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(Continued from Vol. LXXX. Page 537.)
ON the morning of the third day after the receipt of the heart-rending intelligence from England, I was suddenly awakened out of an unrefreshing slumber, into which I had fallen from mere exhaustion, by an unusual clamour of voices, apparently proceeding from the convent parlour. I started up; I listened; for a minute it grew louder; then, in an instant, was hushed into silence; and the circumstance passed from my mind.
That day was nearly spent, yet still Josephine came not; but in the dusk of the evening, a female with a light step entered my cell; who having carefully secured the door, took her station near me. I instantly recognized, with a shriek of delight, my beloved friend! but she interrupted my transports by again bitterly animadverting on the folly of which I had been guilty, until having at length succeeded in deprecating her displeasure, she kissed my check in token of amity; and then, in a cautious whisper, proceeded to ask me, "If I had been disturbed by any unusual noise in the course of the day?" I replied in the affirmative, and requested an explanation. She hesitated; was silent for more than a minute; and then, instead of answering my question, enquired of me, "If the last letter from my aunt had not taught me to expect the arrival of Sir Charles Kenyon?"
"Merciful powers! is he come? Have you seen him? Where is he? Let me fly to him!" cried I, eagerly starting up, but should have fallen again from an excessive languor and debility, had not Josephine's arm sustained me.
"I protest, Torriana," said Madame Garniér, with some asperity, "that if you do not promise to be more collected and composed, I will not engage to serve you; you must learn to curb this impetuosity, or you will betray and ruin all." I implored forgiveness, and declared that in future I would be all passiveness and forbearance. She kindly took my hand, and placed in it a slip of paper, bidding me keep it securely till I could meet with a safe opportunity to peruse it; for it was now too dark to
decypher it's contents; and then, at my urgent entreaty, thus commenced her interesting recital,
"This morning, not long after our morning meal, I was informed that a gentleman, stating his name to be Sir Charles Kenyon, had come to the convent, and desired to see Miss Templeton; but on being told that it was impossible to comply with his request, in consequence of the young lady having sworn herself a nun, he had utterly refused to credit the intelligence, and I was accordingly summoned to bear my testimony to the fact. The ' previous, and as I had deemed them, exaggerated, descriptions of your lover, which I had so often heard from your lips, had greatly raised my curiosity to behold such a paragon of perfection, and I hastily descended to the parlour; but actually stopped short on the threshold as I caught the first glance of the godlike figure that stood before me! The impression produced by the reality far transcended the most vivid conception which my mind had formed. His majestic form; his expressive countenance, glowing with emotion; his eye beaming with-but you have seen him! you know how I laugh at the idea of a girl's sighing and pining for love; but positively if there ever was a man who was worth a woman's dying for, it is Sir Charles Kenyon.
Waving all greeting or introduction, he immediately on my appearance renewed his enquiries for you; and never shall I forget the look of dismay, consternation, and despair, with which he listened to my confirmation of the fact of your incarceration. For nearly a minute he regarded me with a look of speechless horror; then violently seizing my arm, he asked, in a hoarse and hollow tone, 'Woman, do you tell me truth?' and when, by my solemn asseverations, I removed all doubt of the matter, his rage knew no bounds. He cursed his own untoward fate,
he denounced the monastic law as inhuman and absurd,-he execrated your guardians as the worst of fools, in having permitted your departure from England, he blamed your own mad precipitaney,-he vented a large
portion of his indignation against me, for having, as he supposed, connived at such a proceeding;-nay, the whole sisterhood fell under his malediction; he vowed that he would raze the edifice to it's foundation to procure your freedom; and was actually on the point of rushing up stairs, when the Lady Abbess, highly incensed at hear ing such a disturbance, sent to command his immediate dismissal; a mandate with which he felt himself obliged, however reluctantly, to comply; at the same time conjuring me to accompany him; which, in order to appease his ire, and to set forth my own justification, I consented to do.
