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In answer to these feeble attempts at consolation, Eleanore, in high indignation rejecting her sister's hand, said, “ Antoinette, you cannot judge of my feelings; you have, I am well convinced, no sense of the importance of religion strong enough to induce you to renounce all for the sake of your God. My conduct, therefore, appears improper to you; and you judge it better to administer to the present ease of our parent, at the expense of her spiritual destruction, than expose yourself to her momentary displeasure.”
“I am not convinced,” returned Antoinette, “that the measures you take
“That the measures I take,” repeated Eleanore, interrupting her, are altogether prudent-judicious-I suppose you would add. This is no more than I expected you would say—than I knew, beforehand, all the world would say. I was prepared to meet with anger and persecution; and I have found them. I am not surprised; I only pray that I may have fortitude to sustain all I may be doomed to suffer."
“But, my dear sister,” returned Antoinette, "granting that I have not that degree of love for religion which you have, and which I have reason to fear may be the case, yet I can assure you, that there is nothing on earth that would give me so much pleasure as to see our dear parent's mind properly instructed on the subject of religion."
Why then,” said Eleanore, “why then, but from sinful fear, do you refuse to support me when I endeavour to accomplish this ?"
“Because,” replied Antoinette, “I do not think you introduced the subject suitably. I think, that, instead of doing her good, you provoke her anger, and make her adhere more closely to her errors.
Would not a gentler method be better? 'might not we, perhaps, lead her imperceptibly to a clearer view of the truth, without openly attacking those things which she has been accustomed to consider sacred and inviolable? I stayed at home with her purposely to-day, in order to please her; and the plan succeeded so well, that, when she asked me to read to her, I introduced the Bible, and she listened to it, for a length of time, with much complacency. Now, may
we not hope, if we can get her to hear the contents of this holy Book, that it may be blessed to her? and that we may thus avoid the unhappiness of exciting her indignation against us?”
Eleanore persisted that the thing could never be done without irritation; and declared, that in this cause she was ready to give up all the peace of her life, even life itself; and Antoinette, on the other hand, continued to express her conviction, that a declared warfare ought to be avoided, if possible: and the young ladies, each retaining her opinion, went to bed, to taste of a disturbed and uneasy sleep.
The last four-and-twenty hours, passed in these different ways by the different members of this family, may serve for a sample of many following days.
It is no wonder I cannot say that the friendship and confidence between Joanna and Eleanore grew gradually stronger; because this friendship had suddenly sprung up, in a day, to the usual bulk and solidity to which young ladies' friendships generally grow; and every desirable and undesirable degree of confidence had been placed in each other, before their acquaintance had been of eighty-and-forty hours' date.
Joanna had regarded her own character, as I have elsewhere observed, in the light of a second perpetua; and had described herself as having forfeited every comfort, privilege, and promise of life, for the sake of religion. She had also inspired her young friend with the same heroic feelings; for Eleanore was hastily proceeding to entail upon herself the same unnecessary inconveniences that Joanna had done; not perceiving that as to any real sufferings and sacrifices, her companion was as remote from them as at any former period of her existence.
Joanna had not only explained the outward circumstances of her past life, but all her inward feelings, to her young friend. She spoke of attachments, formed in her unregenerated or unconverted state; (for these young ladies are not slow to conclude that the blessed change has taken place; about the attainment of which the more advanced Christian dares not so easily flatter himself;) VOL. VII.
of friendships she had broken off on the occasion of her change; of pleasures she had renounced, and penalties she had endured ; and she represented, in very lively terms, her present feelings; her affection for divine things; her eager longings after spiritual enjoyments; her deadness to the world; concluding the whole by asking her young friend if she did not consider Mr. Harwood to be a very heavenly-minded man, and a striking exhibition of the beauty of holiness.
Such were the first communications made by Joanna to Eleanore; and their future conversations were, in substance, much the same, though varied according to circumstances: the latter inquiry, relative to Mr. Harwood, being enlarged and commented upon more, perhaps, than a prudent person might judge expedient.
And here let me pause, to press a point upon my younger readers which I consider of the highest importance to their spiritual welfare.
Are you, my young friend, — I will not say converted, or regenerate, or a new creature; for this, perhaps, in the first instance, would be urging the inquiry too closely; but-are you desirous after religion ? are you anxious to become an heir of heaven, and to escape the pains of hell? If such is the case, do not hastily commit the direction of your judgment to persons of your own age. A young person leading another, generally speaking, is the blind leading the blind; and where is the wonder, if they both fall into the ditch ?
