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Part 2 Chapter 11

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.’


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