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“Oh, no!” was the confident rejoinder, “these fancies never continue long. I had an instance of this a few days ago—but here we are. My dear Emma,” she said playfully, addressing her daughter, “ “ have you forgotten that you are engaged to Mr. Hastings for the next quadrille ?"
The young lady rose with a smile, and just then Charles Hastings, coming forward, exclaimed, “I am here to remind you of your promise, Lady Emma : may I still hope you will keep it?”.
“Certainly,” she replied, in surprise. Why should I not ? ”
The young man laughed, and glanced archly at Herbert; but when he spoke again, it was in too low a tone for any one, save Lady Emma, to hear.
As the two went off together, Lady Clifford turned to Herbert, saying complacently, “ If she had merely consulted her inclination, she would have remained here; for she is, I assure you, by no means fond of dancing.”
“ Indeed!” returned Herbert, with a doubtful smile—so slight as to be scarcely perceptible upon his lips—while Mr. Seymour's face expressed blank amazement.
- What a lovely gem ! cried her ladyship, presently taking up and examining attentively a beautifully executed cameo which was framed in massive gold, ornamented with antique chasings.
“ Few amateurs, I suspect,” she added, looking admiringly around her upon the many and various curious objects which were visible in every direction, “ have succeeded in making such a costly and unique collection as yours appears to be. Really, I must ask you, my dear Mr. Herbert, to undertake the task of cicerone. I am quite longing to hear the history of some of these beautiful things ! ”
“What shall I begin with ?” inquired Herbert, feeling rather amused at her sudden enthusiasm.
“Oh! anything—this exquisitely wrought silver cup, for instance.”
“We are indebted to the celebrated Florentine, Benvenuto Cellini, for it,” returned the young man, putting it into her hand,
as well as for these coins, which were all executed by him. This portrait also is worthy of your notice, being, I believe, the only one of the kind now to be found; it was presented to my father by the late Duke of C-."
Thus far Mr. Seymour had remained with them, taking no part in the conversation, but allowing neither a word nor look to escape his notice: now, however, with a brief sentence of apology, he withdrew, leaving Herbert and Lady Clifford alone altogether.
“ A clever woman of the world,” he murmured with a grim smile, as he returned to his other guests. “I was nonplussed at first, but now that I understand her object, I will do all I can to further it.”
As he said this, his eye sought out Lady Emma, who was gracefully floating through the mazes of an intricate dance with Charles Hastings, and while he gazed his stern brow relaxed, and a smile, such as his face had rarely worn of late, appeared on his lips. “Yes, that will do!” he exclaimed, half aloud, with the air of one who has just solved a difficult problem ; “let him be once persuaded to marry her, and we shall hear nothing more of his religious scruples.”
This scheme, which he had so hastily, and, as he himself thought, so happily hit upon, for restoring Herbert to his former habits and pursuits, occupied Mr. Seymour's mind both night and day for many
successive weeks, and he did not confine himself to mere thinking; for, having ascertained that Lady Clifford's sentiments coincided with his own, he began, like a skilful general, to consider how he could most effectually lay siege to Herbert's heart.
He knew that in order to succeed he must act with judgment, discretion, and tact; and accordingly he commenced his operations in a very cautious and unsuspicious manner; and, while making no secret of his own preference for Lady Emma, he carefully concealed from Herbert his real reason for throwing him so constantly into her society.
For a time, therefore, the latter was happily unconscious of the intentions of his father regarding him, though he did occasionally remark, with some surprise, that Lady Emma's name was perpetually on his lips, and that her charms were depicted, her accomplishments enumerated, and her real or fancied virtues extolled with uncommon and uncalled-for frequency and warmth.
But his eyes were opened at last, and it happened in this wise.
He was going to the village to preach one evening, when, on turning a corner of the road, he nearly ran against some one who was walking in the opposite direction. As he stopped to apologise for his undesigned incivility, he was greeted with a hearty and goodhumoured laugh.
Ah, Charles ! is that you ? " cried Herbert, recognising the voice, though it was almost too dark for him to observe his features.
