The Correction of Sister Anne
Note from the author: During the creation of ‘The Royal Falconer’, a story that has been over five years in the making, some chapters were written and then discarded, others greatly modified.
"The Correction of Sister Anne" is a sub-plot to that story that went through several modifications before getting the right flow. Nothing however became deleted or lost, and I put together here an assembly of parts that still remain, parts greatly amended, and parts missing from the final edition.
The nuns of Wistanstow Abbey were in a state of deep shock. Sister Anne had sinned. The novice had been assigned to the orchards and with summer giving way to autumn, the apples on the trees were almost ripe. Her instructions were implicit. Those apples that had fallen in the recent storms were to be collected, placed in baskets and taken to the kitchens.
But one large rosy apple never reached the kitchens. Instead the apple found its way beneath the habit of Sister Anne to be consumed in her cell that evening. But Sister Maud, much wiser and more devout, spotted the misdemeanour and informed the head of the order. Now, with matins concluded and the sun about to rise, it was time for Sister Anne to confess her sins and suffer whatever punishment the Abbess thought merited such a wicked crime.
The office of the Abbess was austere. Just a heavy wooden table cut from oak yet unstained. On it burned a single candle, a strip of sealing wax, a feathered quill and an inkwell filled with distinctive light blue ink. Beyond the table there stood a simple chair, with straight back and unpolished wood. The candle cast a flickering light about the room. On one wall hung a huge gilded wooden cross with the body of Christ nailed upon it. Against a second wall stood wooden shelves stacked with books, manuscripts and scrolls. These were the records and communications between the abbey and families of the sisters at the nunnery. At the centre of the table rested a solitary apple.
On the chair behind the table sat Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, sister of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but here on the Nunnery side of the Abbey she went by another title. Here she was the Abbess of Wistanstow, or to use her more accepted title, the nunnery’s Mother Superior. The Abbess was seated at the table, her back straight, fingers drumming on the surface. To the front of the table knelt a young novice, her head bowed and her young freckled face hidden beneath her wimple.
The Abbess collected the apple from the table and held it aloft. With voice deep with despair she addressed the young novice.
‘Sister Anne, you have sinned and brought wicked shame upon this Holy Order,’ she told her. ‘So just what am I going to do with you?’
The young novice knew that she must not answer. The Abbess was only thinking aloud. Kneeling before the table and running a rosary through her fingers, the young novice could tell from the tone of the Abbess’s voice that whatever punishment she meted out, it would be harsh. There would almost certainly be tasks of scrubbing and cleaning that would wear away the nails from the fingers. But worst of all there would be lashes. Only the most dreadful of sins warranted lashes, but what she had done ranked as one of the worst.
Sister Anne had been at the nunnery for little over three months. In that short space of time she had only ever witnessed one lashing and this was for being late for matins on two mornings running. To miss one matins was frowned upon and a penance was served. However for missing two matins was considered a terrible sin, and the offending sister had received two lashes for her misdemeanour, one for each missed call to prayer. But if this was to be Sister Anne’s guide, then what did the stealing of an apple merit? She dreaded to think.
The Abbess, deep in shock, shook her head from side to side.
‘Sister Anne you have sinned greatly,’ she told the young novice. ‘It has been a long time since a sister of this order hath committed a crime that does warrant such severe punishment. But before I decide what this punishment should be, I must consult with the Abbot and hear what he has to say on the matter.’
The Abbess continued to shake her head from side to side. This hurt her as much as it did the young novice. However, she could think of no other course of action other than to refer Sister Anne’s misdemeanour to a higher authority. The situation was not ideal, and not what she wanted, but she could see no other option available to her.
‘Sister Anne,’ she told the novice, ‘you must return to your cell immediately and wait there until you are called. I am informed that the Abbot hath returned from his long and arduous journey to Lodelowe, but misses matins and sleeps in this morning. But as soon as he awakens from his tiresome journey I will consult with him. I must be guided by his knowledge of the law and by what he has to say on matters of theft. There is no place in this order for thieves. So go now Sister Anne, return to your cell and pray. Pray forgiveness and pray to God that he gives you strength.’
Sister Anne rose, and bending low and walking backwards, made her way to the door. Already she was praying for strength and forgiveness, for certainly she had no wish to be handed over to the monastery for punishment. This would be the worst punishment of all. She had heard other nuns of the order; nuns much older and wiser, tell tales of sisters being taken across to the other side of the abbey for punishment. And what they did to young nuns over on the other side filled her with both horror and dread.
