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ed a view of a blooming wilderness of flowers, Lydia sat down on a moss-covered seat, and began to peruse Hervey's observations. on those beauteous objects.
She had remained some time in this pleasing occupation, when she was startled by the sound of footsteps, and, looking up, perceived the abbé before her. He had a book under his arm, and either was, or pretended to be, surprised at finding her there.
"I beg pardon, mademoiselle, for this intrusion," said he, politely; "I fear I have disturbed you. Pray resume your seat," added he, observing that Lydia was turning to leave the spot.
"Excuse me, sir," she replied, "I had not intended to remain here; but, beguiled by the beauty of the scene, and the contents of a favorite book, I have allowed the time to pass away unobserved." "This is indeed a lovely retreat," remarked the abbé, "and peculiarly favorable both to study and devotion. But, mademoiselle, will you allow me to ask, why you were not present this afternoon, at the repetition of the chapelet?"
“I, sir!” exclaimed Lydia, with unaffected astonishment; "Did you expect to see me there? You must surely be aware that I am not a Roman Catholic."
"Not a Catholic! Impossible! but you are a Frenchwoman, Mademoiselle!"
"No, sir, I am not; and I feel truly surprised that my name alone has not informed you of my origin, even if my language and manners did not."
Lydia uttered this with a tone of mortified pride, for there were few things she disliked more, than the idea of bearing any resemblance to the French.
"Pardon me, Mademoiselle, I have perhaps been wilfully blind; but the wonderful fluency and correctness with which you speak our language, and the purity and elegance of your accent, prevented my suspecting that you were other than a native of France. Your attendance at mass, too, and the sincere devotion so visible in your manner, would have led any one to believe
"Then, sir, you were strangely mistaken," interrupted Lydia, who was not at all satisfied with her own conduct in this very particular, and justly feared that all this flattery was intended to lead to some attack on her principles. She took up her book, and was preparing to leave the grot, when the abbé, gently detaining her, inquired, with an air of the most friendly interest,
And is it possible, Mademoiselle, that you will deliberately remain in the errors of Protestantism, when you are living in the land of true Christianity, and surrounded by faithful Christians?"
"Yes, sir," replied Lydia firmly; for she was resolved, since she could not avoid the contest, to defend her religion with undaunted courage; "I will most willingly remain in those errors, as you unjustly call them."
"I believe," observed the priest, after a moment's pause, "that you do not even pray to the holy Virgin, or request the intercession of the saints."
"No, sir, nor does the Word of God authorize us so to do."
"The Bible!" exclaimed the abbé, raising his hands, with a peculiar expression of countenance, as if greatly shocked by her observation," Oh, Mademoiselle! you too, then, are in the habit of reading that book!"
Lydia felt confused by his manner, but replied, notwithstanding, with unshrinking firmness
"Most assuredly, sir, I read it daily."
"C But, my dear child, since you study the Bible, you must be aware, that the angel Gabriel said to the mother of God- Thou art blessed among women,and that this appellation clearly au thorizes the reverence that is paid to her by the holy church. What reasonable objection can you make to this?"
Lydia paused a moment at this question, and could not forbear trembling, at the idea of her incompetency to answer so powerful an opponent. She silently lifted up her heart in prayer, for divine assistance; then, suddenly recollecting what she had once read on the same subject, replied with animation,
"I shall only remind you, sir, that the very same title was twice applied to Jael, after she had destroyed Sisera; and yet your church, I believe, does not think it necessary to worship her."
The abbé started at this observation, and appeared somewhat disconcerted. Lydia unconsciously opened her book; but resolving not to remain altogether on the defensive, she again looked up, and inquired,
Pray, sir, of what use is confessing to a priest, as the Roman Catholics do?"
"Confession, my dear young lady, is one of those points on which the holy church most strongly insists. It teaches us to humble ourselves, and, in a great measure, prevents the commission of sin.”
"Indeed, sir!" observed Lydia, somewhat archly,-"I could never have supposed so."
The abbé was thoughtful for a few minutes, then inquired, 'with an air of great earnestness,
"If, Mademoiselle, you were assured that our religion was the only true one, would you forsake yours to embrace it?"
I hope I should, sir."
86 Strange!.... then why do you not return to the true faith?" "Because, sir, I am far from being convinced that yours is such.' "But if you were so," artfully rejoined the priest, "it would be difficult for you to throw off the shackles that surround you. Your parents are Protestants, and would no doubt be highly displeased hould manifest you desire to do so." "Perhaps they would, sir; but I hope that not even their disap
probation would prevent me from doing whatever conscience might dictate. However, I feel not the least inclination to make the trial."
"Perhaps," observed the abbé, as if musing, and without appearing to notice her last expression, "perhaps your governess would allow you to go privately to confession; you might abstain from eating meat on fast-days; your parents would know nothing of it; and when you return home, you might still occasionally attend the Catholic service; till, at the end of your minority, you were enabled openly to profess your sentiments."
He seemed waiting for an answer to this insidious speech; but Lydia's mind was too much agitated by conflicting feelings, to allow of her making one. Indignation against the priest, for the perfidious advantage he had thus endeavored to take of her youth and inexperience; shame and vexation, at being thus wilfully misunderstood, and contempt for the disingenuous mode of proceeding he recommended; all strove for pre-eminence in the reply she was meditating, when a step approached the grotto, and Caroline appeared seeking her sister. She started, on seeing Monsieur de Ronceval; but Lydia again raised her averted eyes to his countenance; and, while the flush of resentment on her cheek plainly indicated what was passing in her mind, she took the arm of her sister and coldly bowing to him, silently took the path towards the house.
