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her faith and convictions sided with her preceptor, Father Lungen saw that her heart was enlisted in the cause of his opponent.
“It is not known how long the courtship lasted. The lovers were betrothed; and, as they supposed, Father Lungen alone, was the depository of their secret. Notwithstanding their betrothal, the enmity of the parents left no hopes of a union. The mere suspicion of the intimacy would have caused either Lord Longvale, or the knight, to take steps at once to stop it. As to a clandestine marriage, the chaplain of the castle had already overstepped his duty in permitting his young friends to meet; he would not listen for a moment to the hopes of John, especially as his conscientious scruples were strengthened by the assurance of their future destitution if they acted in defiance of parental authority.
“At length, owing to the severe illness of Sir Everard Boulton, the visits of his son
were more often interrupted. Sir Everard died: and John's visits ceased entirely. Both Lady Maud and her confessor were at a loss to account for the prolonged absence of her affianced husband. The Padre sought tidings of him in his own neighbourhood, but could hear none. Some said he had shut himself up with grief : others reported that he had left the country, and was gone abroad. Not a word or a message came to the castle to account for his neglect. At last, a rumour was set about, the truth of which was confirmed by the inquiries of the priest, that, whether from suspicion of his son's attachment, or from his hatred of Catholics, Sir Everard had left the property to his son John conditionally ; and in the event of his marrying a Catholic, every shilling was to revert to the younger brother.
“ The fatal suspicion flashed upon the mind of Lady Maud that her lover had forsaken her for his estate. The assurances to the
contrary of the good Father Lungen were of no avail; she refused to receive comfort. Day by day, she pined away, heart-broken at the remorseless conduct of her betrothed. There were moments when the memory of his vows, the thousand little evidences of his love, returned with all the freshness of reality; then she thought of him only as the devoted, the noble, and the true. She reproached herself for the baseness of her doubts, and suffered herself to indulge in the delicious dream of his return; but soon the undeniable grounds of suspicion forced themselves upon her, and again her heart shrunk with despair, and every hope withered as it sprung.
“Months wore away, and her health rapidly declined. Already the hectic flush of consumption tinged her pale and hollow cheeks. It was evident that even John's return could not save her now.
“In this state of health she hardly ever left her own apartment. When she did so, it was to saunter feebly beneath the shadow of the beech avenue, or along the plateaus of the terrace; her only companion being a large hound, gentle to her, but savage with all others except John, to whom the dog had ever shown great affection.
“One evening in autumn she was walking thus with her hound, when presently he came gravely up to her, wagging his tail, and carrying something in his mouth, which he dropped at her feet. It was a small square wooden box. Upon one side was carved her own name, upon the other the word “Faith.' Within the box was this crucifix and rosary.
“There was something so inexplicable in the mode of receiving it; something so strange in its being addressed to her; something so ambiguous in the word ' Faith,' that the mystery revived a sort of painful hope, which she could neither account for, nor dispossess herself of.
“ After pondering several hours over her
strange gift, she took the box and its contents and placed them for explanation in the hands of Father Lungen. His surprise was equal to her own; and, as with her, the mysterious nature of the discovery induced him to believe it might lead to further disclosures. Lady Maud caught his meaning from the brightened look of his countenance.
“I know it is so, Father,' she exclaimed, clasping her hands with eagerness.
It is from him ! And this cross tells me he has changed his faith for ours. All may yet be well."
“The priest's smile yielded to an expression of disappointment.
“ Not so, my child,' said he, 'I know John Boulton too well. This cross is, I believe, a token from him to you; but ‘Faith' has more meanings than one ! Trust not in his change of creed. From the first I have told you he will not alter that, nor desert you.'
Amen,' said the girl.