Sister Cora

Material Information

Sister Cora a tale of the Eighteenth Century
Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier ( Publisher )
Hamilton, Adams, & Co ( Publisher )
Morrison and Gibb ( Printer )
Place of Publication:
Oliphant, Anderson, & Ferrier
Hamilton, Adams, and Co.
Morrison and Gibb
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
95 p., [1] leaf of plates : col. ill. ; 16 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Christian life -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Nuns -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Despair -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Friendship -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Protestantism -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Anti-Catholicism -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Prize books (Provenance) -- 1885 ( rbprov )
Bldn -- 1885
Prize books (Provenance) ( rbprov )
novel ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:
Scotland -- Edinburgh
England -- London
Target Audience:
juvenile ( marctarget )


General Note:
Frontispiece printed in colors.
Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
Statement of Responsibility:
by the author of "Carry Morgan," "Sam Silva," "Biddy the maid of all work," etc.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management:
This item is presumed to be in the public domain. The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries respect the intellectual property rights of others and do not claim any copyright interest in this item. Users of this work have responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions may require permission of the copyright holder. The Smathers Libraries would like to learn more about this item and invite individuals or organizations to contact The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections ( with any additional information they can provide.
Resource Identifier:
026960273 ( ALEPH )
ALH8053 ( NOTIS )
65335330 ( OCLC )

Full Text

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"His Excellency" "Lucy Smith'' &c.


C WaIe of tbe (igbteentb Centurg,


Man in society is like a flower
Blown in its native bed; 'tis there alone
His faculties, expanded in full bloom,
Shine out-there alone reach their proper use.'



















Y grandfather was a fine old gentleman of
the old school. He wore powder in his
hair, knee-breeches, black silk stockings,
and silver buckles in his shoes, broad lace ruffles
half covering his long white hands, and a frill
of the same costly material peeping out from
between the edges of his black satin waistcoat.
His manner was polite and punctilious to a fault,-
if politeness could be a fault in one who was at
the same time so upright and sincere, so kind and
amiable, so generous and tender-hearted, that every-
body both respected and loved him. His grand-
children were no exception to the general rule.

8 Sister Cora.

To them he was an object of reverential affection,
from the time when, released from their nurse's
arms, he danced them on the point of his toe, till
he initiated them into the mysteries of the French
language, of which he was completely master, and
which he liked to teach them,-a love which they
retain for his memory; a love increased rather than
lessened by the fact that the place which once
knew him now knows him no more.
His exquisite French pronunciation was due to
his grandmother, who was a Frenchwoman, and
whose memory he cherished with an almost idola-
trous affection; for his mother had died when he
was very young, and his grandmother had supplied
her place, and been a mother indeed to him, loving
him with a double love not only for his own sake,
but for the sake of her whom she had lost. His
grandfather too was French, but being much older
than his wife, he had died when she was still a
woman in her prime, and when his grandson was
a mere boy; old enough, however, to remember his
neat, slight figure, his bright eyes, sparkling with
all the fire of his youth, his beautiful silvery curls,
and the lessons of piety, honour, and scrupulous
morality which had sunk so deep into the boy's
mind, and had no doubt helped to form his charac-
ter. But though he remembered his grandfather,

L'etoile de ma vie.' 9

the recollection was but faint compared to that
which he cherished of his grandmother. L'etoile
de ma vie,' he was wont to call her to us children,
who had some difficulty in calculating the exact
degree of relationship in which she stood to us;
and though he had loved his wife, our grand-
mother, with tender, chivalrous affection, and
mourned her loss to the end of his days, I believe
that in his old age the memory of his second
mother was uppermost in his thoughts.
At any rate, it was of her he talked most to his
grandchildren, and they were never wearied listen-
ing to his reminiscences of her. According to
him, she was not only the most beautiful woman
he had ever seen, but the best he had ever known ;
the former opinion being unanimously confirmed
by one and all, when, at rare times and as an extra
reward for good behaviour or attention during our
French lesson, we were shown a miniature portrait
of her, exquisitely painted on ivory; whilst the
latter we were equally ready to endorse, because
dear grandpapa was so very good himself.
Born during the reign of Louis xiv., she
had been a contemporary of the gifted, pious Pas-
cal, the amiable, saintly Fenelon, the eloquent
Bossuet, and the no less eloquent Bourdaloue,
who was the favourite preacher of Louis xiv.,

o1 Sister Cora.

the French Tiotson, the orator admired alike by
Catholics and Protestants,-who, though a Jesuit,
was a frank and upright man; though a priest, a
pattern of morality; though the popular favourite
of a dissolute Court, a faithful expounder of the
Scriptures; even that same Louis Bourdaloue who,
in the zenith of his fame, retired into private life,
that he might devote his every gift and faculty to
the relief and succour of suffering humanity. She
had been in her youth a Roman Catholic; and that
she had been a nun, who, weary of her convent life,
had hazarded all and made her escape, raised her
in our eyes to the position of a kind of holy
heroine. Had we been Catholics, we would, no
doubt, have made a saint of her-our Catholic
ancestry and consequent associations helping, per-
haps, the feelings with which we regarded her
memory, and giving her the sacred niche which
she still holds in our thoughts.
'Grandpapa, you should write your grand-
mother's story and put it in a book,' I remarked
one day, after he had showed me (her namesake
and his prime favourite) the lovely portrait of her
he called,' L'etoile de ma vie.'
I'll leave that to you, Cora darling,' he replied,
fondly smoothing my rebellious curls.
He was only jesting, I believe, but, child-like,

L'etoile de ma vie.' II

I took all he said for earnest, and hie idea never
left me; it grew with my growth, and strength-
ened with my strength, till it found expression in
the following pages, under the title of SISTER



'Open the cages,
Let the birds flee;
Down with the convents,
Set the nuns free.'

ISTER CORA was a nun, who had re-
nounced, or had professed to renounce,
the world, with all its pomps, vanities,
and pleasures. Poor Cora! she had resolved to
take the veil in a mad fit of religious enthusiasm,
and now the impulse which prompted her to im-
mure herself for life in a convent, and which
supported her during the necessary probationary
trials, had passed away, and her heart was beat-
ing and throbbing and panting for the liberty
she had despised, even like that of the poor im-
prisoned bird, which throws itself in mad despair
against the wires of its cage. Only twelve months
before, she had been so proud to become the

The Three Nuns. 13

'bride of heaven,' and now her bosom was the
seat of anything but heavenly emotions; for she
hated everybody within the convent walls, from
the fat, important abbess, down to the grim old
portress, who looked as though she had been
buried for a century and been resuscitated for
want of a more fitting Cerberus.
But no! Cora did not hate everybody, for there
was gentle, pious Sister Marguerite, whom she
might pity, but certainly could not hate; indeed,
she almost loved her,-at least, she might have
loved her, had she not been so thoroughly miser-
able herself and full of self-pity, to the exclusion
of other feelings. And there was Sister Louise,
too, wicked Sister Louise, who made game behind
backs of everything and everybody, and who
forced Cora to laugh sometimes, sad and sick at
heart as she really was. But poor Cora might be
sick and sad till her very heart broke within her;
she had become a nun of her own free-will, and a
nun, she knew, she must remain for life; and she
shuddered as she thought of that life spent as she
was now spending it.
But she knew that there was no hope, no chance
of escape, no glimmer of light, however faint, in
the distant future, to sustain and cheer her in the
present days of darkness. No; there was nothing

14 Sister Coroz.

for Cora but a dreary, numb despair, mingled with
vain regrets for what she had thrown away, and
for what she might have been. Where now were
the heavenly aspirations she had considered as
so many proofs of her vocation for a holy life ?
where the direct communion with heaven which
she had expected to enjoy, secluded from the
world and free from its temptations and anxieties ?
Gone, all gone! and nothing left behind but the
dust and ashes of an extinguished enthusiasm.
'Why did you come here?' Louise had asked
in a whisper, as one morning they knelt side by
side, and she saw the tears dropping from Cora's
eyes on the stone pavement of the chapel; and,
'Why, oh, why did I come here?' was now the
constant wail of Cora's famished heart. But, alas!
she was in, and out she could not get.
There was no help, no hope for Cora, nothing
but the same weary round of monotonous duties;
saying prayers, whilst she did not pray; counting
beads, whilst in her heart she despised it as childish
mummery; performing acts of menial drudgery
which she disliked and loathed; confessing to the
priest, whilst her whole soul rose in rebellion at
being compelled to do so; and, in fact, looking on
herself as a lost, sacrificed one,-the knowledge, too,
that no one was to blame but herself for the choice

The Three Nuns. 15

she had made for life, making it all the more
difficult to bear. Yes, nobody but herself; for
had not her friends one and all anxiously opposed
her wishes, and entreated her to renounce her
intentions ere it was too late ? Her mother, her
dear widowed mother, good pious Catholic though
she was, had wept and implored in vain, and had
only ceased to remonstrate after a long private
interview with the family confessor; but though
after that conference she had kept silence on the
subject, Cora could not forget that her wistful,
pleading eyes had said more than words; and a
great choking sob would almost suffocate her, as
she remembered how, from the heights of her
spiritual pride, she had looked down upon the
yearnings of that mother's heart. And her sister,
the tender, clinging, affectionate Theresa, how was
it possible, Cora thought now, that she could
resist her entreaties, and the tears with which she
had almost blinded herself ? Alas! she had been
carried away by pride; and bitterly she regretted
her obstinacy, and found her punishment more
than she could bear. She had discovered her
mistake only too soon; for, from the moment
that the last link which bound her to the world
without was severed, the enthusiasm which had
till then sustained and blinded her had gradually

16 Sister Cora.

died away. She awoke from her dream to find
herself a prisoner for life; and this became the
ruling idea of her mind, the never-lost-sight-of
fact, which poisoned every thought and embittered
every feeling.
Of course Cora confessed all this to the priest,
old Father Chatillon; and the old man, who had
listened to many similar revelations from home-sick
girls, who had either gradually become reconciled
to their fate or found early graves in the convent
graveyard, gave her absolution and inflicted mild
and varied penances, sighing as he did -o, and
muttering to himself, 'Poor child! time will
either kill or cure her.'
'What! penance again,' said Sister Louise to
Cora one morning; 'why do you confess so
much ?'
Confess!' said Cora; 'do you not confess
everything ?'
Louise made no reply, but gave her shoulders
an expressive shrug.
Not confess!' thought Cora; 'what a relief
that would be!'
'You ask if I don't confess everything,' said
Louise, coming very close, and speaking in a
whisper; 'what a start the father would get if
he saw right down into my heart;' and she laughed

The Three Nuns. 17

a bitter, scornful laugh, though there was a note
of sadness in it, which touched a sympathetic
chord in Cora's heart.
'Why did you come here ?' she asked in turn.
She was still more surprised and startled by the
effect of her question on Sister Louise, whose face
flushed scarlet, and then became deadly pale, as
she turned away without replying. But she came
back, and laying her hands on Cora's shoulders,
she looked into her eyes with a wild, mournful
stare, which fascinated and frightened her.
I came here,' she whispered, 'because I quar-
relled with my lover; and we parted to meet no
more. Ah me, ah me I thought to punish him
by taking the veil, and I found out, when too late,
that I had only punished myself.'
The anguish depicted on Louise's face, and the
wailing tone of her voice, touched a chord in
Cora's heart, and roused feelings which had of
late been petrified within her. Throwing her
arms round her neck, she murmured kind words
of sympathy and pity, and was surprised by the
ready response with which they were received.
Hugging her to her bosom, Louise whispered,
'I pitied you before, but I love you now, dear,
dear Cora;' but the next moment she turned
hastily away, as though ashamed of the unwonted

