« VorigeDoorgaan »
every shilling he gets by Daisybank blister his fingers, and blister his conscience for ever. To rob a church is bad, but to rob for the church is very little better.”
The mob had become impatient to proceed in their wild career, when at this moment the Bishop and Sir Allan, to whom Lady Edith had sent an intimation of the impending danger, were seen slowly advancing together. When the crowd, who had believed their long-loved pastor to be far distant on his bed of death, saw him now, as if risen from the grave, and the young Chief whom they had suspected to be again at Eaglescairn, now standing among his old Protestant friends, a sudden burst of rapturous emotion from the whole concourse rent the skies. Many rushed through the gate to welcome their venerated Bishop; numbers in succession grasped his hand, and all united in another and another shout of obstreperous delight, echoing, and re-echoing to the very hills, for Sir Allan, the Protestant Chief of M*Alpine.
All that could have been said in a scene of such tumultuous joy, was for several minutes useless or unintelligible, while the Bishop feebly supported himself on Sir Allan's arm, his white hair streaming in the wind, his pale countenance like that of a corpse, his eye full of melancholy calmness, but his whole expression dignified with intellect and benevolence. After pausing for some moments to ascertain that there was silence, he said, in a voice of habitual authority, yet of the most parenlat kindness,
“My dear friends, little did I expect that in this world we should ever meet again My own course on earth is ended, and standing, as I do, on the very edge of the grave, it seems to me strange now that anything in existence can cause so much angry excitement as I see among all my old friends at this moment. Life appears to me already a dream, and only death a reality. Think how short is the interval that divides the dust we are from the dust we shall be Do not, then, prepare a pang for your last hours by doing violence in this case. Release that prisoner, whom you have no right to retain, and trust to God that in this life, or in a far better life, justice will be done by One who cannot err, and who knows all.”
The fine solemn voice of the Bishop was dear to the memory of all present. It fell like snowflakes now on the burning anger of the excited mob, which became dumb and motionless, while their deeply-honoured Bishop, with increasing feebleness of body, but undiminished energy of purpose, continued:—
“Religious differences, my old friends, are much too solemn to become the subject of angry strife, or of animal force. Let us pity those we consider wrong, but never persecute them. I invite your prisoner to take a safe shelter within this garden. Let him enter in peace, Lady Edith, here; your best of friends desires it also: therefore, let not one of you attempt to impede him, but each return quietly to his own home, and take my fervent blessing—my last blessing with you!”
The shouting multitude of Clanmarina had become tranquil, as they gazed on the time-worn countenance of their long-loved Bishop, so pale, and so worn. As the glow which had been brought to his cheek by exertion subsided into a ghastly paleness, their voices and their hearts became blended into one universal expression of simple kindness, and of intense emotion. They observed with deep interest, too, how tremulous was his voice, how tottering his step, how feeble his whole aspect; and yet how true and how earnest was the attachment with which their old friend and pastor gazed, probably for the last time, on those who had so long been his flock. The mob, after a time, felt that their love and obedience could be best shown by quietly dispersing; and they gradually melted away, it would be difficult to say how ; but M*Ronald, indignant to see the culprit about to escape unscathed, indignantly muttered to himself—“The clan is no better now than a stale bottle of soda water, when the cork is out. I never thought to see so much good anger thrown away! They might at least have made him promise to leave the neighbourhood. But I forget; no promise to heretics would be binding.” Father Eustace, looking very meek and crestfallen, was released from the grasp of his assailants, when he made no hesitation in obeying the welcome summons of the Bishop to take refuge in Lady Edith's garden from the obstreperous and dangerous escort which had surrounded him, and who were now expending their wrath by burning an immense Guy Fawkes in the centre of Clanmarina. The priest, having been hospitably invited to partake of some refreshment in the house, remained at Heatherbrae till it was safe to go home, and had his soiled dress re-arranged by a most unwilling valet, in the person of Mo Ronald. Father Eustace was disappointed, however, to find that, by the orders of Lady Edith, he was conducted into a sitting-room alone, as none of the party felt bound to associate with one whom they so utterly despised. Being now in a state of bodily safety, however, any affront fell as powerless on Father Eustace as the sword of Richard on the pillow of Saladin. He stood for some moments with his eyes fixed on the ground, while his cheek was still lividly pale, and said to M*Ronald when ushered into a room, in accents of angry contempt, L “For the sake of those idiots themselves, I am glad to be safe. The mob was becoming formidable, but one fool makes many, and it is my duty to forgive and forget.” “You will do neither, or you are no Jesuit,” muttered McRonald between his teeth; “there is no anger so vindictive as that of a priest; but I am not to be humbugged. We did but act in self-defence; yet, as he is our enemy, he will always think that we are his, and behave accordingly. If malice can reach any of us, we shall soon feel its power.” Before leaving Heatherbrae, Father Eustace sent a slip of paper to Sir Allan, requesting a private interview; and the young Chief, feeling himself braced up in mind and body for the worst, determined to see Father Eustace, and at once put an end to all hope of his being again deluded into the dreamy and imaginative state to which his mind had been so long and almost mysteriously enslaved. It was a singular meeting, when Sir Allan entered, for the cunning Jesuit at once took it for granted that he again met an obedient and devoted proselyte. Stealing at Sir Allan a searching glance full of purpose, (and who would not have quailed beneath that eye so indicative of power?) he began to speak with sly contemptuous pity of the heretic mob which had attacked him, as well as of the heretic Bishop who had released him. Assuming his “fatherly” tone, and rolling his eyes with a look of affected piety, the wily priest proceeded to regret that Sir Allan had been unavoidably associated during his illness with persons so totally unsuited to his enlightened state of mind; but observed, that any gratitude to such persons was by no means required, as, on the contrary, whatever might naturally have been his own personal feelings, it was now his duty to sacrifice them. “Self-denial and holy obedience require that you leave this house with me to-day. Humility calls for this surrender of your comfort, your convenience, and even the safety, if it be so, of your health; I, as your spiritual guide, command that, however hateful or revolting to your natural feel