About a week after, Mr. Hargrave brought his sister to see me. He conducted himself, at first, with his usual cold, distant, half-stately, half-melancholy, altogether injured air; but Esther made no remark upon it this time; she had evidently been schooled into better manners. She talked to me, and laughed and romped with little Arthur, her loved and loving playmate. He, somewhat to my discomfort, enticed her from the room to have a run in the hall; and, thence, into the garden. I got up to stir the fire. Mr. Hargrave asked if I felt cold, and shut the doors very unseasonable piece of officiousness, for I had meditated following the noisy playfellows, if they did not speedily return. He then took the liberty of walking up to the fire himself, and asking me if I were aware that Mr. Huntingdon was now at the seat of Lord Lowborough, and likely to continue there some time.
`No; but it's no matter,' I answered carelessly; and if my cheek glowed like fire, it was rather at the question than the information it conveyed.
`You don't object to it?' he said.
`Not at all, if Lord Lowborough likes his company.'
`You have no love left for him, then?'
`Not the least.'
`I knew that--knew you were too high-minded and pure in your own nature to continue to regard one so utterly false and polluted, with any feelings but those of indignation and scornful abhorrence!'
`Is he not your friend?' said I, turning my eyes from the fire to his face, with perhaps a slight touch of those feelings he assigned to another.
`He was,' replied he, with the same calm gravity as before, `but do not wrong me by supposing that I could continue my friendship and esteem to a man who could so infamously--so impiously forsake and injure one so transcendently--well, I won't speak of it. But tell me, do you never think of revenge?'
`Revenge! No--what good would that do?--it would make him no better, and me no happier.'
`I don't know how to talk to you, Mrs. Huntingdon,' said he smiling; `you are only half a woman--your nature must be half human, half angelic. Such goodness overawes me; I don't know what to make of it.'
`Then sir, I fear you must be very much worse than you should be, if I, a mere ordinary mortal, am by your own confession, so vastly your superior;--and since there exists so little sympathy between us, I think we had better each look out for some more congenial companion.' And forthwith moving to the window, I began to look out for my little son and his gay young friend.
`No, I am the ordinary mortal, I maintain,' replied Mr. Hargrave. I will not allow myself to be worse than my fellows; but you Madam--I equally maintain there is nobody like you. But are you happy?' he asked in a serious tone.
`As happy as some others, I suppose.'
`Are you as happy as you desire to be?'
`No one is so blest as that comes to, on this side eternity.'
`One thing I know,' returned he, with a deep, sad sigh; `you are immeasurably happier than I am.'
`I am very sorry for you, then,' I could not help replying.
`Are you indeed?--No--for if you were, you would be glad to relieve me.'
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