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Part 3 Chapter 1

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, reentered 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.



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