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A dead silence succeeded; for Mr. Seymour, who had also recognised his son's voice, stood as if rooted to the spot, with his lips tightly compressed together, and his eyes staring vacantly through the nearest window.
Colonel Fowler keenly watched his proceedings, smiling grimly meanwhile, although, to do him justice, his sentiments would have undergone a speedy transition had any one hinted to him the possibility of Herbert's suffering from this accidental and, as himself thought, amusing discovery.
Sir George Hastings' eyes, too, were fixed upon Mr. Seymour's face, but with a very different expression; for he hoped to see some symptom of relenting, some token whereby he might conclude that his cold heart was softened and touched.
He hoped in vain !
After waiting just long enough to hear Herbert read in clear melodious tones, such as rendered every word distinctly audible to those without, the first verse of that well-known hymn
“ How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear," etc., and commence a simple tune, in which he was immediately joined by the others, the worldly father, without one thrill of emotion, moved wrathfully away, muttering between his closed teeth,
“ This shall be put a stop to !”
" Would it not be well for us to change our purpose ?" inquired Colonel Fowler, maliciously. “ It strikes me that we shall be better employed here ;” and he made a feint of returning to the door of the building.
“ Fowler, beware what you do!” said Sir George Hastings, hastily drawing him aside, and speaking in an impressive whisper: "I know you are always rejoiced to have an opportunity of entering into a disputation with my friend Seymour; but I do not imagine you would wilfully injure his son."
“ Injure! How ? " exclaimed the other, in astonishment.
“ I will explain my meaning at some future time. In the meanwhile pray introduce another subject on which to converse.
Thus saying, he rejoined Mr. Seymour, and did not again leave his side until they arrived at their destination. Before they parted for the night he made an earnest endeavour to convince him of the folly of attempting to change Herbert's opinions, and represented to him the mutual and irreparable disjunction which would be the inevitable consequence of his inducing him-even if he succeeded in doing so—to yield a forced obedience to his will.
in my opinion,” continued the kind-hearted man, “ you ought to fee.f.cud rather than ashamed of the position your son'occupies.”
"Proud ! ” repeated Mr. Seymour, bitterly. “Oh, yes! I have indeed reason to be proud of him." “ You must not forget, my dear Seymour
Say no more, Hastings,” returned the gentleman, in rather an agitated voice. “We have been friends from our earliest childhood, and I should not wish the bond, which has existed so long, to be snapped asunder now. Such, however, would, I fear, be the case, were we to pursue this matter further; for I will candidly confess to you that it is a subject on which I cannot speak without losing my temper."
Sir George shook his head gravely. “I feel you are wrong," he said, in a tone of gentle decision ; “but, of course, I have no right to dictate to you how to act."
“You have the right of warm and long-continued friendship,” said Mr. Seymour, recovering his wonted urbanity, and frankly extending his hand, which the other as frankly took; "and that is a claim I should be the very last to dispute.”.
And thus the subject was dropped.
All unconscious of what had occurred, Herbert bent his steps homeward at the conclusion of the service, reflecting deeply upon the glorious truths he had so lately been proclaiming. Everything else appeared so insignificant to him at that moment. Earth, with its ten thousand beauties, its fair landscapes, its hills and its valleys, verdant glades and flowing streams, fragrant flowers and sunny skies; life, with its manifold privileges and responsibilities, its joys and sorrows, smiles and tears, hopes and fears; health, strength, wealth, youth, friends, and pleasure,-all seemed as nothing, when contrasted for an instant with the “eternal weight of glory” which remains for God's redeemed children in heaven.
“Is my father within ?” was his first question on entering the house.
“No, sir,” answered the servant. “It is nearly two hours since he went out."
“ And my mother ?”
Herbert took a few steps in that direction, and then altering his mind, he turned round, and said, “Before going to her, I will meet any of you who may feel disposed to join me in the library.”
The man understood him perfectly; for he quickly disappeared, and a minute or two afterwards returned, followed by a number of the other servants, who, Bibles in hand, took their seats, and listened with marked attention while Herbert read and explained a few verses from the sacred volume, closing the simple service wich a brief though fervent prayer.
Then they retired quietly as they had assembled; and the young man remained for a short time alone, until he was informed that Mrs. Seymour expected him at tea.
