Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 36

FARMER Murray beamed.

“A good job jobbed, wouldn’t you say?”

“Thank you,” Ben whispered and joined the other nuns.

“We’ll remember to bring treats for Jack next time.” Joan smiled.

“Ahh! He’s not such a bad old donkey.” Farmer Murray sighed. “You ladies have spoiled him rotten with treats but I can’t object to that. We dearly love him, the missus and I. Can’t imagine the place without him.”

“Will you be taking Jack to Father George’s blessing?” Joan asked.

Farmer Murray mounted the tractor once more.

“We’ll give it a go,” he said. “If Jack kicks up rough Father George might come down here and bless him.”

“We’d best warn him to bring treats!” Joan laughed.

“That old ginger tom cat won’t be going, that’s for sure,” Farmer Murray said. “Even if we could catch him. He’s had a real falling out with the missus. He ate half a meat pie that was cooling on the kitchen table. She won’t forgive him for that, no how. By the way, Reverend Mother, may I ask you something?”

“Of course you may, Mr Murray,” Joan replied.

“Is that a new sister you’ve got, the one that got stuck in Jack’s shed?”

“Well.” Joan didn’t want to lie. “Sister Benedict is a guest recovering from an illness. She has come here for peace and quiet.”

“She didn’t get much of that today.” He grinned. “Lovely head of hair, if you don’t mind my noticing. I thought the rules said it mostly had to be shaved off.”

Joan’s cheeks burned.

“The hair remains nowadays,” she explained. “That was in the past.”

“Ah!” Farmer Murray replied. “Times change, eh?”

Mounting the tractor again, he put it into gear and drove away.

“I’ll put old Jack back in the meadow later,” he called. “He’ll have had enough scolding from my cows by then!”

Joan could hear his laughter as he turned into the lane.

The nuns made their way up the lane again to the convent and cold soup. Joan told them what Mr Murray had said.

“I think maybe we should give you a haircut, Ben.”

“With all respect, Mother, I think not,” Madeline said. “Ben’s hair is a natural disguise, don’t you think?”

Ben sighed.

“I’m so sorry to have caused all this bother,” he said. “But there’s one thing I’m glad of.”

“What’s that?” Joan asked.

“I’m glad you wear veils – how embarrassing it would be if I had to tie my hair back with a ribbon!”

There was much laughter as they discussed what colour would suit him.

The soup and rolls were successfully warmed up again and even though lunch was later than usual, they were relieved that Ben was unharmed and with them again.

Joan observed them as they chattered away together, including Ben in their discussions about this and that in the order of their day. He had almost become part of their lives, sitting there in his habit, looking for the world like a genuine young nun. But he wasn’t. The time would come when he would leave and the nuns would have to readjust.

Joan glanced at the kitchen clock. It was high time that they went about their tasks. Much time had been wasted today and some things would have to be left until tomorrow. Emma was laughing with her sisters about some small incident. Her cheeks were rosy, with happiness glowing in her blue eyes.

Ben was listening quietly, his hands folded on the table in front of him. Joan noticed that he looked tired and strangely worried. The incident with Old Jack had seemed to drain his energy more than she had expected.

“Maybe it would be a good idea for you to rest for a while in your room, Ben,” she suggested. “It won’t hurt to forgo your practice for one afternoon, surely?”

Ben smiled.

“You’re right, Reverend Mother. You’re the boss, after all – you know what’s best for me.”

“I’ll ask Sister Emma to bring you a cup of tea later.” Joan patted his hand.

“No, don’t do that. I think I’ll sleep. Thank you all the same,” he said.

“Very well, Ben. I’ll call you at supper time,” Joan replied.

He looked at her, his brow creased by a worried frown.

“May I come and talk to you again some time soon?” he asked.

“Why, of course you may – I’m here any time you want to talk,” Joan answered.

Ben leaned closer so that the nuns would not be able to hear.

“I – something’s happened and I have to tell you. It could change everything. I may have to leave – right away.”



Alison Cook