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to the company full of inflated notions respecting her own religious attainments, and full of dissatisfied and pragmatical feelings with regard to her mother.
Mrs. Montague's carriage was ready, at an early hour, to convey Madame and her family back to their cottage, where they arrived at their usual supper-hour.
The little repast which, for the most part, consisted of fruit and salad, was ready prepared when they arrived; and they sat down to partake of it, and to talk over the events of the day.
Madame spoke first, and expatiated on the politesse, the elegance, the magnificence, the perfect gotu, of every thing at Montague-House. She enlarged, with warmth, on the hymn and beautiful group of children; and complained, in the same breath, that her shoes had pinched her all day; she asked if she had looked well, and expressed a wish that Mrs. Montague would wear rouge, and not persist in wearing her own hair, which she declared to be a “cotume pas trop decente pour une dame d'un certain age.”
Monsieur, in his turn, or, rather, at the same time, was emphatic in discussing the merits of the pates and fricassees; and declared that he had before conceived it to be beyond the genius of an English cuisinier to compound a vol-au-vent, or to whip up a soufflet.
After which, Madame, addressing her daughters, said she had hoped, when she heard the music in the next room, that they were about to make up a few quadrilles ; adding, that the English were by no means adroit in making an evening pass off agreeably; and she called on Monsieur to support her assertion. From which, it might be easily gathered, that she could not conceive how a person of common sense should make any objection to dancing: indeed, she added, that, for her part, though a little out of practice, had a dance been proposed, and Monsieur had offered his hand, she would have made it appear that she had been formerly, at least, one of the first dancers in that country where every peasant danced with a superior grace.
Monsieur failed not to acknowledge the obligations he felt for the readiness Madame expressed to be led out by him; and Antoinette, smiling good humouredly, signi
fied to her mother, that she had reason to rejoice in Mrs. Montague's scruples with respect to dancing; observing, that it would have been a cruel punishment to have figured off in the cotillion while suffering under the pressure of tight shoes.
“Oh! j'avois oublie tout cela,”_replied Madame, gravely; "mais revenons au fait?' Est-il possible? Is it a fact? does Madame Montague think ill of the dance ?"
“Madame Montague is a Lutheran,” remarked Monsieur; “and Madame knows that such persons have very singular ideas.”
“Bon! bon !” said Madame, shrugging up her shoulders in her turn; “je comprends; I understand. Mais c'est pitoyable, c'est pitoyable; neanmoins, Mrs. Montague est si amiable, si parfaitement comme il faut, that
-il faut pardonner ses prejuges nationales; her national prejudices."
« They are not national prejudices, mamma,” said Eleanore; "the English, in general, do not object to dancing. But Mrs. Montague is, you know, particularly pious; and I only wish we were all, in some respects, more conformed to her ways."
“Eh, pourquoi ?” said Madame, “I am no Lutheran. Heaven preserve me!" and she seemed alarmed.
“I wish, mamma,” replied Eleanore, " that your prejudices against the Reformed Church were not so deeply rooted. I cannot doubt but that, if you and Monsieur would study the subject with coolness, you would soon discover the errors of your present faith.”
Monsieur let fall a portion of salad which he was conveying to his mouth; and Madame flamed out with a degree of intemperance which made the gentle Antoinette tremble from head to foot; while the spirit of Eleanore rose upon the occasion.
We do not pause to inquire whether the spirit which at that time affected the latter was a spirit of true Christian heroism, or whether a small portion of natural pride and obstinacy did not mingle itself therewith. But, be this as it may, her mother's indignation had no other effect than to heighten the colour in her cheeks, and to strengthen her resolution.
“Comment !" said Madame; "comment! and how is this? I am, then, to be catechised and called to account, by my daughters, about my faith ?-my religion ?-my Church ?"
“Daughters! mamma,” said Antoinette, imploringly: “I did not speak.”
“But I know you think with your sister in all these matters," returned Madame; “I know you
do." “ You do not know, mamma, indeed you do not,” replied Antoinette; “otherwise, you would never suppose that my religion would teach me to be disrespectful and undutiful to my mother.”
Madame was too much inflamed to hear any apology. The harmony of the little party was completely interrupted. Madame would take no more supper; but went up to her room, and called her Irish damsel to undress her. Monsieur went into the kitchen, to smoke a cherout; and Antoinette, weeping, followed her sister to their apartment.
