A SEQUEL TO
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAUDE BOLINGBROKE.
Aude and her companion travelled over several counties before they could decide upon their place of residence. At length they fixed upon a lovely village called Thorncliff, situated on the banks of the Severn, in Worcestershire. A neat little cottage, offering every comfort and many luxuries, was to be let; and Margarita lost no time in securing it, as it appeared a suitable abode for her invalid friend. A few hours sufficed to settle their plans, and to domesticate them in the “Willow Cottage;” for so the dwelling was called, from the number of willow trees which grew in the adjoining garden and meadow ; and this cottage they took for the next three months; Margarita having superintended the disposal of their luggage, and some trifling alterations in the arrangement of the furniture in their pleasant habitation.
It was Saturday evening before the fatigues of the journev were entirely overcome; but on that evening, immediately after tea, Margarita laid aside her netting, and begged Maude to take at least a short walk before sunset. Maude willingly complied, and in a few minutes the two friends were traversing the principal street of the village. Various Saturday occupations were still going forward; the walks of the little gardens before the different cottages were being swept; and a few idle matrons were hurriedly cleansing their abodes—idle! certainly ; because all works of domestic purification ought to be effected before the evening of the last day of the week. At last the friends turned down a short lane, which led them directly to the church; an ancient, moss-grown structure, standing in the midst of a well-kept and picturesque-looking burying-ground. Maude and Margarita found, that the churchyard gate was open; and as the evening was warm, they were glad to sit down and rest upon the roots of a noble beech-tree, which spread the shade of its luxuriant foliage far over the grassy graves beneath. It was a brilliant evening, and the shining river looked clear as crystal in the calm soft sunlight. The thick woods which fringed its course were in full leaf, and displayed every lovely tint of emerald, from the dark green of the elm, to the bright verdant hue of the cassia.; and far beyond the river and the woods lay a beautiful tr;ict of country consisting of diversified hill and dale, stretching away in the distance, until the Inst hill seemed actually bounded by the serene evening sky.
Opposite to the church stood a pretty rectory, its white walls almost mantled by ivy, clematis, and other creeping plants. Maude stood for some minutes admiring the exquisite beauty of the scene; for though she bad gazed on many a lovely landscape, many a glorious view of nature, during her Continental tour, she still felt the soft, fresh, and soultouching beauty of her own fair England. But tears soon dimmed her eyes, as her thoughts reverted to a mountain-churchyard far away. She gazed upon the gentle flowers whose petals were now closing over the velvet turf of these lowly graves; and she remembered that the auricula and the deep blue gentianella were even then blooming over the quiet resting-place of her beloved Annie. Margarita perceived her sadness, and she well knew the cause of those sudden tears ; for alas! they were no less frequent than sudden ; and she took the arm of her sorrowing friend, and led her from the churchyard.
Not far from the rectory stood a pretty rustic dwelling, surrounded by a well-cultivated garden. The latter object particularly attracted the attention of Margarita, for it presented a splendid collection of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. She recollected that they stood in need of a further supply of the two last mentioned articles; and while they stood debating whether persons so apparently respectable as the inhabitants of this cottage must be deemed, might not be offended by an offer to buy their commodities, they saw a very pleasant-looking woman issue from the rectory, and approach the garden-gate. Maude and Margarita still stood doubting whether or not they should proceed. Summoning all their courage, they signified their wishes; and in answer to Margarita’s inquiries, they were told, that fruit and vegetables were not generally sold, but that they might be so accommodated, as they appeared to be strangers, and could not possibly know where things of this nature were to be procured. The complaisant mistress of the domain then offered seats in the wide porch of her neat abode; and while her husband and eldest daughter gathered pease, strawberries, and a choice bouquet,
she brought her knitting, and sat down, chatting with her visitors most volubly.
