It was the first bell for Vespers, not a bell in a bell-tower but a hand-bell, rung outside by the Soeur Reglementaire, the bell-ringer, and in ones and twos, the nuns came in, those from the farm and garden shedding their heavy boots and dark blue overalls, all taking off their aprons . . . This was the time when each told, before them all, of any fault she had made.
"What -- every day?" asked Father Marc, the new Aumonier. "that seems a little over-scrupulous. What faults could they possibly have?"
"Only faults against charity and I'm sure not many." The Prioress smiled. "But at our Bethanies we need charity as perhaps nowhere else."
"And, perhaps as nowhere else," Marc was to say when he knew them better, "these Sisters understand the creeping power of sin, if you allow the least crack . . . "
"I lingered in the garden after recreation and so kept two of my sisters waiting."
"I answered Soeur Marie Christine back and was rude." Soeur Marie Christine made a swift movement of reconciliation.
"I spoke sharply . . . " They were those "least cracks"; but, like an echo from far, far back, far from the steadfastness of Belle Source:
"She wouldn't stop crying so I stuffed my handkerchief into her mouth, down and down until . . . "
"He came in drunk, the third time that week. He sat down and vomited all over my clean table and his food . . . I took a kitchen-knife -- it wasn't big . . . "
. . .
They were only echoes and, of course, only for some, and no one knew for whom. All alike, the Sisters stood in their white tunics and black veils, no difference between them.
Rumer Godden, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy