by Pam Sears
Some people look for reasons to be sour
|“Wot d’ye think ye’r doin’, Sir Marcus!?” Sister Mary Margaret Ignacious snapped at the man on the bed.
“Working to strengthen my arm.” He replied innocently.
“Ye’re s’posed t’ be taken it easy. Tha’s not taken it easy by my guess. Put that away.” She grumped, face twisted with irritation at her patient as well as the herbs she was having to mix.
“It’s all right, Sister Mary Margaret.” A gentle baritone told her. “It’s not a heavy draw and won’t over-tax him in the least.”
Sister Mary Margaret bent her glare on the other man in the room. She had little liking for most men and less tolerance for their behavior.
“This is me hospital room.” She snapped. “Ye’ve no authority in here, Friar Tummins. If the Leech said he was t’ rest he’s t’ rest. An’ messin’ w’ that bow is’na restin’ in my book. Now put it away.”
Friar Tummins raised his eyebrows, giving Sister Mary Margaret a thoughtful glance, then smiled ruefully at Sir Marcus. “It appears we need to put the bow away, my son. Come, I will set it here in this corner.”
“Ye’ll be settin’ it out of me hospital is what ye’ll be doin’. I won’t be havin’ instruments of war in this place.” She refused to give an inch, hands on her ample hips as she glared at the two men.
Friar Tummins smiled that gentle smile again. “Tis no war bow, Sister. It’s a simple hunting bow such as is used to bring game in for the kitchen. All is well.” And he set it carefully, still within reach of the man on the bed, against a wall.
Scowling over not getting her way Sister Mary Margaret flounced from the room, as much as a woman her age could flounce, carrying the mortar she’d been using to grind herbs. Bits and pieces floated to the floor behind her as she went.
She hated having the solitude of the nunnery disturbed but it was also a hospice so they had no choice in the matter. They were required to take in the ill or infirm and care for them.
She harrumphed to herself. If *she* were the Mother in charge of the Abbey, that would all change, right enough! No more of this nonsense of wounded soldiers being brought in or village lads too stupid to avoid broken bones. Then the Novices under her would be able to concentrate on prayers and piety rather than the “poor lads in need” that they were forced to care for.
She snorted as she dumped the remaining herbs into a chipped mug she found in the kitchen cupboard. “Poor lads in need” her left foot. More like smarmy fakes looking to take advantage of silly women.
Stomping down the stairs to the cellar she located a bottle of last year’s gooseberry wine and brought it back into the kitchen. It needed to be mulled on the stove with the herbs in it in order to administer the medicines the Leech had ordered.
And that offended her sensibilities, too. Using the wine they would normally save for the Sacrament as a carrier for medicines. She’d as soon use hot water or even weak tea but the Mother had ordered the wine to be used and use it she must.
Grumbling Sister Mary Margaret finished her preparations and stomped back to the sick room, unaware of the eyes of the Mother on her.
“Now, are you sure you can see it from here, my son?” Friar Tummins queried. “I’m not spotting the creature myself.”
“I assure you it’s there, Friar.” Sir Marcus had his eyes fixed on a branch high in the trees across the large courtyard. “I was one of the best longbow men in our company. I can see either at a great distance or very small targets.”
“Very well, my son. But you should take your shot before Sister Mary Margaret returns. We don’t want her upset with you.” Friar Tummins kept his gaze on the tree, trying to see where Sir Marcus was aiming.
“I don’t understand why she’s so upset.” Sir Marcus mused. “None of the men who have been brought here for their injuries *want* to be here.” He raised his aim slightly, sighting down the arrow, and drew it just that little bit tighter.
He released his hold and with a low, melodic twang the arrow was sent across the distance of the courtyard nearly to the top of the tree. There was a satisfying “thunk” and a few feathers scattered from a branch. A moment later the body of a hawk tumbled slowly from the branches to land at the base of the tree. Sir Marcus’s squire had been waiting at the base of the tree and quickly gathered up the body, heading toward the stables at a rapid trot.
Sir Marcus’s eyes widened as he heard the stomping shuffle of Sister Mary Margaret’s return. He thrust the bow at the Friar.
“Quickly, sir. She’s coming.”
Friar Tummins hastily settled the bow and quiver where he’d put them earlier. In his hurry he almost knocked them down and had to catch them. Unfortunately Sister Mary Margaret chose that moment to throw open the door.
