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THE CONVENTN AT YORKe
MANY of our fair readers are probably unacquainted with the fact that a Convent, with a Lady Abbess and a numerous sisterhood of Nuns exists in the heart of England, and that the conventual regulations are as strictly observed, and the fair votaries as much secluded from the world, as in romantic Italy—or more catholic Spain. Near the Mickle Gate Bar, in the ancient city of York, stands a large mansion which has for many years been occupied by these religious ladies. An old gentleman, a friend of the writer's, who had a young girl consigned to his protection, by her parents on the Continent, wished to place her in this establishment, and for that purpose waited on the Abbess, who is styled the Rev. Mother by the community. Being a catholic of good family, he was readily admitted, and fortunately for the curiosity of our readers, we were permitted to accompany him.
The Superior's parlour is a handsome apartment, hung with pictures by various foreign masters, but scarcely had we time to examine them, before she made her appearance. It is impossible to convey to my readers the impression which this elegant woman made when we first beheld her in her monastic habit; the costume was so picturesque, though simple, that we could fancy ourselves removed, at least three centuries back, when the cowl of the Friar and the veil of the Nun were as common in merry England as buff and jerkin; a full flowing dress of black cloth quilted round the waist, gave an air of dignity to her person; her face was shrouded in the close white cap, which comes down over the brow and is continued round the chin, something like that worn by widows, and
over her head hung the ample black veil of the
order—a rosary of beads and cross completed the picture. With the easy dignity of one who had mingled in the world, she returned our salutations, and entered at once into the subject of the interview. From my friend's letters of introduction and well-known connexions, little hesitation was made, terms satisfactory to both parties were arranged, and in reply to some question relative to the regulations of the establishment, the Abbess invited us to visit the different schools, chapel, and buildings of the Convent. The first apartment into which we were shown was the dining-room which adjoins the kitchens, and the food is conveyed by means of the turning board so common in religious houses on the continent; by this means, all intercourse between the pupils and servants is avoided. The girls are divided into four classes, each under its superintendents; when we entered the different rooms, the nuns and children stood up to receive us, while some opening large folding doors at the extreme end of the apartment, discovered an oratory; each room, in this respect, being furnished alike. Amongst the number of children presented to us, was a niece of Cardinal Welds, and several Spanish girls, whose parents had been driven from their own country by the political disturbances of the times. The chapel, to which we O
were next conducted, is a building of elegant proportions, neatly fitted up for the purposes of devotion. Its prevailing colours are white and gold, the altar is plain, but ornamented by a valuable painting. Here again our imaginations were powerfully appealed to—the greater part of the sisterhood were assembled at their devotions, and knelt in rows before the altar, as fixed and unmoved as statues; amongst them was a beautiful girl, of eighteen, who had just com
menced her noviciate; her plain white dress, contrasted with the sombre black garb of the `
nuns, produced a curious effect. The Abbess informed us that the sum presented to the establishment on a nun's taking the veil, was six hundred pounds, which went towards the fund for their general support. The exercise ground, which lays at the back of the establishment, adjoins the burial place; both are unfortunately overlooked by the old city wall, and many persons frequently assemble to watch them taking their mid-day walk. The burial ground resembles a garden more than a spot set aside for the interment of the dead; the graves are marked by stones—those of the superiors by a cross. There is, attached to this retired spot, an oratory, exquisitely fitted up. Here the sisterhood may indulge in their contemplations of the past, or breathe their hopes for the future. The writer and his friend took their leave of the worthy Abbess with feelings of respect for her unaffected piety and politeness, and could not avoid expressing regret that one, whose manners ap
BETween six and seven o'clock, A. M., we continued our route through woods, and large open patches of ground, and at about eleven in the forenoon arrived at the borders of a deep glen, more wild, romantic and picturesque, than can be conceived. It is enclosed and overhung on all sides by trees of amazing height and dimensions, which hide it in deep shadow. Fancy might picture a spot, so silent and solemn as this, as the abode of genii and fairies; every thing to render it grand, melancholy and venerable; and the glen only wants an old dilapidated castle, a rock with a cave in it, or something of the kind to render it the most interesting place in the universe. There was one beautiful sight, however, which we would not omit mentioning for the world; it was that of an incredible number of butterflies, fluttering about us like a swarm of bees; they had chosen this, no doubt, as a place of refuge against the fury of the elements. They were variegated by the most brilliant tints and colourings imaginable; the wings of some were of a shining green, edged and sprinkled with gold; others were of sky blue and silver: others of purple and gold delightfully blending into each other, and the wings of some were like dark velvet, trimmed and braided with lace.—Lander's Travels.
THE Ros E of T H E A L H A MIB R A.
