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ings which were awakened in her on look-possessed by any other valet-de-place in ing about her at Rome, were those con- Rome. nected with an instinctive and almost pas- The adventure of Bertha which has been sionate love for the fine arts, and the fresh alluded to, arose from this curiosity on her impressions left by the eager perusal of his- part, and the not quite vainly boasted powtory, which had made a prominent feature er of gratifying it on his. in her education. But it was not long He had long promised to obtain for her besore the religious aspect of Rome, as dis- an especially favorable place for seeing a played to the eyes of even the most care- lady receive the white veil, and on this less observer, attracted her attention. The occasion at least he kept his word faithfully, prodigious number of churches, the astound- for having informed his holy sister that a ing splendor of some among them, and young English lady, extremely rich and the multitudes of priests which thronged the perfectly independent, had fixed her heart streets, produced a sensation of awe, min- upon knowing all about it, and that he gled with curiosity. Young as she was, thought it very likely indeed that one day however, Bertha Harrington was not one of or other she would turn nun herself, perthose persons who are in danger of chang- mission was obtained from the abbess for ing either the faith or the form of the reli- her admission into the interior of the congion which, from their earliest days of con- vent on the day appointed for the ceremony. sciousness, has been the object of their Greatly to her satisfaction, therefore, she deepest reverence, by looking at the pom- was conducted into the parlor where the pous prelacy of Rome. She was made of nuns were permitted to stand on one side other stuff
. But she was interested greatly of a grated aperture, and converse with in watching the external worship of the such friends as were licensed to visit them, church from which her own had seceded, who were stationed on the other. Bertha and with the most innocent unconscious- modestly seated herself as near this grating ness of deciding for herself a point of such as she conveniently could, without interferimportance as to shake the tranquillity of ing with the approach of the visitors, who man for ages past, and ages yet to come, each in succession were permitted to hold she thanked God very ferrently for having a few minutes' conversation with some near been born in England. But still there was relative, or connection within the cloister, one ferture of Romanism which had taken Several pair of fine black eyes, seen by no strong hold of her imagination. She means to a disadvantage under the white thought there was something very delightful band that crossed the forehead, had, more in the idea of a society of women withdraw. or less, interested Bertha, according to ing themselves from ihe idle vanities of life, their beauty or their expression, when a and devoting themselves to holy thoughts figure approached the grating, whose dress, and deeds of charity. And such a notion though almost equally monastic with that of of the state and occupation of a sisterhood the sisters who had preceded her, was withof cloistered nuns, though perhaps not ex- out the speaking accompaniment of the actly accordant with truth, must not be veil. This difference in her attire so much sneered at as a proof of folly in my Bertha, attracted the attention of Bertha, that for a for most assuredly it is that which most na- moment she did not look at her features, turally suggests itself to an uncorrupted but when that moment being past, she female mind upon considering the subject. looked in her face, she lost all command of But be this as it may, Bertha certainly did herself, started from her chair, and uttered feel a great deal of interest about convents a loud scream. And another moment made and nuns, and one of the injunctions given it evident to the startled females on both to Luigi Mandorlo was, that he should do sides of the grating, that the individual who all he could to get her admitted within had caused this vehement emotion shared their walls, and enabled to witness their it also. She uttered a deep groan, took a most interesting ceremonies. This was faltering step or two backwards from the one of the many powers upon which Luigi grating, and fell fainting into the arms of particularly prided himsell. He had a sis- the sisters who were crowding the space ter who was a nun, and this, as he now de- behind her. clared to Bertha, and had ofien declared to Some of the ladies who occupied the other of his lady employers before, gave parlor approached the pale and trembling him greater facilities in gratifying all their Bertha, offered her numerous smelling bolwishes as to nuns and convents than werelles, and presently obtained for her a glass of water. Their attention produced the desired Sister Eugenie allowed that this was not a effect, the cheeks and lips of Bertha re- moment to stand upon ceremony, even sumed their natural color, and she reco, though that ceremony concerned the splenvered herself sufficiently to thank them, and dor of the service about to be performed to say that if her carriage was in waiting she before the altar of La Santa Consolazione. would wish to return home immediately, as “Let Father Maurizio be brought hither the unexpected sight of a person whom she instantly," she said; "he will be still in had known under very painful circun- the sacristy. Sister Clara,” she added, adstances, had disturbed her spirits too much dressing the oldest female in the room, “go to permit her looking at the ceremony you and see to it. It is a moment of peril about to take place with the interest it de- when a house like this is open even for this served.
