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Beatrice was too much overwhelmed with really indignant astonishment to articulate another word, but her eyes spoke volumes of most vexatious perplexity, while her colour went and came, her heart beat almost audibly, and she actually gasped for breath. Still the chariot rolled rapidly on, the driver frantically cracked his whip, and Lady Anne lay back in her carriage laughing in a perfect agony of delight, which was renewed every time she glanced round, with brimming eyes and quivering dimples at her startled and most unwilling companion.
“I thought you would be surprised" she exclaimed at last, and bursting out afresh into perfectly convulsive laughter, which was partly nervous now, as she saw that Beatrice looked seriously dissatisfied. “I really am not quite insane, Miss Farinelli; but from the moment when Father Eustace casually mentioned the idea of thus kidnapping you, in jest, the temptation became quite irresistible! Fancy poor me, going alone to such a scene, Miss Turton for the first time absent, a place in my carriage empty, your baggage ready packed, and yourself in distress for a conveyance. I felt certain, darling, that, as Father Eustace said, the only obstacle to prevent your accepting my invitation would be the fear of offending your good old Duenna, Lady Edith. I delight in her too; she wears the most beautiful snow-white hair I ever saw, and the whitest cap. When I am as old, what a tidy old thing I shall be The dress in our nunnery you will admire excessively.”
WOL. III. F
“Lady Anne,” interrupted Beatrice, with gentle firmness, “I cannot go to witness a scene revolting to my whole feelings and principles! It is not merely the opinion of my best friend on earth, Lady Edith, that influences me, though that is, and ought to be, my chief guide on every occasion, —but indeed, Lady Anne, my own heart and conscience forbid.”
“Never mind what they forbid! as Father Eustace says, we have no right to consult either. He would soon relieve you of all that trouble, therefore now you must monte en croupe, et gallope avec moi.”
“Impossible ! I would rather hire that man breaking stones on the road, to roll me back on his truck, with his plaid to keep me dry, than trust myself in a convent. How do I know that they will ever let me out?
“‘Will you come into my parlour?”
“It is too late now to stop,” replied Lady Anne in a tone of good-humoured wilfulness. “You lost a whole mile in staring with astonishment at me, instead of pulling the string. No! we are miles and miles on the road now. I never let myself be overruled, especially in my own carriage, and my ill used prisoner will be clever indeed if she escapes me, till I bring her back on Saturday.”
“How could you think of such a thing as this?” exclaimed Beatrice in real distress.
“I did not think of it ! The whole credit belongs to Father Eustace, who really has a great kindness for you, and who thought the change of scene would do you good. Nothing does people so much good as an agreeable surprise sometimes 1” replied Lady Anne, with an incorrigible laugh. “It should be put down, as your admirer Lord Iona says, in every Doctor's prescription. There, what a beautiful colour has rushed into your face No rose could vie with it. Now do join the ‘’Tiswell-its-no-worse school.” Be conformable.” Beatrice leaned thoughtfully back in the carriage, more perplexed than she had ever expected to be in her life; while Lady Anne rattled on with apparent heedlessness. “There never will or can be a better opportunity for you to see a nun make her profession, and every intelligent person should see everything in life once. Half my pleasure on this occasion is in your astonishment. I am serving you against your will: for on we go, without drawing bridle now, to Inverness.” “Lady Anne! Will nothing ever take the mischief out of your odd, elfish, ridiculous spirit? I cannot leave Aunt Edith so unexpectedly, and enter such a scene, among persons that I consider religiously insane,” said Beatrice, very seriously. “I would as willingly accompany Mr. Green in his balloon. It is quite impossible.” “Well, I positively promise you never to do anything that is quite impossible ! I make it a rule not to do absolute impossibilities, indeed, there are in this world none: the family is extinct,” answered Lady Anne, with a pouting smile of good-humoured defiance, and afterwards talking on so volubly, that to interrupt her was obviously impracticable—“What a sight this will be for us both ! I never saw the ceremony of a nun taking the veil, though I am so soon to act the principal part in such a scene myself. I do long for the day! Miss Turton's dress is only to be of Honiton lace, but mine shall be Brussels, and such a perfect love of a wreath—myrtle and orange flowers! Miss Turton wished me to have jessamine, like her own, but by that time I hope to have real conservatory orange-blossoms, as the perfume is so delicious. My bouquet is already bespoke from Covent Garden market. Father Eustace has taken such a kind interest in it.” “They adorn you with flowers for the sacrifice!” said Beatrice, a sudden emotion of pity banishing, for the moment, every feeling of personal resentment at the strange manoeuvre practised upon her; “but your happiness will fade as rapidly and as surely as your orange-blossoms. Miss Turton talked grandly about giving up the world for pleasures unmingled with earthly dross; but, being so much older than you, she has thirty years less to deplore her mistake in. I would as willingly have gone to see the bride of the mistletoe-bough step into her chest, as to see you take the wrong veil; but Miss Turton has had more time to look before she leaps.” a “True,” interrupted Lady Anne, with a heedless laugh; “she has lived in a whirlpool of society and amusements, till her hair has grown very grey; she detests all her relations, therefore she does not mind forsaking them; and she never continued any friendship with any one except myself for more than two months. Miss Turton ‘mopes for convents, because earth's grapes are sour.” Such admirers as might fall to her share now would probably be old, ugly, and vulgar, with no better home to offer her than a troisième garret, with nothing per annum, or a little damp, rheumatic cottage, surrounded by a hedge of sweetbriars. How different that insignificant fate would be from what I shall perhaps resign—Cairngorum Castle and Sir Allan McAlpine!” These last words seemed to have sprung to the lips of Lady Anne almost unconsciously; for, after she became aware of having uttered them, a flood of scarlet dyed her cheeks, and she turned hurriedly away to look at her ebony beads, saying, as if her whole heart were occupied with the subject, “My rosary will be splendid! It is presented by the lady abbess of St. Ignatia, such a charming, never-to-be-sufficiently loved and trusted person.” “The former abbess of that convent disappeared very unaccountably, did she not?” asked Beatrice, in a tone of mysterious awe. “One never knows, in these altered times, what to believe, because the Jesuits purposely circulate stories against themselves, to have a pretext for afterwards publicly contradicting them. An apostate Protestant clergyman will spread a report that he is returning to our Church, merely that he may bring his forgot