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Il est difficile de décider si l'irrésolution rend l'homme plus
malheureux que méprisable; de même s'il y a toujours plus d'inconvénients à prendre un mauvais parti, qu'à n'en prendre aucun.'-LA BRUYÈRE.
In Midland England, and in what is called a watering-place, which name (being in this case interpreted) means a town wherein distasteful waters may be imbibed, and whence men go forth to enjoy field-sports by day, and return at evening-time to eat, to drink, and to be merry.
In that gay watering-place, but hardly of it, there lived a lonely widower in a little street -and that widower's name was Considine. He had resided in the town for many years, and was one of its oldest and most respected' inhabitants. His wife, who was said to have been a Spaniard, and possessed of great beauty, had died soon after the birth of a second son. Her only children were those two boys; and they, after the death of their mother, were for all their lives totally separated and estranged from their father.
Mr. Considine was a man of very weak character, and of a temperament nervously sensitive. The death of his wife, to whom he was devotedly attached, and to whose stronger mind he had looked up as in some sort a protection to his feebler powers, was a blow from the effects of which he never thoroughly recovered. The legacy she had bequeathed to him in the shape of two fine noisy boys, was one that he was totally incapable of appreciating: for the sight of them reminded him of her who was gone, and the sound of them was as anything but music in his ears.
But what was to be done with them? He had no relations on whom to shake off the annoyance and responsibility that sat so heavily on his own shoulders, and but one intimate adviser with whom to consult on the best means to be adopted, in order to free himself from a duty, which some fathers would have considered in the light of a privilege. But he had one intimate friend, and that friend was a host in himself; for he was a Jesuit priest.
Mr. Considine was a Roman Catholic, and a rich one. He lived in solitude, and was weakened by sorrow. Will it then be wondered at that the Rev. Mr. Carden obtained a great, and overwhelming influence over his mind?
Before a month had elapsed, the boys (their dead mother's darlings) were no longer seen in the country home where she had breathed her last; and their father, moved by a morbid dislike to scenes where he had known sorrow, became an inhabitant of towns.
For forty years and upwards, had this somewhat singular individual lived in the gay watering-place where we now find him, and at the end of that period we introduce him to the notice of our readers.
He was a grave, heaving-looking old gentleman, very thin, and bent, and shaky. His hands trembled, and his weak knees bent beneath their burthen; and it appeared as though life were to him little better than a state of wearisome endurance. Every day he might be seen wending his way to the readingrooms with solemn step, and slow, as though urged to the performance of a painful duty: but when evening came,-evening with its little dinner at some kind friend's house, and a rubber of harmless whist to wind up the day's amusements; then the little world of L- knew of what stuff that rich old man was made. Magnanimously (roused by the spirit of the old port he loved) he risked his cherished sixpences, and quaint and dry were the remarks, he made while seated with his wrinkle-browed contemporaries at the dearly loved green table.
He was rich both in lands and money, but it was only the latter that he could bequeath to whom he pleased, the former being entailed upon his eldest son: provided always that the said son professed the Roman Catholic
faith. No Protestant could inherit the broad acres that had for generations past been the property of the Catholic Considines of Considine; and in the event of no blood relation of • Mother Church' appearing to claim them, the lands of the old man went from the family to swell the possessions of an already richly endowed monastic institution.
The boyhood of the two lads, whose infant mirth, and troublesome requirements had told so heavily on the shattered nerves and spirits of their father, was spent in the South of France, where they had relations on their mother's side, who were nothing loth to undertake the supervision of their education, and the care of their bodily welfare.
As time wore on the father found himself still less willing than at the first to fulfil his parental duties. He was a creature of small habits, and a very slave to routine. Any, even the smallest, infraction of the rules of his daily life jarred upon his nerves, and told (at least so he fancied)