IN 1907 THE little community numbered nine, for the nine years of its existence. That fall Sister Eva and Sister Beatrice spent in England. They went at the suggestion and by the advice of Father Powell, S.S.J.E., who gave them letters to the Religious foundations in England. After a six weeks' pilgrimage to the Cathedrals and holy places of the English Church, lona, Lindisfarne, Melrose, and Fountains Abbey, they spent two weeks at East Grinsted with the Sisters of St. Margaret, one at Clewer with those of St. John Baptist, with short visits to the Sisters of St. Margaret, Wantage, All Saints', Oxford, and one or two other houses. She wrote to her sister in August:
"We were rather disappointed at Bury St. Edmunds, the ruins were so very ruinous, but here in Ely, where we arrived last evening, it is beautiful. We have not been through the Cathedral yet, but have an appointment with the verger at half past two. We went after breakfast, however, to choral morning prayer and Communion in the Cathedral, and heard an excellent sermon from one of the canons. The choir is exquisitely modulated, one of the voices being flutelike in its tones. I got two very good photographs of the Cathedral, an exterior and an interior, suitable for framing, so you see I am quite mindful of home and of having some mementoes of our journey there. I am afraid we shall never be able to build though, for Sister Beatrice is getting such large ideas that I do not know how she will come down to the day of small things. It does seem as if one ought to build for future generations when one sees the wonderful work in these old monastic churches. Our best and most expensive work is poor beside these monuments of love and skill and worship.
Sister Beatrice is enjoying everything as much as ever she can. I hope we are doing right, and not dissipating impressions by trying to take in too much. You know most English people content themselves with one Cathedral in a life time, and we are taking a dozen in three weeks. I wonder if that is the reason they can build them and we cannot!
Whitby, August 29, 1907.
Here we are on the seacoast at the little town of Whitby, with the ruined Abbey on the cliff opposite our window and quite in full view as long as daylight lasts. It was raining hard when we arrived this afternoon, the first rain in a week, for we have had exceptionally fine weather ever since we landed. We have been to so many places in the week since we left London that it is hard for us from day to day to remember where we slept last. It is no use describing the Cathedrals, of course. They are all very grand and absorbing, and Sister Beatrice has gotten into a ridiculous way of applying architectural terms to the scenery, as, "these cliffs are quite in the perpendicular style," or, "these hills are decidedly early English." She is full of life and fun and adds immensely to the interest of the trip.
Here on St. Hilda's ground, where she did her life work and lived her splendid, devout life, we are in a seaside hotel with a band playing on the terrace most out of tune, with the bells ringing out their curfew. We are hoping for sunshine tomorrow, an early visit to the Abbey, and off on the eleven o'clock train for Durham.
Yesterday we had a beautiful day and visited Fountains Abbey, which is most interesting, the ruins being in a fair state of preservation, very extensive, and situated in a beautiful park. We went on to Ripon and saw a quaint old church with some very interesting detail work in it. Sister Beatrice spoke of it in the evening as the quaint little town of Ripon that we visited once upon a time. This indicates the state of mind we are in.
Durham, Sept. 1.
Here we are spending Sunday in Durham, in delightful private lodgings where every thing is good but the coffee. We had expected, as I wrote you last, to spend this Sunday in Edinburgh, but our money gave out quite suddenly on Friday, and when we arrived here we found the banks closed not to open till ten the next morning, which would be too late for the train that would give us time to see Lindisfarne and get to Edinburgh before night. Then when we got to the Cathedral we heard that Canon Body was to preach today, so that quite reconciled us to staying over, and indeed my strength was giving out and I needed a day's rest. So, as our quarters here are exceptionally comfortable and cheap, we are enjoying a quiet time, going to church a great deal and not doing much else.
We are getting a great deal of comfort out of my connection with the Women's Rest Tour Association. They have provided me with a lodging list by which we get into such nice private families, with sitting room to ourselves and meals served in our sitting rooms. The Cathedral here is most interesting, with the best choir, the best organ, and the most reverent service we have yet enjoyed. St. Cuthbert's tomb is here and also that of the Venerable Bede, and this morning we heard a beautiful sermon from Canon Body on the Trees of the Lord, with appreciative and inspiring references to the local saints whose bodies were resting under that roof waiting the Resurrection.
