The English Comedie Humaine Second Series
BY THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
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.
Disraeli was barely twenty-one when he published "Vivian Grey," his first work of fiction; and the young author was at once hailed as a master of his art by an almost unanimous press.
In this, as in his subsequent books, it was not so much Disraeli's notable skill as a novelist but rather his portrayal of the social and political life of the day that made him one of the most popular writers of his generation, and earned for him a lasting fame as a man of letters. In "Vivian Grey" is narrated the career of an ambitious young man of rank; and in this story the brilliant author has preserved to us the exact tone of the English drawing-room, as he so well knew it, sketching with sure and rapid strokes a whole portrait gallery of notables, disguised in name may be, but living characters nevertheless, who charm us with their graceful manners and general air of being people of consequence. "Vivian Grey," then, though not a great novel is beyond question a marvelously true picture of the life and character of an interesting period of English history and made notable because of Disraeli's fine imagination and vivid descriptive powers.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Is there anything you want, sir?
He distinctly beheld Mrs. Felix Lorraine open a small silver box.
It was very slowly that the dark thought came over his mind.
We are not aware that the infancy of Vivian Grey was distinguished by any extraordinary incident. The solicitude of the most affectionate of mothers, and the care of the most attentive of nurses, did their best to injure an excellent constitution. But Vivian was an only child, and these exertions were therefore excusable. For the first five years of his life, with his curly locks and his fancy dress, he was the pride of his own and the envy of all neighbouring establishments; but, in process of time, the spirit of boyism began to develop itself, and Vivian not only would brush his hair straight and rebel against his nurse, but actually insisted upon being—breeched! At this crisis it was discovered that he had been spoiled, and it was determined that he should be sent to school. Mr. Grey observed, also, that the child was nearly ten years old, and did not know his alphabet, and Mrs. Grey remarked that he was getting ugly. The fate of Vivian was decided.
"I am told, my dear," observed Mrs. Grey, one day after dinner to her husband, "I am told, my dear, that Dr. Flummery's would do very well for Vivian. Nothing can exceed the attention which is paid to the pupils. There are sixteen young ladies, all the daughters of clergymen, merely to attend to the morals and the linen; terms moderate: 100 guineas per annum, for all under six years of age, and few extras, only for fencing, pure milk, and the guitar. Mrs. Metcalfe has both her boys there, and she says their progress is astonishing! Percy Metcalfe, she assures me, was quite as backward as Vivian; indeed, backwarder; and so was Dudley, who was taught at home on the new system, by a pictorial alphabet, and who persisted to the last, notwithstanding all the exertions of Miss Barrett, in spelling A-P-E, monkey, merely because over the word there was a monster munching an apple."
"And quite right in the child, my dear. Pictorial alphabet! pictorial fool's head!"
"But what do you say to Flummery's, Horace?"
"My dear, do what you like. I never trouble myself, you know, about these matters;" and Mr. Grey refreshed himself, after this domestic attack, with a glass of claret.
Mr. Grey was a gentleman who had succeeded, when the heat of youth was over, to the enjoyment of a life estate of some two thousand a year. He was a man of lettered tastes, and had hailed with no slight pleasure his succession to a fortune which, though limited in its duration, was still a great thing for a young lounger about town, not only with no profession, but with a mind unfitted for every species of business. Grey, to the astonishment of his former friends, the wits, made an excellent domestic match; and, leaving the whole management of his household to his lady, felt himself as independent in his magnificent library as if he had never ceased to be that true freeman, A MAN OF CHAMBERS.
The young Vivian had not, by the cares which fathers are always heirs to, yet reminded his parent that children were anything else but playthings. The intercourse between father and son was, of course, extremely limited; for Vivian was, as yet, the mother's child; Mr. Grey's parental duties being confined to giving his son a daily glass of claret, pulling his ears with all the awkwardness of literary affection, and trusting to God "that the urchin would never scribble."
"I won't go to school, mamma," bawled Vivian.
"But you must, my love," answered Mrs. Grey; "all good boys go to school;" and in the plenitude of a mother's love she tried to make her offspring's hair curl.
"I won't have my hair curl, mamma; the boys will laugh at me," rebawled the beauty.
"Now who could have told the child that?" monologised mamma, with all a mamma's admiration.
"Charles Appleyard told me so; his hair curled, and the boys called him girl. Papa! give me some more claret; I won't go to school."
Three or four years passed over, and the mind of Vivian Grey astonishingly developed itself. He had long ceased to wear frills, had broached the subject of boots three or four times, made a sad inroad during the holidays in Mr. Grey's bottle of claret, and was reported as having once sworn at the butler. The young gentleman began also to hint, during every vacation, that the fellows at Flummery's were somewhat too small for his companionship, and (first bud of puppyism!) the former advocate of straight hair now expended a portion of his infant income in the purchase of Macassar, and began to cultivate his curls. Mrs. Grey could not entertain for a moment the idea of her son's associating with children, the eldest of whom (to adopt his own account) was not above eight years old; so Flummery, it was determined, he should leave. But where to go? Mr. Grey was for Eton, but his lady was one of those women whom nothing in the world can persuade that a public school is anything else but a place where boys are roasted alive; and so with tears, and taunts, and supplications, the point of private education was conceded.
At length it was resolved that the only hope should remain at home a season, until some plan should be devised for the cultivation of his promising understanding. During this year Vivian became a somewhat more constant intruder into the library than heretofore; and living so much among books, he was insensibly attracted to those silent companions, that speak so eloquently.
How far the character of the parent may influence the character of the child the metaphysician must decide. Certainly the character of Vivian Grey underwent, at this period of his life, a sensible change. Doubtless, constant communion with a mind highly refined, severely cultivated, and much experienced, cannot but produce a beneficial impression, even upon a mind formed and upon principles developed: how infinitely more powerful must the influence of such communion be upon a youthful heart, ardent, innocent, and unpractised! As Vivian was not to figure in the microcosm of a public school, a place for which, from his temper, he was almost better fitted than any young genius whom the playing fields of Eton or the hills of Winton can remember, there was some difficulty in fixing upon his future Academus. Mr. Grey's two axioms were, first, that no one so young as his son should settle in the metropolis, and that Vivian must consequently not have a private tutor; and, secondly, that all private schools were quite worthless; and, therefore, there was every probability of Vivian not receiving any education whatever.
At length, an exception to axiom second started up in the establishment of Mr. Dallas. This gentleman was a clergyman, a profound Grecian, and a poor man. He had edited the Alcestis, and married his laundress; lost money by his edition, and his fellowship by his match. In a few days the hall of Mr. Grey's London mansion was filled with all sorts of portmanteaus, trunks, and travelling cases, directed in a boy's sprawling hand to "Vivian Grey, Esquire, at the Reverend Everard Dallas, Burnsley Vicarage, Hants."
"God bless you, my boy! write to your mother soon, and remember your Journal."
The rumour of the arrival of "a new fellow" circulated with rapidity through the inmates of Burnsley Vicarage, and about fifty young devils were preparing to quiz the newcomer, when the school-room door opened, and Mr. Dallas, accompanied by Vivian, entered.
"A dandy, by Jove!" whispered St. Leger Smith. "What a knowing set out!" squeaked Johnson secundus. "Mammy-sick!" growled Barlow primus. This last exclamation was, however, a scandalous libel, for certainly no being ever stood in a pedagogue's presence with more perfect sang froid, and with a bolder front, than did, at this moment, Vivian Grey.
One principle in Mr. Dallas's system was always to introduce a new-comer in school-hours. He was thus carried immediately in medias res, and the curiosity of his co-mates being in a great degree satisfied at the time when that curiosity could not personally annoy him, the new-comer was, of course, much better prepared to make his way when the absence of the ruler became a signal for some oral communication with "the arrival."
However, in the present instance the young savages at Burnsley Vicarage had caught a Tartar; and in a very few days Vivian Grey was decidedly the most popular fellow in the school. He was "so dashing! so devilish good-tempered! so completely up to everything!" The magnates of the land were certainly rather jealous of his success, but their very sneers bore witness to his popularity. "Cursed puppy," whispered St. Leger Smith. "Thinks himself knowing," squeaked Johnson secundus. "Thinks himself witty," growled Barlow primus.
Notwithstanding this cabal, days rolled on at Burnsley Vicarage only to witness the increase of Vivian's popularity. Although more deficient than most of his own age in accurate classical attainments, he found himself, in talents and various acquirements, immeasurably their superior. And singular is it that at school distinction in such points is ten thousand times more admired by the multitude than the most profound knowledge of Greek Metres, or the most accurate acquaintance with the value of Roman coins. Vivian Grey's English verses and Vivian Grey's English themes were the subject of universal commendation. Some young lads made copies of these productions, to enrich, at the Christmas holidays, their sisters' albums; while the whole school were scribbling embryo prize-poems, epics of twenty lines on "the Ruins of Paestum" and "the Temple of Minerva;" "Agrigentum," and "the Cascade of Terni." Vivian's productions at this time would probably have been rejected by the commonest twopenny publication about town, yet they turned the brain of the whole school; while fellows who were writing Latin Dissertations and Greek Odes, which might have made the fortune of the Classical Journal, were looked on by the multitude as as great dunderheads as themselves. Such is the advantage which, even in this artificial world, everything that is genuine has over everything that is false and forced. The dunderheads who wrote "good Latin" and "Attic Greek" did it by a process by means of which the youngest fellow in the school was conscious he could, if he chose, attain the same perfection. Vivian Grey's verses were unlike anything which had yet appeared in the literary Annals of Burnsley Vicarage, and that which was quite novel was naturally thought quite excellent.
