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And must that cheek-so beautiful!
THE LATE MR. TERRY, COMEDIAN.
J. R. P. THE SISTERS.
(Concluded from page 22.) The young marquis could not be ignorant of his power, but he followed the impulse of the moment, and thought not of consequences. Louise no longer refused to listen to the waterfall, because it discoursed eloquently ;-to gaze on the distant prospect; to examine the insect and the flower through the wonder-working microscope, or hear the melody of the birds. When the mind once begins to exercise its reason, its progress is rapid. The young recluse no longer worshipped a God of monastic gloom : her first consciousness of existence seemed now like the morning stars” when they “ shouted aloud and sang for joy.” One superstition after another was gradually fading away; and though at times she trembled at her own thoughts, yet she seldom repaired to her beads or pater nosters to smother the holy intruders. It would have been happy for her future peace if she could have received the simple and sublime truths of religion from one qualified to impart them. The vague and indeterminate observations of Lucerne served rather to bewilder, than enlighten, her mind.
It was at this time that the young marquis received a summons from his parents to hasten home, on account of family arrangements, for which his presence was nece sary. The pride and caprice of Theresa had become almost intolerable to him, and he determined to inform his parents of his reluctance to the union, and leave them to dissolve the contract they had formed. When he took leave of her, there was little emotion on either side ; but the young lady spoke of his return as a circumstance not to be doubted. Indeed, it probably never entered the minds of either of the sisters, that they could avoid the destiny marked out for them from their infancy. The parting between Lucerne and Louise was of a more sentimental nature. For the first time, he pressed his lips upon the hand of the consecrated vestal : she withdrew it, as if it were a deadly sin, while her trembling limbs almost refused to support her, and, bidding him farewell, hastened to her lonely apartment.
For many succeeding days, Louise, to a transient observer, would have appeared the very model of devotion ; but Le Père
L. 29. 2.
François, who was the family confessor, had marked her with a keener eye. He had seen the effect which worldly interest had produced upon her character, and he read in her tears and sighs, the struggles of a rebellious spirit. It was now that, mingling compassion and severity, praise and reproof, he riveted more firmly than ever, the fetters of superstition.
My child,” he said, “ thou hast proof in thy wanderings that a convent is thy only ark of safety. Flee to it as to thy strong hold. Let not another week pass over thy head, and find thee unsheltered from the storm! Apostles, martyrs, and saints, stand ready to receive thee at the door of the sanctuary. Go and reap thy glorious reward !”
It was in vain that Louise urged her promise to remain with her sister till after her marriage; the confessor was resolute, and her parents, prompted by a hint from him, united their wishes to his. Theresa tenderly loved her sister, and warmly disapproved the measure; but though she had an habitual disregard for opinions contrary to her own, she trembled to oppose the requirements of one of the fathers of the church ; and Louise, with a heart clinging to earth, with those newlyawakened affections that first teach us the value of existence, was doomed to pass the fatal threshold.
The marquis, on his return to his parents, communicated to them his unwillingness to ratify the contract they had formed.
“ It is impossible,” said he, “ that there can be any union between us. I love retirement and leisure ; ber days are passed in company and dissipation. And then, again, my whole soul revolts against the tyranny and selfish ambition which dooms one sister to a living grave, to aggrandize the other. Louise possesses in her character all that might give grace to domestic life. By allowing her her just and equitable rights, both would be benefited.”
It was in vain that Lucerne protested and reasoned. His insinuations, which were only darkly hinted with regard to the nun, filled his parents with horror. The contract they considered one of honor, any violation of which would bring disgrace upon their family ; and the only boon that the son could obtain, was the delay of another year. He left this second negociation to liis parents, almost hoping that the palpable indifference it discovered might annul the treaty. But in ambitious projects there are only a few prominent points. These were still fair to the eye ; and the parents, satisfied, on both sides, that wealth, titles, and lands, would be united, considered the parties merely as appurtenances. Theresa had been educated with the same views, and neither reasoned nor thought on the subject. As to the postponement of the marriage, it was to her a matter of ivdifference.
In the mean time Louise entered on her noviciate at the convent. This convent was one of the strictest order ; but the young novice exceeded all others in zeal. Even the pious and exemplary Lady Abbess viewed with astonishment her disregard of sleep and food, and her voluntary penances. Every excitement was presented to her mind by the enthusiastic fanatics. She was compared to Saint Catharine, who was broken on a wheel, and to a host of other saints, who died less enviable deaths. It is not surprising, amidst this horrible excitement, with her heart struggling with worldly recollections, and her frame wasted by penance, that her reason should have tottered on its throne. She began to have strange and wild imaginations ;- sometimes called herself the mother of God—the “ adorable Marie;"_sometimes spoke of herself as Jesus Christ, and destined to be bodily crucified a second time. The nuns listened to the wanderings of her disordered mind as to beatific visions. Such extraordinary sanctity could not be concealed, even within the walls of a convent. The sisters talked of her at the grate when their friends came to see her, and it was not long before she was announced as a convulsionnaire.*
The devotees, who professed to be convulsionnaires, were, even at this period, rare ; for it required a fortitude in the endurance of suffering almost beyond human nature. Instances are recorded of feeble and delicate women, who were actually nailed to the cross in imitation of Jesus Christ, and remained in that situation three hours and a half, enduring every species of torture. Others had their clothes burnt on
* There are many readers of the present day, to whom this class is probably unknown. Those who would wish to see the horrible effects of fanaticism and superstition exemplified, we would refer to the third volume of Grimm's “Correspondence Littéraire, Première Partie.” The account is given in a procès-verbal dressé par M. de la Condamine.'
them, and the fire only extinguished when life was in imminent danger.
It was in the beautiful province of Languedoc, where Lucerne was passing a few weeks, that he took up a journal containing an account of the “extraordinary piety of the young novice, Louise de Sèligny, and second daughter of the noble house of Montserrat, who was to exhibit as a convulsionnaire before a few distinguished friends, on the twelfth day of the ensuing month, about the time of the holy incarnation.” It was with emotion amounting to horror, that he read this paragraph. The year of procrastination had nearly expired, and he did not hesitate a moment to return to Paris. He determined to make one effort to rouse the sensibility of Theresa towards her sister, and to persuade her to reject the sacrifice her parents exacted. It was now that he found, under a thouglıtless and dissipated exterior, a feeling heart. The young lady entered warmly into his project, which was to persuade her sister solemnly to protest against taking the vows, even at the altar, if necessary, and to relinquish to her a part of her splendid fortune. The plan was to be kept secret from the parents, that no measures might be taken to defeat it. The most difficult part to accomplish, however, was to persuade Louise herself to renounce a monastic life: this, Lucerne had not foreseen ; for he knew not that, since his departure, her former impressions had returned with tenfold strength. He spent hours at the grate endeavoring to shake her resolution ; but all he could obtain was the promise that she would not exhibit as a convulsionnaire, though he could not doubt that her self-inflicted torments were already unsettling her mind, and destroying her health.
Theresa, with generous feelings, devoted a portion of that time to her sister, which had been hitherto wasted upon dress and fashion. It needs but one strong bond of union to connect two young people, thrown together by circumstances. Lucerne had discovered that Theresa had an affectionate heart. A thousand virtues and good qualities, some real, and some imaginary, opened upon his view. He became now as earnest to fulfil the contract as he had formerly been to annul it, and preparations were made for the splendid alliance. The time, too, rapidly approached, in which the fate of Louise was to be decided. *The week, preceding the marriage of one