Among those who attended in the train of the monarchs was a favourite page of the queen, named Ruyz de Alarcon. To say that he was a favourite page of the queen was at once to speak his eulogium; for every one in the suite of the stately Elizabetta was chosen for grace, and beauty, and accomplishments. He was just turned of eighteen, light and lithe of form, and graceful as a young Antinous. To the queen he was all deference and respect; yet he was at heart a roguish stripling, petted and spoiled by the ladies about the court, and experienced in the ways of women far beyond his years. This loitering page was one morning rambling about the groves of the Generalise, which overlook the grounds of the Alhambra. He had taken with him for his amusement a favourite ger-falcon of the queen. In the course of his rambles, seeing a bird rising from a thicket, he unhooded the hawk and let him fly. The falcon towered high in the air, made a sweep at his quarry, but missing it, soared away, regardless of the calls of the page. The latter followed the truant bird with his eye in its capricious flight, until he saw it alight upon the battlements of a remote and lonely tower in the outer wall of the Alhambra, built on the edge of a ravine that separated the royal fortress from the grounds of the Generalife. It was, in fact, the “Tower of the Princesses.” The page descended into the ravine and approached the tower, but it had no entrance from the glen, and its lofty height rendered any attempt to scale it fruitless. Seeking one of the gates of the fortress, therefore, he made a wide circuit to that side of the tower facing within the walls. A small garden, enclosed by a trellis-work of reeds, overhung with myrtle lay before the tower. Opening a wicket, the page passed between the beds of flowers and and thickets of roses to the door. It was closed and bolted. A crevice in the door gave him a peep into the interior. There was a small Moorish hall with fretted walls, light marble columns, and an alabaster fountain surrounded with flowers. In the centre hung a gilt cage containing a singing bird; beneath it, on a chair, lay a tortoise-, shell cat, among reels of silk and other articles of female labour; and a guitar, decorated with ribands, leaned against the fountain. Ruyz de Alarcon was struck with these traces of female taste and elegance in a lonely, and, as he had supposed, deserted tower. They reminded him of the tales of enchanted halls current in the Alhambra; and the tortoise-shell cat might be some spell-bound princess. He knocked gently at the door; a beautiful face peeped out from a little window above, but was instantly withdrawn. He waited, expecting that the door would be opened, but he waited in vain; no footstep was to be heard within—all was silent. Had his
senses deceived him, or was this beautiful apparition the fairy of the tower P He knocked again, and more loudly. After a little while the beaming face once more peeped forth; it was that of a blooming damsel of fifteen. The page immediately doffed his plumed bonnet, and entreated in the most courteous accents to be permitted to ascend the tower in pursuit of his falcon. “I dare not open the door, senor,” replied the little damsel, blushing; “my aunt has forbidden it.”—“I do beseech you, fair maid; it is the favourite falcon of the queen; I dare not return to the palace without it.”—“Are you, then, one of the cavaliers of the court?”—“I am, fair maid; but I shall lose the queen's favour and my place, if l lose this hawk.”—“Santa Maria! it is against you cavaliers of the court my aunt has charged me especially to bar the door.”—“Against wicked cavaliers, doubtless; but I am none of these, but a simple harmless page, who will be ruined and undone if you deny me this small request.” The heart of the little damsel was touched by the distress of the page. It was a thousand pities he should be ruined for the want of so trifling a boon. Surely, too, he could not be one of those dangerous beings whom her aunt had described as a species of cannibal, ever on the prowl to make prey of thoughtless damsels—he was gentle and modest, and stood so entreatingly with cap in his hand, and looked so charming. The sly page saw that the garrison began to waver, and redoubled his entreaties in such moving terms, that it was not in the nature of mortal maiden to deny
him; so the blushing little warden of the tower"
descended and opened the door with a trembling hand; and if the page had been charmed by a mere glimpse of her countenance from the window, he was ravished by the full-length portrait now revealed to him. Her Andalusian bodice and trim basquina set off the round but delicate symmetry of her form, which was as yet scarce verging into womanhood. Her glossy hair was parted on her forehead with scrupulous exactness, and decorated with a fresh-plucked rose, according to the universal custom of the country. It is true her complexion was..tinged by the ardour of a southern sun, but it served to give richness to the mantling bloom of her cheek, and to heighten the lustre of her melting eyes. Ruyz de Alarcon beheld all this with a single glance, for it became him not to tarry; he merely murmured his acknowledgments, and then bounded lightly up the spiral staircase in quest of his falcon. He soon returned with the truant bird upon his fist. The damsel, in the mean time, had seated herself by the fountain in the hall, and was winding silk; but in her agitation she let fall the reel upon the
ceive it, imprinted on it a kiss more fervent and devout than he had ever imprinted on the fair hand of his sovereign.—“Ave Maria, senor!” exclaimed the damsel, blushing still deeper with confusion and surprise, for never before had she received such a salutation. The modest page made a thousand apologies, assuring her it was the way at court of expressing the most profound homage and respect. Her anger, if anger she felt, was easily pacified, but her agitation and embarrassment continued; and she sat blushing deeper and deeper, with her eyes cast down upon
her work, entangling the silk which she attempt
ed to wind. The cunning page saw the confusion
in the opposite camp, and would fain have pro
fited by it; but the fine speeches he would have uttered, died upon his lips, his attempts at gallantry were awkward and ineffectual; and, to his surprise, the adroit page, who had figured with such grace and effrontery among the most knowing and experienced ladies of the court, found himself awed and abashed in the presence of a simple damsel of fifteen. In fact, the artless maiden, in her own modesty and innocence had guardians more effectual than the bolts and bars prescribed by her vigilant aunt. Still, where is the female bosom proof against the first whisperings of love? The little damsel with all her artlessness, instinctively comprehended all that the faltering tongue of the page failed to express; and her heart was fluttered at beholding, for the first time, a lover at her feet—and such a lover! The diffidence of the page, though genuine, was short-lived, and he was recovering his usual ease and confidence, when a shrill voice was heard at a distance.—“My aunt is returning from mass!” cried the damsel, in affright; “I pray you, senor, depart.”—“Not until you grant me that rose from your hair as a remembrance.”—She hastily untwisted the rose from her raven locks;– “Take it,” cried she, agitated and blushing; “but pray begone.” The page took the rose, and at the same time covered with kisses the fair hand that gave it. Then placing the flower in
his bonnet, and taking the falcon upon his fist, he bounded off through the garden, bearing away with him the heart of the gentle Jacinta.