Surely any punishment meted out by the Abbot was not for her? Surely the Abbess would not take council from the Abbot and send her across to the other side? She was nothing but a mere novice and as yet unschooled in the teachings of this abbey’s religious order.
* * *
Behind the abbey walls a ceremony was about to take place. Sister Anne was to receive the first of her two corrections. A high, latticed fence ran down the middle of the garden to the rear of the church. Against the fence, on the nunnery side of the abbey, stood a pear tree. The trunk was tall and straight, and its pruned branches stretched out horizontally to the ground.
Stood around the tree in a semi-circle gathered the nuns of the order. All were assembled for the Abbess had bid that all should attend the first correction of Sister Anne. Over on the other side of the fence there stood a small line of monks. The Abbot was amongst them. Unlike the nuns the monks were not obliged to attend and some had moved to the church to pray.
Once all were assembled the Abbess called Sister Anne to the garden. The novice was already stripped of her habit and entered the garden wearing nothing more than a sleeveless linen vest. Her head was shaven with only a covering of ginger stubble showing. With head bowed Sister Anne knelt before the tree and, clutching at her rosary and a crucifix, began to pray for forgiveness.
A senior sister of the order moved forward. In her hands she carried a chalice of holy water, a whip, and two short lengths of rope. She handed the ropes to the Abbess. ‘Sister Anne, the time has come. Remove your vest and bare your back,’ said the Abbess.
Remaining on her knees and facing the tree, Sister Anne removed the vest and placed it on the ground. After a short prayer she rose to her feet and signalled to the Abbess that she was ready.
The Abbess stepped forward and tied the two ropes to each of Sister Anne’s wrists. She then edged her closer to the tree and lashed her wrists to the horizontal branches so that the novice stood facing the truck with arms outstretched. In one hand she clutched a rosary and in the other she gripped a crucifix.
The Abbess, in a final act of preparation, called for the chalice of holy water. She dipped two fingers into the vessel and splashed droplets upon the novice’s freckled back. She repeated this several times and concluded with a little prayer. Now she was ready. She handed back the chalice and in return collected the whip. It was a long thin whip of plaited hide, and to gain a feel she flicked her wrist and listened to the crack. She did it a second time and then a third. Finally she gave a little nod of approval. It was a long time since she had handled a whip, but now she was ready.
Feeling accustomed to the feel of the whip, she turned to Sister Anne. ‘Sister Anne,’ she said and speaking aloud so all should hear, ‘it is by order of the Abbot that you receive this correction. He says one hundred lashes are not good enough for such a wicked crime. But he does also appreciate that thou are nothing but a novice and not yet fully schooled into the ways of this most holy and religious order. He therefore reduces your correction to twenty-four lashes, one for every hour of the day. But he also says, that in order to amend your ways you need further correction from him personally, and for this, once the twenty-four lashes hath been administered, you are to be taken to the other side so that your evil ways may once and for all be purged from your body, and that you be returned to the nunnery a more devout and believing Christian.’
Having explained, the Abbess turned to the sisters of the order. ‘Come sisters let us all kneel and pray for Sister Anne,’ she said. ‘Pray that the evil that is within her be cast away, and that the devil’s presence be driven from this holy place for ever.’
All knelt in prayer, and from the other side of the lattice fence the Abbot began to recite a verse in Latin. The service was long and solemn, and ended with a chant from the handful of monks that elected to attend the ceremony.
A silence descended over both sides of the lattice fence as the Abbess raised the whip and held it high. ‘Are you ready Sister Anne?’ she asked.
From her position against the tree, Sister Anne nodded her head. ‘I am ready Holy Mother,’ she said, biting her bottom lip.
‘Then pray Sister Anne. Pray for God’s forgiveness, and pray loudly so that we all can hear, said the Abbess. She took a deep breath, raised her whip arm high above her head, braced herself, then swung her arm down and forwards.
Sister Anne screamed as the whip raked across her bare back. Immediately a red welt appeared and began to swell up along the full length of the mark left by the lash. She pulled hard on the ropes that bound her wrists, and with clenched fists grasped her rosary and crucifix and, as she had been instructed, prayed loudly so that all that were gathered about her should hear her call for forgiveness.
As the sound of Sister Anne’s screams faded the monks, observing through the lattice fence, began their intonations.
