« VorigeDoorgaan »
from Father Eustace, to be present at the ceremony of Miss Turton taking the veil, respecting which there had been for several days past a grand note of preparation at Eaglescairn. The heroine of the day had her vain mind as filled with visions of temporary éclat as the most juvenile bride who marries for the trousseau, the favours, and the wedding cake. The Popish ceremony of a nun taking the veil, is a sort of Barmecide's feast to represent an actual marriage, and Miss Turton already saw before her crowds filling the chapel, the pathway strewed with flowers, the altar decorated with gold, the bridal dress, the universal applause, the gaze of strangers, the procession of nuns, the blessing of bishops, the flattery of Father Eustace, and the tears of any friends she had to mourn for her living death. Miss Turton had taken a picturesque farewell, on the previous day, of all those who were not intending to be present at the ceremony, where she was to perform as “the show, the idol of the day,” and she departed, dressed with much more than her usual taste, while she waved her handkerchief, and smiling her last smile, affected the most extravagant spirits. A rumour accidentally reached Beatrice that Bessie M*Ronald was to accompany Miss Turton in the carriage, and watching privately from the window of her own room, she had seen a figure cowering in the extreme corner, shrunk and wasted, as if by long-endured consumption, and a face pale and corpse-like as a spirit, but so lovely yet, that wan and pallid as it appeared, it was beautiful as no other face, the blue eyes so bright, the white teeth so dazzling, the rich brown hair dropping in a torrent of natural ringlets on the marble cheek. Yes! it was Bessie M*Ronald, seen probably for the last time, and as Beatrice gazed at her old favourite, comparing what she was with what she might have been, the tears sprang to her eyes, and she turned hopelessly and most indignantly away. Robert Carre, too, must have heard, with the watchfulness of devoted affection, that Bessie was about to depart from that neighbourhood for ever, and he stood near the park-gate as the carriage passed. How long and anxiously he had waited to hear the sound of those carriage-wheels l and now big drops of agony started out on his massive forehead; his hat was slouched over his face, and his attitude was one of the deepest dejection. While the lodge-keeper slowly unlocked the heavy iron gate, and swung it open, Miss Turton's conveyance stopped for an instant. Then young Carre rushed forward to the window next poor Bessie, the object of all his deep unalterable affection, and said in accents of wringing anguish, while his whole face was convulsed with irrepressible emotion, “Farewell, Bessie, farewell for ever ! We meet no more : yet, Bessie, still dear to me, if ever you want a friend, remember Robert Carre. I would have lived for you; and I could die to serve you now.” The carriage rolled on, and long did Bessie lie fainting and totally insensible at the feet of Miss Turton, who felt the superiority of her own mind in having at once abandoned every human feeling and all the sensibilities of life, for a picturesque dress and a solitary cell, in which to study the difficult art of doing nothing useful, rational, or cheerful.
“Narrow and dark, nought through the gloom discern'd, Nought save the crucifix, the rosary, And the grey habit lying by to shroud Her beauty and her grace.”—Rogers. When Beatrice had been comfortably seated in the elegant, well-stuffed and well-hung carriage of Lady Anne, while her baggage was placed in the boot, Lord Iona, who had handed her in, presented her with the most beautiful bouquet that ever grew in any conservatory, and begged that Miss Farinelli would present his most respectful as well as his most kind remembrances to Lady Edith, on whom he would do himself the honour of calling next day. Beatrice coloured, smiled, and bent over her flowers with a complexion that eclipsed the brightest among them ; and as the carriage drove on, she fell into the most pleasing little reverie in the world; which so occupied her thoughts that she did not look up till they had driven some miles, and she expected to see the picturesque chimneys of Heatherbrae. Beatrice gave an exclamation of perplexity and surprise when, after glancing round, she found herself driving over a large open common perfectly unknown to her, and she instantly sprang forward to pull the check-string, saying “Lady Anne, your coachman must have mistaken the road to Heatherbrae.” “Not at all! Thomas has my orders and knows perfectly what he is about,” replied Lady Anne, in a tone of suppressed laughter, and Beatrice felt surprised to see her companion's whole countenance glittering with the same smile of fun and frolic which she had observed there in the morning. “The fact is, Miss Farinelli, that I thought you might like to see the field of Culloden, and there it is l’’ “Culloden l’’ exclaimed Beatrice, starting with amazement, “that is nearly five miles off our road l’’ “Not a yard! not a finger-length !” answered Lady Anne, looking at Beatrice with a winning smile, which soon turned into an almost hysterical fit of laughter. “Pray do look less astonished. It is too diverting ! But now, like a Member of Parliament, I must rise to explain. The truth is, that I am, you know, a spoiled child, accustomed to my own way, and will have it, coute qui coute / " “Not after you take the veil,” answered Beatrice, with a smiling earnestness of voice and manner. “In a convent, neither you nor Miss Turton, much as you both like your own way now, can hope for any choice in what you shall read, write, speak, think, love, hate, or do, not even in what you eat or drink, whom you speak to, and what you say to them.” “The more reason why I should use my power over you and others as long as it lasts,” continued Lady Anne, in a light jesting tone, and her bright laughing eye looked like that of a wild gazelle; “I am always afraid of giving myself heiress-airs, and have not, therefore, done many things that I should have liked to do; but to-day I have really indulged myself in a whim 1"
The carriage continued rumbling and jolting over some very indifferent road, while Beatrice still held the check-string, and Lady Anne laughingly grasped her hand so as to prevent her drawing it. Still she seemed deferring her promised explanation, till at length the earnestness with which Beatrice requested to be enlightened obliged her to speak, which she did now with some little trepidation, though still in agonies of suppressed laughter.
“This is entirely a plan of my own, and Father Eustace's' Not another mortal knows of it. We shall be back in two days; but I felt sure, if you had Prince Houssein's glass, you would like a single peep into , where I am going. You have twice contumaciously refused to come with me, and see my darling, Miss Turton, take the veil; but I was resolute all the time that you shall. Yesterday I wrote to tell “Aunt Edith’ that you are accompanying me to Inverness, on particular business, and Father Eustace undertook himself to deliver my note. Now, pray do not look so scared l you are as safe with me as any mummy in a glass-case. We have Father Ambrose on the dicky behind, and Father Eustace follows tomorrow. How speechless you are with astonishment. Well; it certainly is an odd elopement of mine, to kidnap you, and set off myself with such an escort.”