« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
“Have you ever remembered, then, that since the spiritual nature of the soul is invoked as the principal earnest of its separate and immortal existence, we should either concede some such independent vitality to that intricate assemblage of immateriate faculties which constitute what we, in our ephemeral pride, call the instinct of animals; or else, we must resign ourselves to some such futurity as we attribute--" - "Enough, enough, Edward,” cried his cousin. “I had well guessed what the conclusion was to be, and am sorry that I listened even so far.”
“What, Saint Cecilia ! are you a doctor in Israel and will not dare to look that truth in the face, which is inscribed in each phrase of Nature's ever open volume.”
“I have not feared more than yourself, Edward, to read in that volume, though I am not a doctor in Israel, and the lesson which it has taught me is far different from that which I am afraid you have learned, not there but elsewhere. I have seen, not in every phrase, but at every line, at every word, the evidences of that Great Being, inscrutable in his nature, still more inscrutable to us in his designs, yet whose
presence the arch-priest of your faith, if you have one, has pronounced it absolutely necessary to imagine in the order of nature, were it not so distinctly revealed.”
“Well, but Cécile, if Voltaire is your authority, you should abide by his conclusions upon other points as well as that one. When such as he have averred, that they hesitate in attributing to our destiny so immeasurable a superiority over that of those countless and also highly gifted living creatures who sport for an hour with us on the face of the creation, and then are seen no more— perhaps we might pause likewise."
“But I cannot, I will not pause,” cried the ardent Cécile, “when a thousand voices within me and around me are urging me onward to a far different conviction. I love and admire, as much as you can, the exterior marvels of the creation, and more particularly those humbler children of nature, so many of whom are destined to be our cherished companions and followers here below: I could not for a moment entertain the fearful delusion that my responsibility and my vocation are no other than theirs. I see the presence of an all-creating, all-regulating God, attested, as it is required, by each obedient detail of the universal mechanism; but it is my heart that proclaims my communion with Him-that heart which, as a greater than Voltaire has said, has its own reasons, which reason cannot fathom, and which, believe me, Edward, she cannot overthrow.”
“Are you quite sure though, Cécile, that your friend Pascal is a much greater believer than I am ?”
“Quite sure, Edward. We know that, in mere mockery, he resigned himself to the guidance of reason until appalled at the still trackless expanse ever opening before her, the wearied and perplexed leader resigned her hopeless task: then he raised his eyes and pointed to the glorious light which was shining above. From that hour, all was clear, all was revealed. Oh! Edward, will that light never shine upon you ?”
" It has, it does, through your eyes, Cécile,” replied he, in a lower and deeper tone.
She resolutely met his ardent glance and said, in a voice of soft but somewhat haughty reproach :
“I did not require, Edward, this crowning proof that such conversations are more perilous
still than useless. You will not easily, I trust, induce me to resume them again.”
Where was our hero, while this animated dialogue was thus rapidly progressing to its ominous conclusion ? All had reached him saving Edward's last half whispered observation, and not one single word had failed to arrest, we might almost say to entrance, his attention. He had never heard aught like it at the Coventry House Club, though the conversation there has been pronounced to be, upon a general average, decidedly superior to that which prevails at its rival assemblages ; and, on that very account, perhaps, he was strangely led away by the spirit of the discourse. It spoke to a thousand slumbering feelings and faculties, whose voices had cheered and inspired him during many a bright hour, ere the study of all the treasures of the past had been abruptly relinquished, not many years since, for the ardent pursuits of the present. Edward Basinstoke, his school companion of those days, had correctly informed Cécile when he had told her that, though deficient in all the more recent acquirements of a duly finished education, his cousin's mind was gifted far above the ordinary par. Having stated so much, in deference to the truth, we will only add now, for the correct information of our hapless reader, should we be so fortunate as to secure one, that though St. Edmunds took no share in the philosophical discussion above alluded to, Kant himself could scarcely have found a more intelligent or more reverential listener.
On that very evening there was a great dinner party at the hall, comprising, among other neighbours, the whole Thornhill family, and some friends who were on a visit to them. Many of these being naturally ignorant of Cécile's religious persuasion, it was not surprising that they should introduce the leading topic of the day, or that so exciting a subject, when once mooted, should have become the theme of the general discourse. The manifold deceptions of the Church of Rome, and, still more, the inconceivable ignorance, blindness, and superstition of her followers were set forth in terms so glowing as to make it perfectly marvellous that numerous, and, in other respects, enlightened communities should still be enthralled by such gross impostures. Much consolation was afforded, however, by the