페이지 이미지

Indeed, Miss Laura Walkinshaw was considered quite romantic: Not one of them, however, knew anything; and, in fact, how could they, for to them the law of evidence itself was very imperfectly understood ? To hear a thing, with them, was to believe it; no matter how easy it might be of refutation, how improbable, or even impossible ; it sank down at once into the soft soil of their understandings, and they were prepared not only to give it full credence, but to endorse and negociate it, whenever occasion offered.

It will not, therefore, excite much surprise when we find what turn the conversation took on the occasion of our visit. Miss Singleton was a stranger to the family, but we had presumed upon our long acquaintance, in taking her with us; and it is surprising how very rapidly she ran up to boiling-water point in the affections of the young ladies. The true principles of friendship have usually so little to do in cases of this kind, that perhaps an Italian greyhound, or a parrot, or a squirrel, would have won its way as easily to the hearts of these young people. The fact, however, admits of no question, that before Emma had been in the house half an hour, she was apparently as great a favorite with all of them as if for years she had been in their special confidence. I was sorry to see this; for though I knew that it was not in their power to do much direct or positive injury to my young ward, I feared the negative influence of such very plastic minds, especially when I thought of the peculiar circumstances in which Emma just then stood.

The earlier part of our conversation at the Lindens, which related chiefly to the private business on which we had come over, has been passed by as affording nothing worthy of general interest. It was confined, in fact, almost entirely to some pecuniary matters in which Mr. Walkinshaw and myself were associated as executors. At length, however, a subject was brought forward more closely affecting the business of these papers.

Who do you think we've had here?” said Mrs. Walkinshaw to my wife, assuming one of her blandest smiles. Then turning to one of the young ladies, “ Laura, my dear," she said, “shew that, to Mrs. Enderby.”

“I must have it again, Mrs. Enderby,” said Miss Laura Walkinshaw playfully, opening her knitting-box, and taking from it an engraved address card, which she handed gracefully to

my wife.

“ He's such a charming man,” said Miss Walkinshaw. "-Such a gentleman,” said Miss Caroline.

" --And such an excellent Christian,” said Miss Laura. “O Emma, dear!” she added, turning to Miss Singleton, “ I should 80 like you to know him.”

Poor Emma! Little did she think at that moment how sadly to the damage of her best interests she had known him, or she never would have answered as she did -“Well, dear; then I'm sure I should."

My wife looked at the card with evident surprise, but passed it to me without making any remark.

It bore the name of the Rev. Silenus Glosenfane, in old church-text. For obvious reasons, I said nothing, but placed it face downwards on the table, not without one or two reflections on the basty estimates of the young ladies. “Well,” said I to myself, “ it has always been so. Ignorance jumps at conclusions, just as it did two thousand years ago. Those poor girls, had they lived at Lystra or Malta in the days of Paul, would have oscillated with the people of those places admirably. One moment the apostle was worshipped, and the next, he was cruelly maltreated, and drawn out of the city for dead, having been, in one and the same hour, deified and stoned. And when the barbarous Maltese found that he was not a murderer, they could without hesitation change their minds at once, and say that he was a god.”'

Well and wisely does Inspiration denounce not only every evil, but every “idle" word. Unconsciously to herself, and without any real purpose of mischief in her companions, Emma stood committed to think well of one who had done so much towards the ruin of her own soul. Whatever may be said to the contrary, the opinions of others, however erroneous, do and will tell upon ourselves, especially where the bias of our own mind tends in the same direction. Emma was a comparative stranger to the young ladies at the Lindens; all that she knew of them was that they seemed to love her; and common gratitude alone would have induced her to love them in return. Whether their opinion was worth much or little, it did not seem to be her special business to inquire ; and perhaps in her own hearty manner she would have pledged her allegiance to Miss Laura, had not Mrs. Walkinshaw at that moment made the enquiry

“I suppose, Mr. Enderby, you have seen our new clergyman at Springclose ?"

Emma colored, and looked towards me. This movement was not lost upon Caroline, who rose from her seat, and taking her by the hand, said—“You are not well, dear, will you take a turn in the garden." The offer was at once accepted, and in a few seconds they had swept out of the room, followed by Miss Walkinshaw.

“I have seen him, and have heard a good deal about him," I replied bluntly; "but have never been formally introduced.”

No ? Then I'm sure I may say you've a pleasure to comehe's a most delightful man -80 easy—so gentlemanly-50 sincere; and I hear he is so kind to the poor-they say, indeed, that he is indefatigable in his work.

