صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

CHAPTER XVI.

SCHOOL PERSECUTION.

But, as then, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.-GAL. iv. 29.

THE employments of the school resumed their usual settled and peaceful order, and Emily occasionally enjoyed the pleasure of a little conversation with Rose, but was inexpressibly grieved to find that the shade of sorrow, which she had so often observed before on her countenance, had now deepened into a gloom which overspread her character, and gave a tinge of melancholy sadness to all her actions. Her attention to religious observances seemed doubly fervent, and the almost austere expression which overshadowed her fair, open brow, every day gave opportunity for satire to her gay and irreligious companions. The taunting appellation of Saint Rose was that by which she was now commonly addressed, by most of the French, and sometimes by many of the English girls. The patient meekness with which she strove to bear these malicious sarcasms, only seemed to give confidence to her youthful tormentors, and the poor girl evidently suffered many a painful conflict, in maintaining the dominion over feelings naturally acute, and even somewhat irritable.

It was the custom of the house, that the Roman Catholics should attend early mass every morning, confess every month, and occasionally spend some hours in the church, for the purpose of retirement and public devotion. They were always attended by one of the teachers, or by Madame d'Elfort herself. On one of these occasions, they had remained somewhat longer than usual, and, as breakfast had been delayed on their account, a group of anxious inquirers surrounded them on their return, to ask the cause of their having been thus detained. Mademoiselle Laval, who had escorted the party, immediately explained it, much to their amusement.

"We were coming away more than a quarter of an hour ago," said she, "had not Rose de Liancourt prevented us. She had been the last at her devotions, and we had been obliged to summon her away from the Virgin's chapel; but, just as we reached the Cathedral door, she accosted me with one of her imploring looks. 'Oh, mademoiselle, do pray allow me to return, for one instant, to the altar!-I have totally forgotten a very important petition, which I wished to present to God.' I could not resist the little simpleton's entreaty, but we all wished her prayers somewhat shorter, for she is, really, very tiresome, though her naïveté is so infinitely amusing."

A general burst of laughter, from her giddy auditors, followed

this speech of the good-natured but thoughtless teacher; and many were the arch glances, and satirical remarks, of which poor Rose was the object, both from the Protestants and Roman Catholics. Madame d'Elfort, indeed, knew nothing of all this. Her veneration for the ordinances of her church, and her high sense of external religion, would have led her to bestow unqualified praise on the earnest and absorbing devotion of her pupil, and to censure severely those who made a jest of what they ought to have imitated; but much of what passes in a large establishment must inevitably remain unknown to the person who presides over it.

She did not ask any question respecting the unusual delay that had occurred, though it necessarily occasioned a great deal of bustle, as the day happened to be one of those set apart every month, for the examination of the pupils. They were required, on that day, to write down from memory the substance of all they had learnt from history during the preceding month, and the same system was pursued with regard to geography, and most of their other studies. These exercises occupied the whole school-time, and in the evening, several pupils who had not finished, were allowed to remain in the school-room, under the care of a teacher, in order that they might complete their task. Among these last were Emily and Rose. The former, whose anxiety to do justice to her subject had prolonged her labors, but whose quickness of memory and capacity enabled her to get through them without much difficulty, had leisure occasionally to look around her, and to observe the intense attention which the latter bestowed on her work. She had a long analysis to write, of a particularly difficult portion of history; and the deep thoughtfulness, and often distressing expression of her countenance, denoted that her recollec tions were sometimes perplexed. So entirely was she absorbed in her employment, that she heeded nothing of what was passing around her; but her mild eyes were often raised to heaven, as if supplicating assistance from thence, and she crossed herself with fervor, and uttered a silent ejaculation. Two or three of her school-fellows, who sat opposite to her, had for some time watched her, with looks of satirical observation. At length, Clémentine Vermont exclaimed, in a tone expressive of pique, as well as ridicule," Upon my word, Mademoiselle de Liancourt, your devotion is quite edifying; but I should feel obliged by your behaving a little more like other people, and not disturbing us in our studies, by your ostentatious use of the sign of the cross, when there is no necessity at all for such a display."

Rose started from her deep musing, and fixed her eyes on the face of the speaker. "No necessity, Clémentine !-I know not how far that assertion may be correct in your case, but I assure you that in mine it is a great mistake. I find my own unassisted powers so entirely inadequate to the right performance of my

duties, both great and small, but I am thankful I have the privilege of seeking help from on high. Why, then, should you call that ostentation, which our church commands us to use on every occasion of difficulty, or of need, whether it arise from the greater, or more minute occurrences of life ?"

"That is truly said," observed Mademoiselle Laval, whose religious feelings, and natural candor, were thus called forth, by Rose's appeal to the church. "We ought, indeed, to ask the Holy Virgin's help in every time of need, and the church teaches that the sign of the cross is a most effectual remedy against all perplexities. Rose is therefore much to be praised, for using it to assist her memory; and you, Clémentine, ought to imitate, rather

than find fault with her."

Clémentine tossed her head in disdain, and muttered some illnatured remark, about "pretended saints," and "hypocrites."

Poor Rose was far from enjoying the satisfaction, which the teacher's rebuke to Clémentine, and approbation of her own con. duct, might have seemed calculated to give her. She had been accused of ostentation and hypocrisy-a subject on which she was peculiarly vulnerable. She bent down her head, in sorrowful dejection, and her tears dropped on her writing. She hastily finished her exercise, and, delivering it to Mademoiselle Laval, hurried out of the school-room.

