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CHAPTER XXIII.
SIR GEORGE HASTINGS' INVITATION.
"Be steady, be steady, O my soul ;

For the sea is come, and the billows roll.” “Listen to me, dear Charles,” said Herbert, speaking gently and soothingly to his excited friend. “You say you are fully aware of my present position ?” Mr. Hastings nodded assent. Then, of course, you know that I leave Mertonsville to-morrow?" Again the same mute gesture of confirmation.

“But perhaps it has not occurred to you that, notwithstanding the painfulness of my situation, there is another whose sufferings will be, if possible, even more acute—I allude to my mother."

“Ah! yes, I understand you,” responded Mr. Hastings, thoughtfully; "she will not, I am sure, approve of Mr. Seymour's unjustifiable behaviour.”

“Nevertheless, she must submit to his arrangements,” said Herbert, significantly.

“ I am not so sure of that,” cried the impetuous young man: little rebellion on her part would be quite commendable under such peculiar circumstances.”

“Ah! Charles,” exclaimed Herbert, gravely, "you are still very imperfectly acquainted with my father's character, or you would see that, following the course you recommend, would be the most effectual mode of confirming him in his determination, besides exposing my dear mother to considerable danger and annoyance. Hitherto, she has confined herself to unavailing remonstrances and entreaties, and I fervently hope she will refrain from any stronger expressions of dissatisfaction."

“To what is all this tending ?” inquired Mr. Hastings, suddenly beginning to find out that Herbert had some reason for speaking thus.

“Can you not guess, Charles?" answered his friend, with a melancholy smile. “I am going to ask you for a last token of your friendship. You know how sad it is for a mother to be suddenly deprived of her only son; now, I want you to promise me that when I am gone, you will continue to come here as usual, and try to cheer and console her when you find her in need of comfort.”

“ Anything but that, Herbert.”

“You know,” continued the latter, persuasively, my mother is accustomed to you, and loves you only second to myself; if, therefore, you will do as I suggest, my absence cannot be felt by her to the same extent as must otherwise be the case, and numerous opportunities will be afforded you of supplying my place.”

* But Mr. Seymour? I shall hate to be brought in contact with him; besides, I am afraid I could not restrain myself from plainly telling him my opinion of his conduct.”

“For the sake of the past, you will repress every disrespectful word, dear Charles. When you feel disposed to speak out, remember how repeatedly I have thwarted, provoked, and opposed him, and if that does not suffice, recollect that he is my father.

And what a father ! ” observed Mr. Hastings, expressively. “Why not follow the cue he has given you, and disown the relationship altogether ? "

“Then if nothing else will influence you,” said Herbert, determined to carry his point if possible, for the sake of his mother, who was really attached to the frank, good-humoured young man,

" I must fall back on my last and strongest argument, and appeal to your generosity.”

Charles Hastings shook his head dubiously, and shrugged his shoulders with an air of dissatisfaction at the part thas assigned to him; but ultimately his good nature, together with the feelings of warm and sincere friendship he entertained for Herbert, prevailed over his natural repugnance to undertake so delicate a task, and he yielded himself, if not quite cheerfully, at least resignedly, to the latter's earnest desire; and promised, moreover, that should Mr. Seymour's tyrannical propensities prompt him to prevent his wife from receiving and answering her son's letters, he would engage to allay her fears, by giving her every necessary information regarding Herbert's health, prospects, and whereabouts.

When this matter was finally arranged, Charles Hastings turned abruptly to his friend, and said, with a degree of hesitancy and embarrassment most unusual to him,

“ I am the bearer of a letter from my father. Will you read it now, and tell me whether you can agree to our wishes ? "

He laid it on the table, and walked to the other end of the room, in order that Herbert might be undisturbed with finding out its con

The first past of the letter ran thus:“MY DEAR HERBERT,—I have just received a vague report of the misunderstanding which has arisen between yourself and Mr. Seymour, and lose not a moment in writing to assure you of my sympathy with you, in the painful position you now occupy, as well as to tell you how happy it make us if we can persuade you to accept home with us for the future. I need not, I trust, ask you to look upon this as no mere formal invitation; your life-long knowledge of us must convince you of the heartfelt sincerity with which the request is made, and the affectionate and cordial welcome you will receive, should you consent to follow my advice. To remove any hesitation you might otherwise feel, I may as well mention a plan which has just presented itself to my mind, and which, if carried out, will probably suit your present feelings better than remaining in the neighbourhood of so many painful associations.” And then the writer went on to suggest that Herbert should spend a year or two, or longer if necessary,

in travelling with Charles, so that Mr. Seymour's wrath might have time to evaporate before he saw or heard of his son again.

The rest of the letter was filled up with expressions of kindness and regard, such as caused a dimness to pass before the young man's eyes, and stirred his heart within him.

"Charles,” he said, advancing to his friend, who was still in a distant part of the room, apparently absorbed in a book which he held in his hand, " I shall take the earliest opportunity of writing to thank Sir George for this wholly unexpected proof of his kind and generous

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affection. You' perceive,” he added, with a little sigh, “ that I am at present too weary, both in body and mind, to give utterance to the deep gratitude I nevertheless feel.”'

“Gratitude !” ejaculated his friend, hastily, almost angrilymuttering to himself; “ what a mal-apropos remark !”

“ Yes, let it be gratitude, Charles," said Herbert, gently. “No other word could so suitably express my sentiments. Your father has given me cause to be grateful, and grateful I am!”

“But will you do as he proposes ?” inquired the young man, impulsively.

“I think not, Charles,” was the quiet answer.

