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and spread with a meal which independent of the viands, appeared tempting from the extreme nicety of its appointments. It was a pleasant picture, of home-comfort and home-peace, a natural transition from Family Prayers in the small “upper chamber," which although claiming little pretension to the name of oratory, was still sacred to household worship or devotional retirement.
“This weather is magnificent indeed,” observed the Vicar. “I have been wondering, children, how you can spend it most to advantage. What should you say to an impromptu pic-nic ? I dare say Miss Beverley might like to join you.”
“I have been quite wishing for something of the kind," said Mabel, “ Lilla, can you suggest any locality ?”
“Blue Cam, Penninis, or Porth-Hellick Sands,” answered her sister, or for that matter each in turn if we prefer it.”
“ Keep those walks in reserve, children,” counselled the Vicar; “ you will have learned them quite by heart before the winter is half ended. I have a plan which will I am sure please you both. Our trusty boatmen Dawes and Geoffrey are disengaged. They shall row you all over to Sampson, where you can hold indisputed sway, and found an empire more despotic than the Russias, or the very beau-ideal of Model Republics.”
The project chimed in well with Mabel's mood. She enjoyed being on the water, and was pleased to escape quite beyond the bounds of home for an entire day. Besides, their destination was attractive to her in itself. It was a small “off isle" without a single habitation, broken into little grassy glades, and dells, and dingles. Unlike the piles of barren rock around it, Sampson was a bright sunny nook, smiling with verdure and with somewhat the appearance of a sylvan pleasure-ground of less than average cultivation. Mr. Selby, the lessee of the entire Archipelago, had long desired a deer-park, and this remote fertile isle had been recently appropriated by him to that purpose.
The meal was just over, and the quick bustle of preparation about to begin, when a familiar ring at the hall bell was followed by the entrance of Dr. Lawson and Miss Beverley. They were bound for S. Agnes, Geraldine explained. Her uncle's visit was professional, but she was going merely for amusement. Would not Miss Gordon and Miss Mabel join the party? They need not stay to think about provisions, for Aunt Isabel had provided a large hamperful. Mabel did not exactly like this altered programme, but the sail and Geraldine's
companionship were, after all, the main points, and secure of these she willingly ceded the rest. No needless delay took place, and within half an hour the Sea-Gull might have been seen rapidly skimming over her native element.
Mabel's inveterate prejudice against the Lawsons had been softened by her dawning affection for their niece, and perhaps her opinion was also modified by the sincere love and profound respect which they received from Geraldine. Mabel frequently marvelled if the latter really were unconscious of her own superiority; if her refinement, delicacy of perception could find anything in common with the homeliness both of her relatives and their abode. Religious principle might foster gratitude, cheerfulness and contentment, but there was something beyond these in Geraldine's feeling towards her protectors. Reverence seemed the foundation, and it was exactly this which perplexed Mabel, who had yet to learn the mighty power of unobtrusive and intrinsic goodness. Simplicity and singleness of purpose, marked the inner lives of Dr. Lawson and his wife. Their minds had been trained and developed during that chill period in which the Church's power had seemed to lie dormant in England, when the glow of Catholic warmth and devotion was apparently buried beneath the torpor of approaching death. When the complete doctrine and practice of the Prayer Book were first wrought out before them under Mr. Harland's ministry, they did not at once rise to the exalted standard and expanded views of their new spiritual guide. Mabel observed that although regular communicants on the first Sunday in every month, and at the greater festivals, they never joined the little band which knelt around the altar at the weekly celebration, and on minor holy days. Their voices did not swell the prayers and praises of the daily service, and they seemed utterly at a loss to fathom many of their Vicar's actual proceedings, still more his habitual mode of thought. Yet in his dealings with them Mr. Harland had not to contend against harsh criticism, coldness, or distrust. His purity of motive was unquestioned; his zeal heartily commended, and his judgment held in high esteem, even where it most widely differed from their own. Mabel, essentially a Catholic by education and in feeling, saw that much was wanting in the Lawsons. She was too young, and had been too carefully shielded from controversy to appreciate as did her uncle, their humility and guilelessness of heart.
Mabel and Geraldine began the voyage under a most exhilarating
sense of happiness, but they soon insensibly lapsed into silence, subdued by the mild autumnal beauty of the day. In most respects unlike, they shared in common that trait, as rare as it is undefinable, which has been exquisitely rendered into language by a modern writer. “Those persons
who in themselves combine the two opposites of light-heartedness and sadness, charm us as do the Irish Melodies, we scarcely know why, till we have learned the secret of their peculiarity, which is that plaintive minors are ever mingling with joyous majors, and that whenever a ringing octave comes, we may be sure a melancholy seventh will succeed thereto."