She scowled at the poor Friar – it seemed to be her default expression – and snapped at him. “I thought that thing was t’ be put out o’ the room!”
“I do apologize, Sister. I was returning to my seat after checking Sir Marcus and brushed against it. I shall be more careful in the future.” He smiled benignly at her.
Her scowl deepened as she bustled to Sir Marcus’s bedside and thrust the mulled wine at him. “Here. Might as well get this down you.”
Really, thought Sir Marcus as he sipped the herb-mulled wine under her watchful frown, he was certain the lads brought here forced their own healing to get away from this woman. Why work in a hospice nunnery if you despised the ill or injured? Was it people in general? Or just men? The hale with the ill or only the ill? It certainly made for a hostile environment when others needed to heal. He wondered if he should have a word with the Mother in charge of the Abbey on behalf of his men.
Before he was half finished with the nasty stuff in the mug Sister Mary Margaret had brought she suddenly put her hand under it and shoved up. “Here. Ye’ll never get it done like that. Drink, now!”
Sir Marcus nearly choked as the liquid and herbs alike suddenly tilted into his mouth and half down his throat. He coughed and spluttered for a few moments, getting his breath back and deciding if he ought to reprimand her but she looked even more sour than before and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to risk it.
“Jus’ look at ye.” She barked. “Got it all o’er y’self, ye did. Now I’ll ha’ ta clean ye oop.” She slammed the mug on the table, nearly cracking it further.
Before Sir Marcus, who had decided to speak his mind, could open his mouth a gentle voice spoke from the doorway.
“I shall be more than happy to aid the Commander, Sister Mary Margaret Ignacious. If you would please oblige me by taking all the pottery to the kitchen to wash I would appreciate it.”
The Abby Mother stood in the doorway, a gentle if firm smile on her face. Her light grey eyes were also kind but they, too, showed firmness as they rested on Sister Mary Margaret whose brow tightened but she nodded in obedience to her superior.
Once she left the room the Mother set about changing Sir Marcus’s shirt with brisk if kind efficiency. He managed to keep his mouth closed through her ministrations while his mind worked over what to say. Once she had him resettled he phrased his question carefully.
“Do I need to apologize to Sister Mary Margaret for anything, Mother?”
That worthy woman smiled sadly as she shook her head. “No, my son. There is nothing man can do for that poor soul. Indeed, men trying to help only make it worse. She lost much to the last war; family, home, and more. Some men who were dressed as soldiers forced them out and took what they had. And more. No telling if they were truly soldiers but greedy hearts do not act with kindness.”
Sir Marcus looked troubled. “Oh. I am indeed sorry to hear that. I know some men who are no better than they ought to be will take the king’s shilling to escape the law. I assure you, none of them are in my company.” He added with a dark scowl.
The Mother smiled gently. “I don’t believe you would allow that type of behavior, my son. Now, you rest and let us worry about Sister Mary Margaret.” She moved to leave then paused and glanced back.
“By the way, it seems there’s to be some sort of bird on tonight’s supper menu. Would you have anything to do with that, Commander?”
“Ahh, well,” Sir Marcus hedged, then swallowed. “It seems… well, there was this hawk chasing after the Abby’s chickens, you see…” He stammered a bit.
The Mother’s smile widened. “Yes. None of us have been able to stop him. It seems having you here has been quite the boon, Commander. Rest, now. You as well, Friar Tummins.” And she swept from the room, regal as a queen in any court.
Friar Tummins and Sir Marcus looked at one another somberly.
“Well. I suppose everyone has their problems.” Friar Tummins nodded sadly. “I shall add the good Sister to my prayers tonight. Rest, my son.” And he departed.
Below stairs, in the kitchen, Sister Mary Margaret scrubbed at the pottery she’d used to make Sir Marcus his medicine. She scowled so fiercely it was a wonder the pottery itself didn’t crack from the look alone. As she worked she muttered about the uselessness of men in general and certain patients in particular. She never realized where that evening’s “donation” of wild bird had come from even as she ate heartily of it, still wearing a sour look as she glared at the “silly, young Novices.”
Neither Sir Marcus nor the Mother ever enlightened her. There were just some people you couldn’t please if you hung them with a new rope.