Clara Maynard; The True and the False—A Tale of the Times, By W.H.G. Kingston.
This is a short book, about a quarter of the length of a typical Kingston novel. Clara is the daughter of a retired Royal Navy Captain, who owns a large yacht, a cutter. She can take a large number of guests to sea, even more than the cutter in Marryat's "The Three Cutters". They use the yacht as a means of getting to a picnic spot on a beach, where they are met by even more people, including the new incumbent of the local parish, the family who own the presentation to the living, and a couple of Roman priests who are staying with them.
In chapter two Clara's father dies after a series of strokes. Her betrothed young man, who had been at the picnic, returns on Army service to India, and she falls under the influence of the new vicar of the parish, who persuades her to enter a nunnery. This is an absolute disaster, as the cruelty and lack of goodness and charity of what went on in that nunnery is quite intolerable.
Eventually she breaks free, and is reunited with her fa ily. Her betrothed comes back, she marries him and all is well.
CLARA MAYNARD; THE TRUE AND THE FALSE—A TALE OF THE TIMES, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
The blue waters of the British Channel sparkled brightly in the rays of the sun, shining forth from a cloudless sky, as a light breeze from the northward filled the sails of a small yacht which glided smoothly along the southern coast of England. At the helm of the little vessel stood her owner, Captain Maynard, a retired naval officer. Next to his fair young daughter, Clara, the old sailor looked upon his yacht as one of the most beautiful things in existence. Though her crew consisted but of two men and a boy, and she measured scarcely five-and-twenty tons, he declared that if it were necessary he would sail round the world in her without the slightest hesitation.
"Flatten in the jib, and take a pull at the main-sheet, my lads, and we shall run into the bay without a tack, if the wind holds as it does now," he sang out.
The men, as they came aft to execute the latter order, had to disturb some of the passengers, of whom there were several, seated on cloaks round the skylight, or standing up holding on to the weather rigging, or leaning against the main-boom. Clara Maynard, accustomed to yachting, promptly moved to windward, aided by Harry Caulfield, a young military officer, who had ridden over that morning to Luton, for the pleasure of making a trip on board the yacht; but her aunt, Miss Sarah Pemberton, looked somewhat annoyed at being asked to shift her seat. Harry, however, came to her assistance, and placed a camp-stool for her against the weather bulwarks.
"I am sorry, Sarah, to inconvenience you," said the captain, good-naturedly, "but we haven't as much room on board the Ariadne as on the deck of a line-of-battle ship."
The captain had called his yacht after the first ship in which he went to sea.
The cutter having rounded a lofty point, a small and beautiful bay opened out ahead; and the wind remaining steady, without making another tack, she stood in directly for it.
"We could not have chosen a more lovely spot for our picnic," exclaimed Clara. "See, Aunt Sarah—I am sure you will be pleased when you get there. Watch those picturesque cliffs, ever changing in shape as we sail along—and see those breezy downs above them, and the fine yellow sands below, and that pretty valley with the old fisherman's cottage on one side, and the clear stream running down its centre, and leaping over the rocks in a tiny cascade."
"I shall be very glad to get safe on shore," answered Miss Pemberton, who had been persuaded, much against her will, to venture for the first time on board the little Ariadne.
She had been invited, on the death of Clara's mother, her younger sister, to take up her abode with her widowed brother-in-law, and had only lately accepted his frequently repeated offer. Whatever good qualities she might have possessed, she was certainly not attractive in appearance, being tall and thin, with a cold and forbidding manner. Clara treated her aunt with due respect, and did all she could to win her affections, though she tried in vain to bestow that love she would willingly have given. Miss Pemberton presented a strong contrast to her niece, who was generally admired. Clara was very fair, of moderate height, and of a slight and elegant figure, with regular features and a pleasing smile; though a physiognomist might have suspected that she wanted the valuable quality of firmness, which in her position was especially necessary; for she already possessed a good fortune, and would inherit a considerable one. Her father, although a sailor of the old school, was not destitute of discernment, and thoroughly understanding her character, earnestly wished to see her married to a sensible, upright man, who would protect her and take good care of her property. He had therefore given every encouragement to Harry Caulfield, son of his old and esteemed friend, General Caulfield. He had known and liked Harry from his boyhood, and fully believed that he possessed those sterling qualities which would tend to secure his daughter's happiness. Harry had met her when staying with some friends at Cheltenham, and admired her before he knew that she possessed a fortune. He had thus the satisfaction of feeling that his love was purely disinterested. Of this she was aware, and it had greatly influenced her in returning his affection. When Clara wrote to her father, from whom she had no concealments, to tell him of the attention she was receiving from Captain Caulfield, his reply was, "I am very glad indeed to hear it; nothing could give me greater pleasure. Tell him to come down to Luton, and that I shall be delighted to see him."
Clara shortly afterwards returned home with her Aunt Sarah, and Harry of course followed, accompanied by his father, the general, who, finding a house in the neighbourhood vacant, engaged it for the sake of being near Captain Maynard, and thus enabling the young people to be together without depriving himself of his son's society. Harry's regiment was in India, and he was under orders to rejoin it. Though fond of his profession, in which he had gained distinction, and had every prospect of rising, he at first thought of selling out; but to this his father objected, and even Captain Maynard agreed that, as Clara was very young, they might wait a couple of years till he had obtained another step in rank, and that he would then consent to her accompanying him back, if necessary, to India. The course of true love in this instance appeared to run smoothly enough. Harry was most devoted in his attentions, and admired Clara more and more every day he spent with her—while she was satisfied that it would be impossible for her to love any one more; and had not she felt that it was her duty to remain with her father, she would willingly have married at once, and gone out to India. She saw clearly, however, that her Aunt Sarah was not suited to take her place or attend to her father, as she had observed of late that his health was failing, so that even for Harry's sake she could not bring herself to quit him. She had therefore consented to Harry's leaving her, though not without a severe struggle. It was the first shadow which had come over her young and hitherto happy life since the loss of her beloved mother. She was convinced that Harry was in every way worthy of her affections. He was a fine, handsome fellow, with frank agreeable manners, and a large amount of good sense and judgment. He had managed even to win the good opinion of Miss Sarah Pemberton, who was not in general inclined to think well of young men especially of officers in the army, whom she designated generally as an impudent, profligate set, with fluent tongues and insinuating manners, whose chief occupation in life was to break the hearts of young girls foolish enough to trust them.
Among the rest of the company on board the yacht was Mary Lennard, a girl of about fourteen years old, a sweet young creature, and a great favourite of Clara's. She was the daughter of the Reverend John Lennard, who had been for some years vicar of the parish of Luton-cum-Crosham, but only as locum tenens, he having been requested to take charge of it by the patron, Sir Richard Bygrave, who had promised to bestow it on his young relative, Dick Rushworth, as soon as Dick was of an age to take orders. The said Dick Rushworth, however, having lately unexpectedly come into a fortune, had quitted the university, and declined becoming a clergyman; and Sir Reginald, influenced by his wife, had bestowed the living on her cousin, the Reverend Ambrose Lerew, who had graduated at Oxford, and had been for some time a curate in that diocese. He had lately married a lady somewhat older than himself, possessed of a fair fortune, who had been considered a belle during two or three London seasons, but had failed to secure such a matrimonial alliance as she and her friends considered that she ought to make when she first came out. At length, awakening to the fact that her youth was passing away and her beauty fading, she had consented to give her hand, and as much of a heart as she possessed, to the fashionable-looking and well-connected young curate, an especial favourite of her friend, Lady Bygrave.
Mr Lennard had held the living longer than he had expected, and to the best of his ability had done his duty to his parishioners. He was a genial, warm-hearted man, of good presence; his manners urbane and courteous; fond of a joke, hospitable and kind, being consequently a favourite with all classes. The more wealthy liked him for his pleasant conversation and readiness to enter into all their gaieties and amusements, and the poorer for the kind way in which he spoke to them, and the assistance he afforded on all occasions when they were in distress. He had lost his wife two or three years after he became vicar of Luton-cum-Crosham. She had left two children, his dear little Mary, and a son, Alfred, a tall, pale-faced youth, who was now on board the yacht. The young gentleman had been with a tutor, and was about to go up to Oxford. He was considered very well-behaved; but as he seldom gave expression to his opinions, no one could ascertain much about his character, or how he was likely to turn out. His father always spoke of him as his good boy, who had never given him any trouble, and he fully believed never would cause him a moments' anxiety. His tutor had sent him home with a high character for diligence in his studies, and attention to his religious duties, which consisted in a regular attendance at church and at the morning and evening prayers of the family; and his father was happy in the belief that he would do very well in the world as a clergyman, or at the bar, or in any other profession he might select. Still, Mary was undoubtedly his favourite, and on her he bestowed the full affection of a father's heart. She was indeed a most loveable little creature. Clara was especially fond of her. Mary was so clever and sensible, that she was always a welcome guest at Luton. Besides the persons already mentioned on board the yacht, there was Lieutenant Sims, of the coastguard, with his wife and daughter; a Mrs and Miss Prentiss, the latter young and pretty; Tom Wesby, a friend of Alfred Lennard's, very like him in appearance and manner; and an artist engaged in sketching in the neighbourhood, who had brought a letter of introduction to Captain Maynard.
As the cutter rounded the headland before spoken of, most of the party evinced their admiration of the scenery by expressions of delight, and the artist exhibited his skill by making a faithful sketch in a few minutes. The wind freshening, the cutter made rapid progress towards the bay. Harry had taken the telescope, and was directing it towards the shore.
