“You have devised a happy union of intellectual and sensual pleasure, well calculated to heighten both.”
“Why were these good things given us,” said the colonel, gracefully waving his hand over the table, “but that we should ascertain their uses, and apply them accordingly?”
“I begin to understand your philosophy, in letting none of the good things of life run to waste, but rather receiving them all in the spirit of thankfulness.”
“In those few words you express the essence of my philosophy.”
“There may be,” continued Lady Mabel, “as much piety, and certainly more wisdom, in frankly enjoying the good things given us, than in despising the world which God made, and rejecting the blessings it teems with, like these self-tormenting ascetics, the monks and friars around us.”
“Heaven help your simplicity, Lady Mabel! They only pretend to do so, the hypocrites! Rest assured, every one of these fellows is on the sly.”
“What! No exceptions? Is it true of every one—
‘His eyes are set on heaven, his heart on earth?’”
“It fits them to a man!” said the colonel. “Their vocation is securing to themselves the god things of this world, by promising to others the blessings of the next: and as for the friars, true to their motto, Nihil habentes et omnia possidentes, they profess to hold no special property, merely that the whole country might be bound to maintain them. They know the value of the good things of this life, and how to enjoy them in a corner.”
“These odd-looking monks and friars attract me much,” said Lady Mabel: “perhaps they will not bear a close inspection; but, with all my prejudice against them, I must own, that many seem truly devout, and the friars, at least, very zealous in their labors among the people.”
“Yet the people, except the women,” said Bradshawe, “are losing faith in their greasy reverences.”
“Women are everywhere more devout than men,” she answered; “and I do indeed observe their greasy reverences, as you call them, conversing oftener with our sex than yours.”
“Observe more closely, Lady Mabel, and you will see that they are most zealous for the conversion of the young women, the tender lambs of the flock. They care little for a tough, smoke-dried, old woman’s soul.” This was said with a knowing, wink, and caused some merriment among his juniors within ear-shot.
A gradual but perceptible change was coming over the colonel’s manner, which Lady Mabel did not like. In fact, Lord Strathern had pushed the bottle briskly, though sometimes slighting it himself, as did many of his guests; but Bradshawe made it a point of conscience to take toll every time it passed him. He had, moreover, violated one of his own maxims, in talking incessantly while imbibing his liquor; so she took advantage of the next pause in his conversation to leave the table.