There is no place in the world where greater homage is paid to talent than an English school. At a public school, indeed, if a youth of great talents be blessed with an amiable and generous disposition, he ought not to envy the Minister of England. If any captain of Eton or praefect of Winchester be reading these pages, let him dispassionately consider in what situation of life he can rationally expect that it will be in his power to exercise such influence, to have such opportunities of obliging others, and be so confident of an affectionate and grateful return. Aye, there's the rub! Bitter thought! that gratitude should cease the moment we become men.
And sure I am that Vivian Grey was loved as ardently and as faithfully us you might expect from innocent young hearts. His slight accomplishments were the standard of all perfection, his sayings were the soul of all good fellowship, and his opinion the guide in any crisis which occurred in the monotonous existence of the little commonwealth. And time flew gaily on.
One winter evening, as Vivian, with some of his particular cronies, were standing round the school-room fire, they began, as all schoolboys do when it grows rather dark and they grow rather sentimental, to talk of HOME.
"Twelve weeks more," said Augustus Etherege; "twelve weeks more, and we are free! The glorious day should be celebrated."
"A feast, a feast!" exclaimed Poynings.
"A feast is but the work of a night," said Vivian Grey; "something more stirring for me! What say you to private theatricals?"
The proposition was, of course, received with enthusiasm, and it was not until they had unanimously agreed to act that they universally remembered that acting was not allowed. And then they consulted whether they should ask Dallas, and then they remembered that Dallas had been asked fifty times, and then they "supposed they must give it up;" and then Vivian Grey made a proposition which the rest were secretly sighing for, but which they were afraid to make themselves; he proposed that they should act without asking Dallas. "Well, then, we'll do it without asking him," said Vivian; "nothing is allowed in this life, and everything is done: in town there is a thing called the French play, and that is not allowed, yet my aunt has got a private box there. Trust me for acting, but what shall we perform?"
This question was, as usual, the fruitful source of jarring opinions. One proposed Othello, chiefly because it would be so easy to black a face with a burnt cork. Another was for Hamlet, solely because he wanted to act the ghost, which he proposed doing in white shorts and a night-cap. A third was for Julius Caesar, because the murder scene would be such fun.
"No! no!" said Vivian, tired at these various and varying proposals, "this will never do. Out upon Tragedies; let's have a Comedy!"
"A Comedy! a Comedy! oh! how delightful!"
After an immense number of propositions, and an equal number of repetitions, Dr. Hoadley's bustling drama was fixed upon. Vivian was to act Ranger, Augustus Etherege was to personate Clarinda, because he was a fair boy and always blushing; and the rest of the characters found able representatives. Every half-holiday was devoted to rehearsals, and nothing could exceed the amusement and thorough fun which all the preparations elicited. All went well; Vivian wrote a pathetic prologue and a witty epilogue. Etherege got on capitally in the mask scene, and Poynings was quite perfect in Jack Maggot. There was, of course, some difficulty in keeping all things in order, but then Vivian Grey was such an excellent manager! and then, with infinite tact, the said manager conciliated the Classics, for he allowed St. Leger Smith to select a Greek motto, from the Andromache, for the front of the theatre; and Johnson secundus and Barlow primus were complimented by being allowed to act the chairmen.
But alas! in the midst of all this sunshine, the seeds of discord and dissension were fast flourishing. Mr. Dallas himself was always so absorbed in some freshly-imported German commentator that it was a fixed principle with him never to trouble himself with anything that concerned his pupils "out of school hours." The consequence was, that certain powers were necessarily delegated to a certain set of beings called USHERS.
The usherian rule had, however, always been comparatively light at Burnsley Vicarage, for the good Dallas, never for a moment entrusting the duties of tuition to a third person, engaged these deputies merely as a sort of police, to regulate the bodies, rather than the minds, of his youthful subjects. One of the first principles of the new theory introduced into the establishment of Burnsley Vicarage by Mr. Vivian Grey was, that the ushers were to be considered by the boys as a species of upper servants; were to be treated with civility, certainly, as all servants are by gentlemen; but that no further attention was to be paid them, and that any fellow voluntarily conversing with an usher was to be cut dead by the whole school. This pleasant arrangement was no secret to those whom it most immediately concerned, and, of course, rendered Vivian rather a favourite with them. These men had not the tact to conciliate the boy, and were, notwithstanding, too much afraid of his influence in the school to attack him openly; so they waited with that patience which insulted beings can alone endure.
One of these creatures must not be forgotten; his name was Mallett; he was a perfect specimen of the genuine usher. The monster wore a black coat and waistcoat; the residue of his costume was of that mysterious colour known by the name of pepper-and-salt. He was a pallid wretch with a pug nose, white teeth, and marked with the small-pox: long, greasy, black hair, and small black, beady eyes. This daemon watched the progress of the theatrical company with eyes gloating with vengeance. No attempt had been made to keep the fact of the rehearsal a secret from the police; no objection, on their part, had as yet been made; the twelve weeks diminished to six; Ranger had secretly ordered a dress from town, and was to get a steel-handled sword from Fentum's for Jack Maggot; and everything was proceeding with delightful success, when one morning, as Mr. Dallas was apparently about to take his departure, with a volume of Becker's Thucydides under his arm, the respected Dominie stopped, and thus harangued: "I am informed that a great deal is going on in this family with which it is intended that I shall be kept unacquainted. It is not my intention to name anybody or anything at present; but I must say that of late the temper of this family has sadly changed. Whether there be any seditious stranger among you or not, I shall not at present even endeavour to discover; but I will warn my old friends of their new ones:" and so saying, the Dominie withdrew.
All eyes were immediately fixed on Vivian, and the faces of the Classics were triumphant with smiles; those of the manager's particular friends, the Romantics, we may call them, were clouded; but who shall describe the countenance of Mallett? In a moment the school broke up with an agitated and tumultuous uproar. "No stranger!" shouted St. Leger Smith; "no stranger!" vociferated a prepared gang. Vivian's friends were silent, for they hesitated to accept for their leader the insulting title. Those who were neither Vivian's friends nor in the secret, weak creatures who side always with the strongest, immediately swelled the insulting chorus of Mr. St. Leger Smith. That worthy, emboldened by his success and the smiles of Mallett, contained himself no longer: "Down with the manager!" he cried. His satellites chorussed. But now Vivian rushed forward. "Mr. Smith, I thank you for being so definite; take that!" and he struck Smith with such force that the Cleon staggered and fell; but Smith instantly recovered, and a ring was instantly formed. To a common observer, the combatants were unequally matched; for Smith was a burly, big-limbed animal, alike superior to Grey in years and strength. But Vivian, though delicate in frame and more youthful, was full his match in spirit, and, thanks to being a Cockney! ten times his match in science. He had not built a white great coat or drunk blue ruin at Ben Burn's for nothing!
Oh! how beautifully he fought! how admirably straight he hit! and his stops quick as lightning! and his followings up confounding his adversary with their painful celerity! Smith alike puzzled and punished, yet proud in his strength, hit round, and wild, and false, and foamed like a furious elephant. For ten successive rounds the result was dubious; but in the eleventh the strength of Smith began to fail him, and the men were more fairly matched. "Go it, Ranger! go it, Ranger!" halloed the Greyites; "No stranger! no stranger!" eagerly bawled the more numerous party. "Smith's floored, by Jove!" exclaimed Poynings, who was Grey's second. "At it again! at it again!" exclaimed all. And now, when Smith must certainly have given in, suddenly stepped forward Mr. Mallett, accompanied by—Dallas!
"How, Mr. Grey! No answer, sir; I understand that you have always an answer ready. I do not quote Scripture lightly, Mr. Grey; but 'Take heed that you offend not, even with your tongue.' Now, sir, to your room."
When Vivian Grey again joined his companions, he found himself almost universally shunned. Etherege and Poynings were the only individuals who met him with their former frankness.
"A horrible row, Grey," said the latter. "After you went, the Doctor harangued the whole school, and swears you have seduced and ruined us all; everything was happiness until you came, &c. Mallett is of course at the bottom of the whole business: but what can we do? Dallas says you have the tongue of a serpent, and that he will not trust himself to hear your defence. Infamous shame! I swear! And now every fellow has got a story against you: some say you are a dandy, others want to know whether the next piece performed at your theatre will be 'The Stranger;' as for myself and Etherege, we shall leave in a few weeks, and it does not signify to us; but what the devil you're to do next half, by Jove, I can't say. If I were you, I would not return."
"Not return, eh! but that will I, though; and we shall see who, in future, can complain of the sweetness of my voice! Ungrateful fools!"
The Vacation was over, and Vivian returned to Burnsley Vicarage. He bowed cavalierly to Mr. Dallas on his arrival, and immediately sauntered up into the school-room, where he found a tolerable quantity of wretches looking as miserable as schoolboys who have left their pleasant homes generally do for some four-and-twenty hours. "How d'ye do, Grey? How d'ye do, Grey?" burst from a knot of unhappy fellows, who would have felt quite delighted had their newly arrived co-mate condescended to entertain them, as usual, with some capital good story fresh from town. But they were disappointed.
"We can make room for you at the fire, Grey," said Theophilus
"I thank you, I am not cold."
"I suppose you know that Poynings and Etherege don't come back, Grey?"
"Everybody knew that last half:" and so he walked on.
"Grey, Grey!" halloed King, "don't go into the dining-room; Mallett is there alone, and told us not to disturb him. By Jove, the fellow is going in: there will be a greater row this half between Grey and Mallett than ever."
Days, the heavy first days of the half, rolled on, and all the citizens of the little commonwealth had returned.
"What a dull half this will be!" said Eardley; "how one misses Grey's set! After all, they kept the school alive: Poynings was a first-rate fellow, and Etherege so deuced good-natured! I wonder whom Grey will crony with this half; have you seen him and Dallas speak together yet? He cut the Doctor quite dead at Greek to-day."
"Why, Eardley! Eardley! there is Grey walking round playing fields with Mallett!" halloed a sawney who was killing the half-holiday by looking out of the window.
"The devil! I say, Matthews, whose flute is that? It is a devilish handsome one!"