The church being the most prominent object in the visible landscape, naturally became the first subject of conversation. Maude and Margarita were both desirous to know who was the pastor, and what doctrines he preached. The mistress of the pretty dwelling seemed quite able and willing to give every information on this subject, and in answer to Maude’s questions she replied—
“Our own rector, Ma’am, is a Mr. Mordaunt, and a very nice sort of man he is; but he has changed duties with a Mr. Manningford, whose own church is by the sea-side, somewhere down in Devonshire, they say; and we like this Mr. Manningford very much. He has been here only three weeks, but he is to stay two months longer, and then Mr. Mordaunt will come back again, and Mr. Manningford will return to his own people; they must miss him very much, I am sure. I suppose you will hear him, ladies, to-morrow, for you do not look like the meeting-people; and I am quite certain you will be pleased; and then he has such a pretty young wife, and such a beautiful baby; and she (I mean Mrs. Manningford) goes about every day to the schools, and comes into the cottages, and talks to us poor people just as if we were gentlefolks like herself.”
Much more did the good woman say, and much more would she have added, had not her auditors obliged her to conclude, by taking their departure ; Maude feeling extremely anxious to hear Mr. Manningford preach on the following morning.
The Sunday morning arose, bright and cloudless, and when Margarita threw open the casement, the scent of flowers, and the sweet notes of the summer-birds were borne upon the soft gentle breeze. An air of calm repose seemed shed over the rich foliage of the thick woods, the green sunny meadows, and the broad glassy surface of the Severn. Margarita was reminded of the placid beauty of her beloved Alpine home. She remembered how tranquilly fair the lake, the forests, and the mighty mountains had appeared, in the quiet, holy hours of summer Sabbaths. That cherished home was no longer hers; strangers dwelt there; another pastor ministered in the gray sanctuary; other hands tended and gathered the flowers which once were her pride and delight; the solemn sunset hour threw its deep shade over the quiet churchyard, where slept the mortal remains of the gentle Annie and the venerable pastor, and other feet trod that green turf, and other hearts sighed over the departed ones who slept so peacefully beneath. Something like sadness rested on Margarita’s usually cheerful countenance, while these reminiscences of the past, stole over her mind, but the cloud was soon dispelled.
“Our rest is not here,” she thought; “earthly homes, however cherished and beloved, pass away, but the Christian should not bitterly mourn over the decay of his brightest hopes, since he has laid up for him an inheritance that can never fade.”
The sound of the church-clock roused Margarita from her somewhat melancholy reverie, and she hastened to prepare breakfast. Maude was quite well enough to accompany her friend, and at the appointed time they were traversing the flower-wreathed shady lanes which led to the church.
It was yet early when they reached the sacred edifice, and comparatively few persons were assembled, and the Sunday-school children were being arranged in the seats appointed for them. Maude and Margarita, as strangers, were placed in one of the best pews, and exactly facing that appropriated to the minister and his family. After some time, when the bustle of placing the schools was over, a lady entered the clergyman’s pew; and Maude, inasmuch as she doubted not that this was the Mrs. Manningford of whom she had heard so much the preceding evening, regarded her with some degree of interest. The lady in question was most simply dressed; nevertheless, her appearance was entirely that of a gentlewoman. She wore slight mourning, and her close straw bonnet was very neatly trimmed with white ribbon. Her face was not visible until the service commenced, for she did not raise her head till her husband took his place in the reading-desk; and then, when she rose, and her countenance fully appeared, Maude perfectly started with astonishment, and turned her bewildered gaze on Margarita, who was extremely puzzled to account for the expression of surprise which was so visibly depicted on her friend’s features. Again, Maude looked; that beautifully fair complexion, that delicate rose-tint, those deep, earnest, blue eyes, and those fair brown ringlets, where had she seen them before? The pastor’s wife was inexpressibly lovely, and Maude felt, that her form and features were perfectly familiar to her. The service proceeded; the Venite commenced, and yet Maude, who really felt the importance and valued the privilege of the sacred duty in which she was engaged, could not confine her thoughts and her attention ; rove they would, to all the varied scenes of her long tour, for somewhere, she was assured, she had seen and known her fair fellowworshipper. At length the truth flashed across her mind, the lady was like Sophia Milwood, with this difference, that Sophia had looked younger
SEW SERIES.—NO. XXVI. H
and more thoughtless; but the faultless features, the violet-coloured eves, the palely-golden tresses, were precisely similar. Could it possibly be her sister? for Sophia had mentioned a sister who had resided all her life in Ireland. But then how could a Milwood be a Protestant, and moreover the wife of a Protestant clergyman?