"Some of our party are there already," he exclaimed; "I see my father and Mr Lennard, and I conclude that the other people must be the new vicar and his wife, from the unmistakable cut of the gentleman's coat, and the lady's irreproachable costume. There are several more, though I cannot exactly make out who they are; I see, however, that the servants are bringing down the baskets of provisions, so we need have no fear of starving."
"I did not expect that they would arrive so soon. The wind has been light, and we have had the tide against us," observed Captain Maynard. "It will run long enough, however, to take us home again, if you young people are on board in good time. I must trust to you, Harry, to collect all our passengers; or, should the wind drop, we may find ourselves drifting down Channel for the best part of the night."
"Oh! that will be capital fun," cried Mrs Sims. "Mary, you'd like it amazingly. We can sit on deck, and look at the stars, and sing songs, and have our tea, and listen to the sailors' yarns—"
"And have the chance of being run down and sunk by one of those big blundering iron steam-kettles," growled the lieutenant, who had the antipathy long felt by old sailors to all the modern innovations, as he considered them, in the navy.
As the cutter glided up towards the shore, the party standing on the beach waved their handkerchiefs, and the ladies on board waved theirs. The jib was taken in, the foresail hauled down, and the yacht rounding to, the anchor was let drop at a short distance from the beach.
"Haul the boat up alongside, Tom," said Captain Maynard. "Now, Mr Sims, I must get you to take charge of the first party for the shore."
"With the greatest pleasure in the world; I am always at the service of the ladies," answered the lieutenant, bowing round to them, "but my difficulty is to know who is to go first, unless I select by seniority. Miss Sarah Pemberton, suppose I ask you—age before honesty, you know."
"You do not wish to insult me, Mr Sims?" answered the lady, bridling up.
"Come, come, Sally, Sims never thought of such a thing; he was only joking, or rather, let the words slip out of his mouth without knowing what he was saying," said Captain Maynard.
"I am not fond of joking," replied Miss Sarah; "but if you wish me to go first, I shall be very glad to get on shore, I assure you."
"Pardon me, madam," said the lieutenant, looking very penitent, and offering his hand. "I wouldn't say a word to ruffle your sensitive feelings, I do assure you." Miss Pemberton, being appeased, gave her hand to the lieutenant, and though she at first showed some signs of trepidation, stepped without difficulty into the sternsheets of the boat. She was followed by Mrs and Miss Sims.
"Come, young Lennard, you get into the bows, and help to trim the boat," said Mr Sims; and shoving off, they pulled for the shore.
The boat soon reached the beach, when Mr Alfred, jumping out, wetted his shoes, greatly to his annoyance, and went running off without stopping to offer his assistance to the ladies. Some of the rest of the party, however, came down to welcome them, and Mrs and Miss Sims, being, accustomed to boating, having jumped out, the lieutenant was able to aid Miss Pemberton in performing that, to her, hazardous operation.
"Trust to me, my good lady," he said in an encouraging tone; "now step on this thwart—now on the next—now on the gunwale."
"What's that?" asked Miss Pemberton.
"The side of the boat, I should have said," answered the lieutenant. "Now spring with all the agility you possess." At which the lady gave a bound which nearly overset the gallant officer, and would have ended by bringing her down on the sand, had not General Caulfield caught her in his arms.
"I hope you are not hurt, my dear madam!" he exclaimed.
"I have nearly dislocated my ankle, I believe," answered Miss Pemberton. "It is the first time I have ventured on board a yacht, and I intend that it shall be the last, with my own good pleasure."
On this the Reverend Mr Lerew stepped forward and expressed his sympathy to Miss Pemberton, offering her his arm to conduct her up to a rock under the cliff, where she could sit and rest her injured foot.
"I feel grieved for you, my dear madam, that what was intended to be a party of pleasure should commence with so untoward an event," he said. "Do allow my wife to examine your injured ankle—she is all tenderness and sympathy, and a gentle rubbing may perhaps restore it to its wonted elasticity."
"I hope that I shall recover after a little rest, without giving Mrs Lerew the trouble," answered Miss Pemberton, touched with the interest exhibited by the new vicar. "I am deeply grateful to you. But those sea-officers, though well-intentioned, including my poor dear brother-in-law, are dreadfully rough and unmannerly, and have not ceased to alarm and annoy me since I got on board that horrible little vessel, misnamed a pleasure yacht."
"True charity would make me wish to gloss over their faults—though I must confess I agree with you, my dear lady; but we must consider it the result of their early education, or rather, want of education," observed Mr Lerew, in a soft voice; "I fear, too, that their religious training is as defective as their manners—we must, however, use our best endeavours to correct the former, though it may be hopeless to attempt an improvement in the latter—indeed, it is of so infinitely less consequence, that provided we are successful in imparting the true faith, we must rest satisfied."
"Oh, yes, I daresay I do," answered Miss Pemberton, who was thinking more about her ankle than of what Mr Lerew was saying to her; catching one of his words, she added, "but I don't accuse my brother-in-law of being irreligious; I assure you, he reads prayers every morning as the clock strikes half-past eight, and every evening at ten, with a chapter from the Old and New Testaments, with Ryle's expositions."
"Pray, what prayers does he use?" asked Mr Lerew, in a tone which showed that he considered the matter of great importance.
"He generally uses Bickersteth's prayers," answered Miss Pemberton.
"Sad! sad!" exclaimed Mr Lerew, in a tone of horror, "thus to neglect the Prayer-Book and submit to the teaching of men the most deadly enemies of the catholic faith. Do let me entreat you to beg that he will banish Ryle and Bickersteth from his library, or rather, commit them—I should say their works—to the flames at once, lest they should fall into the hands of other ignorant people."
"I never thought there was any harm in them," answered Miss Pemberton, somewhat astonished at the vehemence with which the new vicar condemned his two brother divines, whom she had hitherto considered sound, trustworthy teachers. "I will mention what you say to my brother-in-law, but I suspect that he will not be easily induced to do as you advise. I know that he considers Canon Ryle a very sensible and pious man, and I have often heard him say that he could understand his writings better than those of any one else he ever met with."
"Blind leaders of the blind," said Mr Lerew. "The pernicious principles of such men are calculated to produce the overthrow of our Holy Church, and to undermine all catholic doctrines."
"Dear me, Mr Lerew, I always thought Ryle and Bickersteth very sound churchmen and firm advocates of the truth," said Miss Pemberton.
"Alas! alas! my dear lady; I fear there are many wolves in sheep's clothing who have long beguiled their flocks by teaching them to rely on their own judgment, instead of seeking for counsel and advice from those pastors who, knowing themselves to be duly appointed from on high to administer the holy sacraments, and grant absolution to humble penitents, feel the importance of their sacred office," replied Mr Lerew.
Miss Pemberton did not quite understand Mr Lerew's meaning; but as he exhibited so much feeling and sympathy for her sprained ankle, she sat and listened, and thought that, though he was less agreeable than Mr Lennard, he at all events must be a very pious and excellent young clergyman, and that since the vicar, who had been so generally liked, was compelled to resign his office, it was fortunate for the parishioners that they had obtained so superior a minister.
In the meantime the boat had returned to the yacht for another freight, Captain Maynard, with Harry, Clara, and Mary, being the last to land. By this time most of the party had collected on the beach to welcome them. General Caulfield, after shaking hands with the captain, led off Clara, for the sake, as he said, of having a little talk with her. He was very fond of his future daughter-in-law, who was exactly the girl he desired as a wife for his son. While they were absent, the captain chose a shady spot under the cliff for spreading the tablecloth. The younger members of the party, under the superintendence of Mrs Sims, were busily engaged in unpacking the hampers and baskets, and arranging their contents.
"Alfred, ahoy! bear a hand, and place the knives and forks alongside the plates; I like to see young men making themselves useful, instead of throwing all the work upon the ladies," exclaimed Captain Maynard, as he saw young Lennard sauntering off by himself, to avoid the trouble of speaking to any one. Thus summoned, Alfred was compelled to return, when Mary, with a merry laugh, put a bundle of knives and forks into his hands, and told him to go and arrange some on the opposite side of the cloth. The picnic had been got up by some of the principal people in the parish, as a compliment to their former vicar, as also for the purpose of enabling his successor to become acquainted with them in an easy and pleasant way. Sir Reginald and Lady Bygrave had been invited, but had not yet arrived, and it would, of course, have been uncourteous to commence luncheon, hungry as everybody was, till they appeared. The party had, in the meantime, to amuse themselves according to their tastes; some of the ladies had brought their sketch-books, others their work—though the greater number preferred doing nothing.
The ever busy Lieutenant Sims had sent off to the yacht for an iron pot, which he filled up with potatoes and salt water, and having called some of the young gentlemen to assist him in collecting a quantity of dry wood which was seen scattered along the beach, he made a large fire, and put on the pot to boil. "Now, by boys, take a lesson from an old tar," he observed. "Whenever you want to cook potatoes to perfection, boil them in salt water if you can get it, or if not, put in plenty of salt, and let them remain till the water has evaporated. You will then have them come out like lumps of meal, as these will, you'll see, before long."
Harry had soon stolen off, and joined Clara and his father. The latter shortly after left the young people to themselves, while he went back to meet Captain Maynard and Mr Lennard, who were strolling along the beach.
