Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 34

CLARE turned to face her with a startled look on her rosy-cheeked face.

“But what about Old Jack?” she asked. “Ben didn’t take any treats for him.”

Jan laughed.

“The donkey will surely know him by now and will not be aggressive,” she said. “Don’t worry so, Sister.”

Clare’s face grew rosier.

“Would you listen to her, Mother – she’s only been here five minutes and already she’s an expert on donkeys. Heaven only knows what will happen down there if there’s no treats for Jack!”

“I have been here much longer than five minutes,” Jan objected. “I am settling in very well! I have not burned the porridge for ages!”

“Sisters, sisters!” Joan held up her hand for silence. “We have no room for argument here. If Ben incurs the wrath of old Jack I’m sure he will be able to deal with the situation perfectly well. Also he’ll remember to take the treats next time. And I must have you respect one another. There shall be peace between you both.”

“Yes, Mother.” They spoke in unison but Joan did not miss the glance that passed between them.

Sisters Amy and Louise came to the open back door and took off their wellingtons, standing them neatly together on the doormat. It was lunchtime and the sisters had already gathered in what Clare called “the heart of the home”. The table was set with soup bowls, spoons and plates, and a large basket of rolls hot from the oven sat invitingly in front of Joan’s place ready to be passed down the table. The sisters took their accustomed places and Joan said grace.

“Where’s Ben?” Imelda asked. “He’s usually first to arrive for lunch.”

“He went for a stroll along the beach,” Joan answered. “He’ll be here in a moment, no doubt.”

Clare began to serve the soup.

“He didn’t take any treats for Old Jack,” she said. “If that blessed donkey refused to let him past the gate he’d probably be back by now. Maybe he let him in but won’t let him out.”

“Or something’s happened to him,” Emma said.

“What?” Madeline asked. “What could happen?”

“I don’t know – what if Jack’s bitten him or knocked him over? He’s not a hundred per cent fit yet, is he?” Emma’s anxiety proved to be infectious.

“Old Jack can be jolly obstreperous,” Imelda conceded. “He’s had the odd snap at me in the past.”

Joan began to worry. What if something had happened? She struggled to get the thoughts out of her head.

“He has a watch, he knows full well what time it is,” she said. “He’ll be here in a moment all out of breath and apologetic.”

Silence reigned and there was not even a spoon dipped or bread broken. There was no sight or sound of Ben.

“He’s never been this late,” Jan said softly.

Imelda replaced her spoon beside the soup bowl and folded her hands in her lap.

“It’s no good, Mother,” she said. “I can’t eat anything until I know that Ben’s safe.”

There was a chorus of agreement.

“He has been placed in our care,” Madeline said. “Perhaps we are duty bound to find out why he’s so late.” She, too, folded her hands in her lap.

“You don’t think we’re over-reacting, do you?” Clare said quietly.

“Sister, we are duty bound to react,” Joan replied.

The nuns left the table and made their way to the door, only pausing for Amy and Louise to put on their boots again.

“If we meet him halfway up the path I’m really going to give him a piece of my mind!” Sister Clare exclaimed.

“We can easily reheat the soup.” Sister Jan tried to pacify her. “And the rolls can be popped back in the oven for a few minutes. Nothing will be spoiled.”


Alison Cook