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Part 2 Chapter 5

In Which Captain Armine Is Very Absent during Dinner.

YOU are well mounted,’ said Mr. Temple to Ferdinand.

”Tis a barb. I brought it over with me.’

”Tis a beautiful creature,’ said Miss Temple.

‘Hear that, Selim,’ said Ferdinand; ‘prick up thine ears, my steed. I perceive that you are an accomplished horsewoman, Miss Temple. You know our country, I dare say, well?’

‘I wish to know it better. This is only the second summer that we have passed at Ducie.’

‘By-the-bye, I suppose you know my landlord, Captain Armine?’ said Mr. Temple.

‘No,’ said Ferdinand; ‘I do not know a single person in the county. I have myself scarcely been at Armine for these five years, and my father and mother do not visit anyone.’

‘What a beautiful oak!’ exclaimed Miss Temple, desirous of turning the conversation.

‘It has the reputation of being planted by Sir Francis Walsingham,’ said Ferdinand. ‘An ancestor of mine married his daughter. He was the father of Sir Walsingham, the portrait in the gallery with the white stick. You remember it?’

‘Perfectly: that beautiful portrait! It must be, at all events, a very old tree.’

‘There are few things more pleasing to me than an ancient place,’ said Mr. Temple.

‘Doubly pleasing when in the possession of an ancient family,’ added his daughter.

‘I fear such feelings are fast wearing away,’ said Ferdinand.

‘There will be a reaction,’ said Mr. Temple.

‘They cannot destroy the poetry of time,’ said the lady.

‘I hope I have no very inveterate prejudices,’ said Ferdinand; ‘but I should be sorry to see Armine in any other hands than our own, I confess.’

‘I never would enter the park again,’ said Miss Temple.

‘So far as worldly considerations are concerned,’ continued Ferdinand, ‘it would perhaps be much better for us if we were to part with it.’

‘It must, indeed, be a costly place to keep up,’ said Mr. Temple.

‘Why, as for that,’ said Ferdinand, ‘we let the kine rove and the sheep browse where our fathers hunted the stag and flew their falcons. I think if they were to rise from their graves they would be ashamed of us.’

‘Nay!’ said Miss Temple, ‘I think yonder cattle are very picturesque. But the truth is, anything would look well in such a park as this. There is such a variety of prospect.’

The park of Armine indeed differed materially from those vamped-up sheep-walks and ambitious paddocks which are now honoured with the title. It was, in truth, the old chase, and little shorn of its original proportions. It was many miles in circumference, abounding in hill and dale, and offering much variety of appearance. Sometimes it was studded with ancient timber, single trees of extraordinary growth, and rich clumps that seemed coeval with the foundation of the family. Tracts of wild champaign succeeded these, covered with gorse and fern. Then came stately avenues of sycamore or Spanish chestnut, fragments of stately woods, that in old days doubtless reached the vicinity of the mansion house; and these were in turn succeeded by modern coverts.

At length our party reached the gate whence Ferdinand had calculated that they should quit the park. He would willingly have accompanied them. He bade them farewell with regret, which was softened by the hope expressed by all of a speedy meeting.

‘I wish, Captain Armine,’ said Miss Temple, ‘we had your turf to canter home upon.’

‘By-the-bye, Captain Armine,’ said Mr. Temple, ‘ceremony should scarcely subsist between country neighbours, and certainly we have given you no cause to complain of our reserve. As you are alone at Armine, perhaps you would come over and dine with us tomorrow. If you can manage to come early, we will see whether we may not contrive to kill a bird together; and pray remember we can give you a bed, which I think, all things considered, it would be but wise to accept.’

‘I accept everything,’ said Ferdinand, smiling; ‘all your offers. Good morning, my dearest sir; good morning, Miss Temple.’

‘Miss Temple, indeed!’ exclaimed Ferdinand, when he had watched them out of sight. ‘Exquisite, enchanting, adored being! Without thee what is existence? How dull, how blank does everything even now seem! It is as if the sun had just set! Oh! that form! that radiant countenance! that musical and thrilling voice! Those tones still vibrate on my ear, or I should deem it all a vision! Will tomorrow ever come? Oh! that I could express to you my love, my overwhelming, my absorbing, my burning passion! Beautiful Henrietta! Thou hast a name, methinks, I ever loved. Where am I? what do I say? what wild, what maddening words are these? Am I not Ferdinand Armine, the betrothed, the victim? Even now, methinks, I hear the chariot-wheels of my bride. God! if she be there; if she indeed be at Armine on my return: I’ll not see her; I’ll not speak to them; I’ll fly. I’ll cast to the winds all ties and duties; I will not be dragged to the altar, a miserable sacrifice, to redeem, by my forfeited felicity, the worldly fortunes of my race. O Armine, Armine! she would not enter thy walls again if other blood but mine swayed thy fair demesne: and I, shall I give thee another mistress, Armine? It would indeed be treason! Without her I cannot live. Without her form bounds over this turf and glances in these arbours I never wish to view them. All the inducements to make the wretched sacrifice once meditated then vanish; for Armine, without her, is a desert, a tomb, a hell. I am free, then. Excellent logician! But this woman: I am bound to her. Bound? The word makes me tremble. I shiver: I hear the clank of my fetters. Am I indeed bound? Ay! in honour. Honour and love! A contest! Pah! The Idol must yield to the Divinity!’