“I hope I have not kept you waiting,” he said, as he seated himself beside her.
“Oh, no,” she answered, smilingly, handing him a cup of tea, “but I feared you would be tired; and, indeed,” she added, gazing anxiously in his face, “you are looking quite exhausted—what have you been doing?"
“Nothing more than usual,” returned Herbert, cheerfully.
Mrs. Seymour shook her head doubtingly. “It is very evident to me that you attempt too much, Herbert; your cheeks are becoming thinner and paler every day.”
The young man tried to convince her that she was mistaken; but he did not, as he might have done, explain to her that if any alteration had taken place in his appearance, it was the result, not of overwork, but of the painful state of agitating suspense in which his father's morose and unnatural conduct had so perpetually kept him of late.
MR. SEYMOUR DRIVES MATTERS TO EXTREMITY.
“I dare not choose my lot :
BONAR. Soon after breakfast the following morning Herbert received a message from Mr. Seymour, commanding his presence in the library. He was scarcely surprised at this; for his father's manner had led him to expect it; but now that the long-looked-for moment had arrived, which would in all probability essentially affect his whole future prospects, his heart throbbed violently, and he proceeded to obey the summons, instinctively feeling that the conference would not be a pleasant one, and filled with deep anxiety as to the result.
Mr. Seymour was seated at his writing-table when the young man entered the library; but he instantly laid down his pen, and, after motioning him to a chair, opened the conversation by saying in a tone of unbending authority,
“ It would be superfluous for me to enter into any useless explanation of my motive in requesting your attendance here this morning, as it must be obvious even to yourself that it is quite time for us to come to a mutual and unequivocal understanding."
Herbert had nothing to say in answer to this, therefore he remained silent.
“You may probably remember,” continued Mr. Seymour-and there was a sneer discernible on his countenance," that when you first did me the honour of making known to me your altered views, I frankly expressed my disapprobation of the course you pro posed adopting, and advised you to reconsider your determination.”
Yes, I remember it well,” said Herbert, as he paused for an “And yet, so far from respecting my wishes, you have ever since that time been acting, in direct opposition to them! Instead of accommodating yourself to my well-known habits and pursuits, you have established new customs and introduced new practices, without even going through the form of consulting me on the subject. You have also been guilty of unauthorised interference in my own private affairs, by so unwarrantably assuming the management and guidance of my tenants."
“Pardon me,” replied Herbert, astonished beyond measure at such an extraordinary accusation ; “ my conscience acquits me of any culpability in this respect ; I have never by word or deed sought to interfere
“ Your conscience!” repeated Mr. Seymour, significantly; “ does it not sometimes remind you of the duty you owe your parents ?”.
" It is my sincere desire to afford you satisfaction,” said Herbert, mildly; "and I am most anxious to obey your commands whenever
“ It suits you to do so!” impatiently interrupted Mr. Seymour.
“ But enough of this,” he continued after a pause ; "it is the future, not the past, of which I would speak.”
He rose; and having thrice paced the apartment without taking any further notice of his son, stopped at length in front of him, and, fixing his eyes sternly upon his face, proceeded in a tone of unmistakable bitterness,—" Perhaps you do not know that you are the talk of the whole neighbourhood; and your Quixotic plan of trying to reform all those with whom you come in contact, is greatly ridiculed by your friends. Indeed, some of them have, in my hearing, gone so far as to question whether you are altogether in your right mind.”
Herbert's cheek grew a shade paler than usual; but he ventured no remark; and his father went on with increased asperity,
“Now is this to be continued ? Are you still resolved to lay yourself open to such malevolent observations ? Because if so, it only remains for me to pronounce my decision.”
' My dear father,” said Herbert, in his gentlest tones, "you place me in a very painful position; for, though I would most gladly sacrifice everything else to gain your approbation, I dare not endanger my own safety by seeking the praise of men. I must look higher."
“ I wish you would look higher !” exclaimed Mr. Seymour, wrathfully, “and not degrade yourself by mixing with the lower orders in the way you do. Really it appears to me that you prefer their society to that of your equals ! Look higher indeed! it is just what I want you to do.”
