During dinner she struggled to say a word or two to her husband, as though there had been no quarrel between them. With him the matter had gone so deep that he could not answer her in the same spirit. There were sundry members of the family present—daughters, and a son-in-law, and a daughter’s friend who was staying with them; but even in the hope of appearing to be serene before them he could not struggle through his deep despondence. He was very silent, and to his wife’s words he answered hardly anything. He was courteous and gentle with them all, but he spoke as little as was possible, and during the evening he sat alone, with his head leaning on his hand—not pretending even to read. He was aware that it was too late to make even an attempt to conceal his misery and his disgrace from his own family.
His wife came to him that night in his dressing-room in a spirit of feminine softness that was very unusual with her. ‘My dear,’ said she, ’let us forget what occurred this morning. If there has been anger, we are bound as Christians to forget it.’ She stood over him as she spoke, and put her hand upon his shoulder almost caressingly.
‘When a man’s heart is broken, he cannot forget it,’ was his reply. She still stood by him, and still kept her hand upon him: but she could think of no other words of comfort to say. ‘I will go to bed,’ he said. ‘It is the best place for me.’ Then she left him, and he went to bed.
THE SOFTNESS OF SIR RAFFLE BUFFLE
We have seen that John Eames was prepared to start on his journey in search of the Arabins, and have seen him after he had taken farewell of his office and of his master there, previous to his departure; but that matter of his departure had not been arranged altogether with comfort as far as his official interests were concerned. He had been perhaps a little abrupt in his mode of informing Sir Raffle Buffle, that there was a pressing cause for his official absence, and Sir Raffle had replied to him that no private pressure could be allowed to interfere with his public duties. ‘I must go, Sir Raffle, at any rate,’ Johnny had said; ‘it is a matter affecting my family and must not be neglected.’ ’If you intend to go without leave,’ said Sir Raffle, ’I presume you will first put your resignation into the hands of Mr Kissing.’ Now Mr Kissing was the secretary to the Board. This had been serious undoubtedly. John Eames was not specially anxious to keep his present position as private secretary to Sir Raffle, but he certainly had no desire to give up his profession altogether. He said nothing more to the great man on that occasion, but before he left the office he wrote a private note to the chairman expressing the extreme importance of the business, and begging that he might be given leave of absence. On the next morning he received it back with a very few words written across it. ‘It can’t be done,’ were the few words which Sir Raffle Buffle had written across the note from his private secretary. Here was a difficulty which Johnny had not anticipated, and which seemed to be insuperable. Sir Raffle would not have answered him in that strain if he had not been very much in earnest.