Oban, Sept. 8.
A lovely Sunday morning at Oban with a panorama of sea and island and mountain stretched out before us of uncomparable beauty, a number of pretty white yachts in the harbor, and a Sabbath stillness over all.
We had rather a difficult time rinding our way to church this morning. First we went to St. Colomba's Pro-Cathedral, and not until we had gotten inside did we discover that it was a Roman Catholic place of worship. Then we walked on and came to a church with a heaven-reaching spire crowned with a cross, professing to be St. Colomba's parish church, but it was locked and barred, and on reading a little further we discovered that it was a Presbyterian edifice. At last we found a little, low, homely church calling itself St. John's Episcopal Church, and the doors were invitingly open, and the church quite full, though an early Communion.
Of course we were somewhat late after such wanderings, but not too late for the precious gift we had come for, the first time we had received it on Scottish soil. It was interesting to see the men in the congregation, and the base tones of the Amens almost startled me. There was a fair sprinkling of kilted Highlanders in their picturesque garb, all very reverent, but their legs were so long they looked as if they could easily have stepped over the entire church. The one in front of me, in red tartans, contented himself with stepping over only one man to get into his place.
After Edinburgh we started for Melrose and visited the Abbey there with its graves of Michael Scott, of the heart of Bruce, and of the Douglasses. Ruined as it is, it is still used as a place of burial by some of the families in the neighborhood, and we saw several new stones mingled among the ancient ones. Abbotsford, of course, cannot help being interesting, but they have done as much as possible to rob it of its charm. There were twenty or thirty in the party, and they could hardly get into the smaller rooms, and it was difficult to see anything. Then the occasion was used to advertise and sell the books of Lady Maxwell Scott, the great Scott's granddaughter, and we each paid a shilling to get in, so she seemed to be a pretty good business woman.
I must say I have been a good deal disgusted with the mercenary spirit of the great families here. The fees formerly paid their servants for showing visitors around are now charged as admission and go into the master's pocket. It is so everywhere; there is really not a thing of interest but has its locked gate and its admission fee--even the ruined abbey.
Friday we went through the Trossachs, taking rail to Callendar, then coach, then steamboat on Loch Katrine, and then coach again to Inverness, where we stopped. It was very cold, and we were glad to use the ample shawls we had provided ourselves with in Edinburgh. There would be a gleam of sunshine, then a sheet of rain, then cold and searching wind; and this weather we had for two days, most of which we passed in the open, exposed to the elements and seeing the most enchanting scenery made more enchanting by historic and romantic associations. At Inverness there is Rob Roy's cave and a lovely waterfall reminding us so much of the mountains as to make us almost homesick.
Keswick, Sept. 10.
We have just come in from a trip on the beautiful Derwent water with a pearl of a boatman who told us everything, took us everywhere, to the falls of Lodore, to the Ruskin Monument, to the Market place, and finally conducted us back to our lodgings, as it was dark and we were uncertain of our way. We were an hour and a quarter late for dinner, so we had to make profuse apologies, and were served a delicious dinner in spite of our tardiness.
We have had lovely weather for our trip this week. Monday we went to lona. Fortunately the weather was beautiful, for part of the way we get the full swell of the Atlantic, and the boat is a small steamer; moreover we have to land in row boats, and at Staffa we were bobbing about like corks on the water for ten or fifteen minutes. I was very nearly sick after that experience, but Fingal's Cave was worth it. It was magnificent, with countless pillars supporting a gothic arched roof, and the base of the pillars under the green water was a lovely pink, while as the waves washed in there was a deep organ tone like a sigh or as if the great Fingal were breathing heavily in his enchanted sleep. Just outside of Oban is the rock as high as a church where Fingal is said to have tied his dog Brian.
From Staffa we went on to lona, the blessed isle, or Isle Colombkill, the island of Colomba of the Churches. I was disappointed to find the island in the hands of the Presbyterians. Of course they are careful of it, but they are out of touch with it, really. They have partially restored the Cathedral, and the restorations look cold and insufficient, as any church does to me that has no altar in it. The great cross of lona is magnificent, the only survivor of three hundred and sixty. I got a copy of it in bronze and also a brass alms basin with some of the lovely Saxon or Celtic designs like the interweaving of baskets. The steamboat bell rang all too soon. I wanted time to sit on the white sands. He must often have sat upon the sands, watching the blue sea, praying for Ireland, the land of his love, or for Scotland, the land of his labors. It will always be one of my regrets that I did not plan to stay overnight.
