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AGNES OF SORRENTO.
convent had displaced. The voices which
sang were of a deep, plaintive contralto, THE DAY AT THE CONVENT.
much resembling the richness of a tenor, Tue Mother Theresa sat in a sort of and as they moved in modulated waves withdrawing-room, the roof of which rose of chanting sound the effect was soothin arches, starred with blue and gold like ing and dreamy. Agnes stopped at the that of the cloister, and the sides were door to listen. frescoed with scenes from the life of the Stop, dear Jocunda,” she said to the Virgin. Over every door, and in conven old woman, who was about to push her ient places between the paintings, texts way abruptly into the room, " wait till it of Holy Writ were illuminated in blue is over.” and scarlet and gold, with a richness and Jocunda, who was quite matter-of-fact fancifulness of outline, as if every sacred in her ideas of religion, made a little letter had blossomed into a mystical flow movement of impatience, but was recall
The Abbess herself, with two of her ed to herself by observing the devout abnuns, was busily embroidering a new al- sorption with which Agnes, with clasped tar-cloth, with a lavish profusion of adorn- hands and downcast head, was mentally ment; and, from time to time, their voices joining in the hymn with a solemn brightrose in the musical tones of an ancient
ness in her
face. Latin hymn. The words were full of that “ If she hasn't got a vocation, nobody quaint and mystical pietism with which ever had one,” said Jocunda, mentally. the fashion of the times clothed the ex “ Deary me, I wish I had more of one pression of devotional feeling :
myself !” “Jesu, corona virginum,
When the strain died away, and was Quem mater illa concepit,
succeeded by a conversation on the reQuæ sola virgo parturit,
spective merits of two kinds of gold emHæc vota clemens accipe.
broidering-thread, Agnes and Jocunda “Qui pascis inter lilia
entered the apartment. Agnes went forSeptus choreis virginum,
ward and kissed the hand of the Mother Sponsus decoris gloria
reverentially. Sponsisque reddens præmia.
Sister Theresa we have before describ"Quocunque pergis, virgines
ed as tall, pale, and sad-eyed, - a moonSequuntur atque laudibus
light style of person, wanting in all those Post te canentes cursitant
elements of warm color and physical soHymnosque dulces personant.” *
lidity which give the impression of a real This little canticle was, in truth, very dif- vital human existence.
The strongest ferent from the hymns to Venus which affection she had ever known had been used to resound in the temple which the that which had been excited by the child"Jesus, crown of virgin spirits,
ish beauty and graces of Agnes, and she Whom a virgin mother bore,
folded her in her arms and kissed her Graciously accept our praises
forehead with a warmth that had in it the While thy footsteps we adore.
semblance of maternity. " Thee among the lilies feeding Choirs of virgins walk beside,
“ Grandmamma has given me a day to Bridegroom crowned with glorious beauty spend with you, dear mother,” said Agnes. Giving beauty to thy bride.
“ Welcome, dear little child !” said "Where thou goest still they follow
Mother Theresa. “Your spiritual home Singing, singing as they move, All those souls forever virgin
always stands open to you.” Wedded only to thy love."
“I have something to speak to you of
in particular, my mother,” said Agnes, thea sends thee these, wherefore believe.' blushing deeply.
See what grace a pure maiden can bring “ Indeed!” said the Mother Theresa, to a thoughtless young man, — for this a slight movement of curiosity arising in young man was converted and became her mind as she signed to the two nuns a champion of the faith.” to leave the apartment.
“ That was in the old times,” said Jo“ My mother,” said Agnes, “ yesterday cunda, skeptically. “I don't believe setevening, as grandmamma and I were sit- ting the lamb to pray for the wolf will do ting at the gate, selling oranges, a young much in our day. Prithee, child, what cavalier came up and bought oranges of manner of man was this gallant ? ” me, and he kissed my forehead and asked “ He was beautiful as an angel,” said me to pray for him, and gave me this ring Agnes, “only it was not a good beauty. for the shrine of Saint Agnes."