Well, if you had asked me that question half an hour ago, I should have answered in the affirmative,” replied the young man, still laughing; " but you have given my nerves such a shock that I could not positively swear to my own identity at the present moment."
“Were you on your way to the Park ?” * Yes, I wanted to speak to you about our riding party to-morrow."
“I am sorry I cannot offer to return with you,” said Herbert, frankly; " but the fact is, I have an appointment at eight, for which, I fear, I am already late."
“I thought you seemed in a desperate hurry,” observed Mr. Hastings, moving round and passing his arm within that of his friend. “I suppose, however, there can be no objection to my accompanying you part of the way ?"
“Will you not rather proceed to the house ? "
“For what purpose ?" said the young man, lightly. “My object was to see you, and it is already attained.”
“ But there are others who would gladly welcome you,”, returned Herbert, with a smile; “for several of my father's friends have been dining with him, and you well know how delighted he is on such occasions to have the assistance of one who is, like you, gifted with an inexhaustible fund of ready wit."
“So you can be sarcastic, i perceive, Herbert."
“ Not so, my friend; I was merely repeating words which I have heard addressed to you a hundred times.”
Charles Hastings shrugged his shoulders.
“And who may these friends be ?” he asked irreverently. “None, I presume, that I should care to meet.”
“ I am not so sure of that. There is young Mr. Hilton and his father, Sir William Crossley, Algernon Ramsey, and John Wilmot. Then the ladies"
“Oh, I scarcely thought of them !” exclaimed Mr. Hastings, quickly. “Tell me their names, my dear fellow.”.
With a smile at his impatience, Herbert complied ; and when he had finished the list by mentioning Lady Clifford and her daughter, his companion said bluntly, “Why did you leave them, Herbert ?"
“ I thought I explained to you,” he answered in surprise, “that I have an appointment which I am anxious to keep.".
“ But will not Lady Emma be very indignant when she discovers your absence ?"
“Lady Emma indignant !” cried Herbert, “I do not comprehend you. There are others far more capable of amusing her than myself, if that is your meaning.”
“You certainly speak coolly, Herbert ! Now, I should have imagined that, under existing circumstances, it would be more natural for you to wish to entertain her in your own house too) yourself, instead of entrusting her to the care of others.”
“My dear Charles, what are you talking about ?" inquired Herbert, feeling, it must be confessed, a little impatient. “Do you suppose I take any particular interest in Lady Emma, or is it merely for your amusement that you are talking thus ?”
“Do you mean, then, to deny your own engagement?” said Mr. Hastings, in a tone between jest and earnest; “ for I assure you it seems to be well known to others."
“What is well known ?” returned Herbert, more and more puzzled.
“Why,” replied the other, with a constrained laugh, “have I not yet made myself intelligible? It is generally supposed that you and Lady Emma are engaged to be married.”
“ I am grieved to hear it,” said Herbert, after a moment's hesitation. “I only hope the absurd report will not reach the young lady's ears; for it would, doubtless, affect her even more painfully than it does me.”
“ Then am I to understand that there is no truth in the assertion ?" asked his companion, presently.
“None whatever !” was the reply, given with startling emphasis. Charles Hastings whistled softly, and walked for a few steps in silence. At length he spoke again. “How is it, then, that Mr. Seymour encourages the idea, and always appears so satisfied when he sees you together ? and how is it that Lady Clifford constantly advises her daughter to give up dancing ? and how is it that the young lady herself,
“Stop, Charles ! I beg you will say no more,” interrupted Herbert, greatly distressed; you are, you must be, altogether mistaken. Surely my father would not, could not, act so cruelly ; and yetsuddenly stopped; for there rushed into his mind a thousand reasons for concluding that it was all too true; and the displeased brow and firm-set lips would have shown Charles Hastings, had he been able to read his countenance, how seriously he was annoyed.
“I could not possibly have foreseen this,” he continued, as if forgetful of the presence of his friend ; “nor do I understand how any one could have so grievously misunderstood me.”
