xt786688h54b https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt786688h54b/data/mets.xml Allen, James Lane, 1849-1925. 1892  books b92-165-30098452 English D. Douglas, : Edinburgh : This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed.  Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically.  Physical rights are retained by the owning repository.  Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. copyright laws.  For information about permissions to reproduce or publish, contact the Special Collections Research Center. Sister Dolorosa and Posthumous fame  / James Lane Allen. text Sister Dolorosa and Posthumous fame  / James Lane Allen. 1892 2002 true xt786688h54b section xt786688h54b 

SISTER DOLOROSA

          AND

   POSTHUMOUS FAME


           BY



JAMES LANE ALLEN



Copyrigkt Edizion



EDINBURGH



DAVID DOUGLAS,
          i 8 c



CASTLE STREET

 
































EDINBURGH: Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE for
             DAVID DOUGLAS

    LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL AND CO.

 

               TO HER

FROM WHOSE FRAIL BODY HE DREW LIFE IN THE
BEGINNING, FROM WHOSE STRONG SPIRIT HE
  WILL DRAW LIFE UNTIL THE CLOSE, THESE
    TALES, WITH ALL OTHERS HAPLY HERE-
    AFTER TO BE WRITTEN, ARE DEDI-
      CATED AS A PERISHABLE MONU-
          MENT OF INEFFABLE
             REMEMBRANCE

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PREFACE TO BRITISH EDITION.



  THE Author is. glad to know that a
British Edition of his Kentucky Tales is to
be brought out by Mr. David Douglas of
Edinburgh.
  Generations ago his mother's ancestors
came from Scotland and Ireland; genera-
tions ago his father's came from England.
Toward the three countries his attention
was fondly turned in early life; and the
interest then begotten has been but fostered
since.
  It is with peculiar pleasure, therefore,
that he now avails himself of the chance to
ride hither and thither through these lands
in his own conveyance-albeit the vehicle,
a little book, may turn out a slow coach.
                   JAME-S LANE ALLEN.
    CHRISTMAS EVE,
LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, 1S91.

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          CONTENTS.

                              PAGE
SISTER DOLOROSA, .  .   .   .  13

POSTHUMOUS FAME,    .   .   . 163

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SISTER DOLOROSA

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        SISTER DOLOROSA.



                   L
W \JHEN Sister Dolorosa had reached the
IV Vsummit of a low hill on her way to
the convent, she turned and stood for a while
looking backward. The landscape stretched
away in a rude, unlovely expanse of grey
fields, shaded in places by brown stubble,
and in others lightened by pale, thin corn-
the stunted reward of necessitous husbandry.
This way and that ran wavering lines of low
fences, some worm-eaten, others rotting be-
neath over-clambering wild-rose and black-
berry. About the horizon masses of dense
and rugged woods burned with sombre fires
as the westering sun smote them from top to
underbrush. Forth from the edge of one a
few long-horned cattle, with lowered heads,
wound meekly homeward to the scant milk-
                                13

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



ing. The path they followed led towards
the middle background of the picture, where
the weather-stained and sagging roof of a
farmhouse rose above the tops of aged
cedars. Some of the branches, broken by
the sleet and snow of winters, trailed their
burdens from the thinned and desolated
crests-as sometimes the highest hopes
of the mind, after being beaten down by
the tempests of the world, droop around it
as memories of once transcendent aspira-
tions.
  Where she stood in the dead autumn
fields few sounds broke in upon the perva-
sive hush of the declining day. Only a
cricket, under the warm clod near by,
shrilled sturdily with cheerful forethought
of drowsy hearthstones; only a lamb, timid
of separation from the fold, called anxiously
in the valley beyond the crest of the oppo-
site hill; only the summoning whistle of a
quail came sweet and clear from the depths
of a neighbouring thicket. Through all the
air floated that spirit of vast loneliness
which at seasons seems to steal like a human
mood over the breast of the great earth and
leave her estranged from her transitory
children. At such an hour the heart takes
wing for home, if any home it have; or



