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Silently they pursued their way for a few minutes; but at last Herbert remarked to his humble companion, “Well, Lisburn, you have begun the day in a profitable manner.”
“In a profitable manner !” echoed the gardener, quite puzzled. “What can you mean, sir?"
“ I did not like disturbing you,” explained Herbert; “so I waited outside your door until your devotions were concluded; and I was reminded of the words of the Psalmist,— My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord.'”
Lisburn glanced furtively at him while he was speaking, vainly endeavouring to comprehend the humour of his gay young master by observing the expression of his face: then he said deprecatingly, “ Excuse me,
sir; I have no wish to appear presuming, but indeed it is not right to jest on so serious a subject.”
* Very true, Lisburn. You are, however, mistaken in supposing that I am not in earnest. Does it appear so strange to you,” he added, as he saw that Lisburn stood transfixed with astonishment, " that I, too, should have been brought to love the Lord, and to count it one of my chief delights to read His Word and pray to Him ?”
" And is this really the case ?” asked Lisburn, still looking somewhat bewildered.
“Yes. Thank God, I can say, 'The Lord is my light and my salvation,' was the gladsome answer.
“Bless His holy name ! ” fervently ejaculated the pious old man, as soon as his pleasurable emotion enabled him to speak. “I could scarcely believe it at first; it seemed too good to be true. just tell me how it came about, sir ?"
“ Wonderful ! most wonderful !” he exclaimed, in a tone of heartfelt delight, when Herbert had briefly mentioned what he was desirous of knowing: “Who could have supposed that you would be thus brought to the knowledge of the truth at such an apparently unlikely time?"
“You know, Lisburn,” rejoined Herbert,“ God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways; and frequently, when we least expect it, He sends the blessing we require.”
* And your father?” asked the other presently, with a little anxiety.
“He knows nothing yet; but I intend to embrace the first opportunity of telling him.”
“I think you are right, sir,” said Lisburn, “ in-"
He stopped abruptly, and passed his hand twice across his forehead, as if some painful thought had suddenly revisited his memory; but, quickly recovering himself, he continued earnestly,—“ Take an old man's advice, my dear young sir, and don't suffer yourself to become disheartened, even though my master should seem annoyed when he first hears of this change. Just cast your every burden on the Lord, and patiently wait His time; and if He sends you trials, He will also impart grace and strength to enable you to endure them.”
“ Thank you, my good friend,” said Herbert, seizing the old man's hand—to his no little surprise—and shaking it heartily. “I am glad I have seen you, for last night I felt greatly depressed in spirit as I reflected on the future; I almost feared I was alone—the only one at Mertonsville who cared for these things; but I know better now, and shall go away strengthened and refreshed.”
“Ah," mused Lisburn, as he watched the young man's retreating figure, “how prone we all are to feel thus at times ! we forget that while Jesus lives His people can never really be alone, for He has promised to be with them even unto the end of the world. But," he added, turning briskly round, and walking in the direction of his own cottage, “I must carry the good news to my wife ; it will make her very heart glad."
Herbert, meanwhile, had re-entered the house, and joined his parents, who were taking their seats at the breakfast table.
After making several abortive attempts to introduce the subject which occupied his thoughts, he was obliged to put it off until the meal was over. Then he was preparing to plunge into the matter without any useless circumlocution, but Mrs. Seymour suddenly prevented him by saying, “ Do you know, Herbert, that Lady Clifford's ball takes place to-morrow night?
“ I was not aware of it,” he answered absently.
“ How unfortunate it would have been,” she continued, “had you arrived too late for it !"
“Now is my time,” thought Herbert. Yet even as he thus decided there came a rush of mingled feeling into his heart; for though on the one hand he was conscious that it would be inconsistent for a professing Christian to mingle with the pleasure-seeking throng, and join in the fascinating engagements of ady Clifford's brilliant assembly, yet on the other he was assailed by the artful deceiver, who endeavoured with his usual subtlety to persuade him that it was his duty to obey the wishes of his parents.
“You need not,” suggested the wily tempter, “make a practice of yielding to these things. But surely for once it can do you no harm, and will give them gratification. Say, therefore, nothing at present. After the ball you can explain how matters stand with you.”
Shall the tempter succeed in drawing Herbert a step out of the narrow path? Will he with his specious arguments prevail, and induce the young Christian soldier to lay down his arms for a moment, and go over to the enemy? No! Another thought flashed like a ray of heaven-born light into his mind,-“No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” It was enough! Christ must be followed at any cost.
