It was an autumn night. Mr. and Mrs. Mervale, lately returned from an excursion to Weymouth, are in the drawing-room,—“the dame sat on this side, the man sat on that.”
“Yes, I assure you, my dear, that Glyndon, with all his eccentricities, was a very engaging, amiable fellow. You would certainly have liked him,—all the women did.”
“My dear Thomas, you will forgive the remark,—but that expression of yours, ’all the women’—”
“I beg your pardon,—you are right. I meant to say that he was a general favourite with your charming sex.”
“I understand,—rather a frivolous character.”
“Frivolous! no, not exactly; a little unsteady,—very odd, but certainly not frivolous; presumptuous and headstrong in character, but modest and shy in his manners, rather too much so,—just what you like. However, to return; I am seriously uneasy at the accounts I have heard of him to-day. He has been living, it seems, a very strange and irregular life, travelling from place to place, and must have spent already a great deal of money.”
“Apropos of money,” said Mrs. Mervale; “I fear we must change our butcher; he is certainly in league with the cook.”
“That is a pity; his beef is remarkably fine. These London servants are as bad as the Carbonari. But, as I was saying, poor Glyndon—”
Here a knock was heard at the door. “Bless me,” said Mrs. Mervale, “it is past ten! Who can that possibly be?”
“Perhaps your uncle, the admiral,” said the husband, with a slight peevishness in his accent. “He generally favours us about this hour.”
“I hope, my love, that none of my relations are unwelcome visitors at your house. The admiral is a most entertaining man, and his fortune is entirely at his own disposal.”
“No one I respect more,” said Mr. Mervale, with emphasis.
The servant threw open the door, and announced Mr. Glyndon.
“Mr. Glyndon!—what an extraordinary—” exclaimed Mrs. Mervale; but before she could conclude the sentence, Glyndon was in the room.
The two friends greeted each other with all the warmth of early recollection and long absence. An appropriate and proud presentation to Mrs. Mervale ensued; and Mrs. Mervale, with a dignified smile, and a furtive glance at his boots, bade her husband’s friend welcome to England.
Glyndon was greatly altered since Mervale had seen him last. Though less than two years had elapsed since then, his fair complexion was more bronzed and manly. Deep lines of care, or thought, or dissipation, had replaced the smooth contour of happy youth. To a manner once gentle and polished had succeeded a certain recklessness of mien, tone, and bearing, which bespoke the habits of a society that cared little for the calm decorums of conventional ease. Still a kind of wild nobleness, not before apparent in him, characterised his aspect, and gave something of dignity to the freedom of his language and gestures.