18 Sister Cora.

emotion which she had displayed; and that very
evening Cora was puzzled to see her doing her
best to make the Sisters laugh, as she walked
behind the Mother Superior, mimicking the
waddling of her corpulent person, as she headed
the procession of nuns proceeding to the chapel
where they assembled for evening prayers. Cora
did not know that Louise's mirth was the fruit of
reckless despair, and that no sadder heart than
hers beat within the walls of the convent.
And there were many sad hearts there,-some
who had come because they were sad and hope-
less, weary of life and done with the world, to
find in the monotonous quiet of convent life that
life was still sweet, and that the world still pos-
sessed many attractions for them; whilst others,
like Cora and Louise, had either been actuated
by a religious enthusiasm, which was now gone,
or by a spirit of revengeful pique, which had
brought its own punishment. Cora discovered
all this through time, and the knowledge of the
fact that she had so many companions in misery,
instead of proving the consolation to her which
in other circumstances it might have been, only
made her own case appear all the more hopeless.
Had any of the nuns been happy and contented,
there might have been some hope that she too

The Three Nuns. 19

might become reconciled to her lot; but their
submission was of the necessity which knows no
law, and had more the appearance of despair
than of cheerful resignation. The only doubtful
exception was Sister Marguerite, who really
seemed, if not cheerful and happy, to be at least
resigned to her lot, and who, less occupied with
self-pity than the others, was more unselfish,
kinder, and sympathizing. If a nun was ill,
Marguerite always begged the office of nurse, and
was unwearied in the discharge of her duties,
even incurring punishment for breaking the rules
of the convent on behalf of the sick or dying.
A grave, sad, sweet woman was Sister Mar-
guerite, looking, Cora sometimes thought, liker
heaven than earth, and often she wished to gain
her confidence and ascertain the secret of her
comparative tranquillity; but, gentle and humble
as Marguerite invariably was, there was a name-
less dignity about her which prevented any ap-
proach to familiarity, and made it impossible for
Cora to put the question to her which she had
put to Louise, and ask her how she had come there.
Chance favoured her, however; and one day, almost
before she was aware, the words' which had often
hovered on her lips were uttered, and she had
asked Sister Marguerite how she had come there.

20 Sister Cora.

They were standing together before one of the
graves in the convent graveyard, having been
occupied during the morning in weeding the
flower borders which surrounded and ornamented
the graves of the buried sisters,-a task performed
by the nuns in turn, but which none of them
liked except Marguerite, who seemed to enjoy
the occupation almost as much as her favourite
one of nursing. The grave at their feet was that
of a nun who had died several years before Cora
took the veil, who had been nursed by Sister
Marguerite, and who, it was whispered amongst
the Sisters, had died of a broken heart.
Marguerite always lingered lovingly by this
grave, and this morning had fallen into a reverie,
standing at the head with one hand resting on
the wooden cross, round which she had twined
the clinging tendrils of a vine. Her hood had
fallen back, and the pure white muslin surrounding
her face contrasted well with the crimson flush
which stooping over the flowers in the sunshine
had roused in her usually pallid cheeks. Cora
was surprised by the placid beauty it imparted
to the features, a beauty she had never observed
before. Gazing on her spell-bound, she saw the
large, sad eyes slowly fill with tears, then brim
over, and the drops roll unheeded down her

The Three Nuns. 21

cheeks, falling on her coarse black robe and on
the grass at her feet like summer rain. There
were no sobs, no convulsive hearings of the
bosom; nothing but tears, large tears, welling out
from the bottom of a heart in which passion
either of joy or sorrow had long been dead.
Then her lips began to move, and Cora held her
breath to listen and catch the words. 'Buried
alive!' she murmured, and Cora's blood ran cold, as
for a moment she put a literal construction on the
expression; but Marguerite continued,' Yes, these
were her last words-words, alas only too true.
You were buried alive, Marie Within these prison
walls your once gay young heart was crushed
and broken, and the strings, stretched and
tightened with suppressed feeling and smothered
emotion, snapped ere they had time to harden and
wither like mine! But she is no longer buried,'
she continued after a pause;' it is only the casket
lies below; the jewel shines above in the New
Jerusalem, where her free spirit rejoices in the
boundless liberty for which she pined and panted
on earth.' As Marguerite spoke, she raised her
eyes to heaven, and becoming suddenly conscious
that she had been thinking aloud, and that she
had a listener, she hurriedly pulled her hood
over her face, and turned away with a scared

22 Sister Cora.

glance at Cora, in which shame and fear visibly
It was then that Cora eagerly whispered,' How
did you come here ?'
Marguerite started as she spoke, and looked
round at her with a strange, far-off look in her
wet eyes, like one suddenly brought face to face
with some painful, long past experience, buried
but not dead, smothered but not forgotten ; and
as Cora heard the deep, long-drawn sigh which
followed her question, and saw Marguerite press
her hand on her heart as though in pain, she
wished the words unspoken, and would willingly
have withdrawn them. But painful as it evi-
dently was to recall the past, it was sweet to the
poor nun even to be asked a question,-a question
which showed sympathy with her as a sentient
being, separated as she was supposed to be by a
pious fraud from the thoughts and feelings of the
world she had renounced; and, conscientious as
Sister Marguerite was, she yielded to the tempta-
tion, and with a stealthy glance in the direction
of the convent windows-a glance begotten of
years of patient endurance and obedience, which
had gradually affected a nature once frank and
open as the day-she stooped over the already
well-trimmed border and whispered, I will tell

The Three Nuns. 23

you how I came here; but go to the other side
and see if there are any weeds there.'
Cora understood, and silently obeyed; and,
both stooping at each side of the narrow grave,
their heads approached as if by accident, and
Marguerite could unbosom herself without rous-
ing the suspicions of any spy who might be
watching them.
If Cora expected a curious, romantic narrative,
she was disappointed; nevertheless, the few words
in which Marguerite told her tale were never
forgotten by her, but were ever after indelibly
engraven on her memory, and inseparably asso-
ciated with the scene in which they were uttered.
Associated with that lovely summer morning, the
very beauty of which sickened her with its dazzling
sunbeams and its balmy breezes, which, coming
from without, seemed (buried alive as she felt
herself to be) to wither her cheek with the breath
of scenes of beauty and happiness with which
she had now no concern; and shivering undei
the soft, sweet influences of Nature and Nature's
beauties, she could have exchanged them for
gloomy clouds and a sunless sky. Associated
with the convent graveyard; the singing of birds
in the adjoining garden; the lazy hum of a bee
which had settled on the leaves of the vine; and

24 Sister Cora.

the letters R.I.P. carved on the foot of the cross
at the end of the inscription, which simply stated
the name, age, and date of the death of the broken-
hearted nun.
'I came here,' said Marguerite, 'because I
thought heaven worth any sacrifice, and that to
gain it I must leave the world and deny myself
all its pleasures and enjoyments, forgetting that I
could not leave myself behind; that I brought
with me a warm, human heart, which would not
be denied its rights, the cravings of which for
love and sympathy it was impossible to stifle.'
Marguerite paused for a moment, and pressed
her hand upon her heart ere she continued:
'I was an enthusiastic, visionary girl, and I
imagined that in denying the cravings of my in-
tellect as well as of my heart, I was doing God
service, and earning a heavenly reward. Left to
myself, however, I am sure I would not have
decided as I did; but the enthusiasm of a highly-
gifted, much-loved friend, to whom I had been
betrothed from my infancy, infected me with a
passion for self-sacrifice, and when he became a
priest, I became a nun.' Again Marguerite
paused, and busied herself with pretended weeds.
' If we erred, as I now believe we did,' she con-
tinued, with quivering lips, 'it was from the

The Three Nuns. 25

purest of motives, but'- here the solemn toll-
ing of the great bell of the convent made both
of the nuns start to their feet, and follow each
other along the narrow path with slow, measured
steps and bent heads, as though occupied with
solemn thoughts suitable to the approaching hour
of prayer, Marguerite murmuring to herself,
' Alas, alas! deceit, deceit! born of our position;
time was when I would have scorned such mean-
ness.' And there was no humbler penitent than
she in the chapel that day, for during the chant-
ing of the Latin prayers, she was saying within
herself, like the publican in the temple, 'God be
merciful to me a sinner;' whilst Cora, who now
never prayed at all, was sighing, 'Poor, poor
The following day Cora and Louise were picking
fruit in the orchard, both sad and silent. Louise
looked crushed and broken-spirited, and disinclined
even for a whisper, though she seldom missed such
an opportunity; and Cora observed that, as she list-
lessly pursued her task, the tears were constantly
overflowing,-not a free, refreshing shower, but
drops slowly distilled, and furtively wiped away.
Coming close by chance, Cora gently touched
her hand, though she did not venture to look at
her, and a stifled sob showed she was understood.

25 Sister Cora.

Dear Louise,' she whispered, in tender accents;
and the words, or rather the kind tone, overcame
the proud, reticent heart, and sinking down on
the grass, Louise gave way to a violent fit of
It's my birthday,' she whispered; and a letter
came from my mother, but the half was torn off:
something that fat fool thought I should not see,
Ah me! I can't help myself. I've imagined all
manner of things, good and bad, but how can I
tell what was in it ? And I dare not ask,-I tried
that once before, but shall not venture again. Oh,
why did I come here? oh that I could get away !
oh that I could escape!' and she tore up the grass
in handfuls in her passionate but impotent rage.
'It must have been something about him,' she
continued, growing a little calmer. This is the
anniversary of the day we parted-my birthday.
How happy I was that morning, how miserable
before night! and, after all, it was only a lover's
quarrel. It might have come all right but for
my proud heart- What is it ?' she ejaculated;
for Cora had started, and given utterance to a
stifled scream.
'Nothing,' said Cora; 'only,' she whispered,
with a frightened glance at the high wall near
which they were,' I thought I saw a man's face

The Three Nuns. 27

for a moment up there,-there it is again!' she
cried, letting her basket fall and scattering the
A man's face !' cried Louise, springing to her
feet, and recovering all her composure in a moment.
'Where? where? what was he like?' she whispered.
'Just above the old cross,' said Cora, ignoring
the second question; and fixing her eyes on the
spot indicated, Louise stood motionless, with
throbbing heart and quickened pulse, scarcely
knowing herself what she was looking for.
But nothing appeared, and Louise again de-
manded what the face had been like; and on
Cora declaring she did not know, and even hint-
ing that she might have been mistaken, Louise's
choler rose.
'You can surely tell whether he had black
eyes or blue, dark hair or light?' she cried,
stamping her foot; but another scream from Cora
made her look up again, and they both saw dis-
tinctly a man's face, with the chin resting on the
top of the wall above the old stone cross, which
had been built into it. The next moment it had
disappeared; but, ere it vanished, a small packet,
tied with a string and having a stone attached to
it, had fallen at Louise's feet. To seize it and
hide it was the work of a moment; and then

