صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

was augmented by guests who were, in his own estimation, worthy of being distinguished by more than ordinary marks of politeness and attention. It was therefore with feelings of astonishment that Herbert learnt from a servant, who met him as he was crossing the hall on his way to his mother's private sittting-room, where he expected to find her, that she was not there, Mr. Seymour having joined her at luncheon, and afterwards accompanied her to the drawing-room.

Accordingly the young man bent his steps thither.

As he opened the door, he perceived that his father and mother were alone. The former-standing on the hearth-rug, with his back to the fire, his fine figure drawn up to its fullest extent, and his face stern and determined—was speaking in a voice both authoritative and inflexible; while Mrs. Seymour, sitting on a sofa very near him, remained silent and motionless, listening to his words with downcast eyes and a heightened colour; although a casual observer might have supposed her to be wholly absorbed in watching the movements of Roselle—her favourite little Blenheim spaniel, who occupied a pink satin cushion at her feet.

For the space of half a second, Herbert felt strongly disposedseeing his presence was not suspected by either of them—softly to reclose the door and withdraw; but then he remembered that by doing this he would be exposing his mother to additional discomfort ; and he considered himself bound, alike by duty and inclination, to consult her pleasure before his own, and protect her as much as he possibly could from the slightest shadow of vexation or annoyance.

Consequently, without waiting for further deliberation, he entered the room, and, after closing the door somewhat noisily behind him, advanced to the upper end of it, and seated himself near Mrs. Seymour's sofa, where he stooped to caress the beautiful dog, who sprang from its comfortable cushion at his approach, and manifested such unequivocal marks of delight at seeing him, as were compatible with its canine disposition.

This unpremeditated act saved him the embarassment of encountering the keen searching gaze with which he instinctively felt Mr. Seymour was regarding him, and also gave him an opportunity of deciding what course he ought to pursue, should his father make any inquiries relative to his morning's occupation. The latter, however, had no intention of addressing him at all; for, after steadily watching him for a minute or two, he moved a step nearer his wife, and said slowly and distinctly,

“ I am now going to ascertain whether the orders I have given are being carried out; in the meantime you will, perhaps, have the goodness to inform your son of our arrangements, so that we may not be delayed at the last moment."

Mrs. Seymour bent her head in acquiescence, but made no other reply; and firmly and deliberately the gentleman left the apartment.

“Your son,” repeated Mrs. Seymour, raising her head, and speaking in a tone of more bitterness than Herbert had ever before heard her employ. “My poor Herbert ! your father is at last ashamed to own you." And she laughed hysterically.

“My darling mother,” said the young man, soothingly-for he was beginning to feel quite alarmed at this sudden change in her usually placid demeanour—"you surely will not allow such a trifle to distress you.”

" and,


"I cannot look upon it as a trifle,” she answered presently, with visi. ble agitation of manner, which she strove in vain to suppress; perhaps, if you had heard the cruel hint he let drop when I ventured to express my approbation of your conduct, you would agree with me is supposing

“I know it all,” said Herbert, gently; "for some time I have suspected that my father would not be content to remain passive much longer.”

Mrs. Seymour gave a repressed shudder. “But why should we anticipate evil ? .” continued Herbert, desirous of diverting her attention : “ to-day's burden is quite enough for us to bear, without attempting to-morrow's also.”

“True," returned his mother, with a sigh which would not be restrained

** Apropos of this,” he went on smilingly "were you not going to apprise me of some arrangement ?”

Oh, yes!” interrupted the lady, rousing herself, and speaking in a quick, hurried voice; " I forgot to mention that your father insists on our spending a week or two at Belmont Manor"—the seat of Sir William Crossley, twenty miles distant—"before the arrival of our Christmas visitors."

Is not that a very sudden resolve ?” asked Herbert, ir. surprise. * Yes': only a few days ago I wrote to Lady Crossley, and, with his entire concurrence, declined her invitation : but she and her husband have been here this morning, and—in short,” (this was added in a tone of resignation,)“ we must submit.”

