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patience," but they need know nothing about it; and, indeed, I think we have an undoubted right to dispose as we please of our pocket money, and that Madame d'Elfort has no authority over us, in matters that relate to religion."
"It will be necessary, indeed," replied Emily, "to be silent on the subject of our little plan; but let us beware, lest this caution betray us into duplicity, and thus convert a good intention into a snare, and an occasion of sin."
Well, at any rate, there can be no sin in contributing a trifle from our pocket money, to advance the cause of true Christianity in the world, even though our Roman Catholic teachers know nothing of the matter. We can make our little collection every Sunday afternoon, after prayers. Do, Emily, give me your sanction, and I shall immediately set about it."
"I scarcely know what to say, my dear Lydia. I certainly should like the attempt to be made; for, independently of the money which would thus be devoted to a good purpose, the interest it would awaken for the spiritual welfare of others, might lead to future active exertions in the same blessed cause, and, perhaps, be instrumental in convincing the mind of the necessity of personal religion. Yet I cannot help fearing, with Caroline, that it may lead to unpleasant results."
"But, cousin, if it should ever be known, we could have no hesitation in acknowledging the truth; and I am sure no one has any right to find fault with us, or could reasonably do so. Come, you must allow me to become the foundress of a missionary association. Here is a sou, which I found yesterday in the garden; I have offered it to everybody in the house, and, as it seems to belong to no one, it shall be the first mite in our little treasury. I propose that the subscriptions be one half-penny per week, with permission to increase the amount at pleasure; and that the first Sunday of every month, when we read the missionary papers, and use the missionary prayer, we make a general collection among ourselves, in aid of the same good cause. You cannot say that the amount of subscription is too high; and I am sure that money will procure us more real pleasure, than that which is spent in cakes and fromages de lait."
It was impossible to resist the sanguine anticipations and elo quent appeal of Lydia. Before the close of that day, she had communicated her plan to all the English girls, except two or three of the younger ones, whose indiscretion she feared; and her success even surpassed her expectations. Her companions readily entered into her views, and some with an ardor almost equal to her own. There was something delightful in the idea of a little association exclusively their own; an association purely Protestant, and, above all, entirely English. These were, perhaps, the only motives of some, while others merely yielded to the influence of ex
ample; but a few were actuated by a higher and nobler feeling, a sincere and lively interest in the success of the gospel.
Whatever might have been the motives, however, that first actuated our young contributors, they soon felt a warm affection for the little society they had formed. The subscriptions and donations, indeed, were trifling, and might well excite a smile, in those accustomed to the magnificent scale on which such institutions are carried on in England; but, to these isolated young people, there was an inexpressible charm in their humble missionary plan; and, at Lydia's suggestion, it was unanimously resolved that their infant society should be called the "Exile Missionary Association."
Charlotte and Lucy Barton had been excluded from the secret; the former being considered too much under French influence, and the latter too young for discretion. They had, however, observed that a monthly collection was made, and inquired its object. Miss Lushington, to whom the question was addressed, replied, that it was to be sent to England for the poor, and excused herself to Emily, by observing, that her answer contained only the truth, though not the whole truth; "for you know," said she, "the ignorant heathen, who have never had the gospel, are poor, in the most extensive sense of the word, and theirs is indeed the most deplorable kind of poverty."
Emily was not quite satisfied with this reasoning, but she scarcely knew what course it would be best to pursue; and the statement of Miss Lushington to the children remained, therefore, unexplained. At the next monthly meeting, Charlotte and Lucy requested that they might be allowed to contribute a small sum to the collection for the poor, and were, of course, not refused. Emily, however, charged her friends not to urge them to give anything; but the little girls always came prepared with money for the occasion, which they gave with so much good-will, that it was at length resolved to make them acquainted with the true nature and design of the society, at the next monthly meeting.
More than three weeks previous to that event, however, Madame d'Elfort informed her pupils that the Abbé Méry, her confessor, would come the next day to the school, for the purpose of soliciting the contributions of the young ladies, to a fund for defraying the expenses of the charity-children's clothing, on the occasion of the première communion, and for the purchase of their wax tapers. She requested that her pupils would all be provided with money, when he came, as she was anxious that her school should furnish a respectable collection; and, for this purpose, she directed the teachers to ascertain that the little ones, as well as their elder companions, were possessed of sufficient funds for the occasion.
The English girls generally considered this requisition as a tax, and loudly complained of it among themselves, as an abuse of
authority, which compelled them to sanction, and pay for, the superstitious rites of the Popish church. Several of them were, however, examining the contents of their purses, and calculating how little they could give, without being reprimanded, when Helen entered, with a countenance which instantly announced disagreeable tidings.
"I have just been to my room," said she," where I was busily engaged in putting away some linen, when, as the door which opens into Madame d'Elfort's room stood ajar, I heard Mademoiselle St. André leading in Charlotte and Lucy Barton. She complained that they had no money left for to-morrow's collection, and that they assigned as a reason, their having given all that remained of their last allowance to Miss Mortimer."
"It was for the poor,' said Charlotte; 'there was a collection last Sunday in Miss Mortimer's room, and we, of course, contributed like the rest.'
"But remember, Charlotte,' mildly interposed little Lucy, 'we were not asked to give anything. It was all quite free, and we needed not have given so much as we did. Had we known that Monsieur Méry was coming to-morrow, we might easily have kept
"What is all this?' inquired Madame d'Elfort, in a tone of displeasure. What authority has Mademoiselle Mortimer to make collections ? And who are the poor for whom she thus exerts herself?'
