University of Virginia Library


Page 68


The Mother Theresa sat in a sort of withdrawing-room,
the roof of which rose in arches, starred with blue and gold
like that of the cloister, and the sides were frescoed with
scenes from the life of the Virgin. Over every door, and
in convenient places between the paintings, texts of Holy
Writ were illuminated in blue and scarlet and gold, with a
richness and fancifulness of outline, as if every sacred letter
had blossomed into a mystical flower. The Abbess herself,
with two of her nuns, was busily embroidering a new altar-cloth,
with a lavish profusion of adornment; and, from time
to time, their voices rose in the musical tones of an ancient
Latin hymn. The words were full of that quaint and mystical
pietism with which the fashion of the times clothed the
expression of devotional feeling: —

“Jesu, corona virginum,
Quem mater illa concepit,
Quæ sola virgo parturit,
Hæc vota clemens accipe.
“Qui pascis inter lilia
Septus choreis virginum,
Sponsus decoris gloria
Sponsisque reddens præmia.
“Quocunque pergis, virgines
Sequuntur atque laudibus


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Post te canentes cursitant
Hymnosque dulces personant.”[1]
This little canticle was, in truth, very different from the
hymns to Venus which used to resound in the temple which
the convent had displaced. The voices which sung were of
a deep, plaintive contralto, much resembling the richness of
a tenor, and as they moved in modulated waves of chanting
sound the effect was soothing and dreamy. Agnes stopped
at the door to listen.

“Stop, dear Jocunda,” she said to the old woman, who was
about to push her way abruptly into the room, “wait till it
is over.”

Jocunda, who was quite matter-of-fact in her ideas of religion,
made a little movement of impatience, but was recalled
to herself by observing the devout absorption with which
Agnes, with clasped hands and downcast head, was mentally
joining in the hymn with a solemn brightness in her young

“If she has n't got a vocation, nobody ever had one,” said
Jocunda, mentally. “Deary me, I wish I had more of one


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When the strain died away, and was succeeded by a conversation
on the respective merits of two kinds of gold embroidering-thread,
Agnes and Jocunda entered the apartment.
Agnes went forward and kissed the hand of the Mother

Sister Theresa we have before described as tall, pale, and
sad-eyed, — a moonlight style of person, wanting in all
those elements of warm color and physical solidity which
give the impression of a real vital human existence. The
strongest affection she had ever known had been that which
had been excited by the childish beauty and graces of Agnes,
and she folded her in her arms and kissed her forehead
with a warmth that had in it the semblance of maternity.

“Grandmamma has given me a day to spend with you,
dear mother,” said Agnes.

“Welcome, dear little child!” said Mother Theresa.
“Your spiritual home always stands open to you.”

“I have something to speak to you of in particular, my
mother,” said Agnes, blushing deeply.

“Indeed!” said the Mother Theresa, a slight movement
of curiosity arising in her mind as she signed to the two
nuns to leave the apartment.

“My mother,” said Agnes, “yesterday evening, as grandmamma
and I were sitting at the gate, selling oranges, a
young cavalier came up and bought oranges of me, and he
kissed my forehead and asked me to pray for him, and gave
me this ring for the shrine of Saint Agnes.”

“Kissed your forehead!” said Jocunda, “here 's a pretty
go! it is n't like you, Agnes, to let him.”

“He did it before I knew,” said Agnes. “Grandmamma
reproved him, and then he seemed to repent, and gave this
ring for the shrine of Saint Agnes.”


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“And a pretty one it is, too,” said Jocunda. “We have n't
a prettier in all our treasury. Not even the great emerald
the Queen gave is better in its way than this.”

“And he asked you to pray for him?” said Mother Theresa.

“Yes, mother dear; he looked right into my eyes and
made me look into his, and made me promise; — and I knew
that holy virgins never refused their prayers to any one that
asked, and so I followed their example.”

“I 'll warrant me he was only mocking at you for a poor
little fool,” said Jocunda; “the gallants of our day don't believe
much in prayers.”

