صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

to display; and her heart turned with disgust from a scene which appeared to her little better than mockery.

The service, however, proceeded, and she began to feel its fascinating power. The music was not only exquisitely beautiful, but peculiarly solemn and affecting. Her senses were soon chained in a sort of unconscious rapture, and the reality of the scene seemed lost, in a thousand ecstatic feelings. The great bell tolled slowly the hour of Midnight; it was answered by the loud chanting of the priests, the swelling anthems of the singers, and the thunder ing peals of the organ. The scene, the hour, the music, all conspired to overwhelm the mind with a kind of transporting awe. Emily closed her eyes, and was scarcely conscious of her own existence, when her attention was arrested by a deep-drawn sigh, and, turning round with a start, she saw Caroline supported by Mademoiselle Laval, who had with some difficulty prevented her from falling. The fainting girl was immediately conveyed to the outer door for air, and as soon as she was sufficiently recovered, the whole party returned to Madame d'Elfort's. The next morning, on being told that Miss Howard had been so much affected by the ceremony as to have been conveyed out of the church in a fainting state, that lady took the opportunity of expatiating, with evident triumph, on the solemnity of the Catholic service, and its peculiar adaptation to the worship of a great and glorious God. No remarks were made in answer; but Emily could not divest herself of an undefined feeling of uneasiness, when she reflected on the effect which these things seemed invariably to produce on the mind of Caroline.

The morning of Christmas-day was one of bustle and prepara tion. The Roman Catholics spent nearly the whole of the day in church, and the Protestants were allowed to attend chapel in the morning. They dined together on their return, and the kindness of Madame d'Elfort favored them with roast beef, instead of boiled, as a treat, in memory of English Christmas dinners. This was an unusual occurrence, and the children enjoyed it accordingly; but many a sorrowful lamentation was uttered, for the nice plum-puddings of dear England, and, above all, for the merry gambols, and joyous family parties, which so generally distinguish and endear that day.

The weather being very fine, they were taken in the afternoon to see various exhibitions in miniature, consisting of small mangers, in which were laid dolls, dressed like infants in swaddling clothes, and surrounded by others, intended to represent the Virgin, Joseph, and the wise men of the east. This is a very favorite amusement at Christmas, and is resorted to by many of the poor, for the purpose of collecting small sums of money, by exhibiting these mangers to their richer neighbors. The young ladies were then sent into the school-room, where they were required to study

till supper-time, in order to prepare for the monthly examinations, which were to take place in a few days. Thus ended Christmasday, and the English girls who had remained in the house retired to bed, fatigued and dispirited, and breathing the ardent wish, that the next might be spent within the hallowed precincts of their own happy homes.

Three or four months now glided away, without any material change in the sentiments or conduct of the little English party. Emily continued to pursue a steady course of unostentatious usefulness. Caroline was as reserved as before, and, though she paid the same attention to her religious duties, invariably shunned all conversation on serious subjects. But her silence was unspeakably distressing to Emily, who saw that she was perplexed and unhappy. Emily, however could discover no positive grounds, on which she might found an application for their removal from school; and she therefore waited, with indescribable anxiety, for the expiration of their allotted year, applying, at the same time, with the most intense and unceasing attention, to the acquisition of the language, in order that no pretext might be found for their being condemned to a longer stay.

Lydia and Helen continued to seek her society, and listen with interest to her advice; but, alas! they seldom reduced to practice the instructions they so much loved. Their actions were too generally guided by passion or feeling, or influenced by circumstances; and, as their wavering minds were perpetually tossed to and fro, with every wind of temptation, they frequently experienced that painful alarm and depression of soul which invariably attend an unsettled religious state.

Louisa maintained a tolerable consistency of conduct; but she, too, was far from being happy. She neglected the habitual watchfulness which is so necessary to a holy and comfortable walk; and the inevitable consequence was, a too frequent yielding to the more subtle temptations which surrounded her. The volatile Emma had now fallen into all the gay and pernicious customs of the French; and little Agnes Beverley was not only immersed in the frivolities of the place, but daily imbibing the spirit of Roman Catholic error and delusion.

The austerities of Lent had been mitigated to the English, so far as to allow the use of meat three times a week. But this abstinence was now drawing to a close, and the joy of the Catholics was too great to admit of concealment. They looked forward to Easter, as to a season of feasting, with an eagerness which furnished a striking proof of the absurdity and uselessness of compulsatory restrictions.

Good Friday is the only day in the year, on which mass is not celebrated-it being asserted by the church, that the expiating sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ is renewed on that day, in a

peculiar and efficacious manner. Emily did not neglect the opportunity of pointing out to her friends the passages of scripture she had herself examined on the subject, and which so decidedly contradict this antichristian notion, by declaring that "Christ was once offered, to bear the sins of many," that "he offered one sacrifice for sins," and that" by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." They read together the ninth and tenth chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, which so expressly condemn the idolatry of the mass, and even Caroline agreed in the unavoidable conclusions to be drawn from them.

The evening before Good Friday, a singular arrangement was made at the Cathedral. The great altar was overhung with a magnificent canopy, and ornamented with wreaths of artificial flowers. The whole was illuminated with a great number of tapers, and the box containing the sacramental wafer deposited in the midst, surrounded with flowers, and perfumed with incense. This was called Paradise, and intended to represent the Saviour's rest in the tomb. During the morning-service, the Cathedral was suddenly darkened, to imitate that mysterious and awful gloom which shrouded the face of nature, when the earth trembled to its foundations, and the affrighted sun retreated from the view of his Maker's sufferings.

