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THE SON'S RETURN.
"This castle hath a pleasant seat."-Macbeth.
"The time hangs dreary on us,
And we weary by our lane;
And I doot, I doot, we'll no can rest
IN one of the spacious and luxuriously furnished drawing-rooms of Mertonsville Park were seated, on a lovely evening in August, a lady and gentleman, whose bearing and conversation proclaimed them to be the owners of the mansion.
A glance through the apartment sufficed to indicate wealth, united with refinement of taste and elegance of design. Exquisite gems of art from various countries, costly paintings and richly carved furniture, polished marbles and antique porcelain, were scattered profusely around. From the open windows a delightful panorama presented itself: a wide expanse of picturesque scenery, replete with nature's loveliest adornments, and lighted up by the glowing rays of the setting sun. In the distance a range of mountains lifted their shadowy summits to the sky, while the fitful windings of the river added grace and beauty to the whole. The grounds belonging to the estate of Mertonsville were extensive, and beautifully laid out, containing shady walks lined with fine old trees, and soft velvety seats, where one could sit for hours gazing at the ever-changing landscape, and listening to the soothing sound of some rushing cascade in the immediate neighbourhood.
Mr. and Mrs. Seymour, the occupants of the drawing-room, were in a state of unusual excitement on this lovely summer's evening; for they were momentarily expecting the arrival of their only son from Dilton, the nearest railway-station; and as the time passed on, Mrs. Seymour grew so eager and restless, that the favourite little spaniel at her feet was unnoticed, and strove in vain to obtain one glance or caress.
Not long, however, had she to exercise her patience; for her quick ear soon detected the sound of approaching wheels on the smoothly gravelled avenue without, and in another moment a tall, slight, finely formed young man, with large, dark, earnest eyes, and a thoughtful.
intelligent countenance, sprang lightly from the carriage, and was welcomed to his home with kind embraces and exclamations of joy.
"How well you are looking!" cried the fond mother, as she gazed with maternal pride upon her son's animated countenance; "Is he not, my dear?"-turning to her husband, who stood watching them, with a pleased smile upon his lips.
"Yes," he replied; "so well, that I am inclined to think your fears were all groundless."
"Fears?" repeated the son, looking puzzled.
"Oh, I can already see that I was mistaken," said his mother, laughing; "but I fancied your letters lately were penned in a graver style than usual, and I confess I felt concerned about your health."
"I am sorry you should have suffered any uneasiness on that account, as I have been perfectly well ever since I left you."
"You can scarcely imagine, my dear Herbert, how delighted we are to have you home again! Even our pleasantest parties have seemed dull without you; but now that you have returned, all will be life and gaiety once more."
A close observer might have detected a shade of gravity steal over the young man's countenance while listening to his mother's words; but she saved him the necessity of making any reply by continuing hastily," We must not, however, keep you here; for the dinner is already served. Just hasten to your room, and refresh yourself after your journey, and then join us in the dining-room."
This he did, and the rest of the evening was spent in cheerful conversation. At a late hour they separated, and Herbert Seymour retired to his room; but he did not at once seek repose. Some weighty matter apparently occupied his mind; for his looks were grave, and his manner abstracted.
At last he drew from his pocket a book, and sat down to read. It was interesting to note the change in his countenance as he went on -the grave, anxious lines gave way to a more hopeful expression, and the deeply compressed lips relaxed into a quiet smile, which remained unclouded until, after commending himself to the protection of the Almighty, calmly and peacefully he laid down to rest.
And here let me pause to explain more clearly to my readers the character and position of those to whom they have been introduced.
Mr. Seymour's personal appearance was not striking, but he possessed a tall and commanding figure, which corresponded well with the tone of his mind, the firmness and vigour of his will, and his habitual energy and decision of character. His manner was in general pleasant and affable, though somewhat pompous; and he was, on the whole, courteous, polite, and easy-tempered, unless he met with any one who attempted to thwart him, in which case he could be sarcastic, bitter, and resentful.
As regards social position, he sprang from an illustrious family, inherited an ample fortune, together with the magnificent estate of Mertonsville, and had much influence amongst his fellow-men.
He represented the town of Dilton in Parliament, was the founder and patron of numerous institutions throughout the country, having for their object the enlightenment of the people, the advancement of art, science, and literature; was one of the most wealthy, respected, and influential members of the society in which he moved, being not unfrequently quoted as a competent authority upon many topics,