Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/27

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7
A FRENCH CONVENT.

more so than their own simple cells. I have a table, a chair, and a tiny bedstead.

There are only four Sisters. The eldest, Sister Anna, is a very old lady, but most courteous and friendly. Sœur Marie des Anges is a cosy middle-aged woman, who has lately come from the convent at Samoa to take care of Sœur Marie des Cinq Plaies, a sweet, pretty young woman, with a terrible cough, and evidently fast dying of consumption. The fourth sister, Sœur Marie-Jésu, is Irish. All are most gentle and kind, and seem deeply interested in their schools and the care of a large number of nice-looking women and children. I think myself most fortunate in having been invited to stay here, instead of finding quarters in the ugly, pretentious town of foreign houses, which, whatever advantages they may possess, are quite opposed to all our predilections in favour of native architecture.

The surroundings here are calm and quiet. Through a frame of tall palms, with ever-waving fronds, we look to the blue harbour, where the friendly big ship lies mirrored—a ship which, to these good Sisters, is a link to that dear home-land, la belle France, which they do so love, but to which they have bidden a long farewell, in devotion to their mission-work in these far isles. The schoolroom is under the same roof, and full of bright intelligent girls. At sunset there were vespers in the church close by, and, as the delicate sister was ordered to stay at home, and do her part by ringing the Angelus, we sat together and listened to the singing, which was very good,—the Tongan rendering of Canticles and harmonised Litanies being excellent. The harmonium is played by Père Lamaze, who is a good musician. Another father, a fine old Bréton priest, is the architect of a handsome wooden church now in process of erection. (When the Seignelay touched at the Wallis Isles on their way to Fiji, the bishop consecrated a really very fine new church there; and as the Roman Catholic Mission in those isles is very strong, there seem to have been wonderful rejoicings on the occasion. Among the offerings of the people were 150 pigs, which are being gradually consumed by the crew.)

This morning, soon after breakfast, Captain Aube landed me,