"It's Grey's! I clean it for him," squeaked a little boy. "He gives me sixpence a week!"
"Oh, you sneak!" said one.
"Cut him over!"
"Roast him!" cried a third.
"To whom are you going to take the flute?" asked a fourth.
"To Mallett," squeaked the little fellow. "Grey lends his flute to Mallett every day."
"Grey lends his flute to Mallett! The deuce he does! So Grey and Mallett are going to crony!"
A wild exclamation burst forth from the little party; and away each of them ran, to spread in all directions the astounding intelligence.
If the rule of the ushers had hitherto been light at Burnsley Vicarage, its character was materially changed during this half-year. The vexatious and tyrannical influence of Mallett was now experienced in all directions, meeting and interfering with the comforts of the boys in every possible manner. His malice was accompanied, too, by a tact which could not have been expected from his vulgar mind, and which, at the same time, could not have been produced by the experience of one in his situation. It was quite evident to the whole community that his conduct was dictated by another mind, and that that mind was one versed in all the secrets of a school-boy's life, and acquainted with all the workings of a school-boy's mind: a species of knowledge which no pedagogue in the world ever yet attained. There was no difficulty in discovering whose was the power behind the throne. Vivian Grey was the perpetual companion of Mallett in his walks, and even in the school; he shunned also the converse of every one of the boys, and did not affect to conceal that his quarrel was universal. Superior power, exercised by a superior mind, was for a long time more than a match even for the united exertions of the whole school. If any one complained, Mallett's written answer (and such Dallas always required) was immediately ready, explaining everything in the most satisfactory manner, and refuting every complaint with the most triumphant spirit. Dallas, of course, supported his deputy, and was soon equally detested. This tyranny had continued through a great part of the long half-year, and the spirit of the school was almost broken, when a fresh outrage occurred, of such a nature that the nearly enslaved multitude conspired.
The plot was admirably formed. On the first bell ringing for school, the door was to be immediately barred, to prevent the entrance of Dallas. Instant vengeance was then to be taken on Mallett and his companion—the sneak! the spy! the traitor! The bell rang: the door was barred: four stout fellows seized on Mallett, four rushed to Vivian Grey: but stop: he sprang upon his desk, and, placing his back against the wall, held a pistol at the foremost: "Not an inch nearer, Smith, or I fire. Let me not, however, baulk your vengeance on yonder hound: if I could suggest any refinements in torture, they would be at your service." Vivian Grey smiled, while the horrid cries of Mallett indicated that the boys were "roasting" him. He then walked to the door and admitted the barred-out Dominie. Silence was restored. There was an explanation and no defence; and Vivian Grey was expelled.
Vivian was now seventeen; and the system of private education having so decidedly failed, it was resolved that he should spend the years antecedent to his going to Oxford at home. Nothing could be a greater failure than the first weeks of his "course of study." He was perpetually violating the sanctity of the drawing-room by the presence of Scapulas and Hederics, and outraging the propriety of morning visitors by bursting into his mother's boudoir with lexicons and slippers.
"Vivian, my dear," said his father to him one day, "this will never do; you must adopt some system for your studies, and some locality for your reading. Have a room to yourself; set apart certain hours in the day for your books, and allow no consideration on earth to influence you to violate their sacredness; and above all, my dear boy, keep your papers in order. I find a dissertation on 'The Commerce of Carthage' stuck in my large paper copy of 'Dibdin's Decameron,' and an 'Essay on the Metaphysics of Music' (pray, my dear fellow, beware of magazine scribbling) cracking the back of Montfaucon's 'Monarchie.'"
Vivian apologised, promised, protested, and finally sat down "TO READ." He had laid the foundations of accurate classical knowledge under the tuition of the learned Dallas; and twelve hours a day and self-banishment from society overcame, in twelve months, the ill effects of his imperfect education. The result of this extraordinary exertion may be conceived. At the end of twelve months, Vivian, like many other young enthusiasts, had discovered that all the wit and wisdom of the world were concentrated in some fifty antique volumes, and he treated the unlucky moderns with the most sublime spirit of hauteur imaginable. A chorus in the Medea, that painted the radiant sky of Attica, disgusted him with the foggy atmosphere of Great Britain; and while Mrs. Grey was meditating a visit to Brighton, her son was dreaming of the gulf of Salamis. The spectre in the Persae was his only model for a ghost, and the furies in the Orestes were his perfection of tragical machinery.
Most ingenious and educated youths have fallen into the same error, but few have ever carried such feelings to the excess that Vivian Grey did; for while his mind was daily becoming more enervated under the beautiful but baneful influence of Classic Reverie, the youth lighted upon PLATO.
Wonderful is it that while the whole soul of Vivian Grey seemed concentrated and wrapped in the glorious pages of the Athenian; while, with keen and almost inspired curiosity, he searched, and followed up, and meditated upon, the definite mystery, the indefinite development; while his spirit alternately bowed in trembling and in admiration, as he seemed to be listening to the secrets of the Universe revealed in the glorious melodies of an immortal voice; wonderful is it, I say, that the writer, the study of whose works appeared to the young scholar, in the revelling of his enthusiasm, to be the sole object for which man was born and had his being, was the cause by which Vivian Grey was saved from being all his life a dreaming scholar.
Determined to spare no exertions, and to neglect no means, by which he might enter into the very penetralia of his mighty master's meaning, Vivian determined to attack the latter Platonists. These were a race of men, of whose existence he knew merely by the references to their productions which were sprinkled in the commentaries of his "best editions." In the pride of boyish learning, Vivian had limited his library to Classics, and the proud leaders of the later schools did not consequently grace his diminutive bookcase. In this dilemma he flew to his father, and confessed by his request that his favourites were not all-sufficient.
"Father! I wish to make myself master of the latter Platonists. I want Plotinus, and Porphyry, and Iamblichus, and Syrirnus, and Maximus Tyrius, and Proclus, and Hierocles, and Sallustius, and Damascius."
Mr. Grey stared at his son, and laughed.
"My dear Vivian! are you quite convinced that the authors you ask for are all pure Platonists? or have not some of them placed the great end rather in practical than theoretic virtue, and thereby violated the first principles of your master? which would be shocking. Are you sure, too, that these gentlemen have actually 'withdrawn the sacred veil, which covers from profane eyes the luminous spectacles?' Are you quite convinced that every one of these worthies lived at least five hundred years after the great master? for I need not tell so profound a Platonist as yourself that it was not till that period that even glimpses of the great master's meaning were discovered. Strange! that TIME should alike favour the philosophy of theory and the philosophy of facts. Mr. Vivian Grey, benefiting, I presume, by the lapse of further centuries, is about to complete the great work which Proclus and Porphyry commenced."
"My dear sir! you are pleased to be amusing this morning."
"My dear boy! I smile, but not with joy. Sit down, and let us have a little conversation together. Father and son, and father and son on such terms as we are, should really communicate oftener together than we do. It has been, perhaps, my fault; it shall not be so again."
"My dear sir!"
"Nay, nay, it shall be my fault now. Whose it shall be in future, Vivian, time will show. My dear Vivian, you have now spent upwards of a year under this roof, and your conduct has been as correct as the most rigid parent might require. I have not wished to interfere with the progress of your mind, and I regret it. I have been negligent, but not wilfully so. I do regret it; because, whatever may be your powers, Vivian, I at least have the advantage of experience. I see you smile at a word which I so often use. Well, well, were I to talk to you for ever, you would not understand what I mean by that single word. The time will come when you will deem that single word everything. Ardent youths in their closets, Vivian, too often fancy that they are peculiar beings; and I have no reason to believe that you are an exception to the general rule. In passing one whole year of your life, as you have done, you doubtless imagine that you have been spending your hours in a manner which no others have done before. Trust me, my boy, thousands have done the same; and, what is of still more importance, thousands are doing, and will do, the same. Take the advice of one who has committed as many, ay more, follies than yourself; but who would bless the hour that he had been a fool if his experience might be of benefit to his beloved son."
"Nay, don't agitate yourself; we are consulting together. Let us see what is to be done. Try to ascertain, when you are alone, what may be the chief objects of your existence in this world. I want you to take no theological dogmas for granted, nor to satisfy your doubts by ceasing to think; but, whether we are in this world in a state of probation for another, or whether we cease altogether when we cease to breathe, human feelings tell me that we have some duties to perform; to our fellow creatures, to our friends, to ourselves. Pray tell me, my dear boy, what possible good your perusal of the latter Platonists can produce to either of these three interests? I trust that my child is not one of those who look with a glazed eye on the welfare of their fellow-men, and who would dream away an useless life by idle puzzles of the brain; creatures who consider their existence as an unprofitable mystery, and yet are afraid to die. You will find Plotinus in the fourth shelf of the next room, Vivian."
In England, personal distinction is the only passport to the society of the great. Whether this distinction arise from fortune, family, or talent, is immaterial; but certain it is, to enter into high society, a man must either have blood, a million, or a genius.
The reputation of Mr. Grey had always made him an honoured guest among the powerful and the great. It was for this reason that he had always been anxious that his son should be at home as little as possible; for he feared for a youth the fascination of London society. Although busied with his studies, and professing "not to visit," Vivian could not avoid occasionally finding himself in company in which boys should never be seen; and, what was still worse, from a certain social spirit, an indefinable tact with which Nature had endowed him, this boy of nineteen began to think this society delightful. Most persons of his age would have passed through the ordeal with perfect safety; they would have entered certain rooms, at certain hours, with stiff cravats, and Nugee coats, and black velvet waistcoats; and after having annoyed all those who condescended to know of their existence, with their red hands and their white gloves, they would have retired to a corner of the room, and conversationised with any stray four-year-older not yet sent to bed.