14

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



when, if homeless, it feels the quick stir of
that yearning for the evening fireside with
its half-circle of trusted faces, young and
old, and its bonds of love and marriage,
those deepest, most enchanting realities to
the earthly imagination. The very land-
scape, barren and dead, but framing the
simple picture of a home, spoke to the be-
holder the everlasting poetry of the race.
  But Sister Dolorosa, standing on the brow
of the hill whence the whole picture could
be seen, yet saw nothing of it. Out of the
western sky there streamed an indescribable
splendour of many-hued light, and far into
the depths of this celestial splendour her
steadfast eyes were gazing.
  She seemed caught up to some august
height of holy meditation. Her motionless
figure was so lightly poised that her feet,
just visible beneath the hem of her heavy
black dress, appeared all but rising from the
dust of the pathway; her pure and gentle
face was upturned, so that the dark veil
fell away from her neck and shoulders; her
lips were slightly parted; her breath came
and went so imperceptibly that her hands
did not appear to rise and fall as they
clasped the cross to her bosom. Exquisite
hands they were-most exquisite-gleaming



I5

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



as white as lilies against the raven blackness
of her dress; and with startling fitness of
posture, the longest finger of the right hand
pointed like a marble index straight towards
a richly-embroidered symbol over her left
breast-the mournful symbol of a crimson
heart pierced by a crimson spear. Whether
attracted by the lily-white hands or by the
red symbol, a butterfly, which had been
flitting hither and thither in search of the
gay races of the summer gone, now began to
hover nearer, and finally lighted unseen upon
the glowing spot. Then, as if disappointed
not to find it the bosom of some rose, or
lacking hope and strength for further quest
-there it rested, slowly fanning with its
white wings the tortured emblem of the
divine despair.
  Lower sank the sun, deeper and more
wide-spread the splendour of the sky, more
rapt and radiant the expression of her face.
A painter of the angelic school, seeing her
standing thus, might have named the scene
the transfiguration of angelic womanhood.
What but heavenly images should she be
gazing on; or where was she in spirit but
flown out of the earthly autumn fields and
gone away to sainted vespers in the cloud-
built realm of her own fantasies Perhaps

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



she was now entering yon vast cathedral of
the skies, whose white spires touched the
blue eternity; or toiling devoutly up yon
grey mount of Calvary, with its blackened
crucifix falling from the summit.
  Standing thus towards the close of the
day, Sister Dolorosa had not yet passed out
of that ideal time which is the clear white
dawn of life. She was still within the dim,
half-awakened region of womanhood, whose
changing mists are beautiful illusions, whose
shadows about the horizon are the mysteries
of poetic feeling, whose purpling east is the
palette of the imagination, and whose up-
springing skylark is blithe aspiration that
has not yet felt the weight of the clod it
soars within. Before her still was the full
morning of reality and the burden of the
mid-day hours.
  But if the history of any human soul
could be perfectly known, who would wish
to describe this passage from the dawn of
the ideal to the morning of the real-this
transition from life as it is imagined through
hopes and dreams to life as it is known
through action and submission It is then
that within the country of the soul occur
events too vast, melancholy, and irreversible
to be compared to anything less than the
  S.D.                         B



17

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



downfall of splendid dynasties, or the decay
of an august religion. It is then that there
leave us for ever bright, aerial spirits of the
fancy, separation from whom is like grief
for the death of the beloved.
  The moment of this transition had come
in the life of Sister Dolorosa, and uncon-
sciously she was taking her last look at the
gorgeous western clouds from the hill-tops
of her chaste life of dreams.
  A flock of frightened doves sped hurtling
low over her head, and put an end to her
reverie. Pressing the rosary to her lips,
she turned and walked on towards the con-
vent, not far away.    The little footpath
across the fields was well trodden and
familiar, running as it did between the con-
vent and the farmhouse behind her, in
which lived old Ezra and Martha Cross;
and as she followed its windings, her
thoughts, as is likely to be true of the
thoughts of nuns, came home from the clouds
to the humblest concerns of the earth, and
she began to recall certain incidents of the
visit from which she was returning.
  The aged pair were well known to the
Sisters. Their daughters had been educated
at the convent; and, although these were
married and scattered now, the tie then



