Jane Ray's Tricks continued--The Broomstick Ghost--Sleep-walking--Salted Cider--Changing Beds--Objects of some of her Tricks--Feigned Humility--Alarm--Treatment of a new Nun--A Nun made by stratagem.

ONE night, Jane, who had been sweeping the sleeping-room, for a penance, dressed up the broomstick, when she had completed her work, with a white cloth on the end, so tied as to resemble an old woman dressed in white, with long arms sticking out. This she stuck through a broken pane of glass, and placed it so that it appeared to be looking in at the window, by the font of holy water. There it remained until the nuns came up to bed. The first who stopped at the font, to dip her finger in, caught a glimpse of the singular object, and started with terror. The next was equally terrified, as she approached, and the next, and the next.

We all believed in ghosts; and it was not wonderful that such an object should cause alarm, especially as it was but a short time after the death of one of the nuns. Thus they went on, each getting a fright in turn, yet all afraid to speak. At length, one more alarmed, or with less presence of mind than the rest, exclaimed, "Oh, mon Dieu! Je ne me coucherais pas!" When the night-watch called out, "Who's that?" She confessed she had broken silence, but pointed at the cause; and then, all the nuns assembling at a distance from the window, Jane offered to advance boldly, and ascertain the nature of the apparition, which they thought a most resolute intention. We all stood looking on, when she stepped to the window, drew in the broomstick, and showed us the ridiculous puppet, which had alarmed so many superstitious fears.

Some of her greatest feats she performed as a sleep-walker. Whether she ever walked in her sleep or not, I am unable, with certainty, to say. She, however, often imposed upon the Superior and old nuns, by making them think so, when I knew she did not; and yet, I cannot positively say that she always did. I have remarked, that one of the old nuns was always placed in our sleeping-room at night, to watch us. Sometimes she would be inattentive, and sometimes fall into a doze. Jane Ray often seized such times to rise from her bed, and walk about, occasionally seizing one of the nuns in bed, in order to frighten her. This she generally affected; and many times we have all been awakened, by screams of terror. In our alarm, some of us frequently broke silence, and gave occasion to the Superior to lay us under penances. Many times, however, we escaped with a mere reprimand, while Jane usually received expressions of compassion: "Poor creature! she would not do so if she were in perfect possession of her reason." And Jane displayed her customary artfulness, in keeping up the false impression. As soon as she perceived that the old nun was likely to observe her, she would throw her arms about, or appear unconscious of what she was doing, falling upon a bed, or standing stock-still, until exertions had been made to rouse her from her supposed lethargy.

We were once allowed to drink cider at dinner, which was quite an extraordinary favour. Jane, however, on account of her negligence of all work, was denied the privilege, which she much resented. The next day, when dinner arrived, we began to taste our new drink, but it was so salt we could not swallow it. Those of us who at first discovered it, were, as usual, afraid to speak; but we set down our cups, and looked round, till the others made the same discovery, which they all soon did, and most of them in the same manner. Some, however, at length, taken by surprise, uttered some ludicrous exclamation, on tasting the salted cider, and then an old nun, looking cross, would cry out:

"Ah! tu casses la silence!" (Ah! you've broken silence.) And thus we soon got a-laughing, beyond our power of suppressing it. At recreation, that day, the first question asked by many of us, was, "How did you like your cider?"

Jane Ray never had a fixed place to sleep in. When the weather began to grow warm in the spring, she usually pushed some bed out of its place, near a window, and put her own beside it; and when the winter approached, she would choose a spot near the stove, and occupy it with her bed, in spite of all remonstrance. We were all convinced that it was generally best to yield to her.

She was often set to work, in different ways; but, whenever she was dissatisfied with doing any thing, would devise some trick that would make the Superior, or old nuns, drive her off; and whenever any suspicion was expressed, of her being in her right mind, she would say, that she did not know what she was doing; that all the difficulty arose from her repeating prayers too much, which wearied and distracted her mind.