"We chose for our walk a sequestered spot by the sea-side. And here did Sir Charles lay open his whole heart to me; imploring me to grant him my counsel and co-operation, in his endeavours to rescue his adored Torriana from the iron grasp of superstition and bigotry. But I represented to him the very extreme peril, if not the utter impracticability of any such under taking, and entirely declined any interference. He protested, that no difficulty, however formidable, could discourage him; that he was ready to encounter all hazards, provided that I would befriend him; but I again refused my aid. On this he became desperate; besought me, almost with tears, to revoke my resolution; appealed to my own heart, if I had ever loved, to plead for him; threw himself on my pity and compassion; raising his clasped hands in supplication to me to relent. There is a tone in his voice that reaches the very soul; there is a language in his eye, there is a kindling enthusiasm in his manner, while conversing on any subject in which he is deeply interested, that altogether appears like the effect of inspiration; in short, his eloquence proved irresistible, and I have promised to serve him to the utmost of my ability."
"Blessings! thanks! generous, best of friends! how shall I ever be able to repay your kindness ?" cried 1, enraptured.
"Rather bless your lover's rhetoric," replied Madame; "but prithee let the consideration of the extreme uncertainty of success teach you to moderate your transports; for not
withstanding that Sir Charles Kenyon and myself debated the subject for nearly four hours, contemplating every possible mode of emancipation, yet we could come to no satisfactory conclusion. Sir Charles proposed that you and I should exchange dresses; but the total dissimilarity which there is in our features, our figures, and height, would never bear us out in this imposture. Nay, he even suggested the desperate expedient of setting fire to the convent, and making the consequent confusion a cover for your flight; but I immediately negatived such a proposition with horror: there may, possibly, exist subterranean passages, through which an escape might be effected; but of these I am totally ignorant; and I would not, for the universe, startle the wistful car of suspicion by instituting any enquiry on the subject; the situation of your cell too, in the very centre of the building, is greatly adverse to the execution of any scheme that we might decide upon to adopt; in short, I have racked my invention to the uttermost without having been able to furnish any plan that presents even a probability of success. Yet whatever is done, must be done quickly; a contagious fever has appeared in the convent, which is daily gaining ground, and assuming a more alarming aspect; insomuch, that I have thought it advisable to remove my two little charges from within the reach of it's baneful influence." Just at this instant the bell for vespers began to toll, and Josephine rose to leave me; for as the estrangement which existed between us had been generally known in the convent, she was fearful lest our hasty reconciliation, combined with the transactions of the morning, by awakening mistrust and surprise, might subject me to such rigorous restrictions, as should frustrate every attempt to regain my liberty.
As soon as I could procure a light to be brought to me, I hastened to peruse the billet delivered to me by my kind Josephine. It contained only a few lines, written in pencil; but through the agitation and difficulty with which they had evidently been traced, I could distinguish the well-known characters of Loftus" hand-writing: he gently reproached, me for the hasty sacrifice that I had
made; bade me not to despair, as he was resolved to encounter all hazards for my sake; and concluded by assurances of the most unalterable faith and affection.
A thousand times I pressed the precious scroll to my lips and to my heart; then, having carefully secured it in my bosom, attempted to take a review of the events of he day. But my mind was at that time incapable of reasoning and reflection; my thoughts ran vividly from one subject to another; the most wild and visionary schemes appeared practicable to my heated imagination; scenes of love and bliss, sketched by fancy's airy fingers, flitted, as it were a phantasmagoria, before my mental vision; and the happiness of distant years seemed already in possession. In this perturbed state I traversed my cell during the livelong night, nor even for a moment attempted to seek that repose of which I stood so greatly in need. But the intellectual functions would bear no longer the unnatural exercise; my brain grew dizzy almost to delirium; while the parched lip, bloodshot eye, and burning hand, but too plainly indicated that my frame had caught a fever from my mind; so that when Sister Ursula brought to me, as usual, my morning meal, alarmed at my bewildered and disordered aspect, she ran back in terror, and brought Josephine to my bed-side; who, immediately on beholding me, cried out in agony, "Merciful Heaven! you have caught the contagion!" and, after asking a few questions to satisfy herself that my symptoms really assimilated with those ascribed to the fatal malady, hastened out of the cell; but quickly returned again, laden with such medicines as were wont to be administered to the infected, and accompanied by a friar, who officiated as a kind of physician on the occasion. The father gaped on me for more than a minute in stupid silence; shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and, having prescribed some simple palliative, was moving away, when Josephine indignantly detained him, suggesting the expediency of bleeding. The monk most vehemently expressed his dissent; Josephine urged her notion; but he utterly refused to comply; when Madame, perceiving that he held a
case of laneets in his hand, snatched them from him, and, without further hesitation, precipitated the point of one of the instruments into my right arm; when, having suffered the blood to flow copiously for several minutes, she skilfully bound up the orifice, and coolly returned the ease to the astonished father, bidding him begone, and leave all care of the patient to her. The mortified friar replied, with a sneer," that he would not for the world interfere with her practice, nor divide with her the merit of so miraculous a cure ;" and, bowing obsequiously, turned on his heel, and quitted the cell.