“Perhaps so, Jocunda,” said Agnes, gravely; “but if that
be the case, he needs prayers all the more.”

“Yes,” said Mother Theresa. “Remember the story of
the blessed Saint Dorothea, — how a wicked young nobleman
mocked at her, when she was going to execution, and
said, `Dorothea, Dorothea, I will believe, when you shall
send me down some of the fruits and flowers of Paradise;'
and she, full of faith, said, `To-day I will send them;' and,
wonderful to tell, that very day, at evening, an angel came
to the young man with a basket of citrons and roses, and
said, `Dorothea sends thee these, wherefore believe.' See
what grace a pure maiden can bring to a thoughtless young
man, — for this young man was converted and became a
champion of the faith.”

“That was in the old times,” said Jocunda, sceptically.
“I don't believe setting the lamb to pray for the wolf will do
much in our day. Prithee, child, what manner of man was
this gallant?”

“He was beautiful as an angel,” said Agnes, “only it was
not a good beauty. He looked proud and sad, both, — like


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one who is not at ease in his heart. Indeed, I feel very
sorry for him; his eyes made a kind of trouble in my mind,
that reminds me to pray for him often.”

“And I will join my prayers to yours, dear daughter,”
said the Mother Theresa; “I long to have you with us, that
we may pray together every day; — say, do you think your
grandmamma will spare you to us wholly before long?”

“Grandmamma will not hear of it yet,” said Agnes; “and
she loves me so, it would break her heart, if I should leave
her, and she could not be happy here; — but, mother, you
have told me we could carry an altar always in our hearts,
and adore in secret. When it is God's will I should come
to you, He will incline her heart.”

“Between you and me, little one,” said Jocunda, “I think
there will soon be a third person who will have something
to say in the case.”

“Whom do you mean?” said Agnes.

“A husband,” said Jocunda; “I suppose your grandmother
has one picked out for you. You are neither
hump-backed nor cross-eyed, that you should n't have one
as well as other girls.”

“I don't want one, Jocunda; and I have promised to
Saint Agnes to come here, if she will only get grandmother
to consent.”

“Bless you, my daughter!” said Mother Theresa; “only
persevere and the way will be opened.”

“Well, well,” said Jocunda, “we 'll see. Come, little one,
if you would n't have your flowers wilt, we must go back
and look after them.”

Reverently kissing the hand of the Abbess, Agnes withdrew
with her old friend, and crossed again to the garden to
attend to her flowers.


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“Well now, childie,” said Jocunda, “you can sit here and
weave your garlands, while I go and look after the conserves
of raisins and citrons that Sister Cattarina is making. She
is stupid at anything but her prayers, is Cattarina. Our
Lady be gracious to me! I think I got my vocation from
Saint Martha, and if it wasn't for me, I don't know what
would become of things in the Convent. Why, since I came
here, our conserves, done up in fig-leaf packages, have had
quite a run at Court, and our gracious Queen herself was
good enough to send an order for a hundred of them last
week. I could have laughed to see how puzzled the
Mother Theresa looked; — much she knows about conserves!
I suppose she thinks Gabriel brings them straight
down from Paradise, done up in leaves of the tree of life.
Old Jocunda knows what goes to their making up; she 's
good for something, if she is old and twisted; many a
scrubby old olive bears fat berries,” said the old portress,

“Oh, dear Jocunda,” said Agnes, “why must you go this
minute? I want to talk with you about so many things!”

“Bless the sweet child! it does want its old Jocunda, does
it?” said the old woman, in the tone with which one caresses
a baby. “Well, well, it should then! Just wait a minute,
till I go and see that our holy Saint Cattarina has n't fallen
a-praying over the conserving-pan. I 'll be back in a moment.”

So saying, she hobbled off briskly, and Agnes, sitting
down on the fragment sculptured with dancing nymphs,
began abstractedly pulling her flowers towards her, shaking
from them the dew of the fountain.

