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Part 2 Chapter 12

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.

Glastonbury stared.

‘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 today. 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.



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