"Mademoiselle St. André replied, with one of her scornful, ironical smiles, that'she understood Miss Mortimer collected money for the English poor, and that it was soon to be transmitted to England.'
6 Impossible!' exclaimed Madame d'Elfort, Miss Mortimer could never think of collecting for the English poor, while there are so many objects of charity in our immediate neighborhood. But I will see to it,' she added, rising; I must inquire into this business, and see that Miss Barton's money is returned, for I must have none of my young ladies penniless to-morrow.'
"As soon as I heard this," continued Helen, "I ran hither to warn you of the danger, for I am afraid we shall all have a tremendous examination, and perhaps a thundering reprimand, if nothing worse. I wish those tiresome little creatures had never known or seen anything of our collections. It will be necessary, of course, to give them back the sum they have contributed; but what I fear is, that our cherished little missionary secret may come to the knowledge of the French; and then we shall be forbidden to continue our meetings, and our dear society."
"The money, of course," observed Emily, "must be returned to Charlotte and Lucy; but if Madame d'Elfort asks me any questiɔns, I shall immediately tell her the whole truth, whatever the
consequences may be; for you know, my dear friends, we are forbidden to 'do evil, that good may come.""
All the English party looked very sorrowful, at the idea of their favorite project being thus frustrated. Emily immediately sought the little Bartons, and, after explaining to them the object of the collection, gave them back the trifling sum they had contributed. She felt somewhat agitated, at the prospect of an explanation with Madame d'Elfort; but, from some cause which was never revealed, that lady avoided all mention of the subject; and the little society, therefore, proceeded as before.
The next morning, the abbe paid his promised visit to the schoolroom, and delivered a speech to the young ladies, in which he labored to prove the utility of the object he had in view, and assured his auditors that their contributions would be accepted by heaven, as infinitely meritorious, and conducive to their eternal salvation. The consequence of this address was, as he expected, a liberal collection; and, after the usual return, on his part, of flattering praise, he left the school-room, accompanied by Madame d'Elfort. Emily, who had not been present, encountered them on her way from the music room; and her governess took her by the hand, to introduce her to Monsieur Méry.
The abbé was a man of benevolent character, and had lately taken a warm interest in the fate of an English family residing at S, which had been reduced to a state of great destitution. He had been many years in England, whither he had fled from the horrors of the Revolution, and where he had been treated with that generosity and kindness which were so liberally bestowed on the unhappy fugitives. These obligations he was ever ready to acknowledge, with a gratitude which did honor to his character; and his partiality for the English was as proverbial as it was sincere. He had, therefore, exerted all his influence, to assist the distressed family, and had called on Madame d'Elfort to forward his object. That lady placed the case in the hands of Emily, by whom an appeal was made to the English pupils, in behalf of their unfortunate compatriots, and a respectable sum collected, for a supply of their necessities. She had also mentioned the subject to the English Protestant minister, and, through his exertions, a subscription was opened among the English residents of S, which restored the objects of their bounty to a state of comfort and independence.
The abbé had expressed a wish to know the young lady who had been the active agent in this work of charity; and when Madame d'Elfort presented Emily, he addressed her in a strain of adulation which very much disconcerted her.
"My gratitude to the English, Mademoiselle, makes me anxious to return, in any degree that may be in my power, the obligations I have received from them; and the affection I bear your country
makes my heart thrill with pleasure, when I see any of its chil dren, like you, exhibiting a character of surpassing excellence, and aspiring to that crown of glory which is the reward of charity and benevolence."
Emily felt it her duty to disclaim the sentiments contained in this speech, and, therefore, modestly observed, that eternal life was the gift of God, and not to be purchased by any human merit. Madame d'Elfort smiled at this remark, and said to the abbé,
My dear father, this is one of those singular notions which I have mentioned to you, as distinguishing my excellent young friend. She insists upon it, that there is no merit whatever in good works; and yet I never knew any one more anxious to do good than herself."
"Indeed, Madam," replied Emily, "I am deeply conscious that 'in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,' and that I cannot do one good action, without the influence of the Spirit of God. I dare not, therefore, accept praises which I do not de serve."
"Mademoiselle's modesty," observed the priest, "only enhances the value of her many virtues, and she is quite right, in saying that we all need the assistance of the Holy Spirit; but she must allow me to tell her, that it is a highly dangerous doctrine, which teaches that there is no merit in good works; for it takes away that incentive to virtue which is always found in the hope of a glorious reward. Will you permit me, my dear young friend, tc inquire where you have learned that demoralizing tenet?"
"Call it not demoralizing, Sir, for it is the doctrine of the Bible." A slight expression of impatience passed over the mild counte nance of the abbé.
On what, then, do you consider that a Christian's claim to heaven is founded ?"
"On the death and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has purchased eternal life for all those who believe on him. The Bible tells us that whosoever believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life,' and that if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.'"
"But what inducement, then, does your system offer, to the performance of good works? If there is no merit in them, there can be no sin in neglecting them."
"What can be a stronger motive, Sir, than the desire to glorify Him who loved us, and gave himself for us? If our faith is genuine, it will prove itself to be so, by its appropriate fruits; and those who know that without holiness, no man can see the Lord,' will certainly strive to become 'holy, in all manner of conversation."
"Well, ma chère demoiselle," said the abbe, evidently desirous to change the ground of argument, "I cannot dispute with you on so