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chapel. Every window now glittered in the golden tints of a noon-day sun, and the long row of
massy cedars which led up to the porch cast a grand and solemn shade, “ a dim religious light" over the beautiful building. A little bell, that scarcely sounded louder than a sheep-bell, tinkled in the breeze—that cruel bell which had before summoned her to the same unfortunate window from which she had seen Allan supported to chapel; and now Lady Edith glanced around, when suddenly her almost incredulous eyes fell upon the figure of Beatrice, walking feebly along the same path, towards the same chapel, and leaning for support on the arm of Mr. Ambrose, while Father Eustace followed with Lord Eaglescairn, now supposed to be convalescent, though a corpse could scarcely have looked less alive than he.
Lady Edith sprung from her seat in an agony of astonishment and alarm. Any burst of sudden emotion was most unusual to her, but now in an irresistible paroxysm of perplexity she clasped her hands together, while the whole blood of her body seemed rushing up into her face and throat. Scarcely pausing to see the procession, which was joined by Lady Eaglescairn, enter by the vestry door, Lady Edith was in a moment on their track. She almost flew to overtake the party, but in vain, and when she reached the gate it had been closed in her face and locked. Lady Edith struggled almost frantically to open it, but without success; she then called for help, but no ear
seemed to listen, for all around was still and silent as death.
Strong and calm as the mind of Lady Edith usually was, it now seemed to give way, for she covered her face with her hands, overborne by the suddenness of a shock which almost took from her all power of recollection, and bewildered her with perplexity what to think, and still more what to do. Until now, Lady Edith had always been able to trace out a clear line of duty, and had death itself been the penalty she could have bravely followed in the path; but here she felt bewildered in a mesh of little intrigues and little secrets not to be explained or understood, though threatening apparently all in life that she held precious upon earth, the affection and even the religious principles of her own beloved Beatrice, dear to her as the memory of her own buried children.
Lady Edith, standing at the chapel-gate, leaned her forehead on the cold iron railing, and though not a tear came to her relief, she remained absorbed in anguish, hearing nothing, seeing nothing, and scarcely conscious of time, as the heavy weight of suspense and anxiety gathered more depth on her lonely heart. A light step approached, but she heard it not till suddenly her hand was clasped in that of another, and on looking up Sir Allan stood before her, his eye beaming with all its old expression of respectful affection and kindness. In his smile, nevertheless, there was a fixed sadness far deeper than tears, and several minutes elapsed before either could articulate.
At length Lady Edith, making an effort to compose herself, shortly related all that had occurred during that morning, while Sir Allan listened with a look of burning indignation and sorrow. No sooner had Lady Edith finished her brief and agitated narrative, than he exclaimed with glowing energy, “ This must not be, Aunt Edith, you shall see Beatrice instantly. I rashly bound myself to secrecy. I may not speak, but I may act. They have taught me such evasions, and shall take the consequences. I carry a pass-key to this private chapel. You shall enter immediately, if such be your
desire. No inducement, no, none whatever, can lead me to desert your interests. I was no party in this affair, and never shall be."
Sir Allan paused not a moment, but threw open the massy gates, and Lady Edith hastily entered by the same low door at which Beatrice had previously disappeared, beside which one of Lord Eaglescairn's servants stood, who ostentatiously crossed himself on seeing a heretic advancing into the chapel. A strong smell of incense, which seemed intoxicating as chloroform, assailed Lady Edith as, approaching the door of an inner apartment she passed through the chancel and entered that stone cell wherein she had once observed the prostrate figure of an aged nun.
Prepared as she had been for something uncommon, a sight met the view of Lady Edith on advancing into that room, far exceeding her utmost anticipations or her worst fears. Father Eustace stood within the cell, attired in the full costume of
his order, a black robe in the form of a toga, with a cross worked in gold on the right breast, his bright black Spanish eyes fixed on Beatrice, who stood trembling beside him, evidently shaken by some deep emotion, while he spoke with vehemence and gesticulation quite unusual even to him. Mr. Ambrose had placed himself before Beatrice, evidently in a state of high excitement, and beside Lord and Lady Eaglescairn sat a foreign-looking lady in a conventual costume, the sight of whose countenance startled Lady Edith, engrossed at once her whole attention, and filled her with dismay. Lady Edith's eyes seemed to freeze as she looked at the stranger, her lips became livid, and she stood motionless with consternation, for she saw before her one who was in dress, features, and expression the living realization of that long-cherished miniature which had been restored to Beatrice in her childhood—the very individual in whose arms her young protegée had been landed from the wreck.
It burst upon Lady Edith in one frightful shock that her own Beatrice, her adopted foundling, had been claimed by some hitherto unknown Popish relatives; and great was the agitation of Lady Edith when this conjecture first darted into her mind. For a few moments her impulse was, hopefully to consider that proofs of the stranger's identity might be wanting,—that she could resist the evidence unless it were too strong to be impugned; but after Lady Edith had measured the stranger's face, inch by inch, with intense ex
amination, who could deny an unmistakeable likeness to the lady who had been cast ashore from the shipwreck with Beatrice? As the consciousness of this flashed on her conviction, she shivered with grief and agitation. It could be no chance resemblance, and covering her face with her hands, Lady Edith silently smothered a groan of anguish, while she turned away and wept in the sorrowful apprehension that Beatrice might soon be wrenched from her by foreign relatives and priestly guardians.
In respect to the religious creed of that stranger lady, the consecrated place in which Lady Edith had seen her some weeks before, as well as now, left her not a vestige of hope that this relative of Beatrice was otherwise than a Papist, and obviously a very strict one.
She looked like the living personification of Vandyke's celebrated portrait representing the dignified abbess of a Spanish convent. The white linen round her forehead, the dark hood over her head, the night-black drapery of her robe hanging in massy folds, the knotted rope round her waist, and the long rosary of richly carved beads, from which a large cross of magnificent diamonds was suspended at her girdle,—the whole figure was a striking tableau, and exhibited a personage of no ordinary importance; while the dignified expression of her pale countenance, and the commanding stateliness of her whole aspect, proclaimed the stranger accustomed to authority, and very capable of using it; yet she bent down in a semblance of the lowliest humility before Father