While the young ladies were undressing, they remained silent, though both had much to say. At length, Eleanore said, “Cannot you cease crying and sobbing at that rate, sister? Why do you delight in adding to my distress? Are not my trials sufficiently severe ?"
“Trials!" repeated Antoinette: “what do you mean ?"
“What do I mean ?" returned the other; "strange that you should ask me, or rather more strange that you should not be able to participate in all my present feel, ings!” She then recapitulated to her all that had passed between herself and Joanna, respecting their mother's religious errors, and the duty which was incumbent on them to endeavour to convert her.
These ideas seemed as new to Antoinette as they had been to Eleanore; and, after a moment's reflection, she said, “Undoubtedly, sister, if dear Mrs. Hay and Mrs. Montague are right, my poor mother must be wrong. If there is no name but one whereby we can be saved, those who address the Virgin and the Saints must be in error. But I am thinking, Eleanore, that we must not go rashly to work in this business. Is there no more gentle and respectful way of addressing our dear parent, than the one you adopted this evening ?"
“Of course," replied Eleanore, "I must be thought wrong, whatever way I take. This was no more than what Miss Joanna predicted.”
Antoinette was silent; and Eleanore, in her turn, began to weep violently.
“Eleanore, do not be distressed,” said Antoinette; “I cannot bear to see it."
“ Then do not blame me,” she replied, “for being anxious about our mother's spiritual welfare."
“I don't blame you,” said Antoinette; "and yet I think that you might have chosen a softer way of introducing the subject. Suppose that we were to endeavour to persuade our mother to allow us to read the Bible to her, without entering into any controversy with her? You know that we have been long from her, and we may perhaps prejudice her mind against us by treating the matter so abruptly.”
6 You were always one of the wise ones," replied Eleanore; “cleverer by far than any one else."
Antoinette made no answer; and the affair terminated.
The next morning, Antoinette remembered that her mother had expressed a wish that some roses should be gathered while the dew was upon them, to make some preparation either for the hair or complexion. She accordingly arose at a very early hour, and was busy among the rose-bushes, when Madame appeared at the parlour-window, looking as if she had not quite slept off the ill-humour of the past night. At sight of Antoinette she turned away, and said something to Monsieur, who was within the room.
“My mother is angry with me,” thought Antoinette : "I am sorry for it; but this must not be—this will not forward our purpose.” So saying, she took up her basket, and hastening into the house, she presented her roses, saying, pleasantly, "Accept, dear mamma, my morning-offering, and reward me with the approval that mothers only can give.”
“Dear child," said Madame, saluting and embracing her, “you will not then dislike your mother, because she does not think with you in religion ?"
“I am convinced, dear parent,” replied Antoinette " that our opinions are much nearer than strangers sup
pose them to be. We love one Saviour; we trust in him only for salvation; and, being only different members of one head, wherein can we so widely differ?"
Madame looked with pleasure at Monsieur; who said, “ Antoinette looks as fresh as the roses she has gathered."
“But I hope, Monsieur, that I shall not fade as soon," she answered; while another compliment from Monsieur followed of course.
The little party then sat down to breakfast; and Madame, with all the volatility and versatility of her nation, began to expatiate with Monsieur upon the subject of rose-water, rose-syrup, otto of roses, and every conceivable compound in which roses are used; and was so warmly engaged in the business, that she scarcely perceived when Eleanore came in, and certainly did not observe that Eleanore still looked disconcerted. Sorting, pulling and drying the roses, occupied Madame so fully for some hours after breakfast, that she seemed to have lost the recollection of every other affair. And thus passed over the first storm excited by Eleanore on the subject of religion.
In the midst of this bustle about the roses, and while the whole uncarpeted floor was scattered with leaves and stalks, Joanna arrived, by appointment, to take Eleanore out with her. Madame was not disconcerted at the confusion in which her house was found; and I doubt whether she would have been at all perplexed, had the roses, by which she had been surrounded, been so many cabbage-leaves or onions.
As soon as she saw Joanna, she inquired kindly after Mrs. Montague, complained of the pain she had felt all night from having worn tight shoes, and entreated Mademoiselle to come back and dine with her after her walk.
“We have a great deal to do, Madame," said Joanna, 6 and, therefore, I must decline your invitation; but I hope you will allow your daughters to return with me to Mrs. Montague's."
“Please yourselves, young people,” said Madame; "I would have you enjoy yourselves; now is your time." So saying, she bade both her daughters prepare for their walk.