seemed to me fascinating places with a flavor of Gothic romance—perhaps
I had never been inside one. I came, therefore, to teach in the College
of St. Angela with a sense
adventurous curiosity, eager for new experiences, and quite artless in
attitude of receptive wonderment.
I rang the Castle bell, the door mysteriously opened through the
agency, as I
saw at a second glance, of a white veiled novice who stood modestly in
background to let me pass through. The hall into which I entered was
so conventual as I had imagined it would be. Its dark panels, its
furniture, its stained-glass windows, all seemed to me a thought too
for a cloister, an impression that was further carried out by the
in which I awaited the coming of the Reverend Mother.
long light of late afternoon shone through the French windows of the
hall, across the polished floor. Everywhere there was a sense of order
stillness and peace. The quiet was occasionally broken by a bell which
out some mysterious number, followed by soft, padding footfalls and the
tinkle of rosary beads. Then a deeper silence. For weeks after I came
Castle I went about the halls on tiptoe, unconsciously imitating the
noiselessness of those padded footsteps, fearing to speak above a
in daily dread of making some dull secular blunder against ancient
outside of the Castle, however, the sense of tradition ceased. In the
life of the College there was a certain pioneer quality which it now
strange to look back upon. My room was in one of the small private
then recently taken over by the College in the process of expansion,
to the housing of students and the secular faculty, with the spiritual
of a nun or two. I was so eager to taste the full flavor of a nunnery
should have been rather glad to find myself allotted to a cell, but my
apartment held no disappointing luxuries. It contained a bed and a
washstand. Nuns, I discovered, did not use mirrors. The closet held the
of a former occupant, from which I selected a volume entitled The Perfect
Religious, and seating myself on my trunk I read on in the
waning light until
supper was announced.
A long, white, chilly
laid in the dark-panelled dining-room of the Castle. We were waited on
by a lay
nun whose genial brogue and caressing manner sweetened the pale ecru
she poured out of huge pitchers into cups of what seemed to me
thickness. But thickness is, after all, only comparative.
On a later
occasion a visiting friend had the misfortune to break her cup and was
comforted by our kindly attendant’s assurance that “them delicate cups
fragile handles.” The nuns, it seems, used tableware of a far sturdier
in their own refectory.
we didn’t exactly run to creature comforts in those early days, we
lived in an
atmosphere of friendliness and intimacy that is quite impossible in a
college. We had not yet become academic. The classes were so small that
individual’s tastes and convictions were matters of pleasant knowledge.
aversion to fish which prevented her from tolerating The Compleat Angler.
Margaret’s earnest insistence that Fielding was inspired by Saint
Joseph in the naming of his hero. Marion’s
deep love for the metres of Horace which made her memorize an ode a day
pure joy of acquisition!
The sense of intimacy that prevailed
throughout the College was partly due to the fact that some of the
grown up under the convent wing and were still regarded by the nuns as
irresponsible children whose comings and goings must be sedulously
remember that on one occasion, just after the lawn had been newly sown,
messenger arrived at one of the cottages, sent from the towery heights
Superioress’s office. Her message was: “Tell Nellie Hannon that
says to keep off the grass.” It mattered little that Nellie was at that
admirably-conducted young woman in the Sophomore Class. To the “Almae Matres”
she was still the reckless seminarian whose errant footsteps had once
the tender blades.
almost everyone had a sense of humor. No one took herself too seriously
refused to lend herself to the general entertainment. At the evening
she who had the gift of “floating,” floated to the joy of all
the staidest nun would whisper ecstatically to her companion “Look at
The College of New
Rochelle presents today a very different
appearance from St. Angela’s of blessed memory. I imagine that the
residence hall holds more comforts than our simple cots. Hot water, for
instance, probably flows more freely than it did in the cottages ten
when washing was extra, though French might be had for the asking, and
without it. The dining-room tableware, I have observed, has become
almost to the point of fragility. What other luxuries may have crept in
not try to imagine, but you may fancy, if you will, what cheerful
were in the consulship of Mother Augustine.