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little family community, the father and mother are to be as monarchs, governing their children and servants with affection and authority. The unnatural usurpation of that sacred title ‘Father’ by a priest, is a total perversion of its meaning, and leads to mischief which cannot be named. The ladies who call themselves ‘Mother Superior’ have unjustly torn from another, as Father Eustace did from Lady Stratharden, the dearest privilege of nature, and fly directly in the face of Providence by doing so.” “True,” said Lady Anne thoughtfully: “during one of my visits to the convent of St. Ignatia, a letter was given to sister Bridget, announcing the sudden death of her own mother; yet she was ordered to look and act as if nothing remarkable had occurred, and to pursue all her ordinary avocations.” “Of course! The extinction of every divinelyimplanted attachment is the main object of those Jesuits, who are now insinuating themselves secretly into every home in England; yet no man will take warning, till the mine is blown up within his own house,” observed Lady Edith. “The estrangement of husbands from their wives, of brothers from their sisters, of friends from their neighbours, is now in rapid but clandestine progress, by books, by sermons, by secret agents, in the court and in the cottage; yet those who appointed a Board of Health to watch the progress of the cholera, keep no watch against that which will destroy both body and soul together.”
“My poor mother saw it all, too late; and often in her sorrow for my estrangement used to remind me, oh, how sadly l—of that text, “If ye love not a brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen o' continued Lady Anne; “but from the moment I began to confess, the very power of thought or action seemed to leave me. I was under a spell, and nothing but the shock of this event could have broken it. Her death-knell has awakened me.”
“For such a hope she was willing to die,” said Lady Edith solemnly. “Certainly, Lady Anne, private confession is the main engine of papists for continuing to enslave their victims; and most diligently do they enforce it. I know for a positive fact that, very recently, within five miles of Westminster Abbey, a public platform was raised in a public street, adorned with crucifixes, images, and pictures. An Irish mob assembled there, with a moderate sprinkling of English intermixed —all drawn there by most blameable curiosity —and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, such as a very unskilful painter supposed her to have been, was carried round the crowd to be kissed. A priest then, in full canonicals, preached a sermon on the absolute necessity of confession. His words were taken down ; and one of the anecdotes gravely told to that gaping multitude is well worth repeating.”
“Let me hear it,” said Lady Anne, on whose mind, though gnawed by the worm of a reproachful conscience, Lady Edith was producing the anodyne effect which by her conversation she intended. “Father Eustace was gradually leading me on to that pitch of credulity which has no limit; and I should like now to hear such a story as he would have forced me, in the course of time, to believe.” “The popish legend was this,” continued Lady Edith: “ and in the year 1851, standing under the noble canopy of heaven, there was a London audience found capable of believing it !—A hermit, living alone in a distant forest, was considered so supremely holy, that pilgrims went in crowds to do him homage, until he died, when it was determined to bury him as so eminent a saint deserved. He was interred, therefore, in the chancel of the nearest chapel, with honours worthy of a canonized saint; but when his votaries returned next day to morning prayers they discovered, with astonishment, that his coffin had risen again to the surface of the ground. Deeply impressed with this miracle, they moved the hermit’s body to another part of the church and buried it again; but again it was found reproduced upon the floor. It now occurred to his admirers that the hermit being so supremely holy, should be interred below the altar, which was accordingly done; and there it was hoped he might rest in peace, in a place so suitable to his merit. On the contrary, however, next day the obstinate coffin was not only up again, but wide open, and the dead saint sitting up in it. The multitude then humbly inquired wherefore it was that so good a man could not remain quietly in his grave; when the corpse at length opened its mouth and acknowledged, that in the hour of death one sin had been overlooked at confession; therefore that sin had not been forgiven; and far from deserving to be buried as a saint at the altar, he must be cast into unconsecrated ground, as a lost sinner, unconfessed, and therefore unpardoned.” “The popish religion is all things to all men; and these are the fairy tales prepared for ignorant wonder-seekers among the poorer classes,” observed Lady Anne, reflectively. “Like Eve, who fell because of her curiosity, my delusion was begun by having my own idle curiosity raised to see a popish service. Father Eustace, who has a forty-Jesuit power, and who was the lion's provider on that occasion, usually takes innumerable young people there, when supposed by their parents to be visiting relations, or attending an evening service in their own family-pew. The scene altogether is admirably got up. Such magnificent dresses! I felt it quite a grand piece of excitement also, at the evening receptions, to see the clergy kneel as they entered the drawing-room, with faces that expressed the very prostration of respect; and then a pompous full-dressed priest talking to poor little me, with a sort of superlative condescension that was quite overwhelming. I could not attend the popish service too often, and dear mamma thought I was always drinking tea with old Mrs. Courtney, as Father Eustace desired me to tell her so, saying he would take upon himself the whole sin, if there were any, of deceiving a Protestant parent for the good of his Church.”
“Such is the teaching of a religion like that of Rome,” said Lady Edith, “where the Bible is entirely suppressed, or only sold mysteriously in back-shops, to the very few who dare to wish for one. Lady Anne, you and I shall do the real work of life together now, continuing Christians on the rational, conscientious, and intellectual model of Scripture, in which I am sure you will find, as Beatrice and I have done, true happiness— long-enduring and satisfactory happiness. Such enjoyment as ours has been hitherto, seems to me almost a sample in hand of that state hereafter, to prepare for which life itself is bestowed.
“‘At thought of this,
Lord Eaglescairn's illness was now really, or represented to be, so imminently dangerous that Lady Edith thought it necessary to postpone all inquiry respecting that great secret belonging to the birthright of Beatrice, which Bessie had in part discovered, but which must of course, on the earliest opportunity, be legally investigated. In the meanwhile it was impossible to gain access to the sufferer, or to believe the report of a word that he said; therefore, though Father Eustace was profuse in his information, Lady Edith and Beatrice agreed that they must postpone all measures until the death or recovery of Lord Eaglescairn made it right for them to act, though in the meanwhile Lady Edith, at her own expense, sent a wellinstructed lawyer to make some necessary inquiries at Corunna.