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and being tired of suffering and days, when she addressed tired of my short troubled life, from such heights as Moses on I hoped even then that it would the mountain might have adprove death. I did not care. dressed a group of sparrowsIt was so long since I had with two other nuns entered. thought it worth while caring! It looked like · death, and al
And so I missed the lovely ready the heart within me was charm of that silent walk dead. I know so well now how through the unaccustomed twi- I looked: white, blue - veined, light, with quaint little shops blue - lipped, sullen, and indifgetting ready their evening il- ferent. lumination, and free and happy My wickedness was past serpersons walking to and fro, full monising. I was simply led of the joy of being, full of the up-stairs to a brown cell, and bliss of freedom. My heart here the red-cheeked lay sister, was dead to hope, my intel- a big brawny creature, stripped ligence, weary from excess of me naked. Naked, mind, though excitement and pain, was dull convent rules forbid the whipto novelty.
ping of girls. I was eight, exIn the town convent I was ceedingly frail and delicate. left awhile in aching solitude The superioress took my head in the brown parlour, with its tightly under her arm, and the pious pictures and big crucifix. brawny red-cheeked lay sister I strained eye and ear through scourged my back with a threethe silent dusk, and was re- pointed whip till the blood lieved when the superioress— gushed from the long stripes, a sort of female pontiff, whom and I fainted. I never uttered we children saw in reverential a groan, such were my pride and stupefaction on scarce feast- resolute spirit of endurance.
CHAPTER XVI.-MY FIRST CONFESSION.
The sequel is enfolded in mys- seeking the Catholics he might tery. Was I long unconscious ? devour! That satanic creature Was I long ill? Was there any who dreamed at night of Tyvoice among the alarmed nuns burn, and, if he could, would lifted in my favour? Or was
Or was have proscribed every priest the secret kept among the and nun of the realm! Picsuperioress, the lay sister who ture the hue and cry in Parthrashed me, and the doctor ? liament and out of it, if it As a Catholic in a strong and were known that a baby girl bigoted Protestant centre, in had been thrashed by strong, the
pay of a Catholic com- virile hands, as with a Russian munity, it is not unreasonable knout, with the ferocity of to suppose him anxious to avoid bloodthirsty jailers instead of a scandal.
For outside there the gentleness of holy women was the roaring lion, the ter- striving to inculcate precepts rible member for Lysterby, of virtue and Christian charity
in the breast of a tiny repro- touch of her thin small hands bate! And ladies, too, devoted thrilled me with.
She was to the worship of mercy and of called Mother Aloysius, and Mary, the maiden of sorrow, the painted pictures for the chapel mild mother of humanity. and for the convent. Did she
I know I lay long in bed,- know what had happened, and that my wounds, deep red open had she taken the community's stripes, were dressed into scars debt to me upon her lean shoulby lint and sweet oil and herbs. ders ? Or was I merely for her The doctor, a cheery fellow with a sick and naughty little girl, a Scottish name, came and sat to whom she was drawn by by my bedside, and gave me sympathy ? almond-drops, and begged me She never spoke of my whiprepeatedly “to look up.” The ping, nor did I. Perhaps with pavement outside was rough, the unconscious delicacy of senthe little city street was nar- sitive childhood I divined that row, and the flies rumbling past it would pain her. More probfrom the station to the Craven ably still, I was only too glad Arms shook my bed. The noise to be enfolded in the mild was novel, and excited me. I warmth of her unquestioning thought of my imaginary friend tenderness. Wickedness dropped of the Ivies, the white lady, and from me as a wearisome garwondered if any one had ever ment, and, divested of its weight, thrashed her. The cook, Sister I trotted after her heels like a Joseph, from time to time stole little lapdog. She took me with up-stairs and offered me, by way her everywhere: into the big of consolation, maybe a bribe, garden where she tended the a Shrewsbury biscuit, a jam- flowers, and where she allowed tart, a piece of seed-cake. me to water and dig myself out
Once the pain of my lacerated of breath, fondly persuaded that back subsided I was not at all the fate of the flowers next year bored. It was good to lie in depended upon my exertions ; a fresh white bed and listen to her work - room, where in dreamily to the discreet mur- awed admiration I watched her murs of a provincial town in paint, and held her brushes and the quiet convent-house, have colours for her; to the chapel nothing to do, no scrapes to get where she changed the flowers, into, hear no scolding voices, and where I gathered the stalks and have plenty of nice things into little hills and swept them to eat, after the long famine of into my pinafore. And all the nine interminable months. time I talked, ceaselessly, volu
I do not remember when it bly,—not of past sufferings, nor was she first came to me. She of present pain, but of the was a slim, oldish nun, with a things that surprised and perwhite delicate visage and eyes plexed me, of the countless full of a wistful sadness, neither things I wanted to do, of the blue nor grey.
