« ZurückWeiter »
support this most painful-most trying-» In spite of all her efforts, the tears flowed so fast that she was again unable to proceed, until she had paused for a few moments, when she gathered strength to exclaim« These are the tears of the flesh, not of the spirit ; the body is weak, but the soul is firm. My dear, dear friends, farewell!—farewell for ever! Consider me as bidding you a last adieu from my death-bed; these hands which I pass to you through the bars of my convent, consider them as being stretched out to you from the grave; henceforward look upon Constantia as dead!»
At this instant the chapel-bell of the convent began to toll for the approaching ceremony, a sound which, in conjunction with the last words she had heard, fell with such an appalling effect upon Julia's ear, that, uttering a shriek of anguish, she threw herself upon Constantia's extended arm, grasping it as if she would prevent the execution of her purpose, and sobbing aloud in an uncontrollable agony of grief. Mrs Walton, whose firmer soul had hitherto enabled her to support the scene, now yielded to her emotion; her compressed lips moved rapidly up and down, the lower part of her face was convulsed, and the tears rolled rapidly though silently down her cheeks. Jocelyn, who had been endeavouring to set an example of firmness, was no longer able to resist the contagion of the distress that surrounded him, and the drops, gushing suddenly from his eyes,
rained upon the hand that had been held out to him through the bars.
“Oh God!» exclaimed Constantia, with vehemence;
« this is too much ;--women are feeble and sensitive creatures; I can bear to see them weep. But the tears of a man of the man whom I-Spare me this pang.Oh, spare me for the love of mercy! Send me not to my heavenly espousals desecrated with the tears of an earthly attachment.»
She had shut her eyes as if to avoid the sight, and now withdrawing her hands, and pressing them both upon her left side, apparently in much pain, from the violent heaving of her bosom, she ejaculated :-«My heart! my throbbing heart! it will break-it will burst.» ---Turning suddenly round at these words, she threw herself on her knees before a large crucifix that stood on one side the grating, exclaiming, as she embraced the feet of the image:- Save me, help me, thou husband of my soul!» and fixing her streaming eyes upon the figure, her lips continued moving for some time, in fervent though inaudible prayer.
Fortified by this act of devotion, she arose with much more composure; her features were animated by a religious enthusiasm, as she again passed her arm through the grating, took Jocelyn's hand, which she tenderly clasped, and exclaimed :-«Farewell for ever! May the blessing of Almighty God be upon you!» The same parting benediction was then solemnly pronounced upon Julia, who alternately pressed the extended hand to her bosom, and covered it with kisses and tears.
At this moment the bell again tolled; the door of the inner room opened; the bishop and a train of attendants entered to escort her to the altar, where she
was to receive the veil and pronounce the irrevocable vow; and Constantia, raising her arms to Heaven, and chanting in a low and still tremulous voice, « Ancilla Christi sum,” walked slowly out of the room. As the door that shut her out for ever from the world was closed behind her, the sound smote the heart of Julia, with an effect as deathlike as if she had seen her friend lowered into the grave, and had heard the earth rattling upon her coffin. Fixing her eyes upon the door through which she had passed, she remained for some time gazing at it in a stupor of bewildered grief; when, as if suddenly recollecting herself, she called in a low and hollow voice,—« Constantia!» After a short
she repeated it in a louder tone; and again a third time in a still more elevated key; but finding her unavailing cry succeeded by a dead silence, her whole frame became agitated with convulsive heavings. She uttered a low shuddering groan, burst immediately afterwards into a shriek of hysterical laughter, and, sinking into the arms of her husband, was conveyed out of the apartment in a passion of ungovernable grief.
* But mistress, know yourself; down on your knees,
And thank Heaven, fasting, for a good man's love :
On their return to the house where the marriage had been celebrated, Jocelyn found a casket addressed to himself, which had been left during their absence at the convent. He broke it open, and discovered a bundle of papers, together with a long letter from Constantia, of which he eagerly commenced the perusal. It began with stating, that as the immense fortune left to her by her father had always been an incumbrance, and was now become absolutely useless, she was under the necessity of requesting her friends to divide the burthen among them, so far as to lighten her own load; though she had already enriched her convent, of which the abbess was her distant relation; and had besides retained sufficient for all the purposes of charity. In this emergency she trusted that her dear friends would accept, as a marriage gift, the extensive estates of Saint Ouen in
Normandy, which had devolved to her in right of her mother, and of which she herself was quite incompetent to take the charge; and referring to the papers in the box, which contained an irreversible conveyance of the property in question, she requested, that if they resided in the mansion, its name might be changed to the Chateau de Compton. As the house in which the nuptial feast had been held, and which she had herself taken pains to decorate, might from those circumstances possess some value in their eyes, independently of its convenience as a Parisian residence, she requested that
they would still further oblige her by accepting it; and, : after renewing her blessings and good wishes for their happiness, she concluded by stating, that although her resolution never to see them again would remain inflexible, and cemented by a solemn vow, yet she should be happy in still occasionally communicating with them by letter.
At the bottom of the box was a separate parcel for Mrs Walton, in which was found a most affectionate letter, and a conveyance of property that ensured her a competent provision for the remainder of her life.
Thinking it might have a soothing influence upon Julia's agitated mind, Jocelyn read to her the letter addressed to himself; but its effect was far from tranquillising, for these affecting proofs of her friend's unbounded generosity and tenderness only melted her into a fresh flood of tears, and increased the pang separation by showing the inappreciable value of what she had lost. Jocelyn, too, upon this second perusal, made a discovery that still added to the incalculable