« السابقةمتابعة »
pened to be at this time, that Madame d'Elfort, Emily, and Lydia went to pay them a visit.
They entered a small shop, plentifully furnished with drugs of all kinds; for the sisters exercised the science of Pharmacy in the utmost perfection, and not only sold medicines for the benefit of the institution, but distributed them gratis to the poor. Emily and Lydia were immediately struck with the extreme neatness that reigned in every part of the establishment. "How nicely everything is arranged!" whispered Lydia to her cousin ; "Oh, how it reminds me of dear, happy England!" Emily gave her a smile of assent, and followed Madame d'Elfort to the counter. Behind it stood a middle aged woman, of a placid and agreeable countenance, and distinguished by that peculiar dress which they had so often observed in the street. It consisted of a coarse black woollen garment, a white handkerchief and apron, and a large cap, of a singular form, the long ends of which were turned up, and then again allowed to fall over. in a manner certainly not very graceful, but to which novelty, and the interest excited by the wearer's character, seemed to impart something like a charm.
Madame d'Elfort approached the nun, and addressed her with familiar kindness. My dear sister," said she," I have brought you two of my pupils, who are exceedingly enchanted with your mode of life, and very desirous of becoming better acquainted with you. We should be glad to rest a little in your parlor, and if sister Lucie is not gone out, I shall have much pleasure in conversing with her."
The nun bowed in a graceful manner, and moved towards an inner door. As she passed by Emily she addressed her with a smile: "Mademoiselle has some knowledge, I presume, of our order, and its objects."
“A little,” replied Emily, "and I very much approve the latter. It must, however, I think, frequently prove a great trial of fortitude, and require peculiar support from heaven."
"It does indeed," rejoined the nun, "but we bear it all with cheerfulness; for our motive is the love of God, and that sweetens every painful circumstance."
Emily's eyes filled with tears; this was a language peculiarly affecting to her heart; and it was the first sentiment of the kind she had yet heard from a French person.
"It is true," said she, with animation, “ that we can never do enough for him who has done so much for us ;" and she passed with Madame d'Elfort, into the little inner apartment.
Here a young woman was sitting near a window, and rose on their entrance. She seemed about twenty-two, and the visitors could not but admire the uncommon loveliness of her person. There was an air of sadness in her countenance, which immediately interested the feelings of Emily; and the graceful elegance
of her manners denoted her a person of no common education. She had evidently been weeping, though she instantly assumed a tone of cordiality and cheerfulness. Madame d'Elfort took her hand, with affectionate freedom, but started at sight of the tears which still glistened in her dark blue eyes.
'My dearest Lucie," exclaimed she," what can be the matter? You have been in tears !"
"Oh! it was nothing of any consequence,-nothing really painful, at least," replied the interesting religieuse.
"Yet I have seldom seen you weep, sister Lucie, and your tears must have had some cause."
"I am, perhaps, very foolish, my dear Madame d'Elfort; but I will tell you what affected me, and you will see that there is no reason for your anxiety. Our annual vow expired last Monday, and these are the intermediate days, during which we are to decide upon the renewal of the engagement. I may indeed say, that they are the only miserable days in the year to me; and I never longed so much for anything, as I do for their termination. The bond which unites me to Jesus Christ and his church seems to be dissolved: I no longer appear to belong to him, and the very idea is fraught with inexpressible anguish. I have scarcely slept since the commencement of this dreary interim, and shall not en joy one moment's peace or pleasure, 'till the re-uniting of the severed tie restores me to the blessed service I would not quit for a crown."
Sister Lucie wiped the starting tears from her eyes, as she ceased speaking, and Madame d'Elfort cast on her pupils a look of unutterable meaning. Emily gazed for a moment, with surprise and almost veneration, at the beautiful enthusiast before her; a crowd of confused and indefinable feelings succeeded each other rapidly in her mind; and she could only return the pressure of Lydia's hand, and cast her eyes on the ground, fearful of betraying the sensations which she felt ought not to be disclosed.
"My dear Lucfe," observed Madame d'Elfort, seating herself beside the religieuse," I am glad it is nothing more serious; but you really quite alarmed me. Remember, my love, that external vows can add nothing to the strength of that heavenly bond, by which you are united to the Lord; your heart and soul are devoted to his cause, and he will only esteem your services the more for their being voluntary, and reward your attachment to the church and himself with the greater liberality.-But come," continued she, presenting Emily and Lydia, "you must allow me to introduce. two of my pupils, who are very great admirers of your virtues and devotedness."
The nun turned towards them, with an air of peculiar vivacity and frankness, and made several inquiries, which led to a general conversation. Her language was elegant, yet simple; her obser
rations full of intelligence; and there was an expression of sensibility in everything she said, which threw an indescribable charm over her interesting figure. Emily and Lydia could not help frequently glancing at her face, and felt irresistibly attracted by this singular being.
Madame d'Elfort conversed with her, on the different scenes of suffering and misery she daily witnessed; and sister Lucie spoke of her labors among the poor, with an enthusiasm which soon made its way to the hearts of her youthful auditors. Emily asked herself, as she looked at her glowing countenance-" What is the spring from whence flows all this devotedness of heart and life? Is it genuine piety, or dark-minded superstition ?-is it scriptural love to God and man, springing from a vital principle of grace in the soul, or a slavish, self-righteous hope, of securing heaven by such works?" There was too much reason to fear the latter, from the corrupt and anti-scriptural tenets of the church to which sister Lucie belonged; yet there was something so apparently humble and self-denying in her life and character, and she spoke so sweetly of love to God, as softening and hallowing every painful duty, till it became a source of the purest delight, that Emily could not but indulge the pleasing hope, that she might be a sincere and devoted follower of the Lamb.