[ocr errors]

The English pupils were allowed to attend the Protestant chapel in the morning and some of them afterwards accompanied a teacher to hear an afternoon sermon in the cathedral. The preacher was a good orator, and exhausted all the powers of his rhetoric to describe the Redeemer's passion. But how cold, how lifeless, did the whole performance appear to Emily, for it had none of that sweet savor of the gospel; none of that simple, but touching eloquence, which, borrowing all its energy from the pure word of God, appeals with irresistible force to the heart While describing that part of the Saviour's sufferings, when his murderers, fearing, perhaps, that he might expire under the weight of his cross, and thus frustrate their cruel purpose, compelled Simon the Cyrenian to assist him in bearing it, the preacher informed his hearers that this action was a significant emblem, representing the necessity which believers were under, of completing the work of their salvation, by the aid of voluntary sufferings, mortifications, and acts of self-denial.

"Oh!" thought Emily, shocked at this blasphemous assertion, "how deplorable would be my condition, if, instead of striving after holiness with a view to glorify God, and evince my gratitude for that finished salvation which he has wrought out, I were reduced to the necessity of accomplishing it myself! Alas! I must inevitably perish, if Christ alone cannot save me!

She turned an inquiring look on Caroline's countenance. It denoted great perplexity of thought, and its prevailing expression

[ocr errors][merged small]

was one of deep mental distress. The tears rushed to Emily's eyes, and her heart became solely occupied with anxiety for her cousin, till, at the conclusion of the service, they returned to Madame d'Elfort's.

In the evening, it was proposed to visit the cathedral once more, for the purpose of surveying at leisure the beautiful paradise. A glowing description of it had been given by those young ladies who had before witnessed similar exhibitions, and Emily resolved to go with the others, if she could first ascertain that no semblance of idolatrous worship would be exacted at the altar. She inquired of Miss Lushington, and one or two others, who replied, that they had knelt like the French, but could not say whether or not it was absolutely necessary. She, therefore, approached Madame d'Elfort, who was sitting alone in a window recess, and, seating herself by her side, entered into conversation with her. The subject of the exhibition being soon introduced, the governess kindly invited her pupil to see it, assuring her it would well repay her curiosity.

"I should like to go," said Emily, timidly, "but, Madame, is it expected that every one should kneel?"

Madame d'Elfort turned on her pupil a scrutinizing glance. "Surely," observed she, "you would not think of approaching so sacred and affecting a representation, in any other posture than a kneeling one?"

Emily's eyes were instantly bent on the ground, and she returned no answer. This silence would soon have become unpleasant to both parties, had not Madame d'Elfort's sister, who reded with her, called away her attention to some other subject. This lady was, in many respects, different from her sister, and had much more of the character of her nation. She was very handsome, gay, and thoughtless, but exceedingly amiable, kindhearted, and indulgent to excess. She was a universal favorite with the young ladies; for they could often obtain from her what they would scarcely have dared to ask from any one else.

Emily was retiring to her own room, when this lady inquired, "if she would accompany a party of young ladies, who were going to the cathedral under her guidance ?"

Emily thanked her politely, but informed her that she had no tention of going.

So much the worse for you!" exclaimed Madame d'Arblay, turning away with quickness, and evidently piqued at the refusal.

66

Why, surely, Miss Mortimer," observed Fanny Gordon, who was putting on her bonnet to go, "you will not lose the opportu nity of seeing so magnificent a sight!"

"I cannot go,” replied Emily, " for my principles will not allow me to bow the knee to an idol."

[ocr errors]

"What hypocrisy!" exclaimed Miss Parker, with a sneer, as she hurried past on her way to the church. Fanny Gordon and Catharine Stanhope shrugged their shoulders, with a contemptuous smile, and even the good-natured Miss Lushington's countenance assumed an expression of pity.

"Nonsense, Emily!" observed she, "if your scruples are so very great, you may at least venture to go with Madame d'Arblay. You know she is very indulgent, and I am sure she will not scold, even if you remain standing. Come, do be persuaded, and don't make yourself so ridiculous.'

"Thank you, dear Anna, for your kind solicitude on my account, but I think it is safer not to tempt the danger." So saying she was ascending the staircase, when she again met Madame d'Arblay who was followed by Caroline.

"You will not, then, accompany your cousin, Mademoiselle Mortimer?" inquired that lady, as she drew Caroline's arm into hers, and, with a bland smile, offered the other to Emily.

+

A sudden revulsion of feeling caused the blood to rush from Emily's cheek to her heart. She felt an irresistible desire to observe Caroline's conduct at the cathedral, and, requesting Ma dame d Arblay to wait for her a moment, hurried on her cloak and bonnet, and rejoined her in the hall.

Both the cousins were much agitated, and Emily scarcely al lowed herself to think. When they entered the cathedral, Louisa, Helen, and Lydia, approached her in the crowd, with looks of

consternation.

"Oh! Miss Mortimer!" exclaimed they, "what shall we do? We could not, you know, refuse to come; bnt shall we be obliged to kneel?"

"You cannot, surely, think of doing so!" replied she, with earnestness, yet feeling, at the same time, self-condemned, at the consciousness that she herself was running into temptation. The two parties were immediately separated, and, pressing her hand on her throbbing heart, as if she could thus calm the agitation of her thoughts, she tremblingly followed Madame d'Arblay to the high altar.

A feeling of indescribable awe crept over her, as she contemplated the illusive pageant. Her excited imagination was not proof against the imposing splendor and solemn silence of the place. Convinced as she felt, of the real mockery concealed der this apparent reverence, she could not entirely resist the fas cinating spell which it was so well calculated to throw over the senses. She cast a hasty glance around her, and observed the other party not far from her, with Mdlle. Laval at their head They wore all on their knees, except Louisa and Lydia, whose bending posture seemed intended as a sort of compromise be tween fear and duty.

« السابقةمتابعة »