure for her an
independence, were the objects of her mother's life; but nature
whispered to her, that the days of that life were already numbered.
The exertions of her profession had alarmingly developed an inherent
tendency to pulmonary disease. Anxious that her child should not be left
without some protector, Stella yielded to the repeated solicitations
of one who from the first had been her silent admirer, and she married
Villebecque, a clever actor, and an enterprising man who meant to be
something more. Their union was not of long duration, though it was
happy on the side of Villebecque, and serene on that of his wife. Stella
was recalled from this world, where she had known much triumph and more
suffering; and where she had exercised many virtues, which elsewhere,
though not here, may perhaps be accepted as some palliation of one great
error.

Villebecque acted becomingly to the young charge which Stella had
bequeathed to him. He was himself, as we have intimated, a man of
enterprise, a restless spirit, not content to move for ever in the
sphere in which he was born. Vicissitudes are the lot of such aspirants.
Villebecque became manager of a small theatre, and made money. If
Villebecque without a sou had been a schemer, Villebecque with a small
capital was the very Chevalier Law of theatrical managers. He took a
larger theatre, and even that succeeded. Soon he was recognised as the
lessee of more than one, and still he prospered. Villebecque began to
dabble in opera-houses. He enthroned himself at Paris; his envoys
were heard of at Milan and Naples, at Berlin and St. Petersburg. His
controversies with the Conservatoire at Paris ranked among state papers.
Villebecque rolled in chariots and drove cabriolets; Villebecque gave
refined suppers to great nobles, who were honoured by the invitation;
Villebecque wore a red ribbon in the button-hole of his frock, and more
than one cross in his gala dress.

All this time the daughter of Stella increased in years and stature,
and we must add in goodness: a mild, soft-hearted girl, as yet with no
decided character, but one who loved calmness and seemed little fitted
for the circle in which she found herself. In that circle, however,
she ever experienced kindness and consideration. No enterprise however
hazardous, no management however complicated, no schemes however vast,
ever for a moment induced Villebecque to forget 'La Petite.' If only for
one breathless instant, hardly a day elapsed but he saw her; she was his
companion in all his rapid movements, and he studied every comfort and
convenience that could relieve her delicate frame in some degree from
the inconvenience and exhaustion of travel. He was proud to surround
her with luxury and refinement; to supply her with the most celebrated
masters; to gratify every wish that she could express.

But all this time Villebecque was dancing on a volcano. The catastrophe
which inevitably occurs in the career of all great speculators, and
especially theatrical ones, arrived to him. Flushed with his prosperity,
and confident in his constant success, nothing would satisfy him
but universal empire. He had established his despotism at Paris, his
dynasties at Naples and at Milan; but the North was not to him, and
he was determined to appropriate it. Berlin fell before a successful
campaign, though a costly one; but St. Petersburg and London still
remained. Resolute and reckless, nothing deterred Villebecque. One
season all the opera-houses in Europe obeyed his nod, and at the end
of it he was ruined. The crash was utter, universal, overwhelming; and
under ordinary circumstances a French bed and a brasier of charcoal
alone remained for Villebecque, who was equal to the occasion. But
the thought of La Petite and the remembrance of his promise to Stella
deterred him from the deed. He reviewed his position in a spirit
becoming a practical philosopher. Was he worse off than before he
commenced his career? Yes, because he was older; though to be sure he
had his compensating reminiscences. But was he too old to do anything?
At forty-five the game was not altogether up; and in a large theatre,
not too much lighted, and with the artifices of a dramatic toilet,
he might still be able successfully to reassume those characters of
coxcombs and muscadins, in which he was once so celebrated. Luxury had
perhaps a little too much enlarged his waist, but diet and rehearsals
would set all right.

Villebecque in their adversity broke to La Petite, that the time had
unfortunately arrived when it would be wise for her to consider the most
effectual means for turning her talents and accomplishments to account.
He himself suggested the stage, to which otherwise there were
doubtless objections, because her occupation in any other pursuit would
necessarily separate them; but he impartially placed before her the
relative advantages and disadvantages of every course which seemed to
lie open to them, and left the preferable one to her own decision. La
Petite, who had wept very much over Villebecque's misfortunes, and often
assured him that she cared for them only for his sake, decided for the
stage, solely because it would secure their not being parted; and yet,
as she often assured him, she feared she had no predisposition for the
career.

Villebecque had now not only to fill his own parts at the theatre
at which he had obtained an engagement, but he had also to be the
instructor of his ward. It was a life of toil; an addition of labour
and effort that need scarcely have been made to the exciting exertion
of performance, and the dull exercise of rehearsal; but he bore it all
without a murmur; with a self-command and a gentle perseverance which
the finest temper in the world could hardly account for; certainly not
when we remember that its possessor, who had to make all these exertions
and endure all this wearisome toil, had just experienced the most
shattering vicissitudes of fortune, and been hurled from the possession
of absolute power and illimitable self-gratification.

Lord Eskdale, who was always doing kind things to actors and actresses,
had a great regard for Villebecque, with whom he had often supped. He
had often been kind, too, to La Petite. Lord Eskdale had a plan for
putting Villebecque, as he termed it, 'on his legs again.' It was to
establish him with a French Company in London at some pretty theatre;
Lord Eskdale to take a private box and to make all his friends do the
same. Villebecque, who was as sanguine as he was good-tempered, was
ravished by this friendly scheme. He immediately believed that he should
recover his great fortunes as rapidly as he had lost them. He foresaw in
La Petite a genius as distinguished as that of her mother, although as
yet not developed, and he was boundless in his expressions of gratitude
to his patron. And indeed of all friends, a friend in need is the most
delightful. Lord Eskdale had the talent of being a friend in need.
Perhaps it was because he knew so many worthless persons. But it often
happens that worthless persons are merely people who are worth nothing.

Lord Monmouth having written to Mr. Rigby of his intention to reside for
some months at Coningsby, and having mentioned that he wished a troop of
French comedians to be engaged for the summer, Mr. Rigby had immediately
consulted Lord Eskdale on the subject, as the best current authority.
Thinking this a good opportunity of giving a turn to poor Villebecque,
and that it might serve as a capital introduction to their scheme of the
London company, Lord Eskdale obtained for him the engagement.

Villebecque and his little troop had now been a month at Coningsby, and
had hitherto performed three times a-week. Lord Monmouth was content;
his guests much gratified; the company, on the whole, much approved
of. It was, indeed, considering its limited numbers, a capital company.
There was a young lady who played the old woman's parts, nothing
could be more garrulous and venerable; and a lady of maturer years who
performed the heroines, gay and graceful as May. Villebecque himself was
a celebrity in characters of airy insolence and careless frolic. Their
old man, indeed, was rather hard, but handy; could take anything either
in the high serious, or the low droll. Their sentimental lover was
rather too much bewigged, and spoke too much to the audience, a fault
rare with the French; but this hero had a vague idea that he was
ultimately destined to run off with a princess.

In this wise, affairs had gone on for a month; very well, but not too
well. The enterprising genius of Villebecque, once more a manager,
prompted him to action. He felt an itching desire to announce a novelty.
He fancied Lord Monmouth had yawned once or twice when the heroine came
on. Villebecque wanted to make a _coup._ It was clear that La Petite
must sooner or later begin. Could she find a more favourable audience,
or a more fitting occasion, than were now offered? True it was she had
a great repugnance to come out; but it certainly seemed more to her
advantage that she should make her first appearance at a private theatre
than at a public one; supported by all the encouraging patronage of
Coningsby Castle, than subjected to all the cynical criticism of the
stalls of St. James'.

These views and various considerations were urged and represented by
Villebecque to La Petite, with all the practised powers of plausibility
of which so much experience as a manager had made him master. La Petite
looked infinitely distressed, but yielded, as she ever did. And the
night of Coningsby's arrival at the Castle was to witness in its private
theatre the first appearance of MADEMOISELLE FLORA.



CHAPTER VIII.


The guests re-assembled in the great saloon before they repaired to the
theatre. A lady on the arm of the Russian Prince bestowed on Coningsby
a haughty, but not ungracious bow; which he returned, unconscious of
the person to whom he bent. She was, however, a striking person; not
beautiful, her face, indeed, at the first glance was almost repulsive,
yet it ever attracted a second gaze. A remarkable pallor distinguished
her; her features had neither regularity nor expression; neither were
her eyes fine; but her brow impressed you with an idea of power of no
ordinary character or capacity. Her figure was as fine and commanding as
her face was void of charm. Juno, in the full bloom of her immortality,
could have presented nothing more majestic. Coningsby watched her as she
swept along like a resistless Fate.

Servants now went round and presented to each of the guests a billet
of the performance. It announced in striking characters the _début_ of
Mademoiselle Flora. A principal servant, bearing branch lights, came
forward and bowed to the Marquess. Lord Monmouth went immediately to the
Grand-duke, and notified to his Imperial Highness that the comedy was
ready. The Grand-duke offered his arm to the Ambassadress; the rest were
following; Coningsby was called; Madame Colonna wished him to be her
beau.

It was a pretty theatre; had been rapidly rubbed up and renovated here
and there; the painting just touched; a little gilding on a cornice.
There were no boxes, but the ground-floor, which gradually ascended, was
carpeted and covered with arm-chairs, and the back of the theatre with a
new and rich curtain of green velvet.

They are all seated; a great artist performs on the violin, accompanied
by another great artist on the piano. The lights rise; somebody
evidently crosses the stage behind the curtain. They are disposing the
scene. In a moment the curtain will rise also.

'Have you seen Lucretia?' said the Princess to Coningsby. 'She is so
anxious to resume her acquaintance with you.'

But before he could answer the bell rang, and the curtain rose.

The old man, who had a droll part to-night, came forward and maintained
a conversation with his housekeeper; not bad. The young woman who played
the grave matron performed with great finish. She was a favourite,
and was ever applauded. The second scene came; a saloon tastefully
furnished; a table with flowers, arranged with grace; birds in cages, a
lap-dog on a cushion; some books. The audience were pleased; especially
the ladies; they like to recognise signs of _bon ton_ in the details of
the scene. A rather awful pause, and Mademoiselle Flora enters. She was
greeted with even vehement approbation. Her agitation is extreme;
she curtseys and bows her head, as if to hide her face. The face was
pleasing, and pretty enough, soft and engaging. Her figure slight and
rather graceful. Nothing could be more perfect than her costume; purely
white, but the fashion consummate; a single rose her only ornament. All
admitted that her hair was arranged to admiration.

At length she spoke; her voice trembled, but she had a good elocution,
though her organ wanted force. The gentlemen looked at each other, and
nodded approbation. There was something so unobtrusive in her mien,
that she instantly became a favourite with the ladies. The scene was not
long, but it was successful.

Flora did not appear in the next scene. In the fourth and final one
of the act, she had to make a grand display. It was a love-scene, and
rather of an impassioned character; Villebecque was her suitor. He
entered first on the stage. Never had he looked so well, or performed
with more spirit. You would not have given him five-and-twenty years; he
seemed redolent of youth. His dress, too, was admirable. He had studied
the most distinguished of his audience for the occasion, and had
outdone them all. The fact is, he had been assisted a little by a great
connoisseur, a celebrated French nobleman, Count D'O----y, who had been
one of the guests. The thing was perfect; and Lord Monmouth took a pinch
of snuff, and tapped approbation on the top of his box.

Flora now re-appeared, received with renewed approbation. It did not
seem, however, that in the interval she had gained courage; she looked
agitated. She spoke, she proceeded with her part; it became impassioned.
She had to speak of her feelings; to tell the secrets of her heart; to
confess that she loved another; her emotion was exquisitely performed,
the mournful tenderness of her tones thrilling. There was, throughout
the audience, a dead silence; all were absorbed in their admiration of
the unrivalled artist; all felt a new genius had visited the stage; but
while they were fascinated by the actress, the woman was in torture. The
emotion was the disturbance of her own soul; the mournful tenderness of
her tones thrilled from the heart: suddenly she clasped her hands with
all the exhaustion of woe; an expression of agony flitted over her
countenance; and she burst into tears. Villebecque rushed forward, and
carried, rather than led, her from the stage; the audience looking at
each other, some of them suspecting that this movement was a part of the
scene.

'She has talent,' said Lord Monmouth to the Russian Ambassadress,
'but wants practice. Villebecque should send her for a time to the
provinces.'

At length M. Villebecque came forward to express his deep regret
that the sudden and severe indisposition of Mlle. Flora rendered it
impossible for the company to proceed with the piece; but that the
curtain would descend to rise again for the second and last piece
announced.

All this accordingly took place. The experienced performer who acted the
heroines now came forward and disported most jocundly. The failure of
Flora had given fresh animation to her perpetual liveliness. She seemed
the very soul of elegant frolic. In the last scene she figured in male
attire; and in air, fashion, and youth, beat Villebecque out of
the field. She looked younger than Coningsby when he went up to his
grandpapa.

The comedy was over, the curtain fell; the audience, much amused,
chattered brilliant criticism, and quitted the theatre to repair to
the saloon, where they were to be diverted tonight with Russian dances.
Nobody thought of the unhappy Flora; not a single message to console her
in her grief, to compliment her on what she had done, to encourage her
future. And yet it was a season for a word of kindness; so, at least,
thought one of the audience, as he lingered behind the hurrying crowd,
absorbed in their coming amusements.

Coningsby had sat very near the stage; he had observed, with great
advantage and attention, the countenance and movements of Flora from the
beginning. He was fully persuaded that her woe was genuine and profound.
He had felt his eyes moist when she wept. He recoiled from the cruelty
and the callousness that, without the slightest symptom of sympathy,
could leave a young girl who had been labouring for their amusement, and
who was suffering for her trial.

He got on the stage, ran behind the scenes, and asked for Mlle. Flora.
They pointed to a door; he requested permission to enter. Flora was
sitting at a table, with her face resting on her hands. Villebecque was
there, resting on the edge of the tall fender, and still in the dress in
which he had performed in the last piece.

'I took the liberty,' said Coningsby, 'of inquiring after Mlle. Flora;'
and then advancing to her, who had raised her head, he added, 'I am sure
my grandfather must feel much indebted to you, Mademoiselle, for making
such exertions when you were suffering under so much indisposition.'

'This is very amiable of you, sir,' said the young lady, looking at him
with earnestness.

'Mademoiselle has too much sensibility,' said Villebecque, making an
observation by way of diversion.

'And yet that must be the soul of fine acting,' said Coningsby; 'I look
forward, all look forward, with great interest to the next occasion on
which you will favour us.'

'Never!' said La Petite, in a plaintive tone; 'oh, I hope, never!'

'Mademoiselle is not aware at this moment,' said Coningsby, 'how much
her talent is appreciated. I assure you, sir,' he added, turning
to Villebecque, 'I heard but one opinion, but one expression of
gratification at her feeling and her fine taste.'

'The talent is hereditary,' said Villebecque.

'Indeed you have reason to say so,' said Coningsby.

'Pardon; I was not thinking of myself. My child reminded me so much of
another this evening. But that is nothing. I am glad you are here, sir,
to reassure Mademoiselle.'

'I came only to congratulate her, and to lament, for our sakes as well
as her own, her indisposition.'

'It is not indisposition,' said La Petite, in a low tone, with her eyes
cast down.

'Mademoiselle cannot overcome the nervousness incidental to a first
appearance,' said Villebecque.

'A last appearance,' said La Petite: 'yes, it must be the last.' She
rose gently, she approached Villebecque, she laid her head on his
breast, and placed her arms round his neck, 'My father, my best father,
yes, say it is the last.'

'You are the mistress of your lot, Flora,' said Villebecque; 'but with
such a distinguished talent--'

'No, no, no; no talent. You are wrong, my father. I know myself. I am
not of those to whom nature gives talents. I am born only for still
life. I have no taste except for privacy. The convent is more suited to
me than the stage.'

'But you hear what this gentleman says,' said Villebecque, returning
her embrace. 'He tells you that his grandfather, my Lord Marquess, I
believe, sir, that every one, that--'

'Oh, no, no, no!' said Flora, shaking her head. 'He comes here because
he is generous, because he is a gentleman; and he wished to soothe the
soul that he knew was suffering. Thank him, my father, thank him for
me and before me, and promise in his presence that the stage and your
daughter have parted for ever.'

'Nay, Mademoiselle,' said Coningsby, advancing and venturing to take her
hand, a soft hand, 'make no such resolutions to-night. M. Villebecque
can have no other thought or object but your happiness; and, believe me,
'tis not I only, but all, who appreciate, and, if they were here, must
respect you.'

'I prefer respect to admiration,' said Flora; 'but I fear that respect
is not the appanage of such as I am.'

'All must respect those who respect themselves,' said Coningsby. 'Adieu,
Mademoiselle; I trust to-morrow to hear that you are yourself.' He bowed
to Villebecque and retired.

In the meantime affairs in the drawing-room assumed a very different
character from those behind the scenes. Coningsby returned to
brilliancy, groups apparently gushing with light-heartedness, universal
content, and Russian dances!

'And you too, do you dance the Russian dances, Mr. Coningsby?' said
Madame Colonna.

'I cannot dance at all,' said Coningsby, beginning a little to lose his
pride in the want of an accomplishment which at Eton he had thought it
spirited to despise.

'Ah! you cannot dance the Russian dances! Lucretia shall teach you,'
said the Princess; 'nothing will please her so much.'

On the present occasion the ladies were not so experienced in the
entertainment as the gentlemen; but there was amusement in being
instructed. To be disciplined by a Grand-duke or a Russian Princess
was all very well; but what even good-tempered Lady Gaythorp could not
pardon was, that a certain Mrs. Guy Flouncey, whom they were all of them
trying to put down and to keep down, on this, as almost on every
other occasion, proved herself a more finished performer than even the
Russians themselves.

Lord Monmouth had picked up the Guy Flounceys during a Roman winter.
They were people of some position in society. Mr. Guy Flouncey was a man
of good estate, a sportsman, proud of his pretty wife. Mrs. Guy Flouncey
was even very pretty, dressed in a style of ultra fashion. However, she
could sing, dance, act, ride, and talk, and all well; and was mistress
of the art of flirtation. She had amused the Marquess abroad, and had
taken care to call at Monmouth House the instant the _Morning Post_
apprised her he had arrived in England; the consequence was an
invitation to Coningsby. She came with a wardrobe which, in point of
variety, fancy, and fashion, never was surpassed. Morning and evening,
every day a new dress equally striking; and a riding habit that was the
talk and wonder of the whole neighbourhood. Mrs. Guy Flouncey created
far more sensation in the borough when she rode down the High Street,
than what the good people called the real Princesses.

At first the fine ladies never noticed her, or only stared at her over
their shoulders; everywhere sounded, in suppressed whispers, the fatal
question, 'Who is she?' After dinner they formed always into polite
groups, from which Mrs. Guy Flouncey was invariably excluded; and if
ever the Princess Colonna, impelled partly by goodnature, and partly
from having known her on the Continent, did kindly sit by her, Lady St.
Julians, or some dame equally benevolent, was sure, by an adroit appeal
to Her Highness on some point which could not be decided without moving,
to withdraw her from her pretty and persecuted companion.

It was, indeed, rather difficult work the first few days for Mrs. Guy
Flouncey, especially immediately after dinner. It is not soothing to
one's self-love to find oneself sitting alone, pretending to look at
prints, in a fine drawing-room, full of fine people who don't speak
to you. But Mrs. Guy Flouncey, after having taken Coningsby Castle by
storm, was not to be driven out of its drawing-room by the tactics
even of a Lady St. Julians. Experience convinced her that all that was
required was a little patience. Mrs. Guy had confidence in herself, her
quickness, her ever ready accomplishments, and her practised powers of
attraction. And she was right. She was always sure of an ally the moment
the gentlemen appeared. The cavalier who had sat next to her at dinner
was only too happy to meet her again. More than once, too, she had
caught her noble host, though a whole garrison was ever on the watch to
prevent her, and he was greatly amused, and showed that he was greatly
amused by her society. Then she suggested plans to him to divert his
guests. In a country-house the suggestive mind is inestimable. Somehow
or other, before a week passed, Mrs. Guy Flouncey seemed the soul of
everything, was always surrounded by a cluster of admirers, and with
what are called 'the best men' ever ready to ride with her, dance
with her, act with her, or fall at her feet. The fine ladies found it
absolutely necessary to thaw: they began to ask her questions after
dinner. Mrs. Guy Flouncey only wanted an opening. She was an adroit
flatterer, with a temper imperturbable, and gifted with a ceaseless
energy of conferring slight obligations. She lent them patterns for new
fashions, in all which mysteries she was very versant; and what with
some gentle glozing and some gay gossip, sugar for their tongues and
salt for their tails, she contrived pretty well to catch them all.



CHAPTER IX.


Nothing could present a greater contrast than the respective interiors
of Coningsby and Beaumanoir. That air of habitual habitation, which so
pleasingly distinguished the Duke's family seat, was entirely wanting
at Coningsby. Everything, indeed, was vast and splendid; but it seemed
rather a gala-house than a dwelling; as if the grand furniture and
the grand servants had all come down express from town with the grand
company, and were to disappear and to be dispersed at the same time. And
truly there were manifold traces of hasty and temporary arrangement;
new carpets and old hangings; old paint, new gilding; battalions of odd
French chairs, squadrons of queer English tables; and large tasteless
lamps and tawdry chandeliers, evidently true cockneys, and only taking
the air by way of change. There was, too, throughout the drawing-rooms
an absence of all those minor articles of ornamental furniture that are
the offering of taste to the home we love. There were no books neither;
few flowers; no pet animals; no portfolios of fine drawings by our
English artists like the album of the Duchess, full of sketches by
Landseer and Stanfield, and their gifted brethren; not a print even,
except portfolios of H. B.'s caricatures. The modes and manners of the
house were not rural; there was nothing of the sweet order of a country
life. Nobody came down to breakfast; the ladies were scarcely seen
until dinner-time; they rolled about in carriages together late in the
afternoon as if they were in London, or led a sort of factitious boudoir
life in their provincial dressing-rooms.

The Marquess sent for Coningsby the morning after his arrival and asked
him to breakfast with him in his private rooms. Nothing could be
more kind or more agreeable than his grandfather. He appeared to be
interested in his grandson's progress, was glad to find Coningsby had
distinguished himself at Eton, solemnly adjured him not to neglect his
French. A classical education, he said, was a very admirable thing, and
one which all gentlemen should enjoy; but Coningsby would find some day
that there were two educations, one which his position required, and
another which was demanded by the world. 'French, my dear Harry,' he
continued, 'is the key to this second education. In a couple of years
or so you will enter the world; it is a different thing to what you read
about. It is a masquerade; a motley, sparkling multitude, in which
you may mark all forms and colours, and listen to all sentiments and
opinions; but where all you see and hear has only one object, plunder.
When you get into this crowd you will find that Greek and Latin are not
so much diffused as you imagine. I was glad to hear you speaking French
yesterday. Study your accent. There are a good many foreigners here with
whom you may try your wing a little; don't talk to any of them too
much. Be very careful of intimacies. All the people here are good
acquaintance; at least pretty well. Now, here,' said the Marquess,
taking up a letter and then throwing it on the table again, 'now here is
a man whom I should like you to know, Sidonia. He will be here in a few
days. Lay yourself out for him if you have the opportunity. He is a
man of rare capacity, and enormously rich. No one knows the world like
Sidonia. I never met his equal; and 'tis so pleasant to talk with one
that can want nothing of you.'

Lord Monmouth had invited Coningsby to take a drive with him in the
afternoon. The Marquess wished to show a part of his domain to the
Ambassadress. Only Lucretia, he said, would be with them, and there was
a place for him. This invitation was readily accepted by Coningsby, who
was not yet sufficiently established in the habits of the house exactly
to know how to pass his morning. His friend and patron, Mr. Rigby, was
entirely taken up with the Grand-duke, whom he was accompanying all
over the neighbourhood, in visits to manufactures, many of which Rigby
himself saw for the first time, but all of which he fluently explained
to his Imperial Highness. In return for this, he extracted much
information from the Grand-duke on Russian plans and projects, materials
for a 'slashing' article against the Russophobia that he was preparing,
and in which he was to prove that Muscovite aggression was an English
interest, and entirely to be explained by the want of sea-coast, which
drove the Czar, for the pure purposes of commerce, to the Baltic and the
Euxine.

When the hour for the drive arrived, Coningsby found Lucretia, a young
girl when he had first seen her only four years back, and still his
junior, in that majestic dame who had conceded a superb recognition to
him the preceding eve. She really looked older than Madame Colonna; who,
very beautiful, very young-looking, and mistress of the real arts of
the toilet, those that cannot be detected, was not in the least altered
since she first so cordially saluted Coningsby as her dear young friend
at Monmouth House.

The day was delightful, the park extensive and picturesque, the
Ambassadress sparkling with anecdote, and occasionally, in a low voice,
breathing a diplomatic hint to Lord Monmouth, who bowed his graceful
consciousness of her distinguished confidence. Coningsby occasionally
took advantage of one of those moments, when the conversation ceased to
be general, to address Lucretia, who replied in calm, fine smiles, and
in affable monosyllables. She indeed generally succeeded in conveying an
impression to those she addressed, that she had never seen them before,
did not care to see them now, and never wished to see them again. And
all this, too, with an air of great courtesy.

They arrived at the brink of a wooded bank; at their feet flowed a
fine river, deep and rushing, though not broad; its opposite bank the
boundary of a richly-timbered park.

'Ah! this is beautiful!' exclaimed the Ambassadress. 'And is that yours,
Lord Monmouth?'

'Not yet,' said the Marquess. 'That is Hellingsley; it is one of the
finest places in the county, with a splendid estate; not so considerable
as Coningsby, but very great. It belongs to an old, a very old man,
without a relative in the world. It is known that the estate will be
sold at his death, which may be almost daily expected. Then it is mine.
No one can offer for it what I can afford. For it gives me this division
of the county, Princess. To possess Hellingsley is one of my objects.'
The Marquess spoke with an animation unusual with him, almost with a
degree of excitement.

The wind met them as they returned, the breeze blew rather freshly.
Lucretia all of a sudden seemed touched with unusual emotion. She was
alarmed lest Lord Monmouth should catch cold; she took a kerchief from
her own well-turned throat to tie round his neck. He feebly resisted,
evidently much pleased.

The Princess Lucretia was highly accomplished. In the evening, having
refused several distinguished guests, but instantly yielding to the
request of Lord Monmouth, she sang. It was impossible to conceive a
contralto of more thrilling power, or an execution more worthy of the
voice. Coningsby, who was not experienced in fine singing, listened as
if to a supernatural lay, but all agreed it was of the highest class of
nature and of art; and the Grand-duke was in raptures. Lucretia received
even his Highness' compliments with a graceful indifference. Indeed, to
those who watched her demeanour, it might be remarked that she seemed to
yield to none, although all bowed before her.

Madame Colonna, who was always kind to Coningsby, expressed to him
her gratification from the party of the morning. It must have been
delightful, she assured Coningsby, for Lord Monmouth to have had both
Lucretia and his grandson with him; and Lucretia too, she added, must
have been so pleased.

Coningsby could not make out why Madame Colonna was always intimating
to him that the Princess Lucretia took such great interest in his
existence, looked forward with such gratification to his society,
remembered with so much pleasure the past, anticipated so much happiness
from the future. It appeared to him that he was to Lucretia, if not an
object of repugnance, as he sometimes fancied, certainly one only of
absolute indifference; but he said nothing. He had already lived long
enough to know that it is unwise to wish everything explained.

In the meantime his life was agreeable. Every day, he found, added to
his acquaintance. He was never without a companion to ride or to shoot
with; and of riding Coningsby was very fond. His grandfather, too, was
continually giving him goodnatured turns, and making him of consequence
in the Castle: so that all the guests were fully impressed with the
importance of Lord Monmouth's grandson. Lady St. Julians pronounced him
distinguished; the Ambassadress thought diplomacy should be his part,
as he had a fine person and a clear brain; Madame Colonna spoke of him
always as if she took intense interest in his career, and declared she
liked him almost as much as Lucretia did; the Russians persisted
in always styling him 'the young Marquess,' notwithstanding the
Ambassador's explanations; Mrs. Guy Flouncey made a dashing attack
on him; but Coningsby remembered a lesson which Lady Everingham had
graciously bestowed on him. He was not to be caught again easily.
Besides, Mrs. Guy Flouncey laughed a little too much, and talked a
little too loud.

As time flew on, there were changes of visitors, chiefly among the
single men. At the end of the first week after Coningsby's arrival, Lord
Eskdale appeared, bringing with him Lucian Gay; and soon after followed
the Marquess of Beaumanoir and Mr. Melton. These were all heroes who,
in their way, interested the ladies, and whose advent was hailed
with general satisfaction. Even Lucretia would relax a little to Lord
Eskdale. He was one of her oldest friends, and with a simplicity of
manner which amounted almost to plainness, and with rather a cynical
nonchalance in his carriage towards men, Lord Eskdale was invariably a
favourite with women. To be sure his station was eminent; he was noble,
and very rich, and very powerful, and these are qualities which tell as
much with the softer as the harsher sex; but there are individuals with
all these qualities who are nevertheless unpopular with women. Lord
Eskdale was easy, knew the world thoroughly, had no prejudices, and,
above all, had a reputation for success. A reputation for success has as
much influence with women as a reputation for wealth has with men. Both
reputations may be, and often are, unjust; but we see persons daily make
good fortunes by them all the same. Lord Eskdale was not an impostor;
and though he might not have been so successful a man had he not been
Lord Eskdale, still, thrown over by a revolution, he would have lighted
on his legs.

The arrival of this nobleman was the occasion of giving a good turn to
poor Flora. He went immediately to see his friend Villebecque and his
troop. Indeed it was a sort of society which pleased Lord Eskdale more
than that which is deemed more refined. He was very sorry about 'La
Petite;' but thought that everything would come right in the long run;
and told Villebecque that he was glad to hear him well spoken of here,
especially by the Marquess, who seemed to take to him. As for Flora, he
was entirely against her attempting the stage again, at least for the
present, but as she was a good musician, he suggested to the Princess
Lucretia one night, that the subordinate aid of Flora might be of
service to her, and permit her to favour her friends with some pieces
which otherwise she must deny to them. This suggestion was successful;
Flora was introduced occasionally, soon often, to their parties in the
evening, and her performances were in every respect satisfactory. There
was nothing to excite the jealousy of Lucretia either in her style or
her person. And yet she sang well enough, and was a quiet, refined,
retiring, by no means disagreeable person. She was the companion of
Lucretia very often in the morning as well as in the illumined saloon;
for the Princess was devoted to the art in which she excelled. This
connexion on the whole contributed to the happiness of poor Flora. True
it was, in the evening she often found herself sitting or standing alone
and no one noticing her; she had no dazzling quality to attract men of
fashion, who themselves love to worship ever the fashionable. Even
their goddesses must be _à la mode_. But Coningsby never omitted an
opportunity to show Flora some kindness under these circumstances.
He always came and talked to her, and praised her singing, and would
sometimes hand her refreshments and give her his arm if necessary. These
slight attentions coming from the grandson of Lord Monmouth were for
the world redoubled in their value, though Flora thought only of their
essential kindness; all in character with that first visit which dwelt
on the poor girl's memory, though it had long ago escaped that of her
visitor. For in truth Coningsby had no other impulse for his conduct but
kind-heartedness.

Thus we have attempted to give some faint idea how life glided away at
the Castle the first fortnight that Coningsby passed there. Perhaps we
ought not to omit that Mrs. Guy Flouncey, to the infinite disgust of
Lady St. Julians, who had a daughter with her, successfully entrapped
the devoted attentions of the young Marquess of Beaumanoir, who was
never very backward if a lady would take trouble enough; while his
friend, Mr. Melton, whose barren homage Lady St. Julians wished
her daughter ever particularly to shun, employed all his gaiety,
good-humour, frivolity, and fashion in amusing that young lady, and with
irresistible effect. For the rest, they continued, though they had only
partridges to shoot, to pass the morning without weariness. The weather
was fine; the stud numerous; all might be mounted. The Grand-duke and
his suite, guided by Mr. Rigby, had always some objects to visit, and
railroads returned them just in time for the banquet with an appetite
which they had earned, and during which Rigby recounted their
achievements, and his own opinions.

The dinner was always firstrate; the evening never failed; music,
dancing, and the theatre offered great resources independently of the
soul-subduing sentiment harshly called flirtation, and which is the
spell of a country house. Lord Monmouth was satisfied, for he had
scarcely ever felt wearied. All that he required in life was to be
amused; perhaps that was not all he required, but it was indispensable.
Nor was it wonderful that on the present occasion he obtained his
purpose, for there were half a hundred of the brightest eyes
and quickest brains ever on the watch or the whirl to secure him
distraction. The only circumstance that annoyed him was the non-arrival
of Sidonia. Lord Monmouth could not bear to be disappointed. He could
not refrain from saying, notwithstanding all the resources and all the
exertions of his guests,

'I cannot understand why Sidonia does not come. I wish Sidonia were
here.'

'So do I,' said Lord Eskdale; 'Sidonia is the only man who tells one
anything new.'

'We saw Sidonia at Lord Studcaster's,' said Lord Beaumanoir. 'He told
Melton he was coming here.'

'You know he has bought all Studcaster's horses,' said Mr. Melton.

'I wonder he does not buy Studcaster himself,' said Lord Monmouth; 'I
would if I were he; Sidonia can buy anything,' he turned to Mrs. Guy
Flouncey.

'I wonder who Sidonia is,' thought Mrs. Guy Flouncey, but she was
determined no one should suppose she did not know.

At length one day Coningsby met Madame Colonna in the vestibule before
dinner.

'Milor is in such good temper, Mr. Coningsby,' she said; 'Monsieur de
Sidonia has arrived.'

About ten minutes before dinner there was a stir in the chamber.
Coningsby looked round. He saw the Grand-duke advancing, and holding out
his hand in a manner the most gracious. A gentleman, of distinguished
air, but with his back turned to Coningsby, was bowing as he received
his Highness' greeting. There was a general pause in the room. Several
came forward: even the Marquess seemed a little moved. Coningsby could
not resist the impulse of curiosity to see this individual of whom he
had heard so much. He glided round the room, and caught the countenance
of his companion in the forest inn; he who announced to him, that 'the
Age of Ruins was past.'



CHAPTER X.


Sidonia was descended from a very ancient and noble family of Arragon,
that, in the course of ages, had given to the state many distinguished
citizens. In the priesthood its members had been peculiarly eminent.
Besides several prelates, they counted among their number an Archbishop
of Toledo; and a Sidonia, in a season of great danger and difficulty,
had exercised for a series of years the paramount office of Grand
Inquisitor.

Yet, strange as it may sound, it is nevertheless a fact, of which there
is no lack of evidence, that this illustrious family during all this
period, in common with two-thirds of the Arragonese nobility, secretly
adhered to the ancient faith and ceremonies of their fathers; a belief
in the unity of the God of Sinai, and the rights and observances of the
laws of Moses.

Whence came those Mosaic Arabs whose passages across the strait from
Africa to Europe long preceded the invasion of the Mohammedan Arabs, it
is now impossible to ascertain. Their traditions tell us that from time
immemorial they had sojourned in Africa; and it is not improbable that
they may have been the descendants of some of the earlier dispersions;
like those Hebrew colonies that we find in China, and who probably
emigrated from Persia in the days of the great monarchies. Whatever may
have been their origin in Africa, their fortunes in Southern Europe
are not difficult to trace, though the annals of no race in any age can
detail a history of such strange vicissitudes, or one rife with more
touching and romantic incident. Their unexampled prosperity in the
Spanish Peninsula, and especially in the south, where they had become
the principal cultivators of the soil, excited the jealousy of the
Goths; and the Councils of Toledo during the sixth and seventh
centuries attempted, by a series of decrees worthy of the barbarians who
promulgated them, to root the Jewish Arabs out of the land. There is no
doubt the Council of Toledo led, as directly as the lust of Roderick,
to the invasion of Spain by the Moslemin Arabs. The Jewish population,
suffering under the most sanguinary and atrocious persecution, looked to
their sympathising brethren of the Crescent, whose camps already gleamed
on the opposite shore. The overthrow of the Gothic kingdoms was as much
achieved by the superior information which the Saracens received from
their suffering kinsmen, as by the resistless valour of the Desert. The
Saracen kingdoms were established. That fair and unrivalled civilisation
arose which preserved for Europe arts and letters when Christendom was
plunged in darkness. The children of Ishmael rewarded the children of
Israel with equal rights and privileges with themselves. During these
halcyon centuries, it is difficult to distinguish the follower of Moses
from the votary of Mahomet. Both alike built palaces, gardens, and
fountains; filled equally the highest offices of the state, competed
in an extensive and enlightened commerce, and rivalled each other in
renowned universities.

Even after the fall of the principal Moorish kingdoms, the Jews of
Spain were still treated by the conquering Goths with tenderness and
consideration. Their numbers, their wealth, the fact that, in Arragon
especially, they were the proprietors of the soil, and surrounded by
warlike and devoted followers, secured for them an usage which, for
a considerable period, made them little sensible of the change of
dynasties and religions. But the tempest gradually gathered. As the
Goths grew stronger, persecution became more bold. Where the Jewish
population was scanty they were deprived of their privileges, or obliged
to conform under the title of 'Nuevos Christianos.' At length the union
of the two crowns under Ferdinand and Isabella, and the fall of the
last Moorish kingdom, brought the crisis of their fate both to the New
Christian and the nonconforming Hebrew. The Inquisition appeared, the
Institution that had exterminated the Albigenses and had desolated
Languedoc, and which, it should ever be remembered, was established in
the Spanish kingdoms against the protests of the Cortes and amid the
terror of the populace. The Dominicans opened their first tribunal at
Seville, and it is curious that the first individuals they summoned
before them were the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the Marquess of Cadiz, and
the Count of Arcos; three of the most considerable personages in Spain.
How many were burned alive at Seville during the first year, how many
imprisoned for life, what countless thousands were visited with severe
though lighter punishments, need not be recorded here. In nothing was
the Holy Office more happy than in multiform and subtle means by which
they tested the sincerity of the New Christians.

At length the Inquisition was to be extended to Arragon. The
high-spirited nobles of that kingdom knew that its institution was for
them a matter of life or death. The Cortes of Arragon appealed to the
King and to the Pope; they organised an extensive conspiracy; the chief
Inquisitor was assassinated in the cathedral of Saragossa. Alas! it
was fated that in this, one of the many, and continual, and continuing
struggles between the rival organisations of the North and the South,
the children of the sun should fall. The fagot and the San Benito were
the doom of the nobles of Arragon. Those who were convicted of secret
Judaism, and this scarcely three centuries ago, were dragged to the
stake; the sons of the noblest houses, in whose veins the Hebrew taint
could be traced, had to walk in solemn procession, singing psalms, and
confessing their faith in the religion of the fell Torquemada.

This triumph in Arragon, the almost simultaneous fall of the last
Moorish kingdom, raised the hopes of the pure Christians to the
highest pitch. Having purged the new Christians, they next turned their
attention to the old Hebrews. Ferdinand was resolved that the delicious
air of Spain should be breathed no longer by any one who did not profess
the Catholic faith. Baptism or exile was the alternative. More than
six hundred thousand individuals, some authorities greatly increase
the amount, the most industrious, the most intelligent, and the most
enlightened of Spanish subjects, would not desert the religion of their
fathers. For this they gave up the delightful land wherein they
had lived for centuries, the beautiful cities they had raised, the
universities from which Christendom drew for ages its most precious
lore, the tombs of their ancestors, the temples where they had
worshipped the God for whom they had made this sacrifice. They had but
four months to prepare for eternal exile, after a residence of as many
centuries; during which brief period forced sales and glutted markets
virtually confiscated their property. It is a calamity that the
scattered nation still ranks with the desolations of Nebuchadnezzar
and of Titus. Who after this should say the Jews are by nature a sordid
people? But the Spanish Goth, then so cruel and so haughty, where is
he? A despised suppliant to the very race which he banished, for some
miserable portion of the treasure which their habits of industry have
again accumulated. Where is that tribunal that summoned Medina Sidonia
and Cadiz to its dark inquisition? Where is Spain? Its fall, its
unparalleled and its irremediable fall, is mainly to be attributed
to the expulsion of that large portion of its subjects, the most
industrious and intelligent, who traced their origin to the Mosaic and
Mohammedan Arabs.

The Sidonias of Arragon were Nuevos Christianos. Some of them, no doubt,
were burned alive at the end of the fifteenth century, under the system
of Torquemada; many of them, doubtless, wore the San Benito; but they
kept their titles and estates, and in time reached those great offices
to which we have referred.

During the long disorders of the Peninsular war, when so many openings
were offered to talent, and so many opportunities seized by the
adventurous, a cadet of a younger branch of this family made a large
fortune by military contracts, and supplying the commissariat of the
different armies. At the peace, prescient of the great financial future
of Europe, confident in the fertility of his own genius, in his original
views of fiscal subjects, and his knowledge of national resources, this
Sidonia, feeling that Madrid, or even Cadiz, could never be a base
on which the monetary transactions of the world could be regulated,
resolved to emigrate to England, with which he had, in the course of
years, formed considerable commercial connections. He arrived here after
the peace of Paris, with his large capital. He staked all he was
worth on the Waterloo loan; and the event made him one of the greatest
capitalists in Europe.

No sooner was Sidonia established in England than he professed Judaism;
which Torquemada flattered himself, with the fagot and the San Benito,
he had drained out of the veins of his family more than three centuries
ago. He sent over, also, for several of his brothers, who were as
good Catholics in Spain as Ferdinand and Isabella could have possibly
desired, but who made an offering in the synagogue, in gratitude for
their safe voyage, on their arrival in England.

Sidonia had foreseen in Spain that, after the exhaustion of a war of
twenty-five years, Europe must require capital to carry on peace. He
reaped the due reward of his sagacity. Europe did require money, and
Sidonia was ready to lend it to Europe. France wanted some; Austria
more; Prussia a little; Russia a few millions. Sidonia could furnish
them all. The only country which he avoided was Spain; he was too well
acquainted with its resources. Nothing, too, would ever tempt him to
lend anything to the revolted colonies of Spain. Prudence saved him from
being a creditor of the mother-country; his Spanish pride recoiled from
the rebellion of her children.

It is not difficult to conceive that, after having pursued the career we
have intimated for about ten years, Sidonia had become one of the most
considerable personages in Europe. He had established a brother, or
a near relative, in whom he could confide, in most of the principal
capitals. He was lord and master of the money-market of the world, and
of course virtually lord and master of everything else. He literally
held the revenues of Southern Italy in pawn; and monarchs and ministers
of all countries courted his advice and were guided by his suggestions.
He was still in the vigour of life, and was not a mere money-making
machine. He had a general intelligence equal to his position, and looked
forward to the period when some relaxation from his vast enterprises and
exertions might enable him to direct his energies to great objects of
public benefit. But in the height of his vast prosperity he suddenly
died, leaving only one child, a youth still of tender years, and heir to
the greatest fortune in Europe, so great, indeed, that it could only be
calculated by millions.

Shut out from universities and schools, those universities and schools
which were indebted for their first knowledge of ancient philosophy
to the learning and enterprise of his ancestors, the young Sidonia was
fortunate in the tutor whom his father had procured for him, and who
devoted to his charge all the resources of his trained intellect and
vast and varied erudition. A Jesuit before the revolution; since then an
exiled Liberal leader; now a member of the Spanish Cortes; Rebello
was always a Jew. He found in his pupil that precocity of intellectual
development which is characteristic of the Arabian organisation. The
young Sidonia penetrated the highest mysteries of mathematics with
a facility almost instinctive; while a memory, which never had any
twilight hours, but always reflected a noontide clearness, seemed to
magnify his acquisitions of ancient learning by the promptness with
which they could be reproduced and applied.

The circumstances of his position, too, had early contributed to give
him an unusual command over the modern languages. An Englishman, and
taught from his cradle to be proud of being an Englishman, he first
evinced in speaking his native language those remarkable powers of
expression, and that clear and happy elocution, which ever afterwards
distinguished him. But the son of a Spaniard, the sonorous syllables
of that noble tongue constantly resounded in his ear; while the foreign
guests who thronged his father's mansion habituated him from an early
period of life to the tones of languages that were not long strange to
him. When he was nineteen, Sidonia, who had then resided some time
with his uncle at Naples, and had made a long visit to another of his
father's relatives at Frankfort, possessed a complete mastery over the
principal European languages.

At seventeen he had parted with Rebello, who returned to Spain, and
Sidonia, under the control of his guardians, commenced his travels. He
resided, as we have mentioned, some time in Germany, and then, having
visited Italy, settled at Naples, at which city it may be said he
made his entrance into life. With an interesting person, and highly
accomplished, he availed himself of the gracious attentions of a
court of which he was principal creditor; and which, treating him as a
distinguished English traveller, were enabled perhaps to show him some
favours that the manners of the country might not have permitted them
to accord to his Neapolitan relatives. Sidonia thus obtained at an
early age that experience of refined and luxurious society, which is a
necessary part of a finished education. It gives the last polish to the
manners; it teaches us something of the power of the passions, early
developed in the hot-bed of self-indulgence; it instils into us that
indefinable tact seldom obtained in later life, which prevents us from
saying the wrong thing, and often impels us to do the right.

Between Paris and Naples Sidonia passed two years, spent apparently in
the dissipation which was perhaps inseparable from his time of life. He
was admired by women, to whom he was magnificent, idolised by artists
whom he patronised, received in all circles with great distinction, and
appreciated for his intellect by the very few to whom he at all
opened himself. For, though affable and gracious, it was impossible
to penetrate him. Though unreserved in his manner, his frankness was
strictly limited to the surface. He observed everything, thought ever,
but avoided serious discussion. If you pressed him for an opinion, he
took refuge in raillery, or threw out some grave paradox with which it
was not easy to cope.

The moment he came of age, Sidonia having previously, at a great family
congress held at Naples, made arrangements with the heads of the houses
that bore his name respecting the disposition and management of his vast
fortune, quitted Europe.

Sidonia was absent from his connections for five years, during which
period he never communicated with them. They were aware of his existence
only by the orders which he drew on them for payment, and which arrived
from all quarters of the globe. It would appear from these documents
that he had dwelt a considerable time in the Mediterranean regions;
penetrated Nilotic Africa to Sennaar and Abyssinia; traversed the
Asiatic continent to Tartary, whence he had visited Hindostan, and the
isles of that Indian Sea which are so little known. Afterwards he was
heard of at Valparaiso, the Brazils, and Lima. He evidently remained
some time at Mexico, which he quitted for the United States. One
morning, without notice, he arrived in London.

Sidonia had exhausted all the sources of human knowledge; he was master
of the learning of every nation, of all tongues dead or living, of every
literature, Western and Oriental. He had pursued the speculations
of science to their last term, and had himself illustrated them by
observation and experiment. He had lived in all orders of society, had
viewed every combination of Nature and of Art, and had observed man
under every phasis of civilisation. He had even studied him in the
wilderness. The influence of creeds and laws, manners, customs,
traditions, in all their diversities, had been subjected to his personal
scrutiny.

He brought to the study of this vast aggregate of knowledge a
penetrative intellect that, matured by long meditation, and assisted
by that absolute freedom from prejudice, which, was the compensatory
possession of a man without a country, permitted Sidonia to fathom,
as it were by intuition, the depth of questions apparently the most
difficult and profound. He possessed the rare faculty of communicating
with precision ideas the most abstruse, and in general a power of
expression which arrests and satisfies attention.

