Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 47

JOAN invited him in and he followed her to the study.

“Do sit down, Bill.” She indicated the chair by her desk.

“Came to me in a flash, it did,” Bill said as he sat. “A chance to give that young man something to be responsible for and provide a bit of exercise for him.”

“I’m all ears.”

“Young Ben goes for a walk down on the shore every morning,” Bill began.

“Yes,” Joan agreed. “As regular as clockwork.”

“Just what I need,” Bill said. “Every day I go down there to muck out old Jack’s shelter and see him comfortable. If I supply Ben with a wheelbarrow and a shovel he could easily do that.

“He’s got a good friendship going with old Jack so that’d be no problem. And there are plenty of bales of straw at the back of the shelter, and the barrow would come back up the path loaded with good stuff for the sisters’ compost heap. Now, what do you think of that for a good idea?”

He leaned back in the chair and grinned.

“Everyone gains and I get an easy morning.”

“It’s a very good idea, Bill, but he can’t do that sort of work in a nun’s habit,” Joan replied.

“Your two gardener sisters do dirty work – what about Ben wearing one of their sacking aprons?” he asked. “Or what about him wearing ordinary clothes like a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and gumboots? If anyone’s watching they’ll think he’s my farm hand – he’s on holiday at the moment so I have a vacancy, so to speak. I’d supply him with a hat, too, if it would help.” He looked at her pleadingly.

“He could come to the farm as a nun, see to old Jack as a farm hand then come back, get into his disguise again and go home. There’s only the missus and me at the farm so no-one will be any the wiser.”

“It would be mornings only?” Joan asked.

“Mornings only, Sister,” Bill replied.

Joan could see that it would provide an occupation that would certainly make Ben tired, healthy and all the more eager to practise and study all afternoon with not too much time to think of anything else. She put out her hand.

“I think, Bill, we have a deal.” She smiled. Bill’s work-worn hand clasped hers and they shook on it.

After some days the singing in the chapel became a joy. Ben, having become accustomed to the smell of Jack’s bedroom, began to enjoy the freedom that his new job offered.

“Would you believe it?” he said when he returned one day. “That yacht is anchored in our bay again and they even waved at me today. I waved back at them. It seemed OK to do it – after all, I’m a farm worker when I’m down there now.” He seemed happier and was beginning to sport a tan.

Sisters Amy and Louise were delighted with the growing size of the compost heap and Ben usually returned from his employment at Abbey Farm with something or other surplus to the Murrays’ requirements.

Everyone was happy and Father George had just phoned to say that the Blessing of the Animals was on Sunday week. Joan felt that at last all was well with their world except that Sister Clare was mourning the fact that they didn’t have
an animal to take to the blessing.

“We could catch one of the mice who are troublesome in the pantry,” Sister Jan suggested. “Maybe a blessing could persuade them to go away.”

“There’s going to be a get-together in the church hall after the Blessing of the Animals,” Sister Madeline told them. “The lady I’ve been caring for at night told me. Apparently the Youth Club hut that they share with the Guides and Scouts is in a terrible mess and funds are needed to do it up. So there’ll be refreshments, jumble, bric-à-brac, that sort of thing. Anything at all that can raise a bit of money.”

“I’ll make scones,” Sister Clare declared. “Everyone loves scones and strawberry jam.”

“We can give vegetables,” Sister Amy offered.

“We could run our own jolly stall!” Imelda said, full of excitement. “We’d raise a few pounds, surely – no-one can refuse a nun!”

“I’ve nearly finished that little embroidery I’ve been working on for weeks,” Joan added. “That can be sold, too.”

“Is there a piano in the church hall?” Ben asked.

“Oh, yes,” Imelda replied. “It’s getting on a bit but they still get a tune out of it.”

“Well, I could play requests all afternoon,” Ben said. “Fifty pence a tune. I’d wear my full disguise, of course. I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.”

“Oh, Ben, what a grand idea!” Joan said.

Alison Cook