“And when are we expected to be there?” questioned the young man, mustering firmness to repress every outward manifestation of the real disappointment her information had caused him.

This evening.”

“ So soon!” exclaimed Herbert, starting from his seat;" then I fear I must leave you for half an hour. I ought to write several letters before we start."

“ Just one word before you go,” said Mrs. Seymour, arresting him. Have you discovered any way of being of use to James Gordon ? But perhaps you had better not tell me,” she added, hastily checking herself, “ for I have no wish to betray you, and

“ You fear lest my father should again refer to him," suggested her son, looking though tful.

“I do," she answered, in a low tone; “ for when he first missed you from the house, he seemed very restless and uneasy; and spoke of the advisability of preventing you from having any further intercourse with the poor man."

“Ah!” cried Herbert, with a half-visible smile, “this is the real reason for our going to Belmont Manor. How exceedingly fortu. nite,” he continued softly to himself, that everything is already arranged !”

“Well, at first,” said Mrs. Seymour, who did not hear his conclud. ing words, “ I was inclined to entertain a similar opinion; but a moment's reflection showed me that a week or two could make very little material change in your feelings; and therefore your father must, of course, be aware that you would, on your return

" Find James Gordon gone,” observed Herbert, quietly.
“Why should he be gone ? " inquired Mrs. Seymour, quickly.


“ I spoke unguardedly,” said Herbert, finding himself in rather an embarrassing position; for he had wished to spare her the pain of hearing of the stringent measures which her husband had thought proper to adopt in order to banish James Gordon from the neighbourhood. But, Mrs. Seymour's suspicions having been once aroused, this evasive reply could not satisfy her; and after a minute's serious thought, Herbert considered it better to explain to her how matters stood, instead of leaving her to form her own conclusions, which, in the present apprehensive state of her mind, would most probably prove more unfavourable than the reality.

Not long, however, did he dwell upon the dark side of the picture, his object being to enlist her sympathies and awaken her interest in the fortunes of his humble friend—the depth and genuineness of whose reformation he had never once doubted—without adverting, save in the briefest and gentlest manner, to the unkind treatment he had received from Mr. Seymour.

And he succeeded; for, though. Mrs. Seymour stopped him when, forgetful of her desire to remain in ignorance of his plans and purposes, he was proceeding to make a confidante of her, yet the little she heard yielded her relief and satisfaction.

As soon as possible after accomplishing this desirable end Herbert retired to write his letters. One of these, which, when finished, he addressed to James Gordon, contained a recapitulation of his wishes, and also the necessary funds for carrying them out, together with a few lines to the lawyer who had hitherto taken charge of the property.

This done, he went in search of Lisburn, to whom he entrusted the packet, requesting him to give it into James Gordon's own hands that same evening.

An hour or two later Mr. Seymour's elegant travelling-carriage, with its six handsome bay horses, swept through the hamlet of Mertonsville, and, taking the road which led to Belmont Manor, was soon out of sight.

Before the expiration of another week James Gordon had taken up his abode, pro tem., at Herbert Cottage.


To live by law,
Acting the law we live by, without fear;

And, because right is right, to follow right." Nothing worthy of being recorded occurred while the Seymours remained at Belmont Manor; but Herbert, with his quick, intuitive perceptions, felt convinced that a crisis in his history was fast approaching.

Mr. Seymour appeared wrapped in a cloud of impenetrable gloom, or plunged in a state of uncontrollable and restless impatience, whenever he found himself in his son's more immediate presence; although in his intercourse with others he was the same as everpolite, courteous, and gentlemanly.

At the expiration of a fortnight, Mrs. Seymour much wished to return to Mertonsville, but her hostess prevailed on her to remain another week, as she was very desirous of securing her presence at a splendid ball she proposed giving in honour of her eldest son, who had just attained his majority.

