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THE CONSTANT MAN.
I AGAIN VISIT FOLJAMBE PARK.
Heaven keep your honour safe. Amen!
SHAKSPEARE. --Measure for Measure.
WHOEVER has read me thus far, may be able to imagine my feelings when once again visiting a place which was the most loved object of my memory, and where my young mind had first seemed to know what it was to live.
When we arrived at the gates, how different were my feelings from those with which I first saw them opened to let in a view of what I thought Paradise ! How did my heart thrill when I saw and remembered the spot (never indeed forgotten) where the youthful Bertha bounded into the arms of her brother,
that brother now no more, and all her charming vivacity beat down and subdued by her recent and un:looked for misfortune. All about her and about the place, then gaiety itself, was now in deep mourning. Yet, was she only. still more lovely, for the interest which this threw into her every look and gesture, occupied, however, far more with her father than herself.
Mr. Hastings seemed more easy as he entered his home, fondly embracing Bertha as she led him through the hall to his cabinet, and while tears dropt fast, forcing a smile when she said “My dear, dear father, you
will still be happy, please God.” “ Yes !” said he with emphasis, “ please God.”
He then shook hands with Granville and me, and shut himself up with his daughter, now his onlyalways his greatest-comfort. Presently, however, she came out again, though only for a moment, to say her father begged us to consider ourselves masters of the place till he was fitter to make us welcome. She then returned to him, nor did we see them again till dinner-time, several hours afterwards.
“ A most extraordinary position this for you, my good friend,” said Granville, as we walked into the park.
“ I can scarcely believe it myself,” replied I, “nor do I know whether I have done well or ill.”
“Ill, be assured,” said he; “ and I again say, ' Experto crede Roberto.'"
“ You think, then, I have run wilfully into danger?”
“ You have run into the cannon's mouth," said Granville.
" I can but die," I answered ; and we walked on in a sort of cloudy silence, which was for some time without interruption.
At length, and as if he had continued the conversation in his own mind, Granville resumed, “ If you had ever been encouraged ; if you had ever ascertained whether she had any, and what feeling towards you, so as to have given a gleam-a glimmering of light to conduct you ! But to falter on voluntarily in darkness, with neither prospect nor clue-oh, the infatuation—the madness! to say nothing of the dishonour, even if you could succeed !"
“ Hold !" said I, with agitation ; “there at least I am invulnerable. Could I think Miss Hastings gave me one tender thought-one feeling that distinguished me from the rest of mankind-I could leave her for ever, and live upon that thought for life. I could watch her at a distance, and rejoice in her happiness with another who was worthy. But this is all; “This is the head and front of my offending ;' as well as of my ambition. As to address her inform would be insanity, so to endeavour secretly to seduce her affections, even, as you say, if I could succeed, would be as far from my endeavour as abhorrent to my principles.”
Nobly said, and sincerely, I have no doubt,” returned Granville. “ We shall see how principles and practice accord.” And we again walked on in silence.
In a few minutes he continued “It is evident that you have achieved much with the father, and you will, no doubt, renew your juvenile intimacy with the daughter. Neither of them is insensible (which is in your favour with the father at least) to your claims to a high and ancient descent, however obscured by present circumstances; and those circumstances there is now no influential votary of high life at their elbow, to mark with contempt or hold up to disdain.”
6 And what of all this?” asked I, with some emotion, for I did not like the seeming insinuation.
“ That your principles," returned he, “ will be put to trial, and your philosophy exposed to danger. Your prudence, however, will, I am persuaded, triumph, and you will retreat before you are absolutely ruined. Pray heaven you may, and that it be not too late.”
Though I was persuaded that all this was said in a spirit of friendship, yet I liked not its tone. It seemed ironical, almost taunting ; certainly less kind than his usual manner. It was apparent that my translation, as he called it, to Foljambe Park, had not given him pleasure. I did not suspect him of being one of those counsellors so jealous of their own wisdom that they would rather a friend suffered than their prophecy be defeated ; but I did begin to suspect (for the very first time, and at a great distance, but still to suspect) that he had not lately trusted himself so much with his cousin for nothing. In short, deeply in love myself, how could I be surprised if this susceptible, warm, and imaginative man should be also a stricken deer, wounded by the same shaft that had
pierced me? This I frankly told him, and watched the effect with anxiety.
He received it, as I thought, strangely, though not with indifference: for after uttering the name of Bertha two or three times, as if surprised, he shook his head; then, as if recollecting himself, said with a smile, “ How delightfully, if I were so inclined, could I play upon and torment your feelings ! How put you to the proof of your professions, by telling you your suspicions were right, and that I am not only the rival you think me, but likely to succeed. It is well for me that the fashion of wearing swords is gone, else upon such a declaration, and in so retired a spot, with no witnesses but the deer, what dangers should I not
However, ‘mark how a plain tale shall put you down,'-if I ought not rather to fear it might put you up, in your jealousy for your mistress's power,—when I tell you that I can see her, speak to her, serve her, admire and revere her, and yet, for reasons best known to myself, take the liberty of not loving her.”
“Astonishing !" said I.
“ Not so much so as your unreasonableness,” answered he. “ For it seems with you, there is but one Bertha in the world, and her you would very modestly appropriate to yourself."
The sting of this reply was lost in the joy I felt that my fears were groundless, and so I told him, though I could not help adding, “ your invulnerability to her must be owing to your being wounded elsewhere.”
6. Of course," replied he, and, as I thought, he red