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“The face was young still, but its happy look
THE next morning dawned upon that day on which Miss Turton, after a lifetime of frivolous selfishness, was to receive the last consolation to her vanity, in publicly retiring, like some eminent actress, from public life, amidst torrents of applause; and the ceremony of her installation as a nun among the pale sisterhood of St. Ignatia was to take place with extraordinary splendour. Dressed as a bride, she appeared in a rich brocaded white silk, trimmed round the skirt with festoons of Honiton lace, looped up with bunches of white jessamine and lily of the valley. Head-dress, a wreath of orange flowers and diamonds; these jewels being the property of the convent, and lent out, like a theatrical wardrobe, for such occasions
The magnificent dress, worn only on this occasion, was to be confiscated, immediately after the ceremony, for the benefit of the institution, and all the beautiful presents made to Miss Turton by her various friends were to follow.
“Well,” said sister Martha to Beatrice, “do you not, at this moment, envy our new sister 2" “But all her moments are not to be like this moment of feverish excitement,” replied Beatrice. “There are years to follow; during which I should prefer being my own property, and to have my own belongings.” “Yes;” whispered Lady Anne, unable entirely to suppress a laugh. “Poor Miss Turton cannot keep so much as her silver thimble, which is to be exchanged for one of iron. Even the miniature portrait of that imaginary captain in the navy, her first admirer, supposed to have been drowned in undiscovered seas, is forfeited | Poor dear Miss Turton l all her comfortable little affectations must now be laid aside. She had worked up her enthusiasm to an extremity of self-sacrifice, and told me yesterday, on an experience, you know, of only twenty-four hours, that she never knew happiness before ; but what will she say in twentyfour years? She meant, in a general way, to lead a St. Ignatian life of humility and mortification; but fancy her horror on coming to particulars, and only then discovering that all the nuns wash together in the same basin, and dry themselves with a public towel. My worthy governess (may she never live to repent this step !) was prepared to undergo the sort of poetical crust of bread that we young ladies all feel ready to live upon, either with the lover we prefer to marry or in a convent like this; but only conceive the consternation of poor fastidious Miss Turton, when told that the nuns, on alternate days, wear each other's dresses. Thus, what old sister Martha, a mere mass of disease, wears to-day, Miss Turton must equip herself in to-morrow.” “She, who used to wear a fresh muslin dress every morning!” said Beatrice; “and there is half a foot of difference in their height!” “Fancy Miss Turton, who was so particular about her hair, being obliged to use the universal comb, too!” added Lady Anne, in a tone of irrepressible laughter, while she gracefully tossed back her own clustering ringlets; “and she dare not wash her feet without express permission from the Lady Abbess. Do you see that image of St. Bridget on the black marble altar, veiled, crowned and splendidly adorned with variously coloured jewels? Well, Miss Turton was allowed to kiss its feet this morning, and to dress it. She was as happy on the occasion as any little school-girl with her doll during the holidays. I gave her, some time ago, my last court dress, which you see she has put upon St. Bridget, and those velvet flowers were what I wore once at a fancy ball” At this moment the great convent-bell tolled, when every Papist present instantly dropped on his knees, rapidly muttering Latin prayers to the patron saint of the institution. Miss Turton, looking much flushed and prodigiously excited, made herself very conspicuous by her pantomime of devotion before this concourse of spectators, and having practised over the whole scene of her profession in various rehearsals before,a mirror, she afterwards went through the whole ceremony with
a theatrical grace worthy of Grisi or Jenny Lind. After taking the vows, and going through a rapid preliminary of most marvellous ceremonies, with Mrs. Lorraine acting as god-mother, Miss Turton, according to etiquette, knelt humbly before the bishop, a very fine looking old man, begging an admission to reside in the Convent of St. Ignatia, whence she never more desired to have egress, till she left it for the grave. She was next led by sister Martha and three other nuns to inspect her own coffin, on which her new conventual name was engraved, “sister Agnes.” Miss Turton then assisted to carry her own coffin forward to the chapel, while Bishop Cameron distinctly enumerated all the pleasures she was called on to relinquish; and she listened in an attitude that should have been modelled in marble for a tombstone. When this was concluded, sister Agnes, in reply, loudly but lugubriously repeated, in a perfect excitement of affectation, “I resign them—I resign them all.” Sister Martha performed the part of bridesmaid at this melancholy bridal, and assisted sister Agnes, who now assumed the conventual dress of black serge, and suffered the loss of her few remaining ringlets. Miss Turton then threw her white satin dress on the stone steps of the altar, and theatrically stamped upon it, trampling the lace and flowers contemptuously under her feet, to represent her abhorrence of every earthly vanity; and she then laid herself gracefully down in the coffin, which was immediately covered with a black pall. The nuns then, each holding a large wax taper, chanted the funeral service over her in a low monotonous dirge. They strewed her over with flowers, and sung hymns in Latin over Miss Turton, deceased. It was to be her last public exhibition, therefore Miss Turton seemed resolved to make the most of it. This dismal ceremony was closed by the Lady Abbess, ci-devant Mrs. Lorraine, when Miss Turton emerged from the living tomb, endowing her newly risen daughter “sister Agnes” with a crucifix and a rosary. She was next embraced by each of the sisterhood, who placed a silver crown on her head. Then Bishop Cameron gave her his benediction, and at length took leave of the new nun, saying, “Fortunate and happy daughter! may your years, days, and months roll on here unheeded, as the summer stream glides smoothly past a child, sporting innocently on its banks!” “As soon as a nun takes the veil she chooses her confessor,” whispered sister Martha, in a gossiping tone, to Beatrice. “There are desperate quarrels amongst us; for we have nothing else to think of but the little offences that are given and taken. We all have portraits in our cells of either Father Eustace or Father Ambrose, and we are divided into two contending parties, the Eustacians and the Ambrosians.” “A very important schism amongst you!” observed Beatrice. “You seem in all respects like the Westal virgins of a heathen temple. And to which of the two opposing sects do you belong P” “I am one of those who think Father Eustace's