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repentance we were bound to go. Polly Evans' enthusiasm was so exalted that she yearned to follow the example of the German emperor we had read of who walked, or crawled on his knees, I forget which, to Rome, and made a public confession to the Pope. But this we felt to be an immodest flight of fancy in a little girl who had done nothing worth speaking of. She was like my Kildare companion Mary Jane, who constantly saw herself in a personal scuffle with Queen Victoria.

When the great day came we were bidden to stay in the chapel after the rest, and then were taken down to the town convent, with instructions to keep our minds fixed upon the awful sacrament of confession as we walked two and two through the streets.

"Remember, children," said that infamous Sister Esmeralda, prettier than ever, as she fixed me with a deadly glance, "to tell a lie in the confessional box is to tell a lie to the Holy Ghost. You may be struck dead for it."

Did she mean that for me? Oh, why had I so rashly vowed myself to a life of virtue? Why had I so precipitously chosen the companionship and example of the saints? Why had I read the lives of St Louis of Gonzago, St Stanislaus of Kotska, and other lamb-like creatures, and in a fit of admiration sworn to resemble them?-since all these good resolutions debarred me from flinging another stool at that lovely hostile visage. But having elected momentarily to

play the part of a shocking little prig, I swallowed my wrath, with a compunctious sensation, and felt a glow all over to think I was already so much of a saint.

In the convent chapel, with our throbbing hearts in our mouths, we knelt, a diminutive row, in our Sunday uniform (I have worn so many convent uniforms that I am rather mixed about them, and cannot remember which was blue on Sunday and which was black, but the Lysterby Sunday uniform I know was black). Polly Evans was the first to disappear, swallowed up in the awful box. She issued forth, tremulous and wide-eyed, and I followed her, pallid and quaking. The square grating was closed, and the green curtain enfolded me in a terrific dusk. I felt sick and cold with fright. What was going to happen? Could something spring suddenly out and clutch me? Was the devil behind me? Had my guardian angel forsaken me? I had read a great deal of late about "a yawning abyss," "a black pit," a "bottomless hole." Was I going to tell a lie to the Holy Ghost unknowing, and so be struck dead like, like?

The square slid swiftly back, and I saw a dim man's profile through the grating. Had I seen Father More clear before me, my fears would instantly have been quelled, for he was a graceful, aristocratic, softvoiced man, quick to captivate little children by his winning smile. But that dim formless thing behind the grating, what was it? They told me the

priest in the confessional was God. The statement was not such that any childish imagination could grasp. The sickness of terror overcame me, and

I, whom the rough sea of the Irish Channel had not harmed, fell down in an abject fit of nausea that left me prostrate for days.


Nobody but a hungry and excitable child, exiled from home and happiness, bereft of toys and kisses, can conceive the mad delight of receiving a Christmas hamper at school. Picture, if you can, a minute regiment with eager faces pasted against the frost-embroidered windowpanes, watching a van drive up the Ivies' path, knowing that a hamper is coming for some fortunate creature-but for whom?

Outside the land is all bridal white, and the lovely snow looks like deep-piled white velvet upon the lawn, and like the most delicate lace upon the branches. We see distinctly the driver, with a big good-humoured face of the hue of cochineal under his snow-covered hat, and he nods cheerfully to his enthusiastic admirers. He would be a chur indeed to remain unmoved by our vociferous salutations, as we stamp our feet, and clap our hands, and shout with all the force of our infant lungs.

For the Christmas hamper, announced by letter from my stepfather, meant for me the unknown. But every Christmas afterwards I was wiser, and not for that less glad. A hamper meant a turkey, a goose, a large plum-cake with Angela in beautiful pink letters

upon the snow - frost ground. It meant boxes of prunes, of sweets, of figs, lots of oranges and apples, hot sherry and water, hot port and water in the dormitory of a cold night, all sorts of surprising toys and picture-books. But it did not imply by any means as much of those good things (I speak of the eatables) for me as my parents fancied. The nuns generously helped themselves to the lion's share of fruit and wine and fowls.