With all this knowledge, which no one knew more to prize, with boundless
wealth, and with an athletic frame, which sickness had never tried, and
which had avoided excess, Sidonia nevertheless looked upon life with
a glance rather of curiosity than content. His religion walled him
out from the pursuits of a citizen; his riches deprived him of the
stimulating anxieties of a man. He perceived himself a lone being, alike
without cares and without duties.

To a man in his position there might yet seem one unfailing source
of felicity and joy; independent of creed, independent of country,
independent even of character. He might have discovered that perpetual
spring of happiness in the sensibility of the heart. But this was a
sealed fountain to Sidonia. In his organisation there was a peculiarity,
perhaps a great deficiency. He was a man without affections. It would be
harsh to say he had no heart, for he was susceptible of deep emotions,
but not for individuals. He was capable of rebuilding a town that was
burned down; of restoring a colony that had been destroyed by some awful
visitation of Nature; of redeeming to liberty a horde of captives; and
of doing these great acts in secret; for, void of all self-love, public
approbation was worthless to him; but the individual never touched him.
Woman was to him a toy, man a machine.

The lot the most precious to man, and which a beneficent Providence
has made not the least common; to find in another heart a perfect and
profound sympathy; to unite his existence with one who could share all
his joys, soften all his sorrows, aid him in all his projects, respond
to all his fancies, counsel him in his cares, and support him in
his perils; make life charming by her charms, interesting by her
intelligence, and sweet by the vigilant variety of her tenderness;
to find your life blessed by such an influence, and to feel that your
influence can bless such a life: this lot, the most divine of divine
gifts, that power and even fame can never rival in its delights, all
this Nature had denied to Sidonia.

With an imagination as fiery as his native Desert, and an intellect as
luminous as his native sky, he wanted, like that land, those softening
dews without which the soil is barren, and the sunbeam as often a
messenger of pestilence as an angel of regenerative grace.

Such a temperament, though rare, is peculiar to the East. It inspired
the founders of the great monarchies of antiquity, the prophets that the
Desert has sent forth, the Tartar chiefs who have overrun the world;
it might be observed in the great Corsican, who, like most of the
inhabitants of the Mediterranean isles, had probably Arab blood in his
veins. It is a temperament that befits conquerors and legislators, but,
in ordinary times and ordinary situations, entails on its possessor only
eccentric aberrations or profound melancholy.

The only human quality that interested Sidonia was Intellect. He cared
not whence it came; where it was to be found: creed, country, class,
character, in this respect, were alike indifferent to him. The author,
the artist, the man of science, never appealed to him in vain. Often he
anticipated their wants and wishes. He encouraged their society; was as
frank in his conversation as he was generous in his contributions; but
the instant they ceased to be authors, artists, or philosophers, and
their communications arose from anything but the intellectual quality
which had originally interested him, the moment they were rash enough
to approach intimacy and appealed to the sympathising man instead of
the congenial intelligence, he saw them no more. It was not however
intellect merely in these unquestionable shapes that commanded his
notice. There was not an adventurer in Europe with whom he was not
familiar. No Minister of State had such communication with secret agents
and political spies as Sidonia. He held relations with all the clever
outcasts of the world. The catalogue of his acquaintance in the shape of
Greeks, Armenians, Moors, secret Jews, Tartars, Gipsies, wandering
Poles and Carbonari, would throw a curious light on those subterranean
agencies of which the world in general knows so little, but which
exercise so great an influence on public events. His extensive travels,
his knowledge of languages, his daring and adventurous disposition, and
his unlimited means, had given him opportunities of becoming acquainted
with these characters, in general so difficult to trace, and of gaining
their devotion. To these sources he owed that knowledge of strange and
hidden things which often startled those who listened to him. Nor was it
easy, scarcely possible, to deceive him. Information reached him from
so many, and such contrary quarters, that with his discrimination and
experience, he could almost instantly distinguish the truth. The secret
history of the world was his pastime. His great pleasure was to contrast
the hidden motive, with the public pretext, of transactions.

One source of interest Sidonia found in his descent and in the
fortunes of his race. As firm in his adherence to the code of the great
Legislator as if the trumpet still sounded on Sinai, he might have
received in the conviction of divine favour an adequate compensation
for human persecution. But there were other and more terrestrial
considerations that made Sidonia proud of his origin, and confident
in the future of his kind. Sidonia was a great philosopher, who took
comprehensive views of human affairs, and surveyed every fact in its
relative position to other facts, the only mode of obtaining truth.

Sidonia was well aware that in the five great varieties into which
Physiology has divided the human species; to wit, the Caucasian, the
Mongolian, the Malayan, the American, the Ethiopian; the Arabian tribes
rank in the first and superior class, together, among others, with the
Saxon and the Greek. This fact alone is a source of great pride and
satisfaction to the animal Man. But Sidonia and his brethren could
claim a distinction which the Saxon and the Greek, and the rest of
the Caucasian nations, have forfeited. The Hebrew is an unmixed race.
Doubtless, among the tribes who inhabit the bosom of the Desert,
progenitors alike of the Mosaic and the Mohammedan Arabs, blood may be
found as pure as that of the descendants of the Scheik Abraham. But the
Mosaic Arabs are the most ancient, if not the only, unmixed blood that
dwells in cities.

An unmixed race of a firstrate organisation are the aristocracy of
Nature. Such excellence is a positive fact; not an imagination, a
ceremony, coined by poets, blazoned by cozening heralds, but perceptible
in its physical advantages, and in the vigour of its unsullied
idiosyncrasy.

In his comprehensive travels, Sidonia had visited and examined the
Hebrew communities of the world. He had found, in general, the lower
orders debased; the superior immersed in sordid pursuits; but he
perceived that the intellectual development was not impaired. This gave
him hope. He was persuaded that organisation would outlive persecution.
When he reflected on what they had endured, it was only marvellous
that the race had not disappeared. They had defied exile, massacre,
spoliation, the degrading influence of the constant pursuit of gain;
they had defied Time. For nearly three thousand years, according to
Archbishop Usher, they have been dispersed over the globe. To the
unpolluted current of their Caucasian structure, and to the segregating
genius of their great Law-giver, Sidonia ascribed the fact that they
had not been long ago absorbed among those mixed races, who presume
to persecute them, but who periodically wear away and disappear, while
their victims still flourish in all the primeval vigour of the pure
Asian breed.

Shortly after his arrival in England, Sidonia repaired to the principal
Courts of Europe, that he might become personally acquainted with
the monarchs and ministers of whom he had heard so much. His position
insured him a distinguished reception; his personal qualities
immediately made him cherished. He could please; he could do more, he
could astonish. He could throw out a careless observation which would
make the oldest diplomatist start; a winged word that gained him the
consideration, sometimes the confidence, of Sovereigns. When he had
fathomed the intelligence which governs Europe, and which can only be
done by personal acquaintance, he returned to this country.

The somewhat hard and literal character of English life suited one who
shrank from sensibility, and often took refuge in sarcasm. Its masculine
vigour and active intelligence occupied and interested his mind.
Sidonia, indeed, was exactly the character who would be welcomed in our
circles. His immense wealth, his unrivalled social knowledge, his clear
vigorous intellect, the severe simplicity of his manners, frank, but
neither claiming nor brooking familiarity, and his devotion to field
sports, which was the safety-valve of his energy, were all circumstances
and qualities which the English appreciate and admire; and it may be
fairly said of Sidonia that few men were more popular, and none less
understood.



CHAPTER XI.


At dinner, Coningsby was seated on the same side as Sidonia, and distant
from him. There had been, therefore, no mutual recognition. Another
guest had also arrived, Mr. Ormsby. He came straight from London,
full of rumours, had seen Tadpole, who, hearing he was on the wing for
Coningsby Castle, had taken him into a dark corner of a club, and
shown him his book, a safe piece of confidence, as Mr. Ormsby was very
near-sighted. It was, however, to be received as an undoubted fact, that
all was right, and somehow or other, before very long, there would be
national demonstration of the same. This arrival of Mr. Ormsby, and the
news that he bore, gave a political turn to the conversation after the
ladies had left the room.

'Tadpole wants me to stand for Birmingham,' said Mr. Ormsby, gravely.

'You!' exclaimed Lord Monmouth, and throwing himself back in his chair,
he broke into a real, hearty laugh.

'Yes; the Conservatives mean to start two candidates; a manufacturer
they have got, and they have written up to Tadpole for a "West-end
man."'

'A what?'

'A West-end man, who will make the ladies patronise their fancy
articles.'

'The result of the Reform Bill, then,' said Lucian Gay, 'will be to give
Manchester a bishop, and Birmingham a dandy.'

'I begin to believe the result will be very different from what we
expected,' said Lord Monmouth.

Mr. Rigby shook his head and was going to prophesy, when Lord Eskdale,
who liked talk to be short, and was of opinion that Rigby should keep
his amplifications for his slashing articles, put in a brief careless
observation, which balked his inspiration.

'Certainly,' said Mr. Ormsby, 'when the guns were firing over Vyvyan's
last speech and confession, I never expected to be asked to stand for
Birmingham.'

'Perhaps you may be called up to the other house by the title,' said
Lucian Gay. 'Who knows?'

'I agree with Tadpole,' said Mr. Ormsby, 'that if we only stick to the
Registration the country is saved.'

'Fortunate country!' said Sidonia, 'that can be saved by a good
registration!'

'I believe, after all, that with property and pluck,' said Lord
Monmouth, 'Parliamentary Reform is not such a very bad thing.'

Here several gentlemen began talking at the same time, all agreeing
with their host, and proving in their different ways, the irresistible
influence of property and pluck; property in Lord Monmouth's mind
meaning vassals, and pluck a total disregard for public opinion. Mr. Guy
Flouncey, who wanted to get into parliament, but why nobody knew, who
had neither political abilities nor political opinions, but had some
floating idea that it would get himself and his wife to some more
balls and dinners, and who was duly ticketed for 'a good thing' in the
candidate list of the Tadpoles and the Tapers, was of opinion that an
immense deal might be done by properly patronising borough races. That
was his specific how to prevent revolution.

Taking advantage of a pause, Lord Monmouth said, 'I should like to know
what you think of this question, Sidonia?'

'I am scarcely a competent judge,' he said, as if wishing to disclaim
any interference in the conversation, and then added, 'but I have been
ever of opinion that revolutions are not to be evaded.'

'Exactly my views,' said Mr. Rigby, eagerly; 'I say it now, I have said
it a thousand times, you may doctor the registration as you like, but
you can never get rid of Schedule A.'

'Is there a person in this room who can now tell us the names of the
boroughs in Schedule A?' said Sidonia.

'I am sure I cannot, 'said Lord Monmouth, 'though six of them belong to
myself.'

'But the principle,' said Mr. Rigby; 'they represented a principle.'

'Nothing else, certainly,' said Lucian Gay.

'And what principle?' inquired Sidonia.

'The principle of nomination.'

'That is a practice, not a principle,' said Sidonia. 'Is it a practice
that no longer exists?'

'You think then,' said Lord Eskdale, cutting in before Rigby, 'that the
Reform Bill has done us no harm?'

'It is not the Reform Bill that has shaken the aristocracy of this
country, but the means by which that Bill was carried,' replied Sidonia.

'Physical force?' said Lord Eskdale.

'Or social power?' said Sidonia.

Upon this, Mr. Rigby, impatient at any one giving the tone in a
political discussion but himself, and chafing under the vigilance of
Lord Eskdale, which to him ever appeared only fortuitous, violently
assaulted the argument, and astonished several country gentlemen present
by its volubility. They at length listened to real eloquence. At the
end of a long appeal to Sidonia, that gentleman only bowed his head and
said, 'Perhaps;' and then, turning to his neighbour, inquired whether
birds were plentiful in Lancashire this season; so that Mr. Rigby was
reduced to the necessity of forming the political opinions of Mr. Guy
Flouncey.

As the gentlemen left the dining-room, Coningsby, though at some
distance, was observed by Sidonia, who stopped instantly, then advanced
to Coningsby, and extending his hand said, 'I said we should meet again,
though I hardly expected so quickly.'

'And I hope we shall not separate so soon,' said Coningsby; 'I was much
struck with what you said just now about the Reform Bill. Do you know
that the more I think the more I am perplexed by what is meant by
Representation?'

'It is a principle of which a limited definition is only current in
this country,' said Sidonia, quitting the room with him. 'People may be
represented without periodical elections of neighbours who are incapable
to maintain their interests, and strangers who are unwilling.'

The entrance of the gentlemen produced the same effect on the saloon as
sunrise on the world; universal animation, a general though gentle stir.
The Grand-duke, bowing to every one, devoted himself to the daughter
of Lady St. Julians, who herself pinned Lord Beaumanoir before he could
reach Mrs. Guy Flouncey. Coningsby instead talked nonsense to that lady.
Brilliant cavaliers, including Mr. Melton, addressed a band of beautiful
damsels grouped on a large ottoman. Everywhere sounded a delicious
murmur, broken occasionally by a silver-sounding laugh not too loud.
Sidonia and Lord Eskdale did not join the ladies. They stood for a few
moments in conversation, and then threw themselves on a sofa.

'Who is that?' asked Sidonia of his companion rather earnestly, as
Coningsby quitted them.

''Tis the grandson of Monmouth; young Coningsby.'

'Ah! The new generation then promises. I met him once before, by chance;
he interests me.'

'They tell me he is a lively lad. He is a prodigious favourite here, and
I should not be surprised if Monmouth made him his heir.'

'I hope he does not dream of inheritance,' said Sidonia. ''Tis the most
enervating of visions.'

'Do you admire Lady Augustina St. Julians?' said Mrs. Guy Flouncey to
Coningsby.

'I admire no one except yourself.'

'Oh! how very gallant, Mr. Coningsby!'

'When should men be gallant, if not to the brilliant and the beautiful!'
said Coningsby.

'Ah! you are laughing at me.'

'No, I am not. I am quite grave.'

'Your eyes laugh. Now tell me, Mr. Coningsby, Lord Henry Sydney is a
very great friend of yours?'

'Very.'

'He is very amiable.'

'Very.'

'He does a great deal for the poor at Beaumanoir. A very fine place, is
it not?'

'Very.'

'As fine as Coningsby?'

'At present, with Mrs. Guy Flouncey at Coningsby, Beaumanoir would have
no chance.'

'Ah! you laugh at me again! Now tell me, Mr. Coningsby, what do you
think we shall do to-night? I look upon you, you know, as the real
arbiter of our destinies.'

'You shall decide,' said Coningsby.

'Mon cher Harry,' said Madame Colonna, coming up, 'they wish Lucretia to
sing and she will not. You must ask her, she cannot refuse you.'

'I assure you she can,' said Coningsby.

'Mon cher Harry, your grandpapa did desire me to beg you to ask her to
sing.'

So Coningsby unwillingly approached Lucretia, who was talking with the
Russian Ambassador.

'I am sent upon a fruitless mission,' said Coningsby, looking at her,
and catching her glance.

'What and why?' she replied.

'The mission is to entreat you to do us all a great favour; and the
cause of its failure will be that I am the envoy.'

'If the favour be one to yourself, it is granted; and if you be the
envoy, you need never fear failure with me.'

'I must presume then to lead you away,' said Coningsby, bending to the
Ambassador.

'Remember,' said Lucretia, as they approached the instrument, 'that I am
singing to you.'

'It is impossible ever to forget it,' said Coningsby, leading her to the
piano with great politeness, but only with great politeness.

'Where is Mademoiselle Flora?' she inquired.

Coningsby found La Petite crouching as it were behind some furniture,
and apparently looking over some music. She looked up as he approached,
and a smile stole over her countenance. 'I am come to ask a favour,' he
said, and he named his request.

'I will sing,' she replied; 'but only tell me what you like.'

Coningsby felt the difference between the courtesy of the head and of
the heart, as he contrasted the manner of Lucretia and Flora. Nothing
could be more exquisitely gracious than the daughter of Colonna was
to-night; Flora, on the contrary, was rather agitated and embarrassed;
and did not express her readiness with half the facility and the grace
of Lucretia; but Flora's arm trembled as Coningsby led her to the piano.

Meantime Lord Eskdale and Sidonia are in deep converse.

'Hah! that is a fine note!' said Sidonia, and he looked round. 'Who is
that singing? Some new _protégée_ of Lord Monmouth?'

''Tis the daughter of the Colonnas,' said Lord Eskdale, 'the Princess
Lucretia.'

'Why, she was not at dinner to-day.'

'No, she was not there.'

'My favourite voice; and of all, the rarest to be found. When I was a
boy, it made me almost in love even with Pisaroni.'

'Well, the Princess is scarcely more lovely. 'Tis a pity the plumage is
not as beautiful as the note. She is plain.'

'No; not plain with that brow.'

'Well, I rather admire her myself,' said Lord Eskdale. 'She has fine
points.'

'Let us approach,' said Sidonia.

The song ceased, Lord Eskdale advanced, made his compliments, and then
said, 'You were not at dinner to-day.'

'Why should I be?' said the Princess.

'For our sakes, for mine, if not for your own,' said Lord Eskdale,
smiling. 'Your absence has been remarked, and felt, I assure you, by
others as well as myself. There is my friend Sidonia so enraptured with
your thrilling tones, that he has abruptly closed a conversation which I
have been long counting on. Do you know him? May I present him to you?'

And having obtained a consent, not often conceded, Lord Eskdale looked
round, and calling Sidonia, he presented his friend to the Princess.

'You are fond of music, Lord Eskdale tells me?' said Lucretia.

'When it is excellent,' said Sidonia.

'But that is so rare,' said the Princess.

'And precious as Paradise,' said Sidonia. 'As for indifferent music,
'tis Purgatory; but when it is bad, for my part I feel myself--'

'Where?' said Lord Eskdale.

'In the last circle of the Inferno,' said Sidonia.

Lord Eskdale turned to Flora.

'And in what circle do you place us who are here?' the Princess inquired
of Sidonia.

'One too polished for his verse,' replied her companion.

'You mean too insipid,' said the Princess. 'I wish that life were a
little more Dantesque.'

'There is not less treasure in the world,' said Sidonia, 'because we use
paper currency; and there is not less passion than of old, though it is
_bon ton_ to be tranquil.'

'Do you think so?' said the Princess, inquiringly, and then looking
round the apartment. 'Have these automata, indeed, souls?'

'Some of them,' said Sidonia. 'As many as would have had souls in the
fourteenth century.'

'I thought they were wound up every day,' said the Princess.

'Some are self-impelling,' said Sidonia.

'And you can tell at a glance?' inquired the Princess. 'You are one of
those who can read human nature?'

''Tis a book open to all.'

'But if they cannot read?'

'Those must be your automata.'

'Lord Monmouth tells me you are a great traveller?'

'I have not discovered a new world.'

'But you have visited it?'

'It is getting old.'

'I would sooner recall the old than discover the new,' said the
Princess.

'We have both of us cause,' said Sidonia. 'Our names are the names of
the Past.'

'I do not love a world of Utility,' said the Princess.

'You prefer to be celebrated to being comfortable,' said Sidonia.

'It seems to me that the world is withering under routine.'

''Tis the inevitable lot of humanity,' said Sidonia. 'Man must ever
be the slave of routine: but in old days it was a routine of great
thoughts, and now it is a routine of little ones.'

The evening glided on; the dance succeeded the song; the ladies were
fast vanishing; Coningsby himself was meditating a movement, when Lord
Beaumanoir, as he passed him, said, 'Come to Lucian Gay's room; we are
going to smoke a cigar.'

This was a favourite haunt, towards midnight, of several of the younger
members of the party at the Castle, who loved to find relaxation from
the decorous gravities of polished life in the fumes of tobacco, the
inspiration of whiskey toddy, and the infinite amusement of Lucian Gay's
conversation and company. This was the genial hour when the good story
gladdened, the pun flashed, and the song sparkled with jolly mirth
or saucy mimicry. To-night, being Coningsby's initiation, there was a
special general meeting of the Grumpy Club, in which everybody was to
say the gayest things with the gravest face, and every laugh carried a
forfeit. Lucian was the inimitable president. He told a tale for which
he was famous, of 'the very respectable county family who had been
established in the shire for several generations, but who, it was
a fact, had been ever distinguished by the strange and humiliating
peculiarity of being born with sheep's tails.' The remarkable
circumstances under which Lucian Gay had become acquainted with this
fact; the traditionary mysteries by which the family in question had
succeeded for generations in keeping it secret; the decided measures to
which the chief of the family had recourse to stop for ever the rumour
when it first became prevalent; and finally the origin and result of the
legend; were details which Lucian Gay, with the most rueful countenance,
loved to expend upon the attentive and expanding intelligence of a new
member of the Grumpy Club. Familiar as all present were with the story
whose stimulus of agonising risibility they had all in turn experienced,
it was with extreme difficulty that any of them could resist the fatal
explosion which was to be attended with the dreaded penalty. Lord
Beaumanoir looked on the table with desperate seriousness, an ominous
pucker quivering round his lip; Mr. Melton crammed his handkerchief into
his mouth with one hand, while he lighted the wrong end of a cigar with
the other; one youth hung over the back of his chair pinching himself
like a faquir, while another hid his countenance on the table.

'It was at the Hunt dinner,' continued Lucian Gay, in an almost solemn
tone, 'that an idea for a moment was prevalent, that Sir Mowbray
Cholmondeley Fetherstonehaugh, as the head of the family, had resolved
to terminate for ever these mysterious aspersions on his race, that had
circulated in the county for more than two centuries; I mean that the
highly respectable family of the Cholmondeley Fetherstonehaughs had the
misfortune to be graced with that appendage to which I have referred.
His health being drunk, Sir Mowbray Cholmondeley Fetherstonehaugh
rose. He was a little unpopular at the moment, from an ugly story about
killing foxes, and the guests were not as quiet as orators generally
desire, so the Honourable Baronet prayed particular attention to a
matter personal to himself. Instantly there was a dead silence--' but
here Coningsby, who had moved for some time very restlessly on his
chair, suddenly started up, and struggling for a moment against the
inward convulsion, but in vain, stamped against the floor, and gave a
shout.

'A song from Mr. Coningsby,' said the president of the Grumpy Club, amid
an universal, and now permissible roar of laughter.

Coningsby could not sing; so he was to favour them as a substitute
with a speech or a sentiment. But Lucian Gay always let one off these
penalties easily, and, indeed, was ever ready to fulfil them for all.
Song, speech, or sentiment, he poured them all forth; nor were pastimes
more active wanting. He could dance a Tarantella like a Lazzarone, and
execute a Cracovienne with all the mincing graces of a ballet heroine.

His powers of mimicry, indeed, were great and versatile. But in nothing
was he so happy as in a Parliamentary debate. And it was remarkable
that, though himself a man who on ordinary occasions was quite incapable
without infinite perplexity of publicly expressing his sense of the
merest courtesy of society, he was not only a master of the style of
every speaker of distinction in either house, but he seemed in his
imitative play to appropriate their intellectual as well as their
physical peculiarities, and presented you with their mind as well as
their manner. There were several attempts to-night to induce Lucian to
indulge his guests with a debate, but he seemed to avoid the exertion,
which was great. As the night grew old, however, and every hour he
grew more lively, he suddenly broke without further pressure into the
promised diversion; and Coningsby listened really with admiration to a
discussion, of which the only fault was that it was more parliamentary
than the original, 'plus Arabe que l'Arabie.'

The Duke was never more curt, nor Sir Robert more specious; he was as
fiery as Stanley, and as bitter as Graham. Nor did he do their opponents
less justice. Lord Palmerston himself never treated a profound subject
with a more pleasant volatility; and when Lucian rose at an early hour
of morn, in a full house alike exhausted and excited, and after having
endured for hours, in sarcastic silence, the menacing finger of Sir
Robert, shaking over the green table and appealing to his misdeeds in
the irrevocable records of Hansard, Lord John himself could not have
afforded a more perfect representative of pluck.

But loud as was the laughter, and vehement the cheering, with which
Lucian's performances were received, all these ebullitions sank into
insignificance compared with the reception which greeted what he himself
announced was to be the speech of the night. Having quaffed full many
a quaigh of toddy, he insisted on delivering, it on the table, a
proposition with which his auditors immediately closed.

The orator appeared, the great man of the night, who was to answer
everybody on both sides. Ah! that harsh voice, that arrogant style,
that saucy superficiality which decided on everything, that insolent
ignorance that contradicted everybody; it was impossible to mistake
them! And Coningsby had the pleasure of seeing reproduced before him the
guardian of his youth and the patron of the mimic, the Right Honourable
Nicholas Rigby!



CHAPTER XII.


Madame Colonna, with that vivacious energy which characterises the
south, had no sooner seen Coningsby, and heard his praises celebrated
by his grandfather, than she resolved that an alliance should sooner
or later take place between him and her step-daughter. She imparted her
projects without delay to Lucretia, who received them in a different
spirit from that in which they were communicated. Lucretia bore as
little resemblance to her step-mother in character, as in person. If
she did not possess her beauty, she was born with an intellect of far
greater capacity and reach. She had a deep judgment. A hasty alliance
with a youth, arranged by their mutual relatives, might suit very well
the clime and manners of Italy, but Lucretia was well aware that it was
altogether opposed to the habits and feelings of this country. She had
no conviction that either Coningsby would wish to marry her, or, if
willing, that his grandfather would sanction such a step in one as yet
only on the threshold of the world. Lucretia therefore received
the suggestions and proposals of Madarne Colonna with coldness and
indifference; one might even say contempt, for she neither felt respect
for this lady, nor was she sedulous to evince it. Although really
younger than Coningsby, Lucretia felt that a woman of eighteen is, in
all worldly considerations, ten years older than a youth of the same
age. She anticipated that a considerable time might elapse before
Coningsby would feel it necessary to seal his destiny by marriage,
while, on the other hand, she was not only anxious, but resolved, not
to delay on her part her emancipation from the galling position in which
she very frequently found herself.

Lucretia felt rather than expressed these ideas and impressions. She
was not naturally communicative, and conversed with no one with less
frankness and facility than with her step-mother. Madame Colonna
therefore found no reasons in her conversation with Lucretia to change
her determination. As her mind was not ingenious she did not see
questions in those various lights which make us at the same time infirm
of purpose and tolerant. What she fancied ought to be done, she fancied
must be done; for she perceived no middle course or alternative. For
the rest, Lucretia's carriage towards her gave her little discomfort.
Besides, she herself, though good-natured, was obstinate. Her feelings
were not very acute; nothing much vexed her. As long as she had fine
dresses, good dinners, and opera-boxes, she could bear her plans to be
crossed like a philosopher; and her consolation under her unaccomplished
devices was her admirable consistency, which always assured her that her
projects were wise, though unfulfilled.

She broke her purpose to Mr. Rigby, that she might gain not only his
adhesion to her views, but his assistance in achieving them. As Madame
Colonna, in Mr. Rigby's estimation, exercised more influence over Lord
Monmouth than any other individual, faithful to his policy or practice,
he agreed with all Madame Colonna's plans and wishes, and volunteered
instantly to further them. As for the Prince, his wife never consulted
him on any subject, nor did he wish to be consulted. On the contrary, he
had no opinion about anything. All that he required was that he should
be surrounded by what contributed to his personal enjoyment, that he
should never be troubled, and that he should have billiards. He was not
inexpert in field-sports, rode indeed very well for an Italian, but
he never cared to be out-of-doors; and there was only one room in the
interior which passionately interested him. It was where the echoing
balls denoted the sweeping hazard or the effective cannonade. That was
the chamber where the Prince Colonna literally existed. Half-an-hour
after breakfast he was in the billiard-room; he never quitted it until
he dressed for dinner; and he generally contrived, while the world were
amused or amusing themselves at the comedy or in the dance, to steal
down with some congenial sprites to the magical and illumined chamber,
and use his cue until bedtime.

Faithful to her first impressions, Lucretia had made no difference
in her demeanour to Coningsby to that which she offered to the other
guests. Polite, but uncommunicative; ready to answer, but never
originating conversation; she charmed him as little by her manner as by
her person; and after some attempts, not very painstaking, to interest
her, Coningsby had ceased to address her. The day passed by with only a
faint recognition between them; even that sometimes omitted.

When, however, Lucretia observed that Coningsby had become one of the
most notable persons in the Castle; when she heard everywhere of
his talents and accomplishments, his beauty and grace and great
acquirements, and perceived that he was courted by all; that Lord
Monmouth omitted no occasion publicly to evince towards him his regard
and consideration; that he seemed generally looked upon in the light of
his grandfather's heir; and that Lady St. Julians, more learned in that
respect than any lady in the kingdom, was heard more than once to regret
that she had not brought another daughter with her, Clara Isabella, as
well as Augustina; the Princess Lucretia began to imagine that Madame
Colonna, after all, might not be so extravagant in her purpose as she
had first supposed. She, therefore, surprised Coningsby with the almost
affectionate moroseness with which, while she hated to sing, she yet
found pleasure in singing for him alone. And it is impossible to say
what might not have been the next move in her tactics in this respect,
had not the very night on which she had resolved to commence the
enchantment of Coningsby introduced to her Sidonia.

The Princess Lucretia encountered the dark still glance of the friend of
Lord Eskdale. He, too, beheld a woman unlike other women, and with his
fine experience, both as a man and as a physiologist, felt that he was
in the presence of no ordinary organisation. From the evening of his
introduction Sidonia sought the society of the Princess Lucretia. He
could not complain of her reserve. She threw out her mind in various and
highly-cultivated intelligence. He recognised in her a deep and subtile
spirit, considerable reading for a woman, habits of thought, and a soul
passionate and daring. She resolved to subdue one whose appreciation she
had gained, and who had subdued her. The profound meaning and the calm
manner of Sidonia combined to quell her spirit. She struggled against
the spell. She tried to rival his power; to cope with him, and with
the same weapons. But prompt as was her thought and bright as was
its expression, her heart beat in tumult; and, with all her apparent
serenity, her agitated soul was a prey of absorbing passion. She could
not contend with that intelligent, yet inscrutable, eye; with that
manner so full of interest and respect, and yet so tranquil. Besides,
they were not on equal terms. Here was a girl contending with a man
learned in the world's way.

Between Sidonia and Coningsby there at once occurred companionship. The
morning after his arrival they went out shooting together. After a long
ramble they would stretch themselves on the turf under a shady tree,
often by the side of some brook where the cresses grow, that added
a luxury to their sporting-meal; and then Coningsby would lead their
conversation to some subject on which Sidonia would pour out his mind
with all that depth of reflection, variety of knowledge, and richness
of illustrative memory, which distinguished him; and which offered so
striking a contrast to the sharp talent, the shallow information, and
the worldly cunning, that make a Rigby.

This fellowship between Sidonia and Coningsby elevated the latter still
more in the estimation of Lucretia, and rendered her still more desirous
of gaining his good will and opinion. A great friendship seemed to have
arisen between them, and the world began to believe that there must be
some foundation for Madame Colonna's innuendos. That lady herself
was not in the least alarmed by the attention which Sidonia paid her
step-daughter. It was, of course, well known that Sidonia was not a
marrying man. He was, however, a great friend of Mr. Coningsby, his
presence and society brought Coningsby and Lucretia more together; and
however flattered her daughter might be for the moment by Sidonia's
homage, still, as she would ultimately find out, if indeed she ever
cared so to do, that Sidonia could only be her admirer, Madame Colonna
had no kind of doubt that ultimately Coningsby would be Lucretia's
husband, as she had arranged from the first.

The Princess Lucretia was a fine horse-woman, though she rarely joined
the various riding-parties that were daily formed at the Castle. Often,
indeed, attended only by her groom, she met the equestrians. Now she
would ride with Sidonia and Coningsby, and as a female companion was
indispensable, she insisted upon La Petite accompanying her. This was a
fearful trial for Flora, but she encountered it, encouraged by the kind
solicitude of Coningsby, who always seemed her friend.

Very shortly after the arrival of Sidonia, the Grand-duke and his suite
quitted the Castle, which had been his Highness' head-quarters during
his visit to the manufacturing districts; but no other great change in
the assembled company occurred for some little time.



CHAPTER XIII.


'You will observe one curious trait,' said Sidonia to Coningsby, 'in the
history of this country: the depository of power is always unpopular;
all combine against it; it always falls. Power was deposited in the
great Barons; the Church, using the King for its instrument, crushed the
great Barons. Power was deposited in the Church; the King, bribing the
Parliament, plundered the Church. Power was deposited in the King; the
Parliament, using the People, beheaded the King, expelled the King,
changed the King, and, finally, for a King substituted an administrative
officer. For one hundred and fifty years Power has been deposited in the
Parliament, and for the last sixty or seventy years it has been becoming
more and more unpopular. In 1830 it was endeavoured by a reconstruction
to regain the popular affection; but, in truth, as the Parliament then
only made itself more powerful, it has only become more odious. As we
see that the Barons, the Church, the King, have in turn devoured each
other, and that the Parliament, the last devourer, remains, it is
impossible to resist the impression that this body also is doomed to be
destroyed; and he is a sagacious statesman who may detect in what form
and in what quarter the great consumer will arise.'

'You take, then, a dark view of our position?'

'Troubled, not dark. I do not ascribe to political institutions that
paramount influence which it is the feeling of this age to attribute to
them. The Senate that confronted Brennus in the Forum was the same body
that registered in an after-age the ribald decrees of a Nero. Trial
by jury, for example, is looked upon by all as the Palladium of our
liberties; yet a jury, at a very recent period of our own history, the
reign of Charles II., was a tribunal as iniquitous as the Inquisition.'
And a graver expression stole over the countenance of Sidonia as he
remembered what that Inquisition had operated on his own race and his
own destiny. 'There are families in this country,' he continued, 'of
both the great historical parties, that in the persecution of their
houses, the murder and proscription of some of their most illustrious
members, found judges as unjust and relentless in an open jury of their
countrymen as we did in the conclaves of Madrid and Seville.'

'Where, then, would you look for hope?'

'In what is more powerful than laws and institutions, and without which
the best laws and the most skilful institutions may be a dead letter,
or the very means of tyranny in the national character. It is not in
the increased feebleness of its institutions that I see the peril of
England; it is in the decline of its character as a community.'

'And yet you could scarcely describe this as an age of corruption?'

'Not of political corruption. But it is an age of social
disorganisation, far more dangerous in its consequences, because far
more extensive. You may have a corrupt government and a pure community;
you may have a corrupt community and a pure administration. Which would
you elect?'

Neither,' said Coningsby; 'I wish to see a people full of faith, and a
government full of duty.'

'Rely upon it,' said Sidonia, 'that England should think more of the
community and less of the government.'

'But tell me, what do you understand by the term national character?'

'A character is an assemblage of qualities; the character of England
should be an assemblage of great qualities.'

'But we cannot deny that the English have great virtues.'

'The civilisation of a thousand years must produce great virtues; but we
are speaking of the decline of public virtue, not its existence.'

'In what, then, do you trace that decline?'

'In the fact that the various classes of this country are arrayed
against each other.'

'But to what do you attribute those reciprocal hostilities?'

'Not entirely, not even principally, to those economical causes of which
we hear so much. I look upon all such as secondary causes, which, in a
certain degree, must always exist, which obtrude themselves in troubled
times, and which at all times it is the business of wise statesmen to
watch, to regulate, to ameliorate, to modify.'

'I am speaking to elicit truth, not to maintain opinions,' said
Coningsby; 'for I have none,' he added, mournfully.

'I think,' said Sidonia, 'that there is no error so vulgar as to believe
that revolutions are occasioned by economical causes. They come in,
doubtless, very often to precipitate a catastrophe; very rarely do they
occasion one. I know no period, for example, when physical comfort
was more diffused in England than in 1640. England had a moderate
population, a very improved agriculture, a rich commerce; yet she was
on the eve of the greatest and most violent changes that she has as yet
experienced.'

'That was a religious movement.'

'Admit it; the cause, then, was not physical. The imagination of England
rose against the government. It proves, then, that when that faculty is
astir in a nation, it will sacrifice even physical comfort to follow its
impulses.'

'Do you think, then, there is a wild desire for extensive political
change in the country?'

'Hardly that: England is perplexed at the present moment, not inventive.
That will be the next phasis in her moral state, and to that I wish
to draw your thoughts. For myself, while I ascribe little influence to
physical causes for the production of this perplexity, I am still less
of opinion that it can be removed by any new disposition of political
power. It would only aggravate the evil. That would be recurring to
the old error of supposing you can necessarily find national content in
political institutions. A political institution is a machine; the motive
power is the national character. With that it rests whether the
machine will benefit society, or destroy it. Society in this country is
perplexed, almost paralysed; in time it will move, and it will devise.
How are the elements of the nation to be again blended together? In what
spirit is that reorganisation to take place?'

'To know that would be to know everything.'

'At least let us free ourselves from the double ignorance of the
Platonists. Let us not be ignorant that we are ignorant.'

'I have emancipated myself from that darkness for a long time, 'said
Coningsby. 'Long has my mind been musing over these thoughts, but to me
all is still obscurity.'

'In this country,' said Sidonia, 'since the peace, there has been an
attempt to advocate a reconstruction of society on a purely rational
basis. The principle of Utility has been powerfully developed. I speak
not with lightness of the labours of the disciples of that school. I bow
to intellect in every form: and we should be grateful to any school of
philosophers, even if we disagree with them; doubly grateful in this
country, where for so long a period our statesmen were in so pitiable an
arrear of public intelligence. There has been an attempt to reconstruct
society on a basis of material motives and calculations. It has failed.
It must ultimately have failed under any circumstances; its failure in
an ancient and densely-peopled kingdom was inevitable. How limited is
human reason, the profoundest inquirers are most conscious. We are not
indebted to the Reason of man for any of the great achievements which
are the landmarks of human action and human progress. It was not Reason
that besieged Troy; it was not Reason that sent forth the Saracen
from the Desert to conquer the world; that inspired the Crusades; that
instituted the Monastic orders; it was not Reason that produced
the Jesuits; above all, it was not Reason that created the French
Revolution. Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions;
never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination. Even Mormon
counts more votaries than Bentham.'

'And you think, then, that as Imagination once subdued the State,
Imagination may now save it?'

'Man is made to adore and to obey: but if you will not command him, if
you give him nothing to worship, he will fashion his own divinities, and
find a chieftain in his own passions.'

'But where can we find faith in a nation of sectaries? Who can feel
loyalty to a sovereign of Downing Street?'

'I speak of the eternal principles of human nature, you answer me with
the passing accidents of the hour. Sects rise and sects disappear. Where
are the Fifth-Monarchy men? England is governed by Downing Street; once
it was governed by Alfred and Elizabeth.'



CHAPTER XIV.


About this time a steeple-chase in the West of England had attracted
considerable attention. This sport was then of recent introduction in
England, and is, in fact, an importation of Irish growth, although it
has flourished in our soil. A young guardsman, who was then a guest at
the Castle, and who had been in garrison in Ireland, had some experience
of this pastime in the Kildare country, and he proposed that they should
have a steeple-chase at Coningsby. This was a suggestion very agreeable
to the Marquess of Beaumanoir, celebrated for his feats of horsemanship,
and, indeed, to most of the guests. It was agreed that the race should
come off at once, before any of the present company, many of whom
gave symptoms of being on the wing, had quitted the Castle. The young
guardsman and Mr. Guy Flouncey had surveyed the country and had selected
a line which they esteemed very appropriate for the scene of action.
From a hill of common land you looked down upon the valley of Coningsby,
richly cultivated, deeply ditched, and stiffly fenced; the valley was
bounded by another rising ground, and the scene was admirably calculated
to give an extensive view to a multitude.

The distance along the valley was to be two miles out, and home again;
the starting-post being also the winning-post, and the flags, which were
placed on every fence which the horses were to pass, were to be passed
on the left hand of the rider both going and coming; so that although
the horses had to leap the same fences forward and backward, they
could not come over the same place twice. In the last field before they
turned, was a brook seventeen feet clear from side to side, with good
taking off both banks. Here real business commenced.

Lord Monmouth highly approved the scheme, but mentioned that the stakes
must be moderate, and open to the whole county. The neighbourhood had
a week of preparation, and the entries for the Coningsby steeple-chase
were numerous. Lord Monmouth, after a reserve for his own account,
placed his stable at the service of his guests. For himself, he offered
to back his horse, Sir Robert, which was to be ridden by his grandson.

Now, nothing was spoken or thought of at Coningsby Castle except the
coming sport. The ladies shared the general excitement. They embroidered
handkerchiefs, and scarfs, and gloves, with the respective colours of
the rivals, and tried to make jockey-caps. Lady St. Julians postponed
her intended departure in consequence. Madame Colonna wished that some
means could be contrived by which they might all win.

Sidonia, with the other competitors, had ridden over the ground and
glanced at the brook with the eye of a workman. On his return to the
Castle he sent a despatch for some of his stud.

Coningsby was all anxiety to win. He was proud of the confidence of
his grandfather in backing him. He had a powerful horse and a firstrate
fencer, and he was resolved himself not to flinch. On the night before
the race, retiring somewhat earlier than usual to his chamber, he
observed on his dressing-table a small packet addressed to his name, and
in an unknown handwriting. Opening it, he found a pretty racing-jacket
embroidered with his colours of pink and white. This was a perplexing
circumstance, but he fancied it on the whole a happy omen. And who was
the donor? Certainly not the Princess Lucretia, for he had observed her
fashioning some maroon ribbons, which were the colours of Sidonia. It
could scarcely be from Mrs. Guy Flouncey. Perhaps Madame Colonna to
please the Marquess? Thinking over this incident he fell asleep.

The morning before the race Sidonia's horses arrived. All went to
examine them at the stables. Among them was an Arab mare. Coningsby
recognised the Daughter of the Star. She was greatly admired for her
points; but Guy Flouncey whispered to Mr. Melton that she never could do
the work.

'But Lord Beaumanoir says he is all for speed against strength in these
affairs,' said Mr. Melton.

Guy Flouncey smiled incredulously.

The night before the race it rained rather heavily.

'I take it the country will not be very like the Deserts of Arabia,'
said Mr. Guy Flouncey, with a knowing look to Mr. Melton, who was noting
a bet in his memorandum-book.

The morning was fine, clear, and sunny, with a soft western breeze. The
starting-post was about three miles from the Castle; but, long before
the hour, the surrounding hills were covered with people; squire and
farmer; with no lack of their wives and daughters; many a hind in his
smock-frock, and many an 'operative' from the neighbouring factories.
The 'gentlemen riders' gradually arrived. The entries were very
numerous, though it was understood that not more than a dozen would
come to the post, and half of these were the guests of Lord Monmouth.
At half-past one the _cortège_ from the Castle arrived, and took up the
post which had been prepared for them on the summit of the hill. Lord
Monmouth was much cheered on his arrival. In the carriage with him
were Madame Colonna and Lady St. Julians. The Princess Lucretia, Lady
Gaythorp, Mrs. Guy Flouncey, accompanied by Lord Eskdale and other
cavaliers, formed a brilliant company. There was scarcely a domestic
in the Castle who was not there. The comedians, indeed, did not care to
come, but Villebecque prevailed upon Flora to drive with him to the race
in a buggy he borrowed of the steward.

The start was to be at two o'clock. The 'gentlemen jockeys' are
mustered. Never were riders mounted and appointed in better style. The
stewards and the clerk of the course attend them to the starting-post.
There they are now assembled. Guy Flouncey takes up his stirrup-leathers
a hole; Mr. Melton looks at his girths. In a few moments, the
irrevocable monosyllable will be uttered.

The bugle sounds for them to face about; the clerk of the course sings
out, 'Gentlemen, are you all ready?' No objection made, the word given
to go, and fifteen riders start in excellent style.

Prince Colonna, who rode like Prince Rupert, took the lead, followed
close by a stout yeoman on an old white horse of great provincial
celebrity, who made steady running, and, from his appearance and action,
an awkward customer. The rest, with two exceptions, followed in a
cluster at no great distance, and in this order they continued, with
very slight variation, for the first two miles, though there were
several ox-fences, and one or two of them remarkably stiff. Indeed, they
appeared more like horses running over a course than over a country. The
two exceptions were Lord Beaumanoir on his horse Sunbeam, and Sidonia on
the Arab. These kept somewhat slightly in the rear.

Almost in this wise they approached the dreaded brook. Indeed, with the
exception of the last two riders, who were about thirty yards behind, it
seemed that you might have covered the rest of the field with a sheet.
They arrived at the brook at the same moment: seventeen feet of water
between strong sound banks is no holiday work; but they charged with
unfaltering intrepidity. But what a revolution in their spirited order
did that instant produce! A masked battery of canister and grape could
not have achieved more terrible execution. Coningsby alone clearly
lighted on the opposing bank; but, for the rest of them, it seemed for a
moment that they were all in the middle of the brook, one over another,
splashing, kicking, swearing; every one trying to get out and keep
others in. Mr. Melton and the stout yeoman regained their saddles and
were soon again in chase. The Prince lost his horse, and was not alone
in his misfortune. Mr. Guy Flouncey lay on his back with a horse across
his diaphragm; only his head above the water, and his mouth full of
chickweed and dockleaves. And if help had not been at hand, he and
several others might have remained struggling in their watery bed for
a considerable period. In the midst of this turmoil, the Marquess and
Sidonia at the same moment cleared the brook.

Affairs now became interesting. Here Coningsby took up the running,
Sidonia and the Marquess lying close at his quarters. Mr. Melton had
gone the wrong side of a flag, and the stout yeoman, though close at
hand, was already trusting much to his spurs. In the extreme distance
might be detected three or four stragglers. Thus they continued until
within three fields of home. A ploughed field finished the old white
horse; the yeoman struck his spurs to the rowels, but the only effect
of the experiment was, that the horse stood stock-still. Coningsby,
Sidonia, and the Marquess were now all together. The winning-post is in
sight, and a high and strong gate leads to the last field. Coningsby,
looking like a winner, gallantly dashed forward and sent Sir Robert at
the gate, but he had over-estimated his horse's powers at this point of
the game, and a rattling fall was the consequence: however, horse and
rider were both on the right side, and Coningsby was in his saddle and
at work again in a moment. It seemed that the Marquess was winning.
There was only one more fence; and that the foot people had made a
breach in by the side of a gate-post, and wide enough, as was said, for
a broad-wheeled waggon to travel by. Instead of passing straight over
this gap, Sunbeam swerved against the gate and threw his rider. This
was decisive. The Daughter of the Star, who was still going beautifully,
pulling double, and her jockey sitting still, sprang over the gap
and went in first; Coningsby, on Sir Robert, being placed second. The
distance measured was about four miles; there were thirty-nine leaps;
and it was done under fifteen minutes.

Lord Monmouth was well content with the prowess of his grandson, and
his extreme cordiality consoled Coningsby under a defeat which was very
vexatious. It was some alleviation that he was beaten by Sidonia.
Madame Colonna even shed tears at her young friend's disappointment, and
mourned it especially for Lucretia, who had said nothing, though a flush
might be observed on her usually pale countenance. Villebecque, who had
betted, was so extremely excited by the whole affair, especially during
the last three minutes, that he quite forgot his quiet companion, and
when he looked round he found Flora fainting.

'You rode well,' said Sidonia to Coningsby; 'but your horse was more
strong than swift. After all, this thing is a race; and, notwithstanding
Solomon, in a race speed must win.'



CHAPTER XV.


Notwithstanding the fatigues of the morning, the evening was passed with
great gaiety at the Castle. The gentlemen all vowed that, far from being
inconvenienced by their mishaps, they felt, on the whole, rather better
for them. Mr. Guy Flouncey, indeed, did not seem quite so limber
and flexible as usual; and the young guardsman, who had previously
discoursed in an almost alarming style of the perils and feats of the
Kildare country, had subsided into a remarkable reserve. The Provincials
were delighted with Sidonia's riding, and even the Leicestershire
gentlemen admitted that he was a 'customer.'