The next day, Tuesday, we took the boat for Bannock, had a lovely, quiet sail down the chain of lochs, then a change of boats in the Crinian Canal, then another change to a fine large steamer, past the beautiful Kyles of Bute, and finally landing, took train for Glasgow. It was after seven when we reached that noisy city, so we drove to a hotel, instead of seeking lodgings, and having a front room we had a most noisy night, carts rattling along the granite pavement, it seemed to me, all night long. The din was so great we had to shout to one another if at opposite ends of the room. We were very glad to get away this morning, and by making three or four changes, we arrived here too late for the coach to Ambleside, and very glad we have been, since we would not have missed this for a great deal.
London, Sept. 22.
Another lovely Sunday. Indeed we have had little but good weather since starting from home, but the Sundays have been especially beautiful.
We went to St. Alban's this morning and heard a very good sermon from Father Stanton. The service is considered rather extreme, but there was no incense and rather too much music. The congregation was very devout, however, and the church full. They have the custom of reserving one side for the men and one for the women, and the men's side was as well filled as ours.
We went to the British Museum on Friday and pored over the illuminated manuscripts and saw a great many other things besides, coming home absolutely worn out! The British Museum always wears me out.
Yesterday we spent a delightful morning, first at St. Paul's Cathedral, where we heard a lovely Choral Eucharist, it being St. Matthew's Day, then we went into Paternoster Row and spent an hour or more in the delightful little bookshops, laying in a store of devotional books, children's books, etc. Then we had lunch at a little bake shop and went to the Tower, the most interesting part to me being the Beauchamp tower where so many prisoners have left their names cut in the stone wall, one of them being Jane--it is supposed to have been Lady Jane Gray. Tomorrow and Tuesday I am going to call upon Sisters: Mother Kate of St. Saviour's Priory, Sister Katharine of All Saints', who is an artist and has a studio on Margaret Street, and on Sister Edith of the Cross, Mr. Sampson's sister. Then on Wednesday we leave London and go to St. Albans, from which we can drive to Colney to see the All Saints' Convent which is said to be very beautiful; then Oxford, then Canterbury, where we are planning to spend next Sunday, and on Monday to East Grinsted for our visit with the Sisters of St. Margaret.
Canterbury, Sept. 29.
We are in this quaint little town of Canterbury over Sunday as the winding up of our pilgrimage. Tomorrow we go to East Grinsted to begin our work in earnest. I hope we shall come through the ordeal safely if not very comfortably. I always feel with these English Sisters as if they regarded us as impostors or at least as rather too insignificant to be troubled about. However, I hope that feeling will pass off when we come into closer contact with them. So far we have not seen them except as callers, with not time enough for the feeling of strangeness to wear off.
I shall be glad to get back to some regular religious life. While nothing can surpass these great Cathedral services, the time in between, the traveling, the sight seeing, the lodging house life, etc., has been very distracting to anything like prayer or meditation. Fortunately we are as private in our lodgings as it is possible to be. We never see any one but the servants and the landlady, the other guests being invisible. We have booked our passage for the fourteenth of November, which will bring us home for Thanksgiving. This will give us time for three weeks at each Sisterhood, which I think is long enough for every practical purpose, as we cannot of course really learn their whole method of discipline.
We have had a quiet, restful day today, going to church at the Cathedral three times, and doing nothing else, not even writing our usual Sunday mail which sometimes has meant as much as six letters for me, but I have written more during the week, so there was not much left for today.
The Cathedral here is perfectly beautiful--in some respects the most beautiful of all. The high altar is elevated by a score of steps which gives it a strikingly commanding position, but it is hardly lived up to in the service. The choir and congregation go out after the sermon, leaving a handful of people and no music at all for the very part of the service that should be richest of all. It is immeasurably sad to see people who mean to be reverent and devout turning their backs on the altar and going out as their Lord comes in. Of course it must be because they do not believe that He really comes, and that shows how defective their education has been and is the reason why, in spite of the grandeur of these great Cathedrals, so many can be found living in the same town and going to sectarian houses of worship. Why do not people believe, I wonder!