He looked proud and sad, both,-like one “ Kissed your forehead!” said Jocunda, who is not at ease in his heart. Indeed, “ here 's a pretty go! it isn't like you, Ag. I feel very sorry for him; his eyes made nes, to let him.”
a kind of trouble in my mind, that re“ He did it before I knew," said Agnes. minds me to pray for him often.” “ Grandmamma reproved him, and then “ And I will join my prayers to yours, he seemed to repent, and gave this ring dear daughter,” said the Mother Theresa ; for the shrine of Saint Agnes.”
“ I long to have you with us, that we may “ And a pretty one it is, too,” said Jo pray together every day ;- say, do you cunda. “We haven't a prettier in all think your grandmamma will spare you our treasury. Not even the great emer- to us wholly before long ?” ald the Queen gave is better in its way “Grandmamma will not hear of it yet," than this."
said Agnes;“and she loves me so, it would “And he asked you to pray for him ?” break her heart, if I should leave her, and said Mother Theresa.
she could not be happy here;—but, moth“ Yes, mother dear; he looked right in- er, you have told me we could carry an to my eyes and made me look into his, altar always in our hearts, and adore in and made me promise ;-—and I knew that secret. When it is God's will I should holy virgins never refused their prayers come to you, He will incline her heart." to any one that asked, and so I followed “ Between you and me, little one,” said their example."
Jocunda, “ I think there will soon be a “I'll warrant me he was only mocking third person who will have something to at you for a poor little fool,” said Jocun- say in the case.” da ; " the gallants of our day don't be- “Whom do you mean ?” said Agnes. lieve much in prayers.”
“ A husband,” said Jocunda ; “I sup“ Perhaps so, Jocunda,” said Agnes, pose your grandmother has one picked gravely;“ but if that be the case, he needs out for you. You are neither humpprayers all the more.”
backed nor cross-eyed, that you shouldn't “ Yes,” said Mother Theresa. “Re- have one as well as other girls.” member the story of the blessed Saint “I don't want one, Jocunda; and I Dorothea, — how a wicked young noble- have promised to Saint Agnes to come man mocked at her, when she was going here, if she will only get grandmother to to execution, and said, “Dorothea, Doro- consent." thea, I will believe, when you shall send “ Bless you, my daughter!” said Mother me down some of the fruits and flowers Theresa ; "only persevere and the way of Paradise'; and she, full of faith, said, will be opened.” * To-day I will send them'; and, wonder- “Well, well,” said Jocunda, “we 'll ful to tell, that very day, at evening, an see. Come, little one, if you wouldn't angel came to the young man with a bas- have your flowers wilt, we must go back ket of citrons and roses, and said, Doro- and look after them.”
Reverently kissing the hand of the cheeks like the dark fringe of some tropAbbess, Agnes withdrew with her old ical flower. Her form, in its drooping friend, and crossed again to the garden outlines, scarcely yet showed the full deto attend to her flowers.
velopment of womanhood, which after“ Well now, childie,” said Jocunda, years might unfold into the ripe fulness you can sit here and weave your gar of her countrywomen. Her whole attilands, while I go and look after the con tude and manner were those of an exserves of raisins and citrons that Sister quisitively sensitive and highly organizCattarina is making. She is stupid at ed being, just struggling into the life of anything but her prayers, is Cattarina. some mysterious new inner birth, — into Our Lady be gracious to me! I think I the sense of powers of feeling and being got my vocation from Saint Martha, and hitherto unknown even to herself. if it wasn't for me, I don't know what “Ah,” she softly sighed to herself,“ how would become of things in the Convent. little I am! how little I can do! Could Why, since I came here, our conserves, I convert one soul! Ah, holy Dorothea, done up in fig-leaf packages, have had send down the roses of heaven into his quite a run at Court, and our gracious soul, that he also may believe !" Queen herself was good enough to send “Well, my little beauty, you have not an order for a hundred of them last week. finished even one garland,” said the voice I could have laughed to see how puzzled of old Jocunda, bustling up behind her. the Mother Theresa looked;— much she “ Praise to Saint Martha, the conserves knows about conserves! I suppose she are doing well, and so I catch a minute thinks Gabriel brings them straight down for my little heart." from Paradise, done up in leaves of the So saying, she sat down with her spintree of life. Old Jocunda knows what dle and flax by Agnes, for an afternoon goes to their making up; she 's good for gossip. something, if she is old and twisted; many “Dear Jocunda, I have heard you tell a scrubby old olive bears fat berries,” stories about spirits that haunt lonesome said the old portress, chuckling. places. Did you ever hear about any
“Oh, dear Jocunda,” said Agnes, “ why in the gorge ?” must you go this minute ? I want to talk Why, bless the child, yes, — spirits with you about so many things !” are always pacing up and down in lonely
“ Bless the sweet child ! it does want places. Father Anselmo told me that; its old Jocunda, does it ? ” said the old and he had seen a priest once that had woman, in the tone with which one ca seen that in the Holy Scriptures themresses a baby. “Well, well, it should, selves, — so it must be true.” then! Just wait a minute, till I go and Well, did you ever hear of their see that our holy Saint Cattarina hasn't making the most beautiful music ?” fallen a-praying over the conserving-pan. “ Haven't I ?” said Jocunda, -"to be I'll be back in a moment."
