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“That depends on the spirit that attends on the lamp. If it be a good spirit, then, Allan, I welcome every old remembrance belonging to it; but the little I do understand of Father Eustace would make me almost equally dread his friendship or his enmity,” replied Beatrice. “Those he pretends to lead forward in religion appear to go on, like the old pilgrim to Jerusalem, retreating two steps for every one they advance. I cannot conceive, Allan, how you can trust a man so evidently deceitful.” “If I am deceived that is his fault, not mine. In our church we throw off all individual responsibility, and I find it a great relief. If our Bishop teach wrong, it is the Bishop's fault, not ours, and even if I fancy I know better, my obvious duty is to obey the church.” “What a fatal mistake and very strange delusion l’exclaimed Beatrice. “On the same principle, if that sign-post placed there by the magistrate were to say that this road leads to London instead of to Inverness, you would be bound to travel that way to London even though you knew that it was a false direction.” “The more you look into this extraordinary world, Beatrice, the more extraordinary it is, and the more solemn to think that we make a part of that great mystery which only at death we shall fully comprehend. How often I think of Swift shortly before he went mad, frantically stamping on a human grave and exclaiming, ‘Who can penetrate the secret that lies here!’”
“Last month I saw three balloons ascend at once from Vauxhall, with their living cargo,” said Lord Iona, “ and I could not but think, if death were such an ascent as that—if without pain, or fear, or suffering we floated triumphantly away, amidst the cheers and waving handkerchiefs of surrounding friends, never to behold us more, how strange an alteration it would make in every feeling of our mortal life, and in every anticipation of its end.” “True, and I could then understand what people mean by talking of a triumphant death,” observed Beatrice. “Such is not the feeling permitted to man under present circumstances. Everything most humbling to human nature is crowded into the last scene of life—a vivid remembrance of our sins, an acute sense of bodily suffering, an entire dependence on the kindness of our attendants, a coming separation from all we have loved or seen on earth, a yawning grave, and a solemn anticipation of that world to come which we must soon and certainly enter.” “Yes,” added Lord Iona, “ death is the last— the very last punishment inflicted on Christians for their sins, and as such to be received with solemn submission; but even those best prepared might nevertheless be inclined to say, as old Dr. Andrews did on his death-bed, ‘I have never been able to look on the King of Terrors as my friend.’” “How many mere beef and mutton people there are in the world, who seem satisfied to eat, drink, and be merry all their days without considering
what a solemn thing life is,” added Sir Allan. “I could not name a single man on earth who lives up to his full powers of usefulness, happiness, and hope.”
“Well, you are a good-natured misanthrope; but I could remind you, Allan, of one woman who does, and we shall in a few minutes see her,” said Beatrice with her own smile so full of mind and meaning. “You know as well as I the excellence of dear Aunt Edith.”
Lord Iona looked at Beatrice radiant in youthful enthusiasm, and who would not have admired the star-like brightness of her eyes, her lips scarlet as winter-berries, her teeth white and regular as pearls, the flush of health on her cheek, and the torrent of natural ringlets waving in the breeze? “True,” said he, “Lady Edith and all belonging to her can stand a microscopic survey. But as for Father Eustace, who expects hereafter to be canonized, if I were his valet the hero could not have had more frequent downfals in my estimation. Popish saints look well sometimes at a distance stuck up in a niche, but put them to the test of a close intimacy, and we find in what coarse clay they are frequently made, and how hideously deformed they often are, as in the case of my father's favourite domestic confessor, whose history and adventures, if properly told, would do much for the Protestant CauSe.
“‘None ever fear'd that the truth should be known,
“Now that you are here, at last restored to us, Allan, and for once away from Mr. Ambrose, we must all compare notes together on what we have done, thought, heard, said, and seen since you left home, said Beatrice. “We shall begin as people do in the Arabian Nights, by drawing up from oblivion all the lost years of your absence.” “Quite right,” observed Lord Iona; “in conversation, M*Alpine, we must all add what we can to the pool, and you owe us a long arrear. Pray, Sir Allan, give us, along with much that will be no doubt very improving, a little pleasant nonsense.” “I leave that to others. The feelings of many are fleeting as the breath that utters them, but mine are now very mournful,” said Sir Allan, thoughtfully, while Beatrice listened with a commiserating sigh. “The sight of these old haunts, Iona, has made me sad beyond all power of expression. I remember once a gay and happy boy here in a state of sun-bright felicity, protected from every evil, indulged in every innocent pleasure, loved and cherished, and almost idolised. I see him now old before his time, broken in spirit, frustrated in hope, and done already with life. It is my own voluntary act. Yet at this moment I do feel how strange is the contrast. I cannot but ask myself, in the absence of that admirable uncle, who usually supports my resolution, Is it indeed my duty to be what I am rather than what I might be?” “My dear friend, as our old huntsman would say, we must ‘hark you back.” Now listen well, for I mean to be most tremendously impressive,” replied Lord Iona earnestly. “Conscience tells you loudly, McAlpine, that you have a part to act for yourself in life, and Father Eustace, backed by Mr. Ambrose, says you have not. Conscience bids you come forth such a chief of M*Alpine as Sir Evan once was, but Father Eustace bids you burrow like a mole in a cell, leaving the priest himself to live and act for you. Say, which is right? It was well said that a monk is a man who commits himself to prison for being religious; and certainly it is thought punishment enough for criminals to have solitary imprisonment for one month only. Father Eustace would make you no more fit to fulfil the purpose for which you were made, than a torn umbrella, or a balloon with a hole in it. Are not your limbs given you to walk with? Are not your eyes given you to see with? and has your Creator given you an intellect and conscience that are not your own 2 Those who would urge the extinction of these are the Thugs of Christendom.” “Macbeth says, “The times have been that when the brains were out the man would die, and there an end,” replied Beatrice. “But Romanism wages a fierce war of extermination against the human mind, and makes its votary a mere breathing automaton, not allowed upon his own judgment to know black from white, or right from wrong, or truth from fiction. The priests put out the eyes of his understanding, that he may be led or driven blindfold by others.” “Do you remember, M*Alpine, my cousins, the