Oct. 2, St. Margaret's Convent, East Grinsted.
The Sisters are very kind to us and show us every attention, but of course they are very busy and we spend a good deal of time to ourselves. Fortunately we are permitted to sit in one another's rooms, which is a palliative of loneliness. Even in hours of silence, when we do not talk, it keeps us from being homesick to be together. We are sewing diligently all morning on chasubles; Sister Beatrice on a black and gold one and I on a white linen.
We are reading together a very interesting book on English monastic life that the Novice Mistress gave us. We have five meals a day, and really need them, as there is not much at any one. Breakfast at 8 o'clock, bread and butter and coffee; lunch at 11, bread and butter and milk; dinner at I, meat and two vegetables and bread without butter; tea at 5:30, bread and butter and tea; and supper at 8: 30, soup or cold meat, pudding--a kind of mush without sauce--or bread and cheese. We manage to keep the wolf from the door, but we are not growing fat. This, we are told, is the most ascetic table of any Sisterhood in England.
The refectory is a noble room, lofty and large, of stone, with a great stone fireplace, which however is not used; a stone pulpit on one side high up on the wall for reading at meals, but they only read during Advent and Lent. At present we eat our meals in silence without reading. About two-thirds of the refectory is screened off for the children, two sets of whom, the orphans and St. Agnes' school, eat there. In spite of the loftiness of the room the air is often quite bad. Some of the windows have fine stained glass in them, but not all.
I am seated at table beside the Assistant Superior; the Mother has not returned yet from her vacation, which she has taken in Switzerland, but she is expected tomorrow. She is a daughter of Dr. Neale. The chapel is really a very large and handsome church. It has a rather bare effect during the offices as the Sisters sit in a row of stalls around the wall, leaving the body of the church empty, except at vespers, when the children come in looking very sweet and pretty. The orphans, about as many as we have, wear an odd sort of white sunbonnet; the St. Agnes' School girls, a pay school, little red caps. Then there is a third set of girls, an industrial school, of girls from sixteen to eighteen, in training for domestic service. They work the first year for their clothes and training, the second and third years they receive small wages, and then places are found for them. The buildings are very beautiful, more irregular than those at Colney, handsome too. There is a very nice cloister, but like that at Colney it is only used as a passageway. I think a cloister should be the general gathering place for the Sisters for work and recreation. However, I must leave all the rest, if there be a rest, for next time.
The Sisters here, after a week of considerable shyness, have taken us to their hearts and are as nice and cordial as can be. Father Hutton, the chaplain, who is very particular, the Novice Mistress says, has pronounced us very nice Sisters who do credit to our training! The Sister Sacristan can hardly see enough of Sister Beatrice, and invents excuses for having her with her, and talks to her freely. Even the Mother has unbent; she took us for a drive on Saturday, presented me with a biography of her father, Dr. Neale, written by one of the Sisters, and not for general publication, and has let me see the rule, their hymnal with music, and other things that we have been anxious to have. I feel that we have learned a great deal, and one of the most delightful things is that we are tolerably correct in our traditions and ways of doing things, and most of all, our principles. So we shall not have to change much, and we can go forward more certainly and confidently in our chosen path than we could have done without this visit.
House of Mercy--Clewer, Oct. 20.
I have so much to tell you that I hardly know where to begin, but I suppose the best way is, as the children always beg me, to begin where I left off.
Last Monday we went down to Worthing to visit a little Sisterhood. The Novice Mistress at St. Margaret's told us about it. It is a Sisterhood of Penitents, ladies by birth, most of them, but who have fallen from purity. The Sisterhood is under the care and supervision of the Wantage Sisters, and its officers, Mother, Assistant Superior, Novice Mistress, etc., are Wantage Sisters, but the rest are these penitents. There are about twenty-two who have been professed and sixteen novices. Their work is a hospital for incurables, ladies only, of whom they have forty-six. The Sisters do all the housework except the kitchen and laundry work, besides the nursing of the patients--a hopeless sort of nursing as they can never be well, but must grow gradually worse, and death is long in coming. The Mother said that they were able to have a great spiritual influence over their patients. The atmosphere of the house was lovely, so cheerful and bright, the patients chatty and pleasant, most of them knitting or doing something. The wards are very comfortable and pretty, and so arranged that curtains could be drawn about each bed making a private alcove if desired. The garden was extremely pretty as all these English gardens are. The refectory and chapel were plain but very nice, and the table was good.
