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ravines, climbing across huge prostrate blocks, and listening to the maniac cry of the wild sea-gull, which sounds as the fitting utterance of so phantom-like a solitude. Amongst the upper peaks a few projecting ridges are fringed with a scanty hanging of grey moss, but this adornment is exceptional, for nearly all look bleached and colourless, recalling the accounts which Eastern travellers picture of the Wilderness of Sin. Close on the margin of the sea, the rocks are streaked with many sober-toned basaltic lines, strongly suggestive of volcanic origin, although it is believed these isles once formed part of the Cornish main, whence they were washed away at some forgotten era by a mighty tempest.
"What shall you sketch this afternoon ?" asked Lilian, as the sisters clambered to a natural platform overshadowed by a leaning crag known as the " Pulpit." "One of these cliffs which are hollowed out into stone basins, I suppose."
"No; I prefer Christian associations to Druidic," answered Mabel, " and I have promised Lucy Rénan the Monk's Cowl, for it seems your description of it has quite fired her imagination."
They took their seats accordingly, and Lilian having chosen the best point of view, placed Mabel in a comfortable posture, and then bent over her to watch the progress of the sketch. The object which she had selected was a very striking one,—the foldings of the greystone really bearing a most singular resemblance to the quaint monastic vestment. Only a slight effort of fancy was required to place the mediæval friar in that rude lectern overhead, ready to chant his hermit orisons, or pour forth words of wisdom to the listening sisters. To Mabel's ear the very name of anchorite possessed an almost magical attraction. She was frequently heard to express her warm enthusiasm for the Order of Carthusian monks, each a recluse in his own lonely cell, yet gathering seven times daily in the convent church, there to unite in choral praise those voices pledged to be for ever silent to the things of earth.
The vicar smiled indulgently at all such outbursts, for the social element in May Bird's nature was developed strongly. He strove to convince her that the great law of perfection which our LORD SO earnestly inculcates on His followers may be approached as nearly in the world as in the cloister, a truth which admits of little doubt when we reflect upon the prayer breathed by our SAVIOUR for His trembling disciples in their hour of need.
Amid similar discussions many months had glided away. Mabel
always clung persistently to her monastic visions, and Mr. Harland fervently rejoiced that his young niece's daydreams were at least unworldly. Her faults might indeed cause him anxiety, but whilst blessed with transparent truthfulness, high aspirations, and a loving soul, what might he not hope from the gradual unfolding of these precious qualities? Meanwhile, Lilian was his chief stay and comfort, for with far less originality and brilliancy of intellect she possessed in a rare degree "the virtue of reliability." Her failing was to rest content in the discharge of obvious duties without seeking to enlarge her sphere even where much more might readily have been accomplished. This was a fault of which she was not fully conscious, since its origin was owing to the singular want of stability in Mabel, which left all the serious as well as petty household cares to fall exclusively upon her sister. Yet if slow to enter on fresh undertakings Lilian was scrupulous in the performance of those claims which she had once adopted. Hence it was with a sense of real refreshment Mr. Harland turned from Mabel's desultory although widespread schemes of usefulness, to the companion who was ever ready to share in his labours, lighten his perplexities, and fulfil punctually the most irksome tasks confided to her vigilance.
Well, this sketch has succeeded nicely," observed Mabel, in a tone of satisfaction, as they rose to proceed homeward in the crimson sunset. "Yes, indeed," answered Lilian heartily, "it is so spirited, and true to nature, that I think you would do well to colour it."
"Perhaps I may do so," said Mabel, absently. "Lilla, what sort of sermon could my good old hermit preach to us from that text, 'redeem the time ?" "
"You must not ask me," rejoined Lilian, individual solution of the problem."
"for I do not approve his
"Then it is but fair that you should help me to unravel it. Think of the hours people are forced to waste on sleep, and exercise, and food."
"As to that," answered Lilian, "even our own model King Alfred was contented to allot one third part of his life to these necessities, and the same rule is practised, I believe, in all your favourite religious Orders."
"Whence you infer that portion of existence is expended lawfully? Granted, for the sake of argument, but most persons, let me remind you, have long, or at any rate short, periods of illness."
"Patient endurance is a lofty and ennobling work," said Lilian,
"and such hours may form a treasury of gentle words and holy thoughts, if used aright."
"Then," pursued Mabel, "just consider all the moments we are made to lose by want of punctuality in others."
"Most valuable they may be, however, if they tend to make us amiable, forbearing, and resolved never to put our neighbours to a like test," replied Lilian, speaking the last words with a playful smile.
Mabel was driven to reflection, but she rallied speedily, and with fresh eagerness resumed the argument, as though at last sure of her ground.
"Pray what is to become of all the time which slips past on a journey, waiting for boats and railway trains, for instance? And again, twilight vigils, when we sit alone, or, what is even less enlivening, with somebody who does not happen to be sociable ?"
