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hension, for it slowly and cautiously approached the bed with a gliding inaudible step, and the little that could be seen of the countenance was pallid as death. Beatrice, with an impulse of girlish terror, tremblingly hid her head under the bed-clothes, while her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth, and she could almost hear the violent beating of her heart. Here then was a real Popish apparition, she thought; or was it not rather some trick to terrify her into believing in them? Indignant at the idea of being thus perhaps imposed upon, Beatrice determined to face the worst, and at once uncovering her eyes, she sat up erect, made a desperate effort to be courageous, and looking full at the startling apparition, beheld the wan and wasted countenance of Bessie M*Ronald, who silently placed her finger on her lips, and pointed with a warning look towards the door, then advancing, she whispered in so low a tone as to be almost inaudible, “Rise, Miss Farinelli—rise quickly. They are going to detain you here by force,—one hope of escape remains for you, and only one. Dress immediately, while I go to call up Lady Anne. If it cost me my life, you shall be free. I owe more than life to Lady Edith and you. Make haste. We must be quick, or be too late. In half an hour all chance would be over.” Beatrice, bewildered with astonishment and perplexity, still lost not a moment in hurrying on her dress, and was joined in a few moments by Lady Anne, in a fever of agitation and excitement at this most unexpected summons. Bessie then explained, in a low strange whisper of unmitigated terror, that from the moment of Beatrice entering at the gates of St. Ignatia, she had perceived there was a scheme in agitation to detain Miss Farinelli there, but that her suspicions had been turned into certainties that day, by her receiving orders from Father Eustace to assist in the plot for transforming his guests into prisoners.
While Lady Anne stood aghast with indignant consternation at this intelligence, Bessie added, that, as Robert Carre was at Inverness on farming business, she had conveyed notice to him of the difficulty they were in, and requested him to bring round Lady Anne's carriage quietly to a place she indicated near the chapel. She then proposed that Beatrice and Lady Anne should join the procession to prayers at the hour of nocturns, in dresses which she had brought, similar to those of the nuns, and, favoured by the intense darkness of the night, reach the gates unobserved. Bessie added, that the porteress being ill, she had been appointed to attend upon her, and had already abstracted the keys for the purpose of liberating them.
“You accompany us, of course?” said Beatrice: and seeing Bessie hesitate, she added, “I do not stir a step without you! You have been kept in a state of most unnatural delusion, but now surely the spell is broken. Now surely you will escape with us; now surely you will restore yourself to home and to happiness.”
“To happiness ' Impossible!—but to home, oh, how gladly, if they will receive me back, broken in heart and in health as I am, and penniless l’—exclaimed Bessie, making a mournful attempt to choke back the tears that nearly suffocated her. “Will my uncle ever see me again?” “Bessie, you know perfectly how that kind old uncle will welcome you,” replied Beatrice, eagerly. “Is the sun never to shine again if clouds pass across it for a time? Come, we are ready.” The convent bell now sonorously reverberated through the echoing passages; and as the long procession of nuns—many among them fragile girls, torn from their slumbers to endure the chill of a winter's night—darkly issued from the door, three persons added themselves to the number; but no sooner were they safely in the cloisters, than they disappeared behind a pillar, and hurried, under shadow of the long lime avenue, to the gates. With difficulty these were opened by the trembling hands of Bessie, and in a moment, Robert Carre, having hurriedly handed them into the carriage, got up himself behind, and they drove off. “Away—away—away ! We are safe l’’ exclaimed Bessie, in a tone of the deepest thankfulness. “But you little know, Miss Farinelli, what a danger it has been. All within those walls are bound to betray every secret they can overhear, and we might have been discovered. That poor nun they call a maniac told me much. I heard her cries one day, and stole in the night-time to her cell. For twelve long years she has been their prisoner. And oh, Miss Farinelli, when you hear who she is, if I dare tell that secret, what then will your feelings be?” “Tell me! Speak l’’ exclaimed Beatrice, who saw from the tone of Bessie that something very strange was about to be revealed. “Who is that unfortunate prisoner?” “When you were cast ashore a helpless child at Clanmarina, you had an attendant. She was a trusty Protestant, who had been the devoted companion of your deceased mother, and had promised your father in his dying hour that you should be brought to Clanmarina, and delivered safely to those he had appointed your Protestant guardians.” “Bessie I go on Who were these ?—tell me all instantly Oh, how strange and bewildering ! Who were my parents? Tell me, and I shall bless you.” “The last Lord Eaglescairn had a second son, whom he disowned for having married a Spanish lady. She died five years after your birth. He had been himself in declining health, and did not long survive; but his last act was to place you in the charge of Theresa Da Hosta, your cousin, with all the papers which would prove you entitled to the property here, and to a Spanish estate from your mother.” “Impossible!” exclaimed Beatrice, in breathless astonishment; “it cannot be l’” “Perfectly true,” continued Bessie, a wan smile stealing over her lovely face, at the good news she was communicating. “That ship, as it entered the WOL. III. H
little harbour of Clanmarina, being wrecked, you were, by a strange coincidence, thrown into the hands of Sir Evan, the very man into whose care Theresa had promised to consign you; but she herself most unfortunately fell to the charge of Father Eustace, who soon discovered that if your rights became known, his obedient tool, Lord Eaglescairn, might be deprived of that fortune and estate to which he then believed himself entitled, and which Father Eustace himself could now squander at his own pleasure and for his own purposes.” “Go on,” said Lady Anne, impatiently. “How the plot thickens! I never read a more romantic romance l’’ “It indeed became so at last,” continued Bessie, rapidly. “The papers were all taken from Theresa, and she was offered countless wealth to embark with the Spanish crew for her native country, leaving you, an unknown foundling, behind; but her strong Protestant conscience judged for itself that this would be wrong. She would listen to no terms but the restoration of her papers, and that you should be brought up by Sir Evan, a Protestant, with all your rights acknowledged. This was evidently not for the interest of the Popish Church, and therefore Theresa Da Hosta has been a martyr in that dungeon for twelve years, branded as a lunatic, and maltreated as if she were a dangerous one. Any day she might have obtained her liberty if she would go to Spain and if she would relinquish your rights, but her conscience told her she had once accepted the sacred trust of a dying