When the vigilant aunt arrived at the tower, she remarked the agitation of her niece, and an air of confusion in the hall; but a word of explanation sufficed—“A ger-falcon had pursued his prey into the hall.”—“Mercy on us! to think of a falcon flying into the tower! Did ever one hear of so saucy a hawk P Why the very bird in the cage is not safe!” The vigilant Fredeganda was one of the most wary of ancient spinsters.
She had a becoming terror and distrust of what she denominated “ the opposite sex,” which had
gradually increased through a long life of celi
bacy. Not that the good lady had ever suffered
from their wiles, nature having set up a safeguard
in her face that forbade all trespass upon her
premises; but ladies who have least cause to fear
for themselves, are most ready to keep a watch
over their more tempting neighbours. The niece
was the orphan of an officer who had fallen in
the wars. She had been educated in a convent, and had recently been transferred from her sacred asylum to the immediate guardianship of her aunt, under whose overshadowing care she vegetated in obscurity, like an opening rose blooming beneath a briar. Nor indeed is this comparison entirely accidental; for, to tell the truth, her fresh and dawning beauty had caught the public eye, even in her seclusion, and, with that poetical turn common to the people of Andalusia, the peasantry of the neighbourhood had given her the appellation of “the Rose of the Alhambra.” The wary aunt continued to keep a faithful watch over her tempting little niece as long as the court continued at Grenada, and flattered herself that her vigilance had been successful. It is true, the good lady was now and then discomposed by the tinkling of guitars and chanting of low ditties from the moonlit groves beneath the tower; but she would exhort her niece to shut her ears against such idle minstrelsy, assuring her that it was one of the arts of the opposite sex, by which simple maids were often lured to their undoing. Alas! what chance with a simple maid has a dry leeture against a moonlight serenade? At length King Philip cut shout his sojourn at Grenada, and suddenly departed with all his train. The vigilant Fredeganda watched the royal pageant as it issued forth from the gate of Justice, and descended the great avenue leading to the city. When the last banner disappeared from her sight, she returned exulting to her tower, for all her cares were over. To her surprise, a light Arabian steed pawed the ground at the wicket-gate of the garden;–to her horror, she saw through the thickets of roses a youth, in gaily embroidered dress, at the feet of her niece. At the sound of her footsteps he gave a tender adieu, bounded lightly over the barrier of reeds and myrtles, sprang upon his horse, and was out of sight in an instant. The tender Jacinta, in the agony of her grief, lost all thought of her aunt's displeasure. Throwing herself into her arms, she broke forth into sobs and tears.— “Aydi mi?” cried she; “he's gone!—he's gone! and I shall never see him more?”—“Gone —who is gone?—what youth is that I saw at your feet?” —“A queen's page, aunt, who came to bid me farewell.”—“A queen's page, child !” echoed the vigilant Fredeganda, saintly; “and when did you become acquainted with a queen's page?”— “The morning that the ger-salcon came into the tower. It was the queen's ger-falcon, and he came in pursuit of it.”—“Ay silly, silly girl!— know that there are no ger-falcons half so dangerous as those young prankling pages, and it is precisely such simple birds as thee that they pounce upon.” The aunt was at first indignant at learning that, in despite of her boasted vigilance, a tender intercourse had been carried on by the youthful lovers, almost beneath her eye; but when she found that her simple hearted niece, though thus exposed, without the protection of bolt or bar, to all the machinations of the opposite sex, had come forth unsinged from the fiery ordeal, she consoled herself with the persuasion