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to our rule. Holy father, I pray you, blame me not,--I have laboured in the vineyard of the Lord. The Blessed Mary, and all the saints” (here she devoutly crossed herself), “can testify how, early and late, I have laboured, and prayed, and watched ;--but all in vain! the Lady Rosamond heeds not my control.”
“The Lady Rosamond !” exclaimed the Prior, with returning animation; for during the discourse of the abbess, which had been delivered in the slowest measure, he had somewhat permitted his head to decline upon his breast; —“the Lady Rosamond! she, then, is the delinquent ?”
“ The cause of all my trouble, and bitterness of soul!” replied the abbess, angrily: “she is the torment of my life, and a grievous burden, too heavy for me to bear. It shames me, father, that a child like her should move me thus : but our Blessed Lady knows it is not anger, it is but grief for the holy Church and her weal;” and the abbess looked up meekly to heaven.
“ What has happened ?” asked the prior, calmly.
“ Thou knowest, holy father,” responded the abbess, “that it is four long years since the Lord de Clifford went to the Holy Wars, and left his daughter in my charge. Heaven is my witness, I have done my duty to the child ;—but she grows apace; wilful and headstrong hath she become. Not satisfied with the ungodly liberty permitted her by her father's behest, she daily asks for more freedom, and is ever committing some new breach of discipline, which I as regularly punish. But as she has not taken the vows, she does not feel the abasement of spirit, nor the contrition, which it should bring. Were she a novice professed, much might be done for the saving of her soul. It is for this, my father, I have sent for you.
You will speak--you will persuade. Think, think, my father, what glory would ensue to the Church, could the broad lands of the De Cliffords be laid at her feet; — these lands reach far beyond the Abbey of Severnstoke,”
The abbess paused, to see the effect of the hope thus 'held out; but her wily auditor was not so easily dazzled.
“ Vy sister," he replied, “no offering sare one that is voluntary is acceptable in the sight of God. Gold wrung from the unwilling is even as an abomination to the Lord; and vows extorted are a mockery of devotion. If the Lady Rosamond wishes to lay all upon the altar of the Lord, then is the deed blessed. If not, my sister,”— and the prior paused, while he seemed struggling to repress a sigh; but the abbess did not give him time to conclude his sentence.
“Wishes !” she exclaimed,“ the Lady Rosamond wishes nothing for the honour of God. World-tainted in her cradle, her thoughts are all of the earth earthy. Vy father, I blush to tell you their kind; but of hawk and hound, and prancing steed are fashioned the Lady Rosamond's dreams. In spite of penance and of prayer, her mind is far away while her body is here."
“ The eaglet in the cage,” murmured the prior to himself.
Day and night," continued the abbess, “ have I toiled to root out such unholy desires. Nay, more, I have given her blessed visions of heaven, in the hope of
turning her from the world : but the leaven is in her heart, my father; and my poor precepts fall as on the barren sand! Ungrateful girl, as if her fate were not too blessed to be numbered amongst the servants of the Lord—to be permitted to minister to the service of the Holy Virgin!” and the abbess cast her eyes up as if in ecstasy.
The prior remained pensive. At length he said, “ Four years have elapsed since the Lord de Clifford departed for the Holy Land. It is more than two since any tidings have reached the castle, - who knows,” he added, in a low voice, “what may have happened?”
“Even so, my father,” exclaimed the abbess, who had caught the words. « The Lord de Clifford may be dead—the Lady Rosamond his heiress; and that noble fortune will pass from the hands of the Church to those of a wayward child.”
“Who will squander all,” replied the prior. “ 'Twere a great deed could such a sacrifice be prevented. The church hath need of all her servants, and zeal must not be wanting."
* Zeal!" echoed the abbess, anxiously, - there has been no lack of zeal on my part. I have essayed erery punishment and penance: but neither fasting nor prayer have wrought contrition ; the girl is obdurate, stik-necked. and sinni.
, sinful. May the Lord have mercy on her, ard turn her heart!
* Are there no mears of gently wirning her to the right path!' asked the prior.
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