‘Uno pro Christianis cunctis,’ they chanted. [One for all the Christians.] Then to conclude the Abbot recited a special little prayer to accompany the chant. For a while silence descended upon the garden, the only noise coming from Sister Anne as she gulped in air in an effort to regain her breath. However, she knew what was wanted and was determined to play her part. She had been instructed to pray and keep on praying. But to do this she needed to breathe. As the pain eased, but still gasping loudly, she recited a little prayer for forgiveness.
The Abbess remained patient. She held the whip high and waited, and only when Sister Anne’s prayers were concluded did she strike for the second time. As the whip cracked loudly and echoed about the garden, the monks chanted for a second time.
They sang, ‘Duo pro sororibus vanis.’ [Two for the loose sister.]
And so the ceremony went on, a sequence of whip, incantations and blessings.
‘Tres pro penitentibus,’ [Three for the penitent,] chanted the monks after the third stroke.
‘Quatro pro fratribus perversis,’ [Four for the errant brethren,] for the fourth.
‘Quinquies pro vivis.’ [Five for the living.]
‘Sexies pro fidelibus defunctis.’ [Six for the faithful dead.]
And so it went on until all twenty-four strokes had been administered.
On conclusion and with final prayers said, the Abbess led the nuns away, leaving Sister Anne alone and tied to the tree.
Protocol decreed that it was not fitting for monks and nuns to be seen together. As the door to the nunnery closed, the Abbot handed two keys to a senior monk. Only the Abbot and Abbess held such keys. These were the keys that would gain access to the nunnery, and the only way through was via the church. A route always barred and locked by two gates.
As the senior monk collected the keys, the Abbot spoke his intentions. ‘Go to the other side and collect Sister Anne. Cut her down from the tree and take her to the lower chamber,’ he said. ‘I will attend to her later and personally administer the second of her corrections.’
* * *
Deep below the Abbey there existed a chamber that was forbidden for all but the Abbot to enter. This was his private chamber and no one else was allowed within the confines of its walls. Being so far underground there were no windows, no ventilation, and the room reeked of damp.
‘Are you ready my child?’ asked the Abbot.
Sister Anne was knelt in prayer, the Abbot stood over her. They faced the door to the chamber. She nodded slowly and deliberately.
‘Yes Holy Father,’ she replied at a whisper, ‘I am ready.’
The Abbot unlocked the solid oak door and pushed it open. The rusty hinges creaked as the door pushed inwards.
‘Then enter, my child,’ he told her, ‘enter and prepare for the second of your corrections. Crawl into the chamber on your knees and pray. Pray to God for his forgiveness.’
Sister Anne did as instructed. Remaining on her knees and with hands clenched in prayer, she shuffled into the chamber. All the time she kept her head down, looking to the floor whilst she did so. Once inside she stopped and listened to the sound of the door closing and the lock being turned.
With the door secured the Abbot turned to Anne, made the sign of the cross, placed a hand upon the young novice’s shaven head and chanted a short verse in Latin. The time had come to administer the second of Sister Anne’s corrections.
Speaking solemnly and with much reverence the Abbot explained the reason for her being here. ‘Sister Anne, it is time for you to suffer as Jesus did,’ he told her, ‘and to suffer upon the cross. You must pray for his forgiveness, and pray that he delivers you from evil, and pray that he gives you strength to keep from further temptation. Sister Anne, you must beg to be absolved of all your sins; and you must promise to Jesus that you will never go down this wicked path again.’
Sister Anne continued to stare down at the floor, hands together in prayer. There were tears in her eyes. She was naked, her ginger head shaved to a stubble and her back scarred and reddened with welts.
‘Sister Anne, are you ready to receive the second of your corrections?’ asked the Abbot once more. It was important that she did this of her own free will.
The young novice raised her head and looked around. The chamber was dimly lit, the only light coming from candles placed in niches and alcoves in the walls. The roof was high and vaulted, and light from the candles danced around the chamber. In front of her, at the centre of the chamber, there stood a large wooden cross. It was set into the flag-stoned floor, and above there existed a small gap between top and ceiling.
After a brief glance she returned her gaze to the floor and nodded her head. ‘Yes Holy Father, I am ready,’ she said in quaking voice, ‘ready to suffer as Jesus did, and ready to repent all my sins.’
The door had been locked behind her, so there was no escape and no turning back. But thoughts of escape never entered Sister Anne’s head. She had shuffled into the chamber on her knees and had entered of her own free will. This she was told she must do. She recognised that she was nothing more than a common thief, and had to be punished. She had stolen an apple and it was time to beg forgiveness. For her sins she was to be tied to a cross and made to suffer as Jesus did. She was to beg for his forgiveness in the hope that she would be absolved. All this had been explained to her by the Abbess before being led to the gardens for the first of her corrections, so she knew what to expect.
