Nuns with similar names--Squaw Nuns--First visit to the Cellar--Description of it--Shocking discovery there--Superior's Instructions--Private Signal of the Priests--Books used in the Nunnery--Opinions expressed of the Bible--Specimens of what I know of the Scriptures.

I FOUND that I had several namesakes among the nuns, for there were two others who already bore my new name, Saint Eustace. This was not a solitary case, for there were five Saint Marys, and three Saint Monros, besides two novices of that name. Of my namesakes I have little to say, for they resembled most of the nuns; being so much cut off from intercourse with me and the other sisters, that I never saw any thing in them, nor learnt any thing about them, worth mentioning.

Several of my new companions were squaws, who had taken the veil at different times. They were from some of the Indian settlements in the country, but were not distinguishable by any striking habits of character from other nuns, and were generally not very different in their appearance when in their usual dress, and engaged in their customary occupations. It was evident, that they were treated with much kindness and lenity by the Superior and the old nuns; and this I discovered was done in order to render them as well contented and happy in their situation as possible. I should have attributed the motives for this partiality to their wishing that they might not influence others to keep away, had I not known they were, like ourselves, unable to exert such an influence. And therefore, I could not satisfy my own mind why this difference was made. Many of the Indians were remarkably devoted to the priests, believing every thing they were taught; and as it is represented to be not only a high honour, but a real advantage to a family, to have one of its members become a nun, Indian parents will often pay large sums of money for the admission of their daughters into a convent. The father of one of the squaws, I was told, paid to the Superior nearly her weight in silver on her reception, although he was obliged to sell nearly all his property to raise the money. This he did voluntarily, because he thought himself overpaid by having the advantage of her prayers, self-sacrifices, &c. for himself and the remainder of his family. The squaws sometimes served to amuse us; for when we were partially dispirited or gloomy, the Superior would occasionally send them to dress themselves in their Indian garments, which usually excited us to merriment.

Among the squaw nuns whom I particularly remember, was one of the Sainte Hypolites, not the one who figured in a dreadful scene, described in another part of this narrative, but a woman of a far more mild and humane character.

Three or four days after my reception, the Superior sent me into the cellar for coal; and after she had given me directions, I proceeded down a staircase, with a lamp in my hand. I soon found myself upon the bare earth, in a spacious place, so dark, that I could not at once distinguish its form, or size, but I observed that it had very solid stone walls, and was arched overhead, at no great elevation. Following my directions, I proceeded onward from the foot of the stairs, where appeared to be one end of the cellar. After walking about fifteen paces, I passed three small doors, on the right, fastened with large iron bolts on the outside, pushed into posts of stone-work, and each having a small opening above, covered with a fine grating, secured by a smaller bolt. On my left, were three similar doors, resembling these, and placed opposite them. Beyond these, the space became broader; the doors evidently closed small compartments, projecting from the outer wall of the cellar. I soon stepped upon a wooden floor, on which were heaps of wool, coarse linen, and other articles, apparently deposited there for occasional use. I soon crossed the floor, and found the bare earth again under my feet.

A little farther on, I found the cellar again contracted in size, by a row of closets, or smaller compartments projecting on each side. These were closed by doors of a different description from the first, having a simple fastening, and no opening through them.

Just beyond, on the left side, I passed a staircase leading up, and then three doors, much resembling those first described, standing opposite three more, on the other side of the cellar. Having passed there, I found the cellar again enlarged as before, and here the earth appeared as if mixed with some whitish substance, which attracted my attention.

As I proceeded, I found the whiteness increase, until the surface looked almost like snow, and in a short time I observed before me, a hole dug so deep into the earth that I could perceive no bottom. I stopped to observe it. It was circular, perhaps twelve or fifteen feet across; in the middle of the cellar, and unprotected by any kind of curb, so that one might easily have walked into it, in the dark.

The white substance which I had observed, was spread all over the surface around it; and lay in such quantity on all sides, that it seemed as if a great deal of it must have been thrown into the hole. It immediately occurred to me that the white substance was lime, and that this must be the place where the infants were buried, after being murdered, as the Superior had informed me. I knew that lime is often used by Roman Catholics in burying-places; and in this way I accounted for its being scattered about the spot in such quantities.

This was a shocking thought to me; but I can hardly tell how it affected me, as I had already been prepared to expect dreadful things in the Convent, and had undergone trials which prevented me from feeling as I should formerly have done in similar circumstances.