While the intimacy between the two young ladies cemented itself daily, Antoinette remained much at home, and endeavoured, as much as possible, to conciliate her mother's affection; and, by this means, obtained such an influence, that this Roman Catholic parent would sit for hours at her needlework, (of which she was very fond,) while her attentive daughter read the Bible to her, Sometimes, indeed, Madame would propose another book, of a different tendency; and Antoinette would submit for the moment; but, at the next opportunity, she would bring forward the Bible again, or some work at once agreeable and suitable to her purpose; and she not unfrequently succeeded in causing these to be as ac
ceptable as the French novels, to which Madame was particularly attached, and of which she had brought a considerable store from Paris.
Monsieur would sometimes sit within hearing of Antoinette's lecture; and undoubtedly, he often hearkened with interest: though affecting to be occupied with his fishing tackle, and curious flies for baits, of which he made an extraordinary variety.
After awhile a new duty fell upon Antoinette, which was to attend a little school, formed in an obscure village, or small cluster of houses, beyond the wood which shaded one side of the cottage.
Joanna and Eleanor, with the counsel and aid of Mr. Harwood, began this school soon after the arrival of the French family in the valley; and all went on prosperously until the young lady, who was at the head of the school, originated a new project, viz. a seminary of the same kind, in a remote village on the sands of the sea, about a mile and a half the other way. On this occasion the woodland scheme would have fallen to the ground, had not Antoinette obtained her mother's permission to visit it, for one hour every day,
"I consent to one hour," said Madame, “but I hope it will not deprive us of the pleasure of your company, and of your reading, for a longer time.”
“And sometimes, Monsieur will walk with me, mamma ?” said Antoinette, “and you will come to meet me through the wood ?"
“If I can get a pair of comfortable shoes, Madame replied; “but that is no easy matter in England. What would I give for a pair of Monsieur Fon Fon de Pellerin's pumps, from the Rue Sainte Catharine, a Paris ! I should think twenty francs infinitely below their value:" adding, in a doleful tone, “There is not a cordonnics on this island who can fit a well-made French foot."
Thus the matter was settled, and Antoinette allowed to become the lady-patroness of the school in the wood. She very soon, by her quiet attentions, proved a great blessing to the little children; and was long remembered by them after they had been deprived of her gentle influence.
It was in the autumn of the same year, after the arrival of this family in the valley, that the conversation
I am about to relate took place at Montague-House. Mrs. Montague, Mr. Harwood, and Joanna, were sitting together, one rainy afternoon, when the following discourse took place.
“Madame Northington and her daughters," said Mrs. Montague, “are certainly an acquisition to our little society. The young people are truly engaging. So much modesty and so much animation united are seldom
As to Eleanore, I think her the loveliest creature I ever beheld. Joanna tells me that she has no doubt a good work of grace is begun in her.”
Mr. Harwood smiled; yet it was not a smile of contempt, but rather a smile which indicated doubt.
“I don't like that smile, Mr. Harwood,” said Joanna; “I plainly see that you do not know half the Christian excellences of my charming young friend."
“I beg pardon, Miss Joanna," said Mr. Harwood. “Did I express any doubt? I did not mean so to do. Far be it from me to judge the young lady. I hope,” he added, more seriously, “that I receive the injunction, Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matt. vii. 1.) But permit me to state to you, my dear Miss Joanna, that I think there may be some danger in deciding so peremptorily on the merit of any character; 'tis God only who can judge the heart; it is required that man should form an opinion from the actions."
"Well,” said Joanna, “and what fault have you to find with the actions of Eleanore ?"
“None,” said he; “I am not presuming to find fault.”
“My good Mr. Harwood,” said Mrs. Montague, smiling, “what have you in your head now? But when young ladies are in question, young gentlemen cannot be serious or sincere." To
prove, then, that I can be sincere,” said Mr. Harwood, "I will confess the truth. I do not question the merits of Miss Eleanore; but when we venture to pronounce decidedly upon the conversion of so young a person as the one in question-one, too, who has never been tried by adversity-I think that we are not only in danger of deceiving ourselves, but of injuring the young person of whom we are inclined to form so high an opinion.”