Изображения страниц
[merged small][ocr errors]

the din and diversion of the service being over, St. Edmunds' attention was more exclusively called to the conversation which was going on around him. At first, he had experienced a slight misgiving, as to whether these continued and combined onslaughts upon the faith and sentiments of one single, solitary, and seemingly inoffensive individual, were strictly in accordance with his own notions of good-taste, kindly feeling, or fair play. Remarking, however, that such appeared to be the established custom of the house ; that the bright eyes of Constance were ever beaming as gladly as if all around were as guileless and as joyous as herself; and, above all, that the apparent victim showed no very palpable symptoms either of suffering or of resentment, he dismissed the notion as being unfounded and unjust towards his relatives. Still, he was almost surprised himself at the intense interest with which he would watch and expect each reply that could be elicited from the fair Romanist, and at the strange relief which was afforded, as it were to himself, whenever she would succeed in extricating herself, however imperfectly, from her difficulties. He gazed upon her more attentively now. Her figure was slender and fragile in the extreme, and her usual attitude was one of singular depression, proceeding either from constitutional weakness or timidity, or from some secret consciousness of inferiority and dependence. Her face too was pale, and the features, though small and regular, were cast woefully into the shade by the glowing beauty of Constance whenever they were brought into contrast with it. But from the moment when our hero had first encountered her dark melancholy eye, one single glance had warned him that a charm of no ordinary power was enshrouded under those long silken lashes. The soul, the undying soul, was there : all its fleeting joys and sorrows and conceptions and passions for ever reflected in that deep lustrous mirror, and for ever wooing the beholder to sympathize in each transient impulse and impression. Oh! how fearful, yet how enchanting to witness, was the conflict which was waging there during the last and oft-repeated incentives to discussion on the part of Sir Charles and Lady Helen which we have recorded. At length, the long-smouldering fire flashed forth for an instant.

“I should be sorry, indeed, Sir Charles,"


[merged small][ocr errors]


said she, “and more for your sake than for ours, were you so far to lower yourself, as publicly to cast any undeserved censure upon the great body of your fellow-Christians. If, as you yourself state, you are still in partial ignorance of the all-important subject which you intend to treat before assembled hundreds, oh! why will you not call upon one of our divines to explain to you what those doctrines are, which you are preparing to deride, and to revile.” : “Exactly," replied Sir Charles ; “just wait until you see me closeted with a rascally Jesuit, that's all ; only don't be in too great a hurry. Quite enough to have one Papist in the house, and she shall be my authority.”

“ Then if it needs must be so," resumed she, « remember that, in common honesty, and in common fairness, you may not allude, in the same tone and spirit as Lady Helen, to the great question which you seem so anxious to urge upon me. So far as I have ever understood, or inquired, as yet, we hold the Christian faith to be Apostolic rather than Scriptural, Traditional rather than Evangelical. We have the clearest evidence that the Redeemer called

his chosen Apostles together, imparted His doctrines to them, and promising to be ever present among them until the end of time, commissioned them to propagate the joyful tidings of His Mission throughout the world. I have never seen that any written record thereof was traced under His inspiration, or that He committed to any one the special task of framing the Christian Decalogue. When, by the sole unaided preaching of the first Apostles, and their appointed successors, the new religion had been circulated far and wide; when countless saints had lived under its blessed rule, and died in its heavenly hope, then (we differ as to the exact date, I believe, but not as to the fact) the first of the written Gospels appeared. These we consider to be historical rather than doctrinal—fully corroborating the pre-existing authority of the Apostolical guidance, but receiving from the Church more sanctity than they can impart to her—invaluable as references and auxiliaries, but by no means embodying exclusively that dogmatic faith which, independently of them, has been perfectly propagated both before and since their promulgation.”

“Ah! how will you make that clear ?”

[merged small][ocr errors]

“ Others can, whose mission it is: I am merely stating my creed. Differing then, as we thus do, with respect to the origin and object of these Holy and most Holy Writings, should it be a matter of such grave reproach between us, that we should not agree as to their use. You feel yourselves authorized to appeal to them as to a clearly-defined, positive, and final statement of all our duties, doctrines, and obligations : we deny your authority for this interpretation of their purpose, and defy you to prove it. You think it wise, politic, - conducive to Christian unity and to Christian peace, ceaselessly to incite and to adjure the blind, illiterate multitude to seek out for themselves in those dubious, mystical, and sometimes contradictory pages that necessarily uniform truth, upon the clear perception of which their salvation depends : our Church considers herself bound, as she is commissioned, to expound that truth herself. That is, I presume, the momentous question at issue between us; and, perhaps, you will excuse me for saying that the less it is discussed among the unlearned the better.”

What replies this fervent declaration might

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »