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Part 3 Chapter 4

Henrietta Visits Armine, Which Leads to a Rather Perplexing Encounter.

THE communion of this day, of the spirit of which the conversation just noticed may convey an intimation, produced an inspiriting effect on the mind of Ferdinand. Love is inspiration; it encourages to great deeds, and develops the creative faculty of our nature. Few great men have flourished who, were they candid, would not acknowledge the vast advantages they have experienced in the earlier years of their career from the spirit and sympathy of woman. It is woman whose prescient admiration strings the lyre of the desponding poet whose genius is afterwards to be recognised by his race, and which often embalms the memory of the gentle mistress whose kindness solaced him in less glorious hours. How many an official portfolio would never have been carried, had it not been for her sanguine spirit and assiduous love! How many a depressed and despairing advocate has clutched the Great Seal, and taken his precedence before princes, borne onward by the breeze of her inspiring hope, and illumined by the sunshine of her prophetic smile! A female friend, amiable, clever, and devoted, is a possession more valuable than parks and palaces; and, without such a muse, few men can succeed in life, none be content.

The plans and aspirations of Henrietta had relieved Ferdinand from a depressing burthen. Inspired by her creative sympathy, a new scene opened to him, adorned by a magnificent perspective. His sanguine imagination sought refuge in a triumphant future. That love for which he had hitherto schooled his mind to sacrifice every worldly advantage appeared suddenly to be transformed into the very source of earthly success. Henrietta Temple was to be the fountain, not only of his bliss, but of his prosperity. In the revel of his audacious fancy he seemed, as it were, by a beautiful retribution, to be already rewarded for having devoted, with such unhesitating readiness, his heart upon the altar of disinterested affection. Lying on his cottage-couch, he indulged in dazzling visions; he wandered in strange lands with his beautiful companion, and offered at her feet the quick rewards of his unparalleled achievements.

Recurring to his immediate situation, he resolved to lose no time in bringing his affairs to a crisis. He was even working himself up to his instant departure, solaced by the certainty of his immediate return, when the arrival of his servant announced to him that Glastonbury had quitted Armine on one of those antiquarian rambles to which he was accustomed. Gratified that it was now in his power to comply with the wish of Henrietta to visit his home, and perhaps, in truth, not very much mortified that so reasonable an excuse had arisen for the postponement of his intended departure, Ferdinand instantly rose, and as speedily as possible took his way to Ducie.

He found Henrietta in the garden. He had arrived, perhaps, earlier than he was expected; yet what joy to see him! And when he himself proposed an excursion to Armine, her grateful smile melted his very heart. Indeed, Ferdinand this morning was so gay and light-hearted, that his excessive merriment might almost have been as suspicious as his passing gloom the previous day. Not less tender and fond than before, his sportive fancy indulged in infinite expressions of playful humour and delicate pranks of love. When he first recognised her gathering a nosegay, too, for him, himself unobserved, he stole behind her on tiptoe, and suddenly clasping her delicate waist, and raising her gently in the air, ‘Well, lady-bird,’ he exclaimed, ‘I, too, will pluck a flower!’

Ah! when she turned round her beautiful face, full of charming confusion, and uttered a faint cry of fond astonishment, as she caught his bright glance, what happiness was Ferdinand Armine’s, as he felt this enchanting creature was his, and pressed to his bosom her noble and throbbing form!

‘Perhaps this time next year, we may be travelling on mules,’ said Ferdinand, as he flourished his whip, and the little pony trotted along. Henrietta smiled. ‘And then,’ continued he, ‘we shall remember our pony-chair that we turn up our noses at now. Donna Henrietta, jogged to death over dull vegas, and picking her way across rocky sierras, will be a very different person from Miss Temple, of Ducie Bower. I hope you will not be very irritable, my child; and pray vent your spleen upon your muleteer, and not upon your husband.’

‘Now, Ferdinand, how can you be so ridiculous?’

‘Oh! I have no doubt I shall have to bear all the blame. “You brought me here,” it will be: “Ungrateful man, is this your love? not even post-horses!”’

‘As for that,’ said Henrietta, ‘perhaps we shall have to walk. I can fancy ourselves, you with an Andalusian jacket, a long gun, and, I fear, a cigar; and I with all the baggage.’

‘Children and all,’ added Ferdinand.

Miss Temple looked somewhat demure, turned away her face a little, but said nothing.

‘But what think you of Vienna, sweetest?’ enquired Ferdinand in a more serious tone; ‘upon my honour, I think we might do great things there. A regiment and a chamberlainship at the least!’

‘In mountains or in cities I shall be alike content, provided you be my companion,’ replied Miss Temple.

Ferdinand let go the reins, and dropped his whip. ‘My Henrietta,’ he exclaimed, looking in her face, ‘what an angel you are!’

This visit to Armine was so delightful to Miss Temple; she experienced so much gratification in wandering about the park and over the old castle, and gazing on Glastonbury’s tower, and wondering when she should see him, and talking to her Ferdinand about every member of his family, that Captain Armine, unable to withstand the irresistible current, postponed from day to day his decisive visit to Bath, and, confident in the future, would not permit his soul to be the least daunted by any possible conjuncture of ill fortune. A week, a whole happy week glided away, and spent almost entirely at Armine. Their presence there was scarcely noticed by the single female servant who remained; and, if her curiosity had been excited, she possessed no power of communicating it into Somersetshire. Besides, she was unaware that her young master was nominally in London. Sometimes an hour was snatched by Henrietta from roaming in the pleasaunce, and interchanging vows of mutual love and admiration, to the picture-gallery, where she had already commenced a miniature copy of the portrait of the great Sir Ferdinand. As the sun set they departed in their little equipage. Ferdinand wrapped his Henrietta in his fur cloak, for the autumn dews began to rise, and, thus protected, the journey of ten miles was ever found too short. It is the habit of lovers, however innocent their passion, to grow every day less discreet; for every day their almost constant companionship becomes more a necessity. Miss Temple had almost unconsciously contrived at first that Captain Armine, in the absence of her father, should not be observed too often at Ducie; but now Ferdinand drove her home every evening, and drank tea at the Bower, and the evening closed with music and song. Each night he crossed over the common to his farmhouse more fondly and devotedly in love.

One morning at Armine, Henrietta being alone in the gallery busied with her drawing, Ferdinand having left her for a moment to execute some slight commission for her, she heard some one enter, and, looking up to catch his glance of love, she beheld a venerable man, of a mild and benignant appearance, and dressed in black, standing, as if a little surprised, at some distance. Herself not less confused, she nevertheless bowed, and the gentleman advanced with hesitation, and with a faint blush returned her salute, and apologised for his intrusion. ‘He thought Captain Armine might be there.’

‘He was here but this moment,’ replied Miss Temple; ‘and doubtless will instantly return.’ Then she turned to her drawing with a trembling hand.

‘I perceive, madam,’ said the gentleman, advancing and speaking in a soft and engaging tone, while looking at her labour with a mingled air of diffidence and admiration, ‘that you are a fine artist.’

‘My wish to excel may have assisted my performance,’ replied Miss Temple.

‘You are copying the portrait of a very extraordinary personage,’ said the stranger.

‘Do you think that it is like Captain Armine?’ enquired Miss Temple with some hesitation.

‘It is always so considered,’ replied the stranger. Henrietta’s hand faltered; she looked at the door of the gallery, then at the portrait; never was she yet so anxious for the reappearance of Ferdinand. There was a silence which she was compelled to break, for the stranger was both mute and motionless, and scarcely more assured than herself.

‘Captain Armine will be here immediately, I have no doubt.’

The stranger bowed. ‘If I might presume to criticise so finished a performance,’ he remarked, ‘I should say that you had conveyed, madam, a more youthful character than the original presents.’

Henrietta did not venture to confess that such was her intention. She looked again at the door, mixed some colour, and then cleared it immediately off her palette. ‘What a beautiful gallery is this!’ she exclaimed, as she changed her brush, which was, however, without a fault.

‘It is worthy of Armine,’ said the stranger.

‘Indeed there is no place so interesting,’ said Miss Temple.

‘It pleases me to hear it praised,’ said the stranger.

‘You are well acquainted with it?’ enquired Miss Temple.

‘I have the happiness to live here,’ said the stranger.

‘I am not then mistaken in believing that I speak to Mr. Glastonbury.’

‘Indeed, madam, that is my name,’ replied the gentleman; ‘I fancy we have often heard of each other. This a most unexpected meeting, madam, but for that reason not less delightful. I have myself just returned from a ramble of some days, and entered the gallery little aware that the family had arrived. You met, I suppose, my Ferdinand on the road. Ah! you wonder, perhaps, at my familiar expression, madam. He has been my Ferdinand so many years, that I cannot easily school myself no longer to style him so. But I am aware that there are now other claims———’

‘My dearest Glastonbury,’ exclaimed Ferdinand Armine, starting as he reentered the gallery, and truly in as great a fright as a man could well be, who perhaps, but a few hours ago, was to conquer in Spain or Germany. At the same time, pale and eager, and talking with excited rapidity, he embraced his tutor, and scrutinised the countenance of Henrietta to ascertain whether his fatal secret had been discovered.

That countenance was fond, and, if not calm, not more confused than the unexpected appearance under the circumstances might account for. ‘You have often heard me mention Mr. Glastonbury,’ he said, addressing himself to Henrietta. ‘Let me now have the pleasure of making you acquainted. My oldest, my best friend, my second father; an admirable artist, too, I can assure you. He is qualified to decide even upon your skill. And when did you arrive, my dearest friend? and where have you been? Our old haunts? Many sketches? What abbey have you explored, what antique treasures have you discovered? I have such a fine addition for your herbal! The Barbary cactus, just what you wanted; I found it in my volume of Shelley; and beautifully dried, beautifully; it will quite charm you. What do you think of this drawing? Is it not beautiful? quite the character, is it not?’ Ferdinand paused for lack of breath.