28 Sister Cora.

with flushed face and trembling hands she re-
sumed her work.
I saw him,-it was he!' she whispered, looking
at Cora with an expression of happiness in her
eyes which she had never seen there before,
merry as Louise had often pretended to be. He
has come back,' she continued, squeezing and
spoiling, in her agitation, the fruit she was pick-
ing. 'He went away, far away; he is a soldier,-
he loves me still, else he never would have dared
to come here. Mamma must have mentioned his
name in the letter; I suspected as much. He
loves me still, and he cannot have married: I
heard he had.'
What matters it ?' said Cora, uttering the
thought which had arisen in her mind at
sight of the other's joy; 'he cannot marry a
All the happy, beaming light left Louise's face,
and an angry, reproachful glance shot from her.
dark eyes as Cora spoke.
You are right,' she said bitterly, 'he cannot
marry a nun; but,' she added, clasping her hands
over her bosom, where the packet was hidden,
'it is something to me to know that he loves me
still. I suppose you never had a lover?' she
remarked, as she rapidly filled her basket, picking

The Three Nuns. 29

the fruit all right with her now steady hands,
anger having conquered her emotion.
'No,' said Cora, 'I never had a lover' (thinking,
as she spoke, that if she had had one she would
never have taken the veil). 'Forgive me, dear
Louise!' she cried; 'it was cruel in me, though I
only spoke the truth.'
'Forgive you!' said Louise, every feature soften-
ing again; 'I have nothing to forgive. Com-
panions in misery should not take offence readily;
and I am so happy, strange as it may seem to you,
mon amie;' and she cast another eager glance at
the top of the old cross, but, though they lingered
near the spot till the allotted time for their task
was past, they saw no more of the man's head.
'Why don't you open it ?' asked Cora, as she
followed Louise along the path.
'Hush!' she whispered; 'my fingers are burn-
ing to get at it, but I would not open it till night,
till I am alone in my cell. No; not for all the
world. If the Mother Superior were to spy it, it
would be confiscated immediately,' and again she
pressed her hand on the hidden packet.
As they went along the corridor, on their way
to the kitchen with their baskets, they passed the
Mother Superior's little parlour, and seeing that
the room was empty, Louise peeped in. As she

30 Sister Cora.

did so, a pet linnet of the Abbess', confined in a
cage hanging beside the open window, enlivened
by the sunshine which streamed into the room,
set up a merry lay. It was a sweet song, and for
a few moments the two nuns stood listening to
the melody; but it irritated Louise's already ex-
cited feelings, and she shook her fist at the little
'Poor, senseless little prisoner,' she muttered,
'singing in a cage. I could wring its head off!'
and depositing her basket on the floor, she ad-
vanced into the room on tiptoe, putting her finger
on her lip as a warning gesture to the terrified
Cora. To open the door of the cage, and retreat
swiftly and noiselessly to Cora's side, was the
work of a moment, then, seizing hold of her basket,
she stood ready to run, breathlessly watching the
The bird's song suddenly ceased, and the little
head was seen peeping from the open door, as
though doubtful what the new state of matters
might mean; but after reconnoitering, first with
one eye and then with the other, it hopped back
to its perch again.
Louise actually stamped her foot with vexation,
whilst Cora whispered in an agony of fear, 'Oh,
shut him in,-she'll be here !'

The Three Nuns. 31

At that moment a bird, sitting on a tree out-
side, commenced to carol merrily; and the next,
the cage was empty, the prisoner had escaped.
'Bravo!' muttered Louise triumphantly, with
the tears standing in her eyes; but as they fled
along the narrow passage, Cora heard sounds of
smothered laughter, for Louise was chuckling at
the idea of the Mother Superior's chagrin at the
loss of her feathered favourite. As they were dis-
posing of the fruit, she kept up a running fire of
That bird shall be my omen,' she said. If it
comes back to its cage, or is caught, it will be
bad; if it is never more heard of, it will be
'What can she mean? She surely can't be
thinking of running away,' thought Cora, the
very possibility of such an idea sending a thrill
like electricity through her frame.
'Poor little slave!' continued Louise, 'it had
been so long a prisoner it did not know what
liberty was; and even when it got the chance, it
lingered in its cell, till the voice of a friend out-
side brought it to its senses, broke the spell, acted
like a charm, and gave it courage to spread its
wings once more. And need I fear its return now ?
now, when it has tasted the sweets of liberty ? now,

32 Sister Cora.

when it has recovered its birthright ? No, it will
never return; the omen will be good.'
'What can you mean, Louise?' whispered
Cora; you are not thinking of escaping!'
'Why not ?' rejoined Louise;' the sight of that
face on the top of the wall has acted on me like
a charm too; but it all depends on what he says
here,' she added with a sigh, as she touched the
concealed packet.
But you are a nun,' said Cora hesitatingly.
'Yes, I am a nun,' said Louise, with a scornful
laugh; 'but you may depend upon it, no pious
scruples on that score will detain me here against
my will. Yes, I am the bride of heaven; I have
taken the veil; I have'-
Hush, oh hush!' cried Cora; 'you are speaking
too loud; you may be overheard, and then'-
'Ay, and then,' said Louise gloomily, and
again sinking her voice to a whisper, 'then all
hope of freedom would be gone, bolts and bars-
and-but I will be silent and prudent; I will take
the hint, dear Cora,' and she immediately re-
lapsed into unbroken silence, though, when an
opportunity occurred, she cast on Cora glances
full of meaning, which she was not slow to in-
terpret: they spoke of new hopes, of revived
motives, of the prospect of freedom; of the strength

The Three Nuns. 33

of a determined purpose to escape from a living
tomb; the past almost already blotted out; the
future, uncertain as it was, looked forward to
with impatience. Yes; Louise was no longer a
nun; she had again become a woman, with all a
woman's hopes and fears.




What is all righteousness that men devise ?
What--but a sordid bargain for the skies ?'

ORA saw little of Louise during the few
following weeks, for Sister Marguerite
was seized with sudden illness, and the
office of nursing her was deputed to Cora, who,
however, received several secret hints, that though
the Mother Superior openly accused no one of
being accessory to the escape of her favourite,
she had evidently fixed upon the real culprit,
and was subjecting Louise to all the petty annoy-
ances and small insults which suggest themselves
to mean, unprincipled minds unfortunately pos-
sessed of power over their fellow-creatures.
She is only- waiting her time,-playing with
me like a cat with a mouse,' whispered Louise
on one of the few occasions on which she got a

lMarguerite's Story. 35

chance to speak to Cora; 'but the bird has not
returned, the prisoner has not been recaptured;
the omen is good, and I can bear it all without a
She said no more, for Louise had suddenly
become prudent, and she knew that a rash word
was perhaps as much as her life was worth; for
liberty had become life to her, imprisonment
death: she was plotting and planning, and a rash
word overheard might undo all.
But the 'time came when she was obliged to
take Cora to a certain extent into her confidence,
for she was too generous to wish to escape alone;
and telling her she was making preparations for
flight, she anxiously entreated her to risk all and
accompany her.
e has plotted, and I have planned,' she said,
'and it now rests with me to give the word. Dear
Cora, do not hesitate; it is worth the risk. We will.
take you with us to a land where, he says, if they
dare to attempt to kidnap us, one cry for help
will rally round us a host of brave hearts and
strong arms, ready and willing to succour and
defend us. Come, dear Cora,' and Louise twined
her arms round her, and kissed her fondly in the
dark, for it was a midnight stolen interview.
For a moment Cora hesitated, her heart throbbing

36 Sister Cora.

wildly at the prospect of liberty; but it was only
for a moment, for she too was generous, and to
leave Marguerite, whom she now loved more than
ever-Marguerite, who, she feared, would never
recover, who was so patient and uncomplaining,
so grateful for the smallest kindness-was, she
felt, impossible.
'You are very kind, dear Louise; but I cannot
leave Marguerite,' she whispered with a sigh.
'Cannot leave Marguerite !' ejaculated Louise.
'What is the short time you may be with her com-
pared to being buried alive for the remainder of your
life ? Marguerite will get another nurse after you
are gone. Cora! Cora! you may never get another
chance-you have not got a lover like me;' and
Louise sighed too, but hers was a happy sigh, and
there was a touch of triumph in her tone which
jarred on Cora's nerves, rendered doubly sensitive
by the strain put upon them.
+4 No,' she said coldly, 'I have no lover to help
me to escape; but I love Marguerite, and cannot
leave her.'
Louise stamped her foot and almost cried with
I have risked much to give you the chance;
you'll repent it after I am gone,' she said; and
then, changing her tone, she coaxed and expostu-

Marrerites Story. 37

lated and remonstrated till further colloquy was
dangerous, and they parted, Louise wounded and
disappointed, Cora grieved and sorrowful.
She saw no more of Louise, and started at
every unusual sound, frightened lest the fugitive
might be caught in the very act of escaping, or
be pursued and brought back.
Sitting one morning half asleep, just as daylight
was dimly dawning, and making visible the few
articles of furniture in Marguerite's bare, com-
fortless cell, she became aware of a soft scratch-
ing on the other side of the door, close beside
which she was sitting; and starting to her feet,
she opened it with the soft, noiseless motion which
had become habitual to her.
At the back of it stood a lady dressed in the
height of the fashion of the period, a rich lace
veil covering and concealing her face, whilst a
large shawl was thrown gracefully over her arm.
At sight of her, Cora stood transfixed with amaze-
ment; but the veil was thrown back, and she saw
before her Louise, Sister Louise, no longer pale as
death, but with eyes full of delight and a smile
of triumph on her lips. She said not one word,
but lifting her hand made a warning gesture,
understood amongst the nuns as a mark of silence,
and then, throwing her arms round Cora's neck,

38 Sister Cora.

she kissed her repeatedly ere she fled along the
narrow passage, looking back as she turned the
corner to wave a last farewell.
Poor Cora! never till that moment did she
realize the extent of the sacrifice she had made,
and her first impulse was a wild thought of risk-
ing all, leaving Marguerite, running after Louise,
and escaping too. But it was only for a moment;
and she returned to the cell, thankful that she
had checked an impulse which might have be-
trayed Louise and marred her escape, and with
contrite feelings toward the poor invalid, whose
uneasy slumbers had fortunately been undisturbed.
For days afterwards, Cora held her breath and
listened; but Marguerite's illness had reached its
height, and, closely confined to the cell, she heard
nothing for a time. Supposed to be absorbed in
nursing, she escaped the ordeal through which
each inmate of the convent was put when Louise's
flight was discovered; and Marguerite's death
being daily expected, her nurse was left unques-
tioned and unsuspected.
But Marguerite partially recovered, and lingered
on week after week; and during these last weeks
of her life, she and Cora opened their hearts to
each other-only at intervals and stealthily, it is
true, but with full confidence on both sides.

