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“ Bid the Lady Rosamond leave her task, and attend upon the prior. His reverence wishes to speak to her.”
The lay-sister vanished; and the abbess, turning to her visitor, said, with the ceremony she had for a moment laid aside,
Holy father, I leave you to your penitent; and may God speed your prayers !” Then, folding her hands upon her breast, she slowly quitted the apartment, the prior making a slight reverence as she passed from it.
servant of the church “ to gaze upon the face of woman” was for the moment forgotten. As she stood upon the threshold, Rosamond presented a vision of perfect loveliness. She was habited as a novice of the order; and the long white dress did not destroy the beauty of her form. Her hair was concealed by a linen band, but her face, arms and feet were bare, with the exception of small sandals of untanned leather. She held in her hand a small ebony crucifix, which she pressed tightly to her breast,-in truth, to still the beatings of her heart; for she dreaded the interview with the abbess, and still more with the prior, whom she had been taught to believe the dispenser of severer penance than even that to which she had been subjected. When she saw that she was alone with the object of her fear, her face became troubled, her eyes were bent upon the ground, and a deep blush spread over cheek and brow. The pale cheek of the prior coloured also for a moment.
“ Fear not, my daughter,” said he with a grave voice.
“ If thou repentest, thy
transgressions will be forgiven thee. What is this that thou hast done!"
-Father." answered Rosamond, without daring to look up. “our revered mother, the Lady bodia. is angry with me."
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ungrateful to any one; and,” she added, as unable to control her feelings, she burst into tears, “it is for that I have been punished.”
“ Daughter,” said the prior, in a somewhat troubled tone, “what meanest thou ? I understand thee not."
“I will tell all, my father,” answered Rosamond, trying to stifle her sorrow. Half woman, half child, she felt with the tenderness of the one, and the poignancy of the other. Her young heart, so long deprived of sympathy, was overcharged with grief. For a few moments she could not speak,—her sobs alone broke the silence of the apartment; for the prior sat with head averted, and seemingly abstracted air. At length she said, “Yes, I will tell all. It was for sister Joan's sake, I have been punished. Sister Joan had been good and kind to me, oh! very, very kind, my father; and yet I was forbidden to speak to her.”
“Doubtless with reason, my daughter,” observed the prior, gravely; for the artless manner of Rosamond was beginning strangely to unman him. “And, who is sister Joan ?"