Lord Monmouth beckoned to Coningsby to sit by him on the sofa, and spoke
of his approaching University life. He gave his grandson a great deal of
good advice: told him to avoid drinking, especially if he ever chanced
to play cards, which he hoped he never would; urged the expediency of
never borrowing money, and of confining his loans to small sums, and
then only to friends of whom he wished to get rid; most particularly
impressed on him never to permit his feelings to be engaged by any
woman; nobody, he assured Coningsby, despised that weakness more than
women themselves. Indeed, feeling of any kind did not suit the present
age: it was not _bon ton_; and in some degree always made a man
ridiculous. Coningsby was always to have before him the possible
catastrophe of becoming ridiculous. It was the test of conduct, Lord
Monmouth said; a fear of becoming ridiculous is the best guide in life,
and will save a man from all sorts of scrapes. For the rest, Coningsby
was to appear at Cambridge as became Lord Monmouth's favourite grandson.
His grandfather had opened an account for him with Drummonds', on whom
he was to draw for his considerable allowance; and if by any chance he
found himself in a scrape, no matter of what kind, he was to be sure to
write to his grandfather, who would certainly get him out of it.

'Your departure is sudden,' said the Princess Lucretia, in a low deep
tone to Sidonia, who was sitting by her side and screened from general
observation by the waltzers who whirled by.

'Departures should be sudden.'

'I do not like departures,' said the Princess.

'Nor did the Queen of Sheba when she quitted Solomon. You know what she
did?'

'Tell me.'

'She wept very much, and let one of the King's birds fly into the
garden. "You are freed from your cage," she said; "but I am going back
to mine."'

'But you never weep?' said the Princess.

'Never.'

'And are always free?'

'So are men in the Desert.'

'But your life is not a Desert?'

'It at least resembles the Desert in one respect: it is useless.'

'The only useless life is woman's.'

'Yet there have been heroines,' said Sidonia.

'The Queen of Sheba,' said the Princess, smiling.

'A favourite of mine,' said Sidonia.

'And why was she a favourite of yours?' rather eagerly inquired
Lucretia.

'Because she thought deeply, talked finely, and moved gracefully.'

'And yet might be a very unfeeling dame at the same time,' said the
Princess.

'I never thought of that,' said Sidonia.

'The heart, apparently, does not reckon in your philosophy.'

'What we call the heart,' said Sidonia, 'is a nervous sensation, like
shyness, which gradually disappears in society. It is fervent in the
nursery, strong in the domestic circle, tumultuous at school. The
affections are the children of ignorance; when the horizon of
our experience expands, and models multiply, love and admiration
imperceptibly vanish.'

'I fear the horizon of your experience has very greatly expanded. With
your opinions, what charm can there be in life?'

'The sense of existence.'

'So Sidonia is off to-morrow, Monmouth,' said Lord Eskdale.

'Hah!' said the Marquess. 'I must get him to breakfast with me before he
goes.'

The party broke up. Coningsby, who had heard Lord Eskdale announce
Sidonia's departure, lingered to express his regret, and say farewell.

'I cannot sleep,' said Sidonia, 'and I never smoke in Europe. If you are
not stiff with your wounds, come to my rooms.'

This invitation was willingly accepted.

'I am going to Cambridge in a week,' said Coningsby. I was almost in
hopes you might have remained as long.'

'I also; but my letters of this morning demand me. If it had not been
for our chase, I should have quitted immediately. The minister
cannot pay the interest on the national debt; not an unprecedented
circumstance, and has applied to us. I never permit any business of
State to be transacted without my personal interposition; and so I must
go up to town immediately.'

'Suppose you don't pay it,' said Coningsby, smiling.

'If I followed my own impulse, I would remain here,' said Sidonia. 'Can
anything be more absurd than that a nation should apply to an individual
to maintain its credit, and, with its credit, its existence as an
empire, and its comfort as a people; and that individual one to whom its
laws deny the proudest rights of citizenship, the privilege of sitting
in its senate and of holding land? for though I have been rash enough
to buy several estates, my own opinion is, that, by the existing law of
England, an Englishman of Hebrew faith cannot possess the soil.'

'But surely it would be easy to repeal a law so illiberal--'

'Oh! as for illiberality, I have no objection to it if it be an element
of power. Eschew political sentimentalism. What I contend is, that if
you permit men to accumulate property, and they use that permission to a
great extent, power is inseparable from that property, and it is in the
last degree impolitic to make it the interest of any powerful class to
oppose the institutions under which they live. The Jews, for example,
independently of the capital qualities for citizenship which they
possess in their industry, temperance, and energy and vivacity of mind,
are a race essentially monarchical, deeply religious, and shrinking
themselves from converts as from a calamity, are ever anxious to see
the religious systems of the countries in which they live flourish;
yet, since your society has become agitated in England, and powerful
combinations menace your institutions, you find the once loyal
Hebrew invariably arrayed in the same ranks as the leveller, and the
latitudinarian, and prepared to support the policy which may even
endanger his life and property, rather than tamely continue under a
system which seeks to degrade him. The Tories lose an important election
at a critical moment; 'tis the Jews come forward to vote against them.
The Church is alarmed at the scheme of a latitudinarian university, and
learns with relief that funds are not forthcoming for its establishment;
a Jew immediately advances and endows it. Yet the Jews, Coningsby,
are essentially Tories. Toryism, indeed, is but copied from the mighty
prototype which has fashioned Europe. And every generation they must
become more powerful and more dangerous to the society which is hostile
to them. Do you think that the quiet humdrum persecution of a decorous
representative of an English university can crush those who have
successively baffled the Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzar, Rome, and the Feudal
ages? The fact is, you cannot destroy a pure race of the Caucasian
organisation. It is a physiological fact; a simple law of nature, which
has baffled Egyptian and Assyrian Kings, Roman Emperors, and Christian
Inquisitors. No penal laws, no physical tortures, can effect that a
superior race should be absorbed in an inferior, or be destroyed by it.
The mixed persecuting races disappear; the pure persecuted race remains.
And at this moment, in spite of centuries, of tens of centuries, of
degradation, the Jewish mind exercises a vast influence on the affairs
of Europe. I speak not of their laws, which you still obey; of their
literature, with which your minds are saturated; but of the living
Hebrew intellect.

'You never observe a great intellectual movement in Europe in which
the Jews do not greatly participate. The first Jesuits were Jews; that
mysterious Russian Diplomacy which so alarms Western Europe is organised
and principally carried on by Jews; that mighty revolution which is at
this moment preparing in Germany, and which will be, in fact, a second
and greater Reformation, and of which so little is as yet known in
England, is entirely developing under the auspices of Jews, who almost
monopolise the professorial chairs of Germany. Neander, the founder of
Spiritual Christianity, and who is Regius Professor of Divinity in the
University of Berlin, is a Jew. Benary, equally famous, and in the same
University, is a Jew. Wehl, the Arabic Professor of Heidelberg, is a
Jew. Years ago, when I was In Palestine, I met a German student who was
accumulating materials for the History of Christianity, and studying
the genius of the place; a modest and learned man. It was Wehl; then
unknown, since become the first Arabic scholar of the day, and the
author of the life of Mahomet. But for the German professors of this
race, their name is Legion. I think there are more than ten at Berlin
alone.

'I told you just now that I was going up to town tomorrow, because I
always made it a rule to interpose when affairs of State were on
the carpet. Otherwise, I never interfere. I hear of peace and war in
newspapers, but I am never alarmed, except when I am informed that the
Sovereigns want treasure; then I know that monarchs are serious.

'A few years back we were applied, to by Russia. Now, there has been
no friendship between the Court of St. Petersburg and my family. It
has Dutch connections, which have generally supplied it; and our
representations in favour of the Polish Hebrews, a numerous race, but
the most suffering and degraded of all the tribes, have not been very
agreeable to the Czar. However, circumstances drew to an approximation
between the Romanoffs and the Sidonias. I resolved to go myself to St.
Petersburg. I had, on my arrival, an interview with the Russian Minister
of Finance, Count Cancrin; I beheld the son of a Lithuanian Jew. The
loan was connected with the affairs of Spain; I resolved on repairing to
Spain from Russia. I travelled without intermission. I had an audience
immediately on my arrival with the Spanish Minister, Senor Mendizabel; I
beheld one like myself, the son of a Nuevo Christiano, a Jew of Arragon.
In consequence of what transpired at Madrid, I went straight to Paris
to consult the President of the French Council; I beheld the son of a
French Jew, a hero, an imperial marshal, and very properly so, for who
should be military heroes if not those who worship the Lord of Hosts?'

'And is Soult a Hebrew?'

'Yes, and others of the French marshals, and the most famous; Massena,
for example; his real name was Manasseh: but to my anecdote. The
consequence of our consultations was, that some Northern power should
be applied to in a friendly and mediative capacity. We fixed on Prussia;
and the President of the Council made an application to the Prussian
Minister, who attended a few days after our conference. Count Arnim
entered the cabinet, and I beheld a Prussian Jew. So you see, my dear
Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages from
what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.'

'You startle, and deeply interest me.'

'You must study physiology, my dear child. Pure races of Caucasus may be
persecuted, but they cannot be despised, except by the brutal ignorance
of some mongrel breed, that brandishes fagots and howls extermination,
but is itself exterminated without persecution, by that irresistible law
of Nature which is fatal to curs.'

'But I come also from Caucasus,' said Coningsby.

'Verily; and thank your Creator for such a destiny: and your race is
sufficiently pure. You come from the shores of the Northern Sea, land
of the blue eye, and the golden hair, and the frank brow: 'tis a
famous breed, with whom we Arabs have contended long; from whom we have
suffered much: but these Goths, and Saxons, and Normans were doubtless
great men.'

'But so favoured by Nature, why has not your race produced great poets,
great orators, great writers?'

'Favoured by Nature and by Nature's God, we produced the lyre of David;
we gave you Isaiah and Ezekiel; they are our Olynthians, our Philippics.
Favoured by Nature we still remain: but in exact proportion as we have
been favoured by Nature we have been persecuted by Man. After a thousand
struggles; after acts of heroic courage that Rome has never equalled;
deeds of divine patriotism that Athens, and Sparta, and Carthage have
never excelled; we have endured fifteen hundred years of supernatural
slavery, during which, every device that can degrade or destroy man has
been the destiny that we have sustained and baffled. The Hebrew child
has entered adolescence only to learn that he was the Pariah of that
ungrateful Europe that owes to him the best part of its laws, a fine
portion of its literature, all its religion. Great poets require a
public; we have been content with the immortal melodies that we sung
more than two thousand years ago by the waters of Babylon and wept. They
record our triumphs; they solace our affliction. Great orators are the
creatures of popular assemblies; we were permitted only by stealth to
meet even in our temples. And as for great writers, the catalogue is not
blank. What are all the schoolmen, Aquinas himself, to Maimonides? And
as for modern philosophy, all springs from Spinoza.

'But the passionate and creative genius, that is the nearest link to
Divinity, and which no human tyranny can destroy, though it can divert
it; that should have stirred the hearts of nations by its inspired
sympathy, or governed senates by its burning eloquence; has found a
medium for its expression, to which, in spite of your prejudices and
your evil passions, you have been obliged to bow. The ear, the voice,
the fancy teeming with combinations, the imagination fervent with
picture and emotion, that came from Caucasus, and which we have
preserved unpolluted, have endowed us with almost the exclusive
privilege of Music; that science of harmonious sounds, which the
ancients recognised as most divine, and deified in the person of their
most beautiful creation. I speak not of the past; though, were I to
enter into the history of the lords of melody, you would find it the
annals of Hebrew genius. But at this moment even, musical Europe is
ours. There is not a company of singers, not an orchestra in a single
capital, that is not crowded with our children under the feigned names
which they adopt to conciliate the dark aversion which your posterity
will some day disclaim with shame and disgust. Almost every great
composer, skilled musician, almost every voice that ravishes you with
its transporting strains, springs from our tribes. The catalogue is too
vast to enumerate; too illustrious to dwell for a moment on secondary
names, however eminent. Enough for us that the three great creative
minds to whose exquisite inventions all nations at this moment yield,
Rossini, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, are of Hebrew race; and little do your
men of fashion, your muscadins of Paris, and your dandies of London, as
they thrill into raptures at the notes of a Pasta or a Grisi, little do
they suspect that they are offering their homage to "the sweet singers
of Israel!"'



CHAPTER XVI.


It was the noon of the day on which Sidonia was to leave the Castle. The
wind was high; the vast white clouds scudded over the blue heaven; the
leaves yet green, and tender branches snapped like glass, were whirled
in eddies from the trees; the grassy sward undulated like the ocean with
a thousand tints and shadows. From the window of the music-room Lucretia
Colonna gazed on the turbulent sky.

The heaven of her heart, too, was disturbed.

She turned from the agitated external world to ponder over her inward
emotion. She uttered a deep sigh.

Slowly she moved towards her harp; wildly, almost unconsciously, she
touched with one hand its strings, while her eyes were fixed on the
ground. An imperfect melody resounded; yet plaintive and passionate. It
seemed to attract her soul. She raised her head, and then, touching
the strings with both her hands, she poured forth tones of deep, yet
thrilling power.

  'I am a stranger in the halls of a stranger! Ah! whither shall I flee?
  To the castle of my fathers in the green mountains; to the palace of my
    fathers in the ancient city?
  There is no flag on the castle of my fathers in the green mountains,
    silent is the palace of my fathers in the ancient city.
  Is there no home for the homeless? Can the unloved never find love?
  Ah! thou fliest away, fleet cloud: he will leave us swifter than thee!
    Alas! cutting wind, thy breath is not so cold as his heart!
  I am a stranger in the halls of a stranger! Ah! whither shall I flee?'

The door of the music-room slowly opened. It was Sidonia. His hat was in
his hand; he was evidently on the point of departure.

'Those sounds assured me,' he said calmly but kindly, as he advanced,
'that I might find you here, on which I scarcely counted at so early an
hour.'

'You are going then?' said the Princess.

'My carriage is at the door; the Marquess has delayed me; I must be in
London to-night. I conclude more abruptly than I could have wished one
of the most agreeable visits I ever made; and I hope you will permit
me to express to you how much I am indebted to you for a society which
those should deem themselves fortunate who can more frequently enjoy.'

He held forth his hand; she extended hers, cold as marble, which he bent
over, but did not press to his lips.

'Lord Monmouth talks of remaining here some time,' he observed; 'but I
suppose next year, if not this, we shall all meet in some city of the
earth?'

Lucretia bowed; and Sidonia, with a graceful reverence, withdrew.

The Princess Lucretia stood for some moments motionless; a sound
attracted her to the window; she perceived the equipage of Sidonia
whirling along the winding roads of the park. She watched it till it
disappeared; then quitting the window, she threw herself into a chair,
and buried her face in her shawl.

END OF BOOK IV.



BOOK V.


CHAPTER I.


An University life did not bring to Coningsby that feeling of
emancipation usually experienced by freshmen. The contrast between
school and college life is perhaps, under any circumstances, less
striking to the Etonian than to others: he has been prepared for
becoming his own master by the liberty wisely entrusted to him in his
boyhood, and which is, in general, discreetly exercised. But there were
also other reasons why Coningsby should have been less impressed with
the novelty of his life, and have encountered less temptations than
commonly are met with in the new existence which an University opens to
youth. In the interval which had elapsed between quitting Eton and going
to Cambridge, brief as the period may comparatively appear, Coningsby
had seen much of the world. Three or four months, indeed, may not seem,
at the first blush, a course of time which can very materially influence
the formation of character; but time must not be counted by calendars,
but by sensations, by thought. Coningsby had felt a good deal, reflected
more. He had encountered a great number of human beings, offering a vast
variety of character for his observation. It was not merely manners, but
even the intellectual and moral development of the human mind, which
in a great degree, unconsciously to himself, had been submitted to his
study and his scrutiny. New trains of ideas had been opened to him; his
mind was teeming with suggestions. The horizon of his intelligence had
insensibly expanded. He perceived that there were other opinions in the
world, besides those to which he had been habituated. The depths of his
intellect had been stirred. He was a wiser man.

He distinguished three individuals whose acquaintance had greatly
influenced his mind; Eustace Lyle, the elder Millbank, above all,
Sidonia. He curiously meditated over the fact, that three English
subjects, one of them a principal landed proprietor, another one of the
most eminent manufacturers, and the third the greatest capitalist in the
kingdom, all of them men of great intelligence, and doubtless of a
high probity and conscience, were in their hearts disaffected with the
political constitution of the country. Yet, unquestionably, these were
the men among whom we ought to seek for some of our first citizens.
What, then, was this repulsive quality in those institutions which we
persisted in calling national, and which once were so? Here was a great
question.

There was another reason, also, why Coningsby should feel a little
fastidious among his new habits, and, without being aware of it, a
little depressed. For three or four months, and for the first time in
his life, he had passed his time in the continual society of refined and
charming women. It is an acquaintance which, when habitual, exercises a
great influence over the tone of the mind, even if it does not produce
any more violent effects. It refines the taste, quickens the perception,
and gives, as it were, a grace and flexibility to the intellect.
Coningsby in his solitary rooms arranging his books, sighed when he
recalled the Lady Everinghams and the Lady Theresas; the gracious
Duchess; the frank, good-natured Madame Colonna; that deeply interesting
enigma the Princess Lucretia; and the gentle Flora. He thought with
disgust of the impending dissipation of an University, which could only
be an exaggeration of their coarse frolics at school. It seemed rather
vapid this mighty Cambridge, over which they had so often talked in
the playing fields of Eton, with such anticipations of its vast and
absorbing interest. And those University honours that once were the
great object of his aspirations, they did not figure in that grandeur
with which they once haunted his imagination.

What Coningsby determined to conquer was knowledge. He had watched the
influence of Sidonia in society with an eye of unceasing vigilance.
Coningsby perceived that all yielded to him; that Lord Monmouth even,
who seemed to respect none, gave place to his intelligence; appealed
to him, listened to him, was guided by him. What was the secret of this
influence? Knowledge. On all subjects, his views were prompt and clear,
and this not more from his native sagacity and reach of view, than from
the aggregate of facts which rose to guide his judgment and illustrate
his meaning, from all countries and all ages, instantly at his command.

The friends of Coningsby were now hourly arriving. It seemed when he
met them again, that they had all suddenly become men since they had
separated; Buckhurst especially. He had been at Paris, and returned with
his mind very much opened, and trousers made quite in a new style. All
his thoughts were, how soon he could contrive to get back again; and
he told them endless stories of actresses, and dinners at fashionable
_cafés_. Vere enjoyed Cambridge most, because he had been staying
with his family since he quitted Eton. Henry Sydney was full of
church architecture, national sports, restoration of the order of the
Peasantry, and was to maintain a constant correspondence on these and
similar subjects with Eustace Lyle. Finally, however, they all fell into
a very fair, regular, routine life. They all read a little, but not
with the enthusiasm which they had once projected. Buckhurst drove
four-in-hand, and they all of them sometimes assisted him; but not
immoderately. Their suppers were sometimes gay, but never outrageous;
and, among all of them, the school friendship was maintained unbroken,
and even undisturbed.

The fame of Coningsby preceded him at Cambridge. No man ever went up
from whom more was expected in every way. The dons awaited a sucking
member for the University, the undergraduates were prepared to welcome
a new Alcibiades. He was neither: neither a prig nor a profligate; but
a quiet, gentlemanlike, yet spirited young man, gracious to all, but
intimate only with his old friends, and giving always an impression in
his general tone that his soul was not absorbed in his University.

And yet, perhaps, he might have been coddled into a prig, or flattered
into a profligate, had it not been for the intervening experience which
he had gained between his school and college life. That had visibly
impressed upon him, what before he had only faintly acquired from books,
that there was a greater and more real world awaiting him, than to be
found in those bowers of Academus to which youth is apt at first to
attribute an exaggerated importance. A world of action and passion,
of power and peril; a world for which a great preparation was indeed
necessary, severe and profound, but not altogether such an one as was
now offered to him. Yet this want must be supplied, and by himself.
Coningsby had already acquirements sufficiently considerable, with some
formal application, to ensure him at all times his degree. He was no
longer engrossed by the intention he once proudly entertained of trying
for honours, and he chalked out for himself that range of reading,
which, digested by his thought, should furnish him in some degree with
that various knowledge of the history of man to which he aspired. No, we
must not for a moment believe that accident could have long diverted
the course of a character so strong. The same desire that prevented the
Castle of his grandfather from proving a Castle of Indolence to
him, that saved him from a too early initiation into the seductive
distractions of a refined and luxurious society, would have preserved
Coningsby from the puerile profligacy of a college life, or from being
that idol of private tutors, a young pedant. It was that noble ambition,
the highest and the best, that must be born in the heart and organised
in the brain, which will not let a man be content, unless his
intellectual power is recognised by his race, and desires that it should
contribute to their welfare. It is the heroic feeling; the feeling that
in old days produced demigods; without which no State is safe; without
which political institutions are meat without salt; the Crown a
bauble, the Church an establishment, Parliaments debating-clubs, and
Civilisation itself but a fitful and transient dream.



CHAPTER II.


Less than a year after the arrival of Coningsby at Cambridge, and which
he had only once quitted in the interval, and that to pass a short
time in Berkshire with his friend Buckhurst, occurred the death of
King William IV. This event necessarily induced a dissolution of the
Parliament, elected under the auspices of Sir Robert Peel in 1834, and
after the publication of the Tamworth Manifesto.

The death of the King was a great blow to what had now come to be
generally styled the 'Conservative Cause.' It was quite unexpected;
within a fortnight of his death, eminent persons still believed that
'it was only the hay-fever.' Had his Majesty lived until after the then
impending registration, the Whigs would have been again dismissed. Nor
is there any doubt that, under these circumstances, the Conservative
Cause would have secured for the new ministers a parliamentary majority.
What would have been the consequences to the country, if the four years
of Whig rule, from 1837 to 1841, had not occurred? It is easier to
decide what would have been the consequences to the Whigs. Some of their
great friends might have lacked blue ribbons and lord-lieutenancies,
and some of their little friends comfortable places in the Customs and
Excise. They would have lost, undoubtedly, the distribution of four
years' patronage; we can hardly say the exercise of four years' power;
but they would have existed at this moment as the most powerful and
popular Opposition that ever flourished in this country, if, indeed, the
course of events had not long ere this carried them back to their old
posts in a proud and intelligible position. The Reform Bill did not
do more injury to the Tories, than the attempt to govern this country
without a decided Parliamentary majority did the Whigs. The greatest of
all evils is a weak government. They cannot carry good measures, they
are forced to carry bad ones.

The death of the King was a great blow to the Conservative Cause; that
is to say, it darkened the brow of Tadpole, quailed the heart of Taper,
crushed all the rising hopes of those numerous statesmen who believe
the country must be saved if they receive twelve hundred a-year. It is a
peculiar class, that; 1,200_l._ per annum, paid quarterly, is their idea
of political science and human nature. To receive 1,200_l._ per annum is
government; to try to receive 1,200_l._ per annum is opposition; to wish
to receive 1,200_l._ per annum is ambition. If a man wants to get into
Parliament, and does not want to get 1,200_l._ per annum, they look upon
him as daft; as a benighted being. They stare in each other's face,
and ask, 'What can ***** want to get into Parliament for?' They have no
conception that public reputation is a motive power, and with many men
the greatest. They have as much idea of fame or celebrity, even of the
masculine impulse of an honourable pride, as eunuchs of manly joys.

The twelve-hundred-a-yearers were in despair about the King's death.
Their loyal souls were sorely grieved that his gracious Majesty had not
outlived the Registration. All their happy inventions about 'hay-fever,'
circulated in confidence, and sent by post to chairmen of Conservative
Associations, followed by a royal funeral! General election about to
take place with the old registration; government boroughs against them,
and the young Queen for a cry. What a cry! Youth, beauty, and a Queen!
Taper grew pale at the thought. What could they possibly get up to
countervail it? Even Church and Corn-laws together would not do; and
then Church was sulky, for the Conservative Cause had just made it a
present of a commission, and all that the country gentlemen knew of
Conservatism was, that it would not repeal the Malt Tax, and had made
them repeal their pledges. Yet a cry must be found. A dissolution
without a cry, in the Taper philosophy, would be a world without a sun.
A rise might be got by 'Independence of the House of Lords;' and Lord
Lyndhurst's summaries might be well circulated at one penny per hundred,
large discount allowed to Conservative Associations, and endless credit.
Tadpole, however, was never very fond of the House of Lords; besides, it
was too limited. Tadpole wanted the young Queen brought in; the rogue!
At length, one morning, Taper came up to him with a slip of paper, and a
smile of complacent austerity on his dull visage, 'I think, Mr. Tadpole,
that will do!'

Tadpole took the paper and read, 'OUR YOUNG QUEEN, AND OUR OLD
INSTITUTIONS.'

The eyes of Tadpole sparkled as if they had met a gnomic sentence of
Periander or Thales; then turning to Taper, he said,

'What do you think of "ancient," instead of "old"?'

'You cannot have "Our modern Queen and our ancient Institutions,"' said
Mr. Taper.

The dissolution was soon followed by an election for the borough of
Cambridge. The Conservative Cause candidate was an old Etonian. That was
a bond of sympathy which imparted zeal even to those who were a little
sceptical of the essential virtues of Conservatism. Every undergraduate
especially who remembered 'the distant spires,' became enthusiastic.
Buckhurst took a very decided part. He cheered, he canvassed, he brought
men to the poll whom none could move; he influenced his friends and
his companions. Even Coningsby caught the contagion, and Vere, who had
imbibed much of Coningsby's political sentiment, prevailed on himself to
be neutral. The Conservative Cause triumphed in the person of its Eton
champion. The day the member was chaired, several men in Coningsby's
rooms were talking over their triumph.

'By Jove!' said the panting Buckhurst, throwing himself on the sofa, 'it
was well done; never was any thing better done. An immense triumph! The
greatest triumph the Conservative Cause has had. And yet,' he added,
laughing, 'if any fellow were to ask me what the Conservative Cause is,
I am sure I should not know what to say.'

'Why, it is the cause of our glorious institutions,' said Coningsby. 'A
Crown robbed of its prerogatives; a Church controlled by a commission;
and an Aristocracy that does not lead.'

'Under whose genial influence the order of the Peasantry, "a country's
pride," has vanished from the face of the land,' said Henry Sydney, 'and
is succeeded by a race of serfs, who are called labourers, and who burn
ricks.'

'Under which,' continued Coningsby, 'the Crown has become a cipher; the
Church a sect; the Nobility drones; and the People drudges.'

'It is the great constitutional cause,' said Lord Vere, 'that refuses
everything to opposition; yields everything to agitation; conservative
in Parliament, destructive out-of-doors; that has no objection to any
change provided only it be effected by unauthorised means.'

'The first public association of men,' said Coningsby, 'who have worked
for an avowed end without enunciating a single principle.'

'And who have established political infidelity throughout the land,'
said Lord Henry.

'By Jove!' said Buckhurst, 'what infernal fools we have made ourselves
this last week!'

'Nay,' said Coningsby, smiling, 'it was our last schoolboy weakness.
Floreat Etona, under all circumstances.'

'I certainly, Coningsby,' said Lord Vere, 'shall not assume the
Conservative Cause, instead of the cause for which Hampden died in the
field, and Sydney on the scaffold.'

'The cause for which Hampden died in the field and Sydney on the
scaffold,' said Coningsby, 'was the cause of the Venetian Republic.'

'How, how?' cried Buckhurst.

'I repeat it,' said Coningsby. 'The great object of the Whig leaders
in England from the first movement under Hampden to the last most
successful one in 1688, was to establish in England a high aristocratic
republic on the model of the Venetian, then the study and admiration of
all speculative politicians. Read Harrington; turn over Algernon
Sydney; then you will see how the minds of the English leaders in the
seventeenth century were saturated with the Venetian type. And they at
length succeeded. William III. found them out. He told the Whig leaders,
"I will not be a Doge." He balanced parties; he baffled them as the
Puritans baffled them fifty years before. The reign of Anne was a
struggle between the Venetian and the English systems. Two great Whig
nobles, Argyle and Somerset, worthy of seats in the Council of Ten,
forced their Sovereign on her deathbed to change the ministry. They
accomplished their object. They brought in a new family on their own
terms. George I. was a Doge; George II. was a Doge; they were what
William III., a great man, would not be. George III. tried not to be
a Doge, but it was impossible materially to resist the deeply-laid
combination. He might get rid of the Whig magnificoes, but he could not
rid himself of the Venetian constitution. And a Venetian constitution
did govern England from the accession of the House of Hanover until
1832. Now I do not ask you, Vere, to relinquish the political tenets
which in ordinary times would have been your inheritance. All I say is,
the constitution introduced by your ancestors having been subverted by
their descendants your contemporaries, beware of still holding Venetian
principles of government when you have not a Venetian constitution to
govern with. Do what I am doing, what Henry Sydney and Buckhurst are
doing, what other men that I could mention are doing, hold yourself
aloof from political parties which, from the necessity of things, have
ceased to have distinctive principles, and are therefore practically
only factions; and wait and see, whether with patience, energy, honour,
and Christian faith, and a desire to look to the national welfare and
not to sectional and limited interests; whether, I say, we may not
discover some great principles to guide us, to which we may adhere, and
which then, if true, will ultimately guide and control others.'

'The Whigs are worn out,' said Vere, 'Conservatism is a sham, and
Radicalism is pollution.'

'I certainly,' said Buckhurst, 'when I get into the House of Commons,
shall speak my mind without reference to any party whatever; and all
I hope is, we may all come in at the same time, and then we may make a
party of our own.'

'I have always heard my father say,' said Vere, 'that there was nothing
so difficult as to organise an independent party in the House of
Commons.'

'Ay! but that was in the Venetian period, Vere,' said Henry Sydney,
smiling.

'I dare say,' said Buckhurst, 'the only way to make a party in the
House of Commons is just the one that succeeds anywhere else. Men must
associate together. When you are living in the same set, dining together
every day, and quizzing the Dons, it is astonishing how well men
agree. As for me, I never would enter into a conspiracy, unless the
conspirators were fellows who had been at Eton with me; and then there
would be no treachery.'

'Let us think of principles, and not of parties,' said Coningsby.

'For my part,' said Buckhurst, 'whenever a political system is breaking
up, as in this country at present, I think the very best thing is to
brush all the old Dons off the stage. They never take to the new road
kindly. They are always hampered by their exploded prejudices and
obsolete traditions. I don't think a single man, Vere, that sat in the
Venetian Senate ought to be allowed to sit in the present English House
of Commons.'

'Well, no one does in our family except my uncle Philip,' said Lord
Henry; 'and the moment I want it, he will resign; for he detests
Parliament. It interferes so with his hunting.'

'Well, we all have fair parliamentary prospects,' said Buckhurst. 'That
is something. I wish we were in now.'

'Heaven forbid!' said Coningsby. 'I tremble at the responsibility of a
seat at any time. With my present unsettled and perplexed views, there
is nothing from which I should recoil so much as the House of Commons.'

'I quite agree with you,' said Henry Sydney. 'The best thing we can do
is to keep as clear of political party as we possibly can. How many
men waste the best part of their lives in painfully apologising for
conscientious deviation from a parliamentary course which they adopted
when they were boys, without thought, or prompted by some local
connection, or interest, to secure a seat.'

It was the midnight following the morning when this conversation
took place, that Coningsby, alone, and having just quitted a rather
boisterous party of wassailers who had been celebrating at Buckhurst's
rooms the triumph of 'Eton Statesmen,' if not of Conservative
principles, stopped in the precincts of that Royal College that reminded
him of his schooldays, to cool his brow in the summer air, that even
at that hour was soft, and to calm his mind in the contemplation of the
still, the sacred, and the beauteous scene that surrounded him.

There rose that fane, the pride and boast of Cambridge, not unworthy
to rank among the chief temples of Christendom. Its vast form was
exaggerated in the uncertain hour; part shrouded in the deepest
darkness, while a flood of silver light suffused its southern side,
distinguished with revealing beam the huge ribs of its buttresses, and
bathed with mild lustre its airy pinnacles.

'Where is the spirit that raised these walls?' thought Coningsby. 'Is it
indeed extinct? Is then this civilisation, so much vaunted, inseparable
from moderate feelings and little thoughts? If so, give me back
barbarism! But I cannot believe it. Man that is made in the image of the
Creator, is made for God-like deeds. Come what come may, I will cling to
the heroic principle. It can alone satisfy my soul.'



CHAPTER III.


We must now revert to the family, or rather the household, of Lord
Monmouth, in which considerable changes and events had occurred since
the visit of Coningsby to the Castle in the preceding autumn.

In the first place, the earliest frost of the winter had carried off
the aged proprietor of Hellingsley, that contiguous estate which Lord
Monmouth so much coveted, the possession of which was indeed one of the
few objects of his life, and to secure which he was prepared to pay
far beyond its intrinsic value, great as that undoubtedly was. Yet Lord
Monmouth did not become its possessor. Long as his mind had been intent
upon the subject, skilful as had been his combinations to secure his
prey, and unlimited the means which were to achieve his purpose, another
stepped in, and without his privity, without even the consolation of a
struggle, stole away the prize; and this too a man whom he hated, almost
the only individual out of his own family that he did hate; a man who
had crossed him before in similar enterprises; who was his avowed foe;
had lavished treasure to oppose him in elections; raised associations
against his interest; established journals to assail him; denounced him
in public; agitated against him in private; had declared more than
once that he would make 'the county too hot for him;' his personal,
inveterate, indomitable foe, Mr. Millbank of Millbank.

The loss of Hellingsley was a bitter disappointment to Lord Monmouth;
but the loss of it to such an adversary touched him to the quick. He did
not seek to control his anger; he could not succeed even in concealing
his agitation. He threw upon Rigby that glance so rare with him, but
under which men always quailed; that play of the eye which Lord Monmouth
shared in common with Henry VIII., that struck awe into the trembling
Commons when they had given an obnoxious vote, as the King entered the
gallery of his palace, and looked around him.

It was a look which implied that dreadful question, 'Why have I bought
you that such things should happen? Why have I unlimited means and
unscrupulous agents?' It made Rigby even feel; even his brazen tones
were hushed.

To fly from everything disagreeable was the practical philosophy of Lord
Monmouth; but he was as brave as he was sensual. He would not shrink
before the new proprietor of Hellingsley. He therefore remained at
the Castle with an aching heart, and redoubled his hospitalities. An
ordinary mind might have been soothed by the unceasing consideration and
the skilful and delicate flattery that ever surrounded Lord Monmouth;
but his sagacious intelligence was never for a moment the dupe of his
vanity. He had no self-love, and as he valued no one, there were really
no feelings to play upon. He saw through everybody and everything; and
when he had detected their purpose, discovered their weakness or their
vileness, he calculated whether they could contribute to his pleasure
or his convenience in a degree that counterbalanced the objections which
might be urged against their intentions, or their less pleasing and
profitable qualities. To be pleased was always a principal object with
Lord Monmouth; but when a man wants vengeance, gay amusement is not
exactly a satisfactory substitute.

A month elapsed. Lord Monmouth with a serene or smiling visage to his
guests, but in private taciturn and morose, scarcely ever gave a word
to Mr. Rigby, but continually bestowed on him glances which painfully
affected the appetite of that gentleman. In a hundred ways it was
intimated to Mr. Rigby that he was not a welcome guest, and yet
something was continually given him to do which rendered it impossible
for him to take his departure. In this state of affairs, another event
occurred which changed the current of feeling, and by its possible
consequences distracted the Marquess from his brooding meditations over
his discomfiture in the matter of Hellingsley. The Prince Colonna, who,
since the steeple-chase, had imbibed a morbid predilection for such
amusements, and indeed for every species of rough-riding, was thrown
from his horse and killed on the spot.

This calamity broke up the party at Coningsby, which was not at the
moment very numerous. Mr. Rigby, by command, instantly seized the
opportunity of preventing the arrival of other guests who were expected.
This catastrophe was the cause of Mr. Rigby resuming in a great measure
his old position in the Castle. There were a great many things to
be done, and all disagreeable; he achieved them all, and studied
everybody's convenience. Coroners' inquests, funerals especially,
weeping women, these were all spectacles which Lord Monmouth could not
endure, but he was so high-bred, that he would not for the world
that there should be in manner or degree the slightest deficiency in
propriety or even sympathy. But he wanted somebody to do everything that
was proper; to be considerate and consoling and sympathetic. Mr. Rigby
did it all; gave evidence at the inquest, was chief mourner at the
funeral, and arranged everything so well that not a single emblem of
death crossed the sight of Lord Monmouth; while Madame Colonna found
submission in his exhortations, and the Princess Lucretia, a little more
pale and pensive than usual, listened with tranquillity to his discourse
on the vanity of all sublunary things.

When the tumult had subsided, and habits and feelings had fallen into
their old routine and relapsed into their ancient channels, the
Marquess proposed that they should all return to London, and with great
formality, though with warmth, begged that Madame Colonna would ever
consider his roof as her own. All were glad to quit the Castle, which
now presented a scene so different from its former animation, and Madame
Colonna, weeping, accepted the hospitality of her friend, until the
impending expansion of the spring would permit her to return to Italy.
This notice of her return to her own country seemed to occasion the
Marquess great disquietude.

After they had remained about a month in London, Madame Colonna sent
for Mr. Rigby one morning to tell him how very painful it was to her
feelings to remain under the roof of Monmouth House without the sanction
of a husband; that the circumstance of being a foreigner, under such
unusual affliction, might have excused, though not authorised, the step
at first, and for a moment; but that the continuance of such a course
was quite out of the question; that she owed it to herself, to her
step-child, no longer to trespass on this friendly hospitality, which,
if persisted in, might be liable to misconstruction. Mr. Rigby
listened with great attention to this statement, and never in the least
interrupted Madame Colonna; and then offered to do that which he was
convinced the lady desired, namely, to make the Marquess acquainted with
the painful state of her feelings. This he did according to his fashion,
and with sufficient dexterity. Mr. Rigby himself was anxious to
know which way the wind blew, and the mission with which he had been
entrusted, fell in precisely with his inclinations and necessities. The
Marquess listened to the communication and sighed, then turned gently
round and surveyed himself in the mirror and sighed again, then said to
Rigby,

'You understand exactly what I mean, Rigby. It is quite ridiculous their
going, and infinitely distressing to me. They must stay.'

Rigby repaired to the Princess full of mysterious bustle, and with a
face beaming with importance and satisfaction. He made much of the
two sighs; fully justified the confidence of the Marquess in his
comprehension of unexplained intentions; prevailed on Madame Colonna to
have some regard for the feelings of one so devoted; expatiated on the
insignificance of worldly misconstructions, when replied to by such
honourable intentions; and fully succeeded in his mission. They did
stay. Month after month rolled on, and still they stayed; every
month all the family becoming more resigned or more content, and more
cheerful. As for the Marquess himself, Mr. Rigby never remembered him
more serene and even joyous. His Lordship scarcely ever entered general
society. The Colonna family remained in strict seclusion; and he
preferred the company of these accomplished and congenial friends to the
mob of the great world.

Between Madame Colonna and Mr. Rigby there had always subsisted
considerable confidence. Now, that gentleman seemed to have achieved
fresh and greater claims to her regard. In the pleasure with which he
looked forward to her approaching alliance with his patron, he reminded
her of the readiness with which he had embraced her suggestions for the
marriage of her daughter with Coningsby. Always obliging, she was never
wearied of chanting his praises to her noble admirer, who was apparently
much gratified she should have bestowed her esteem on one of whom she
would necessarily in after-life see so much. It is seldom the lot of
husbands that their confidential friends gain the regards of their
brides.

'I am glad you all like Rigby,' said Lord Monmouth, 'as you will see so
much of him.'

The remembrance of the Hellingsley failure seemed to be erased from the
memory of the Marquess. Rigby never recollected him more cordial and
confidential, and more equable in his manner. He told Rigby one day,
that he wished that Monmouth House should possess the most sumptuous
and the most fanciful boudoir in London or Paris. What a hint for Rigby!
That gentleman consulted the first artists, and gave them some hints in
return; his researches on domestic decoration ranged through all
ages; he even meditated a rapid tour to mature his inventions; but his
confidence in his native taste and genius ultimately convinced him that
this movement was unnecessary.

The summer advanced; the death of the King occurred; the dissolution
summoned Rigby to Coningsby and the borough of Darlford. His success was
marked certain in the secret books of Tadpole and Taper. A manufacturing
town, enfranchised under the Reform Act, already gained by the
Conservative cause! Here was reaction; here influence of property!
Influence of character, too; for no one was so popular as Lord Monmouth;
a most distinguished nobleman of strict Conservative principles, who,
if he carried the county and the manufacturing borough also, merited the
strawberry-leaf.

'There will be no holding Rigby,' said Taper; 'I'm afraid he will be
looking for something very high.'

'The higher the better,' rejoined Tadpole, 'and then he will not
interfere with us. I like your high-flyers; it is your plodders I
detest, wearing old hats and high-lows, speaking in committee, and
thinking they are men of business: d----n them!'

Rigby went down, and made some impressive speeches; at least they read
very well in some of his second-rate journals, where all the uproar
figured as loud cheering, and the interruption of a cabbage-stalk was
represented as a question from some intelligent individual in the crowd.
The fact is, Rigby bored his audience too much with history, especially
with the French Revolution, which he fancied was his 'forte,' so that
the people at last, whenever he made any allusion to the subject, were
almost as much terrified as if they had seen the guillotine.

Rigby had as yet one great advantage; he had no opponent; and without
personal opposition, no contest can be very bitter. It was for some days
Rigby _versus_ Liberal principles; and Rigby had much the best of it;
for he abused Liberal principles roundly in his harangues, who, not
being represented on the occasion, made no reply; while plenty of ale,
and some capital songs by Lucian Gay, who went down express, gave the
right cue to the mob, who declared in chorus, beneath the windows of
Rigby's hotel, that he was 'a fine old English gentleman!'

But there was to be a contest; no question about that, and a sharp
one, although Rigby was to win, and well. The Liberal party had been so
fastidious about their new candidate, that they had none ready though
several biting. Jawster Sharp thought at one time that sheer necessity
would give him another chance still; but even Rigby was preferable to
Jawster Sharp, who, finding it would not do, published his long-prepared
valedictory address, in which he told his constituents, that having long
sacrificed his health to their interests, he was now obliged to retire
into the bosom of his family. And a very well-provided-for family, too.

All this time the Liberal deputation from Darlford, two aldermen, three
town-councillors, and the Secretary of the Reform Association, were
walking about London like mad things, eating luncheons and looking for
a candidate. They called at the Reform Club twenty times in the morning,
badgered whips and red-tapers; were introduced to candidates, badgered
candidates; examined would-be members as if they were at a cattle-show,
listened to political pedigrees, dictated political pledges, referred
to Hansard to see how men had voted, inquired whether men had spoken,
finally discussed terms. But they never could hit the right man. If
the principles were right, there was no money; and if money were ready,
money would not take pledges. In fact, they wanted a Phoenix: a very
rich man, who would do exactly as they liked, with extremely low
opinions and with very high connections.

'If he would go for the ballot and had a handle to his name, it would
have the best effect,' said the secretary of the Reform Association,
'because you see we are fighting against a Right Honourable, and you
have no idea how that takes with the mob.'

The deputation had been three days in town, and urged by despatches
by every train to bring affairs to a conclusion; jaded, perplexed,
confused, they were ready to fall into the hands of the first jobber
or bold adventurer. They discussed over their dinner at a Strand
coffee-house the claims of the various candidates who had presented
themselves. Mr. Donald Macpherson Macfarlane, who would only pay the
legal expenses; he was soon despatched. Mr. Gingerly Browne, of Jermyn
Street, the younger son of a baronet, who would go as far as 1000_l._
provided the seat was secured. Mr. Juggins, a distiller, 2000_l._ man;
but would not agree to any annual subscriptions. Sir Baptist Placid,
vague about expenditure, but repeatedly declaring that 'there could
be no difficulty on that head.' He however had a moral objection to
subscribing to the races, and that was a great point at Darlford. Sir
Baptist would subscribe a guinea per annum to the infirmary, and the
same to all religious societies without any distinction of sects; but
races, it was not the sum, 100_l._ per annum, but the principle. He had
a moral objection.

In short, the deputation began to suspect, what was the truth, that they
were a day after the fair, and that all the electioneering rips that
swarm in the purlieus of political clubs during an impending dissolution
of Parliament, men who become political characters in their small circle
because they have been talked of as once having an intention to stand
for places for which they never offered themselves, or for having stood
for places where they never could by any circumstance have succeeded,
were in fact nibbling at their dainty morsel.

At this moment of despair, a ray of hope was imparted to them by a
confidential note from a secretary of the Treasury, who wished to
see them at the Reform Club on the morrow. You may be sure they were
punctual to their appointment. The secretary received them with great
consideration. He had got them a candidate, and one of high mark, the
son of a Peer, and connected with the highest Whig houses. Their eyes
sparkled. A real honourable. If they liked he would introduce them
immediately to the Honourable Alberic de Crecy. He had only to introduce
them, as there was no difficulty either as to means or opinions,
expenses or pledges.

The secretary returned with a young gentleman, whose diminutive stature
would seem, from his smooth and singularly puerile countenance, to be
merely the consequence of his very tender years; but Mr. De Crecy was
really of age, or at least would be by nomination-day. He did not say
a word, but looked like the rosebud which dangled in the button-hole of
his frock-coat. The aldermen and town-councillors were what is
sometimes emphatically styled flabbergasted; they were speechless from
bewilderment. 'Mr. De Crecy will go for the ballot,' said the secretary
of the Treasury, with an audacious eye and a demure look, 'and for Total
and Immediate, if you press him hard; but don't, if you can help it,
because he has an uncle, an old county member, who has prejudices, and
might disinherit him. However, we answer for him. And I am very happy
that I have been the means of bringing about an arrangement which,
I feel, will be mutually advantageous.' And so saying, the secretary
effected his escape.

Circumstances, however, retarded for a season the political career of
the Honourable Alberic de Crecy. While the Liberal party at Darlford
were suffering under the daily inflictions of Mr. Rigby's slashing
style, and the post brought them very unsatisfactory prospects of a
champion, one offered himself, and in an address which intimated that he
was no man of straw, likely to recede from any contest in which he
chose to embark. The town was suddenly placarded with a letter to
the Independent Electors from Mr. Millbank, the new proprietor of
Hellingsley.

He expressed himself as one not anxious to obtrude himself on their
attention, and founding no claim to their confidence on his recent
acquisition; but at the same time as one resolved that the free and
enlightened community, with which he must necessarily hereafter be much
connected, should not become the nomination borough of any Peer of the
realm without a struggle, if they chose to make one. And so he offered
himself if they could not find a better candidate, without waiting for
the ceremony of a requisition. He was exactly the man they wanted; and
though he had 'no handle to his name,' and was somewhat impracticable
about pledges, his fortune was so great, and his character so high, that
it might be hoped that the people would be almost as content as if
they were appealed to by some obscure scion of factitious nobility,
subscribing to political engagements which he could not comprehend,
and which, in general, are vomited with as much facility as they are
swallowed.



CHAPTER IV.