18

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



formed had since become more close through
their age and loneliness. Of late word had
come to the Mother Superior that old
Martha was especially ailing, and Sister
Dolorosa had several times been sent on
visits of sympathy. For reasons better to
be understood later on, these visits had had
upon her the effect of an April shower on a
thirsting rose. Her missions of mercy to
the aged couple over, for a while the white
taper of ideal consecration to the Church
always burned in her bosom with clearer,
steadier lustre, as though lit afresh from the
Light eternal. But to-day she could not
escape the conviction that these visits were
becoming a source of disquietude; for the
old couple, forgetting the restrictions which
her vows put upon her very thoughts, had
spoken of things which it was trying for her
to hear-love-making, marriage, and chil-
dren. In vain had she tried to turn away
from the proffered share in such parental
confidences. The old mother had even read
aloud a letter from her eldest son, telling
them of his approaching marriage, and detail-
ing the hope and despair of his wooing.
With burning cheeks and downcast eyes
Sister Dolorosa had listened till the close
and then risen and quickly left the house.



I9

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



  The recollection of this returned to her
now as she pursued her way along the foot-
path which descended, into the valley; and
there came to her, she knew not whence or
why, a piercing sense of her own separation
from all but the Divine love. The cold
beauty of unfallen spirituality which had
made her august as she stood on the hill-top
died away, and her face assumed a tenderer,
more appealing loveliness, as there crept
over it, like a shadow over snow, that shy
melancholy under which those women dwell
who have renounced the great drama of the
heart. She resolved to lay her trouble before
the Mother Superior to-night, and ask that
some other Sister be sent hereafter in her
stead. And yet this resolution gave her
no peace, but a throb of painful renuncia-
tion; and since she was used to the most
scrupulous examination of her conscience, to
detect the least presence of evil, she grew so
disturbed by this state of her heart that she
quite forgot the windings of the pathway
along the edge of a field of corn, and was
painfully startled when a wounded bird,
lying on the ground a few feet in front of
her, flapped its wings in a struggle to rise.
Love and sympathy were the strongest prin-
ciples of her nature, and with a little outcry



20

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



she bent over and took it up; but scarce
had she done so, when, with a final struggle,
it died in her hand. A single drop of blood
oozed out and stood on its burnished breast.
  She studied it-delicate throat, silken
wings, wounded bosom-in the helpless way
of a woman, unwilling to put it down and
leave it, yet more unwilling to take it away.
Many a time, perhaps, she had watched
this very ,one flying to and fro among its
fellows in the convent elms. Strange that
any one should be hunting in these 'fields,
and she looked quickly this way and that.
Then, with a surprised movement of the
hands that caused her to drop the bird at
her feet, Sister Dolorosa discovered, stand-
ing half hidden in the edge of the pale
yellow corn a few yards ahead, wearing a
hunting-dress, and leaning on the muzzle of
his gun, a young man who was steadfastly
regarding her. For an instant they stood
looking each into the other's face, taken so
unprepared as to lose all sense of conven-
tion. Their meeting was as unforeseen as
another far overhead, where two white
clouds, long shepherded aimlessly and from
opposite directions across the boundless
pastures by the unreasoning winds, touched
and melted into one. Then Sister Dolorosa,



21


 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



the first to regain self-possession, gathered
her black veil closely about her face, and
advancing with an easy, rapid step, bowed
low with downcast eyes as she passed him,
and hurried on towards the convent.
   She had not gone far before she resolved
to say nothing about the gossip to which she
had listened.  Of late the Mother Superior
had seemed worn with secret care and
touched with solicitude regarding her.
Would it be kind to make this greater by
complaining like a weak child of a trivial
annoyance  She took her conscience proudly
to task for ever having been disturbed by any-
thing so unworthy. And as for this meeting
in the field, even to mention that would be
to give it a certain significance, whereas it
had none whatever. A stranger had merely
crossed her path a moment and then gone
his way. She would forget, the occurrence
herself as soon as she could recover from
her physical agitation.

