Billeder på siden

Mrs. Vernon's opposition to his marriage, as that he feared her influence over his wife. Flora had, he thought, too many narrow prejudices, acquired in her puritanical home: he had no wish to see them strengthened. He had no wish to have a praying, sermonizing wife, who would see sin in what he thought harmless, and who would always be attempting to convert him to her own peculiar views of religion. He had put down, sometimes with a jest, sometimes even with a frown, the few feeble attempts made by Flora soon after their marriage to win him to pay more attention to the outward observances of religion. The Lord did not bless these attempts,-they resulted in failure and disappointment; and Flora bitterly recalled her mother's words, that it is as impossible for one human being to change the heart of another, as it would be to bring water from the stony rock, or to call up fire from the ocean.

Flora's deep love for her husband, even though returned, was no source of unmingled happiness. She could not rest in calm confidence upon the hope that all was well with him whom she deemed the most gifted and the

most attractive of men. Blinded as she was by her admiring affection, Flora had yet many a secret misgiving and pang, when she heard words pass the lips of her husband which confirmed the opinion of her mother. She was ever struggling to persuade herself that the path which he pursued could not be far wrong; that it was her education which had narrowed her own mind; that he whose intellect soared to such a height must see more clearly and widely than others. But it is difficult to overthrow at once the fabric of opinion which has gradually been forming from infancy; most difficult when that fabric is founded on truth, and has the strong though secret support of conscience!

And there was one source of pain which Flora never owned to others, never even acknowledged to her own heart. She prized the affection of her husband beyond all earthly,alas! above all heavenly things,—it was her pride, her delight, her treasure: but how could she trust to links which God had not riveted?- -was not her treasure one which might take wings to itself and flee away? Who could insure that the love which beauty

had awakened would not be perishable as that beauty? It had not that firmness which arises from steady principle, that element of immortality which religion alone can give. Flora was painfully aware that many, and amongst them members of Sir Amery's own family, had deemed his marriage far below the expectations which such a man might have formed. Was it quite impossible that the same thought might sometimes cross the mind of her husband! There was no sweet babe, no dear pledge of mutual affection, to bind the baronet's heart to the mother of his child.

Flora's strength was not sufficient to enable her to share all the amusements of her husband, nor had she enough of mental vigour to enter into all his pursuits. He shone as a star in many places where his gentle wife was never seen. Many a lonely evening she passed, while at some festive board a brilliant circle was listening delighted to his ever-flowing fountain of wit. Might Sir Amery not sometimes find her society dull, her conversation insipid, after that to which he had been accustomed? would her love suffice to make him happy? could he be contented alone with her? Flora knew that

the baronet had not married her "in the Lord," that his affection for her was not from the Lord; her whole felicity rested upon an earthly support, it might be shaken,-it might bend -it might give way!

Even when accompanying her husband to scenes of festivity, neither his loved presence nor the pleasures around her always chased from the mind of Lady Legrange this phantom of undefined fear. But that which above all things oppressed the young wife with a sorrow for which the world has no remedy, was her consciousness of alienation from her God. What matter how fair be the surrounding landscape, if the heaven above be of dull leaden hue, if the sun be blotted from the sky? As regarded the most important of all subjects, the heart of Flora was cold and hard; and she knew it. No one can for long worship an earthly idol without feeling the withering effect. Sir Amery stood between his wife and her God. Flora was careful as ever to observe the forms of religion, when she could do so without displeasing her husband; her seat was not vacant in the pew, nor her name absent from the charity list: but her piety

was like a petrified leaf,-it could deceive even her own heart no longer. All that remained of her religion seemed a vague sense of fear, the fear of a slave for an offended master, who has the power, perhaps the will, to chastise. Sometimes Flora doubted whether she had ever been a Christian at all,-whether from childhood she had not played a hypocrite's part, and whether she were not playing it still. She no longer thought of heaven as a blissful home, and even when bitterness of soul made her weary of life, she felt a shrinking from the thought of death.

And can we wonder that Flora was not happy, that pleasures failed to amuse her, even conjugal affection to bless? Had she rested with cheerful content in that state of coldness, alienation, and wandering from God, it had been a sign, indeed, that religion had utterly perished in her soul,-that her mother's prayers, and teaching, and example, had all been in vain.


« ForrigeFortsæt »