I was once directed to assist Jane Ray, in shifting the beds of the nuns. When we came to those of some of the sisters, whom she most disliked, she said, now we will pay them for some of the penances we have suffered on their account; and taking some thistles, she mixed them with the straw. At night, the first of them who got into bed, felt the thistles, and cried out. The night-watch exclaimed, as usual, "You are breaking silence there." And then another screamed, as she was scratched by the thistles, and another. The old nun then called on all who had broken silence to rise, and ordered them to sleep under their beds, as a penance, which they silently complied with. Jane and I afterward confessed, when it was all over, and took some trifling penance which the priest imposed.

Those nuns who fell most under the displeasure of mad Jane Ray, as I have intimated before, were those who had the reputation of being most ready to inform of the trifling faults of others and especially those who acted without any regard to honour, by disclosing what they had pretended to listen to in confidence. Several of the worst-tempered "saints" she held in abhorrence; and I have heard her say, that such and such, she abominated. Many a trick did she play upon these, some of which were painful to them in their consequences, and a good number of them have never been traced to this day. Of all the nuns, however, none other was regarded by her with so much detestation as Saint Hypolite; for she was always believed to have betrayed Saint Francis, and to have caused her murder. She was looked upon by us as the voluntary cause of her death, and of the crime which those of us committed, who, unwillingly, took part in her execution. We, on the contrary, being under the worst of fears for ourselves, in case of refusing to obey our masters and mistress, thought ourselves chargeable with less guilt, as unwilling assistants in a scene, which it was impossible for us to prevent or delay. Jane has often spoken with me of the suspected informer, and always in terms of the greatest bitterness.

The Superior sometimes expressed commiseration for mad Jane Ray, but I never could tell whether she really believed her insane or, not. I was always inclined to think that she was willing to put up with some of her tricks, because they served to divert our minds from the painful and depressing circumstances in which we were placed. I knew the Superior's powers and habits of deception also, and that she would deceive us as willingly as any one also.

Sometimes she proposed to send Jane to St Anne's, a place near Quebec, celebrated for the pilgrimages made to it by persons differently afflicted. It is supposed that some peculiar virtue exists there, which will restore health to the sick; and I have heard stories told in corroboration of the common belief. Many lame and blind persons, with others, visit St. Anne's every year, some of whom may be seen travelling on foot, and begging their food. The Superior would sometimes say that it was a pity that a woman like Jane Ray, capable of being so useful, should be unable to do her duties in consequence of a malady which she thought might be cured by a visit to St. Anne's.

Yet to St. Anne's Jane was never sent, and her wild and various tricks continued as before. The rules of silence, which the others were so scrupulous in observing, she set at naught every hour; and as for other rules, she regarded them with as little respect when they stood in her way. She would now and then step out and stop the clock by which our exercises were regulated, and sometimes, in this manner, lengthened out our recreations till near twelve. At last the old nuns began to watch against such a trick, and would occasionally go out to see if the clock was going.

She once made a request that she might not eat with the other nuns, which was granted, as it seemed to proceed from a spirit of genuine humility, which made her regard herself as unworthy of our society. It being most convenient, she was sent to the Superior's table, to make her meals after her; and it did not at first occur to the Superior, that Jane, in this manner, profited by the change, by getting much better food than the rest of us. Thus there seemed to be always something deeper than anybody at first suspected, at the bottom of every thing she did.

She was once directed to sweep a community-room, under the sleeping-chamber. This office had before been assigned to the other nuns, as a penance; but the Superior, considering that Jane Ray did little or nothing, determined thus to furnish her with some employment. She declared to us that she would not sweep it long, as we might soon be assured. It happened that the stove by which that community-room was warmed in the winter, had its pipe carried through the floor of our sleeping-chamber, and thence across it, in a direction opposite that in which the pipe of our stove was carried. It being then warm weather, the first-mentioned pipe had been taken down, and the hole left unstopped. After we had all retired to our beds, and while engaged in our silent prayers, we were suddenly alarmed by a bright blaze of fire, which burst from the hole in the floor, and threw sparks all around us. We thought the building was burning, and uttered cries of terror, regardless of the penances, the fear of which generally kept us silent.