"I feel perfectly satisfied with my successor, as far as I am able at present to judge," observed Mr Lennard. "He is a wonderfully zealous and earnest man. He shows an evident desire to make himself popular, and to win the affections of the people; and I cannot blame him if he seems surprised that I have not introduced some of the more modern improvements in churches."
"For my part, I hope that what he calls improvements will not follow the direction of the changes which have been made in some parishes," observed General Caulfield. "There are many who would object to them, as I should myself, and they can produce no real good."
"New brooms sweep clean," said Mr Lennard. "He naturally wishes to be doing something, and I shall not be jealous. It is all-important to have peace and good-will in the parish."
"It may be bought at too dear a price," said General Caulfield, "but we will hope for the best. Here comes Mrs Lerew; she was, I understand, a good deal in London society, and is an elegant and fashionable-looking person, though she is somewhat older than Lerew, I suspect."
"She may not make the worse wife for that," observed Captain Maynard.
Harry and Clara had wandered away from the rest of the party, and were seated on a rock, at some distance off. She had brought her sketch-book, and was endeavouring to make a drawing of the bay, with the headland to the eastward, round which they had come, and the little yacht at anchor off the beach; but anxious as she was to produce a satisfactory sketch, a duplicate of which Harry had begged her to give to him, her hand trembled, and her heart felt very sad. It was the last day they were to be together, and she thought of the long, long months which must elapse before he was to return.
"My memory will often fly back to this spot when I am far away," said Harry; "and though leagues of land and ocean divide us, we shall here meet in spirit and talk to each other, shall we not, dearest?"
"I am sure of it," said Clara, looking into his handsome, honest countenance. "I wish that I could make a better sketch, but I will try to improve it at home."
"Oh! no, no! leave it just as it is; I wish to think of you as you are now," said Harry, "my own dear girl; and I would rather see every line as you have traced it on the paper before my eyes."
"Well, then, I will keep the copy for myself," said Clara; "or I can come here with papa in the yacht, and take it over again."
The sketch was finished, and seeing their friends assembling, and Mrs Sims beckoning vehemently to them, they rose to return.
"I hope that my father will remain at Updown till I come back," said Harry. "You will always trust to him, Clara, as to one who loves you as his daughter; and it will be a happiness to me to know that he will be near you, should Captain Maynard's health fail."
Clara sighed. "I much fear that is likely to happen—indeed, I have been unable to conceal from myself that he has greatly altered lately."
Harry, wishing to avoid melancholy thoughts, changed the subject.
"I am not quite satisfied with your new vicar," he observed; "I am afraid that he belongs to a school of which I have the utmost possible dread. Believe me, dearest, I was most thankful to find, when I first came down to Luton, that Captain Maynard held the opinions I do, and that your parish was free from any of the ritualistic practices of the day. Much as all must like Mr Lennard for his pleasant manners and kind heart, he is not exactly what I should wish a clergyman to be, but he is at all events thoroughly sound in practice. Believe me, Clara, that however much I might admire a girl, and be inclined to love her, I would not risk my domestic happiness by marrying, should I find that she was enslaved by those plotting the overthrow of the Protestant principles of our Church. You know, dearest, how strongly I feel on the subject, and I trust that you will, for your own sake, as well as mine, withstand all the allurements and artifices which either lay or clerical ritualists may use to induce you to support or take a part in their practices."
"I hope so," said Clara, "though Lady Bygrave, when last she called on us, told me that there are many true and devoted men who are called ritualists; and I cannot say that I see any objection to good music and elegantly built churches, which it is their chief aim to introduce for the purpose of forwarding the cause of religion and devotion. Many people are dissatisfied with the untrained attempts at harmony in our too often unsightly churches."
Harry was going to reply, but he found that the last remark had been made unintentionally in the hearing of Mr Lerew. That gentleman watched his opportunity, and while Harry had left Clara's side for a moment, he observed in a low, soft voice, "I see, Miss Maynard, that you are a young lady of good taste, and above the vulgar prejudices of the Calvinistic school, who stubbornly refuse to dedicate the best of their substance and talents to God, and rest satisfied with offering to Him the ugliest buildings their imaginations can devise, and the refuse of their possessions."
He stopped on seeing Harry, who quickly rejoined Clara.
"Here they come! here they come!" exclaimed several of the most hungry of the party, as a tall gentleman and lady, accompanied by two sombre, well-dressed persons, were seen descending the hill. "Who can those people be with Sir Reginald and Lady Bygrave, I wonder?" cried Mrs Sims; "they look to me for all the world like Jesuit priests."
Mr Lerew's countenance brightened, and Master Alfred Lennard showed more interest than he had hitherto exhibited in any of the proceedings of the day.
"So I fear they are," observed General Caulfield. "What can have induced Sir Reginald and his wife to bring them here?"
Mr Lerew, however, with several other persons, hurried up the pathway, to greet the chief people of that part of their county. Lady Bygrave, escorted by one of the priests, who gave her his hand at the steeper parts of the path, came first, and at once introduced their friend Monsieur l'Abbe Henon, who with his companion, Father Lascelles, had arrived only that morning, and had begged leave to accompany them. They had come to see Sir Reginald on the subject of forming a new settlement in South America, as it was well known he was deeply interested in the subject of colonisation, and they hoped to obtain his influence and support.
"They are most delightful people," whispered Lady Bygrave to Miss Pemberton, who met her ladyship at the bottom of the descent; "everybody will be pleased with them, they are so full of information, and so free from prejudices—they will disabuse all our minds of the vulgar notion that Catholic priests can talk of nothing but masses and penances; and they are so noble-minded and philanthropic."
The abbe, who overheard what was said, smiled blandly, and addressed himself to Miss Pemberton. He spoke English perfectly, with only a slight foreign accent, in a melodious voice, attractive and soothing to his hearers. He and Father Lascelles bowed politely as they were introduced to the company, and at once made themselves at home, uttering not a word to which even the most prejudiced could object.
Lady Bygrave was still young, with a decidedly aristocratic appearance, and very pleasant manners when she had to be condescending. Sir Reginald was a tall, good-looking man, who seldom expressed an opinion, his florid countenance not exhibiting any large amount of intellect; but as he was considered straightforward and honest, he was generally liked.
With as little delay as possible, not to show the last comers too much that they had been waited for, the party assembled round the ample repast; and while the older gentlemen were employed in carving, the younger ones, aided by Mrs Sims, busied themselves in carrying round the plates. The usual conversation at picnics then became general. The abbe and his companion, having glanced round the company, and carefully noted each person present, were soon enabled to take part in it. They said nothing very remarkable, but managed, notwithstanding, to draw out the opinions of most of those to whom they addressed themselves. The abbe was especially attentive to Mr and Mrs Lerew, and both seemed highly flattered with what he said. He fixed his glance on Master Alfred, and having ascertained who he was, spoke to him in a gentle, encouraging tone. Mr Lennard himself seemed pleased with Sir Reginald's visitors, and remarked to General Caulfield that he had seldom met more agreeable foreigners. "I don't trust them," answered the general; "the more pleasant and insinuating they are, the more necessary it is to avoid them. I would never allow such men to enter my house or become intimate with any of my family."
Captain Maynard entertained much the same feeling as his friend. Lieutenant Sims never did care about foreigners, and thought the idea of getting Englishmen to emigrate to such a country as they talked of was all humbug. The abbe and his friends might have heard many of the observations made; but whether complimentary or not, they did not allow a muscle of their countenances to change. Lady Bygrave happened to upset her wineglass, and soon afterwards the abbe did exactly the same thing; on which he turned with a bow to her ladyship, observing, "I am sure whatever Lady Bygrave does is the right thing, and cannot therefore be reproved."
"I am thankful, Monsieur l'Abbe," said Lady Bygrave, smiling. "I am sure that I can always rely upon you for support."
"Ah, yes, madam, in spiritual matters as in temporal," whispered the abbe.
The conversation was, however, generally of a lively character, and all agreed that the picnic was a success, and that they had enjoyed themselves amazingly. Captain Maynard, however, looking at his watch, declared that those who intended to return in the yacht must come on board without delay. Miss Pemberton declined, if she could possibly get a conveyance, and Lady Bygrave offered to take her in her carriage; Father Lascelles begging leave to return in a pony-carriage which had brought the hampers, if some one who knew the way would drive him—on which Alfred Lennard requested to be allowed the honour of doing so. Harry and Clara of course went back in the yacht, as did the rest of the party who had come in her.
"Mr Lennard must take care that that Jesuit priest does not get hold of his son," observed Harry to Clara; "you might get Mary to speak to her father and warn him, for he seemed as much pleased with the strangers as Sir Reginald and Lady Bygrave. I hold with my father about them; and I would as soon trust a couple of serpents within my doors."
"Are you not rather severe on the poor men?" asked Clara.
"Knowing their principles and their great object—to bring under subjection the minds of their fellow-creatures, and thus to amass wealth for the purpose of raising their order above all the ruling powers on earth—I cannot say anything too severe. To attain their ends they will allow nothing to stand in their way; they will hesitate at no crime, no deceit; they will assume any character which suits them, and will undertake the lowest offices, and will employ the vilest means, or will pretend to the most exalted piety."
"Surely, Harry, the men we saw to-day could not be guilty of such conduct," said Clara.
