Chapter 160140723

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Chapter NumberV
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160140723
Full Date1881-01-29
Page Number36
Corrections0
Word Count1634
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleEndymion
article text

CHAPTER V.

Id the meantime, power and prosperity clus tered round the roof and family of Ferrars. He himself was in the prime of manhood, with an exalted position in the world of politics, and with a prospect of the highest. The Govern ment of which he was a member was not only deemed strong, but eternal. The favour of the Oourt and the confidence of the country were alike lavished on it. The Government of the Duke could only be measured by his life, and hiB influence was irresistible. It was a dictator ship of patriotism. The ceuntry, long accus tomed to a strong and undisturbed Administra tion, and frightened by the changes and catastrophes which had followed the retirement of Lord Liverpool, took refuge in the powerful will and splendid reputation of a real hero.

Mrs. Ferrars was as ambitious of social dis tinction as her husband was of political power. She was a woman of taste, but of luxurious taste. She had a passion for splendour, whioh, though ever regulated by a fine perception of the fitness of things, was still costly. Though her mien was in general haughty, she flattered Zenobia, and consummately. Zenobia, who liked handsome people, even handsome women, and pessons who were dressed beautifally, and delighted hereye by their grace and fine manners, was quite won by Mrs. Ferrars, against whom at first she was inclined to be a little preju diced. There was an entire alliance between them, and though Mrs. Ferrars greatly in fluenced and almost ruled Zenobia, the wife of the Minister was careful always to acknowledge the Queen of Fashion as her snzeraine.

The great world then, compared with the hnge society of the present period, was limited in its proportions, and composed of elements more refined, though far less various. It con sisted mainly of the great landed aristocracy, who had quite absorbed the nabobs of India, and had nearly appropriated the huge West Indian fortunes. Occasionally, an eminent banker or merchant invested a large portion of his accumulations in land, and in the purchase of Parliamentary influence, and was in time duly admitted into the sanctuary; But those vast and successful invasions of Bociety by new classes which have since occurred, though im pending, had not yet commenced. The manu facturers, the railway kings, the colossal con tractors, the discoverers of nuggets had not yet found their place in society and the Senate. There were then, perhaps, more great houses open than at the present day, but_ there were very , few little ones. The necessity of pro viding regular occasions for the assembling of

the miscellaneous world of fashion led to the institution of AlmackV, which died out in the advent of the new system of society, and in the fierce competition of its inexhaustible private entertainments.

QThe season then was brilliant and sustained, but it was tot flurried. People did not go to various parties on the same night. They re mained where they were assembled, and, not being in a hurry, were more agreeable than they are at the present day. Conversation was more, cultivated; manners, though unconstrained, were more stately ; and the world, being limited, knew itself much better. On the other hand, the sympathies'of society were more contracted than they are at present. The pressure of popu lation had not opened the heart oi man. The world attended to its poor in its country parishes, and subscribed and danced for the tipitalfields weavers when their normal distress had overflowed, but their knowledge of the people did not exceed these bonnds, and the people knew very little more about themselves. They were only half-born.

The darkest hoar precedes the dawn, and a period of nnnsnal etillness often, perhaps usually, heralds the social convulsion. At this moment the general tranquillity and even con tent were remarkable. In politics the Whigs were quite prepared to extend to the Duke the same provisional confidence that bad been accepted by Mr. Canning, and conciliation began to be an accepted phrase, which meant in practice some share ou their part of the good things of the State. The country itself re quired nothing. There was a general im pression, indeed, that they had been ad vancing at a rather rapid rate, and that it was as well that the reins should be entrusted to a wary driver. Zenobia, who re presented society, waB enraptured that the career of revolution had been stayed. She still mourned over the concession of the Manchester and Liverpool Bail way in a moment of Liberal infatuation, but flattered herself that any extension of the railway system might certainly be arrested, and on this head the majority of society, perhaps even of the country, was certainly on her side.

"I have some good news for you," said one of her young favourites as be attended her re ception, " we have prevented this morning the lighting of Grosvenor-tquare by gas by a- large majority."

