At length our friends arrived at a picturesque and ivy-grown cottage, where the keeper, with their guns and dogs, awaited Mr. Temple and his guest. Ferdinand, although a keen sportsman, beheld the spectacle with dismay. He execrated, at the same time, the existence of partridges and the invention of gunpowder. To resist his fate, however, was impossible; he took his gun and turned to bid his hostess adieu.
'I do not like to quit Paradise at all,' he said in a low voice: 'must I go?'
'Oh! certainly,' said Miss Temple. 'It will do you a great deal of good.'
Never did anyone at first shoot more wildly. In time, however, Ferdinand sufficiently rallied to recover his reputation with the keeper, who, from his first observation, began to wink his eye to his son, an attendant bush-beater, and occasionally even thrust his tongue inside his cheek, a significant gesture perfectly understood by the imp. 'For the life of me, Sam,' he afterwards profoundly observed, 'I couldn't make out this here Captain by no manner of means whatsomever. At first I thought as how he was going to put the muzzle to his shoulder. Hang me if ever I see sich a gentleman. He missed everything; and at last if he didn't hit the longest flying shots without taking aim. Hang me if ever I see sich a gentleman. He hit everything. That ere Captain puzzled me, surely.'
The party at dinner was increased by a neighbouring squire and his wife, and the rector of the parish. Ferdinand was placed at the right hand of Miss Temple. The more he beheld her the more beautiful she seemed. He detected every moment some charm before unobserved. It seemed to him that he never was in such agreeable society, though, sooth to say, the conversation was not of a very brilliant character. Mr. Temple recounted the sport of the morning to the squire, whose ears kindled at a congenial subject, and every preserve in the county was then discussed, with some episodes on poaching. The rector, an old gentleman, who had dined in old days at Armine Place, reminded Ferdinand of the agreeable circumstance, sanguine perhaps that the invitation might lead to a renewal of his acquaintance with that hospitable board. He was painfully profuse in his description of the public days of the famous Sir Ferdinand. From the service of plate to the thirty servants in livery, nothing was omitted.
'Our friend deals in Arabian tales,' whispered Ferdinand to Miss Temple; 'you can be a witness that we live quietly enough now.'
'I shall certainly never forget my visit to Armine,' replied Miss Temple; 'it was one of the agreeable days of life.'
'And that is saying a great deal, for I think your life must have abounded in agreeable days.'
'I cannot indeed lay any claim to that misery which makes many people interesting,' said Miss Temple; 'I am a very commonplace person, for I have been always happy.'
When the ladies withdrew there appeared but little inclination on the part of the squire and the rector to follow their example; and Captain Armine, therefore, soon left Mr. Temple to his fate, and escaped to the drawing-room. He glided to a seat on an ottoman, by the side of his hostess, and listened in silence to the conversation. What a conversation! At any other time, under any other circumstances, Ferdinand would have been teased and wearied with its commonplace current: all the dull detail of county tattle, in which the squire's lady was a proficient, and with which Miss Temple was too highly bred not to appear to sympathise; and yet the conversation, to Ferdinand, appeared quite charming. Every accent of Henrietta's sounded like wit; and when she bent her head in assent to her companion's obvious deductions, there was about each movement a grace so ineffable, that Ferdinand could have sat in silence and listened, entranced, for ever: and occasionally, too, she turned to Captain Armine, and appealed on some point to his knowledge or his taste. It seemed to him that he had never listened to sounds so sweetly thrilling as her voice. It was a birdlike burst of music, that well became the sparkling sunshine of her violet eyes.
His late companions entered. Ferdinand rose from his seat; the windows of the salon were open; he stepped forth into the garden. He felt the necessity of being a moment alone. He proceeded a few paces beyond the ken of man, and then leaning on a statue, and burying his face in his arm, he gave way to irresistible emotion. What wild thoughts dashed through his impetuous soul at that instant, it is difficult to conjecture. Perhaps it was passion that inspired that convulsive reverie; perchance it might have been remorse. Did he abandon himself to those novel sentiments which in a few brief hours had changed all his aspirations and coloured his whole existence; or was he tortured by that dark and perplexing future, from which his imagination in vain struggled to extricate him?
He was roused from his reverie, brief but tumultuous, by the note of music, and then by the sound of a human voice. The stag detecting the huntsman's horn could not have started with more wild emotion. But one fair organ could send forth that voice. He approached, he listened; the voice of Henrietta Temple floated to him on the air, breathing with a thousand odours. In a moment he was at her side, the squire's lady was standing by her; the gentlemen, for a moment arrested from a political discussion, formed a group in a distant part of the room, the rector occasionally venturing in a practised whisper to enforce a disturbed argument. Ferdinand glided in unobserved by the fair performer. Miss Temple not only possessed a voice of rare tone and compass, but this delightful gift of nature had been cultivated with refined art. Ferdinand, himself a musician, and passionately devoted to vocal melody, listened with unexaggerated rapture.
'Oh! beautiful!' exclaimed he, as the songstress ceased.
'Captain Armine!' cried Miss Temple, looking round with a wild, bewitching smile. 'I thought you were meditating in the twilight.'
'Your voice summoned me.'
'You care for music?'
'For little else.'
Ferdinand Armine was not unworthy of singing with Henrietta Temple. His mother had been his able instructress in the art even in his childhood, and his frequent residence at Naples and other parts of the south had afforded him ample opportunities of perfecting a talent thus early cultivated. But to-night the love of something beyond his art inspired the voice of Ferdinand. Singing with Henrietta Temple, he poured forth to her in safety all the passion which raged in his soul. The squire's lady looked confused; Henrietta herself grew pale; the politicians ceased even to whisper, and advanced from their corner to the instrument; and when the duet was terminated, Mr. Temple offered his sincere congratulations to his guest. Henrietta also turned with some words of commendation to Ferdinand; but the words were faint and confused, and finally requesting Captain Armine to favour them by singing alone, she rose and vacated her seat.
Ferdinand took up the guitar, and accompanied himself to a Neapolitan air. It was gay and festive, a Ritornella which might summon your mistress to dance in the moonlight. And then, amid many congratulations, he offered the guitar to Miss Temple.
'No one will listen to a simple melody after anything so brilliant,' said Miss Temple, as she touched a string, and, after a slight prelude, sang these words:—
Yes, weeping is madness, Away with this tear, Let no sign of sadness Betray the wild anguish I fear. When we meet him to-night, Be mute then my heart! And my smile be as bright, As if we were never to part.
Girl! give me the mirror That said I was fair; Alas! fatal error, This picture reveals my despair. Smiles no longer can pass O'er this faded brow, And I shiver this glass, Like his love and his fragile vow!
'The music,' said Ferdinand, full of enthusiasm, 'is——-'
'Henrietta's,' replied her father.
'And the words?'
'Were found in my canary's cage,' said Henrietta Temple, rising and putting an end to the conversation.
In Which Captain Armine Indulges in a Reverie.
THE squire's carriage was announced, and then came his lady's shawl. How happy was Ferdinand when he recollected that he was to remain at Ducie. Remain at Ducie!
Remain under the same roof as Henrietta Temple. What bliss! what ravishing bliss! All his life, and his had not been a monotonous one; it seemed that all his life could not afford a situation so adventurous and so sweet as this. Now they have gone. The squire and his lady, and the worthy rector who recollected Armine so well; they have all departed, all the adieus are uttered; after this little and unavoidable bustle, silence reigns in the salon of Ducie. Ferdinand walked to the window. The moon was up; the air was sweet and hushed; the landscape clear, though soft. Oh! what would he not have given to have strolled in that garden with Henrietta Temple, to have poured forth his whole soul to her, to have told her how wondrous fair she was, how wildly bewitching, and how he loved her, how he sighed to bind his fate with hers, and live for ever in the brilliant atmosphere of her grace and beauty.
'Good night, Captain Armine,' said Henrietta Temple.
He turned hastily round, he blushed, he grew pale. There she stood, in one hand a light, the other extended to her father's guest. He pressed her hand, he sighed, he looked confused; then suddenly letting go her hand, he walked quickly towards the door of the salon, which he opened that she might retire.
'The happiest day of my life has ended,' he muttered.
'You are so easily content then, that I think you must always be happy.'
'I fear I am not so easily content as you imagine.'
She has gone. Hours, many and long hours, must elapse before he sees her again, before he again listens to that music, watches that airy grace, and meets the bright flashing of that fascinating eye. What misery was there in this idea? How little had he seemed hitherto to prize the joy of being her companion. He cursed the hours which had been wasted away from her in the morning's sport; he blamed himself that he had not even sooner quitted the dining-room, or that he had left the salon for a moment, to commune with his own thoughts in the garden. With difficulty he restrained himself from reopening the door, to listen for the distant sound of her footsteps, or catch, perhaps, along some corridor, the fading echo of her voice. But Ferdinand was not alone; Mr. Temple still remained. That gentleman raised his face from the newspaper as Captain Armine advanced to him; and, after some observations about the day's sport, and a hope that he would repeat his trial of the manor to-morrow, proposed their retirement. Ferdinand of course assented, and in a moment he was ascending with his host the noble and Italian staircase: and he then was ushered from the vestibule into his room.
His previous visit to the chamber had been so hurried, that he had only made a general observation on its appearance. Little inclined to slumber, he now examined it more critically. In a recess was a French bed of simple furniture. On the walls, which were covered with a rustic paper, were suspended several drawings, representing views in the Saxon Switzerland. They were so bold and spirited that they arrested attention; but the quick eye of Ferdinand instantly detected the initials of the artist in the corner. They were letters that made his heart tremble, as he gazed with admiring fondness on her performances. Before a sofa, covered with a chintz of a corresponding pattern with the paper of the walls, was placed a small French table, on which were writing materials; and his toilet-table and his mantelpiece were profusely ornamented with rare flowers; on all sides were symptoms of female taste and feminine consideration.