The people of Darlford, who, as long as the contest for their
representation remained between Mr. Rigby and the abstraction called
Liberal Principles, appeared to be very indifferent about the result,
the moment they learned that for the phrase had been substituted a
substance, and that, too, in the form of a gentleman who was soon
to figure as their resident neighbour, became excited, speedily
enthusiastic. All the bells of all the churches rang when Mr. Millbank
commenced his canvass; the Conservatives, on the alert, if not alarmed,
insisted on their champion also showing himself in all directions; and
in the course of four-and-twenty hours, such is the contagion of popular
feeling, the town was divided into two parties, the vast majority of
which were firmly convinced that the country could only be saved by the
return of Mr. Rigby, or preserved from inevitable destruction by the
election of Mr. Millbank.

The results of the two canvasses were such as had been anticipated from
the previous reports of the respective agents and supporters. In these
days the personal canvass of a candidate is a mere form. The whole
country that is to be invaded has been surveyed and mapped out before
entry; every position reconnoitred; the chain of communications
complete. In the present case, as was not unusual, both candidates were
really supported by numerous and reputable adherents; and both had good
grounds for believing that they would be ultimately successful. But
there was a body of the electors sufficiently numerous to turn the
election, who would not promise their votes: conscientious men who felt
the responsibility of the duty that the constitution had entrusted to
their discharge, and who would not make up their minds without duly
weighing the respective merits of the two rivals. This class of deeply
meditative individuals are distinguished not only by their pensive turn
of mind, but by a charitable vein that seems to pervade their being. Not
only will they think of your request, but for their parts they wish both
sides equally well. Decision, indeed, as it must dash the hopes of one
of their solicitors, seems infinitely painful to them; they have always
a good reason for postponing it. If you seek their suffrage during the
canvass, they reply, that the writ not having come down, the day of
election is not yet fixed. If you call again to inform them that the
writ has arrived, they rejoin, that perhaps after all there may not be a
contest. If you call a third time, half dead with fatigue, to give them
friendly notice that both you and your rival have pledged yourselves to
go to the poll, they twitch their trousers, rub their hands, and with a
dull grin observe,

'Well, sir, we shall see.'

'Come, Mr. Jobson,' says one of the committee, with an insinuating
smile, 'give Mr. Millbank one.'

'Jobson, I think you and I know each other,' says a most influential
supporter, with a knowing nod.

'Yes, Mr. Smith, I should think we did.'

'Come, come, give us one.'

'Well, I have not made up my mind yet, gentlemen.'

'Jobson!' says a solemn voice, 'didn't you tell me the other night you
wished well to this gentleman?'

'So I do; I wish well to everybody,' replies the imperturbable Jobson.

'Well, Jobson,' exclaims another member of the committee, with a sigh,
'who could have supposed that you would have been an enemy?'

'I don't wish to be no enemy to no man, Mr. Trip.'

'Come, Jobson,' says a jolly tanner, 'if I wanted to be a Parliament
man, I don't think you could refuse me one!'

'I don't think I could, Mr. Oakfield.'

'Well, then, give it to my friend.'

'Well, sir, I'll think about it.'

'Leave him to me,' says another member of the committee, with a
significant look. 'I know how to get round him. It's all right.'

'Yes, leave him to Hayfield, Mr. Millbank; he knows how to manage him.'

But all the same, Jobson continues to look as little tractable and
lamb-like as can be well fancied.

And here, in a work which, in an unpretending shape, aspires to take
neither an uninformed nor a partial view of the political history of the
ten eventful years of the Reform struggle, we should pause for a
moment to observe the strangeness, that only five years after the
reconstruction of the electoral body by the Whig party, in a borough
called into political existence by their policy, a manufacturing
town, too, the candidate comprising in his person every quality and
circumstance which could recommend him to the constituency, and
his opponent the worst specimen of the Old Generation, a political
adventurer, who owed the least disreputable part of his notoriety to
his opposition to the Reform Bill; that in such a borough, under such
circumstances, there should be a contest, and that, too, one of a very
doubtful issue.

What was the cause of this? Are we to seek it in the 'Reaction' of the
Tadpoles and the Tapers? That would not be a satisfactory solution.
Reaction, to a certain extent, is the law of human existence. In the
particular state of affairs before us, England after the Reform Act, it
never could be doubtful that Time would gradually, and in some instances
rapidly, counteract the national impulse of 1832. There never could
have been a question, for example, that the English counties would
have reverted to their natural allegiance to their proprietors; but the
results of the appeals to the third Estate in 1835 and 1837 are not to
be accounted for by a mere readjustment of legitimate influences.

The truth is, that, considerable as are the abilities of the Whig
leaders, highly accomplished as many of them unquestionably must be
acknowledged in parliamentary debate, experienced in council, sedulous
in office, eminent as scholars, powerful from their position, the
absence of individual influence, and of the pervading authority of a
commanding mind, have been the cause of the fall of the Whig party.

Such a supremacy was generally acknowledged in Lord Grey on the
accession of this party to power: but it was the supremacy of a
tradition rather than of a fact. Almost at the outset of his authority
his successor was indicated. When the crisis arrived, the intended
successor was not in the Whig ranks. It is in this virtual absence of
a real and recognised leader, almost from the moment that they passed
their great measure, that we must seek a chief cause of all that
insubordination, all those distempered ambitions, and all those dark
intrigues, that finally broke up, not only the Whig government, but the
Whig party; demoralised their ranks, and sent them to the country, both
in 1835 and 1837, with every illusion, which had operated so happily in
their favour in 1832, scattered to the winds. In all things we trace the
irresistible influence of the individual.

And yet the interval that elapsed between 1835 and 1837 proved, that
there was all this time in the Whig array one entirely competent to the
office of leading a great party, though his capacity for that fulfilment
was too tardily recognised.

LORD JOHN RUSSELL has that degree of imagination, which, though evinced
rather in sentiment than expression, still enables him to generalise
from the details of his reading and experience; and to take those
comprehensive views, which, however easily depreciated by ordinary
men in an age of routine, are indispensable to a statesman in the
conjunctures in which we live. He understands, therefore, his position;
and he has the moral intrepidity which prompts him ever to dare that
which his intellect assures him is politic. He is consequently, at the
same time, sagacious and bold in council. As an administrator he is
prompt and indefatigable. He is not a natural orator, and labours under
physical deficiencies which even a Demosthenic impulse could scarcely
overcome. But he is experienced in debate, quick in reply, fertile in
resource, takes large views, and frequently compensates for a dry and
hesitating manner by the expression of those noble truths that flash
across the fancy, and rise spontaneously to the lip, of men of poetic
temperament when addressing popular assemblies. If we add to this, a
private life of dignified repute, the accidents of his birth and rank,
which never can be severed from the man, the scion of a great historic
family, and born, as it were, to the hereditary service of the State, it
is difficult to ascertain at what period, or under what circumstances,
the Whig party have ever possessed, or could obtain, a more efficient
leader.

But we must return to the Darlford election. The class of thoughtful
voters was sufficiently numerous in that borough to render the result
of the contest doubtful to the last; and on the eve of the day of
nomination both parties were equally sanguine.

Nomination-day altogether is an unsatisfactory affair. There is little
to be done, and that little mere form. The tedious hours remain, and no
one can settle his mind to anything. It is not a holiday, for every one
is serious; it is not business, for no one can attend to it; it is not
a contest, for there is no canvassing; nor an election, for there is no
poll. It is a day of lounging without an object, and luncheons without
an appetite; of hopes and fears; confidence and dejection; bravado bets
and secret hedging; and, about midnight, of furious suppers of grilled
bones, brandy-and-water, and recklessness.

The president and vice-president of the Conservative Association, the
secretary and the four solicitors who were agents, had impressed upon
Mr. Rigby that it was of the utmost importance, and must produce a
great moral effect, if he obtain the show of hands. With his powers of
eloquence and their secret organisation, they flattered themselves it
might be done. With this view, Rigby inflicted a speech of more than
two hours' duration on the electors, who bore it very kindly, as the mob
likes, above all things, that the ceremonies of nomination-day should
not be cut short: moreover, there is nothing that the mob likes so much
as a speech. Rigby therefore had, on the whole, a far from unfavourable
audience, and he availed himself of their forbearance. He brought in
his crack theme, the guillotine, and dilated so elaborately upon its
qualities, that one of the gentlemen below could not refrain from
exclaiming, 'I wish you may get it.' This exclamation gave Mr. Rigby
what is called a great opening, which, like a practised speaker, he
immediately seized. He denounced the sentiment as 'un-English,' and got
much cheered. Excited by this success, Rigby began to call everything
else 'un-English' with which he did not agree, until menacing murmurs
began to rise, when he shifted the subject, and rose into a grand
peroration, in which he assured them that the eyes of the whole empire
were on this particular election; cries of 'That's true,' from all
sides; and that England expected every man to do his duty.

'And who do you expect to do yours?' inquired a gentleman below,' about
that 'ere pension?'

'Rigby,' screeched a hoarse voice, 'don't you mind; you guv it them
well.'

'Rigby, keep up your spirits, old chap: we will have you.'

'Now!' said a stentorian voice; and a man as tall as Saul looked round
him. This was the engaged leader of the Conservative mob; the eye of
every one of his minions was instantly on him. 'Now! Our young Queen and
our Old Institutions! Rigby for ever!'

This was a signal for the instant appearance of the leader of the
Liberal mob. Magog Wrath, not so tall as Bully Bluck, his rival, had
a voice almost as powerful, a back much broader, and a countenance far
more forbidding. 'Now, my boys, the Queen and Millbank for ever!'

These rival cries were the signals for a fight between the two bands of
gladiators in the face of the hustings, the body of the people little
interfering. Bully Bluck seized Magog Wrath's colours; they wrestled,
they seized each other; their supporters were engaged in mutual contest;
it appeared to be a most alarming and perilous fray; several ladies from
the windows screamed, one fainted; a band of special constables pushed
their way through the mob; you heard their staves resounded on the
skulls of all who opposed them, especially the little boys: order was at
length restored; and, to tell the truth, the only hurts inflicted were
those which came from the special constables. Bully Bluck and Magog
Wrath, with all their fierce looks, flaunting colours, loud cheers, and
desperate assaults, were, after all, only a couple of Condottieri, who
were cautious never to wound each other. They were, in fact, a peaceful
police, who kept the town in awe, and prevented others from being
mischievous who were more inclined to do harm. Their hired gangs were
the safety-valves for all the scamps of the borough, who, receiving a
few shillings per head for their nominal service, and as much drink as
they liked after the contest, were bribed and organised into peace
and sobriety on the days in which their excesses were most to be
apprehended.

Now Mr. Millbank came forward: he was brief compared with Mr. Rigby; but
clear and terse. No one could misunderstand him. He did not favour his
hearers with any history, but gave them his views about taxes, free
trade, placemen, and pensioners, whoever and wherever they might be.

'Hilloa, Rigby, about that 'ere pension?'

'Millbank for ever! We will have him.'

'Never mind, Rigby, you'll come in next time.'

Mr. Millbank was energetic about resident representatives, but did not
understand that a resident representative meant the nominee of a great
Lord, who lived in a great castle; great cheering. There was a Lord
once who declared that, if he liked, he would return his negro valet to
Parliament; but Mr. Millbank thought those days were over. It remained
for the people of Darlford to determine whether he was mistaken.

'Never!' exclaimed the mob. 'Millbank for ever! Rigby in the river! No
niggers, no walets!'

'Three groans for Rigby.'

'His language ain't as purty as the Lunnun chap's,' said a critic below;
'but he speaks from his 'art: and give me the man who 'as got a 'art.'

'That's your time of day, Mr. Robinson.'

'Now!' said Magog Wrath, looking around. 'Now, the Queen and Millbank
for ever! Hurrah!'

The show of hands was entirely in favour of Mr. Millbank. Scarcely a
hand was held up for Mr. Rigby below, except by Bully Bluck and his
praetorians. The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of the Conservative
Association, the Secretary, and the four agents, severally and
respectively went up to Mr. Rigby and congratulated him on the result,
as it was a known fact, 'that the show of hands never won.'

The eve of polling-day was now at hand. This is the most critical period
of an election. All night parties in disguise were perambulating the
different wards, watching each other's tactics; masks, wigs, false
noses, gentles in livery coats, men in female attire, a silent carnival
of manoeuvre, vigilance, anxiety, and trepidation. The thoughtful voters
about this time make up their minds; the enthusiasts who have told you
twenty times a-day for the last fortnight, that they would get up in the
middle of the night to serve you, require the most watchful cooping; all
the individuals who have assured you that 'their word is their bond,'
change sides.

Two of the Rigbyites met in the market-place about an hour after
midnight.

'Well, how goes it?' said one.

'I have been the rounds. The blunt's going like the ward-pump. I saw
a man come out of Moffatt's house, muffled up with a mask on. I dodged
him. It was Biggs.'

'You don't mean that, do you? D----e, I'll answer for Moffatt.'

'I never thought he was a true man.'

'Told Robins?'

'I could not see him; but I met young Gunning and told him.'

'Young Gunning! That won't do.'

'I thought he was as right as the town clock.'

'So did I, once. Hush! who comes here? The enemy, Franklin and Sampson
Potts. Keep close.'

'I'll speak to them. Good night, Potts. Up rather late to-night?'

'All fair election time. You ain't snoring, are you?'

'Well, I hope the best man will win.'

'I am sure he will.'

'You must go for Moffatt early, to breakfast at the White Lion; that's
your sort. Don't leave him, and poll him your-self. I am going off to
Solomon Lacey's. He has got four Millbankites cooped up very drunk, and
I want to get them quietly into the country before daybreak.'

'Tis polling-day! The candidates are roused from their slumbers at an
early hour by the music of their own bands perambulating the town, and
each playing the 'conquering hero' to sustain the courage of their jaded
employers, by depriving them of that rest which can alone tranquillise
the nervous system. There is something in that matin burst of music,
followed by a shrill cheer from the boys of the borough, the only
inhabitants yet up, that is very depressing.

The committee-rooms of each candidate are soon rife with black reports;
each side has received fearful bulletins of the preceding night
campaign; and its consequences as exemplified in the morning,
unprecedented tergiversations, mysterious absences; men who breakfast
with one side and vote with the other; men who won't come to breakfast;
men who won't leave breakfast.

At ten o'clock Mr. Rigby was in a majority of twenty-eight.

The polling was brisk and equal until the middle of the day, when it
became slack. Mr. Rigby kept a majority, but an inconsiderable one.
Mr. Millbank's friends were not disheartened, as it was known that
the leading members of Mr. Rigby's committee had polled; whereas his
opponent's were principally reserved. At a quarter-past two there was
great cheering and uproar. The four voters in favour of Millbank, whom
Solomon Lacey had cooped up, made drunk, and carried into the country,
had recovered iheir senses, made their escape, and voted as they
originally intended. Soon after this, Mr. Millbank was declared by his
committee to be in a majority of one, but the committee of Mr. Rigby
instantly posted a placard, in large letters, to announce that, on the
contrary, their man was in a majority of nine.

'If we could only have got another registration,' whispered the
principal agent to Mr. Rigby, at a quarter-past four.

'You think it's all over, then?'

'Why, I do not see now how we can win. We have polled all our dead men,
and Millbank is seven ahead.'

'I have no doubt we shall be able to have a good petition,' said the
consoling chairman of the Conservative Association.



CHAPTER V.


It was not with feelings of extreme satisfaction that Mr. Rigby returned
to London. The loss of Hellingsley, followed by the loss of the borough
to Hellingsley's successful master, were not precisely the incidents
which would be adduced as evidence of Mr. Rigby's good management or
good fortune. Hitherto that gentleman had persuaded the world that he
was not only very clever, but that he was also always in luck; a quality
which many appreciate more even than capacity. His reputation was
unquestionably damaged, both with his patron and his party. But what
the Tapers and the Tadpoles thought or said, what even might be the
injurious effect on his own career of the loss of this election, assumed
an insignificant character when compared with its influence on the
temper and disposition of the Marquess of Monmouth.

And yet his carriage is now entering the courtyard of Monmouth House,
and, in all probability, a few minutes would introduce him to that
presence before which he had, ere this, trembled. The Marquess was at
home, and anxious to see Mr. Rigby. In a few minutes that gentleman was
ascending the private staircase, entering the antechamber, and waiting
to be received in the little saloon, exactly as our Coningsby did more
than five years ago, scarcely less agitated, but by feelings of a very
different character.

'Well, you made a good fight of it,' exclaimed the Marquess, in a
cheerful and cordial tone, as Mr. Rigby entered his dressing-room.
'Patience! We shall win next time.'

This reception instantly reassured the defeated candidate, though its
contrast to that which he expected rather perplexed him. He entered into
the details of the election, talked rapidly of the next registration,
the propriety of petitioning; accustomed himself to hearing his voice
with its habitual volubility in a chamber where he had feared it might
not sound for some time.

'D----n politics!' said the Marquess. 'These fellows are in for this
Parliament, and I am really weary of the whole affair. I begin to think
the Duke was right, and it would have been best to have left them to
themselves. I am glad you have come up at once, for I want you. The fact
is, I am going to be married.'

This was not a startling announcement to Mr. Rigby; he was prepared for
it, though scarcely could have hoped that he would have been favoured
with it on the present occasion, instead of a morose comment on his
misfortunes. Marriage, then, was the predominant idea of Lord Monmouth
at the present moment, in whose absorbing interest all vexations were
forgotten. Fortunate Rigby! Disgusted by the failure of his political
combinations, his disappointments in not dictating to the county and not
carrying the borough, and the slight prospect at present of obtaining
the great object of his ambition, Lord Monmouth had resolved to
precipitate his fate, was about to marry immediately, and quit England.

'You will be wanted, Rigby,' continued the Marquess. 'We must have a
couple of trustees, and I have thought of you as one. You know you are
my executor; and it is better not to bring in unnecessarily new names
into the management of my affairs. Lord Eskdale will act with you.'

Rigby then, after all, was a lucky man. After such a succession of
failures, he had returned only to receive fresh and the most delicate
marks of his patron's good feeling and consideration. Lord Monmouth's
trustee and executor! 'You know you are my executor.' Sublime truth! It
ought to be blazoned in letters of gold in the most conspicuous part of
Rigby's library, to remind him perpetually of his great and impending
destiny. Lord Monmouth's executor, and very probably one of his
residuary legatees! A legatee of some sort he knew he was. What a
splendid _memento mori_! What cared Rigby for the borough of Darlford?
And as for his political friends, he wished them joy of their barren
benches. Nothing was lost by not being in this Parliament.

It was then with sincerity that Rigby offered his congratulations to
his patron. He praised the judicious alliance, accompanied by every
circumstance conducive to worldly happiness; distinguished beauty,
perfect temper, princely rank. Rigby, who had hardly got out of his
hustings' vein, was most eloquent in his praises of Madame Colonna.

'An amiable woman,' said Lord Monmouth, 'and very handsome. I always
admired her; and an agreeable person too; I dare say a very good temper,
but I am not going to marry her.'

'Might I then ask who is--'

'Her step-daughter, the Princess Lucretia,' replied the Marquess,
quietly, and looking at his ring.

Here was a thunderbolt! Rigby had made another mistake. He had been
working all this time for the wrong woman! The consciousness of being a
trustee alone sustained him. There was an inevitable pause. The Marquess
would not speak however, and Rigby must. He babbled rather incoherently
about the Princess Lucretia being admired by everybody; also that she
was the most fortunate of women, as well as the most accomplished; he
was just beginning to say he had known her from a child, when discretion
stopped his tongue, which had a habit of running on somewhat rashly;
but Rigby, though he often blundered in his talk, had the talent of
extricating himself from the consequence of his mistakes.

'And Madame must be highly gratified by all this?' observed Mr. Rigby,
with an enquiring accent. He was dying to learn how she had first
received the intelligence, and congratulated himself that his absence at
his contest had preserved him from the storm.

'Madame Colonna knows nothing of our intentions,' said Lord Monmouth.
'And by the bye, that is the very business on which I wish to see you,
Rigby. I wish you to communicate them to her. We are to be married,
and immediately. It would gratify me that the wife of Lucretia's father
should attend our wedding. You understand exactly what I mean, Rigby; I
must have no scenes. Always happy to see the Princess Colonna under my
roof; but then I like to live quietly, particularly at present;
harassed as I have been by the loss of these elections, by all this bad
management, and by all these disappointments on subjects in which I was
led to believe success was certain. Madame Colonna is at home;' and the
Marquess bowed Mr. Rigby out of the room.



CHAPTER VI.


The departure of Sidonia from Coningsby Castle, in the autumn,
determined the Princess Lucretia on a step which had for some time
before his arrival occupied her brooding imagination. Nature had
bestowed on this lady an ambitious soul and a subtle spirit; she could
dare much and could execute finely. Above all things she coveted power;
and though not free from the characteristic susceptibility of her sex,
the qualities that could engage her passions or fascinate her fancy must
partake of that intellectual eminence which distinguished her. Though
the Princess Lucretia in a short space of time had seen much of the
world, she had as yet encountered no hero. In the admirers whom her
rank, and sometimes her intelligence, assembled around her, her master
had not yet appeared. Her heart had not trembled before any of those
brilliant forms whom she was told her sex admired; nor did she envy any
one the homage which she did not appreciate. There was, therefore, no
disturbing element in the worldly calculations which she applied to that
question which is, to woman, what a career is to man, the question of
marriage. She would marry to gain power, and therefore she wished to
marry the powerful. Lord Eskdale hovered around her, and she liked
him. She admired his incomparable shrewdness; his freedom from ordinary
prejudices; his selfishness which was always good-natured, and the
imperturbability that was not callous. But Lord Eskdale had hovered
round many; it was his easy habit. He liked clever women, young, but who
had seen something of the world. The Princess Lucretia pleased him much;
with the form and mind of a woman even in the nursery. He had watched
her development with interest; and had witnessed her launch in that
world where she floated at once with as much dignity and consciousness
of superior power, as if she had braved for seasons its waves and its
tempests.

Musing over Lord Eskdale, the mind of Lucretia was drawn to the image
of his friend; her friend; the friend of her parents. And why not marry
Lord Monmouth? The idea pleased her. There was something great in the
conception; difficult and strange. The result, if achieved, would give
her all that she desired. She devoted her mind to this secret thought.
She had no confidants. She concentrated her intellect on one point,
and that was to fascinate the grandfather of Coningsby, while her
step-mother was plotting that she should marry his grandson. The
volition of Lucretia Colonna was, if not supreme, of a power most
difficult to resist. There was something charm-like and alluring in the
conversation of one who was silent to all others; something in the tones
of her low rich voice which acted singularly on the nervous system. It
was the voice of the serpent; indeed, there was an undulating movement
in Lucretia, when she approached you, which irresistibly reminded you of
that mysterious animal.

Lord Monmouth was not insensible to the spell, though totally
unconscious of its purpose. He found the society of Lucretia very
agreeable to him; she was animated, intelligent, original; her inquiries
were stimulating; her comments on what she saw, and heard, and read,
racy and often indicating a fine humour. But all this was reserved for
his ear. Before her parents, as before all others, Lucretia was silent,
a little scornful, never communicating, neither giving nor seeking
amusement, shut up in herself.

Lord Monmouth fell therefore into the habit of riding and driving with
Lucretia alone. It was an arrangement which he found made his life more
pleasant. Nor was it displeasing to Madame Colonna. She looked upon
Lord Monmouth's fancy for Lucretia as a fresh tie for them all. Even the
Prince, when his wife called his attention to the circumstance, observed
it with satisfaction. It was a circumstance which represented in his
mind a continuance of good eating and good drinking, fine horses,
luxurious baths, unceasing billiards.

In this state of affairs appeared Sidonia, known before to her
step-mother, but seen by Lucretia for the first time. Truly, he came,
saw, and conquered. Those eyes that rarely met another's were fixed upon
his searching yet unimpassioned glance. She listened to that voice,
full of music yet void of tenderness; and the spirit of Lucretia Colonna
bowed before an intelligence that commanded sympathy, yet offered none.

Lucretia naturally possessed great qualities as well as great talents.
Under a genial influence, her education might have formed a being
capable of imparting and receiving happiness. But she found herself
without a guide. Her father offered her no love; her step-mother gained
from her no respect. Her literary education was the result of her
own strong mind and inquisitive spirit. She valued knowledge, and she
therefore acquired it. But not a single moral principle or a single
religious truth had ever been instilled into her being. Frequent
absence from her own country had by degrees broken off even an habitual
observance of the forms of her creed; while a life of undisturbed
indulgence, void of all anxiety and care, while it preserved her from
many of the temptations to vice, deprived her of that wisdom 'more
precious than rubies,' which adversity and affliction, the struggles and
the sorrows of existence, can alone impart.

Lucretia had passed her life in a refined, but rather dissolute society.
Not indeed that a word that could call forth a maiden blush, conduct
that could pain the purest feelings, could be heard or witnessed in
those polished and luxurious circles. The most exquisite taste pervaded
their atmosphere; and the uninitiated who found themselves in those
perfumed chambers and those golden saloons, might believe, from all that
passed before them, that their inhabitants were as pure, as orderly, and
as irreproachable as their furniture. But among the habitual dwellers
in these delicate halls there was a tacit understanding, a
prevalent doctrine that required no formal exposition, no proofs and
illustrations, no comment and no gloss; which was indeed rather a
traditional conviction than an imparted dogma; that the exoteric public
were, on many subjects, the victims of very vulgar prejudices, which
these enlightened personages wished neither to disturb nor to adopt.

A being of such a temper, bred in such a manner; a woman full
of intellect and ambition, daring and lawless, and satiated with
prosperity, is not made for equable fortunes and an uniform existence.
She would have sacrificed the world for Sidonia, for he had touched
the fervent imagination that none before could approach; but that
inscrutable man would not read the secret of her heart; and prompted
alike by pique, the love of power, and a weariness of her present life,
Lucretia resolved on that great result which Mr. Rigby is now about to
communicate to the Princess Colonna.

About half-an-hour after Mr. Rigby had entered that lady's apartments
it seemed that all the bells of Monmouth House were ringing at the same
time. The sound even reached the Marquess in his luxurious recess; who
immediately took a pinch of snuff, and ordered his valet to lock the
door of the ante-chamber. The Princess Lucretia, too, heard the sounds;
she was lying on a sofa, in her boudoir, reading the _Inferno_, and
immediately mustered her garrison in the form of a French maid, and gave
directions that no one should be admitted. Both the Marquess and
his intended bride felt that a crisis was at hand, and resolved to
participate in no scenes.

The ringing ceased; there was again silence. Then there was another
ring; a short, hasty, and violent pull; followed by some slamming of
doors. The servants, who were all on the alert, and had advantages
of hearing and observation denied to their secluded master, caught a
glimpse of Mr. Rigby endeavouring gently to draw back into her apartment
Madame Colonna, furious amid his deprecatory exclamations.

'For heaven's sake, my dear Madame; for your own sake; now really; now
I assure you; you are quite wrong; you are indeed; it is a complete
misapprehension; I will explain everything. I entreat, I implore,
whatever you like, just what you please; only listen.'

Then the lady, with a mantling visage and flashing eye, violently
closing the door, was again lost to their sight. A few minutes after
there was a moderate ring, and Mr. Rigby, coming out of the apartments,
with his cravat a little out of order, as if he had had a violent
shaking, met the servant who would have entered.

'Order Madame Colonna's travelling carriage,' he exclaimed in a loud
voice, 'and send Mademoiselle Conrad here directly. I don't think the
fellow hears me,' added Mr. Rigby, and following the servant, he added
in a low tone and with a significant glance, 'no travelling carriage; no
Mademoiselle Conrad; order the britska round as usual.'

Nearly another hour passed; there was another ring; very moderate
indeed. The servant was informed that Madame Colonna was coming down,
and she appeared as usual. In a beautiful morning dress, and leaning on
the arm of Mr. Rigby, she descended the stairs, and was handed into her
carriage by that gentleman, who, seating himself by her side, ordered
them to drive to Richmond.

Lord Monmouth having been informed that all was calm, and that Madame
Colonna, attended by Mr. Rigby, had gone to Richmond, ordered his
carriage, and accompanied by Lucretia and Lucian Gay, departed
immediately for Blackwall, where, in whitebait, a quiet bottle of
claret, the society of his agreeable friends, and the contemplation of
the passing steamers, he found a mild distraction and an amusing repose.

Mr. Rigby reported that evening to the Marquess on his return, that all
was arranged and tranquil. Perhaps he exaggerated the difficulties,
to increase the service; but according to his account they were
considerable. It required some time to make Madame Colonna comprehend
the nature of his communication. All Rigby's diplomatic skill was
expended in the gradual development. When it was once fairly put before
her, the effect was appalling. That was the first great ringing of
bells. Rigby softened a little what he had personally endured; but
he confessed she sprang at him like a tigress balked of her prey, and
poured forth on him a volume of epithets, many of which Rigby
really deserved. But after all, in the present instance, he was not
treacherous, only base, which he always was. Then she fell into a
passion of tears, and vowed frequently that she was not weeping for
herself, but only for that dear Mr. Coningsby, who had been treated so
infamously and robbed of Lucretia, and whose heart she knew must break.
It seemed that Rigby stemmed the first violence of her emotion by
mysterious intimations of an important communication that he had to
make; and piquing her curiosity, he calmed her passion. But really
having nothing to say, he was nearly involved in fresh dangers. He took
refuge in the affectation of great agitation which prevented exposition.
The lady then insisted on her travelling carriage being ordered and
packed, as she was determined to set out for Rome that afternoon. This
little occurrence gave Rigby some few minutes to collect himself, at
the end of which he made the Princess several announcements of intended
arrangements, all of which pleased her mightily, though they were so
inconsistent with each other, that if she had not been a woman in a
passion, she must have detected that Rigby was lying. He assured her
almost in the same breath, that she was never to be separated from them,
and that she was to have any establishment in any country she liked. He
talked wildly of equipages, diamonds, shawls, opera-boxes; and while
her mind was bewildered with these dazzling objects, he, with intrepid
gravity, consulted her as to the exact amount she would like to have
apportioned, independent of her general revenue, for the purposes of
charity.

At the end of two hours, exhausted by her rage and soothed by these
visions, Madame Colonna having grown calm and reasonable, sighed and
murmured a complaint, that Lord Monmouth ought to have communicated this
important intelligence in person. Upon this Rigby instantly assured
her, that Lord Monmouth had been for some time waiting to do so, but
in consequence of her lengthened interview with Rigby, his Lordship had
departed for Richmond with Lucretia, where he hoped that Madame Colonna
and Mr. Rigby would join him. So it ended, with a morning drive and
suburban dinner; Rigby, after what he had gone through, finding no
difficulty in accounting for the other guests not being present, and
bringing home Madame Colonna in the evening, at times almost as gay and
good-tempered as usual, and almost oblivious of her disappointment.

When the Marquess met Madame Colonna he embraced her with great
courtliness, and from that time consulted her on every arrangement. He
took a very early occasion of presenting her with a diamond necklace of
great value. The Marquess was fond of making presents to persons to whom
he thought he had not behaved very well, and who yet spared him scenes.

The marriage speedily followed, by special license, at the villa of the
Right Hon. Nicholas Rigby, who gave away the bride. The wedding was very
select, but brilliant as the diamond necklace: a royal Duke and Duchess,
Lady St. Julians, and a few others. Mr. Ormsby presented the bride with
a bouquet of precious stones, and Lord Eskdale with a French fan in
a diamond frame. It was a fine day; Lord Monmouth, calm as if he were
winning the St. Leger; Lucretia, universally recognised as a beauty; all
the guests gay, the Princess Colonna especially.

The travelling carriage is at the door which is to bear away the happy
pair. Madame Colonna embraces Lucretia; the Marquess gives a grand bow:
they are gone. The guests remain awhile. A Prince of the blood will
propose a toast; there is another glass of champagne quaffed, another
ortolan devoured; and then they rise and disperse. Madame Colonna leaves
with Lady St. Julians, whose guest for a while she is to become. And in
a few minutes their host is alone.

Mr. Rigby retired into his library: the repose of the chamber must
have been grateful to his feelings after all this distraction. It was
spacious, well-stored, classically adorned, and opened on a beautiful
lawn. Rigby threw himself into an ample chair, crossed his legs, and
resting his head on his arm, apparently fell into deep contemplation.

He had some cause for reflection, and though we did once venture to
affirm that Rigby never either thought or felt, this perhaps may be the
exception that proves the rule.

He could scarcely refrain from pondering over the strange event which he
had witnessed, and at which he had assisted.

It was an incident that might exercise considerable influence over his
fortunes. His patron married, and married to one who certainly did
not offer to Mr. Rigby such a prospect of easy management as her
step-mother! Here were new influences arising; new characters, new
situations, new contingencies. Was he thinking of all this? He suddenly
jumps up, hurries to a shelf and takes down a volume. It is his
interleaved peerage, of which for twenty years he had been threatening
an edition. Turning to the Marquisate of Monmouth, he took up his pen
and thus made the necessary entry:

'_Married, second time, August 3rd, 1837, The Princess Lucretia Colonna,
daughter of Prince Paul Colonna, born at Rome, February 16th, 1819._'

That was what Mr. Rigby called 'a great fact.' There was not a
peerage-compiler in England who had that date save himself.

Before we close this slight narrative of the domestic incidents that
occurred in the family of his grandfather since Coningsby quitted the
Castle, we must not forget to mention what happened to Villebecque and
Flora. Lord Monmouth took a great liking to the manager. He found him
very clever in many things independently of his profession; he was
useful to Lord Monmouth, and did his work in an agreeable manner. And
the future Lady Monmouth was accustomed to Flora, and found her useful
too, and did not like to lose her. And so the Marquess, turning all the
circumstances in his mind, and being convinced that Villebecque could
never succeed to any extent in England in his profession, and probably
nowhere else, appointed him, to Villebecque's infinite satisfaction,
intendant of his household, with a considerable salary, while Flora
still lived with her kind step-father.



CHAPTER VII.


Another year elapsed; not so fruitful in incidents to Coningsby as the
preceding ones, and yet not unprofitably passed. It had been spent in
the almost unremitting cultivation of his intelligence. He had read
deeply and extensively, digested his acquisitions, and had practised
himself in surveying them, free from those conventional conclusions
and those traditionary inferences that surrounded him. Although he had
renounced his once cherished purpose of trying for University honours,
an aim which he found discordant with the investigations on which his
mind was bent, he had rarely quitted Cambridge. The society of his
friends, the great convenience of public libraries, and the general
tone of studious life around, rendered an University for him a genial
residence. There is a moment in life, when the pride and thirst of
knowledge seem to absorb our being, and so it happened now to Coningsby,
who felt each day stronger in his intellectual resources, and each day
more anxious and avid to increase them. The habits of public
discussion fostered by the Debating Society were also for Coningsby no
Inconsiderable tie to the University. This was the arena in which he
felt himself at home. The promise of his Eton days was here fulfilled.
And while his friends listened to his sustained argument or his
impassioned declamation, the prompt reply or the apt retort, they looked
forward with pride through the vista of years to the time when the hero
of the youthful Club should convince or dazzle in the senate. It is
probable then that he would have remained at Cambridge with slight
intervals until he had taken his degree, had not circumstances occurred
which gave altogether a new turn to his thoughts.

When Lord Monmouth had fixed his wedding-day he had written himself
to Coningsby to announce his intended marriage, and to request his
grandson's presence at the ceremony. The letter was more than kind; it
was warm and generous. He assured his grandson that this alliance
should make no difference in the very ample provision which he had
long intended for him; that he should ever esteem Coningsby his
nearest relative; and that, while his death would bring to Coningsby as
considerable an independence as an English gentleman need desire, so
in his lifetime Coningsby should ever be supported as became his birth,
breeding, and future prospects. Lord Monmouth had mentioned to Lucretia,
that he was about to invite his grandson to their wedding, and the lady
had received the intimation with satisfaction. It so happened that a
few hours after, Lucretia, who now entered the private rooms of Lord
Monmouth without previously announcing her arrival, met Villebecque with
the letter to Coningsby in his hand. Lucretia took it away from him,
and said it should be posted with her own letters. It never reached its
destination. Our friend learnt the marriage from the newspapers, which
somewhat astounded him; but Coningsby was fond of his grandfather, and
he wrote Lord Monmouth a letter of congratulation, full of feeling and
ingenuousness, and which, while it much pleased the person to whom it
was addressed, unintentionally convinced him that Coningsby had never
received his original communication. Lord Monmouth spoke to Villebecque,
who could throw sufficient light upon the subject, but it was never
mentioned to Lady Monmouth. The Marquess was a man who always found out
everything, and enjoyed the secret.

Rather more than a year after the marriage, when Coningsby had completed
his twenty-first year, the year which he had passed so quietly at
Cambridge, he received a letter from his grandfather, informing him that
after a variety of movements Lady Monmouth and himself were established
in Paris for the season, and desiring that he would not fail to come
over as soon as practicable, and pay them as long a visit as the
regulations of the University would permit. So, at the close of the
December term, Coningsby quitted Cambridge for Paris.

Passing through London, he made his first visit to his banker at Charing
Cross, on whom he had periodically drawn since he commenced his college
life. He was in the outer counting-house, making some inquiries about a
letter of credit, when one of the partners came out from an inner room,
and invited him to enter. This firm had been for generations the bankers
of the Coningsby family; and it appeared that there was a sealed box
in their possession, which had belonged to the father of Coningsby, and
they wished to take this opportunity of delivering it to his son. This
communication deeply interested him; and as he was alone in London, at
an hotel, and on the wing for a foreign country, he requested permission
at once to examine it, in order that he might again deposit it with
them: so he was shown into a private room for that purpose. The seal was
broken; the box was full of papers, chiefly correspondence: among them
was a packet described as letters from 'my dear Helen,' the mother of
Coningsby. In the interior of this packet there was a miniature of that
mother. He looked at it; put it down; looked at it again and again.
He could not be mistaken. There was the same blue fillet in the bright
hair. It was an exact copy of that portrait which had so greatly excited
his attention when at Millbank! This was a mysterious and singularly
perplexing incident. It greatly agitated him. He was alone in the room
when he made the discovery. When he had recovered himself, he sealed up
the contents of the box, with the exception of his mother's letters and
the miniature, which he took away with him, and then re-delivered it to
his banker for custody until his return.

Coningsby found Lord and Lady Monmouth in a splendid hotel in the
Faubourg St. Honoré, near the English Embassy. His grandfather looked at
him with marked attention, and received him with evident satisfaction.
Indeed, Lord Monmouth was greatly pleased that Harry had come to Paris;
it was the University of the World, where everybody should graduate.
Paris and London ought to be the great objects of all travellers; the
rest was mere landscape.

It cannot be denied that between Lucretia and Coningsby there existed
from the first a certain antipathy; and though circumstances for a short
time had apparently removed or modified the aversion, the manner of the
lady when Coningsby was ushered into her boudoir, resplendent with all
that Parisian taste and luxury could devise, was characterised by that
frigid politeness which had preceded the days of their more genial
acquaintance. If the manner of Lucretia were the same as before her
marriage, a considerable change might however be observed in her
appearance. Her fine form had become more developed; while her dress,
that she once neglected, was elaborate and gorgeous, and of the last
mode. Lucretia was the fashion of Paris; a great lady, greatly admired.
A guest under such a roof, however, Coningsby was at once launched
into the most brilliant circles of Parisian society, which he found
fascinating.

The art of society is, without doubt, perfectly comprehended and
completely practised in the bright metropolis of France. An Englishman
cannot enter a saloon without instantly feeling he is among a race more
social than his compatriots. What, for example, is more consummate
than the manner in which a French lady receives her guests! She unites
graceful repose and unaffected dignity, with the most amiable regard for
others. She sees every one; she speaks to every one; she sees them at
the right moment; she says the right thing; it is utterly impossible
to detect any difference in the position of her guests by the spirit in
which she welcomes them. There is, indeed, throughout every circle of
Parisian society, from the chateau to the cabaret, a sincere homage to
intellect; and this without any maudlin sentiment. None sooner than
the Parisians can draw the line between factitious notoriety and honest
fame; or sooner distinguished between the counterfeit celebrity and
the standard reputation. In England, we too often alternate between a
supercilious neglect of genius and a rhapsodical pursuit of quacks. In
England when a new character appears in our circles, the first question
always is, 'Who is he?' In France it is, 'What is he?' In England, 'How
much a-year?' In France, 'What has he done?'



CHAPTER VIII.


About a week after Coningsby's arrival in Paris, as he was sauntering on
the soft and sunny Boulevards, soft and sunny though Christmas, he met
Sidonia.

'So you are here?' said Sidonia. 'Turn now with me, for I see you are
only lounging, and tell me when you came, where you are, and what you
have done since we parted. I have been here myself but a few days.'

There was much to tell. And when Coningsby had rapidly related all that
had passed, they talked of Paris. Sidonia had offered him hospitality,
until he learned that Lord Monmouth was in Paris, and that Coningsby was
his guest.

'I am sorry you cannot come to me,' he remarked; 'I would have shown you
everybody and everything. But we shall meet often.'

'I have already seen many remarkable things,' said Coningsby; 'and met
many celebrated persons. Nothing strikes me more in this brilliant
city than the tone of its society, so much higher than our own. What an
absence of petty personalities! How much conversation, and how little
gossip! Yet nowhere is there less pedantry. Here all women are as
agreeable as is the remarkable privilege in London of some half-dozen.
Men too, and great men, develop their minds. A great man in England,
on the contrary, is generally the dullest dog in company. And yet, how
piteous to think that so fair a civilisation should be in such imminent
peril!'

'Yes! that is a common opinion: and yet I am somewhat sceptical of
its truth,' replied Sidonia. 'I am inclined to believe that the social
system of England is in infinitely greater danger than that of France.
We must not be misled by the agitated surface of this country. The
foundations of its order are deep and sure. Learn to understand France.
France is a kingdom with a Republic for its capital. It has been always
so, for centuries. From the days of the League to the days of the
Sections, to the days of 1830. It is still France, little changed; and
only more national, for it is less Frank and more Gallic; as England has
become less Norman and more Saxon.'

'And it is your opinion, then, that the present King may maintain
himself?'

'Every movement in this country, however apparently discordant, seems to
tend to that inevitable end. He would not be on the throne if the nature
of things had not demanded his presence. The Kingdom of France required
a Monarch; the Republic of Paris required a Dictator. He comprised in
his person both qualifications; lineage and intellect; blood for the
provinces, brains for the city.'

'What a position! what an individual!' exclaimed Coningsby. 'Tell me,'
he added, eagerly, 'what is he? This Prince of whom one hears in all
countries at all hours; on whose existence we are told the tranquillity,
almost the civilisation, of Europe depends, yet of whom we receive
accounts so conflicting, so contradictory; tell me, you who can tell me,
tell me what he is.'

Sidonia smiled at his earnestness. 'I have a creed of mine own,' he
remarked, 'that the great characters of antiquity are at rare epochs
reproduced for our wonder, or our guidance. Nature, wearied
with mediocrity, pours the warm metal into an heroic mould. When
circumstances at length placed me in the presence of the King of France,
I recognised, ULYSSES!'

'But is there no danger,' resumed Coningsby, after the pause of a few
moments, 'that the Republic of Paris may absorb the Kingdom of France?'

'I suspect the reverse,' replied Sidonia. 'The tendency of advanced
civilisation is in truth to pure Monarchy. Monarchy is indeed a
government which requires a high degree of civilisation for its full
development. It needs the support of free laws and manners, and of
a widely-diffused intelligence. Political compromises are not to be
tolerated except at periods of rude transition. An educated nation
recoils from the imperfect vicariate of what is called a representative
government. Your House of Commons, that has absorbed all other powers
in the State, will in all probability fall more rapidly than it rose.
Public opinion has a more direct, a more comprehensive, a more efficient
organ for its utterance, than a body of men sectionally chosen. The
Printing-press is a political element unknown to classic or feudal
times. It absorbs in a great degree the duties of the Sovereign, the
Priest, the Parliament; it controls, it educates, it discusses. That
public opinion, when it acts, would appear in the form of one who has no
class interests. In an enlightened age the Monarch on the throne, free
from the vulgar prejudices and the corrupt interests of the subject,
becomes again divine!'

At this moment they reached that part of the Boulevards which leads into
the Place of the Madeleine, whither Sidonia was bound; and Coningsby was
about to quit his companion, when Sidonia said:

'I am only going a step over to the Rue Tronchet to say a few words to a
friend of mine, M. P----s. I shall not detain you five minutes; and you
should know him, for he has some capital pictures, and a collection of
Limoges ware that is the despair of the dilettanti.'

So saying they turned down by the Place of the Madeleine, and soon
entered the court of the hotel of M. P----s. That gentleman received
them in his gallery. After some general conversation, Coningsby turned
towards the pictures, and left Sidonia with their host. The collection
was rare, and interested Coningsby, though unacquainted with art. He
sauntered on from picture to picture until he reached the end of the
gallery, where an open door invited him into a suite of rooms also
full of pictures and objects of curiosity and art. As he was entering
a second chamber, he observed a lady leaning back in a cushioned
chair, and looking earnestly on a picture. His entrance was unheard and
unnoticed, for the lady's back was to the door; yet Coningsby, advancing
in an angular direction, obtained nearly a complete view of her
countenance. It was upraised, gazing on the picture with an expression
of delight; the bonnet thrown back, while the large sable cloak of the
gazer had fallen partly off. The countenance was more beautiful than the
beautiful picture. Those glowing shades of the gallery to which love,
and genius, and devotion had lent their inspiration, seemed without
life and lustre by the radiant expression and expressive presence which
Coningsby now beheld.

The finely-arched brow was a little elevated, the soft dark eyes were
fully opened, the nostril of the delicate nose slightly dilated, the
small, yet rich, full lips just parted; and over the clear, transparent
visage, there played a vivid glance of gratified intelligence.

The lady rose, advanced towards the picture, looked at it earnestly for
a few moments, and then, turning in a direction opposite to Coningsby,
walked away. She was somewhat above the middle stature, and yet could
scarcely be called tall; a quality so rare, that even skilful dancers
do not often possess it, was hers; that elastic gait that is so winning,
and so often denotes the gaiety and quickness of the spirit.

The fair object of his observation had advanced into other chambers,
and as soon as it was becoming, Coningsby followed her. She had joined a
lady and gentleman, who were examining an ancient carving in ivory. The
gentleman was middle-aged and portly; the elder lady tall and elegant,
and with traces of interesting beauty. Coningsby heard her speak; the
words were English, but the accent not of a native.

In the remotest part of the room, Coningsby, apparently engaged in
examining some of that famous Limoges ware of which Sidonia had spoken,
watched with interest and intentness the beautiful being whom he had
followed, and whom he concluded to be the child of her companions. After
some little time, they quitted the apartment on their return to the
gallery; Coningsby remained behind, caring for none of the rare and
fanciful objects that surrounded him, yet compelled, from the fear of
seeming obtrusive, for some minutes to remain. Then he too returned
to the gallery, and just as he had gained its end, he saw the portly
gentleman in the distance shaking hands with Sidonia, the ladies
apparently expressing their thanks and gratification to M. P----s, and
then all vanishing by the door through which Coningsby had originally
entered.

'What a beautiful countrywoman of yours!' said M. P----s, as Coningsby
approached him.

'Is she my countrywoman? I am glad to hear it; I have been admiring
her,' he replied.

'Yes,' said M. P----s, 'it is Sir Wallinger: one of your deputies; don't
you know him?'

'Sir Wallinger!' said Coningsby, 'no, I have not that honour.' He looked
at Sidonia.

'Sir Joseph Wallinger,' said Sidonia, 'one of the new Whig baronets,
and member for ----. I know him. He married a Spaniard. That is not his
daughter, but his niece; the child of his wife's sister. It is not easy
to find any one more beautiful.'

END OF BOOK V.



BOOK VI.


CHAPTER I.


The knowledge that Sidonia was in Paris greatly agitated Lady Monmouth.
She received the intimation indeed from Coningsby at dinner with
sufficient art to conceal her emotion. Lord Monmouth himself was quite
pleased at the announcement. Sidonia was his especial favourite; he knew
so much, had such an excellent judgment, and was so rich. He had always
something to tell you, was the best man in the world to bet on, and
never wanted anything. A perfect character according to the Monmouth
ethics.

In the evening of the day that Coningsby met Sidonia, Lady Monmouth made
a little visit to the charming Duchess de G----t who was 'at home'
every other night in her pretty hotel, with its embroidered white satin
draperies, its fine old cabinets, and ancestral portraits of famous
name, brave marshals and bright princesses of the olden time, on its
walls. These receptions without form, yet full of elegance, are what
English 'at homes' were before the Continental war, though now, by a
curious perversion of terms, the easy domestic title distinguishes in
England a formally-prepared and elaborately-collected assembly, in which
everything and every person are careful to be as little 'homely' as
possible. In France, on the contrary, 'tis on these occasions, and in
this manner, that society carries on that degree and kind of intercourse
which in England we attempt awkwardly to maintain by the medium of
that unpopular species of visitation styled a morning call; which all
complain that they have either to make or to endure.

Nowhere was this species of reception more happily conducted than at
the Duchess de G----t's. The rooms, though small, decorated with taste,
brightly illumined; a handsome and gracious hostess, the Duke the very
pearl of gentlemen, and sons and daughters worthy of such parents. Every
moment some one came in, and some one went away. In your way from a
dinner to a ball, you stopped to exchange agreeable _on dits_. It seemed
that every woman was pretty, every man a wit. Sure you were to find
yourself surrounded by celebrities, and men were welcomed there, if they
were clever, before they were famous, which showed it was a house that
regarded intellect, and did not seek merely to gratify its vanity by
being surrounded by the distinguished.

Enveloped in a rich Indian shawl, and leaning back on a sofa, Lady
Monmouth was engaged in conversation with the courtly and classic Count
M----é, when, on casually turning her head, she observed entering the
saloon, Sidonia. She just caught his form bowing to the Duchess, and
instantly turned her head and replunged into her conversation with
increased interest. Lady Monmouth was a person who had the power of
seeing all about her, everything and everybody, without appearing to
look. She was conscious that Sidonia was approaching her neighbourhood.
Her heart beat in tumult; she dreaded to catch the eye of that very
individual whom she was so anxious to meet. He was advancing towards
the sofa. Instinctively, Lady Monmouth turned from the Count, and began
speaking earnestly to her other neighbour, a young daughter of the
house, innocent and beautiful, not yet quite fledged, trying her wings
in society under the maternal eye. She was surprised by the extreme
interest which her grand neighbour suddenly took in all her pursuits,
her studies, her daily walks in the Bois de Boulogne. Sidonia, as the
Marchioness had anticipated, had now reached the sofa. But no, it was to
the Count, and not to Lady Monmouth that he was advancing; and they were
immediately engaged in conversation. After some little time, when she
had become accustomed to his voice, and found her own heart throbbing
with less violence, Lucretia turned again, as if by accident, to the
Count, and met the glance of Sidonia. She meant to have received him
with haughtiness, but her self-command deserted her; and slightly rising
from the sofa, she welcomed him with a countenance of extreme pallor and
with some awkwardness.

His manner was such as might have assisted her, even had she been more
troubled. It was marked by a degree of respectful friendliness. He
expressed without reserve his pleasure at meeting her again; inquired
much how she had passed her time since they last parted; asked more than
once after the Marquess. The Count moved away; Sidonia took his seat.
His ease and homage combined greatly relieved her. She expressed to
him how kind her Lord would consider his society, for the Marquess had
suffered in health since Sidonia last saw him. His periodical gout had
left him, which made him ill and nervous. The Marquess received his
friends at dinner every day. Sidonia, particularly amiable, offered
himself as a guest for the following one.

'And do you go to the great ball to-morrow?' inquired Lucretia,
delighted with all that had occurred.

'I always go to their balls,' said Sidonia, 'I have promised.'

There was a momentary pause; Lucretia happier than she had been for a
long time, her face a little flushed, and truly in a secret tumult of
sweet thoughts, remembered she had been long there, and offering her
hand to Sidonia, bade him adieu until to-morrow, while he, as was his
custom, soon repaired to the refined circle of the Countess de C-s-l-ne,
a lady whose manners he always mentioned as his fair ideal, and whose
house was his favourite haunt.

Before to-morrow comes, a word or two respecting two other characters
of this history connected with the family of Lord Monmouth. And first
of Flora. La Petite was neither very well nor very happy. Her hereditary
disease developed itself; gradually, but in a manner alarming to those
who loved her. She was very delicate, and suffered so much from the
weakness of her chest, that she was obliged to relinquish singing. This
was really the only tie between her and the Marchioness, who, without
being a petty tyrant, treated her often with unfeeling haughtiness. She
was, therefore, now rarely seen in the chambers of the great. In her own
apartments she found, indeed, some distraction in music, for which she
had a natural predisposition, but this was a pursuit that only fed
the morbid passion of her tender soul. Alone, listening only to sweet
sounds, or indulging in soft dreams that never could be realised, her
existence glided away like a vision, and she seemed to become every day
more fair and fragile. Alas! hers was the sad and mystic destiny to love
one whom she never met, and by whom, if she met him, she would scarcely,
perhaps, be recognised. Yet in that passion, fanciful, almost ideal,
her life was absorbed; nor for her did the world contain an existence,
a thought, a sensation, beyond those that sprang from the image of
the noble youth who had sympathised with her in her sorrows, and had
softened the hard fortunes of dependence by his generous sensibility.
Happy that, with many mortifications, it was still her lot to live under
the roof of one who bore his name, and in whose veins flowed the same
blood! She felt indeed for the Marquess, whom she so rarely saw, and
from whom she had never received much notice, prompted, it would seem,
by her fantastic passion, a degree of reverence, almost of affection,
which seemed occasionally, even to herself, as something inexplicable
and without reason.

As for her fond step-father, M. Villebecque, the world fared very
differently with him. His lively and enterprising genius, his ready and
multiform talents, and his temper which defied disturbance, had made
their way. He had become the very right hand of Lord Monmouth; his only
counsellor, his only confidant; his secret agent; the minister of his
will. And well did Villebecque deserve this trust, and ably did he
maintain himself in the difficult position which he achieved. There was
nothing which Villebecque did not know, nothing which he could not do,
especially at Paris. He was master of his subject; in all things the
secret of success, and without which, however they may from accident
dazzle the world, the statesman, the orator, the author, all alike feel
the damning consciousness of being charlatans.

Coningsby had made a visit to M. Villebecque and Flora the day after
his arrival. It was a recollection and a courtesy that evidently greatly
gratified them. Villebecque talked very much and amusingly; and Flora,
whom Coningsby frequently addressed, very little, though she listened
with great earnestness. Coningsby told her that he thought, from all he
heard, she was too much alone, and counselled her to gaiety. But nature,
that had made her mild, had denied her that constitutional liveliness of
being which is the graceful property of French women. She was a lily of
the valley, that loved seclusion and the tranquillity of virgin glades.
Almost every day, as he passed their _entresol_, Coningsby would look
into Villebecque's apartments for a moment, to ask after Flora.



CHAPTER II.


Sidonia was to dine at Lord Monmouth's the day after he met Lucretia,
and afterwards they were all to meet at a ball much talked of, and
to which invitations were much sought; and which was to be given that
evening by the Baroness S. de R----d.

Lord Monmouth's dinners at Paris were celebrated. It was generally
agreed that they had no rivals; yet there were others who had as skilful
cooks, others who, for such a purpose, were equally profuse in their
expenditure. What, then, was the secret spell of his success? The
simplest in the world, though no one seemed aware of it. His Lordship's
plates were always hot: whereas at Paris, in the best appointed houses,
and at dinners which, for costly materials and admirable art in their
preparation, cannot be surpassed, the effect is always considerably
lessened, and by a mode the most mortifying: by the mere circumstance
that every one at a French dinner is served on a cold plate. The reason
of a custom, or rather a necessity, which one would think a nation so
celebrated for their gastronomical taste would recoil from, is really,
it is believed, that the ordinary French porcelain is so very inferior
that it cannot endure the preparatory heat for dinner. The common white
pottery, for example, which is in general use, and always found at the
cafés, will not bear vicinage to a brisk kitchen fire for half-an-hour.
Now, if we only had that treaty of commerce with France which has been
so often on the point of completion, the fabrics of our unrivalled
potteries, in exchange for their capital wines, would be found
throughout France. The dinners of both nations would be improved: the
English would gain a delightful beverage, and the French, for the first
time in their lives, would dine off hot plates. An unanswerable instance
of the advantages of commercial reciprocity.

The guests at Lord Monmouth's to-day were chiefly Carlists, individuals
bearing illustrious names, that animate the page of history, and are
indissolubly bound up with the glorious annals of their great country.
They are the phantoms of a past, but real Aristocracy; an Aristocracy
that was founded on an intelligible principle; which claimed great
privileges for great purposes; whose hereditary duties were such, that
their possessors were perpetually in the eye of the nation, and
who maintained, and, in a certain point of view justified, their
pre-eminence by constant illustration.

It pleased Lord Monmouth to show great courtesies to a fallen race with
whom he sympathised; whose fathers had been his friends in the days of
his hot youth; whose mothers he had made love to; whose palaces had been
his home; whose brilliant fêtes he remembered; whose fanciful splendour
excited his early imagination; and whose magnificent and wanton luxury
had developed his own predisposition for boundless enjoyment. Soubise
and his suppers; his cutlets and his mistresses; the profuse and
embarrassed De Lauragais, who sighed for 'entire ruin,' as for a strange
luxury, which perpetually eluded his grasp; these were the heroes of the
olden time that Lord Monmouth worshipped; the wisdom of our ancestors
which he appreciated; and he turned to their recollection for relief
from the vulgar prudence of the degenerate days on which he had fallen:
days when nobles must be richer than other men, or they cease to have
any distinction.

It was impossible not to be struck by the effective appearance of Lady
Monmouth as she received her guests in grand toilet preparatory to the
ball; white satin and minever, a brilliant tiara. Her fine form, her
costume of a fashion as perfect as its materials were sumptuous, and her
presence always commanding and distinguished, produced a general effect
to which few could be insensible. It was the triumph of mien over mere
beauty of countenance.

The hotel of Madame S. de R----d is not more distinguished by its
profuse decoration, than by the fine taste which has guided the vast
expenditure. Its halls of arabesque are almost without a rival; there is
not the slightest embellishment in which the hand and feeling of art are
not recognised. The rooms were very crowded; everybody distinguished in
Paris was there: the lady of the Court, the duchess of the Faubourg, the
wife of the financier, the constitutional Throne, the old Monarchy, the
modern Bourse, were alike represented. Marshals of the Empire, Ministers
of the Crown, Dukes and Marquesses, whose ancestors lounged in the
Oeil de Boeuf; diplomatists of all countries, eminent foreigners of all
nations, deputies who led sections, members of learned and scientific
academies, occasionally a stray poet; a sea of sparkling tiaras,
brilliant bouquets, glittering stars, and glowing ribbons, many
beautiful faces, many famous ones: unquestionably the general air of a
firstrate Parisian saloon, on a great occasion, is not easily equalled.
In London there is not the variety of guests; nor the same size and
splendour of saloons. Our houses are too small for reception.

Coningsby, who had stolen away from his grandfather's before the rest of
the guests, was delighted with the novelty of the splendid scene. He had
been in Paris long enough to make some acquaintances, and mostly with
celebrated personages. In his long fruitless endeavour to enter the
saloon in which they danced, he found himself hustled against the
illustrious Baron von H----t, whom he had sat next to at dinner a few
days before at Count M----é's.

'It is more difficult than cutting through the Isthmus of Panama,
Baron,' said Coningsby, alluding to a past conversation.

'Infinitely,' replied M. de H., smiling; 'for I would undertake to
cut through the Isthmus, and I cannot engage that I shall enter this
ball-room.'

Time, however, brought Coningsby into that brilliant chamber. What a
blaze of light and loveliness! How coquettish are the costumes! How
vivid the flowers! To sounds of stirring melody, beautiful beings move
with grace. Grace, indeed, is beauty in action.

Here, where all are fair and everything is attractive, his eye is
suddenly arrested by one object, a form of surpassing grace among the
graceful, among the beauteous a countenance of unrivalled beauty.

She was young among the youthful; a face of sunshine amid all that
artificial light; her head placed upon her finely-moulded shoulders with
a queen-like grace; a coronet of white roses on her dark brown hair; her
only ornament. It was the beauty of the picture-gallery.

The eye of Coningsby never quitted her. When the dance ceased, he had an
opportunity of seeing her nearer. He met her walking with her cavalier,
and he was conscious that she observed him. Finally he remarked that she
resumed a seat next to the lady whom he had mistaken for her mother, but
had afterwards understood to be Lady Wallinger.

Coningsby returned to the other saloons: he witnessed the entrance and
reception of Lady Monmouth, who moved on towards the ball-room. Soon
after this, Sidonia arrived; he came in with the still handsome and ever
courteous Duke D----s. Observing Coningsby, he stopped to present him to
the Duke. While thus conversing, the Duke, who is fond of the English,
observed, 'See, here is your beautiful countrywoman that all the world
are talking of. That is her uncle. He brings to me letters from one of
your lords, whose name I cannot recollect.'

And Sir Joseph and his lovely niece veritably approached. The Duke
addressed them: asked them in the name of his Duchess to a concert on
the next Thursday; and, after a thousand compliments, moved on. Sidonia
stopped; Coningsby could not refrain from lingering, but stood a little
apart, and was about to move away, when there was a whisper, of which,
without hearing a word, he could not resist the impression that he was
the subject. He felt a little embarrassed, and was retiring, when he
heard Sidonia reply to an inquiry of the lady, 'The same,' and then,
turning to Coningsby, said aloud, 'Coningsby, Miss Millbank says that
you have forgotten her.'

Coningsby started, advanced, coloured a little, could not conceal
his surprise. The lady, too, though more prepared, was not without
confusion, and for an instant looked down. Coningsby recalled at that
moment the long dark eyelashes, and the beautiful, bashful countenance
that had so charmed him at Millbank; but two years had otherwise
effected a wonderful change in the sister of his school-day friend,
and transformed the silent, embarrassed girl into a woman of surpassing
beauty and of the most graceful and impressive mien.

'It is not surprising that Mr. Coningsby should not recollect my niece,'
said Sir Joseph, addressing Sidonia, and wishing to cover their mutual
embarrassment; 'but it is impossible for her, or for anyone connected
with her, not to be anxious at all times to express to him our sense of
what we all owe him.'

Coningsby and Miss Millbank were now in full routine conversation,
consisting of questions; how long she had been at Paris; when she had
heard last from Millbank; how her father was; also, how was her brother.
Sidonia made an observation to Sir Joseph on a passer-by, and then
himself moved on; Coningsby accompanying his new friends, in a contrary
direction, to the refreshment-room, to which they were proceeding.

'And you have passed a winter at Rome,' said Coningsby. 'How I envy you!
I feel that I shall never be able to travel.'

'And why not?'

'Life has become so stirring, that there is ever some great cause that
keeps one at home.'

'Life, on the contrary, so swift, that all may see now that of which
they once could only read.'

'The golden and silver sides of the shield,' said Coningsby, with a
smile.

'And you, like a good knight, will maintain your own.'

'No, I would follow yours.'

'You have not heard lately from Oswald?'

'Oh, yes; I think there are no such faithful correspondents as we are; I
only wish we could meet.'

'You will soon; but he is such a devotee of Oxford; quite a monk; and
you, too, Mr. Coningsby, are much occupied.'

'Yes, and at the same time as Millbank. I was in hopes, when I once paid
you a visit, I might have found your brother.'

'But that was such a rapid visit,' said Miss Millbank.

'I always remember it with delight,' said Coningsby.

'You were willing to be pleased; but Millbank, notwithstanding Rome,
commands my affections, and in spite of this surrounding splendour, I
could have wished to have passed my Christmas in Lancashire.'

'Mr. Millbank has lately purchased a very beautiful place in the county.
I became acquainted with Hellingsley when staying at my grandfather's.'

'Ah! I have never seen it; indeed, I was much surprised that papa became
its purchaser, because he never will live there; and Oswald, I am sure,
could never be tempted to quit Millbank. You know what enthusiastic
ideas he has of his order?'

'Like all his ideas, sound, and high, and pure. I always duly
appreciated your brother's great abilities, and, what is far more
important, his lofty mind. When I recollect our Eton days, I cannot
understand how more than two years have passed away without our being
together. I am sure the fault is mine. I might now have been at Oxford
instead of Paris. And yet,' added Coningsby, 'that would have been a sad
mistake, since I should not have had the happiness of being here.

'Oh, yes, that would have been a sad mistake,' said Miss Millbank.

'Edith,' said Sir Joseph, rejoining his niece, from whom he had been
momentarily separated, 'Edith, that is Monsieur Thiers.'

In the meantime Sidonia reached the ball-room, and sitting near the
entrance was Lady Monmouth, who immediately addressed him. He was, as
usual, intelligent and unimpassioned, and yet not without a delicate
deference which is flattering to women, especially if not altogether
unworthy of it. Sidonia always admired Lucretia, and preferred her
society to that of most persons. But the Lady was in error in supposing
that she had conquered or could vanquish his heart. Sidonia was one of
those men, not so rare as may be supposed, who shrink, above all things,
from an adventure of gallantry with a woman in a position. He had
neither time nor temper for sentimental circumvolutions. He detested the
diplomacy of passion: protocols, protracted negotiations, conferences,
correspondence, treaties projected, ratified, violated. He had no genius
for the tactics of intrigue; your reconnoiterings, and marchings, and
countermarchings, sappings, and minings, assaults, sometimes surrenders,
and sometimes repulses. All the solemn and studied hypocrisies were to
him infinitely wearisome; and if the movements were not merely formal,
they irritated him, distracted his feelings, disturbed the tenor of his
mind, deranged his nervous system. Something of the old Oriental vein
influenced him in his carriage towards women. He was oftener behind the
scenes of the Opera-house than in his box; he delighted, too, in the
society of _etairai_; Aspasia was his heroine. Obliged to appear much in
what is esteemed pure society, he cultivated the acquaintance of clever
women, because they interested him; but in such saloons his feminine
acquaintances were merely psychological. No lady could accuse him of
trifling with her feelings, however decided might be his predilection
for her conversation. He yielded at once to an admirer; never trespassed
by any chance into the domain of sentiment; never broke, by any accident
or blunder, into the irregular paces of flirtation; was a man who
notoriously would never diminish by marriage the purity of his race;
and one who always maintained that passion and polished life were quite
incompatible. He liked the drawing-room, and he liked the Desert, but he
would not consent that either should trench on their mutual privileges.

The Princess Lucretia had yielded herself to the spell of Sidonia's
society at Coningsby Castle, when she knew that marriage was impossible.
But she loved him; and with an Italian spirit. Now they met again,
and she was the Marchioness of Monmouth, a very great lady, very much
admired, and followed, and courted, and very powerful. It is our great
moralist who tells us, in the immortal page, that an affair of gallantry
with a great lady is more delightful than with ladies of a lower degree.
In this he contradicts the good old ballad; but certain it is that
Dr. Johnson announced to Boswell, 'Sir, in the case of a Countess the
imagination is more excited.'

But Sidonia was a man on whom the conventional superiorities of life
produced as little effect as a flake falling on the glaciers of the high
Alps. His comprehension of the world and human nature was too vast
and complete; he understood too well the relative value of things to
appreciate anything but essential excellence; and that not too much. A
charming woman was not more charming to him because she chanced to be
an empress in a particular district of one of the smallest planets; a
charming woman under any circumstances was not an unique animal. When
Sidonia felt a disposition to be spellbound, he used to review in his
memory all the charming women of whom he had read in the books of all
literatures, and whom he had known himself in every court and clime,
and the result of his reflections ever was, that the charming woman in
question was by no means the paragon, which some who had read, seen,
and thought less, might be inclined to esteem her. There was, indeed,
no subject on which Sidonia discoursed so felicitously as on woman, and
none on which Lord Eskdale more frequently endeavoured to attract him.
He would tell you Talmudical stories about our mother Eve and the Queen
of Sheba, which would have astonished you. There was not a free lady of
Greece, Leontium and Phryne, Lais, Danae, and Lamia, the Egyptian girl
Thonis, respecting whom he could not tell you as many diverting tales as
if they were ladies of Loretto; not a nook of Athenseus, not an obscure
scholiast, not a passage in a Greek orator, that could throw light on
these personages, which was not at his command. What stories he would
tell you about Marc Antony and the actress Cytheris in their chariot
drawn by tigers! What a character would he paint of that Flora who gave
her gardens to the Roman people! It would draw tears to your eyes. No
man was ever so learned in the female manners of the last centuries of
polytheism as Sidonia. You would have supposed that he had devoted his
studies peculiarly to that period if you had not chanced to draw him
to the Italian middle ages. And even these startling revelations were
almost eclipsed by his anecdotes of the Court of Henry III. of France,
with every character of which he was as familiar as with the brilliant
groups that at this moment filled the saloons of Madame de R----d.



CHAPTER III.

The image of Edith Millbank was the last thought of Coningsby, as he
sank into an agitated slumber. To him had hitherto in general been
accorded the precious boon of dreamless sleep. Homer tells us these
phantasms come from Jove; they are rather the children of a distracted
soul. Coningsby this night lived much in past years, varied by
painful perplexities of the present, which he could neither subdue
nor comprehend. The scene flitted from Eton to the castle of his
grandfather; and then he found himself among the pictures of the Rue de
Tronchet, but their owner bore the features of the senior Millbank. A
beautiful countenance that was alternately the face in the mysterious
picture, and then that of Edith, haunted him under all circumstances. He
woke little refreshed; restless, and yet sensible of some secret joy.

He woke to think of her of whom he had dreamed. The light had dawned on
his soul. Coningsby loved.

Ah! what is that ambition that haunts our youth, that thirst for power
or that lust of fame that forces us from obscurity into the sunblaze of
the world, what are these sentiments so high, so vehement, so ennobling?
They vanish, and in an instant, before the glance of a woman!

Coningsby had scarcely quitted her side the preceding eve. He hung
upon the accents of that clear sweet voice, and sought, with tremulous
fascination, the gleaming splendour of those soft dark eyes. And now
he sat in his chamber, with his eyes fixed on vacancy. All thoughts and
feelings, pursuits, desires, life, merge in one absorbing sentiment.

It is impossible to exist without seeing her again, and instantly. He
had requested and gained permission to call on Lady Wallinger; he would
not lose a moment in availing himself of it. As early as was tolerably
decorous, and before, in all probability, they could quit their hotel,
Coningsby repaired to the Rue de Rivoli to pay his respects to his new
friends.

As he walked along, he indulged in fanciful speculations which connected
Edith and the mysterious portrait of his mother. He felt himself, as
it were, near the fulfilment of some fate, and on the threshold of some
critical discovery. He recalled the impatient, even alarmed, expressions
of Rigby at Montem six years ago, when he proposed to invite young
Millbank to his grandfather's dinner; the vindictive feud that existed
between the two families, and for which political opinion, or even party
passion, could not satisfactorily account; and he reasoned himself into
a conviction, that the solution of many perplexities was at hand, and
that all would be consummated to the satisfaction of every one, by his
unexpected but inevitable agency.

Coningsby found Sir Joseph alone. The worthy Baronet was at any rate
no participator in Mr. Millbank's vindictive feelings against Lord
Monmouth. On the contrary, he had a very high respect for a Marquess,
whatever might be his opinions, and no mean consideration for a
Marquess' grandson.

Sir Joseph had inherited a large fortune made by commerce, and had
increased it by the same means. He was a middle-class Whig, had
faithfully supported that party in his native town during the days they
wandered in the wilderness, and had well earned his share of the milk
and honey when they had vanquished the promised land. In the springtide
of Liberalism, when the world was not analytical of free opinions, and
odious distinctions were not drawn between Finality men and progressive
Reformers, Mr. Wallinger had been the popular leader of a powerful
body of his fellow-citizens, who had returned him to the first Reformed
Parliament, and where, in spite of many a menacing registration, he
had contrived to remain. He had never given a Radical vote without
the permission of the Secretary of the Treasury, and was not afraid
of giving an unpopular one to serve his friends. He was not like that
distinguished Liberal, who, after dining with the late Whig Premier,
expressed his gratification and his gratitude, by assuring his Lordship
that he might count on his support on all popular questions.

'I want men who will support the government on all unpopular questions,'
replied the witty statesman.

Mr. Wallinger was one of these men. His high character and strong purse
were always in the front rank in the hour of danger. His support in the
House was limited to his votes; but in other places equally important,
at a meeting at a political club, or in Downing Street, he could find
his tongue, take what is called a 'practical' view of a question, adopt
what is called an 'independent tone,' reanimate confidence in ministers,
check mutiny, and set a bright and bold example to the wavering. A man
of his property, and high character, and sound views, so practical and
so independent, this was evidently the block from which a Baronet should
be cut, and in due time he figured Sir Joseph.

A Spanish gentleman of ample means, and of a good Catalan family, flying
during a political convulsion to England, arrived with his two
daughters at Liverpool, and bore letters of introduction to the house
of Wallinger. Some little time after this, by one of those stormy
vicissitudes of political fortune, of late years not unusual in the
Peninsula, he returned to his native country, and left his children, and
the management of that portion of his fortune that he had succeeded in
bringing with him, under the guardianship of the father of the present
Sir Joseph. This gentleman was about again to become an exile, when
he met with an untimely end in one of those terrible tumults of which
Barcelona is the frequent scene.

The younger Wallinger was touched by the charms of one of his father's
wards. Her beauty of a character to which he was unaccustomed,
her accomplishments of society, and the refinement of her manners,
conspicuous in the circle in which he lived, captivated him; and though
they had no heir, the union had been one of great felicity. Sir Joseph
was proud of his wife; he secretly considered himself, though his 'tone'
was as liberal and independent as in old days, to be on the threshold of
aristocracy, and was conscious that Lady Wallinger played her part not
unworthily in the elevated circles in which they now frequently found
themselves. Sir Joseph was fond of great people, and not averse to
travel; because, bearing a title, and being a member of the British
Parliament, and always moving with the appendages of wealth, servants,
carriages, and couriers, and fortified with no lack of letters from
the Foreign Office, he was everywhere acknowledged, and received,
and treated as a personage; was invited to court-balls, dined with
ambassadors, and found himself and his lady at every festival of
distinction.

The elder Millbank had been Joseph Wallinger's youthful friend.
Different as were their dispositions and the rate of their abilities,
their political opinions were the same; and commerce habitually
connected their interests. During a visit to Liverpool, Millbank had
made the acquaintance of the sister of Lady Wallinger, and had been a
successful suitor for her hand. This lady was the mother of Edith and of
the schoolfellow of Coningsby. It was only within a very few years
that she had died; she had scarcely lived long enough to complete the
education of her daughter, to whom she was devoted, and on whom she
lavished the many accomplishments that she possessed. Lady Wallinger
having no children, and being very fond of her niece, had watched over
Edith with infinite solicitude, and finally had persuaded Mr. Millbank,
that it would be well that his daughter should accompany them in their
somewhat extensive travels. It was not, therefore, only that nature
had developed a beautiful woman out of a bashful girl since Coningsby's
visit to Millbank; but really, every means and every opportunity that
could contribute to render an individual capable of adorning the most
accomplished circles of life, had naturally, and without effort, fallen
to the fortunate lot of the manufacturer's daughter. Edith possessed
an intelligence equal to those occasions. Without losing the native
simplicity of her character, which sprang from the heart, and which
the strong and original bent of her father's mind had fostered, she had
imbibed all the refinement and facility of the polished circles in which
she moved. She had a clear head, a fine taste, and a generous spirit;
had received so much admiration, that, though by no means insensible to
homage, her heart was free; was strongly attached to her family; and,
notwithstanding all the splendour of Rome, and the brilliancy of Paris,
her thoughts were often in her Saxon valley, amid the green hills and
busy factories of Millbank.

Sir Joseph, finding himself alone with the grandson of Lord Monmouth,
was not very anxious that the ladies should immediately appear. He
thought this a good opportunity of getting at what are called 'the
real feelings of the Tory party;' and he began to pump with a seductive
semblance of frankness. For his part, he had never doubted that a
Conservative government was ultimately inevitable; had told Lord John
so two years ago, and, between themselves, Lord John was of the same
opinion. The present position of the Whigs was the necessary fate of
all progressive parties; could not see exactly how it would end; thought
sometimes it must end in a fusion of parties; but could not well see how
that could be brought about, at least at present. For his part, should
be happy to witness an union of the best men of all parties, for the
preservation of peace and order, without any reference to any particular
opinions. And, in that sense of the word, it was not at all impossible
he might find it his duty some day to support a Conservative government.

Sir Joseph was much astonished when Coningsby, who being somewhat
impatient for the entrance of the ladies was rather more abrupt than his
wont, told the worthy Baronet that he looked, upon a government without
distinct principles of policy as only a stop-gap to a wide-spread and
demoralising anarchy; that he for one could not comprehend how a free
government could endure without national opinions to uphold it; and that
governments for the preservation of peace and order, and nothing else,
had better be sought in China, or among the Austrians, the Chinese of
Europe. As for Conservative government, the natural question was, What
do you mean to conserve? Do you mean to conserve things or only names,
realities or merely appearances? Or, do you mean to continue the
system commenced in 1834, and, with a hypocritical reverence for the
principles, and a superstitious adhesion to the forms, of the old
exclusive constitution, carry on your policy by latitudinarian practice?

Sir Joseph stared; it was the first time that any inkling of the
views of the New Generation had caught his ear. They were strange and
unaccustomed accents. He was extremely perplexed; could by no means make
out what his companion was driving at; at length, with a rather knowing
smile, expressive as much of compassion as comprehension, he remarked,

'Ah! I see; you are a regular Orangeman.'

'I look upon an Orangeman,' said Coningsby, 'as a pure Whig; the only
professor and practiser of unadulterated Whiggism.'

This was too much for Sir Joseph, whose political knowledge did not
reach much further back than the ministry of the Mediocrities; hardly
touched the times of the Corresponding Society. But he was a cautious
man, and never replied in haste. He was about feeling his way, when
he experienced the golden advantage of gaining time, for the ladies
entered.

The heart of Coningsby throbbed as Edith appeared. She extended to him
her hand; her face radiant with kind expression. Lady Wallinger seemed
gratified also by his visit. She had much elegance in her manner;
a calm, soft address; and she spoke English with a sweet Doric
irregularity. They all sat down, talked of the last night's ball, of a
thousand things. There was something animating in the frank, cheerful
spirit of Edith. She had a quick eye both for the beautiful and the
ridiculous, and threw out her observations in terse and vivid phrases.
An hour, and more than an hour, passed away, and Coningsby still found
some excuse not to depart. It seemed that on this morning they were
about to make an expedition into the antique city of Paris, to visit
some old hotels which retained their character; especially they had
heard much of the hotel of the Archbishop of Sens, with its fortified
courtyard. Coningsby expressed great interest in the subject, and showed
some knowledge. Sir Joseph invited him to join the party, which of all
things in the world was what he most desired.



CHAPTER IV.


Not a day elapsed without Coningsby being in the company of Edith. Time
was precious for him, for the spires and pinnacles of Cambridge
already began to loom in the distance, and he resolved to make the most
determined efforts not to lose a day of his liberty. And yet to call
every morning in the Rue de Rivoli was an exploit which surpassed even
the audacity of love! More than once, making the attempt, his courage
failed him, and he turned into the gardens of the Tuileries, and only
watched the windows of the house. Circumstances, however, favoured him:
he received a letter from Oswald Millbank; he was bound to communicate
in person this evidence of his friend's existence; and when he had to
reply to the letter, he must necessarily inquire whether his friend's
relatives had any message to transmit to him. These, however, were only
slight advantages. What assisted Coningsby in his plans and wishes was
the great pleasure which Sidonia, with whom he passed a great deal of
his time, took in the society of the Wallingers and their niece. Sidonia
presented Lady Wallinger with his opera-box during her stay at Paris;
invited them frequently to his agreeable dinner-parties; and announced
his determination to give a ball, which Lady Wallinger esteemed a
delicate attention to Edith; while Lady Monmouth flattered herself that
the festival sprang from the desire she had expressed of seeing the
celebrated hotel of Sidonia to advantage.

Coningsby was very happy. His morning visits to the Rue de Rivoli seemed
always welcome, and seldom an evening elapsed in which he did not find
himself in the society of Edith. She seemed not to wish to conceal that
his presence gave her pleasure, and though she had many admirers, and
had an airy graciousness for all of them, Coningsby sometimes indulged
the exquisite suspicion that there was a flattering distinction in her
carriage to himself. Under the influence of these feelings, he began
daily to be more conscious that separation would be an intolerable
calamity; he began to meditate upon the feasibility of keeping a half
term, and of postponing his departure to Cambridge to a period nearer
the time when Edith would probably return to England.

In the meanwhile, the Parisian world talked much of the grand fete which
was about to be given by Sidonia. Coningsby heard much of it one day
when dining at his grandfather's. Lady Monmouth seemed very intent on
the occasion. Even Lord Monmouth half talked of going, though, for his
part, he wished people would come to him, and never ask him to their
houses. That was his idea of society. He liked the world, but he liked
to find it under his own roof. He grudged them nothing, so that they
would not insist upon the reciprocity of cold-catching, and would eat
his good dinners instead of insisting on his eating their bad ones.

'But Monsieur Sidonia's cook is a gem, they say,' observed an Attaché of
an embassy.

'I have no doubt of it; Sidonia is a man of sense, almost the only man
of sense I know. I never caught him tripping. He never makes a false
move. Sidonia is exactly the sort of man I like; you know you cannot
deceive him, and that he does not want to deceive you. I wish he liked a
rubber more. Then he would be perfect.'

'They say he is going to be married,' said the Attaché.

'Poh!' said Lord Monmouth.

'Married!' exclaimed Lady Monmouth. 'To whom?'

'To your beautiful countrywoman, "la belle Anglaise," that all the world
talks of,' said the Attaché.

'And who may she be, pray?' said the Marquess. 'I have so many beautiful
countrywomen.'

'Mademoiselle Millbank,' said the Attaché.

'Millbank!' said the Marquess, with a lowering brow. 'There are so many
Millbanks. Do you know what Millbank this is, Harry?' he inquired of his
grandson, who had listened to the conversation with a rather embarrassed
and even agitated spirit.

'What, sir; yes, Millbank?' said Coningsby.

'I say, do you know who this Millbank is?'

'Oh! Miss Millbank: yes, I believe, that is, I know a daughter of the
gentleman who purchased some property near you.'

'Oh! that fellow! Has he got a daughter here?'

'The most beautiful girl in Paris,' said the Attaché.

'Lady Monmouth, have you seen this beauty, that Sidonia is going to
marry?' he added, with a fiendish laugh.

'I have seen the young lady,' said Lady Monmouth; 'but I had not heard
that Monsieur Sidonia was about to marry her.'

'Is she so very beautiful?' inquired another gentleman.

'Yes,' said Lady Monmouth, calm, but pale.

'Poh!' said the Marquess again.

'I assure you that it is a fact,' said the Attaché, 'not at least an
_on-dit_. I have it from a quarter that could not well be mistaken.'

Behold a little snatch of ordinary dinner gossip that left a very
painful impression on the minds of three individuals who were present.

The name of Millbank revived in Lord Monmouth's mind a sense of defeat,
discomfiture, and disgust; Hellingsley, lost elections, and Mr. Rigby;
three subjects which Lord Monmouth had succeeded for a time in expelling
from his sensations. His lordship thought that, in all probability, this
beauty of whom they spoke so highly was not really the daughter of his
foe; that it was some confusion which had arisen from the similarity of
names: nor did he believe that Sidonia was going to marry her, whoever
she might be; but a variety of things had been said at dinner, and a
number of images had been raised in his mind that touched his spleen. He
took his wine freely, and, the usual consequence of that proceeding with
Lord Monmouth, became silent and sullen. As for Lady Monmouth, she
had learnt that Sidonia, whatever might be the result, was paying very
marked attention to another woman, for whom undoubtedly he was giving
that very ball which she had flattered herself was a homage to her
wishes, and for which she had projected a new dress of eclipsing
splendour.

Coningsby felt quite sure that the story of Sidonia's marriage
with Edith was the most ridiculous idea that ever entered into the
imagination of man; at least he thought he felt quite sure. But the
idlest and wildest report that the woman you love is about to marry
another is not comfortable. Besides, he could not conceal from himself
that, between the Wallingers and Sidonia there existed a remarkable
intimacy, fully extended to their niece. He had seen her certainly on
more than one occasion in lengthened and apparently earnest conversation
with Sidonia, who, by-the-bye, spoke with her often in Spanish, and
never concealed his admiration of her charms or the interest he found
in her society. And Edith; what, after all, had passed between Edith
and himself which should at all gainsay this report, which he had been
particularly assured was not a mere report, but came from a quarter that
could not well be mistaken? She had received him with kindness. And
how should she receive one who was the friend and preserver of her only
brother, and apparently the intimate and cherished acquaintance of
her future husband? Coningsby felt that sickness of the heart that
accompanies one's first misfortune. The illusions of life seemed to
dissipate and disappear. He was miserable; he had no confidence in
himself, in his future. After all, what was he? A dependent on a man of
very resolute will and passions. Could he forget the glance with which
Lord Monmouth caught the name of Millbank, and received the intimation
of Hellingsley? It was a glance for a Spagnoletto or a Caravaggio to
catch and immortalise. Why, if Edith were not going to marry Sidonia,
how was he ever to marry her, even if she cared for him? Oh! what a
future of unbroken, continuous, interminable misery awaited him! Was
there ever yet born a being with a destiny so dark and dismal? He was
the most forlorn of men, utterly wretched! He had entirely mistaken
his own character. He had no energy, no abilities, not a single eminent
quality. All was over!



CHAPTER V.


It was fated that Lady Monmouth should not be present at that ball,
the anticipation of which had occasioned her so much pleasure and some
pangs.

On the morning after that slight conversation, which had so disturbed
the souls, though unconsciously to each other, of herself and Coningsby,
the Marquess was driving Lucretia up the avenue Marigny in his phaeton.
About the centre of the avenue the horses took fright, and started off
at a wild pace. The Marquess was an experienced whip, calm, and with
exertion still very powerful. He would have soon mastered the horses,
had not one of the reins unhappily broken. The horses swerved; the
Marquess kept his seat; Lucretia, alarmed, sprang up, the carriage was
dashed against the trunk of a tree, and she was thrown out of it, at
the very instant that one of the outriders had succeeded in heading the
equipage and checking the horses.

The Marchioness was senseless. Lord Monmouth had descended from the
phaeton; several passengers had assembled; the door of a contiguous
house was opened; there were offers of service, sympathy, inquiries, a
babble of tongues, great confusion.

'Get surgeons and send for her maid,' said Lord Monmouth to one of his
servants.

In the midst of this distressing tumult, Sidonia, on horseback, followed
by a groom, came up the avenue from the Champs Elysées. The empty
phaeton, reins broken, horses held by strangers, all the appearances of
a misadventure, attracted him. He recognised the livery. He instantly
dismounted. Moving aside the crowd, he perceived Lady Monmouth senseless
and prostrate, and her husband, without assistance, restraining the
injudicious efforts of the bystanders.

'Let us carry her in, Lord Monmouth,' said Sidonia, exchanging a
recognition as he took Lucretia in his arms, and bore her into the
dwelling that was at hand. Those who were standing at the door assisted
him. The woman of the house and Lord Monmouth only were present.

'I would hope there is no fracture,' said Sidonia, placing her on a
sofa, 'nor does it appear to me that the percussion of the head, though
considerable, could have been fatally violent. I have caught her pulse.
Keep her in a horizontal position, and she will soon come to herself.'

The Marquess seated himself in a chair by the side of the sofa, which
Sidonia had advanced to the middle of the room. Lord Monmouth was silent
and very serious. Sidonia opened the window, and touched the brow of
Lucretia with water. At this moment M. Villebecque and a surgeon entered
the chamber.

'The brain cannot be affected, with that pulse,' said the surgeon;
'there is no fracture.'

'How pale she is!' said Lord Monmouth, as if he were examining a
picture.

'The colour seems to me to return,' said Sidonia.

The surgeon applied some restoratives which he had brought with him. The
face of the Marchioness showed signs of life; she stirred.

'She revives,' said the surgeon.

The Marchioness breathed with some force; again; then half-opened her
eyes, and then instantly closed them.

'If I could but get her to take this draught,' said the surgeon.

'Stop! moisten her lips first,' said Sidonia.

They placed the draught to her mouth; in a moment she put forth her hand
as if to repress them, then opened her eyes again, and sighed.

'She is herself,' said the surgeon.

'Lucretia!' said the Marquess.

'Sidonia!' said the Marchioness.

Lord Monmouth looked round to invite his friend to come forward.

'Lady Monmouth!' said Sidonia, in a gentle voice.

She started, rose a little on the sofa, stared around her. 'Where am I?'
she exclaimed.

'With me,' said the Marquess; and he bent forward to her, and took her
hand.

'Sidonia!' she again exclaimed, in a voice of inquiry.

'Is here,' said Lord Monmouth. 'He carried you in after our accident.'

'Accident! Why is he going to marry?'

The Marquess took a pinch of snuff.

There was an awkward pause in the chamber.

'I think now,' said Sidonia to the surgeon, 'that Lady Monmouth would
take the draught.'

She refused it.

'Try you, Sidonia,' said the Marquess, rather dryly.

'You feel yourself again?' said Sidonia, advancing.

'Would I did not!' said the Marchioness, with an air of stupor. 'What
has happened? Why am I here? Are you married?'

'She wanders a little,' said Sidonia.

The Marquess took another pinch of snuff.

'I could have borne even repulsion,' said Lady Monmouth, in a voice of
desolation, 'but not for another!'

'M. Villebecque!' said the Marquess.

'My Lord?'

Lord Monmouth looked at him with that irresistible scrutiny which would
daunt a galley-slave; and then, after a short pause, said, 'The carriage
should have arrived by this time. Let us get home.'



CHAPTER VI.


After the conversation at dinner which we have noticed, the restless
and disquieted Coningsby wandered about Paris, vainly seeking in the
distraction of a great city some relief from the excitement of his mind.
His first resolution was immediately to depart for England; but when, on
reflection, he was mindful that, after all, the assertion which had
so agitated him might really be without foundation, in spite of many
circumstances that to his regardful fancy seemed to accredit it, his
firm resolution began to waver.

These were the first pangs of jealousy that Coningsby had ever
experienced, and they revealed to him the immensity of the stake which
he was hazarding on a most uncertain die.

The next morning he called in the Rue Rivoli, and was informed that the
family were not at home. He was returning under the arcades, towards the
Rue St. Florentin, when Sidonia passed him in an opposite direction, on
horseback, and at a rapid rate. Coningsby, who was not observed by
him, could not resist a strange temptation to watch for a moment his
progress. He saw him enter the court of the hotel where the Wallinger
family were staying. Would he come forth immediately? No. Coningsby
stood still and pale. Minute followed minute. Coningsby flattered
himself that Sidonia was only speaking to the porter. Then he would
fain believe Sidonia was writing a note. Then, crossing the street, he
mounted by some steps the terrace of the Tuileries, nearly opposite the
Hotel of the Minister of Finance, and watched the house. A quarter of an
hour elapsed; Sidonia did not come forth. They were at home to him; only
to him. Sick at heart, infinitely wretched, scarcely able to guide his
steps, dreading even to meet an acquaintance, and almost feeling that
his tongue would refuse the office of conversation, he contrived to
reach his grandfather's hotel, and was about to bury himself in his
chamber, when on the staircase he met Flora.

Coningsby had not seen her for the last fortnight. Seeing her now, his
heart smote him for his neglect, excusable as it really was. Any one
else at this time he would have hurried by without a recognition, but
the gentle and suffering Flora was too meek to be rudely treated by so
kind a heart as Coningsby's.

He looked at her; she was pale and agitated. Her step trembled, while
she still hastened on.

'What is the matter?' inquired Coningsby.

'My Lord, the Marchioness, are in danger, thrown from their carriage.'
Briefly she detailed to Coningsby all that had occurred; that M.
Villebecque had already repaired to them; that she herself only this
moment had learned the intelligence that seemed to agitate her to the
centre. Coningsby instantly turned with her; but they had scarcely
emerged from the courtyard when the carriage approached that brought
Lord and Lady Monmouth home. They followed it into the court. They were
immediately at its door.

'All is right, Harry,' said the Marquess, calm and grave.

Coningsby pressed his grandfather's hand. Then he assisted Lucretia to
alight.

'I am quite well,' she said, 'now.'

'But you must lean on me, dearest Lady Monmouth,' Coningsby said in a
tone of tenderness, as he felt Lucretia almost sinking from him. And he
supported her into the hall of the hotel.

Lord Monmouth had lingered behind. Flora crept up to him, and with
unwonted boldness offered her arm to the Marquess. He looked at her with
a glance of surprise, and then a softer expression, one indeed of an
almost winning sweetness, which, though rare, was not a stranger to
his countenance, melted his features, and taking the arm so humbly
presented, he said,

'Ma Petite, you look more frightened than any of us. Poor child!'

He had reached the top of the flight of steps; he withdrew his arm from
Flora, and thanked her with all his courtesy.

'You are not hurt, then, sir?' she ventured to ask with a look that
expressed the infinite solicitude which her tongue did not venture to
convey.

'By no means, my good little girl;' and he extended his hand to her,
which she reverently bent over and embraced.



CHAPTER VII.


When Coningsby had returned to his grandfather's hotel that morning, it
was with a determination to leave Paris the next day for England;
but the accident to Lady Monmouth, though, as it ultimately appeared,
accompanied by no very serious consequences, quite dissipated this
intention. It was impossible to quit them so crudely at such a moment.
So he remained another day, and that was the day preceding Sidonia's
fête, which he particularly resolved not to attend. He felt it quite
impossible that he could again endure the sight of either Sidonia or
Edith. He looked upon them as persons who had deeply injured him;
though they really were individuals who had treated him with invariable
kindness. But he felt their existence was a source of mortification and
misery to him. With these feelings, sauntering away the last hours at
Paris, disquieted, uneasy; no present, no future; no enjoyment, no hope;
really, positively, undeniably unhappy; unhappy too for the first time
in his life; the first unhappiness; what a companion piece for the
first love! Coningsby, of all places in the world, in the gardens of the
Luxembourg, encountered Sir Joseph Wallinger and Edith.

To avoid them was impossible; they met face to face; and Sir Joseph
stopped, and immediately reminded him that it was three days since they
had seen him, as if to reproach him for so unprecedented a neglect. And
it seemed that Edith, though she said not as much, felt the same. And
Coningsby turned round and walked with them. He told them he was going
to leave Paris on the morrow.

'And miss Monsieur de Sidonia's fête, of which we have all talked
so much!' said Edith, with unaffected surprise, and an expression of
disappointment which she in vain attempted to conceal.

'The festival will not be less gay for my absence,' said Coningsby, with
that plaintive moroseness not unusual to despairing lovers.