Mother,” said the young man, “I should be grieved to cause you or my father any disappointment; but if you will listen to me for a few moments, I think you will see that I could not well accompany you to-morrow night.”
“Not go to Lady Clifford's ball!” cried Mrs. Seymour, in amaze
“Wait an instant, my dear,” quietly interposed her husband," and let us first hear what he has to say.”
Then Herbert commenced his task by plainly explaining his meaning, and mentioning the motives which actuated him in renouncing many things which he had been accustomed to regard as essential to happiness; and, while firmly intimating his desire of devoting himself henceforth to the service of his Lord and Saviour, he also assured them that on every other point-save where his conscience forbade-it would be his aim to render prompt obedience to their slightest wish.
As he thus spoke, a variety of changes chased themselves in quick succession over Mr. Seymour's countenance. First, he simply looked amused; then surprised: but as his son went on, these gave place to an expression of grave sternness; and when Herbert had ended, he
said to him in a tone of extreme displeasure, “How you could have made up your mind to act in this ridiculous manner I cannot conceive; but, as you really appear to be infected with these fanciful notions, all I can do is to advise you to get rid of them at the outset.”
“God forbid !” exclaimed Herbert, gently.
Almost involuntarily Mr. Seymour started, and frowning ominously, he continued, -" Everything like cant and fanaticism I detest, and will not excuse it—no, not even in you; and if this is my sentiment, what will others say, should you persist in acting up to these dinary ideas ? Why, the consequence will be, that even amongst your best friends you will be an cbject of ridicule and contempt.”
“I must risk it,” answered Herbert. “Even my Master, who was holy and harmless, did not escape; and it is not for me, His follower, to shrink from anything He may have ordained for me.
Mr. Seymour was perplexed and astonished; for he knew that in days gone by the most distant allusion of this kind would have raised his son's spirit and pride together. Now, as he glanced at him, he could not help perceiving the calm look of peace which reposed upon his unruffled brow; and for a moment he was touched.
The next time he spoke it was in a somewhat kinder tone. “Nonsense, my boy; you are placing difficulties in your own way: the things you object to are really in themselves quite harmless. Thousands of good Christians are constantly seen at balls and other like places of amusement, and why should you affect to be better than others ? Come now,” he added in a more persuasive manner, “ be reasonable, and give up these absurd fancies before you go farther.”
Herbert shook his head sadly. It cannot be. O my father!" he pleaded in an earnestly touching voice, "do not, I beseech you, oppose me in this thing; suffer me to go on in the way I feel I ought, and be assured you will never repent of your kindness.”
“I cannot let you alone,” retorted Mr. Seymour, the red flush of anger mounting to his forehead, “and see you disgrace yourself and your family.”
“Oh! surely not disgrace.”
“Yes, I repeat it, disgrace!” And there was a bitter emphasis upon the word, which made it grate more harshly on Herbert's ear.
He did not reply, for he felt how useless it would be to say anything further, especially as Mr. Seymour was already much exasperated.
Presently the latter rose, and saying loftily, “ We will not continue this unpleasant subject longer at present; you shall have time to think over my advice, and I doubt not, ere many weeks have gone by, you will be yourself again,” he hastily left the room.
Herbert was the first to speak after his departure. “My dear mother,” he said, gazing wistfully into her face; “I fear I have displeased you as well as my father.”
“Displeased me!” she answered quickly. “Oh, no! surprise, not anger, has kept me silent.”
Herbert thanked her by a look of gratitude; and she continued regretfully,—“I am sorry that you did not think of speaking to me alone on the subject first. However, it is useless to talk of that now. Are you quite sure,” she added, hesitatingly, “that it is your duty to deprive yourself of so much enjoyment ?"
- Worldly amusements afford me no pleasure now," he replied, with a frank smile ; “having obtained the substance, I no longer desire the shadow."
“ I understand you a little, Herbert,” said Mrs. Seymour, hurriedly; “ for once I, too, thought—but no matter- And she suddenly checked herself. Then, forcing a laugh which sounded strangely unnatural, she exclaimed, starting abruptly from her seat, and going towards the door, “I promised to drive with Mrs. Hastings this morning, so I am obliged to leave you, as I do not wish to keep her waiting. Will you ring the bell, my dear, and order the carriage ?"
