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HERBERT OBLIGED TO SEEK ANOTHER HOME.
“And opportunity I here have had To try thee, sift thee, and confess have found thee Proof against all temptation.”
MILTON. MR. SEYMOUR was sitting upon a large easy-chair near the fire, his chin resting on his hand, and his whole attitude betokening thought.
He turned his head with a gesture of impatience as the door opened, evidently expecting to see a servant. When he discovered who the intruder was, his eye flashed angrily, and a hard, stern look took immediate possession of his face.
" To what am I indebted for this wholly unexpected and, I may add, wholly unnecessary and most unwelcome visit ?” he inquired, in a slow, dry, measured tone, rising from his seat as he spoke, and remaining standing, as if to intimate that the interview must be a short one.
For several seconds Herbert could not answer ; a mist rose before his eyes, and his head grew dizzy, so that he would have fallen, had he not firmly grasped the back of a chair for support. After what he had already gone through that morning, it was not surprising that this last stroke should well-nigh overpower him.
However, he did not quite succumb; but, summoning into action his latent capacities of endurance, rallied his strength with astonishing rapidity, and as soon as the power of utterance returned to him, said, fixing his eyes steadily and sorrowfully upon his father's countenance, “I am aware that my presence is very irksome to you; still, I scarcely imagined you would object to tolerate it for a few moments at this particular time.”
Mr. Seymour bowed coldly and haughtily; and Herbert, chilled by the repelling stiffness of his manner, continued mournfully,
“ I see that you have ceased to feel the least regard for me, but as, in obedience to your command, I am about to leave this neighbourhood, and as I may never again have an opportunity of addressing you, I trust you will not refuse to speak to me before I go.”
Certainly not,” replied Mr. Seymour, calmly. “As you justly observe, this will be probably our last interview; we may as well therefore get over it as quickly as possible.”
“And have you nothing more to say ?” asked Herbert, in a choking voice.
· Nothing," answered his inexorable father.
“Not one word of kindness! not even a glance of affection!” murmured the young man, in the intensity of his grief. “O father, this is cruel."
Stay,” exclaimed Mr. Seymour, hastily seizing a sheet of paper, and, after writing a few lines on it, handing it to his son, together with an unsealed letter which he took from his desk. · Here is the address of Mr. Malcolm, who, as you are aware, manages all my business transactions for me. If ever you wish to communicate with me, it must be through him; otherwise, your letters will be consigned to the flames unread.”
May I not write to my mother ?” inquired Herbert, with keen anxiety.
Certainly,” was Mr. Seymour's ready response. “You are at liberty to write to her as often as you please.".
His look seemed to say that, notwithstanding this permission, it was doubtful whether she would ever be suffered to receive his letters, if he wrote them.
“This,” continued Mr. Seymour, pointing to the other paper which Herbert held in his hand, “ is a letter to my bankers, by which you will perceive that I have instructed them to pay you a fixed yearly sum, sufficient to maintain you in tolerable comfort, but nothing more. I need scarcely say that my reason for making this slight concession is to prevent any one from being able to charge me with having allowed a Seymour to starve; or, what is nearly as bad, forced him to work for his daily bread. At the same time I wish you clearly to understand that I decline under any circumstances to increase the specified allowance. If, therefore, you choose to incur debt, or dis. grace yourself in other ways, you will of course suffer for your folly. From this hour we shall be total strangers to each other; and should we at some future time have the misfortune to meet again—which God forbid !-it must be as such."
Herbert felt while listening to this candid explanation, as if the last drop of bitterness had been added to his cup. His cheek flushed deep with shame and sorrow, and laying down the papers upon the table, he exclaimed in a tone of grave surprise,
“I am sorry that you should have supposed me capable of accepting the bounty which you offer me under these very distressing circumstances."
“I do not comprehend you, sir,” observed Mr. Seymour, coldly.
“You have taken from me what I prized far more than the richest inheritance,” proceeded the young man, with quiet dignity ; “and no amount of wealth could compensate for the loss of your affection."
Mr. Seymour bit his lip. “Do you mean positively to decline receiving any pecuniary aid from me?” he asked in pure astonishment.
“I cannot accept money where love is withheld,” answered his son, firmly.
Perhaps when you have once tasted the sweets of poverty,” returned the gentleman, ironically, “you will not continue these heroics.”
“Poverty in itself is fortunately no disgrace,” said Herbert, thoughtfully, “and
“May I presume to ask you how you intend to live ?" inquired Mr. Seymour, with a sneer.
“I am not altogether penniless
“True, you have the paltry interest of a few thousands to fall back upon; but what is that? a mere pittance!”
“ If it is not sufficient, I can work.”
“You work!” said Mr. Seymour expressively, eying him with a sharp glance of scrutiny; " but a truce to this trifling,” he added sternly; “ do you insist on refusing my help?”
* Then it only remains for me to wish you good-morning, I sup. pose," returned Mr. Seymour, in a voice destitute of a spark of feel. ing; and he moved majestically towards the door.
Herbert would have withdrawn without another word, so convinced was he of the futility of expecting the rock to soften; but his eye chanced to light upon a large painting which occupied a prominent position at the opposite extremity of the room, and the sight of it at that instant touched him acutely. It was a family group, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Seymour and himself, a merry, laughing child of six summers; and, as he turned from the placid countenance of his happy mother, and gazed at the gentleman who stood leaning on the back of her chair-looking, not stern and proud, but contented and pleased, an indulgent smile upon his lip, and a soft light shining in his eye, while he watched with a father's partial fondness the movements of his only son—the young man's heart was filled to overflowing, and, forgetting all restraint, he exclaimed, in suffocating accents,
"Must I leave you thus? O my father, do not part from me in anger-only speak one word to tell me that you forgive me
He could say no more; but, impelled by a sudden and irresistible impulse, he seized his father's hand, and, before that gentleman had recovered from his astonishment, carried it to his lips.
