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Church”— with a trembling, almost inaudible voice “your Church, has well-paid clergy preaching toto what? to empty benches. Rest assured, Miss Maitland, that till some change takes place in Church property, there will be no prosperity-no union in this unhappy country.”
“Catherine, I think you feel all those things too deeply." But Catherine went on as if not heeding her
“Oh, Ireland ! thou far west of the Old World, lying in beauty, encircled by the free, wild ocean, that sings to thee ever, in undying strains of freedom, of that dear, heaven-born, inalienable freedom that has, alas! been torn from thee! what hast thou left thee now? Oh, Erin-whose verdure recalls to us, as we gaze upon thee, the blessings of hope, that, oasis-like, reflects itself around thee as if in mockery of thy doom-oh, that my sighs, my tears, and my sorrows for thee and thy misfortunes, could remove the darkness that has fallen upon thee! And to imagine that I can so easily forget and forgive all our wrongs! No, Miss Maitland, it cannot be."
“Yet, I know, Catherine, that some day, however distant, you will also feel as I do now; that is my hope, therefore I can forgive you. When next this subject shall be touched upon by either of us, you will be the one to ask for counsel, and I to give it."
A FEW months previous to the scene just related, Catherine had been solicited by Miss Maitland to join her in her Spanish studies, in which her brother assisted her, being himself a proficient in the language. The proposal was gratefully accepted by Catherine, who had long wished to acquire a knowledge of that fascinating tongue. Her mother, who was of Spanish origin, and had spent some of her early years in that country, would often beguile the tedious hours of her widowhood in recalling many reminiscences of those days to her little Catherine, whose quick ear and retentive memory treasured up every word, which was remembered many years after the gentle voice she loved so well to listen to was silent for ever. In order to be present at the lessons, Catherine would come unattended, and on horseback, to the Falls, and not unfrequently remain there the whole day.
A few days after the events described in the last chapter, Catherine had come as usual to take part in the lesson. On entering the large, comfortable drawingroom, she found no one there ; but books and writing materials were placed upon a table near the window. Catherine, whose thoughts were running over the occurrences of the last few weeks, was in anything but an agreeable state of mind. At one moment she thought of confiding all to her mother's friend ; then she remembered the past scene, with which we have already acquainted our readers, and the strong conviction expressed by the other. Her pride rebelled against the idea, and she determined to suffer anything rather than tell her the fears that were now oppressing her.
Believing herself to be alone, she sighed deeply, as she said, aloud—“How difficult it is to appear other than we feel!”
The words had scarcely passed her lips, when she heard a slight movement in the direction of the window, and approaching it, to her dismay, she found Edward Maitland, partly hidden by the curtain, endeavouring to secure the cord of the blind, that had evidently become unfastened. He turned quickly round, as if only that moment aware of her presence, and began offering an apology for not having noticed her entrance.
After one or two common-place remarks, he excused himself for leaving her, as he said, for the purpose of finding his sister, who was somewhere about the house. As he was leaving the room, he turned round abruptly. towards her, yet, by some strange caprice, checked the words that he was just upon the point of utteringthen hesitating a moment, he said, with some slight embarrassment (a very unusual thing with him, and what Catherine's instinct told her was far removed from his first thought, whatever that might have been)
“ I trust, Miss Catherine, that to-day I shall have an apt pupil in you; and that you have not forgotten to translate the little sonnet you promised to have ready for this lesson?”
Catherine said “Yes," and then “No." She had been debating in her own mind whether he had really heard her exclamation as she entered the room ; and, thus, before she could find an answer to his question, he was gone, and the door had closed upon him, apparently without her embarrassment being noticed. After a short time he returned, accompanied by his sister, who welcomed Catherine, and reproached her, in a playful manner, for being so behind time, as she expected her an hour before, and was fussing about in one of the old lumber-closets up-stairs, where Edward had agreeably surprised her by the announcement of her arrival.
Edward Maitland, during this little explanation, was occupied in giving some orders to a servant, who had entered with some intelligence or other for his master.
During the lesson, Catherine was rather absent in manner, occasionally giving an answer quite opposed to the meaning of the question put to her; and when she was reading aloud, her sighs, unknown to herself, became so frequent, that Miss Maitland at last put down her book, and asked her if anything was the matter. Whereupon Catherine would blush, and reply in the negative. Edward Maitland seemed to take no notice of her, and, if anything, was more exacting than usual-often calling her attention to errors she was unconsciously committing.
The lesson over, he stood up and looked at his watch, then wished both his sister and Catherine, good-bye, saying he regretted very much not being able to dine with them that day, as he had some very important business to attend to, a short distance from home, which would in all probability detain him till late that night. He hoped that Miss O'Neile would favour his sister with her company till the next day, and by so doing, give her the pleasure of her society, and himself the agreeable assurance that he was leaving Margaret with a companion. Then, with a courteous bow, he left them.
After dinner, they both sat enjoying the cosy, careless hour of thought, with only the blaze from the cheerful fire to throw its magic around them. They chatted for a little time, then lazily subsided into the undisturbed reflection of their several fancies, with their gaze fixed upon the glowing embers. What did they imagine they saw there ? Perhaps many a departed scene of what had been, or might have been; or dreamed of some gone from their sight for ever; indeed, of all that fills the human heart with retrospection, longing, regret, and unreasonableness.
Many loved faces seem to look out at us from the fire-faces we may never see again as we saw them last—and many, perchance, it were better to remember as they appeared to us then, with the charm that our imagination lends to them still, for who can foresee, when friends next meet, the shadows that may in the meantime have come over them? The flight of years changes, not only our homes, but our hearts—for who ever meets as last they parted ? Time brings a change in all we love.
Having sat thus silently, unmindful of the hour, Miss Maitland was the first to break the silence that had fallen upon them, by asking Catherine to sing to her. She rose, and going over to the piano, opened it, and began singing a simple touching ballad of her country. She possessed one of those voices that imperceptibly steal upon the senses, awaking all that is good and genuine within us. Although it had received but little cultivation beyond what Miss Maitland had upon different occasions bestowed upon it, yet it seemed created to convey to the heart the illusions that music has the power of calling forth, and which we all, more or less, indulge in.
Catherine shut the instrument, and then came over to preside at the tea table; an office she usually took upon herself when they were alone.
“How I wish, Catherine, that Edward had been at home this evening, to hear you sing!”
“Mr. Maitland hear me sing!”-in some surprise—“I have always understood that he is no lover of music?”
“I thought so, too, Catherine, till one day, when you happened to be singing, he entered the room unobserved