Instantly, the gloomy walls of the Winchester convent arose to Maude’s imagination in frowning array. Once more she seemed to walk with her lovely friend, on the velvet greensward of the fair garden, and once again, the gentle form of Annie was before her, all bright and smiling, as in her early days of peace and happiness; and remembrances, too, of Mrs. Burnett and of Mrs. Durant, came crowding up in her mind so rapidly, that it was long ere she remembered how far she had wandered in heart, from the words which her lips had mechanically uttered; and it was only by a very strong effort that she could succeed in relinquishing this train of thought, and in turning her attention exclusively to the service of the day. Never before had Maude felt so forcibly the beauty of that sweet prayer at the close of our truly scriptural liturgy. “”We humbly beseech thee, O Father! mercifully to look upon our infirmities ;” &c, for never before had she felt her infirmities more keenly than on that morning, when, kneeling in the house of prayer, she endeavoured to give her heart to praise and supplication, but found that, in spite of herself, that foolish wandering heart would be dwelling on other objects and other thoughts. During the service, Maude was rather startled to perceive, that, from time to time, Mrs. Manningford looked at her with a glance which betokened more than common curiosity; evidently with deep interest. It was apparent, that Maude’s countenance awakened inx her mind some deep-sealed recollection, though, like her, she could not exactly recall the circumstances which rendered the features of the stranger so familiar. It would indeed have been no marvel, had Maude not been recognized by her own sister. A few months of suffering had wrought an indescribable change. Those who had seen the tall stately form, the majestic mien, the brilliant complexion, and the thick raven tresses of the haughty Maude Bolingbroke, would scarcely have recognized her in the slender figure, the pale, colourless cheek and lip, of the being who now sat in Thorncliff Church, attired in the deepest mourning; her once jetty ringlets being simply parted from off her pale forehead; thinned, and prematurely mingled with silver. During the afternoon, Maude explained the cause of her disquietude to Margarita, but to the latter, Sophia Milwood was of course unknown.
The hour for evening service arrived, and Mrs. Manningford was again in her pew, and Maude felt perfectly convinced that she must be the sister, or at least a verj near relative, of Sophia Milwood. Of course her curiosity was strongly excited, but no one in the village knew anything more of Mrs. Manningford, than that she was a very beautiful, kind-hearted, and pious lady.
It was on the following Wednesday that Maude set out for a solitary walk, leaving Margarita at home busily occupied in writing letters to Madame de Marlier. Maude was returning to the cottage, and had just reached the rectory, when a nursemaid came from the house, carrying in her arms a lovely infant about a year old. The little one had bright blue eyes and flaxen hair, acd she was crowing with delight at the gambols of a frisky lap-dog, which ran before her. Maude stopped the maid, to inquire whose child this lovely little one might be; and as might be expected, the girl replied that it was Mrs. Manuingford’s little daughter. Now, though Maude had a very strong objection to the very general practice of praising the beauty of little children, whether they really call forth admiration or not, she could not avoid saying, “What a lovely child!”
The young nursemaid seemed pleased by the notice taken of her charge, and she hastened to convey the information that Miss Sophia (for so she called the fair babe,) was as good as she was lovely, and could already say many words, and almost stand alone.
How strange, thought Maude, that Mrs. Manningford should call her child Sophia; and she repeated the name aloud almost unconscious of an auditor.
“Yes, Ma’am, Sophia she was christened,” remarked the girl; “It is my mistress’s own name.”
Maude would have given much to ask what had been the maiden name of that mistress, but she felt unwilling to do anything which might appear like impertinent and unwarranted curiosity. Surely there must be some link between Mrs. Manningford and my Winchester friend, thought Maude; and then she asked if this little one were an only child.
“Yes, Ma’am,” replied the nurse, “and I have nursed her ever since she was born; she will be twelvemonths old next week.”
Strongly as prudence and propriety forbad that Maude should obtain further information from a servant, she could not help asking, “If Mrs. Manningford had ever lived at Winchester?”
The girl did not know, but she had heard her mistress speak of Winchester: so Maude bade her farewell, more excited and dissatisfied than ever; and when, a few minutes afterwards, she encountered Mrs. Manningford herself, both ladies gazed at each other very earnestly.
