Abbildungen der Seite

moose-birds, perched on the trees over us, and made frequen forays on the tarboggin where the meat lay, but the dogs very properly drove them away. We fired at them repeatedly, but they hopped up as the bullet chopped off the branch on which they were perched, and lighted on another, screaming and chattering worse than ever.

The next morning we made a very early start, reached Monsieur Boivin's before noon, and got into our sleigh as soon as possible. The mouffle of the moose, which we carried with us, is esteemed a great luxury in Canada, and very justly so; it is the upper lip or nose of the animal, which grows to a great size, and is almost as rich as turtle; many think that the soup made from it has a higher flavor. The legs and feet were sent to the squaws to be preserved, and ornamented with stained hair and beadwork, as trophies of the achievements of the pale warriors; the rest of the animal is the perquisite of the Indians.

The roads were much better on our return, but we were astounded when we saw by daylight the place by the precipice, where we had been upset a few nights before. It was dark long before we reached Quebec. Our driver took the wrong road of two, which parted in a fork, separated by a high, stiff wooden fence, with the top but just visible over the snow; before we had gone far we fortunately met a habitan,who told us of our mistake. The road was too narrow to turn. Our driver first cried like a child, then suddenly taking courage, sacréd furiously, and, seizing the leader by the head, turned him into the deep snow, towards the right road : a few seconds of plunging, kicking, and shouting—a crash of the fence--and we were all landed on the other road; the sleigh on its side, the horses on their backs, and the driver on his head. The confusion was soon corrected, and by ten at night we passed under the battlements into the gates of Quebec.

It would be vain to attempt describing the happiness conferred by soap and water, razors and brushes, and a clean bed in a moderate temperature, after six days' privation of their good offices. The conclusion which I arrived at, with regard to this expedition was, that the greatest pleasure derivable therefrom was having it over. The next time I renew my acquaintance with moose, the Zoological Gardens shall be my “ravagé," a drowsy omnibus bear me instead of snow shoes, and the United Service Club shall be my cabin. The winter life in the “ bush” is well worth seeing, as a new experience; but as to the sport of moose-hunting-a day with “ The Cheshire" is as superior to it, as were the Uncas and Chingahgook of the American novelist, to the drunken and degenerate savages of Sorette.


The convent.—The madhouse.

DURING a winter visit to one of the Canadian towns, an opportunity offered of my seeing the ceremony of taking the black veil, by two novices in a neighboring convent. I was awakened long before daylight, and, in due time, tramping through the deep snow on my way to the place. There had been a gale during the night, the low wooden houses by the road side were nearly covered to the roofs in the heavy drifts; at the corner of each street gusts of wind whirled round showers of sharp, keen poudre, each morsel of which wounded the face like the sting of a venomous fly, and chilled the very blood. The clouds were close and murky, and the dreariest hour of the twenty-four, that just before the dawn, was made even more dismal by the cold glare of the new-fallen snow.

A large, white, irregular structure, stood on an open space in a remote part of the suburbs, surrounded by a high wall, with massive gates. Over the entrance were two dim lamps, their sickly flames hardly struggling against the wind for the little life and light they possessed; they, however, guided me, and, passing through a wicket door, I mounted the steps of the chapel, which lay within, to the right hand. On the altar seven tall tapers were burning, and round it many others cast a brilliant light. The end of the building where it stood was railed in, the other parts were in comparative darkness. Near the door ten or twelve spectators were standing ; some of them were relations of the postulants, but they appeared not to be much interested in, or moved by the ceremony.

On the right side of the chancel was a return nearly as large as the body of the chapel, separated from it by a grating of diagonal bars of wood, like the frame-work of cottage windows.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

This return was appropriated to the devotions of the nuns, who were of a very austere order; they were never allowed beyond the walls, or to see or hear the people of the outer world, except through these bars. I got a place on the steps of the pulpit, nearly opposite to the grating, and awaited patiently the solemn


When the hazy beam of the sun mingled itself with the light of the flaming tapers, the Bishop, in a robe stiff with gold, and covered with the insignia of his holy office, entered the chancel by the private door; two boys preceded him, swinging censers of burning incense, and chanting in a low, monotonous voice. Six priests followed in his train, their heads meekly bowed, their arms folded on their chests, and each in turn prostrating himself before the cross. High mass was then performed with all its imposing ceremony-distant, unseen choirs joining from the interior of the convent. As the sound of the bell which announces the elevation of the host ceases, the folding doors within the grating of the return are thrown open, and the postulants enter with a measured step. They are clothed from head to foot in white, and chaplets of white roses are wreathed in their hair. Sixty nuns, two and two, follow in solemn procession, covered with black robes; each bears a lighted taper, and an open book of prayer in her hands. As they enter they chant the hymn to the Virgin, and range themselves along the walls, thirty of a side; their voices swelling like a moaning wind, and echoing sadly from the vaulted roof.

The two postulants advance up the centre of the return, near to the grating, bow to the host, and the Bishop exhorts them; while he speaks they sink on their knees, and remain still. Four sisters carry in the veil, a pall of crape and velvet. While they bear it round, each nun bends to the ground and it passes; it is then placed near the postulants, and the priests perform a service like that of the burial of the dead. The thirty dark statues on either side give the responses in a fixed key, of intensely mourn. ful intonation, unlike the voice of living woman.

I almost fancy those sombre figures are but some piece of cunningly contrived machinery. But under each black shroud, there throbs a human heart. School them as you may-crush every tender yearning


the young bosom feels-break the elastic spirit, chase love, and hope, and happiness from the sacred temple of the mind, and haunt its deserted halls with superstition's ghosts—bury them in the convent's gloomy walls, where the dull round of life scarce rises above somnambulism-still, still under each black shroud will throb the human heart.

The postulants receive the sacrament, then one rises, advances close to the grating, and kneels down before a small open lattice; she throws aside her veil; and looking calmly at the host which the Bishop holds before her eyes, repeats the vows after his dictation, in a quiet, indifferent tone. Her’s is a pale, sickly, vacant countenance; no experience of joy or sorrow has traced it with lines of thought. Of weak intellect, bred up from infancy within these walls, her's seems no change, no sacrifice, it is only like putting chains upon a corpse.

Two of the dark sisters stand behind her; as the last vow is spoken the white veil is lifted from her head, and the black shroud thrown over her.

The second now comes forward: she is on her knees, her face uncovered. How white it is! white as the new-fallen snow outside. She is young, perhaps has seen some one and twenty years, but they have treated her very roughly: where the seeds of woe were sown, the harvest of despair is plentiful-stamped on every feature. And the voice-I never can forget that voice—there was no faltering; it was high and clear as the sound of a silver bell; but oh, how desolate—as it spoke the farewell to the world! It is over—the symbol of her sacrifice covers her; she sinks down; there seems but a heap of dark drapery on the ground, but it quivers convulsively.

The pealing organ, and the chorus of cold, sad voices, drown the sobs, but under the black shroud there throbs the human heart, as if that heart would break.

After the Te Deum has been sung, the Bishop delivers an address, in an earnest and eloquent manner, summing up the duties the veil imposes, and praying for Heaven's holiest blessing on this day's offering. The two devoted ones rise, walk slowly to the first nun, make a lowly obeisance, then kiss her forehead, and so on with all in succession ; each as she receives the new comer's greeting, saying :-“Welcome, sister.” Then by the same door

« ZurückWeiter »