From this period my senses failed me, and I became unconscious of all that was passing around me, for the space of three days, as Josephine afterwards informed me ; indeed it was entirely to her kind care and caution, in fumigating the confined apartment, keeping it's narrow casement constantly open, and various other judicious measures, that I am indebted for the preservation of my existence. On my return to recollection, my first thoughts were of my lover, and of liberty: my prudent friend, however, only, at that time, partially satisfied my enquiry; nor was it until I had gained sufficient strength and fortitude to support the disclosure, that she communicated to me in full the result of numerous conferences which she had held with Sir Charles Kenyon; and, having first received my repeated assurance, that I was willing to embrace any means, embark in any enterprize, however perilous, which might accomplish the end so devoutly desired, submitted to my approval the following desperate scheme.
Sir Charles Kenyon, on a minute inspection of the exterior of the con-, vent, had discovered a low iron door, situated immediately underneath the great window at the eastern extremity of the chapel; which, after having had recourse to Madame Garnier's, knowledge of the construction of the interior of the edifice, he judged to be the entry into a vault that was used as a place of interment for the successive superiors of the convent. It had the appearance of not having been opened for a great length of time, and, at a short distance, was scarcely distinguishable from the black rock out of
which it had been hewn, and which formed the basement of St. Agatha's ancient pile. Excepting the great portal in front, this was the only medium of egress that was visible around the whole building; and Kenyon, with a view to render it instrumental in aiding the meditated escape, resolved on forcing it open; which, after an exertion of several hours, he was enabled to do. But, having gained an entry into the dreary charnel-house, he was greatly disappointed and vexed, to find that an iron grating, at the same time forming part of the roof of the vault and of the floor of the chapel, afforded the only communication with the inhabited part of the building; which grating being secured by a seeret spring, resisted the united efforts of Josephine and Kenyon to raise it. "I wish from my soul that your Lady Abbess would please to die, if it were only that we might discover the hinges, fastnings, and machinery, of this infernal grating," cried Sir Charles, as he reluctantly abandoned the fruitless attempt: "Is no one ever buried here but your superior?"
"No one that I ever heard of;but suppose,-unless indeed, that is, -Torriana buried,-dead,-yes, I have it!-Sir Charles, I have started a notion which I am anxious to digest in private; 'tis time we separate, the vesper hour approaches; farewell, my friend; and trust me, the sharpness of a woman's wit can cut through stone walls, and sever iron bars, where love or mischief is concerned."
From the commencement of my attack, Josephine had been almost my sole nurse and attendant; the nuns having been forbidden, on pain of penance, to hold communication with the infected; she was, therefore, enabled to make whatever report of the progress of my disorder might best accord with her views. She proposed, therefore, as soon as she believed me to be free from any real danger, to assert, that my fever had grown rapidly to it's height; that it's crisis had proved unfavourable; and, with much wailing and lamentation, to deplore the prospect of a speedy dissolution; and, in confirmation of the truth of her fears, she intended to administer a powerful narcotic drug, with the properties of which she was well acquainted, that should produce a deep insensibility, so nearly resembling
death, as to readily be mistaken for it.
But the most material point in the stratagem, indeed the circumstance on which it's whole success hinged, was this; that, antecedently to my supposed demise, I should, in presence of the friar, the domestics, or some other uninterested party, express an anxious desire that my remains, instead of being committed to the ordinary cemetery, should be deposited in the identical vault which was to serve as the medium of my liberation; should this request be denied to me, I was to appear to gradually recover my health, and trust to some better manoeuvre for success.
When Josephine had concluded her relation, I not only declared myself delighted with her contrivance, but expressed an anxiety to lose no time in commencing operations.