After half-an-hour's conversation, the visitors rose to depart. Sister Lucie took the hands of Emily and Lydia, and, pressing them in a manner which denoted the deepest feeling, said, with a halfsorrowful smile, "Let me hope that I shall have the pleasure of seeing you occasionally. I should be happy indeed, if I could be the means of guiding such sweet lambs to the fold of the good Shepherd." Emily returned the pressure in silence, and hurried away. There was a sort of fascination in everything the religi euse uttered; she felt that her heart was too much moved,-that there was danger in remaining longer in her society, and was glad when the fresh air in some measure relieved the oppression of her feelings, and a return home enabled her to reflect with coolness on the scene she had just witnessed.
THE YOUTHFUL BACKSLIDER.
Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know, therefore, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God.-JER II. 19.
EMILY did not trust herself to speak, during their walk, lest she should "speak unadvisedly." Lydia's heart was full, and often rose to her lips; but, fearful of doing wrong, by giving vent to her feelings, she thought it best to imitate her companion's silence, for she knew it was not without meaning; and, in doubtful cir cumstances, she often made it a point to regulate her conduct by her cousin's looks. Madame d'Elfort was also silent, apparently waiting for some observation from her pupils, and evidently sur prised at their taciturnity. On re-entering her own house, however, she led the way into the garden, and inquired “how they liked what they had seen of the bonnes sœurs ?"
They seem to be a very interesting order,” replied Emily, the tears of excited feeling unconsciously starting to her eyes; "and if their motives are as pure as their actions are praiseworthy, they must certainly be considered as truly exalted characters."
"How can their motives be otherwise than pure?" inquired Madame d'Elfort, with the accent of surprise. "Is it not for the love of God, that they thus devote themselves to a life of self-denial?-that they renounce all the advantages of fortune, birth, and education, all the luxuries, and even comforts of life-that they submit with cheerfulness to every kind of humiliation, every trial of fortitude, every occasion of disgust, and stoop to every de grading office, to supply the wants of the destitute, and alleviate the woes of the miserable? Have we not just witnessed a most affecting proof of the ardor and purity of their charity, in the conduct of sister Lucie !"
"Their employment is indeed a noble one," said Emily, wishing to drop the conversation, for she knew not how to answer. She could have told Madame d'Elfort, that it was possible for a person to "bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and even give his body to be burned," and yet be destitute of that heaven-born charity, that living principle of divine love, without which the most splendid actions are but "as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." She could have told her that it was possible for self-love to poison the springs of benevolence; and that if the bonnes sœurs were thus
going about to establish their own righteousness," and seeking to work out for themselves a title to the heavenly inheritance, they would, in the great day of account, find their boasted virtues
to be indeed "but filthy rags," and having "compassed themselves about with sparks," would at length be condemned to "lie down in sorrow." All this she felt, and could have wished to say; but she remembered how awfully the church to which Madame d'Elfort belonged, had departed from the truth, on that very subject; she shrunk from the task of thus openly arraigning her governess's principles; and, yielding to a blameable, but too natural timidity, retired to her own room, to avoid further conversation.
Here she employed herself for some time, in moderating, by scripture arguments, the effect of the recent occurrence on the audent mind of Lydia. It was well for the latter, that she was ver anxious to bring every doubtful point to the touchstone of inspiration; and, convinced, by that unerring word, of the radical errors of the Romish church, she soon learned to distinguish between its doctrines, and the beautiful instances of individual piety, which it sometimes presents to the impartial observer. "Oh! Emily," said the warm-hearted girl, "what a pity it is, that so lovely a character as sister Lucie should belong to so corrupt and unscriptural a church! What would I not give, to see her a Protestant! But I hope she will be saved at last!-don't you, cousin Emily?"
"If she is a Christian, my dear Lydia, and places her whole dependence on the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, she will certainly be saved. But you know it is of very little moment, whether we arc Protestants or Roman Catholics if we are not the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.'"
This observation, which Emily uttered with a gentle, but mournful emphasis, seemed to turn the current of Lydia's feelings. A slight flush appeared on her cheek, and she turned towards the window, with a half-suppressed sigh. She took up a book, as if to read, then threw it hastily away, and began to adjust her disordered hair. Caroline at that moment entered the room, and, with a smiling countenance, held up to her cousin a beautiful landscape, which she had finished drawing. Emily had just begun to examine it, when she observed Louisa and Helen entering arm in arm, through another door. The drawing called forth several expressions of admiration; but Lydia, who had now recovered all her vivacity, soon attracted every one's attention, by relating the occurrences of their morning ramble. She described sister Lucie in all the glowing colors which her enthusiastic mind gave to every object that interested her; and her attentive auditors soon caught some portion of her feelings; but, starting on a sudden, she sprang towards her sister, exclaiming, "Caroline! are you ill?"
Every eye was immediately turned to the spot, and the utmost alarm was excited. The ashy paleness of death had spread itself over Caroline's countenance; her lips quivered, her eyes closed,