holiest of uffices." But upon inquiry, it was found that her The summons thus sanctioned was imcarriage was not in waiting, nor her valet- mediately conveyed to Father Maurizio, de-place either, so that she was obliged to who obeyed it without a moment's delay, exert herself still further, and submit to the for he was told that a dying novice required disagreeable necessity of accompanying the his aid. The holy sisters, who, notwithTest of the party to the chapel of the con- standing the strong temptation to enter the vent, which they entered by a private door, gallery of their chapel, still continued in notice being given that the ceremony was attendance at the bed-side of the novice, about to begin.
all reverently left the room, when the priest A scene of great confusion, meanwhile, entered, and the confessor and his penitent was going on in the interior of the convent. were left alone. The novice, whose features had so painful- The confession was not a short one, and ly affected the unfortunate Bertha, was when it was over two or three of the good conveyed to her cell in a state of insensi- nuns, who still resisted their longing desire bility, from which she was not restored till to enter the chapel that they might attend after long and repeated applications of the their suffering sister in her hour of need, strongest remedies that the terrified sisters entered her cell, and found her, though could apply, and when at length she reco- certainly not in danger of immediate death, vered her senses, their troubles were by no extremely pale, and still trembling violently means at an end, for she began almost from the agitation it was evident she had clamorously to deinand the attendance of a undergone. confessor. At any other time such a requi- The ceremony in the chapel, meanwhile, sition from an inmate of that house suffer- was proceeding with becoming pomp and ing under affliction either of body or mind, solemnity, and even Bertha, though still would have met with immediate compli- suffering from the unexpected shock at seeance, but now there was great difficulty, ing a person whom she had hoped never to
behold again, forgot for a moment her own “ There are just enough to do the ser- sorrows and sufferings as she gazed at the vice of the altar handsomely,” said the delicate-looking young creature who had stately Sister Eugenie, knitting her brows, found strength to renounce all that this " and what will the lord cardinal think if world has to offer of lovely, loving, and bethe convent of the Santa Consolazione can- loved, in the hope of obtaining a reward not command a proper attendance of offi- for the sacrifice in another. ciating priests on such an occasion as The exhortation pronounced, and the treibis ?"
mendous ceremony ended, the newly-made “I must, I must," exclaimed the novice, nun retired into the convent, where she was vehemently. “The loss of my soul will to find all that was left to her of earth, through rest as an eternal burden upon yours if you a door that opened on one side of the altar, refuse me a confessor. I must-I must and the company who had witnessed it beconfess, and instantly, or it may be too gan to disperse. Bertha too well knew the Jase.”
punctuality of Luigi to feel any doubt as Persuaded from this last phrase that the to finding her carriage in attendance at the novice believed herself to be dying, a feel- door of the church, and thankful that she ing of terror took possession of those should so soon be restored to the solitude around her, lest indeed the last offices of for which she was longing, she was anxiousthe church should be denied her through ly endeavoring to make her way through their negligence or indifference. Even the crowd, when she felt her arm gently
touched by a hand that evidently had not “Yes, Miss Harrington," replied the come in contact with it by accident. She priest, “ if all this unhappy woman has relooked round, and saw an elderly man in vealed to me be as true as I suppose it to the dress of a Romish ecclesiastic, but be, you will find consolation, oh, great and not in his clerical vestments, who imnie- lasting consolation from what it is in my diately addressed her in French, request- power to tell you. Will you give me the ing that she would have the kindness to promise I require ?". remain in the chapel for a few minutes, as “I will, sir,” replied Bertha, solemnly. he had a communication of great impor-“I do promise you.” tance to make to her.
“You promise me never to reveal the " To me, sir,” she said, turning extreme-circumstances I am going to state, except ly pale. “Can it be from her ?—Is it pos- to your father," said the priest. sible that she should seek
any communica- “I wish not to make any exception," tion with me!"
returned Bertha, a crimson flush covering “Your conjecture is evidently right, her pale cheeks for a moment, and then Miss Harrington,” replied the priest. “You leaving them apparently paler than before. suppose that it is the unhappy Mathilde “ You will thank me for the exception Labarre who has sent me to you, and you ere we part," said Father Maurice, looking are not mistaken."
