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took possession of her, and throwing herself upon her knees before him, she said beseechingly
"Do with me what you will, but save him!" She pointed to Pierce, who now rushed between the priest and his intended victim, exclaiming
"Lay but a hand upon her, and, by the heaven above us, I strike! for not even your sacred professsion can protect you!"
As he spoke he threw off his heavy cloak, disclosing to view the brilliant uniform of one of the Spanish Guards, while his uplifted sword glittered in the light. At that moment the convent bells sent out a shrill peal of alarm; when, quick as thought, strange figures of men and women were seen rushing to and fro. The priest gave a triumphant glance at the tall figure before him, while he held Catherine back. Pierce now perceived that any further resistance would be useless, and, putting back his sword, he approached the priest, and bending down towards his ear, said
"If I tell you who I am, will that suffice to let me pass?"
The priest's sole answer was an incredulous look, nothing more.
"You don't appear to see the necessity of answering me, so I will spare you any further questioning."
Then, baring his head, and pushing back the long dark hair, which before hung over his face, he gazed at the priest in a strange exulting manner, while he said, in a loud ringing voice, that all present might hear—
"If you doubt the evidence of your sight, Father Maguire, let me assist its deficiencies by proclaiming to you, that I am Pierce O'Neile, Colonel in the service of His Spanish Majesty, Charles IV.; and son to the late Mrs. Agnes O'Neile, whose confessor and counsellor I believe you were." As he spoke the last sentence he bent upon the priest a full penetrating glance.
"And further, you well know that my cousin Catherine and I have been destined for each other since
childhood. The rumour reached me of her intention of taking the veil, because she believed that I had ceased to exist. Overwhelmed with horror and consternation, I obtained, through great favour, leave of absence for some months, and hastened with all speed to arrive here, and if possible prevent the immolation which was all but consummated. Thank Heaven, I have not come too late! Now, Sir priest, I suppose I have your permission to leave this place? And you,
love "-he stooped over the kneeling figure of Catherine "have no fears, make no reproaches to yourself, only be true to me till to-morrow, and all will be well. Look up, dearest, and see what your love, your devotion has made of me," and he pointed to the glittering orders that sparkled on his breast. "Oh, Catherine, the joy of feeling worthy of you! and to-morrow I shall claim you openly, my own true love, and cousin!"
Gently raising the upturned face, which was now beaming upon him with unutterable tenderness and confidence, he gazed upon it with deep emotion. He turned quickly from her, and passed out under the heavy archway, for the gate had been opened to allow him to do so.
As Father Maguire listened to the young O'Neile, a strange unhappy expression came over his face, and he endeavoured to speak to him, but the words would not pass his lips; he could only make a sign to the porter to open the gate.
She was a Catholic, too, sincere, austere,
And deem'd that fallen worship far more dear,
THE Superior, who had now come upon the scene, was filled with horror and amazement, and ordered the unconscious Catherine to be carried into her private apartment. They were followed there by Father Maguire, who, with the exception of one of the lay-sisters, whom the Abbess detained for the purpose of rendering assistance to Catherine, were the sole occupants of the room, which was elegantly, if not luxuriously fitted up. The walls were hung with richly-wrought tapestry, representing the Passion of our Lord, and at one end of the apartment was a raised alcove, within which was placed a beautiful marble statue of the Virgin; before it three long wax-lights, placed in alabaster candlesticks, burned night and day, and round the base of this figure was arranged a high crimson velvet hassock, upon which lay a breviary and rosary of ebony, inlaid with silver, that had evidently been hastily thrown down by the Abbess, when she was summoned to the scene we have just described. The greater part of the room remained in shadow; but a little transparent lamp, that the Superior had brought from the adjoining room, where she slept, threw a circle of light upon the spot where its rays fell.
Catherine was placed upon the sofa, still apparently insensible. The lay-sister bent over her, as she began disentangling the hair from the now crushed wreath;
the Abbess and Father Maguire were standing a little apart, and conversing in the Spanish tongue; a precaution which they no doubt thought necessary, considering that they were not alone. However, for our readers, there are no secrets. It was the Abbess who first spoke
"I tell you, Redmond, that you have been too precipitate-too rash, with the young O'Neile! After all the trouble that we have taken to convince her of his death-you, as her confessor, and I, as her friendwho would have thought of his appearing at the last moment, when we believed him far away! And then to think of the scandal attendant upon the whole affair, and after the exposé of to-night! What is to be done now? How, in her present state, prevail upon her, or, if necessary, compel her, to complete the ceremony, which will deprive her of free agency for ever? By to-morrow's dawn the whole country may be up in arms against us, when they learn the truth, as they will, from that daring, reckless Pierce. You know, despite the odium which was cast upon his name some years ago, that the people swear by him, and adore the very ground he treads upon. And you, Redmond, although all powerful with the old man, possess, I believe, little or no influence over the son; and yet his mother, Agnes O'Neile, and I were girls together, and, as great friends, trusted you in all things."
"Ah, Josephine, would that I had never sought to influence or control her actions! It is all coming home to me now; and yet you-you alone know how I adored, how I worshipped her! yet dared not disclose it to her a priest-a mentor, should have no heart!"
He spoke bitterly, as he folded his arms tightly together in a resolute, defiant manner-"We, to whom many an honest, ignorant heart looks up with veneration and trust, alas! that we should have the same in. stincts which the meanest and most abject of our fellow. creatures possess! We priests are supposed to accept
with our vows of celibacy, an abnegation of the purest and holiest ties of earth; as if the mere mouthing of a form, that at the time we believed and trusted, could help us to cast off the feelings and the laws of nature; madness! 'tis utter madness! All that softens and ennobles the heart of man, must not exist for such as ourselves; we must have no thoughts, no aspirations of life's common blessings; no glad, loved voice to welcome our return, no child's caress to remind us that we were once children. But let me not think of it, now that I have conquered. Yet, what a struggle has been mine!”
He ceased speaking for a moment, while his countenance assumed its habitual expression, and his voice had now more of tenderness in it-"The agony I suffered when she became another's-when I hoped she might have become the bride of Heaven! In her holy retreat, I might at least have worshipped afar as a mortal, the saint I had looked up to with the purest love! But it was not to be!"
The Superior, with the slightest degree of irony in her tone, said
"At least you were determined that in her choice of a husband, she should have one that was not remarkable for his powers of penetration or uxoriousness,—at all events, in the first years of his married life. How you afterwards gained such an ascendency over both his will and mind, I confess I am at a loss to imagine," and she looked at him enquiringly as she spoke. “Yet it seems that you were not content with your power over the uncle, but went so far as to extend it to his interesting niece. What a remarkable resemblance she bears to the lost Agnes! I suppose you are aware of that? Look at this!" As she spoke, she went over to a little cabinet, and took from it a miniature painted upon ivory, and holding it beneath the lamp, they both bent over it. The priest sighed, and passed his hand across his face; then, turning instinctively to the