Ferdinand carefully withdrew from his coat the flower that Henrietta had given him in the morning, and which he had worn the whole day. He kissed it, he kissed it more than once; he pressed its somewhat faded form to his lips with cautious delicacy; then tending it with the utmost care, he placed it in a vase of water, which holding in his hand, he threw himself into an easy chair, with his eyes fixed on the gift he most valued in the world.
An hour passed, and Ferdinand Armine remained fixed in the same position. But no one who beheld that beautiful and pensive countenance, and the dreamy softness of that large grey eye, could for a moment conceive that his thoughts were less sweet than the object on which they appeared to gaze. No distant recollections disturbed him now, no memory of the past, no fear of the future. The delicious present monopolised his existence. The ties of duty, the claims of domestic affection, the worldly considerations that by a cruel dispensation had seemed, as it were, to taint even his innocent and careless boyhood, even the urgent appeals of his critical and perilous situation; all, all were forgotten in one intense delirium of absorbing love.
Anon he rose from his seat, and paced his room for some minutes, with his eyes fixed on the ground. Then throwing off his clothes, and taking the flower from the vase, which he had previously placed on the table, he deposited it in his bosom. 'Beautiful, beloved flower,' exclaimed he; 'thus, thus will I win and wear your mistress!'
A Strange Dream.
RESTLESS are the dreams of the lover that is young. Ferdinand Armine started awake from the agony of a terrible slumber. He had been walking in a garden with Henrietta Temple, her hand was clasped in his, her eyes fixed on the ground, as he whispered delicious words. His face was flushed, his speech panting and low. Gently he wound his vacant arm round her graceful form; she looked up, her speaking eyes met his, and their trembling lips seemed about to cling into a———
When lo! the splendour of the garden faded, and all seemed changed and dim; instead of the beautiful arched walks, in which a moment before they appeared to wander, it was beneath the vaulted roof of some temple that they now moved; instead of the bed of glowing flowers from which he was about to pluck an offering for her bosom, an altar rose, from the centre of which upsprang a quick and lurid tongue of fire. The dreamer gazed upon his companion, and her form was tinted with the dusky hue of the flame, and she held to her countenance a scarf, as if pressed by the unnatural heat. Great fear suddenly came over him. With haste, yet with tenderness, he himself withdrew the scarf from the face of his companion, and this movement revealed the visage of Miss Grandison.
Ferdinand Armine awoke and started up in his bed. Before him still appeared the unexpected figure. He jumped out of bed, he gazed upon the form with staring eyes and open mouth. She was there, assuredly she was there; it was Katherine, Katherine his betrothed, sad and reproachful. The figure faded before him; he advanced with outstretched hand; in his desperation he determined to clutch the escaping form: and he found in his grasp his dressing-gown, which he had thrown over the back of a chair.
'A dream, and but a dream, after all,' he muttered to himself; 'and yet a strange one.'
His brow was heated; he opened the casement. It was still night; the moon had vanished, but the stars were still shining. He recalled with an effort the scene with which he had become acquainted yesterday for the first time. Before him, serene and still, rose the bowers of Ducie. And their mistress? That angelic form whose hand he had clasped in his dream, was not then merely a shadow. She breathed, she lived, and under the same roof. Henrietta Temple was at this moment under the same roof as himself: and what were her slumbers? Were they wild as his own, or sweet and innocent as herself? Did his form flit over her closed vision at this charmed hour, as hers had visited his? Had it been scared away by an apparition as awful? Bore anyone to her the same relation as Katherine Grandison to him? A fearful surmise, that had occurred to him now for the first time, and which it seemed could never again quit his brain. The stars faded away, the breath of morn was abroad, the chant of birds arose. Exhausted in body and in mind, Ferdinand Armine flung himself upon his bed, and soon was lost in slumbers undisturbed as the tomb.
Which I Hope May Prove as Agreeable to the Reader as to Our Hero.
FERDINAND'S servant, whom he had despatched the previous evening to Armine, returned early with his master's letters; one from his 'mother, and one from Miss Grandison.
They were all to arrive at the Place on the day after the morrow. Ferdinand opened these epistles with a trembling hand. The sight of Katherine's, his Katherine's, handwriting was almost as terrible as his dream. It recalled to him, with a dreadful reality, his actual situation, which he had driven from his thoughts. He had quitted his family, his family who were so devoted to him, and whom he so loved, happy, nay, triumphant, a pledged and rejoicing bridegroom. What had occurred during the last eight-and-forty hours seemed completely to have changed all his feelings, all his wishes, all his views, all his hopes! He had in that interval met a single human being, a woman, a girl, a young and innocent girl; he had looked upon that girl and listened to her voice, and his soul was changed as the earth by the sunrise. As lying in his bed he read these letters, and mused over their contents, and all the thoughts that they suggested, the strangeness of life, the mystery of human nature, were painfully impressed upon him. His melancholy father, his fond and confiding mother, the devoted Glastonbury, all the mortifying circumstances of his illustrious race, rose in painful succession before him. Nor could he forget his own wretched follies and that fatal visit to Bath, of which the consequences clanked upon his memory like degrading and disgraceful fetters. The burden of existence seemed intolerable. That domestic love which had so solaced his existence, recalled now only the most painful associations. In the wildness of his thoughts he wished himself alone in the world, to struggle with his fate and mould his fortunes. He felt himself a slave and a sacrifice. He cursed Armine, his ancient house, and his broken fortunes. He felt that death was preferable to life without Henrietta Temple. But even supposing that he could extricate himself from his rash engagement; even admitting that all worldly considerations might be thrown aside, and the pride of his father, and his mother's love, and Glastonbury's pure hopes, might all be outraged; what chance, what hope was there of obtaining his great object? What was he, what was he, Ferdinand Armine, free as the air from the claims of Miss Grandison, with all sense of duty rooted out of his once sensitive bosom, and existing only for the gratification of his own wild fancies? A beggar, worse than a beggar, without a home, without the possibility of a home to offer the lady of his passion; nay, not even secure that the harsh process of the law might not instantly claim its victim, and he himself be hurried from the altar to the gaol!
Moody and melancholy, he repaired to the salon; he beheld Henrietta Temple, and the cloud left his brow, and lightness came to his heart. Never had she looked so beautiful, so fresh and bright, so like a fair flower with the dew upon its leaves. Her voice penetrated his soul; her sunny smile warmed his breast. Her father greeted him too with kindness, and inquired after his slumbers, which he assured Mr. Temple had been satisfactory.
'I find,' continued Mr. Temple, 'that the post has brought me some business to-day which, I fear, claims the morning to transact; but I hope you will not forget your promise. The keeper will be ready whenever you summon him.'
Ferdinand muttered something about trouble and intrusion, and the expected arrival of his family; but Miss Temple begged him to accept the offer, and refusal was impossible.
After breakfast Mr. Temple retired to his library, and Ferdinand found himself alone for the first time with Henrietta Temple.
She was copying a miniature of Charles the First. Ferdinand looked over her shoulder.
'A melancholy countenance!' he observed.
'It is a favourite one of mine,' she replied.
'Yet you are always gay.'
'I envy you, Miss Temple.'
'What, are you melancholy?'
'I have every cause.'
'Indeed, I should have thought the reverse.'
'I look upon myself as the most unfortunate of human beings,' replied Ferdinand.
He spoke so seriously, in a tone of such deep and bitter feeling, that Miss Temple could not resist looking up at her companion. His countenance was gloomy.
'You surprise me,' said Miss Temple; 'I think that few people ought to be unhappy, and I rather suspect fewer are than we imagine.'
'All I wish is,' replied he, 'that the battle of Newbury had witnessed the extinction of our family as well as our peerage.'
'A peerage, and such a peerage as yours, is a fine thing,' said Henrietta Temple, 'a very fine thing; but I would not grieve, if I were you, for that. I would sooner be an Armine without a coronet than many a brow I wot of with.'
'You misconceived a silly phrase,' rejoined Ferdinand. 'I was not thinking of the loss of our coronet, though that is only part of the system. Our family, I am sure, are fated. Birth without honour, estates without fortune, life without happiness, that is our lot.'
'As for the first,' said Miss Temple, 'the honourable are always honoured; money, in spite of what they say, I feel is not the greatest thing in the world; and as for misery, I confess I do not very readily believe in the misery of youth.'
'May you never prove it!' replied Ferdinand; 'may you never be, as I am, the victim of family profligacy and family pride!' So saying, he turned away, and, taking up a book, for a few minutes seemed wrapped in his reflections.
He suddenly resumed the conversation in a more cheerful tone. Holding a volume of Petrarch in his hand, he touched lightly, but with grace, on Italian poetry; then diverged into his travels, recounted an adventure with sprightliness, and replied to Miss Temple's lively remarks with gaiety and readiness. The morning advanced; Miss Temple closed her portfolio and visited her flowers, inviting him to follow her. Her invitation was scarcely necessary, his movements were regulated by hers; he was as faithful to her as her shadow. From the conservatory they entered the garden; Ferdinand was as fond of gardens as Miss Temple. She praised the flower-garden of Armine. He gave her some account of its principal creator. The character of Glastonbury highly interested Miss Temple. Love is confidential; it has no fear of ridicule. Ferdinand entered with freedom and yet with grace into family details, from which, at another time and to another person, he would have been the first to shrink. The imagination of Miss Temple was greatly interested by his simple, and, to her, affecting account of this ancient line living in their hereditary solitude, with all their noble pride and haughty poverty. The scene, the circumstances, were all such as please a maiden's fancy; and he, the natural hero of this singular history, seemed deficient in none of those heroic qualities which the wildest spirit of romance might require for the completion of its spell. Beautiful as his ancestors, and, she was sure, as brave, young, spirited, graceful, and accomplished, a gay and daring spirit blended with the mournful melody of his voice, and occasionally contrasted with the somewhat subdued and chastened character of his demeanour.
