“It is well for us, my child, when our earthly idols do fall and crush us, else we might go on to perdition in our fatal idolatry. Yes, my child, it is well that your idol has fallen, even though you lie buried and bleeding under its ruins; for our fraternity, like the good Samaritan of the parable, will raise you up and dress your wounds, and set you on your feet again, and lead you in the right path—the path of peace and safety.”
“Mother, mother, will you now hear my story, my confession?” said Salome, earnestly.
“My child, I would rather you would defer it until you are better able to talk.”
“Mother, mother, I have the strength of fever on me now; but my mind is growing confused. Let me speak while I may!”
“Speak on, then, my dear child, but don’t exhaust yourself.”
“Mother, though I have failed, through very shame of broken promises, to write to you lately, yet you must have heard from other sources of my father’s tragic death?”
“I heard of it, my child. And I have daily remembered his soul in my prayers.”
“And you heard, good mother, of how I forgot all my promises to devote myself to a religious life, and how I betrothed myself to the Marquis of Arondelle, who is now the Duke of Hereward?”
“You yielded to the expressed wishes of your father, my child, as it was natural you should do.”
“I yielded to the inordinate and sinful affections of my own heart, and I have been punished for it.”
“My poor child!”
“Listen, mother! Yesterday morning, at St. George’s church, Hanover Square, in London, I was married by the Bishop of London to the Duke of Hereward. Yesterday afternoon I received secret but unquestionable proof that the duke was an already married man when he met me first, and that his wife was living in London!”
“Holy saints, Mademoiselle! What is this that you are telling me?” exclaimed the astonished abbess. “Surely, surely she is growing delirious with fever,” she muttered to herself.
“I am telling you a terrible truth, my mother! Listen, and I will tell you everything, even as I know it myself!” said Salome, earnestly.
The abbess no longer opposed her speaking, although it was evident that her illness was hourly increasing.
And Salome told the terrible story of her sorrows, commencing with the first appointed wedding-day at Castle Lone, and ending with the second wedding-day at Elmhurst House, and her own secret flight from her false bridegroom, just as it is known to our readers.
The deeply shocked abbess heard and believed, and frequently crossed herself during the recital.
As Salome proceeded with what she called her confession, her fever and excitement increased rapidly. Toward the end of her recital her thoughts grew confused and wandered into the ravings of a brain fever.