« EelmineJätka »
of the good man who was come to take her back to her happy home.
As my story has unavoidably run to a considerable length, I shall pass over Anna's joyful reception of Mr. Mills, and her enquiries about home; simply stating, that it was agreed that Mr. Mills should dine the next day at Mrs. Parker's, and that the following morning Anna should leave L- in company with this good
Mr. Mills had been known for some years in that part of England as a religious character and a superior preacher; and, although by some he was said to be a little singular, his character was of consequence enough to make Miss Parker wish to give some of her friends an opportunity of seeing him. She therefore resolved, as in virtue of her large fortune and her mother's infirm state of health she could do just what she pleased in the family, to give him a dinner, and to invite Mr. Burton and Mrs. Humphreys, with several other ladies, to meet him.
All these arrangements being made, and the party assembled in the drawing-room, before dinner, Miss Jane, who sat with her face towards the street, suddenly started up, and, running to the window, called her sister to look at Henry Low, the hair-dresser's son, whom we mentioned some time ago' as having gone from Lfollowing a company of strolling actors, with whom he had returned some time since, and was at that period taking all the first-rate characters on the stage in the town.
Jane," said Miss Parker, “ how can you be so ridiculous? What possible interest can I have in seeing Harry Low!”
Miss Jane turned round and smiled; and, begging her sister's pardon, added, that she did not know that it would be considered as a sin to look at an actor when he happened to be walking in a public street.
A sharp retort from her sister was the natural consequence of Miss Jane's remark: on which, Mrs. Humphreys, taking up the matter somewhat seriously, and appealing to Mr. Mills, stated to that gentleman, that this Harry Low was in great danger of being utterly ruined by the injudicious applause which was lavished
on his appearance and fine voice by the young ladies who frequented the theatre in L- ; and, before Mr. Mills could make any reply, she proceeded to give Miss Jane what the young lady called a lecture on the cruelty of misleading a young man, in such a line of life, by her injudicious, and even improper, commendations.
While Mrs. Humphreys continued to expatiate on the dangerous effects of flattery in general, and particularly when bestowed on persons of this description, Miss Jane continued to shake her head and shrug up her shoulders, now and then venturing an intelligent look at Anna, whom she more than half suspected of not being quite so devoted an admirer of Mrs. Humphreys as some others of her sister's friends pretended to be.
When Mrs. Humphreys had concluded her address, having ventured to diverge from her first point in order to express her dislike of all theatrical amusements whatever, she again addressed Mr. Mills; and, being somewhat displeased by Miss Jane's contemptuous manner, which she had not failed to observe, called upon him, as a Christian, to confirm all she had said on the before-mentioned subjects.
Mr. Mills smiled, and, turning to Miss Jane, remarked, that he thought it wholly needless to speak upon the subject of theatrical amusements in the present company.
" And wherefore?” said Miss Jane.
“ Because,” replied Mr. Mills, “I am sure that there is not one person present, who cordially, and from the very bottom of her heart, quite approves of the way in which these amusements are arranged and conducted in this country.
• 0, Mr. Mills,” said Miss Jane, “I am sure you do not believe what you say. You cannot think that I in my heart disapprove of these amusements, and yet constantly partake of them.”
Mr. Mills bowed to the young lady, and smiled, at the same time saying, “ You are young, my dear Miss Jane, and can hardly yet understand what tends to your happiness. I doubt not but that you already begin to suspect the emptiness of these trifling pleasures; and the time will, I trust, come, when you will be convinced
of their utter incapacity to add to your happiness. But, be this as it may, your good friend Mrs. Humphreys does well to caution you against the habit of flattering your fellow-creatures, and by this means blinding them to their real interests, while you urge them forward in the way of perdition."
Mr. Mills then made some very apposite remarks on the nature of flattery; and, after having pointed out how fatal the applauses of the public might prove to such a young man as the one in question, he ventured to remark, that although the voice of human praise was dangerous to almost every description of mankind, yet that its effects were decidedly less fatal among worldly people than among religious professors.