Herbert turned to fulfil this request; but before he could do more than lay his hand upon the bell, he felt his mother's arms wind lovingly around him, and heard her say, in a low, agitated voice, “I cannot go without telling you that I feel you are right; but, oh! my darling Herbert, I tremble for you."
“ You feel that I am right,” cried Herbert, joyfully ; " then will not you also, my own dear mother, seek
No, no,” she said, interrupting him, while a quick look of pain passed over her features, “I could not act as you have done ; to know what is right, and to practise it, are two very different things.'
“ Different, indeed,” began Herbert, gravely; but ere he could conclude his sentence, Mrs. Seymour had left him.
Noiselessly she crossed the wide hall, ascended the stairs, and with an uneasy expression upon her countenance, entered her dressingroom, where—after carefully fastening the door—she sat down among the cushions of a luxurious couch, and allowed herself a few moments for serious reflection.
A chord had been touched in her heart, the vibrations of which thrilled through her every nerve. Memory, starting up at the unwonted sound, brought many past events—long since buried in forgetfulness —most vividly before her.
She saw as in a dream herself once more a young and blooming girl, just standing on the threshold of womanhood, and also the form of her Christian mother; and as she again listened to the gentle words which fell from that mother's lips—words of warning and entreatyshe remembered how fondly she had loved her ; how frequently she had mused on the holy consistency of her character; how ardently she had longed to resemble her; and how, time after time, in answer to her earnest pleadings, she had promised to yield herself unto Christ.
Then the scene was changed, and she found herself suddenly placed in one of the most perilous positions it is perhaps possible for a young girl to occupy. The undisputed possession of wealth, beauty, and accomplishment; brought out into the full glare of worldly pomp and show, without the corrective influence of a mother's watchful care, she was courted and caressed by those who surrounded her, praised by friends, flattered by dependants, and admired by all for her grace and loveliness ; until one by one her early impressions faded, every serious thought was banished from her mind; and when at length the time came for her to make a firm stand, either for Christ or the world, she unhesitatingly chose the latter for her portion, and hushed the voice of conscience, which bade her beware, lest, gaining the world, she should lose her soul.
These reminiscences were not pleasant ; and after struggling with them awhile, Mrs. Seymour succeeded in locking with a determined hand the chamber of memory; and, smothering a deep sigh, which told of the evanescent and unsatisfactory nature of the joys she had so eagerly sought, she prepared herself for her drive.
“If I know how to manage these affairs,
Richard II. After his mother's departure, Herbert passed some hours alone, thinking over the events of the morning, and seeking guidance and strength for what yet lay before him.
The manner in which his communication had been received by Mr. Seymour chilled and disappointed him, but he encouraged himself in the hope that, by invariably yielding ready compliance to his wishes whenever they were conformable to the sacred duty he owed to God —who, as his Creator and Redeemer, claimed his supreme affection and filial obedience—he might be enabled eventually to disarm opposition and conquer prejudice.
At length his meditations were brought to an abrupt termination by the unceremonious entrance, and somewhat noisy greeting, of a young man named Charles Hastings, who, on account of his having been from his earliest boyhood Herbert's chosen friend and playmate, was considered quite a privileged person at Mertonsville, and allowed to come and go just when and how he pleased.
"Welcome home, my dear fellow,” he exclaimed, rushing impetuously forward, and seizing Herbert's hand in both his own.
" How are you after your wanderings ? "
Very well, and glad to see you once more," replied Herbert, warmly.
Then followed an animated conversation, in the course of which Mr. Hastings detailed some of the most interesting occurrences that had taken place in the neighbourhood during his friend's absence.
Herbert could scarcely restrain a smile, while listening to his witty remarks and humorous anecdotes ; but ere long he was saddened at the tone of reckless levity with which he spoke on every subject, however serious, and a pang of remorse came across him as he remembered how much of his own life had been thus wasted in vain, foolish, and unprofitable conversation.
All unconscious of this feeling, his companion rattled on for a considerable time, until, having at last exhausted his experience of the past, he turned to the future. By the bye, Herbert, you will, of course, join our party, as usual, at the D- - races ? I only hope we may find as much enjoyment as we have hitherto done. Do you recollect the last time we attended them together ? "
Charles Hastings laughed, and observed significantly, “ It would be strange if you had; for some of our adventures were- But what is the matter? ” he interrupted himself to ask, as for the first time he took note of the expression of Herbert's face. “ Does not the retrospect please you?”