we raise our voices higher
   Shout in the refiner’s fire:
Clap our hands amidst the flame,
   Glory give to Jesus’ name!’

The roof of the chapel did not fly off, which speaks volumes in praise of its solid slating.

But if Briar Chapel seemed alive, so also did Briarmains, though certainly the mansion appeared to enjoy a quieter phase of existence than the temple; some of its windows, too, were aglow. The lower casements opened upon the lawn, curtains concealed the interior, and partly obscured the ray of the candles which lit it, but they did not entirely muffle the sound of voice and laughter. We are privileged to enter that front-door, and to penetrate to the domestic sanctum.

It is not the presence of company which makes Mr. Yorke’s habitation lively, for there is none within it save his own family, and they are assembled in that farthest room to the right, the back-parlour.

This is the usual sitting-room of an evening. Those windows would be seen by daylight to be of brilliantly stained glass—purple and amber the predominant hues, glittering round a gravely tinted medallion in the centre of each, representing the suave head of William Shakespeare and the serene one of John Milton. Some Canadian views hang on the walls—green forest and blue water scenery—and in the midst of them blazes a night eruption of Vesuvius; very ardently it glows, contrasted with the cool foam and azure of cataracts and the dusky depths of woods.

The fire illuminating this room, reader, is such as, if you be a Southern, you do not often see burning on the hearth of a private apartment: it is a clear, hot coalfire, heaped high in the ample chimney. Mr. Yorke will have such fires, even in warm summer weather: he sits beside it with a book in his hand, a little round stand at his elbow supporting a candle; but he is not reading, he is watching his children. Opposite to him sits his lady, a personage whom I might describe minutely, but I feel no vocation to the task. I see her, though, very plainly before me: a large woman of the gravest aspect, care on her front and on her shoulders—but not overwhelming, inevitable care, rather the sort of voluntary, exemplary cloud and burden people ever carry who deem it their duty to be gloomy. Ah, well-a-day! Mrs. Yorke had that notion, and grave as Saturn she was, morning, noon and night, and hard things she thought of any unhappy wight—especially of the female sex—who dared in her presence to show the light of a gay heart on a sunny countenance. In her estimation, to be mirthful was to be profane; to be cheerful was to be frivolous—she drew no distinctions. Yet she was a very good wife, a very careful mother, looked after her children unceasingly, was sincerely attached to her husband; only the worst of it was, if she could have had her will, she would not have permitted him to have any friend in the world beside herself. All his relations were insupportable to her, and she kept them at arm’s length.

Mr. Yorke and she agreed perfectly well; yet he was naturally a sociable, hospitable man—an advocate for family unity—and in his youth, as has been said, he liked none but lively, cheerful women. Why he chose her—how they contrived to suit each other—is a problem puzzling enough, but which might soon be solved if one had time go into the analysis of the case. Suffice it here to say that Yorke had a shadowy as well as a sunny side to his character, and that his shadowy side found sympathy and affinity in the whole of his wife’s uniformly overcast nature. For the rest, she was a strong-minded woman; never said a weak or a trite thing; took stern, democratic views of society, and rather cynical ones of human nature; considered herself perfect and safe, and the rest of the world all wrong. Her main fault was a brooding, eternal, immitigable suspicion of all men, things, creeds and parties: this suspicion was a mist before her eyes, a false guide in her path, wherever she looked, wherever she turned.

It may be supposed that the children of such a pair were not likely to turn out quite ordinary, commonplace beings; and they were not. You see six of them, reader: the youngest is a baby on the mother’s knee; it is all her own yet, and that one she has not yet begun to doubt, suspect, condemn; it derives its sustenance from her, it hangs on her, it clings to her, it loves her above everything else in the world—she is sure of that, because, as it lives by her, it cannot be otherwise, therefore she loves it.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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