Sister Anne raised her head and looked about the chamber once more. From the many steps she had descended she knew this to be a chamber deep underground. She looked upwards. The vaulted ceiling was high and difficult to make out in the gloom. There were no windows, the only light coming from a few scattered candles about the walls. She recalled the events leading to her arrival. Two monks had collected her from the nunnery. They had cut her down from the pear tree and carried her into the abbey. She was barely conscious at the time but aware of the long descent. At the bottom they just kept on going, carrying her down low narrow aisles until they came before a door. Here they dumped her to the floor and went away, leaving her alone in the dark. She was told not to move. She knew better than to move, and anyway, where could she go in the dark?
For an hour, maybe two, for she had no way of telling, she remained lying on the floor. She lay face down, deliberately keeping her whip-tattered back away from any contact. When someone did come, it was the Abbot and he was alone. He carried a single lit candle. Under the light he had explained why she had been brought here and what was to be her punishment, and she had accepted it. When the door opened she had crawled in on her knees and still kneeling waited as the door became closed and locked.
The Abbot offered Sister Anne his hand and with the other beckoned her towards the cross. ‘Come Sister Anne,’ he said, ‘come with me. The time has come for the second of your corrections.’
With a helping hand from the Abbot, Sister Anne rose to her feet. Still holding hands they moved to the centre of the chamber and to stand before the cross. The wooden structure was large and sturdy, rising from the floor and almost making contact with the ceiling without actually touching it. It was of simple construction, just two rough-cut pieces of timber jointed together and set into a square hole in the floor. Near the top hung a small unfurled scroll that bore the initials ‘INRL’. To aid the initial stages of the crucifixion, and to get Sister Anne standing with her back to the cross, a long bench had been placed crosswise before the base. At one end of the bench there rested three pieces of rope and a crown of thorns. All this, along with the lighted candles, had been prepared earlier by the Abbot.
Standing behind Sister Anne and holding her by the shoulders, he told her: ‘Now Sister Anne, step upon the bench, turn your back to the cross and stretch out your arms.’
With a helping hand from the Abbot, Sister Anne stepped upon the bench, turned around and shuffled backwards to stand with her back against the cross. She then raised and stretched out her arms and waited. It was an awkward stance to maintain and movement of her arms painful where the welts on her shoulders rubbed against the roughness of the woodwork. But at no time did she shirk her duty. She had to be seen to be brave, and for Jesus to see her suffering, and for him to understand that she was doing this for him.
The Abbot collected a length of rope from the end of the bench and held it to Sister Anne’s face. He pointed to an arm which was barely touching the underside of the crossbeam. ‘Raise up our body and hold straight your arms, my child, so that I may judge the distance and bind the wrists,’ he told her.
Sister Anne was not very tall and as a result the crossbeam stood slightly higher than the position of her outstretched arms. To accommodate the Abbot’s wishes she stretched her body upwards and to stand on tiptoes. She then thrust out her arms so that they ran horizontally along the crossbeam. Once in position the Abbot stepped upon the bench to stand alongside Sister Anne. He was a big heavy man and his movements cumbersome, but he was up to the task. Now standing at a reasonable height he set about lashing Sister Anne’s wrist to the beam. He did this by firstly wrapping several loops about the wrist then adding several more loops to the crossbeam before finishing with a tight knot.
The Abbot stepped down, gathered a second length of rope, and returned to stand on the bench over on the other side. He then secured the second arm in an identical manner to the first; wrapping several loops around the wrist, then about the crossbeam, before finishing off with a tight knot.
Satisfied with what he had done, he stepped down and stood once more before Sister Anne. There was no rush. He would give the young novice time to settle and get the feel of her bonds.
With her wrists now securely lashed to the crossbeam she found comfort in returning her heels to the bench. But it was at a cost. The ropes that bound her arms twisted against their moorings and bit deep into her wrists. Yet there was some comfort to be found from this move. Whilst her legs supported her weight, her arms no longer felt the ache.
With another length of rope now in his hands, the Abbot addressed the young novice. ‘Return to standing on your toes whilst I secure your feet,’ he told her.
Sister Anne did as instructed and returned to standing on tiptoes. She did not like this stance, but took comfort from the fact that her arms and wrists were no longer taking the strain. The ache however was quick to return, this time to her feet and calf muscles.
