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eyes closed, when Beatrice fancied that in the deep stillness around her, she heard a low murmuring noise, as if it proceeded from Sir Allan's bed-room. At first she thought it was the wind moaning down the chimney, but the sound was too even and low. Still she thought it impossible for any conversation to be going on, as no one had been allowed to sit up with Sir Allan but the sicknurse, who promised that not a fly should stir in the room; yet Beatrice listened intently, and became convinced that a voice was audible there, as if some one were in a low, dreamy, indistinct tone reading aloud. She cautiously rose from her seat and proceeded on tip-toe to the door. It was no mistake. In the silence of midnight, a voice proceeded from that room, low, and solemn, and continuous. Could it be Allan delirious ? Yet the sound was so very monotonous that it seemed very unlike the ravings of fever. No! the voice was not Allan's !
Noiselessly and cautiously, as if she trod upon egg-shells, Beatrice advanced along the passage, and extinguishing her light, groped forwards in the dark. She followed the sound, pushed the door imperceptibly open, and discovered the room brilliantly illuminated with six large wax-candles surrounding a stucco image of the Virgin Mary. Sir Allan was supported upon his knees in bed by Mrs. Lorraine, and Father Eustace stood holding up an ebony cross for him to kiss. The exhausted sufferer seemed evidently much more dead than alive, and there was the wandering light of
delirium in his burning eyes. Beside the bed lay Mrs. Lorraine's bead-remembrancer, and a number of legal looking parchments, with pens and ink which had evidently been used a few minutes before, as the signatures were not yet dry. While she stood there panic-struck, Sir Allan asked in a fainting voice, “Does the doctor order me no wine to-day ? I feel sinking so rapidly.” “No,” replied Mrs. Lorraine. “His instructions are that you keep the season of fasting as a faithful son of our Church.” The patient looked both surprised and disappointed, but made no reply, and Beatrice, who knew how earnestly the doctor had enjoined wine or even brandy, listened in silent horror to this lie so coolly told for the good of the Popish Church. Beatrice, when she first saw Mrs. Lorraine, had with difficulty restrained a scream of consternation, and now remained for a moment so thunderstruck that she neither moved nor spoke. The next moment she fled along the passage, making not so much noise as a mouse would have done, to summon Lady Edith. Much she dreaded to awaken her aged benefactress when so agitating a scene was before her; but well did Beatrice know that the cause was one in which Lady Edith would lay down her life without regret, if Allan might only be rescued. In an instant Lady Edith comprehended rather than guessed that the sick-nurse from Inverness had accepted a bribe from Mrs. Lorraine to let her own place be assumed by herself, that inde
fatigable masquerader in the Jesuit school, and that she, taking advantage of the position thus established, might probably have opened an entrance at the well-barred door for the priest. He once beside Sir Allan, could not be afterwards ejected without some such scene in words or deeds as, around the sick-bed of her exhausted invalid, would cause his instant death. Lady Edith, her whole spirit on fire with indignation, but her steps tottering with age and fatigue, instantly called up all her servants, at the same time cautioning them, and especially M«Ronald, on no account to act without her especial orders.
“ What shall I do?” she whispered hurriedly to Beatrice. - Think for me-act for me! I am completely bewildered!”
“From what I overheard,” said Beatrice, “ Allan had made a scruple of receiving the Holy Sacrament at present, and Father Eustace was urging him to receive une communion blanche, a blank coinmunion, which the Papists give in such cases, without consecrating the Host at all.” There was within Sir Allan's room
a small apartment, leading to a narrow back stair. In that room, to prevent all effluvia from the medicines, every bottle had been placed.
When Lady Edith, leaning on Beatrice, and followed closely by M«Ronald, opened the bedroom door, they saw that the patient having fainted, Father Eustace and Mrs. Lorraine had both hurried to the dressing-room in search of restoratives, and were hastening back. In an instant, with the
speed of thought, Beatrice flew forward to the dressing-room door, and locked it. Not a second had elapsed, and both the Papal intruders were prisoners. It mattered not now that they almost battered down the door in their vain efforts to return, for the noise of a cannon could not have disturbed the still, cold form of Sir Allan, insensible on the bed. M“Ronald having received his directions from Lady Edith at once proceeded up the back stair, followed by the gardener, both armed, and the old soldier, livid as death with the effort he made to control his passions, walked deliberately up to Father Eustace, exhibiting an aspect so determined, that few could have had courage to withstand it, and certainly not Father Eustace. It was evident that force would be used if quieter means did not prevail, yet the priest had much at stake, and he hesitated, while a thousand guilty, as well as self-interested fears, rushed into his mind; but his hesitation could not last above a minute when he saw the fierce resolution expressed in every feature of M*Ronald's soldier-like countenance. Father Eustace retreated,—not a word was spoken on either side, but in a few minutes he and Mrs. Lorraine had emerged together into the midnight darkness of the garden, and were both locked out by a careful sentinel, not again to be deceived or surprised, who muttered indignantly to himself, “They should both be indicted for stealing into a dwelling-house.” Lady Edith, meanwhile, had found in a place of concealment the wine, brandy, and food which Sir Allan was supposed to have taken during the previous day, when he was, in fact, superstitiously keeping the strictest fast of Friday, as instigated by Mrs. Lorraine, and the consequences now were mournfully evident, as Lady Edith, when she placed her hand on his heart, could not discover the slightest pulsation. Still some warmth remained; therefore she sat silently down by the side of Sir Allan, and taking up a tea-spoon, put some brandy between his motionless lips. This Lady Edith continued perseveringly to do for nearly an hour, till at length the patient heaved a low, almost inaudible sigh, then a nearly imperceptible pulsation might be observed at the heart, and his eyes feebly opened. Beatrice meanwhile advanced to inspect those suspicious-looking parchments scattered on the table, which were, as she expected, documents by which Sir Allan legally resigned all his estates, moveables, and property of whatever description, into the hands of certain trustees whom he named, entirely cardinals and priests, to receive the same for the benefit of their Church. Some of the signatures were not yet perfectly dry, which Beatrice hurriedly beckoned up three of the maids to observe, and that the deeds were dated a week back, as if they had been signed early in the morning of Sir Allan's birth-day. A long list of witnesses was also appended, including Lord Eaglescairn's butler, gardener, coachman, and grooms, as testifying to this extraordinary document, which they