Several days passed on, and again Maude strolled out alone. It was a bright evening, and the day had been extremely warm; and after a little deliberation, Maude bent her steps towards the banks of the river. The glassy waves were as placid as the serene sky above, and no sound broke the stillness of the evening hour, save the ripple of the water, aud the sweet song of the birds. Maude sat down on a fallen tree, and fell into a long fit of musing. She was tired, too, by her walk; and during the day, her spirits had been more than ordinarily depressed. Settled once more in her native country, Annie seemed to be doubly missed; and a sense of earthly desolation, which all Margarita’s kind gentleness could not dispel, oppressed her with a feeling of indescribable gloom.
After a time, a lady might be seen slowly advancing along the banks of the river; and as she drew nearer, Maude saw that it was no other than Mrs. Manningford. Her heart beat as the lady stopped, evidently intending to accost her.
“I ought to apologize for intrusion,” she began, in a very sweet voice ; “but may I venture to ask whether you are not a stranger in the village? Pray excuse this very unceremonious introduction: as the wife of the clergyman for the time being, I feel called upon to be on speaking terms with every one in the place.”
There was no mistaking that voice, that clear, musical, well-known voice. Maude gazed in a state of utter bewilderment; it was Sophia Milwood; she whom Maude had pictured as despoiled of her sunny brown ringlets, and long since the vowed inmate of a cloister.
For some moments, both ladies were too much agitated to speak ; at length Maude burst into tears, and Sophia was scarcely able to restrain her agitation. The two friends seated themselves on a mossy bank, and it was long ere Maude was sufficiently calm to hint her astonishment at finding Sophia the wife of a Protestant clergyman.
“It is too long a tale for this evening, dear Maude,” replied Sophia, in answer to her observation; ” you must come to us; oh, how delighted my husband will be, that I have really found the Maude Bolingbroke of whom I have often talked to him. But I am not surprised that I failed, at first, to recognize y°n, Maude; for you are so much, so very much altered, and that lady who was with you on Sunday—I am sure that is not Miss Lindsay. Where is your sister? your sweet sister Annie?
Maude could not answer; a thrill of agony shook her trembling frame, and she became deadly pale.
Sophia glanced at her mourning-dress, and the truth flashed across her mind. Tears came into her clear blue eyes; for she had long thought of Annie with affection, and she felt deeply for the bereaved sister, who now sat beside her, tearless indeed, but with that expression of mental suffering, which incapacitates the mind from dwelling on any object but that from which it is suffering torture. Sophia saw this, and most fully she sympathized with her unhappy friend. She felt sure that Maude was no longer a Papist, but little did she know the burden of grief and self-accusation which weighed down the bursting heart of that sorrowing mourner.
CHAPTER IV. Before the shades of evening fell, Sophia had led her long-lost friend to the rectory; had introduced her to her husband; and, finally, had heard from Maude the particulars of her sad history, from the time of her departure from Winchester.
“Sweet Annie;’ said Sophia, when Maude had ceased to speak, “it were wrong to grieve for her. Even in my own dark hours of error, when I knew your gentle sister as an enemy to the false religion which I then professed, I was won to admire such Protestantism as hers; and never from that time have I witnessed such meekness combined with such holy boldness; such a freedom from everything worldly or selfish; and, above all, such calm, heavenly peace, as evidently marked her character; and now that she is gone, dear Maude, we know that she is safe with that Saviour whom she loved so much. It is very clear, that times of tribulation for the Church of Christ are at hand; a whirlwind of sorrows seems to be gradually but surely rising; and the time may come, when you and I, Maude, may think of that quiet restingplace in the fair valley of Verdenthal where our beloved Annie sleeps in peace, and may rejoice that she is there, safe from all the storms at whose fury we tremble, and may thank God, who hath taken her away from the evil to come.”
It was a sweet consolation to Maude to hear Sophia speak thus of her departed sister; and while they spoke of by-gone days, and Mr. Manuingford joined in the conversation, time flew so rapidly, that the church-clock struck ten before Maude remembered Margarita, and the alarm she must necessarily feel at her protracted absence. She rose to go, and Mr. Manningford accompanied her to the cottage, where they found Margarita in a state of extreme anxiety. Mr. Manningford himself explained to Mademoiselle Ridot the cause of her friend’s unexpected detention; and after engaging them both to spend the next day at the rectory, he took his departure, leaving Maude to detail to Margarita the adventures of the evening. Early the next morning Mrs. Manningford received her welcome visitors, and after a short walk through the garden, Maude recurred^ to the subject which had occupied her mind throughout the preceding night.
