concocted as he rode along. He told me he had brought a message from his mother, who, as he was riding that way, had desired him to call at the manor and beg the pleasure of my company to a friendly, family dinner to-morrow.
`There is no one to meet but ourselves,' said he; `but Esther is very anxious to see you; and my mother fears you will feel solitary in this great house so much alone, and wishes she could persuade you to give her the pleasure of your company more frequently, and make yourself at home in our more humble dwelling, till Mr Huntingdon's return shall render this a little more conducive to your comfort.'
`She is very kind,' I answered, `but I am not alone, you see;--and those whose time is fully occupied seldom complain of solitude.'
`Will you not come tomorrow, then? She will be sadly disappointed if you refuse,'
I did not relish being thus compassionated for my loneliness; but however, I promised to come.
`What a sweet evening this is!' observed he, looking round upon the sunny park, with its imposing swell and slope, its placid water, and majestic clumps of trees. `And what a paradise you live in!'
`It is a lovely evening,' answered I; and I sighed to think how little I had felt its loveliness, and how little of a paradise sweet Grass-dale was to me--how still less to the voluntary exile from its scenes. Whether Mr Hargrave divined my thoughts, I cannot tell, but, with a half-hesitating, sympathizing seriousness of tone and manner, he asked if I had lately heard from Mr Huntingdon.
`Not lately,' I replied.
`I thought not,' he muttered, as if to himself, looking thoughtfully on the ground.
`Are you not lately returned from London?' I asked.
`And did you see him there?'
`Was he well?'
`Yes--that is,' said he, with increasing hesitation and an appearance of suppressed indignation, `he was as well as--as he deserved to be, but under circumstances I should have deemed incredible for a man so favoured as he is.' He here looked up and pointed the sentence with a serious bow to me, I suppose my face was crimson.
`Pardon me, Mrs Huntingdon,' he continued, `but I cannot sup press my indignation when I behold such infatuated blindness and perversion of taste;--but, perhaps you are not aware--`'He paused,
`I am aware of nothing, sir--except that he delays his coming longer than I expected; and if at present, he prefers the society of his friends to that of his wife, and the dissipations of the town to the quiet of country life, I suppose I have those friends to thank for it. Their tastes and occupations are similar to his, and I don't see why his conduct should awaken either their indignation or surprise.'
`You wrong me cruelly,' answered he: `I have shared but little of Mr Huntingdon's society, for the last few weeks; and as for his tastes and occupations, they are quite beyond me--lonely wanderer as I am. Where I have but sipped and tasted, he drains the cup to the dregs; and if ever for a moment I have sought to drown the voice of reflection in madness and folly, or if I have wasted too much of my time and talents among reckless and dissipated companions, God knows I would gladly renounce the entirely and for ever, if I had but half the blessings that man so thanklessly casts behind his back--but half the inducements to virtue and domestic, orderly habits that he despises--but such a home, and such a partner to share
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