Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 22

“I’M very fond of this walk down to the shore,” Joan remarked as they made their way to the meadow, armed with a bag of stale crusts for old Jack. “Even though we have to walk uphill all the way back.”

“You have a beautiful home,” Sister Benedict said. “I’d like you to know that I feel very privileged to be able to stay with you.”

“Of course you’d stay with us,” Imelda said. “You’re part of our community, aren’t you? You’re a Stella Maris sister, the same as us. We’re jolly glad to have you. Are you feeling better now? Most people say that they feel unwound towards the end of their stay.”

Sister Benedict hesitated.

“Why, yes, I feel much recovered. I think it won’t be long before I can go back.”

“Ah.” Imelda grinned. “You’ll have to wait until Mother Catherine gives permission. Isn’t that so, Sister?”

“Yes, of course,” Joan replied. Very soon, she thought, I shall have to tell them the whole story. It isn’t fair to keep them in the dark. The security here is equal to none. I can’t think of any way that Sister Benedict could be in any danger in this isolated part of the coast. If the sisters knew the story they would surely go out of their way to help keep a protective eye on their guest.

“Ah,” she said, “here’s the gate. There isn’t a sign of old Jack so I think it’s safe to go into the meadow. Wherever he is, he’ll soon find us and come for his treats.”

As they crossed the meadow, they could see the beach. There was a man standing at the water’s edge with old Jack beside him.

“Why, it’s Mr Murray,” Joan said.

The farmer waved and beckoned them over. As they reached him he pointed at the sand.

“There’s a lot of Jack’s hoof prints down here,” he said “But there’s something else, too. Look.”

“What is it?” Joan asked.

“See those marks at the water’s edge? See that deep groove in the sand? There’s been a boat here. That’s what all the commotion was last night. Jack’s seen ’em off.” He rubbed the donkey’s head affectionately.

Joan felt a cold chill as they looked at the marks in the sand. Sister Benedict glanced in her direction and Joan saw real fear in those wide brown eyes that were usually cast down.

“What did they think they were doing? We’re on all the charts. Some people have no respect. What could they have wanted? Look, the jolly yacht’s still there.” Imelda pointed out to sea then turned to Joan.

“What’s up, Sister? You’re as pale as a ghost. My word, Sister Benedict, so are you.”

Joan felt that she had to ignore the question. She took the stale bread from the bag and offered it to old Jack, who snatched it from her and chewed contentedly.

“I think we must go back now. Sister Benedict is tired,” she said.

“Oh, well.” Imelda sighed. “We can always have a paddle another day.”

On their return to the convent Sister Benedict went straight to her room without a word.

“Quiet soul, isn’t she?” Imelda remarked. “I wonder if she’s like that all the time, or if it’s just because of her ailment?”

Joan put her hand on Imelda’s shoulder and looked at her.

“After supper, when we’re all gathered together in the sitting-room, I shall tell you more about our guest and the ailment with which she has had to cope recently. I hope that you will all stand by me when all is revealed.”

Imelda looked puzzled but smiled at Joan.

“You know that we will. Whatever happens we will always stand by you, whatever the circumstances. We have always trusted you.”

Emma came into the hallway.

“I’ve been practising for Sunday,” she said. “I do hope I don’t play any wrong notes.”

“Of course you won’t.” Imelda grinned. “You never do when we sing our hymns. It’ll be fine and Father Anderson will be delighted. Have you copied out the piece for him to take with him?”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that!” Emma exclaimed. “I shall go and do that right away. May I, Mother?”

“Of course you may, Emma. Take all the time you need,” Joan replied.


Alison Cook