"Every Jesuit is trained in the same school, and I therefore make no exceptions," answered Harry. "We shall find that even those gentlemen, fascinating as they appeared, had some object in visiting Sir Reginald, ulterior to that of presenting him with a scheme of colonisation. He is wealthy; and depend on it, they were informed of the proclivities of Lady Bygrave."
Clara was not quite convinced. It was not likely, however, that the abbe and his companion would pay a visit to Luton.
Harry had gone. Clara felt very sad; her eye was constantly at the telescope in the drawing-room, looking out for the steamer which was conveying him to Alexandria. She at length caught sight of a long white line and a puff of grey smoke above it, which she believed must belong to the ship. She was still watching it as it was growing less and less distinct, when her aunt, entering the room, said, "I am afraid that your father is very ill. I went into his study just now; when I spoke to him, he was unable to answer me."
Clara flew to the study, and found her father seated in his arm-chair. There was a pained expression in his eyes, and he was speechless. He had been seized with a paralytic stroke. The servant was immediately despatched to bring the doctor, who was found not far off, and quickly came. He pronounced the captain to be in considerable danger. Clara, ever dutiful and affectionate, was constant in her attendance on her father. Even Miss Pemberton's manner softened, and she did her best to comfort her niece. In the course of two or three days, Captain Maynard had somewhat recovered, and was able to speak without much difficulty. General Caulfield, who had heard of his illness, came over to see him. The brave sailor believed himself to be dying.
"It is a knock at my door to which I am bound to attend, General," he said.
"I have no fear for myself, for I trust in One 'mighty to save;' but I am anxious about my gentle Clara, so ill able to battle with the troubles of life. I wish that we had not let Harry go; I could have left her with confidence in his care. Would that he could be recalled!"
"His ship is across the bay by this time. We acted for the best, and must trust to Him who ever cares for the orphan and widow. While I live, I will be a father to your child, and assist her aunt in watching over her," answered the general; "but cheer up, my friend, I do not speak to one ignorant of the truth, and therefore I can say that God may still preserve your life for her sake, though you will undoubtedly be the gainer by going hence, as all are who die in the Lord. We can pray to Him to protect her." And the gallant old soldier knelt down by the side of his friend, as by that of a beloved brother, and together they lifted up their voices to Him in whom they trusted. Though Captain Maynard could but faintly repeat the words uttered by the general, his heart spoke with the fervency of a true Christian who expects soon to be in the presence of his Saviour. He pressed the general's hand. "And whatever happens, my dear friend, I feel confident that you will fulfil your promise," he said.
Before the general left the house, he spoke for some time to Miss Pemberton, who was fully convinced that her brother-in-law had not many hours to live. The captain, however, the next day had greatly recovered; and while Miss Pemberton was seated in the drawing-room, Clara being with her father, Mr and Mrs Lerew were announced. Mrs Lerew advancing, took Miss Pemberton's hand, and sank into a seat, her husband following with the most obsequious of bows and blandest of smiles.
"My dear lady, I rejoice to find you within," he said, "as I am anxious to have some earnest conversation with you, while perhaps, if I may venture to make the request, your niece will show the garden to Mrs Lerew."
"Clara is with her father, who is still, I regret to say, very ill," answered Miss Pemberton; "but I will summon her, that she may have the pleasure of seeing Mrs Lerew."
"Not for the world," answered the vicar: "the present opportunity is propitious. I was aware of Captain Maynard's serious illness; indeed, I am most desirous to speak to him on the subject of his soul's welfare. From what his medical attendant tells me, I fear that his days are numbered; and you will pardon me when I say it, I grieve to hear that he has been sadly neglectful of his religious duties."
"I hope you are mistaken," answered Miss Pemberton, somewhat astonished at the remark; "though I have not resided long with him, I have always understood that he was specially attentive to them."
"Not to some of the most important," said Mr Lerew: "he has not once been to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist since I became vicar of the parish, nor has he attended matin-song or even-song, which I have performed daily; and I regret to observe that neither you nor your niece have been present."
"My brother-in-law has not been in the habit of attending any but Sunday services, nor have I, I confess," said Miss Pemberton; "but I shall be very happy, if he gets better, to drive over with my niece, should you think it right."
"Right!" exclaimed Mr Lerew in a tone of amazement; "I consider it a great sin to neglect such means of grace, and by neglecting them you encourage others to do so likewise; whereas if people of position set a good example, it will be followed by their inferiors. But, my dear lady, I fear that I have said what may sound harsh in your ears. One of my great objects to-day is to see your brother-in-law alone, and I must ask you to enable me to do so while Mrs Lerew is paying her respects to your niece."
Miss Pemberton, seeing no objection to this, undertook to send Clara down, and to beg Captain Maynard to receive the vicar. She went upstairs for this purpose. Of course the sick man could not decline the vicar's visit, and Clara having very unwillingly left her father, Mr Lerew was ushered into his room. The new vicar spoke softly and gently, and expressed his sorrow to hear of the captain's serious illness. He then went on to speak of the importance of being prepared for death.
"I would urge you, therefore, my dear sir, to confess your sins to me, that I may absolve you from them, as I have authority from my office."
"Yes, sir, I have many sins to confess, and I have already with hearty repentance done so to my God," answered the captain, sitting up in bed. "I am very sure, too, that they are all washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ."
The vicar gave a suppressed hem. He at once saw that he must drop the point of confession. "Then, my dear sir," he added, "I should have no hesitation in administering to you the Holy Eucharist, which, knowing your dangerous state, I reserved for you on Sunday last, and have now brought in my pocket."
"I do not exactly understand you, sir," answered the captain, wondering what his visitor could mean.
"You would surely wish to enjoy the benefit of that Holy Sacrament," said the vicar, "and I have brought the consecrated elements with me, the wafer and the wine mingled with water, which latter it is lawful in the Anglican Church to administer."
"I understand you now, and am much obliged to you for your kind intentions," said the captain, "but the truth is, I should prefer taking the sacrament with my old friends, Mr Lennard and General Caulfield, with my daughter, and sister-in-law, and the members of my household. We have always an ample supply of bread and wine for the purpose."
"Of my predecessor I say nothing, and hope that he will be brought ere long to the knowledge and practice of the truth," exclaimed Mr Lerew. "General Caulfield—pardon me for saying it—is, I understand, a schismatic with whom we are bound to hold no communion. He has for several Sundays attended a dissenting conventicle, and actually takes upon himself to preach and to attempt to teach his ignorant fellow-creatures; for ignorant and benighted those must be who listen to him. It will be at the peril of your soul, I am bound to tell you, Captain Maynard, should you invite him to be present at the awful ceremony you propose to hold."
"I will be responsible for the risk I may run," answered Captain Maynard, the spirit of the old sailor rising within him. "I cannot allow my dearest friend, in whose truly religious character I have unbounded confidence, to be so spoken of without protest. In my state, especially, I would quarrel with no man. You made a mistake, Mr Lerew, in thus speaking of that excellent man."
"I deeply regret it," said the vicar. "I must not longer intrude on you, but I am bound to tell you, Captain Maynard, that I consider your soul in imminent danger, and I earnestly pray that another day, ere it be too late, a benign influence may induce you more willingly to receive my ministrations. Farewell." And Mr Lerew, rising with a frowning brow, walked to the door, while the captain, sinking back on his pillow, rang his bell. Soon after Mr Lerew had returned to the drawing-room, the servant entered to say that the captain wished to see Miss Clara, and she, without even stopping to say good-bye to her guests, hurried upstairs. The vicar's manner was calm as usual. Miss Pemberton had scarcely time to ask whether he had had a satisfactory interview with her brother-in-law, when Lieutenant and Mrs Sims entered the room. Miss Pemberton was compelled to shake hands with them, as the lieutenant advanced in his usual hearty fashion, but she showed that their arrival caused her no great satisfaction. Mr Lerew and his wife received them in a stiff manner, and the former held out two fingers, which Sims nearly dislocated as he grasped them in his rough palm. The lieutenant, having enquired after Captain Maynard, and being informed by Miss Pemberton that he was as well as she could hope, found himself compelled to relapse into silence, as Mr Lerew, giving a hint to his wife to attend to Mrs Sims, requested a few moments conversation with Miss Pemberton in the bay window. Leading the lady to it, he spoke in so low a voice, that even Mrs Sims, much as she might have wished to do so, could not catch a word—while the honest lieutenant, who did not trouble himself about the matter, endeavoured to make amends for the somewhat unintelligible replies which his wife gave to Mrs Lerew.
The first portion of the vicar's conversation had reference to Clara; he then continued in the same suppressed tone, "The General, also, is not a man on whose religious opinions you should place reliance, my dear madam, and I would especially urge you to prevent him, by every means in your power, from coming here. He can only lead your poor brother-in-law from the right path, and may induce him to refrain from taking advantage of the sacred offices I am so anxious to render."
In a few minutes Mr Lerew and Miss Pemberton returned to their seats, the former observing in a voice which he intended should be heard, "General Caulfield may be a very worthy soldier, but I unhesitatingly say, and I wish it to be known, that I consider any person, whatever his rank, is to be greatly blamed who enters a dissenting chapel, and without authority pretends to preach to the ignorant populace."
"But, sir, I can say I once listened to as good a sermon preached by the general as I ever heard from parson or bishop, begging your pardon," exclaimed Mr Sims, the colour mounting to his honest cheeks as he spoke; "he preaches simply from the Bible, and just says what the Bible says; and that, I hold, is the best test of a good sermon."