'If we were all to argue from the same premises, and act accordingly,'
said Edith, 'the saloons would be empty. But if any person's absence
would be remarked, I should really have thought it would be yours. I
thought you were one of Monsieur de Sidonia's great friends?'

'He has no friends,' said Coningsby. 'No wise man has. What are friends?
Traitors.'

Edith looked much astonished. And then she said,

'I am sure you have not quarrelled with Monsieur de Sidonia, for we have
just parted with him.'

'I have no doubt you have,' thought Coningsby.

'And it is impossible to speak of another in higher terms than he spoke
of you.' Sir Joseph observed how unusual it was for Monsieur de Sidonia
to express himself so warmly.

'Sidonia is a great man, and carries everything before him,' said
Coningsby. 'I am nothing; I cannot cope with him; I retire from the
field.'

'What field?' inquired Sir Joseph, who did not clearly catch the drift
of these observations. 'It appears to me that a field for action is
exactly what Sidonia wants. There is no vent for his abilities and
intelligence. He wastes his energy in travelling from capital to capital
like a King's messenger. The morning after his fête he is going to
Madrid.'

This brought some reference to their mutual movements. Edith spoke of
her return to Lancashire, of her hope that Mr. Coningsby would soon see
Oswald; but Mr. Coningsby informed her that though he was going to leave
Paris, he had no intention of returning to England; that he had not yet
quite made up his mind whither he should go; but thought that he
should travel direct to St. Petersburg. He wished to travel overland to
Astrachan. That was the place he was particularly anxious to visit.

After this incomprehensible announcement, they walked on for some
minutes in silence, broken only by occasional monosyllables, with which
Coningsby responded at hazard to the sound remarks of Sir Joseph. As
they approached the Palace a party of English who were visiting the
Chamber of Peers, and who were acquainted with the companions of
Coningsby, encountered them. Amid the mutual recognitions, Coningsby,
was about to take his leave somewhat ceremoniously, but Edith held forth
her hand, and said,

'Is this indeed farewell?'

His heart was agitated, his countenance changed; he retained her hand
amid the chattering tourists, too full of their criticisms and their
egotistical commonplaces to notice what was passing. A sentimental
ebullition seemed to be on the point of taking place. Their eyes met.
The look of Edith was mournful and inquiring.

'We will say farewell at the ball,' said Coningsby, and she rewarded him
with a radiant smile.



CHAPTER VIII.


Sidonia lived in the Faubourg St. Germain, in a large hotel that, in
old days, had belonged to the Crillons; but it had received at his hands
such extensive alterations, that nothing of the original decoration, and
little of its arrangement, remained.

A flight of marble steps, ascending from a vast court, led into a
hall of great dimensions, which was at the same time an orangery and
a gallery of sculpture. It was illumined by a distinct, yet soft
and subdued light, which harmonised with the beautiful repose of the
surrounding forms, and with the exotic perfume that was wafted about.
A gallery led from this hall to an inner hall of quite a different
character; fantastic, glittering, variegated; full of strange shapes and
dazzling objects.

The roof was carved and gilt in that honeycomb style prevalent in the
Saracenic buildings; the walls were hung with leather stamped in rich
and vivid patterns; the floor was a flood of mosaic; about were statues
of negroes of human size with faces of wild expression, and holding
in their outstretched hands silver torches that blazed with an almost
painful brilliancy.

From this inner hall a double staircase of white marble led to the grand
suite of apartments.

These saloons, lofty, spacious, and numerous, had been decorated
principally in encaustic by the most celebrated artists of Munich. The
three principal rooms were only separated from each other by columns,
covered with rich hangings, on this night drawn aside. The decoration
of each chamber was appropriate to its purpose. On the walls of the
ball-room nymphs and heroes moved in measure in Sicilian landscapes,
or on the azure shores of Aegean waters. From the ceiling beautiful
divinities threw garlands on the guests, who seemed surprised that
the roses, unwilling to quit Olympus, would not descend on earth.
The general effect of this fair chamber was heightened, too, by
that regulation of the house which did not permit any benches in the
ball-room. That dignified assemblage who are always found ranged in
precise discipline against the wall, did not here mar the flowing grace
of the festivity. The chaperons had no cause to complain. A large saloon
abounded in ottomans and easy chairs at their service, where their
delicate charges might rest when weary, or find distraction when not
engaged.

All the world were at this fête of Sidonia. It exceeded in splendour and
luxury every entertainment that had yet been given. The highest rank,
even Princes of the blood, beauty, fashion, fame, all assembled in a
magnificent and illuminated palace, resounding with exquisite melody.

Coningsby, though somewhat depressed, was not insensible to the magic
of the scene. Since the passage in the gardens of the Luxembourg, that
tone, that glance, he had certainly felt much relieved, happier. And yet
if all were, with regard to Sidonia, as unfounded as he could possibly
desire, where was he then? Had he forgotten his grandfather, that fell
look, that voice of intense detestation? What was Millbank to him?
Where, what was the mystery? for of some he could not doubt. The Spanish
parentage of Edith had only more perplexed Coningsby. It offered no
solution. There could be no connection between a Catalan family and his
mother, the daughter of a clergyman in a midland county. That there
was any relationship between the Millbank family and his mother was
contradicted by the conviction in which he had been brought up, that
his mother had no relations; that she returned to England utterly
friendless; without a relative, a connection, an acquaintance to whom
she could appeal. Her complete forlornness was stamped upon his brain.
Tender as were his years when he was separated from her, he could yet
recall the very phrases in which she deplored her isolation; and there
were numerous passages in her letters which alluded to it. Coningsby
had taken occasion to sound the Wallingers on this subject; but he felt
assured, from the manner in which his advances were met, that they knew
nothing of his mother, and attributed the hostility of Mr. Millbank
to his grandfather, solely to political emulation and local rivalries.
Still there were the portrait and the miniature. That was a fact; a clue
which ultimately, he was persuaded, must lead to some solution.

Coningsby had met with great social success at Paris. He was at once a
favourite. The Parisian dames decided in his favour. He was a specimen
of the highest style of English beauty, which is popular in France. His
air was acknowledged as distinguished. The men also liked him; he
had not quite arrived at that age when you make enemies. The moment,
therefore, that he found himself in the saloons of Sidonia, he was
accosted by many whose notice was flattering; but his eye wandered,
while he tried to be courteous and attempted to be sprightly. Where was
she? He had nearly reached the ball-room when he met her. She was on
the arm of Lord Beaumanoir, who had made her acquaintance at Rome, and
originally claimed it as the member of a family who, as the reader may
perhaps not forget, had experienced some kindnesses from the Millbanks.

There were mutual and hearty recognitions between the young men; great
explanations where they had been, what they were doing, where they were
going. Lord Beaumanoir told Coningsby he had introduced steeple-chases
at Rome, and had parted with Sunbeam to the nephew of a Cardinal.
Coningsby securing Edith's hand for the next dance, they all moved on
together to her aunt.

Lady Wallinger was indulging in some Roman reminiscences with the
Marquess.

'And you are not going to Astrachan to-morrow?' said Edith.

'Not to-morrow,' said Coningsby.

'You know that you said once that life was too stirring in these days to
permit travel to a man?'

'I wish nothing was stirring,' said Coningsby. 'I wish nothing to
change. All that I wish is, that this fête should never end.'

'Is it possible that you can be capricious? You perplex me very much.'

'Am I capricious because I dislike change?'

'But Astrachan?'

'It was the air of the Luxembourg that reminded me of the Desert,' said
Coningsby.

Soon after this Coningsby led Edith to the dance. It was at a ball that
he had first met her at Paris, and this led to other reminiscences;
all most interesting. Coningsby was perfectly happy. All mysteries, all
difficulties, were driven from his recollection; he lived only in the
exciting and enjoyable present. Twenty-one and in love!

Some time after this, Coningsby, who was inevitably separated from
Edith, met his host.

'Where have you been, child,' said Sidonia, 'that I have not seen you
for some days? I am going to Madrid tomorrow.'

'And I must think, I suppose, of Cambridge.'

'Well, you have seen something; you will find it more profitable when
you have digested it: and you will have opportunity. That's the true
spring of wisdom: meditate over the past. Adventure and Contemplation
share our being like day and night.'

The resolute departure for England on the morrow had already changed
into a supposed necessity of thinking of returning to Cambridge. In
fact, Coningsby felt that to quit Paris and Edith was an impossibility.
He silenced the remonstrance of his conscience by the expedient of
keeping a half-term, and had no difficulty in persuading himself that
a short delay in taking his degree could not really be of the slightest
consequence.

It was the hour for supper. The guests at a French ball are not seen to
advantage at this period. The custom of separating the sexes for this
refreshment, and arranging that the ladies should partake of it by
themselves, though originally founded in a feeling of consideration
and gallantry, and with the determination to secure, under all
circumstances, the convenience and comfort of the fair sex, is really,
in its appearance and its consequences, anything but European, and
produces a scene which rather reminds one of the harem of a sultan than
a hall of chivalry. To judge from the countenances of the favoured fair,
they are not themselves particularly pleased; and when their repast is
over they necessarily return to empty halls, and are deprived of the
dance at the very moment when they may feel most inclined to participate
in its graceful excitement.

These somewhat ungracious circumstances, however, were not attendant on
the festival of this night. There was opened in the Hotel of Sidonia for
the first time a banqueting-room which could contain with convenience
all the guests. It was a vast chamber of white marble, the golden panels
of the walls containing festive sculptures by Schwanthaler, relieved by
encaustic tinting. In its centre was a fountain, a group of Bacchantes
encircling Dionysos; and from this fountain, as from a star, diverged
the various tables from which sprang orange-trees in fruit and flower.

The banquet had but one fault; Coningsby was separated from Edith. The
Duchess of Grand Cairo, the beautiful wife of the heir of one of the
Imperial illustrations, had determined to appropriate Coningsby as
her cavalier for the moment. Distracted, he made his escape; but his
wandering eye could not find the object of its search; and he fell
prisoner to the charming Princess de Petitpoix, a Carlist chieftain,
whose witty words avenged the cause of fallen dynasties and a cashiered
nobility.

Behold a scene brilliant in fancy, magnificent in splendour! All the
circumstances of his life at this moment were such as acted forcibly
on the imagination of Coningsby. Separated from Edith, he had still the
delight of seeing her the paragon of that bright company, the consummate
being whom he adored! and who had spoken to him in a voice sweeter than
a serenade, and had bestowed on him a glance softer than moonlight! The
lord of the palace, more distinguished even for his capacity than his
boundless treasure, was his chosen friend; gained under circumstances
of romantic interest, when the reciprocal influence of their personal
qualities was affected by no accessory knowledge of their worldly
positions. He himself was in the very bloom of youth and health; the
child of a noble house, rich for his present wants, and with a future of
considerable fortunes. Entrancing love and dazzling friendship, a
high ambition and the pride of knowledge, the consciousness of a great
prosperity, the vague, daring energies of the high pulse of twenty-one,
all combined to stimulate his sense of existence, which, as he looked
around him at the beautiful objects and listened to the delicious
sounds, seemed to him a dispensation of almost supernatural ecstasy.

About an hour after this, the ball-room still full, but the other
saloons gradually emptying, Coningsby entered a chamber which seemed
deserted. Yet he heard sounds, as it were, of earnest conversation. It
was the voice that invited his progress; he advanced another step, then
suddenly stopped. There were two individuals in the room, by whom he was
unnoticed. They were Sidonia and Miss Millbank. They were sitting on a
sofa, Sidonia holding her hand and endeavouring, as it seemed, to soothe
her. Her tones were tremulous; but the expression of her face was fond
and confiding. It was all the work of a moment. Coningsby instantly
withdrew, yet could not escape hearing an earnest request from Edith to
her companion that he would write to her.

In a few seconds Coningsby had quitted the hotel of Sidonia, and the
next day found him on his road to England.

END OF BOOK VI.



BOOK VII.


CHAPTER I.


It was one of those gorgeous and enduring sunsets that seemed to linger
as if they wished to celebrate the mid-period of the year. Perhaps the
beautiful hour of impending twilight never exercises a more effective
influence on the soul than when it descends on the aspect of some
distant and splendid city. What a contrast between the serenity and
repose of our own bosoms and the fierce passions and destructive cares
girt in the walls of that multitude whose domes and towers rise in
purple lustre against the resplendent horizon!

And yet the disturbing emotions of existence and the bitter inheritance
of humanity should exercise but a modified sway, and entail but a light
burden, within the circle of the city into which the next scene of our
history leads us. For it is the sacred city of study, of learning,
and of faith; and the declining beam is resting on the dome of the
Radcliffe, lingering on the towers of Christchurch and Magdalen,
sanctifying the spires and pinnacles of holy St. Mary's.

A young Oxonian, who had for some time been watching the city in the
sunset, from a rising ground in its vicinity, lost, as it would seem, in
meditation, suddenly rose, and looking at his watch, as if remindful
of some engagement, hastened his return at a rapid pace. He reached
the High Street as the Blenheim light post coach dashed up to the Star
Hotel, with that brilliant precision which even the New Generation can
remember, and yet which already ranks among the traditions of English
manners. A peculiar and most animating spectacle used to be the arrival
of a firstrate light coach in a country town! The small machine,
crowded with so many passengers, the foaming and curvetting leaders, the
wheelers more steady and glossy, as if they had not done their ten miles
in the hour, the triumphant bugle of the guard, and the haughty routine
with which the driver, as he reached his goal, threw his whip to the
obedient ostlers in attendance; and, not least, the staring crowd, a
little awestruck, and looking for the moment at the lowest official of
the stable with considerable respect, altogether made a picture which
one recollects with cheerfulness, and misses now in many a dreary
market-town.

Our Oxonian was a young man about the middle height, and naturally of a
thoughtful expression and rather reserved mien. The general character of
his countenance was, indeed, a little stern, but it broke into an almost
bewitching smile, and a blush suffused his face, as he sprang forward
and welcomed an individual about the same age, who had jumped off the
Blenheim.

'Well, Coningsby!' he exclaimed, extending both his hands.

'By Jove! my dear Millbank, we have met at last,' said his friend.

And here we must for a moment revert to what had occurred to Coningsby
since he so suddenly quitted Paris at the beginning of the year. The
wound he had received was deep to one unused to wounds. Yet, after all,
none had outraged his feelings, no one had betrayed his hopes. He had
loved one who had loved another. Misery, but scarcely humiliation. And
yet 'tis a bitter pang under any circumstances to find another preferred
to yourself. It is about the same blow as one would probably feel if
falling from a balloon. Your Icarian flight melts into a grovelling
existence, scarcely superior to that of a sponge or a coral, or redeemed
only from utter insensibility by your frank detestation of your rival.
It is quite impossible to conceal that Coningsby had imbibed for Sidonia
a certain degree of aversion, which, in these days of exaggerated
phrase, might even be described as hatred. And Edith was so beautiful!
And there had seemed between them a sympathy so native and spontaneous,
creating at once the charm of intimacy without any of the disenchanting
attributes that are occasionally its consequence. He would recall the
tones of her voice, the expression of her soft dark eye, the airy spirit
and frank graciousness, sometimes even the flattering blush, with which
she had ever welcomed one of whom she had heard so long and so kindly.
It seemed, to use a sweet and homely phrase, that they were made for
each other; the circumstances of their mutual destinies might have
combined into one enchanting fate.

And yet, had she accorded him that peerless boon, her heart, with what
aspect was he to communicate this consummation of all his hopes to his
grandfather, ask Lord Monmouth for his blessing, and the gracious favour
of an establishment for the daughter of his foe, of a man whose name was
never mentioned except to cloud his visage? Ah! what was that mystery
that connected the haughty house of Coningsby with the humble blood of
the Lancashire manufacturer? Why was the portrait of his mother beneath
the roof of Millbank? Coningsby had delicately touched upon the subject
both with Edith and the Wallingers, but the result of his inquiries
only involved the question in deeper gloom. Edith had none but maternal
relatives: more than once she had mentioned this, and the Wallingers, on
other occasions, had confirmed the remark. Coningsby had sometimes drawn
the conversation to pictures, and he would remind her with playfulness
of their first unconscious meeting in the gallery of the Rue Tronchet;
then he remembered that Mr. Millbank was fond of pictures; then he
recollected some specimens of Mr. Millbank's collection, and after
touching on several which could not excite suspicion, he came to
'a portrait, a portrait of a lady; was it a portrait or an ideal
countenance?'

Edith thought she had heard it was a portrait, but she was by no means
certain, and most assuredly was quite unacquainted with the name of the
original, if there were an original.

Coningsby addressed himself to the point with Sir Joseph. He inquired of
the uncle explicitly whether he knew anything on the subject. Sir Joseph
was of opinion that it was something that Millbank had somewhere 'picked
up.' Millbank used often to 'pick up' pictures.

Disappointed in his love, Coningsby sought refuge in the excitement
of study, and in the brooding imagination of an aspiring spirit. The
softness of his heart seemed to have quitted him for ever. He recurred
to his habitual reveries of political greatness and public distinction.
And as it ever seemed to him that no preparation could be complete
for the career which he planned for himself, he devoted himself with
increased ardour to that digestion of knowledge which converts it into
wisdom. His life at Cambridge was now a life of seclusion. With the
exception of a few Eton friends, he avoided all society. And, indeed,
his acquisitions during this term were such as few have equalled, and
could only have been mastered by a mental discipline of a severe and
exalted character. At the end of the term Coningsby took his degree, and
in a few days was about to quit that university where, on the whole,
he had passed three serene and happy years in the society of fond and
faithful friends, and in ennobling pursuits. He had many plans for his
impending movements, yet none of them very mature ones. Lord Vere wished
Coningsby to visit his family in the north, and afterwards to go to
Scotland together: Coningsby was more inclined to travel for a year.
Amid this hesitation a circumstance occurred which decided him to adopt
neither of these courses.

It was Commencement, and coming out of the quadrangle of St. John's,
Coningsby came suddenly upon Sir Joseph and Lady Wallinger, who were
visiting the marvels and rarities of the university. They were alone.
Coningsby was a little embarrassed, for he could not forget the abrupt
manner in which he had parted from them; but they greeted him with
so much cordiality that he instantly recovered himself, and, turning,
became their companion. He hardly ventured to ask after Edith: at
length, in a depressed tone and a hesitating manner, he inquired whether
they had lately seen Miss Millbank. He was himself surprised at the
extreme light-heartedness which came over him the moment he heard she
was in England, at Millbank, with her family. He always very much liked
Lady Wallinger, but this morning he hung over her like a lover, lavished
on her unceasing and the most delicate attentions, seemed to exist only
in the idea of making the Wallingers enjoy and understand Cambridge;
and no one else was to be their guide at any place or under any
circumstances. He told them exactly what they were to see; how they were
to see it; when they were to see it. He told them of things which nobody
did see, but which they should. He insisted that Sir Joseph should dine
with him in hall; Sir Joseph could not think of leaving Lady Wallinger;
Lady Wallinger could not think of Sir Joseph missing an opportunity that
might never offer again. Besides, they might both join her after dinner.
Except to give her husband a dinner, Coningsby evidently intended never
to leave her side.

And the next morning, the occasion favourable, being alone with the
lady, Sir Joseph bustling about a carriage, Coningsby said suddenly,
with a countenance a little disturbed, and in a low voice, 'I was
pleased, I mean surprised, to hear that there was still a Miss Millbank;
I thought by this time she might have borne another name?'

Lady Wallinger looked at him with an expression of some perplexity, and
then said, 'Yes, Edith was much admired; but she need not be precipitate
in marrying. Marriage is for a woman _the_ event. Edith is too precious
to be carelessly bestowed.'

'But I understood,' said Coningsby, 'when I left Paris,' and here, he
became very confused, 'that Miss Millbank was engaged, on the point of
marriage.'

'With whom?'

'Our friend Sidonia.'

'I am sure that Edith would never marry Monsieur de Sidonia, nor
Monsieur de Sidonia, Edith. 'Tis a preposterous idea!' said Lady
Wallinger.

'But he very much admired her?' said Coningsby with a searching eye.

'Possibly,' said Lady Wallinger; 'but he never even intimated his
admiration.'

'But he was very attentive to Miss Millbank?'

'Not more than our intimate friendship authorised, and might expect.'

'You have known Sidonia a long time?'

'It was Monsieur de Sidonia's father who introduced us to the care
of Mr. Wallinger,' said Lady Wallinger, 'and therefore I have ever
entertained for his son a sincere regard. Besides, I look upon him as
a compatriot. Recently he has been even more than usually kind to us,
especially to Edith. While we were at Paris he recovered for her a great
number of jewels which had been left to her by her uncle in Spain;
and, what she prized infinitely more, the whole of her mother's
correspondence which she maintained with this relative since her
marriage. Nothing but the influence of Sidonia could have effected this.
Therefore, of course, Edith is attached to him almost as much as I am.
In short, he is our dearest friend; our counsellor in all our cares. But
as for marrying him, the idea is ridiculous to those who know Monsieur
Sidonia. No earthly consideration would ever induce him to impair that
purity of race on which he prides himself. Besides, there are other
obvious objections which would render an alliance between him and my
niece utterly impossible: Edith is quite as devoted to her religion as
Monsieur Sidonia can be to his race.'

A ray of light flashed on the brain of Coningsby as Lady Wallinger said
these words. The agitated interview, which never could be explained
away, already appeared in quite a different point of view. He became
pensive, remained silent, was relieved when Sir Joseph, whose return he
had hitherto deprecated, reappeared. Coningsby learnt in the course of
the day that the Wallingers were about to make, and immediately, a visit
to Hellingsley; their first visit; indeed, this was the first year that
Mr. Millbank had taken up his abode there. He did not much like the
change of life, Sir Joseph told Coningsby, but Edith was delighted with
Hellingsley, which Sir Joseph understood was a very distinguished place,
with fine gardens, of which his niece was particularly fond.

When Coningsby returned to his rooms, those rooms which he was soon
about to quit for ever, in arranging some papers preparatory to his
removal, his eye lighted on a too-long unanswered letter of Oswald
Millbank. Coningsby had often projected a visit to Oxford, which he much
desired to make, but hitherto it had been impossible for him to effect
it, except in the absence of Millbank; and he had frequently postponed
it that he might combine his first visit to that famous seat of learning
with one to his old schoolfellow and friend. Now that was practicable.
And immediately Coningsby wrote to apprise Millbank that he had
taken his degree, was free, and prepared to pay him immediately the
long-projected visit. Three years and more had elapsed since they had
quitted Eton. How much had happened in the interval! What new ideas, new
feelings, vast and novel knowledge! Though they had not met, they were
nevertheless familiar with the progress and improvement of each other's
minds. Their suggestive correspondence was too valuable to both of them
to have been otherwise than cherished. And now they were to meet on
the eve of entering that world for which they had made so sedulous a
preparation.



CHAPTER II.


There are few things in life more interesting than an unrestrained
interchange of ideas with a congenial spirit, and there are few things
more rare. How very seldom do you encounter in the world a man of great
abilities, acquirements, experience, who will unmask his mind, unbutton
his brains, and pour forth in careless and picturesque phrase all the
results of his studies and observation; his knowledge of men, books, and
nature. On the contrary, if a man has by any chance what he conceives
an original idea, he hoards it as if it were old gold; and rather avoids
the subject with which he is most conversant, from fear that you may
appropriate his best thoughts. One of the principal causes of our
renowned dulness in conversation is our extreme intellectual jealousy.
It must be admitted that in this respect authors, but especially poets,
bear the palm. They never think they are sufficiently appreciated, and
live in tremor lest a brother should distinguish himself. Artists have
the repute of being nearly as bad. And as for a small rising politician,
a clever speech by a supposed rival or suspected candidate for office
destroys his appetite and disturbs his slumbers.

One of the chief delights and benefits of travel is, that one is
perpetually meeting men of great abilities, of original mind, and rare
acquirements, who will converse without reserve. In these discourses
the intellect makes daring leaps and marvellous advances. The tone that
colours our afterlife is often caught in these chance colloquies, and
the bent given that shapes a career.

And yet perhaps there is no occasion when the heart is more open, the
brain more quick, the memory more rich and happy, or the tongue more
prompt and eloquent, than when two school-day friends, knit by every
sympathy of intelligence and affection, meet at the close of their
college careers, after a long separation, hesitating, as it were, on
the verge of active life, and compare together their conclusions of the
interval; impart to each other all their thoughts and secret plans
and projects; high fancies and noble aspirations; glorious visions of
personal fame and national regeneration.

Ah! why should such enthusiasm ever die! Life is too short to be
little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and
expresses himself with frankness and with fervour.

Most assuredly there never was a congress of friendship wherein more was
said and felt than in this meeting, so long projected, and yet perhaps
on the whole so happily procrastinated, between Coningsby and Millbank.
In a moment they seemed as if they had never parted. Their faithful
correspondence indeed had maintained the chain of sentiment unbroken.
But details are only for conversation. Each poured forth his mind
without stint. Not an author that had influenced their taste or judgment
but was canvassed and criticised; not a theory they had framed or a
principle they had adopted that was not confessed. Often, with boyish
glee still lingering with their earnest purpose, they shouted as they
discovered that they had formed the same opinion or adopted the same
conclusion. They talked all day and late into the night. They condensed
into a week the poignant conclusions of three years of almost unbroken
study. And one night, as they sat together in Millbank's rooms at
Oriel, their conversation having for some time taken a political colour,
Millbank said,

'Now tell me, Coningsby, exactly what you conceive to be the state of
parties in this country; for it seems to me that if we penetrate the
surface, the classification must be more simple than their many names
would intimate.'

'The principle of the exclusive constitution of England having been
conceded by the Acts of 1827-8-32,' said Coningsby, 'a party has arisen
in the State who demand that the principle of political liberalism
shall consequently be carried to its extent; which it appears to them is
impossible without getting rid of the fragments of the old constitution
that remain. This is the destructive party; a party with distinct and
intelligible principles. They seek a specific for the evils of our
social system in the general suffrage of the population.

'They are resisted by another party, who, having given up exclusion,
would only embrace as much liberalism as is necessary for the moment;
who, without any embarrassing promulgation of principles, wish to keep
things as they find them as long as they can, and then will manage them
as they find them as well as they can; but as a party must have the
semblance of principles, they take the names of the things that they
have destroyed. Thus they are devoted to the prerogatives of the Crown,
although in truth the Crown has been stripped of every one of its
prerogatives; they affect a great veneration for the constitution in
Church and State, though every one knows that the constitution in Church
and State no longer exists; they are ready to stand or fall with the
"independence of the Upper House of Parliament", though, in practice,
they are perfectly aware that, with their sanction, "the Upper House"
has abdicated its initiatory functions, and now serves only as a court
of review of the legislation of the House of Commons. Whenever public
opinion, which this party never attempts to form, to educate, or to
lead, falls into some violent perplexity, passion, or caprice, this
party yields without a struggle to the impulse, and, when the storm has
passed, attempts to obstruct and obviate the logical and, ultimately,
the inevitable results of the very measures they have themselves
originated, or to which they have consented. This is the Conservative
party.

'I care not whether men are called Whigs or Tories, Radicals or
Chartists, or by what nickname a bustling and thoughtless race may
designate themselves; but these two divisions comprehend at present the
English nation.

'With regard to the first school, I for one have no faith in the
remedial qualities of a government carried on by a neglected democracy,
who, for three centuries, have received no education. What prospect does
it offer us of those high principles of conduct with which we have
fed our imaginations and strengthened our will? I perceive none of the
elements of government that should secure the happiness of a people and
the greatness of a realm.

'But in my opinion, if Democracy be combated only by Conservatism,
Democracy must triumph, and at no distant date. This, then, is our
position. The man who enters public life at this epoch has to choose
between Political Infidelity and a Destructive Creed.'

'This, then,' said Millbank, 'is the dilemma to which we are brought
by nearly two centuries of Parliamentary Monarchy and Parliamentary
Church.'

''Tis true,' said Coningsby. 'We cannot conceal it from ourselves,
that the first has made Government detested, and the second Religion
disbelieved.'

'Many men in this country,' said Millbank, 'and especially in the class
to which I belong, are reconciled to the contemplation of democracy;
because they have accustomed themselves to believe, that it is the
only power by which we can sweep away those sectional privileges and
interests that impede the intelligence and industry of the community.'

'And yet,' said Coningsby, 'the only way to terminate what, in the
language of the present day, is called Class Legislation, is not to
entrust power to classes. You would find a Locofoco majority as much
addicted to Class Legislation as a factitious aristocracy. The only
power that has no class sympathy is the Sovereign.'

'But suppose the case of an arbitrary Sovereign, what would be your
check against him?'

'The same as against an arbitrary Parliament.'

'But a Parliament is responsible.'

'To whom?'

'To their constituent body.'

'Suppose it was to vote itself perpetual?'

'But public opinion would prevent that.'

'And is public opinion of less influence on an individual than on a
body?'

'But public opinion may be indifferent. A nation may be misled, may be
corrupt.'

'If the nation that elects the Parliament be corrupt, the elected body
will resemble it. The nation that is corrupt deserves to fall. But this
only shows that there is something to be considered beyond forms of
government, national character. And herein mainly should we repose our
hopes. If a nation be led to aim at the good and the great, depend upon
it, whatever be its form, the government will respond to its convictions
and its sentiments.'

'Do you then declare against Parliamentary government.'

'Far from it: I look upon political change as the greatest of evils,
for it comprehends all. But if we have no faith in the permanence of
the existing settlement, if the very individuals who established it are,
year after year, proposing their modifications or their reconstructions;
so also, while we uphold what exists, ought we to prepare ourselves for
the change we deem impending?

'Now I would not that either ourselves, or our fellow-citizens, should
be taken unawares as in 1832, when the very men who opposed the Reform
Bill offered contrary objections to it which destroyed each other, so
ignorant were they of its real character, its historical causes, its
political consequences. We should now so act that, when the occasions
arrives, we should clearly comprehend what we want, and have formed an
opinion as to the best means by which that want can be supplied.

'For this purpose I would accustom the public mind to the contemplation
of an existing though torpid power in the constitution, capable
of removing our social grievances, were we to transfer to it those
prerogatives which the Parliament has gradually usurped, and used in
a manner which has produced the present material and moral
disorganisation. The House of Commons is the house of a few; the
Sovereign is the sovereign of all. The proper leader of the people is
the individual who sits upon the throne.'

'Then you abjure the Representative principle?'

'Why so? Representation is not necessarily, or even in a principal
sense, Parliamentary. Parliament is not sitting at this moment, and yet
the nation is represented in its highest as well as in its most minute
interests. Not a grievance escapes notice and redress. I see in the
newspaper this morning that a pedagogue has brutally chastised his
pupil. It is a fact known over all England. We must not forget that a
principle of government is reserved for our days that we shall not find
in our Aristotles, or even in the forests of Tacitus, nor in our Saxon
Wittenagemotes, nor in our Plantagenet parliaments. Opinion is now
supreme, and Opinion speaks in print. The representation of the Press is
far more complete than the representation of Parliament. Parliamentary
representation was the happy device of a ruder age, to which it was
admirably adapted: an age of semi-civilisation, when there was a leading
class in the community; but it exhibits many symptoms of desuetude.
It is controlled by a system of representation more vigorous and
comprehensive; which absorbs its duties and fulfils them more
efficiently, and in which discussion is pursued on fairer terms, and
often with more depth and information.'

'And to what power would you entrust the function of Taxation?'

'To some power that would employ it more discreetly than in creating
our present amount of debt, and in establishing our present system of
imposts.

'In a word, true wisdom lies in the policy that would effect its ends
by the influence of opinion, and yet by the means of existing forms.
Nevertheless, if we are forced to revolutions, let us propose to our
consideration the idea of a free monarchy, established on fundamental
laws, itself the apex of a vast pile of municipal and local government,
ruling an educated people, represented by a free and intellectual press.
Before such a royal authority, supported by such a national opinion, the
sectional anomalies of our country would disappear. Under such a system,
where qualification would not be parliamentary, but personal, even
statesmen would be educated; we should have no more diplomatists who
could not speak French, no more bishops ignorant of theology, no more
generals-in-chief who never saw a field.

'Now there is a polity adapted to our laws, our institutions, our
feelings, our manners, our traditions; a polity capable of great ends
and appealing to high sentiments; a polity which, in my opinion, would
render government an object of national affection, which would terminate
sectional anomalies, assuage religious heats, and extinguish Chartism.'

'You said to me yesterday,' said Millbank after a pause, 'quoting the
words of another, which you adopted, that Man was made to adore and to
obey. Now you have shown to me the means by which you deem it possible
that government might become no longer odious to the subject; you have
shown how man may be induced to obey. But there are duties and interests
for man beyond political obedience, and social comfort, and national
greatness, higher interests and greater duties. How would you deal
with their spiritual necessities? You think you can combat political
infidelity in a nation by the principle of enlightened loyalty; how
would you encounter religious infidelity in a state? By what means is
the principle of profound reverence to be revived? How, in short, is man
to be led to adore?'

'Ah! that is a subject which I have not forgotten,' replied Coningsby.
'I know from your letters how deeply it has engaged your thoughts.
I confess to you that it has often filled mine with perplexity and
depression. When we were at Eton, and both of us impregnated with the
contrary prejudices in which we had been brought up, there was still
between us one common ground of sympathy and trust; we reposed with
confidence and affection in the bosom of our Church. Time and thought,
with both of us, have only matured the spontaneous veneration of our
boyhood. But time and thought have also shown me that the Church of our
heart is not in a position, as regards the community, consonant with its
original and essential character, or with the welfare of the nation.'

'The character of a Church is universality,' replied Millbank. 'Once
the Church in this country was universal in principle and practice; when
wedded to the State, it continued at least universal in principle, if
not in practice. What is it now? All ties between the State and
the Church are abolished, except those which tend to its danger and
degradation.

'What can be more anomalous than the present connection between State
and Church? Every condition on which it was originally consented to
has been cancelled. That original alliance was, in my view, an equal
calamity for the nation and the Church; but, at least, it was an
intelligible compact. Parliament, then consisting only of members of
the Established Church, was, on ecclesiastical matters, a lay synod, and
might, in some points of view, be esteemed a necessary portion of Church
government. But you have effaced this exclusive character of Parliament;
you have determined that a communion with the Established Church shall
no longer be part of the qualification for sitting in the House of
Commons. There is no reason, so far as the constitution avails, why
every member of the House of Commons should not be a dissenter. But the
whole power of the country is concentrated in the House of Commons.
The House of Lords, even the Monarch himself, has openly announced and
confessed, within these ten years, that the will of the House of Commons
is supreme. A single vote of the House of Commons, in 1832, made the
Duke of Wellington declare, in the House of Lords, that he was obliged
to abandon his sovereign in "the most difficult and distressing
circumstances." The House of Commons is absolute. It is the State.
"L'Etat c'est moi." The House of Commons virtually appoints the bishops.
A sectarian assembly appoints the bishops of the Established Church.
They may appoint twenty Hoadleys. James II was expelled the throne
because he appointed a Roman Catholic to an Anglican see. A Parliament
might do this to-morrow with impunity. And this is the constitution in
Church and State which Conservative dinners toast! The only consequences
of the present union of Church and State are, that, on the side of the
State, there is perpetual interference in ecclesiastical government, and
on the side of the Church a sedulous avoidance of all those principles
on which alone Church government can be established, and by the
influence of which alone can the Church of England again become
universal.'

'But it is urged that the State protects its revenues?'

'No ecclesiastical revenues should be safe that require protection.
Modern history is a history of Church spoliation. And by whom? Not by
the people; not by the democracy. No; it is the emperor, the king, the
feudal baron, the court minion. The estate of the Church is the estate
of the people, so long as the Church is governed on its real principles.
The Church is the medium by which the despised and degraded classes
assert the native equality of man, and vindicate the rights and power
of intellect. It made, in the darkest hour of Norman rule, the son of
a Saxon pedlar Primate of England, and placed Nicholas Breakspear, a
Hertfordshire peasant, on the throne of the Caesars. It would do as
great things now, if it were divorced from the degrading and tyrannical
connection that enchains it. You would have other sons of peasants
Bishops of England, instead of men appointed to that sacred office
solely because they were the needy scions of a factitious aristocracy;
men of gross ignorance, profligate habits, and grinding extortion, who
have disgraced the episcopal throne, and profaned the altar.'

'But surely you cannot justly extend such a description to the present
bench?'

'Surely not: I speak of the past, of the past that has produced so much
present evil. We live in decent times; frigid, latitudinarian, alarmed,
decorous. A priest is scarcely deemed in our days a fit successor to the
authors of the gospels, if he be not the editor of a Greek play; and he
who follows St. Paul must now at least have been private tutor of
some young nobleman who has taken a good degree! And then you are
all astonished that the Church is not universal! Why! nothing but the
indestructibleness of its principles, however feebly pursued, could have
maintained even the disorganised body that still survives.

'And yet, my dear Coningsby, with all its past errors and all its
present deficiencies, it is by the Church; I would have said until I
listened to you to-night; by the Church alone that I see any chance of
regenerating the national character. The parochial system, though
shaken by the fatal poor-law, is still the most ancient, the most
comprehensive, and the most popular institution of the country; the
younger priests are, in general, men whose souls are awake to the high
mission which they have to fulfil, and which their predecessors so
neglected; there is, I think, a rising feeling in the community, that
parliamentary intercourse in matters ecclesiastical has not tended
either to the spiritual or the material elevation of the humbler
orders. Divorce the Church from the State, and the spiritual power that
struggled against the brute force of the dark ages, against tyrannical
monarchs and barbarous barons, will struggle again in opposition to
influences of a different form, but of a similar tendency; equally
selfish, equally insensible, equally barbarising. The priests of God are
the tribunes of the people. O, ignorant! that with such a mission they
should ever have cringed in the antechambers of ministers, or bowed
before parliamentary committees!'

'The Utilitarian system is dead,' said Coningsby. 'It has passed through
the heaven of philosophy like a hailstorm, cold, noisy, sharp, and
peppering, and it has melted away. And yet can we wonder that it found
some success, when we consider the political ignorance and social torpor
which it assailed? Anointed kings turned into chief magistrates, and
therefore much overpaid; estates of the realm changed into parliaments
of virtual representation, and therefore requiring real reform; holy
Church transformed into national establishment, and therefore grumbled
at by all the nation for whom it was not supported. What an inevitable
harvest of sedition, radicalism, infidelity! I really think there is no
society, however great its resources, that could long resist the united
influences of chief magistrate, virtual representation, and Church
establishment!'

'I have immense faith in the new generation,' said Millbank, eagerly.

'It is a holy thing to see a state saved by its youth,' said Coningsby;
and then he added, in a tone of humility, if not of depression,
'But what a task! What a variety of qualities, what a combination
of circumstances is requisite! What bright abilities and what noble
patience! What confidence from the people, what favour from the Most
High!'

'But He will favour us,' said Millbank. 'And I say to you as Nathan said
unto David, "Thou art the man!" You were our leader at Eton; the friends
of your heart and boyhood still cling and cluster round you! they are
all men whose position forces them into public life. It is a nucleus of
honour, faith, and power. You have only to dare. And will you not dare?
It is our privilege to live in an age when the career of the highest
ambition is identified with the performance of the greatest good. Of the
present epoch it may be truly said, "Who dares to be good, dares to be
great."'

'Heaven is above all,' said Coningsby. 'The curtain of our fate is
still undrawn. We are happy in our friends, dear Millbank, and whatever
lights, we will stand together. For myself, I prefer fame to life;
and yet, the consciousness of heroic deeds to the most wide-spread
celebrity.'



CHAPTER III.


The beautiful light of summer had never shone on a scene and surrounding
landscape which recalled happier images of English nature, and better
recollections of English manners, than that to which we would now
introduce our readers. One of those true old English Halls, now
unhappily so rare, built in the time of the Tudors, and in its elaborate
timber-framing and decorative woodwork indicating, perhaps, the scarcity
of brick and stone at the period of its structure, as much as the
grotesque genius of its fabricator, rose on a terrace surrounded
by ancient and very formal gardens. The hall itself, during many
generations, had been vigilantly and tastefully preserved by its
proprietors. There was not a point which was not as fresh as if it had
been renovated but yesterday. It stood a huge and strange blending
of Grecian, Gothic, and Italian architecture, with a wild dash of the
fantastic in addition. The lantern watch-towers of a baronial castle
were placed in juxtaposition with Doric columns employed for chimneys,
while under oriel windows might be observed Italian doorways with
Grecian pediments. Beyond the extensive gardens an avenue of Spanish
chestnuts at each point of the compass approached the mansion, or led
into a small park which was table-land, its limits opening on all sides
to beautiful and extensive valleys, sparkling with cultivation, except
at one point, where the river Darl formed the boundary of the domain,
and then spread in many a winding through the rich country beyond.

Such was Hellingsley, the new home that Oswald Millbank was about to
visit for the first time. Coningsby and himself had travelled together
as far as Darlford, where their roads diverged, and they had separated
with an engagement on the part of Coningsby to visit Hellingsley on the
morrow. As they had travelled along, Coningsby had frequently led the
conversation to domestic topics; gradually he had talked, and
talked much of Edith. Without an obtrusive curiosity, he extracted,
unconsciously to his companion, traits of her character and early days,
which filled him with a wild and secret interest. The thought that in a
few hours he was to meet her again, infused into his being a degree of
transport, which the very necessity of repressing before his companion
rendered more magical and thrilling. How often it happens in life that
we have with a grave face to discourse of ordinary topics, while all the
time our heart and memory are engrossed with some enchanting secret!

The castle of his grandfather presented a far different scene on the
arrival of Coningsby from that which it had offered on his first visit.
The Marquess had given him a formal permission to repair to it at
his pleasure, and had instructed the steward accordingly. But he came
without notice, at a season of the year when the absence of all sports
made his arrival unexpected. The scattered and sauntering household
roused themselves into action, and contemplated the conviction that it
might be necessary to do some service for their wages. There was a stir
in that vast, sleepy castle. At last the steward was found, and came
forward to welcome their young master, whose simple wants were limited
to the rooms he had formerly occupied.

Coningsby reached the castle a little before sunset, almost the same
hour that he had arrived there more than three years ago. How much had
happened in the interval! Coningsby had already lived long enough to
find interest in pondering over the past. That past too must inevitably
exercise a great influence over his present. He recalled his morning
drive with his grandfather, to the brink of that river which was
the boundary between his own domain and Hellingsley. Who dwelt at
Hellingsley now?

Restless, excited, not insensible to the difficulties, perhaps the
dangers of his position, yet full of an entrancing emotion in which all
thoughts and feelings seemed to merge, Coningsby went forth into the
fair gardens to muse over his love amid objects as beautiful. A rosy
light hung over the rare shrubs and tall fantastic trees; while a rich
yet darker tint suffused the distant woods. This euthanasia of the day
exercises a strange influence on the hearts of those who love. Who has
not felt it? Magical emotions that touch the immortal part!

But as for Coningsby, the mitigating hour that softens the heart made
his spirit brave. Amid the ennobling sympathies of nature, the pursuits
and purposes of worldly prudence and conventional advantage subsided
into their essential nothingness. He willed to blend his life and fate
with a being beautiful as that nature that subdued him, and he felt in
his own breast the intrinsic energies that in spite of all obstacles
should mould such an imagination into reality.

He descended the slopes, now growing dimmer in the fleeting light, into
the park. The stillness was almost supernatural; the jocund sounds of
day had died, and the voices of the night had not commenced. His heart
too was still. A sacred calm had succeeded to that distraction of
emotion which had agitated him the whole day, while he had mused over
his love and the infinite and insurmountable barriers that seemed to
oppose his will. Now he felt one of those strong groundless convictions
that are the inspirations of passion, that all would yield to him as to
one holding an enchanted wand.

Onward he strolled; it seemed without purpose, yet always proceeding. A
pale and then gleaming tint stole over the masses of mighty timber; and
soon a glittering light flooded the lawns and glades. The moon was high
in her summer heaven, and still Coningsby strolled on. He crossed the
broad lawns, he traversed the bright glades: amid the gleaming and
shadowy woods, he traced his prescient way.

He came to the bank of a rushing river, foaming in the moonlight, and
wafting on its blue breast the shadow of a thousand stars.

'O river!' he said, 'that rollest to my mistress, bear her, bear her my
heart!'



CHAPTER IV.


Lady Wallinger and Edith were together in the morning room of
Hellingsley, the morrow after the arrival of Oswald. Edith was arranging
flowers in a vase, while her aunt was embroidering a Spanish peasant in
correct costume. The daughter of Millbank looked as bright and fragrant
as the fair creations that surrounded her. Beautiful to watch her as she
arranged their forms and composed their groups; to mark her eye glance
with gratification at some happy combination of colour, or to listen to
her delight as they wafted to her in gratitude their perfume. Oswald and
Sir Joseph were surveying the stables; Mr. Millbank, who had been daily
expected for the last week from the factories, had not yet arrived.

'I must say he gained my heart from the first,' said Lady Wallinger.

'I wish the gardener would send us more roses,' said Edith.

'He is so very superior to any young man I ever met,' continued Lady
Wallinger.

'I think we must have this vase entirely of roses; don't you think so,
aunt?' inquired her niece.

'I am fond of roses,' said Lady Wallinger. 'What beautiful bouquets Mr.
Coningsby gave us at Paris, Edith!'

'Beautiful!'

'I must say, I was very happy when I met Mr. Coningsby again at
Cambridge,' said Lady Wallinger. 'It gave me much greater pleasure than
seeing any of the colleges.'

'How delighted Oswald seems at having Mr. Coningsby for a companion
again!' said Edith.

'And very naturally,' said Lady Wallinger. 'Oswald ought to deem
himself fortunate in having such a friend. I am sure the kindness of Mr.
Coningsby when we met him at Cambridge is what I never shall forget. But
he always was my favourite from the first time I saw him at Paris. Do
you know, Edith, I liked him best of all your admirers.'

'Oh! no, aunt,' said Edith, smiling, 'not more than Lord Beaumanoir; you
forget your great favourite, Lord Beaumanoir.'

'But I did not know Mr. Coningsby at Rome,' said Lady Wallinger; 'I
cannot agree that anybody is equal to Mr. Coningsby. I cannot tell you
how pleased I am that he is our neighbour!'

As Lady Wallinger gave a finishing stroke to the jacket of her
Andalusian, Edith, vividly blushing, yet speaking in a voice of affected
calmness, said,

'Here is Mr. Coningsby, aunt.'

And, truly, at this moment our hero might be discerned, approaching the
hall by one of the avenues; and in a few minutes there was a ringing at
the hall bell, and then, after a short pause, the servants announced Mr.
Coningsby, and ushered him into the morning room.

Edith was embarrassed; the frankness and the gaiety of her manner had
deserted her; Coningsby was rather earnest than self-possessed. Each
felt at first that the presence of Lady Wallinger was a relief. The
ordinary topics of conversation were in sufficient plenty; reminiscences
of Paris, impressions of Hellingsley, his visit to Oxford, Lady
Wallinger's visit to Cambridge. In ten minutes their voices seemed to
sound to each other as they did in the Rue de Rivoli, and their mutual
perplexity had in a great degree subsided.

Oswald and Sir Joseph now entered the room, and the conversation became
general. Hellingsley was the subject on which Coningsby dwelt; he was
charmed with all that he had seen! wished to see more. Sir Joseph was
quite prepared to accompany him; but Lady Wallinger, who seemed to read
Coningsby's wishes in his eyes, proposed that the inspection should be
general; and in the course of half an hour Coningsby was walking by the
side of Edith, and sympathising with all the natural charms to which her
quick taste and lively expression called his notice and appreciation.
Few things more delightful than a country ramble with a sweet companion!
Exploring woods, wandering over green commons, loitering in shady lanes,
resting on rural stiles; the air full of perfume, the heart full of
bliss!