I passed the spot, therefore, with distressing thoughts, it is true, about the little corpses, which might be in that secret burying-place, but with recollections also of the declarations which I had heard, about the favour done their souls by sending them straight to heaven, and the necessary virtue accompanying all the actions of the priests.

Whether I noticed them or not, at the time, there is a window or two on each, nearly against the hole, in at which are sometimes thrown articles brought to them from without, for the use of the Convent. Through the window on my right, which opens into the yard, towards the cross street, lime is received from carts; and I saw a large heap of it near the place.

Passing the hole, I came to a spot where was another projection on each side, with three cells like those I first described. Beyond them, in another broad part of the cellar, were heaps of vegetables, and other things, on the right; and on the left I found the charcoal I was in search of. This was placed in a heap against the wall, as I might then have observed, near a small high window, like the rest, at which it is thrown in. Beyond this spot, at a short distance, the cellar terminated.

The top quite to that point, is arched overhead, though at different heights, for the earth on the bottom is uneven, and in some places several feet higher than in others.

Not liking to be alone in so spacious and gloomy a part of the Convent, especially after the discovery I had made, I hastened to fill my basket with coal, and to return. Here then I was, in a place which I had considered as the nearest imitation of heaven to be found on earth, among a society where deeds were constantly perpetrated, which I had believed to be most criminal, and I had now found the place in which harmless infants were unfeelingly thrown out of sight, after being murdered.

And yet, such is the power of instruction and example, although not satisfied, as many around me seemed to be, that this was all righteous and proper, I sometimes was half inclined to believe it, for the priests could do no sin, and this was done by priests.

Among the first instructions I received from the Superior, were such as prepared me to admit priests into the nunnery from the street at irregular hours. It is no secret, that priests enter and go out; but if they were to be watched by any person in St. Paul's-street all day long, no irregularity might be suspected; and they might be supposed to visit the Convent for the performance of religious ceremonies merely.

But if a person were near the gate about midnight, he might sometimes form a different opinion; for when a stray priest is shut out of the Seminary, or is otherwise put in the need of seeking a lodging, he is always sure of being admitted into the black nunnery. Nobody but a priest or the physician can ring the bell at the sick-room door; much less can any others gain admittance. The pull of the bell is entirely concealed, somewhere on the outside of the gate, I have been told.

He makes himself known as a priest by a peculiar kind of hissing sound, made by the tongue against the teeth, while they are kept closed, and the lips open. The nun within, who delays to open the door, until informed what kind of an applicant is there immediately recognises the signal, and replies with two inarticulate sounds, such as are often used instead of yes, with the mouth closed.

The Superior seemed to consider this part of my instructions quite important, and taught me the signals. I had often occasion to use them; I have been repeatedly called to the door, in the night, while watching in the sick-room; and on reaching it heard the short hissing sound I have mentioned, then according to my standing orders, unfastening the door, admitted a priest, who was at liberty to go where he pleased. I will name Mr. Bierze from St. Denis.

The books used in the nunnery, at least such as I recollect of them, were the following. Most of these are lecture books, or such as are used by the daily readers, while we were at work, and meals. These were all furnished by the Superior, out of her library, to which we never had access. She was informed when we had done with one book, and then exchanged it for such another as she pleased to select. Le Miroir du Chrétien, (Christian Mirror,) History of Rome, History of the Church, Life of Soeur Bourgeoise, (the founder of the Convent,) in two volumes, L'Ange Conducteur, (the Guardian Angel,) L'Ange Chrétien, (the Christian Angel,) Les Vies des Saints, (Lives of Saints,) in several volumes, Dialogues, a volume consisting of conversations between a Protestant Doctor, called Dr. D. and a Catholic gentleman, on the articles of faith, in which, after much ingenious reasoning, the former was confuted. One large book, the name of which I have forgotten, occupied us nine or ten months at our lectures, night and morning. L'Instruction de la Jeunesse, (the Instruction of Youth,) containing much about Convents, and the education of persons in the world, with a great deal on confessions, &c. Examen de la Conscience, (Examination of Conscience,) is a book frequently used.

I may here remark, that I never saw a Bible in the Convent from the day I entered as a novice, until that on which I effected my escape. The Catholic New Testament, commonly called the Evangile, was read to us about three or four times a year. The Superior directed the reader what passage to select; but we never had it in our hands to read when we pleased. I often heard the Protestant Bible spoken of, in bitter terms, as a most dangerous book, and one which never ought to be in the hands of common people.

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