                   IL.
  THE Convent of the Stricken Heart is situ-
ated in that region of Kentucky which early
became the great field of Catholic immigra-
tion. It was established in the first years



22

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



of the present century, when mild Domini-
cans, starving Trappists, and fiery Jesuits
hastened into the green wildernesses of the
West with the hope of turning them into
religious vineyards.  Then, accordingly,
derived from such sources as the impas-
sioned fervour of Italy, the cold, monoton-
ous endurance of Flanders, and the dying
sorrows of ecclesiastical France, there sprang
up this new flower of faith, unlike any that
ever bloomed in pious Christendom.  From
the meagrest beginning, the order has slowly
grown rich and powerful, so that it now has
branches in many States, as far as the shores
of the Pacific Ocean.
  The convent is situated in a retired region
of country, remote from any village or rural
highway.  The very peace of the blue skies
seems to descend upon it. Around the walls
great elms stand like tranquil sentinels, or
at a greater distance drop their shadows on
the velvet verdure of the artificial lawns.
Here, when the sun is hot, some white-veiled
novice may be seen pacing soft-footed and
slow, while she fixes her sad eyes upon
pictures drawn from the literature of the
Dark Ages, or fights the first battle with her
young heart, which would beguile her to
heaven by more jocund pathways. Drawn



23

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



by the tranquillity of this retreat-its trees
and flowers and dews-all singing-birds of
the region come here to build and brood.
No other sounds than their pure cadencies
disturb the echoless air except the simple
hymns around the altar, the vesper bell, the
roll of the organ, the deep chords of the
piano, or the thrum of the harp. It may
happen, indeed, that   some one of the
Sisters, climbing to the observatory to scan
the horizon of her secluded world, will catch
the faint echoes of a young ploughman in a
distant field lustily singing of the honest
passion in his heart, or hear the shouts of
happy harvesters as they move across the
yellow plains.  The population scattered
around the convent domain are largely of
the Catholic faith, and from all directions
the country is threaded by footpaths that
lead to the church as a common shrine.
It was along one of these that Sister Dolo-
rosa, as has been said, hastened homeward
through the falling twilight.
  When she reached the convent, instead of
seeking the Mother Superior as heretofore
with news from old Martha, she stole into
the shadowy church and knelt for a long
time in wordless prayer-wordless, because
no petition that she could frame appeared



24

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



inborn and quieting.  An unaccountable
remorse gnawed the heart out of language.
Her spirit seemed parched, her will was
deadened as by a blow. Trained to the
most rigorous introspection, she entered
within herself and penetrated to the deepest
recesses of her mind to ascertain the cause.
The bright flame of her conscience thus
employed was like the turning of a sunbeam
into a darkened chamber to reveal the pre-
sence of a floating grain of dust. But no-
thing could be discovered. It was the
undiscovered that rebuked her as it often
rebukes us all-the undiscovered evil that
has not yet linked itself to conscious trans-
gression. At last she rose with a sigh, and,
dejected, left the church.
  Later, the Mother Superior, noiselessly
entering her room, found her sitting at the
open window, her hands crossed on the sill,
her eyes turned outward into the darkness.
  "Child, child," she said hurriedly, "how
uneasy you have made me! Why are you
so late returning  "
  " I went to the church when I came back,
Mother, " replied Sister Dolorosa, in a voice
singularly low and composed.   "I must
have returned nearly an hour ago."
  " But even then it was late. "



25

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



  "Yes, Mother; I stopped on the way
back to look at the sunset. The clouds
looked like cathedrals.  And then old
Martha kept me. You know it is difficult
to get away from old Martha. "
  The Mother Superior laughed slightly,
as though her anxiety had been removed.
She was a woman of commanding presence,
with a face full of dignity and sweetness,
but furrowed by lines of difficult resignation.
  "Yes; I know, " she answered.  "Old
Martha's tongue is like a terrestrial globe;
the whole world is mapped out on it, and a
little movement of it will show you a conti-
nent. How is her rheumatism"
   "She said it was no worse," replied
Sister Dolorosa absently.
  The Mother Superior laughed again.
"Then it must be better. Rheumatism is
always either better or worse.
  "Yes, Mother."
  This time the tone caught the Mother
Superior's ear. " You seem tired. Was
the walk too long  "
  " I enjoyed the walk, Mother. I do not
feel tired."
  They had been sitting on opposite sides of
the room. The Mother Superior now crossed,
and, laying her hand softly on Sister