'Well, do not despair,' said Henrietta Temple; 'riches did not make Sir Ferdinand happy. I feel confident the house will yet flourish.'
'I have no confidence,' replied Ferdinand; 'I feel the struggle with our fate to be fruitless. Once indeed I felt like you; there was a time when I took even a fancied pride in all the follies of my grandfather. But that is past; I have lived to execrate his memory.'
'Yes, to execrate his memory! I repeat, to execrate his memory! His follies stand between me and my happiness.'
'Indeed, I see not that.'
'May you never! I cannot disguise from myself that I am a slave, and a wretched one, and that his career has entailed this curse of servitude upon me. But away with this! You must think me, Miss Temple, the most egotistical of human beings; and yet, to do myself justice, I never remember having spoken of myself so much before.'
'Will you walk with me?' said Miss Temple, after a moment's silence; 'you seem little inclined to avail yourself of my father's invitation to solitary sport. But I cannot stay at home, for I have visits to pay, although I fear you will consider them rather dull ones.' 'Why so?'
'My visits are to cottages.'
'I love nothing better. I used ever to be my mother's companion on such occasions.'
So, crossing the lawn, they entered a beautiful wood of considerable extent, which formed the boundary of the grounds, and, after some time passed in agreeable conversation, emerged upon a common of no ordinary extent or beauty, for it was thickly studded in some parts with lofty timber, while in others the furze and fern gave richness and variety to the vast wilderness of verdant turf, scarcely marked, except by the light hoof of Miss Temple's palfrey.
'It is not so grand as Armine Park,' said Miss Temple; 'but we are proud of our common.'
The thin grey smoke that rose in different directions was a beacon to the charitable visits of Miss Temple. It was evident that she was a visitor both habitual and beloved. Each cottage-door was familiar to her entrance. The children smiled at her approach; their mothers rose and courtesied with affectionate respect. How many names and how many wants had she to remember! yet nothing was forgotten. Some were rewarded for industry, some were admonished not to be idle; but all were treated with an engaging suavity more efficacious than gifts or punishments. The aged were solaced by her visit; the sick forgot their pains; and, as she listened with sympathising patience to long narratives of rheumatic griefs, it seemed her presence in each old chair, her tender enquiries and sanguine hopes, brought even more comfort than her plenteous promises of succour from the Bower, in the shape of arrowroot and gruel, port wine and flannel petticoats.
This scene of sweet simplicity brought back old days and old places to the memory of Ferdinand Armine. He thought of the time when he was a happy boy at his innocent home; his mother's boy, the child she so loved and looked after, when a cloud upon her brow brought a tear into his eye, and when a kiss from her lips was his most dear and desired reward. The last night he had passed at Armine, before his first departure, rose up to his recollection; all his mother's passionate fondness, all her wild fear that the day might come when her child would not love her so dearly as he did then. That time had come. But a few hours back, ay! but a few hours back, and he had sighed to be alone in the world, and had felt those domestic ties which had been the joy of his existence a burthen and a curse. A tear stole down his cheek; he stepped forth from the cottage to conceal his emotion. He seated himself on the trunk of a tree, a few paces withdrawn; he looked upon the declining sun that gilded the distant landscape with its rich yet pensive light. The scenes of the last five years flitted across his mind's eye in fleet succession; his dissipation, his vanity, his desperate folly, his hollow worldliness. Why, oh! why had he ever left his unpolluted home? Why could he not have lived and died in that sylvan paradise? Why, oh! why was it impossible to admit his beautiful companion into that sweet and serene society? Why should his love for her make his heart a rebel to his hearth? Money! horrible money! It seemed to him that the contiguous cottage and the labour of his hands, with her, were preferable to palaces and crowds of retainers without her inspiring presence. And why not screw his courage to the sticking-point, and commune in confidence with his parents? They loved him; yes, they idolised him! For him, for him alone, they sought the restoration of their house and fortunes. Why, Henrietta Temple was a treasure richer than any his ancestors had counted. Let them look on her, let them listen to her, let them breathe as he had done in her enchantment; and could they wonder, could they murmur, at his conduct? Would they not, oh! would they not, rather admire, extol it! But, then, his debts, his overwhelming debts. All the rest might be faced. His desperate engagement might be broken; his family might be reconciled to obscurity and poverty: but, ruin! what was to grapple with his impending ruin? Now his folly stung him; now the scorpion entered his soul. It was not the profligacy of his ancestor, it was not the pride of his family then, that stood between him and his love; it was his own culpable and heartless career! He covered his face with his hands; something touched him lightly; it was the parasol of Miss Temple.
'I am afraid,' she said, 'that my visits have wearied you; but you have been very kind and good.'
He rose rapidly, with a slight blush. 'Indeed,' he replied, 'I have passed a most delightful morning, and I was only regretting that life consisted of anything else but cottages and yourself.'
They were late; they heard the first dinner-bell at Ducie as they re-entered the wood. 'We must hurry on,' said Miss Temple; 'dinner is the only subject on which papa is a tyrant. What a sunset! I wonder if Lady Armine will return on Saturday. When she returns, I hope you will make her call upon us, for I want to copy the pictures in your gallery.'
'If they were not heir-looms, I would give them you,' said Ferdinand; 'but, as it is, there is only one way by which I can manage it.'
'What way?' enquired Miss Temple, very innocently.
'I forget,' replied Ferdinand, with a peculiar smile. Miss Temple looked a little confused.
IN SPITE of his perilous situation, an indefinable sensation of happiness pervaded the soul of Ferdinand Armine, as he made his hurried toilet, and hastened to the domestic board of Ducie, where he was now the solitary guest. His eye caught Miss Temple's as he entered the room. It seemed to beam upon him with interest and kindness. His courteous and agreeable host welcomed him with polished warmth. It seemed that a feeling of intimacy was already established among them, and he fancied himself already looked upon as an habitual member of their circle. All dark thoughts were driven away. He was gay and pleasant, and duly maintained with Mr. Temple that conversation in which his host excelled. Miss Temple spoke little, but listened with evident interest to her father and Ferdinand. She seemed to delight in their society, and to be gratified by Captain Armine's evident sense of her father's agreeable qualities. When dinner was over they all rose together and repaired to the salon.
'I wish Mr. Glastonbury were here,' said Miss Temple, as Ferdinand opened the instrument. 'You must bring him some day, and then our concert will be perfect.'
Ferdinand smiled, but the name of Glastonbury made him shudder. His countenance changed at the future plans of Miss Temple. 'Some day,' indeed, when he might also take the opportunity of introducing his betrothed! But the voice of Henrietta Temple drove all care from his bosom; he abandoned himself to the intoxicating present. She sang alone; and then they sang together; and as he arranged her books, or selected her theme, a thousand instances of the interest with which she inspired him developed themselves. Once he touched her hand, and he pressed his own, unseen, to his lips.
Though the room was lit up, the windows were open and admitted the moonlight. The beautiful salon was full of fragrance and of melody; the fairest of women dazzled Ferdinand with her presence; his heart was full, his senses ravished, his hopes were high. Could there be such a demon as care in such a paradise? Could sorrow ever enter here? Was it possible that these bright halls and odorous bowers could be polluted by the miserable considerations that reigned too often supreme in his unhappy breast? An enchanted scene had suddenly risen from the earth for his delight and fascination. Could he be unhappy? Why, if all went darker even than he sometimes feared, that man had not lived in vain who had beheld Henrietta Temple! All the troubles of the world were folly here; this was fairy-land, and he some knight who had fallen from a gloomy globe upon some starry region flashing with perennial lustre.
The hours flew on; the servants brought in that light banquet whose entrance in the country seems the only method of reminding our guests that there is a morrow.
''Tis the last night,' said Ferdinand, smiling, with a sigh. 'One more song; only one more. Mr. Temple, be indulgent; it is the last night. I feel,' he added in a lower tone to Henrietta, 'I feel exactly as I did when I left Armine for the first time.'
'Because you are going to return to it? That is wilful.'
'Wilful or not, I would that I might never see it again.'
'For my part, Armine is to me the very land of romance.'
'It is strange.'
'No spot on earth ever impressed me more. It is the finest combination of art and nature and poetical associations I know; it is indeed unique.'
'I do not like to differ with you on any subject.'
'We should be dull companions, I fear, if we agreed upon everything.'
'I cannot think it.'
'Papa,' said Miss Temple, 'one little stroll upon the lawn; one little, little stroll. The moon is so bright; and autumn, this year, has brought us as yet no dew.' And as she spoke, she took up her scarf and wound it round her head. 'There,' she said, 'I look like the portrait of the Turkish page in Armine Gallery.'
There was a playful grace about Henrietta Temple, a wild and brilliant simplicity, which was the more charming because it was blended with peculiarly high breeding. No person in ordinary society was more calm, or enjoyed a more complete self-possession, yet no one in the more intimate relations of life indulged more in those little unstudied bursts of nature, which seemed almost to remind one of the playful child rather than the polished woman; and which, under such circumstances, are infinitely captivating. As for Ferdinand Armine, he looked upon the Turkish page with a countenance beaming with admiration; he wished it was Turkey wherein he then beheld her, or any other strange land, where he could have placed her on his courser, and galloped away in pursuit of a fortune wild as his soul.