Accordingly, on the evening of that day, Josephine took an opportunity, with well feigned sorrow, to express her apprehensions of the precarious state of my existence, and beg the attendance of one of the fathers, to perform the last duty of the confessional, and so forth. Two or three of the lay sisterhood also came to visit me; and, in compliance with the instructions that I had received from Josephine, I seized these moments to signify my desire respecting the mode of my interment; at the same time, taking care to intimate, that I had made a bequest of the greater proportion of my large estates to the funds of the establishment of which I had enrolled myself a member.
On my request being made known to the Abbess, she required to have four and twenty hours afforded her to deliberate on the question; in order that she might have time to consuit the records of the house, and to confer with the superior of a neighbouring convent on the propriety of acceding to the measure. These hours were passed in a state of the most painful anxiety by me and my dear Josephine; whose every limb trembled with agitation, as, at the time appointed, she obeyed the summons to receive an answer to my application.
The Abbess, however, received her very graciously, and, after detaining her with a few questions, she, to the ineffable delight of Josephine, ac
corded her permission that the ceremony of sepulture should be performed as I had desired.
between the edges, so as to make. an opening sufficient to admit of respiration; and, as soon as ever she was left alone, she set to work, and, with much ingenuity, perforated numberless small holes in the sides and lid of the coffin.
In the course of the day, Ursula, and some of the boarders, came to take a last look at me; but, fearful of the effects of the tainted atmosphere, did not stay to make a mi
apprehended nothing from mere spectators; for the ravages that the dis
pearance were yet so visible, that the cheat might well have escaped detection, even under more suspicious cir
In the evening of the same day, the coffin was conveyed into the chapel; whither Josephine, who had never lost sight of me for a moment since I was become insensible, still anxiously followed.
Josephine flew back to me to communicate the result of the interview. Nothing now remained but for me to die; and, soon after miduight, Josephine presented me with an opiate, which she had herself carefully prepared, calculated to operate for the space of four and twenty hours. I drank it off, with a fearful and palpitating heart, and in a few minute inspection; though Josephine nutes sunk into a deep, heavy sleep. Whatever transpired, therefore, during the period of my unconscious-temper had wrought in my whole apness, I can only narrate, as it was detailed to me by Josephine; who protested, that these four and twenty hours were the most painfully incumstances. teresting she had ever passed. The next morning, Josephine, with the most vehement demonstrations of grief, gave information of my death; and, according to the hasty burial that was adopted on similar occasions, the same day, at noon, a shell was brought for the reception of my remains; Josephine insisted that the mournful task should be left solely to her; which was assented to, without much opposition, on the part of the attendants; had it been otherwise, the vital heat that was yet in my limbs must have betrayed our secret. Josephine, however, had another, and more arduous, point to carry; namely, that no lid should be affixed to the coffin. A proposal which was strongly combated, on the ground that the contagion was more likely to spread, so long as the body remained exposed; and the fatal covering was in the act of being placed, when Josephine, horrified to phrenzy at the idea of inhumation, threw herself on her knees, and besought with such frantic energy for at least a few hours delay, that she might be permitted to behold the features of the friend so loved, so long as they remained on earth, that the persons employed on the occasion were induced to consent, that the lid should not be screwed down, though it must remain shut during the performance of the funeral obsequies. With this Josephine felt her self compelled to acquiesce; and hastily drawing the pall over the interesting receptacle, she contrived, at the same time, to insert a wedge
The mass was said; the requiem was chanted; and Josephine confessed that a kind of superstitious fear struck upon her heart, as she listened to the solemn mockery; and, but for a moment, she felt sorry for the deception she had practised; but the kerchief pressed to her face, which seemed to administer to her grief, served to screen the workings of her breast from observation. The grating was now raised; Josephine rushed forward, to inspect, as far as possible, the mysterious mechanism; or, as it appeared, to watch the lowering of the corpse into the vault beneath; and, when the object of her solicitude was hidden from her view, overcome by a variety of sensations and feelings, sank fainting into the arms of some one near; nor recovered her selfpossession and composure for the space of several minutes; her excessive emotion, however, was attributed, merely, to the poignant regret which the death of so dear a friend might be expected to call forth. The chapel was shortly afterward cleared; and before midnight, the whole sisterhood was locked in sleep. Not so Josephine: the apprehension lest the full effect of the soporific should have been abridged by the revolution of position that I had undergone, kept her on the rack; and, soon as she deemed it safe, she sallied forth to explore her way to the