Description of the Room of the Three States, and the Pictures in it--Jane Ray ridiculing Priests--Their criminal Treatment of us at Confession--Jane Ray's Tricks with the Nuns' Aprons, Handkerchiefs, and Nightgowns--Apples.

THE pictures in the room of the Three States were large, and painted by some artist who understood how to make horrible ones. They appeared to be stuck to the walls. The light is admitted from small and high windows, which are curtained, and is rather faint, so as to make every thing look gloomy. The story told us was, that they were painted by an artist, to whom God had given power to represent things exactly as they are in heaven, hell, and purgatory.

In heaven, the picture of which hangs on one side of the apartment, multitudes of nuns and priests are put in the highest places, with the Virgin Mary at the head, St. Peter and other saints far above the great numbers of good Catholics of other classes, who were crowded in below.

In purgatory are multitudes of people; and in one part, called "The place of lambs," are infants who died unbaptized. "The place of darkness," is that part of purgatory in which adults are collected; and there they are surrounded with flames, waiting to be delivered by the prayers of the living.

In hell, the picture of which, and that of purgatory, were on the wall opposite that of heaven, the human faces were the most horrible that can be imagined. Persons of different descriptions were represented, with the most distorted features, ghastly complexions, and every variety of dreadful expression; some with wild beasts gnawing at their heads, others furiously biting the iron bars which kept them in, with looks which could not fail to make a spectator shudder.

I could hardly persuade myself that the figures were not living, and the impression they made on my feelings was powerful. I was often shown the place where nuns go who break their vows, as a warning. It is the hottest place in hell, and worse, in every point of view, even than that to which all Protestants are assigned; because they are not so much to be blamed, as we were. sometimes assured, as their ministers and the Bible, by which they are perverted.

Whenever I was shut in that room, as I was several times, I prayed for "les âmes des fidèles trépasses;" the souls of those faithful ones who have long been in purgatory, and have no relations living to pray for them. My feelings were often of the most painful description, while I remained alone with those frightful pictures.

Jane Ray was once put in, and uttered the most dreadful shrieks. Some of the old nuns proposed to the Superior to have her gagged: "No," she replied; "go and let out that devil, she makes me sin more than all the rest.''

Jane could not endure the place; and she afterward gave names to many of the worst figures in the pictures. On catechism-days she would take a seat behind a cupboard-door, where the priest could not see her, while she faced the nuns, and would make us laugh. "You are not so attentive to your lesson as you used to be;" he would begin to say, while we were endeavouring to suppress our laughter.

Jane would then hold up the first letter of some priest's name, whom she had before compared with one of the faces in "hell," and look so that we could hardly preserve our gravity. I remember she named the wretch who was biting at the bars of hell, with a serpent gnawing his head, with chains and padlocks on, Father Dufresne; and she would say-- "Does not he look like him, when he comes in to Catechism with his long solemn face, and begins his speeches with, "My children, my hope is, you have lived very devout lives?"

The first time I went to confession after taking the veil, I found abundant evidence that the priests did not treat even that ceremony, which is called a solemn sacrament, with respect enough to lay aside the detestable and shameless character they so often showed on other occasions. The confessor sometimes sat in the room for the examination of conscience, and sometimes in the Superior's room, and always alone, except the nun who was confessing.

He had a common chair placed in the middle of the floor, and instead of being placed behind a grate, or lattice, as in the chapel, had nothing before or around him. There were no spectators to observe him, and of course any such thing would have been unnecessary.

A number of nuns usually confessed on the same day, but only one could be admitted into the room at a time. They took their places just without the door, on their knees, and went through the preparation prescribed by the rules of confession; repeating certain prayers, which always occupy a considerable time. When one was ready, she rose from her knees, entered, and closed the door behind her; and no other one even dared touch the latch until she came out.

I shall not tell what was transacted at such times, under the pretence of confessing, and receiving absolution from sin: far more guilt was often incurred than pardoned; and crimes of a deep die were committed, while trifling irregularities, in childish ceremonies, were treated as serious offences. I cannot persuade myself to speak plainly on such a subject, as I must offend the virtuous ear. I can only say, that suspicion cannot do any injustice to the priests, because their sins cannot be exaggerated.

Some idea may be formed of the manner in which even such women as many of my sister nuns were regarded the confessors, when I state, that there was often a contest among us, to avoid entering the apartment as long as we could, endeavouring to make each other go first, as that was what most of us dreaded.

During the long and tedious days, which filled up the time between the occurrences I have mentioned, nothing, or little, took place to keep up our spirits. We were fatigued in body with labour, or with sitting, debilitated by the long continuance of our religious exercises, and depressed in feelings by our miserable and hopeless condition. Nothing but the humours of mad Jane Ray could rouse us for a moment from our languor and melancholy.

To mention all her devices, would require more room than is here allowed, and a memory of almost all her words and actions for years. I had early become a favourite with her, and had opportunity to learn more of her character than most of the other nuns. As this may be best learnt from hearing what she did, I will here recount a few of her tricks, just as they happen to present themselves to my memory, without regard to the order of time.