But Vivian Grey was a graceful, lively lad, with just enough of dandyism to preserve him from committing gaucheries, and with a devil of a tongue. All men will agree with me that the only rival to be feared by a man of spirit is a clever boy. What makes them so popular with women it is difficult to explain; however, Lady Julia Knighton, and Mrs. Frank Delmington, and half a score of dames of fashion, were always patronising our hero, who found an evening spent in their society not altogether dull, for there is no fascination so irresistible to a boy as the smile of a married woman. Vivian had passed such a recluse life for the last two years and a half, that he had quite forgotten that he was once considered an agreeable fellow; and so, determined to discover what right he ever had to such a reputation, he dashed into all these amourettes in beautiful style.
But Vivian Grey was a young and tender plant in a moral hothouse. His character was developing itself too soon. Although his evenings were now generally passed in the manner we have alluded to, this boy was, during the rest of the day, a hard and indefatigable student; and having now got through an immense series of historical reading, he had stumbled upon a branch of study certainly the most delightful in the world; but, for a boy, as certainly the most perilous, THE STUDY OF POLITICS.
And now everything was solved! the inexplicable longings of his soul, which had so often perplexed him, were at length explained. The want, the indefinable want, which he had so constantly experienced, was at last supplied; the grand object on which to bring the powers of his mind to bear and work was at last provided. He paced his chamber in an agitated spirit, and panted for the Senate.
It may be asked, what was the evil of all this? and the reader will, perhaps, murmur something about an honourable spirit and youthful ambition. The evil was great. The time drew nigh for Vivian to leave his home for Oxford, that is, for him to commence his long preparation for entering on his career in life. And now this person, who was about to be a pupil, this stripling, who was going to begin his education, had all the desires of a matured mind, of an experienced man, but without maturity and without experience. He was already a cunning reader of human hearts; and felt conscious that his was a tongue which was born to guide human beings. The idea of Oxford to such an individual was an insult!
We must endeavour to trace, if possible, more accurately the workings of Vivian Grey's mind at this period of his existence. In the plenitude of his ambition, he stopped one day to enquire in what manner he could obtain his magnificent ends.
"The Bar: pooh! law and bad jokes till we are forty; and then, with the most brilliant success, the prospect of gout and a coronet. Besides, to succeed as an advocate, I must be a great lawyer; and, to be a great lawyer, I must give up my chance of being a great man. The Services in war time are fit only for desperadoes (and that truly am I); but, in peace, are fit only for fools. The Church is more rational. Let me see: I should certainly like to act Wolsey; but the thousand and one chances against me! And truly I feel my destiny should not be on a chance. Were I the son of a millionaire, or a noble, I might have all. Curse on my lot! that the want of a few rascal counters, and the possession of a little rascal blood, should mar my fortunes!"
Such was the general tenor of Vivian's thoughts, until, musing himself almost into madness, he at last made, as he conceived, the Grand Discovery. Riches are Power, says the Economist; and is not Intellect? asks the Philosopher. And yet, while the influence of the millionaire is instantly felt in all classes of society, how is it that "Noble Mind" so often leaves us unknown and unhonoured? Why have there been statesmen who have never ruled, and heroes who have never conquered? Why have glorious philosophers died in a garret? and why have there been poets whose only admirer has been Nature in her echoes? It must be that these beings have thought only of themselves, and, constant and elaborate students of their own glorious natures, have forgotten or disdained the study of all others. Yes! we must mix with the herd; we must enter into their feelings; we must humour their weaknesses; we must sympathise with the sorrows that we do not feel; and share the merriment of fools. Oh, yes! to rule men, we must be men; to prove that we are strong, we must be weak; to prove that we are giants, we must be dwarfs; even as the Eastern Genie was hid in the charmed bottle. Our wisdom must be concealed under folly, and our constancy under caprice.
"I have been often struck by the ancient tales of Jupiter's visits to the earth. In these fanciful adventures, the god bore no indication of the Thunderer's glory; but was a man of low estate, a herdsman, a hind, often even an animal. A mighty spirit has in Tradition, Time's great moralist, perused 'the wisdom of the ancients.' Even in the same spirit, I would explain Jove's terrestrial visitings. For, to govern man, even the god appeared to feel as a man; and sometimes as a beast, was apparently influenced by their vilest passions. Mankind, then, is my great game.
"At this moment, how many a powerful noble wants only wit to be a Minister; and what wants Vivian Grey to attain the same end? That noble's influence. When two persons can so materially assist each other, why are they not brought together? Shall I, because my birth baulks my fancy, shall I pass my life a moping misanthrope in an old chateau? Supposing I am in contact with this magnifico, am I prepared? Now, let me probe my very soul. Does my cheek blanch? I have the mind for the conception; and I can perform right skilfully upon the most splendid of musical instruments, the human voice, to make those conceptions beloved by others. There wants but one thing more: courage, pure, perfect courage; and does Vivian Grey know fear?" He laughed an answer of bitterest derision.
Is it surprising that Vivian Grey, with a mind teeming with such feelings, should view the approach of the season for his departure to Oxford with sentiments of disgust? After hours of bitter meditation, he sought his father; he made him acquainted with his feelings, but concealed from him his actual views, and dwelt on the misery of being thrown back in life, at a period when society seemed instinct with a spirit peculiarly active, and when so many openings were daily offered to the adventurous and the bold.
"Vivian," said Mr. Grey, "beware of endeavouring to become a great man in a hurry. One such attempt in ten thousand may succeed: these are fearful odds. Admirer as you are of Lord Bacon, you may perhaps remember a certain parable of his, called 'Memnon, or a youth too forward.' I hope you are not going to be one of those sons of Aurora, 'who, puffed up with the glittering show of vanity and ostentation, attempt actions above their strength.'
"You talk to me about the peculiarly active spirit of society; if the spirit of society be so peculiarly active, Mr. Vivian Grey should beware lest it outstrip him. Is neglecting to mature your mind, my boy, exactly the way to win the race? This is an age of unsettled opinions and contested principles; in the very measures of our administration, the speculative spirit of the present day is, to say the least, not impalpable. Nay, don't start, my dear fellow, and look the very Prosopopeia of Political Economy! I know exactly what you are going to say; but, if you please, we will leave Turgot and Galileo to Mr. Canning and the House of Commons, or your Cousin Hargrave and his Debating Society. However, jesting apart, get your hat, and walk with me as far as Evans's, where I have promised to look in, to see the Mazarin Bible, and we will talk this affair over as we go along.
"I am no bigot, you know, Vivian. I am not one of those who wish to oppose the application of refined philosophy to the common business of life. We are, I hope, an improving race; there is room, I am sure, for great improvement, and the perfectibility of man is certainly a pretty dream. (How well that Union Club House comes out now, since they have made the opening), but, although we may have steam kitchens, human nature is, I imagine, much the same this moment that we are walking in Pall Mall East, as it was some thousand years ago, when as wise men were walking on the banks of the Ilyssus. When our moral powers increase in proportion to our physical ones, then huzza, for the perfectibility of man! and respectable, idle loungers like you and I, Vivian, may then have a chance of walking in the streets of London without having their heels trodden upon, a ceremony which I have this moment undergone. In the present day we are all studying science, and none of us are studying ourselves. This is not exactly the Socratic process; and as for the [Greek: gnothi seauton] of the more ancient Athenian, that principle is quite out of fashion in the nineteenth century (I believe that's the phrase). Self is the only person whom we know nothing about.
"But, my dear Vivian, as to the immediate point of our consideration. In my library, uninfluenced and uncontrolled by passion or by party, I cannot but see that it is utterly impossible that all that we are wishing and striving for can take place, without some, without much evil. In ten years' time, perhaps, or less, the fever will have subsided, and in ten years' time, or less, your intellect will be matured. Mow, my good sir, instead of talking about the active spirit of the age, and the opportunities offered to the adventurous and the bold, ought you not rather to congratulate yourself that a great change is effecting at a period of your life when you need not, individually, be subjected to the possibility of being injured by its operation; and when you are preparing your mind to take advantage of the system, when that system is matured and organised?
"As to your request, it assuredly is one of the most modest, and the most rational, that I have lately been favoured with. Although I would much rather that any influence which I may exercise over your mind, should be the effect of my advice as your friend than of my authority as your father; still I really feel it my duty, parentally, to protest against this crude proposition of yours. However, if you choose to lose a term or two, do. Don't blame me, you know, if afterwards you repent it."
Here dashed by the gorgeous equipage of Mrs. Ormolu, the wife of a man who was working all the gold and silver mines in Christendom. "Ah! my dear Vivian," said Mr. Grey, "it is this which has turned all your brains. In this age every one is striving to make an immense fortune, and what is most terrific, at the same time a speedy one. This thirst for sudden wealth it is which engenders the extravagant conceptions, and fosters that wild spirit of speculation which is now stalking abroad; and which, like the Daemon in Frankenstein, not only fearfully wanders over the whole wide face of nature, but grins in the imagined solitude of our secret chambers. Oh! my son, it is for the young men of the present day that I tremble; seduced by the temporary success of a few children of fortune, I observe that their minds recoil from the prospects which are held forth by the ordinary, and, mark me, by the only modes of acquiring property, fair trade, and honourable professions. It is for you and your companions that I fear. God grant that there may not be a moral as well as a political disorganisation! God grant that our youth, the hope of our state, may not be lost to us! For, oh! my son, the wisest has said, 'He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.' Let us step into Clarke's and take an ice."
The Marquess of Carabas started in life as the cadet of a noble family. The earl, his father, like the woodman in the fairy tale, was blessed with three sons: the first was an idiot, and was destined for the Coronet; the second was a man of business, and was educated for the Commons; the third was a Roue, and was shipped to the Colonies.
The present Marquess, then the Honourable Sidney Lorraine, prospered in his political career. He was servile, and pompous, and indefatigable, and loquacious, so whispered the world: his friends hailed him as, at once, a courtier and a sage, a man of business and an orator. After revelling in his fair proportion of commissionerships, and under-secretaryships, and the rest of the milk and honey of the political Canaan, the apex of the pyramid of his ambition was at length visible, for Sidney Lorraine became President of a Board, and wriggled into the adytum of the cabinet.
