Hamiltons, at Harrow?" asked Lord Iona. “There were seven brothers, you know, all the most idle, mischievous, rattle-pated boys on the face of this good-for-nothing world of ours. They were in perpetual scrapes and under well-deserved punishment. Well, one became a sailor, another a soldier, another a diplomatist; but Ronald, number four, the greatest scamp of all, has now become a Popish priest, and is treated with almost divine honours in the Duke of Highgate's family, where he is appointed confessor. I never was more astonished in my

life than when I went this summer to spend a week at Highgate House, and first caught a twinkle of my cousin Ronald's rogueish eye endeavouring to look me down by an over-done air of the most austere hypocrisy. I had heard the Crofton girls talking in raptures, during luncheon, of 'Father Ignatius,' but conceive my consternation to see Ronald, whom I had last parted with on the top of a ladder robbing his father's old pear-tree, now promoted to act as the infallible director of everybody's conscience! I wonder who he confesses to himself, as Ronald's confessor will have no sinecure, or he is not Ronald Hamilton."

“But,” said Sir Allan gravely, “Father Ignatius is now a perfect saint.”.

“He is no more a saint than Cincinnatus," interrupted Lord Iona impetuously. “I know my cousin thoroughly. The title of 'Father' in the sense used by Papists should be assumed by no human being."

“ But," observed Beatrice,“ every Popish priest

[ocr errors]

is anxious to assume it, by which he acquires a sort of dignity, as if that title were a kind of spiritual peerage.” “My cousin, Father Ronald Hamilton, throws a drapery of empty observances over the most hollow-hearted hypocrisy. His observances of religion, replete with strange attitudes and tedious repetitions, at the Duke of Highgate's, reminde me of the absurd ceremonies in the court of China. I am the only person in this party always in the right, and you may depend on what I say now, that it is only in half-civilized palaces that you see bodily prostrations, and all the over-done dressing and decoration, which do no more real honour to the sovereign than the simpler homage paid to our monarch at the English court. There the superstitions of etiquette have long been banished by more enlightened views of what is real in the reverence of heart and intellect, due from an attached subject to his divinely appointed ruler. Ronald Hamilton's religion was without spiritual life, like a finely dressed doll; and on the contrary that which I have seen since at Lady Edith Tremorne's has in it a living spirit of prayer, and a living body of good actions. Had I seen no better religion than Ronald Hamilton's, at Highgate House, and what I see nearer home, I should soon have fallen into infidelity. My downward course was stopped at Heatherbrae.” Beatrice felt touched to the soul by this unexpected tribute to her beloved benefactress, so gracefully spoken, while it was so evidently sincere,

and when she met the brilliant glance of Lord Iona's eyes fixed upon herself, a scarlet blush overspread her countenance, indicating the many mingled emotions whicn agitated her mind.

“Round her she made an atmosphere of life,
The very air seem'd brighter from her eyes—
They were so soft—so beautiful—and rife
With all we can imagine of the skies.”

With a vivid impression on their minds of the silent, emaciated, self-absorbed devotee, who claimed Beatrice at Eaglescairn, she and her two companions entered the sunny little garden at Heatherbrae, and walked up to the low diamond-latticed casement at which she usually entered Lady Edith's sitting-room from the shrubbery. It was a quiet, loveable,domestic-looking boudoir, in which Beatrice had spent many a pleasant hour in admiring her favourite flower-beds, and in listening to the concert of thrushes and linnets concealed in the dark shades of the overhanging oaks. There even the shrill scream of the peacock, the cawing of an hundred rooks, and the early note of the cuckoo were pleasant to those who delighted in all the sights and sounds of nature, but pleasant above all to the warm heart of Beatrice in her happy home had always been the love of that more than mother, Lady Edith, to whom her attachment was “fond without art, and kind without deceit.”

Looking unobserved through the little glass folding-door at Heatherbrae, Beatrice and her two animated companions witnessed such a scene of single-hearted benevolence, as well as of rational happiness, founded on reason and duty, that they silently paused for several minutes, admiringly to contemplate it. The monitor's class of elder girls from the village school had assembled in Lady Edith's boudoir to receive her own instructions, and she, dressed simply, though suitably to her dignified position, was talking to them on their future duties in life. Every young face seemed to have caught a spark of intelligence from hers, as the fine intellectual expression of Lady Edith's eyes became softened into a warm glow of kindness, when fixed on those whom it was her fervent wish to enlighten with a knowledge as well as with a love of the truth.

The children, after their cold walk from Clanmarina, had been welcomed with a hearty dinner of warm broth, that their bodies as well as their minds might be in full vigour to reap all the benefit intended them, while Lady Edith now, with her usual concentration and energy of purpose, read and explained to them those Holy Scriptures, suited like the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the sunshine we enjoy, to give life, nourishment, and happiness, wherever they are known. The fine countenance of Lady Edith became lighted up with a look of the brightest intelligence, while she pointed out how the books of Nature, Revelation, and Providence explained each other, and are meant, by the Creator who made them, to be studied and understood by all His rational creatures.

The little half-smile of respectful interest with which Lady Edith's young pupils listened to her, suddenly spread over their whole faces in a blaze of sunshine, when they perceived Beatrice nodding to them at the window, and as she stepped into the room all discipline was forgotten in a joyful rush of her little pupils to welcome her, and Lady Edith, equally delighted, closed her book and hurriedly rose to welcome Beatrice with joyful rapture.

“And Allan, too !” she exclaimed, holding out her hand to the young Chief, but tears which she tried to hide filled her eyes as she did so; “Allan, you are welcome as sunshine. If I might have selected any pleasure that would make me happiest to-day, should it not have been such a visit as this from you and your two companions? Yes! this unexpected sight of you, Allan, is a cordial to the heart that has loved you longest and best on earth now.”

“I believe we always love most deeply those we have benefited,” answered Sir Allan, in a tone of affectionate respect; “therefore, every recollection of my happy boyhood tells my heart how much Aunt Edith must love me! Even yet my whole mind and heart seem to dilate with new vigour as I look at you. Old times, old feelings, old affections, revive in these beloved old scenes! How dear to me is every recollection now crowding into my memory ! Oh! Surely this is as it should be; not the extinction of nature, but the purifying of all its best impulses; not the prostration of

« VorigeDoorgaan »