After that, and something said to my father which I cannot recall, he gave me his blessing, in words so beautiful and a voice so sweet that it fell on me like the soft breeze that comes out of the rising sun on a summer morning.
“May the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, my daughter. May your marriage be a yoke of love and peace, and may you see your children’s children to the third and fourth generation.”
Then he raised me to my feet, and at a touch from the Chamberlain, I backed out of the room.
When the door had closed on me I drew a deep breath, feeling as if I had come out of the Holy of Holies, and when I reached the Piazza of St. Peter’s and came again upon the sight and sound of common things—the cabs and electric cars—it was the same as if I had suddenly descended from heaven to earth.
After my audience with the Pope, following on the Reverend Mother’s story, all my objections to marriage had gone, and I wished to tell my father so, but an opportunity did not arise until late the same night and then it was he who was the first to speak.
Being in good spirits, after a dinner to the ecclesiastics, he said, as soon as his guests had gone—speaking in the tone of one who believed he was doing a great thing for me—
“Mary, matters are not quite settled yet, but you might as well know right here what we’re trying to fix up for you.”
Then he told me.
I was to marry the young Lord Raa!
I was stunned. It was just as if the power of thought had been smitten out of me.
That night, and during the greater part of the following day, I felt, without quite knowing why, as if I were living under the dark cloud of a gathering thunderstorm. All my fear of the world, and my desire to escape from it, had fallen upon me afresh. Hence it was not altogether by the blind leading of fate that half an hour before Ave Maria I entered the church of the Convent which the Reverend Mother had given me the name of.
The church was empty when I pushed past the leather hanging that covered the door, but the sacristan was lighting the candles for Benediction, so I went up to the bronze screen, the Cancello, that divides the public part from the part occupied by the Sisters, and knelt on the nearest step.
After a while the church-bell rang overhead, and then (the congregation having gathered in the meantime) the nuns came in by way of a corridor which seemed to issue out of the darkness from under a figure of the Virgin and Child.
They were all in white, snow-white from head to foot, with a glimmer of blue scapular beneath their outer garment, and they wore long thick veils which entirely concealed their features when they entered but were raised when they reached their seats and faced the altar.