The Shriving of Miss Esme Stamp…

Episode 71… Rebecca’s Spell… (Part Five)… Sisters of Heaven

‘Are you the Mother Superior?’ began Toby as they left the table. ‘I think you could be.’

‘No, my young friend’, replied Sister Ann. ‘She is away from us at present, attending to some pressing matters in the North of England.’

‘Pressing matters?’ inquired Celia. She felt she wanted to lend support to Toby’s opening conversation, and after all, she rather liked this young man.

‘Nothing too serious.’ Sister Ann answered sharply, then gave Celia a gentle smile. ‘Just business at another order that must be attended on.’

Celia blushed with slight embarrassment. Perhaps she had been a little forward, she told herself.

Further along the corridor they were ushered into what looked like a small workshop, where several nuns were seated at intervals and busy with their hands in what seemed to be the hand sewing of garments.

‘A number of our Sisters are engaged in reclaiming clothes for the local poor,’ explained Sister Ann, ‘these are donated by better-off families, given some repair and handed to any needy person on the first Sunday of each month in the market square. Bread that we bake ourselves, is also taken there and given free. Our sisters have to be skilled in all matters concerning the need of the human soul.’

She led them out into the fresh open air and to a small garden edged by some low growing shrubbery. Here squatted close to the ground were eight white Bee Hives all busy with their inhabitants.

‘I guessed you made your own honey.’ remarked Barney, feeling a little pleased with himself.

‘ You are the boy who commented on the porridge aren’t you. Oh, yes I know.’ Sister Ann replied, ‘we may have a code of silence, in particular amongst our Novices. But we also have the joy of sign language.’

At that instance Barney could detect a twinkle in Sister Ann’s eye. ‘The Honey goes off to local shops,’ she continued, ‘and in that endeavour we make a small profit in order to provide our humble needs.’

Beyond the Bee Hives they were shown a large cultivated area, set out for growing a variety of vegetables. Here again Sisters were at work, handling barrows, turning over the soil or simply attending to the many bordering fruit trees and berry bushes.

‘Everything we eat here, we produce ourselves,’ explained Sister Ann. ‘We are quite self sufficient in our own way.’

Before we knocked your door, asked Celia curiously. ‘We watched a man come out for a minute or two, then go back inside. Is he a member of your Convent?’

‘You must have seen Fredrick. He is a member of our small congregation of helpers, those that are not of the order but have turned to God. He does odd jobs for us. A very kind and gentle man. He’s been with us for a number of years,’ Sister Ann then added; ‘He came to us after his wife and child had died in the Spanish influenza epidemic in the 1920s.’ At that point a certain sadness came into the face of Sister Ann, its thoughtfulness not being lost on the others.

Having watched some clay pottery being made, and with no appearance of Fredrick, the group gave their farewells and headed back through the woods. They found their paths easily and on returning to the road, became full of gossip once more.

A sudden feeling of being lost entered Esme’s mind, just if a light had suddenly been switched off. Her mind began to re-assimilate and a kind of comfortable awareness began to emerge.

In a despaired cry, she looked at her friends and said: ‘I am not real,’  You can’t be real. This must be a dream. You are part of the past and yet you are all part of my future. This isn’t right. Something is very wrong!’

It was then Rebecca’s voice spoke once again inside her mind. “Esme, do not be fearful, it is simply time for you to return to your present time. I have given you images and feelings of a different past, one that could have been”

Esme looked upon the faces of her friends and as she watched, their images began to dissolve and then were gone and lost in time.  For some moment her mind was just black. The stone road on which she was standing grew dark and faded from her sight. She felt change was all around her. Then she stood on another road, a very silent, different road, covered by a sheet of darkness, only a slim dagger of yellow light penetrated from a distant street lamp. Somehow, she could recall the outline of a familiar building and the realisation took hold of her. “This isn’t another dream” she told herself. “I am home. I am, where I want to be!. This is Charles.”

 

About Patrick

a photographer, writer and blogger, a studio and press photographer since the mid 1960's, first published writings in 1974
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