The utmost confusion prevailed; for although we had solemnly vowed never to flee from the Convent even if it was on fire, we were extremely alarmed, and could not repress our feelings. We soon learnt the cause, for the flames ceased in a moment or two, and it was found that mad Jane Ray, after sweeping a little in the room beneath, had stuck a quantity of wet powder on the end of her broom, thrust it up through the hole in the ceiling into our apartment, and with a lighted paper set it on fire. The date of this alarm I must refer to a time soon after that of the election riots; for I recollect that she found means to get possession of some of the powder which was prepared at that time, for an emergency to which some thought the Convent was exposed.

She once asked for pen and paper, and when the Superior told her that if she wrote to her friends she must see it, she replied, that it was for no such purpose; she wanted to write her confession, and thus make it once for all. She wrote it, handed it to the priest, and he gave it to the Superior, who read it to us. It was full of offences which she had never committed, evidently written to throw ridicule on confessions, and one of the most ludicrous productions I ever saw.

Our bedsteads were made with narrow boards laid across them, on which the beds were laid. One day, while we were in the bedchamber together, she proposed that we should misplace these boards. This was done, so that at night nearly a dozen nuns fell down upon the floor on getting into bed. A good deal of confusion naturally ensued, but the authors were not discovered. I was so conscience-stricken, however, that a week afterward, while we examined our consciences together, I told her I must confess the sin the next day. She replied, "Do as you like, but you will be sorry for it."

The next day, when we came before the Superior, I was just going to kneel and confess, when Jane, almost without giving me time to shut the door, threw herself at the Superior's feet, and confessed the trick, and a penance was immediately laid on me for the sin I had concealed.

There was an old nun, who was a famous talker, whom we used to call La Mère, (Mother.) One night, Jane Ray got up, and secretly changed the caps of several of the nuns, and hers among the rest. In the morning there was great confusion, and such a scene as seldom occurred. She was severely blamed by La Mère, having been informed against by some of the nuns; and at last became so much enraged, that she attacked the old woman, and even took her by the throat. La Mère called on all present to come to her assistance, and several nuns interfered. Jane seized the opportunity afforded in the confusion, to beat some of her worst enemies quite severely, and afterward said, that she had intended to kill some of the rascally informers.

For a time Jane made us laugh so much at prayers, that the Superior forbad her going down with us to morning prayers; and she took the opportunity to sleep in the morning. When this was found out, she was forbidden to get into her bed again after leaving it, and then she would creep under it and take a nap on the floor. This she told us of one day, but threatened us if we ever betrayed her. At length, she was missed at breakfast, as she would sometimes oversleep herself, and the Superior began to be more strict, and always inquired, in the morning, whether Jane Ray was in her place. When the question was general, none of us answered; but when it was addressed to some nun near her by name, as,

"Saint Eustace, is Jane Ray in her place?" then we had to reply.

Of all the scenes that occurred during my stay in the Convent, there was none which excited the delight of Jane more than one which took place in the chapel one day at mass, though I never had any particular reason to suppose that she had brought it about. Some person, unknown to me to this day, had put some substance or other, of a most nauseous smell, into the hat of a little boy, who attended at the altar, and he, without observing the trick, put it upon his head. In the midst of the ceremonies he approached some of the nuns, who were almost suffocated with the odour; and as he occasionally moved from place to place, some of them began to beckon to him to stand farther off, and to hold their noses, with looks of disgust. The boy was quite unconscious of the cause of the difficulty, and paid them no attention; but the confusion soon became so great, through the distress of some, and the laughing of others, that the Superior noticed the circumstance, and beckoned to the boy to withdraw. All attempts, however, to engage us in any work, prayer, or meditation, were found ineffectual. Whenever the circumstances in the chapel came to mind, we would laugh out. We had got into such a state, that we could not easily restrain ourselves. The Superior, yielding to necessity, allowed us recreation for the whole day.