"To educated persons there are many modes of mental occupation," answered Lilian. "I do not speak of meditation, or of any exercise purely devotional, these are of course open to all, but I well know one's mind is not always attuned to them."
"Be kind enough to give me some idea of what you do mean, then,” said the exacting Mabel.
"Take your own case, dear," answered Lilian, “if I must be so explicit. Your gift of penmanship is far above the average. Why not employ part of your leisure in embellishing the compositions on which you may chance to be engaged? The imagery would flow more smoothly upon paper, after such a sifting and refining process."
"True, I have often found it so, only that is exhausting, and one's brain needs rest occasionally."
"Then there are the rich stores of memory," continued Lilian, "treasures of sacred poetry, ballads, and priceless gems in prose or verse, bequeathed to us by the most mighty intellects, and purest hearts. Now the fine gold' of these possessions may 'grow dim,' or even vanish, unless reviewed at intervals, and, as it were, kept in a polished state, ready for service."
Mabel did not reply, but she was listening with an intentness such as she might have accorded to the hermit of Penninis, so after waiting a few seconds to leave space for a remark, Lilian once more resumed the subject.
"I have but entered on the long list of pursuits one may devise, but many others will be added by your own quick fancy. All kinds of
questionings may be set at rest, or half-formed plans brought to perfection in these quiet musings. Then there is practising, vocal and instrumental; vocabularies of foreign languages to be arranged, and our amount of knowledge on some given topic, such as any nation, period or science, to be carefully inspected, that the links we now possess may be in order, and the missing ones supplied."
"You leave one no excuse for idleness," said Mabel, "but I never gave you credit for such ingenuity. Here we are nearly at home, however, so please go on. I am sure you have not half finished all that you could say."
"Then I will tell you of my own greatest resources," replied Lilian. "One is to review and classify all kinds of allegories, stories, and instructions for young people, and the other is to dream over my mental picture gallery. It is so beautiful and varied, May Bird! There are dim cathedral aisles, and solemn cloisters, abbeys and castles, and manorial halls; dark ocean cliffs, and purple moors, and radiant valleys; each in its separate frame, as warm, and fair, and bright as the original."
"You almost make me see them!" exclaimed Mabel, " and I have longed for the sunshine of paintings' ever since we came to Scilly."
"Your gallery should far surpass mine, owing to your more highly wrought imagination," answered Lilian. "It has been said that our taste may acquire almost faultless purity by studying the creations of departed genius. What then must it not be to gaze upon these wonders fresh from the great master hand ?"
"The gem of my collection is a portrait, the most dear and lovely that has ever yet glowed upon canvas," rejoined Mabel, as she closely pressed her sister's hand.
Lilian could not respond, for as the servant at the vicarage unbarred the door May Bird darted away to seek her uncle in the library, and there the conversation ended.
MR. Harland sat alone in his own study, where a blazing fire-glow dispelled the chill of the autumnal afternoon. A sermon preached long since in Cornwall lay before him on the table, and his head was earnestly bent down over the closely-written pages. The discourse
served however chiefly as a reference, or at the best a mere foundation for his present task. It had been for the fourth time revised with minute care, and many passages entirely remodelled, to adapt it to the little fisher congregation for which it was now designed, Mr. Harland having engaged to hold Divine Service at Bryher upon the ensuing Sunday.
Its subject the Communion of Saints-was an especial favourite with the good old man, who more than once laid down his pen to gaze with reverent humility upon the Cross which hung over his writingdesk, seeming to draw fresh inspiration from this visible and outward pledge of unity. Nothing could be more simple and affectionate than was that appeal, glowing with the deep fervour of a nature full of manly tenderness, to whom the blessed truth he sought to urge on others was no vague abstraction, but a bright and glorious reality. Many amongst the heart's best treasures of the writer had been long garnered in Paradise, and there were moments when he seemed to dwell less in the outward world of sight and sound than in their mystic yet most real companionship.
Perhaps in few spheres could a knowledge of this consoling doctrine be more requisite than in the isolated circle of Scillonia. To Mr. Harland there was something chilling in the narrowness of sympathy evinced and even fostered by his flock: their range of ideas was so circumscribed, appearing scarcely to extend beyond the tiny Archipelago which was to many of them practically as the limit of the habitable globe, even the neighbouring Cornish coast being regarded as a kind of dim ultima Thule. Persons trained in such modes of thought peculiarly need a reminder that the chain which binds them to the fellowship of the Redeemer, extends throughout all climes and every age. The child-like faith with which the Vicar had through life acted on his belief had been to him more than the fabled well-spring of perpetual youth. Mabel was not more quick in forming fresh associations, and her love when gained was not more ardent than was that of Mr. Harland, who combined with the enthusiastic warmth of boyhood the tried constancy of riper years.
It was a comforting reflection to the aged priest that, during his career so fraught with changes, he had scarcely lost sight of a single friendship which had at any period smiled upon his pathway. Some had indeed been taken to their rest, but with them his communion seemed but purified and made indissoluble. Many amongst his