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CHAPTER I.

USE HOSPITALITY ONE TO ANOTHER.'—1 Pet. iv. 9.

MR. CONROY, and his niece Mary, arrived late one summer's evening at the house of Mr. Harding. The two families had long been intimate; and although Mr. Conroy was by no means what is usually denominated a religious character, he was respected as a man of very upright principles; and having shown the greatest kindness and affection for his late brother's children, he had a peculiar claim on all the friends of that family. He was in the habit of making a tour, almost every summer, through various parts of England and the Continent, and was usually accompanied by one of his nephews or nieces. He was an elderly bachelor, and like most of that class, possessed many peculiarities. He was a man of consider

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able landed property, and having a generous and liberal disposition, his benevolence extended in many directions; occasionally manifesting itself where others considered it unnecessary, but never being withheld from any case of real distress. Mr. Conroy was naturally cheerful, and fond of society, although rather inclined to listen to others than to talk himself. He had been so much in the company of persons acquainted with religion, that he understood something of the subject, and had no objection to the introduction of it in conversation, although his heart was not seriously impressed with its importance. He was a close and keen observer of others, and liad a mixture of humour and dry remark, which subjected him to the animadversions of those who did not understand his character ; but he was a man of quick feelings, and could sympathise in the trials of others far beyond what the generality of observers would have imagined. His pride was of that singular kind which displays itself in assuming an indifference of manner and feeling when the individual is most affected. He preferred, at all times, being considered callous and uninterested, rather than easily moved by circum stances; hence, he was suspected of possessing very little real feeling. Had he been influenced by Christian principles, he might have overcome this artificial quality, (for after all it was nothing else) which was, in truth, almost as much to be deprecated as that anxiety to appear amiable, and devoted, and full of good deeds, which some professors of religion exhibit. But by this peculiarity Mr. Conroy drew on himself the suspicion of the undiscriminating, and received his sentence at their hands, while the hypocrite, the self-deceived, and the Pharisee, not unfrequently succeeded in passing for zealous and devoted persons.

Mr. Harding received his guests with all the hospitality of a patriarch; he was a man of simple habits and unaffected manners. He apologized for the absence of Mrs. Harding, who was attending on the sick child of a cottager; and ordering tea, they entered upon the changes which had taken place since the visit of Mr. Conroy and Mary two years before. They found that the Rectory had changed its master, that the military depot stationed in the vicinity contained some officers of two régiments just returned from abroad, and that a few of the party, together with their wives, appeared likely to become agreeable additions to the religious society of Ashton.

Mary inquired how they liked the new Rector. Mr. Harding replied, that he believed he was very generally esteemed; he certainly was a most excellent and zealous man, eloquent in the pulpit, and active among his parishioners. “ Mrs. Harding,” he added with a smile, 6 thinks him quite perfection, both as a clergyman and a private Christian, so I must say nothing, but if I were to give my opinion, I should say, his preaching does not exactly suit me. Nevertheless, I have the greatest respect for him, and only wish I were one-half as conscientious and self-denying.”

Mrs. Harding now made her appearance, she was a very handsome woman, about six and thirty years of age, her manners were kind and agreeable, though more reserved than his. The family household assembled about ten o'clock, Mr. Harding read a chapter of the Bible, with Scott's comments, and after prayer they separated, as the travellers had had a long journey and were fatigued.

Next morning it was proposed that Mrs. Harding should take Mary with her to make some visits at the Depot, which ought to have been made before. As they drove back, Mary inquired the name of the Lieutenant Colonel's lady, “She appears a very fascinating woman, so lively, so pretty, and so unaffected.

Mrs. Harding replied, that her name was Percy, she had not been married many years, and had spent the last three abroad.

“ Mr. Harding told us that she and Colonel Percy were pious people.”

“I don't know enough of them to judge,” said Mrs. Harding, “but I fear that the society in which they have moved has done them little good, she has very little sedateness of manner, and seems inclined to talk on any worldly subject.”

“If she has lived much abroad, and without the advantages of religious society, I think great allowances should be made; she appeared to listen to all you said with seriousness and interest, perhaps she may not see it wrong to enter upon the common occurrences of life.”

“ Perhaps not,” added Mrs. Harding, “and when we kuow more of her, we may think differently: we are to meet them and two other ladies of that regiment, on Tuesday at the Rectory.

Mary was pleased to have an opportunity of seeing Mrs. Percy again, for she felt interested in her, and thought there was something in her manner which indicated sincerity of feeling, although she made little demonstration. She had learnt, from the knowledge of her

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