at her kindly, “and charged with this con“Sir, sir, I cannot see her, indeed I can. dition, I again ask if you give me your not,” cried Bertha earnestly, though suffer- promise ?" ing herself to be led, or rather guided by "I do," said Bertha. the priest, whose hand still rested on her “Let me spare you," resumed the priest, arm, into the sacristy. “You cannot know, "all unnecessary minuteness of reference she cannot have told you all the misery she to the dreadful scenes which preceded your has caused me. Oh, sir, for pity's sake departure from your father's house. You never let me look upon her more!" were, and are very young to form such hor
“ Pardon me, young lady, she has told rible conjectures respecting the origin of me all,” replied Father Maurice," and I all you have endured, as I cannot but becan too well understand your natural unwil lieve from your agitation at the encounter lingness to see her, to attempt persuading with this guilty woman, you have done. you to overcome it, nor will it be necessary You suspect Mathilde Labarre poisoned for the attainment of the very proper object your mother ?" that she had in view in giving me the com- “ Her maid suspected it, and she told mission which I am now executing, Sit me," said Bertha, speaking with difficulty. down, Miss Harrington,"continued the old My miserable penitent supposed it was man, kindly, as he set a chair for her. so," resumed Father Maurice ; " but she “Though it will be less terrible for you to supposed also that she was not the only listen to me than to her, I am quite aware person suspected by the maid-she supthat the discussion cannot be entered upon posed—” at all, without causing you great agitation, Bertha uttered a faint shriek, and raised great suffering."
her hand as if to forbid his going farther. “I will bear everything that you shall “Oh, speak it not !" she cried.
“ Have tell me it is necessary I should bear," replied pity on me! Let me go-let me go, and Bertha, touched by the tone of genuine hide myself from every body." compassion in which the old man addressed The old priest looked at her with an eye her, “ I will bear every thing if you will that spoke no want of feeling. promise me that I shall not see her.” “Do not believe," he replied, " that I
“I do promise you, Miss Harrington,” would have detained you here for the sole he replied, " and in return, you must pro- purpose of reviving feelings which have mise me, that excepting to your father, you made your young check, my daughter, paler will never repeat what I am about to dis-than it ought to be. That a fearful crime close. It was confided to me in all the sa-Ihas been committed, has been rightly guesscred security of confession, and it is only ed, but bless the mercy of God which perpermitted to reach you in the hope that it mits you to know that your surviving parent may tend to console you under your heavy had no share in it. Of great and grievous affliction.”
sins your unhappy father has been guilty, “ Console me?" repeated Bertha, with a but of this, he is as innocent as you are. shudder.
“ Thank God !" cried Bertha, sinking on
her knees, and raising her clasped hands to gone, it is over ! Oh, never let it come to heaven. Oh, praised and blessed be the me again !". Father of all mercy that has taken this But before the words were spoken she frightful weight from heart! And you, remembered how utterly alone she was,
how a stranger, how can I ever thank you as I totally beyond the reachof learning any thing ought ?" and here poor Bertha burst into a that might enable her to decide upon what salutary flood of tears, of which every drop she ought to do. Her position relative to her that fell seemed to give her relief.
father was now completely changed. Not The good Father Maurice proved his only had she in her recent thoughts accused sympathy, by letting them flow without in- him of having participated in the horrid terruption, but in truth it was partly that he crime which had deprived her of a mother, might remove the drops from his own eyes, but she fully believed that his hateful parathat he turned from her so completely, and mour was still his companion, and earnestly when he again approached, and offered his as she had labored to drive all such thoughts hand to raise her, she looked at him with a from her mind, had been living under the feeling of affectionate gratitude that could torturing conviction that her mother's honnot be mistaken.
ored place was usurped by her murderer. “Sit down for a moment, my dear child,” This it was which made her endure the unhe said, replacing her in the chair she had congenial home upon which she had been before occupied, "and tell me if you would cast, and the idea that any remonstrance wish that I should communicate any fur- to her aunt against it might lead to her bether particulars of her confession? She ing recalled to Castle Harrington would has given me unrestricted permission to have sufficed to chain her to it forever. tell you all; and may the earnestness of her But now every thing was changed, new duwish to relieve your mind from the dreadful ties seemed to arise before her eyes, but suspicion which she herself endeavored to before she could take any step towards perthrow upon your father, together with the forming them, it was necessary that she heavy penance she is to undergo,” he add- should still learn much which it was possible ed, crossing himself, "may it assist in re- the revelations of the repentant novice might conciling her soul to God!
have disclosed. Almost desperately therepoor child, have you strength to listen to fore she resolved to hear all that the kind any further details ?”
priest had to say, and again fervently thankBertha paused for a moment ere she re- ing him for his goodness to her, she declared plied. Her heart sunk within her at the lier wish to hear all that he thought it deidea of hearing any voice dwelling upon sirable she should know. the dread sul theme which she had so often “You have decided wisely, my daughprayed in secret and in silence, might be ter," he replied. “Painful as the theme permitted by Heaven to pass from her me- must be, it is better that you lose not mory as a dream, and as a delirious dream, this opportunity of learning facts which she had almost taught herself to believe it. probably may have an important influence
There was a sort of filial impiety in suf on your future conduct. And yet it may fering her mind to rest on the suspicions not be needful, my dear young lady, that I which the unguarded words of her mother's should repeat to you at length all the dismaid had awakened, that made her feel closures of this unhappy woman.
