Imatges de pÓgina
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THE MINISTER'S WOOING.

[Continued.]

CHAPTER XVIII.

a deepening flush she answered gently,

“No, Sir." The Doctor sat at his study-table. It “What! never any doubts ? " said the was evening, and the slant beams of Doctor. the setting sun shot their golden arrows “I am sorry," said Mary, apologeticalthrough the healthy purple clusters of ly; “ but I do not see how I can have; I lilacs that veiled the windows. There never could.” had been a shower that filled them with “ Ah !” said the Doctor, musingly, drops of rain, which every now and then “ would I could say so! There are times, tattooed, with a slender rat-tat, on the indeed, when I hope I have an interest window-sill, as a breeze would shake the in the precious Redeemer, and behold an leaves and bear in perfume on its wings. infinite loveliness and beauty in Him, Sweet, fragrance-laden airs tripped stir- apart from anything I expect or hope. ringly to and fro about the study-table, But even then how deceitful is the humaking gentle confusions, fluttering pa- man beart! how insensibly might a mere pers on moral ability, agitating treatises selfish love take the place of that disinteron the great end of creation, mixing up ested complacency which regards IIim for subtile distinctions between amiable in- what He is in Himself, apart from what stincts and true holiness, and, in short, He is to us! Say, my dear friend, does conducting themselves like very unappre- not this thought sometimes make you ciative and unphilosophical little breezes. tremble?”

The Doctor patiently smoothed back Poor Mary was truth itself, and this and rearranged, while opposite to him sat question distressed her; she must anMary, bending over some copying she swer the truth. The fact was, that it had was doing for him. One stray sunbeam never come into her blessed little heart fell on her light brown hair, tinging it to to tremble, for she was one of those chilgold; her long, drooping lashes lay over dren of the bride-chamber who cannot the wax-like pink of her cheeks, as she mourn, because the bridegroom is ever wrote on.

with them ; but then, when she saw the “ Mary,” said the Doctor, pushing the man for whom her reverence was almost papers from him.

like that for her God thus distrustful, “Sir,” she answered, looking up, the thus lowly, she could not but feel that blood just perceptibly rising in her her too calm repose might, after all, be cheeks.

the shallow, treacherous calm of an igno“Do you ever have any periods in rant, ill-grounded spirit, and therefore, which

your evidences seem not altogeth- with a deep blush and a faltering voice, er clear ?"

she said, Nothing could show more forcibly the • Indeed, I am afraid something must grave, earnest character of thought in be wrong with me. I cannot have any New England at this time than the fact fears, I never could; I try sometimes, that this use of the term "evidences" had but the thought of God's goodness comes become universally significant and un- all around me, and I am so happy before derstood as relating to one's right of citi- I think of it !” zenship in a celestial, invisible common- “ Such exercises, my dear friend, I wealth.

have also had,” said the Doctor; “but beSo Mary understood it, and it was with fore I rest on them as evidences, I feel

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constrained to make the following inqui- I may be only a blind leader of the blind. ries:– Is this gratitude that swells my What, after all, if I be only a miserable bosom the result of a mere natural sensi- self-deceiver? What if some thought of bility ? Does it arise in a particular self has come in to poison all my prayers manner because God has done me good ? and strivings? It is true, I think,— yes, or do I love God for what He is, as well I think,” said the Doctor, speaking very as for what He has done ? and for what slowly and with intense earnestness, — He has done for others, as well as for “ I think, that, if I knew at this moment what He has done for me? Love to God that my name never would be written which is built on nothing but good re- among those of the elect, I could still see ceived is not incompatible with a disposi- God to be infinitely amiable and glorious, tion so horrid as even to curse God to and could feel sure that He could not do His face. If God is not to be loved ex- me wrong, and that it was infinitely becept when He does good, then in affliction coming and right that He should dispose we are free. If doing us good is all that of me according to His sovereign pleasrenders God lovely to us, then not doing I think so;- but still my deceitful us good divests Him of His glory, and heart ! - after all, I might find it rising dispenses us from obligation to love Him. in rebellion. Say, my dear friend, are But there must be, undoubtedly, some you sure, that, should you discover yourpermanent reason why God is to be loved self to be forever condemned by His jusby all; and if not doing us good divests tice, you would not find your heart rising Him of Ilis glory so as to free us from up against Him?” our obligation to love, it equally frees the Against Him?” said Mary, with a universe; so that, in fact, the universe of tremulous, sorrowful expression on her bappiness, if ours be not included, reflects face,—"against my Heavenly Father?” no glory on its Author.”

