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HERBERT PREPARES TO LEAVE HIS FATHER'S HOUSE.
What can I now attain, and what now lose ?” RANEBERG. FILLED with anger and mortification at the signal failure of his plans, Mr. Seymour sought his wife, and announced to her his intention of proceeding forthwith to London.
This would, he thought, be the easiest mode of getting over the parting scene between herself and Herbert, and also convey to the latter an intimation that every tie which had hitherto bound him to his home and parents was unloosed for ever.
" And Herbert ?” asked Mrs. Seymour, with anxious timidity, on receiving his communication.
My dear Eleanor,” returned her husband, in a low, concentrated voice, “I must beg that for the future you will refrain from mentioning that young man's name in my presence.”
“O Henry,” said the lady, clasping her hands together, and speaking in an earnest, pleading voice, “ do not carry your resentment so far as that; you little know what cause you may have to reproach yourself hereafter.”
She stopped, terrified at the unnatural rigidity of Mr. Seymour's features ; but, rendered bold by despair, continued presently, with a sudden outburst of passionate feeling,—“I almost feel as if it will kill me to be thus cruelly deprived of my only child !"
“Nonsense, my dear; ” replied Mr. Seymour, in that tone of halfcontemptuous pity which he was in the habit of employing when addressing those whom he looked upon as his inferiors in intellect; “you should dismiss all morbid fancies from your mind; there is happily no chance of such a calamitous event occurring, for I assure you these apparently overwhelming misfortunes do not occasion death."
* Apparently!” she gasped; "why it is the bitterest and most grievous trial which could possibly befall me.”
* No doubt it seems so to you at present,” said Mr. Seymour soothingly, “but you will soon get accustomed to it
“ Never !” burst impulsively from Mrs. Seymour's lips.
" And even if you should suffer a little,” he added with stern significance-purposely turning a deaf ear to his wife's spirited interjection—"your own good sense will, I am sure, show you the advisability of restraining all unseemly exhibition of distress; and also the absolute necessity of upholding my authority and respecting my wishes.”
Poor Mrs. Seymour ! she was like a bird in the snare of the fowler. Wildly she gazed around her in search of help--none came; earnestly she besought, and implored, and entreated—but all in vain; for, though she Auttered and struggled for a considerable time, she was not the less conquered at last; the indomitable will of her dictatorial husband, as usual, triumphed over her weak and irresolute spirit ; and, feeling that there was no appeal from his decision, she unconsciously yielded herself to his guidance—her heart meanwhile silently gathering itself into her own unshared grief.
Perhaps it was better so. At all events, she thus escaped many stormy scenes which she would otherwise have been compelled to go through-avoided much strife and contention, and saved herself the pain and annoyance of dwelling in a perpetual state of domestic discord-besides having an opportunity afforded her of learning some of those inestimably precious lessons which are never more effectually and beneficially received than during those seasons of peculiar heartsolitude, when, amid the lowliness of sorrow, shut out from human sympathy and human aid, we are led-it may be for the first time-to evoke the presence and sympathy of Jesus, the Man of sorrows.
During the next few days Mr. Seymour scarcely left his wife's side. He wished to prevent her from holding any private communication with Herbert, and he was also very anxious to give her no excuse for indulging useless lamentations and regrets.
Herbert meanwhile spent some time in seriously reflecting upon his future movements. He plainly saw that he must relinquish all thoughts of remaining in the vicinity of Mertonsville ; for, in the event of his attempting to carry on his self-denying labours among the villagers, Mr. Seymour would unhesitatingly forbid them to attend his meetings, or receive him in their houses, under penalty of being dismissed from his employ. So far, therefore, he had no choice -go he must. But where ? After much and anxious deliberation, he came to the conclusion that he would, in the first instance, proceed to Lanchester, where he could inspect the improvements which James Gordon was superintending in Herbert Cottage, and also have time to resolve on his future course.
