صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


general, and a conventual life in particular; nor did it altogether fail of its effect on those who then witnessed it. The remaining part of the drama, however, was fated to dissolve the charm, and create feelings which could not but serve as an antidote to the subtle poison so skilfully administered.

The young lady was now brought forward, and every heart seemed to throb with painful emotion, as the interesting girl knelt before the altar, and, with suppressed feelings, meekly awaited her fate. A lighted taper was taken from the altar, and put into her hand. The priest then asked her in French, "Ma fille, que demandez-vous?" Her answer to this question was in a prescribed form, but pronounced in so low and faint a voice, that the words could not be distinguished. It seemed, however, that they contained the expression of a wish to become a religieuse, for he again addressed her," Daughter, is it by your own free will, that you now devote yourself to God?" She falteringly replied in the affirmative, and he then asked her two more questions," whether she had made herself sufficiently acquainted with the duties and regulations of the life she was about to embrace ? and whether she was resolved to persevere in it, even to the end of her life?" Her faint and scarcely-uttered replies sealed her dedication, and she was then led into the ante-chaur, to have her hair cut off, and to assume the dress of the order. She seemed scarcely able to stand, and, as she was supported out of the chapel, the utter wretchedness depicted on her pallid countenance struck a chill of horror to every heart. While her bridal dress, the mockery, rather than the expression, of joy, was being removed, and her beautiful hair mereilessly cut off, the other nuns filled up the interval with chantings and recitatives. At length she was led back to the altar, clothed in the black woollen robe, the small close cap and bandeau, and a small cloth veil over her head,

She seemed to have, in a great measure, conquered her agitation; the mournful calmness of forced resignation had succeeded to the traces of conflicting feelings; but the marble paleness of her countenance, and the touching sadness of its expression, appealed with irresistible power to the hearts of the pitying spec


Kneeling once more on the steps of the altar, she was solemnly blessed by the priest, who presented her with the consecrated girdle, to which were attached the rosary and cross, and which the supérieure fastened round her waist. Her cloth veil was then taken off, and replaced by a large muslin one, and, while the supérieure was carefully arranging it in long, graceful folds, the priest addressed her in Latin, and again gave her his blessing.

The supérieure now left her kneeling on the highest steps of the altar, and she was expected to sing a hymn, accompanied only by the organ. She made one or two ineffectual attempts to raise her

voice; but, finding herself unequal to the task, arose, with the sudden impulse of uncontrollable feeling, and rushed precipitately down the steps. The supérieure, alarmed at her evident emotion, hastened towards her, and, taking her hand in a soothing manner, made a sign to sister Marie to join her. She was again led up to the highest step, and they then sang together; but the low and faltering accents of the novice were lost in the more assured tones of her companion. The nuns soon after joined in the anthem, and the voices of the priests completed the chorus, which was closed by a grand finale from the deep-toned organ. The victim of this cruel sacrifice had now recovered her composure, and was led by the supérieure toward the nuns, whom she embraced individually, in token of her being now a member of the sisterhood.

Thus ended this most painful ceremony. Painful, indeed, it must have been to every feeling mind; and this was sufficiently attested, by the indignation depicted on the countenances of the English gentlemen in the chapel, and the tears of sorrow and compassion shed by many of the ladies. It must be distressing under any circumstances, to see a young person thus buried in a clois. ter,-lost to all the endearing ties of society, and the prospect of future usefulness. But, in the present case, it was more than usually painful;—it was made heart-rending, by the impression that the sacrifice was not a voluntary one. Whatever the circumstances might have been, which compelled this young lady thus to immure herself in the joyless seclusion of a convent, it was evident that her heart revolted from it, and that her situation was one that deserved the tenderest pity.

It was true, she might retract her vows, when her year of probation was expired; that is, the law would authorize her in renouncing the monastic life, and reclaiming her liberty, at the end of her noviciate, if she chose to avail herself of its protection. But it is the interest of every person in the convent, to retain within its walls all those who have been admitted into the community; it was most probable that every impediment would be thrown in the way of her obtaining her liberation; and who can doubt the power of a supérieure, in a place where everything is subject to her will, where no person has a right to interfere with her author. ity, and where not even one word of information can be either given or received, without her knowledge and sanction?

But, even supposing that she could succeed in conquering every difficulty, and surmounding every obstacle,-nothing but obloquy and contempt would await her in the world, should she dare to return to it. She would be shunned by every correct Roman Catho lic, and excluded from all respectable society, as an apostate nun, -a person devoid of principle, and who had been guilty of a breach of the most solemn obligations.

Those fatal bonds are, therefore, but too sure, and humanity

must weep at the lot of an unfortunate being, thus condemned to unwilling seclusion, "with all the gloomy trifles of a convent (as a pious modern writer* expresses it), to intervene between her soul and that God, whom to know is life, and light, and joy, and peace."



For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.-1 TIM. ii. 5.

THE cruel sacrifice was completed. The veil was dropped for ever, between the youthful victim, and that world in which she seemed so well fitted to shine; and the English ladies who had witnessed the ceremony, prepared to depart, with hearts oppressed with the most genuine feelings of compassion. The gentlemen who had been present had long since left the chapel,-some wearied out by the length of the performance, and others unable any longer to restrain their feelings of pity and indignation. Among the foremost of these was Major Fortescue, whose manly feelings and Christian principles equally revolted from the scene.