“ Father, you mistake me," said Herbert. “I mean that it is my duty to look above the approbation of the world to that of God Himself. What would it signify to me at the last solemn hour, whether my actions had been applauded by men or not?”.
" In other words, you wish, I presume, to intimate that you are still obstinately bent on pursuing your own ridiculous practices, regardless of the consequences."
This was said with such marked and provoking emphasis that Herbert involuntarily raised his eyes inquiringly to his father's face.
“Am I right, sir ?" demanded that gentleman, sharply.
“Will you not first tell me what part of my conduct appears to you particularly objectionable ?” asked Herbert, gently; " for if I can in any way meet your views, without infringing upon the sacred obligations I owe to the King of kings, I will do so."
“ It is not one thing, but everything that displeases me," returned the unreasonable man.
“I am indeed unfortunate," said Herbert, mournfully.
“For months,” continued Mr. Seymour, in an aggrieved tone, "you have been a perpetual thorn in my side, disgracing the name you bear, and giving me abundant cause to feel ashamed of possessing such a son. But,” he proceeded with suddenly awakened passion, “ I will submit to your caprices no longer; you shall either agree to my terms, in which case, need scarcely inform you, I am ready to forget all that has passed, and treat you with the affection and consideration you have until lately received from me;
He paused for a moment, and paced the floor again with stern compressed lips and knitted brow, appearing to forget his son's presence.
In the interim Herbert took a rapid mental survey of his unpleasant position. He felt, from the tone his father assumed, that it
would be as easy to remove a mountain from its base as to conciliate him, except by agreeing to all his unrighteous demands; and, much as he longed for peace, he dared not purchase it at such a price. Wishing, therefore, to know the worst at once, he said, accosting Mr. Seymour in a firm voice, though his lip trembled a little,
“ If the terms you allude to should be such as I cannot conscientiously submit to, what alternative do you propose ?”
Harsh, despotic, and unaccustomed as he was to be checked or thwarted in anything on which he had fixed his desire, Mr. Seymour's face became overcast with a black, sullen cloud, as Herbert asked the simple question, and, for the space of a few seconds, anger and surprise rendered him silent and motionless. When he recovered his self-command, he replied, in a voice of suppressed rage, a wintry smile curling his thin lip,
“Yes; it is quite fitting that you should be told what to expect, in the event of your continuing to resist my authority. Know, then, that, after much and serious thought, I have resolved on allowing you a fortnight in which to ponder my words: if, at the expiration of that time, you agree to carry out my wishes, well and good; if, on the contrary, you are still bent on defying me, I shall—availing myself of the power I fortunately possess—take immediate steps to nullify any documents which may have been executed in your favour, and regard you from henceforth as a stranger instead of a son. Nay, more; I will hold no further intercourse, either direct or indirect, with you; the same roof shall not cover us; and, as far as I am concerned, you will be virtually dead.”
Herbert listened with acute suffering to this cruel and unfeeling address; and, for some minutes after Mr. Seymour had ceased speak. ing, the words continued to ring in his ears. His emotion was too vehement for him to feel himself capable of making any reply; but he lifted a long, earnest, beseeching, appealing glance to his father's face; then, sighing deeply, as if convinced that he had indeed heard aright, he sadly withdrew his eyes, and, rising slowly from his seat, turned to leave the room.
Stay one moment,” said Mr. Seymour; and for the first time during the interview the proud aspect of his countenance softened.
Herbert stood still.
“Do not allow yourself to be biassed by any false notions of duty or principle; for your present duty consists, I believe, in following the course I have suggested. And you must remember what you have to choose between-a clear income of £20,000 a year or beggary! Few would hesitate a moment how to act under such circumstances; and if you are wise, you will not reject the offer I have made you. Now go,” he added, taking the young man's hand almost affectionately in his own, and speaking in a voice of unwonted kindness; “reflect coolly and dispassionately upon my words, and this day fortnight come to tell me your decision.'
Herbert bowed his assent to this arrangement, and with a swelling heart left his father's presence.
It was not the mere prospect of being deprived of his natural inheritance which so powerfully affected him, although that to a young man accustomed to all the luxuries and elegancies of life would be a subject fraught with no little anxiety ; neither was he influenced by the slightest shadow of anger or resentment at the unreasonable