“O how we wished for you, Uncle Geoffrey! but how did you hear it?”
“I met Alex just now. Capital sport you must have had. Are you only just come in?”
“No, we were having a consultation about the charades,” said Fred; “the higher powers consent to our having them on Monday.”
“Grandmamma approving?” asked Uncle Geoffrey.
“O yes,” said Fred, in all honesty, “she only objected to our taking a regular scene in a play, and ‘coming it as strong’ as we did the other night; so it is to be all extemporary, and it will do famously.”
Beatrice, who had been waiting in the dark at the top of the stairs, listening, was infinitely rejoiced that her project had been explained so plausibly, and yet in such perfect good faith, and she flew off to dress in high spirits. Had she mentioned it to her father, he would have doubted, taken it as her scheme, and perhaps put a stop to it: but hearing of it from Frederick, whose pleasures were so often thwarted, was likely to make him far more unwilling to object. For its own sake, she knew he had no objection to the sport; it was only for that of his mother; and since he had heard of her as consenting, all was right. No, could Beatrice actually say so to her own secret soul?
She could not; but she could smother the still small voice that checked her, in a multitude of plans, and projects, and criticisms, and airy castles, and, above all, the pleasure of triumph and dominion, and the resolution not to yield, and the delight of leading.
“Our hearts and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts:” so speaks the collect with which we begin the new year— such the prayer to which the lips of the young Langfords said, “Amen:” but what was its application to them? What did they do with the wicked world in their own guarded homes? There was Uncle Geoffrey, he was in the world. It might be for him to pray for that spirit which enabled him to pass unscathed through the perils of his profession, neither tempted to grasp at the honours nor the wealth which lay in his way, unhardened and unsoured by the contact of the sin and selfishness on every side. This might indeed be the world. There was Jessie Carey, with her love of dress, and admiration, and pleasure; she should surely pray that she might live less to the vanities of the world; there were others, whose worn countenances spoke of hearts devoted to the cares of the world; but to those fair, fresh, happy young things, early taught how to prize vain pomp and glory, their minds as yet free from anxiety, looking from a safe distance on the busy field of trial and temptation; were not they truly kept from that world which they had renounced?