In passing through the salle à manger, she encountered Mademoiselle St. André, who, observing her flushed cheek and swollen eyes, tauntingly inquired "what was the matter with Saint Rose?" This obnoxious appellation, so often deprecated, and so unfeelingly persisted in, roused the indignation of its object to the highest pitch; and a very warm altercation ensued, in which both teacher and scholar forgot their relative situations. In the midst of passionate remonstrances on the one hand, and provoking reproaches on the other, Emily entered from the school-room, and, making an apology to Mademoiselle St. André, drew away Rose to her own apartment. Here the poor girl gave way to the vio lence of her over-wrought feelings, in a paroxysm of tears and sobs. Emily embraced, and gently strove to soothe her; but in this she could not succeed, till the agony of her mind, having exhausted herself, gave place to the paleness and langour of dejection. Seeing her, at length, restored to some degree of composure, Emily seized the opportunity of representing to her, how much she had transgressed against her duty, both as á scholar and a Christian, in allowing her passions thus to obtain the mastery over her principles, and affectionately urged the necessity of her making a proper submission to Mademoiselle St. Andre.

Rose immediately acknowledged her fault, and consented to make the utmost reparation in her power; she sought not to palliate her misconduct, but, after having recourse to her usual invo

cation-the sign of the cross-went in search of the offended teacher, and humbly requested her forgiveness.

The same evening, after supper, the whole school were allowed to walk in the garden, and amuse themselves in whatever way was most congenial to their inclinations. The scene was rich in moonlight beauty, and the air of soft repose that pervaded every object, joined to the lavish perfumes of spring, and the tender melody of the nightingale, seemed to shed a kind of enchantment over the whole landscape. Some of the young ladies retired to the different bosquets scattered through the garden, to enjoy the society and conversation of their friends; but they were recalled by Madame d'Elfort, who insisted that they should either dance or walk, in order to prevent their taking cold. The greater number, therefore, engaged in an animated and noisy ronde, in the open central space, which was surrounded, and almost over-arched, by the thick foliage of clustering limes. A few, however, preferred the quiet enjoyment of a ramble, and among this number were Emily and Rose, who, having sought each other out, struck into the most retired walk, and gladly left behind the merriment of the giddy group.

"I have made my humble apology to Mademoiselle St. Andre," said Rose, as, leaning on the arm of Emily, she entered a narrow embowered path, fragrant with roses and mignonette, "and now let me entreat your pardon, my dearest, best friend, for the trouble and vexation I have given you by my violence. Oh! if you knew what conflicts, what misery I often endure, from my unsubdued feelings, you would indeed pity me! But you cannot form an adequate idea of my difficulties, for your own disposition is so gentle, so calm, that you can seldom be in danger of losing the equanimity of so well regulated a mind."

"Alas! my dear Rose, you greatly mistake the matter. Few persons, I think, have stronger passions than myself, or more need of watchfulness, to keep them within the bounds of Christian obedience. But the grace of God is all-sufficient, and if we implore the mighty influences of his Holy Spirit, we shall find 'his strength made perfect in our weakness.'"

"I bless God that it is so," replied Rose, devoutly crossing her self,-"O yes! I can bear testimony to the truth of your observation. I am a poor, weak, helpless creature, and should be continually falling into sin, did not the blessed Virgin assist me; but. alas! I am sadly deficient in watchfulness over my own heart. Accept my most fervent gratitude, for your kind interference this morning, and, if it is not presuming too much on your friendship, allow me to entreat, dearest Miss Mortimer, that you will still take the trouble to watch over and reprove me. I shall also beg of my confessor to enjoin me a very severe penance for this day's fault." "I wish, Rose, you would look more simply to God," said Emily.

with a deep sigh of vexation, at the singular mixture of truth and error in her friend's ideas; but, instantly remembering the dangerous ground she was treading on, she checked herself, and inquired what circumstance it was, which had so painfully ruffled her temper in the morning.

"The old subject of contention, that distressing appellation which my tormentors know so well I cannot endure. I am fully aware, indeed, that it is only bestowed upon me in scorn; yet I feel that its application to such a creature as myself is both shocking and profane; and the idea of that name, and the sacred cause of religion, being thus dishonored by my faults, is what pierces my heart with the most insufferable anguish."

"I feel very sincerely for your distress, dearest Rose; but, if we would be Christians, we must expect to be reviled, even as our adorable Saviour was; and He has pronounced those 'blessed,' who are thus persecuted for his sake."

"Oh yes! but I am not worthy of such an honor," exclaimed Rose, clasping her hands, and raising her meek and tearful eyes to heaven. "Oh! if you knew me, Emily! if you did but know what a sinful creature I am, you would feel as much shocked at the profanation as I do! Let them call me hypocrite, or any other vile name, as often as they please,-let them abase my self-love, or wound my feelings, and I shall strive to bear it patiently, as a salutary penance: but never, oh! never let them dishonor the sacred name of saint, by coupling it with mine!"

They had now reached a small secluded seat, at the end of the walk, and the beauty and tranquillity of the scene tempted Emily to sit down. Rose leant against the hedge of rose bushes, and sobbed with irrepressible emotion. Emily pressed her hand, but, though her tears dropped on it, in silent sympathy, her heart was too full for utterance. The youthful mourner at length threw herself into her arms, and it was long ere she could regain her wonted calmness.

"You are the only person in this house," said she at length, "who seems to understand my feelings, and I thank the blessed Virgin every day, for having given me such a friend; and yet, because you are not a Catholic, I have been compelled to maintain the most unpleasant reserve towards you. But I will do so no longer; I will confide my sorrows to your kind and compassionate bosom, and entreat from you that counsel and assistance which I so often need. Your faithful admonitions have this day confirmed my dependence on your friendship, and I will converse freely with you, on every subject but the forbidden one of religion. Would that I could throw away all reserve on that also!"

Emily had not sought this confidence from her friend; yet she certainly felt desirous of knowing more of her situation. It was evidently a painful one, and a nobler feeling than curiosity induced

« السابقةمتابعة »