Mr. Seymour was evidently moved at last. A wild tumult of feel. ing awoke in his breast, and the haughty expression of his countenance softened, until it almost seemed as if he would relent. But with the speed of lightning his emotion disappeared, and, apparently enraged with himself for having manifested this momentary weakness, he muttered a fierce imprecation, and roughly snatched his hand from Herbert's grasp.
Then, regaining, as if by magic, his former cold and pitiless manner, he opened the door with ostentatious politeness, and, after saying, stiffly and ceremoniously,—“Permit me the honour of bidding you farewell,”—he dismissed him with a stately bend of the head.
As may be imagined, Herbert had no wish to remain longer. He gravely returned his father's bow, and retired—a flood of strange emotion rushing into his wounded and desolate heart.
“Redclif fears you will be late for the train, sir,” said Browning, accosting him just as he was stepping into the carriage. Then perceiving that Herbert neither saw nor heard him, he continued-perhaps with a lingering hope that something might yet occur to prevent the young man from taking his contemplated journey—“Would it not be better to wait for the next train ?"
“No, no,” said Herbert, coming out of his reverie after the question had been repeated more than once, “ I cannot remain here another moment. We may yet be in time,” he added, glancing interrogatively at the coachman.
“ I will do my best, sir,” answered the latter, respectfully; and Herbert, drawing his hat over his brow, leaned back in the carriage, and did not again lift his eyes until they were at some distance from the house.
Thanks to Redclif's rapid driving, they reached the railway station at Dilton before the arrival of the train. Having taken his ticket, Herbert returned to give the footman, who had accompanied him, a few directions regarding some of his luggage, which had not yet been forwarded, and dismissed the carriage ; when to his surprise and
regret, he found that several of his humble friends were waiting to see him off. So far, however, from making any attempt to intrude themselves on his notice, they moved away directly he approached, as if to show that they understood and respected his feelings, and were resolved not to augment his grief by making any open demonstration of their own.
Herbert appreciated this silent and unobtrusive sympathy, in proof of which he turned towards them just as he was about to take his place in the train, and, after bestowing on them one last kindly glance of recognition, lifted his hat—and was gone!
Meanwhile, Mrs. Seymour lies on the couch in the solitude of her own room, pale and miserable. She has wept abundantly, and her tears have, in some measure, relieved her overcharged heart; but from the peevish and careworn expression which her face wears, it can at once be seen that she still continues to brood over her grief; while the angry contortions which occasionally destroy the pleasing regularity of her features, the frown which so repeatedly darkens her usually placid brow, and the sudden contemptuous flash which is emitted from her clear blue eye, proclaims only too loudly that she is listening to the artful insinuations of one, who, being himself the hater of peace and lover of discord, and desiring nothing better than to create strife and dissension between the members of one household, would gladly persuade her that to “ suffer and be still ” is a maxim which should be adopted by none but fools. And as even a worm will turn when trod upon, so Mrs. Seymour, notwithstanding the natural indolence of her disposition, and the repugnance with which she shrank from entering into any argument or discussion with her husband, felt so enraged at his injustice and unkindness to herself, as well as Herbert, that she resolved on going in immediate search of him, and reproaching him as the author of her sufferings.
The storm of passion, and say, Peace, be still ! ” Just as Mrs. Seymour was preparing with a palpitating heart to carry her purpose into execution, the door of her room was quietly opened, and a pleasant-looking woman, with grey hair, and a gentle, refined manner, entered, and advanced close up to the couch, bearing a small silver salver in her hand.
“I have brought you a glass of wine, ma'am,” she said, in a tone of much feeling, " for I am sure you must need it by this time.”
Mrs. Seymour turned round with a surprised start, but on seeing who it was she seemed greatly relieved.
Why did you take this trouble, my good Willson ? ” she asked: for Willson had been an old and valued servant of Mrs. Seymour's mother, and now resided at the Park, where she was expected to finish her days in rest and comfort.
The grey-haired woman made no reply to this question; she was gazing anxiously and tenderly into the lady's face, and when she saw how pale and sorrowful that face was, her own eyes filled with
“Ah! Willson, you can feel for me," exclaimed Mrs. Seymour, laying her head once more on the cushion, and weeping bitterly.
“Do not grieve thus, my dear lady,” said Willson, soothingly; “ we have all cause to lament Mr. Herbert's departure, but we must console ourselves with the thought that God does everything
“ But it is not His doing,” replied Mrs. Seymour, passionately; “ that is what makes it so hard to bear.”
Willson shook her head gravely. “You know, ma'am, He often brings good out of evil.”
“ I wish I could think of any good which can possibly spring from this,” sighed Mrs. Seymour.
“Who knows?” said the old woman, trying to speak hopefully. “ He may have some wise reason which we cannot now discern, for permitting you to be thus afflicted. I remember hearing Mr. Herbert say, in one of his sermons, that man's wrath is only allowed to work God's will; and when that is accomplished, its violence is immediately restrained."
“Man's wrath !” repeated Mrs. Seymour, in accents of concentrated bitterness. “Yes, that is the secret of it all ! ”
Willson noted with extreme uneasiness the unusual irritation of manner which her mistress seemed to be unsuccessfully striving against, as well as the perturbed, fretful, and excited expression of her countenance, which gave her a clear insight into the state of her feelings. For suffering, anguish, and even despair, she was prepared ; but she had not anticipated finding her thus incensed against Mr. Seymour, and for a moment she stood stunned and silenced by the apprehension, lest while labouring under her present sentiments she