He was only allowed a short time in which to make his preparations; for Mr. Seymour-declining to hold any further verbal intercourse with him--signified, in writing, his wish to have the house vacated as speedily as possible, in order that it might be ready for the workmen, who were about to make a few trifling alterations in some of the principal apartments.
And so his last day quickly arrived; and that day happening to be the Sabbath, Herbert once more appeared in the midst of his soonto-be-forsaken flock, and preached with unusual and most affecting solemnity.
He did intend to allude to his approaching departure from Mertonsville, hoping that it was as yet unknown to any one of them; but had he been less engrossed in the contemplation of the solemn truths he was so earnestly advocating, he could scarcely have failed to perceive, from the palpable signs of deep emotion which were manifested by the greater proportion of his hearers, that they were already well acquainted with the painful fact.
At the conclusion of the service, Herbert-feeling him self quite unequal to the task of holding any personal conversation with themsat down, and shielding his face with his hands, patiently waited until they should disperse.
After the lapse of a few minutes, he mechanically withdrew his hand, and, hastily glancing around him, found, to his no little surprise, that none of the congregation had left the building. Many, especially
go, sir ? »
among the women, were standing with their handkerchiefs held to their eyes, while at some little distance a group of men were talking softly but earnestly together.
Among this group was Lisburn, evidently doing his utmost to prevail on them to return quietly to their respective homes; but that he did not succeed in convincing them of the propriety of so doing was obvious by their dissatisfied looks and gestures while he was addressing them, and the expressive shake of the head, which was the only answer they vouchsafed to his kindly-meant proposition.
On beholding the state of things, Herbert-vainly endeavouring to suppress a sigh-rose from his seat; and instantly a patriarchal-looking man, with snowy hair, and tottering footsteps, came forward, and said, constituting himself spokesman,
“Will you not permit us to speak a few words to you before you Herbert gave a little start. “What would you say ?” he inquired, with palpable agitation of manner.
“We want to tell you," replied the other; and his voice was low and tremulous, "how much we all love and respect you, how deeply grateful we feel to you for all you have done for us, how our hearts are bleeding at the prospect of losing you, and to assure go where you will, our poor prayers will follow you."
“Thank you, my friends," said the young man, greatly affected “ believe me, I am fully sensible of your kind and loving wishes.”
“We also wish to ask you if you will give us a few hints regarding our future conduct, sir,” said another man;
every word will be treasured up in our hearts, and whatever you may advise us to do, we are prepared to follow your counsel.” - Herbert knew from the tone of marked emphasis with which these words were spoken, that they had a deeper meaning than would at first appear; and for a moment he glanced anxiously and uneasily into the faces of those who surrounded him, as if a new cause of solicitude had just entered his mind. Then making an effort to recover his wonted calmness, he exclaimed in a voice which, though low, was distinctly audible to all—so breathlessly did they listen to catch every syllable,
“ I have no new counsel to offer you, dear friends; therefore my words shall be few. To those who have received Christ, my parting injunction is, walk in Him-live to Him-glorify Him. To the anxious—Behold the Lamb of God. To any who are halting between two opinions—Choose you this day whom ye will serve ; while I earnestly and affectionately entreat all those who may be still the enemies of the Cross of Christ to consider their ways, àmend their doings, and turn unto the Lord. For myself”-here his voice very perceptibly faltered—“I need scarcely say, that I shall look back with peculiar satisfaction upon the many happy hours we have spent together; and should we never meet again in this world, oh ! let me meet you all in heaven.”
For an instant he paused, almost unmanned by the sight of his weeping congregation ; but presently added in a firmer voice,
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the Word of his grace ; fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all things -the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come all are yours, and ye are Christ's and Christ is God's.”
After casting another glance of mingled sorrow and tenderness around him, Herbert opened his hymn-book, and said,
“ Before we finally separate, let us once more mingle our voices together in singing this appropriate song of praise :
• Blest be the dear uniting love
That will not let us part;
We still are one in heart.