The above musical illustration might appear even upon a slight acquaintance an exact transcript of Mabel, while Miss Beverley's unfailing sweetness seemed at first sight more allied to the calm equable nature of Lilian. Yet the temperament, so faithfully portrayed, belonged no less to Geraldine than to her friend, although the instinct of unselfishness, wielding a stern control, would not suffer its vagaries to cast a cloud upon the family horizon. Mabel was keenly sensitive to the unhealthy influence shed over the entire household by her fitful moods, but she had taught herself to look upon serenity as an especial gift rather than an acquired grace. Lilian bad been remarkable for it from infancy; therefore the quality must be innate with some minds, and denied to others. A most comfortable theory, which was always ready to appease conscience, or dispel any intrusive scruple. Miss Beverley however had unconsciously swept away that excuse, occasioning thereby a large amount of real practical inconvenience. That Geraldine had the same temperament, and therefore the same conflict as herself, Mabel felt no less positive than if the fact had been revealed to her in words. The mere expression of the countenance when in repose ; an undertone of pathos in the gentle gaiety which gladdened others; two or three insignificant remarks, above all the peculiarly changeful though always sweet inflections of the voice—these and like signs were unmistakeable to Mabel Gordon.
Then followed grave self-questionings and upbraidings, little in harmony with the proverbial thoughtlessness of pleasure-seekers. Why was it that however she might sympathize with others, the effect of her ministrations was to stimulate rather than tranquillize? She might arouse the weak and morbid from mere physical languor or causeless depression; she might even comfort in deep sorrow by the warmth of her affection or the fervency of her religious faith, but the celestial lore revealed to the true “ Sons of Consolation,” was as yet to her a sealed book. Perhaps indeed the crowning mercy which in this world our Redeemer grants to those who follow in His footsteps, is the power to read its mystery aright! Such an idea did not occur to Mabel, but she felt at that instant ripe for any sacrifice if but its recompense might be the spiritual gift she so ardently coveted. Would any possible amount of discipline enable her to yield firm, gentle support as Lilian did, or imbue her with the soothing tenderness which made those worn in mind or body, cling to Geraldine as though her very presence brought repose ?
Mabel's abstraction was complete, else she might have remarked the tact and delicacy with which Geraldine engaged the group in conversation, leaving her meditations undisturbed. Soon they approached the jetty at S. Agnes, and the Doctor as he lent a helping hand to each, playfully rallied “ Miss May Bird” on her want of sociability. The short voyage was ended; it had been an uneventful period in itself, yet a momentous epoch in the private history of one immortal spirit.
“ AND now, where shall we go ?” asked Geraldine of her companions, as they stood upon the landing place at S. Agnes, waiting whilst Dr. Lawson settled with the boatman the exact time of departure, and gave orders that the hamper of provisions should be conveyed at three o'clock precisely, to the Punch Bowl on Wringletaing Down.
“The name has a convivial sound, so we will test Druidic hospitality," he observed, turning from the rowers, and addressing the young group collectively. “I named rather a late hour, because I cannot be sure of being at leisure earlier. We must embark directly after dinner, but I fancy you will then have had enough of rambling and exploring.”
After this explanation the good Doctor strode away, as though determined to avoid dissent or questioning, while Geraldine repeated the inquiry which, owing to her uncle's interruption, had as yet received no answer.
“I must call at the parsonage to leave this book from Uncle Harland,” observed Lilian, as she produced a neat pocket edition of some old Latin Divine.
“Let us decide upon a trysting place, then,” rejoined Mabel, “ shall it be the Lighthouse? Miss Beverley wishes to climb the Gugh, and we have brought drawing materials, that we may sketch the lion.” I advise
you to secure that now before the tide rises,” said Lilian, " though I do not envy you such a fatiguing scramble. By the way, May Bird, uncle tells me Mr. Mortimer has kindly placed his library at our disposal. Do you wish books of reference on any subject in particular?”
“Yes, indeed, Lilian; on Home Missions, and the Holy Eastern Church,” replied Mabel with eagerness. Lilian looked half amused as she promised compliance, and remarked to Geraldine that Mabel's studies certainly were versatile, her range of thought and reading was as comprehensive as her range of sympathy.
“Because my aim is Catholic," said Mabel ; "I am studying Christianity under its various aspects, and these several inquiries tend to throw light on the one object of research. They are, in short, like the distinct parts of harmony, blending into an undivided whole. Lilian, dear, shall I never make you understand this ? I should have fancied your musical knowledge would have enlightened you."
"Perhaps it might," said Lilian archly, “were I less bewildered by appeals to the 'known laws' of every art, philosophy and science. You know, Miss Beverley, it is just possible one's vision may be darkened by excess of light.”
“I believe your position is impregnable, according to the laws of optics," returned Geraldine laughingly, and drawing Mabel's arm within her own, the two friends sauntered quietly along the shore, whilst Lilian turned directly inland at a somewhat rapid pace.
The Gugh is a small desert island, or more properly speaking a miniature peninsula, being joined to S. Agnes at low water by a sandy isthmus. It forms a bold headland, of which the steep mossy sides cannot be scaled without considerable difficulty. Mabel and Geraldine were in a mood to laugh at obstacles as they gained the ascent by slow degrees, but when they reached the summit it was very pleasant to exchange the toil of clambering for the well-earned luxury of rest. “I have been reminded of a friend, or rather enemy, of
childhood,” remarked Geraldine, “the snail which having to ascend a garden wall twenty feet high, accomplished five feet every day, and slipped back four feet every night! May, how soon did he reach the goal of his ambition? It struck me just now we stood some chance of