Marguerite's Story. 39

When Marguerite heard of Louise's escape, and
saw that, but for her, Cora would have fled too,
her grief was great, and Cora experienced a feel-
ing of mortification at seeing, as she thought, her
sacrifice unappreciated. But it was not so. Mar-
guerite was truly grateful; but though she never
would have dreamt of escaping herself, the
thought that she had been the innocent means of
detaining an unwilling captive within the convent
walls was anguish to her affectionate heart, and
from that moment to effect Cora's escape became
the ruling idea of her mind.
'Not before I die,' she would whisper, tenderly
pressing Cora's hand, anxious that she should
understand, that to have her with her during the
remainder of her life was indeed a precious con-
Often did Cora know she was pondering over
the chances of her escape; and seeing that Mar-
guerite not only thought it possible, but not
unlawful, she began to entertain a hope that in
some way or other it might be efected-a hope,
faint, very faint, at first, but whichNgradually
strengthened till it became tacitly understood
between them.
It was during this time- that Marguerite told
in fragmented# snatches tlAtory of her early life,
*4 .- 4

40 Sister Cora.

a story remembered by Cora in after years as a
connected whole.
'I was brought up,' she said,' in the ancient
city of Bourges, a city full ofpriests and scholars,
the very atmosphere of which is redolent of piety
and learning. We lived in an old chateau, Hubert
and I, Louis and Marie; Hubert was my only
brother, and Louis and Marie were our cousins.
We were all orphans, and had been betrothed
from our infancy, Louis to me, Marie to Hubert-
an arrangement which promised a happy future,
for, as we grew up, our hearts confirmed what had
been fixed upon by our parents and guardians
ere we ourselves had either wish or will in the
matter. Louis and I were possessed of similar
tastes and inclinations; we were grave, serious,
and thoughtful, fond of study and meditation-
the air of Bourges seeming to have inspired us
both not only with a love of learning, but with
deep and sincere sentiments of piety. Whilst, on
the contrary, Hubert and Marie were gay and
thoughtless, laughing and singing from morning
to night, light-hearted and happy, living in the
present, even as Louis and I were prone to live
in the future, often more impressed by things
unseen and eternal than things seen and temporal.
But though thus differently constituted, we all

Marguerite's Story. 41

loved each other dearly, and were indeed a happy
family. Hubert was a dear, affectionate, generous
boy; so generous that our old servant Pierre used
to say it was a good thing his ears were attached
to his head, else he would have been sure to have
given them away to somebody who needed them.
He was about two years younger than Louis and
I, but early assumed the office of champion in
any childish quarrel with our playfellows of the
neighboring chateaux, laughingly declaring that
Louis was nothing but a dreamer, and only fit for
a priest. Louis quietly allowed him to fight our
battles and maintain our rights, always interfer-
ing, however, when diplomacy became necessary,
and then he proved a powerful ally.
'But though Hubert seemed to us a merry,
thoughtless fellow, who was incapable of entering
into or appreciating our feelings, there was within
him a deep under-current, which needed only
circumstance and opportunity to develop itself;
and when the time came, the stream welled forth
pure and strong. True, he might not have our
fine, metaphysical ideas, our dreamy, pietistic
notions; but he had the spirit of a martyr, the
heart of a hero, and when he was tried he was
not found wanting. And he was tried, sorely
tried; for, Cora, he became a Protestant !'

43 Sister Cora.

As Marguerite uttered the last word, her voice
sank to a whisper, and in the same low tone Cora
ejaculated, 'A Protestant!'
'Yes,' whispered Marguerite,' Hubert became a
Protestant; and no one who knew him doubted
that the change was the result of deep, conscien-
tious conviction, and from no mere caprice or
love of novelty. He had everything to gain by
remaining a Catholic, but lost everything by
becoming a Protestant; and dreadful as I once
thought it to have a heretic brother, my respect
for him was increased rather than lessened by his
adherence to what he believed was the path of
duty. And though I still cling to the Church of
my fathers, I have learned to regard those who
differ from it with that charity which should
pervade all those who have the same faith and
hope. Cora, I have learned much since I came
here, and I sometimes think that it has been
better for me, and for others too, that I did retire
from the world; for many a weary pillow I have
watched by, and many a weary soul have I
cheered and comforted with the words of eternal
life; for, pious as I thought myself in the dear
old chateau in Bourges, it was here that I first
learned the true foundation of all piety. It was
here that in secret I read a Bible which my poor

Marguerite's Story. 43

Marie had managed to secrete. It was Hubert's
gift, and she valued and treasured it on that
account, and on that account only; for its con-
tents were regarded by her with mysterious fear,
from having, she knew, been the means of his
change of faith-a change which had not only
separated her from her lover in this world, and
driven her to take refuge in a convent, but which
had, she believed, separated them for ever; for
she had been taught that there was no salvation
for heretics, no hope for any beyond the pale of
the Church. My poor dear Marie! it almost
broke my heart to see her pining away, her lively
spirit broken by the very hopelessness of her
situation; and to know that my own brother had
been the cause did not lessen my grief. But
death released her, and hers was a happy death-
bed. She had none of the self-righteous diffi-
culties which for a time oppressed and darkened
my spirit, but thankfully accepted the offered cure
for all her woes, gratefully rejoicing in the light
which, though it had come too late for this world,
not only shed a bright halo over that to which
she was hastening, but took from death its sting
and fear, and gave her the hope of meeting
her lover in heaven. You must not suppose,'
continued Marguerite, wiping her eyes, after a

44 Sister Cora.

pause,' that though I say Hubert was the cause
of poor Marie's immolation, that he was to blame.
No, he would never of his own accord have broken
off the match; but she was under the power of
the priests, and her guardians too were not slow
to represent to her in awful terms the guilt and
danger she would incur in wedding a heretic; and
her brother, he too- But I am not going to say
anything against Louis,' said Marguerite, after
hesitating for a moment or two. Whatever he did
was from conscience, and he should not be judged
harshly: let me rather tell you of Hubert, and
how he became a Protestant.
Our old servant, Pierre, was a descendant of one
of the Huguenots who at one time took possession
of Bourges, and Hubert was never weary listening
to the old man's tales of the bravery and courage
of these men, who suffered and still suffer with a
faith and patience which must call forth even
the admiration of their bitterest enemies. But
though we knew that Hubert liked Pierre's com-
pany, we had no idea of the strong hold his talk
had taken of the boy's mind. Well do I remember
the day when it first dawned on me that some
change was coming over my merry, thoughtless
brother. It was Christmas time, and all the
young people of Bourges were busily engaged in

Marguerite's Story. 45

decking out the various churches for the coming
festival, and we four were amongst those who
had divided the task of decorating our magnificent
cathedral. We had either been lazier than the
others, or had undertaken a larger portion of the
work, for group after group finished their tasks,
and we were left alone to finish ours.
"Where's Hubert ?" cried Louis, as he twisted
and untwisted a beautiful wreath of costly flowers
which had been brought from our own conservatory.
" I'm just spoiling this, and he has more skill and
taste in his little finger than I have I believe in my
whole body;" and he called out "Hubert! Hubert!"
but no Hubert responded to the cry, and Marie,
declaring he must have fallen asleep, volunteered
to go in search of him. She returned in a few
minutes with him, laughingly informing us she
had found him leaning against a pillar, in a brown
study, sleeping, she averred, with his eyes open.
"" Look here, Hubert," cried Louis, holding up
his half-finished wreath; and Hubert took it in
hand. But though he finished it with his usual
skill, I knew from his listless manner that the
work had lost all interest for him.
'Our tasks finished, we prepared to return
home. It was late in the afternoon, and the dim
religious light of the cathedral helped the gather-

46 Sister Cora.

ing twilight; but this only increased the beauty
of the scene, and we stood for some minutes at
the door looking back ere we left. Louis and I
gazed in silence, but Marie was voluble in her
exclamations of admiration and pleasure. It was
she who had made the wreaths for the images and
pictures, and she repeatedly called Hubert's atten-
tion to the beauty of her handiwork.. His only
reply was a smile, a sad smile.
""Hubert, what is the matter with you?" I
cried, surprised and alarmed.
"" Nothing, my dear sister," he said kindly;
adding gravely, and with an evident effort, "I
have been thinking of Him whom we profess to
worship as equal with Jehovah, and yet whose
birth we commemorate in this childish manner.
Oh, if I knew Him to be'my Saviour, my God, how
differently would I serve Him! how differently
would I honour Him Nothing would be too
much; it would be the sacrifice of a lifetime, the
consecration of my whole being. Looking down
now from the throne of His glory, how must He
despise all this flummery"- He paused abruptly,
for we were all staring at him, and turning hastily
away, muttered something about having forgotten
'It was years after this before Hubert declared

Marguerite's Stcry. 47

himself a Protestant; but I always look back on
that day as the beginning of all our sorrows.
Before his ultimate decision I had left the world
and come here, refusing alike to listen to his
arguments and brotherly entreaties,-wrapped in
a mantle of spiritual pride of my own weaving.
But before my poor Marie followed me to the
convent, the veil had fallen from my eyes, and I
would, if I could, have saved her from the fate of
a nun. I was so placed that this was impossible;
but I have no scruples in trying to deliver you,
Cora. I see things clearer now, and look upon
assisting you to escape in the same light as
delivering a slave, or an imprisoned bird or
But what became of Hubert ?' asked Cora.
He suffered much in adhering to the course
dictated by his conscience,' said Marguerite. 'He
not only lost his bride, but all his worldly posses-
sions, and is now earning his daily bread in a shop
in Paris; but I know that never for a moment
has he regretted the choice he made. And, Cora,
though Louis and I looked down from the heights
of our spiritual infatuation upon him and Marie,
I know now that they were both nearer the king-
dom of heaven than we, who laboured so hard to
attain to it; and though Louis thought he was

48 Sister Cora.

sacrificing much, it was Hubert who was the true
martyr. Louis is in the sphere most agreeable
to him; and he will need all the self-denying
principles of his theory to counteract the effect of
the adulation which, as a preacher, follows him
wherever he goes.'
But Cora cared more to hear about Hubert than
Louis. The picture of the bright merry boy had
made a deep impression on her mind, and what-
ever Marguerite let fall about him was eagerly
remembered and cherished, and he became a hero
in her eyes. Not that Cora had any sympathy
with his religious peculiarities; it was the results
and not the motives which attracted her, and
whatever had been the moving cause, her admira-
tion would have been the same. Sitting by
Marguerite's bedside, she would close her eyes
and raise pictures before her mental vision, in
which Hubert played the conspicuous part. She
saw him a bright, beautiful boy, fighting his com-
panions' battles in the gardens of the old family
chateau at Bourges, and rejoiced in the victories
which she always accorded to him. She saw him
grave and thoughtful in the old cathedral, uttering
his indignant protest against frivolity in the name
of religion; and she tried to imagine her hero as
he was now patiently labouring at some uncon-

Marguerite's Story. 49

genial work, grave and sad, perhaps, but courageous
Whilst Cora was thus nursing her hero-worship,
the dying Marguerite, composed and resigned in
all that appertained to herself, was anxiously
deliberating on the best means for her escape from
the convent. By slow and painful efforts she
wrote a letter to her old lover, which she warned
Cora to secrete and preserve with the utmost
'Louis will help you for my sake,' she said; 'he
is powerful, and is too noble to betray you. Tell
him'- But Marguerite was very weak, and
paused, overcome with emotion, and though she
gave Cora advice as to the best means of effecting
her escape, she said little more, save what was
absolutely necessary.
At intervals she communicated to her the fact
that the porteress was a sister of their old servant,
Pierre, a woman who had followed her to the
convent for no other reason than to be near her.
Some kindly service, some affectionate act, too
openly displayed, had roused the angry suspicions
of the Mother Superior, jealous as she was bound
to be of any infringement of the discipline of the
convent; and, the punishment falling upon poor
Suzette, Marguerite had anxiously avoided all