Unconsciously to herself, as she sat there, her head
drooped into the attitude of the marble nymph, and her


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sweet features assumed the same expression of plaintive
and dreamy thoughtfulness; her heavy dark lashes lay on
her pure waxen cheeks like the dark fringe of some tropical
flower. Her form, in its drooping outlines, scarcely yet
showed the full development of womanhood, which after-years
might unfold into the ripe fulness of her countrywomen.
Her whole attitude and manner were those of
an exquisitely sensitive and highly organized being, just
struggling into the life of some mysterious new inner birth,
— into the sense of powers of feeling and being hitherto
unknown even to herself.

“Ah,” she softly sighed to herself, “how little I am! how
little I can do! Could I convert one soul! Ah, holy Dorothea,
send down the roses of heaven into his soul, that he
also may believe!”

“Well, my little beauty, you have not finished even one
garland,” said the voice of old Jocunda, bustling up behind
her. “Praise to Saint Martha, the conserves are doing
well, and so I catch a minute for my little heart.”

So saying, she sat down with her spindle and flax by
Agnes, for an afternoon gossip.

“Dear Jocunda, I have heard you tell stories about spirits
that haunt lonesome places. Did you ever hear about any
in the gorge?”

“Why, bless the child, yes, — spirits are always pacing
up and down in lonely places. Father Anselmo told me
that; and he had seen a priest once that had seen that in
the Holy Scriptures themselves, — so it must be true.”

“Well, did you ever hear of their making the most beautiful

“Have n't I?” said Jocunda, — “to be sure I have, —
singing enough to draw the very heart out of your body, —


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it 's an old trick they have. Why I want to know if you
never heard about the King of Amalfi's son coming home
from fighting for the Holy Sepulchre? Why, there 's rocks
not far out from this very town where the Sirens live; and
if the King's son had n't had a holy bishop on board, who
slept every night with a piece of the true cross under his
pillow, the green ladies wonld have sung him straight into
perdition. They are very fair-spoken at first, and sing so
that a man gets perfectly drunk with their music, and longs
to fly to them; but they suck him down at last under water,
and strangle him, and that 's the end of him.”

“You never told me about this before, Jocunda.”

“Have n't I, child? Well, I will now. You see, this
good bishop, he dreamed three times that they would sail
past these rocks, and he was told to give all the sailors holy
wax from an altar-candle to stop their ears, so that they
should n't hear the music. Well, the King's son said he
wanted to hear the music, so he would n't have his ears
stopped; but he told 'em to tie him to the mast, so that he
could hear it, but not to mind a word he said, if he begged
'em ever so hard to untie him.

“Well, you see they did it; and the old bishop, he had
his ears sealed up tight, and so did all the men; but the
young man stood tied to the mast, and when they sailed past
he was like a demented creature. He called out that it was
his lady who was singing, and he wanted to go to her, —
and his mother, who they all knew was a blessed saint in
paradise years before; and he commanded them to untie
him, and pulled and strained on his cords to get free; but
they only tied him the tighter, and so they got him past, —
for, thanks to the holy wax, the sailors never heard a word,
and so they kept their senses. So they all got safe home;


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but the young prince was so sick and pining that he had to
be exorcised and prayed for seven times seven days before
they could get the music out of his head.”

“Why,” said Agnes, “do those Sirens sing there yet?”

“Well, that was a hundred years ago. They say the old
bishop, he prayed 'em down; for he went out a little after
on purpose, and gave 'em a precious lot of holy water; most
likely he got 'em pretty well under, though my husband's
brother says he 's heard 'em singing in a small way, like
frogs in spring-time; but he gave 'em a pretty wide berth.
You see, these spirits are what 's left of old heathen times,
when, Lord bless us! the earth was just as full of 'em as a
bit of old cheese is of mites. Now a Christian body, if they
take reasonable care, can walk quit of 'em; and if they
have any haunts in lonesome and doleful places, if one puts
up a cross or a shrine, they know they have to go.”