At this moment his idiot brother died. To compensate for his loss of office, and to secure his votes, the Earl of Carabas was promoted in the peerage, and was presented with some magnificent office, meaning nothing; swelling with dignity, and void of duties. As years rolled on, various changes took place in the administration, of which his Lordship was once a component part; and the ministry, to their surprise, getting popular, found that the command of the Carabas interest was not of such vital importance to them as heretofore, and so his Lordship was voted a bore, and got shelved. Not that his Lordship was bereaved of his splendid office, or that anything occurred, indeed, by which the uninitiated might have been led to suppose that the beams of his Lordship's consequence were shorn; but the Marquess's secret applications at the Treasury were no longer listened to, and pert under-secretaries settled their cravats, and whispered "that the Carabas interest was gone by."
The noble Marquess was not insensible to his situation, for he was what the world calls ambitious; but the vigour of his faculties had vanished beneath the united influence of years and indolence and ill-humour; for his Lordship, to avoid ennui, had quarrelled with his son, and then, having lost his only friend, had quarrelled with himself.
Such was the distinguished individual who graced, one day at the latter end of the season of 18—, the classic board of Horace Grey, Esquire. The reader will, perhaps, be astonished, that such a man as his Lordship should be the guest of such a man as our hero's father; but the truth is, the Marquess of Carabas had just been disappointed in an attempt on the chair of the President of the Royal Society, which, for want of something better to do, he was ambitious of filling, and this was a conciliatory visit to one of the most distinguished members of that body, and one who had voted against him with particular enthusiasm. The Marquess, still a politician, was now, as he imagined, securing his host's vote for a future St. Andrew's day.
The cuisine of Mr. Grey was superb; for although an enthusiastic advocate for the cultivation of the mind, he was an equally ardent supporter of the cultivation of the body. Indeed, the necessary dependence of the sanity of the one on the good keeping of the other, was one of his favourite theories, and one which, this day, he was supporting with pleasant and facetious reasoning. His Lordship was delighted with his new friend, and still more delighted with his new friend's theory. The Marquess himself was, indeed, quite of the same opinion as Mr. Grey; for he never made a speech without previously taking a sandwich, and would have sunk under the estimates a thousand times, had it not been for the juicy friendship of the fruit of Portugal.
The guests were not numerous. A regius professor of Greek; an officer just escaped from Sockatoo; a man of science, and two M.P.'s with his Lordship; the host, and Mr. Vivian Grey, constituted the party. Oh, no! there were two others. There was a Mr. John Brown, a fashionable poet, and who, ashamed of his own name, published his melodies under the more euphonious and romantic title of "Clarence Devonshire," and there was a Mr. Thomas Smith, a fashionable novelist; that is to say, a person who occasionally publishes three volumes, one half of which contain the adventures of a young gentleman in the country, and the other volume and a half the adventures of the same young gentleman in the metropolis; a sort of writer, whose constant tattle about beer and billiards, and eating soup, and the horribility of "committing" puns, give truly an admirable and accurate idea of the conversation of the refined society of the refined metropolis of Great Britain. These two last gentlemen were "pets" of Mrs. Grey.
The conversation may be conceived. Each person was of course prepared with a certain quota of information, without which no man in London is morally entitled to dine out; and when the quota was expended, the amiable host took the burthen upon his own shoulders, and endeavoured, as the phrase goes, to draw out his guests.
O London dinners! empty artificial nothings! and that beings can be found, and those too the flower of the land, who, day after day, can act the same parts in the same dull, dreary farce! The officer had discoursed sufficiently about "his intimate friend, the Soudan," and about the chain armour of the Sockatoo cuirassiers; and one of the M.P.'s, who was in the Guards, had been defeated in a ridiculous attempt to prove that the breast-plates of the household troops of Great Britain were superior to those of the household troops of Timtomtoo. Mrs. Grey, to whose opinion both parties deferred, gave it in favour of the Soudan. And the man of science had lectured about a machine which might destroy fifteen square feet of human beings in a second, and yet be carried in the waistcoat pocket. And the classic, who, for a professor, was quite a man of the world, had the latest news of the new Herculaneum process, and was of opinion that, if they could but succeed in unrolling a certain suspicious-looking scroll, we might be so fortunate as to possess a minute treatise on &c., &c., &c. In short, all had said their say. There was a dead pause, and Mrs. Grey looked at her husband, and rose.
How singular it is, that when this move takes place every one appears to be relieved, and yet every one of any experience must be quite aware that the dead bore work is only about to commence. Howbeit, all filled their glasses, and the peer, at the top of the table, began to talk politics. I am sure I cannot tell what the weighty subject was that was broached by the ex-minister; for I did not dine with Grey that day, and had I done so, I should have been equally ignorant, for I am a dull man, and always sleep at dinner. However, the subject was political, the claret flew round, and a stormy argument commenced. The Marquess was decidedly wrong, and was sadly badgered by the civil M.P. and the professor. The host, who was of no party, supported his guest as long as possible, and then left him to his fate. The military M.P. fled to the drawing-room to philander with Mrs. Grey; and the man of science and the African had already retired to the intellectual idiocy of a May Fair "At Home." The novelist was silent, for he was studying a scene; and the poet was absent, for he was musing a sonnet.
The Marquess refuted, had recourse to contradiction, and was too acute a man to be insensible to the forlornness of his situation; when, at this moment, a voice proceeded from the end of the table, from a young gentleman, who had hitherto preserved a profound silence, but whose silence, if the company were to have judged from the tones of his voice, and the matter of his communication, did not altogether proceed from a want of confidence in his own abilities. "In my opinion," said Mr. Vivian Grey, as he sat lounging in his father's vacated seat, "in my opinion his Lordship has been misunderstood; and it is, as is generally the case, from a slight verbal misconception in the commencement of this argument, that the whole of this difference arises."
The eyes of the Marquess sparkled, and the mouth of the Marquess was closed. His Lordship was delighted that his reputation might yet be saved; but as he was not perfectly acquainted in what manner that salvation was to be effected, he prudently left the battle to his youthful champion.
Mr. Vivian Grey proceeded with the utmost sang froid; he commented upon expressions, split and subtilised words, insinuated opinions, and finally quoted a whole passage of Bolingbroke to prove that the opinion of the most noble the Marquess of Carabas was one of the soundest, wisest, and most convincing of opinions that ever was promulgated by mortal man. The tables were turned, the guests looked astounded, the Marquess settled his ruffles, and perpetually exclaimed, "Exactly what I meant!" and his opponents, full of wine and quite puzzled, gave in.
It was a rule with Vivian Grey never to advance any opinion as his own. He had been too deep a student of human nature, not to be aware that the opinions of a boy of twenty, however sound, and however correct, stand but a poor chance of being adopted by his elder, though feebler, fellow-creatures. In attaining any end, it was therefore his system always to advance his opinion as that of some eminent and considered personage; and when, under the sanction of this name, the opinion or advice was entertained and listened to, Vivian Grey had no fear that he could prove its correctness and its expediency. He possessed also the singular faculty of being able to improvise quotations, that is, he could unpremeditatedly clothe his conceptions in language characteristic of the style of any particular author; and Vivian Grey was reputed in the world as having the most astonishing memory that ever existed; for there was scarcely a subject of discussion in which he did not gain the victory, by the great names he enlisted on his side of the argument. His father was aware of the existence of this dangerous faculty, and had often remonstrated with his son on the use of it. On the present occasion, when the buzz had somewhat subsided, Mr. Grey looked smiling to his son, and said, "Vivian, my dear, can you tell me in what work of Bolingbroke I can find the eloquent passage you have just quoted?"
"Ask Mr. Hargrave, sir," replied the son, with perfect coolness; then, turning to the member, "You know, Mr. Hargrave, you are reputed the most profound political student in the House, and more intimately acquainted than any other person with the works of Bolingbroke."
Mr. Hargrave knew no such thing; but he was a weak man, and, seduced by the compliment, he was afraid to prove himself unworthy of it by confessing his ignorance of the passage.
Coffee was announced.
Vivian did not let the peer escape him in the drawing-room. He soon managed to enter into conversation with him; and certainly the Marquess of Carabas never found a more entertaining companion. Vivian discoursed on a new Venetian liqueur, and taught the Marquess how to mull Moselle, an operation of which the Marquess had never heard (as who has?); and then the flood of anecdotes, and little innocent personalities, and the compliments so exquisitely introduced, that they scarcely appeared to be compliments; and the voice so pleasant, and conciliating, and the quotation from the Marquess's own speech; and the wonderful art of which the Marquess was not aware, by which, during all this time, the lively, chattering, amusing, elegant conversationist, so full of scandal, politics, and cookery, did not so much appear to be Mr. Vivian Grey as the Marquess of Carabas himself.
"Well, I must be gone," said the fascinated noble; "I really have not felt in such spirits for some time; I almost fear I have been vulgar enough to be amusing, eh! eh! eh! but you young men are sad fellows, eh! eh! eh! Don't forget to call on me; good evening! and Mr. Vivian Grey! Mr. Vivian Grey!" said his lordship, returning, "you will not forget the receipt you promised me for making tomahawk punch."
"Certainly not, my Lord," said the young man; "only it must be invented first," thought Vivian, as he took up his light to retire. "But never mind, never mind;
Chapeau bas! chapeau bas! Glorie au Marquis de Carabas!!"
A few days after the dinner at Mr. Grey's, as the Marquess of Carabas was sitting in his library, and sighing, in the fulness of his ennui, as he looked on his large library table, once triply covered with official communications, now thinly besprinkled with a stray parliamentary paper or two, his steward's accounts, and a few letters from some grumbling tenants, Mr. Vivian Grey was announced.