"The Bible, Mr Sims, is a very dangerous book, if read by the laity, without the proper interpretation of those deputed by Holy Church to explain its meaning," emphatically replied Mr Lerew.
The lieutenant gave an involuntary whew. "Then I suppose that you mean the Bible should not be read by us laity," he exclaimed.
"Certainly, not without the written or verbal explanation of the priests of our Church," answered Mr Lerew.
"And that is your opinion?" asked the lieutenant, resolving then and there that he would never allow the vicar an opportunity of explaining the Bible to him or any of his family according to his interpretation; "and you wish this to be known in the parish, Mr Lerew?"
"Certainly, I do not desire to conceal my opinions—I speak with authority," answered the vicar.
"But, my dear, the people may misunderstand you," observed Mrs Lerew, who reflected that her husband had made an acknowledgment which some of his parishioners might take up, and perhaps cause him annoyance; but the vicar was not a man to be withheld from expressing his opinion by any such fears. He was aware that he would be supported by Sir Reginald and Lady Bygrave, and he secretly held such persons as Lieutenant Sims and the rest of his parishioners of inferior rank in the utmost contempt.
"I will take good care that your opinion is known, though I do not agree with it, I can tell you, Mr Lerew," exclaimed the lieutenant, rising. "I am sorry, Miss Pemberton, that I cannot see my excellent friend this morning. I served under him six years or more—there is no man I more esteem, and I know what his opinion is of General Caulfield. Give him my love and respects, and say I hope to have a talk with him another day when he is better. Come, my dear, it is time we should be jogging home."
This was said to his wife; and the two rising, took their departure, receiving the most freezing of looks from the vicar and the two ladies. At that instant a servant girl entered, to beg that Miss Pemberton would come up immediately into her master's room.
"We didn't like to interrupt you, marm, but I am afraid the captain's in a bad way," she said, "I will attend you," exclaimed Mr Lerew: "a priest is ever in his proper place beside the bed of the dying."
Without waiting for permission, he followed Miss Pemberton into Captain Maynard's room. Clara was at her father's bedside, holding his hand. She had found him, when she returned from the drawing-room after his interview with the vicar, speechless. He had endeavoured to say something to her, but his tongue refused its office; his mind was, however, it was evident, unimpaired. He looked up with a pained expression, and tried to show that he wished to write; but when a slate was brought him, his fingers were unable to hold the pencil Clara had immediately sent off for the doctor, and was now endeavouring, by chafing her father's hands, to restore their power.
On seeing the vicar in the doorway a peculiar expression passed over Captain Maynard's countenance, and he made another desperate effort to utter a few words in his daughter's ear, but in vain—no articulate sounds proceeded from his lips.
"I feel the deepest sympathy and compassion for you, my dear young lady," said the vicar in a gentle tone. "We will pray for the soul of the departing—join me, I beseech you—induce your niece to kneel with us," he whispered to Miss Pemberton, who nodded, and placing a chair by the bedside, almost compelled Clara to kneel on it, while she continued the act of filial affection in which she had been engaged. The vicar then taking from his pocket a book, read a service, of which poor Clara, agitated as she was, did not comprehend a word. Captain Maynard all the time was looking into her fair face with the same pained expression in his eyes which they had assumed on the entrance of the vicar. Doctor Brown, a worthy and excellent man, arrived just as the vicar had concluded; and exercising his authority, requested him and Miss Pemberton to leave the room, observing that perfect quiet was necessary for his patient.
"You may stay," he whispered to Miss Maynard, as he felt the captain's pulse. "The captain has had another attack—very slight, I assure you— he'll rally from it, I hope, but we must allow nothing to agitate him. There, there, he understands what we say. Don't be cast down, Captain; God will take care of her, and she has many true friends. It is about you, my dear, he is thinking—I know it by the way his eyes turn towards you."
Clara could no longer restrain her tears, though she tried to conceal them from her father. The doctor's predictions were in part verified: Captain Maynard again rallied sufficiently to make signs for everything he wanted, and showed that his intellect was perfectly clear. With the doctor's permission he received several visits from General Caulfield, though no one else was allowed to see him. Mr Lerew called frequently. On each occasion he had an interview with Miss Pemberton, and twice he saw Clara, when she was not in attendance on her father. He did his best, as he well knew how, to ingratiate himself with both ladies. He was making way with Miss Pemberton, and hoped that he was gradually winning over Clara. He took good care in her presence to say nothing harsh of General Caulfield, though what he did say was calculated to undermine him in her opinion, but he so cautiously expressed himself that she had no suspicion of the object of his remarks. He managed also never to call when the general was likely to be at the house, as he especially wished to avoid meeting him in the presence of Clara or her aunt. The vicar on three occasions ventured to speak much more openly to Miss Pemberton than he did to Clara.
"What a blessed thing it is, my dear lady, that our Holy Church possesses divinely appointed priests who can unerringly guide and direct their flock; who can rightly administer all the sacraments and interpret the Scriptures! and how sad it is that any should obstinately refuse to take full advantage of all these spiritual blessings!" he remarked. "You and your sweet niece will, I trust, not be among those who thus risk the loss of their souls."
"I hope not," answered Miss Pemberton, becoming somewhat alarmed. "I am sure that I wish to do everything which religion requires."
"There is one great omission of which you have been guilty," continued Mr Lerew. "I wish to speak with all love and gentleness. You have never yet come to confession."
"Is that necessary?" asked Miss Pemberton, feeling more than ever uneasy, "I did not know that it was required by the Church of England."
"You have read your Prayer-Book to little purpose, if you think so," said Mr Lerew, with more sternness than he had hitherto shown. "Only think of the unspeakable comfort obtained through priestly absolution, which will be thus afforded you. You will then know that your sins are put away. You will feel so holy, and clean, and pure. Let me, with all loving earnestness, urge you and your sweet niece to come without delay to that holy ordinance, too long ignored and neglected in our Church; and let me assure you that I believe every true daughter of that Church, were she aware of the blessed advantages to be gained, would avail herself of the opportunities now being offered throughout the kingdom."
"Your remarks take me, I own, by surprise," answered Miss Pemberton. "None of my acquaintance, that I am aware of, have ever been in the habit of confessing."
"'Wide is the gate and broad is the way which leadeth to destruction; many there be that go in thereat.' Think of that text, Miss Pemberton; join the privileged few, and I shall be most thankful to receive you as a penitent," answered Mr Lerew. "Endeavour, also, by all means to induce your niece to follow your pious example. My dear friends, Sir Reginald and Lady Bygrave, and many other persons of distinction, come regularly to confession; and I trust that by degrees the whole of my flock will take advantage of the opportunity, which I shall have the happiness of offering them, of being absolved from sin."
Miss Pemberton did not exactly say that she would go to confession, as she felt rather doubtful whether Clara would accompany her, but she promised that she would consider the matter; and the vicar on leaving felt satisfied with the way he had made. As yet, however, he had not got so far as to set up a confessional box in his church. He intended, in the first instance, to employ the vestry for that purpose. He had his doubts whether Mr Lennard might not withdraw the support he was now affording him; still, he had made considerable progress. His first step was to select a dozen of the schoolboys of the parish to form a choir, and to clothe them in surplices; the instruments which had hitherto led the parishioners in their singing being banished, an organ, presented by Lady Bygrave, was put up, and an organist with high ritualistic proclivities appointed. The hymn-books with the good old tunes which all the parish knew by heart were discarded, and Hymns Ancient and Modern were introduced. The communion-table was next raised and adorned with a richly embroidered cover, and on the following Sunday four magnificent branch candlesticks appeared upon it. Mr Lennard had hitherto not made any remarks on the alterations going forward; but when he saw the candlesticks, he enquired of Mr Lerew, who was calling on him, what funds he possessed for the purchase of such articles, and what was their object, as he feared that they would not be appreciated by the parishioners at large.
"I have ample funds for all such purposes; and ignorant as the people are at present, we will so educate them that by degrees they will see the value and significance of the improvements we are introducing," answered Mr Lerew; "I contemplate having a reredos erected, which will add greatly to the beauty of the church; as it will be expensive, I own, I trust that you and other friends will contribute from your means towards the important work. I wish to ornament those blank spaces along the aisle with appropriate pictures. I should prefer having them painted on the walls, of medallion shape; but as it may be difficult to get an artist down here, we must be content to have them in moveable frames. I purpose also having a large picture of the Crucifixion, or perhaps one of the Holy Virgin, put up over the altar, instead of the Ten Commandments, which greatly offend my eye; while I confess that I cannot consider the altar complete without the symbol of our faith placed on it. I should have preferred a crucifix of full size, and I think that the cross might be so arranged that the figure can at any time be added; but I fear that at present some of the parishioners in their ignorance might raise objections which would cause us some trouble."
"I should think, indeed, that they would object!" exclaimed Mr Lennard. "Are you not going on too fast? I do not complain that your improvements cast some reflection on me; as being a mere locum tenens, I could not have made the alterations you propose, even had I wished to do so; but others might find very great fault with you."
"You will come over fully to agree with me, as my kind friends Sir Reginald and Lady Bygrave have done," said the vicar, and with a gentle smile he bid his host good-bye.
