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"There is the bell for prayers, Florry; are you ready?" said
Mary Irving, hastily entering her cousin's room at the large
boarding-school of Madame ----.
"Yes; I rose earlier than usual this morning, have solved two
problems, and translated nearly half a page of Telemaque."
"I congratulate you on your increased industry and application, though
you were always more studious than myself. I wish, dear Florry,
you could imbue me with some of your fondness for metaphysics and
mathematics," Mary replied, with a low sigh.
A momentary flush passed over the face of her companion, and they
descended the stairs in silence. The room in which the pupils were
accustomed to assemble for devotion was not so spacious as the
class-room, yet sufficiently so to look gloomy enough in the gray
light of a drizzling morn. The floor was covered with a faded carpet,
in which the indistinct vine seemed struggling to reach the wall,
but failed by several feet on either side. As if to conceal this
deficiency, a wide seat was affixed the entire length of the room, so
"That the feet hung dangling down,
Anxious in vain to find the distant floor."
There were no curtains to the windows, and the rain pattered drearily
down the panes.
The teacher who officiated as chaplain was seated before a large
desk, on which lay an open Bible. He seemed about twenty-four, his
countenance noble rather than handsome, if I may make so delicate a
distinction. Intelligence of the first order was stamped upon it, yet
the characteristic expression was pride which sat enthroned on his
prominent brow; still, hours of care had left their impress, and the
face was very grave, though by no means stern. His eye was fixed on
the door as the pupils came in, one by one, for prayers, and when
Florence and Mary entered, it sunk upon his book, In a few moments he
rose, and, standing with one arm folded across his bosom, read in a
deep, distinct tone, that beautiful Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd."
He had only reached the fourth verse, when he was interrupted by two
girls of twelve or fourteen, who had been conversing from the moment
of their entrance. The tones grew louder and louder, and now the words
were very audible:
"My father did not send me here to come to prayers, and Madame has no
right to make us get up before day to hear him read his Bible!"
Many who coincided with them tittered, others stared in silence, while
Florence's lip curled, and Mary looked sorrowingly, pityingly upon
them--hers was the expression with which the angel multitudes of
Heaven regard their erring brethren here. The chaplain turned toward
them, and said, in a grave yet gentle voice, "My little friends, I am
afraid you did not kneel beside your bed this morning, and ask God to
keep your hearts from sinful thoughts, and enable you to perform all
your duties in a humble, gentle spirit. In your present temper, were I
to read the entire book instead of one Psalm, I fear you would receive
The girls were awed more by the tone than words, and sat silent and
abashed. The reading was concluded, and then he offered up a prayer
earnest and heartfelt. Instead of leaving the room immediately, the
pupils waited as for something, and taking a bundle of letters from
the desk, their tutor distributed them as the direction indicated.
"My budget is not so large as usual, and I regret it for your sakes,
as I fear some are disappointed. Miss Hamilton, here are two for you;"
and he handed them to her without looking up.
"Two for Florry, and none for me?" asked Mary, while her voice
slightly trembled. He was leaving the room, but turned toward her.
"I am very sorry, Miss Mary, but hope you will find a comforting
message in your cousin's."
Gently he spoke, yet his eyes rested on Florence the while, and, with
a suppressed sigh, he passed on. "Come to my room, Mary; it is strange
the letters are postmarked the same day." And while she solves the
mystery, let us glance at her former history.
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