The Abbot set about binding the feet in a special way. This he had done on several previous occasions and knew exactly what was needed. The rope had to be applied in such a way as to allow support for the base of the feet: A place of purchase so that she may push upwards to take the strain away from her arms. But this relief could only be held for a short period. Soon the ache would transfer back to the legs and a repetitive cycle would set in. Firstly the legs would take the strain, and then the arms. The Abbot knew that she would learn very quickly. The victim always did. It would appear to the observer as a little dance; up and down, movement without end.
The rope was applied with several turns, not only around the ankles, but also down and around the insteps of the feet. When he was done, and leaving two long lengths of the rope still free, he looked up and spoke to Sister Anne. ‘Lift your legs so that your knees are bent, and rest the soles of your feet against the beam.’
She did as she was told. It meant taking the whole of the strain on her arms, but she knew she must obey without protest. The Abbot too helped a little by raising the legs and holding them there whilst he passed the ropes to the rear and wound what remained around both post and ankles. Finally, with what little rope remained he finished off by tying a tight knot to the rear.
No sooner were the bindings in place Sister Anne relaxed her arms and settled down to stand on the section of rope that passed beneath her feet. She found it to be a secure footing, and took some comfort from this. It was something she could stand upon and take the weight away from her arms, which at this point were beginning to hurt severely.
Whilst Sister Anne was experimenting, bobbing up and down in order to find which position afforded the least amount of discomfort, the Abbot moved the bench to one side. It was no longer needed and had served its purpose. Collecting the crown of thorns he moved to stand before the young novice once more.
He was about to ask her to lower her head, but was interrupted by a loud knock on the door and a voice in Latin calling, ‘abbas... Veni... Veni... Venias... Sine mora!’ [Abbot, come, come, o come, without delay!]
The Abbot swung around. He recognised the voice. ‘Wait Brother Dominic,’ he called and sounding most displeased. ‘I must finish here. I am nearly done. I shall be with you shortly.’ He then turned to Sister Anne, and in a calm voice and talking as if nothing had happened, he said to her; ‘Lower your head Sister Anne, and receive this crown of thorns. Suffer as Jesus did, and beg his forgiveness. Beg hard and pray that he absolves you of all your sins.’
In a solemn procedure he placed the crown of thorns on Sister Anne’s shaven head. He then recited a little prayer.
As the Abbot’s prayer concluded there came another loud knock at the door. ‘abbas... Veni... Veni... Venias... Sine mora!’ a voice called and sounding far more urgent.
The Abbot turned to face the door. ‘I’m coming Brother Dominic,’ he called. ‘I am finished here now.’
Whatever it was the brother wanted, it had to be something really important. The Abbot recognised this. He had given strict instructions not to be disturbed, so why the urgency? Reluctantly he made his way to the door. He would have loved to stay a little longer, to see Sister Anne squirm and writhe upon the cross, but it sounded like something serious had happened, something that required his immediate attention.
He opened the door to find two faces staring back at him. One was Brother Dominic, the other was a soldier of Lodelowe. He knew this from the distinctive dark-blue and red halved tunic with three rampant white lions embroidered upon the chest. From the soldier’s stance and grimace upon his face he could see he was in much distress. One leg was heavily bound with splints, and he supported his weight on his good leg with the aid of a staff.
Quickly the Abbot stepped out of the chamber and hastily pulled the door shut in an effort to stop the soldier looking inside. Sister Anne could wait. He would come back later to cut her down, but for the time being he had some urgent business to attend. So urgent in fact, he did not find time to lock the door to the chamber.
‘Come quickly, let us return to the Abbey,’ the Abbot said to Brother Dominic. ‘You can explain the reason for this gross interruption on the way.’
They set off leaving the soldier trailing in their wake. He could only move slowly and soon he was far behind. On reaching the long flight of steps the Abbot and Brother Dominic had long disappeared from sight. The soldier stopped and sat himself down at the foot of the steps. He would wait for someone to come and assist him with the ascent, for he had no the strength to climb them alone.
* * *
Corporal Egbert shuffled his way down to the bottom step and put his head in his hands. He had waited a long time, squatting uncomfortably on the sixth step up, and with splinted leg stuck out before him. His mind was full of questions. Where was everybody? How much longer did he have to wait? Surely they would not leave him alone down here? Somebody was bound to remember and come to his aid. Now he found himself at the bottom and the same questions filled his head. But then he remembered that he was not alone. There was at least one other person down here. He had taken a brief glimpse her in the far chamber. He was sure he had seen a naked girl tied to a cross. So surely someone would arrive shortly, if only to visit her? Surely they would not leave her to suffer indefinitely?