Scarcely had Mr Lerew gone than a note was brought to Mr Lennard, from Lady Bygrave, requesting him, with his son and daughter, to spend a few days at Swanston Hall. Lady Bygrave was a very charming person, and pleasant people were generally to be met with at the Hall. He gladly accepted the invitation. Alfred was delighted; Mary would rather have gone back to stay with Clara. Mr Lennard was somewhat surprised to find that the abbe and Father Lascelles were still there. "The friends to whom they were going were unable to receive them, and Sir Reginald requested them to stay on as long as they found it convenient," remarked Lady Bygrave. Mr Lennard was disappointed at finding no one else at the house, with the exception of a young lady rather older than Mary, of grave and sedate manners. As she was dressed in black, Mr Lennard concluded that she was in mourning for a parent or some other near relative, which accounted for the gravity of one so young. She, however, smiled very sweetly when Mary was introduced to her, and said in a gentle voice, "I know that we shall become good friends, so pray let us begin at once, and talk to each other without reserve."
Mr Lennard, who had often wished that Mary could enjoy the companionship of a girl of her own age, was glad to find so apparently amiable a young lady in the house. The abbe, on entering the room, expressed his pleasure at seeing Mr Lennard, and certainly did his best to make amends for the want of other society. Father Lascelles, observing that Alfred did not know what to do with himself, proposed taking a turn round the grounds. "I am not much of a sportsman," he said as they walked on, "but I am fond of fishing, as I dare say you are, and we will fish together to-morrow, if you like." He had discovered that angling—an art in which he was an adept in more ways than one—was the only amusement which suited Alfred's tastes.
The few days spent at the Hall went rapidly by. At first the abbe carefully avoided any but secular subjects, and being a remarkably well-informed man, he made himself very agreeable. Even when Sir Reginald or Lady Bygrave seemed inclined to speak on religion, he quickly turned the conversation, but by degrees he, with apparent unwillingness, entered into matters of faith. Mr Lennard, who had never given any attention to the Papal system, was surprised to find how little, according to the abbe's showing, the Church of England differed from that of Rome in all matters of importance.
"Ah," remarked the abbe, with a smile, "your Church is like a wandering child—though you have gone away from the parent, you retain all your main features and doctrines, and have but to own obedience to the chief head, and you would again be one with us. What a happy consummation! Would that it were brought about! Why should those of the same kindred be divided?"
"It is sad that it should be so," remarked Lady Bygrave, "perhaps, if His Holiness, the Pope, were not so exigeant in his demands, the glorious union might soon be accomplished."
"It is there that you are in error, my dear lady," remarked the abbe, blandly; "His Holiness is too loving a parent to be exigeant without good reason. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son—what a warm welcome! what rich treasures the father had for him, who was willing to return! such as all will experience who, having eaten of the husks of Protestantism, fly back to the bosom of the mother-Church."
Mr Lennard above all things hated an argument, and would always rather side with a companion than oppose him; still he was not won by the sophisms of the abbe; but he did not, unhappily, reflect on the effect they might produce on Alfred and Mary. He had studied the Thirty-nine Articles when he had taken his ordination vows, and he saw that the opinions expressed by Lady Bygrave, and occasionally by Sir Reginald, who was even more open than his wife, could not be reconciled to them. The abbe never uttered a word which showed that he considered there were any material differences in the two creeds, with the exception of the single one of want of obedience to the heads of the Church.
"You have simplified your services; you have eliminated several doctrines which we consider of importance; but such doctrines are, I rejoice to see, in the course of being rapidly restored to their proper position, as are many of the practices and observances of our Holy Church," said the abbe, "and all you have now to say is, I will return, I will obey, and the union is complete."
"You make the matter certainly very easy," said Mr Lennard; "but having been for forty years of my life accustomed to consider that there is a much wider gap between our Churches than that you have so quickly passed over, you must not be surprised if I hesitate to take the leap; but I will consider the subject."
"Far be it from me to advise you to do what your conscience might disapprove," observed the abbe.
Father Lascelles found that he could be more open with Alfred. His chief aim was to impress upon the young man's mind that there was but one true Church, and that of Rome being the most ancient and most powerful, and holding out unspeakably greater advantages to its followers, must be that true one. Still, Alfred was neither very impressive not communicative; the Jesuit priest could draw no positive conclusion as to the effect his remarks had produced, though he felt sure that, could he obtain time to play the fish he had hooked, he should land him safe at last.
Mary's friend, Emmeline Tracy, was unexpectedly called away from the Hall. Even to Mary she did not say where she was going, as she bid her good-bye, but she hoped, she said, ere long to see her again. Mr Lennard observed that his daughter looked more thoughtful and in less good spirits than usual; it reminded him of his often expressed determination of sending her to a finishing school, that she might have the benefit of young companions, and form pleasant friendships. He mentioned his idea to Lady Bygrave. "By all means, Mr Lennard; it is what I should strongly recommend," answered her ladyship. "It is curious that I was thinking of the same thing. There is a school at Cheltenham exactly of the character you would wish for your daughter. Mrs Barnett, the mistress, is a lady of high attainments and amiable disposition, and she receives only girls of the first families; so that Mary would be certain of forming desirable acquaintances. I shall have great pleasure in writing to Mrs Barnett, saying who you are, and requesting her to receive your daughter directly she has a vacancy."
Mr Lennard returned home; and a few days afterwards Lady Bygrave sent him a letter from Mrs Barnett, who said, that in consequence of the very satisfactory account her ladyship had written of Mr Lennard and his daughter, she should be happy to receive the young lady as an inmate immediately, to fill up the only vacancy in her establishment, and which she regretted that she could not keep open beyond a week or so.
"Let me earnestly advise you to send Mary at once," added her ladyship. "It would be a grievous pity to lose so favourable an opportunity of placing her in a satisfactory school; for good schools are, I know, rare enough."
Mr Leonard accordingly made up his mind to take his daughter to Cheltenham. Mary had only time to drive over and pay a short visit to Clara.
"I hope you will be happy," said Clara. "As I never was at school, I don't know what sort of life you will have to lead, but I should think with the companionship of a number of nice girls it must be very cheerful. You can never for a moment feel out of spirits for want of society, as I do too often here, now that I am unable to converse with my poor father, and you know that Aunt Sarah is not the most entertaining of persons."
Mary went away in good spirits, promising to write to Clara, and tell her all about the school. Mr Lennard and his daughter arrived safely at Cheltenham, and reached Mrs Barnett's handsome mansion. Everything about it appeared to be as he could desire; the sitting-rooms were well furnished, and the bedroom his daughter was to occupy with several other girls looked remarkably comfortable, the walls being adorned with pictures, of which, however, he did not take much notice, though he saw by a glance he gave at them that they were Scripture subjects. As they were passing along a passage, the mistress hastily closed a door, but not until he observed at the farther end of the room a table, on which stood vases of flowers and candlesticks surmounted by what looked very like a crucifix; but he was too polite to interrogate Mrs Barnett on the subject, and she evidently did not intend that he should look into the room. To most of his inquiries he received satisfactory answers: the young ladies attended church regularly, and were visited and catechised periodically by a clergyman in whose judgment and piety Mrs Barnett said she had the most perfect confidence. Poor Mary threw her arms round her father's neck as he was taking his leave, and burst into tears.
"I wish that I had not come, papa," she whispered. "I don't know why, but I can't bear the thoughts of parting from you."
He endeavoured to comfort her, and consoled himself that he had acted for the best, though it cost him much to leave his little girl in the hands of strangers.
He had another duty to perform, less trying to his feelings, however. It was to take Alfred up to Oxford. Alfred had specially requested to be allowed to go to—College, which, though not enjoying the fame of older institutions, Alfred averred that he should feel more at home at than in any other. He was duly introduced to the head of his college, where rooms were allotted to him, and forthwith matriculating, he became an undergraduate. Mr Lennard, believing that he had performed his duty, left his son to make his way as thousands of young men have had to do before him.
Clara was seated in the drawing-room. She had just written a long letter to Harry, in which she told him of the various events which had taken place in the neighbourhood. She wrote unreservedly, describing, among other persons, Mr and Mrs Lerew, and the constant attention and kindness they had shown her. She naturally spoke of the church, and of the various improvements, as she called them, which had been introduced. "Nothing can be more elegant than the reredos which our excellent vicar has erected at his own expense," she wrote. "The altar, too, is beautifully adorned, and the music, considering the performers, is wonderfully good; for Mrs Lerew has taken great pains to instruct the choir, and we occasionally have a first-rate musician from London to lead them; while an air of solemnity pervades the service, both on Sundays and week-days, very different to anything we have before had in this neighbourhood." She did not say that she went to confession, but she remarked that she derived great comfort from the spiritual advice of the vicar. The letter was closed ready for the post, when General Caulfield was announced. He came to bid her and her father a hurried farewell, as he had just been summoned by telegram to the north of England, to the bedside of a dying brother, whose executor he was, and he greatly feared that some time might elapse before he should be able to return.
"I wish to suggest to you, my dear Clara, before I go," he said, "that it will be well, in the position in which you are placed, to avoid too great an intimacy with the vicar and his wife, of whose constant visits to you I have heard. He may be, according to his own notions, a religious man, but he is not acting faithfully to the Church of which he is a minister. He has already made many innovations in this parish which are contrary to the spirit and practice of that Protestant Church, and, from what I hear and observe, he intends to make others; while he has openly pleached several Romish doctrines, and I see his name among the members of the Church Union, which avowedly repudiates Protestant principles. I am sure that Harry would give you the advice I do, and I deeply regret that I cannot remain to afford you any assistance you may require."