“Does not this remind you of our garden stroll at Winchester ?” she said.
“It does, indeed, dear Maude. Ah! at our last parting, in that pleasant arbour of clematis, how little did we think of the circumstances of our meeting again ; then, we were both bigoted Romanists; at least in heart you were so, and I was so, by profession, as well as by conviction. Now, I trust, we are Protestants, not only in name, but Protestants fully convinced of the error of the doctrines which we have abjured; and, as I humbly hope, joined unto the Church of Christ, in an everlasting union. But, Maude, you have recounted your own tale; do you not feel curious to know what could have led me to renounce the system in which I was so carefully educated; the system, in which I so firmly and uncompromisingly believed, and which I loved so well, that I would gladly have laid_ down my life for the honour and glory of Romanism?
“Indeed, Sophia,” returned Maude, ” I have thought of little else since we parted. My own escape was indeed wonderful; and I owe it to His almighty power, and infinite mercy, who willeth not the death of a sinner, that I am not now the deluded inmate of a convent-cell ; but I do long to hear, my dear Sophia, what could have led you to turn away from all which you had previously considered, so far as religion is concerned, as the only truth and reality in existence.”
Sophia proposed a return to the house, ere she commenced her narrative; and when she, and Maude, and Margarita, were seated with their needlework, by the open drawing-room window, she began to recount all that had happened to herself, since she had parted with Maude at Winchester.
“You well know, dearest Maude,” said Sophia, ” the state of my mind, when you and I were friends at the convent. At that time I should have turned away with horror and indignation from any one who had dared to hint, that I might at some future time become a Protestant. When you were gone, I missed you extremely ; your frequent visits had been a relief amid the monotonous round of our duties; and when I knew that you would come no more, I felt that I should indeed greatly miss the little excitement, which the anticipation of seeing you almost daily had inspired. For some time I did not attempt to analyze my own feelings; indeed, I never thought of any other source of my dulness, than that I felt grieved at parting with you; but at length the idea flashed upon me, that I was actually rebelling against my holy vocation, which had forbidden the cherishing of anything like exclusive human affection. I was shocked by this idea; and I struggled hard to overcome my depression and listlessness; and for a little while I succeeded; but before the tints of autumn tinged our garden trees, I was again unhappy; again craving after I knew not what. None knew the conflicting emotions thus aroused in my breast; none even entertained a suspicion of them. It was indeed remarked by several inmates of the convent, how much graver Sophia Mil wood had become ; but my gravity was attributed to the near approach of the season at which my noviciate would commence; no one ever dreamed that unwillingness to become a novice, was one source of my sedate thoughtfulness. Autumn had nearly passed away, the flowers had all disappeared, save a few lingering roses, and some sober, unassuming Michaelmas daisies, when I received a letter from an aunt of mine, who lived in Devonshire, desiring me to spend the Christmas vacation with her; and to defer the ceremony of taking the white veil till early in the ensuing spring. To the utter astonishment of my convent friends, I received this invitation with rapture, and I began my preparations for the journey with so much alacrity, that I felt that many looked upon me with a suspicious eye. Bit1; the day arrived; the carriage stood at the door of my gloomy prison-house! and I bade my companions what I then thought a temporary adieu; but never have I seen them since. The next day brought me to my aunt’s residence. I had not seen her for many years, not since my childhood; and my recollections respecting her were very indistinct, yet I remembered that she was kind, and extremely gentle in her manner. The cottage which she inhabited was situated in one of the loveliest spots of that lovely county, Devonshire. The little mansion itself was completely mantled with roses, jessamine, clematis, woodbine, and other graceful climbing plants. The garden in which it stood was spacious, and like a fairy-land; the turf was so soft and green; the flowers, too, bloomed with a luxuriance very unusual in winter; what it must have been in summer, I could scarcely imagine. The valley which stretched below was thickly wooded, and skirted by gray rocks; while, at a greater distance, lay the clear waters of the British Channel, sparkling in the bright sunbeams of a serene December noon. After the one, long, dismal scene on which I had for so many years gazed, how glorious did all this appear! I thought that I had never before seen the sky so cloudless ; so deeply, beautifully blue; never had I seen such flowers; there were roses, which, as if in mockery of the season, clustered round the verandah; their soft, pink leaves glowing in the clear sunshine; and the evergreens so richly green; holly, with its shining glossy leaves and coral wreath; the dark, solemr yew, with its soft, scarlet, waxlike berries ; and the luxuriant lauristinus, with graceful clusters of flowers, so pearly, so waxen, and so pure; all these things made the place, in my eyes, a paradise. But I forgot all external beauties, when I found myself seated in my aunt’s comfortable drawing-room, and partaking of an excellent repast after my long journey.
