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As Eleanore had expected, though treated with the utmost kindness, and even familiarity, by the nuns and novices, they were required to hear mass and join in prayer.
On this occasion, Antoinette confessed that she had been brought up in the Reformed Church, but Eleanore, to the extreme astonishment of her sister, hinted, that though she had been educated by the Protestants, she had much respect for the faith of her mother's country; and that she had no objection to join with the novices in their religious exercises.
In consequence of these avowals, Antoinette was immediately treated with indifference by some of the nuns, and was exposed to hear perpetual assertions in favour of the Romish religion; while Eleanore instantly became a favourite through the whole house, and was in danger of being as intimate with the young nuns and novices as she had been with Joanna and Pauline. But the effect of this intimacy was not, as Antoinette expected, an increase of superstitious zeal; but a sudden elevation of spirits, and continual whisperings with her young companions, and frequent games at romps and loud titterings with the novices, when unobserved by the elder nuns.
In a short time Eleanore appeared to be acquainted with all the tricks and jests of these giddy and uninstructed girls; as was evident by certain expressive looks and watch-words which passed between them, when assembled at meals, in the presence of the more serious nuns, and on other occasions.
Where a number of persons are together in one house, with little employment, unless the discipline is very strong, and the rulers are extremely watchful and discerning, the most odious vices will creep in, and offences will grow to a magnitude and luxuriance of which those who are ignorant of human nature can have little idea. Hence the goodness of Almighty God, who has associated mankind in small and distinct families; providing, in his wisdom, that each family should have its special ruler and natural government; and great is the folly of man, who counteracts, in a thousand instances, these
arrangements of a wise Providence.—But to return to our story.
Madame was declared out of danger; and Monsieur, who had waited in the village near the convent, now thought himself at liberty to proceed to Switzerland, to prepare for the reception of his friend, when she should be fit to travel. But before his departure he made as handsome a present to the convent as his slender means would permit: cordially thanking its inmates for their kindness to his relative.
After the departure of Monsieur, Madame's health gradually improved; notwithstanding which, her daughters observed that great pains were used to keep them from her; and that when they did see her, her manner was cold and reserved. The truth of the matter was, that the abbess, on finding that Eleanore and Antoinette were Protestants, had taken occasion to speak to their mother on the subject, and had blamed her for bringing them up in error: and, having declared to her that there is no salvation out of the Romish Church, she had filled her with distress and terror; and had so effectually worked upon her fears, that she was the prey of superstitious horrors; and was, in fact, thrown into a state of derangement, which occasioned her to be unspeakably wretched. She, however, confessed her sin to the abbess; and assured her that she would use all the influence in her power to induce her children to renounce their heresies. In the mean time, her bodily health was restored; and, as there was no longer any reason for her remaining at the convent, every thing was prepared for the journey, and she proceeded with her daughters and servant towards Switzerland.
Eleanore and Antoinette had observed thegloom and insensibility of their mother, and the absence and wildness of her manner; they hoped, however, that these symptoms would gradually pass away when she was at a distance from the convent, and witnessed new scenes, and formed new acquaintance; but when, after having travelled several miles in an open carriage which they had hired to bring them to the foot of the Alps, she still retained the same gloomy indifference, Antoinette began to be alarmed, and Eleanore to be irritated.
“I fear that you are not well, Madame ?" said Antoinette.
“Well in body, but ill at ease in mind," returned Madame.
“And wherefore should you be unhappy, Madame ?” said Antoinette; “are not your children and your faithful servant with you ? and are you not going to a dear friend, and into a delightful country ?
Madame, in reply, burst into tears, and then avowed her uneasiness, and the cause of it; adding, with much tenderness, “My dear children, I cannot bear to look forward to your perdition. 0! permit me to persuade you to renounce your errors. Make me happy in thinking that the souls of my children are not doomed to destruction.”
Antoinette replied in the most affectionate manner, “Beloved parent, make yourself easy; we will talk on these subjects another time; we will hear all you have to say; and we will read the Bible together, and pray for help from above: but at present you are weak and low, and not able to converse on these subjects. Let us now enjoy these lovely prospects, and refer this argument to another time.”