"I fear I am intruding on your Lordship, but I really could not refrain from bringing you the receipt I promised."
"Most happy to see ye, most happy to see ye."
"This is exactly the correct receipt, my Lord. TO EVERY TWO BOTTLES OF STILL CHAMPAGNE, ONE PINT OF CURACOA." The Peer's eyes glistened, and his companion proceeded; "ONE PINT OF CURACOA; CATCH THE AROMA OF A POUND OF GREEN TEA, AND DASH THE WHOLE WITH GLENLIVET."
"Splendid!" ejaculated the Marquess.
"The nice point, however, which it is impossible to define in a receipt, is catching the aroma. What sort of a genius is your Lordship's chef?"
"First-rate! Laporte is a genius."
"Well, my Lord! I shall be most happy to superintend the first concoction for you; and remember particularly," said Vivian, rising, "remember it must be iced."
"Certainly, my dear fellow; but pray don't think of going yet."
"I am very sorry, my Lord; but such a pressure of engagements; your Lordship's kindness is so great, and, really, I fear, that at this moment especially, your Lordship can scarcely be in a humour for my trifling."
"Why this moment especially, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Oh, my Lord! I am perfectly aware of your Lordship's talents for business; but still I had conceived, that the delicate situation in which your Lordship is now placed, requiring such anxious attention such—"
"Delicate situation! anxious attention! why man! you speak riddles. I certainly have a great deal of business to transact: people are so obstinate, or so foolish, they will consult me, certainly; and certainly I feel it my duty, Mr. Vivian Grey; I feel it the duty, sir of every Peer in this happy country (here his Lordship got parliamentary): yes, sir, I feel it due to my character, to my family, to, to, to assist with my advice all those who think fit to consult me." Splendid peroration!
"Oh, my Lord!" carelessly remarked Vivian, "I thought it was a mere on dit."
"Thought what, my dear sir? you really quite perplex me."
"I mean to say, my Lord; I, I thought it was impossible the overtures had been made."
"Overtures, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Yes, my Lord! Overtures; has not your Lordship seen the Post. But I knew it was impossible; I said so, I—"
"Said what, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Said that the whole paragraph was unfounded."
"Paragraph! what paragraph?" and his Lordship rose, and rang the library bell with vehemence: "Sadler, bring me the Morning Post."
The servant entered with the paper. Mr. Vivian Grey seized it from his hands before it reached the Marquess, and glancing his eye over it with the rapidity of lightning, doubled up the sheet in a convenient readable form, and pushing it into his Lordship's hands, exclaimed, "There, my Lord! there, that will explain all."
His Lordship read:
"We are informed that some alteration in the composition of the present administration is in contemplation; Lord Past Century, it is said, will retire; Mr. Liberal Principles will have the—; and Mr. Charlatan Gas the—. A noble Peer, whose practised talents have already benefited the nation, and who, on vacating his seat in the Cabinet, was elevated in the Peerage, is reported as having had certain overtures made him, the nature of which may be conceived, but which, under present circumstances, it would be indelicate in us to hint at."
It would have been impossible for a hawk to watch its quarry with eyes of more fixed and anxious earnestness than did Vivian Grey the Marquess of Carabas, as his Lordship's eyes wandered over the paragraph. Vivian drew his chair close to the table opposite to the Marquess, and when the paragraph was read, their eyes met.
"Utterly untrue," whispered the Peer, with an agitated voice, and with a countenance which, for a moment, seemed intellectual.
"But why Mr. Vivian Grey should deem the fact of such overtures having been made 'impossible,' I confess, astonishes me."
"Impossible, my Lord!"
"Ay, Mr. Grey, impossible, that was your word."
"Oh, my Lord! what should I know about these matters?"
"Nay, nay, Mr. Grey, something must have been floating in your mind: why impossible, why impossible? Did your father think so?"
"My father! Oh! no, he never thinks about these matters; ours is not a political family; I am not sure that he ever looks at a newspaper."
"But, my dear Mr. Grey, you would not have used the word without some meaning. Why did you think it impossible? impossible is such a peculiar word." And here the Marquess looked up with great earnestness to a portrait of himself, which hung over the fire-place. It was one of Sir Thomas's happiest efforts; but it was not the happiness of the likeness, or the beauty of the painting, which now attracted his Lordship's attention; he thought only of the costume in which he appeared in that portrait: the court dress of a Cabinet Minister. "Impossible, Mr. Grey, you must confess, is a very peculiar word," reiterated his Lordship.
"I said impossible, my Lord, because I did conceive, that had your Lordship been of a disposition to which such overtures might have been made with any probability of success, the Marquess of Carabas would have been in a situation which would have precluded the possibility of those overtures being made at all."
"Hah!" and the Marquess nearly started from his seat.
"Yes, my Lord, I am a young, an inexperienced young man, ignorant of the world's ways; doubtless I was wrong, but I have much to learn," and his voice faltered; "but I did conceive, that having power at his command, the Marquess of Carabas did not exercise it, merely because he despised it: but what should I know of such matters, my Lord?"
"Is power a thing so easily to be despised, young man?" asked the Marquess. His eye rested on a vote of thanks from the "Merchants and Bankers of London to the Right Honourable Sydney Lorraine, President, &c., &c., &c.," which, splendidly emblazoned, and gilt, and framed, and glazed, was suspended opposite the President's portrait.
"Oh, no! my Lord, you mistake me," eagerly burst forth Vivian. "I am no cold-blooded philosopher that would despise that, for which, in my opinion, men, real men, should alone exist. Power! Oh! what sleepless nights, what days of hot anxiety! what exertions of mind and body! what travel! what hatred! what fierce encounters! what dangers of all possible kinds, would I not endure with a joyous spirit to gain it! But such, my Lord, I thought were feelings peculiar to inexperienced young men: and seeing you, my Lord, so situated, that you might command all and everything, and yet living as you do, I was naturally led to believe that the object of my adoration was a vain glittering bauble, of which those who could possess it, knew the utter worthlessness."
The Peer sat in a musing mood, playing the Devil's tattoo on the library table; at last he raised his eyes, and said in a low whisper, "Are you so certain that I can command all and everything?"
"All and everything! did I say all and everything? Really, my Lord, you scan my expressions so critically! but I see your Lordship is smiling at my boyish nonsense! and really I feel that I have already wasted too much of your Lordship's valuable time, and displayed too much of my own ignorance."
"My dear sir! I am not aware that I was smiling."
"Oh! your Lordship is so very kind."
"But, my dear sir! you are really labouring under a great mistake. I am desirous, I am particularly desirous, of having your opinion upon this subject."
"My opinion, my Lord! what should my opinion be, but an echo of the circle in which I live, but a faithful representation of the feelings of general society?"
"And, Mr. Grey, I should be glad to know what can possibly be more interesting to me than a faithful representation of the feelings of general society on this subject?"
"The many, my Lord, are not always right."
"Mr. Grey, the many are not often wrong. Come, my dear sir, do me the favour of being frank, and let me know why the public is of opinion that all and everything are in my power, for such, after all, were your words."
"If I did use them, my Lord, it was because I was thinking, as I often do, what, after all, in this country is public life? Is it not a race in which the swiftest must surely win the prize; and is not that prize power? Has not your Lordship treasure? There is your moral steam which can work the world. Has not your Lordship's treasure most splendid consequence, pure blood and aristocratic influence? The Millionaire has in his possession the seeds of everything, but he must wait for half a century till his descendant finds himself in your Lordship's state; till he is yclept noble, and then he starts fair in the grand course. All these advantages your Lordship has apparently at hand, with the additional advantage (and one, oh! how great!) of having already proved to your country that you know how to rule."
There was a dead silence, which at length the Marquess broke. "There is much in what you say; but I cannot conceal it from myself, I have no wish to conceal it from you; I am not what I was." O, ambition! art thou the parent of truth?
"Ah! my Lord!" eagerly rejoined Vivian, "here is the terrible error into which you great statesmen have always fallen. Think you not, that intellect is as much a purchasable article as fine parks and fair castles? With your Lordship's tried and splendid talents, everything might be done; but, in my opinion, if, instead of a practised, an experienced, and wary Statesman, I was now addressing an idiot Earl, I should not see that the great end might not equally be consummated."
"Say you so, my merry man, and how?"
"Why, my Lord: but, but, I feel that I am trespassing on your Lordship's time, otherwise I think I could show why society is of opinion that your Lordship can do all and everything; how, indeed, your Lordship might, in a very short time, be Prime Minister."
"No, Mr. Grey; this conversation must be finished. I will just give orders that we may not be disturbed, and then we shall proceed immediately. Come, now! your manner takes me, and we shall converse in the spirit of the most perfect confidence."
Here, as the Marquess settled at the same time his chair and his countenance, and looked as anxious as if Majesty itself were consulting him on the formation of a ministry, in burst the Marchioness, notwithstanding all the remonstrances, entreaties, threats, and supplications of Mr. Sadler.
Her Ladyship had been what they style a splendid woman; that was now past, although, with the aid of cashmeres, diamonds, and turbans, her general appearance was still striking. Her Ladyship was not remarkable for anything save a correct taste for poodles, parrots, and bijouterie, and a proper admiration of Theodore Hook and John Bull.
"Oh! Marquess," exclaimed her Ladyship, and a favourite green parrot, which came flying in after its accustomed perch, her Ladyship's left shoulder, shrieked at the same time in concert, "Oh! Marquess, my poor Julie! You know we have noticed how nervous she has been for some days past, and I had just given her a saucer of arrow-root and milk, and she seemed a little easier, and I said to Miss Graves. 'I really do think she is a leetle better' and Miss Graves said, 'Yes, my Lady, I hope she is; 'when just as we flattered ourselves that the dear little creature was enjoying a quiet sleep, Miss Graves called out, 'Oh, my Lady! my Lady! Julie's in a fit!' and when I turned round she was lying on her back, kicking, with her eyes shut.' And here the Marchioness detected Mr. Grey, and gave him as sublime a stare as might be expected from a lady patroness of Almack's.
