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inquiries about the individuals of a sex which he usually thoùght so light of, a surprise wbieh was much increased by the next question, put as abruptly as the former.
“ Which think you the handsomest?”
“), sir?” replied his son with some wonder, but without embarrassment-"I really-am no judge—I never considered : which was absolutely the handsomest. They are both very pretty young women."
« You evade my question, Mordaunt; perhaps I have some very particular reason for my wish to be acquainted with your taste in this matter. I am not used to waste words for no purpose. I ask you again, which of Magnus Troil's daughters you think most handsome ?”
Really, sir," replied Mordaunt—" but you only' jest in asking me such a question."
Young man,” replied Mertoun, with eyes which began to roll and sparkle with impatience, • I never jest. "I desire an answer to my question.”
* Then, upon my word, sir,” said Mordaunt, of it is not in my power to form a judgment
betwixt the young ladies—they are both very pretty, but by no means like each other. Minna is dark-haired, and more grave than her sister more serious, but by no means either dull or sullen.” "Um,” replied his father ;
have been gravely brought up, and this Minna, I suppose, pleases you most ?"
• No, sir, really I can give her no preference over her sister Brenda, who is as gay as 'a lamb in a spring morning --less tall than her sister, but so well formed, and so excellent a dancer"
“ That she is best qualified to amuse the young man who has a dull home and a moody father," said Mr Mertoun.
Nothing in his father's conduct had ever surprised Mordaunt so much as the obstinacy with which he seemed to pursue a theme so foreign to his general train of thought, and habits of conversation, but he contented himself with answering once more," that both the young ladies were highly admirable, but he had never thought of them with the wish to do either injustice by ranking her lower than her sister
that others would probably decide between them as they happened to be partial to a grave or a gay disposition, or to a dark or fair complexion; but that he could see no excellent quality in the one that was not balanced by something equally captivating in the other."
It is possible that even the coolness with which Mordaunt made this explanation might not have satisfied his father concerning the subject of investigation ; but Swertha at this moment entered with breakfast, and the youth, notwithstanding his late supper, engaged in that meal with an air which satisfied Mertoun that he held it matter of more grave importance than the conversation which they had just held, and that he had nothing more to say upon the subject explanatory of the answers he had already given. He shaded his brow with his hand, and looked long fixedly upon the young man as he was busied with his morning meal. There was neither abstraction nor a sense of being observed in any of his motions; all was frank, natural, and open,
" He is fancy-free,” muttered Mertoun to
himself-“so young, so lively, and so imaginative, so handsome and so attractive in face and person, strange, that at his age, and in his circumstances, he should have avoided the meshes which catch all the world beside."
When the breakfast was over, the elder Mertoun, instead of proposing, as usual, that his son, who awaited his commands, should betake himself to one branch or other of his studies, assumed his hat and staff, and desired that Mordaunt should accompany him to the top of the cliff, called Sumburgh-head, and from thence look out upon the state of the ocean, agitated as it must still be by the tempest of the preceding day, Mordaunt was at the age when young men willingly exchange sedentary pursuits for active exercise, and started
with alacrity to comply with his father's request; and in the course of a few minutes they were mounting together the hill, which, ascending from the land side in a long, steep, and grassy slope, sinks at once from the summit to the sea in an abrupt and tremendous precipice.
The day was delightful; there was just so much motion in the air as to disturb the little
fleecy clouds which were scattered on the horizon, and by floating them occasionally over the sun, to chequer the landscape with that variety of light and shade which often gives to a bare and uninclosed scene, for the time at least, a species of charm approaching to the varieties of a cultivated and planted country. A thousand fitting hues of light and shade played over the expanse of wild moor, rocks, and inlets, which, as they climbed higher and higher, spread in wide and wider circuit around them.
The elder Mertoun often paused and looked around upon the scene, and for some time his son supposed that he halted to enjoy its beauties; but as they ascended still higher up the hill, he remarked his shortened breath and his uncertain and toilsome step, and became assured, with some feelings of alarm, that his father's strength was, for the moment, exhausted, and that he found the ascent more toilsome and fatiguing than usual. To draw close to his side, and offer him in silence the assistance of his arm, was an act of youthful deference to advanced age, as well as of filial reverence, and Mertoun seemed at first so to