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given to all of us, to know each other thoroughly in mind and heart, we should have much to forgive, to forget, to pity, and to excuse."
As she finished speaking, she turned quickly from him and disappeared.
"Again-again-and oft again-my love!
We promise, hope, believe, there breathes despair."
ON the outskirts of the cathedral town of Tthere stood, at the time in which we write, a convent, encircled by a large garden, and enclosed by a thick high wall. There was nothing remarkable but this in the town to attract public attention, and it stood solemn and solitary, placed apart from the rest of the busy, active community, who passed, re-passed and fomented around it in their daily motions.
Let us look within those walls, and discover what their impassibility and solidity conceals from our mundane sight.
A large and heavy square stone building rises in the middle of this enclosure, the long, narrow windows of which are protected by massive iron bars, forming over them a sort of trellis-work. The principal entrance looks into a spacious, paved court; in the centre is erected an alarm-bell, intended to be used to call the nuns to their several duties. The other three views of the convent look out upon the garden; round one side
of it is a stone arcade, at the end of which there are thin wire gratings; when slipped back these disclose to view innumerable rows of leaden coffins. Those of a past century are uncovered, and placed in a raised position, so as to expose to view the mouldering bones of many a defunct nun, who had lived, loved, suffered, thought, sinned and repented, it might have been, ages before. The coffins of more recent date were still closed up. In the long summer evenings this arcade was the principal resort of the sisterhood, and here they were to be found walking up and down, some apparently lost in meditation, while others were telling their beads, ever reminded in the contemplation before them, of the vanity and nothingness of this world, and the inutility of human wishes. Upon the other side of this long arcade, were arranged, with much taste, many flower-beds and flowering shrubs, whose perfumes were wafted to and fro, over the dust of the holy dead; around the archways and pillars, hung wild ivy and creeping passion-flowers, which bloomed and died year after year, amid the unchanging scene.
We will now take a peep into the interior of the convent. Upon entering, one is struck by the innumerable vaulted passages, the centre and principal one being in the shape of a cross; upon one side is the receptionchamber, where all visitors are received, and accompanied hither and thither by a lay-sister. On the opposite side of this passage is a large refectory, tables and benches being placed down it and across it. The cells are all situated in the upper part of the building, and connected by a descending passage with the choir of the chapel; they are very narrow, and bereft of all comfort, a bed of the humblest description and a priedieu, being the only necessaries allowed; in each cell is a long narrow window, looking out upon the garden, and at the entrance is placed a holy-water fount.
Two years had now passed since the events last narrated,
In the before-mentioned town of T-, there was observable on this particular evening, an unusual bustle and excitement. It was seven o'clock, and the bells of the convent chapel were summoning the elect, the curious, and the idle, to look upon the novice who, with to-morrow's dawn, was to bid farewell to all the pomps and vanities of this world. At the ceremony of this night, all the attractions of the Roman Church were to be brought forward, so as to render brilliant the completion of the sacrifice; these pomps, indeed, contributed in no slight measure to give the votarist that necessary courage and immolation of self, that otherwise might be difficult to attain. Yes, countless numbers had assembled there to approve, censure, pity, or admire the fortitude with which youth and beauty are endowed, when by thus renouncing the world, and all that it contains most dear, she imagines that she will be more fit for heaven, towards which she will henceforth look as a right. And why? It may be, because this earth. has ceased to offer to her what most she prized; or perhaps its temptations and trials were greater and more difficult to bear, than the voluntary vow which she is now about to pronounce; or she may think, that dead to the world, she can give all her thoughts and best aspirations to Heaven. In her enthusiasm, she deceives herself and others, and worse still, in her mistaken fortitude, she flies from the state of life in which Providence has placed her; she doubts her own strength of purpose, forgetting, in her blindness of heart, that. mortals were placed in this world, not to fly its temptations, but rather to meet and resist them. God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, and His protection is sufficient for all of us. If we refuse to battle with temptation, we are not true disciples of Him who Himself endured it, and who went through all the snares of this world; had He avoided them, His sacrifice would have been incomplete.
As is usual upon such occasions, the convent gates
were thrown open to the public. The large chapel was already full, while a crush of eager faces was to be seen crowding and struggling outside, the better to look into the brilliantly-lighted aisle.
Nine o'clock now strikes, and the magnificent organ sends out its swelling and thrilling thunders in "Deus Magnus," which is taken up at intervals by the clear fresh voices of the nuns and novices, who, in their accustomed place in the organ gallery, can see, without being seen, for a high bronze railing shuts them out from the public gaze. The high altar is blazing in light, and redolent with the perfume of incense. The Bishop, who is to perform the ceremony, sits in his robes of state, surrounded by other dignitaries of the Church. A long, broad grating at one side of the altar now slides back, when the Lady Abbess, accompanied by the novice, who is dressed in bridal robes, advances, and is followed by relatives and friends, who, upon this last evening, have the privilege of being near her.
She is led forward by the Superior, and approaches the steps of the altar, upon one of which she kneels in silent and deep devotion. It is her bridal eve, her reception-for to-morrow's dawn will see her deprived of all her gay apparel.
The Bishop now comes forward, and, making the sign of the cross, asks her in clear, vibrating tones, that resound through the lofty aisles, the usual questions, which she answers aloud, so that all present may hear that there is no compulsion. Now, for a few moments, let us contemplate the novice, as she turns to the assembled multitude, while the Bishop ascends the pulpit, to preach upon the momentous event; truly, the subject before him should call forth all his most brilliant eloquence.
The figure of the novice is very graceful, and it is rendered doubly so by the folds of long, white lustreless silk which fall around her. On her head is a wreath of orange-blossoms, falling from which may be seen a flow
ing lace veil, now and then fluttering with each movement of the wearer, and disclosing through it the shining masses of black hair,-alas! that to-morrow they must fall under the remorseless steel. The countenance is of marble whiteness, yet its expression is calm, almost spiritualised, for a smile lights it with a strange beauty. Indeed, the peculiar charm of the face lay in the smile; without this, it might not have been deemed attractive, as the features were anything but regular or beautiful, unless we except the eyes, which were large, dark, and lustrous. The reader will doubtless have recognised our heroine, Catherine O'Neile; for she it was who stood there to undergo the gaze of hundreds, many of whom loved and admired her, and others who wondered, but could not understand, why she was leaving that world, which should have been so bright to her.
The Bishop proceeded in his discourse, setting forth the hopes and attractions that chain youth to this life; "for instance, the young girl before them, in the bloom of her existence, now willingly gives up all that most she prizes and loves, forsakes home, kindred, friends, the world and its fascinations, the beauty of God's works, and for what? for the cloister, which can only offer her in return-looking at it in a worldly point of view-solitude, monotony, and mortification of the flesh in their hardest and most trying forms; to speak in plainer terms, a living tomb, which shuts her out from all communication with the outward world. Never again shall the smiles of friends look down upon her, or their caresses encircle her-never again can the voice of love summon her by its appeal, -no, nor can the sunshine of heaven, nor the free, joyous voice of nature be with her, except in the few yards of ground out yonder (he pointed in the direction. of the convent garden). All, all that makes this life. blessed, she discards for ever!" There was a pause, which was filled up by the sobs and stifled cries of