« EelmineJätka »
But Antoinette, excusing herself, said, “ No, mamma, I cannot leave you to finish your roses by yourself.”
What were Antoinette's motives for not leaving her mother will reveal themselves hereafter, by other parts of her conduct. But, whatever they were, the compliment seemed to gratify Madame; who, in return, appeared reluctant to allow her continuance with her.
As soon as Eleanore found herself again alone with her new friend Joanna, she burst into tears, and represented the scene of the last night in such a manner as to excite her friend's sympathy in a very powerful degree.
“I admire your virtuous courage, my dear Eleanore,” she said; “and I trust that you will not be cast down, but will persevere in the good work which you have so happily commenced. The spiritual interest of our friends is that for which we should be anxious above all things; and although, in the promotion of this, we may occasion ourselves many enemies, and may sacrifice many of the comforts of life, and ensure much suffering, yet we ought nobly to persevere; for we shall assuredly meet with our reward in the next world, if not in this."
There is a great propensity in human beings to fancy themselves heroes and heroines. Young ladies are particularly fond of representing themselves as great sufferers; indeed, many well-meaning persons, of each sex, draw down persecutions upon themselves, by assuming too much importance in religion, and hastily concluding that all their connexions are in league against them.
Joanna, as the elder of these two young people, and the adviser, ought to have considered whether this work of converting Madame to the Protestant Church might not have been better attempted by a stranger than by her own daughter; or, if to be done by her daughter, whether a gentler mode of proceeding might not be more prudently adopted than the one to which she was urging her friend. She ought also to have looked somewhat more carefully for the evidences of Eleanore's own conversion, before she employed her in the work of converting others. For, alas! it is a certain, though a melancholy truth, that many have mistaken a partial reform in some parts of their character and conduct, for that great and thorough change of the whole man, called in
Scripture, the new birth. A base metal may be cast into various forms, yet its nature remains the same. All the external acts of religion are within the compass of natural abilities. There may be sore pangs and throes of conscience, which may fail in leading a person to God. A man may be able to talk well on religion, and yet know nothing of the power of it; he may give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned, and yet have no religion. The work of true grace is generally, if not invariably, found to commence in deep self-abasement.
But Joanna had failed to look for suitable evidences; or perhaps she was not duly apprised of their nature; she, therefore, utterly failed in her judgment of the character she had to deal with; and so marred the work which she hoped to promote.
I shall not follow Eleanore and Joanna in all their rambles this day. They visited several poor sick persons, a school, and other places. But Joanna was generally in so great a hurry to be doing something else, in some other place, that she was prevented from completing what she had begun where she was. Activity, through every period of life, is valuable; but when activity amounts to restlessness, it is almost a worse extreme than total indolence; for although sometimes restless and enterprising characters have been the means of good, it has generally been occasioned by the subsequent labours of more steady and plodding ones.But to leave these reflections which the subject so continually suggests.
The young people, having concluded their business, repaired to Montague-House to dinner; after which, they employed themselves with their needle, and in forming new plans for the next day, till near sunset; when Joanna proposed to return with Eleanore, and to bring her back to the cottage by a circular road, which would lead them through the wood at the back of the house.
The scenery in and about the valley which included Madame Northington's house was, as I before said, remarkably fine; and the view, from the highest point of the hill above the cottage, striking in the extreme.
The young people had nearly attained this summit,
when they were accosted by Mr. Harwood, who had been walking that way, and who, being at a small distance below, hastened up the hill to join them. Having directed Eleanore to the different objects visible around them, he offered to conduct them by the shortest way through the wood to the cottage. They thanked him, and he accordingly led them in among the trees, and soon brought them to a spot where they saw the house directly at their feet; affording, with its thatched roof, its green porch, and abounding rose-bushes, now in high bloom, a delightful picture of rural beauty and retirement. On the little green just before the porch, sat Madame employed with her needle; and on a lower seat by her side was Antoinette, simply dressed, her dark hair being knotted at the top of her head. She was partly leaning against her mother's knee, in somewhat of a childish attitude: and was so deeply engaged with a book she was reading aloud, that she did not hear the voices of her sister and companions, though they called to her more than once.
“What an engaging scene," said Mr. Harwood, "there presents itself, Mademoiselle!-your gentle sister waiting thus affectionately on her mother! If they had expected us, I should almost have fancied that they had placed themselves there on purpose to form a scene of peace and harmony."