The Sisters I am telling you about were all simple, contented, affectionate, not at all the austere penitents you would expect. The past seemed so far behind as to be forgotten. It seemed to me a beautiful expiation, and a wonderful evidence of the grace of God. The Mother, who is a Wantage Sister, when she heard we were here for the purpose of visiting Religious houses, said, "Of course you are not going back without visiting our Sisterhood at Wantage!" I said that I did not want to miss it, but I had no invitation, and no letter of introduction. She said she would write to the Mother at once if we would go if invited, which I assured her we would be only too happy to do. And she has been as good as her word, for here comes an invitation this morning from the Mother at Wantage inviting us there.
I think I told you in my last letter how very much more friendly the St. Margaret's Sisters became after the first week; I think it was our reverence for Dr. Neale which won the Mother's heart, no one could have been lovelier to us than she was. After all, English reserve, when it melts into English liking, is immensely flattering, really much more so than American cordiality. We are cordial for our own sakes because we feel it to be due to us to be so, but when English people like you it is not because they want to be nice, but because they think you are. We have made some very warm friends in that dear Sisterhood; never would I have believed it would be so hard to leave them. We almost wept at parting. Sister after Sister come to our room to say good-bye--one of them said goodbye three times! And the Mother came also with a parting gift--the autograph of her father, Dr. Neale. On the envelope she gave to Sister Beatrice was written, "For Sister Beatrice, a Relic!" She was especially taken with Sister Beatrice, was amused at her little humorous sallies, and especially at her relic-hunting propensities. But when she took us through Sackville College--she was born there--she was quite determined we should bring home a relic, and we did get one, a cutting of ivy from the wall, which we now have growing in a little pot and mean to plant on our convent when we get home.
We arrived here--Clewer--yesterday afternoon, and I wish I could tell you about the service this morning, but words fail. It is the festival of their dedication, and the procession of Sisters, black veiled and white veiled, mingled with gorgeous banners, swinging of censers, venerable white bearded priest in cope of cloth of gold, and assistant priests in dalmatics richly embroidered, and soaring music, organ, violin, and fine choir of voices, transplanted me back five hundred years, rebuilt the ruined Abbey crumbling into dust; refilled their long empty aisles with devotion and devotees, and I am hardly awake yet. But I will tell you more about this place in my next letter when I shall have seen more of it.
The subwarden here, Mr. Foster, has called on us twice and has offered to make out a list of books that will be useful in my work with novices. He has a great deal to do with the novices here, and the Mother tells me he knows a great deal about books, so I have no doubt his list will be a valuable one. They all take so much interest in us and so much trouble for us. They are doing a wonderful work. We have seen a beautiful hospital for convalescents, where patients discharged from the London hospitals may come for three weeks, and the patients seemed to be having such a good time. There was a billiard table, a piano, and a smoking gallery in the men's ward. There was an open fire in the women's ward, and the women were gathered around, cosily sewing in easy chairs, and the children's ward was full of toys, many of them sent by the Queen. The chapel was lovely and there were easy chairs and even a couch in it for the patients. There is also an orphanage of about seventy children, all girls like ours, and the children were not so well dressed. It was all very pretty though, as we passed a line of rosy cheeked cherubs, to have them bob a little curtsey to us, and their sewing made me blush for ours. English children seem to have a natural talent for fine sewing quite lacking in their American cousins.