sure I have, — singing enough to draw So saying, she hobbled off briskly, and the very heart out of your body,- it's an Agnes, sitting down on the fragment old trick they have. Why, I want to sculptured with dancing nymphs, began know if you never heard about the King abstractedly pulling her flowers towards of Amalfi's son coming home from fighther, shaking from them the dew of the ing for the Holy Sepulchre ? Why, there fountain.
's rocks not far out from this very town Unconsciously to herself, as she sat where the Sirens live; and if the King's there, her head drooped into the attitude son hadn't had a holy bishop on board, of the marble nymph, and her sweet fea- who slept every night with a piece of the tures assumed the same expression of true cross under his pillow, the green laplaintive and dreamy thoughtfulness; her dies would have sung him straight into heavy dark lashes lay on her pure waxen perdition. They are very fair-spoken at
first, and sing so that a man gets perfect these spirits are what is left of old healy drunk with their music, and longs to then times, when, Lord bless us ! the earth fly to them; but they suck him down at was just as full of 'em as a bit of old cheese last under water, and strangle him, and is of mites. Now a Christian body, if that 's the end of him."
they take reasonable care, can walk quit “You never told me about this before, of 'em; and if they have any haunts in Jocunda."
lonesome and doleful places, if one puts “Haven't I, child ? Well, I will now. up a cross or a shrine, they know they You see, this good bishop, he dreamed have to go." three times that they would sail past these “I am thinking,” said Agnes, “it would rocks, and he was told to give all the sail- be a blessed work to put up some shrines ors holy wax from an altar-candle to stop to Saint Agnes and our good Lord in the their ears, so that they shouldn't hear the gorge, and I 'll promise to keep the music. Well, the King's son said he want- lamps burning and the flowers in order." ed to hear the music, so he wouldn't “Bless the child !” said Jocunda, “ that have his ears stopped; but he told 'em is a pious and Christian thought." to tie him to the mast, so that he could “I have an uncle in Florence who is a hear it, but not to mind a word he said, father in the holy convent of San Marco, if he begged 'em ever so hard to untie who paints and works in stone, — not for him.
money, but for the glory of God; and “ Well, you see they did it; and the when he comes this way I will speak to old bishop, he had his ears sealed up him about it,” said Agnes. “ About this tight, and so did all the men; but the time in the spring he always visits us.” young man stood tied to the mast, and “ That 's mighty well thought of,” said when they sailed past he was like a de- Jocunda. “And now, tell me, little lamb, mented creature. He called out that it have you any idea who this grand cavawas his lady who was singing, and he lier may be that gave you the ring ?” wanted to go to her, - and his mother, “No,” said Agnes, pausing a moment who they all knew was a blessed saint over the garland of flowers she was weavin paradise years before; and he com- ing,—“only Giulietta told me that he was manded them to untie him, and pulled brother to the King. Giulietta said evand strained on his cords to get free; erybody knew him.” but they only tied him the tighter, and so “I'm not so sure of that,” said Jocunthey got him past,-for, thanks to the holy da. “ Giulietta always thinks she knows wax, the sailors never heard a word, and more than she does.” so they kept their senses. So they all got “ Whatever he may be, his worldly safe home; but the young prince was so state is nothing to me,” said Agnes. “I sick and pining that he had to be exor- know him only in my prayers.” cised and prayed for seven times seven " Ay, ay,” muttered the old woman days before they could get the music out to herself, looking obliquely out of the of his head.”