Her face flushed, and faded; her eyes The Doctor had practised his subtile kindled eagerly, as if she had something mental analysis till his instruments were to say, and then grew misty with tears. so fine-pointed and keen-edged that he At last she said, scarce ever allowed a flower of sacred “ Thank you, my dear, faithful friend ! emotion to spring in his soul without I will think about this; perhaps I may picking it to pieces to see if its genera have been deceived. How

very

difficult and species were correct. Love, grati- it must be to know one's self perfectly!” tude, reverence, benevolence,- which all Mary went into her own little

room,

and moved in mighty tides in his soul,— were sat leaning for a long time with her elbow all compelled to pause midway while he on the window-seat, watching the pale rubbed up his optical instruments to see shells of the apple-blossoms as they sailed whether they were rising in right order. and fluttered downward into the grass, Mary, on the contrary, had the blessed and listened to a chippering conversation gift of womanhood, — that vivid life in in which the birds in the nest above were the soul and sentiment which resists the settling up their small housekeeping acchills of analysis, as a healthful human counts for the day. heart resists cold; yet still, all humbly, After a while, she took her pen and she thought this perhaps was a defect in wrote the following, which the Doctor berself, and therefore, having confessed, found the next morning lying on his in a depreciating tone, her babits of un- study-table:analyzed faith and love, she added,

“ But, my dear Sir, you are my best “MY DEAR, HONORED FRIEND,How friend. I trust you will be faithful to me. can I sufficiently thank you for your faithIf I am deceiving myself, undeceive me; fulness with me? All you say to me seems you cannot be too severe with me.” true and excellent; and yet, my dear Sir,

** Alas !” said the Doctor, “I fear that permit me to try to express to you some

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of the many thoughts to which our con- The joys arising from a consciousness that versation this evening has given rise. To God is a benefactor to me and my friends, love God because He is good to me you (and when I think of God, every creaseem to think is not a right kind of love; ture is my friend,) if arising from a selfand yet every moment of my life I have ish motive, it does not seem to me possible experienced His goodness. When recol- could be changed into hate, even supposlection brings back the past, where can ing God my enemy, whilst I regarded I look that I see not His goodness ? What Him as a Being infinitely just as well as moment of my life presents not instances good. If God is ny enemy, it must be of merciful kindness to me, as well as to because I deserve He should be such; every creature, more and greater than I and it does not seem to me possible that can express, than my mind is able to take I should hate Him, even if I knew Ile in? How, then, can I help loving God would always be so. because He is good to me? Were I not “ In what you say of willingness to sufan object of God's mercy and goodness, fer eternal punishment, I don't know that I cannot have any conception what would I understand what the feeling is. Is it be my feeling. Imagination never yet wickedness in me that I do not feel a wilplaced me in a situation not to experience а

lingness to be left to eternal sin? Can any the goodness of God in some way or other; one joyfully acquiesce in being thus left? and if I do love Him, how can it be but When I pray for a new heart and a right because He is good, and to me good ? Do spirit, must I be willing to be denied, and not God's children love Him because Ile rejoice that my prayer is not heard ? first loved them ?

Could

any

real Christian rejoice in this ? “If I called nothing goodness which But he fears it not,- he knows it will did not happen to suit my inclination, never be -- he therefore can cheerfully and could not believe the Deity to be leave it with God; and so can I. gracious and merciful except when the Such, my dear friend, are my thoughts, course of events was so ordered as to poor and unworthy; yet they seem to me agree with my humor, so far from imag- as certain as my life, or as anything I see. ining that I had any love to God, I must Am I unduly confident? I ask your prayconclude myself wholly destitute of any- ers that I may be guided aright. thing good. A love founded on nothing “ Your affectionate friend, but good received is not, you say, incom