50 Sister Cora.

intercourse with her, and had expressly forbidden
any approach to intimacy, a prohibition which
was broken by both every favourable opportunity
which occurred. But during her illness, Suzette
had been watched and guarded. Both she and
Marguerite were suspected of Protestant tenden-
cies, and to keep them separate was considered
indispensably necessary. But Marguerite declared
with tears that she must see her old friend before
she died, and that it was on her she chiefly relied
to assist Cora to escape.
The next few weeks were always remembered
by Cora as a feverish dream. A midnight inter-
view between the porteress and Marguerite, during
which, notwithstanding their grief at parting, the
chances of her escape were discussed and planned,
Marguerite proposing that Suzette herself should
seize the opportunity, now that all motive for
remaining in the convent would be over,-a pro-
posal spurned by the apparently petrified but still
warm-hearted woman, who declared that, Mar-
guerite dead, her only hope in life would be to
sleep beside her in death; then Marguerite's
death, and all the attendant circumstances of rite
and ceremonial, followed by a feeling of helpless
isolation, which made escape seem to Cora a
despairing, forlorn hope; then a reaction, which

Marguerite's Story. 5

roused her to hope and activity once more, and
which ended in finding herself one morning outside
the convent walls, fleeing as for life, her convent
dress hidden by a large cloak procured for her, she
knew not how, by Suzette, who had also provided
her with a small sum of money. Home was her
first thought, for surely her mother would not
hesitate to receive and welcome her, and keep her
arrival a secret till she had found a secure place
in which to hide. And home she went, strangely
awkward in her recovered freedom; starting at
every new object she met by the way, more
especially when she saw a form approaching which
bore any resemblance to that of a priest. Many
times she deviated from the road, hiding behind
trees and hedges, often when there was no real
cause of alarm; and the shades of evening were
closing around her ere she reached, with throbbing
heart, the gate which was built into one end of
the high wall which surrounded her mother's
house. Before it she paused to take breath, the
sight of the windows of the house as she peeped
in bringing tears to her eyes, which prevented hei
seeing any form which might be flitting past them.
Standing thus, in the act of raising her hand to
take hold of the rope which was attached to the
large house-bell, she was startled by the sound of

52 Sister Cora.

a coming footstep; and drawing back into the
shadow round the corner, she saw, with a terror
which blanched her face and took the power
either to move or flee from her limbs, the well-
remembered figure of the family confessor; and
with all the self-consciousness of one who had so
much at stake, she never doubted but that he had
heard of her escape, and had come to inform her
mother of it. But though she saw him, he did
not see her; and after a strong pull at the bell,
he fortunately turned round the other way, as he
waited for admittance.
Ah, that bell! how the sound of it went to
Cora's heart, bringing back, with painful echoes.
the familiar memories of her childhood; for bells
are like human faces and human voices, no two
are alike; and as Cora heard it, the first time since
she had left her home to return no more, a host of
incidents connected with its tones rose up before
her with every toll.
But the gate opened, and the priest turned
round again and stalked in; and as Cora caught
a full view of the profile of his face, her eyes were
suddenly opened to the fact that the sharp, aquiline
nose, the deep-set, mysterious eyes, and the cruel
mouth had had more to do with her entering the
convent than she had ever before suspected. Yes;

M arguerite's Story. 53

the web had been skilfully woven round her, the
victim had been blinded with consummate art, and
the sacrifice had appeared so voluntary, even to
herself, as to disarm all suspicion of persuasion,
far less of coercion. And now here was this man,
arrived before her, still the director of her mother's
and sister's consciences, still the censor and judge
of their every action; and how would she, the
poor fugitive, be received in the circumstances ?
Alas! Cora scarcely took time to answer the
question, but turned away, sick and giddy, to seek
protection and shelter elsewhere.



'The plea of works, as arrogant.and vain,
Heav'n turns from with abhorrence and disdain.'

N a large but somewhat low-roofed cham-
ber, at the top of a house in one of the
faubourgs of Paris, a priest was sitting
absorbed in meditation. Leaning back in his
chair, he seemed oppressed with his thoughts, for
his brows were knitted and his lips compressed
as with pain,-as though the very act of think-
ing had become a weary obligation, which had
strained his mental powers, till the strings of the
machine were so strained and rendered so sensi-
tive as to destroy the very end he had in view.
In a corner of the room, a surplice lay on a prie-
dieu, whilst on the wall directly opposite where
the priest was sitting, the curtain had been drawn
back from before a painting of the crucifixion,

The Priest and Preacher. 55

hung above an altar with a crucifix draped in
black; for the day was Good Friday, on which all
good Catholics are supposed to be in a state of
mourning. The priest was in the prime of life,
and no one could look at him without being im-
pressed by the peculiarly intellectual expression
of his countenance, which, at the same time, bore
marks of the gracious benevolence of his character
and disposition. Suddenly, as though struck with
some bright new idea, he pushed back his chair,
started to his feet, and striding with eager foot-
steps across the floor, he opened the door of a
small cupboard, and having taken from it a violin
and its bow, he played (after a few preliminary
scrapes and flourishes) a merry dance tune, to
which he capered about with right good-will.
Thus occupied, he did not hear slow, heavy foot-
steps ascending the wooden staircase, but paused
abruptly as an old man carrying a large black bag
entered the apartment, and stood at the door,
rooted to the spot, staring at the dancing eccle-
siastic with open-eyed, open-mouthed amazement,
if not horror.
'My good friend,' said the priest, with flushed
cheeks and sparkling eyes, and a smile of comic
amusement playing on his lips, I see you are
somewhat surprised to see me thus; but in study-

56 Sister Cora.

ing my discourse, I found myself in too low spirits
to do my subject justice in the delivery, and have
been trying the effect of a lively measure and a
little exercise. I am happy to say that the remedy
has been successful, and that I am now ready to
accompany you;' and replacing the violin in its
place in the cupboard, he prepared to set out with
the attendant, whose duty it was to carry his
vestments to church, and render him any necessary
service, and who, as he carefully folded the sur-
plice, cast occasional wondering glances at the
priest, as though doubting whether Father Louis
and his senses had not, for the time being, parted
Ready to depart, he left the room, followed by
his still wondering attendant, but had only de-
scended a few steps, when a female form, enveloped
in a cloak, rushed up and fell at his feet, ejacu-
lating in pitiful accents of agonized entreaty,
'Save me, father, save me !'
Obeying the first impulse of a noble heart, the
priest raised her in his arms, as le would have
done some poor wounded bird or panting, pur-
sued leveret; and springing up the steps, he
carried her into his chamber, taking the precaution
*This anecdote is related of Bourdaloue, the celebrated
French preacher.

The Priest and Preacher. 57

to lock the door and keep out the pursuers he
imagined were in full cry at her heels, and leav-
ing the old church officer more surprised and
panic-stricken than ever. There, to his dismay,
he found that she had fainted; and when roused
by the plentiful supply of cold water which he
poured upon her face, Cora (for it was she) saw,
from the terror which mingled with the compassion
expressed in his eyes, that he had thought her
dead or dying.
'My poor child,' he said with a sigh of relief,
'have no fear; whatever may have been your crime,
rest assured that I will not deliver you up. You
are as safe with me of in the sanctuary of the
Poor Cora! she had never dreamt of being
suspected of being a guilty culprit fleeing from
justice. It was the last drop in her already over-
flowing cup; but the torrent of tears which the
priest's words called forth relieved at once her
burning brain and bursting heart. She forgot
that the generous chivalry of the man, which
made it a point of honour not to betray the woman
who evidently reposed implicit trust in him,
might give way before the sacred duty of the
priest, when he heard she was a nun, who had
broken her irrevocable vows, and been guilty of a

58 Sister Cora.

heinous crime against that Church the interests of
which he was bound to defend even to the last
drop of his blood, and that the more conscientious
and trustworthy he was, the more anxious would
he be to deliver her up to justice; and, again
falling at his feet, she declared, as well as her sobs
and tears permitted, that she was no guilty thief
or murderer, but a poor innocent nun, who had
fled from her convent, and come to him for
succour and protection, thereby placing him in
a predicament more awkward than he had ever
experienced before. Gently raising the poor girl,
he placed her on the fauteuil, in which he had
been reclining whilst studying his discourse, and
with a darkened brow began to pace the chamber
from end to end, with hasty, impatient foot-
How came you to me ?' he asked sternly, as
he suddenly paused opposite the worn-out, tremb-
ling girl.
Then Cora drew from her bosom the carefully-
cherished letter of Sister Marguerite, which in
her agitation she had for a time forgotten, and
silently placed it in his hands. He took it some-
what impatiently, but at sight of the handwrit-
ing he became deadly pale, and as he read the
opening sentences, the letter fell from his hands

The Priest and Preacher. 59

and he sank into a chair. For a few moments
there was a dead silence, and Cora, stealing a
scared glance at him, saw him clasping his hands
and raising his eyes to heaven, whilst his lips
trembled with unspoken words of prayer. But
accustomed to conquer emotion and to stifle feel-
ing, he speedily regained his composure, and
lifting poor Marguerite's blurred and blotted
pages, he read and re-read them with eager in-
terest. The letter was as follows:-
DEAR LouIS,-Ere this reaches you, the birds
will be singing above my head in the convent
graveyard, but I shall not hear them; and the
convent bell will toll wearily as of old, but it shall
no longer annoy me; for I shall be safe, where the
weary are at rest, in that New Jerusalem which
you and I, two romantic, visionary children, used to
dream and talk so much about,-making airy, fancy
pictures, coloured by our own childish, glowing ima-
ginations,-and to obtain an entrance into which,
we two, scarce yet grown man and woman, parted
for ever-you to become a priest, and I a nun.
It sends a pang through my heart still, Louis, to
remember that parting; and I am foolish enough
to hope that you may remember its agony too.
Ah, Louis! what a mistake we made in the
pride of our hearts, thinking we were doing God

60 Sister Cora.

service by the very pain we suffered! What an
insult from the creature to the Creator! Dear
Louis, I have much to say, but have neither
strength nor opportunity to say it, and must
hasten on. I have learned here that the salva-
tion for which we in all sincerity resolved to work
and fight with self-denying Zeal, and to gain which
we gave up the world and the world's joys, is
not a reward either of holy living or self-sacri-
ficing deeds, but the gift of the God of love. I
am convinced that you too, Louis, have attained
to the same precious faith which now sustains
me in the near prospect of death; that you are
one of those who worship God in the spirit,
rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in
the flesh; and that, though through a mistaken
piety we have been separated in this world, we
shall meet above, where there is neither marrying
nor giving in marriage. Forgive me, Louis; I
had no thought when I began to write of open-
ing up the old wound, but the very fact that I
was again speaking to you has led me on thus
If this letter ever reaches you, it will be brought
by a young girl whom I am anxious to save from
my fate. Let no conscientious scruple deter you
from befriending her. Even suppose a monastic

The Priest and Preacher. 61

life right and proper (which now, lying on my
death-bed, I declare to be a delusion and a snare
of Satan himself), she has no vocation for it-far
less, Louis, than I had, who have never ceased to
regret the step I took. And, Louis, if my example
have no influence upon you, let the voice of our
poor broken-hearted Marie cry aloud from her
grave to save another from the consequences of
a like mistake. When, in the agony of her heart
at the separation from her lover, uhe came to you as
a brother and a priest, saying she was sick of the
world, ifistead of giving her time to recover from
the blow, you, actuated, I have no doubt, by
conscientious motives and a real desire for her
spiritual good, encouraged and nursed her half-
formed intention of taking the veil; and before
the reaction of her grief had come, she was
immured in a convent for life, and her splendid
dowry was in the coffers of the Church. Ah,
Louis! you did not know it perhaps, but pride
in the sacrifice of a sister might have a share in
the motives which actuated you. But I am
wandering again, and again you must forgive me;
one gets wonderfully clear-eyed and plain-spoken
when earth is behind and eternity so near. I
charge you, Louis, save this girl; deliver her not
up to the priests; send her not back to her

63 Sister Cora.

prison, where, if she survive her punishment, she
will soon die like Marie of a broken heart. Fare-
well, Louis, beloved Louis!-I say it without a
blush now, for before this reaches you I shall be
no more.'
There were a few more words, but the paper
was so blotted and blurred, either by the tears of
the writer or the trembling of the poor dying hand,
that they were quite illegible. With a sigh which
sounded like a groan to Cora, Father Louis slowly
folded up the letter, and deposited it in his
bosom. He shed no tears, but the anguish ex-
pressed in his face showed that he felt, and felt
What is your name?' he said, rousing himself
and turning to Cora.
Sister Cora,' she replied in a whisper, for
she had learned in the convent that walls have
But further questioning was summarily put a
stop to by a loud, imperative knocking at the
door, which made Cora start to her feet and clasp
her hands imploringly, as she turned a silent,
beseeching glance on the priest.
'Fear nothing, my child,' he said gently, as he
proceeded to unlock the door, at the back of
which stood the old church officer.