“I am thinking,” said Agnes, “it would be a blessed work
to put up some shrines to Saint Agnes and our good Lord in
the gorge, and I 'll promise to keep the lamps burning and
the flowers in order.”

“Bless the child!” said Jocunda, “that is a pious and
Christian thought.”

“I have an uncle in Florence who is a father in the holy
convent of San Marco, who paints and works in stone, —
not for money, but for the glory of God; and when he comes
this way I will speak to him about it,” said Agnes. “About
this time in the spring he always visits us.”

“That 's mighty well thought of,” said Jocunda. “And
now, tell me, little lamb, have you any idea who this grand
cavalier may be that gave you the ring?”

“No,” said Agnes, pausing a moment over the garland of
flowers she was weaving, — “only Giulietta told me that


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he was brother to the King. Giulietta said everybody
knew him.”

“I 'm not so sure of that,” said Jocunda. “Giulietta
always thinks she knows more than she does.”

“Whatever he may be, his worldly state is nothing to
me,” said Agnes. “I know him only in my prayers.”

“Ay, ay,” muttered the old woman to herself, looking
obliquely out of the corner of her eye at the girl, who was
busily sorting her flowers; “perhaps he will be seeking
some other acquaintance.”

“You have n't seen him since?” said Jocunda.

“Seen him? Why, dear Jocunda, it was only last evening”

“True enough. Well, child, don't think too much of him.
Men are dreadful creatures, — in these times especially;
they snap up a pretty girl as a fox does a chicken, and no
questions asked.”

“I don't think he looked wicked, Jocunda; he had a proud
sorrowful look. I don't know what could make a rich, handsome
young man sorrowful; but I feel in my heart that he is
not happy. Mother Theresa says that those who can do nothing
but pray may convert princes without knowing it.”

“Maybe it is so,” said Jocunda, in the same tone in
which thrifty professors of religion often assent to the same
sort of truths in our days. “I 've seen a good deal of that
sort of cattle in my day; and one would think, by their actions,
that praying souls must be scarce where they came

Agnes abstractedly stooped and began plucking handfuls
of lycopodium, which was growing green and feathery on
one side of the marble frieze on which she was sitting; in
so doing, a fragment of white marble, which had been overgrown


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in the luxuriant green, appeared to view. It was
that frequent object in the Italian soil, — a portion of an old
Roman tombstone. Agnes bent over, intent on the mystic
Dîs Manibus,” in old Roman letters.

“Lord bless the child! I 've seen thousands of them,”
said Jocunda; “it 's some old heathen's grave, that 's been
in hell these hundred years.”

“In hell?” said Agnes, with a distressful accent.

“Of course,” said Jocunda. “Where should they be?
Serves 'em right, too; they were a vile old set.”

“Oh, Jocunda, it 's dreadful to think of, that they should
have been in hell all this time.”

“And no nearer the end than when they began,” said

Agnes gave a shivering sigh, and, looking up into the
golden sky that was pouring such floods of splendor through
the orange-trees and jasmines, thought, How could it be that
the world could possibly be going on so sweet and fair over
such an abyss?

“Oh, Jocunda!” she said, “it does seem too dreadful to
believe! How could they help being heathen, — being born
so, — and never hearing of the true Church?”

“Sure enough,” said Jocunda, spinning away energetically,
“but that 's no business of mine; my business is to save
my soul, and that 's what I came here for. The dear saints
know I found it dull enough at first, for I 'd been used to
jaunting round with my old man and the boys; but what
with marketing and preserving, and one thing and another,
I get on better now, praise to Saint Agnes!”

The large, dark eyes of Agnes were fixed abstractedly
on the old woman as she spoke, slowly dilating, with a sad,
mysterious expression, which sometimes came over them.


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“Ah! how can the saints themselves be happy?” she
said. “One might be willing to wear sackcloth and sleep
on the ground, one might suffer ever so many years and
years, if only one might save some of them.”

