Availing himself of his latch-key, Ferrars reentered his home unnoticed. He went at once to his library, and locked the door of the apartment. There sitting before his desk, he buried his face in his hands and remained in that posture for a considerable time.
They were tumultuous and awful thoughts that passed over his brain. The dreams of a life were dissipated, and he had to encounter the stern reality of his position — and that was Ruin. He was without hope and without resource. His debts were vast; his patrimony was a fable; and the mysterious inheritance of his wife had been tampered with. The elder Ferrars had left an insolvent estate; he had supported his son liberally, but latterly from his son’s own resources. The father had made himself the principal trustee of the son’s marriage settlement. His colleague, a relative of the heiress, had died, and care was taken that no one should be substituted in his stead. All this had been discovered by Ferrars on his father’s death, but ambition, and the excitement of a life of blended elation and peril, had sustained him under the concussion. One by one every chance had vanished: first his private means and then his public prospects; he had lost office, and now he was about to lose parliament. His whole position, so long, and carefully, and skilfully built up, seemed to dissolve and dissipate into insignificant fragments. And now he had to break the situation to his wife. She was to become the unprepared partner of the secret which had gnawed at his heart for years, during which to her his mien had often been smiling and always serene. Mrs. Ferrars was at home, and alone, in her luxurious boudoir, and he went to her at once. After years of dissimulation, now that all was over, Ferrars could not bear the suspense of four-and-twenty hours.
It was difficult to bring her into a mood of mind capable of comprehending a tithe of of what she had to learn; and yet the darkest part of the tale she was never to know. Mrs. Ferrars, though singularly intuitive, shrank from controversy, and settled everything by contradiction and assertion. She maintained for a long time that what her husband communicated to her could not be; that it was absurd and even impossible. After a while, she talked of selling her diamonds and reducing her equipage, sacrificing which she assumed would put everything right. And when she found her husband still grave and still intimating that the sacrifices must be beyond all this, and that they must prepare for the life and habits of another social sphere, she became violent, and wept and declared her wrongs; that she had been deceived and outraged and infamously treated.
Remembering how long and with what apparent serenity in her presence he had endured his secret woes, and how one of the principal objects of his life had ever been to guard her even from a shade of solicitude, even the restrained Ferrars was affected; his countenance changed and his eyes became suffused. When she observed this, she suddenly threw her arms round his neck and with many embraces, amid sighs and tears, exclaimed, “O William! if we love each other, what does anything signify?”
And what could anything signify under such circumstances and on such conditions? As Ferrars pressed his beautiful wife to his heart, he remembered only his early love, which seemed entirely to revive. Unconsciously to himself, too, he was greatly relieved by this burst of tenderness on her part, for the prospect of this interview had been most distressful to him. “My darling,” he said, “ours is not a case of common imprudence or misfortune. We are the victims of a revolution, and we must bear our lot as becomes us under such circumstances. Individual misfortunes are merged in the greater catastrophe of the country.”
“That is the true view,” said his wife; “and, after all, the poor King of France is much worse off than we are. However, I cannot now buy the Duchesse of Sevres’ lace, which I had promised her to do. It is rather awkward. However, the best way always is to speak the truth. I must tell the duchess I am powerless, and that we are the victims of a revolution, like herself.”
Then they began to talk quite cosily together over their prospects, he sitting on the sofa by her side and holding her hand. Mrs. Ferrars would not hear of retiring to the continent. “No,” she said, with all her sanguine vein returning, “you always used to say I brought you luck, and I will bring you luck yet. There must be a reaction. The wheel will turn and bring round our friends again. Do not let us then be out of the way. Your claims are immense. They must do something for you. They ought to give you India, and if we only set our mind upon it, we shall get it. Depend upon it, things are not so bad as they seem. What appear to be calamities are often the sources of fortune. I would much sooner that you should be Governor–General than a cabinet minister. That odious House of Commons is very wearisome. I am not sure any constitution can bear it very long. I am not sure whether I would not prefer being Governor–General of India even to being Prime–Minister.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53