“But do not, Antoinette," said Eleanore,“ do not hold out false hopes to my mother: you know your determination against the Roman Catholic doctrines; you have lately evidenced your dislike in the strongest manner; and yet you promise our mother to consider of them again. Is this just and upright ?"
Antoinette looked at her sister with an expression of disgust, such as she had scarcely ever before evinced; then turning to her mother, she said, “I give you leave, Madame, to judge of my religious principles by my actions. If I am assisted to treat you with attention and tenderness, be assured that the help is from above; and do at least defer for awhile any uneasiness respecting my spiritual state. And now, dear parent,” she added, “I must give you an account of the manner in which my time was occupied among the kind sisters, while you were shut up in your room. We breakfasted, dined, and supped in the refectory. Our fare was plain, but neatly served, and wholesome; and I was much pleased
with the novelty of this way of life. And then the work, mamma, the beautiful work the nuns execute, I could scarcely have conceived so much variety possible; I learned many new stitches; and, I hope, improved myself in embroidery."
In this manner she proceeded, making out a long story of slender materials, but in an innocent way; till Madame's attention was engaged, and her spirits revived; of which she gave evidence by making certain remarks on the country through which they passed. At length, coming to a little stream and a mill by the side of the road, Antoinette said, “That little mill, and that stream, and that wood in the back-ground, remind me of a story I heard at school: the thing happened in France, in this part of France, I think; perhaps in this very place. Shall I tell it you, Madame?”
“Why, Antoinette," said Eleanore, "you are very full of talk to-day !"
“O, that is because I am pleased,” she said. “But, mamma, will you hear my story ?"
“Yes, child,” said Madame; “It will perhaps divert me."
So Antoinette told some tale which she adapted to the scene, and her mother listened; and thus she beguiled the time till they came to the end of their first day's journey.
“You are, and always were, an unaccountable girl, Antoinette,” said her sister, when she found herself alone with her. “ How long have you taken up this talkative humour ? and how long is it to last ?"
“As long as it diverts my mother,” replied Antoinette. “But where is the profit of it ?" asked Eleanore.
“I do not know," replied the other; “but if the Almighty pleases, it may, perhaps, hereafter turn to some account."
“You have some scheme in view, Antoinette,” said Eleanore, “I am certain you have."
“You are not mistaken, sister; I have two," replied the other;
one is to amuse and please my mother and make her fond of my company."
“And the other ?» asked Eleanore. VOL. VII.
“To induce her, if possible, to hear me speak upon religious subjects, without irritation,” added Antoinette.
“You will never succeed,” returned Eleanore. “I shall, if I am divinely assisted,” replied the other. “Can you expect the divine blessing," asked her sister, upon schemes and ways so circuitous ?"
Antoinette made no answer; and the conversation ended. She however persisted in her plan of amusing her mother, by frequently talking to her; and she succeeded so far, that Madame appeared tolerable cheerful during the remainder of the journey; though it was feared from many circumstances of her conduct and appearance, that her brain had sustained an injury which had impaired her intellect past the hope of recovery.
The little family crossed the Alps without accident; and, having travelled through a part of Switzerland, arrived at Vanzon, where Monsieur had promised to meet them in order to escort them to the valley of Anzasca.
It was from the town of Vanzon that Monsieur first pointed out to them Monte Rosa, the glory of the southern Alps, raising its snow-crowned peaks above the dark, deep, and rich valley of Anzasca.
Madame and her family spent a night at Vanzon, and pursued their course next morning.
The valley of Anzasca is perhaps one of the most beautiful and fertile regions in the world; being remarkable for its rich vegetation, which is scarcely equalled in Europe. The roads through this charming valley are every where shaded in the autumn by pendant vines; and the most luxuriant vineyards, above and below, overspread terrace above terrace. Here are rich and verdant meadows which present all the varieties of Arcadian landscape; nor are mountain torrents, channelling the rocks, and forming grand and refreshing waterfalls, wanting to improve the scene, and to show what the God of nature can do to adorn the habitation of man. Chestnut trees, of a size and beauty truly astonishing, shadow these lucid streams, and shelter the cattle beneath them.
The valley is in many parts extraordinarily deep; and many neat villages are scattered through its delightful