It seemed to Coningsby that he had never been happy before. A thrilling
joy pervaded his being. He could have sung like a bird. His heart was as
sunny as the summer scene. Past and Future were absorbed in the flowing
hour; not an allusion to Paris, not a speculation on what might arrive;
but infinite expressions of agreement, sympathy; a multitude of slight
phrases, that, however couched, had but one meaning, congeniality. He
felt each moment his voice becoming more tender; his heart gushing
in soft expressions; each moment he was more fascinated; her step was
grace, her glance was beauty. Now she touched him by some phrase of
sweet simplicity; or carried him spell-bound by her airy merriment.

Oswald assumed that Coningsby remained to dine with them. There was not
even the ceremony of invitation. Coningsby could not but remember his
dinner at Millbank, and the timid hostess whom he then addressed so
often in vain, as he gazed upon the bewitching and accomplished woman
whom he now passionately loved. It was a most agreeable dinner. Oswald,
happy in his friend being his guest, under his own roof, indulged in
unwonted gaiety.

The ladies withdrew; Sir Joseph began to talk politics, although the
young men had threatened their fair companions immediately to follow
them. This was the period of the Bed-Chamber Plot, when Sir Robert Peel
accepted and resigned power in the course of three days. Sir Joseph,
who had originally made up his mind to support a Conservative government
when he deemed it inevitable, had for the last month endeavoured to
compensate for this trifling error by vindicating the conduct of his
friends, and reprobating the behaviour of those who would deprive her
Majesty of the 'friends-of-her-youth.' Sir Joseph was a most chivalrous
champion of the 'friends-of-her-youth' principle. Sir Joseph, who was
always moderate and conciliatory in his talk, though he would go, at any
time, any lengths for his party, expressed himself to-day with
extreme sobriety, as he was determined not to hurt the feelings of
Mr. Coningsby, and he principally confined himself to urging temperate
questions, somewhat in the following fashion:--

'I admit that, on the whole, under ordinary circumstances, it would
perhaps have been more convenient that these appointments should have
remained with Sir Robert; but don't you think that, under the peculiar
circumstances, being friends of her Majesty's youth?' &c. &c.

Sir Joseph was extremely astonished when Coningsby replied that he
thought, under no circumstances, should any appointment in the Royal
Household be dependent on the voice of the House of Commons, though he
was far from admiring the 'friends-of-her-youth' principle, which he
looked upon as impertinent.

'But surely,' said Sir Joseph, 'the Minister being responsible to
Parliament, it must follow that all great offices of State should be
filled at his discretion.'

'But where do you find this principle of Ministerial responsibility?'
inquired Coningsby.

'And is not a Minister responsible to his Sovereign?' inquired Millbank.

Sir Joseph seemed a little confused. He had always heard that Ministers
were responsible to Parliament; and he had a vague conviction,
notwithstanding the reanimating loyalty of the Bed-Chamber Plot, that
the Sovereign of England was a nonentity. He took refuge in indefinite
expressions, and observed, 'The Responsibility of Ministers is surely a
constitutional doctrine.'

'The Ministers of the Crown are responsible to their master; they are
not the Ministers of Parliament.'

'But then you know virtually,' said Sir Joseph, 'the Parliament, that
is, the House of Commons, governs the country.'

'It did before 1832,' said Coningsby; 'but that is all past now. We got
rid of that with the Venetian Constitution.'

'The Venetian Constitution!' said Sir Joseph.

'To be sure,' said Millbank. 'We were governed in this country by the
Venetian Constitution from the accession of the House of Hanover. But
that yoke is past. And now I hope we are in a state of transition from
the Italian Dogeship to the English Monarchy.'

'King, Lords, and Commons, the Venetian Constitution!' exclaimed Sir
Joseph.

'But they were phrases,' said Coningsby, 'not facts. The King was a
Doge; the Cabinet the Council of Ten. Your Parliament, that you call
Lords and Commons, was nothing more than the Great Council of Nobles.'

'The resemblance was complete,' said Millbank, 'and no wonder, for it
was not accidental; the Venetian Constitution was intentionally copied.'

'We should have had the Venetian Republic in 1640,' said Coningsby, 'had
it not been for the Puritans. Geneva beat Venice.'

'I am sure these ideas are not very generally known,' said Sir Joseph,
bewildered.

'Because you have had your history written by the Venetian party,' said
Coningsby, 'and it has been their interest to conceal them.'

'I will venture to say that there are very few men on our side in the
House of Commons,' said Sir Joseph, 'who are aware that they were born
under a Venetian Constitution.'

'Let us go to the ladies,' said Millbank, smiling.

Edith was reading a letter as they entered.

'A letter from papa,' she exclaimed, looking up at her brother with
great animation. 'We may expect him every day; and yet, alas! he cannot
fix one.'

They now all spoke of Millbank, and Coningsby was happy that he was
familiar with the scene. At length he ventured to say to Edith, 'You
once made me a promise which you never fulfilled. I shall claim it
to-night.'

'And what can that be?'

'The song that you promised me at Millbank more than three years ago.'

'Your memory is good.'

'It has dwelt upon the subject.'

Then they spoke for a while of other recollections, and then Coningsby
appealing to Lady Wallinger for her influence, Edith rose and took up
her guitar. Her voice was rich and sweet; the air she sang gay, even
fantastically frolic, such as the girls of Granada chaunt trooping home
from some country festival; her soft, dark eye brightened with joyous
sympathy; and ever and anon, with an arch grace, she beat the guitar, in
chorus, with her pretty hand.

The moon wanes; and Coningsby must leave these enchanted halls. Oswald
walked homeward with him until he reached the domain of his grandfather.
Then mounting his horse, Coningsby bade his friend farewell till the
morrow, and made his best way to the Castle.



CHAPTER V.


There is a romance in every life. The emblazoned page of Coningsby's
existence was now open. It had been prosperous before, with some moments
of excitement, some of delight; but they had all found, as it were,
their origin in worldly considerations, or been inevitably mixed up with
them. At Paris, for example, he loved, or thought he loved. But there
not an hour could elapse without his meeting some person, or hearing
something, which disturbed the beauty of his emotions, or broke his
spell-bound thoughts. There was his grandfather hating the Millbanks,
or Sidonia loving them; and common people, in the common world, making
common observations on them; asking who they were, or telling who they
were; and brushing the bloom off all life's fresh delicious fancies with
their coarse handling.

But now his feelings were ethereal. He loved passionately, and he loved
in a scene and in a society as sweet, as pure, and as refined as his
imagination and his heart. There was no malicious gossip, no callous
chatter to profane his ear and desecrate his sentiment. All that he
heard or saw was worthy of the summer sky, the still green woods, the
gushing river, the gardens and terraces, the stately and fantastic
dwellings, among which his life now glided as in some dainty and
gorgeous masque.

All the soft, social, domestic sympathies of his nature, which, however
abundant, had never been cultivated, were developed by the life he was
now leading. It was not merely that he lived in the constant presence,
and under the constant influence of one whom he adored, that made him so
happy. He was surrounded by beings who found felicity in the interchange
of kind feelings and kind words, in the cultivation of happy talents and
refined tastes, and the enjoyment of a life which their own good sense
and their own good hearts made them both comprehend and appreciate.
Ambition lost much of its splendour, even his lofty aspirations
something of their hallowing impulse of paramount duty, when Coningsby
felt how much ennobling delight was consistent with the seclusion of a
private station; and mused over an existence to be passed amid woods and
waterfalls with a fair hand locked in his, or surrounded by his friends
in some ancestral hall.

The morning after his first visit to Hellingsley Coningsby rejoined his
friends, as he had promised Oswald at their breakfast-table; and day
after day he came with the early sun, and left them only when the late
moon silvered the keep of Coningsby Castle. Mr. Millbank, who wrote
daily, and was daily to be expected, did not arrive. A week, a week
of unbroken bliss, had vanished away, passed in long rides and longer
walks, sunset saunterings, and sometimes moonlit strolls; talking of
flowers, and thinking of things even sweeter; listening to delicious
songs, and sometimes reading aloud some bright romance or some inspiring
lay.

One day Coningsby, who arrived at the hall unexpectedly late; indeed it
was some hours past noon, for he had been detained by despatches
which arrived at the Castle from Mr. Rigby, and which required his
interposition; found the ladies alone, and was told that Sir Joseph and
Oswald were at the fishing-cottage where they wished him to join them.
He was in no haste to do this; and Lady Wallinger proposed that
when they felt inclined to ramble they should all walk down to the
fishing-cottage together. So, seating himself by the side of Edith, who
was tinting a sketch which she had made of a rich oriel of Hellingsley,
the morning passed away in that slight and yet subtle talk in which a
lover delights, and in which, while asking a thousand questions, that
seem at the first glance sufficiently trifling, he is indeed often
conveying a meaning that is not expressed, or attempting to discover a
feeling that is hidden. And these are occasions when glances meet
and glances are withdrawn: the tongue may speak idly, the eye is more
eloquent, and often more true.

Coningsby looked up; Lady Wallinger, who had more than once announced
that she was going to put on her bonnet, was gone. Yet still he
continued to talk trifles; and still Edith listened.

'Of all that you have told me,' said Edith, 'nothing pleases me so much
as your description of St. Geneviève. How much I should like to catch
the deer at sunset on the heights! What a pretty drawing it would make!'

'You would like Eustace Lyle,' said Coningsby. 'He is so shy and yet so
ardent.'

'You have such a band of friends! Oswald was saying this morning there
was no one who had so many devoted friends.'

'We are all united by sympathy. It is the only bond of friendship; and
yet friendship--'

'Edith,' said Lady Wallinger, looking into the room from the garden,
with her bonnet on, 'you will find me roaming on the terrace.'

'We come, dear aunt.'

And yet they did not move. There were yet a few pencil touches to be
given to the tinted sketch; Coningsby would cut the pencils.

'Would you give me,' he said, 'some slight memorial of Hellingsley and
your art? I would not venture to hope for anything half so beautiful as
this; but the slightest sketch. It would make me so happy when away to
have it hanging in my room.'

A blush suffused the cheek of Edith; she turned her head a little aside,
as if she were arranging some drawings. And then she said, in a somewhat
hushed and hesitating voice,

'I am sure I will do so; and with pleasure. A view of the Hall itself;
I think that would be the best memorial. Where shall we take it from?
We will decide in our walk?' and she rose, and promised immediately to
return, left the room.

Coningsby leant over the mantel-piece in deep abstraction, gazing
vacantly on a miniature of the father of Edith. A light step roused
him; she had returned. Unconsciously he greeted her with a glance of
ineffable tenderness.

They went forth; it was a grey, sultry day. Indeed it was the covered
sky which had led to the fishing scheme of the morning. Sir Joseph was
an expert and accomplished angler, and the Darl was renowned for its
sport. They lingered before they reached the terrace where they were to
find Lady Wallinger, observing the different points of view which
the Hall presented, and debating which was to form the subject of
Coningsby's drawing; for already it was to be not merely a sketch, but a
drawing, the most finished that the bright and effective pencil of Edith
could achieve. If it really were to be placed in his room, and were
to be a memorial of Hellingsley, her artistic reputation demanded a
masterpiece.

They reached the terrace: Lady Wallinger was not there, nor could they
observe her in the vicinity. Coningsby was quite certain that she had
gone onward to the fishing-cottage, and expected them to follow her;
and he convinced Edith of the justness of his opinion. To the
fishing-cottage, therefore, they bent their steps. They emerged from the
gardens into the park, sauntering over the table-land, and seeking as
much as possible the shade, in the soft but oppressive atmosphere. At
the limit of the table-land their course lay by a wild but winding path
through a gradual and wooded declivity. While they were yet in this
craggy and romantic woodland, the big fervent drops began to fall.
Coningsby urged Edith to seek at once a natural shelter; but she, who
knew the country, assured him that the fishing-cottage was close by, and
that they might reach it before the rain could do them any harm.

And truly, at this moment emerging from the wood, they found themselves
in the valley of the Darl. The river here was narrow and winding, but
full of life; rushing, and clear but for the dark sky it reflected; with
high banks of turf and tall trees; the silver birch, above all others,
in clustering groups; infinitely picturesque. At the turn of the river,
about two hundred yards distant, Coningsby observed the low, dark roof
of the fishing-cottage on its banks. They descended from the woods to
the margin of the stream by a flight of turfen steps, Coningsby holding
Edith's hand as he guided her progress.

The drops became thicker. They reached, at a rapid pace, the cottage.
The absent boat indicated that Sir Joseph and Oswald were on the river.
The cottage was an old building of rustic logs, with a shelving roof,
so that you might obtain sufficient shelter without entering its walls.
Coningsby found a rough garden seat for Edith. The shower was now
violent.

Nature, like man, sometimes weeps from gladness. It is the joy and
tenderness of her heart that seek relief; and these are summer showers.
In this instance the vehemence of her emotion was transient, though the
tears kept stealing down her cheek for a long time, and gentle sighs and
sobs might for some period be distinguished. The oppressive atmosphere
had evaporated; the grey, sullen tint had disappeared; a soft breeze
came dancing up the stream; a glowing light fell upon the woods and
waters; the perfume of trees and flowers and herbs floated around. There
was a carolling of birds; a hum of happy insects in the air; freshness
and stir, and a sense of joyous life, pervaded all things; it seemed
that the heart of all creation opened.

Coningsby, after repeatedly watching the shower with Edith, and
speculating on its progress, which did not much annoy them, had seated
himself on a log almost at her feet. And assuredly a maiden and a youth
more beautiful and engaging had seldom met before in a scene more fresh
and fair. Edith on her rustic seat watched the now blue and foaming
river, and the birch-trees with a livelier tint, and quivering in the
sunset air; an expression of tranquil bliss suffused her beautiful brow,
and spoke from the thrilling tenderness of her soft dark eye. Coningsby
gazed on that countenance with a glance of entranced rapture. His cheek
was flushed, his eye gleamed with dazzling lustre. She turned her head;
she met that glance, and, troubled, she withdrew her own.

'Edith!' he said in a tone of tremulous passion, 'Let me call you Edith!
Yes,' he continued, gently taking her hand, let me call you my Edith! I
love you!'

She did not withdraw her hand; but turned away a face flushed as the
impending twilight.



CHAPTER VI.


It was past the dinner hour when Edith and Coningsby reached the Hall;
an embarrassing circumstance, but mitigated by the conviction that they
had not to encounter a very critical inspection. What, then, were their
feelings when the first servant that they met informed them that Mr.
Millbank had arrived! Edith never could have believed that the return of
her beloved father to his home could ever have been to her other than
a cause of delight. And yet now she trembled when she heard the
announcement. The mysteries of love were fast involving her existence.
But this was not the season of meditation. Her heart was still agitated
by the tremulous admission that she responded to that fervent and
adoring love whose eloquent music still sounded in her ear, and the
pictures of whose fanciful devotion flitted over her agitated vision.
Unconsciously she pressed the arm of Coningsby as the servant spoke,
and then, without looking into his face, whispering him to be quick, she
sprang away.

As for Coningsby, notwithstanding the elation of his heart, and the
ethereal joy which flowed in all his veins, the name of Mr. Millbank
sounded, something like a knell. However, this was not the time to
reflect. He obeyed the hint of Edith; made the most rapid toilet that
ever was consummated by a happy lover, and in a few minutes entered the
drawing-room of Hellingsley, to encounter the gentleman whom he hoped by
some means or other, quite inconceivable, might some day be transformed
into his father-in-law, and the fulfilment of his consequent duties
towards whom he had commenced by keeping him waiting for dinner.

'How do you do, sir,' said Mr. Millbank, extending his hand to
Coningsby. 'You seem to have taken a long walk.'

Coningsby looked round to the kind Lady Wallinger, and half addressed
his murmured answer to her, explaining how they had lost her, and their
way, and were caught in a storm or a shower, which, as it terminated
about three hours back, and the fishing-cottage was little more than a
mile from the Hall, very satisfactorily accounted for their not being in
time for dinner.

Lady Wallinger then said something about the lowering clouds having
frightened her from the terrace, and Sir Joseph and Oswald talked a
little of their sport, and of their having seen an otter; but there was,
or at least there seemed to Coningsby, a tone of general embarrassment
which distressed him. The fact is, keeping people from dinner under
any circumstances is distressing. They are obliged to talk at the very
moment when they wish to use their powers of expression for a very
different purpose. They are faint, and conversation makes them more
exhausted. A gentleman, too, fond of his family, who in turn are devoted
to him, making a great and inconvenient effort to reach them by dinner
time, to please and surprise them; and finding them all dispersed,
dinner so late that he might have reached home in good time without any
great inconvenient effort; his daughter, whom he had wished a thousand
times to embrace, taking a singularly long ramble with no other
companion than a young gentleman, whom he did not exactly expect to
see; all these are circumstances, individually perhaps slight, and yet,
encountered collectively, it may be doubted they would not a little
ruffle even the sweetest temper.

Mr. Millbank, too, had not the sweetest temper, though not a bad one;
a little quick and fiery. But then he had a kind heart. And when Edith,
who had providentially sent down a message to order dinner, entered and
embraced him at the very moment that dinner was announced, her father
forgot everything in his joy in seeing her, and his pleasure in being
surrounded by his friends. He gave his hand to Lady Wallinger, and Sir
Joseph led away his niece. Coningsby put his arm around the astonished
neck of Oswald, as if they were once more in the playing fields of Eton.

'By Jove! my dear fellow,' he exclaimed, 'I am so sorry we kept your
father from dinner.'

As Edith headed her father's table, according to his rigid rule,
Coningsby was on one side of her. They never spoke so little; Coningsby
would have never unclosed his lips, had he followed his humour. He was
in a stupor of happiness; the dining room took the appearance of
the fishing-cottage; and he saw nothing but the flowing river. Lady
Wallinger was however next to him, and that was a relief; for he felt
always she was his friend. Sir Joseph, a good-hearted man, and
on subjects with which he was acquainted full of sound sense, was
invaluable to-day, for he entirely kept up the conversation, speaking
of things which greatly interested Mr. Millbank. And so their host soon
recovered his good temper; he addressed several times his observations
to Coningsby, and was careful to take wine with him. On the whole,
affairs went on flowingly enough. The gentlemen, indeed, stayed much
longer over their wine than on the preceding days, and Coningsby did not
venture on the liberty of quitting the room before his host. It was as
well. Edith required repose. She tried to seek it on the bosom of her
aunt, as she breathed to her the delicious secret of her life. When the
gentlemen returned to the drawing-room the ladies were not there.

This rather disturbed Mr. Millbank again; he had not seen enough of his
daughter; he wished to hear her sing. But Edith managed to reappear; and
even to sing. Then Coningsby went up to her and asked her to sing the
song of the Girls of Granada. She said in a low voice, and with a fond
yet serious look,

'I am not in the mood for such a song, but if you wish me--'

She sang it, and with inexpressible grace, and with an arch vivacity,
that to a fine observer would have singularly contrasted with the
almost solemn and even troubled expression of her countenance a moment
afterwards.

The day was about to die; the day the most important, the most precious
in the lives of Harry Coningsby and Edith Millbank. Words had been
spoken, vows breathed, which were to influence their careers for ever.
For them hereafter there was to be but one life, one destiny, one world.
Each of them was still in such a state of tremulous excitement, that
neither had found time or occasion to ponder over the mighty result.
They both required solitude; they both longed to be alone. Coningsby
rose to depart. He pressed the soft hand of Edith, and his glance spoke
his soul.

'We shall see you at breakfast to-morrow, Coningsby!' said Oswald,
very loud, knowing that the presence of his father would make Coningsby
hesitate about coming. Edith's heart fluttered; but she said nothing. It
was with delight she heard her father, after a moment's pause, say,

'Oh! I beg we may have that pleasure.'

'Not quite at so early an hour,' said Coningsby; 'but if you will permit
me, I hope to have the pleasure of hearing from you to-morrow, sir, that
your journey has not fatigued you.'



CHAPTER VII.


To be alone; to have no need of feigning a tranquillity he could not
feel; of coining common-place courtesy when his heart was gushing
with rapture; this was a great relief to Coningsby, though gained by a
separation from Edith.

The deed was done; he had breathed his long-brooding passion, he
had received the sweet expression of her sympathy, he had gained
the long-coveted heart. Youth, beauty, love, the innocence of
unsophisticated breasts, and the inspiration of an exquisite nature,
combined to fashion the spell that now entranced his life. He turned to
gaze upon the moonlit towers and peaked roofs of Hellingsley. Silent and
dreamlike, the picturesque pile rested on its broad terrace flooded with
the silver light and surrounded by the quaint bowers of its fantastic
gardens tipped with the glittering beam. Half hid in deep shadow, half
sparkling in the midnight blaze, he recognised the oriel window that had
been the subject of the morning's sketch. Almost he wished there should
be some sound to assure him of his reality. But nothing broke the
all-pervading stillness. Was his life to be as bright and as tranquil?
And what was to be his life?

Whither was he to bear the beautiful bride he had gained? Were the
portals of Coningsby the proud and hospitable gates that were to greet
her? How long would they greet him after the achievement of the last
four-and-twenty hours was known to their lord? Was this the return for
the confiding kindness of his grandsire? That he should pledge his troth
to the daughter of that grandsire's foe?

Away with such dark and scaring visions! Is it not the noon of a summer
night fragrant with the breath of gardens, bright with the beam that
lovers love, and soft with the breath of Ausonian breezes? Within that
sweet and stately residence, dwells there not a maiden fair enough to
revive chivalry; who is even now thinking of him as she leans on her
pensive hand, or, if perchance she dream, recalls him in her visions?
And himself, is he one who would cry craven with such a lot? What avail
his golden youth, his high blood, his daring and devising spirit, and
all his stores of wisdom, if they help not now? Does not he feel the
energy divine that can confront Fate and carve out fortunes? Besides it
is nigh Midsummer Eve, and what should fairies reign for but to aid such
a bright pair as this?

He recalls a thousand times the scene, the moment, in which but a few
hours past he dared to tell her that he loved; he recalls a thousand
times the still, small voice, that murmured her agitated felicity: more
than a thousand times, for his heart clenched the idea as a diver grasps
a gem, he recalls the enraptured yet gentle embrace, that had sealed
upon her blushing cheek his mystical and delicious sovereignty.



CHAPTER VIII


The morning broke lowering and thunderous; small white clouds, dull and
immovable, studded the leaden sky; the waters of the rushing Darl seemed
to have become black and almost stagnant; the terraces of Hellingsley
looked like the hard lines of a model; and the mansion itself had a
harsh and metallic character. Before the chief portal of his Hall, the
elder Millbank, with an air of some anxiety, surveyed the landscape and
the heavens, as if he were speculating on the destiny of the day.

Often his eye wandered over the park; often with an uneasy and restless
step he paced the raised walk before him. The clock of Hellingsley
church had given the chimes of noon. His son and Coningsby appeared
at the end of one of the avenues. His eye lightened; his lip became
compressed; he advanced to meet them.

'Are you going to fish to-day, Oswald?' he inquired of his son.

'We had some thoughts of it, sir.'

'A fine day for sport, I should think,' he observed, as he turned
towards the Hall with them.

Coningsby remarked the fanciful beauty of the portal; its twisted
columns, and Caryatides carved in dark oak.

'Yes, it's very well,' said Millbank; 'but I really do not know why I
came here; my presence is an effort. Oswald does not care for the place;
none of us do, I believe.'

'Oh! I like it now, father; and Edith doats on it.'

'She was very happy at Millbank,' said the father, rather sharply.

'We are all of us happy at Millbank,' said Oswald.

'I was much struck with the valley and the whole settlement when I first
saw it,' said Coningsby.

'Suppose you go and see about the tackle, Oswald,' said Mr. Millbank,
'and Mr. Coningsby and I will take a stroll on the terrace in the
meantime.'

The habit of obedience, which was supreme in this family, instantly
carried Oswald away, though he was rather puzzled why his father should
be so anxious about the preparation of the fishing-tackle, as he rarely
used it. His son had no sooner departed than Mr. Millbank turned to
Coningsby, and said very abruptly,

'You have never seen my own room here, Mr. Coningsby; step in, for I
wish to say a word to you.' And thus speaking, he advanced before the
astonished, and rather agitated Coningsby, and led the way through a
door and long passage to a room of moderate dimensions, partly furnished
as a library, and full of parliamentary papers and blue-books. Shutting
the door with some earnestness and pointing to a chair, he begged his
guest to be seated. Both in their chairs, Mr. Millbank, clearing his
throat, said without preface, 'I have reason to believe, Mr. Coningsby,
that you are attached to my daughter?'

'I have been attached to her for a long time most ardently,' replied
Coningsby, in a calm and rather measured tone, but looking very pale.

'And I have reason to believe that she returns your attachment?' said
Mr. Millbank.

'I believe she deigns not to disregard it,' said Coningsby, his white
cheek becoming scarlet.

'It is then a mutual attachment, which, if cherished, must produce
mutual unhappiness,' said Mr. Millbank.

'I would fain believe the reverse,' said Coningsby.

'Why?' inquired Mr. Millbank.

'Because I believe she possesses every charm, quality, and virtue, that
can bless man; and because, though I can make her no equivalent return,
I have a heart, if I know myself, that would struggle to deserve her.'

'I know you to be a man of sense; I believe you to be a man of honour,'
replied Mr. Millbank. 'As the first, you must feel that an union between
you and my daughter is impossible; what then should be your duty as a
man of correct principle is obvious.'

'I could conceive that our union might be attended with difficulties,'
said Coningsby, in a somewhat deprecating tone.

'Sir, it is impossible,' repeated Mr. Millbank, interrupting him, though
not with harshness; 'that is to say, there is no conceivable marriage
which could be effected at greater sacrifices, and which would occasion
greater misery.'

'The sacrifices are more apparent to me than the misery,' said
Coningsby, 'and even they may be imaginary.'

'The sacrifices and the misery are certain and inseparable,' said Mr.
Millbank. 'Come now, see how we stand! I speak without reserve, for this
is a subject which cannot permit misconception, but with no feelings
towards you, sir, but fair and friendly ones. You are the grandson of
my Lord Monmouth; at present enjoying his favour, but dependent on his
bounty. You may be the heir of his wealth to-morrow, and to-morrow you
may be the object of his hatred and persecution. Your grandfather and
myself are foes; bitter, irreclaimable, to the death. It is idle to
mince phrases; I do not vindicate our mutual feelings, I may regret that
they have ever arisen; I may regret it especially at this exigency. They
are not the feelings of good Christians; they may be altogether to be
deplored and unjustifiable; but they exist, mutually exist; and have not
been confined to words. Lord Monmouth would crush me, had he the power,
like a worm; and I have curbed his proud fortunes often. Were it not
for this feeling I should not be here; I purchased this estate merely
to annoy him, as I have done a thousand other acts merely for his
discomfiture and mortification. In our long encounter I have done him
infinitely more injury than he could do me; I have been on the spot,
I am active, vigilant, the maker of my fortunes. He is an epicurean,
continually in foreign parts, obliged to leave the fulfilment of his
will to others. But, for these very reasons, his hate is more intense.
I can afford to hate him less than he hates me; I have injured him more.
Here are feelings to exist between human beings! But they do exist;
and now you are to go to this man, and ask his sanction to marry my
daughter!'

'But I would appease these hatreds; I would allay these dark passions,
the origin of which I know not, but which never could justify the end,
and which lead to so much misery. I would appeal to my grandfather; I
would show him Edith.'

'He has looked upon as fair even as Edith,' said Mr. Millbank, rising
suddenly from his seat, and pacing the room, 'and did that melt his
heart? The experience of your own lot should have guarded you from the
perils that you have so rashly meditated encountering, and the misery
which you have been preparing for others besides yourself. Is my
daughter to be treated like your mother? And by the same hand? Your
mother's family were not Lord Monmouth's foes. They were simple and
innocent people, free from all the bad passions of our nature, and
ignorant of the world's ways. But because they were not noble, because
they could trace no mystified descent from a foreign invader, or the
sacrilegious minion of some spoliating despot, their daughter was hunted
from the family which should have exulted to receive her, and the land
of which she was the native ornament. Why should a happier lot await you
than fell to your parents? You are in the same position as your father;
you meditate the same act. The only difference being aggravating
circumstances in your case, which, even if I were a member of the same
order as my Lord Monmouth, would prevent the possibility of a prosperous
union. Marry Edith, and you blast all the prospects of your life, and
entail on her a sense of unceasing humiliation. Would you do this?
Should I permit you to do this?'

Coningsby, with his head resting on his arm, his face a little shaded,
his eyes fixed on the ground, listened in silence. There was a pause;
broken by Coningsby, as in a low voice, without changing his posture or
raising his glance, he said, 'It seems, sir, that you were acquainted
with my mother!'

'I knew sufficient of her,' replied Mr. Millbank, with a kindling cheek,
'to learn the misery that a woman may entail on herself by marrying out
of her condition. I have bred my children in a respect for their class.
I believe they have imbibed my feeling; though it is strange how in
the commerce of the world, chance, in their friendships, has apparently
baffled my designs.'

'Oh! do not say it is chance, sir,' said Coningsby, looking up, and
speaking with much fervour. 'The feelings that animate me towards
your family are not the feelings of chance: they are the creation of
sympathy; tried by time, tested by thought. And must they perish? Can
they perish? They were inevitable; they are indestructible. Yes, sir, it
is in vain to speak of the enmities that are fostered between you and
my grandfather; the love that exists between your daughter and myself is
stronger than all your hatreds.'

'You speak like a young man, and a young man that is in love,' said Mr.
Millbank. 'This is mere rhapsody; it will vanish in an instant
before the reality of life. And you have arrived at that reality,' he
continued, speaking with emphasis, leaning over the back of his chair,
and looking steadily at Coningsby with his grey, sagacious eye; 'my
daughter and yourself can meet no more.'

'It is impossible you can be so cruel!' exclaimed Coningsby.

'So kind; kind to you both; for I wish to be kind to you as well as to
her. You are entitled to kindness from us all; though I will tell you
now, that, years ago, when the news arrived that my son's life had been
saved, and had been saved by one who bore the name of Coningsby, I had
a presentiment, great as was the blessing, that it might lead to
unhappiness.'

'I can answer for the misery of one,' said Coningsby, in a tone of great
despondency. 'I feel as if my sun were set. Oh! why should there be such
wretchedness? Why are there family hatreds and party feuds? Why am I the
most wretched of men?'

'My good young friend, you will live, I doubt not, to be a happy one.
Happiness is not, as we are apt to fancy, entirely dependent on these
contingencies. It is the lot of most men to endure what you are now
suffering, and they can look back to such conjunctures through the vista
of years with calmness.'

'I may see Edith now?'

'Frankly, I should say, no. My daughter is in her room; I have had some
conversation with her. Of course she suffers not less than yourself. To
see her again will only aggravate woe. You leave under this roof, sir,
some sad memories, but no unkind ones. It is not likely that I can
serve you, or that you may want my aid; but whatever may be in my power,
remember you may command it; without reserve and without restraint. If I
control myself now, it is not because I do not respect your affliction,
but because, in the course of my life, I have felt too much not to be
able to command my feelings.'

'You never could have felt what I feel now,' said Coningsby, in a tone
of anguish.

'You touch on delicate ground,' said Millbank; 'yet from me you may
learn to suffer. There was a being once, not less fair than the peerless
girl that you would fain call your own, and her heart was my proud
possession. There were no family feuds to baffle our union, nor was
I dependent on anything, but the energies which had already made me
flourishing. What happiness was mine! It was the first dream of my life,
and it was the last; my solitary passion, the memory of which softens my
heart. Ah! you dreaming scholars, and fine gentlemen who saunter through
life, you think there is no romance in the loves of a man who lives in
the toil and turmoil of business. You are in deep error. Amid my career
of travail, there was ever a bright form which animated exertion,
inspired my invention, nerved my energy, and to gain whose heart and
life I first made many of those discoveries, and entered into many
of those speculations, that have since been the foundation of my wide
prosperity.

'Her faith was pledged to me; I lived upon her image; the day was even
talked of when I should bear her to the home that I had proudly prepared
for her.

'There came a young noble, a warrior who had never seen war, glittering
with gewgaws. He was quartered in the town where the mistress of my
heart, who was soon to share my life and my fortunes, resided. The tale
is too bitter not to be brief. He saw her, he sighed; I will hope that
he loved her; she gave him with rapture the heart which perhaps she
found she had never given to me; and instead of bearing the name I had
once hoped to have called her by, she pledged her faith at the altar to
one who, like you, was called, CONINGSBY.'

'My mother!'

'You see, I too have had my griefs.'

'Dear sir,' said Coningsby, rising and taking Mr. Millbank's hand, 'I am
most wretched; and yet I wish to part from you even with affection. You
have explained circumstances that have long perplexed me. A curse, I
fear, is on our families. I have not mind enough at this moment even
to ponder on my situation. My head is a chaos. I go; yes, I quit this
Hellingsley, where I came to be so happy, where I have been so happy.
Nay, let me go, dear sir! I must be alone, I must try to think. And tell
her, no, tell her nothing. God will guard over us!'

Proceeding down the avenue with a rapid and distempered step, his
countenance lost, as it were, in a wild abstraction, Coningsby
encountered Oswald Millbank. He stopped, collected his turbulent
thoughts, and throwing on Oswald one look that seemed at the same time
to communicate woe and to demand sympathy, flung himself into his arms.

'My friend!' he exclaimed, and then added, in a broken voice, 'I need a
friend.'

Then in a hurried, impassioned, and somewhat incoherent strain, leaning
on Oswald's arm, as they walked on together, he poured forth all that
had occurred, all of which he had dreamed; his baffled bliss, his
actual despair. Alas! there was little room for solace, and yet all
that earnest affection could inspire, and a sagacious brain and a brave
spirit, were offered for his support, if not his consolation, by the
friend who was devoted to him.

In the midst of this deep communion, teeming with every thought and
sentiment that could enchain and absorb the spirit of man, they came to
one of the park-gates of Coningsby. Millbank stopped. The command of
his father was peremptory, that no member of his family, under any
circumstances, or for any consideration, should set his foot on that
domain. Lady Wallinger had once wished to have seen the Castle, and
Coningsby was only too happy in the prospect of escorting her and Edith
over the place; but Oswald had then at once put his veto on the project,
as a thing forbidden; and which, if put in practice, his father would
never pardon. So it passed off, and now Oswald himself was at the gates
of that very domain with his friend who was about to enter them, his
friend whom he might never see again; that Coningsby who, from their
boyish days, had been the idol of his life; whom he had lived to see
appeal to his affections and his sympathy, and whom Oswald was now going
to desert in the midst of his lonely and unsolaced woe.

'I ought not to enter here,' said Oswald, holding the hand of Coningsby
as he hesitated to advance; 'and yet there are duties more sacred even
than obedience to a father. I cannot leave you thus, friend of my best
heart!'

The morning passed away in unceasing yet fruitless speculation on the
future. One moment something was to happen, the next nothing could
occur. Sometimes a beam of hope flashed over the fancy of Coningsby,
and jumping up from the turf, on which they were reclining, he seemed
to exult in his renovated energies; and then this sanguine paroxysm was
succeeded by a fit of depression so dark and dejected that nothing but
the presence of Oswald seemed to prevent Coningsby from flinging himself
into the waters of the Darl.

The day was fast declining, and the inevitable moment of separation was
at hand. Oswald wished to appear at the dinner-table of Hellingsley,
that no suspicion might arise in the mind of his father of his having
accompanied Coningsby home. But just as he was beginning to mention the
necessity of his departure, a flash of lightning seemed to transfix the
heavens. The sky was very dark; though studded here and there with dingy
spots. The young men sprang up at the same time.

'We had better get out of these trees,' said Oswald.

'We had better get to the Castle,' said Coningsby.

A clap of thunder that seemed to make the park quake broke over their
heads, followed by some thick drops. The Castle was close at hand;
Oswald had avoided entering it; but the impending storm was so menacing
that, hurried on by Coningsby, he could make no resistance; and, in a
few minutes, the companions were watching the tempest from the windows
of a room in Coningsby Castle.

The fork-lightning flashed and scintillated from every quarter of the
horizon: the thunder broke over the Castle, as if the keep were rocking
with artillery: amid the momentary pauses of the explosion, the rain was
heard descending like dissolving water-spouts.

Nor was this one of those transient tempests that often agitate
the summer. Time advanced, and its fierceness was little mitigated.
Sometimes there was a lull, though the violence of the rain never
appeared to diminish; but then, as in some pitched fight between
contending hosts, when the fervour of the field seems for a moment to
allay, fresh squadrons arrive and renew the hottest strife, so a low
moaning wind that was now at intervals faintly heard bore up a great
reserve of electric vapour, that formed, as it were, into field in
the space between the Castle and Hellingsley, and then discharged its
violence on that fated district.

Coningsby and Oswald exchanged looks. 'You must not think of going home
at present, my dear fellow,' said the first. 'I am sure your father
would not be displeased. There is not a being here who even knows you,
and if they did, what then?'

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.



BOOK VIII.


CHAPTER I.


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 ladies.

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 heard!'

'Who's your friend?' inquired Mr. Melton's companion, as the young man
moved away.

'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 charades.'

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 Lady Everingham.'

'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
Theresa.'

'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,
looking mysteriously.

'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 about.'

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
avidity.

'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 tête-à-tête 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 writing letters.

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
appreciated.'

But at this moment the arrival of some guests terminated the
conversation, and Lord Eskdale moved away, and approached a group which
Lady Everingham was enlightening.

'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 foolscap paper.

'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 colony.'

'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 sugar colony.'

'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 Beaumanoir.



CHAPTER II.


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 do so.

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 business.



CHAPTER III.


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 fairly desire.'

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 yourself.'

'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 your happiness.'

'My dear grandfather, you have ever been to me only too kind and
generous.'

'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
tolerance.'

'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 opinions.'

'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 deplore.'

'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
Bill.'

'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 the business.'

'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.



CHAPTER IV.


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 you!'

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 any tin?'

'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.
Cassilis.

'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 his prospects.

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.



CHAPTER V.


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 again.'

'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.



CHAPTER VI.


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 dirty work.

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 châteaux,' 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 features.

'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!'

'How?'

'He is in love with the daughter of Millbank, the man who bought
Hellingsley.'

'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 appeared.

'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
establishment generally?'

'Lord Monmouth thinks he requires change of scene.'

'Oh! is he going to drag me abroad again?' exclaimed Lady Monmouth, with
great impatience.

'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
bathing-place!'

'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 doggedness.

'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
haughtily.

'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.'

'We!'

'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
Lucretia.

'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.



CHAPTER VII.


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 him.

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 Philosophy.

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 fête 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
Lyle.'

'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
convinced.'

'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 been more.'

'Were those your thoughts, dear lady? Ever kind to me! Happiness,' he
added, in a mournful tone, 'I fear can never be mine.'

'And why?'

'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 fête,
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 Lady Wallinger.

'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 must approve.'

'Lady Everingham seems much surprised at it.'

'Ah! Lady Everingham is a brilliant personage, and cannot deign to
observe obvious circumstances.'

'Do you know, Mr. Coningsby, that I always thought you were engaged to
Lady Theresa?'

'I!'

'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.'

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
Theresa.'

'Not surely by him to whom she is herself going to be married?' said
Coningsby, reddening.

'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 the lawn.

'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.



BOOK IX.


CHAPTER I.


It was merry Christmas at St. Geneviève. 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:

  I.
        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.

  II.
        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.



CHAPTER II.


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 with respect
to Darlford, Coningsby was well aware that he perilled more than the
large fortune which was to accompany the barony. Had not a separation
between Lord Monmouth and his wife taken place simultaneously with
Coningsby's difference with his grandfather, he was conscious that the
consequences might have been even altogether fatal to his prospects; but
the absence of her evil influence at such a conjuncture, its permanent
removal, indeed, from the scene, coupled with his fortunate though not
formal reconciliation with Lord Monmouth, had long ago banished from his
memory all those apprehensions to which he had felt it impossible at the
time to shut his eyes. Before he left town for Scotland he had made a
farewell visit to his grandfather, who, though not as cordial as in
old days, had been gracious; and Coningsby, during his excursion to the
moors, and his various visits to the country, had continued at intervals
to write to his grandfather, as had been for some years his custom. On
the whole, with an indefinite feeling which, in spite of many a rational
effort, did nevertheless haunt his mind, that this great and sudden
event might exercise a vast and beneficial influence on his worldly
position, Coningsby could not but feel some consolation in the
affliction which he sincerely experienced, in the hope that he might at
all events now offer to Edith a home worthy of her charms, her virtues,
and her love.

Although he had not seen her since their hurried yet sweet
reconciliation in the gardens of Lady Everingham, Coningsby was never
long without indirect intelligence of the incidents of her life; and the
correspondence between Lady Everingham and Henry Sydney, while they
were at the moors, had apprised him that Lord Beaumanoir's suit had
terminated unsuccessfully almost immediately after his brother had
quitted London.

It was late in the evening when Coningsby arrived in town: he called at
once on Lord Eskdale, who was one of Lord Monmouth's executors; and he
persuaded Coningsby, whom he saw depressed, to dine with him alone.

'You should not be seen at a club,' said the good-natured peer; 'and I
remember myself in old days what was the wealth of an Albanian larder.'

Lord Eskdale, at dinner, talked frankly of the disposition of Lord
Monmouth's property. He spoke as a matter of course that Coningsby was
his grandfather's principal heir.

'I don't know whether you will be happier with a large fortune?' said
Lord Eskdale. 'It is a troublesome thing: nobody is satisfied with
what you do with it; very often not yourself. To maintain an equable
expenditure; not to spend too much on one thing, too little on another,
is an art. There must be a harmony, a keeping, in disbursement, which
very few men have. Great wealth wearies. The thing to have is about ten
thousand a year, and the world to think you have only five. There is
some enjoyment then; one is let alone. But the instant you have a large
fortune, duties commence. And then impudent fellows borrow your money;
and if you ask them for it again, they go about town saying you are a
screw.'

Lord Monmouth had died suddenly at his Richmond villa, which latterly
he never quitted, at a little supper, with no persons near him but those
who were amusing. He suddenly found he could not lift his glass to his
lips, and being extremely polite, waited a few minutes before he asked
Clotilde, who was singing a sparkling drinking-song, to do him that
service. When, in accordance with his request, she reached him, it was
too late. The ladies shrieked, being frightened: at first they were
in despair, but, after reflection, they evinced some intention of
plundering the house. Villebecque, who was absent at the moment, arrived
in time; and everybody became orderly and broken-hearted.

The body had been removed to Monmouth House, where it had been embalmed
and laid in state. The funeral was not numerously attended. There was
nobody in town; some distinguished connections, however, came up from
the country, though it was a period inconvenient for such movements.
After the funeral, the will was to be read in the principal saloon of
Monmouth House, one of those gorgeous apartments that had excited the
boyish wonder of Coningsby on his first visit to that paternal roof, and
now hung in black, adorned with the escutcheon of the deceased peer.

The testamentary dispositions of the late lord were still unknown,
though the names of his executors had been announced by his family
solicitor, in whose custody the will and codicils had always remained.
The executors under the will were Lord Eskdale, Mr. Ormsby, and Mr.
Rigby. By a subsequent appointment Sidonia had been added. All these
individuals were now present. Coningsby, who had been chief mourner,
stood on the right hand of the solicitor, who sat at the end of a long
table, round which, in groups, were ranged all who had attended the
funeral, including several of the superior members of the household,
among them M. Villebecque.

The solicitor rose and explained that though Lord Monmouth had been in
the habit of very frequently adding codicils to his will, the original
will, however changed or modified, had never been revoked; it was
therefore necessary to commence by reading that instrument. So saying,
he sat down, and breaking the seals of a large packet, he produced the
will of Philip Augustus, Marquess of Monmouth, which had been retained
in his custody since its execution.

By this will, of the date of 1829, the sum of 10,000_l._ was left to
Coningsby, then unknown to his grandfather; the same sum to Mr. Rigby.
There was a great number of legacies, none of superior amount, most of
them of less: these were chiefly left to old male companions, and women
in various countries. There was an almost inconceivable number of small
annuities to faithful servants, decayed actors, and obscure foreigners.
The residue of his personal estate was left to four gentlemen, three of
whom had quitted this world before the legator; the bequests, therefore,
had lapsed. The fourth residuary legatee, in whom, according to the
terms of the will, all would have consequently centred, was Mr. Rigby.

There followed several codicils which did not materially affect the
previous disposition; one of them leaving a legacy of 20,000_l._ to
the Princess Colonna; until they arrived at the latter part of the year
1832, when a codicil increased the 10,000_l._ left under the will to
Coningsby to 50,000_l._.

After Coningsby's visit to the Castle in 1836 a very important change
occurred in the disposition of Lord Monmouth's estate. The legacy of
50,000_l._ in his favour was revoked, and the same sum left to the
Princess Lucretia. A similar amount was bequeathed to Mr. Rigby; and
Coningsby was left sole residuary legatee.

The marriage led to a considerable modification. An estate of about
nine thousand a year, which Lord Monmouth had himself purchased, and was
therefore in his own disposition, was left to Coningsby. The legacy to
Mr. Rigby was reduced to 20,000_l._, and the whole of his residue left
to his issue by Lady Monmouth. In case he died without issue, the estate
bequeathed to Coningsby to be taken into account, and the residue then
to be divided equally between Lady Monmouth and his grandson. It was
under this instrument that Sidonia had been appointed an executor and
to whom Lord Monmouth left, among others, the celebrated picture of
the Holy Family by Murillo, as his friend had often admired it. To Lord
Eskdale he left all his female miniatures, and to Mr. Ormsby his rare
and splendid collection of French novels, and all his wines, except his
Tokay, which he left, with his library, to Sir Robert Peel; though this
legacy was afterwards revoked, in consequence of Sir Robert's conduct
about the Irish corporations.

The solicitor paused and begged permission to send for a glass of water.
While this was arranging there was a murmur at the lower part of the
room, but little disposition to conversation among those in the vicinity
of the lawyer. Coningsby was silent, his brow a little knit. Mr. Rigby
was pale and restless, but said nothing. Mr. Ormsby took a pinch of
snuff, and offered his box to Lord Eskdale, who was next to him. They
exchanged glances, and made some observation about the weather. Sidonia
stood apart, with his arms folded. He had not, of course attended the
funeral, nor had he as yet exchanged any recognition with Coningsby.

'Now, gentlemen,' said the solicitor, 'if you please, I will proceed.'

They came to the year 1839, the year Coningsby was at Hellingsley. This
appeared to be a critical period in the fortunes of Lady Monmouth; while
Coningsby's reached to the culminating point. Mr. Rigby was reduced to
his original legacy under the will of 10,000_l._; a sum of equal amount
was bequeathed to Armand Villebecque, in acknowledgment of faithful
services; all the dispositions in favour of Lady Monmouth were revoked,
and she was limited to her moderate jointure of 3,000_l._ per annum,
under the marriage settlement; while everything, without reserve, was
left absolutely to Coningsby.

A subsequent codicil determined that the 10,000_l._ left to Mr. Rigby
should be equally divided between him and Lucian Gay; but as some
compensation Lord Monmouth left to the Right Honourable Nicholas Rigby
the bust of that gentleman, which he had himself presented to his
Lordship, and which, at his desire, had been placed in the vestibule
at Coningsby Castle, from the amiable motive that after Lord Monmouth's
decease Mr. Rigby might wish, perhaps, to present it to some other
friend.