The Superior used sometimes to send Jane to instruct the novices in their English prayers. She would proceed to her task with all seriousness; but sometimes chose the most ridiculous, as well as irreverent passages, from songs, and other things, which she had before somewhere learnt, which would set us, who understood her, laughing. One of her rhymes, I recollect, began with --

"The Lord of love, look from above,

Upon this turkey hen."

Jane for a time slept opposite me, and often in the night would rise, unobserved, and slip into my bed, to talk with me, which she did in a low whisper, and return again with equal caution.

She would tell me of the tricks she had played, and such as she meditated, and sometimes make me laugh so loud, that I had much to do in the morning with begging pardons, and doing penances.

One winter's day, she was sent to light a fire; but after she had done so, remarked privately to some of us: "My fingers were too cold--you'll see if I do it again."

The next day, there was a great stir in the house, because it was said, that mad Jane Ray had been seized with a fit while making a fire, and she was taken up apparently insensible, and conveyed to her bed. She complained to me, who visited her in the course of the day, that she was likely to starve, as food was denied her; and I was persuaded to pin a stocking under my dress, and secretly put food into it from the table. This I afterward carried to her and relieved her wants.

One of the things which I blamed Jane most for, was a disposition to quarrel with any nun who seemed to be winning the favor of the Superior. She would never rest until she had brought such a one into some difficulty.

We were allowed but little soap; and Jane, when she found her supply nearly gone, would take the first piece she could find. One day there was a general search made for a large piece that was missed; when, soon after I had been searched, Jane Ray passed me and slipped it into my pocket; she was soon after searched herself; and then secretly came for it again.

While I recall these particulars of our nunnery, and refer so often to the conduct and language of one of the nuns, I cannot speak of some things, which I believed or suspected, on account of my want of sufficient knowledge. But it is a pity you have not Jane Ray for a witness; she knows many things of which I am ignorant. She must be in possession of facts that should be known. Her long residence in the Convent, her habits of roaming about it, and of observing every thing, must have made her acquainted with things which would be heard with interest. I always felt as if she knew every thing. She would often go and listen, or look through the cracks into the Superior's room, while any of the priests were closeted with her, and sometimes would come and tell me what she witnessed. I felt myself bound to confess in such cases, and always did so. She knew, however, that I only told it to the priest or to the Superior, and without mentioning the name of my informant, which I was at liberty to withhold, so that she was not found out. I often said to her, "Don't tell me, Jane, for I must confess it." She would reply: "It is better for you; to confess it than for me." I thus became, even against my will, informed of scenes, supposed by the actors of them to be secret.

Jane Ray once persuaded me to accompany her into the Superior's room, to hide with her under the sofa, and await the appearance of a visiter whom she expected, that we might overhear what passed between them. We had been long concealed, when the Superior came in alone and sat for some time, when fearing she might detect us in the stillness which prevailed, we began to repent of our temerity. At length, however, she suddenly withdrew, and thus afforded us a welcome opportunity to escape.

I was passing one day through a part of the cellar, where I had not often occasion to go, when the toe of my shoe hit something. I tripped and fell down. I rose again, and holding my lamp to see what had caused my fall, I found an iron ring, fastened to a small square trapdoor. This I had the curiosity to raise, and saw four or five steps leading down, but there was not light enough to see more, and I feared to be noticed by somebody and reported to the Superior; so closing the door again, I left the spot. At first, I could not imagine the use for such a passage; but it afterward occurred to me, that this might open to the subterranean passage to the Seminary, for I never before could account for the appearance of many of the priests, who often appeared and disappeared among us, particularly at night, when I knew the gates were closed. They could, as I now saw, come up to the door of the Superior's room at any hour, then up the stairs into our sleeping-room, or where they chose. And often they were in our beds before us. I afterward ascertained that my conjectures were correct, and that a secret communication was kept up, in this manner, between the two institutions, at the end towards Notre Dame-street, at a considerable depth under ground. I often, afterward, met priests in the cellar; when sent there for coal and other articles, as they had to pass up and down the common cellar-stairs on their way.