Unhapthis effort to forget, or rather to render pily you must already be aware that a sinvague and uncertain, all that occurred on ful connexion existed between her and the dreadful night of her other's death, as your father. But deeply as this is to be dean imperious duty; and much of the eager- plored on his account, it is but just to tell ness with which she pursued every occupa- you that the guilty confession to which I tion that had power to interest her mind have been listening clearly proves that all arose from this. But still there lay at the the most appalling features of the crime bottom of her heart, though resolutely belonged to Mathilde Labarre. She states guarded from every voluntary movement of that her principal reason for taking the recollection, a dark and heavy load, which situation of your governess was the knowthe words of the friendly confessor had re- ledge she had obtained of your father's moved in a degree that had, comparatively propensity to gallantry; that she soon obspeaking, restored her to happiness; and tained great influence over him, and fatterfor a moment she was tempted to say, “No! ing herself that it was much greater than no! name it not again! It is past, it is she afterwards found it, she conceived the
Tell me, my
horrible scheme of removing your honored first instance was the natural result of the mother, in the hope of being installed as overwhelming horror in which he found the lawful mistress of the castle in her place. himself plunged, and from which it was his The first movement of your father's mind on first object to withdraw you; and I suspect learning the dreadful catastrophe was to that your not being recalled arises froin a prevent the disclosure of Miss Labarre's want of courage on the part of your father, guilt. He might perhaps have been awake, who dreads to see the child he has rendered even at that dreadful moment, to the proba- motherless by his infidelity, though not by bility that suspicion might fall upon him his hand." self. But be this as it may, it is evident ' And must we then remain estranged that he did all he could, and very skilfully forever ?" said Bertha, mournfully. too, to dissipate the suspicion which this sud- “I scarcely perhaps know enough to be den death occasioned. In this, it seems, he a proper adviser," replied the good man, was quite successful, which, as she truly “ but it seems to me that you would best says, could not have been the case if he had perform your duty, young lady, by returning been guilty of the imprudence of immedi- to him. Mademoiselle Labarre stated her ately parting with her. In a paroxysm of ter- belief that one source of the misery in ror that seems to have seized upon her which she saw him plunged arose from the after the fatal catastrophe, she left the cas- idea that you might implicate him in the tle, but was brought back to it by your fearful crime that has rendered you both so father, who enforced her remaining there desolate ; and is this be so, the power of for some weeks; but nothing, by her own removing this agonizing idea from his mind account, could be more hostile than the is reason sufficient to induce you to go to terms on which they lived during this inter- him, without thinking of any other; though val. His horror and detestation of the deed there may she had committed seemed to have rendered “I will go to him," said Bertha, rising her presence a punishment almost propor- with sudden energy, "you are right, good tioned to the sins of which he had been father. I feel it at my heart, and that shall guilty, and she consesses that her first feel- guide me. I have trusted to my poor head ings of repentance arose from witnessing hitherto, and now it seems to me as if I the passionate grief with which your father had acted very ill. Alas' alas! my father mourned for the wife he had injured and inust indeed be wretched ! May heaven lost. May this repentance avail,” added the pardon me for having judged him wrongpriest, crossing himself, “but the death of ly !" your mother is not the only one that lies “ Atone for it my child by breathing to upon her soul. The only person whose evi- bis ear, and to his alone, the solemn secret dence she had cause to fear was the personal of this day's confession. Go, then, and may attendant of the unfortunate lady, and to the God who watches over all his creatures this poor woman she administered repeated with a father's pitying eye, protect and susdoses of a slow but subtle poison which lain you !" gradually paralyzed her limbs, and, ere long, Once more Bertha uttered an earnest asproduced death. I really believe that it is surance of her deep gratitude, and departed now only for your father's sake that she from the church, her carriage and her wonwishes the whole of this terrible history to dering servants having been long waiting he buried in eternal oblivion, and she wish- for her at its door. ed this last atrocious act to be communicated to you, that you may be aware of the importance of any indiscretion on your part, as no disclosure can be feared from Deeply now had Bertha cause to deplore other quarter.”
the thoughtless expenses in which she had “Even without the promise given it indulged herself since her arrival at Roine.
. would be buried safely with me," replied Bronze copies after the antique, if they are Bertha, solemnly. “But can you tell me, in a good style of workmanship, cost a good sir, if you gathered from any thing she said deal, and so, too, do mosaics, and well-cut the motive of my unhappy father for keep intaglio imitations of first-rate gems; and ing me thus estranged from my home ?" in all these little gauds and toys she had
“ Yes, Miss Harrington," answered Fa-indulged herself so freely, that the second ther Maurice, “I can answer that ques- remittance of her increased allowance was cion distinctly. Your being sent off in the so nearly gone, as to leave her with very