“Well, it does seem hard,” said Jocunda; “but what 's
the use of thinking of it? Old Father Anselmo told us in
one of his sermons that the Lord wills that his saints should
come to rejoice in the punishment of all heathens and heretics;
and he told us about a great saint once, who took it
into his head to be distressed because one of the old heathen
whose books he was fond of reading had gone to hell, — and
he fasted and prayed, and would n't take no for an answer,
till he got him out.”

“He did, then?” said Agnes, clasping her hands in an

“Yes; but the good Lord told him never to try it again,
— and He struck him dumb, as a kind of hint, you know.
Why, Father Anselmo said that even getting souls out of
purgatory was no easy matter. He told us of one holy nun
who spent nine years fasting and praying for the soul of her
prince, who was killed in a duel, and then she saw in a vision
that he was only raised the least little bit out of the fire,
— and she offered up her life as a sacrifice to the Lord to
deliver him, but, after all, when she died he was n't quite delivered.
Such things made me think that a poor old sinner
like me would never get out at all, if I did n't set about it
in earnest, — though it a'n't all nuns that save their souls
either. I remember in Pisa I saw a great picture of the
Judgment-Day in the Campo Santo, and there were lots
of abbesses, and nuns, and monks, and bishops too, that
the devils were clearing off into the fire.”

“Oh, Jocunda, how dreadful that fire must be!”


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“Yes,” said Jocunda. “Father Anselmo said hell-fire
was n't like any kind of fire we have here, — made to warm
us and cook our food, — but a kind made especially to torment
body and soul, and not made for anything else. I
remember a story he told us about that. You see, there
was an old duchess that lived in a grand old castle, — and a
proud, wicked old thing enough; and her son brought home
a handsome young bride to the castle, and the old duchess
was jealous of her, — 'cause, you see, she hated to give up
her place in the house, and the old family-jewels, and all the
splendid things, — and so one time, when the poor young
thing was all dressed up in a set of the old family-lace, what
does the old hag do but set fire to it!”

“How horrible!” said Agnes.

“Yes; and when the young thing ran screaming in her
agony, the old hag stopped her and tore off a pearl rosary
that she was wearing, for fear it should be spoiled by the

“Holy Mother! can such things be possible?” said

“Well, you see, she got her pay for it. That rosary was
of famous old pearls that had been in the family a hundred
years; but from that moment the good Lord struck it with a
curse, and filled it white-hot with hell-fire, so that, if anybody
held it a few minutes in their hand, it would burn to the
bone. The old sinner made believe that she was in great
affliction for the death of her daughter-in-law, and that it
was all an accident, and the poor young man went raving
mad, — but that awful rosary the old hag could n't get rid of.
She could n't give it away, — she could n't sell it, — but back
it would come every night, and lie right over her heart, all
white-hot with the fire that burned in it. She gave it to a


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convent, and she sold it to a merchant, but back it came;
and she locked it up in the heaviest chests, and she buried it
down in the lowest vaults, but it always came back in the
night, till she was worn to a skeleton; and at last the old
thing died without confession or sacrament, and went where
she belonged. She was found lying dead in her bed one
morning, and the rosary was gone; but when they came to
lay her out, they found the marks of it burned to the bone
into her breast. Father Anselmo used to tell us this, to show
us a little what hell-fire was like.”

“Oh, please, Jocunda, don't let us talk about it any more,”
said Agnes.

Old Jocunda, with her tough, vigorous organization and
unceremonious habits of expression, could not conceive the
exquisite pain with which this whole conversation had vibrated
on the sensitive being at her right hand, — that what
merely awoke her hard-corded nerves to a dull vibration of
not unpleasant excitement was shivering and tearing the
tenderer chords of poor little Psyche beside her.