Egbert, supported by his staff rose to his feet and set off down the long aisle, his splinted leg dragging on the flagstones. His movements were laboured and progress slow, but he was now a man with a purpose. He was going to release the girl. For in his mind what these people were doing was wrong.
He reached the door from which the Abbot had emerged and tested the latch. It was not locked. He knew this. The Abbot in his haste had forgotten to turn the key. As the door opened inwards he strained his eyes and peered into the gloom. The light inside was poor and only illuminated by a few candles spread around the walls. He waited for his eyes to adjust then looked around. At the centre of the chamber rested a huge wooden cross, and on it, with arms outstretched, perched the naked figure of a young girl.
With the aid of his staff and dragging his splinted leg, Egbert hobbled to the centre of the chamber. Resting on his staff to take most of his weight, he stood before the cross. His eyes were better adjusted now to the light and he nodded his head. His eyes had not deceived him. There was indeed a naked young girl tied to the cross. She was young and from her posture it was clear that she had not heard his coming. She hung limply by the wrists. She was slumped with her chin resting upon her chest, and on her head she wore a crown of thorns.
‘Anne?’ he questioned at a whisper, for in the gloom he remained uncertain. He had only ever seen Sergeant Cuthred’s daughter with long flowing ginger locks, and this girl’s head was shaven, so he could not be sure.
Asking a little more loudly, he said, ‘Anne! Is this you?’
Egbert’s raised voice caused the girl to stir. She straightened her legs in order to relieve the pressure on her arms, then opened her eyes and looked down. It was only possible to stand like this for a short while until her legs began to ache. But she was beginning to learn. When the pain got too much for her, she would return support to her arms. Then when those ached she would stand again. This she would repeat every three to four minutes.
Anne’s vision was blurred and she could not see clearly. A man was stood before her, looking up, this was evident, but whoever he was, he was not the Abbot. The Holy Father was fat and obese, and this person was tall and thin. She squeezed her eyes and looked again. Then a hint of a smile appeared.
‘Egbert! Is this you?’ she asked. ‘You should not be here! The Abbot must not find you here!’
Egbert shook his head and removed a dagger from his belt. This naked crucified girl was indeed Sergeant Cuthred’s daughter. He raised his dagger towards a rope that bound a wrist.
‘Anne, my dear sweet Anne, what have they done to you?’ he said. ‘I will cut you down.’
Anne shook her head when she saw what Egbert was about to do, and she called out to prevent him.
‘No Egbert! No! Please no! Stop!’ she called in earnest. ‘You must not cut me down! Only the Abbot can release me. It is by my own will that I am here. And only when my penitence is paid can I be released.’
Egbert lowered the dagger and shook his head.
‘Then you have agreed to this?’ he asked. ‘Agreed to suffer so, because it is your will?’
Anne managed a distorted smile. ‘It is God’s will, not mine that I am here. Egbert, you are a good man. Good and God fearing. But go and leave me to my penitence. I am well, and the Abbot will be returning soon. There is no need to worry. I have sinned against this most Holy Order, and this is the second and last of my corrections.’ Egbert returned his dagger to his belt and shook his head.
‘Then can I get you something?’ he asked. ‘Some water perhaps to relieve you of your suffering?’
Anne shook her head. ‘No Egbert, you are a fine man,’ she told him. ‘But I want nothing more than to be left alone with my prayers. The Abbot must not find you here. So please go and close the door behind you. And Egbert, worry not about me. I am well and will endure this ordeal.’
Egbert’s head dropped. He did not agree but understood. Anne had committed a sin and this was to be her punishment. He looked her in the face and shook his head.
‘Anne, you are indeed a brave young girl,’ he told her. ‘May God remain with you and help you through this dreadful ordeal.’
Anne managed a smile. ‘Yes, God is here. He is here with me,’ she said. ‘So fear not. I will survive and come out of this a better and more devout Christian.’
Egbert bit hard on his bottom lip. He was moved to tears.
‘Then farewell my dear sweet Anne,’ he told her. ‘Be brave and my thoughts will always be with you.’
Using his staff for support, Egbert turned and hobbled from the chamber. At the door he turned to take one last look. Anne was indeed a brave young girl, but like she said, the Abbot must not find him here.
He closed the door and set off down the aisle. When the Abbot returned he would find him waiting at the foot of the steps.
Copyright© 2012 by Nosbert. All rights reserved.