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CHAPTER X.

IMPRESSIONS.

“Do Thou direct our steps aright;

Help us Thy name to fear;
O give us grace to watch and pray,
And strength to persevere.”

Pratt's Collection. MRS. SEYMOUR was not allowed to remain with her son more than a few moments; and during that short time her movements were vigilantly observed by the doctor, who had previously cautioned her against betraying any emotion when in Herbert's presence, as the least excitement or agitation would, he said, prove hurtful, if not really dangerous, to him in his present state of weakness and exhaustion. But she had the unspeakable happiness of seeing him once more restored to consciousness; and though, when he essayed to speak, the words died away in an inarticulate whisper, yet she knew that he recognised her by the smile which passed over his features, as she leant forward and imprinted a mother's kiss upon his brow.

After he was left alone with Browning, about an hour later—the doctor having gone to pay a brief visit to another of the young men who required his assistance-Herbert suddenly awoke from an uneasy slumber, and, starting up, he glanced round the room with a strange, confused, terrified expression, such as caused his faithful attendant considerable uneasiness. His—Browning's—first impulse, was to set off in search of the doctor, his next and wisest, to administer a soothing draught, which the latter had left with him to be used in case of need.

Before he could offer it to him, however, a change came over Herbert's appearance; he gave one long weary sigh, and then sank back on his pillow from excess of weakness.

A minute or two he remained thus, perfectly motionless, after which he again unclosed his eyes, and, fixing them earnestly and intently upon Browning, uttered in a faint voice the words—“Stanley -Reginald ?” The man did not at first comprehend his meaning, but when the question was repeated with increased earnestness, it occurred to him that Herbert might possibly be feeling anxiety regarding the fate of the two he had so nobly undertaken to rescue from the waves; he therefore hastened to assure him that they were both quite safe, which was indeed strictly true, as, though Edward Stanley's case was far more serious than that of Reginald Grafton, who was very soon restored to animation, neither of them had suffered to the same extent as Herbert.

“ And the others?” asked the latter ; a flush of pleasure rising to his pale cheeks at this cheering intelligence.

“They are going on very well,” replied Browning, promptly; purposely ignoring the fact of there being one of them yet undiscovered; for, under the circumstances, he felt no hesitation in leading Herbert

to infer that all were saved. Not wishing, however, to be further questioned, he continued, in a tone of respectful expostulation, “But, indeed, sir, you must not talk any more; the doctor charged me to keep you quiet, and especially warned me against agitating you by referring to this painful occurrence. Sleep, he says, is what you at present most require.”

Herbert smiled. “I am quite willing to sleep, my good Browning,” he said gently, and then, without further words, he reclosed his eyes, and was soon in a state of profound repose.

He awoke the next morning greatly refreshed; but was not permitted to leave the fisherman's cottage until the succeeding day, on the evening of which he returned to General Clare's house.

The latter's first interview with Herbert was deeply affecting. Again and again he expressed his grateful appreciation of the inexpressibly important service he had rendered him by saving the life of his unworthy, though much beloved, grandson, whose disobedient and deceitful conduct shocked and pained him excessively.

Reginald had also himself the grace to acknowledge that he was deeply indebted to Herbert for the help he had so seasonably afforded him. He shudde ed to think what would have been his condition without that help; for he had stood for a little moment upon the threshold of eternity, realizing, almost for the first time in his life, the existence of another mysterious world,—so far removed, and yet so closely connected with this; a world of which he had rarely if ever thought, and which he was so utterly unprepared to enter; and this fact, combined with the distressing circumstance of one of his late companions having been suddenly taken, while he was mercifully spared, left some startling impressions upon his mind; impressions, however, which were, with time's assistance, entirely obliteratedburied wilfully and completely in the depths of oblivion !

