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This feeling composed her mind, so that she had fallen into a slumber, disturbed and agitated, but still in some degree refreshing, when she was suddenly awakened about three in the morning by a sound of carriage-wheels grinding along the gravel, immediately below her window. Springing out of bed, she eagerly opened the sash, looked joyfully out, and seeing Lady Eaglescairn's chariot close beneath, she told the coachman to wait there as she would summon her servants to admit Miss Farinelli. Not a doubt crossed her mind that Beatrice was there, though she wondered much not to hear her voice in reply, and she was about to close the casement when a groom, who accompanied the carriage, rapidly dismounted from the box, and respectfully touching his hat as he hurried up to the window, said
“We are come to fetch Lady Edith Tremorne. Not a moment is to be lost! A lady at the Castle is dying! Dr. M'Indre says she has scarcely an hour to live. I was desired to say that her last wish is to see Lady Edith.”
" Who is she? Tell me who. Speak! oh, speak at once! Is it Miss Farinelli ?” asked Lady Edith, in a tone of piercing anguish; “ in mercy,
tell me the worst.' “I heard no more, Madam! All was hurry and terror at the Castle. My orders were sent to the stable peremptory. I was off in two seconds ! They said that the lady would be dead before morning.”
Lady Edith, with trembling hands, threw on
what seemed necessary for her drive, and before she had time to think another thought, was already in the carriage at full speed to Eaglescairn, without a momentary doubt that it was her own beloved Beatrice to whom she now hastened with the speed of thought, and respecting whose recovery from some sudden illness, the doctor seemed by the groom's account absolutely to despair.
When she arrived at the door Lady Edith was hurried by a cluster of agitated servants from the carriage up-stairs to a bed-room. There the shutters were closed, the room darkened, the curtains drawn, and a crowd of silent attendants stood around, many with handkerchiefs at their faces evidently in tears, others with a look of solemn awe, but all too much overwhelmed to speak. Lady Edith glanced nervously around, hurried forward to the bed, drew aside the curtain, looked at the dying countenance within, and giving a sigh of infinite relief fell forward, almost fainting, on the bed.
“ Hark! to the hurried question of despair,
“ Cross that threshold, and you are in a strange country-a country which laughs at all your laws. What, then, are their laws? That is not known. What we do certainly know-what is not attempted to be disguised —is this; that the barbarous discipline of the middle ages still reigns, and is still practised there. But how are these chastisements administered? Who regulates the number of blows? What must be the nature of the passionate and capricious dominion of woman over woman, when she is displeased with her! An ugly woman ruling over a lovely one-an old one over a young. One dare not think of it !"-MICHELET, Du Prêtre, p. 287.
Half in jest, and more than half in earnest, Lady Anne would take no denial, and at last succeeded in carrying Beatrice, a very much astonished recruit and in a ferment of vexation, to the convent of St. Ignatia, though the unwilling captive continued earnestly protesting against having been brought on this unexpected excursion at all, and her heart certainly did sink within her when Beatrice saw the iron gate of the convent close with a loud and sullen clang that reverberated through the long aisles and vaulted cloisters, when the rusty iron chain was pulled, which swung beside the door.
“Well!” said Lady Anne, laughing triumphantly at her own felicitous experiment, “since you have at last yielded, must I now beg your pardon?”
* You should do nothing from morning till night but beg my pardon," replied Beatrice goodhumouredly, smiling; “I feel as if rushing up to a forlorn hope. Every minute will be a misery to me that I remain among those never-to-be-sufficiently-avoided female Jesuits, who are sworn to a system of mutual betrayal,- who are bound to repress every affectionate impulse, every generous attachment, and to lead a poor mechanical existence far beneath the dignity of human nature. Each of them is a mere spiritual clock, wound up by the priest, and made to go or to stop as he pleases, and even to go wrong if such be his will. You may laugh, Lady Anne,—anybody can laugh; but I cannot respect one who is so circumstanced, or willingly associate with her.”
“The horse that goes round blindfold grinds the corn best,” said Lady Anne, oracularly; "you and I should neither think nor act nor read for ourselves when we can have a living master like Father Eustace to tell us better than
book what we should do. Now be so kind as not to kill me with that look."
The hollow crash of the convent-bell at this moment attracted the attention of Beatrice, who glanced round a building—the solemn dulness of which actually made her yawn. The high wall which surrounded it had a mysterious, sombre, distrustful
aspect, the heavy sullen-looking gates seemed as if borrowed from a gaol, the grate of punched iron, was like that of a larder for meat, and the small riveted iron lattices, from which nothing could be seen, were like those of a sepulchre. “It would be a sad, even if it were a respectable death, to be shut in there for life!” exclaimed Beatrice musingly, while she heard the creaking and sliding of a huge bolt; "you have brought me here, Lady Anne, therefore you must let me say what I think, that you could more easily persuade me I am paralytic, and cannot use my limbs, than that my intellects should be bandaged up as useless and never exercised.”
The attendant now drew aside a heavy curtain of dark cloth, and the ladies were ushered into a hall lined with oak, and paved with stone, containing no furniture except a black marble table, bearing a large gilt crucifix.
The reception-room into which Lady Anne and Beatrice were next ushered had, like the rest, a double grating, and exhibited an air of stiff propriety, or as Lady Anne whispered, an oldmaidish appearance, like the company-room at a finishing London boarding-school, and tables were set out all round for the work of the nuns, which was displayed, with the prices ticketed as at a fancy fair, to be sold for the benefit of the institution. The door soon after their arrival opened to admit a numerous procession of the sisterhood, come to welcome Lady Anne, while they all assumed what is part of the full-dress