A blush rose on Clara's brow. She could not openly express any disagreement with the general, but she thought he was harsh and illiberal in the opinion he had uttered. She replied that she had already written to Harry, and told him all about the church and the vicar, and hoped that he would not find any great fault with her.
The general appeared satisfied. He remained but a short time with his poor friend, whom he believed that he should never again see on earth; for he remarked, what Clara had failed to do, the great change in her father's countenance since his last visit. He took an affectionate farewell of his intended daughter-in-law and, not being aware of the influence the vicar had already obtained over her and her aunt, he did not further warn her against him. Still, he left her with some anxious forebodings, regretting the stern necessity which compelled him to be away from her at the time when his advice might be of so much importance. The general's absence was felt by others in the parish; he was looked upon as the person best calculated, from his position and truly Christian character, to lead those desirous of opposing the ritualistic practices introduced by the new vicar, which were already making rapid progress. The general had been faithfully attached to the establishment; he had gone, as usual, to the parish church, in spite of the introduction of the surpliced choir, of "Hymns Ancient and Modern," the richly adorned communion-table, and several other additions which had been cautiously introduced; but when he heard from the lips of the vicar the doctrine of transubstantiation clearly and unmistakably enounced, and afterwards saw him habited in a robe resembling that of a Romish priest elevate the elements, he felt compelled to absent himself, and on the next Sunday to attend the service at a Congregational chapel. He had, in in the meantime, expostulated with Mr Lerew, both personally and by letter, but had received only a curt and unsatisfactory reply. He had afterwards heard, from undoubted authority, that the doctrine of purgatory was taught to the schoolchildren; that prayers for the dead were offered up, as also prayers to the Virgin Mary; that the saints were invoked; that a font had been placed at the entrance of the church for the reception of holy water. A considerable number of the parishioners had for some time withdrawn themselves from the church; Lieutenant Sims had declared that he would never enter it to listen to Mr Lerew, after he had heard him say that the Bible was a dangerous book. Many sided with the lieutenant; others asserted that he must have misunderstood the vicar— he could not have uttered such an opinion; some even went so far as to say Mr Sims had through envy, hatred, and malice stated what he knew to be a falsehood. The lieutenant, supported by his wife, boldly adhered to what he had said; the parishioners were by the ears on the subject. Miss Pemberton had been appealed to, but declared she could not understand what Mr Lerew had said, and her evidence went rather against Mr Sims; but when candles and flowers appeared on the altar, and a rich cross rose above it, and the vicar, habited in new-fangled robes, turned his back on the congregation, the partisans of the gallant lieutenant increased, and each innovation introduced by the vicar brought Mr Sims a fresh accession of supporters. They talked seriously of building another church, and made arrangements to apply to the bishop; but it was found that both parties were so scattered over the two parishes, which were of very considerable extent, that their object was unattainable. While General Caulfield remained among them, he prevented the flame of discord from bursting forth. He allowed no angry word to escape his lips, but contented himself with simply preaching the Gospel, either in the Congregational Chapel on a week-day evening, or in a large barn he had hired and fitted up for the purpose of holding meetings. It was always full, and many came from the farther end of the parish. Calm and calculating as Mr Lerew generally was, he became excessively indignant on hearing of this; but he considered the general too important a person to be attacked personally, though he spoke everywhere in the strongest terms of his unwarrantable conduct, denominating him as a schismatic of the worst description. Great was his satisfaction when he heard that the general had gone away. He now fancied that he could carry on his proceedings without opposition. He was mistaken, however; for Lieutenant Sims and his party ceased not to protest against all he did; and petitions were sent to the bishop, who, however, if he did not encourage Mr Lerew's proceedings, took no steps to put a stop to them. Mr Lennard was appealed to, but he declined to interfere, declaring that he saw nothing so very objectionable in the changes which had been made; and as to doctrines, the vicar of the parish was more likely to know what was right or wrong than the parishioners whom he came to teach.
"In my opinion, our late vicar is as bad as the present one," exclaimed Lieutenant Sims; "but how the poor man, whom all thought so much of, has been so completely bamboozled is more than I can tell."
Mr Lerew had lately, by the advice of Lady Bygrave, designed a grand scheme. It was the establishment of a college or school for eighty young ladies in the parish, for whose accommodation handsome buildings were to be erected; and Lady Bygrave, with other ladies of consequence in the county, undertook to be patronesses. In his prospectus Mr Lerew dwelt especially on the importance of young ladies being carefully trained in religious principles, and removed from the pernicious influence of unauthorised instructors; whereas at Saint Agatha's they would be placed under the direct superintendence of their lawful priests, and instructed in catholic doctrine. Lady Bygrave had already recommended as mother superior a lady of great piety and experience, and the teachers were to be sisters of the community of Saint Mary the Virgin, in the neighbouring town of Bansfield, who were celebrated for their truly religious and self-denying lives. The young ladies, thus judiciously trained, would, it was hoped, become the mothers of England's future legislators, and materially contribute to the establishment of catholic principles throughout the land. Mr Lerew had, however, another prospectus more generally circulated among those of whose principles he was uncertain, and in which he simply set forth that an excellent first-class school was about to be established for the benefit of their own and neighbouring counties, and asking for subscriptions and support to so desirable an institution. Subscriptions, however, did not come in with the same rapidity as he had hoped, and he saw that he must employ other means for raising the necessary funds. Mrs Lerew wrote to all her more wealthy acquaintances, and Lady Bygrave was, as usual, most liberal. Few of the parishioners would subscribe, with the exception of some of the principal tradesmen, who hoped to do business with the new establishment, Mr Rowe, an apothecary, who expected to be employed as medical attendant, and the solicitor who had been engaged in making the legal arrangements.
People had begun to grow suspicious of the vicar, and even of Lady Bygrave, in consequence of the long stay at the Hall of the abbe and Father Lascelles. Lady Bygrave did her utmost to maintain her popularity by incessantly driving about and visiting the houses of the better-to-do people and the cottages of the poor, much as she would have done on an electioneering canvass. She was, of course, politely received by all classes; but though she won over some, a large number of people were too sound Protestants to be influenced by her plausible and attractive manners. It would have been happy for poor Clara and her Aunt Sarah, had they been equally on their guard. Miss Pemberton, indeed, declared that whatever so charming a person as Lady Bygrave did must be right, and she now not only attended all the services at the church on Sundays and week-days, but induced Clara to accompany her. Though Clara went, she often felt that it was her duty to be watching by the bedside of her father; she, indeed, sometimes begged on that plea to remain at home.
"But, my dear, your duties to God and the commands of our Holy Church are superior to those you owe to a human parent, and you should therefore not allow yourself to be influenced by the natural affections of your heart," observed Miss Pemberton, using the argument she had previously learned from Mr Lerew.
Clara had been absent at one of these week-day services, and the vicar had promised to call and have some conversation with her and her aunt, when on her return she observed an expression of subdued sorrow and alarm on the countenances of the servants.
"Is my father worse?" she asked anxiously; and before any one could stop her, she rushed upstairs, and entered Captain Maynard's room. She approached the bed. There was no movement—his eyes were closed, and the nurse was standing by the bedside—her father was dead. She knew it at once, and as she leant over him, she sank fainting on his inanimate body. Miss Pemberton, having learned the truth, quickly followed, and directed that she should be carried from the room. On the application of restoratives Clara revived; but scarcely had she returned to consciousness than Mr Lerew drove up to the door. Though he was told what had happened, he insisted on seeing Miss Maynard.
"As a priest, I can afford her spiritual comfort and support," he said, almost forcing his way in. Miss Pemberton, not daring to decline his visit, ushered him into Clara's room. He took a seat by her side. He spoke softly and gently.
"We must look at what has happened as a dispensation of heaven," he remarked; "but though, unhappily, your father to the last refused the ordinances of our Church, I am fain to believe that he did so under malign influence, and from weakness of mind induced by sickness. It is a consolation to know that prayers continually offered in his behalf by a true votaress to the loving Mother of God can in time release him from the condition in which I fear he is placed. With what thankfulness you should receive this glorious doctrine, my dear Miss Maynard! what calm should it bring to your troubled heart! I will not fail, believe me, to offer the prayers of the Church for the same object; and if you did but consider their efficacy, you would cease to mourn as you now do."
Poor Clara was too completely overwhelmed by grief to understand the meaning of what the vicar said, though she heard the words issuing from his mouth.
"I will relieve you," he continued, "from all the painful arrangements connected with the funeral, in conjunction with your aunt, whom I will now join in the drawing-room."
"Oh! thank you! thank you!" exclaimed Clara, between her sobs. "I shall be most grateful—do whatever you think best."
Mr Lerew retired; and after a conversation of some length with Miss Pemberton he drove away. Clara—so absorbing was her grief—could with difficulty regain her power of thought. She felt alone in the world. Had General Caulfield been at home, she would have had him to consult; but she had no confidence in her Aunt Sarah's judgment, though she had of late been more guided by her than she was aware of.
"Our excellent vicar and I have arranged everything," said Miss Pemberton, on entering the room some time afterwards; "so do not further trouble yourself about the matter."
Clara expressed her thanks to her aunt. Completely prostrate, she remained in bed. Workmen sent by the vicar came to the house, and were employed for some time in her father's room. She dared not inquire what they were about. At length she arose and dressed. She felt a longing desire once more to gaze on those dear features. She inquired whether she might go to the room.
"Oh, yes, miss," was the answer. "It's all done up on purpose, and looks so grand."
