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self is become a burden. May you long be happy in the world, but forget that there was ever such a man in it as
This letter was conveyed to Constantia that very evening, who fainted at the reading of it; and the next morning she was much more alarmed by two or three messengers, that came to her father's house, one after another, to inquire if they had heard any thing of Theodosius, who it seems had left his chamber about midnight, and could no where be found. The deep melancholy which had hung upon his mind some time before, made them apprehend the worst that could befal him. Constantia, who knew that nothing but the report of her marriage could have driven him to such extremities, was not to be comforted. She now accused herself of having so tamely given an ear to the proposal of a husband, and looked upon the new lover as the murderer of Theodosius. In short, she resolved to suffer the utmost effects of her father's displeasure, rather than comply with a marriage which appeared to her so full of guilt and horror. The father seeing himself entirely rid of Theodosius, and likely to keep a considerable portion in his family, was not very much concerned at the obstinate refusal of his daughter; and did not find it very difficult to excuse himself upon that account to his intended son-in-law, who had all along regarded this alliance rather as a marriage of convenience than of love. Constantia had now no relief but in her devotions and exercises of religion, to which her afflictions had so intirely subjected her mind, that after some years had abated the violence of her sorrows, and settled her thoughts in a kind of tranquillity, she resolved to pass the remainder of her days in a convent. Her father was
not displeased with a resolution, which would save money in his family, and readily complied with his daughter's intentions. Accordingly in the twentyfifth year of her age, while her beauty was yet in all its height and bloom, he carried her to a neighbouring city, in order to look out a sisterhood of puns among whom to place his daughter. There was in this place a father of a convent who was very much renowned for his piety and examplary life; and as it is usual in the Romish church for those who are under any great affliction, or trouble of mind, to apply themselves to the most eminent confessors for pardon and consolation, our beautiful votary took the opportunity of confessing herself to this celebrated father.
We must now return to Theodosius, wbo, the very morning that the above-mentioned inquiries had been made after him, arrived at a religious house in the city, where now Constantia resided ; and de siring that secrecy and concealinent of the fathers of the convent, which is very usual upon any extraordinary occasion, he made himself one of the order, with a private vow never to inquire after Constantia; whom he looked upon as given away to his
upon the day on which, according to common fame, their marriage was to have been solemnized. Having in his youth made a good progress in learning, that he might dedicate himself more entirely to religion, he entered into holy orders, and in a few years became renowned for his sanctity of life, and those pious sentiments which he inspired into all who conversed with him. It was this holy man to whom Constantia had determined to apply herself in confession, though neither she nor any other, besides the prior of the convent, knew any thing of his name or family. The gay, the amiable Theodosius pow taken
him the name of Father Frans
cis, and was so far concealed in a long beard, a sha- i ven head, and a religious habit, that it was impossible to discover the man of the world in the venerable conventual.
As he was one morning shut up in his confessional, Constantia kneeling by him opened the state of her soul to him ; and after having given him the history of a life full of innocence, she burst out into tears, and entered upon that part of her story in which he himself had so great a share. 'My behaviour,' says she, “has I fear been the death of a man who had no other fault but that of loving me too much. Heaven only knows how dear he was to me whilst be lived, and how bitter the remembrance of him has been to me since his death. She here paused, and lifted up her eyes that streamed with tears towards the father; who was so moved with the sense of her sorrows, that he could only command his voice, which was broke with sighs and sobbings, so far as to bid her proceed. She followed his directions, and in a flood of tears poured out her heart before him. The father could not forbear weeping aloud, insomuch that in the agonies of his grief the seat shook under hiin. Constantia, who thought the good man was thus moved by his compassion towards her, and by the horror of her guilt, proceeded with the utmost contrition to acquaint him with that vow of virginity in which she was going to engage herself, as the proper atonement for her sins, and the only sacrifice she could make to the memory of Theodosius. The father, wbe by this time had pretty well composed himself, burst out again in tears upon hearing that name to which he had been so long disused, and upon receiving this instance of an unparalleled fidelity from one who he thought had several years since given herself up to the possession of another. Amidst the interruptions
of his sorrow, seeing his penitent overwhelmed with grief, he was only able to bid her from time to time be comforted—to tell her that her sins were forgiven ber—that her guilt was not so great as she apprehended—that she should not suffer berself to be afflicted above measure. After which he recovered himself enough to give her the absolution in form; directing her at the same time to repair to him again the next day, that he might encourage her in the pious resolutions she had taken, and give her suitable exhortations for her behaviour in it. Constantia retired, and the next morning renewed her applications. Theodosius having manned his soul with proper thoughts and reflections, exerted himself on this occasion in the best manner he could to animate his penitent in the course of life she was entering upon, and wear out of her mind those groundless fears and apprehensions which had taken possession of it; concluding with a promise to her, that he would from time to time continue his admonitions when she should have taken upon her the holy veil. * The rules of our respective orders,' says he, ' will not permit that I should see you, but
you may assure yourself not only of having a place in my prayers, but of receiving such frequent instructions as I can convey to you by letters. Go on cheerfully in the glorious course you have undertaken, and you will quickly find such a peace and satisfaction in your mind, which it is not in the power of the world to give.'
Constantia's heart was so elevated with the discourse of father Francis, that the very next day she entered upon her vow. As soon as the solemnities of her reception were over, she retired, as it is usual, with the abbess into her own apartment.
The abbess had been informed the night before of all that had passed between her noviciate and
father Francis: from whom she now delivered to her the following letter:
As the first fruits of those joys and consolations which you may expect from the life you are now engaged in, I must acquaint you that Theodosius, whose death sits so heavy upon your thoughts, is still alive; and that the father, to whom you have confessed youself, was once that Theodosius whom you so much lament. The love which we have had for one another will make us more happy in its disappointment than it could have done in its
Providence has disposed of us for our advantage, though not according to our wishes. Consider your
Theodosius still as dead, but assure yourself of one who will not cease to pray
Constantia saw that the hand-writing agreed with the contents of the letter : and upon reflecting on the voice of the person, the behaviour, and above all the extreme sorrow of the father during her confession, she discovered Theodosius in every particular. After having wept with tears of joy, "It is enough,' says she, Theodosius is still in being: I shall live with comfort and die in peace.”
The letters which the father sent her afterwards are yet extant in the nunnery where she resided ; and are often read to the young religious, in order to inspire them with good resolutions and sentiments of virtue. It so happened, that after Constantia had lived about ten years in the cloister, a violent fever broke out in the place, which swept away great multitudes, and among others Theodosius. Upon his death-bed he sent his benediction in a very moving manner to Constantia, who at that