She one day, in an unaccountable humour, sprinkled the floor plentifully with holy water, which brought upon her a severe lecture from the Superior, as might have been expected. The Superior said it was a heinous offence; she had wasted holy water enough to save many souls from purgatory; and what would they not give for it! She then ordered Jane to sit in the middle of the floor, and when the priest came, he was informed of her offence. Instead, however, of imposing one of those penances to which she had often been subjected, but with so little effect, he said to her, "Go to your place, Jane; we forgive you for this time."

I was once set to iron aprons with Jane; aprons and pocket-handkerchiefs are the only articles of dress which are ever ironed in the Convent. As soon as we were alone, she remarked, "Well, we are free from the rules, while we are at this work;" and although she knew she had no reason for saying so, she began to sing, and I soon joined her, and thus we spent the time, while we were at work, to the neglect of the prayers we ought to have said.

We had no idea that we were in danger of being overheard, but it happened that the Superior was overhead all the time, with several nuns, who were preparing for confession: she came down and said, "How is this?" Jane Ray coolly replied, that we had employed our time in singing hymns, and referred to me. I was afraid to confirm so direct a falsehood, in order to deceive the Superior, though I had often told more injurious ones of her fabrication, or at her orders, and said very little in reply to Jane's request.

The Superior plainly saw the trick that was attempted, and ordered us both to the room for the examination of conscience, where we remained till night, without a mouthful to eat. The time was not, however, unoccupied; I received such a lecture from Jane, as I have very seldom heard, and she was so angry with me that we did not speak to each other for two weeks.

At length she found something to complain of against me, had me subjected to a penance, which led to our begging each other's pardon, and we became perfectly satisfied, reconciled, and as good friends as ever.

One of the most disgusting penances we ever had to submit to, was that of drinking water in which the Superior had washed her feet. Nobody could ever laugh at this penance except Jane Ray. She would pretend to comfort us, by saying, she was sure it was better than mere plain clear water. Some of the tricks which I remember, were played by Jane with nuns' clothes. It was a rule that the oldest aprons in use should go to the youngest received, and the old nuns were to wear all the new ones. On four different occasions, Jane stole into the sleeping-room at night, and unobserved by the watch, changed a great part of the aprons, placing them by the beds of nuns to whom they did not belong. The consequence was, that in the morning they dressed themselves in such haste, as never to discover the mistakes they made; until they were all ranged at prayers; and then the ridiculous appearance which many of them cut, disturbed the long devotions. I laugh so easily, that on such occasions, I usually incurred a full share of penances. I generally, however, got a new apron, when Jane played this trick; for it was part of her object, to give the best aprons to her favourites, and put off the ragged ones on some of the old nuns whom she most hated.

Jane once lost her pocket-handkerchief. The penance for such an offence is, to go without any for five weeks. For this she had no relish, and requested me to pick one from some of the nuns on the way up-stairs. I succeeded in getting two: this Jane said was one too many, and she thought it dangerous for either of us to keep it, lest a search should be made. Very soon the two nuns were complaining that they had lost their handkerchiefs, and wondering what could have become of them, as they were sure they had been careful. Jane seized an opportunity and slipped one into a straw bed, where it remained until the bed was emptied to be filled with new straw.

As the winter was coming on one year, she complained to me that we were not as well supplied with warm night-clothes as two of the nuns she named, whom she said she "abominated." She soon after found means to get possession of their fine warm flannel nightgowns, one of which she gave to me, while the other she put on at bedtime. She presumed the owners would have a secret search for them; and in the morning hid them in the stove, after the fire had gone out, which was kindled a little before the hour of rising, and then started to burn down.

This she did every morning, taking them out at night, through the winter. The poor nuns who owned garments were afraid to complain of their loss, lest they should have some penance laid on them, and nothing was ever said about them. When the weather began to grow warm in the spring Jane returned the nightgowns to the beds of the nuns, from whom she had borrowed them and they were probably as much surprised to find them again, as they had before been at losing them.

Jane once found an opportunity to fill her apron with a quantity of fine apples, called fameuses, which came in her way, and, hastening up to the sleeping-room, hid them under my bed. Then, coming down, she informed me, and we agreed to apply for leave to make our elevens, as it is called. The meaning of this is, to repeat a certain round of prayers, for nine days in succession, to some saint we choose to address for assistance, in becoming more charitable, affectionate, or something else. We easily obtained permission, and hastened up-stairs to begin our nine days' feast on the apples; when, much to our surprise, they had all been taken away, and there was no way to avoid the disagreeable fate we had brought upon ourselves. Jane therefore began to search the beds of the other nuns; but not finding any trace of the apples, she became doubly vexed, and stuck pins in those which belonged to her enemies. When bedtime came, they were much scratched in getting in bed, which made them break silence, and that subjected them to penances.

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