The Priest and Preacher. 63

'Father,' he said, glancing curiously into the
room, his eyes resting on the face of the frightened
girl, who had forgot in her terror to envelop
herself once more in her cloak ;-' Father, the king
has arrived, and a messenger has come to see
what hinders you; you have barely time now to
reach the church before the conclusion of the
'I am ready,' the priest quietly replied, all the
Jesuit roused within by the circumstances in
which he was placed. Sister Cora,' he continued,
in a cold, calm tone, and with a face from which
all traces of emotion seemed to have vanished as
by magic, 'thou must take needful rest and re-
freshment during my absence. In the adjoining
apartment you will find a frugal repast prepared
against my return from the church; avail yourself
of it, my child, you will require all your strength
to prosecute your dangerous mission.' For mis-
sion read journey,' he muttered to himself, having
in these few words not only convinced the sus-
picious old man that Cora was a true nun, but one
who was placed in apparently equivocal circum-
stances from being employed in the service of the
Church, a service probably fraught with danger.
Then, without another word, he changed the key
trom the inside of the lock to the outside, and

64 Sister Cora.

motioning the old man to precede him, he locked
the door, put the key in his pocket, and slowly
descended the stairs. Instead of feeling alarmed
by this proceeding, Cora heard the key turn in the
lock with a sigh of relief; she had implicit con-
fidence in the priest, a confidence derived from
Marguerite; and the fact that he had made a
prisoner of her gave her a feeling of safety and
security. Now that she felt safer than she had
done since she left the convent, her wearied body
asserted its claims, and she gladly availed herself
of the priest's hospitality; and finding, as he had
said, a repast ready, she ate like a hungry child,
and then throwing herself on a couch, she rested
her cheek on her hand and fell sound asleep.
Whilst Cora slept, Father Louis preached, and,
eloquent as he always was, he was that day pro-
nounced by general consent to have surpassed
himself. Though his text was taken from the fifth
chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, his real
text was Marguerite's letter, and the sermon was a
passionate outburst of inner feeling. He preached
like a man possessed, though he felt like one in a
dream, or like one suddenly roused from slumber.
Old memories crowded thick upon him: the gentle,
beautiful girl with whom he had been on terms of
endearing intimacy from his very infancy, and

The Priest and Preacher. 65

whom he had never seen since when, in the spirit
of pseudo-martyrdom, he had been present at
what'he considered her heavenly betrothal, seemed
suddenly to have started up before him, with the
sad, imploring eyes with which she had been wont
to regard him when first he hinted his wish to be-
come a priest. For though Marguerite had, with
the reticence of a noble, generous nature, spoken of
the sacrifice as mutual, he knew that, but for him,
she never would have taken the veil; and recalled
with a bitter pang the half condemnatory, half
triumphant feelings which had possessed him
when he discovered how much it cost her to
relinquish him. Thus roused, he forgot the Catho-
lic in the Christian, the priest in the man, and
preached Justification by Faith as clearly as the
Apostle Paul himself, earnestly entreating his
hearers to put no confidence in any good works or
sacrifice of their own, but to put all their trust in
the one great Sacrifice, and in that alone.
But, his sermon finished, the excitement over,
a reaction set in, and Father Louis left the church
with a bowed down, humbled head, and with his
hat slouched over his downcast eyes. He turned
away in the opposite direction from that in which
he had come, and made his way towards the other
end of Paris by a circuitous, roundabout route.

66 Sister Cora.

He might have been anxious to escape observation,
or it might be simply the Jesuit education, which
made it an unconscious habit with him never to
take a straight path where a crooked one could be
found; either way, he took the long road and
avoided the short one.



SIf done beneath Thy laws,
Even servile labour shines;
Hallow'd is toil, if this the cause,
The meanest work divine.'

IS destination was a small shop in an
obscure faubourg, and as he approached
the door he hesitated and lingered, and
drew his hat still farther over his brow, and
wrapped his cloak still closer round him. At
length he summoned up courage, and with hasty
steps entered the shop, pausing for a moment on
the threshold to cast a hasty glance round the
interior, till it rested on the face of a man, evi-
dently the master of the shop, who was busily
engaged adding up a long row of figures, and who,
as the priest advanced and stood before him, said,
without looking up, 'Pardon, one moment.'
He was an erect, wiry figure, rather below than

63 Sister Cora.

above the middle size, with a fine, expressive
countenance, the marked features of which were
a Roman nose and eagle eyes, their sharp ex-
pression being tempered and softened by the
almost womanly tenderness and sweetness of the
small mouth and chin. He was clad in a complete
suit of fine grey cloth, having on the right sleeve
a broad band of black crape, on which was em-
broidered in white silk,' A MEMOIRE M. A.'
Now, sir,' he said, as he finished his task and
laid down his pen, turning respectfully towards
his supposed customer with a pleasant smile on
his lips,-a smile which roused mingled sensations
in the heart of Father Louis, recalling, as it did,
the memory of another face, very similar to the
one before him in expression if not in features.
But, instead of giving an order, the priest re-
moved his hat, and, with a melancholy smile, held
out his hand. For a moment the merchant seemed
petrified with astonishment; then his eyes bright-
ened and sparkled, and seizing the offered hand
he shook it repeatedly, crying in eager, excited
tones, 'It's Louis!' adding,' I was there! I was
Where ?' asked the priest, equally surprised in
turn, but making considerably less outward show
of his astonishment.

The Merchant. 69

'In the church !' cried the other. 'I have just
come from it; yes, I was there! I heard your
sermon, Louis; it was magnificent, charming,
superb! How the old walls rung with the old
gospel!-and it was a Catholic priest who preached,
a Jesuit! Bah! the more shame to him,' he cried,
his mood suddenly changing as he threw away the
hand he held, a contemptuous, withering sneer on
his lips and an indignant glance in his eyes. 'What
right had you to preach justification by faith, you
who teach, or should teach, the very opposite doc-
trine ? How can you remain a priest ? a Jesuit?
Have you any conscience left, Louis ?'
'Had you preached that sermon in other cir-
cumstances,' he continued, without waiting for
a reply, and pacing the narrow limits of his
shop with quick, impatient footsteps, 'it might,
nay, it must have done good; but the gay
butterfly ladies and the fine perfumed gentlemen
who listened to you so attentively, who wiped
their eyes when you finished, and whispered to
each other that Father Louis had surpassed him-
self to-day, and that it had been better than a
play,-would they not, think you, nurtured as
they have been, apply justification by faith in
their own way, and retire from the church re-
solved to continue in sin that grace might abound?

70 Sister Cora.

You will be a more charming man than ever
with them all, Louis.'
The brow of the preacher darkened as the
merchant spoke, but self-command was habitual
with him, and, besides, the man before him was
perhaps the last in the world with whom at that
moment he felt inclined to quarrel; and con-
quering his rising choler, he said quietly, 'You
do both me and them injustice, Hubert; but we
will allow that to pass for the present, along with
your defective logic,' adding, almost in a whisper,
as he put his finger on the band of embroidered
crape which ornamented the other's arm, 'You
mourn after a fashion of your own, Hubert.
You did not tell me that your sister was dead.'
'Tell you!' he cried, with renewed vehemence,
'tell you! You who left the world behind you,
with all its joys and sorrows, its affections and
feelings! What right had you to expect to be
informed of the death of one who died to you
many years ago,-you who-bah!' he said, turn-
ing on his heel as though in contempt, but in
reality to hide his feelings and conquer his
Again had the priest's brow darkened, and he
was about to reply when the other turned round
and prevented him.

The Merchant. 71

'As for my mourning,' he said, in a tone of
affected carelessness, 'I despise the fashion of
showing my grief by the colour and style of my
garments. Such outward display is a mockery
of the genuine grief of the heart, and I am happy
to say that I am possessed of enough of moral
courage to enable me to refuse to follow the
barbarous custom,-a cruel custom for the poor,
who, afraid to ignore the senseless fashion, some-
times endure both cold and hunger rather than
seem t6 be deficient in the feelings supposed
to be represented by those outward trappings
of woe.'
'What means this, then?' asked the priest,
again touching the crape band, with the shadow
of a smile on his lips.
'It means,' said the merchant with an angry
blush, called to his cheek by the Jesuit's smile,-
'it means that I wish others to know that I have
lost a friend, though I disapprove of the usual
method of announcing it. I have no wish to
hide my grief, and it is necessary to have some
mark outwardly, to prevent being sickened by
the mirth of those who in all innocence would
thus hurt your feelings, if they had no idea you
were a mourner. Ay, you may smile, Louis'-
'Hush, Hubert! look here,' interrupted the

72 Sister Cora.

priest in a gentle tone, as he took Marguerite's
letter from his bosom and held it out to him.
He took it with a half-reluctant, suspicious
gesture, but at the sight of the handwriting the
expression of his face suddenly changed, his eyes
became soft and humid, and the corners of his
mouth twitched and quivered; and as he eagerly
read and re-read the contents, a bright light
seemed to shine from every feature, and large
tears, evidently of joy, rolled down his cheeks.
'Blessed be God! she died in the Faith,' he
cried, clasping his hands in an ecstasy of grati-
tude. 'Dear, dear Louis, forgive me. If I had
known what you were so kindly bringing to me,
I would not have spoken as I did. You have
taken a load off my mind,' and with all the
ardour of a Frenchman, he clasped the priest in
his arms, kissing and hugging him in a most
loving manner.
'And my poor Marie, too,' he said, in a soft
whisper, 'she, too, awaits me above. See, Louis,'
he added, lifting the crape, and showing another
band below it, embroidered in a similar manner,
the initials being M. B. This I wore till Mar-
guerite died. It's wonderful, in this world, how
one sorrow wipes out another sometimes, but it
has not been so with me. Marie and Marguerite