Though the year was in decay, summer had lent this night to autumn, it was so soft and sweet. The moonbeam fell brightly upon Ducie Bower, and the illumined salon contrasted effectively with the natural splendour of the exterior scene. Mr. Temple reminded Henrietta of a brilliant fete which had been given at a Saxon palace, and which some circumstances of similarity recalled to his recollection. Ferdinand could not speak, but found himself unconsciously pressing Henrietta Temple's arm to his heart. The Saxon palace brought back to Miss Temple a wild melody which had been sung in the gardens on that night. She asked her father if he recollected it, and hummed the air as she made the enquiry. Her gentle murmur soon expanded into song. It was one of those wild and natural lyrics that spring up in mountainous countries, and which seem to mimic the prolonged echoes that in such regions greet the ear of the pastor and the huntsman.
Oh! why did this night ever have an end!
A Morning Walk.
IT WAS solitude that brought despair to Ferdinand Armine. The moment he was alone his real situation thrust itself upon him; the moment he had quitted the presence of Henrietta Temple he was as a man under the influence of music when the orchestra suddenly stops. The source of all his inspiration failed him; this last night at Ducie was dreadful. Sleep was out of the question; he did not affect even the mimicry of retiring, but paced up and down his room the whole night, or flung himself, when exhausted, upon a restless sofa. Occasionally he varied these monotonous occupations, by pressing his lips to the drawings which bore her name; then relapsing into a profound reverie, he sought some solace in recalling the scenes of the morning, all her movements, every word she had uttered, every look which had illumined his soul. In vain he endeavoured to find consolation in the fond belief that he was not altogether without interest in her eyes. Even the conviction that his passion was returned, in the situation in which he was plunged, would, however flattering, be rather a source of fresh anxiety and perplexity. He took a volume from the single shelf of books that was slung against the wall; it was a volume of Corinne. The fervid eloquence of the poetess sublimated his passion; and without disturbing the tone of his excited mind, relieved in some degree its tension, by busying his imagination with other, though similar emotions. As he read, his mind became more calm and his feelings deeper, and by the time his lamp grew ghastly in the purple light of morning that now entered his chamber, his soul seemed so stilled that he closed the volume, and, though sleep was impossible, he remained nevertheless calm and absorbed.
When the first sounds assured him that some were stirring in the house, he quitted his room, and after some difficulty found a maid-servant, by whose aid he succeeded in getting into the garden. He took his way to the common where he had observed the preceding day, a fine sheet of water. The sun had not risen more than an hour; it was a fresh and ruddy morn. The cottagers were just abroad. The air of the plain invigorated him, and the singing of the birds, and all those rural sounds that rise with the husbandman, brought to his mind a wonderful degree of freshness and serenity. Occasionally he heard the gun of an early sportsman, to him at all times an animating sound; but when he had plunged into the water, and found himself struggling with that inspiring element, all sorrow seemed to leave him. His heated brow became cool and clear, his aching limbs vigorous and elastic, his jaded soul full of hope and joy. He lingered in the liquid and vivifying world, playing with the stream, for he was an expert and practised swimmer; and often, after nights of southern dissipation, had recurred to this natural bath for health and renovation.
The sun had now risen far above the horizon; the village clock had long struck seven; Ferdinand was three miles from Ducie Bower. It was time to return, yet he loitered on his way, the air was so sweet and fresh, the scene so pretty, and his mind, in comparison with his recent feelings, so calm, and even happy. Just as he emerged from the woods, and entered the grounds of Ducie, he met Miss Temple. She stared, and she had cause. Ferdinand indeed presented rather an unusual figure; his head uncovered, his hair matted, and his countenance glowing with his exercise, but his figure clothed with the identical evening dress in which he had bid her a tender good night.
'Captain Armine!' exclaimed Miss Temple, 'you are an early riser, I see.'
Ferdinand looked a little confused. 'The truth is,' he replied, 'I have not risen at all. I could not sleep; why, I know not: the evening, I suppose, was too happy for so commonplace a termination; so I escaped from my room as soon as I could do so without disturbing your household; and I have been bathing, which refreshes me always more than slumber.'
'Well, I could not resign my sleep, were it only for the sake of my dreams.'
'Pleasant I trust they were. "Rosy dreams and slumbers light" are for ladies as fair as you.'
'I am grateful that I always fulfil the poet's wish; and what is more, I wake only to gather roses: see here!'
She extended to him a flower.
'I deserve it,' said Ferdinand, 'for I have not neglected your first gift;' and he offered her the rose she had given him the first day of his visit. ''Tis shrivelled,' he added, 'but still very sweet, at least to me.'
'It is mine now,' said Henrietta Temple.
'Ah! you will throw it away.'
'Do you think me, then, so insensible?'
'It cannot be to you what it is to me,' replied Ferdinand.
'It is a memorial,' said Miss Temple.
'Of what, and of whom?' enquired Ferdinand.
'Of friendship and a friend.'
''Tis something to be Miss Temple's friend.'
'I am glad you think so. I believe I am very vain, but certainly I like to be——-liked.'
'Then you can always gain your wish without an effort.'
'Now I think we are very good friends,' said Miss Temple, 'considering we have known each other so short a time. But then papa likes you so much.'
'I am honoured as well as gratified by the kindly dispositions of so agreeable a person as Mr. Temple. I can assure his daughter that the feeling is mutual. Your father's opinion influences you?'
'In everything. He has been so kind a father, that it would be worse than ingratitude to be less than devoted to him.'
'Mr. Temple is a very enviable person.'
'But Captain Armine knows the delight of a parent who loves him. I love my father as you love your mother.'
'I have, however, lived to feel that no person's opinion could influence me in everything; I have lived to find that even filial love, and God knows mine was powerful enough, is, after all, but a pallid moonlight beam, compared with———'
'See! my father kisses his hand to us from the window. Let us run and meet him.'
Containing an Ominous Incident.
THE last adieus are bidden: Ferdinand is on his road to Armine, flying from the woman whom he adores, to meet the woman to whom he is betrothed. He reined in his horse as he entered the park. As he slowly approached his home, he could not avoid feeling, that after so long an absence, he had not treated Glastonbury with the kindness and consideration he merited. While he was torturing his invention for an excuse for his conduct he observed his old tutor in the distance; and riding up and dismounting, he joined that faithful friend. Whether it be that love and falsehood are, under any circumstances, inseparable, Ferdinand Armine, whose frankness was proverbial, found himself involved in a long and confused narrative of a visit to a friend, whom he had unexpectedly met, whom he had known abroad, and to whom he was under the greatest obligations. He even affected to regret this temporary estrangement from Armine after so long a separation, and to rejoice at his escape. No names were mentioned, and the unsuspicious Glastonbury, delighted again to be his companion, inconvenienced him with no cross-examination. But this was only the commencement of the system of degrading deception which awaited him.
Willingly would Ferdinand have devoted all his time and feelings to his companion; but in vain he struggled with the absorbing passion of his soul. He dwelt in silence upon the memory of the last three days, the most eventful period of his existence. He was moody and absent, silent when he should have spoken, wandering when he should have listened, hazarding random observations instead of conversing, or breaking into hurried and inappropriate comments; so that to any worldly critic of his conduct he would have appeared at the same time both dull and excited. At length he made a desperate effort to accompany Glastonbury to the picture gallery and listen to his plans. The scene indeed was not ungrateful to him, for it was associated with the existence and the conversation of the lady of his heart: he stood entranced before the picture of the Turkish page, and lamented to Glastonbury a thousand times that there was no portrait of Henrietta Armine.
'I would sooner have a portrait of Henrietta Armine than the whole gallery together,' said Ferdinand.
'I wonder if there ever will be a portrait of Henrietta Armine. Come now, my dear Glastonbury,' he continued, with an air of remarkable excitement, 'let us have a wager upon it. What are the odds? Will there ever be a portrait of Henrietta Armine? I am quite fantastic to-day. You are smiling at me. Now do you know, if I had a wish certain to be gratified, it should be to add a portrait of Henrietta Armine to our gallery?'
'She died very young,' remarked Glastonbury.
'But my Henrietta Armine should not die young,' said Ferdinand. 'She should live, breathe, smile: she———'
Glastonbury looked very confused.
So strange is love, that this kind of veiled allusion to his secret passion relieved and gratified the overcharged bosom of Ferdinand. He pursued the subject with enjoyment. Anybody but Glastonbury might have thought that he had lost his senses, he laughed so loud, and talked so fast about a subject which seemed almost nonsensical; but the good Glastonbury ascribed these ebullitions to the wanton spirit of youth, and smiled out of sympathy, though he knew not why, except that his pupil appeared happy.
At length they quitted the gallery; Glastonbury resumed his labours in the hall, where he was copying an escutcheon; and after hovering a short time restlessly around his tutor, now escaping into the garden that he might muse over Henrietta Temple undisturbed, and now returning for a few minutes to his companion, lest the good Glastonbury should feel mortified by his neglect, Ferdinand broke away altogether and wandered far into the pleasaunce.
He came to the green and shady spot where he had first beheld her. There rose the cedar spreading its dark form in solitary grandeur, and holding, as it were, its state among its subject woods. It was the same scene, almost the same hour: but where was she? He waited for her form to rise, and yet it came not. He shouted Henrietta Temple, yet no fair vision blessed his expectant sight. Was it all a dream? Had he been but lying beneath these branches in a rapturous trance, and had he only woke to the shivering dulness of reality? What evidence was there of the existence of such a being as Henrietta Temple? If such a being did not exist, of what value was life? After a glimpse of Paradise, could he breathe again in this tame and frigid world? Where was Ducie? Where were its immortal bowers, those roses of supernatural fragrance, and the celestial melody of its halls? That garden, wherein he wandered and hung upon her accents; that wood, among whose shadowy boughs she glided like an antelope, that pensive twilight, on which he had gazed with such subdued emotion; that moonlight walk, when her voice floated, like Ariel's, in the purple sky: were these all phantoms? Could it be that this morn, this very morn, he had beheld Henrietta Temple, had conversed with her alone, had bidden her a soft adieu? What, was it this day that she had given him this rose?