If left entirely to herself, it is probable that-for Herbert's sakeMrs. Seymour would still have insisted on going home. A few calmly decisive words, however, spoken by her resolute husband, were sufficient to induce her gracefully to yield to Lady Crossley's wishes; and, this step taken, she forthwith strove to banish from her mind every reflection which might be calculated to render her unhappy, and obliterate all her past sober thoughts and gloomy foreshadowings, by entering heart and soul into her friend's project.

For two successive weeks Herbert's little flock at Mertonsville had met together, and held a prayer-meeting among themselves; but as the third approached, the young preacher felt a great desire to take his accustomed place in their midst.

Accordingly, on the morning of the day on which they usually assembled, Herbert was considering how he should announce his intention to Lady Crossley, when he accidently met her as he was traversing the intricate passages on his way to one of the sitting-rooms.

“I am just going to inspect the arrangements which have been made in the ball-room,” she said, smilingly accosting him: “will you accompany me?”

“With great pleasure,” responded her guest, delighted to have an opportunity of speaking to her alone.

* A coup d'æil will enable us to judge of the general effect,” continued the lady, pausing inside the door, and looking complacently around her. “What is your opinion, Mr. Herbert ?-shall we have a pleasant ball ?”

"I feel myself quite incapable of answering that question,” replied the young man, thoughtfully, almost sadly, gazing about him, and

picturing to himself the richly dressed throng of fair young creatures, with glowing cheeks, bright eyes, laughing lips, and graceful, sylph-like forms, who would that very night be gaily circling round the magnificently decorated room—woman's beauty blended with manhood's strength; all eagerly pursuing the evasive shadows of earthly happiness.

Lady Crossley regarded him with a face of suppressed amazement.

“I should be at a loss to comprehend such an ambiguous answer," she said presently, "had I not heard it whispered that you have conceived a dislike for dancing.”

Herbert smiled.

“I wish you would tell me what you see objectionable in it,” pursued the lady, after considering him attentively for a few seconds. “I have always been accustomed to look upon it as a very innocent amusement."

“ It is not the mere exercise of dancing that I object to

“I am glad to hear you say so, for it would really distress me were you to desert us to-night.”

A slight shade passed across Herbert's face, and for an instant he hesitated; then he spoke with gravity, gentleness, and firmness.

“I was about to add,” he said, “ that, however harmless dancing may be in itself, it leads to much evil, and is, in my opinion, a very unsuitable amusement for professing Christians.”

Why do you lay such evident stress upon these words ? Are we not all professing Christians ? "

“In one sense no doubt we are; but the class I more particularly allude to are those who, professing to have become new creatures in Christ Jesus, love Him supremely, and seek and find their happiness in Him, and Him alone. I appeal to yourself; is not the conduct of such at variance with their profession when they join in the sinful vanities and frivolities of a pleasure-loving world ?"

"I am so ignorant on these matters,” answered the lady, with a sigh, which she skilfully disguised in a smile.

“At any rate, you will, I am sure, admit that it would be cowardly (to use no stronger expression) for a person holding the views I have mentioned, to suffer himself to be persuaded into following practices which he condemns in his heart, merely from the dread of meeting with ridicule or being accused of singularity.”

“Certainly,” replied Lady Crossley, her lip curling scornfully; “I have ever been a lover of truth, and should despise any one who was so lamentably deficient in moral courage."

I knew it,” exclaimed Herbert, earnestly, a flush of pleasure rising to his brow as he advanced a step nearer the lady, with a smile of unconcealed triumph ; " I knew that you would despise me if I

You ?" she cried, looking at him in surprise. “Oh, I understand it now,” she added immediately afterwards, playfully shaking her head at him ; " if I had only known what a schemer you are, I should not thus unsuspectingly have given expression to my sentiments."

I am very glad you spoke so plainly,” returned Herbert, in a tone of deep feeling; “for I am encouraged to hope that you will be neither offended nor surprised at my non-appearance here to-night.”

Lady Crossley instantly became serious. " Then it is really your wish,” she said, in a grave, pondering tone, as if she were carefully considering her words, “ to take no part whatever in this ball.”

« السابقةمتابعة »