Her voice was tales of Tyburn and the white very low, and gave me the same lady. intense pleasure that the soft When I was well enough to go back to daily woe and in- and that I had kept back to sufficient food, I was dressed please her? in hat and jacket and strong At the Ivies I maintained a boots, and while I stood in the steadfast silence upon what had hall the awful superioress issued happened. I cannot now trace from the community-room and the obscure reasons of my silooked at me coldly.
lence, which must have pleased “ You have had your lesson, the nuns, for nobody ever knew Angela. You will be a good about my severe whipping. child in future, I hope," she Thanks to the beneficent influsaid, and touched my shoulder ences of my new friend, I was with a lifeless gesture.
for a while a model of all the The mischievous impulse of virtues. I studied hard, absaucy speech and wicked glance sorbed pages of useful knowdied when I encountered the ledge in the Child's Guide,' gentle prayer of my new friend's and mastered the abstruse confaded eyes. I was only a baby, tents of Cardinal Wiseman's but I understood as well as if History of England.' At the I had been a hundred what end of a month, to the amazethose kind and troubled eyesment of everybody and to my said, glancing at me behind the own dismay, I was rewarded woman she must have known I with a medal of good conduct, hated. “Be good, dear child; and formally enrolled in that be silent, be respectful. For- virtuous body, the Children of give, forget, for my sake." I the Angels, and wore a medal swallowed the angry words I attached to a brilliant green longed to utter on the top of ribbon. a sob, and went and held up This transient period of virtue, my cheek to Mother Aloysius. felt no doubt by all around me
“You're a brave little girl, to be precarious and unstable, Angela," she said, softly. was deemed the fitting moment “You'll see, if you are good, for my first confession. What that reverend mother will let a baby of eight can have to you come down and spend a confess I know not. The value nice long day with me soon of such an institution for the again; and I'll take you to infantine conscience escapes me. water the flowers and fill the But there can be no question of vases in the chapel, and watch its enormous sensational interest me paint up-stairs. Good-bye.” for us all. Two new children
She kissed me on both cheeks, had made their appearance not in the fleshless kiss of the since my tempestuous arrival. nun, but with dear human They belonged to the band, as warmth of lips, and her fingers well as an idiot girl two years lingered tenderly about my older than I, and now deemed head. Did she suspect the sac- wise enough to crave pardon rifice I had made to her kind- for sins she could not possibly ness ?—the fierce and wrathful commit. We carefully studied words I had projected to hurl the Examination of Conscience, at the head of the superioress, and spelt out the particularly big words with a thrill: they Frank in my offer of general looked nice mysterious sins, the amnesty to humanity; and insort of crimes we felt we would dited at some nun's suggestion gladly commit if we had the a queer epistle to my mother, chance.
something in the tone the prodiI went about sombre and gal son from afar might have dejected, under the conviction used writing to his father when that I must have sinned the he first decided to abandon the sin against the Holy Ghost, husks and swine, &c. I boldly and Polly Evans wondered if announced my intention of foradultery figured upon the list saking the path of wickedness, of her misdoings. She was sure, with a humble confession of however, that she had not de- hitherto having achieved supfrauded the labourer of his daily remacy in that nefarious kingwage, whatever that might be, dom, and of walking henceforth for the simple reason that she with the saints. had never met a labourer. I I added a practical postscript, was tortured with a fresh sen- that I was always very hungry, sational doubt. My foster- and stated with charming canmother's cousin at Kildare was dour that I did not like any a very nice labourer, who often of the nuns except Mother had given me sweets. Could I, Aloysius, which was rather a in a moment of temporary aber- modification of the exuberant ration, have defrauded him of burst of virtue expressed on the his wage? And then adultery! first page. This postscript was If Polly was sure she had com- judiciously altered past recognimitted adultery, might I not tion, and I was ordered to copy also have so deeply offended it out: “I am very happy at against heaven?