He threw himself upon the turf, and gazed upon the flower. The flower was young and beautiful as herself, and just expanding into perfect life. To the fantastic brain of love there seemed a resemblance between this rose and her who had culled it. Its stem was tall, its countenance was brilliant, an aromatic essence pervaded its being. As he held it in his hand, a bee came hovering round its charms, eager to revel in its fragrant loveliness. More than once had Ferdinand driven the bee away, when suddenly it succeeded in alighting on the rose. Jealous of his rose, Ferdinand, in his haste, shook the flower, and the fragile head fell from the stem!
A feeling of deep melancholy came over him, with which he found it in vain to struggle, and which he could not analyse. He rose, and pressing the flower to his heart, he walked away and rejoined Glastonbury, whose task was nearly accomplished. Ferdinand seated himself upon one of the high cases which had been stowed away in the hall, folding his arms, swinging his legs, and whistling the German air which Miss Temple had sung the preceding night.
'That is a wild and pretty air,' said Glastonbury, who was devoted to music. 'I never heard it before. You travellers pick up choice things. Where did you find it?'
'I am sure I cannot tell, my dear Glastonbury; I have been asking myself the same question the whole morning. Sometimes I think I dreamt it.'
'A few more such dreams would make you a rare composer,' said Glastonbury, smiling.
'Ah! my dear Glastonbury, talking of music, I know a musician, such a musician, a musician whom I should like to introduce you to above all persons in the world.'
'You always loved music, dear Ferdinand; 'tis in the blood. You come from a musical stock on your mother's side. Is Miss Grandison musical?'
'Yes, no, that is to say, I forget: some commonplace accomplishment in the art she has, I believe; but I was not thinking of that sort of thing; I was thinking of the lady who taught me this air.'
'A lady!' said Glastonbury. 'The German ladies are highly cultivated.'
'Yes! the Germans, and the women especially, have a remarkably fine musical taste,' rejoined Ferdinand, recovering from his blunder.
'I like the Germans very much,' said Glastonbury, 'and I admire that air.'
'O! my dear Glastonbury, you should hear it sung by moonlight.'
'Indeed!' said Glastonbury.
'Yes, if you could only hear her sing it by moonlight, I venture to say, my dear Glastonbury, that you would confess that all you had ever heard, or seen, or imagined, of enchanted spirits floating in the air, and filling the atmosphere with supernatural symphonies, was realised.'
'Indeed!' said Glastonbury, 'a most accomplished performer, no doubt! Was she professional?' 'Who?' inquired Ferdinand. 'Your songstress.'
'Professional! oh! ah! yes! No! she was not a professional singer, but she was fit to be one; and that is an excellent idea, too; for I would sooner, after all, be a professional singer, and live by my art, than marry against my inclination, or not marry according to it.'
'Marry!' said Glastonbury, rather astonished; 'what, is she going to be married against her will? Poor devoted thing!'
'Devoted, indeed!' said Ferdinand; 'there is no greater curse on earth.'
Glastonbury shook his head.
'The affections should not be forced,' the old man added; 'our feelings are our own property, often our best.'
Ferdinand fell into a fit of abstraction; then, suddenly turning round, he said, 'Is it possible that I have been away from Armine only two days? Do you know it really seems to me a year!'
'You are very kind to say so, my Ferdinand,' said Glastonbury.
In Which Captain Armine Finds Reason to Believe in the Existence of Fairies.
IT IS difficult to describe the restlessness of Ferdinand Armine. His solitary dinner was an excuse for quitting Glastonbury: but to eat is as impossible as to sleep, for a man who is really in love. He took a spoonful of soup, and then jumping up from his chair, he walked up and down the room, thinking of Henrietta Temple. Then to-morrow occurred to him, and that other lady that to-morrow was to bring. He drowned the thought in a bumper of claret. Wine, mighty wine! thou best and surest consolation! What care can withstand thy inspiring influence! from what scrape canst thou not, for the moment, extricate the victim! Who can deny that our spiritual nature in some degree depends upon our corporeal condition? A man without breakfast is not a hero; a hero well fed is full of audacious invention. Everything depends upon the circulation. Let but the blood flow freely, and a man of imagination is never without resources. A fine pulse is a talisman; a charmed life; a balance at our bankers. It is good luck; it is eternity; it is wealth. Nothing can withstand us; nothing injure us; it is inexhaustible riches. So felt Ferdinand Armine, though on the verge of a moral precipice. To-morrow! what of to-morrow? Did to-morrow daunt him? Not a jot. He would wrestle with to-morrow, laden as it might be with curses, and dash it to the earth. It should not be a day; he would blot it out of the calendar of time; he would effect a moral eclipse of its influence. He loved Henrietta Temple. She should be his. Who could prevent him? Was he not an Armine? Was he not the near descendant of that bold man who passed his whole life in the voluptuous indulgence of his unrestrained volition! Bravo! he willed it, and it should be done. Everything yields to determination. What a fool! what a miserable craven fool had he been to have frightened himself with the flimsy shadows of petty worldly cares! He was born to follow his own pleasure; it was supreme; it was absolute; he was a despot; he set everything and everybody at defiance; and, filling a huge tumbler to the health of the great Sir Ferdinand, he retired, glorious as an emperor.
On the whole, Ferdinand had not committed so great an indiscretion as the reader, of course shocked, might at first imagine. For the first time for some days he slept, and slept soundly. Next to wine, a renovating slumber perhaps puts us in the best humour with our destiny. Ferdinand awoke refreshed and sanguine, full of inventive life, which soon developed itself in a flow of improbable conclusions. His most rational scheme, however, appeared to consist in winning Henrietta Temple, and turning pirate, or engaging in the service of some distant and disturbed state. Why might he not free Greece, or revolutionize Spain, or conquer the Brazils? Others had embarked in these bold enterprises; men not more desperate than himself, and not better qualified for the career. Young, courageous, a warrior by profession, with a name of traditionary glory throughout the courts of Christendom, perhaps even remembered in Asia, he seemed just the individual to carve out a glorious heritage with his sword. And as for his parents, they were not in the vale of years; let them dream on in easy obscurity, and maintain themselves at Armine until he returned to redeem his hereditary domain. All that was requisite was the concurrence of his adored mistress. Perhaps, after all his foolish fears and all his petty anxiety, he might live to replace upon her brow the ancient coronet of Tewkesbury! Why not? The world is strange; nothing happens that we anticipate: when apparently stifled by the common-place, we are on the brink of stepping into the adventurous. If he married Miss Grandison, his career was closed: a most unnatural conclusion for one so young and bold. It was evident that he must marry Henrietta Temple: and then? Why then something would happen totally unexpected and unforeseen. Who could doubt it? Not he!
He rose, he mounted his horse, and galloped over to Ducie Common. Its very aspect melted his heart. He called at the cottages he had visited two days before. Without enquiring after Miss Temple, he contrived to hear a thousand circumstances relating to her which interested and charmed him. In the distance rose the woods of Ducie; he gazed upon them as if he could never withdraw his sight from their deep and silent forms. Oh, that sweet bower! Why was there any other world but Ducie? All his brave projects of war, and conquest, and imperial plunder, seemed dull and vain now. He sickened at the thought of action. He sighed to gather roses, to listen to songs sweeter than the nightingale, and wander for ever in moon-lit groves.
He turned his horse's head: slowly and sorrowfully he directed his course to Armine. Had they arrived? The stern presence of reality was too much for all his slight and glittering visions. What was he, after all? This future conqueror was a young officer on leave, obscure except in his immediate circle, with no inheritance, and very much in debt; awaited with anxiety by his affectionate parents, and a young lady whom he was about to marry for her fortune! Most impotent epilogue to a magnificent reverie!
The post arrived at Armine in the afternoon. As Ferdinand, nervous as a child returning to school, tardily regained home, he recognised the approaching postman. Hah! a letter? What was its import? The blessing of delay? or was it the herald of their instant arrival? Pale and sick at heart, he tore open the hurried lines of Katherine. The maiden aunt had stumbled while getting out of a pony phaeton, and experienced a serious accident; their visit to Armine was necessarily postponed. He read no more. The colour returned to his cheek, reinforced by his heart's liveliest blood. A thousand thoughts, a thousand wild hopes and wilder plans, came over him. Here was, at least, one interposition in his favour; others would occur. He felt fortunate. He rushed to the tower, to tell the news to Glastonbury. His tutor ascribed his agitation to the shock, and attempted to console him. In communicating the intelligence, he was obliged to finish the letter; it expressed a hope that, if their visit were postponed for more than a day or two, Katherine's dearest Ferdinand would return to Bath.
Ferdinand wandered forth into the park to enjoy his freedom. A burden had suddenly fallen from his frame; a cloud that had haunted his vision had vanished. To-day, that was so accursed, was to be marked now in his calendar with red chalk. Even Armine pleased him; its sky was brighter, its woods more vast and green. They had not arrived; they would not arrive to-morrow, that was certain; the third day, too, was a day of hope. Why! three days, three whole days of unexpected, unhoped-for freedom, it was eternity! What might not happen in three days! For three days he might fairly remain in expectation of fresh letters. It could not be anticipated, it was not even desired, that he should instantly repair to them. Come, he would forget this curse, he would be happy. The past, the future, should be nothing; he would revel in the auspicious present.
