Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

66 But

splendid gold brocade, and the nodding plume of feathers. One of them has dropped out of her head, you see, and she has smilingly picked it up. I never saw so exquisite a painting, or so life-like a countenance.”

“ Do let us have you in a tableau to represent this picture !” exclaimed Lady Anne. 6 I know where that very dress has lain in a chest, like the “Bride of the Mistletoe Bough,” for half a century, and you positively shall let us see you in it, feathers and all! I am sure we should all then trace the resemblance, though Miss Turton says the picture is quite as like herself.”

“ Pshaw! Miss Turton would see herself in a stone wall,” said Lord Iona impatiently. now for making that portrait live. My mother allows me the use of her whole stage wardrobe for such occasions; therefore, Anne, pray lose not a minute."

“ You speak as if I were a perfect dawdle, Iona; but when did I ever put off any pleasure for half a moment ?” said Lady Anne, hurrying Beatrice away with her ; “ but I am a perfect Gulliver, insensible to all the Lilliputian attacks of your petty malice."

In the very shortest possible time a picture-frame had been produced from the garret, a black gauze was hung before it, and Beatrice, blushing and smiling, stood beside that old picture. It had a pretty, pouting, spoiled-child expression, which she exactly imitated, and thus appeared as its living and perfect representative. “Wonderful! strange!

[ocr errors]

unaccountable !” was the universal exclamation,
and so occupied were the company of comedians
and actors with the astonishing effect of their expe-
riment, that they were not aware of any one else
having entered, till Beatrice was startled out of her
assumed posture by hearing an angry oath of
astonishment and consternation muttered at her
side; and, on looking hurriedly round, she saw
the object of her especial terror, Lord Eaglescairn,
with a look of strange agitation, standing beside
Father Eustace, whose eyes were fixed upon her
with an expression of wonder and even of dismay.
Beatrice instantly stepped out of her frame, and
plucked the feathers from her head, with a feeling
of alarm that she had been led into doing that of
which Lord Eaglescairn disapproved; but no further
notice was ever taken of the incident, and the
lively Lady Anne soon forgot that interruption to
Beatrice's representation, while she dressed up a
group, including herself, as a young novice taking
the veil, with Miss Turton equipped as lady abbess,
and Sir Allan as her confessor.
“It would be well for you, Anne,” said Lord
Iona, with more gravity than he usually seemed
master of, “if playing at monks and nuns were
never more in earnest with you and M*Alpine than
now. I wish you both a better fate than to realize
this tableau !”
Lady Anne blushed and looked down, while Sir
Allan blushed also and looked at her.
Beatrice had frequently of late heard Lady Edith
observe, that owing to the unsuspicious security of

-—- - - - - - - - - - - - - -------- - - -

all Protestants in England, and the creeping, quiet, ceaseless perseverance of the Jesuits, it might not perhaps be many years before their clever and unscrupulous tactics should make them paramount throughout the length and breadth of the nation; but what she had listened to half incredulously of their depth and cunning, thinking it all a mere romantic apprehension, was now brought most suddenly and strongly home to her own experience; yet she could not but smile at the droll tone in which Lord Iona said to her, the first time they met again, “Console yourself for being imprisoned here, as you resemble the fair lady in Comus, who lived among the wicked without being contaminated herself.” “I shall probably also resemble her in escaping from the magic thraldom, at last,” said Beatrice, smiling; “but there is more than Arabian hospitality in this house, where guests are so splendidly entertained, and moreover kept against their will.” “You shall have bread and salt as the pledge of our good intentions,” said Lord Iona; “but observe, I do not answer for those of Father Eustace.” When Beatrice was suddenly separated from Lady Edith, under such very peculiar circumstances, she resolved to look her own position full in the face. Unskilled in the world and in society, she naturally expected to go through a scene of persuasion or of persecution, in order to her becoming a pervert from that pure Protestant faith for which she would willingly have died, and accordIngly she nerved her spirit to meet the anticipated storm. Beatrice could make up her mind, if her newly-found mother required it, to be locked up; she firmly contemplated bread and water for the whole week, and even a dark room, which she had always most particularly abhorred. In short, little Red Ridinghood was not more in terror of the wolf than she was of Father Eustace, knowing as she did that persecution is the duty of a papist. She had read lately, in the published works of a Cardinal, that “to burn heretics is as binding a duty as abstinence on a Friday,” and her soul revolted from all association with those who so little understood the mild spirit of Christianity. Leaning her forehead disconsolately against the cold window-glass of her own room, with feelings of romantic excitement, Beatrice thought of those who had been forcibly cloistered for life. She even remembered, without flinching, how cruelly Constance de Beverley had been built up in the wall of her convent, and a grand martyr-spirit beat high in the warm heart of Beatrice, as she asked herself how much for conscience' sake she could be ready to endure? In her own private room, her hands clasped on her knees, and her eyes steadfastly fixed on the floor, perhaps Richard the Third, before the battle of Bosworth, was not more disturbed in his mind than Beatrice, now sitting téte-à-tête with her own thoughts, looking patient, resigned, but most anxious and unhappy. Beatrice was armed, in short, at all points for any trial except that which actually came, and

[graphic]

which had not occurred to her imagination. Expected circumstances never happen! From the hour of Lady Edith's departure to Heatherbrae, the subject of religion was not once mentioned in her presence. It seemed to have vanished from the recollection of all present, while nothing was thought of but how to make life one scene of holiday enjoyment; how to amuse her most, and to please her best. The first time Lady Eaglescairn entered her room, Beatrice had summoned up a look of heroic firmness, but it was completely lost on her hostess, whose conversation became at once full of airy nothings, as she led her down to the drawing-room, saying,

“ I hereby appoint you to the post of being my favourite friend, Miss Farinelli."

" It is not always a very permanent appointment, mother," said Lord Iona in a rallying tone. “I must flatly and roundly declare that you have run up several eternal friendships lately, that have not lasted for ever and a day.”

“Of course not, and for very good reasons, replied she, in a tone between jest and very sad earnest. “ Once I valued affection above all price, and hoped to enjoy it; once I could have begged as earnestly to be loved as any beggar for his daily food, but my speculations on mutual attachment were not successful. I have almost given up hope, and with hope desire."

“Why so ?” asked Beatrice, in a tone of real sympathy;" surely kindness will beget kindness."

- Not a whit! Kindness only begets the expec

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »