« PreviousContinue »
spirit catches from us the enlivening flame, be ours the ministry which the angelic hosts themselves rejoice in, and of which it may approvingly be recorded, “ she brought him to Jesus.”
TAKING THE VEIL.
Tae nun who was to make what is called her pro. fession, or, in other words, to assume the black veil, the symbol of perpetual seclusion, was about thirty years of age, and was called la sæur Marie. Emily had often seen her among the novices, though she had never spoken to her; but who the other intended nun was, no one but the supérieure seemed to know. Great preparations were making for the exhibition; the nuns were all busily employed, some about the chapel, some about the altar, and sister Marie herself underwent a long course of fastings, prayers, and mortifications, some self-inflicted, others prescribed by the confessor, by way of preparation for the approaching event. The chapel was tastefully ornamented with flowers, wax tapers, and every thing costly that the community could command. The altar was decorated with several beautiful specimens of gold and silver embroidery, and Sophie's time was much taken up with practising on the organ a splendid piece of music, in which she was to be accompanied by the voices of the whole sisterhood.
Great curiosity was excited, by the uncertainty that prevailed, with regard to the person who was to perform the other part in this melancholy drama;
but the supérieure was not communicative, and the whole affair remained involved in mystery. On the evening preceding the ceremony, however, a travelling carriage stopped at the convent-gate, and a young lady was handed out by an elderly gentleman, who, after taking a formal leave of her, re-entered the vehicle, and immediately departed. The stranger was conducted to a room which had been prepared for her, and was not seen again that evening by any but the supérieure, who had a very long interview with her. Nothing was known concerning her, except that she came from Tours, was unaccompanied by a single relative or friend, and a total stranger in the place which was now to be her residence for life. Even her face had not been seen, for it was shrouded in a long mourning veil.
Early on the ensuing morning the whole convent was in a bustle. The two future nuns were at the confessional by break of day, and after a long interview with the priest, again retired to their rooins. The stranger was then attended by the nuns appointed to dress her for the occasion, and the sisters who took charge of the school were also employed in attiring the boarders, that they might form a pleasing group in the pageant.
Emily repaired to the chapel about eight o'clock, and was soon after joined by Major and Mrs. Fortescue, with whom she remained in conversation for some time, during which time the chapel gradually filled with English gentlemen and ladies, whom curiosity had drawn to witness the ceremony. There were a few French persons behind, but they were generally of the lowest class of society. Emily and Mrs. Fortescue stationed themselves near the railings in front of the altar, and awaited the en
trance of the procession with feelings of lively interest.
At last, some of those children known by the name of enfants du chour, appeared from the inner room, and began to strew the space around the altar with rose-leaves, from baskets which were suspended round their necks by rose-coloured ribbons. They were dressed in a kind of white surplice, with a girdle of ribbon.
They were followed by several priests, with their acolytes, who ranged themselves round the altar ; after which, the door of the ante-chaur, or nun's inner chapel, was opened, and the voices of the sisterhood were heard, chaunting a hymn, as they slowly entered in procession. They had lighted tapers in their hands, and, with their peculiar dress, and long flowing veils, presented a striking coup d' ail, the effect of which was not a little heightened by the music. The novices came behind, and after them the boarders. Every nun bent the knee for a moment, on the lower step of the altar, and they then seated themselves round it. The two candidates for the veil were then brought forward, and placed in the midst, exactly in front of the altar. Every eye was instantly fixed upon them. Sister Marie, however, attracted but little attention ; her look was calm, her demeanour composed, and it was evident that the step she was about to take was the result of deliberate choice.
But not so the young stranger who was on the point of becoming a novice. She had, from the first excited much curiosity, and that feeling was now converted into one of painful interest. She was an elegant young woman of two-and-twenty, and attired as a bride, in a white muslin dress, a cap
tastefully ornamented with satin and ribbon, and a large and rich lace veil, which was thrown over her head. Her fine dark hair was braided on her fore
her hand. But all this finery only served to render more striking the death-like paleness of her cheek, and the expression of deep and hopeless anguish on her countenance. She had not long been seated before the altar, when the supérieure, perceiving that she was near fainting, found it necessary to have her re-conducted into the anti-chaur, where she remained till she was sufficiently recovered to return to the chapel. When at length she was again supported to her place, the hearts of the Protestant spectators were deeply affected by her appearance. There was not the slightest tinge of colour in her face, and the livid whiteness of her quivering lips denoted the most distressing agitation. She seemed scarcely conscious of what she did, and looked indeed like the helpless victim adorned for a sacrifice.
Several priests were in attendance, but it was the confessor of the convent, on whom devolved the duty of performing the ceremony. He was an Irishman, of the name of Saville, and of a peculiarly stern and unprepossessing countenance. He now began to celebrate the gorgeous ceremony of the mass, with all its pomp and splendour, and undisguised idolatry. At its conclusion, a sermon was preached to the two candidates, in which much false reasoning, and unscriptural doctrine, was employed, to convince them, and the spectators, that the step they were now taking was . a highly meritorious one, and would most certainly ensure
them uninterrupted happiness on earth, and a reward of transcendent glory in heaven.
When this specious oration was finished, sister Marie was conducted by the supérieure to the altar, and kneeling on the lowest step, was addressed by the priest in Latin. As the act of taking the vows is considered in the light of a marriage, and the victim as the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to keep up this blasphemous idea, she is provided with two bride's-maids. This office was performed by Ellen Wilton and Fanny Lowe, dressed in white, with rose-coloured ribbons, and large bouquets of flowers. They stood on each side of her, while she repeated the vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience,—that irrevocable vow which bound her to perpetual seclusion, and separated her for ever from all the social ties and endearing charities of life.
The priest then blessed the black veil, which was lying on a table before him, and the supérieure placed it on her head, substituting it for the novice's white one, which was now laid aside. After this many prayers were chaunted and recited, the priest blessed her several times, and the organ sent forth its sweetest tones, to welcome the new nun to her joyless sphere of existence.
She then laid herself down at the foot of the altar, and a funeral pall was thrown over her, to signify that she was entirely dead to the world, and to all the relations of society. Two burning wax tapers were placed at her head, and two at her feet, in the manner done to a corpse, and her two little bridemaids strewed the pall all over with roses. While she lay in this posture, perfectly motionless, and shrouded in the pall, the sisterhood sang her funeral