26

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



Dolorosa's head, pressed it backward and
looked fondly down into the upturned eyes.
   " Something troubles you. WVhat has
 happened  "
   There is a tone that goes straight to the
 heart of women in trouble. If there are
 tears hidden, they gather in the eyes. If
 there is any confidence to give, it is given
 then.
 A tremor, like that of a child with an un-
 spent sob, passed across Sister Dolorosa's
 lips, but her eyes were tearless.
 " Nothing has happened, Mother. I do
 not know why, but I feel disturbed and
 unhappy. "  This was the only confidence
 that she had to give.
   The Mother Superior passed her hand
slowly across the brow, white and smooth
like satin.  Then she sat down, and as
Sister Dolorosa slipped to the floor beside
her she drew the young head to her lap
and folded her aged hands upon it. What
passionate, barren loves haunt the hearts of
women in convents ! Between these two
there existed a tenderness more touching
than the natural love of mother and child.
  "You must not expect to know at all
times," she said, with grave gentleness.
" To be troubled without any visible cause



27

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



is one of the mysteries of our nature. As
you grow older you will understand this
better. We are forced to live in conscious
possession of all faculties, all feelings,
whether or not there are outward events to
match them.   Therefore you must expect
to have anxiety within when your life is
really at peace without; to have moments
of despair when no failure threatens; to
have your heart wrung with sympathy
when no object of sorrow is nigh; to be
spent with the need of loving when there is
no earthly thing to receive your love. This
is part of woman's life, and of all women,
especially those who, like you, must live,
not to stifle the tender, beautiful forces of
nature, but to ennoble and unite them into
one divine passion. Do not think, there-
fore, to escape these hours of heaviness and
pain. No saint ever walked this earth
without them. Perhaps the lesson to be
gained is this: that we may feel things
before they happen, so that if they do
happen we shall be disciplined to bear them. "
The voice of the Mother Superior had be-
come low and meditative; and, though rest-
ing on the bowed head, her eyes seemed fixed
on events long past. After the silence of afew
moments she continued in a brighter tone-



28

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



  " But, my child, I know the reason of your
unhappiness. I have warned you that exces-
sive ardour would leave you overwrought
and nervous; that you were being carried
too far by your ideals. You live too much
in your sympathies and your imagination.
Patience, my little St. Theresa! No saint
was ever made in a day, and it has taken all
the centuries of the Church to produce its
martyrs. Only think that your life is but
begun; there will be time enough to accom-
plish everything. I have been watching, and
I know. This is why I send you to old
Martha. I want you to have the rest, the
exercise, the air of the fields. Go again
to-morrow, and take her the ointment. I
found it while you were gone to-day. It has
been in the Church for centuries, and you
know this bottle came from blessed Loretto
in Italy. It may do her some good. And, for
the next few days, less reading and study."
  "Mother !" Sister Dolorosa spoke as
though she had not been listening. " What
would become of me if I should ever-if any
evil should ever befall me"
  The Mother Superior stretched her hands
out over the head on her knees as some great,
fierce, old, grey eagle, scarred and strong
with the storms of life, might make a move-



29

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



ment to shield its imperilled young. The
tone in which Sister Dolorosa had spoken
startled her as the discovered edge of a
precipice. It was so quiet, so abrupt, so ter-
rifying with its suggestion of an abyss. For a
moment she prayed silently and intensely.
   "H eaven mercifully shield you from
 harm!" she then said, in an awestricken
 whisper. " But, timid lamb, what harm can
 come to you"
   Sister Dolorosa suddenly rose and stood
 before the Mother Superior.
   " I mean," she said, with her eyes on the
floor and her voice scarcely audible-" I
mean-if I should ever fail, would you cast
me out "
   " My child !-Sister !-Sister Dolorosa !-
-Cast you out ! "
  The Mother Superior started up and folded
her arms about the slight dark figure, which
at once seemed to be standing aloof with in-
finite loneliness. For some time she sought
to overcome this difficult, singular mood.
   "And now, my daughter," she mur-
mured at last, "go to sleep and forget these
foolish fears. I am near you ! " There
seemed to be a fortress of sacred protection
and defiance in these words; but the next
instant her head was bowed, her upward-
pointing finger raised in the air, and in a