With these wild words and wilder thoughts bursting from his lips and dashing through his mind; his course as irregular and as reckless as his fancies; now fiercely galloping, now pulling up into a sudden halt, Ferdinand at length arrived home; and his quick eye perceived in a moment that the dreaded arrival had not taken place. Glastonbury was in the flower-garden on one knee before a vase, over which he was training a creeper. He looked up as he heard the approach of Ferdinand. His presence and benignant smile in some degree stilled the fierce emotions of his pupil. Ferdinand felt that the system of dissimulation must now commence; besides, he was always careful to be most kind to Glastonbury. He would not allow that any attack of spleen, or even illness, could ever justify a careless look or expression to that dear friend.

‘I hope, my dear father,’ said Ferdinand, ‘I am punctual to our hour?’

‘The sun-dial tells me,’ said Glastonbury, ‘that you have arrived to the moment; and I rather think that yonder approaches a summons to our repast. I hope you have passed your morning agreeably?’

‘If all days would pass as sweet, my father, I should indeed be blessed.’

‘I, too, have had a fine morning of it. You must come tomorrow and see my grand emblazonry of the Ratcliffe and Armine coats; I mean it for the gallery.’ With these words they entered the Place.

‘You do not eat, my child,’ said Glastonbury to his companion.

‘I have taken too long a ride, perhaps,’ said Ferdinand: who indeed was much too excited to have an appetite, and so abstracted that anyone but Glastonbury would have long before detected his absence.

‘I have changed my hour today,’ continued Glastonbury, ‘for the pleasure of dining with you, and I think tomorrow you had better change your hour and dine with me.’

‘By-the-bye, my dear father, you, who know everything, do you happen to know a gentleman of the name of Temple in this neighbourhood?’

‘I think I heard that Mr. Ducie had let the Bower to a gentleman of that name.’

‘Do you know who he is?’

‘I never asked; for I feel no interest except about proprietors, because they enter into my County History. But I think I once heard that this Mr. Temple had been our minister at some foreign court. You give me a fine dinner and eat nothing yourself. This pigeon is savoury.’

‘I will trouble you. I think there once was a Henrietta Armine, my father?’

‘The beautiful creature!’ said Glastonbury, laying down his knife and fork; ‘she died young. She was a daughter of Lord Armine; and the Queen, Henrietta Maria, was her godmother. It grieves me much that we have no portrait of her. She was very fair, her eyes of a sweet light blue.’

‘Oh! no; dark, my father; dark and deep as the violet.’

‘My child, the letter-writer, who mentions her death, describes them as light blue. I know of no other record of her beauty.’

‘I wish they had been dark,’ said Ferdinand recovering himself; ‘however, I am glad there was a Henrietta Armine; ’tis a beautiful name.’

‘I think that Armine makes any name sound well,’ said Glastonbury. ‘No more wine indeed, my child. Nay! if I must,’ continued he, with a most benevolent smile, ‘I will drink to the health of Miss Grandison!’

‘Ah!’ exclaimed Ferdinand.

‘My child, what is the matter?’ inquired Glastonbury.

‘A gnat, a fly, a wasp! something stung me,’ said Ferdinand.

‘Let me fetch my oil of lilies,’ said Glastonbury; ”tis a specific’

‘Oh, no! ’tis nothing, only a fly: sharp at the moment; nothing more.’

The dinner was over; they retired to the library. Ferdinand walked about the room restless and moody; at length he bethought himself of the piano, and, affecting an anxiety to hear some old favourite compositions of Glastonbury, he contrived to occupy his companion. In time, however, his old tutor invited him to take his violoncello and join him in a concerto. Ferdinand of course complied with his invitation, but the result was not satisfactory. After a series of blunders, which were the natural result of his thoughts being occupied on other subjects, he was obliged to plead a headache, and was glad when he could escape to his chamber.

Rest, however, no longer awaited him on his old pillow. It was at first delightful to escape from the restraint upon his reverie which he had lately experienced. He leant for an hour over his empty fireplace in mute abstraction. The cold, however, in time drove him to bed, but he could not sleep; his eyes indeed were closed, but the vision of Henrietta Temple was not less apparent to him. He recalled every feature of her countenance, every trait of her conduct, every word that she had expressed. The whole series of her observations, from the moment he had first seen her until the moment they had parted, were accurately repeated, her very tones considered, and her very attitudes pondered over. Many were the hours that he heard strike; he grew restless and feverish. Sleep would not be commanded; he jumped out of bed, he opened the casement, he beheld in the moonlight the Barbary rose-tree of which he had presented her a flower. This consoling spectacle assured him that he had not been, as he had almost imagined, the victim of a dream. He knelt down and invoked all heavenly and earthly blessings on Henrietta Temple and his love. The night air and the earnest invocation together cooled his brain, and Nature soon delivered him, exhausted, to repose.


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