Thus communing with himself, he sauntered along, musing over Henrietta Temple, and building bright castles in the air. A man engaged with his ideas is insensible of fatigue. Ferdinand found himself at the Park gate that led to Ducie; intending only a slight stroll, he had already rambled half way to his beloved. It was a delicious afternoon: the heat of the sun had long abated; the air was sweet and just beginning to stir; not a sound was heard, except the last blow of the woodman's axe, or the occasional note of some joyous bird waking from its siesta. Ferdinand passed the gate; he entered the winding road, the road that Henrietta Temple had so admired; a beautiful green lane with banks of flowers and hedges of tall trees. He strolled along, our happy Ferdinand, indefinite of purpose, almost insensible whether he were advancing or returning home. He plucked the wild flowers, and pressed them to his lips, because she had admired them; rested on a bank, lounged on a gate, cut a stick from the hedge, traced Henrietta Temple in the road, and then turned the words into Henrietta Armine, and so—and so—and so, he, at length, stared at finding himself on Ducie Common.
Beautiful common! how he loved it! How familiar every tree and rustic roof had become to him! Could he ever forget the morning he had bathed in those fresh waters! What lake of Italy, what heroic wave of the midland ocean, could rival in his imagination that simple basin! He drew near to the woods of Ducie, glowing with the setting sun. Surely there was no twilight like the twilight of this land! The woods of Ducie are entered. He recognised the path over which she had glided; he knelt down and kissed that sacred earth. As he approached the pleasure grounds, he turned off into a side path that he might not be perceived; he caught, through a vista, a distant glimpse of the mansion. The sight of that roof wherein he had been so happy; of that roof that contained all that he cared for or thought of in this world, overcame him. He leant against a tree, and hid his face.
The twilight died away, the stars stole forth, and Ferdinand ventured in the spreading gloom of night to approach the mansion. He threw himself upon the turf, and watched the chamber where she lived. The windows were open, there were lights within the room, but the thin curtains were drawn, and concealed the inmates. Happy, happy chamber! All that was bright and fair and sweet were concentrated in those charming walls!
The curtain is withdrawn; an arm, an arm which cannot be mistaken, pulls back the drapery. Is she coming forth? No, she does not; but he sees, distinctly he sees her. She sits in an old chair that he had often praised; her head rests upon her arm, her brow seems pensive; and in her other hand she holds a volume that she scarcely appears to read. Oh! may he gaze upon her for ever! May this celestial scene, this seraphic hour, never pass away. Bright stars! do not fade; thou summer wind that playest upon his brow, perfumed by her flowers, refresh him for ever; beautiful night be for ever the canopy of a scene so sweet and still; let existence glide away in gazing on yon delicate and tender vision!
Dreams of fantastic love: the curtain closes; a ruder hand than hers has shut her from his sight! It has all vanished; the stars seem dim, the autumnal air is dank and harsh; and where he had gazed on heaven, a bat flits wild and fleet. Poor Ferdinand, unhappy Ferdinand, how dull and depressed our brave gallant has become! Was it her father who had closed the curtain? Could he himself, thought Ferdinand, have been observed?
Hark! a voice softer and sweeter than the night breaks upon the air. It is the voice of his beloved; and, indeed, with all her singular and admirable qualities, there was not anything more remarkable about Henrietta Temple than her voice. It was a rare voice; so that in speaking, and in ordinary conversation, though there was no one whose utterance was more natural and less unstudied, it forcibly affected you. She could not give you a greeting, bid you an adieu, or make a routine remark, without impressing you with her power and sweetness. It sounded like a bell, sweet and clear and thrilling; it was astonishing what influence a little word, uttered by this woman, without thought, would have upon those she addressed. Of such fine clay is man made.
That beautiful voice recalled to Ferdinand all his fading visions; it renewed the spell which had recently enchanted him; it conjured up again all those sweet spirits that had a moment since hovered over him with their auspicious pinions. He could not indeed see her; her form was shrouded, but her voice reached him; a voice attuned to tenderness, even to love; a voice that ravished his ear, melted his soul, and blended with his whole existence. His heart fluttered, his pulse beat high, he sprang up, he advanced to the window! Yes! a few paces alone divide them: a single step and he will be at her side. His hand is outstretched to clutch the curtain, his———, when suddenly the music ceased. His courage vanished with its inspiration. For a moment he lingered, but his heart misgave him, and he stole back to his solitude.
What a mystery is Love! All the necessities and habits of our life sink before it. Food and sleep, that seem to divide our being as day and night divide Time, lose all their influence over the lover. He is a spiritualised being, fit only to live upon ambrosia, and slumber in an imaginary paradise. The cares of the world do not touch him; its most stirring events are to him but the dusty incidents of bygone annals. All the fortune of the world without his mistress is misery; and with her all its mischances a transient dream. Revolutions, earthquakes, the change of governments, the fall of empires, are to him but childish games, distasteful to a manly spirit. Men love in the plague, and forget the pest, though it rages about them. They bear a charmed life, and think not of destruction until it touches their idol, and then they die without a pang, like zealots for their persecuted creed. A man in love wanders in the world as a somnambulist, with eyes that seem open to those that watch him, yet in fact view nothing but their own inward fancies.
Oh! that night at Ducie, through whose long hours Ferdinand Armine, in a tumult of enraptured passion, wandered in its lawns and groves, feeding on the image of its enchanting mistress, watching the solitary light in her chamber that was to him as the pharos to a mariner in a tumultuous voyage! The morning, the grey cold morning, came at last; he had outwatched the stars, and listened to the matins of the waking birds. It was no longer possible to remain in the gardens unobserved; he regained the common.
What should he do! whither should he wend his course? To Armine? Oh! not to Armine; never could he return to Armine without the heart of Henrietta Temple. Yes! on that great venture he had now resolved; on that mighty hazard all should now be staked. Reckless of consequences, one vast object now alone sustained him. Existence without her was impossible! Ay! a day, a day, a single, a solitary day, should not elapse without his breathing to her his passion, and seeking his fate from her dark eyes.
He strolled along to the extremity of the common. It was a great table land, from whose boundary you look down on small rich valleys; and into one of these, winding his way through fields and pastures, of which the fertile soil was testified by their vigorous hedgerows, he now descended. A long, low farmhouse, with gable ends and ample porch, an antique building that in old days might have been some manorial residence, attracted his attention. Its picturesque form, its angles and twisted chimneys, its porch covered with jessamine and eglantine, its verdant homestead, and its orchard rich with ruddy fruit, its vast barns and long lines of ample stacks, produced altogether a rural picture complete and cheerful. Near it a stream, which Ferdinand followed, and which, after a devious and rapid course, emptied itself into a deep and capacious pool, touched by the early sunbeam, and grateful to the swimmer's eye. Here Ferdinand made his natural toilet; and afterwards slowly returning to the farm-house, sought an agreeable refuge from the sun in its fragrant porch.
The farmer's wife, accompanied by a pretty daughter with downcast eyes, came forth and invited him to enter. While he courteously refused her offer, he sought her hospitality. The good wife brought a table and placed it in the porch, and covered it with a napkin purer than snow. Her viands were fresh eggs, milk warm from the cow, and bread she had herself baked. Even a lover might feed on such sweet food. This happy valley and this cheerful settlement wonderfully touched the fancy of Ferdinand. The season was mild and sunny, the air scented by the flowers that rustled in the breeze, the bees soon came to rifle their sweetness, and flights of white and blue pigeons ever and anon skimmed along the sky from the neighbouring gables that were their dovecotes. Ferdinand made a salutary, if not a plenteous meal; and when the table was removed, exhausted by the fatigue and excitement of the last four-and-twenty hours, he stretched himself at full length in the porch, and fell into a gentle and dreamless slumber.
Hours elapsed before he awoke, vigorous indeed, and wonderfully refreshed; but the sun had already greatly declined. To his astonishment, as he moved, there fell from his breast a beautiful nosegay. He was charmed with this delicate attention from his hostess, or perhaps from her pretty daughter with those downcast eyes. There seemed a refinement about the gift, and the mode of its offering, which scarcely could be expected from these kind yet simple rustics. The flowers, too, were rare and choice; geraniums such as are found only in lady's bower, a cape jessamine, some musky carnations, and a rose that seemed the sister of the one that he had borne from Ducie. They were delicately bound together, too, by a bright blue riband, fastened by a gold and turquoise pin. This was most strange; this was an adventure more suitable to a Sicilian palace than an English farm-house; to the gardens of a princess than the clustered porch of his kind hostess. Ferdinand gazed at the bouquet with a glance of blended perplexity and pleasure; then he entered the farmhouse and made enquiries of his hostess, but they were fruitless. The pretty daughter with the downcast eyes was there too; but her very admiration of the gift, so genuine and unrestrained, proved, if testimony indeed were necessary, that she was not his unknown benefactor: admirer, he would have said; but Ferdinand was in love, and modest. All agreed no one, to their knowledge, had been there; and so Ferdinand, cherishing his beautiful gift, was fain to quit his new friends in as much perplexity as ever.
Containing an Incident Which Is the Termination of Most Tales, though Almost the Beginning of the Present.
IT WAS about two hours before sunset that Captain Armine summoned up courage to call at Ducie Bower. He enquired for Mr. Temple, and learned to his surprise that Mr. Temple had quitted Ducie yesterday morning for Scotland. 'And Miss Temple?' said Ferdinand. 'Is at home, Sir,' replied the servant. Ferdinand was ushered into the salon. She was not there. Our hero was very nervous; he had been bold enough in the course of his walk from the farmhouse, and indulged in a thousand imaginary conversations with his mistress; but, now that he was really about to meet her, all his fire and fancy deserted him. Everything occurred to him inauspicious to his suit; his own situation, the short time she had known him, his uncertainty of the state of her affections. How did he know she was not engaged to another? why should she not be betrothed as well as himself? This contingency had occurred to him before, and yet he had driven it from his thoughts. He began to be jealous; he began to think himself a very great fool; at any rate, he resolved not to expose himself any further. He was clearly premature; he would call to-morrow or next day: to speak to her now was certainly impossible.