My wearisome daily prayers and labours, my pain of body, and depression of mind, which were so much increased by penances I had suffered, and those which I constantly feared, and the feelings of shame, remorse, and horror, which sometimes arose, brought me to a state which I cannot describe.

In the first place, my frame was enfeebled by the uneasy postures I was required to keep for so long a time during prayers. This alone I thought was sufficient to undermine my health and destroy my life. An hour and a half every morning I had to sit on the floor of the community-room, with my feet under me, my body bent forward, and my head hanging on one side, in a posture expressive of great humility, it is true, but very fatiguing to keep for such an unreasonable length of time. Often I found it impossible to avoid falling asleep in this posture, which I could do without detection, by bending a little lower than usual. The signal to rise, or the noise made by the rising of the other nuns, then woke me, and I got, up with the rest unobserved.

Before we took the posture just described, we had to kneel for a long time without bending the body, keeping quite erect, with the exception of the knees only, with the hands together before the breast. This I found the most distressing attitude for me, and never assumed it without feeling a sharp pain in my chest, which I often thought would soon lead me to my grave -- that great common receptacle for the dead, under the chapel. And this upright kneeling posture we were obliged to resume as soon as we rose from the half-sitting posture first mentioned; so that I usually felt myself exhausted and near to fainting before the conclusion of morning services.

I found the meditations extremely tedious, and often did I sink into sleep while we were all seated in silence on the floor. When required to tell my meditations, as it was thought to be of no great importance what we said, I sometimes found I had nothing to tell but a dream, and told that, which passed off very well.

Jane Ray appeared to be troubled still more than myself with wandering thoughts; and when blamed for them, would reply, "I begin very well; but directly I begin to think of some old friend of mine, and my thoughts go a-wandering from one country to another."

Sometimes I confessed my falling asleep; and often the priests have talked to me about the sin of sleeping in time of meditation. At last, one of them proposed to me to prick myself with a pin, which I have often done, and so roused myself for a time. My close confinement in the Convent, and the want of opportunities to breathe the open air, might have proved more injurious to me than they did, had I not been employed a part of my time in more active labours than those of sewing, &c., to which I was chiefly confined. I took part occasionally in some of the heavy work, as washing, &c.

The events which I am now to relate, occurred about five months after my admission into the Convent as a nun; but I cannot fix the time with precision, as I know not of any thing which took place in the world about the same period. The circumstances I clearly remember; but, as I have elsewhere remarked, we were not accustomed to keep any account of time.

Information was given to us one day, that another novice was to be admitted among us; and we were required to remember and mention her often in our prayers, that she might have faithfulness in the service of her holy spouse. No information was given us concerning her beyond this fact: not a word about her age, name, or nation. On all similar occasions the same course was pursued, and all that the nuns ever learnt concerning one another was what they might discover by being together, and which usually amounted to little or nothing.

When the day of her admission arrived, though I did not witness the ceremony in the chapel, it was a gratification to us all on one account, because we were always released from labour, and enjoyed a great recreation-day.

Our new sister, when she was introduced to the "holy" society of us "saints," proved to be young, of about the middle size, and very good-looking for a Canadian; for I soon ascertained that she was one of my own countrywomen. The Canadian females are generally not handsome. I never learnt her name, nor any thing of her history. She had chosen Saint Martin for her nun name. She was admitted in the morning, and appeared melancholy all day. This I observed was always the case; and the remarks made by others, led me to believe that they, and all they had seen, had felt sad and miserable for a longer or shorter time. Even the Superior, as it may be recollected, confessed to me that she had experienced the same feelings when she was received. When bedtime arrived, she proceeded to the chamber with the rest of us, and was assigned a bed on the side of the room opposite my own, and a little beyond. The nuns were all soon in bed, the usual silence ensued, and I was making my customary mental prayer and composing myself to sleep, when I heard the most piercing and heartrending shrieks proceed from our new comrade. Every nun seemed to rise as if by one impulse, for no one could bear such sounds, especially in such total silence, without being greatly excited. A general noise succeeded, for many voices spoke together, uttering cries of surprise, compassion, or fear. It was in vain for the night-watch to expect silence for once we forgot rules and penances, and gave vent to our feelings, and she could do nothing but call for the Superior. Strange as it may seem, mad Jane Ray, who found an opportunity to make herself heard for an instant, uttered an exclamation in English, which so far from expressing any sympathy for the sufferer, seemed to betray feelings hardened to the last degree against conscience and shame. This caused a laugh among some of those who understood her, and had become hardened to their own trials, and of course in a great measure to those of others.