30

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



tone of humble self-correction she added:
"Nay, not I; the Sleepless guards you!
Good-night."
  Sister Dolorosa lifted her head from the
strong shoulder and turned her eyes, now
luminous, upon the troubled face.
  "Forgive me, Mother!" she said, in a
voice of scornful resolution. " Never-never
again will I disturb you with such weakness
as I have shown to-night. I know that no
evil can befall me! Forgive me, Mother.
Good-night. "
  While she sleeps learn her history. Pauline
Cambron was descended from one of those
sixty Catholic families of Maryland that
formed a league in 1785 for the purpose of
emigrating to Kentucky without the rend-
ing of social ties or separation from the rites
of their ancestral faith. Since then the
Kentucky branch of the Cambrons has al-
ways maintained friendly relations with the
Maryland branch, which is now represented
by one of the wealthy and cultivated families
of Baltimore. On one side the descent is
French; and, as far back as this can be
traced, there runs a tradition that some of
the most beautiful of its women became bare-
foot Carmelite nuns in the various monas-
teries of France or on some storm-swept
island of the Mediterranean Sea.



31I

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



   The first of the Kentucky Cambrons
 settled in that part of the State in which,
 nearly a hundred years later, lived the last
 generation of them-the parents of Pauline.
 Of these she was the only child, so that upon
 her marriage depended the perpetuation of
 the Kentucky family. It gives to the Pro-
 testant mind a startling insight into the
 possibilities of a woman's life and destiny in
 Kentucky to learn the nature of the litera-
 ture by which her sensitive and imaginative
 character was from   the first impressed
 This literature covers a field wholly un-
 known to the ordinary student of Kentucky
 history. It is not to be found in well-
 known works, but in the letters, remini-
 scences, and lives of foreign priests, and in
 the kindling and heroic accounts of the
 establishment of Catholic   missions.  It
 abounds in such stories as those of a black
 friar fatally thrown from a wild horse in the
 pathless wilderness; of a grey friar torn to
 pieces by a saw-mill; of a starving white
 friar stretched out to die under the green
 canopy of an oak; of priests swimming half-
 frozen rivers with the sacred vestments in
 their teeth; of priests hewing logs for a hut
 in which to celebrate the mass; of priests
crossing and recrossing the Atlantic and



32

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



traversing Italy and. Belgium and France
for money and pictures and books; of de-
voted. women laying the foundation of
powerful convents in half-ruined log-cabins,
shivering on beds of straw sprinkled on the
ground, driven by poverty to search in the
wild woods for dyes with which to give to
their motley worldly apparel the hue of the
cloister, and dying at last, to be laid away
in pitiless burial without coffin or shroud.
  Such incidents were to her the more im-
pressive since happening in part in the
region where lay the Cambron estate; and
while very young she was herself repeatedly
taken to visit the scenes of early religious
tragedies. Often, too, around the fireside
there was proud reference to the convent
life of old France and to the saintly zeal of
the Carmelites; and once she went with her
parents to Baltimore and witnessed the tak-
ing of the veil by a cousin of hers-a scene
that afterwards burned before her conscience
as a lamp before a shrine.
  Is it strange if under such influences,
living in a country place with few associ-
ates, reading in her father's library books
that were to be had on the legends of the
monastic orders and. the lives of the saints
-is it strange if to the young Pauline Cam-
  S.D.                            C

