Prudence declares that whenever a person is in that disagreeable situation which compels him to ask “what shall I do?” that the wisest answer is, “nothing.” But such answer did not satisfy George Hyde. He was too young, too sure of his own good fortune, too restless and impulsive, to accept Prudence as a councillor. He might have considered, that, hitherto, affairs had happened precisely as he wished them; and that it would be good policy to trust to his future opportunities. But he was so much in earnest, so honestly in love, that he felt his doubts and anxieties could only be relieved by action. Sympathy, at least, he must have; and he knew no man, to whom he would willingly talk of Cornelia. The little jests and innuendoes sure to follow his confidence would be intolerable if associated with a creature so pure and so ingenuous.
“I will go to my mother!” he thought. And this resolution satisfied him so well, that he carried it out at once. But it was after dark when he reached the tall stone portals of Hyde Manor House. The ride, however, had given him back his best self. For when we leave society and come into the presence of Nature, we become children again; and the fictions of thought and action assumed among men drop off like a garment. The beauty of the pale green hills, and the flowing river, and the budding trees, and the melody of birds singing as if they never would grow old, were all but charming accessories and horizons to his constant pictures of Cornelia. It was she who gave life and beauty to all he saw; for as a rule, if men notice nature at all, it is ever through some painted window of their own souls. Few indeed are those who hear—
“The Ancient Word,
That walked among the silent trees.”
Yet Hyde was keenly conscious of some mystical sympathy between himself and the lovely scenes through which he passed—conscious still more of it when the sun had set and the moon rose—dim and inscrutable—over the lonely way, and filled the narrow glen which was at the entrance to the Manor House full of brooding power.
The great building loomed up dark and silent; there was but one light visible. It was in his mother’s usual sitting-room, and as soon as he saw it, he began to whistle. She heard him afar off, and was at the door to give him a welcome.
“Joris, my dear one, we were talking of you!” she cried, as he leaped from the saddle to her arms. “So glad are we! Come in quickly! Such a good surprise! It is our hearts’ wish granted! Well, are you? Quite well? Now, then, I am happy. Happy as can be! Look now, Richard!” she called, as she flung the door open, and entered with the handsome, smiling youth at her side.
In his way the father was just as much pleased. He pushed some papers he had been busy with impatiently aside, and stood up with outstretched hand to meet his son.
“Kate, my dear heart,” he cried, “let us have something to eat. The boy will be hungry as a hunter after his ride. And George, what brings you home? We were just telling each other—your mother and I—that you were in the height of the city’s follies.”