“My aunt Catherine, who has now been a widow for many years, was, like myself, educated in a convent, and destined to the veil; but circumstances wrought a change in her plans, and she married. She has two daughters, Kate and Clara; and she is, and has been for manv years, devoted to literary pursuits. I hope you will, before long, see my beloved aunt, for, Maude, you and Mademoiselle Ridot must return with us into Devonshire; but I must say a word in description of her. She is just fifty years of age; and she has the loveliest face I ever saw; nay, do not smile, Mademoiselle Margarita; it is as possible for a woman of fifty to be lovely, as it is for a belle of twenty, though not exactly in the same way. Aunt Catherine has not a single good feature; and her hair is as white, Margarita, as the snow-wreath on your own mountains; and moreover, she wears a close, old-fashioned cap, trimmed with white ribbons.”
Margarita laughed outright at this description of a beauty, and observed, ” I suppose the loveliness of which you speak lies in her character and her intellect.”
“Her character,” replied Sophia, “is indeed loveliness itself; and her intellect is of the first order; but she possesses also external attractions: I refer to you, Arthur, for a confirmation of my statement.”
Mr. Manningford declared, that his wife did not speak from mere prepossession or partiality; “but,” he continued, “you had better leave this point to be decided when we all meet at Rock Cottage.”
“Well, I will continue my story ;” said Sophia. “I was introduced
to my cousins; and Kate won my affections before I had been ten minutes in her company. The evening came. Oh! how well I remember that long, happy evening, so different from those which I had been accustomed to spend! We worked, and read, and talked, until Aunt Catherine and Kate remembered that it was an imperative duty to write some letters for the next day’s post. I sat on the sofa, professing to read, but in reality I was gazing at my aunt and my cousins, and thinking how I should like to live with them always; and the remembrance of the gloomy convent caused a shudder to run through my frame. My aunt was busily occupied with her pen; but sometimes she stopped to make a few remarks, or to think ; and I could not but admire the deeply intellectual, but equally gentle and loving expression of her eyes, as she raised them from the paper, sometimes to speak to myself, and sometimes to fix them, full of thought and feeling, on her daughter, who sat opposite to her, writing a letter. Kate is not much like her mother; but she has the same sweetness of expression, the same lovely smile, and there is something in her soft, dark eyes, which always reminds me of your dear sister Annie. While I gazed upon her countenance I could not at first comprehend what caused its beauty, but I soon felt that it was the simplicity, the gentleness, and the purity which dwelt in her heart, and shone forth in her calm, happy face. Clara is a really beautiful girl; she was rather timid, and that evening she did not address me, but I saw her steal frequent kind glances towards me, from beneath her long, silken eyelashes, while she sat writing at a separate table. The letters were soon directed, sealed, and ready for posting, and we were summoned to supper; during which meal, we chatted cheerfully, and I gave my aunt many details of my convent life. Sometimes I thought she looked sad, and I determined to confide to her my repugnance to take the veil, and to beg her to advise me, as to the step which I ought to take in this matter. Soon after supper the striking of the clock reminded my aunt that it was time for prayers. I saw Kate look at me, then at her mamma; and Clara hesitatingly said, ‘ Will Sophia come?’ Oh surely, I said, I am not at all tired now; and I felt quite puzzled at the anxiety evidently manifested by both sisters. We adjourned to the dining-room, and while the domestics were assembling, I remarked that my aunt’s gentle countenance had assumed rather an uneasy expression, but it soon subsided, and she began to read. With astonishment, which you, Maude, can understand better than 1 can describe, I heard Mrs. Milwood commence the eighth chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. I listened to
every word, at first with wonder, then with admiration, and finally with deep delight; and at the concluding verses, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of God,’ I could scarcely refrain from expressing my joy and surprise. A prayer followed, not such as I had been accustomed to hear at evening prayers; a mere form, rapidly repeated in the Latin language; but the genuine expression of fervent petitions to God for blessings, both spiritual and temporal, entreated through the merits of Jesus Christ our only Saviour, and concluding with the Lord’s Prayer, and the apostolic blessing, all in English, and uttered in a tone of deep and earnest devotion. I rose from my knees, scarcely knowing what to think : I believe that I prayed then for the first time in my life; for I really felt that I needed Divine guidance, and the words of the prayer forcibly expressed this want, and besought the aid of the Holy Spirit; and I felt impelled to join in these petitions, not only in word but in heart also.