The Merchant. 73

have ever been both here,' and he placed his
hand on his heart, 'and when I placed the
second mourning badge on my arm, I would not
displace the first; and now they are both waiting
me there,' he added, looking up to heaven with
a face which Father Louis, looking on, thought
must be like the face of an angel.
'You are well named ANGE, Hubert,' lie said;
'both you and Marguerite,' he added in a low
tone. 'But I do not deserve your thanks; a
selfish motive brought me here. I came for help.'
'You were always conscientious to a fault,
and how your conscience keeps a straight line,
now that it inhabits a Jesuit's body, is more than
I can comprehend,' said Hubert, his mood chang-
ing once more, a mischievous smile on his lips
and a sparkle in his eyes. 'But what can an
obscure individual like me do to help the man on
whose lips the dlite of Paris hung entranced this
morning; but you preached well, Louis, and, after
all, what did it matter that it was in a Romish
church and to Roman Catholics you preached ?
You belong to the Church universal, the one grand
brotherhood of Christ, which knows no name, no
sect, no bond, save the invisible tie which binds
each member to Him, whom not having seen we

74 Sister Cora.

I belong to the one true CIhuCH,' interrupted
the priest hastily, 'the Church of the apostles,
and '-
Yes, yes, of course,' cried the other, interrupt-
ing him in turn; 'we know. all about that, Louis;
you and I agreed long ago to differ on that point.
Seeing we each consider the other a true Christian,
it matters little in comparison that one calls him-
self Catholic and the other Protestant; you need
not revive the old question, "Where was your
Church before Luther ?" for I have no other answer
to give than the old answer, My Church was to
be found then where yours is not to be found now,
in the Word of God.'
'But, Hubert,' cried the priest.
'I want none of your fine twisted arguments,'
he said, again interrupting him, 'keep them for
the Jesuit-College; you'll need them all to fight
with Pascal. It will be long, Louis, till he find a
flaw in you, either in character or argument; but
you are both inconsistent, seeing the light, and walk-
ing in the dark traditions of men. Why, man, you
are far more guilty than the poor ignorant Catho-
lics whom you lead and govern; they have at least
the merit of consistency. Their's may be called the
sin of ignorance-wilful, it may be; but you and
Pascal have the light, and- But why need I vex

The Merchant. 75

myself,' he muttered, turning on his heel, 'why
need the poor persecuted Protestant trouble him-
self about the men whose praise is in every man's
mouth; one of whom preached this day before the
king himself, reasoning of righteousness, temper-
ance, and judgment to come even like Paul him-
self ? But you want Paul's bonds, Louis, you want
the bonds.'
'I thought we had agreed to differ,' said Father
Louis, determined not to be led into an argument.
' I came to you for help, Hubert. What am I to do
with this poor girl ? he added, lifting Marguerite's
letter from the floor.
'The escaped nun?' said Hubert. 'What can you
do with her but send her back to her prison, there
to be dealt with as the Church directs? The tender
mercies of the wicked are cruel, Louis.'
He seemed to take a strange delight in torment-
ing the priest, and as he spoke, eagerly watched
the changes which flitted over his expressive
countenence. But Father Louis scarcely heard
him; he was again reading Marguerite's letter, and
his face was a faithful index of the feelings which
it roused within him.
More of the man than the Jesuit yet,' Hubert
muttered to himself, as he saw him endeavouring
in vain to stifle his emotion.

76 Sister Cora.

'If I find what Marguerite says is true,' he said,
in a low, hesitating, choked tone, 'and that the
girl has really no vocation for a religious life,
The Jesuit has got the upper hand once more.
I wonder which will conquer,' thought Hubert, as
he stammered and paused.
I must endeavour to find that out first,' con-
tinued the priest.
And what then ?' asked Hubert, as he paused
Then, if she has a vocation, she must go back,
repenting and confessing her sin,' said the priest
in firmer tones.
'And if she has not?' asked Hubert, with a
mocking tone of voice which did not escape the
other's quick ear.
'If she has not,' he replied, his face flushing to
the very temples, 'you and I must assist her to
escape, Hubert.'
The words were spoken humbly, even deprecat-
ingly, and he held up Marguerite's letter as he
spoke, as though making it his apology.
'The man has conquered,' thought Hubert.
'Your holiness will allow her to escape if she has
no vocation,' he said in the same mocking tone.
And you want my help! Let me tell you, Louis,

The Merchant. 77

you have come to the right man. Vocation or no
vocation, that girl shall not be sent back to her cage.
The bird has escaped, and shame, oh! shame upon
you that, with that message from the dead in your
hand, you can talk so coolly of again imprisoning
her! What! with the fate of Marie and Mar-
guerite before you, can you, dare you do such a
cruel act ? Not to mention the meanness of betray-
ing a woman who has put her trust in you ; why,
the very savages would blush to do the like!
Where is she ? has she come to you ?' he cried,
his eyes flashing as he laid violent hands on the
priest, as though afraid he might escape before he
answered the question.
'She is safe in my lodgings,-locked in,-I
have the key in my pocket,' Father Louis replied,
shaking himself free from the other's grasp. 'It
was for safety,-I am no jailor,' he added hastily.
A Jesuit, and no jailor ?' cried Hubert; well,
we'll let that pass. Come, seeing you have come
to me for help, I'll go with you, and hear what
the poor girl has to say for herself.'
But she is a nun,' said Father Louis, with a
not unnatural hesitation in the circumstances.
'She is a nun no longer,' cried Hubert; 'and,
at any rate; what is a nun but a woman ? None
of your sophistries for me, Father Louis; I was

78 Sister Cora.

emancipated from all such nonsense long: ago,
You remind me,' he added, laughing merrily, 'of
an apprentice of mine, who, on his companion
crying to him "to attend to the shop, for a man
had come in," cried, "It's not a man, it's a
soldier!" But I'll excuse you, seeing you must
stick to the laws of the Church. As for this girl,
I'll take care you don't hurt a hair of her head;
she's a solemn legacy bequeathed to us by Mar-
'Bequeathed to me,' interrupted the priest.
'Ay, bequeathed to you,' said his friend drily;
'I'll not dispute the honour, but I'll see that you
fulfil the conditions.'
I shall make no promises,' said the priest;
'the girl may by this time have repented, and be
anxious to return to the convent.'
A sudden conversion, truly, effected by the air
of the priest's chamber,' said the other with a
sneer; 'but the suggestion is merely to uphold
your consistency. You would have been a lawyer,
Louis, had you not been a Jesuit; you showed
the faculty when a mere boy. I remember when
you and I were playing one day with some
companions, a stone one of us threw struck by
accident the glass roof of a conservatory, and the
gardener belonging to the place rushing out in a

T7Ie Merchant. 79

rage, we all took refuge in flight,-all but you,
Louis, who stood your ground, and coolly re-
quested to be shown what damage had b( ea done.
Ah, those were happy days,' he added with a
heartfelt sigh, his whole face again softening in
expression. 'Come, let us go,' he said the next
moment, seizing his hat and pushing his visitor
before him without ceremony out of the shop.



'Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill,
Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will;
And with a clear and shining lamp supplied,
First put it out, then take it for a guide.'

ORA awoke, to start up with a frightened
scream, for two men stood opposite her
couch, gazing earnestly at her. Failing
at the moment to recognize Father Louis, she saw
in him only a priest and a pursuer, and seeing
the other man in the dress of a civilian, she threw
herself at his feet, and clasping his knees, be-
sought his protection in pitiful, imploring accents.
All the tenderness of Hubert Ange's sensitive*
nature was roused by the appeal, all the chivalry
of the true gentleman rose and armed itself within
him; and gently lifting the poor girl, he placed
her on a seat, assuring her in kind, encouraging
accents that he would defend her liberty to the

The Priest and the Protestant. 8

last drop of his blood, whilst, at the same time,
he cast a triumphant glance on the discomfited
When Cora recognized the priest, she apolo-
gized in trembling tones; but the sweet gravity of
his reassuring smile convinced her once more,
that, priest though he was, he was more worthy of
love than fear. But he had a stern duty to dis-
charge, with which no feelings of selfish considera-
tion could interfere; and with consummate skill
he began to question and probe her, whilst with
knitted brows and folded arms Ange listened in
silence as the priest laid bare the poor girl's
heart, and was reluctantly convinced that Mar-
guerite was right, and that the fugitive nun had
indeed no vocation for a religious life. True,
this did not absolve him from the painful duty
incumbent upon him as a Catholic priest; but
conscientious as he was, and ready to sacrifice
personal feeling in the service of the Church, his
whole soul rose in rebellion at the idea of com-
pelling the girl, who had trusted to his honour,
to return to her prison. But his puzzled cogita-
tions were put a stop to by Hubert, who had
observed a profound silence, but who now
asserted his right to be heard.
'You have said your say, and tortured your

82 Sister Cora.

victim long enough,' he cried in scornful tones.
'I hope you have enjoyed your self-imposed task,
and feel satisfied with the result, and with the
proofs you have got of the effects of your system.
You have used well the sharp steel of the con-
fessional knife in laying bare the secret recesses
of a human heart. My poor child,' he said, turn-
ing to Cora, his tone changing to one of infinite
tenderness, such as a mother might have used to
a tried and suffering child, 'let this be the last
time you submit to such an ordeal. Man has no
right thus impiously to take the place of Him to
whom alone you are answerable for your motives.
I hope you are satisfied with the result,' he said,
again addressing the priest, and resuming his
ironical tone; 'you have clearly proved that, so
far from having any vocation for a religious life,
she has lost whatever of religious principle or
feeling she may have once possessed. It matters
little whether she call herself Catholic or Pro-
testant; she is virtually an infidel, and you have
your own system to blame for it.'
"Nay!' interrupted the priest; and a contro-
versy followed between the two men, listened to
by Cora with breathless interest and varying
Both were living in the belief of unseen

The Priest and the Protestant. 83

realities, and in the hope of future happiness
both acknowledged the same Head, and put their
trust in Him as their Saviour; both looked, like
the smitten Israelites, to the same Cross; but in
the case of the Catholic, it was a cross tarnished
by tawdry ornamentation, obscured by clouds of
tradition, well-nigh smothered under rites and
ceremonies; whilst, to the clearer gaze of the
Protestant, it stood forth in all its unadorned
purity, 'Majestic in its own simplicity.' Whilst
the priest spoke, all the lasting influences of
childhood, all the prejudices instilled by educa-
tion, were roused within Cora, and she trembled
under the subtle arguments and solemn words
of one who, blinded as he was, was no sophist,
but spake as he believed; but when Hubert,
taking the Word of God as his weapon and
standpoint, quoted facts and doctrines, maxims
and injunctions, which at a stroke seemed to
sweep away the fine metaphysical web woven by
the Jesuit, the tide turned, a breath as of liberty
seemed to refresh her puzzled thoughts,-liberty
to think for herself, a liberty which defied the
right of any mere man to claim to interfere with.
It was only on looking back that Cora could
thus analyze her feelings. At the time, the
light which dawned upon her was dim and partial,

84 Sister Cora.

and was all but extinguished as she. listened to
the masterly replies of the Jesuit. But another
light gradually broke in upon her, which speedily
absorbed every other feeling, and raised her interest
in the Protestant to a high degree; for the two
men called each other by their Christiaiinames,
and she discovered that the man who was
espousing her cause so warmly was no other than
the Hubert of Marguerite's story. Yes, it must
be Marguerite's brother who was thus familiarly
designated by her old lover,-the noble, courage-
ous boy who had dared to set the priests at
defiance by acting out his conscientious convic-
tions; whose faith and sincerity had been so
sorely tried, but had so nobly stood the test.
Yes, this must be the hero of her convent dreams;
and gazing on his countenance with growing
interest and enlightened eyes, she wondered she
had not sooner discovered his likeness to Mar-
guerite, a likeness she now thought so striking.
Looking at her by accident, Hubert found her
eyes fixed upon his face, with an expression in
them which he could not fathom; and blushing
to find himself an object of so much interest, he
stammered and paused in the middle of a sen-
tence,-a pause which attracted the priest's
attention also to Cora, who, discovering them

