Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 18

It was a dark December night when Mr. Ferrars returned to Hurstley. His wife, accompanied by the gardener with a lantern, met him on the green. She embraced him, and whispered, “Is it very bad, love? I fear you have softened it to me?”

“By no means bad, and I told you the truth: not all, for had I, my letter would have been too late. He said nothing about the cabinet, but offered me a high post in his government, provided I could secure my seat. That was impossible. During the month I was in town I had realised that. I thought it best, therefore, at once to try the other tack, and nothing could be more satisfactory.”

“Did you say anything about India?” she said in a very low voice.

“I did not. He is an honourable man, but he is cold, and my manner is not distinguished for abandon. I thought it best to speak generally, and leave it to him. He acknowledged my claim, and my fitness for such posts, and said if his government lasted it would gratify him to meet my wishes. Barron says the government will last. They will have a majority, and if Stanley and Graham had joined them, they would have had not an inconsiderable one. But in that case I should probably not have had the cabinet, if indeed he meant to offer it to me now.”

“Of course he did,” said his wife. “Who has such claims as you have? Well, now we must hope and watch. Look cheerful to the children, for they have been very anxious.”

With this hint the meeting was not unhappy, and the evening passed with amusement and interest. Endymion embraced his father with warmth, and Myra kissed him on both cheeks. Mr. Ferrars had a great deal of gossip which interested his wife, and to a certain degree his children. The latter of course remembered Zenobia, and her sayings and doings were always amusing. There were anecdotes, too, of illustrious persons which always interest, especially when in the personal experience of those with whom we are intimately connected. What the Duke, or Sir Robert, or Lord Lyndhurst said to papa seemed doubly wiser or brighter than if it had been said to a third person. Their relations with the world of power, and fashion, and fame, seemed not to be extinct, at least reviving from their torpid condition. Mr. Ferrars had also brought a German book for Myra; and “as for you, Endymion,” he said, “I have been much more successful for you than for your father, though I hope I shall not have myself in the long run to complain. Our friends are faithful to us, and I have got you put down on the private list for a clerkship both in the Foreign Office and the Treasury. They are the two best things, and you will have one of the first vacancies that will occur in either department. I know your mother wishes you to be in the Foreign Office. Let it be so if it come. I confess, myself, remembering your grandfather’s career, I have always a weakness for the Treasury, but so long as I see you well planted in Whitehall, I shall be content. Let me see, you will be sixteen in March. I could have wished you to wait another year, but we must be ready when the opening occurs.”

The general election in 1834–5, though it restored the balance of parties, did not secure to Sir Robert Peel a majority, and the anxiety of the family at Hurstley was proportionate to the occasion. Barron was always sanguine, but the vote on the Speakership could not but alarm them. Barron said it did not signify, and that Sir Robert had resolved to go on and had confidence in his measures. His measures were excellent, and Sir Robert never displayed more resource, more energy, and more skill, than he did in the spring of 1835. But knowledge of human nature was not Sir Robert Peel’s strong point, and it argued some deficiency in that respect, to suppose that the fitness of his measures could disarm a vindictive opposition. On the contrary, they rather whetted their desire of revenge, and they were doubly loth that he should increase his reputation by availing himself of an opportunity which they deemed the Tory party had unfairly acquired.

After the vote on the Speakership, Mr. Ferrars was offered a second-class West Indian government. His wife would not listen to it. If it were Jamaica, the offer might be considered, though it could scarcely be accepted without great sacrifice. The children, for instance, must be left at home. Strange to say, Mr. Ferrars was not disinclined to accept the inferior post. Endymion he looked upon as virtually provided for, and Myra, he thought, might accompany them; if only for a year. But he ultimately yielded, though not without a struggle, to the strong feeling of his wife.

“I do not see why I also should not be left behind,” said Myra to her brother in one of their confidential walks. “I should like to live in London in lodgings with you.”

The approaching appointment of her brother filled her from the first with the greatest interest. She was always talking of it when they were alone — fancying his future life, and planning how it might be happier and more easy. “My only joy in life is seeing you,” she sometimes said, “and yet this separation does not make me unhappy. It seems a chance from heaven for you. I pray every night it may be the Foreign Office.”

The ministry were still sanguine as to their prospects in the month of March, and they deemed that public opinion was rallying round Sir Robert. Perhaps Lord John Russell, who was the leader of the opposition, felt this, in some degree, himself, and he determined to bring affairs to a crisis by notice of a motion respecting the appropriation of the revenues of the Irish Church. Then Barron wrote to Mr. Ferrars that affairs did not look so well, and advised him to come up to town, and take anything that offered. “It is something,” he remarked, “to have something to give up. We shall not, I suppose, always be out of office, and they get preferred more easily whose promotion contributes to patronage, even while they claim its exercise.”

The ministry were in a minority on the Irish Church on April 2, the day on which Mr. Ferrars arrived in town. They did not resign, but the attack was to be repeated in another form on the 6th. During the terrible interval Mr. Ferrars made distracted visits to Downing Street, saw secretaries of state, who sympathised with him not withstanding their own chagrin, and was closeted daily and hourly with under-secretaries, parliamentary and permanent, who really alike wished to serve him. But there was nothing to be had. He was almost meditating taking Sierra Leone, or the Gold Coast, when the resignation of Sir Robert Peel was announced. At the last moment, there being, of course, no vacancy in the Foreign Office, or the Treasury, he obtained from Barron an appointment for Endymion, and so, after having left Hurstley five months before to become Governor–General of India, this man, “who had claims,” returned to his mortified home with a clerkship for his son in a second-rate government office.

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