" I felt confident that disgrace wonld never occur," said Zenobia, triumphant. " And by a large majority! I wonder how Lord Pomeroy

voted."

« Against us."

" How can one save this country ?" exclaimed Zenobia, "I believe now the story that he has ordered Lady Pomeroy not to go to the draw ing-room in a sedan chair."

One bright May morning in the spring that followed the formation of the Government that was to last for ever, Mrs. Ferrars received the world at a fanciful entertainment in the beauti ful grounds of her Wimbledon villa. The day was genial, the soene was flushed with roses and pink thorns, and brilliant groups, amid hursts of music, clustered and bwintered on the green turf of bowery lawns. Mrs. Ferrars, on a rustic throne, with the wondrous twins in still more wonderful attire, distributed alter nate observations of sympathetic gaiety to a Bussian Grand Duke and to the serene heir of a German Principality. And yet there was really an expreesion on her countenance of restlessness, not to say anxiety, which ill accorded with the dulcet tones and the wreathed smiles which charmed her august companions. Zenobia, the great Zenobia, had not arrived, and the hours were advancing. The Grand Duke played with the beautiful and haughty infants, and the German Prince enquired of Endymion whether he were destined to be one of Her Majesty's guards; but still Zenobia did not ccme, and Mrs. Ferrars could scarcely conceal her vexation. But there was no real occasion for it. For even at this moment, with avant courier and outriders and baaged postilions on her four horses of race, the lodge-gates were opening for the reception of the great lady, who herself soon appeared in the distance; and Mrs. Ferrars, accompanied by her distinguished guests, immediately rose and advanced 'to receive the Queen of Fashion. No one appre ciated a royal presence more highly than Zenobia. It was her habit to impress upon her noble fellows of both sexes that there were relations of intimacy between herself and the royal houses of Burope which were not shared by her chss. Bhe liked to play the part of a social mediator between the aristocracy and royal houses. A Aerman serenity was her delight, but a Bussian Grand Duke was her ep hodiment of power and pomp, and sound prin ciples in their most authentic and orthodox form. And yet, though she addressed their Highnesses with her usual Courtly vivacity, and poured forth enquiries which seemed to indioate the most familiar acquaintance with the latest incidents from Schonbrunn or the Rhine, though she embraced her hostess, and even kisBed the children, the practised eye of Mrs. Ferrars, whose life was a study of Zenobia, detected that her late appearance had been occasioned by an important cause, and, what was more, that Zenobia was anxious to communicate it to her. With feminine tact Mrs. Ferrars moved ou with her guests until the ocoasion offered when she could present some great ladies to the Princes; and then dismissing the children^ on appropriate missions, she was not sarprised when Zenobia immediately exclaimed, " Thank Heaven, we are at last alone! Ton must have been surprised I was so late. Well, guess what has happened ?" and then, as Mrs. Ferrars shook her head, she continued: " They are all four

out!"

All four!"

"Yes; Lord Dudley,Lord Palmerston, and

Charles Grant follow. Huskisson. I do not

believe the first ever meant to go, but the Dake would not listen to his hypocritical explana tions, and the rest have followed. I am sar prised about Lord Dudley, as I know he loved

his office."

" I am alarmed," said Mrs. Ferrars.

" Net the slightest cause for fear," exclaimed the intrepid Zenobia. "It must have happened sooner or later. I ana delighted at it. We

shall now have a Cabinet of our. own.

They never would have rested till they bad brought in some Whigs, and the country hates- the Whigs. No wonder, when we remember that if they had had their way we should have been wearing sabots at this time, with a French Prefect probably in Holland

Honse."

" And whom will they put in the Cabinet ?" enquired Mrs. Ferrars.

"Our good friends, I hope," said Zenobia, with an inspiring smile; "but I have heard nothing about that yet. I am a little sorry about Lord Dudley, as I think they have drawn him into their mesh, but as for the other three, especially Huskisson and Lord Palmerston, I can tell you the Duke has never bad a qniet moment since they joined him. We shall now begin to reign. The only mistake was ever to have admitted them. I think now we have got rid of Liberalism for ever."