" MARY. patible with a disposition so horrid as even to curse God. I am not sensible There are in this world two kinds of that I ever in my life imagined anything natures, those that have wings, and but good could come from the hand of those that have feet, — the winged and God. From a Being infinite in goodness the walking spirits. The walking are the everything must be good, though we do logicians; the winged are the instinctive not always comprehend how it is so. Are and poetic. Natures that must always not afflictions good ? Does lle not even walk find many a bog, many a thicket, in judgment remember merey ? Sensible many a tangled brake, which God's hapthat afflictions are but blessings in dis- py little winged birds flit over by one guise,' I would bless the hand that, with noiseless flight. Nay, when a man has infinite kindness, wounds only to heal, toiled till his feet weigh too heavily with and love and adore the goodness of God the mud of earth to enable him to walk equally in suffering as in rejoicing. another step, these little birds will often

“ The disinterested love to God, which cleave the air in a right line towards the you think is alone the genuine love, I see bosom of God, and show the way where not how we can be certain we possess,

he could never have found it. when our love of happiness and our love The Doctor paused in his ponderous and of God are so inseparably connected. heavy reasonings to read this real wom

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an's letter; and being a loving man, he felt as if he could have kissed the hem of her garment who wrote it. He recorded it in his journal, and after it this significant passage from Canticles :

“I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up nor awake this lovely one till she please.”

Mrs. Scudder's motherly eye noticed, with satisfaction, these quiet communings. * Let it alone,” she said to herself; “ before she knows it, she will find herself wholly under his influence.” Mrs. Scudder was a wise woman.

CHAPTER XIX.

In the course of a day or two, a handsome carriage drew up in front of Mrs. Scudder's cottage, and a brilliant party alighted. They were Colonel and Madame de Frontignac, the Abbé Léfon, and Colonel Burr. Mrs. Scudder and her daughter, being prepared for the call, sat in afternoon dignity and tranquillity, in the best room, with their knitting-work.

Madame de Frontignac had divined, with the lightning-like tact which belongs to women in the positive, and to French women in the superlative degree, that there was something in the cottage-girl, whom she had passingly seen at the party, which powerfully affected the man whom she loved with all the jealous intensity of a strong nature, and hence she embraced eagerly the opportunity to see her, - yes, to see her, to study her, to dart her keen French wit through her, and detect the secret of her charm, that she, too, might practise it.

Madame de Frontignac was one of those women whose beauty is so striking and imposing, that they seem to kindle up, even in the most prosaic apartment, an atmosphere of enchantment. All the pomp and splendor of high life, the wit, the refinements, the nameless graces and luxuries of courts, seemed to breathe in invisible airs around her, and she made a Faubourg St. Germain of

the darkest room into which she entered. Mary thought, when she came in, that she had never seen anything so splendid. She was dressed in a black velvet ridinghabit, buttoned to the throat with coral; her riding-hat drooped with its long plumes so as to cast a shadow over her animated face, out of which her dark eyes shone like jewels, and her pomegranate cheeks glowed with the rich shaded radiance of one of Rembrandt's pictures. Something quaint and foreign, something poetic and strange, marked each turn of her figure, each article of her dress, down to the sculptured hand on which glittered singular and costly rings, — and the riding-glove, embroidered with seed-pearls, that fell carelessly beside her on the floor.

In Antwerp one sees a picture in which Rubens, who felt more than any other artist the glory of the physical life, has embodied his conception of the Madonna, in opposition to the faded, cold ideals of the Middle Ages, from which he revolted with such a bound. His Mary is a superb Oriental sultana, with lustrous dark eyes, redundant form, jewelled turban, standing leaning on the balustrade of a princely terrace, and bearing on her hand, not the silver dove, but a gorgeous paroquet. The two styles, in this instance, were both in the same room; and as Burr sat looking from one to the other, he felt, for a moment, as one would who should put a sketch of Overbeck's beside a splendid painting of Titian's.

For a few moments, everything in the room seemed faded and cold, in contrast with the tropical atmosphere of this regal beauty. Burr watched Mary with a keen eye, to see if she were dazzled and overawed. He saw nothing but the most innocent surprise and delight. All the slumbering poetry within her seemed to awaken at the presence of her beautiful neighbor, — as when one, for the first time, stands before the great revelations of Art. Mary's cheek glowed, her eyes seemed to grow deep with the enthusiasm of admiration, and, after a few moments, it seemed as if her delicate face and fig.

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