Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 35

THEY hurried down the shore path, but there was no sign of Ben, and there was no sign of Jack in the meadow, either.

“Why, there’s Farmer Murray,” Imelda said.

“He’s seen us,” Joan said. “He’s waving something.”

“It is a veil,” Jan said quietly. “One of our veils.”

The nuns waited until Farmer Murray came nearer and stopped to catch his breath. His face was even pinker than his usual ruddy complexion.

“Oh, Reverend Ladies!” he puffed. “I was tending to my cows in the field on the other side of the lane when I hears all this commotion going on in the meadow here. I dashed over, only to see Old Jack chasing one of your sisters round the field. She were goin’ like a grey’ound. I ain’t never seen a nun move so fast.” He drew a red spotted handkerchief out of his jacket pocket and mopped his face with it.

“Oh, my!” Clare said. “What happened?”

“Well,” he continued, “she shot towards the old shelter. She did make it – just – but before she could get right inside, Old Jack nipped the corner of her veil and pulled it right off her head. When Jack found he couldn’t eat the veil he dropped it on the grass. That bad old donkey let me grab his halter and I took him over the lane and shut him in the field with my cows.” He looked around triumphantly.

“No doubt they’ll give him a jolly good talking to,” Imelda said.

“So – has Sister come out?” Joan asked nervously.

“No, Mother,” he replied. “I went back with the veil, thinking that she’d not wish to be seen without it. I called and said that I’d just hand it to her around the door so as she could make herself respectable again.”

“So why didn’t she agree to that?” an exasperated Madeline asked.

“Because she’s slammed the old door so hard that it’s stuck, and now I’ve got to go and get something to prise it open.” He handed the veil to Joan.

“A jolly jemmy would soon do the trick,” Sister Imelda advised.

“Good idea, Sister,” Farmer Murray agreed. He walked towards the meadow gate. “I’ll not be too long.” He waved a hand as he opened the gate and began the walk up the lane.

“Hurry, sisters, we must talk to Ben – he’ll be wondering what’s happening,” Joan said.

“And there’s not even a window to look out of in that murky old place,” Clare added.

“Well,” Jan said, “at least Mr Murray could not look in at him.”

“Sure, that’s a blessing indeed,” Clare agreed.

Joan had to suppress a smile at the thought of Ben being chased around by Jack but she worried, too, about him trying to cope with so much stress after being so poorly.

“Ben – it’s me,” she said, her face close to the door. “We’ll soon have you out of there. Can you speak to us? Are you OK?”

A voice answered from within the stone building.

“It stinks in here!”

The nuns sighed with relief when they heard Ben’s voice.

“Well, of course it does.” Clare laughed. “It’s a donkey’s bedroom!”

Farmer Murray came back on his tractor with a tool kit in a box on the back. When they heard the motor coming down the lane Emma went to open the gate for him. Joan was pleased that Emma politely refused a lift over to the stone shelter but walked sedately back by herself. Farmer Murray drew up beside them and jumped down from his seat.

“Well, Reverend Ladies, let’s sort out our little problem.” Walking over to the door, he placed a jemmy into the space between the wooden door and the stone wall.

“Now, then, Reverend Mother,” he said. “When I shift the door, you be ready to reach in and give Sister her veil. I’ll shut my eyes.”

The old door obligingly swung open with gentle persuasion and the veil was passed to Ben, who soon emerged, blinking at the light.


Alison Cook