I heard a man's voice mingled with the cries and shrieks of the nun. Father Quiblier, of the Seminary, I had felt confident, was in the Superior's room at the time when we retired; and several of the nuns afterward assured me that it was he. The Superior soon made her appearance, and in a harsh manner commanded silence. I heard her threaten gagging her, and then say, "You are no better than anybody else, and if you do not obey, you shall be sent to the cells."

One young girl was taken into the Convent during my abode there, under peculiar circumstances. I was acquainted with the whole affair, as I was employed to act a part in it. Among the novices, was a young lady of about seventeen, the daughter of an old rich Canadian. She had been remarkable for nothing that I know of, except the liveliness of her disposition. The Superior once expressed to us a wish to have her take the veil, though the girl herself had never had any such intention, that I knew of. Why the Superior wished to receive her, I could only conjecture. One reason might have been, that she expected to receive a considerable sum from her father. She was, however, strongly desirous of having the girl in our community, and one day said: "Let us take her in by a trick, and tell the old man she felt too humble to take the veil in public."

Our plans then being laid, the unsuspecting girl was induced by us, in sport, as we told her, and made her believe, to put on such a splendid robe as I had worn on my admission, and to pass through some of the ceremonies of taking the veil. After this, she was seriously informed, that she was considered as having entered the Convent in earnest, and must henceforth bury herself to the world, as she would never be allowed to leave it. We put on her a nun's dress, though she wept, and refused, and expressed the greatest repugnance. The Superior threatened, and promised, and flattered, by turns, until the poor girl had to submit; but her appearance long showed that she was a nun only by compulsion.

In obedience to the directions of the Superior, we exerted ourselves to make her contented, especially when she was first received, when we got round her, and told her we had felt so for a time, but having since become acquainted with the happiness of a nun's life, were perfectly content, and would never be willing to leave the Convent. An exception seemed to be made in her favour, in one respect: for I believe no criminal attempt was made upon her, until she had been for some time an inmate of the nunnery.

Soon after her reception, or rather her forcible entry into the Convent, her father called to make inquiry about his daughter. The Superior first spoke with him herself, and then called us to repeat her plausible story, which I did with accuracy. If I had wished to say any thing else, I never should have dared.

We told the foolish old man, that his daughter, whom we all affectionately loved, had long desired to become a Nun, but had been too humble to wish to appear before spectators, and had, at her own desire, been favoured with a private admission into the community.

The benefit conferred upon himself and his family, by this act of self-consecration, I reminded him, must be truly great and valuable; as every family which furnishes a priest, or a nun, is justly looked upon as receiving the peculiar favour of heaven on that account. The old Canadian firmly believed every word I was forced to tell him, took the event as a great blessing, and expressed the greatest readiness to pay more than the customary fee to the Convent. After the interview, he withdrew, promising soon to return and pay a handsome sum to the convent, which he performed with all despatch, and the greatest cheerfulness. The poor girl never heard that her father had taken the trouble to call to see her, much less did she know any thing of the imposition passed upon him. She remained in the Convent when I left it.

The youngest girl who ever took the veil of our sisterhood, was only fourteen years of age, and considered very pious. She lived but a short time. I was told that she was ill-treated by the priests, and believed her death was in consequence.

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