Where He appoints we go ;
And do His work below.'" As soon as the last cadence of their voices died away, the young man hastened to leave the building. He accomplished his purpose, though not without difficulty, and an hour later might have been seen traversing the floor of his own study at Mertonsville, after having gone through a somewhat similar scene with those who, when the more public Sabbath services were ended, received a share of his attention and labour.
And while he thus paced his apartment, with a pale, grave face, and a heart filled with the keenest anguish-while he cast from time to time an eager, wistful look around him, upon the many beautiful objects which he had been wont to regard as his ownwhile he notes this and that costly article which had been purchased for his exclusive benefit by his indulgent parents ; this and that alteration which had been effected in the room, to meet the caprices of a boyish fancy, or satisfy a boyish whim—while he listens to the ticking of an elegant little ormolu clock which stands upon the mantelpiece, and remembers how his father presented it to him long years ago, when he was quite a child preparing his lessons in that very room, and then goes on to reflect upon the pleasant and profitable hours he had so often enjoyed there since then—while he abstractedly takes down a book from one of the well-filled shelves and reads inscribed in gilt letters upon its purple morroco cover,
“ This Library, consisting of
Father," he begins to ask himself whether the fact of his being obliged to bid a long uncertain farewell to all these associations, and become an exile from his much-loved home, was not a mere creation of his own disordered fancy, rather than a plain, sober truth.
While still absorbed in these melancholy musings, a hand was suddenly laid upon his shoulder, and on turning round with a start of surprise, not having heard the door open or shut, he beheld his friend Charles Hastings.
“ Charles !” he exclaimed in a voice of the greatest astonishment, “how is this? I thought you were in London.”
“So I was until this morning,” answered the young man, throwing himself down on a chair, and regarding Herbert with a glance of keen anxiety.
“You are all well ? ” said the latter, dubiously.
“Of course we are,” was the somewhat impatient rejoinder ; “but I could not rest without coming to find out the truth of what I have heard regarding yourself. And now that I am here,” he added moodily, "I almost regret having undertaken the journey, for I have gained nothing but the most unsatisfactory intelligence.”
"Perhaps matters are not quite so hopeless as you imagine,” said Herbert, endeavouring to speak cheerfully.
Charles Hastings shook his head as he replied, “You need not try to represent things in a better position than they really are, Herbert; I know precisely how you are situated—I have, in fact, just had an interview with Mr. Seymour.”
“ With my father!” ejaculated Herbert; “how was that?”
“I happened to meet him as I was crossing the hall, and he invited me into his library, apparently for the purpose of consulting me about the alterations he is going to have made in it, but really, I believe, with the view of preventing me from seeing you until after I had listened to this account of your unparalleled obstinacy and infatuation."
“You did not favour him with one of your indignant protests, I trust,” said Herbert, rather anxiously; for he knew that his warmhearted friend was always ready to take up the cudgels on his behalf, whenever an opportunity for doing so was afforded him; and, moreover, he was painfully conscious that in Mr. Seymour's present state of mind, he would deeply resent the least appearance of hostility, and fiercely put down any attempt at remonstrance or reproach.
“ No," returned Mr. Hastings, in a very different tone from the careless, off-hand one he generally assumed; “ to be candid with you, Herbert, I felt so astounded at your father's cool, dignified, pitiless manner; so disgusted with the frigid calmness of his voice when speaking of the cruel measures he had adopted towards you, that I was for the moment literally struck dumb; not one word therefore did I utter, good or bad !”
“ You acted wisely,” returned Herbert, greatly relieved ;“ if anything unpleasant had occurred between you, it would have grieved me not a little ; for your future intercourse with him might have been materially affected by it, and
“ That would not trouble me,” replied the other, hotly;" for I have no intention whatever of coming here for the future. Do you for one instant suppose,” he asked, his eye flashing angrily, “ that I will continue to visit one who prides himself on having so mercilessly driven my own chosen friend from his house ? No, no: I have witnessed Mr. Seymour in a new character to-night; I have not the slightest wish to perfect my acquaintance in that quarter !” and he laughed a short dry laugh, as if to intimate the absurdity of attempt. ing to shake his resolution.