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“ Yes, no doubt, and he will admire her pictures too. Frances will only do us credit in every way. I wish we could say as much for that unhappy boy.”
Mrs. Amherst moved uneasily in her place as he said these words. “Poor dear Claud, he has been very unfortunate," she said.
“I think we are unfortunate to have such a son,” said the old man, “ he has caused us nothing but expense and anxiety from the day when he brought us out here and embarked in his foolish schemes, to the present, when he is sending us home pretty well stripped of all we possess."
“Oh no, dear John,—not that—we shall do very well in Thorold's house.”
“But Thorold is only my nephew, and I have always been accustomed to have a house of my own.”
Well, well, and this house will be our own, we shall rent it from him of course ; and as to dear Claud, he was foolish, I know, when he entered on so many unsafe speculations here, and he has managed very badly since, but his intentions have always been so good, so generous. Why he hoped to have made quite a fortune for us all with his last enterprize, which turned out such a failure. Yes, poor boy, he has indeed always meant well."
“I wish he had meant a little less and done a little more,” said Mr. Amherst, with a faint smile, half playful, half pathetic ; " but there, don't worry yourself, dear,” he added, as he saw that tears were rising in the
of his wife. “I cannot help grieving a little for the melting away of the old acres, which have been in my family so long, but while I have you, my Mary, I am a happy man, be sure of that.”
I She pressed his hand tightly in both her own, and seemed with little effort to shake off her momentary sadness.
“Look, there is Francie," she said cheerfully, pointing to a terrace walk below them, where the tall, graceful figure of a girl had just come in sight.
Frances Amherst was walking slowly with a somewhat languid step along the broad gravel path, but she was not altogether alone. Keeping close to her side like a familiar companion, a beautiful Arab horse came gently pacing on, showing in every line of his slender limbs and perfect head, the distinctive marks of his race. The girl's arm was round his neck, and she was talking to him in soft, murmuring tones, to which he seemed to respond from time to time by turning his large
gazelle-like eyes upon her or laying his gentle head caressing!y against her cheek.
Ah, my Arnaout,” she said, " how can I ever bear to part with you,—such a friend as you have been to me! it is my
in leaving this dear home. I hope you will have a kind master. I have done
best find you one, but you will never forget me. You will miss me I know. I think it might have been better for you to have died, and gone away to wait for me in the happy hunting fields of the Indian's faith ; be sure of this, that I shall never ride again. Oh, how changed my life will be! what a vanished dream will seem the days when you bore me like the wind over the flower-decked plains,”—and then she sang softly the refrain of a little sad French canzonette,
“Je te quitte et je puis dire
,-mes beaux jours sont passés." Yes, it was the last day that Frances Amherst would ever make her home by the fair shores of the Bosphorus, and she knew it to her heart's core. Arnaout, so named from his birthplace, walked with her to the turn of the path which led to his stables and there paused, he knew he might go no further. She clasped her hands round his neck for a moment in a clinging embrace, and then drew herself sadly away. “ Yes, go, my Arnaout,” she said, “the end has come for you and
We shall not meet again,-nos beaux jours sont passés !" The horse moved slowly away seeming to droop his beautiful head sadly, and Frances turned in the direction of her parents. She paused however, for a moment in the shade of a tree where they could not see her and dashed the unshed tears from her eyes, then she shook back the thick masses of her brown hair and came towards them with a smiling face. They each took one of her hands as she stood before them and looked at her anxiously.
“I am afraid you are very sorry to part with your favourite," said Mrs. Amherst.
· Yes, dear Arnaout, I cannot help regretting him, but it is of the change for him I think most; he has been so happy with me, I do hope Monsieur de B-will be kind to him.”
You may be sure of that,” said Mrs. Amherst, “ he will cherish him for your sake. He would have been glad enough to keep you as well as Arnaout. I told him again to-day that it was useless for him to express his wishes
“ I should think so," said the old man; “ the idea of our Francie married to a Frenchman ! It is very fortunate that you did not care for him, child.”
“No," she said, half smiling, "poor Monsieur de B-certainly does not add anything to my regrets in leaving this dear home.”
“And you do regret it, I fear, very much," said Mr. Amherst. “ You were too young when we left England to long for a return there as your mother and I do; and I believe this parting from all the familiar scenes of so many years tries you much more severely than you care to let us see.”
“Is it so, dear child ?” said her mother sadly, are you very unhappy in the prospect of going to what is in truth a strange land to you?"
“I am sorry to leave this beautiful place,” she said, “but” she drew the two hands she held together, and stooping down kissed them tenderly, while she added, " but I shall have you two darlings with me, and where you are must always be my home, the best and happiest I could have.”