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



bron this world before long seemed little
else than the battle-field of the Church, the
ideal man in it a monk, the ideal woman a
nun, the human heart a solemn sacrifice to
Heaven, and human life a vast, sad pilgrim-
age to the shrine eternal
  Among the places which had always
appealed to her imagination as one of the
heroic sites of Kentucky history was the
Convent of the Stricken Heart, not far away.
Whenever she came hither she seemed to
be treading on sacred ground. Happening
to visit it one summer day before her educa-
tion was completed, she asked to be sent
hither for the years that remained. When
these were past, here, with the difficult
consent of her parents, who saw thus perish
the last hope of the perpetuation of the
family, she took the white veil. Here at
last she hid herself beneath the black. Her
whole character at this stage of its unfolding
may be understood from the name she as-
sumed-Sister Dolorosa. With this name
she wished not merely to extinguish her
worldly personality, but to clothe herself
with a lifelong expression of her sympathy
with the sorrows of the world. By this act
she believed that she would attain a change
of nature so complete that the black veil of



34

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



Sister Dolorosa would cover as in a funeral
urn the ashes which had once been the
heart of Pauline Cambron. And thus her
conventual life began.
   But for those beings to whom the span on
 the summer-evening cloud is as nothing
 compared with that fond arch of beauty
 which it is a necessity of their nature to
 hang as a bow of promise above every be-
 loved hope-for such dreamers the sadness
 of life lies in the dissipation of mystery and
 the disillusion of truth. When she had
 been a member of the order long enough
 to see things as they were, Sister Dolorosa
 found herself living in a large, plain, com-
 fortable brick convent, situated in a retired
 and homely region of Southern Kentucky.
 Around her were plain nuns with the invin-
 cible contrariety of feminine temperament.
 Before her were plain duties. Built up
 around her were plain restrictions. She
 had rushed with outstretched arms towards
 poetic mysteries, and clasped prosaic reality.
 As soon as the lambent flame of her spirit
 had burned over this new life, as a fire
 before a strong wind rushes across a plain,
 she one day surveyed it with that sense of
 reality which sometimes visits the imagina-
tive with such appalling vividness. Was it



35

 
SISTER DOLOROSA



upon this dreary waste that her soul was to
play out its drama of ideal womanhood
   She answered the question in the only
way possible to such a nature as hers. She
divided her life in twain. Half, with per-
fect loyalty, she gave out to duty; the other,
with equal loyalty, she stifled within. But
perhaps this is no uncommon lot-this un-
mating of the forces of the mind, as though
one of two singing-birds should be released
to fly forth under the sky, while the other
-the nobler singer-is kept voiceless in a
darkened chamber.
  But the Sisters of the Stricken Heart are
not cloistered nuns. Their chief vow is to
go forth into the world to teach. Scarcely
had Sister Dolorosa been intrusted with
work of this kind before she conceived an
aspiration to become a great teacher of his-
tory or literature, and obtained permission
to spend extra hours in the convent library
on a wider range of sacred reading. Here
began a second era in her life. Books be-
came the avenues along which she escaped
from her present into an illimitable world.
Her imagination, beginning to pine, now
took wing and soared back to the remote,
the splendid, the imperial, the august. Her
sympathies, finding nothing around her to



36

 
SISTER DOLOROSA.



fix upon, were borne afar like winged seed
and rooted on the colossal ruins of the cen-
turies. Her passion for beauty fed on holy
art. She lived at the full flood of life again.
  If in time revulsion came, she would live
a shy, exquisite, hidden life of poetry in
which she herself played the historic roles.
Now she would become a powerful abbess
of old, ruling over a hundred nuns in
an impregnable cloister. To the gates,
stretched on a litter, wounded to death,
they bore a young knight of the Cross. She
had the gates opened. She went forth and
bent over him; heard his dying message;
at his request drew the plighted ring from
his finger to send to another land. How
beautiful he was! How many masses-how
many, many masses-she had celebrated for
the peace of his soul ! Now she was St.
Agatha, tortured by the proconsul; now she
lay faint and cold in an underground cell,
and was visited by Thomas a Kempis, who
read to her long passages from the [mitation.
Or she would tire of the past, and making
herself an actor in her own future, in a brief
hour live out the fancied drama of all her
crowded years.
  But whatever part she took