Ages before, beneath those very skies that smiled so
sweetly over her, — amid the bloom of lemon and citron,
and the perfume of jasmine and rose, the gentlest of old
Italian souls had dreamed and wondered what might be the
unknown future of the dead, and, learning his lesson from
the glorious skies and gorgeous shores which witnessed how
magnificent a Being had given existence to man, had recorded
his hopes of man's future in the words — Aut beatus,
aut nihil;
but, singular to tell, the religion which brought
with it all human tenderness and pities, — the hospital for the
sick, the refuge for the orphan, the enfranchisement of the
slave, — this religion brought also the news of the eternal,
hopeless, living torture of the great majority of mankind,


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past and present. Tender spirits, like those of Dante, carried
this awful mystery as a secret and unexplained anguish;
saints wrestled with God and wept over it; but still the awful
fact remained, spite of Church and sacrament, that the
gospel was in effect, to the majority of the human race, not
the glad tidings of salvation, but the sentence of unmitigable

The present traveller in Italy sees with disgust the dim
and faded frescoes in which this doom is portrayed in all its
varied refinements of torture; and the vivid Italian mind
ran riot in these lurid fields, and every monk who wanted to
move his audience was in his small way a Dante. The poet
and the artist give only the highest form of the ideas of their
day, and he who cannot read the “Inferno” with firm nerves
may ask what the same representations were likely to have
been in the grasp of coarse and common minds.

The first teachers of Christianity in Italy read the Gospels
by the light of those fiendish fires which consumed their fellows.
Daily made familiar with the scorching, the searing,
the racking, the devilish ingenuities of torture, they transferred
them to the future hell of the torturers. The sentiment
within us which asserts eternal justice and retribution
was stimulated to a kind of madness by that first baptism of
fire and blood, and expanded the simple and grave warnings
of the gospel into a lurid poetry of physical torture. Hence,
while Christianity brought multiplied forms of mercy into
the world, it failed for many centuries to humanize the
savage forms of justice; and rack and wheel, fire and
fagot were the modes by which human justice aspired to a
faint imitation of what divine justice was supposed to extend
through eternity.

But it is remarkable always to observe the power of individual


Page 83
minds to draw out of the popular religious ideas of
their country only those elements which suit themselves, and
to drop others from their thought. As a bee can extract
pure honey from the blossoms of some plants whose leaves
are poisonous, so some souls can nourish themselves only
with the holier and more ethereal parts of popular belief.

Agnes had hitherto dwelt only on the cheering and the
joyous features of her faith; her mind loved to muse on
the legends of saints and angels and the glories of paradise,
which, with a secret buoyancy, she hoped to be the lot of
every one she saw. The mind of the Mother Theresa was
of the same elevated cast, and the terrors on which Jocunda
dwelt with such homely force of language seldom made a
part of her instructions.

Agnes tried to dismiss these gloomy images from her
mind, and, after arranging her garlands, went to decorate
the shrine and altar, — a cheerful labor of love, in which
she delighted.

To the mind of the really spiritual Christian of those ages
the air of this lower world was not as it is to us, in spite of
our nominal faith in the Bible, a blank, empty space from
which all spiritual sympathy and life have fled, but, like the
atmosphere with which Raphael has surrounded the Sistine
Madonna, it was full of sympathizing faces, a great “cloud
of witnesses.” The holy dead were not gone from earth;
the Church visible and invisible were in close, loving, and
constant sympathy, — still loving, praying, and watching together,
though with a veil between.

It was at first with no idolatrous intention that the prayers
of the holy dead were invoked in acts of worship. Their
prayers were asked simply because they were felt to be as
really present with their former friends and as truly sympathetic


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as if no veil of silence had fallen between. In
time this simple belief had its intemperate and idolatrous
exaggerations, — the Italian soil always seeming to have a
fiery and volcanic forcing power, by which religious ideas
overblossomed themselves, and grew wild and ragged with
too much enthusiasm; and, as so often happens with friends
on earth, these too much loved and revered invisible friends
became eclipsing screens instead of transmitting mediums of
God's light to the soul.

Yet we can see in the hymns of Savonarola, who perfectly
represented the attitude of the highest Christian of
those times, how perfect might be the love and veneration
for departed saints without lapsing into idolatry, and with
what an atmosphere of warmth and glory the true belief of
the unity of the Church, visible and invisible, could inspire
an elevated soul amid the discouragements of an unbelieving
and gainsaying world.