Today we went to see the Magdalens. There are ninety penitents in this house, girls and women, most of them fallen, some of them inebriates, who are divided into different classes--laundry, kitchen, housemaid, and sewing classes. They do all the work of this house, and the cooking is delightful and the floors are so shiny and slippery with wax that we can hardly keep our feet; they are trained here for service. After two years of training and sobering, places are found for them. A few prefer to stay here and they are put through a long course of training, and after in all nine years of residence are consecrated for life as Magdalens. They have a religious rule, have their own chapel--a very pretty one, where they say their offices and have their meditations and retreats; their own refectory, their own house in fact. Their number is limited to thirty-three, the years of our Lord's life, and there are not quite that number now. They are given the immediate control of the work of the girls, the Sisters being in general charge, and make an excellent go-between for the Sisters and penitents. They understand them and can influence them in ways the Sisters could not, and the Magdalen Mistress told me some of them had died saints. She instructs them and has a spiritual oversight of them and was very much interested in them. They all looked so happy and contented as we looked in upon them in their pretty sitting room.
We have just come up from the service of the reception of two novices, in which of course we were deeply interested. The service was very simple and very beautiful: quite free from spectacular details, but we are well satisfied with our corresponding service. We missed from this the threefold vow which our novices take for the time of their novitiate, a temporary vow, not binding in case the novitiate is broken. It seems to me that since the novice has to live the vows, it is better for her to take them and have the spiritual help they give.
After the service was over, Sister Evelyn, the Novice Mistress, came to us for our congratulations. I thought it was very sweet of her. She has been lovely to us, has come quite frequently for little calls, and we have had some interesting conversations, the more interesting that we think much alike. This evening we had a call from an American Sister whose work is at Folkstone, but who came up for the reception of the novices today. She is from Virginia, one of the old FFV's; came here soon after the Civil war and never has quite gotten over the bitterness of it. She was very nice and cordial to us, however, ferreted out who I was, spoke of Paul, whom she had heard of as Dean Matthews, and was very complimentary about our dress; thought it pretty and correct and wanted to know if we had gotten the design in Paris!
It will not be long now before we shall be starting home and we are counting the days; at the same time I would not cut short our visit without real cause, for we are learning so much, and we shall both feel so much more competent to organize and carry on our Sisterhood work when we go home.
One of the things that has pleased us especially is to find out that our rule corresponds very well with other Sisterhoods, is rather more than less severe, in some respects, and is yet very livable; and another is that our outward demeanor is up to the standard. We are not nearly so frightened here as we were the first week at St. Margaret's, for we have gained much self confidence. We are outwardly, as well as inwardly, more comfortable.
This house is very comfortably warmed and the table is very good and sufficient, not hard as was the dry bread at St. Margaret's. Yet we can never love any Sisterhood so well as that, for, if their house is cold, their hearts are warm, and if the table is poor, they are rich in Christian graces, the true wealth of Christ's Virgins. It is lovely here, too, but there is a difference. There is not the youthful vigor here. The Sisters seem more middle aged, with the serenity rather than the enthusiasm of holiness stamped upon their brow. They seem to be more of one type here, less of the individuality that marks the St. Margaret Sisters. They are very good to us and attentive, taking us to see something every day, and their works are many and wonderful. Canon Carter had a genius for organization and he has left a great living monument to his memory built out of many parts.
The Sisterhood itself comprises three hundred Sisters, with thirty houses here in England, several in India, and several in America, and it began in just as small a way as ours, but I think it grew faster.
Torquay, Nov. 2.
We left Clewer this morning amid the goodbyes and regrets of the dear friends we have made there. It is a lovely Sisterhood, really more after our model than St. Margaret's, more Anglican in the tone of its services, more liberal in its table, more comfortable in the matter of fires. We were not admitted to their community room, as we were at St. Margaret's, but we were provided with a little sitting room to ourselves and some of the Sisters were our frequent visitors. Indeed we were never long alone. They were always planning some little excursion for us. One afternoon the Assistant Superior took us to Ascot Priory, one of the first Sisterhoods formed in England, and on very queer mediaeval lines, or rather nineteenth century ideas of mediaevalism, which is really quite a different thing. It is the Sisterhood of the Holy Trinity. The Portress was exceedingly queer, ignorant, narrow, and subservient to the Mother. One of their extraordinary customs is when a Sister had to speak to the Mother in the hall, both popped down on their knees while speaking! It is a beautiful place--the convent beautiful and grounds lovely. There is a beautiful cemetery, and there had been a recent burial in it, one of their old Sisters, and the flowers--a large number of crosses and wreaths--were still fresh. There was a pine woods behind the convent, and in it a little house where Dr. Pusey lived the last years of his life and where he died. There is a marble cross in the wood marking the spot where he was accustomed to meditate and write, and the room where he died has been turned into an oratory, but it did not look much used. It was not the Sisterhood he started, but when his community broke up, two or three of the Sisters who were left went into this community and I suppose that is the reason he chose it for his own retirement. The little Sister who took us around said she had heard of Ohio, but it soon developed that she thought it a new pronunciation for Hawaii, where their Sisters had had a school and where two of them are still living. I have heard Bishop Restarick speak of the Priory Sisters there. I think that little Sister had not an idea in her head that was not bounded by her convent walls.
