Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 28

JOAN decided that the refectory should be used for this special occasion. It was a room not often in use, as they preferred to eat in the kitchen which Clare called the “heart of the home”. Sister Jan was meticulous in the polishing of the large table and chairs which were almost as old as the house itself.

When she had finished and had packed up all her cleaning materials the old room smelled sweet and shone with brightness and warmth. Joan praised her work and wondered what on earth they had done without her. Her presence in the convent certainly lifted the workload from Sister Clare. Mother Catherine had shown great wisdom in sending her to replace old Sister Flora – and her guardian angel, Henry.

“Serviettes!” Sister Clare exclaimed as she sliced the onions for the stew. “I forgot serviettes!”

“There are some napkins at the back of the drawer in the sideboard,” Emma said. “We last used them when the bishop visited.”

“Bring them out, Sister, and let me have a look at them. They may need the iron run over them,” Clare said.

It wasn’t long before everything was running like clockwork. Joan had spoken to Father Anderson at the Sunday service that morning and he was looking forward to the feast.

“You don’t really need me hanging around while you’re so busy.” Ben had come into the kitchen. He picked up a chunk of carrot and crunched it.

“Don’t be spoiling my measurements, young man!” Sister Clare scolded. “There’ll be plenty at supper time.”

“I’m going down to the beach for a dip,” he said.

Joan was immediately concerned.

“Do be careful,” she said.

“Of course,” he replied easily. “A handful of crusts for old Jack would be useful, and I’ll go down wearing my habit and come back in it, too.” He turned at the door and made a cross with one finger over his heart. “Promise!”

“Be sure you are on your guard, Ben,” Joan entreated. “Don’t try to be bold. Be vigilant at all times. I do wish you’d put on one of our swimsuits. At a distance you’d almost look like one of us.”

“Don’t worry so.” Ben laughed. “I shall beg a large towel from Sister Imelda. I shall be back in good time to enjoy the feast and I promise to be very shy and not talk much at table.”

“You better had!” Imelda said.

There was plenty to do in the kitchen and the refectory in preparation for the special supper. The napkins did need a little ironing, which Sister Emma did with much devotion, folding each one perfectly. The sisters chatted happily as each went about her tasks and Joan was happy, too, although a little sad at the thought of losing Father Anderson so soon after dear Flora. There was hardly a moment to think about Ben, down on the beach, until his return. The front door slammed and Joan heard him running upstairs.

“Jolly good thing there was no-one here to see him running like that, with his habit and all,” Imelda remarked. “I hope he didn’t run all the way from the beach. It would have been suspicious – a nun running. Hurrying, yes, but running?” Imelda tut-tutted. “A sure sign something’s up.”

Joan went up to the guest room and knocked politely.

“It’s just me!” she called.

“Please come in, Sister.”

Joan opened the door and saw their guest sitting on the end of his bed, his hands clasped in front of him and a worried expression on his face.

“What’s happened?”

“That yacht,” he said. “The one that was anchored out in the bay the other day. It’s back and it’s flying a French flag.”

“Oh!” Joan felt relieved. “They’ve just got another charter. They have to fly their flag in British waters. It’s probably another stag party. It’s so quiet along this coastline they must have discovered that it’s an ideal spot. It is the weekend, you know. They’ll be gone by tomorrow morning.

“I didn’t see it until I was in the water. I had changed behind that big rock. I swam back, retrieved my disguise and got dressed again. They couldn’t have seen me – could they?”

“I doubt it very much.” Joan smiled. “They would be otherwise engaged. But it just goes to show how important it is to wear the habit and not to be too bold, wherever you choose to go.”

Joan paused at the door and grinned.

“I expect you to be well behaved and in full disguise tonight, young man. I want no sight of jeans or trainers this evening.”

“Of course, Reverend Mother,” he replied.

Alison Cook