The door opened; she entered, radiant as the day! What a smile! what dazzling teeth! what ravishing dimples! her eyes flashed like summer lightning; she extended to him a hand white and soft as one of those doves that had played about him in the morning. Surely never was anyone endued with such an imperial presence. So stately, so majestic, and yet withal so simply gracious; full of such airy artlessness, at one moment she seemed an empress, and then only a beautiful child; and the hand and arm that seemed fashioned to wave a sceptre, in an instant appeared only fit to fondle a gazelle, or pluck a flower.
'How do you do?' she said; and he really fancied she was going to sing. He was not yet accustomed to that marvellous voice. It broke upon the silence, like a silver bell just touched by the summer air. 'It is kind of you to come and see a lone maiden,' she continued; 'papa has deserted me, and without any preparation. I cannot endure to be separated from him, and this is almost the only time that he has refused my solicitation to accompany him. But he must travel far and quickly. My uncle has sent for him; he is very unwell, and papa is his trustee. There is business; I do not know what it is, but I dare say not very agreeable. By-the-bye, I hope Lady Armine is well?'
'My papa has deserted me,' said Ferdinand with a smile. 'They have not yet arrived, and some days may yet elapse before they reach Armine.'
'Indeed! I hope they are well.'
'Yes; they are well.'
'Did you ride here?'
'You did not walk?'
'I hardly know how I came; I believe I walked.'
'You must be very tired; and you are standing! pray sit down; sit in that chair; you know that is your favourite chair.'
And Ferdinand seated himself in the very chair in which he had watched her the preceding night.
'This is certainly my favourite chair,' he said; 'I know no seat in the world I prefer to this.'
'Will you take some refreshment? I am sure you will; you must be very tired. Take some hock; papa always takes hock and soda water. I shall order some hock and soda water for you.' She rose and rang the bell in spite of his remonstrance.
'And have you been walking, Miss Temple?' enquired Ferdinand.
'I was thinking of strolling now,' she replied, 'but I am glad that you have called, for I wanted an excuse to be idle.'
An hour passed away, nor was the conversation on either side very brilliantly supported. Ferdinand seemed dull, but, indeed, was only moody, revolving in his mind many strange incidents and feelings, and then turning for consolation in his perplexities to the enchanting vision on which he still could gaze. Nor was Miss Temple either in her usually sparkling vein; her liveliness seemed an effort; she was more constrained, she was less fluent than before. Ferdinand, indeed, rose more than once to depart; yet still he remained. He lost his cap; he looked for his cap; and then again seated himself. Again he rose, restless and disquieted, wandered about the room, looked at a picture, plucked a flower, pulled the flower to pieces.
'Miss Temple,' he at length observed, 'I am afraid I am very stupid!'
'Because you are silent?'
'Is not that a sufficient reason?'
'Nay! I think not; I think I am rather fond of silent people myself; I cannot bear to live with a person who feels bound to talk because he is my companion. The whole day passes sometimes without papa and myself exchanging fifty words; yet I am very happy; I do not feel that we are dull:' and Miss Temple pursued her work which she had previously taken up.
'Ah! but I am not your papa; when we are very intimate with people, when they interest us, we are engaged with their feelings, we do not perpetually require their ideas. But an acquaintance, as I am, only an acquaintance, a miserable acquaintance, unless I speak or listen, I have no business to be here; unless I in some degree contribute to the amusement or the convenience of my companion, I degenerate into a bore.'
'I think you are very amusing, and you may be useful if you like, very;' and she offered him a skein of silk, which she requested him to hold.
It was a beautiful hand that was extended to him; a beautiful hand is an excellent thing in woman; it is a charm that never palls, and better than all, it is a means of fascination that never disappears. Women carry a beautiful hand with them to the grave, when a beautiful face has long ago vanished, or ceased to enchant. The expression of the hand, too, is inexhaustible; and when the eyes we may have worshipped no longer flash or sparkle, the ringlets with which we may have played are covered with a cap, or worse, a turban, and the symmetrical presence which in our sonnets has reminded us so oft of antelopes and wild gazelles, have all, all vanished, the hand, the immortal hand, defying alike time and care, still vanquishes, and still triumphs; and small, soft, and fair, by an airy attitude, a gentle pressure, or a new ring, renews with untiring grace the spell that bound our enamoured and adoring youth!
But in the present instance there were eyes as bright as the hand, locks more glossy and luxuriant than Helen's of Troy, a cheek pink as a shell, and breaking into dimples like a May morning into sunshine, and lips from which stole forth a perfume sweeter than the whole conservatory. Ferdinand sat down on a chair opposite Miss Temple, with the extended skein.
'Now this is better than doing nothing!' she said, catching his eye with a glance half-kind, half-arch. 'I suspect, Captain Armine, that your melancholy originates in idleness.'
'Ah! if I could only be employed every day in this manner!' ejaculated Ferdinand.
'Nay! not with a distaff; but you must do something. You must get into parliament.'
'You forget that I am a Catholic,' said Ferdinand.
Miss Temple slightly blushed, and talked rather quickly about her work; but her companion would not relinquish the subject.
'I hope you are not prejudiced against my faith,' said Ferdinand.
'Prejudiced! Dear Captain Armine, do not make me repent too seriously a giddy word. I feel it is wrong that matters of taste should mingle with matters of belief; but, to speak the truth, I am not quite sure that a Howard, or an Armine, who was a Protestant, like myself, would quite please my fancy so much as in their present position, which, if a little inconvenient, is very picturesque.'
Ferdinand smiled. 'My great grandmother was a Protestant,' said Ferdinand, 'Margaret Armine. Do you think Margaret a pretty name?'
'Queen Margaret! yes, a fine name, I think; barring its abbreviation.'
'I wish my great grandmother's name had not been Margaret,' said Ferdinand, very seriously.
'Now, why should that respectable dame's baptism disturb your fancy?' enquired Miss Temple.
'I wish her name had been Henrietta,' replied Ferdinand. 'Henrietta Armine. You know there was a Henrietta Armine once?'
'Was there?' said Miss Temple, rising. 'Our skein is finished. You have been very good. I must go and see my flowers. Come.' And as she said this little word, she turned her fair and finely-finished neck, and looked over her shoulder at Ferdinand with an arch expression of countenance peculiar to her. That winning look, indeed, that clear, sweet voice, and that quick graceful attitude, blended into a spell which was irresistible. His heart yearned for Henrietta Temple, and rose at the bidding of her voice.
From the conservatory they stepped into the garden. It was a delicious afternoon; the sun had sunk behind the grove, and the air, which had been throughout the day somewhat oppressive, was now warm, but mild. At Ducie there was a fine old terrace facing the western hills, that bound the valley in which the Bower was situate. These hills, a ridge of moderate elevation, but of picturesque form, parted just opposite the terrace, as if on purpose to admit the setting sun, like inferior existences that had, as it were, made way before the splendour of some mighty lord or conqueror. The lofty and sloping bank which this terrace crowned was covered with rare shrubs, and occasionally a group of tall trees sprang up among them, and broke the view with an interference which was far from ungraceful, while plants, spreading forth from large marble vases, had extended over their trunks, and sometimes, in their play, had touched even their topmost branches. Between the terrace and the distant hills extended a tract of pasture-land, green and well-wooded by its rich hedgerows; not a roof was visible, though many farms and hamlets were at hand; and, in the heart of a rich and populous land, here was a region where the shepherd or the herdsman was the only evidence of human existence. It was thither, a grateful spot at such an hour, that Miss Temple and her companion directed their steps. The last beam of the sun flashed across the flaming horizon as they gained the terrace; the hills, well wooded, or presenting a bare and acute outline to the sky, rose sharply defined in form; while in another direction some more distant elevations were pervaded with a rich purple tint, touched sometimes with a rosy blaze of soft and flickering light. The whole scene, indeed, from the humble pasture-land that was soon to creep into darkness, to the proud hills whose sparkling crests were yet touched by the living beam, was bathed with lucid beauty and luminous softness, and blended with the glowing canopy of the lustrous sky. But on the terrace and the groves that rose beyond it, and on the glades and vistas into which they opened, fell the full glory of the sunset. Each moment a new shadow, now rosy, now golden, now blending in its shifting tints all the glory of the iris, fell over the rich pleasure-grounds, their groups of rare and noble trees, and their dim or glittering avenues.
The vespers of the birds were faintly dying away, the last low of the returning kine sounded over the lea, the tinkle of the sheep-bell was heard no more, the thin white moon began to gleam, and Hesperus glittered in the fading sky. It was the twilight hour!
That delicious hour that softens the heart of man, what is its magic? Not merely its beauty; it is not more beautiful than the sunrise. It is its repose. Our tumultuous passions sink with the sun, there is a fine sympathy between us and our world, and the stillness of Nature is responded to by the serenity of the soul.
At this sacred hour our hearts are pure. All worldly cares, all those vulgar anxieties and aspirations that at other seasons hover like vultures over our existence, vanish from the serene atmosphere of our susceptibility. A sense of beauty and a sentiment of love pervade our being. But if at such a moment solitude is full of joy, if, even when alone, our native sensibility suffices to entrance us with a tranquil yet thrilling bliss, how doubly sweet, how multiplied must be our fine emotions, when the most delicate influence of human sympathy combines with the power and purity of material and moral nature, and completes the exquisite and enchanting spell!
