Accordingly I wrote as delicate and grateful a refusal as I could; and my heart danced so lightly in my bosom after it, that I trust there is no danger of my ever trying what sort of sensation a contrary line of conduct would produce.
My poor nun, meanwhile, was very rapidly sinking: her health had never been good, from the period of her apostacy, and she was now, at least so I was told, confined to her apartment. I made many visits to the convent, vainly desiring to see her; until very shortly before I left the neighbourhood, I called, rather as an act of civility, than with any hope of finding poor E. ; but while sitting in the parlour, I was startled by her bursting into the room, so changed in appearance that I scarcely recognized her; and in great agitation. She sat down by me, and throwing her arm round my neck said, ' I was resolved to see you once more.' Before another word could be spoken, three elderly nuns entered; and with looks that expressed both alarm and anger, actually forced her away, one of them saying, that Sister-was not well enough to be spoken to, and ought not to have quitted her room. The impression left on my mind by this strange interview was painful in one sense—in another joyous. That the interesting nun was under actual constraint, and severely dealt with, I could not doubt: that her mind was awakened to the fearful peril of her apostate state, I had strong reason to believe : and well I knew that if the Lord was working, none could let it. Often and bitterly have I reproached myself, that I did not more boldly and more unequivocally, during our first interviews, bear a distinct testimony against her dreadful delusion; but I relied on her performance of the promise, which she certainly intended to fulfil, of reading my remarks on the books that were lent to me. As it was, a consciousness of having failed in using the means, threw me in deeper humility at the footstool of the Lord, in fervent intercession for my friend. I continued thus to pray, for about a year; and was much struck when nearly four years afterwards, I learnt that her death had taken place at the end of that time ; and, from the same source, I also gleaned the particulars already related, respecting the means of her perversion from the truth—or rather from nominal protestantism, for she was not then in any degree spiritually enlightened—and I rejoiced in the sweet hope, that in the struggle so apparent at our last meeting, and in which she probably lost her life, she had overcome by the blood of the Lamb ; renouncing the idolatrous faith into which she had been so foully entrapped. The secrets of her dying chamber, none can tell. Many a recantation openly made, is no where registered but in heaven, and in the dark bosoms of those who suppress the tale. Beloved E ! I cannot look upon the Passion-flower, spreading wide upon the garden wall, or climbing the trellis before me, but I think I see the soft white hand of my pensive nun reaching among its branches, and behold her graceful figure, with its bend of unaffected humility, as she gave me the memento; her eloquent eyes bespeaking more than either action or words could express.
I remember, also, the disgust with which I once witnessed the grossly familiar manners of some bulky priests, who came to the door of the room unaware of my being in it—manners evidently most unpleasing to E., who, nevertheless, was constrained to wear an aspect of submission, when her hand was warmly seized by those spiritual pastors. I can likewise remember, that the countenance of the foremost became most protentously overcast, when his eye fell on me; and that it was the last time of my ever being permitted to converse freely with the nun. In those days the theological treasures of Dens had not been communicated to the laity ; but their recent disclosure has furnished me with a key to many puzzling recollections.
Oh that I could so speak as to reach the hearts and consciences of those parents who, while professing the Protestant faith, can be so awfully blinded to their sacred obligations, as to trust their children within the blighting atmosphere of popish lands, and popish seminaries ! They know not, because they will not investigate, the perils of such a situation: the vain and hollow acquisition of accomplishments, which, when gained, only prove so many ties to bind those youthful spirits more fast to an ungodly world, becomes, through Satan's devices, such a bait to them, that even the life of the soul is overlooked in the computation, and heaven itself cannot outweigh the importance of artificial manners, and the fluent pronunciation of a foreign tongue. The direst curse of old Babel seems to be reserved for this generation, delivering over our young men and maidens to the fatal wiles of modern Babylon. The division of languages thus leads to dividing many a soul from its God; and this indulgence of the " pride of life," this fulfilling of " the desires of the mind," will furnish a theme for endless lamentation to many who, in their greedy pursuit of outward distinction, close their eyes to the scriptural warnings which God has not given in vain, however little we may regard them.
This chapter is sombre—its subject and its type are equally so. No external brightness rests upon the Passion-flower; but that from which it takes its name contains even the brightness of the glory of God. Dark, sad, and comfortless was all that met my view, in the brief and clouded course of my poor E., but the eye of faith, brightened by the recollection of many a fervent prayer sent up on her behalf, can discern a glorious beam, emanating from the land that is very far off, with the figure of the nun, among a multitude of " backsliding children," whom the Lord has reclaimed, rejoicing in the splendours that surround the throne of the Lamb.