How true is it that a hasty and spurious religion springs up forthwith in the soil of some minds, “ because they have no deepness of earth!” I looked aghast. “ The simple," thought I, “ believeth every word, but the prudent looketh well to his going.” Our hostess had evidently taken Mr. Glosenfane at his own valuation. To a mind out of tune and out of use, as her's was, anything was true; and whether it came recommended by the ipse dixit only of an interested party, or the highest form of evidence, was a matter of comparative indifference.

“But,” said I, stimulated to the attack by a recollection of past mischiefs,"he's a rank Puseyite-a man who has done and is still doing, a vast deal of harm.

“In what way do you mean?” enquired Mrs. Walkinshaw, with evident surprise.

"By introducing all the forms, and fooleries, and soul-destroying rites and doctrines of Puseyism.” “ Well! so I have heard ; but do you know, Mr. Enderby,

I have never seen anything of this Puseyism, that folks talk about, What is it? Miss Gascoyne, they say, is a Puseyite; but I hear she is a very excellent young woman.

“ You may have heard so," I remarked, “and knowing nothing of Miss Gascoyne, I am not prepared to deny it; but something must depend on the position, character, or capabilities of your informant. Men never gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ; and whatever the exceptions may be with regard to Puseyism, its general tendency is to transform Christianity, the highest style of enlightened, and heaven-descended wisdom, into a refined form of instinct-to substitute a system of shewy forms and rites pleasing to the animal senses, for that enlargement of soul which belongs peculiarly to the gospel."

Growing warm upon the subject, I endeavored at considerable length to argue Mrs. Walkinshaw out of the dangerous position she had taken up. My wife, too, joined in the attack, as I thought with considerable cleverness, but we found little reason to congratulate ourselves on any prospect of success. There seemed nothing to lay hold of in the mental constitution of our opponent, and we fought much as one that beateth the air.” If victory smiled on us at one moment, the tables would be turned against us the next, and we at last solaced ourselves with the conviction that the wise man spake worthy of his Teacher and himself, when he said, “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit."

It was now time that we should take our leave. Our young friends were recalled from the garden, and Emma having joined our party, we proceeded homewards. During the way we noticed in her a moodiness of bearing and of manner quite unusual. Again, and again, we tried to draw her into conversation, but she was evidently deep in her own thoughts, and indisposed to join in our remarks. At length my wife, when we had fallen back a little, so as to be out of hearing, said to me"I am afraid those silly girls have done Emma no good. Won over themselves at the moment, by a few attentions and courtesies from Mr. Glosenfane, I dare say they have laid close siege to our young friend, and have done their best to persuade her again to think favorably of him.”

There seemed some reason in this conjecture; and so it subse. quently proved. The mind is so constituted as to be moulded by the most trivial circumstances-by indirect and often unconscious influences. It needed but a few injudicious epithets, backed as they were by such warm but empty attentions and professions as Emma had received from her new acquaintances, to turn again the current of her affections in the direction of Springclose and its unhallowed associations; and she now felt that it was bearing her back thither in spite of her better judgment. And let not any be disposed to charge her with unwonted weakness in thus permitting a few words spoken in the garden at the Lindens, by those in whose judgment she could have no confidence whatever, to unsettle her conviction or bear down her spirits. Words will tell from whatever quarter they emanate. Acts will tell. Impressions will tell ; and feelings, often supposed to be unknown to all but those in whose minds they first arise, will tell powerfully on the conduct and the creed of others. To see is often to assimilate ; for “beholding as in a glass,” we grow into the image we behold.

Let us never forget this when disposed to think lightly of the mere idle talk of others. Those who are without the strength of mind that may be necessary to corroborate and confirm ours by contact, may yet exercise sufficient control over us to weaken it. It is easier to pull down a palace than to build a hovel. How many does a thoughtless world place in the catalogue of those who “do no harm ?” The Bible knows of none. Oh! for the holy circumspection of that good man who said, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”

But to return to Emma. Her mind had beyond question, received a bias for evil. It required, however, but increased vigilance on our parts to remedy the mischief, and we returned home wiser by that morning's experience, however painful might have been the process of tuition.

As we caught sight of the little hamlet, where our dwelling stood, stretching away towards the gentle undulations that backed the picture, we thought there were few prettier landscapes in the country. Cottages, farms, corn-ricks, trees, whose delicate anatomy was still traceable through the “gauzy gold” of their spring leaves, and a variety of ordinary elements, colored by an April sun, and steeped in the atmospheric influences of the season, contributed to make up a very lovely scene; and the thought that our own home stood there, added new pleasures to the contemplation.

“I was about to tell you, Charlotte,” said I, turning to my

« 이전계속 »