In Edward Stanley's case, these influences proved more conclusive. Not only did he experience a solemn awe, a terrible dread, and a fearful shrinking from death when it approached him; not only did he tremble at the thought of being ushered into the presence of the Great Eternal, whom he had feared without loving, and known only by the hearing of the ear; but his own particular sins and transgressions rose up before him with appalling distinctness: one by one they flashed like lightning across his memory,--privileges abused duties neglected-warnings disregarded-Sabbaths desecrated—the Bible unopened--the throne of grace unappreciated and unapproached -overtures of mercy despised and rejected-precepts, promises, and threatenings, all in their turn slighted and contemned, -until the magnitude and aggravation of his guilt seemed to outweigh every other consideration, and he felt in his inmost heart that, however severe his punishment might be, it could not be greater than he deserved.

His impressions, therefore, being deeper and more intensified than those of Reginald Grafton, proved also more abiding. Not that at this time he spoke of his feelings to any one; on the contrary, he carefully avoided the subject, and was silent, and even reserved, whenever it was remotely alluded to; but after his remarkable deliverance from the jaws of death, his marner became serious and reflective, and this of itself was sufficient to indicate the nature of the change which was gradually going on within.

Had not their visit to General Clare been, at the time of the accident, nearly over, Stanley might have been more communicative to Herbert; for whom, in addition to the respect he had previously felt, he now entertained the warmest and most grateful affection, wellnigh amounting to reverence. But it so happened, that during the week or two which elapsed before they finally separated, the lad had not many opportunities of seeing him alone, as Mrs. Seymour was so concerned about his health that she could scarcely be persuaded to leave him for a single moment; and Herbert, having no suspicion of the state of his friend's mind, did not make the same effort to gain his confidence as he would otherwise have done.

They parted with equal cordiality and unfeigned regret on both sides--but no! I mistake—the regret was not equal ; for Edward Stanley felt that, in leaving Herbert, he would be deprived of his best friend. He longed to explain to him the doubts, misgivings, and fears which agitated and distracted him, the difficulties and hindrances which seemed to encompass him at every step, and the load of guilt which pressed so heavily upon his conscience-longed to ask his counsel, and seek his assistance; and yet shrank so unaccountably from doing so, that almost without wishing it, he succeeded in restraining every outward manifestation of the many conflicting emotions by which he was thus grievously and perpetually exercised.

The people of Mertonsville received Herbert with exceeding joy, when at length he returned to them; and although expressed in a different manner, his satisfaction at being once more able to go in and out among them was as great as their own.

Mr. Seymour's heart seemed to have been in some measure softened by the unforeseen event which had threatened to deprive him of his only son, and, disguise the fact as he would, it could not be denied that he was secretly proud of the part Herbert had taken on the occasion ; and this, no doubt, influenced him for awhile, and accounted for his refraining from interfering with any of the young man's plans until the recollection of the past should have become fainter, feebler, and less affecting to his mind.

Without loss of time, therefore, Herbert resumed his former habits ; and a very sweet and profitable season followed—a season productive of pleasure and benefit to many.

But, even in the midst of this prosperity, he was not, of course, free from temptation; for my readers will have already perceived that his position rendered him peculiarly liable to misconstruction, on the one hand; while, on the other, he had to fight against the enticements of those with whom he had been wont to associate on terms of the closest intimacy; combat the plausible arguments with which they endeavoured to overcome his scruples, and maintain a strict watch over his own looks, and words, and actions, lest he should by any means betray an unchristian or uncharitable disposition, and be led into those inconsistencies of conduct which are so incompatible with the pure religion of Jesus, but which (softly be it spoken) are too often glaringly manifested in the characters of those who profess to be “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” to have “crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts,” and to be “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."

Herbert felt it as an especial trial, when, as was frequently the case, he considered it his duty to run the risk of annoying his parents by declining to accomnanv them to the fashionable entertainments

of their pleasure-loving neighbours, as well as to other more public places of amusement.