After a little consideration he turned to Mr. Hastings, and added in a voice which was no longer stern or troubled, “I am thankful that you have at last opened my eyes, Charles ; and for the future I shall be on my guard."
“I was just regretting having interfered in the matter at all,” rejoined the young man, gently ; “it has only vexed and disturbed you; and well it may,” he went on, speaking with indignation and generous warmth. “I can scarcely believe that Mr. Seymour could so mercilessly and deliberately
Hush, my dear Charles,” said Herbert, striving to check his angry protest; "you must not abuse my father. Remember how much I have done to annoy him ; what a keen disappointment it is to him to find that my tastes and pursuits are so opposed to his own, and then you will not, I am sure, judge him harshly.”
If you begin to take his part, I have nothing more to say.” “This is where I am expected,” said Herbert, as he stopped the next instant at the door of the somewhile barn ; “so I must now bid you good-night. We shall, I hope, meet again to-morrow.
But to his surprise Mr. Hastings seemed in no hurry to leave him. He glanced at the windows, from which streamed a cheerful and brilliant light; then he turned his eyes toward the door which Herbert was about to open; and finally, with a good deal of hesitation, he said, laying his hand upon his friend's arm, “ Herbert, I should like to go in with you."
“ You !” exclaimed the young man, in accents of surprise. you serious ? »
“ Perfectly. Would you greatly object to my doing so ?”
“Object! No!” returned Herbert, warmly. “But,” he added, gravely and significantly, “ before permitting you to enter, I must warn you that if you expect to have your curiosity gratified, or your ear pleased by listening to the enticing words of man's wisdom,' you will meet with nothing but disappointment: let me therefore advise you to consider for an instant ere you
“I have considered," was the hasty and somewhat impatient reply.
“ So be it then,” said Herbert; and, with a smile, he opened the door, and entered the building, closely followed by his friend.
PLEASURE AND PAIN.
“ The honest heart, that's free frae a'
Intended fraud or guile,
BURNS. After seeing that Mr. Hastings was suitably accommodated with a seat, Herbert approached a small raised platform at the upper end of the room, and took up his own position behind an oaken table, which was neatly covered with crimson cloth. While he thoughtfully turned over the pages of his hymn-book, before commencing the service, his late companion, inspired by the novelty of his position, with a lively feeling of curiosity, stole a brief glance around him, and was astonished at the number of persons present--the large room being quite full—as well as irresistibly struck by the general air of seriousness which pervaded the assembly.
During the first prayer, he experienced an indefinable sensation of discomfort, amounting almost to regret, at finding himself so completely out of place. Herbert's language was too earnest, too vivid, too spiritual, for him to follow: he had not been accustomed to listen to such prayers; therefore, he did not understand them, and they only rendered him uncomfortable. If he could have managed to slip away unperceived, he would gladly have done so; but, unfortunately for his purpose, he was hemmed in on every side, and, notwithstanding his anxiety to depart, he did not wish to make himself the object of general observation.
As the service proceeded, his sentiments underwent a rapid change -he no longer wished himself away! He was, however, neither convinced of his own sinfulness, nor impressed with the desire of becoming himself a Christian ; but he was softened-interested pleased.
The singing in particular touched and elevated him-albeit those who engaged in it were rough, unskilful, unpretending men and women,-yes, and children, too,—to whom the science of music was unknown; and the clear, logical arrangement, and cogent arguments which characterised Herbert's discourse; the winning, yet uncompromising manner in which he inculcated Divine truth; his energetic, yet kindly spirit ; his perfect simplicity and affectionate sincerity, proved very fascinating to the gay-hearted, impetuous young man, who, in spite of his usual careless and pleasure-loving disposition, was well able to discriminate between truth and error, and instantly detected the infinite superiority of these earnest, resistless, and plainly convincing arguments, to the false, puerile, and superficial reasoning he had often before listened to on the same lofty subject, with the greatest indifference and even impatience.
He wished to avoid speaking to Herbert at the end of the service, and for that purpose endeavoured to make his exit directly it was