corner of her eye at the girl, who was Why," said Agnes," do those Sirens busily sorting her flowers ; “perhaps he sing there yet?”
will be seeking some other acquaintance." “ Well, that was a hundred years ago. “ You haven't seen him since ?” said They say the old bishop, he prayed 'em Jocunda. down; for he went out a little after on “ Seen him ? Why, dear Jocunda, it purpose, and gave 'em a precious lot of was only last evening holy water; most likely he got 'em pretty “ True enough. Well, child, don't well under, though my husband's brother think too much of him. Men are dreadsays he 's beard 'em singing in a small ful creatures, - in these times especially; way, like frogs in spring-time; but he they snap up a pretty girl as a fox does gave 'em a pretty wide berth. You see, a chicken, and no questions asked.”
“I don't think he looked wicked, Jo- SO, — and never hearing of the true cunda; he had a proud, sorrowful look. Church ?" I don't know what could make a rich, “ Sure enough,” said Jocunda, spinhandsome young man sorrowful; but I ning away energetically, “but that is no feel in my heart that he is not happy. business of mine; my business is to save Mother Theresa says that those who can my soul, and that 's what I came here do nothing but pray may convert princes for. The dear saints know I found it without knowing it."
dull enough at first, for I'd been used to “ May be it is so,” said Jocunda, in the jaunting round with my old man and same tone in which thrifty professors of the boys; but what with marketing and religion often assent to the same sort of preserving, and one thing and another, I truths in our days. “I've seen a good get on better now, praise to Saint Agnes!" deal of that sort of cattle in my day; and The large, dark eyes of Agnes were one would think, by their actions, that fixed abstractedly on the old woman as praying souls must be scarce where they she spoke, slowly dilating, with a sad, came from.”
mysterious expression, which sometimes Agnes abstractedly stooped and began came over them. plucking handfuls of lycopodium, which “ Ah ! how can the saints themselves was growing green and feathery on one be bappy ?” she said. “One might be side of the marble frieze on which she was willing to wear sackcloth and sleep on sitting; in so doing, a fragment of white the ground, one might suffer ever so many marble, which had been overgrown in the years and years, if only one might save luxuriant green, appeared to view. It some of them." was that frequent object in the Italian “Well, it does seem hard,” said Josoil, — a portion of an old Roman tomb- cunda; “ but what 's the use of thinking stone. Agnes bent over, intent on the of it? Old Father Anselmo told us in mystic “Dis Manibus," in old Roman one of his sermons that the Lord wills letters.
that his saints shoul come to rejoice in “Lord bless the child! I 've seen the punishment of all heathens and herethousands of them,” said Jocunda; "it's tics; and he told us about a great saint some old heathen's grave, that 's been once, who took it into his head to be disin hell these hundred years."
tressed because one of the old heathen “ In hell ?” said Agnes, with a distress- whose books he was fond of reading had ful accent.
gone to hell, — and he fasted and prayed, “Of course," said Jocunda. “ Where and wouldn't take no for an answer, till should they be? Serves 'em right, too; he got him out." they were a vile old set."
“ He did, then ? ” said Agnes, clasping “Oh, Jocunda, it 's dreadful to think her hands in an ecstasy. of, that they should have been in hell all “ Yes; but the good Lord told him nevthis time.”
er to try it again, — and He struck him “ And no nearer the end than when dumb, as a kind of hint, you know. Why, they began,” said Jocunda.
Father Anselmo said that even getting Agnes gave a shivering sigh, and, look- souls out of purgatory was no easy mating up into the golden sky that was pour- ter. He told us of one holy nun who ing such floods of splendor through the spent nine years fasting and praying for orange-trees and jasmines, thought, How the soul of her prince, who was killed in could it be that the world could possibly a duel, and then she saw in a vision that be going on so sweet and fair over such he was only raised the least little bit out an abyss ?
of the fire, — and she offered up her life Oh, Jocunda!” she said, “it does as a sacrifice to the Lord to deliver him, too dreadful to believe! How could but, after all, when she died he wasn't help being heathen, - being born quite delivered. Such things made me