Ferdinand Armine turned from the beautiful world around him to gaze upon a countenance sweeter than the summer air, softer than the gleaming moon, brighter than the evening star. The shadowy light of purple eve fell upon the still and solemn presence of Henrietta Temple. Irresistible emotion impelled him; softly he took her gentle hand, and, bending his head, he murmured to her, 'Most beautiful, I love thee!'
As, in the oppressive stillness of some tropic night, a single drop is the refreshing harbinger of a slower that clears the heavens, so even this slight expression relieved in an instant the intensity of his over-burthened feelings, and warm, quick, and gushing flowed the words that breathed his fervid adoration. 'Yes!' he continued, 'in this fair scene, oh! let me turn to something fairer still. Beautiful, beloved Henrietta, I can repress no longer the emotions that, since I first beheld you, have vanquished my existence. I love you, I adore you; life in your society is heaven; without you I cannot live. Deem me, oh! deem me not too bold, sweet lady; I am not worthy of you, yet let me love! I am not worthy of you, but who can be? Ah! if I dared but venture to offer you my heart, if that humblest of all possessions might indeed be yours, if my adoration, if my devotion, if the consecration of my life to you, might in some degree compensate for its little worth, if I might live even but to hope———
'You do not speak. Miss Temple, Henrietta, admirable Henrietta, have I offended you? Am I indeed the victim of hopes too high and fancies too supreme? Oh! pardon me, most beautiful, I pray your pardon. Is it a crime to feel, perchance too keenly, the sense of beauty like to thine, dear lady? Ah! tell me I am forgiven; tell me indeed you do not hate me. I will be silent, I will never speak again. Yet, let me walk with you. Cease not to be my companion because I have been too bold. Pity me, pity me, dearest, dearest Henrietta. If you but knew how I have suffered, if you but knew the nights that brought no sleep, the days of fever that have been mine since first we met, if you but knew how I have fed but upon one sweet idea, one sacred image of absorbing life, since first I gazed on your transcendent form, indeed I think that you would pity, that you would pardon, that you might even———
'Tell me, is it my fault that you are beautiful! Oh! how beautiful, my wretched and exhausted soul too surely feels! Is it my fault those eyes are like the dawn, that thy sweet voice thrills through my frame, and but the slightest touch of that light hand falls like a spell on my entranced form! Ah! Henrietta, be merciful, be kind!'
He paused for a second, and yet she did not answer; but her cheek fell upon his shoulder, and the gentle pressure of her hand was more eloquent than language. That slight, sweet signal was to him as the sunrise on the misty earth. Full of hope, and joy, and confidence, he took her in his arms, sealed her cold lips with a burning kiss, and vowed to her his eternal and almighty love!
He bore her to an old stone bench placed on the terrace. Still she was silent; but her hand clasped his, and her head rested on his bosom. The gleaming moon now glittered, the hills and woods were silvered by its beam, and the far meads were bathed with its clear, fair light. Not a single cloud curtained the splendour of the stars. What a rapturous soul was Ferdinand Armine's as he sat that night on the old bench, on Ducie Terrace, shrouding from the rising breeze the trembling form of Henrietta Temple! And yet it was not cold that made her shiver.
The clock of Ducie Church struck ten. She moved, saying, in a faint voice, 'We must go home, my Ferdinand!'
In Which Captain Armine Proves Himself a Complete Tactician.
THE midnight moon flung its broad beams over the glades and avenues of Armine, as Ferdinand, riding Miss Temple's horse, re-entered the park. His countenance was paler than the spectral light that guided him on his way. He looked little like a pledged and triumphant lover; but in his contracted brow and compressed lip might be read the determination of his soul. There was no longer a contest between poverty and pride, between the maintenance or destruction of his ancient house, between his old engagement and his present passion; that was past. Henrietta Temple was the light in the pharos amid all his stormy fortunes; thither he directed all the energies of his being; and to gain that port, or sink, was his unflinching resolution.
It was deep in the night before he again beheld the towers and turrets of his castle, and the ivy-covered fragment of the old Place seemed to sleep in peace under its protecting influence. A wild and beautiful event had happened since last he quitted those ancient walls. And what would be its influence upon them? But it is not for the passionate lover to moralise. For him, the regrets of the past and the chances of the future are alike lost in the ravishing and absorbing present. For a lover that has but just secured the object of his long and tumultuous hopes is as a diver who has just plucked a jewel from the bed of some rare sea. Panting and wild he lies upon the beach, and the gem that he clutches is the sole idea that engrosses his existence.
Ferdinand is within his little chamber, that little chamber where his mother had bid him so passionate a farewell. Ah! he loves another woman better than his mother now. Nay, even a feeling of embarrassment and pain is associated with the recollection of that fond and elegant being, whom he had recognised once as the model of all feminine perfection, and who had been to him so gentle and so devoted. He drives his mother from his thoughts. It is of another voice that he now muses; it is the memory of another's glance that touches his eager heart. He falls into a reverie; the passionate past is acted again before him; in his glittering eye and the rapid play of his features may be traced the tumult of his soul. A doubt crosses his brow. Is he indeed so happy; is it not all a dream? He takes from his bosom the handkerchief of Henrietta Temple. He recognises upon it her magical initials, worked in her own fine dark hair. A smile of triumphant certainty irradiates his countenance, as he rapidly presses the memorial to his lips, and imprints upon it a thousand kisses: and holding this cherished testimony of his felicity to his heart, sleep at length descended upon the exhausted frame of Ferdinand Armine.
But the night that brought dreams to Ferdinand Armine brought him not visions more marvellous and magical than his waking life. He who loves lives in an ecstatic trance. The world that surrounds him is not the world of working man: it is fairy land. He is not of the same order as the labouring myriads on which he seems to tread. They are to him but a swarm of humble-minded and humble-mannered insects. For him, the human species is represented by a single individual, and of her he makes an idol. All that is bright and rare is but invented and devised to adorn and please her. Flowers for her were made so sweet and birds so musical. All nature seems to bear an intimate relation to the being we adore; and as to us life would now appear intolerable, a burthen of insupportable and wearying toil, without this transcendent sympathy, so we cannot help fancying that were its sweet and subtle origin herself to quit this inspired scene, the universe itself would not be unconscious of its deprivation, and somewhat of the world's lustre might be missed even by the most callous.
The morning burst as beautiful as such love. A rosy tint suffused the soft and tremulous sky, and tinted with a delicate hue the tall trees and the wide lawns, freshened with the light and vanishing dew. The air was vocal with a thousand songs; all was bright and clear, cheerful and golden. Ferdinand awoke from delicious dreams, and gazed upon the scene that responded to his own bright and glad emotions, and inhaled the balmy air, ethereal as his own soul. Love, that can illumine the dark hovel and the dismal garret, that sheds a ray of enchanting light over the close and busy city, seems to mount with a lighter and more glittering pinion in an atmosphere as brilliant as its own plumes. Fortunate the youth, the romance of whose existence is placed in a scene befitting its fair and marvellous career; fortunate the passion that is breathed in palaces, amid the ennobling creations of surrounding art, and greets the object of its fond solicitude amid perfumed gardens, and in the shade of green and silent woods! Whatever may be the harsher course of his career, however the cold world may cast its dark shadows upon his future path, he may yet consider himself thrice blessed to whom this graceful destiny has fallen, and amid the storms and troubles of after-life may look back to these hours, fair as the dawn, beautiful as the twilight, with solace and satisfaction. Disappointment may wither up his energies, oppression may bruise his spirit; but baulked, daunted, deserted, crushed, lone where once all was sympathy, gloomy where all was light, still he has not lived in vain.
Business, however, rises with the sun. The morning brings cares, and although with rebraced energies and renovated strength, then is the season that we are best qualified to struggle with the harassing brood, still Ferdinand Armine, the involved son of a ruined race, seldom rose from his couch, seldom recalled consciousness after repose, without a pang. Nor was there indeed magic withal, in the sweet spell that now bound him, to preserve him, from this black invasion. Anxiety was one of the ingredients of the charm. He might have forgotten his own broken fortunes, his audacious and sanguine spirit might have built up many a castle for the future, as brave as that of Armine; but the very inspiring recollection of Henrietta Temple, the very remembrance of the past and triumphant eve, only the more forced upon his memory the conviction that he was, at this moment, engaged also to another, and bound to be married to two women.
Something must be done; Miss Grandison might arrive this very day. It was an improbable incident, but still it might occur. While he was thus musing, his servant brought him his letters, which had arrived the preceding day, letters from his mother and Katherine, his Katherine. They brought present relief. The invalid had not amended; their movements were still uncertain. Katherine, 'his own Kate,' expressed even a faint fond wish that he would return. His resolution was taken in an instant. He decided with the prescient promptitude of one who has his dearest interests at stake. He wrote to Katherine that he would instantly fly to her, only that he daily expected his attendance would be required in town, on military business of urgent importance to their happiness. This might, this must, necessarily delay their meeting. The moment he received his summons to attend the Horse Guards, he should hurry off. In the meantime, she was to write to him here; and at all events not to quit Bath for Armine, without giving him a notice of several days. Having despatched this letter and another to his mother, Ferdinand repaired to the tower to communicate to Glastonbury the necessity of his immediate departure for London, but he also assured that good old man of his brief visit to that city. The pang of this unexpected departure was softened by the positive promise of returning in a very few days, and returning with his family.
Having made these arrangements, Ferdinand now felt that, come what might, he had at least secured for himself a certain period of unbroken bliss. He had a faithful servant, an Italian, in whose discretion he had justly unlimited confidence. To him Ferdinand intrusted the duty of bringing, each day, his letters to his retreat, which he had fixed upon should be that same picturesque farm-house, in whose friendly porch he had found the preceding day such a hospitable shelter, and where he had experienced that charming adventure which now rather delighted than perplexed him.