Mr. Mills was proceeding to add something more on the subject of flattery, when Mrs. Humphreys completely silenced the good man; not by contradicting him, but by her loud and vehement expressions of acquiescence. “I so entirely agree with you, my dear Sir,” she said, “ that, as my good friend Miss Parker knows, I often restrain my feelings of approbation when I see any thing commendable in my Christian friends, even when my heart is bursting with these feelings. There is nothing which I dread more than the effect of praise on a young and ardent mind, and indeed it is perhaps equally injurious to those who are more advanced in life. We all require to be kept low, Mr. Mills: our only place of safety is at the foot of Mount Calvary. When we are tempted to quit this place, and set up any merit of our own, we are in danger of wandering from our proper station. Indeed, Mr. Mills, I approve of all you say, and only wish my young people here (looking towards Miss Jane) could always enjoy the benefit of your conversation.”
“Mrs. Humphreys," said Miss Jane, “surely you forget yourself! How often have I heard you say, that in enjoying the advantage of Mr. Burton's society, we need not desire any other spiritual guide?"
As this speech was made in a whisper, though sufficiently loud for every one in the room to hear, Mrs. Humphreys pretended not to have observed it; and dinner being at that moment announced, a general move was made towards the dining-room.
As soon as this removal was effected, and its consequent bustle at an end, Mrs. Humphreys again addressed herself to Mr. Mills; and, after expatiating for some time, and with considerable address, on several indifferent subjects, she began to speak of the town which Mr. Mills had lately left for his living on the hills.
She mentioned several persons known to her in that place, and spoke of them as characters who would do honour to any Christian society whatever; intimating, at the same time, that they owed their conversion, under Divine Providence, to Mr. Mills's ministry.
Mr. Mills had been listening with considerable interest to what Mrs. Humphreys advanced respecting his former flock; and though he perhaps feared that the very high commendations bestowed on some of his people by this good lady needed some qualifying, nevertheless he was, on the whole, pleased, and had allowed her to perceive that she had, at length, found the means of gaining his ear: till, on her venturing so far as to attribute some credit to him for this happy change which had taken place in the persons she had been speaking of, he started as one waking from a dream, and, speaking with rapidity and not without emotion, entreated her to give the glory where it was due. After this, without loss of time, he introduced another subject, as if he felt that the present topic could no longer be dwelt upon without danger to his own soul.
Whether Mrs. Humphreys and Miss Parker had observed this conduct of Mr. Mills is not known, but it was not lost upon Anna. Neither did it
escape tice of Mr. Burton; for when the ladies had withdrawn after dinner, and the gentlemen were left together, the following important conversation took place between them.
Mr. Mills had been acquainted with the father of Mr. Burton for many years, and Mr. Burton had often seen him when a child in his father's house. Now therefore addressing him, not only as an experienced Christian, but as an old friend, he opened his address by observing that several things had that day dropped from Mr. Mills which excited in him an inexpressible degree of uneasiness. Mr. Mills was much astonished at this remark, and
begged Mr. Burton to point out what he could possibly have done or said to render him thus uncomfortable.
Sir," returned Mr. Burton, “you have convinced me of hypocrisy; and, though unintentionally, have made me sensible that I have lately been acting not only a useless, but I may add a ridiculous part in the society, where I ought to be looked up to as a faithful guide in the
way of holiness.” “You surprise me, Sir,” replied Mr. Mills.
- What have I said? what have I done? You must explain yourself further before I can possibly enter into your meaning."
“Do you recollect, my dear Sir," replied Mr. Burton, “what you said respecting the voice of human praise, when the ladies were speaking of the young man who has lately distinguished himself so much in the theatre of this town? namely, that the effects of praise were for the most part decidedly less fatal among worldly people than among religious professors?”
Well, my good Sir,” returned Mr. Mills, “ and do you question the truth of this assertion?”
“ By no means,” said Mr. Burton: “I am far from questioning it: but it alarms me. It represents things to my mind in so new a light, as nearly to confound all
Till I heard these words from your lips, I had imagined that the cause of religion was promoted by the commendations which are at this period so liberally bestowed by one Christian upon another; and I fancied that the voice of praise—I do not speak of flattery-was, as it were, almost needful to us, in order to support us amid the trials of this present state of being.”
“ That there is a certain boldness inspired by the commendations of our fellow-creatures I do not deny," remarked Mr. Mills. “ But the question is this-Is that boldness of the right sort? is that courage of a kind to be depended upon? Does not human praise induce the man who is under its influence to depend upon his own exertions, and walk in his own strength, rather than in the strength of the Lord? And he must be ignorant indeed of the whole tendency of our religion, who expects a consistent walk from him who in any degree depends upon himself in the performance of his duties. Human praise undoubtedly produces considerable effects on