The good Fr. Barnard was on fire with the fever. He had collapsed at the altar, the small sack of coins spilling its contents on the floor and under the pews. Sr. Agatha found him later that evening, while looking to call him to supper. Stunned, she brushed the coins under the pew to hide them then summoned the handyman and together they dragged the father to the infirmary.
Sr. Agatha had not been trained in nursing, but she could read. She pulled out the books and began to search for causes and remedies while the handyman, upon being scolded by her, went to the father’s chambers to fix the window.
The sister made a tea of red clover and peppermint and a garlic poultice. The garlic was fresh and strong on her nostrils, but she worked diligently and applied it to the father’s chest.
Then she got cool water from the spring and bathed him, careful to avoid his manly parts, and although she admired his form, she was disciplined enough to keep her mind on her work. The scar just below his ribcage bothered her though. She had seen its like before. A dagger had pierced there. To her mind, so full of church history and the lives of the saints, she thought of the speer that had pierced the side of her savior.
Perhaps she would ask the father about it, when he was well. Perhaps not. He was a solitary creature and not forthcoming.
His breath was labored and she had to hold his head up to get him to drink. He kept mumbling about a curse, and Sr. Agatha wasn’t sure if that was the fever talking or if he had indeed been cursed and perhaps it wasn’t tea that would save him but an exorcism. She shuddered at the thought.
She put down the cup and absentmindedly gathered a few of the clover flowers in her fingers, then raised them to her lips and sucked on them as she had as a little child on her peasant father’s farm. The sweet nectar was a luxury about which she refused to feel guilty.
When Sr. Mary Catherine came by, Sr. Agatha turned over the watch to the young nun, then hurried back to the church to gather up the coins, her poor knees pressed on the stone floor as she dug around, hoping she’d found each one. Then she took them to the father’s secret safe in his room and locked them away.