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Part 1 Chapter 3

 Arrival of Glastonbury.

ADRIAN GLASTONBURY was a younger son of an old but decayed English family. He had been educated at a college of Jesuits in France, and had entered at an early period of life the service of the Romish Church, whose communion his family had never quitted. At college young Glastonbury had been alike distinguished for his assiduous talents and for the extreme benevolence of his disposition. His was one of those minds to which refinement is natural, and which learning and experience never deprive of simplicity. Apparently his passions were not violent; perhaps they were restrained by his profound piety. Next to his devotion, Glastonbury was remarkable for his taste. The magnificent temples in which the mysteries of the Deity and saints he worshipped were celebrated developed the latent predisposition for the beautiful which became almost the master sentiment of his life. In the inspired and inspiring paintings that crowned the altars of the churches and the cathedrals in which he ministered, Glastonbury first studied art; and it was as he glided along the solemn shade of those Gothic aisles, gazing on the brave groining of the vaulted roofs, whose deep and sublime shadows so beautifully contrasted with the sparkling shrines and the delicate chantries below, that he first imbibed that passion for the architecture of the Middle Ages that afterwards led him on many a pleasant pilgrimage with no better companions than a wallet and a sketch-book. Indeed, so sensible was Glastonbury of the influence of the early and constant scene of his youth on his imagination, that he was wont to trace his love of heraldry, of which he possessed a remarkable knowledge, to the emblazoned windows that perpetuated the memory and the achievements of many a pious founder.
When Glastonbury was about twenty-one years of age, he unexpectedly inherited from an uncle a sum which, though by no means considerable, was for him a sufficient independence; and as no opening in the service of the Church at this moment offered itself, which he considered it a duty to pursue, he determined to gratify that restless feeling which seems inseparable from the youth of men gifted with fine sensibilities, and which probably arises in an unconscious desire to quit the commonplace and to discover the ideal. He wandered on foot throughout the whole of Switzerland and Italy; and, after more than three years’ absence, returned to England with several thousand sketches, and a complete Alpine Hortus Siccus. He was even more proud of the latter than of having kissed the Pope’s toe. In the next seven years the life of Glastonbury was nearly equally divided between the duties of his sacred profession and the gratification of his simple and elegant tastes. He resided principally in Lancashire, where he became librarian to a Catholic nobleman of the highest rank, whose notice he had first attracted by publishing a description of his Grace’s residence, illustrated by his drawings. The duke, who was a man of fine taste and antiquarian pursuits, and an exceedingly benevolent person, sought Glastonbury’s acquaintance in consequence of the publication, and from that moment a close and cherished intimacy subsisted between them. In the absence of the family, however, Glastonbury found time for many excursions; by means of which he at last completed drawings of all our cathedrals. There remained for him still the abbeys and the minsters of the West of England, a subject on which he was ever eloquent. Glastonbury performed all these excursions on foot, armed only with an ashen staff which he had cut in his early travels, and respecting which he was superstitious; so that he would have no more thought of journeying without this stick than most other people without their hat. Indeed, to speak truth, Glastonbury had been known to quit a house occasionally without that necessary appendage, for, from living much alone, he was not a little absent; but instead of piquing himself on such eccentricities, they ever occasioned him mortification. Yet Glastonbury was an universal favourite, and ever a welcome guest. In his journeys he had no want of hosts; for there was not a Catholic family which would not have been hurt had he passed them without a visit. He was indeed a rarely accomplished personage. An admirable scholar and profound antiquary, he possessed also a considerable practical knowledge of the less severe sciences, was a fine artist, and no contemptible musician. His pen, too, was that of a ready writer; if his sonnets be ever published, they will rank among the finest in our literature.
