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pressed her delight at being under Miss Mortimer's care during her absence, and occasionally betrayed the vanity so natural in her situation, by calling her friend's attention to the different parts of her dress, with an evident desire to elicit admiration. Emily, however, was absorbed in sorrowful meditation, on the injurious tendency of this foolish display, and scarcely heeded her prattle, till the little girl held up a valuable necklace of pearls, and inquired if she did not admire her sister's beautiful present?
"It is very elegant," said Emily, as she clasped it round the child's neck," but, my dear little Claire, do not be so much occupied with your dress. I am sure your sister would not approve of it, nor was that her intention, in giving you the necklace."
Claire blushed at the rebuke, and was silent for a moment; then, taking up a cross which was suspended to the necklace, she said,
"Now, my dear Miss Mortimer, you will not think me vain, for prizing this little cross. It is only of plain gold, but I would not part with it for ten times its value; for it has been consecrated by our holy father the Pope, and there are a great many indulgences attached to it."
Indulgences!" said Lydia, who had just entered the room, "what kind of things are they?"
66 Why, Miss Howard, do you not know what indulgences are ?" inquired Claire, with surprise. "There are a great many belonging to this cross, and they are very precious."
"Where are they, my dear Claire ?" resumed Lydia, examining the cross and necklace, with apparent curiosity. "I cannot see any of them; pray point them out to me."
They are not such things as beads," replied Claire, looking somewhat mortified and disconcerted. "I tell you they are indulgences from the Pope, and, though we cannot see them, they are not the less valuable."
"But I do not understand what they can be," again objected the provoking Lydia. "Tell me, Claire, are they indulgences for sin ?"
"No, certainly, Miss Howard," replied the little girl, half offended at the observation, "but, since you do not use them in your religion, we must not talk about them."
The arch expression of Lydia's countenance indicated a desire to prolong the conversation; but Emily gave her a look of admonition, and advised her to go to her music.
"Do you not know what indulgences are, Miss Mortimer ?" inquired little Claire, as soon as Lydia was gone. Emily was silent, and she continued, "What a strange religion yours must be! My confessor says it is a very bad one, and that no heretic can be saved. But I hope you will be a Catholic at last, for you are so good and kind, and I love you so much! and
my sister and I say a pater noster and an ave Maria, every night and morning, for your conversion." So saying, she clasped her arms round Emily's neck, and kissed her several times with childish fondness.
Emily was much affected by this artless declaration. To conceal her emotion, she passed her hand over the glossy brown ringlets of Claire, in order to keep them confined in smooth bands beneath her cap; then kissing the blooming cheek of the little girl, she led her down into the garden, to join the others.
The next day the children were taken in procession to the different churches, and, after spending the greater part of the day in the cathedral, Claire returned home, fatigued and exhausted, and was sent early to bed. The morrow was to be a day of important preparation, and Emily would have been glad to be exempted from the pain of witnessing its occupations.
As it was considered of great consequence that the young communicants should go though the ceremony in a graceful and unembarrassed manner, they were made to practise their parts the day before, by receiving an unconsecrated wafer, in the same way that they would receive the host. Emily had again to dress Claire for this absurd display, which was attended with every circumstance of the most solemn mockery; but, to her inexpressible delight, before Claire returned from the Cathedral, her sister had again become an inmate of the house.
The mild countenance of Rose bore the most distressing marks of recent sorrow. She was pale and haggard, and had evidently wept almost incessantly. Madame d'Elfort, who was well acquainted with her situation and trials, sympathized most kindly in the sweet girl's afflictions. Rose seemed to repose in her governess the most unlimited confidence, and always received from her every mark of affectionate interest. Her spirit seemed to revive, when she found herself restored to the society she loved, and, though her mind was the seat of continual anxiety, her attention was again turned to the approaching festival, in which her sister was to bear so important a part.
Afrer the ceremony of receiving the communion en blanc, the children returned home, for the purpose of going through a very affecting scene. This was to entreat the blessing of their parents, governess, and teachers, and also the forgiveness of their companions, for any little offences they might at any time have committed against them. Previous to this act, they listened to a long exhortation from Madame d'Elfort, in her own room.
Emily was in the salon, with several young ladies, examining the large wax tapers which the communicants were to carry on the following day, when a gentleman entered, and Ann Lushington whispered in her ear-" the Baron de Liancourt." The young ladies immediately retired, but were met on the threshold by
Rose, who, seizing Emily's hand, drew her back into the room, and introduced her to her father, as the kind friend whom she had so often mentioned to him, and who had taken charge of Claire during her short absence. The baron bowed with graceful politeness, and, in the most flattering terms, expressed his gratitude to Mademoiselle Mortimer, for her affectionate attention to his little girl. He was a man of about fifty, tall and martial in his appearance; his manners were noble and dignified, but his countenance exhibited traces of many evil passions, and there was a sternness in his eye, which struck Emily as peculiarly forbidding. He was just expressing a hope that Miss Mortimer would favor him by visiting his château, in company with his daughter, when Madame d'Elfort appeared, leading in the youthful Claire, whose cheek, pale with excessive emotion, indicated a consciousness of being placed in a situation of awful importance. She approached her father with trembling steps, and Emily, anxious to avoid intruding on the scene which she knew was going to take place, bowed in silence to the baron, and glided out of the room.