The party now descended from the hill, and presently appeared at the gate of the cottage-garden; but approached so quietly, that they could distinctly hear the voice of Antoinette reading in French to her mother.
As soon as they appeared, Madame and her daughter 'arose, and Madame came forward to receive them with her usual vivacity. She invited Mr. Harwood and Joanna to come into the garden, and despatched Antoinette to bring some fruit. During the absence of Antoinette, Mr. Harwood took up the book which she had been reading, and perceiving that it was a French Bible, he laid it down again, with a feeling of increased respect for the young lady to whom it belonged,
When the visiters were gone, and the family-party again assembled round their supper-table, Madame inquired of Eleanore how she had spent her day. VOL. VII.
The young lady, in reply, gave a long and animated description of the pleasures she had enjoyed, and intimated that few people knew how to make life so agreeable as Mrs. Montague.
Madame acknowledged that Mrs. Montague was a charming woman.
“Her religion,” returned Eleanore, “is of the right sort; it inspires every action; it is not the religion of forms and ceremonies, but that of the heart.”
With all this Madame acquiesced; and added, that she was a woman d'un gout parfait; asking Eleanore whether she thought she had ever been in France. And then, flying from the point in question, addressed herself to Monsieuron the subject of the salade, which she asserted had not the flavour of a French dish of the same kind.
Apparement! then," said Monsieur, “it must be my fault, for having omitted some ingredient in the sauce."
A vehement argument now arose upon the nature of salade, and the soils best suited for the cultivation of vegetables. In which dispute, although Monsieur spoke with more science, Madame displayed most eloquence, and hence bore off the palm of victory.
Monsieur withdrew to smoke his pipe, and Madame repaired to her chamber, requiring her daughters to attend upon her.
On the mantle-piece in Madame's room was a little model of wax of the Virgin and Child, fixed in a glass case,
by which generally lay a livre de priere, in Latin and French. “Now,” said Madame, having employed her daughters a few minutes in undressing her,"now leave me; I am going to be occupied by my devotions. You think, Eleanore,” she added with an air of pique, “that no one can be pious but Madame Montague; but let me tell you I have seen more sincere piety among the Catholics than I ever did among the Protestants."
“ The piety of the Catholics, Madame,” replied Eleanore, “consists more in external observances than that of the Protestants; it will always, therefore, make a greater show in the view of the world.”
“Eleanore,” said Antoinette, softly,“ do not let us interrupt our mother.” So saying, she took hold of her hand to draw her out of the room. But it was too late;
for Madame's anger being already kindled, she poured upon her daughter a torrent of displeasure; in the utterance of which, she used as little moderation as she commonly did in her expressions of pleasure.
Not to have answered at all, would have been the best plan which Eleanore could now have adopted; but for this kind of forbearance, which often conquers by having the appearance of yielding, she was by no means inclined. She had not so listened to the instructions of her new friend, Joanna; who had, during the day, been urging her to show the sincerity of her profession by her endeavours to compel her mother, by the force of argument, and by constant importunities, to abandon her present dangerous and improper way of thinking. Joanna's conversation had, also, tended to raise Eleanore in her own self-estimation; and she was exactly in that temper which invites persecution, the pride and selfsufficiency of which is strengthened by opposition. Accordingly, insensible to the silent hints and gentle pleadings of Antoinette, she answered her mother with warmth; and still further inflamed her resentment by carrying on the controversy, thus improperly commenced, to a considerable length.
Antoinette, at the same time, though fully convinced that her sister had truth on her side, refused to join her against her mother; and withdrew to her own apartment, where she spent half an hour in a state of mind exquisitely painful; being filled at one time with doubt whether she was not acting with a sinful cowardice; but still feeling assured that the measures which her sister was taking to convert their mother, were those which would obstruct the work so much to be desired.
At the end of half an hour, Eleanore joined her sister. She entered the room in silence, closed the door after her, and sat down, weeping, at the foot of her bed.
Antoinette was at a loss how to address her, and therefore remained for a moment in silence. Then, approaching her, and taking her hand, she begged her to be comforted; using other vague expressions of consolation. By which she evinced, that she had some doubts of the propriety of that conduct by which she had drawn upon her their mother's resentment.