Henry turned to Mrs. Ferrari as the lawyer closed the door. ’I have heard of your trouble, Emily, from Miss Lockwood. Is there anything I can do to help you?’
’Nothing, sir, thank you. Perhaps, I had better go home after what has happened? I will call to-morrow, and see if I can be of any use to Miss Agnes. I am very sorry for her.’ She stole away, with her formal curtsey, her noiseless step, and her obstinate resolution to take the gloomiest view of her husband’s case.
Henry Westwick looked round him in the solitude of the little drawing-room. There was nothing to keep him in the house, and yet he lingered in it. It was something to be even near Agnes—to see the things belonging to her that were scattered about the room. There, in the corner, was her chair, with her embroidery on the work-table by its side. On the little easel near the window was her last drawing, not quite finished yet. The book she had been reading lay on the sofa, with her tiny pencil-case in it to mark the place at which she had left off. One after another, he looked at the objects that reminded him of the woman whom he loved—took them up tenderly— and laid them down again with a sigh. Ah, how far, how unattainably far from him, she was still! ‘She will never forget Montbarry,’ he thought to himself as he took up his hat to go. ’Not one of us feels his death as she feels it. Miserable, miserable wretch—how she loved him!’
In the street, as Henry closed the house-door, he was stopped by a passing acquaintance—a wearisome inquisitive man— doubly unwelcome to him, at that moment. ’Sad news, Westwick, this about your brother. Rather an unexpected death, wasn’t it? We never heard at the club that Montbarry’s lungs were weak. What will the insurance offices do?’
Henry started; he had never thought of his brother’s life insurance. What could the offices do but pay? A death by bronchitis, certified by two physicians, was surely the least disputable of all deaths. ’I wish you hadn’t put that question into my head!’ he broke out irritably. ‘Ah!’ said his friend, ’you think the widow will get the money? So do I! so do I!’
Some days later, the insurance offices (two in number) received the formal announcement of Lord Montbarry’s death, from her ladyship’s London solicitors. The sum insured in each office was five thousand pounds—on which one year’s premium only had been paid. In the face of such a pecuniary emergency as this, the Directors thought it desirable to consider their position. The medical advisers of the two offices, who had recommended the insurance of Lord Montbarry’s life, were called into council over their own reports. The result excited some interest among persons connected with the business of life insurance. Without absolutely declining to pay the money, the two offices (acting in concert) decided on sending a commission of inquiry to Venice, ‘for the purpose of obtaining further information.’