The Priest and the Protestant. 85

both staring at lier, blushed painfully and turned
away her eyes.
'We have forgotten you, my daughter, in the
heat of our controversy,' said the priest, pitying
,her embarrassment; 'but I see you have been
listening attentively, and I cannot but hope that
,what I have said may have made some impres-
sion, and that you may yet change your mind.
Be not afraid to confess that you have done
wrong. It is surely better to repent than -to
persevere in wrong-doing.'
For a- moment, strange to say, Cora hesitated.
It was a priest who spoke, and early prejudices
are strong; and as his words, mild but authorita-
tive, fell upon her ear, she felt as though she
could resist no longer. But a glance from
HIubert, who was burning to interfere, and yet
anxious that she should decide for herself, re-
.called her to her senses, and she cried, 'Go back ?
Never! never!'
'Do you intend, then, to become a Protestant ?'
Asked the priest; but Cora's only reply was a
bewildered glance. With her it was simply a
question of liberty; religion had nothing to do
with it.
'Don't decide that at present,' said Hubert.
'To be a Christian is of infinitely more im-

86 Sister Cora.

portance than to call yourself either Catholic or
Protestant. Back to the convent against your
will you shall not go so long as this arm retains
its power,' and he lifted his right arm with a
threatening gesture, which caused the priest to
retreat a few steps farther back. But neither
did Cora understand her enthusiastic champion.
She was completely worn out both in body and
in mind, and raising both hands to her head,
she gave utterance to a piercing scream, and fell
at their feet in a death-like swoon.
'Poor child, we have tried you too much,'
murmured Father Louis, as they lifted her from
the ground.
Cora was delirious for some weeks, and on
recovering consciousness, found herself still in
the priest's chamber, carefully watched and
tended by a Sister of Mercy, who put no ques-
tions and made no allusions to her former life.
During her convalescence, Father Louis visited
her daily, and she learned to love Marguerite's
old lover as a father. He never spoke of her
returning to the convent, but talked of her escape
as a settled matter, cheering and encouraging
her by every means in his power. Hubert Ange,
too, came often to see her, and to him she could
talk freely of the sister they had both loved, and

The Priest and the Protestant. 87

whom Cora had nursed so tenderly; and the
memory of Marguerite became a tender bond
between them, which daily strengthened their
growing friendship. But as her strength re-
turned, it became a serious question with both
Catholic and Protestant what was to be done
with the escaped nun. That she must leave the
land of her birth seemed absolutely necessary.
That she should do so secretly, without the know-
ledge of her relations, seemed equally necessary,
for, being bigoted Catholics, they both felt that
to communicate with them ere she was beyond
the power of the priests might not only be
dangerous, but fatal to her liberty.
'She must go to England,' said Hubert, as
one day they sat in his back shop communing
'Poor child! what could she do there, alone and
unprotected ?' sighed Father Louis, who had fully
assumed the office of Cora's guardian and pro-
tector. 'What would you think of marrying
her, and going with her ?' he added, with a furtive
glance at Hubert, who reddened to the temples
as he ejaculated:
'Marry her marry a nun!'
'I thought, when I hesitated as to the propriety
of your visiting her, you said she was a nun no

88 Sister Cora.

longer; and that at any rate a nun was only a
woman, as a soldier was a man,' said the priest.
'You even taunted me with sophistry, and declared
that you yourself had long ago been emancipated
from all such nonsense.'
'True, very true,' said Hubert, somewhat
abashed; 'but early prejudices do stick to a man,
it would appear.'
-' Luther married a nun,' continued the other,
who was now only suggesting an idea which had
gradually been gaining strength in his own mind,
since he had on one occasion found Hubert amus-
ing Cora by playing on the violin (which he had
discovered in the cupboard whilst unceremoniously
inspecting the priest's chamber), whilst she lay in
the fauteuil, listening to the music with an ex-
pression of dreamy happiness in her eyes which
showed she had for the time being forgotten all
her troubles; and now, the ice broken, he returned
to the charge at every convenient opportunity.
'You have often spoken of emigrating,' he said
one day. 'You labour under great disadvantages
here; in England you would have liberty to wor-
ship God according to your conscience, and you
have talents and resources which would gain you
independence anywhere.'
You forget,' said Hubert gloomily, as he raised

The Priest and the Protestant. 89

the upper crape band, and uncovered the initials
'M. B.'
No, I do not forget,' sighed the priest; "and I
do not think that your regrets and remembrance
of the dead should prevent you accepting the
happiness which may be in store for you.'
' Hubert,' he added, speaking with a painful effort,
'I am afraid that in breaking off the con-
nections we once intended to form, it was the
women who suffered most. We men have been in
the world (for, though a priest, I have been no
monk), and its noise and its turmoil, its ever-shift-
ing scenes and the play of its actors, have saved us
from the morbid dwelling on one idea which has
,been the fate of those two, secluded from all in-
tercourse with the world, all participation in its
varied interests. Marguerite's letter opened my
eyes to this, for, alas! whilst she was to me only a
picture of memory, I saw that in her heart I was
enshrined, as fresh, as vivid as when, with the
spirit of a martyr, she resigned me to the Church.'
Hubert listened in silence, and Father Louis
took his silence for acquiescence, and, encouraged
by it, he ventured still further:
'The custom of early betrothal, so common in
this country,' he continued,' is an unhealthy and
unnatural system, and amongst those brought up

90 Sister Cora.

as we were in familiar family intercourse, it tends,
I have often thought, to make the bond more like
that of brother and sister; and I could fancy you
having more real love for this amiable, beautiful girl
than even for our poor Marie.' As the priest spoke
he watched the effect of his words upon Hubert,
knowing well from the nature of the man, that if
they wounded him, an indignant denial would be
the result; but that if he acknowledged their
truth, he was too honest to pretend to what he did
not feel.
Hubert sat for some time, with his hand shad-
ing his eyes, and when he spoke his words pleased
Father Louis even more than his silence.
'You take my feelings only into account,' he
said in a low tone; 'you speak as though hers
were of no account in the matter,-priest-like, you
seem to think she has only to obey.'
'Nay, nay, friend,' cried the priest; with an
amused smile which Ange did not see; 'I think
more of her than of you, and have not the slight-
est idea of influencing, far less of forcing, her
inclinations. I have my own opinion as to her
feelings,' he added with pretended carelessness,
but keenly watching the effect of his words on
Hubert, whose face lighted up as he listened,
though he kept his eyes fixed on the ground.

The Priest and the Protestant. 91

'I am too old,' he muttered. Think of the
difference in our ages.'
Well, well,' said Father Louis,' I will urge it
no more,'-thinking at the same time, 'It is all
right now, when he has begun to reckon the
difference of years.'
He was very anxious to get Cora out of the
country. Independent of the really sincere and
warm interest he took in her escape, he could not
shut his eyes to the inconsistent part he was
acting, and the damage his reputation would
suffer if his connivance were discovered; and
having watched her closely with the keen insight
which training and habit had given him in the
knowledge of the human heart, he felt sure that
Marguerite's brother was not indifferent to her,
and that it needed but proofs of affection on his
part to draw out hers.
And now he had probed Hubert, and resolved
with Jesuitical sagacity to try the effect of a
little contradiction in fanning the flame which
he was certain was ready to burst forth in his
excitable friend, and derived much amusement
from the angry astonishment displayed by
Hubert as he talked of the fact of his being too
old to marry Cora; consulting him, at the same
time, as to the best and safest way of getting

92 Sister Cora.

her transported to England, and how to find a
safe asylum for her there.
Only half deceived, Hubert fumed and fretted;
and, as an initiatory step, he made a compromise
with his feelings, and took both crape bands from
his arm,-a proceeding which delighted Father
Louis, but of which he wisely took no notice.
A fortnight afterwards, he came to him radiant
with joy. Cora had promised to become his wife,
not because she wished an escort to England, but
because she really loved him.
'She looks on me as an old friend,' he said,
with tears in his eyes; 'for my dear Marguerite
had talked so much about her brother to her, that
she feels as though she had known me all my
I suspected as much,' said the priest with a
smile; and, my dear friend,' he added, laying his
hand solemnly on the other's shoulder, 'as Mar-
guerite bequeathed her to me, so do I trust her to
you not only for life, but for eternity. The
Church has signally failed in this instance. I
leave it to you to endeavour to supply to your
wife that wherein she is lacking. I care not
though she become a Protestant like you, if, like
you, she become a Christian.'
Hubert warmly grasped the hand which lay

The Priest and the Protestant. 93

on his shoulder, saying, with much emotion, 'I
have often called you a bigot, Louis; but I do so
no longer, for, in my opinion, bigotry does not
consist in the opinions we hold ourselves, but in
the liberty to hold theirs which we' give to others!
Amen'!' said the truly Christian Jesuit.
In due time Hubert and Cora settled in Eng-
land,:and their union'proved a happy one. There
Cora, communicated with her -friends through
Father Louis, and had the happiness of receiving
letters from her mother and sister full of affection
and joy, for they had mourned for their lost one
as for the dead; and in the reaction of their feel-
ings, they were inclined to look on her marriage
"with a heretic in a very different light from that
which in other circumstances they might have
done. That she had been a nun, and had broken
her vows, were facts they wisely ignored alto-
gether, even as they ignored the change of faith
which in after years she communicated to them;
for Father Louis' wishes were fulfilled by Cora
becoming a conscientious Christian Protestant.
But they came to England to visit her in her
foreign home; and Cora found, to her great joy,
that though they were Catholic and she was
Protestant, their faith was the same, and she
thought but little of the difference of their creeds.

94 Sister Cora.

Not so her husband; half measures never satisfied
Hubert, and he rested not till by argument,
persuasion, and insinuating entreaties he had
persuaded them to set the authority of the
Church for the time being at defiance, and search
the Scriptures for themselves; and this point
gained, he added no more of his own, but waited
patiently in full faith for the result. Nor was
he disappointed. Knowledge brought light, and
light conviction; and thoroughly convinced of the
errors of the system in which they had been born
and educated, Cora's mother and sister renounced
Popery for ever, and resolved to remain perman-
ently in England, for, though willing if necessary
to suffer persecution for the cause of truth, they
deemed it unnecessary to court suffering by re-
turning to the land of their birth, and Cora felt
as though she had nothing more left to wish for.
She kept up a regular correspondence with
Father Louis as long as he lived, which, he told
her, was the greatest pleasure he allowed himself
to indulge in.
Poor Louis we can afford to pity him, Cora,'
said Hubert one day, after perusing and reperus-
ing one of his letters.
Does he need our pity,' was the reply, 'so
good, so holy, so Christ-like ?'

The Priest and the Protestant. 95

'Yes,' said Hubert decidedly; 'any man who
has been set free, but who still clings to the
remnants of his bondage, still hugs his broken
chains, is to be pitied; and I say again, "Poor
Louis!" for he believes that the sufferings of an
imaginary purgatory are necessary to fit and
purify his soul for the enjoyment of heaven.
What a happy surprise for him when he finds
himself there, the moment after death, "absent
from the body, present with the Lord!" Dear
Louis I have loved him all my life, and I love
him more than ever now,' continued Hubert, put-
ting his arms lovingly round his wife as he spoke,
'for he gave me-SISTER CORA.'

I \G 7 7

IS -