But the cake, best joy of all, was left to us untouched, and also the sweets. The big round beauty was placed in front of me; with a huge knife, a lay sister sliced it up, and I, with a proud, important air, sent round the plate among hungry and breathless infants, who had each one already devoured her slice with her eyes before touching it with her lips.

And at night in the dormitory, all those bright eyes and flushed little faces, as we laughed and shouted and danced, disgraceful small topers that we were, drinking my stepfather's sherry and port-drinking ourselves into rosy paradises, where children lived upon plum-cake and hot negus.

Oh, the joy of those Christmas excesses, after the compulsory sobriety of long ascetic

months! As each child received a hamper, not quite so brilliantly and curiously filled as mine, for my stepfather was a typical Irishman-in the matter of hospitality, of generosity, he always erred on the right side for others, and was as popular as a prince of legend, for a fortnight we revelled in a land of toffee and turkey, of sugared cakes and plum - pudding, of crackers and sweets, and apples and oranges and bewitching toys. Like heroes refreshed, we were then able to return to the frugality of daily fare-though, alas! I fear this fugitive plenty and bliss made us early acquainted with the poet's suffering in days of misery by the remembering of happier things. This was my candid epistle, soon after Christmas, despatched to Kildare:

"MY DERE EVRYDAY MAMA, -i dont like skule a bit. i cant du wat i like. i dont have enuf tu et. Nun of us have enuf tu et. We had enuf at crismas when everyboddy sent us lots of things. We were very glad i had luvly things it was so nice but i dont like skule, its horid, theres a horid boy here. i bet him when he called me a savage. Sister Esmeralda said it first i dont like her. teches me. tell Mary Jane to give my black dog 6 kisses. i want to go home i like yu and Louie and Mary Jane and Bessy the apel woman i want to clim tres like Johny Burke your affecshunat little girl



was subjected to revision, it


"MY DEAR FOSTER-MAMMA, I am very happy here with the dear nuns. I hope I shall remain with them a long while. We have such fun always. We learn ever so many nice things. We love our dear mistress, Sister Esmeralda. Reverend Mother had a cold, and we all prayed so hard for her, and now she is better. I want some money for her feast-day. are going to give her a nice present. We had a play and a tea - party. Lady Wilhelmina Osborne's little girl come over from the Abbey. I hope you are quite well. With love, your affectionate



All our mistresses were not like Sister Esmeralda, a Spanish inquisitor in a shape of insidious charm, nor a burly brute like the lay sister, who had so piously welted my naked back, nor a chill and frozen despot like the pallid superioress. Mother Aloysius was, of course, a far-off stained-glass vision, a superlative rapture in devotion, not suitable for daily wear,a recompense after the prolonged austerities of virtue and self-denial, a soaring acquaintance with ecstatic admiration. But on a lower plane there were some younger nuns we found tolerable and sympathetic. There was Sister Anne, who taught us to play at snowballs, and took a ball on her nose with companionable humour in the midst of our shriek

When this frank outpouring ing approbation. There was

Sister Ignatius, who inspired us with terpsichorean ambition by dancing a polka with one of the big girls down the long study hall, to the amiable murmur of—

"Can you dance a polka? Yes, I can. Up and down the room with a nice young man ";

or upon a flight—

especially when I watched her dance the "Varsovienne," and fling her head over her shoulders in a most laughable way, just as I imagined a bear would do if he took to dancing the dance of Poland.

Mother Catherine is a less agreeable memory. I see her still, a tall gaunt woman in coif more imaginative and black veil, with austere grey

"My mother said that I never should
Play with the gypsies in the wood;
If I did, she would say,
Naughty girl to disobey."

