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eyes, which, as usual, were fixed upon the ground).
"Ah! (cried I) did you but know the lot which you are voluntarily going, to embrace, I am well convinced you would shrink from it with horror.' I proceeded to paint, in the most energetic terms, the various misèries of a monastic life, and she heard me without interruption.
"I am aware (cried she, when I had concluded), that all you have said is true; but it will not, cannot change my resolution. Never again can I taste of happiness, and in the gloom of a cloister I cannot be more miserable than in the gaiety and bustle of the world.'
"Whatever disappointments you may have met with (cried I), time will perhaps obliterate the remembrance of, and if the world is displeasing to you, why cannot you remain here, and yet preserve the power of returning to the world when you please?'
"She looked up, and I saw that her fine eyes were swimming in tears.
"I have been in the world (said she, emphatically), would to Heaven I had never entered it! but never, never can I mix with society again. I thank you, my kind friend, for advice which, I own, might be a means of saving any one but myself from a destiny the most painful. My doom is fixed, and nothing can change it.'
"Never before had I beheld such an expression of despair, as marked the features of Maria during this speech, and most sincerely did I commisserate her sorrow; but delicacy forbade my saying more. I pressed her hand in silence, and left her.
"Through the kindness of my aunt, Signora Florentini, who saw, and pitied the reluctance with which I submitted to the will of my family, I was rescued from a life of monastic slavery, My generous aunt offered me a daughter's portion, and my parents, to my
great joy, permitted me to leave the
"In some time after my departure, Maria took the veil, and the sisterhood were unanimous in their praises of her piety, and the strictness with which she performed the duties which she had. imposed upon herself. Her perseverance in the austerities of her profession, in a short time injured her health, but no intreaties could prevail upon her to relax from her severity. I frequently visited the convent, and I saw, with regret, that Maria grew every day weaker, and more languid; she always appeared to receive me with pleasure, and I was delighted to find, that her mind grew more tranquil than it had been when I first knew her.
"Some time elapsed without my seeing her, and I heard that she was dangerously ill. I hastened to the convent, and the lady abbess informed me that the physician thought she had • She has not many days to live,
mentioned you several times, daughter (cried she), and I think the sight of you will do her good, poor child! Her sufferings have been great, and she has borne them in the most exemplary manner. Never did. I witness, in one so young, such piety, such resignation! She is indeed an honour to our order."
"One of the sisterhood conducted me to the cell of Maria, who was unable, from extreme weakness, to leave her bed. On seeing me, she extended her hand, and a faint glow suffused her still lovely countenance.
"I thought you had quite forgot me' (said she, in a tone so hollow that I involuntarily started). I took the hand that she held out to me; but when I contemplated her pale and emaciated countenance, I could not repress my feelings, and I burst into
"Do not weep for me (said she, pressing my hand), my sufferings are near their close. Heaven only knows
how severe they have been; but they are past, and I look forward in humble hope and confidence that my offences are forgiven.' She paused a few moments, and then continued:
Perhaps we may not meet again; let me now thank you for that sympathy, which, though it has not been acknowledged, has been felt. When I entered this house, I thought my heart was shut against every human being; your kindness taught it once more to throb with gratitude towards a fellow creature. I reviewed my own conduct; the painful reflection burst in upon me, that all I suffered was my own fault. The natural pride of my character began to give way to the humiliating consciousness of error; yet the passion which made me fly from society, and which I still vainly endeavoured to subdue, preyed upon my heart; and even now it prevents my raising, as I ought, my whole soul to Heaven; but that Almighty Being, who expects not perfection from his creatures,