The last—as he had apprehended—came to pass only too surely. The very attempt to argue and to defend Eustacie was too much for the injured head; and long before night Berenger full believed himself on the journey, acted over its incidents, and struggled wildly with difficulties, all the time lying on his bed, with the old servants holding him down, and Cecily listening tearfully to his ravings.
For weeks longer he was to lie there in greater danger than ever. He only seemed soothed into quiet when Cecily chanted those old Latin hymns of her Benedictine rule, and then—when he could speak at all—he showed himself to be in imagination praying in Eustacie’s convent chapel, sure to speak to her when the service should be over.
CHAPTER XV. NOTRE-DAME DE BELLAISE*
There came a man by middle day,
He spied his sport and went away,
And brought the king that very night,
And brake my bower and slew my knight.
The Border Widow’s Lament
[footnote: Bellaise is not meant for a type of all nunneries, but of the condition to which many of the lesser ones had come before the general reaction and purification of the seventeenth century.]
That same Latin hymn which Cecily St. John daily chanted in her own chamber was due from the choir of Cistercian sisters in the chapel of the Convent of Our Lady at Bellaise, in the Bocage of Anjou; but there was a convenient practice of lumping together the entire night and forenoon hours at nine o’clock in the morning, and all the evening ones at Compline, so that the sisters might have undisturbed sleep at night and entertainment by day. Bellaise was a very comfortable little nunnery, which only received richly dowered inmates, and was therefore able to maintain them in much ease, though without giving occasion to a breath of scandal. Founded by a daughter of the first Angevin Ribaumont, it had become a sort of appanage for the superfluous daughters of the house, and nothing would more have amazed its present head, Eustacie Barbe de Ribaumont,—conventually known as La Mere Marie Seraphine de St.- Louis, and to the world as Madame de Bellaise,—than to be accused of not fulfilling the intentions of the Bienheureuse Barbe, the foundress, or of her patron St. Bernard.
Madame de Bellaise was a fine-looking woman of forty, in a high state of preservation, owing to the healthy life she had led. Her eyes were of brilliant, beautiful black her complexion had a glow, her hair—for she wore it visibly—formed crisp rolls of jetty ringlets on her temples, almost hiding her close white cap. The heavy thick veil was tucked back beneath the furred purple silk hood that fastened under her chin. The white robes of her order were not of serge, but of the finest cloth, and were almost hidden by a short purple cloak with sleeves, likewise lined and edged with fur, and fastened on