“We returned to the drawing-room, and for a few minutes no one spoke. At length Kate broke the silence, by inquiring at what time we retired in the convent? this led to a long conversation about monastic rules, and presently my aunt said, ‘Sophia, my love, tell me truly, do you love the mode of life which you have hitherto practised, better than any other you have seen?’
“I coloured deeply, and answered, ‘Indeed, aunt, I have seen but little, out of the convent; I can hardly tell; I will think about it; I intended to talk with you on this subject before my departure from hence.’
“I saw Kate’s open countenance glow with pleasure, as I said this, and Clara forgot her shyness, and exclaimed, ‘ Oh! Sophia, if you do not like your convent-life, stay always with us.’
“I made no answer, and soon the subject appeared to be dropped; but I was anxious to ask about the prayers, so different, and, it seemed to me, so preferable to all which I had ever heard before; and after a pause, I said,
“‘ Aunt, I never heard before those prayers that you used to-night. Are they Roman Catholic prayers?’
“‘ They are Catholic prayers, dear Sophia,’ replied Aunt Catharine, ‘but they are not Romish prayers. I have long since ceased to use Such. I am no longer a Roman Catholic; it is some years since I became a Protestant.’
“I was electrified! I knew that my uncle, my father’s only brother, had abjured the errors of Popery very soon after his marriage; but I had always heard his wife spoken of as a devoted Romanist. At that moment it occurred to me, that I had either heard or dreamed that Kate and Clara were brought up Protestants, according to their father’s dying instructions. I was shocked, nay, more! I was grieved, when I heard my aunt thus calmly proclaim her apostacy; for, although I had begun to demur as to the perfect happiness enjoyed by the religieuses, 1 had not a doubt on the verity of that doctrine which excluded from salvation all who are not within the pale of the Roman Catholic Church.
“My aunt and cousins saw that I looked pained; and the former said, ‘You are tired to-night, dear Sophia; you had better go to rest now, and to-monow we will talk again on this interesting subject;’ and she kindly wished me good-night, while Kate went with me to my chamber, to see if everything were provided for my comfort.
“‘ Clara and you are Protestants ? is it not so?’ I asked.
“‘ Yes, we are both Protestants, we have always been so;’ replied Kate; ‘but you will not love us the less for that, will you, dear
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“‘ Oh, no,’ I answered, energetically, for I felt already that it would be totally impossible for any one to live with Kate and her mamma, and not love them. Of Clara I did not know so much, but I could not help admiring her lovely face, and comparing it to the fresh-glowing roses which mantled the verandah. Kate left me after kissing me affectionately, and I was alone.
“The first thing I thought of, was the chapter I had heard read: seeing a Bible on the table, I took it up, and, after much searching, I found the part I wanted; three times I read it through, every word; and surely, He, whose blessed Word I held in my hand, caused the eyes of my understanding to be opened, so that the Scriptures became indeed a lamp unto my hitherto erring feet, and a light on my dreary path. I prayed that I might understand what I read ; and though I did not omit my customary formula, yet, when I lay down on my bed, I once more recurred to till that I had heard; and again and again I entreated the Lord earnestly, that I might be taught by His Holy Spirit to comprehend these things. It was to me a new, but an intensely happy feeling, to ask for advice and comfort from the Great Omnipotent God; and feel assured that all that was humbly asked through Christ, would be given; and while I was thus musing I fell asleep.”
( To be continued.)