A short visit to Torquay and another to the Community of the Virgin Mary at Wantage added little more to their experience of English Religious Houses, and these letters close with certain strictures on the tourists' perennial subject, the sublimely persistent English ignorance of things American:
Time after time I have explained to questioning and incredulous Sisters that we were American natives, that our children were white and could speak English, that we did not meet bears on our daily walks nor hear wolves howl at night, that we did not see Indians commonly in the streets of Cincinnati, that our summers and winters did coincide with those seasons in England, and that we did not work in Canada with our home in Ohio. And that Ohio was not an island in the Pacific ocean nor in any way connected with Hawaii. All this miscellaneous information will do no good; not that the Sisters do not believe me, but simply because they do not think about it two minutes after the conversation. They are not interested in America generally though they have shown a very kindly interest in us in particular.
On November 27th, she wrote:
Home again! and such a happy homecoming. The evening before we landed, as we were working slowly into the harbor, with the dark line of land on either side, with here and there a light, the whole ship's company--even the foreigners, German, Swiss, French, and English and Spanish and Italians--were in a flutter of excitement, and one old gentleman said to me, "America is the sweetheart of all the nations." And it really seemed to be so. But it was a cold reception our Sweetheart gave us the next morning. A driving rain and sleet and bitter wind. We went through the custom house with flying colors. The inspector would hardly let Stanley open the trunks. "It's all right," he said; then he whispered to me, "Sister, I'm a Catholic myself, I've been to Mass this morning." We took a carriage after that ceremony and drove up to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and were floated away in a cloud of worship to the very gates of heaven itself.
One practice which seemed to be common to the older orders, the Rev. Mother felt that she could not add to the Transfiguration rule, that of arbitrary commands for the teaching of humility: "Anything which would be so bad for the character of the Superior," she said practically, "cannot be right for the novice." Perhaps a houseful of children is as great in disciplinary value as the arbitrary command, and more in accordance with the American mind.
There was always discipline of a constructive kind at Bethany Home. There were picnics and treats for good and industrious children, and the same child did not often miss two; Sister Beatrice was clever in making the punishment fit the crime. There were nice adjustments and banishments from Mt. Tabor--her own happy room--to a seat on the garret stairs. Mt. Tabor was a large room under the roof, from which, by a narrow stairway, Sister Beatrice could climb to her bed in the belfry under the stars and in the open air. There was nearly always a small baby living in Mt. Tabor and the screened-in belfry. The cooperative spirit was cultivated among the children by means of two societies, that of St. Martha for the active, and that of St. Mary for the devotional life of the little girls. I was once present at a meeting of St. Martha's society when the little girls reported on work accomplished in a very businesslike way. There was the regular report on scheduled duties, and then the volunteer work, which required a witness attesting its validity. The atmosphere was judicial. The small president called the names, Sister Beatrice sitting near by as "visitor" or recorder. The tiny girls with their little books of reference called up one by one to report on this extra work:
"Nelly," called the president, and Nelly stood up, book in hand.
"Monday, 11 a.m.," she read, "scrubbed kitchen steps--witness Annie."
"Thursday 2 p.m., gathered basket of apples--witness Ellen."
There were silver crosses by way of medals and it was always easy to get the odd jobs attended to.
There was a solid wall of public opinion soon formed which made it bad form to do certain things at Bethany Home. Any child not able to respond to this mild rule was sent to an institution where discipline was more strict--one instance I happen to know of, where a recalcitant little orphan in her teens was brought to self control and gentleness by the promise that she should return to Bethany Home if she succeeded in her efforts. And, after a few years, she was again received and there remained an honored and honorable member of the household as long as she lived.