‘I was just observing as you entered,’ said Glastonbury, very quietly, ‘to Miss———’

‘I have several letters for you,’ said Ferdinand, interrupting him, and trembling from head to foot lest he might say Miss Grandison. ‘Do you know you are just the person I wanted to see? How fortunate that you should just arrive! I was annoyed to find you were away. I cannot tell you how much I was annoyed!’

‘Your dear parents?’ enquired Glastonbury.

‘Are quite well,’ said Ferdinand, ‘perfectly well. They will be so glad to see you, so very glad. They do so long to see you, my dearest Glastonbury. You cannot imagine how they long to see you.’

‘I shall find them within, think you?’ enquired Glastonbury.

‘Oh! they are not here,’ said Ferdinand; ‘they have not yet arrived. I expect them every day. Every day I expect them. I have prepared everything for them, everything. What a wonderful autumn it has been!’

And Glastonbury fell into the lure and talked about the weather, for he was learned in the seasons, and prophesied by many circumstances a hard winter. While he was thus conversing, Ferdinand extracted from Henrietta that Glastonbury had not been in the gallery more than a very few minutes; and he felt assured that nothing fatal had transpired. All this time Ferdinand was reviewing his painful situation with desperate rapidity and prescience. All that he aspired to now was that Henrietta should quit Armine in as happy ignorance as she had arrived: as for Glastonbury, Ferdinand cared not what he might suspect, or ultimately discover. These were future evils that subsided into insignificance compared with any discovery on the part of Miss Temple.

Comparatively composed, Ferdinand now suggested to Henrietta to quit her drawing, which indeed was so advanced that it might be finished at Ducie; and, never leaving her side, and watching every look, and hanging on every accent of his old tutor, he even ventured to suggest that they should visit the tower. The proposal, he thought, might lull any suspicion that might have been excited on the part of Miss Temple. Glastonbury expressed his gratification at the suggestion, and they quitted the gallery, and entered the avenue of beech trees.

‘I have heard so much of your tower, Mr. Glastonbury,’ said Miss Temple, ‘I am sensible, I assure you, of the honour of being admitted.’

The extreme delicacy that was a characteristic of Glastonbury preserved Ferdinand Armine from the dreaded danger. It never for an instant entered Glastonbury’s mind that Henrietta was not Miss Grandi–He thought it a little extraordinary, indeed, that she should arrive at Armine only in the company of Ferdinand; but much might be allowed to plighted lovers; besides, there might be some female companion, some aunt or cousin, for aught he knew, at the Place. It was only his parents that Ferdinand had said had not yet arrived. At all events, he felt at this moment that Ferdinand, perhaps, even because he was alone with his intended bride, had no desire that any formal introduction or congratulations should take place; and only pleased that the intended wife of his pupil should be one so beautiful, so gifted, and so gracious, one apparently so worthy in every way of his choice and her lot, Glastonbury relapsed into his accustomed ease and simplicity, and exerted himself to amuse the young lady with whom he had become so unexpectedly acquainted, and with whom, in all probability, it was his destiny in future to be so intimate. As for Henrietta, nothing had occurred in any way to give rise to the slightest suspicion in her mind. The agitation of Ferdinand at this unexpected meeting between his tutor and his betrothed was in every respect natural. Their engagement, as she knew, was at present a secret to all; and although, under such circumstances, she herself at first was disposed not to feel very much at her ease, still she was so well acquainted with Mr. Glastonbury from report, and he was so unlike the common characters of the censorious world, that she was, from the first, far less annoyed than she otherwise would have been, and soon regained her usual composure, and was even gratified and amused with the adventure.

A load, however, fell from the heart of Ferdinand, when he and his beloved bade Glastonbury a good afternoon. This accidental and almost fatal interview terribly reminded him of his difficult and dangerous position; it seemed the commencement of a series of misconceptions, mortifications, and misfortunes, which it was absolutely necessary to prevent by instantly arresting them with the utmost energy and decision. It was bitter to quit Armine and all his joys, but in truth the arrival of his family was very doubtful: and, until the confession of his real situation was made, every day might bring some disastrous discovery. Some ominous clouds in the horizon formed a capital excuse for hurrying Henrietta off to Ducie. They quitted Armine at an unusually early hour. As they drove along, Ferdinand revolved in his mind the adventure of the morning, and endeavoured to stimulate himself to the exertion of instantly repairing to Bath. But he had not courage to confide his purpose to Henrietta. When, however, they arrived at Ducie, they were welcomed with intelligence which rendered the decision, on his part, absolutely necessary. But we will reserve this for the next chapter.



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