Arrived in their own chamber, she imparted to Caroline the substance of the conversation in the grotto, and openly avowed her resolution of relating the whole to Madame d'Elfort.
"I am certain," exclaimed she, with her usual warmth," that she would not approve of this mean attempt to subvert the principles of one entrusted to her care."
Caroline had listened to the recital with deep attention, and without making a single comment; but she now advised her sister to forego the intention she had expressed. "It would be foolish," she observed, "to make a stir about it. Monsieur de Ronceval, no doubt, has acted from the best motives; though he was greatly mistaken in his opinion of you. Do not, my dear Lydia, trouble Madame d'Elfort about such a trifle."
Lydia did not feel quite satisfied with her sister's advice; but she at length brought herself to believe that, as Caroline's judgment was superior to hers, it was her duty to yield to her opinion.
They now descended, to join the family in the salon. On passing Madame Dorville's room, the door of which was partly open, Lydia heard the voice of Monsieur de Ronceval, pronouncing her name. She stopped, almost involuntarily, and heard Madame Dorville ask,
"And what answer did she make to this kind proposal of yours?"
"We were interrupted," replied the priest, "before I could ascertain her sentiments; but I think she is well-disposed towards the truth, though the fear of her family restrains her."
"We must try again," observed Madame Dorville; and she was proceeding to make some further remarks on the subject, when Lydia recollected herself, and, ashamed of having been, though almost unintentionally, listening to a private conversation, glided swiftly down the spacious staircase, and soon found herself in the garden.
"It is, then, a concerted plan!" exclaimed she, almost aloud, "and I am the object of this perfidious conspiracy! How can that wicked priest thus misrepresent the truth? But they shall find that I am not the foolish prey they seek. Oh! I wish I could return to S, immediately! But, while I am compelled to remain here, I will avoid all private conversations, and, if they dare to attack me again, I will instantly complain to Madame d'Elfort."
Thus firmly resolved on the conduct she would pursue, and her heart swelling with indignant feelings, she returned to her own room; and, as the agitation of her mind had produced a violent headache, she availed herself of this circumstance, to go to bed immediately, and thus avoided, for that evening, returning to the salon.
They have prepared a net for my steps. They have digged a pit before me.— PSALM lvii. 6.
CHE next morning brought Madame d'Elfort a letter, announcing hat her sister, having been seized with sudden indisposition, was anxious for her return; and, with the promptitude of alarmed affection, she immediately prepared to leave the villa. She gave Caroline and Lydia permission to remain with the Dorvilles, the whole of the time for which they had been invited, and the former gladly availed herself of it, as they were contemplating an excursion to a much-admired spot at some distance; but the lat ter, terrified at the thought of remaining in the midst of danger, entreated so earnestly that she might be permitted to accompany
her governess, that Madame d'Elfort, attributing this anxiety to affection for Madame d'Arblay, with whom she knew Lydia to be a great favorite, kindly undertook to apologize for her hasty departure; and, after some remonstrances from the family, they left the country together.
Lydia felt truly thankful for this providential escape, and still more so, when she found that Madame d'Arblay's illness was not of a serious nature. She did not fail to impa
every circumstance that had occurred to her cousin Emily, who commended her for the prudence she had shown, and approved of her determination, never more to expose herself to temptation, by any unnecessary intercourse with the Dorvilles.
Emily, however, did not communicate to Lydia all the painful and uneasy feelings which this narrative awakened in her own mind. She had, for some time, felt anxious on the subject of Caroline's great intimacy with the Dorvilles; but now, a host of vague and undefined apprehensions took possession of her mind. Fearful, however, of giving
to airy nothings A local habitation, and a naine.
she resolved to confine these thoughts to her own bosom, while, at the same time, she watched the course of passing events, and earnestly prayed that her fears might not be realized.
The following Sunday was a rainy day, and the English girls were deploring the necessity they were under, of remaining at school without enjoying the pleasure of going to chapel: a privilege which, from various motives, they all prized very highly; when little Agnes Beverley, with a look of great perplexity, approached Emily, and requested her advice. She had formed an intimacy with Aline de Saint-Pierre, a French boarder about her own age, and that young lady's mother had requested of Madame d'Elfort to allow her to spend that day with her daughter, at their château, a few leagues from town.
"I am sorry to go on a Sunday," continued Agnes, blushing, "but you know, Miss Mortimer, I cannot refuse, since Madame d'Elfort has consented; for it would be considered extremely rude to a family who have been very kind to me. Yet I wish I could get off from the engagement. Do tell me, dear Miss Mortimer, what I had better do; or, perhaps, you will be kind enough to try and persuade Madame d'Elfort to furnish me with some excuse for not going. I had hoped that, as the day was rainy, I should not be fetched; but Madame de Saint-Pierre's carriage is at the gate, and Aline is dressing, and will soon expect me. What shall I do ?"
"And do you really wish not to go?" inquired Emily, fixing a penetrating glance on the embarrassed countenance of Agnes.