It grieved him excessively; and yet what could he do? He dared not enter into compromise with the world—dared not unnecessarily put himself into danger.

In his anxiety, however, to give his father no just cause of complaint, he regularly appeared at Mrs. Seymour's (comparatively) quiet parties; and, though he avoided both cards and dancing, no one could affirm that he was either dull or gloomy, or even less cheerful than others.

On one of these occasions he was standing talking to Sir George Hastings—the father of his friend Charles—when Mrs. Seymour glided up to him, wearing an expression of care upon her brow.

“ Herbert,” she said in a soft whisper, - every one is wondering why you do not dance."

“But that need not trouble you, mother mine,” he answered gently -“it is nothing new, you know.

“There is Lady Emma Clifford,” she went on hurriedly; “your father is most anxious for you to ask her to dance; so few gentlemen are here to-night;' and she hesitated. “ In short, could you not" Again she paused, and looked beseechingly into his face.

“ I understand you,” said Herbert, meditatively; " but it appears to me, that Lady Emma has had no lack of partners.”

“Oh, I am aware of that; but if you neglect her

“Well, I will see what I can do to amuse her,” returned Herbert, with a smile, which puzzled Mrs. Seymour : “this dance seems to be nearly over. Directly she is at liberty I will speak to her.”

And, moving towards the arch, which separated the drawing-room from the one the dancers were in, he waited until Lady Emma Clifford appeared at its opening, and then his mother, who was watching him with a good deal of curiosity, not unmingled with surprise, saw him approach her, apparently with the intention of engaging her hand for the next dance.

The young lady smilingly assented to his proposal, and taking his offered arm, returned with him into the room she had just left.

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CHAPTER XI.

MR. SEYMOUR'S PROJECT.
“The mind was formed to mount sublime,
Beyond the narrow bounds of time,

To everlasting things :
But earthly vapours cloud the sight,
And hang with cold, oppressive weight
Upon her drooping wings.'

Steele. Other eyes besides Mrs. Seymour's watched Herbert as he passed through the brilliantly lighted room with Lady Emma Clifford leaning on his arm,

and several low-toned comments were made and expressive looks exchanged, which would have surprised him not a little had he been conscious of them. But his observers soon found that their conclusions had been too hastily formed; for, after leisurely traversing the whole length of the apartment, he entered a small though elegantly furnished ante-room, in which were displayed many rare and costly objects of virtu, and having placed his fair companion upon a chair composed of elaborately carved ebony, which he had drawn close to an antique mosaic table, he opened a richly inlaid marqueterie cabinet, and began to select from his large and varied collection such curiosities as he thought most likely to interest her; and, if the expression of her countenance could be taken as proof positive of her real sentiments, she was in nowise dissatisfied with this, to her, novel kind of amusement.

When given to understand that Herbert was dancing, Mr. Seymour felt considerably elated; his disappointment, therefore, was proportionately great on discovering that the information he had received was incorrect. He stood for a moment near enough to observe them both, and then with a bitter smile turned away and approached Lady Clifford, who had been his late partner at the whist-table.

“I was just going in search of my daughter,” she remarked pleasantly ;“ but I see she is with Mr. Herbert.”

“So I also perceive," answered the gentleman, his usually cold features assuming a still colder aspect.

They seem to be very agreeably employed; shall we join them ?” Mr. Seymour bit his lip, and retreated a step or two; but quickly recovering his composure, and that dignified courtesy for which as an host he was generally distinguished, he replied with the utmost politeness, “ As your ladyship pleases."

“ How extremely gratifying it must be for you to have such an excellent son!” pursued the lady in her blandest tones.

“ Doubtless!” said Mr. Seymour, sarcastically.

“ So steady and consistent in all he he does !" she continued : “ quite a contrast to most of the young men one knows. I hear that he does not even dance; but, of course,” (this was added in a tone of sympathy) " that will not last.”

“ I trust not,” returned Mr. Seymour, bitterly.

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