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dwelling. The cottagers whom she had met on her way shook their heads when she had passed, and declared that the good lady had never looked like herself since dear Miss Flora went away!
Mrs. Vernon opened her desk and wrote to her daughter. The letter was a short one, but full of tenderness, rather hinting at than openly telling of the feeble state of her own health, and her longing desire to have her child beside her again.
Flora received that note the next morning; in the evening, just as the first tremulous star appeared in the darkening sky, Flora's step was on the threshold of her home.
SWEETER, lovelier, dearer than ever!" thought Mrs. Vernon, as she pressed her daughter closer and closer in her fond embrace. When the flush of excitement at the first meeting had passed away, the eye of affection observed that Flora had become paler and thinner,—that
there was a thoughtful, preoccupied expression on her gentle brow, as though her mind were wandering far away; but there was deeper feeling in those soft blue eyes, more beaming sweetness in that smile, than even her mother had ever seen before.
Flora retired early to her room, pleading the fatigue of her journey. She had scarcely been able to give even the semblance of attention to the multifarious questions of Emma on the amusements and fashions of London, and had answered them almost at random; but when she found herself in her own apartment, the door closed, and only Mrs. Vernon beside her, she threw herself again on her mother's bosom, buried her glowing face on her parent's neck, and, trembling with joyful emotion, uttered, in scarcely articulate accents, "Mother, dear mother he has spoken!"
"Sir Amery Legrange!"
'I must tell you all," continued Flora, without raising her head. "It was yesterday -only yesterday-at Richmond. I did not know I had scarcely dreamed-oh, mother!" she exclaimed suddenly, bursting into tears of
delight, "I never believed it possible to be SO- the bright, sparkling drops told the rest.
Mrs. Vernon grew very cold. There was a sinking at her heart and a rising in her throat, which made her for the moment unable to speak.
"And he will be a son to you, mother, the most tender and dutiful of sons! He will never separate us- -he is so generous-so good!"
"And is he-" said Mrs. Vernon, speaking slowly, as if fearful to break by one word the spell of happiness thrown around her daughter,
"is he one who holds the same blessed faith in which your dear father lived and died?" Flora was silent for a short space. "He does not, I believe, indeed I know,―he does not in all things hold the same opinions as those which I have been taught; he is too candid, too honourable to make false professions; he he does not view everything in the same light which you do ;-but his character, his life are beyond reproach; his actions prove that his creed cannot be far wrong! It is from you, mother, that I have learned to value deeds far more than words. Was it not
our Saviour himself who said, 'By their fruits ye shall know them?""
"He did so, my child; and where the fruits of the Spirit are found, there we may be sure that a blessing abides. But the first fruit is love, supreme love towards God,—the love of the redeemed for their Redeemer, of pardoned sinners for their Saviour: where this is wanting, what cause have we to hope that the soul has been born again' unto God?"
Flora raised her head: her cheek was painfully flushed, and the tears of joy which had glistened on her lashes were followed by bitter drops, as she exclaimed, "Some one has been prejudicing you against him; some one has been maligning him, mother!”
"It is himself, then," replied Mrs. Vernon, calmly; "I have been reading 'The MasterMind.'"
"And do you not think it beautiful,—sublime, the transcript of a noble heart, an exalted mind?"
"Not the heart of one converted-not the mind of a Christian !"
There was a long and most painful silence.
Flora was wounded to the quick, and that by a hand that she loved! Blinded by her affection, she regarded Sir Amery with an enthusiastic admiration which could see no fault, a tender devotion which would have regarded the sacrifice of life itself but a small one for his sake. Every fibre of her loving heart seemed to have twined itself round its new idol, and to breathe even a slighting word of him was to wrench and lacerate those tender heart-strings. She again buried her face, but this time it was not on the bosom of her mother. "Mamma, you know not how wretched you make me with your doubts."
My child,—my own child,—I would give my life's blood to render you happy!" Mrs. Vernon took the cold hand of Flora, and pressed it convulsively to her heart. But I cannot -I dare not-trust you to one who is not treading the same path towards heaven: I cannot dare not let you break the command which bids our unions be only in the Lord."
"You will refuse your consent?" exclaimed Flora, starting to her feet, and gazing on her mother with a look of wild dismay.