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At length Antoinette ventured to lift up one of the blinds, and to ask whither they were going. To which question the comtesse made no reply.
Soon afterwards the young lady perceived that they had passed the barrier. At this she started, and repeated her question ; but the old lady preserved her silence.
The carriage drove rapidly, and in a short time Antoinette observed that they were in the fields. She now felt real apprehensions, and said, “ Dear Madame, tell me where we are going ?"
“What do you fear, foolish girl ?" said the comtesse, and relapsed into silence.
They now entered into a forest, as Antoinette perceived by the shade cast within the carriage; and in a short time they stopped at the door of a small house, where the abbe was waiting with another person unknown to the young lady. Here the comtesse alighted with her granddaughter; and Antoinette saw, to her utter amazement and terror, a travelling-carriage prepared for a further journey. Some luggage was bound on this carriage.
It would take more time than I have to spare, to describe the scene which took place when the comtesse directed Antoinette to get into the travelling carriage, and told her that the abbe was to be her companion the remainder of the journey. Suffice it to say, that after having exhibited the utmost reluctance, she was compelled to obey; and the comtesse, having seen her depart with her two companions, returned to Paris.
The unhappy young lady was treated respectfully, though closely watched by the abbe, during the course of her journey, which was of many leagues. Neither could she form any idea of the place of her destination, till at the end of five days of very rapid travelling, they were set down at the gate of a convent, situated in the depths of a forest.
This was a convent of peculiarly supposed sanctity, situated in the province of Languedoc, and as much withdrawn from the world as any situation in a civilized country could possibly be.
Now ! now!” said Antoinette, as she looked up from the carriage on the high towers of this ancient building,
which had been built for strength in the days of barbarism, “now! now! I comprehend the whole! here, at least, I shall be out of the way of their ambitious views!" but this was the only expression of impatience which the unhappy young lady had used during her long journey; and, instantly correcting herself, she added, but thy will, O my God, be done!"
The abbe gave his hand to assist her from the carriage; and, while they were waiting until the gate should be opened, he assured her, that if she would but pledge her honour to renounce her heresies, he would instantly convey her back to Paris.
“You do not then doubt my honour ?" said Antoinette. “ No," returned the abbe, “I have no reason so to do." “ How then can you so utterly reprobate my religion?"
The abbe made no answer, and the gate was opened, and closed irrevocably upon the unhappy young lady.
During the course of this history, I have been obliged to enter into so many particulars, that it is not now my intention to give a full account of the trials of this pious and lovely young woman in the ignorant and bigoted society to which she was now conducted. It is sufficient to observe, that she resisted, for conscience sake, the ardent pleadings of the only man she ever felt she could have loved ; and that she was enabled to triumph completely over all the persecutions to which she was exposed in the convent; although the sufferings she endured, during the few long months of her residence there, were very great.
Theodore, when apprised of the disappearance of Antoinette, as might be supposed, was filled with resentment; and, not being able to procure any clue by which to make out the place of her retreat, immediately set out for England, to which country he imagined she might be sent.
In the mean time, Alice O'Neal was not forgetful of her lady's interest; but, with a shrewdness for which her nation is remarkable, she resolved, before she took any steps to quit Paris, to make out, if possible, the direction in which Antoinette had been taken.
With this view, she made many private inquiries among the servants; but, as none of them were in the
secret, she could not possibly obtain any information, She then thought of the cocher who had driven the comtesse from the hotel on the morning when her dear lady had left her: for, on this occasion, the comtesse had used a hired carriage, having purposely sent her own the day before to have some alteration made in it. After a length of time she discovered the man, and learned the name of the place to which he had driven the carriage.
Now having some clue, she prosecuted her inquiries, and discovered the second stage ; but was then at a loss, because from that town many roads branched out in different directions. The abbe, at that time, was not in Paris, but he soon returned; and Alice, having formed a sort of friendship with his valet, asked him many questions, by which she hoped to elicit something to her purpose, yet without success. But one evening, meeting this man as he was carrying some letters of his master's to the post-office, she offered to accompany him, using the freedom of the half Irish and half French character, which she possessed, and taking the letters from his hand at the moment he was about to deliver them up, she read the directions, while he was parleying with an old acquaintance in the post-office, and perceived that one was directed to a priest in a certain district in Languedoc. “This will do,” said she to herself; “and I will bear it in mind."