She hurried on, and, entering, what was her astonishment to find the room draped in black, the windows closed, and several long wax candles arranged round the bed on which her father's body lay, dressed in his naval uniform. She approached, and leant over the bed, on which, after standing gazing at his features for some minutes, she sank down with her arms extended, almost fainting. At that instant the vicar appeared at the doorway.
"What a lovely picture!" he whispered, as if to himself; "can anything surpass it?"
Clara heard him, and had still strength sufficient to rise.
"We have done what we can to do honour to your father," he said, advancing and taking her hand. "Had General Caulfield been present, we should have been prevented from making these arrangements; and I lay all the blame of Captain Maynard's neglect of the sacred ordinances on him, as I am sure it will be laid at the day of judgment; therefore, my sweet young lady, I would urge you to mourn not as those without hope. I come to console and sympathise with you. Let me lead you from the room, as others are anxious to pay their last respects to your parent; it will be trying to your feelings to receive them."
Clara submitted, and was led by the vicar into the drawing-room, where she found her aunt. Mr Lerew now became more cheerful in his conversation, and spoke of his new college, and of a society of Anglican sisters of mercy, in which he was deeply interested. He enlarged on their pious, self-denying labours, so admirably adapted to distract the minds of the sorrowing from worldly cares and the thoughts of the past, and the charming qualities of the lady superior, and of the calm happiness enjoyed by all under her rule.
"You will find subjects for consideration in these volumes," said Mr Lerew, taking two books from his pocket; "the one describes fully the joys of a religious life, and the other points out to you rules for your daily government. Your aunt has already several works I left with her some time ago, to which I would also draw your attention; and may they prove a blessing to your soul."
Saying this, the vicar took his leave. In the meantime several persons had come to the house; and scarcely had the vicar left the room than the voice of Mr Sims was heard exclaiming, "By whose authority, I should like to know, has the death-bed of my poor friend been surrounded by those popish play-acting mummeries which I witnessed just now? He was one of the last men on earth who would have sanctioned such proceedings."
"Sir, sir!" exclaimed Mr Lerew in an angry tone, "I scarcely understand your meaning; but if you allude to the arrangements in the chamber of death above, I have to inform you that they were made by those who had ample authority for doing as they thought right; and I have to add that I consider your remarks indecorous and highly impertinent."
"I differ with you on that point," answered the lieutenant, restraining his anger; "and I only hope my poor friend's daughter has had nothing to do with the matter. It signifies very little to him, or I believe he'd get up and capsize all the candles, and cut down the black cloth rigged round his bed. Why, I'm as sure as I am of my own existence that he died like a true Christian, and is now in the glorious realms of the blest, or I don't know what the Gospel means. What does he want with all that black stuff round him? It's just robbing the orphan to put money in the pockets of the undertakers. And now you've got my opinion, I'll wish you good morning;" and Mr Sims walked out of the house, leaving the vicar fuming and boiling with unwonted rage.
Mr Sims had intended leaving a message expressive of his and his wife's sympathy for poor Clara; but his indignation at what he had witnessed very naturally threw everything else out of his head. He notwithstanding attended Captain Maynard's funeral, which was conducted with more ceremonies than had ever yet taken place in the parish. Numerous carriages followed the hearse, and the procession formed in the church walked after the coffin, the individuals forming it surrounding the grave, chanting a requiem as the coffin was committed to its last resting-place.
The vicar had kept secret the last interview he had had with Captain Maynard, who, he let it be supposed, had gone through all the required ordinances of the Church before the last seizure, which had deprived him of the power of speech. Those who knew the captain best averred that he would never have consented to the performance in his presence of any Romish ceremony, and that the vicar had some object in view in allowing the idea to get abroad. The parish became more divided than ever, but the original cause of dispute held its ground, and those who sided with the vicar would no longer visit or speak to those who believed that he had declared the Bible to be a dangerous book.
Clara's grief for the loss of her father was sincere and deep. Her nature was one requiring such consolation as a sympathising friend could afford. Her aunt was never sympathising or gentle, and she had become still less so since she had attended the frequent services of the Church. Early rising did not suit her constitution; but though she thoroughly disliked it, she considered it her duty to induce her niece to accompany her.
Thus time went on at Luton. General Caulfield was detained in the North; he wrote frequently to Clara. Not aware of the influences to which she was exposed, he did not mention the vicar, and failed to caution her, as he otherwise would have done. She, knowing his opinions, did not venture to tell him all that was occurring, though he saw by the tone of her letters that she was unhappy and ill at ease from some cause or other, besides the natural grief she felt for the loss of her father, and her anxiety about Harry. She had heard of his arrival, and that his regiment was ordered up the country, but she had received no answer to the letter she wrote, describing the services at the church, and the various changes introduced by the vicar. Her aunt had, in the meantime, become less agreeable and communicative even than before. She was constantly absorbed in the books lent her by Mr Lerew, and she very frequently drove over to the Vicarage to see him. Clara had at first felt but little interest in the two works he had presented to her; she had glanced over their pages, and was somewhat startled at the language used and the advice given in them, so different to that to which she had been accustomed. On one of his visits he inquired whether she had studied them, and she had to confess the truth. He then entreated her not to risk her spiritual welfare by any longer neglecting to read the works so calculated to advance it. She promised to follow his advice. Had Clara known more of the world, and possessed more self-reliance, her eyes might have been opened by what she read; but she wanted some one to lean on, and on her aunt's judgment she had no reliance. The vicar appeared, from his position and serious manner, to be the person in whom she ought to confide. Had the general been at Luton, she would have gone to him; but she could not write what she might have spoken; and she finally gave herself up to the guidance of Mr Lerew, as her aunt had long since done.
The following Sunday the communion was to be held, or, as the vicar expressed it, the Holy Eucharist was to be celebrated; "But," he added, "I have made it a rule that I will administer it to none who have not made confession and received that absolution I am authorised to grant."
"I was not aware of that," said Clara; "how long has that rule existed?"
"I have only lately made it," he replied, "and from it I cannot depart."
Clara hesitated; but her aunt, who had several times gone to confession, assured her that there was nothing in it very terrible, and overcame her scruples. Clara promised to go. It was held in the vestry, one person at a time only being admitted. The questions asked and the answers given cannot be repeated. Clara, as she knelt leaning on a chair in front of the priest, could with difficulty support herself; her heart felt bursting; she was nearly fainting; the colour mounted to her cheeks and brow; she could not lift her eyes from the ground towards the man who was questioning her. More than once she was inclined to rise and flee from the room rather than continue to undergo the mental torture she was suffering. Never afterwards did she look the vicar in the face. At length the ordeal was over, the Te absolvo was pronounced, and she, with trembling knees, hanging down her head, tottered to her pew by the side of her aunt, where she knelt to conceal her features, while uncontrollable sobs burst from her bosom.
"What's the matter?" whispered Miss Pemberton. "Take my smelling-bottle. Don't let people hear you; they'll fancy there must be something very dreadful."
The music that day was unusually good. Several first-rate performers had been engaged to attend, with three or four clergymen from various parts of the county. They, in their richest robes, glittering with embroidery, walked round the church. There were the acolytes with lighted candles, the thurifer, with the cross-bearer, and others carrying banners; while the organ played, and the fumes of incense filled the church. Clara's agitation ceased, but no peace was brought to her soul. She returned home with her aunt, humbled and more wretched than she had ever before felt in her life.
Monday morning brought Clara Harry's looked-for letter. She hurried with it to her room. It was full of love and tenderness, but Harry expressed his regret at hearing of the changes which had been made in the church, and still more of the ritualistic practices of the new vicar.
"I need scarcely urge you, dearest, not to be inveigled by them," he continued, "as I have often said I cannot conceive a man in his senses marrying a girl who has submitted to the abominable confession—it must ultimately deprave her mind, and prevent her from placing that confidence in her husband which he has a right to expect; while it proves her ignorance of one of the most vital truths of our holy faith, that we have a High Priest in heaven, who knows our infirmities, and is touched by our sorrows, and who is more tender and loving than any human being, and is ever ready to receive those who come to Him. Oh! do warn any girls of your acquaintance not to yield to the sophistries which would persuade them that Christ allows a human being to stand in His stead between Himself and the sinner. It is one of the numberless devices of Satan to rob Him of the honour and love which are His due. We are told when we have offended a fellow mortal to confess our fault, and to ask pardon; but we are emphatically charged to confess our sins to God alone, trusting to the all-sufficient atonement made once for all for us by Christ on Calvary, and through His mediation we are assured of perfect forgiveness. These impious sacerdotalists, for the sake of gaining influence over the minds of those they hope to deceive, step in, and daringly arrogate to themselves the position which our loving Lord desires alone to hold. But I must not continue the subject—I know that it is not necessary to say this to you. Should you ever be perplexed, or require assistance, I am sure that you will apply to my kind and excellent father, who is ever anxious to treat you as a beloved daughter."
Clara read the letter with burning cheek.
"Oh, what have I done!" she exclaimed; "I am unworthy of the confidence he places in me." Directly afterwards she tried to find an excuse for herself. "Perhaps he is mistaken in his ideas; and Mr Lerew says that the general is a schismatic, and Harry has imbibed his views. I dare not refuse to obey the voice of the Church, and Mr Lerew tells me that that insists on confession before absolution can be granted, and without absolution we cannot partake of the Holy Eucharist."