Our little Agnes, therefore, when she had spread all her
garlands out, seemed really to feel as if the girlish figure that
smiled in sacred white from the altar-piece was a dear friend
who smiled upon her, and was watching to lead her up the
path to heaven.

Pleasantly passed the hours of that day to the girl, and
when at evening old Elsie called for her, she wondered that
the day had gone so fast.

Old Elsie returned with no inconsiderable triumph from
her stand. The cavalier had been several times during the
day past her stall, and once, stopping in a careless way to
buy fruit, commented on the absence of her young charge.
This gave Elsie the highest possible idea of her own sagacity
and shrewdness, and of the promptitude with which she had
taken her measures, so that she was in as good spirits as


Page 85
people commonly are who think they have performed some
stroke of generalship.

As the old woman and young girl emerged from the dark-vaulted
passage that led them down through the rocks on
which the convent stood to the sea at its base, the light of a
most glorious sunset burst upon them, in all those strange
and magical mysteries of light which any one who has
walked that beach of Sorrento at evening will never forget.

Agnes ran along the shore, and amused herself with picking
up little morsels of red and black coral, and those fragments
of mosaic pavements, blue, red, and green, which the
sea is never tired of casting up from the thousands of ancient
temples and palaces which have gone to wreck all around
these shores.

As she was busy doing this, she suddenly heard the voice
of Giulietta behind her.

“So ho, Agnes! where have you been all day?”

“At the Convent,” said Agnes, raising herself from
her work, and smiling at Giulietta, in her frank, open

“Oh, then you really did take the ring to Saint Agnes?”

“To be sure I did,” said Agnes.

“Simple child!” said Giulietta, laughing; “that was n't
what he meant you to do with it. He meant it for you, —
only your grandmother was by. You never will have any
lovers, if she keeps you so tight.”

“I can do without,” said Agnes.

“I could tell you something about this one,” said Giulietta.

“You did tell me something yesterday,” said Agnes.


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“But I could tell you some more. I know he wants to
see you again.”

“What for?” said Agnes.

“Simpleton, he 's in love with you. You never had a
lover; — it 's time you had.”

“I don't want one, Giulietta. I hope I never shall see
him again.”

“Oh, nonsense, Agnes! Why, what a girl you are!
Why, before I was as old as you, I had half-a-dozen lovers.”

“Agnes,” said the sharp voice of Elsie, coming up from
behind, “don't run on ahead of me again; — and you, Mistress
Baggage, let my child alone.”

“Who 's touching your child?” said Giulietta, scornfully.
“Can't a body say a civil word to her?”

“I know what you would be after,” said Elsie, — “filling
her head with talk of all the wild, loose gallants;
but she is for no such market, I promise you! Come,

So saying, old Elsie drew Agnes rapidly along with her,
leaving Giulietta rolling her great black eyes after them with
an air of infinite contempt.

“The old kite!” she said; “I declare he shall get speech
of the little dove, if only to spite her. Let her try her best,
and see if we don't get round her before she knows it. Pietro
says his master is certainly wild after her, and I have
promised to help him.”

Meanwhile, just as old Elsie and Agnes were turning into
the orange-orchard which led into the Gorge of Sorrento,
they met the cavalier of the evening before.

He stopped, and, removing his cap, saluted them with as
much deference as if they had been princesses. Old Elsie


Page 87
frowned, and Agnes blushed deeply; — both hurried forward.
Looking back, the old woman saw that he was
walking slowly behind them, evidently watching them closely,
yet not in a way sufficiently obtrusive to warrant an open


“Jesus, crown of virgin spirits,
Whom a virgin mother bore,
Graciously accept our praises
While thy footsteps we adore.
“Thee among the lilies feeding
Choirs of virgins walk beside,
Bridegroom crowned with glorious beauty
Giving beauty to thy bride.
“Where thou goest still they follow
Singing, singing as they move,
All those souls forever virgin
Wedded only to thy love.”