Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][merged small]

were packed one above another in berths, — amid all that is most distressing and most revolting, with little food and less sleep, these women passed the rough beginning of their new life. Several of them fell ill. But the excess of the evil at length brought relief; for so many of the Indians died in these pest-houses that the survivors shunned them in horror. But how did these women bear themselves amid toils so arduous? A pleasant record has come down to us of one of them, — that fair and delicate girl, Marie de St. Bernard, called in the convent Sister St. Joseph, who had been chosen at Tours as the companion of Marie de 1'Incarnation. Another Ursuline, writing at a period when the severity of their labors was somewhat relaxed, says, "Her disposition is charming. In our times of recreation, she often makes us cry with laughing: it would be hard to be melancholy when she is near."1 It was three years later before the Ursulines and their pupils took possession of a massive convent of stone, built for them on the site which they still occupy. Money had failed before the work was done, and the interior was as unfinished as a barn.2 Beside the cloister stood a large ash-tree; and it 1 Lettre de la Mire S" Claire a tine dexcs Sceurs Ursulines de Paris, Quebec, 2 Sept., 1640. See Les Ursulines de Queber, i. 38.

2 The interior was finished after a year or two, with cells as usual. There were four chimneys, with fireplaces burning a hundred and seventy-five cords of wood in a winter; and though the nuns were boxed up in beds which closed like chests, Marie de l'lncarnation complains bitterly of the cold. See her letter of Aug 26, 1644.

stands there still. Beneath its shade, says the convent tradition, Marie de 1'Incarnation and her nuns instructed the Indian children in the truths of salvation; but it might seem rash to affirm that their teachings were always either wise or useful, since Father Vimont tells us approvingly that they reared their pupils in so chaste a horror of the other sex, that a little girl, whom a man had playfully taken by the hand, ran crying to a bowl of water to wash off the unhallowed influence.1 Now and henceforward one figure stands nobly conspicuous in this devoted sisterhood. Marie de 1'Incarnation, no longer lost in the vagaries of an insane mysticism, but engaged in the duties of Christian charity and the responsibilities of an arduous post, displays an ability, a fortitude, and an earnestness which command respect and admiration. Her mental intoxication had ceased, or recurred only at intervals; and false excitements no longer sustained her. She was racked with constant anxieties about her son, and was often in a condition described by her biographers as a "deprivation of all spiritual consolations." Her position was a very difficult one. She herself speaks of her life as a succession of crosses and humiliations. Some of these were due to Madame de la Peltrie, who in a freak of enthusiasm abandoned her Ursulines for a time, as we shall presently see, leaving them in the utmost destitution. There were dissensions to be healed among them; 1 Vimont, Relation, 1642,112 (Cramoisy).

1039-42.] FOUNDRESS OF THE URSULINES. 279 and money, everything, in short, to be provided. Marie de l'lncarnation, in her saddest moments, neither failed in judgment nor slackened in effort. She carried on a vast correspondence, embracing every one in France who could aid her infant community with money or influence; she harmonized and regulated it with excellent skill; and, in the midst of relentless austerities, she was loved as a mother by her pupils and dependants. Catholic writers extol her as a saint.1 Protestants may see in her a Christian heroine, admirable, with all her follies and her faults. The traditions of the Ursulines are full of the virtues of Madame de la Peltrie, — her humility, her charity, her penances, and her acts of mortification. No doubt, with some little allowance, these traditions are true; but there is more of reason than of uncharitableness in the belief, that her zeal would have been less ardent and sustained if it had had fewer spectators. She was now fairly committed to the conventual life, her enthusiasm was kept within prescribed bounds, and she was no longer mistress of her own movements. On the one hand, she was anxious to 1 There is a letter extant from Sister Anne de S'« Claire, an Ursuline who came to Quebec in 1640, written soon after her arrival, and containing curious evidence that a reputation of saintship already attached to Marie de l'lncarnation. "When I spoke to her," writes Sister Anne, speaking of her first interview, "I perceived in the air a certain odor of sanctity, which gave me the sensation of an agreeable perfume." See the letter in a recent Catholic work, Les Ursulines de Quebec, i. 38, where the passage is printed in Italics, as worthy the especial attention of the pious reader. accumulate merits against the Day of Judgment; and, on the other, she had a keen appreciation of the applause which the sacrifice of her fortune and her acts of piety had gained for her. Mortal vanity takes many shapes. Sometimes it arrays itself in silk and jewels; sometimes it walks in sackcloth, and speaks the language of self-abasement. In the convent, as in the world, the fair devotee thirsted for admiration. The halo of saintship glittered in her eyes like a diamond crown, and she aspired to outshine her sisters in humility. She was as sincere as Simeon Stylites on his column; and, like him, found encouragement and comfort in the gazing and wondering eyes below.1 1 Madame de la Peltrie died in her convent in 1671. Marie de l'Incarnation died the following year. She had the consolation of knowing that her son had fulfilled her ardent wishes, and become a priest. CHAPTER XV. 1636-1642.
VILLEMARIE DE MONTREAL.

DAUVERSIERE AND THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN.— A HUE Olieh.—

Their Schemes. The Society Ok Notre-dame De MontReal. Maisonneuve. Devout Ladies. Mademoiselle Manc'e. Marguerite Bourgeoys.Tlie Montrealists At Quebec. Jealousy. Quarrels. Romance And Devotion. Embarkation. Foundation Of Montreal.

We come now to an enterprise as singular in its character as it proved important in its results. At La Fleche, in Anjou, dwelt one Jerome le Royer de la Dauversiere, receiver of taxes. His portrait shows us a round, bourgeois face, somewhat heavy perhaps, decorated with a slight moustache, and redeemed by bright and earnest eyes. On his head he wears a black skull-cap; and over his ample shoulders spreads a stiff white collar, of wide expanse and studious plainness. Though he belonged to the noblesse, his look is that of a grave burgher, of good renown and sage deportment. Dauversiere was, however, an enthusiastic devotee, of mystical tendencies, who whipped himself with a scourge of small chains

« FöregåendeFortsätt »