Her great feat was, however, the Varsovienne, which she told us was a Polish dance, and that Poland was a bleak and unfortunate country on the confines of Russia. Ever afterwards I associated the sprightly Sister Ignatius with a polar bear,

eyes. She used to watch us in the refectory, and whenever a greedy infant kept a rare toothsome morsel for the wind-up of a frugal meal, Mother Catherine would sweep down and confiscate the reserved luxury. "My child, you will make an act of mortification for the good of your soul." I leave you to imagine the child's dislike of her immortal soul, as the goody was carried off.


The joy of my second year at Lysterby was Mr Parker the dancing-master. Was he evoked from pantomime and grotesque legend by the sympathetic genius of Sister Ignatius? We were all solemnly convened, in our best shoes and frocks, to a great meeting in the big hall to make the acquaintance of our dancing-master, and learn the polite steps of society. A wizen cross-looking little creature stood at the top of the long room, and as we entered in file, all agog, and ready enough, heaven knows, to shriek for nothing, from sheer animal spirits, he bowed to us, as I suppose they bowed in the good old days of Queen Anne. For

Queen Anne was his weakness. I wonder why, since she was neither the queen of grace nor of beauty.

I recall the gist of his first speech: "We are now, young ladies, about to study one of the most necessary and the most serious of arts, the art of dancing. It is the art of dancing that makes ladies and gentlemen of us all. In a ballroom the awkward, those who cannot dance, are in disgrace. Nobody minds them, nobody admires them. They have not the tone of society. They are poor creatures, who, for all society cares, might never have been born. What it behoves you, young ladies, is to acquire

the tone of society from your earliest years, and it is only by a steady practice of the art of dancing that you may hope to acquire it. Practice, young ladies, makes perfect-remember that."

Ever afterwards, his first question, before beginning each week's lesson, was: "What does practice do, young ladies?" and we were all expected to reply in a single ringing voice: "Makes perfect, Mr Parker." Children are heartless satirists, and the follies of poor little Mr Parker filled us with wicked glee.

I see him still, unconscious tiny clown, gathering up in a delicate grasp the tails of his black coat to show us how a lady curtseyed in the remote days of Queen Anne. And mincing across the polished floor, he would say, as he daintily picked his steps: "The lady enters the ball-room on the tip of her toes-so!" Picture, I pray you, the comic appearance of any woman who dared to enter a ball-room as Mr Parker walked across our dancinghall! Society would stand still to gape. He minced to right, he minced to left, he minced in and out of the five positions, and then with eyes ecstatically closed, he would seize his violin, and play the homely air of "Nora Creina," as he chasséed up and down the floor for our delectation, singing the while "Bend and rise-a-Nora Creina,

Rise on your toes-a-Nora Creina, Chassez to the right-a--Nora Creina,

And then to the left-a-Nora Creina."

In his least inspired moments, he addressed us in the first posi

tion; but whenever he soared aloft on the wings of imagination, he stood in the glory of the fifth. In that position he never failed to recite to us the imposing tale of his successes in the "reception halls" of the Duchess of Leamington and the Marchioness of Stoke. Once he went so far as to exhibit to us a new dance he had composed expressly for his illustrious friend the duchess.

"My dears, that dance will be all the rage next spring in London, you will see."

He was quite aware that we never would see, having nothing on earth to do with the London season. But the assertion mystified us, and enchanted him.

"Thus my hand lightly reposes on the waist of her Grace, her fingers just touch my shoulders, and, one, two, three — boom!" he was gliding round the room, clasping lightly an imaginary duchess in his arms, in beatific unconsciousness of the exquisite absurdity of his appearance and action, and we children followed his circumvolutions with glances magnified and brightened by mirth and wonderment.

The irresistible Mr Parker had a knavish trick of keeping us on our good behaviour by a delusive promise persistently unfulfilled. Every Tuesday, after saluting us in the fashion of the eighteenth century and demanding from us an immense simultaneous curtsey of Queen Anne, holding our skirts in an travagant semicircle and trailing our little bent bodies backward and upward upon the most pointed of toes, he would rap the


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