The next moment she looked up brightly, seeming to have quite shaken off all feeling of sadness, and asked her father if he would not come and take a walk with her on the shore before the night fell altogether.
"You know after this evening you will have no chance of any exercise, except on the deck of the steamer, for three weeks to come, so you must take this opportunity of a last little stroll with me. Mother can sit here and admire us at her ease; that is always what she does when you and I go out together."
“Well, well, have your way,” said Mr. Amherst, smiling, “I always like a walk with you, child; but we must not leave your mother too long alone or she will begin fretting over Claud, and fancying he is exposed to all sorts of miseries."
"I do not see how he can be anything but miserable," said Mrs. Amherst, plaintively. "We do not even know that he has got the
“ means of living at least in any comfort."
“Oh yes, mother, he has enough for the present,” said Frances, cheerfully, “and you know you are going to see him in a very few days at Galatz, so there is really nothing to be unhappy about.”
Then she took her father's arm, and they walked down through the garden towards the shore.
“Life, like the ice, breaks in the most unexpected places.”
MR. Amherst often said that he had not a head for business, and nothing could be more entirely true than the statement; no child could be much more ignorant of the world's ways in that respect than he was, despite his seventy years' experience of life. In the days of his youth it had not been necessary for him to learn anything about money matters, beyond the prudent spending of the moderate income which he derived from the estate that had come to him by his father's death when he was only a few months old. It lay in a somewhat bleak part of Wales, and he had never resided there, as the best house on his land was only suitable for his bailiff to live in, and after his marriage he made his home wherever, for the time being, he could best further the education of his children. He loved the old place, however, which had been in his family for some five hundred years, and it caused him a bitter pang when he found himself compelled to sell it in consequence of the difficulties into which he had been plunged by Claud, his only surviving son.
This young man had been—with the best intentions, as his poor mother would have said—the ruin of his family; self-willed, vain, and absolutely deficient in common sense, though with a good deal of superficial cleverness, he had had his own way without restraint from boyhood to the misery of himself and of all connected with him ; his parents started on the assumption that he was the most wise, talented, and admirable of human beings, and whatever he desired he had at any cost. They had lost three elder sons while Claud was still a boy; two had been in the army, and both died in India, where they had gone with their regiments in a specially unhealthy season. The third was a naval officer, and went down with his ship in a terrible storm, so that Mrs. Amherst at least felt thankful when Claud declined to enter into any profession whatever, and declared, with boundless self-confidence, that he felt certain he could make his fortune in some much more speedy and satisfactory manner than steady work of any kind could produce ; he had an inexhaustible imagination and a remarkable faculty for believing that whatever he wished would certainly come to pass, and that every scheme which sprang from his fertile brain must inevitably succeed.
He was not in the slightest degree disenchanted from this belief by the gummary failure of his earliest attempts ; he never failed to find some most plausible reason for the extraordinary fact that he-Claud Amherst —had actually been unsuccessful, and invariably assured his parents that it could only have been a providential prelude to some far more desirable achievement which would crown bim with glory and prosperity. The taste for speculating grew upon him to an alarming extent; he had always some magnificent project on hand which was to bring wealth untold to himself and to all belonging to him, while the preliminary outlay borne, of course, by the old family estate, was to be repaid a thousand-fold.
Mr. Amherst believed implicitly in all his brilliant son's castles in the air, and went on in the blindest confidence following his guidance wherever he chose to lead him. If occasionally he had some misgivings, when he had to make a heavier disbursement than usual, they were not only dispelled but warmly condemned by Mrs. Amherst, in whose eyes it was impossible for her talented boy to be even mistaken, and she would point triumphantly to his high profession of religion as a guarantee that blessing and safety must follow all his steps.
It was true that Claud had very orthodox and pronounced views in religious matters to which he held with great tenacity, and which largely manifested themselves in wholesale condemnation of every one who differed from him in any respect whatever ; he most truly believed himself to be a model Christian and Churchman, and asserted his claims as such with no doubtful assurance, but as a matter of fact he exhibited the phenomenon, not at all rare in this world, of a man whose religion was theoretically quite sincere, but whose inmost soul and life it had not really touched in the remotest degree; he wore it like a loose, easyfitting garment which covered him bravely with its fair array, while within its convenient folds he could follow his own wayward fancies and serve that self which was in truth the god of his will.
At length, some ten years before the time when we first make acquaintance with the Amhersts, Claud was allured to the neighbourhood of Constantinople by a golden dream more brilliant and fascinating than any he had yet known, and in which he believed, on the authority of a chance acquaintance, that he had at last found the El Dorado of his hopes. He very easily induced his parents to accompany him thither, they could not bear to part with him, and quite agreed with him in thinking that he would carry on his arduous undertaking with much