Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 15

The dark deep hints that had reached Mr. Ferrars at the beginning of 1834 were the harbingers of startling events. In the spring it began to be rumoured among the initiated, that the mighty Reform Cabinet with its colossal majority, and its testimonial goblets of gold, raised by the penny subscriptions of the grateful people, was in convulsions, and before the month of July had elapsed Lord Grey had resigned, under circumstances which exhibited the entire demoralisation of his party. Except Zenobia, every one was of the opinion that the King acted wisely in entrusting the reconstruction of the Whig ministry to his late Secretary of State, Lord Melbourne. Nevertheless, it could no longer be concealed, nay, it was invariably admitted, that the political situation had been largely and most unexpectedly changed, and that there was a prospect, dim, perhaps, yet not undefinable, of the conduct of public affairs again falling to the alternate management of two rival constitutional parties.

Zenobia was so full of hope, and almost of triumph, that she induced her lord in the autumn to assemble their political friends at one of his great seats, and Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars were urgently invited to join the party. But, after some hesitation, they declined this proposal. Had Mr. Ferrars been as sanguine as his wife, he would perhaps have overcome his strong disinclination to reenter the world, but though no longer despairing of a Tory revival, he was of opinion that a considerable period, even several years, must elapse before its occurrence. Strange to say, he found no difficulty in following his own humour through any contrary disposition on the part of Mrs. Ferrars. With all her ambition and passionate love of society, she was unwilling to return to that stage, where she once had blazed, in a subdued and almost subordinate position. In fact, it was an affair of the wardrobe. The queen of costumes, whose fanciful and gorgeous attire even Zenobia was wont to praise, could not endure a reappearance in old dresses. “I do not so much care about my jewels, William,” she said to her husband, “but one must have new dresses.”

It was a still mild day in November, a month which in the country, and especially on the light soils, has many charms, and the whole Ferrars family were returning home after an afternoon ramble on the chase. The leaf had changed but had not fallen, and the vast spiral masses of the dark green juniper effectively contrasted with the rich brown foliage of the beech, varied occasionally by the scarlet leaves of the wild cherry tree, that always mingles with these woods. Around the house were some lime trees of large size, and at this period of the year their foliage, still perfect, was literally quite golden. They seemed like trees in some fairy tale of imprisoned princesses or wandering cavaliers, and such they would remain, until the fatal night that brings the first frost.

“There is a parcel from London,” said the servant to Mr. Ferrars, as they entered the house. “It is on your desk.”

A parcel from London was one of the great events of their life. What could it be? Perhaps some proofs, probably some books. Mr. Ferrars entered his room alone. It was a very small brown paper parcel, evidently not books. He opened it hastily, and disencumbered its contents of several coverings. The contents took the form of a letter — a single letter.

The handwriting was recognised, and he read the letter with an agitated countenance, and then he opened the door of his room, and called loudly for his wife, who was by his side in a few moments.

“A letter, my love, from Barron,” he cried. “The King has dismissed Lord Melbourne and sent for the Duke of Wellington, who has accepted the conduct of affairs.”

“You must go to town directly,” said his wife. “He offered you the Cabinet in 1832. No person has such a strong claim on him as you have.”

“It does not appear that he is exactly prime minister,” said Mr. Ferrars, looking again at the letter. “They have sent for Peel, who is at Rome, but the Duke is to conduct the government till he arrives.”

“You must go to town immediately,” repeated Mrs. Ferrars. “There is not a moment to be lost. Send down to the Horse Shoe and secure an inside place in the Salisbury coach. It reaches this place at nine tomorrow morning. I will have everything ready. You must take a portmanteau and a carpet-bag. I wonder if you could get a bedroom at the Rodneys’. It would be so nice to be among old friends; they must feel for you. And then it will be near the Carlton, which is a great thing. I wonder how he will form his cabinet. What a pity he is not here!”

“It is a wonderful event, but the difficulties must be immense,” observed Ferrars.

“Oh! you always see difficulties. I see none. The King is with us, the country is disgusted. It is what I always said would be; the reaction is complete.”

“Well, we had better now go and tell the children,” said Ferrars. “I leave you all here for the first time,” and he seemed to sigh.

“Well, I hope we shall soon join you,” said Mrs. Ferrars. “It is the very best time for hiring a house. What I have set my heart upon is the Green Park. It will be near your office and not too near. I am sure I could not live again in a street.”

The children were informed that public events of importance had occurred, that the King had changed his ministry, and that papa must go up to town immediately and see the Duke of Wellington. The eyes of Mrs. Ferrars danced with excitement as she communicated to them all this intelligence, and much more, with a volubility in which of late years she had rarely indulged. Mr. Ferrars looked grave and said little. Then he patted Endymion on the head, and kissed Myra, who returned his embrace with a warmth unusual with her.

The whole household soon became in a state of bustle with the preparations for the early departure of Mr. Ferrars. It seemed difficult to comprehend how filling a portmanteau and a carpet-bag could induce such excited and continuous exertions. But then there was so much to remember, and then there was always something forgotten. Mrs. Ferrars was in her bedroom surrounded by all her maids; Mr. Ferrars was in his study looking out some papers which it was necessary to take with him. The children were alone.

“I wonder if we shall be restored to our greatness,” said Myra to Endymion.

“Well, I shall be sorry to leave the old place; I have been happy here.”

“I have not,” said Myra; “and I do not think I could have borne this life had it not been for you.”

“It will be a wonderful change,” said Endymion.

“If it comes; I fear papa is not daring enough. However, if we get out of this hole, it will be something.”

Tea-time brought them all together again, but when the meal was over, none of the usual occupations of the evening were pursued; no work, no books, no reading aloud. Mr. Ferrars was to get up very early, and that was a reason for all retiring soon. And yet neither the husband nor the wife really cared to sleep. Mrs. Ferrars sate by the fire in his dressing-room, speculating on all possible combinations, and infusing into him all her suggestions and all her schemes. She was still prudent, and still would have preferred a great government — India if possible; but had made up her mind that he must accept the cabinet. Considering what had occurred in 1832, she thought he was bound in honour to do so. Her husband listened rather than conversed, and seemed lost in thought. At last he rose, and, embracing her with much affection, said, “You forget I am to rise with the lark. I shall write to you every day. Best and dearest of women, you have always been right, and all my good fortune has come from you.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19