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sinful charge of hypocrisy against persons who have no temptation to practise it. I have seen Sisters of Charity almost everywhere else—seen them with uncovered faces, with happy, animated cheeerful looks; seen them hurrying with the messengers sent for them through the streets of French towns, neither seeking nor shunning notice; seen many beautiful eyes and bright cheeks shining with gladness, truth, and the joy of benevolence. Why should those who would adopt their mission of mercy, adopt with it an appearance so unlike? Why assume an aspect and style of attire, which are as well calculated to irritate prejudice, as they are ill adapted to express the spirit of cheerful Christian labour, of joy-diffusing benevolence? I ask the question, because I should like the answer. Can this proceed from the antagonistic spirit in religion which is generally so furiously prevalent in Great Britain ? Can it be possible that any one could object to see good and benevolent women banded together, for the performance of works of charity and mercy? And is it, indeed, because they know they are remarked, suspected, misunderstood, that they appear and act like persons conscious of such a prejudice against them, and thus unwittingly
strengthen ideas it would be so desirable to see removed ?
The well-known Beguinage of Ghent is one of the most ancient and largest of these Flemish establishments. In external aspect, it is something like a Moravian settlement, except that its feudal-looking gateway, and church, and warder, give one rather the idea of the old fortified religious houses of days gone by. The houses are grouped round the church; a congregation of sister houses, each bearing on the door of its enclosure the name, not of the lady who dwells therein, but of the saint to whom it is dedicated, so that you ring at the door of St. James or St. Paul, to ask for the sister you desire to see. These Beguines are, happily, not bound by any vows; they are, of course, subject to a superior, and to the laws of obedience, without which no community can subsist, and to which the genius of Protestantism is decidedly inimical. But, with permission from their superior, they can travel where they please, and may leave the convent, if they prefer a return to the world. They say no one has taken advantage of this liberty. Many of the ladies have lived from youth to extreme old age, in the place to which they brought an income
sufficient, at least, to live with moderation upon in the world. Many of them are noble and wellendowed women, and to look at their good, round, and unwrinkled Flemish faces, one might say that life had passed as well with them as with others, who spent it in the gayest scenes of earth. But we know not-it might be curious to know—the heart-histories of the Beguinage of Ghent.
These sisters spend their time, according to their different ranks and stations, in works of mercy, in necessary labours, or in education. Young girls who are unable to pay, are occasionally received, and trained for out-of-door employments.
The Beguines are considered an unexceptionable and excellent order; they visit the hospitals and prisons.
After the bloody field of Waterloo, the Beguines were busy. I was once told—it is long since—a story of a young officer who was saved from needless interment by one of these good women. She was, with many of her sisters, traversing that horrible scene of carnage soon after the battle ceased. Some men were throwing into a pit a mass of slaughtered human bodies. Among that mangled heap, the sister, who leaned over the pit, thought she saw the movement of a hand.
“Give that one up to me,” she said to the ruthless fellow who was carelessly burying the living with the dead. The rough assurance, that if the youth were not already dead, he would soon be so, did not content her. She insisted, “Give that one up to me." She prevailed where another would not. A young man, faintly breathing, was drawn up from the bloody heap. She bore him away; her booty from the field of Waterloo. Her cares restored him to life and health. He was then twenty-five years of age; when I heard the story, twenty years had passed from the day of the Battle of Waterloo, and twenty anniversaries of that day the officer who had bled, and apparently died and been buried on that field, had spent with the nun who restored him to life from the grave. Often as that day came round, be he where he might, that officer visited the Beguine, and spent the anniversary of a day when he had lain “in garments rolled in blood,” amid the prancing of the war-horses and shouting of the captains, in the peaceful retreat of the sister whose simple words, “Give that one up to me,” had, it may be, delivered both his body and soul from death.
Adieu now to the Beguines, and the Beguin