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of unbroken silence for a fortnight.
I know one of our two cleverest novices is in a Free Church family now. She is not suspected to have ever entered any Established Church, and one of our favourite pupils pretends to be a great admirer of Dr. Cavendish's sermons. The last we sent out is most confidently trusted in the family of a rich Quaker.'
But,” exclaimed Beatrice, burning with indignation, “ have they no scruples ?”
“Of course not! They are educated on purpose, and they make the sacrifice of enduring such people for the sake of our Church. Father Eustace gives them absolution secretly once amonth, when they tell him all that is said in these houses and report progress among their pupils. The plan works most successfully in gaining a supernatural influence over the rising generation, and very soon not a domestic hearth in Britain will be free from our influence."
“ Indeed ;” said Beatrice, who might as well have made no reply, as sister Martha had evidently not the faculty of listening to anything. “ We Protestants walk in blindfold security, because, judging from ourselves, we cannot believe in underhand treachery. The safety of such conduct arises from its being so incredible that an honest nature cannot believe in it, but when the house is on fire it does not suffice to shut the door, and say it is a false alarm.”
“ It is grand,” said sister Martha, pursuing the train of her own thoughts, “to be one in so
great a scheme.
We have everything to gain by proselyting, and nothing to lose. Sir Allan McAlpine's conversion will be 10,0001. a-year to our community, and Lady Anne's above 80,0001. That is very encouraging! Besides those pupils in the governess department, there are above two hundred of our scholars out in every imaginable capacity, who do our work well, and are warranted as perfect treasures. Several are in booksellers' shops recommending our own publications as the best antidotes to Romanism; but the system of family espionage answers best, therefore we go out as Protestant sick-nurses and nursery-maids. Several act the part of being converts to Protestantism, and those ladies who fancy they have been the means of converting another, are so flattered at their own success, that they often afterwards become an easy prey to our emissaries."
In one room Beatrice was shown the novices, many among them girls of high and even noble birth, recently perverted, and wasting their time in the most menial offices,—brushing shoes, scouring floors, washing plates, darning stockings, and cleaning the hair of their companions, in which a considerable breed of live stock was generally allowed to propagate undisturbed, as well as to colonize in the dresses of the nuns, which might have afforded at any time a good field for the study of entomology. “In the English Church,” thought Beatrice, “ young people who become deliriously excited on religion are advised to sit down and read their Bibles, to pray in their closets, and to
obey their parents; but such sedative prescriptions do not suit the high-fever pitch of any one like these girls bordering on lunacy. The Romish Church, however, adapts itself to human nature in any shape, and recommends every young man in a raving state exactly the sort of self-willed submission he wants, to abjure every sober, staid and rational habit of life, to take his shoes off his feet, to shave his crown, to put a rope round his waist, to give up every shilling of his income, and to preach through the streets as a begging friar. * There he is then for life, as mad and happy as any lunatic in any asylum. Thus the priests acquire lands, jewels, houses, books, pictures, gold and silver, all or any of which are welcome contributions, to be gained honestly if possible, but by any means whatever to be gained. The heathen philosopher, Zoroaster, forbade men to do what was even doubtfully right; but here, what is obviously wrong may and must be done to increase the funds of the Popish Church, if the priest who is to gain all the advantage commands a crime."
Lady Anne having now joined Beatrice, without the Lady Abbess, whispered that they must positively make sister Martha lead them into the chapel, where one of the nuns was about to be anathematized for eating food when she was ordered to fast, having been detected in the act of devouring raw vegetables, like any hungry animal, in the garden. “I can almost sympathise with the poor thing,” added Lady Anne. Formerly food was
to me like the air I breathe, that never occupied my thoughts except during the minute I ate it; but now, you can have no idea of the gnawing agony I feel at times, and how often Father Eustace has to make me do penance for having felt a craving to eat buttered-toast or even a bit of dry bread.”
“ Do you remember," said Beatrice, agonies of mind endured by that poor young Oxonian, Froude, who killed himself with useless austerities for imaginary guilt? One sin was that he had wished to eat a morsel of cold
How much better to have satisfied his appetite and thought no more about it! He wasted a whole day with grief and self-reproach for having eaten some cold endings, and I had the greatest difficulty in ascertaining what that dish really is.”
On the floor of the chapel a black cloth had been carefully spread, adorned in the centre with a white cross, and the smell of medicated incense was almost intoxicating. When Lady Anne stole in, followed by Beatrice, the candles on the altar were at that very moment extinguished by Father Eustace, who was pronouncing in a sepulchral tone before a glittering crucifix, as if his tongue were almost frozen with horror, a long, gloomy, and most awful anathema on the trembling culprit, a young nun of most emaciated aspect, after which he raised on high for a moment the lighted torch he held in his hand, which he dashed on the ground so that the flame became extinguished. It was a scene most exciting to the
passions, and the imaginations of unaccustomed persons,
but the nuns began immediately counting their beads, and looking carelessly round them.
Lady Anne and sister Martha, with a thrill of horror, left the chapel, passing on the way out several chests which stood open to receive gifts. They were followed by Beatrice, who felt as if she had witnessed some secret Hindoo rite; and when they were walking hurriedly at the end of a long narrow corridor which presented a most chilling, forlorn, and desolate aspect, Lady Anne stopped to inquire where it led to.
“Nowhere," answered sister Martha, evidently as anxious as a London policeman to make them
“That passage is quite disused, except for invalids, when we have any."
The speaker looked somewhat confused, and was impatiently hurrying them onwards, when Lady Anne, in her own pretty wilful way, threw her arm round the waist of Beatrice, seized her hand, and exclaimed with laughing vivacity, “The very place for a polka !” Gaily defying sister Martha to stop her, she sung a lively air, and danced off with Beatrice to the farthest end of the corridor, where leaning on a closed door, laughing, chatting, and breathless, she looked the very picture of beautiful girlish frolic and heedless good-humour. Scarcely, however, had she finished a jesting remark to Beatrice on the evident alarm of sister Martha at this unexpected escapade, before her smiles were suddenly banished by the sound of a low deep groan which evidently proceeded from that room on the door of which they were leaning. It was