"The Marchioness, Mr. Vivian Grey, my love, I assure you we are engaged in a most important, a most—"
"Oh! I would not disturb you for the world, only if you will just tell me what you think ought to be done; leeches, or a warm bath; or shall I send for Doctor Blue Pill?"
The Marquess looked a little annoyed, as if he wished her Ladyship in her own room again. He was almost meditating a gentle reprimand, vexed that his grave young friend should have witnessed this frivolous intrusion, when that accomplished stripling, to the astonishment of the future minister, immediately recommended "the warm bath," and then lectured, with equal rapidity and erudition, on dogs, and their diseases In general.
The Marchioness retired, "easier in her mind about Julie than she had been for some days," as Vivian assured her "that it was not apoplexy, but only the first symptom of an epidemic." And as she retired, she murmured her gratitude gracefully to Julie's young physician.
"Now, Mr. Grey," said his Lordship, endeavouring to recover his dignity, "we were discussing the public sentiments you know on a certain point, when this unfortunate interruption—"
Vivian had not much difficulty in collecting his ideas, and he proceeded, not as displeased as his Lordship with the domestic scene.
"I need not remind your Lordship that the two great parties into which this State is divided are apparently very unequally proportioned. Your Lordship well knows how the party to which your Lordship is said to belong: your Lordship knows, I imagine, how that is constituted. We have nothing to do with the other. My Lord, I must speak out. No thinking man, and such, I trust, Vivian Grey is, no thinking man can for a moment suppose, that your Lordship's heart is very warm in the cause of a party, which, for I will not mince my words, has betrayed you. How is it, it is asked by thinking men, how is it that the Marquess of Carabas is the tool of a faction?"
The Marquess breathed aloud, "They say so, do they?"
"Why, my Lord, listen even to your servants in your own hall, need I say more? How, then! is this opinion true? Let us look to your conduct to the party to which you are said to belong. Your votes are theirs, your influence is theirs; and for all this, what return, my Lord Marquess, what return? My Lord, I am not rash enough to suppose, that your Lordship, alone and unsupported, can make yourself the arbiter of this country's destinies. It would be ridiculous to entertain such an idea for a second. The existence of such a man would not be endured by the nation for a second. But, my Lord, union is strength. Nay, my Lord, start not; I am not going to advise you to throw yourself into the arms of opposition; leave such advice for greenhorns. I am not going to adopt a line of conduct, which would, for a moment, compromise the consistency of your high character; leave such advice for fools. My Lord, it is to preserve your consistency, it is to vindicate your high character, it is to make the Marquess of Carabas perform the duties which society requires from him, that I, Vivian Grey, a member of that society, and an humble friend of your Lordship, speak so boldly."
"My friend," said the agitated Peer, "you cannot speak too boldly. My mind opens to you. I have felt, I have long felt, that I was not what I ought to be, that I was not what society requires me to be; but where is your remedy? what is the line of conduct that I should pursue?"
"The remedy, my Lord! I never conceived, for a moment, that there was any doubt of the existence of means to attain all and everything. I think that was your Lordship's phrase. I only hesitated as to the existence of the inclination on the part of your Lordship."
"You cannot doubt it now," said the Peer, in a low voice; and then his Lordship looked anxiously round the room, as if he feared that there had been some mysterious witness to his whisper.
"My Lord," said Vivian, and he drew his chair close to the Marquess, "the plan is shortly this. There are others in a similar situation with yourself. All thinking men know, your Lordship knows still better, that there are others equally influential, equally ill-treated. How is it that I see no concert, among these individuals? How is it that, jealous of each other, or each trusting that he may ultimately prove an exception to the system of which he is a victim; how is it, I say, that you look with cold hearts on each other's situation? My Lord Marquess, it is at the head of these that I would place you, it is these that I would have act with you; and this is the union which is strength."
"You are right, you are right; there is Courtown, but we do not speak; there is Beaconsfield, but we are not intimate: but much might be done."
"My Lord, you must not be daunted at a few difficulties, or at a little exertion. But as for Courtown, or Beaconsfield, or fifty other offended men, if it can be shown to them that their interest is to be your Lordship's friend, trust me, that ere six months are over, they will have pledged their troth. Leave all this to me, give me your Lordship's name," said Vivian, whispering most earnestly in the Marquess's ear, and laying his hand upon his Lordship's arm; "give me your Lordship's name, and your Lordship's influence, and I will take upon myself the whole organisation of the Carabas party."
"The Carabas party! Ah! we must think more of this."
The Marquess's eyes smiled with triumph, as he shook Vivian cordially by the hand, and begged him to call upon him on the morrow.
The intercourse between the Marquess and Vivian after this interview was constant. No dinner-party was thought perfect at Carabas House without the presence of the young gentleman; and as the Marchioness was delighted with the perpetual presence of an individual whom she could always consult about Julie, there was apparently no domestic obstacle to Vivian's remaining in high favour.
The Earl of Eglamour, the only child in whom were concentrated all the hopes of the illustrious House of Lorraine, was in Italy. The only remaining member of the domestic circle who was wanting was the Honourable Mrs. Felix Lorraine, the wife of the Marquess's younger brother. This lady, exhausted by the gaiety of the season, had left town somewhat earlier than she usually did, and was inhaling fresh air, and studying botany, at the magnificent seat of the Carabas family, Chateau Desir, at which splendid place Vivian was to pass the summer.
In the meantime all was sunshine with Vivian Grey. His noble friend and himself were in perpetual converse, and constantly engaged in deep consultation. As yet, the world knew nothing, except that, according to the Marquess of Carabas, "Vivian Grey was the most astonishingly clever and prodigiously accomplished fellow that ever breathed;" and, as the Marquess always added, "resembled himself very much when he was young."
But it must not be supposed that Vivian was to all the world the fascinating creature that he was to the Marquess of Carabas. Many complained that he was reserved, silent, satirical, and haughty. But the truth was, Vivian Grey often asked himself, "Who is to be my enemy to-morrow?" He was too cunning a master of the human mind, not to be aware of the quicksands upon which all greenhorns strike; he knew too well the danger of unnecessary intimacy. A smile for a friend, and a sneer for the world, is the way to govern mankind, and such was the motto of Vivian Grey.
How shall we describe Chateau Desir, that place fit for all princes? In the midst of a park of great extent, and eminent for scenery, as varied as might please nature's most capricious lover; in the midst of green lawns and deep winding glens, and cooling streams, and wild forest, and soft woodland, there was gradually formed an elevation, on which was situate a mansion of great size, and of that bastard, but picturesque style of architecture, called the Italian Gothic. The date of its erection was about the middle of the sixteenth century. You entered by a noble gateway, in which the pointed style still predominated; but in various parts of which, the Ionic column, and the prominent keystone, and other creations of Roman architecture, intermingled with the expiring Gothic, into a large quadrangle, to which the square casement windows, and the triangular pediments or gable ends supplying the place of battlements, gave a varied and Italian feature. In the centre of the court, from a vast marble basin, the rim of which was enriched by a splendidly sculptured lotus border, rose a marble group representing Amphitrite with her marine attendants, whose sounding shells and coral sceptres sent forth their subject element in sparkling showers. This work, the chef d'oeuvre celebrated artist of Vicenza, had been purchased by Valerian, first Lord Carabas, who having spent the greater part of his life as the representative of his monarch at the Ducal Court of Venice, at length returned to his native country; and in the creation of Chateau Desir endeavoured to find some consolation for the loss of his beautiful villa on the banks of the Adige.
Over the gateway there rose a turreted tower, the small square window of which, notwithstanding its stout stanchions, illumined the muniment room of the House of Carabas. In the spandrils of the gateway and in many other parts of the building might be seen the arms of the family; while the tall twisted stacks of chimneys, which appeared to spring from all parts of the roof, were carved and built in such curious and quaint devices that they were rather an ornament than an excrescence. When you entered the quadrangle, you found one side solely occupied by the old hall, the huge carved rafters of whose oak roof rested on corbels of the family supporters against the walls. These walls were of stone, but covered half-way from the ground with a panelling of curiously-carved oak; whence were suspended, in massy frames, the family portraits, painted by Dutch and Italian artists. Near the dais, or upper part of the hall, there projected an oriel window, which, as you beheld, you scarcely knew what most to admire, the radiancy of its painted panes or the fantastic richness of Gothic ornament, which was profusely lavished in every part of its masonry. Here too the Gothic pendent and the Gothic fan-work were intermingled with the Italian arabesques, which, at the time of the building of the Chateau, had been recently introduced into England by Hans Holbein and John of Padua.
How wild and fanciful are those ancient arabesques! Here at Chateau Desir, in the panelling of the old hall, might you see fantastic scrolls, separated by bodies ending in termini, and whose heads supported the Ionic volute, while the arch, which appeared to spring from these capitals, had, for a keystone, heads more monstrous than those of the fabled animals of Ctesias; or so ludicrous, that you forgot the classic griffin in the grotesque conception of the Italian artist. Here was a gibbering monkey, there a grinning pulcinello; now you viewed a chattering devil, which might have figured in the "Temptation of St. Anthony;" and now a mournful, mystic, bearded countenance, which might have flitted in the back scene of a "Witches' Sabbath."
A long gallery wound through the upper story of two other sides of the quadrangle, and beneath were the show suite of apartments with a sight of which the admiring eyes of curious tourists were occasionally delighted.
