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her chair; she is reading her prayers, but as you pass she gives the box a shake-that is all.
The first is a Lady of Charity; the last is a Sister of Charity. We have taken the one but not the other.
The seventeenth century was the birth time of almost countless works of charity. It is remarkable how much the active principle became infused into the life of religion in the century that followed that of the Reformation. It would seem as if the contemplative orders belonged to the prior, the active to the after period. It was so, in fact, and the reason is obvious. But, without discussing this, I would beg of you to remark a feature of this active piety, that may be of some interest to ourselves. It is that almost all the women of charity whose names have been rendered memorable from that time to this, were those actually connected with the closest and dearest ties of human life. They are almost all those of widows having children whom they never ceased to watch over, and to consider their first object: we read of the tender anxieties of mothers, of the love of sisters for a brother; never, that I know of, do we read of any of these women who rank among the heroines of charity of the 17th century, believing that it was their duty to separate themselves from those connecting links of love which God had formed for them. Thus we see Madame de Mira. mion so full of anxiety and tenderness for her daughter, watching over her in sickness and health while engaged in works so extensive and admirable; bringing her up among the sisters, and as a little Sister of Charity, and, when the girl had attained a proper age, disposing of her in a suitable marriage.
Nor is this an exception: it is often recorded in the lives of those devout women that they showed this love and interest in their family connections. The same, indeed, has been seen in our own times, in the beautiful history of Mrs. Seton, the mother superior of the first American Sisters of Charity, in whose case express provision was made in the rule of the house to allow her to have the charge of her own five children, and to keep her three girls with her. The story is altogether so interesting, one only feels vexation to think she did not, or could not do the great work in the Church in which she was born which she effected in another.
Her own sweet daughters, one of whom she was about to marry, were, wbile aspiring to be Sisters of Charity on earth, taken to the world where charity never faileth ; but she spoke to her school children as she would speak to them. “Your mother, my darlings, does not come to teach you to be good Nuns or Sisters of Charity ; but rather I would wish to fit you for the world in which you are destined to live; to teach you how to be good mistresses and mothers of families. Yet, if the dear Master selects one among you to be closer to Him, happy are you ; He will teach you Himself.”
Adieu for the present.
The portrait of an active, perhaps the least degree in the world bustling, but warm-hearted and excellent Sister of Charity with which I now present you, is not, you see, one of Vincent de Paul's. I believe she is pretty nearly of the same standing, and from a similarity of name and dress there might have been some little rivalry at her creation. You see her clad in an old fashioned jacket and petticoat of coarse dark blue cloth, both in make and material very nearly resembling the dress worn still by the hard working Frenchwomen one sees at some of their native ports. There is a large apron of the same, and a white handkerchief covers the shoulders, precisely as our own people used to wear theirs before it became necessary for them to follow the fashions of their superiors.
In addition to this simple and well adapted costume, she has a cap, or something that is both bonnet and cap, very like that of her sister of St. Vincent's, but still more like our English sun bonnets, of plain white linen, with the flaps, if I may so call them, falling a little lower at the sides. It is a dress designed for utility; it is loose, and easy, but
see if I
neither too long nor too wide. The wearer move about in it with freedom, and that is what it was meant for.
“Our dress is ugly,” she said to me, “but then it is useful ; it suits us, because ”—and she shook her arms in the very wide sleeves—" because you
sick old man, and I find his bed wants to be made, I can lift him up, make the bed, and put him back again without disarranging my robe in the least.”
The movement of the arms at once told me how all that would be done; I saw those good strong arms as plainly at work as if I had been in the sick room myself. But I wanted to see it actually. Will you take me to see some of your poor
? “With all my heart. I am just going to make a course ;
you come now ?” - Yes.” « Allons.”
We went out, and my good companion's rule was not certainly that of the apostolic precept, “salute no man by the way,” for she was constantly nodding to children and workpeople, bowing to ladies and gentlemen, and stopping to speak to many who had something to say. I remembered having heard long, long ago, at the time of the Evangelical movement in England, when good persons tried to act literally on Scriptural injunctions, that some would not salute their friends in the street. I asked my companion if such were her rule.
“What,” said she, “ do you think to be Sisters of Charity it is necessary to be Bears ?”
We were soon in a dark cellar, down the stairs of which the white cap that rapidly descended before me was my only guide. Its wearer's eyes were evidently accustomed to the darkness, but I could not see a bit.
“Good morning. Well, how goes it to-day ?have you had soup? There will be a distribution to-morrow. You will be sure to send; will you not? Your daughter has come to see you? Ah ! that is well. Good morning, my friend.”
The white cap ascends the stairs before me, and I remount to daylight just as I am beginning to be able dimly to see that an old sea-worn fisherman has raised himself up on the bed to which he has been for three years confined, and is looking up at that white cap which seems to shed a gleam of light and pleasure into his cave.
“Why is he not taken from that cellar into an
“He would rather be there; he is used to it now; his daughter is married, and her husband occupies the room above, so that she sees him often; he is well taken care of.”
We plunged down into another cellar; a miserable place; it was closed up; my guide forced open the door. A poor wretched old woman, what the neighbours called “an old girl," being one of the tribe who, while being of the order of single sisters,