Her next step was to speak to her mistress; for, since the loss of Antoinette, she had sought to assist at the toilet of Eleanore; and, accordingly, the next morning, when waiting on Eleanore, she said, “Mademoiselle, I wish we could hear something of your dear sister.”
“Wherefore do you make yourself uneasy respecting her ?" replied Eleanore, “my grandmother, as you have heard, thought there was a growing attachment between her and her son, and, to check this, placed her as parlour-boarder for a short time in a convent: for, as you must well know, Alice, marriages between near connexions are not approved in this country." .“But dispensations are easily obtained,” said Alice,
if that were all. But what need was there to send her so far off ?"
“So far off !” said Eleanore, thrown off her guard by this abrupt inquiry. “Who told you."
“It would be strange, indeed,” replied the faithful servant, “if I did not know what every body knows."
“What does every body know ?" asked Eleanore.
“Why, that Mademoiselle is not in Paris,” replied Alice.
“Nonsense,” returned Eleanore; “I thought
“Why, that you knew a great deal more than you seem to do."
“And where," replied Alice, “has Monsieur l'Abbe been ?"
“How should I know ?" replied Eleanore.
"I should not wonder if he has been in Languedoc,” said Alice.
“ Languedoc !" returned Eleanore, colouring violently: “ what makes you think of Languedoc ?"
“I don't know," replied Alice, “but because I dreamed of it last night.—But, Mademoiselle, hold your head still; I shall surely hurt you with the comb, if you tremble so. But, after all,” added she, “no wonder that you tremble and look pale, thinking of the dear creature who is gone."
Eleanore did not know what to think of this conversation, and was at a loss whether she should repeat it to the comtesse; but while she was deliberating, Alice asked to be paid her wages and discharged, which was immediately granted her. Before she left France, this trusty woman procured an Englishman, with whom she was acquainted, to write for her, and to convey a letter to our old friend, Monsieur, who had again retired to the valley of Anzasca; wherein she told him what had passed, and gave him all the information she could to aid him in finding out the concealment of Antoinette. After this, the faithful creature made the best of her way to England and to Mrs. Montague.
Alice was not the first person who had brought the news of what had taken place in France relative to her young cousins, to that lady; for Theodore had been with her before. She was, however, the first who had
thrown light upon the subject, or had given any clue whatever to the situation of Antoinette.
Alice found Mrs. Montague prepared for a journey to France, in which journey Mr. Harwood was to accompany her, together with Joanna. Alice begged also to be permitted to attend them, in the situation of waitingmaid to Mrs. Montague; and, as she could speak French better than any of the party, her services were gladly accepted.
They agreed to take shipping at Brighton, and proceed immediately to the south of France, in their way to Toulouse. Mr. Harwood suggested that they should write to Monsieur to meet them at Toulouse; and also to the Chevalier de J-, to inform him of the difficulties in the way of discovery.
After some delay, on account of passports, Mrs. Montague and her party made their short voyage in a successful manner; and, being landed in France, with proper passports, they made a rapid journey into Languedoc. Being arrived at Toulouse, Alice was sent to the post-office to inquire for letters, and found one from Monsieur to Mrs. Montague, directing them to proceed to a small village among the mountains, near the town of Mende. This letter, however, contained no information concerning Antoinette.
After a night's rest at Toulouse, the party proceeded towards the mountains, and arrived at Mende late on a pleasant evening in autumn.
The mountains which bounded the whole horizon in the north-east would have afforded subject of great delight to the party, had not their feelings been more deeply interested in the fate of Antoinette, the nearer the time approached when they hoped to have a termination put to their anxiety.
Mrs. Montague and her friend slept at Mende, and proceeded the next day to the village specified in Monsieur's letter. They had not many leagues to travel, but, by means of the roughness of the roads, they were compelled to perform this last stage on horseback, and with great caution. On leaving the plain, they entered into certain tracks along the sides of the hills, and were interested by the view of charming valleys, near groves