Glastonbury was about thirty when he was induced by Lady Barbara Armine to quit a roof where he had passed some happy years, and to undertake the education of her son Ratcliffe, a child of eight years of age. From this time Glastonbury in a great degree withdrew himself from his former connexions, and so completely abandoned his previous mode of life, that he never quitted his new home. His pupil repaid him for his zeal rather by the goodness of his disposition and his unblemished conduct, than by any remarkable brilliancy of talents or acquirements: but Ratcliffe, and particularly his mother, were capable of appreciating Glastonbury; and certain it is, whatever might be the cause, he returned their sympathy with deep emotion, for every thought and feeling of his existence seemed dedicated to their happiness and prosperity.
So great indeed was the shock which he experienced at the unexpected death of Lady Barbara, that for some time he meditated assuming the cowl; and if the absence of his pupil prevented the accomplishment of this project, the plan was only postponed, not abandoned. The speedy marriage of Sir Ratcliffe followed. Circumstances had prevented Glastonbury from being present at the ceremony. It was impossible for him to retire to the cloister without seeing his pupil. Business, if not affection, rendered an interview between them necessary. It was equally impossible for Glastonbury to trouble a bride and bridegroom with his presence. When, however, three months had elapsed, he began to believe that he might venture to propose a meeting to Sir Ratcliffe; but while he was yet meditating on this step, he was anticipated by the receipt of a letter containing a warm invitation to Armine.
It was a beautiful sunshiny afternoon in June. Lady Armine was seated in front of the Place looking towards the park, and busied with her work; while Sir Ratcliffe, stretched on the grass, was reading to her the last poem of Scott, which they had just received from the neighbouring town.
‘Ratcliffe, my dear,’ said Lady Armine, ‘some one approaches.’
‘A tramper, Constance?’
‘No, no, my love; rise; it is a gentleman.’
‘Who can it be?’ said Sir Ratcliffe, rising; ‘perhaps it is your brother, love. Ah! no, it is—it is Glastonbury!’
And at these words he ran forward, jumped over the iron hurdle which separated their lawn from the park, nor stopped his quick pace until he reached a middle-aged man of very prepossessing appearance, though certainly not unsullied by the dust, for assuredly the guest had travelled far and long.
‘My dear Glastonbury,’ exclaimed Sir Ratcliffe, embracing him, and speaking under the influence of an excitement in which he rarely indulged, ‘I am the happiest fellow alive. How do you do? I will introduce you to Constance directly. She is dying to know you, and quite prepared to love you as much as myself. O! my dear Glastonbury, you have no idea how happy I am. She is a perfect angel.’
‘I am sure of it,’ said Glastonbury, seriously.
Sir Ratcliffe hurried his tutor along. ‘Here is my best friend, Constance,’ he eagerly exclaimed. Lady Armine rose and welcomed Mr. Glastonbury very cordially. ‘Your presence, my dear sir, has, I assure you, been long desired by both of us,’ she said, with a delightful smile.
‘No compliments, believe me,’ added Sir Ratcliffe; ‘Constance never pays compliments. She fixed upon your own room herself. She always calls it Mr. Glastonbury’s room.’
‘Ah! madam,’ said Mr. Glastonbury, laying his hand very gently on the shoulder of Sir Ratcliffe, and meaning to say something felicitous, ‘I know this dear youth well; and I have always thought whoever could claim this heart should be counted a very fortunate woman.’
‘And such the possessor esteems herself,’ replied Lady Armine with a smile.
Sir Ratcliffe, after a quarter of an hour or so had passed in conversation, said: ‘Come, Glastonbury, you have arrived at a good time, for dinner is at hand. Let me show you to your room. I fear you have had a hot day’s journey. Thank God, we are together again. Give me your staff; I will take care of it; no fear of that. So, this way. You have seen the old Place before? Take care of that step. I say, Constance,’ said Sir Ratcliffe, in a suppressed voice, and running back to his wife, ‘how do you like him?’
‘Very much indeed.’
‘But do you really?’
‘Really, truly.’
‘Angel!’ exclaimed the gratified Sir Ratcliffe.


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