But the sentiments of regret and abhorrence, so visible in the countenances of the spectators, so different from the favorable impression which it had been hoped the exhibition would make on their minds, had not been unnoticed by the officiating priest. It had, as might be supposed, excited his utmost wrath; and he could not let the Protestants withdraw, without venting his displeasure on them, in a public manner. When, therefore, the ceremony was concluded, he addressed them in the following terms:

"We are going to administer the blessing of the holy sacrament, and I request all Protestants immediately to retire. And let them take notice, that, in future, whenever any ceremony shall take place in this chapel, the doors shall be closed against them. They ought never to enter our churches, if they do not know how to conduct themselves more respectfully, during the celebration of our holy mysteries. Why should they come, merely to gratify their curiosity? We never attend their preaching-meetings,→

• Miss Kennedy.

God forbid that we should, indeed! for what could we hear there, .but falsehood and blasphemy?"

Much more did the father utter, of bitter invectives, and unsparing abuse of the Protestant faith; but the English ladies, terri. fied by his enraged manner and violent gestures, precipitately left the chapel, while he continued to thunder out his anathemas against them until they were out of sight. It is most probable that, had the gentlemen still been present, the vindictive priest would not have ventured thus openly to insult them; especially as no cause whatever had been given for so unwarrantable an attack. The most perfect silence and decorum had been observed by the English throughout the whole ceremony; which was not the case with the few French persons present, several of whom had behaved very improperly. But the Protestants had not knelt, nor bowed their faces to the earth, during the elevation of the host; and this, which in itself was an unpardonable crime in the eyes of the Papists, had been still farther aggravated, by the expression of indignation at the sacrifice, and compassion for the helpless victim of spiritual tyranny,which could not have escaped the observation of Father Saville. He had, therefore, seized the moment when he thought he could, without fear of retaliation, vent his rage on the Protestants.

Mrs. Fortescue and Emily went to the door of the convent, and, on being joined by Lydia, Henrietta, and Julia, proceeded to the town, where they found the gentlemen assembled in the English reading-room. They had gone thither, to wait for their wives, sisters, and daughters, and were now discussing the intelligence communicated by the terrified ladies on their arrival. Some were of opinion that the British consul should be called upon to interfere; others talked of complaining to the English government, of the insult offered to British subjects; but the ladies, with one voice, requested that the affair might go no further; and it was, at length, agreed, though not without some difficulty, that the priest's conduct should be passed over in contemptuous silence.

After a pleasant day, spent with Major and Mrs. Fortescue, the cousins unwillingly returned to the gloomy walls of the convent, and the next day resumed their studies as usual, Bnt Emily and Lydia had many a hard-fought conflict with Miss Smithson, who insisted that the conduct of the Protestants in the chapel had fully warranted Father Saville in his violent animadversions upon them. This young lady's manner of attempting to make a convert was, indeed, anything but attractive, or likely to succeed. The nuns in the school were wiser; they confined their endeavors, with the elder pupils, to casual observations on the beauty, sanctity, and blessedness of their religion; or short exhortations, delivered in a kind and caressing manner, calculated to mislead the judgment, and ensnare the warm affections of youth. With the younger

children, however, they were not so scrupulous, as will be seen from the following circumstances, which occurred soon after.

It will be recollected that Clara Somers had told Emily that the priest and nuns were very busy, preparing the three little girls for confession; that they had for some time been using every means to induce her also to comply with this ordinance of their church; but that she had declared her determination never to do so. Now that the bustle, occasioned by the late important ceremonies, had subsided, the sisters renewed their efforts with redoubled zeal, and a day was appointed for admitting them to the confessional. Over little Fanny and Mary Lowe they had long exercised the most unbounded influence, and they were, therefore, sure of them; but with Ellen Wilton, and especially Clara, much skilful management was still necessary to carry their point. The former, indeed, was tolerably tractable; but the latter, as yet, continued proof against both their caresses and their threats.

They were conducted every morning to Father Saville's breakfast-room, where Ellen was easily bribed, by presents of cakes and sweetmeats, to promise whatever he required.

"Now tell me, my sweet little girls," said the priest to them, the morning before the day appointed for the confession, "are you quite resolved to become good Catholics to-morrow, and to enter that church in which alone you can hope for salvation ?"

"Yes, father," replied Ellen, sipping, with much satisfaction, a cup of café-au-lait, which he had given her.

"Let me hear you repeat your Confiteor, your Pater, and your Ave, my child."

The little girl did so, and he patted her head in approbation. "You will come to me at the confessional, then, by nine o'clock to-morrow morning, and be careful to prepare yourself beforehand, by calling to your remembrance every sin you can possibly recollect ?"

"I will, father," said the docile Ellen, as she took from his hand a box of bonbons, and a cluster of tempting raisins.

The priest extended his hand, and gave the child his blessing; then, turning to Clara, who had stood rather sullenly in a corner and refused his proffered gifts, he drew her gently to him, and tried the same arts upon her again.


Father," said the candid Clara, "do not waste your gifts upon me, for I tell you again, as I have already done many times, that I will not confess, nor become a member of your church."

"But why not, my little perverse heretic ?" inquired the father, hiding his impatience under an appearance of winning kindness. "Do you not know that, if you remain in your false religion, you must inevitably perish ?"

"I cannot answer you, father, nor give you any other reason than this, that I have been brought up a Protestant, that my father

« السابقةمتابعة »