The grey stone walls of this antique edifice were, in many places, thickly covered with ivy and other parasitical plants, the deep green of whose verdure beautifully contrasted with the scarlet glories of the pyrus japonica, which gracefully clustered round the windows of the lower chambers. The mansion itself was immediately surrounded by numerous ancient forest trees. There was the elm with its rich branches bending down like clustering grapes; there was the wide-spreading oak with its roots fantastically gnarled; there was the ash, with its smooth bark and elegant leaf; and the silver beech, and the gracile birch; and the dark fir, affording with its rough foliage a contrast to the trunks of its more beautiful companions, or shooting far above their branches, with the spirit of freedom worthy of a rough child of the mountains.
Around the Castle were extensive pleasure-grounds, which realised the romance of the "Gardens of Verulam." And truly, as you wandered through their enchanting paths there seemed no end to their various beauties, and no exhaustion of their perpetual novelty. Green retreats succeeded to winding walks; from the shady berceau you vaulted on the noble terrace; and if, for an instant, you felt wearied by treading the velvet lawn, you might rest in a mossy cell, while your mind was soothed by the soft music of falling waters. Now your curious eyes were greeted by Oriental animals, basking in a sunny paddock; and when you turned from the white-footed antelope and the dark-eyed gazelle, you viewed an aviary of such extent, that within its trellised walls the imprisoned, songsters could build, in the free branches of a tree, their natural nests.
"O fair scene!" thought Vivian Grey, as he approached, on a fine summer's afternoon, the splendid Chateau, "O fair scene! doubly fair to those who quit for thee the thronged and agitated city. And can it be, that those who exist within this enchanted domain, can think of anything but sweet air, and do aught but revel in the breath of perfumed flowers?" And here he gained the garden-gate: so he stopped his soliloquy, and gave his horse to his groom.
The Marquess had preceded Vivian in his arrival about three or four days, and of course, to use the common phrase, the establishment "was quite settled." It was, indeed, to avoid the possibility of witnessing the domestic arrangements of a nobleman in any other point of view save that of perfection, that Vivian had declined accompanying his noble friend to the Chateau. Mr. Grey, junior, was an epicurean, and all epicureans will quite agree with me, that his conduct on this head was extremely wise. I am not very nice myself about these matters; but there are, we all know, a thousand little things that go wrong on the arrivals of even the best regulated families; and to mention no others, for any rational being voluntarily to encounter the awful gaping of an English family, who have travelled one hundred miles in ten successive hours, appears to me to be little short of madness.
"Grey, my boy, quite happy to see ye! later than I expected; first bell rings in five minutes. Sadler will show you your room. Your father, I hope, quite well?"
Such was the salutation of the Marquess; and Vivian accordingly retired to arrange his toilet.
The first bell rang, and the second bell rang, and Vivian was seated at the dinner-table. He bowed to the Marchioness, and asked after her poodle, and gazed with some little curiosity at the vacant chair opposite him.
"Mrs. Felix Lorraine, Mr. Vivian Grey," said the Marquess, as a lady entered the room.
Now, although we are of those historians who are of opinion that the nature of the personages they celebrate should be developed rather by a recital of their conduct than by a set character on their introduction, it is, nevertheless, incumbent upon us to devote a few lines to the lady who has just entered, which the reader will be so good as to get through, while she is accepting an offer of some white soup; by this means he will lose none of the conversation.
The Honourable Felix Lorraine we have before described as a roue. After having passed through a career with tolerable credit, which would have blasted the character of any vulgar personage, Felix Lorraine ended by pigeoning a young nobleman, whom, for that purpose, he had made his intimate friend. The affair got wind; after due examination, was proclaimed "too bad," and the guilty personage was visited with the heaviest vengeance of modern society; he was expelled his club. By this unfortunate exposure, Mr. Felix Lorraine was obliged to give in a match, which was on the tapis, with the celebrated Miss Mexico, on whose million he had determined to set up a character and a chariot, and at the same time pension his mistress, and subscribe to the Society for the Suppression of Vice. Felix left England for the Continent, and in due time was made drum-major at Barbadoes, or fiscal at Ceylon, or something of that kind. While he loitered in Europe, he made a conquest of the heart of the daughter of some German baron, and after six weeks passed in the most affectionate manner, the happy couple performing their respective duties with perfect propriety, Felix left Germany for his colonial appointment, and also left his lady behind him.
Mr. Lorraine had duly and dutifully informed his family of his marriage; and they, as amiably and affectionately, had never answered his letters, which he never expected they would. Profiting by their example, he never answered his wife's, who, in due time, to the horror of the Marquess, landed in England, and claimed the protection of her "beloved husband's family." The Marquess vowed he would never see her; the lady, however, one morning gained admittance, and from that moment she had never quitted her brother-in-law's roof, and not only had never quitted it, but now made the greatest favour of her staying.
The extraordinary influence which Mrs. Felix Lorraine possessed was certainly not owing to her beauty, for the lady opposite Vivian Grey had apparently no claims to admiration, on the score of her personal qualifications. Her complexion was bad, and her features were indifferent, and these characteristics were not rendered less uninterestingly conspicuous by, what makes an otherwise ugly woman quite the reverse, namely, a pair of expressive eyes; for certainly this epithet could not be applied to those of Mrs. Felix Lorraine, which gazed in all the vacancy of German listlessness.
The lady did bow to Mr. Grey, and that was all; and then she negligently spooned her soup, and then, after much parade, sent it away untouched. Vivian was not under the necessity of paying any immediate courtesy to his opposite neighbour, whose silence, he perceived, was for the nonce, and consequently for him. But the day was hot, and Vivian had been fatigued by his ride, and the Marquess' champagne was excellent; and so, at last, the floodgates of his speech burst, and talk he did. He complimented her Ladyship's poodle, quoted German to Mrs. Felix Lorraine, and taught the Marquess to eat cabinet pudding with Curacoa sauce (a custom which, by-the-bye, I recommend to all); and then his stories, his scandal, and his sentiment; stories for the Marquess, scandal for the Marchioness, and sentiment for the Marquess' sister! That lady, who began to find out her man, had no mind to be longer silent, and although a perfect mistress of the English language, began to articulate a horrible patois, that she might not be mistaken for an Englishwoman, an occurrence which she particularly dreaded. But now came her punishment, for Vivian saw the effect which he had produced on Mrs. Felix Lorraine, and that Mrs. Felix Lorraine now wished to produce a corresponding effect upon him, and this he was determined she should not do; so new stories followed, and new compliments ensued, and finally he anticipated her sentences, and sometimes her thoughts. The lady sat silent and admiring! At last the important meal was finished, and the time came when good dull English dames retire; but of this habit Mrs. Felix Lorraine did not approve, and although she had not yet prevailed upon Lady Carabas to adopt her ideas on field-days, still, when alone, the good-natured Marchioness had given in, and to save herself from hearing the din of male voices at a time at which during her whole life she had been unaccustomed to them, the Marchioness of Carabas dozed. Her worthy spouse, who was prevented, by the presence of Mrs. Felix Lorraine, from talking politics with Vivian, passed the bottle pretty briskly, and then, conjecturing that "from the sunset we should have a fine day to-morrow," fell back in his easy-chair, and snored.
Mrs. Felix Lorraine looked at her noble relatives, and shrugged up her shoulders with an air which baffleth all description. "Mr. Grey, I congratulate you on this hospitable reception; you see we treat you quite en famille. Come! 'tis a fine evening; you have seen as yet but little of Chateau Desir: we may as well enjoy the fine air on the terrace."
"You must know, Mr. Grey, that this is my favourite walk, and I therefore expect that it will be yours."
"It cannot indeed fail to be such, the favourite as it alike is of nature and Mrs. Felix Lorraine."
"On my word, a very pretty sentence! And who taught you, young sir, to bandy words so fairly?"
"I never can open my mouth, except in the presence of a woman," observed Vivian, with impudent mendacity; and he looked interesting and innocent.
"Indeed! And what do you know about such wicked work as talking to women?" and here Mrs. Felix Lorraine imitated Vivian's sentimental voice. "Do you know," she continued, "I feel quite happy that you have come down here; I begin to think that we shall be great friends."
"Nothing appears to me more evident," said Vivian.
"How delicious is friendship!" exclaimed Mrs. Felix Lorraine; "delightful sentiment, that prevents life from being a curse! Have you a friend, Mr. Vivian Grey?"
"Before I answer that question, I should like to know what meaning Mrs. Felix Lorraine attaches to that important monosyllable, friend."
"Oh, you want a definition. I hate definitions; and of all the definitions in the world, the one I have been most unfortunate in has been a definition of friendship; I might say" (and here her voice sunk), "I might say of all the sentiments in the world, friendship is the one which has been must fatal to me; but I must not inoculate you with my bad spirits, bad spirits are not for young blood like yours, leave them to old persons like myself."
"Old!" said Vivian, in a proper tone of surprise.
"Old! ay old; how old do you think I am?"
"You may have seen twenty summers," gallantly conjectured Vivian.
The lady looked pleased, and almost insinuated that she had seen one or two more.
"A clever woman," thought Vivian, "but vain; I hardly know what to think of her."
"Mr. Grey, I fear you find me in bad spirits to-day; but alas! I—I have cause. Although we see each other to-day for the first time, yet there is something in your manner, something in the expression of your eyes, that make me believe my happiness is not altogether a matter of indifference to you." These words, uttered in one of the sweetest voices by which ever human being was fascinated, were slowly and deliberately spoken, as if it were intended that they should rest on the ear of the object to whom they were addressed.
"My dearest madam! it is impossible that I can have but one sentiment with regard to you, that of—"
"Of what, Mr. Grey?"
"Of solicitude for your welfare."
The lady gently took the arm of the young man, and then with an agitated voice, and a troubled spirit, dwelt upon the unhappiness of her lot, and the cruelty of her fortunes. Her husband's indifference was the sorrowful theme of her lamentations; and she ended by asking Mr. Vivian Grey's advice, as to the line of conduct which she should pursue with regard to him; first duly informing Vivian that this was the only time and he the only person to whom this subject had been ever mentioned.