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by [?]

Yes, life is good, God is good! He wants His children to be happy! The white clouds chase each other across the blue dome of heaven, the birds in the azaleas and in the orange-trees twitter, build nests and play hide-and-seek the livelong day. The balmy air is flavored with health, healing and good-cheer.

Life in a convent had many advantages and benefits. Women were taught to sew and work miracles with the needle; they made lace, illumined missals, wove tapestries, tended the flowers, read from books, listened to lectures, and spent certain hours in silence and meditation. To a great degree the convents were founded on science and a just knowledge of human needs. There were “orders” and degrees that fitted every temperament and condition.

But the humble garb of a nun never yet changed the woman’s heart that beats beneath–she is a woman still.

Every night could be heard the tinkle of guitars beneath bedroom- windows, notes were passed up on forked sticks, and missives freshly kissed by warm lips were dropped down through lattices; secret messengers came with letters, and now and again rope ladders were in demand; while not far away, there were always priests who did a thriving business in the specialty of Gretna Green.

Every sanitarium, every great hotel, every public institution–every family, I was going to say–has two lives: the placid moving life that the public knows, and the throbbing, pulsing life of plot and counterplot–the life that goes on beneath the surface. It is the same with the human body–how bright and calm the eye, how smooth and soft the skin, how warm and beautiful this rose-mesh of flesh! But beneath there is a seething struggle between the forces of life and the disintegration–and eventually nothing succeeds but failure.

Every convent was a hotbed of gossip, jealousy, hate and seething strife; and now and again there came a miniature explosion that the outside world heard and translated with emendations to suit.

Rivalry was rife, competition lined the corridors, and discontent sat glum or rustled uneasily in each stone cell. Some of the inmates brought pictures, busts and ornaments to embellish their rooms. Friends from the outside world sent presents; the cavalier who played the guitar beneath the window varied his entertainment by gifts; flowers filled the beautiful vases, and these blossoms were replaced ere they withered, so as to show that true love never dies.

Monks from neighboring monasteries preached sermons or gave lectures; skilled musicians came, and sang or played the organ; noblemen visited the place to examine the works of art, or to see fair maids on business, or consult the Abbess on matters spiritual. Often these visitors were pressed to remain, and then receptions were held and modest fetes given and banquets tendered. At intervals there were fairs, when the products made by the marriage of the hand and brain of the fair workers were exhibited and sold.

So life, though in a convent, was life, and even death and disintegration are forms of life–and all life is good.

The Donna Giovanni Piacenza was appointed Abbess of San Paola Convent, Parma, in Fifteen Hundred Seven. The Abbess was the daughter of the nobleman Marco. Donna Giovanni was a woman of marked mental ability; she had a genius for management; a wise sense of diplomacy; and withal was an artist by nature and instinct.

The Convent of San Paola was one of the richest and most popular in the Emilia.

The man to whose influence the Abbess owed most in securing her the appointment was the Cavaliere Scipione, a lawyer and man of affairs, married to the sister of the Abbess.

As a token of esteem and by way of sisterly reciprocity, the Abbess soon after her appointment called the Cavaliere Scipione to the position of Legal Adviser and Custodian of the Convent Funds. Before this the business of the institution had been looked after by the Garimberti family; and the Garimberti now refusing to relinquish their office, Scipione took affairs into his own hands and ran the chief offender through with his sword. Scipione found refuge in the Convent, and the officers of the law hammered on the gates for admission, and hammered in vain.