She had been about half an hour, writing some French exereises, when a gentle tap at her door made her rise to open it, and Rose entered, leading the still-weeping Claire.
My sister is come to beg your forgiveness," said she, and the little girl threw herself, sobbing, into Emily's arms.
My forgiveness, dear Rose! I assure you Claire has never offended me."
"Oh, yes! yes!" sobbed the child, "I gave you a great deal of trouble, when you dressed me; and I have sometimes said very foolish things to you; and, besides, you know I must obtain the blessing of all those I am bound to respect."
May God forgive and bless you, then, my dear little girl," replied Emily, much affected, and straining the sweet pleader to her heart.
The feelings of Claire had been so highly wrought up, during the last hour, that she could not control her agitation, but continued to cry and sob almost hysterically, and without intermission, till her sister made her lie down on her bed, to compose herself before she returned to the cathedral. Having obtained the forgiveness of everybody, and a certificate of good conduct from their governess, the little girls were in the evening re-conducted to church, where, after a final confession, they received absolution, and permission to present themselves at the altar the following morning. On their return to the school, they were regarded with perfect veneration, as little saints entirely freed from sin, and too pure to mix with less holy beings; and, in order to preserve them from contagion, they were secluded in Madame d'Elfort's room, till the hour of their retiring to rest. It was then necessary that some person should be with them, to talk to them
on the subject which ought alone to occupy their thoughts, t read them some suitable exhortation, and make them repeat all the prayers prescribed.
Madame d'Elfort was indisposed, and the teachers could not be spared; that lady, therefore, deputed Rose to be the guardian of the young communicants, declaring, as she did so, with an emphasis which crimsoned the modest cheek of that amiable girl, that she could not have intrusted so important a charge to any other pupil in the house.
As the next day was to be a feast, the evening was chiefly spent in various preparations. To Emily's surprise, she found that Caroline was engaged to spend the day at Madame Dorville's, and was preparing to leave the house with that lady's daughter. Sophia Dorville had lately manifested a great partiality for her, and Emily could not object to the arrangement, though she suffered a little uneasiness in consequence of it.
Emily retired to her room somewhat earlier than usual. She had hardly taken up her Bible, with the intention of reading a little, when she was suddenly startled by a suppressed sob, which proceeded from the chamber of Rose. She arose, much alarmed, and without pausing to reflect, hastened to the spot, and opened the door without knocking. She saw Rose, just rising from her knees, with a book in one hand, and a rosary in the other. Perceiving that she had intruded on her devotions, Emily was retiring in some confusion, when an irresistible desire to comfort her afflicted friend made her pause and turn back. Rose met her at the door, and embraced her without speaking. She, too, was evidently confused and her face was bathed in tears.
"My dearest friend!" said Emily, "will you not allow me to sympathize in your sorrows? You are unhappy, Rose. Oh! that I could comfort, or assist you!"
"Alas! that is beyond your power, my beloved and kind Emily; but I will reveal to you a part of my misery. I have just seen the communicants retire to rest, and watched over the last waking moments of my sweet little Claire; dear, innocent little creatures! they are so holy and happy! I envied them their feelings, for I remembered mine, when placed in the same situation. Oh! I have never been so happy since, for my heart has never been so devoted to God, so free from the influence of sinful thoughts and worldly feelings; and I felt oppressed with a load of insupportable guilt, while Madame d'Elfort's partial commendation overwhelmed me with self-reproach."
Emily could not speak, and after a pause, Rose resumed-" I will not say that this is the only subject which at this moment afflicts me. Oh, no! I have sorrows which I must not now disclose, but which, I dare say, you will one day know. But you do not, you cannot possibly imagine the misery of having a heart so
sinful as mine; and just now, while engaged in prayer for the future happiness of Claire, I felt as if no mortification could ever avail, to make me holy and happy."
The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,'" at length articulated Emily, almost choked with emotion. Rose devoutly crossed herself, and replied,
"I know it, my dear friend; but we must also be purified by penances and mortifications. Oh! if you knew how much I need them!"
Emily durst not pursue the conversation, for she feared to overstep the bounds of prudence; but she could not help weeping bitterly, at the painful restraint thus laid upon her. To divert her attention from the subject, she approached the little bed of Claire. The sweet child had fallen asleep, with the smile of happiness on her lips. Her soft hair, though smoothly combed down, for the purpose of being disposed in plain bandeaux the next morning, had escaped in two or three straggling ringlets down her cheek. "Poor lamb!" thought Emily, as she surveyed her, “must thou, too, be a victim at the shrine of this detestable delusion?" A deep sigh burst from her heart, as she gently pressed her lips on the fair open forehead of Claire. The touch half aroused her; she clasped with her little fingers the hand of Emily, and softly murmured, "Blessed Virgin! make me good and holy like your
Emily could bear no more. She turned hastily away, and embracing Rose, hurried to her own room, there to pour out her heart in earnest supplication, to him who could alone enlighten the minds thus painfully involved in the gloom of error and delusion.
THE FIRST COMMUNION.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.-ISAIAH IV. 2.
THE morning of the première communion was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and, at four o'clock, the children were aroused from their slumbers, to be dressed for the important exhibition.