“Ah! I feared you would say so,” returned Mr. Hastings, while a keen look of disappointment swept over his face.

I must, in the first place, go to Lanchester,” replied Herbert, in a tone of friendly decision.

“ And afterwards ? " said his friend, persuasively. Herbert shook his head.

“ Afterwards I must be guided by circumstances. It is just possible that I may remain there altogether; but on this point I cannot speak with any degree of certainty. However, I will let you know directly my plans are formed ; and in the meantime do not consider me cold or devoid of feeling, because, while fully sensible of your kindness, I am unable to avail myself of it.”

“ I shall miss you sadly,” said Charles Hastings, despondingly. " You will not forget me?" he asked, in a husky voice.

“Never!” rejoined Herbert, warmly. “And you !” he added presently,“ dare I ask you to visit me in my humble abode, wherever that may be ?"

If you do not ask me, I will come uninvited,” responded the other, with something of his old vivacity. We have been friends from our childhood, and friends we must remain, in spite of the barrier arising from the dissimilarity of our views and purposes, which you once imagined would prove a stumbling-block in the way of our future intercourse."

“And is it needful that this barrier should continue ?” asked Herbert, in a grave, earnest tone; “shall we always follow different paths, instead of walking side by side on the road to glory?".

“Not always, I hope," answered the other, startled for a moment; surely not always ! There is, I confess, a wide gulf between us at present, but after a time, I trust

“Ah! it is the old story,” exclaimed Herbert, sadly, when his friend paused, scarcely knowing how to finish his sentence. “You are waiting for the convenient season, which, alas ! in numberless instances, never arrives. God grant,” he added fervently, as he clasped his friend's hand in his own, for the latter had risen to go, " that you, my dear Charles, may be led to seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near.”

"I will begin to think on these things," cried Mr. Hastings, deeply moved. “I have neglected them too long already!” and he was certainly sincere at the moment he made this resolution ; for the grave solemnity of Herbert's manner had produced a very decided impression on his mind.

Whether, however, this impression would prove abiding, or pass away like a morning cloud, or the early dew, when exposed to the

temptations of a deceitful world, strengthened by the inclination of a treacherous heart, remains to be seen. Herbert feared even while he hoped, and though he rejoiced at his companion's wise determination, it was with trembling.

Not one moment's repose visited the latter that night, during the whole of which he was beset by innumerable and inexpressibly bitter reflections, doubts, misgivings, and perplexities. He had imagined that the worst was already over, the fiercest foes already subjugated. Alas! he now discovered that a far severer conflict awaited him. He was, figuratively speaking, surrounded by the shadowy forms and baneful influences of a host of relentless enemies, who attacked him on every side, with crafty and malignant force—if haply they might, at the eleventh hour, be successful in shaking his faith, and leading him to loosen his hold of eternal things while contemplating those which are seen and temporal. Like King Jehoshaphat, Herbert might have cried out, in this period of his troublous career, _“I have no might against this great company that cometh against me, neither know I what to do; but my eyes are upon Thee.”

Morning found him calın ; not with the calmness of stolid indifference, or weak, unresisting submission to some stronger will, or the sluggishness of dull, irreversible despair, but of victory—such victory as those and those only attain who have struggled, and wrestled, and fought-and overcome!

“ Have striven, Achieving calm, to whom was given

The joy that mixes man with heaven.” This calm and this joy was Herbert's !

I omit all mention of his last interview with Mrs. Seymour; for great grief, like great joy, shrinks from a stranger's gentlest touch ; and the bleeding heart, knowing its own bitterness, cannot endure the thought of having its secret agony exposed to the view of others.

Afterwards, Herbert visited the servants' hall, where a very touching scene awaited him; for he was beloved and respected by every member of his father's household; and great had been the consternation which prevailed when the news of his approaching departure was carried to them.

How they became acquainted with it, Herbert never discovered, but it was scarcely possible that they should be wholly blind to what was going on around them. They had, in fact, been for some time aware of the relative position in which father and son stood to each other; and, having once had their suspicions aroused and anxieties awakened, they found no difficulty in comprehending the meaning of certain stray sentences which unconsciously fell from the lips of Mr. Seymour when he considered himself alone, or accounting for the unusual pensiveness of his wife's manner; and finally, every doubt was removed by the sudden arrival of Mr. Malcolm at the Park, and the summons which Browning and the old steward received, to witness the signature of the important document that Mr. Seymour had insisted on having attested, when he at length despaired of forcing Herbert to yield to his arbitrary commands.

This document, Browning instantly conjectured, must contain something detrimental to our hero's interest, and being of a warm and impulsive nature, he lost no time in communicating his well-grounded

suspicions to his fellow-servants. Their indignation was deep, though not loudly expressed, and several of them-Browning in. cluded—begged so earnestly to be allowed to accompany him, that Herbert could not for a long time convince them of the impracticability of acceding to their reiterated request, or induce them to decide on retaining their present situations.

As he quitted them on this melancholy occasion, after speaking a kind word to each, and receiving from them the welcome intelligence that they had resolved on assembling in the housekeeper's room both night and morning for the purpose of studying God's Word together, he found that the carriage which was to convey him to Dilton stood waiting at the door.

Before he entered it, however, he stood for a moment, as if debating some point with himself; then turning resolutely away, he murmured softly, “ I must see him, if only for a moment; surely he will not refuse to bid me farewell.”

Thus saying, he recrossed the hall, and after knocking at the door of his father's library, opened it, and without more ado walked into the room, feeling, it must be confessed, not unlike one about to beard a lion in his den.

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