I had not Lysterby. All the dear nuns precisely killed anybody, but are so kind to me. We shall had I not desired to kill Sister have a little feast soon. Please, Esmeralda the day I threw the dear mamma, send stool at her?
money And so we travelled consci- If the money ever came, it entiously, like humble, but, in was naturally confiscated by the the very secret depths of our
It was not money being, self - admiring pilgrims, we mites needed, but bread-andover the weary and profitless butter and a cup of good milk, road of self - examination, and or a plate of simple sustaining assured ourselves with a fervent porridge. However, for the mothrill that we were indeed miser- ment the excitement of confesable sinners. “I'll never get sion sustained us. Having cominto a passion again," I swore municated to each other the to Polly Evans, like a monstrous solemn impression that we had little Puritan, and before an broken all the Commandments, hour had passed was thirsting committed the seven deadly sins, for the blood of some offender. and made mockery of the four
I even went so far as to in- cardinal virtues, the next thing clude Sister Esmeralda and to decide was to what length of
repentance we were bound to play the part of a shocking go. Polly Evans' enthusiasm little prig, I swallowed my was so exalted that she yearned wrath, with a compunctious to follow the example of the sensation, and felt a glow all German emperor we had read over to think I was already of who walked, or crawled on so much of a saint. his knees, I forget which, to In the convent chapel, with Rome, and made a public con- our throbbing hearts in our fession to the Pope. But this mouths, we knelt, a diminutive we felt to be an immodest flight row, in our Sunday uniform (I of fancy in a little girl who have worn so many convent had done nothing worth speak- uniforms that I am rather mixed ing of. She was like my Kil- about them, and cannot rememdare companion Mary Jane, ber which was blue on Sunday who constantly saw herself in and which was black, but the a personal scuffle with Queen Lysterby Sunday uniform I Victoria.
know was black). Polly Evans When the great day came we was the first to disappear, swalwere bidden to stay in the chapel lowed up in the awful box. after the rest, and then were She issued forth, tremulous and taken down to the town convent, wide-eyed, and I followed her, with instructions to keep our pallid and quaking. The square minds fixed upon the awful grating was closed, and the sacrament of confession as we green curtain enfolded me in walked two and two through a terrific dusk. I felt sick and the streets.
cold with fright. What was “Remember, children," said going to happen? Could somethat infamous Sister Esmer- thing spring suddenly out and alda, prettier than ever, as she clutch me? Was the devil befixed me with a deadly glance, hind me? Had my guardian “to tell a lie in the confessional angel forsaken me? I had read box is to tell a lie to the Holy a great deal of late about “a Ghost. You may be struck yawning abyss," "a black pit,” dead for it."
“bottomless hole." Was I Did she mean that for me? going to tell a lie to the Holy Oh, why had I so rashly vowed Ghost unknowing, and so be myself to a life of virtue? Why struck dead like, like? had I so precipitously chosen The square slid swiftly back, the companionship and example and I saw a dim man's profile of the saints? Why had I read through the grating. Had I the lives of St Louis of Gonzago, seen Father More clear before St Stanislaus of Kotska, and me, my fears would instantly other lamb-like creatures, and have been quelled, for he was in a fit of admiration sworn to a graceful, aristocratic, softresemble them?—since all these voiced man, quick to captivate good resolutions debarred me little children by his winning from flinging another stool at smile. But that dim formless that lovely hostile visage. But thing behind the grating, what having elected momentarily to
They told me the