Lord Eskdale and Mr. Ormsby took care not to catch the eye of Mr. Rigby.
As for Coningsby, he saw nobody. He maintained, during the extraordinary
situation in which he was placed, a firm demeanour; but serene and
regulated as he appeared to the spectators, his nerves were really
strung to a high pitch.

There was yet another codicil. It bore the date of June 1840, and was
made at Brighton, immediately after the separation with Lady Monmouth.
It was the sight of this instrument that sustained Rigby at this great
emergency. He had a wild conviction that, after all, it must set all
right. He felt assured that, as Lady Monmouth had already been disposed
of, it must principally refer to the disinheritance of Coningsby,
secured by Rigby's well-timed and malignant misrepresentations of what
had occurred in Lancashire during the preceding summer. And then to whom
could Lord Monmouth leave his money? However he might cut and carve up
his fortunes, Rigby, and especially at a moment when he had so served
him, must come in for a considerable slice.

His prescient mind was right. All the dispositions in favour of 'my
grandson Harry Coningsby' were revoked; and he inherited from his
grandfather only the interest of the sum of 10,000_l._ which had been
originally bequeathed to him in his orphan boyhood. The executors had
the power of investing the principal in any way they thought proper
for his advancement in life, provided always it was not placed in 'the
capital stock of any manufactory.'

Coningsby turned pale; he lost his abstracted look; he caught the eye
of Rigby; he read the latent malice of that nevertheless anxious
countenance. What passed through the mind and being of Coningsby was
thought and sensation enough for a year; but it was as the flash that
reveals a whole country, yet ceases to be ere one can say it lightens.
There was a revelation to him of an inward power that should baffle
these conventional calamities, a natural and sacred confidence in his
youth and health, and knowledge and convictions. Even the recollection
of Edith was not unaccompanied with some sustaining associations. At
least the mightiest foe to their union was departed.

All this was the impression of an instant, simultaneous with the reading
of the words of form with which the last testamentary disposition of the
Marquess of Monmouth left the sum of 30,000_l._ to Armand Villebecque;
and all the rest, residue, and remainder of his unentailed property,
wheresoever and whatsoever it might be, amounting in value to nearly a
million sterling, was given, devised, and bequeathed to Flora, commonly
called Flora Villebecque, the step-child of the said Armand Villebecque,
'but who is my natural daughter by Marie Estelle Matteau, an actress at
the Théâtre Français in the years 1811-15, by the name of Stella.'



CHAPTER III.


'This is a crash!' said Coningsby, with a grave rather than agitated
countenance, to Sidonia, as his friend came up to greet him, without,
however, any expression of condolence.

'This time next year you will not think so,' said Sidonia.

Coningsby shrugged his shoulders.

'The principal annoyance of this sort of miscarriage,' said Sidonia,
'is the condolence of the gentle world. I think we may now depart. I am
going home to dine. Come, and discuss your position. For the present we
will not speak of it.' So saying, Sidonia good-naturedly got Coningsby
out of the room.

They walked together to Sidonia's house in Carlton Gardens, neither of
them making the slightest allusion to the catastrophe; Sidonia inquiring
where he had been, what he had been doing, since they last met, and
himself conversing in his usual vein, though with a little more feeling
in his manner than was his custom. When they had arrived there, Sidonia
ordered their dinner instantly, and during the interval between the
command and its appearance, he called Coningsby's attention to an old
German painting he had just received, its brilliant colouring and quaint
costumes.

'Eat, and an appetite will come,' said Sidonia, when he observed
Coningsby somewhat reluctant. 'Take some of that Chablis: it will put
you right; you will find it delicious.'

In this way some twenty minutes passed; their meal was over, and they
were alone together.

'I have been thinking all this time of your position,' said Sidonia.

'A sorry one, I fear,' said Coningsby.

'I really cannot see that,' said his friend. 'You have experienced this
morning a disappointment, but not a calamity. If you had lost your eye
it would have been a calamity: no combination of circumstances could
have given you another. There are really no miseries except natural
miseries; conventional misfortunes are mere illusions. What seems
conventionally, in a limited view, a great misfortune, if subsequently
viewed in its results, is often the happiest incident in one's life.'

'I hope the day may come when I may feel this.'

'Now is the moment when philosophy is of use; that is to say, now is
the moment when you should clearly comprehend the circumstances which
surround you. Holiday philosophy is mere idleness. You think, for
example, that you have just experienced a great calamity, because you
have lost the fortune on which you counted?'

'I must say I do.'

'I ask you again, which would you have rather lost, your grandfather's
inheritance or your right leg?'

'Most certainly my inheritance,'

'Or your left arm?'

'Still the inheritance.'

'Would you have received the inheritance on condition that your front
teeth should be knocked out?'

'No.'

'Would you have given up a year of your life for that fortune trebled?'

'Even at twenty-three I would have refused the terms.'

'Come, come, Coningsby, the calamity cannot be very great.'

'Why, you have put it in an ingenious point of view; and yet it is
not so easy to convince a man, that he should be content who has lost
everything.'

'You have a great many things at this moment that you separately prefer
to the fortune that you have forfeited. How then can you be said to have
lost everything?'

'What have I?' said Coningsby, despondingly.

'You have health, youth, good looks, great abilities, considerable
knowledge, a fine courage, a lofty spirit, and no contemptible
experience. With each of these qualities one might make a fortune; the
combination ought to command the highest.'

'You console me,' said Coningsby, with a faint blush and a fainter
smile.

'I teach you the truth. That is always solacing. I think you are a most
fortunate young man; I should not have thought you more fortunate if
you had been your grandfather's heir; perhaps less so. But I wish you
to comprehend your position: if you understand it you will cease to
lament.'

'But what should I do?'

'Bring your intelligence to bear on the right object. I make you no
offers of fortune, because I know you would not accept them, and indeed
I have no wish to see you a lounger in life. If you had inherited a
great patrimony, it is possible your natural character and previous
culture might have saved you from its paralysing influence; but it is a
question, even with you. Now you are free; that is to say, you are free,
if you are not in debt. A man who has not seen the world, whose fancy is
harassed with glittering images of pleasures he has never experienced,
cannot live on 300_l._ per annum; but you can. You have nothing to haunt
your thoughts, or disturb the abstraction of your studies. You have seen
the most beautiful women; you have banqueted in palaces; you know what
heroes, and wits, and statesmen are made of: and you can draw on
your memory instead of your imagination for all those dazzling and
interesting objects that make the inexperienced restless, and are the
cause of what are called scrapes. But you can do nothing if you be in
debt. You must be free. Before, therefore, we proceed, I must beg you
to be frank on this head. If you have any absolute or contingent
incumbrances, tell me of them without reserve, and permit me to clear
them at once to any amount. You will sensibly oblige me in so doing:
because I am interested in watching your career, and if the racer start
with a clog my psychological observations will be imperfect.'

'You are, indeed, a friend; and had I debts I would ask you to pay
them. I have nothing of the kind. My grandfather was so lavish in his
allowance to me that I never got into difficulties. Besides, there
are horses and things without end which I must sell, and money at
Drummonds'.'

'That will produce your outfit, whatever the course you adopt. I
conceive there are two careers which deserve your consideration. In the
first place there is Diplomacy. If you decide upon that, I can assist
you. There exist between me and the Minister such relations that I can
at once secure you that first step which is so difficult to obtain.
After that, much, if not all, depends on yourself. But I could advance
you, provided you were capable. You should, at least, not languish for
want of preferment. In an important post, I could throw in your way
advantages which would soon permit you to control cabinets. Information
commands the world. I doubt not your success, and for such a career,
speedy. Let us assume it as a fact. Is it a result satisfactory? Suppose
yourself in a dozen years a Plenipotentiary at a chief court, or at
a critical post, with a red ribbon and the Privy Council in immediate
perspective; and, after a lengthened career, a pension and a peerage.
Would that satisfy you? You don't look excited. I am hardly surprised.
In your position it would not satisfy me. A Diplomatist is, after all,
a phantom. There is a want of nationality about his being. I always look
upon Diplomatists as the Hebrews of politics; without country, political
creeds, popular convictions, that strong reality of existence which
pervades the career of an eminent citizen in a free and great country.'

'You read my thoughts,' said Coningsby. 'I should be sorry to sever
myself from England.'

'There remains then the other, the greater, the nobler career,' said
Sidonia, 'which in England may give you all, the Bar. I am absolutely
persuaded that with the requisite qualifications, and with perseverance,
success at the Bar is certain. It may be retarded or precipitated by
circumstances, but cannot be ultimately affected. You have a right to
count with your friends on no lack of opportunities when you are ripe
for them. You appear to me to have all the qualities necessary for the
Bar; and you may count on that perseverance which is indispensable, for
the reason I have before mentioned, because it will be sustained by your
experience.'

'I have resolved,' said Coningsby; 'I will try for the Great Seal.'



CHAPTER IV.


Alone in his chambers, no longer under the sustaining influence of
Sidonia's converse and counsel, the shades of night descending
and bearing gloom to the gloomy, all the excitement of his spirit
evaporated, the heart of Coningsby sank. All now depended on himself,
and in that self he had no trust. Why should he succeed? Success was the
most rare of results. Thousands fail; units triumph. And even success
could only be conducted to him by the course of many years. His career,
even if prosperous, was now to commence by the greatest sacrifice which
the heart of man could be called upon to sustain. Upon the stern altar
of his fortunes he must immolate his first and enduring love. Before,
he had a perilous position to offer Edith; now he had none. The future
might then have aided them; there was no combination which could improve
his present. Under any circumstances he must, after all his thoughts and
studies, commence a new novitiate, and before he could enter the arena
must pass years of silent and obscure preparation. 'Twas very bitter.
He looked up, his eye caught that drawing of the towers of Hellingsley
which she had given him in the days of their happy hearts. That was all
that was to remain of their loves. He was to bear it to the future
scene of his labours, to remind him through revolving years of toil and
routine, that he too had had his romance, had roamed in fair gardens,
and whispered in willing ears the secrets of his passion. That drawing
was to become the altar-piece of his life.

Coningsby passed an agitated night of broken sleep, waking often with a
consciousness of having experienced some great misfortune, yet with an
indefinite conception of its nature. He woke exhausted and dispirited.
It was a gloomy day, a raw north-easter blowing up the cloisters of
the Albany, in which the fog was lingering, the newspaper on his
breakfast-table, full of rumoured particulars of his grandfather's
will, which had of course been duly digested by all who knew him. What
a contrast to St. Geneviève! To the bright, bracing morn of that merry
Christmas! That radiant and cheerful scene, and those gracious and
beaming personages, seemed another world and order of beings to the
one he now inhabited, and the people with whom he must now commune. The
Great Seal indeed! It was the wild excitement of despair, the frenzied
hope that blends inevitably with absolute ruin, that could alone have
inspired such a hallucination! His unstrung heart deserted him. His
energies could rally no more. He gave orders that he was at home to no
one; and in his morning gown and slippers, with his feet resting on the
fireplace, the once high-souled and noble-hearted Coningsby delivered
himself up to despair.

The day passed in a dark trance rather than a reverie. Nothing rose
to his consciousness. He was like a particle of chaos; at the best,
a glimmering entity of some shadowy Hades. Towards evening the wind
changed, the fog dispersed, there came a clear starry night, brisk and
bright. Coningsby roused himself, dressed, and wrapping his cloak around
him, sallied forth. Once more in the mighty streets, surrounded by
millions, his petty griefs and personal fortunes assumed their proper
position. Well had Sidonia taught him, view everything in its relation
to the rest. 'Tis the secret of all wisdom. Here was the mightiest of
modern cities; the rival even of the most celebrated of the ancient.
Whether he inherited or forfeited fortunes, what was it to the passing
throng? They would not share his splendour, or his luxury, or his
comfort. But a word from his lip, a thought from his brain, expressed
at the right time, at the right place, might turn their hearts, might
influence their passions, might change their opinions, might affect
their destiny. Nothing is great but the personal. As civilisation
advances, the accidents of life become each day less important.
The power of man, his greatness and his glory, depend on essential
qualities. Brains every day become more precious than blood. You must
give men new ideas, you must teach them new words, you must modify
their manners, you must change their laws, you must root out prejudices,
subvert convictions, if you wish to be great. Greatness no longer
depends on rentals, the world is too rich; nor on pedigrees, the world
is too knowing.

'The greatness of this city destroys my misery,' said Coningsby, 'and my
genius shall conquer its greatness.'

This conviction of power in the midst of despair was a revelation of
intrinsic strength. It is indeed the test of a creative spirit. From
that moment all petty fears for an ordinary future quitted him. He felt
that he must be prepared for great sacrifices, for infinite suffering;
that there must devolve on him a bitter inheritance of obscurity,
struggle, envy, and hatred, vulgar prejudice, base criticism, petty
hostilities, but the dawn would break, and the hour arrive, when the
welcome morning hymn of his success and his fame would sound and be
re-echoed.

He returned to his rooms; calm, resolute. He slept the deep sleep of
a man void of anxiety, that has neither hope nor fear to haunt his
visions, but is prepared to rise on the morrow collected for the great
human struggle.

And the morning came. Fresh, vigorous, not rash or precipitate, yet
determined to lose no time in idle meditation, Coningsby already
resolved at once to quit his present residence, was projecting a visit
to some legal quarter, where he intended in future to reside, when his
servant brought him a note. The handwriting was feminine. The note was
from Flora. The contents were brief. She begged Mr. Coningsby, with
great earnestness, to do her the honour and the kindness of calling on
her at his earliest convenience, at the hotel in Brook Street where she
now resided.

It was an interview which Coningsby would rather have avoided; yet it
seemed to him, after a moment's reflection, neither just, nor kind, nor
manly, to refuse her request. Flora had not injured him. She was, after
all, his kin. Was it for a moment to be supposed that he was envious of
her lot? He replied, therefore, that in an hour he would wait upon her.

In an hour, then, two individuals are to be brought together whose first
meeting was held under circumstances most strangely different. Then
Coningsby was the patron, a generous and spontaneous one, of a being
obscure, almost friendless, and sinking under bitter mortification.
His favour could not be the less appreciated because he was the
chosen relative of a powerful noble. That noble was no more; his vast
inheritance had devolved on the disregarded, even despised actress,
whose suffering emotions Coningsby had then soothed, and whose fortune
had risen on the destruction of all his prospects, and the balk of all
his aspirations.

Flora was alone when Coningsby was ushered into the room. The extreme
delicacy of her appearance was increased by her deep mourning; and
seated in a cushioned chair, from which she seemed to rise with an
effort, she certainly presented little of the character of a fortunate
and prosperous heiress.

'You are very good to come to me,' she said, faintly smiling.

Coningsby extended his hand to her affectionately, in which she placed
her own, looking down much embarrassed.

'You have an agreeable situation here,' said Coningsby, trying to break
the first awkwardness of their meeting.

'Yes; but I hope not to stop here long?'

'You are going abroad?'

'No; I hope never to leave England!'

There was a slight pause; and then Flora sighed and said,

'I wish to speak to you on a subject that gives me pain; yet of which I
must speak. You think I have injured you?'

'I am sure,' said Coningsby, in a tone of great kindness, 'that you
could injure no one.'

'I have robbed you of your inheritance.'

'It was not mine by any right, legal or moral. There were others who
might have urged an equal claim to it; and there are many who will now
think that you might have preferred a superior one.'

'You had enemies; I was not one. They sought to benefit themselves by
injuring you. They have not benefited themselves; let them not say that
they have at least injured you.'

'We will not care what they say,' said Coningsby; 'I can sustain my
lot.'

'Would that I could mine!' said Flora. She sighed again with a downcast
glance. Then looking up embarrassed and blushing deeply, she added, 'I
wish to restore to you that fortune of which I have unconsciously and
unwillingly deprived you.'

'The fortune is yours, dear Flora, by every right,' said Coningsby,
much moved; 'and there is no one who wishes more fervently that it may
contribute to your happiness than I do.'

'It is killing me,' said Flora, mournfully; then speaking with unusual
animation, with a degree of excitement, she continued, 'I must tell what
I feel. This fortune is yours. I am happy in the inheritance, if you
generously receive it from me, because Providence has made me the means
of baffling your enemies. I never thought to be so happy as I shall be
if you will generously accept this fortune, always intended for you. I
have lived then for a purpose; I have not lived in vain; I have returned
to you some service, however humble, for all your goodness to me in my
unhappiness.'

'You are, as I have ever thought you, the kindest and most
tender-hearted of beings. But you misconceive our mutual positions,
my gentle Flora. The custom of the world does not permit such acts to
either of us as you contemplate. The fortune is yours. It is left you by
one on whose affections you had the highest claim. I will not say
that so large an inheritance does not bring with it an alarming
responsibility; but you are not unequal to it. Have confidence in
yourself. You have a good heart; you have good sense; you have a
well-principled being. Your spirit will mount with your fortunes, and
blend with them. You will be happy.'

'And you?'

'I shall soon learn to find content, if not happiness, from other
sources,' said Coningsby; 'and mere riches, however vast, could at no
time have secured my felicity.'

'But they may secure that which brings felicity,' said Flora, speaking
in a choking voice, and not meeting the glance of Coningsby. 'You had
some views in life which displeased him who has done all this; they may
be, they must be, affected by this fatal caprice. Speak to me, for I
cannot speak, dear Mr. Coningsby; do not let me believe that I, who
would sacrifice my life for your happiness, am the cause of such
calamities!'

'Whatever be my lot, I repeat I can sustain it,' said Coningsby, with a
cheek of scarlet.

'Ah! he is angry with me,' exclaimed Flora; 'he is angry with me!' and
the tears stole down her pale cheek.

'No, no, no! dear Flora; I have no other feelings to you than those of
affection and respect,' and Coningsby, much agitated, drew his chair
nearer to her, and took her hand. 'I am gratified by these kind wishes,
though they are utterly impracticable; but they are the witnesses of
your sweet disposition and your noble spirit. There never shall exist
between us, under any circumstances, other feelings than those of kin
and kindness.'

He rose as if to depart. When she saw that, she started, and seemed to
summon all her energies.

'You are going,' she exclaimed, 'and I have said nothing, I have said
nothing; and I shall never see you again. Let me tell you what I mean.
This fortune is yours; it must be yours. It is an arrow in my heart. Do
not think I am speaking from a momentary impulse. I know myself. I have
lived so much alone, I have had so little to deceive or to delude me,
that I know myself. If you will not let me do justice you declare my
doom. I cannot live if my existence is the cause of all your prospects
being blasted, and the sweetest dreams of your life being defeated. When
I die, these riches will be yours; that you cannot prevent. Refuse my
present offer, and you seal the fate of that unhappy Flora whose fragile
life has hung for years on the memory of your kindness.'

'You must not say these words, dear Flora; you must not indulge in these
gloomy feelings. You must live, and you must live happily. You have
every charm and virtue which should secure happiness. The duties and
the affections of existence will fall to your lot. It is one that will
always interest me, for I shall ever be your friend. You have conferred
on me one of the most delightful of feelings, gratitude, and for that I
bless you. I will soon see you again.' Mournfully he bade her farewell.



CHAPTER V.


About a week after this interview with Flora, as Coningsby one morning
was about to sally forth from the Albany to visit some chambers in the
Temple, to which his notice had been attracted, there was a loud ring, a
bustle in the hall, and Henry Sydney and Buckhurst were ushered in.

There never was such a cordial meeting; and yet the faces of his
friends were serious. The truth is, the paragraphs in the newspapers had
circulated in the country, they had written to Coningsby, and after a
brief delay he had confirmed their worst apprehensions. Immediately they
came up to town. Henry Sydney, a younger son, could offer little but
sympathy, but he declared it was his intention also to study for the
bar, so that they should not be divided. Buckhurst, after many embraces
and some ordinary talk, took Coningsby aside, and said, 'My dear fellow,
I have no objection to Henry Sydney hearing everything I say, but still
these are subjects which men like to be discussed in private. Of course
I expect you to share my fortune. There is enough for both. We will have
an exact division.'

There was something in Buckhurst's fervent resolution very lovable and a
little humorous, just enough to put one in good temper with human nature
and life. If there were any fellow's fortune in the world that Coningsby
would share, Buckhurst's would have had the preference; but while he
pressed his hand, and with a glance in which a tear and a smile seemed
to contend for mastery, he gently indicated why such arrangements were,
with our present manners, impossible.

'I see,' said Buckhurst, after a moment's thought, 'I quite agree with
you. The thing cannot be done; and, to tell you the truth, a fortune
is a bore. What I vote that we three do at once is, to take plenty of
ready-money, and enter the Austrian service. By Jove! it is the only
thing to do.'

'There is something in that,' said Coningsby. 'In the meantime, suppose
you two fellows walk with me to the Temple, for I have an appointment to
look at some chambers.'

It was a fine day, and it was by no means a gloomy walk. Though the
two friends had arrived full of indignation against Lord Monmouth, and
miserable about their companion, once more in his society, and finding
little difference in his carriage, they assumed unconsciously their
habitual tone. As for Buckhurst, he was delighted with the Temple, which
he visited for the first time. The name enchanted him. The tombs in the
church convinced him that the Crusades were the only career. He would
have himself become a law student if he might have prosecuted his
studies in chain armour. The calmer Henry Sydney was consoled for the
misfortunes of Coningsby by a fanciful project himself to pass a portion
of his life amid these halls and courts, gardens and terraces, that
maintain in the heart of a great city in the nineteenth century, so much
of the grave romance and picturesque decorum of our past manners.
Henry Sydney was sanguine; he was reconciled to the disinheritance of
Coningsby by the conviction that it was a providential dispensation to
make him a Lord Chancellor.

These faithful friends remained in town with Coningsby until he was
established in Paper Buildings, and had become a pupil of a celebrated
special pleader. They would have remained longer had not he himself
suggested that it was better that they should part. It seemed a terrible
catastrophe after all the visions of their boyish days, their college
dreams, and their dazzling adventures in the world.

'And this is the end of Coningsby, the brilliant Coningsby, that we all
loved, that was to be our leader!' said Buckhurst to Lord Henry as
they quitted him. 'Well, come what may, life has lost something of its
bloom.'

'The great thing now,' said Lord Henry, 'is to keep up the chain of
our friendship. We must write to him very often, and contrive to be
frequently together. It is dreadful to think that in the ways of life
our hearts may become estranged. I never felt more wretched than I do at
this moment, and yet I have faith that we shall not lose him.'

'Amen!' said Buckhurst; 'but I feel my plan about the Austrian service
was, after all, the only thing. The Continent offers a career. He might
have been prime minister; several strangers have been; and as for war,
look at Brown and Laudohn, and half a hundred others. I had a much
better chance of being a field-marshal than he has of being a Lord
Chancellor.'

'I feel quite convinced that Coningsby will be Lord Chancellor,' said
Henry Sydney, gravely.

This change of life for Coningsby was a great social revolution. It was
sudden and complete. Within a month after the death of his grandfather
his name had been erased from all his fashionable clubs, and his horses
and carriages sold, and he had become a student of the Temple. He
entirely devoted himself to his new pursuit. His being was completely
absorbed in it. There was nothing to haunt his mind; no unexperienced
scene or sensation of life to distract his intelligence. One sacred
thought alone indeed there remained, shrined in the innermost sanctuary
of his heart and consciousness. But it was a tradition, no longer a
hope. The moment that he had fairly recovered from the first shock of
his grandfather's will; had clearly ascertained the consequences to
himself, and had resolved on the course to pursue; he had communicated
unreservedly with Oswald Millbank, and had renounced those pretensions
to the hand of his sister which it ill became the destitute to prefer.

His letter was answered in person. Millbank met Henry Sydney and
Buckhurst at the chambers of Coningsby. Once more they were all
four together; but under what different circumstances, and with what
different prospects from those which attended their separation at Eton!
Alone with Coningsby, Millbank spoke to him things which letters could
not convey. He bore to him all the sympathy and devotion of Edith; but
they would not conceal from themselves that, at this moment, and in the
present state of affairs, all was hopeless. In no way did Coningsby ever
permit himself to intimate to Oswald the cause of his disinheritance. He
was, of course, silent on it to his other friends; as any communication
of the kind must have touched on a subject that was consecrated in his
inmost soul.



CHAPTER VI.


The state of political parties in England in the spring of 1841 offered
a most remarkable contrast to their condition at the period commemorated
in the first chapter of this work. The banners of the Conservative camp
at this moment lowered on the Whig forces, as the gathering host of the
Norman invader frowned on the coast of Sussex. The Whigs were not
yet conquered, but they were doomed; and they themselves knew it. The
mistake which was made by the Conservative leaders in not retaining
office in 1839; and, whether we consider their conduct in a national
and constitutional light, or as a mere question of political tactics and
party prudence, it was unquestionably a great mistake; had infused into
the corps of Whig authority a kind of galvanic action, which only the
superficial could mistake for vitality. Even to form a basis for their
future operations, after the conjuncture of '39, the Whigs were obliged
to make a fresh inroad on the revenue, the daily increasing debility
of which was now arresting attention and exciting public alarm. It was
clear that the catastrophe of the government would be financial.

Under all the circumstances of the case, the conduct of the Whig
Cabinet, in their final propositions, cannot be described as deficient
either in boldness or prudence. The policy which they recommended was
in itself a sagacious and spirited policy; but they erred in supposing
that, at the period it was brought forward, any measure promoted by the
Whigs could have obtained general favour in the country. The Whigs were
known to be feeble; they were looked upon as tricksters. The country
knew they were opposed by a powerful party; and though there certainly
never was any authority for the belief, the country did believe that
that powerful party were influenced by great principles; had in their
view a definite and national policy; and would secure to England,
instead of a feeble administration and fluctuating opinions, energy and
a creed.

The future effect of the Whig propositions of '41 will not be
detrimental to that party, even if in the interval they be appropriated
piecemeal, as will probably be the case, by their Conservative
successors. But for the moment, and in the plight in which the Whig
party found themselves, it was impossible to have devised measures more
conducive to their precipitate fall. Great interests were menaced by a
weak government. The consequence was inevitable. Tadpole and Taper
saw it in a moment. They snuffed the factious air, and felt the coming
storm. Notwithstanding the extreme congeniality of these worthies,
there was a little latent jealousy between them. Tadpole worshipped
Registration: Taper, adored a Cry. Tadpole always maintained that it
was the winnowing of the electoral lists that could alone gain the day;
Taper, on the contrary, faithful to ancient traditions, was ever of
opinion that the game must ultimately be won by popular clamour. It
always seemed so impossible that the Conservative party could ever be
popular; the extreme graciousness and personal popularity of the leaders
not being sufficiently apparent to be esteemed an adequate set-off
against the inveterate odium that attached to their opinions; that the
Tadpole philosophy was the favoured tenet in high places; and Taper had
had his knuckles well rapped more than once for manoeuvring too actively
against the New Poor-law, and for hiring several link-boys to bawl
a much-wronged lady's name in the Park when the Court prorogued
Parliament.

And now, after all, in 1841, it seemed that Taper was right. There was
a great clamour in every quarter, and the clamour was against the Whigs
and in favour of Conservative principles. What Canadian timber-merchants
meant by Conservative principles, it is not difficult to conjecture;
or West Indian planters. It was tolerably clear on the hustings
what squires and farmers, and their followers, meant by Conservative
principles. What they mean by Conservative principles now is another
question: and whether Conservative principles mean something higher than
a perpetuation of fiscal arrangements, some of them impolitic, none of
them important. But no matter what different bodies of men understood by
the cry in which they all joined, the Cry existed. Taper beat Tadpole;
and the great Conservative party beat the shattered and exhausted Whigs.

Notwithstanding the abstraction of his legal studies, Coningsby could
not be altogether insensible to the political crisis. In the political
world of course he never mixed, but the friends of his boyhood were
deeply interested in affairs, and they lost no opportunity which
he would permit them, of cultivating his society. Their occasional
fellowship, a visit now and then to Sidonia, and a call sometimes
on Flora, who lived at Richmond, comprised his social relations. His
general acquaintance did not desert him, but he was out of sight, and
did not wish to be remembered. Mr. Ormsby asked him to dinner, and
occasionally mourned over his fate in the bow window of White's; while
Lord Eskdale even went to see him in the Temple, was interested in his
progress, and said, with an encouraging look, that, when he was called
to the bar, all his friends must join and get up the steam. Coningsby
had once met Mr. Rigby, who was walking with the Duke of Agincourt,
which was probably the reason he could not notice a lawyer. Mr. Rigby
cut Coningsby.

Lord Eskdale had obtained from Villebecque accurate details as to the
cause of Coningsby being disinherited. Our hero, if one in such fallen
fortunes may still be described as a hero, had mentioned to Lord Eskdale
his sorrow that his grandfather had died in anger with him; but Lord
Eskdale, without dwelling on the subject, had assured him that he had
reason to believe that if Lord Monmouth had lived, affairs would have
been different. He had altered the disposition of his property at a
moment of great and general irritation and excitement; and had been too
indolent, perhaps really too indisposed, which he was unwilling ever to
acknowledge, to recur to a calmer and more equitable settlement. Lord
Eskdale had been more frank with Sidonia, and had told him all about
the refusal to become a candidate for Darlford against Mr. Millbank; the
communication of Rigby to Lord Monmouth, as to the presence of Oswald
Millbank at the castle, and the love of Coningsby for his sister; all
these details, furnished by Villebecque to Lord Eskdale, had been truly
transferred by that nobleman to his co-executor; and Sidonia, when he
had sufficiently digested them, had made Lady Wallinger acquainted with
the whole history.

The dissolution of the Whig Parliament by the Whigs, the project of
which had reached Lord Monmouth a year before, and yet in which nobody
believed to the last moment, at length took place. All the world was
dispersed in the heart of the season, and our solitary student of the
Temple, in his lonely chambers, notwithstanding all his efforts, found
his eye rather wander over the pages of Tidd and Chitty as he remembered
that the great event to which he had so looked forward was now
occurring, and he, after all, was no actor in the mighty drama. It was
to have been the epoch of his life; when he was to have found himself
in that proud position for which all the studies, and meditations, and
higher impulses of his nature had been preparing him. It was a keen
trial of a man. Every one of his friends and old companions were
candidates, and with sanguine prospects. Lord Henry was certain for a
division of his county; Buckhurst harangued a large agricultural
borough in his vicinity; Eustace Lyle and Vere stood in coalition for
a Yorkshire town; and Oswald Millbank solicited the suffrages of an
important manufacturing constituency. They sent their addresses to
Coningsby. He was deeply interested as he traced in them the influence
of his own mind; often recognised the very expressions to which he
had habituated them. Amid the confusion of a general election, no
unimpassioned critic had time to canvass the language of an address to
an isolated constituency; yet an intelligent speculator on the movements
of political parties might have detected in these public declarations
some intimation of new views, and of a tone of political feeling that
has unfortunately been too long absent from the public life of this
country.

It was the end of a sultry July day, the last ray of the sun shooting
down Pall Mall sweltering with dust; there was a crowd round the doors
of the Carlton and the Reform Clubs, and every now and then an express
arrived with the agitating bulletin of a fresh defeat or a new triumph.
Coningsby was walking up Pall Mall. He was going to dine at the Oxford
and Cambridge Club, the only club on whose list he had retained his
name, that he might occasionally have the pleasure of meeting an Eton or
Cambridge friend without the annoyance of encountering any of his former
fashionable acquaintances. He lighted in his walk on Mr. Tadpole and
Mr. Taper, both of whom he knew. The latter did not notice him, but Mr.
Tadpole, more good-natured, bestowed on him a rough nod, not unmarked by
a slight expression of coarse pity.

Coningsby ordered his dinner, and then took up the evening papers, where
he learnt the return of Vere and Lyle; and read a speech of Buckhurst
denouncing the Venetian Constitution, to the amazement of several
thousand persons, apparently not a little terrified by this unknown
danger, now first introduced to their notice. Being true Englishmen,
they were all against Buckhurst's opponent, who was of the Venetian
party, and who ended by calling out Buckhurst for his personalities.

Coningsby had dined, and was reading in the library, when a waiter
brought up a third edition of the _Sun_, with electioneering bulletins
from the manufacturing districts to the very latest hour. Some large
letters which expressed the name of Darlford caught his eye. There
seemed great excitement in that borough; strange proceedings had
happened. The column was headed, 'Extraordinary Affair! Withdrawal of
the Liberal Candidate! Two Tory Candidates in the field!!!'

His eye glanced over an animated speech of Mr. Millbank, his
countenance changed, his heart palpitated. Mr. Millbank had resigned
the representation of the town, but not from weakness; his avocations
demanded his presence; he had been requested to let his son supply his
place, but his son was otherwise provided for; he should always take a
deep interest in the town and trade of Darlford; he hoped that the
link between the borough and Hellingsley would be ever cherished; loud
cheering; he wished in parting from them to take a step which should
conciliate all parties, put an end to local heats and factious
contentions, and secure the town an able and worthy representative. For
these reasons he begged to propose to them a gentleman who bore a
name which many of them greatly honoured; for himself, he knew the
individual, and it was his firm opinion that whether they considered his
talents, his character, or the ancient connection of his family with
the district, he could not propose a candidate more worthy of their
confidence than HARRY CONINGSBY, ESQ.

This proposition was received with that wild enthusiasm which
occasionally bursts out in the most civilised communities. The contest
between Millbank and Rigby was equally balanced, neither party was
over-confident. The Conservatives were not particularly zealous in
behalf of their champion; there was no Marquess of Monmouth and no
Coningsby Castle now to back him; he was fighting on his own resources,
and he was a beaten horse. The Liberals did not like the prospect of a
defeat, and dreaded the mortification of Rigby's triumph. The Moderate
men, who thought more of local than political circumstances, liked the
name of Coningsby. Mr. Millbank had dexterously prepared his leading
supporters for the substitution. Some traits of the character and
conduct of Coningsby had been cleverly circulated. Thus there was a
combination of many favourable causes in his favour. In half an hour's
time his image was stamped on the brain of every inhabitant of the
borough as an interesting and accomplished youth, who had been wronged,
and who deserved to be rewarded. It was whispered that Rigby was his
enemy. Magog Wrath and his mob offered Mr. Millbank's committee to throw
Mr. Rigby into the river, or to burn down his hotel, in case he was
prudent enough not to show. Mr. Rigby determined to fight to the last.
All his hopes were now staked on the successful result of this contest.
It were impossible if he were returned that his friends could refuse him
high office. The whole of Lord Monmouth's reduced legacy was devoted
to this end. The third edition of the _Sun_ left Mr. Rigby in vain
attempting to address an infuriated populace.

Here was a revolution in the fortunes of our forlorn Coningsby! When his
grandfather first sent for him to Monmouth House, his destiny was
not verging on greater vicissitudes. He rose from his seat, and was
surprised that all the silent gentlemen who were about him did not mark
his agitation. Not an individual there that he knew. It was now an hour
to midnight, and to-morrow the almost unconscious candidate was to go to
the poll. In a tumult of suppressed emotion, Coningsby returned to his
chambers. He found a letter in his box from Oswald Millbank, who had
been twice at the Temple. Oswald had been returned without a contest,
and had reached Darlford in time to hear Coningsby nominated. He set off
instantly to London, and left at his friend's chambers a rapid narrative
of what had happened, with information that he should call on him
again on the morrow at nine o'clock, when they were to repair together
immediately to Darlford in time for Coningsby to be chaired, for no one
entertained a doubt of his triumph.

Coningsby did not sleep a wink that night, and yet when he rose early
felt fresh enough for any exploit, however difficult or hazardous. He
felt as an Egyptian does when the Nile rises after its elevation had
been despaired of. At the very lowest ebb of his fortunes, an event
had occurred which seemed to restore all. He dared not contemplate the
ultimate result of all these wonderful changes. Enough for him, that
when all seemed dark, he was about to be returned to Parliament by
the father of Edith, and his vanquished rival who was to bite the dust
before him was the author of all his misfortunes. Love, Vengeance,
Justice, the glorious pride of having acted rightly, the triumphant
sense of complete and absolute success, here were chaotic materials from
which order was at length evolved; and all subsided in an overwhelming
feeling of gratitude to that Providence that had so signally protected
him.

There was a knock at the door. It was Oswald. They embraced. It seemed
that Oswald was as excited as Coningsby. His eye sparkled, his manner
was energetic.

'We must talk it all over during our journey. We have not a minute to
spare.'

During that journey Coningsby learned something of the course of affairs
which gradually had brought about so singular a revolution in his
favour. We mentioned that Sidonia had acquired a thorough knowledge of
the circumstances which had occasioned and attended the disinheritance
of Coningsby. These he had told to Lady Wallinger, first by letter,
afterwards in more detail on her arrival in London. Lady Wallinger had
conferred with her husband. She was not surprised at the goodness of
Coningsby, and she sympathised with all his calamities. He had ever been
the favourite of her judgment, and her romance had always consisted in
blending his destinies with those of her beloved Edith. Sir Joseph was a
judicious man, who never cared to commit himself; a little selfish, but
good, just, and honourable, with some impulses, only a little afraid
of them; but then his wife stepped in like an angel, and gave them the
right direction. They were both absolutely impressed with Coningsby's
admirable conduct, and Lady Wallinger was determined that her husband
should express to others the convictions which he acknowledged in unison
with herself. Sir Joseph spoke to Mr. Millbank, who stared; but Sir
Joseph spoke feebly. Lady Wallinger conveyed all this intelligence, and
all her impressions, to Oswald and Edith. The younger Millbank talked
with his father, who, making no admissions, listened with interest,
inveighed against Lord Monmouth, and condemned his will.

After some time, Mr. Millbank made inquiries about Coningsby, took an
interest in his career, and, like Lord Eskdale, declared that when he
was called to the bar, his friends would have an opportunity to evince
their sincerity. Affairs remained in this state, until Oswald thought
that circumstances were sufficiently ripe to urge his father on
the subject. The position which Oswald had assumed at Millbank had
necessarily made him acquainted with the affairs and fortune of his
father. When he computed the vast wealth which he knew was at his
parent's command, and recalled Coningsby in his humble chambers, toiling
after all his noble efforts without any results, and his sister pining
in a provincial solitude, Oswald began to curse wealth, and to
ask himself what was the use of all their marvellous industry and
supernatural skill? He addressed his father with that irresistible
frankness which a strong faith can alone inspire. What are the objects
of wealth, if not to bless those who possess our hearts? The only
daughter, the friend to whom the only son was indebted for his life,
here are two beings surely whom one would care to bless, and both are
unhappy. Mr. Millbank listened without prejudice, for he was already
convinced. But he felt some interest in the present conduct of
Coningsby. A Coningsby working for his bread was a novel incident for
him. He wished to be assured of its authenticity. He was resolved to
convince himself of the fact. And perhaps he would have gone on yet
for a little time, and watched the progress of the experiment,
already interested and delighted by what had reached him, had not the
dissolution brought affairs to a crisis. The misery of Oswald at the
position of Coningsby, the silent sadness of Edith, his own conviction,
which assured him that he could do nothing wiser or better than take
this young man to his heart, so ordained it that Mr. Millbank, who
was after all the creature of impulse, decided suddenly, and decided
rightly. Never making a single admission to all the representations of
his son, Mr. Millbank in a moment did all that his son could have dared
to desire.

This is a very imperfect and crude intimation of what had occurred
at Millbank and Hellingsley; yet it conveys a faint sketch of the
enchanting intelligence that Oswald conveyed to Coningsby during their
rapid travel. When they arrived at Birmingham, they found a messenger
and a despatch, informing Coningsby, that at mid-day, at Darlford, he
was at the head of the poll by an overwhelming majority, and that Mr.
Rigby had resigned. He was, however, requested to remain at Birmingham,
as they did not wish him to enter Darlford, except to be chaired, so
he was to arrive there in the morning. At Birmingham, therefore, they
remained.

There was Oswald's election to talk of as well as Coningsby's. They had
hardly had time for this. Now they were both Members of Parliament.
Men must have been at school together, to enjoy the real fun of meeting
thus, and realising boyish dreams. Often, years ago, they had talked
of these things, and assumed these results; but those were words and
dreams, these were positive facts; after some doubts and struggles, in
the freshness of their youth, Oswald Millbank and Harry Coningsby
were members of the British Parliament; public characters, responsible
agents, with a career.

This afternoon, at Birmingham, was as happy an afternoon as usually
falls to the lot of man. Both of these companions were labouring under
that degree of excitement which is necessary to felicity. They had
enough to talk about. Edith was no longer a forbidden or a sorrowful
subject. There was rapture in their again meeting under such
circumstances. Then there were their friends; that dear Buckhurst, who
had just been called out for styling his opponent a Venetian, and all
their companions of early days. What a sudden and marvellous change in
all their destinies! Life was a pantomime; the wand was waved, and it
seemed that the schoolfellows had of a sudden become elements of power,
springs of the great machine.

A train arrived; restless they sallied forth, to seek diversion in the
dispersion of the passengers. Coningsby and Millbank, with that glance,
a little inquisitive, even impertinent, if we must confess it, with
which one greets a stranger when he emerges from a public conveyance,
were lounging on the platform. The train arrived; stopped; the doors
were thrown open, and from one of them emerged Mr. Rigby! Coningsby, who
had dined, was greatly tempted to take off his hat and make him a bow,
but he refrained. Their eyes met. Rigby was dead beat. He was evidently
used up; a man without a resource; the sight of Coningsby his last blow;
he had met his fate.

'My dear fellow,' said Coningsby, 'I remember I wanted you to dine with
my grandfather at Montem, and that fellow would not ask you. Such is
life!'

About eleven o'clock the next morning they arrived at the Darlford
station. Here they were met by an anxious deputation, who received
Coningsby as if he were a prophet, and ushered him into a car covered
with satin and blue ribbons, and drawn by six beautiful grey horses,
caparisoned in his colours, and riden by postilions, whose very whips
were blue and white. Triumphant music sounded; banners waved; the
multitude were marshalled; the Freemasons, at the first opportunity,
fell into the procession; the Odd Fellows joined it at the nearest
corner. Preceded and followed by thousands, with colours flying,
trumpets sounding, and endless huzzas, flags and handkerchiefs waving
from every window, and every balcony filled with dames and maidens
bedecked with his colours, Coningsby was borne through enthusiastic
Darlford like Paulus Emilius returning from Macedon. Uncovered, still
in deep mourning, his fine figure, and graceful bearing, and his
intelligent brow, at once won every female heart.

The singularity was, that all were of the same opinion: everybody
cheered him, every house was adorned with his colours. His triumphal
return was no party question. Magog Wrath and Bully Bluck walked
together like lambs at the head of his procession.

The car stopped before the principal hotel in the High Street. It was
Mr. Millbank's committee. The broad street was so crowded, that, as
every one declared, you might have walked on the heads of the people.
Every window was full; the very roofs were peopled. The car stopped,
and the populace gave three cheers for Mr. Millbank. Their late member,
surrounded by his friends, stood in the balcony, which was fitted up
with Coningsby's colours, and bore his name on the hangings in gigantic
letters formed of dahlias. The flashing and inquiring eye of Coningsby
caught the form of Edith, who was leaning on her father's arm.

The hustings were opposite the hotel, and here, after a while, Coningsby
was carried, and, stepping from his car, took up his post to address,
for the first time, a public assembly. Anxious as the people were
to hear him, it was long before their enthusiasm could subside into
silence. At length that silence was deep and absolute. He spoke; his
powerful and rich tones reached every ear. In five minutes' time every
one looked at his neighbour, and without speaking they agreed that there
never was anything like this heard in Darlford before.

He addressed them for a considerable time, for he had a great deal to
say; not only to express his gratitude for the unprecedented manner in
which he had become their representative, and for the spirit in which
they had greeted him, but he had to offer them no niggard exposition
of the views and opinions of the member whom they had so confidingly
chosen, without even a formal declaration of his sentiments.

He did this with so much clearness, and in a manner so pointed and
popular, that the deep attention of the multitude never wavered. His
lively illustrations kept them often in continued merriment. But when,
towards his close, he drew some picture of what he hoped might be the
character of his future and lasting connection with the town, the vast
throng was singularly affected. There were a great many present at that
moment who, though they had never seen Coningsby before, would willingly
have then died for him. Coningsby had touched their hearts, for he had
spoken from his own. His spirit had entirely magnetised them. Darlford
believed in Coningsby: and a very good creed.

And now Coningsby was conducted to the opposite hotel. He walked through
the crowd. The progress was slow, as every one wished to shake hands
with him. His friends, however, at last safely landed him. He sprang
up the stairs; he was met by Mr. Millbank, who welcomed him with the
greatest warmth, and offered his hearty congratulations.

'It is to you, dear sir, that I am indebted for all this,' said
Coningsby.

'No,' said Mr. Millbank, 'it is to your own high principles, great
talents, and good heart.'

After he had been presented by the late member to the principal
personages in the borough, Mr. Millbank said,

'I think we must now give Mr. Coningsby a little rest. Come with me,' he
added, 'here is some one who will be very glad to see you.'

Speaking thus, he led our hero a little away, and placing his arm in
Coningsby's with great affection opened the door of an apartment. There
was Edith, radiant with loveliness and beaming with love. Their agitated
hearts told at a glance the tumult of their joy. The father joined their
hands, and blessed them with words of tenderness.



CHAPTER VII.


The marriage of Coningsby and Edith took place early in the autumn.
It was solemnised at Millbank, and they passed their first moon at
Hellingsley, which place was in future to be the residence of the member
for Darlford. The estate was to devolve to Coningsby after the death of
Mr. Millbank, who in the meantime made arrangements which permitted
the newly-married couple to reside at the Hall in a manner becoming its
occupants. All these settlements, as Mr. Millbank assured Coningsby,
were effected not only with the sanction, but at the express instance,
of his son.

An event, however, occurred not very long after the marriage of
Coningsby, which rendered this generous conduct of his father-in-law no
longer necessary to his fortunes, though he never forgot its exercise.
The gentle and unhappy daughter of Lord Monmouth quitted a scene with
which her spirit had never greatly sympathised. Perhaps she might have
lingered in life for yet a little while, had it not been for that fatal
inheritance which disturbed her peace and embittered her days, haunting
her heart with the recollection that she had been the unconscious
instrument of injuring the only being whom she loved, and embarrassing
and encumbering her with duties foreign to her experience and her
nature. The marriage of Coningsby had greatly affected her, and from
that day she seemed gradually to decline. She died towards the end
of the autumn, and, subject to an ample annuity to Villebecque, she
bequeathed the whole of her fortune to the husband of Edith. Gratifying
as it was to him to present such an inheritance to his wife, it was not
without a pang that he received the intelligence of the death of Flora.
Edith sympathised in his affectionate feelings, and they raised a
monument to her memory in the gardens of Hellingsley.

Coningsby passed his next Christmas in his own hall with his beautiful
and gifted wife by his side, and surrounded by the friends of his heart
and his youth.

They stand now on the threshold of public life. They are in the leash,
but in a moment they will be slipped. What will be their fate? Will they
maintain in august assemblies and high places the great truths which, in
study and in solitude, they have embraced? Or will their courage exhaust
itself in the struggle, their enthusiasm evaporate before hollow-hearted
ridicule, their generous impulses yield with a vulgar catastrophe to the
tawdry temptations of a low ambition? Will their skilled intelligence
subside into being the adroit tool of a corrupt party? Will Vanity
confound their fortunes, or Jealousy wither their sympathies? Or will
they remain brave, single, and true; refuse to bow before shadows and
worship phrases; sensible of the greatness of their position, recognise
the greatness of their duties; denounce to a perplexed and disheartened
world the frigid theories of a generalising age that have destroyed
the individuality of man, and restore the happiness of their country by
believing in their own energies, and daring to be great?





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