The priest stepped into the infirmary to find Bryantt Sands kneeling next to Karissa’s bed, his hand on her arm, speaking to her gently and softly. “I am not ashamed of you,” Bryantt was saying. “You are my first love. You always will be. I told you that. The countess needs….”
Karissa tensed and Bryantt grew suddenly quiet as the priest stepped into the room with Gregor in tow. “How is she doing?” Fr. Barnard asked the sister quietly. He was pretending he had not heard Bryantt saying words of love to Karissa, but he had, and he felt as if a horse had kicked him in the chest.
Sands turned to the priest. “She seems to be fine, but she has been crying,” he said. “I would like to take her back to the tavern.”
“Is she well enough to travel?” Fr. Barnard asked the sister. His head was beginning to spin as he fought down the stabbing pain that sliced through him. Of course Bryantt was speaking to her as a lover, he told himself. They were lovers. She loved him. She was willing to kill to stop the wedding. How could I have forgotten that? the priest asked himself. He gripped his hands tightly around a chair and kept his voice calm as a wild eruption of emotion exploded behind his calm eyes. To those present, he was solid as stone, unmoving, his voice quiet and calm. He didn’t look at Bryantt.
Karissa wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to hide her face with the blanket. Bryantt looked from Karissa to the sister and then to Gregor. As the sister went to check Karissa, Fr. Barnard stepped back, almost into the wall. He felt as if the stones of the building were about to crush him. Karissa glanced at the priest, her emerald eyes revealing the hurt and confusion she felt, as the sister checked her patient and Sands stood, arms crossed, watching. Fr. Barnard lowered his eyes to the floor and didn’t move. Sands studied everyone in the room and then smiled, knowing he would be taking Karissa home where Baylee could tend to her.
“Give her a blanket to keep her warm on the trip,” Fr. Barnard said quietly.
The sister nodded as she wrapped the blanket around Karissa’s shoulders. “Come child, you have one who will see you home,” said the sister. “Come to me if you have need of anything.”
“Yes, sister, I will,” Karissa said softly. Sand’s smile widened. The priest forced himself to look at her, his face unmoving. As the ache surged and beat at him, he finally turned away and walked out of the room.
“Go with God,” said the sister. “She needs to be kept warm,” she told Sands.
Bryantt Sands took Karissa by the hand gently and whispered, “Come, love. I will take you home.”
Karissa turned to Gregor. “Take care, please, of you, and of him,” she said.
Outside, Fr. Barnard sat on the stone bench by the fountain, his head bowed as if in prayer, his eyes closed. As they came out, Bryantt spoke to him. “Thank you, father. I will take care of her now.” Fr. Barnard didn’t acknowledge him. “Come Kris,” Bryantt said to karissa. The sister made the sign of the cross and whispered a soft prayer as they left. As for the priest, he remained like stone.
Gregor watched the doings of the room as everyone leaves. He crossed his arms and rolled his eyes and muttered, “Ach, bloody hell….” then, noting the nun in the same room, added, “Ach, Dear Jesus, sorry sister.”
“Watch your tongue before you speak,” the sister chided him. They stepped outside to the porch where they could hear Bryantt yelling, “Okay! Don’t be late, baylee!” as he rode off.
“Ohh, yeah, sister. Forgive mae. Too many years in the company of soldiers, heathens and barristers. Worse than some Anglishmen.”
Fr. Barnard smiled a bit. “Thank you, Baylee, but there is nothing you can do for me.” Nothing anyone can do for me now, he thought to himself.
“Father, I’m a good listener. That is one of my talents,” Baylee went on.”Can we not confide in each other?”
The priest looked up to Gregor, revealing his pain only to his old friend. “Gregor, I think you should hang onto that sword a bit longer,” he said.
“Oh, Aye. Ye blade need not be in your reach for quite some time. What did the good Laird say about turning your swords in tae haggis?”
“Haggis?” the priest asked with a weak smile, appreciating his friend’s strange humor.
“Err, I mean. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
The priest turned back to Baylee, disguising his emotions. “I will be happy to listen to anything you have to say, child,” he tells her.
“Father, it is you who needs to talk. I can see it in your eyes,” she said.
“Perhaps I do, Baylee. But that is not for your ears.” His voice is kind but firm.
“Then I will leave you, father, with your thoughts,” she said, as she turned and walked away.
“She is one of the warden’s girls?” Gregor asked.
“She has been trying since day one to get to me. Flirting, trying to seduce me, now trying to be my confidant. I don’t trust her. I never shall.” He stops a moment to catch his breath. “I shouldn’t have trusted Karissa either. I forgot she belongs to him. I let myself…” He stopped, shaking his head. “I forgot myself.”
The sister frowned as she studied the father, feeling there is more going on here than she knew.
Gregor sighed. “That man fancies hisself the grand landlord, me thinks,” he says of Sands.
“What am I going to do, old firend?” Fr. Barnard asks Gregor.
The priest glances at her, actually surprised she’s still there. “Ah, no, I don’t suppose so, I mean, you don’t have to.”
Gregor spoke up. “Ye are a man of higher bearing and cloth of all of this. Ye are a leader of a flock that looks tae ye for leadership in all manner of things. Gather yeself taegether and stop acting like someone who has nae responsibilities!”
Fr. Barnard burned under Gregor’s words, knowing the truth in them and yet hearing no sympathy for the pain he is in.
“You are right. I have responsibilities. That is what I have! he snaps, turning on his heels and marching to the library.