Martha did not come today. Instead ’twas a maiden much resembling her but fairer, lissomer, with a waist drawn in like a wasp’s, and more of a sharpness about the eyes.
“I am Malkin,” said she, bowing her golden head, and lifted her basket through the window in the wall of my cell. “Martha’s sister.”
I crossed myself before the altar and rose from my knees. “Is Martha sick-a-bed?”
Malkin’s eyes lowered and roamed back and forth, then nodded she her head. “Her child twists and pains her belly.”
“I will pray for her,” said I, taking the basket. Inside were two loaves of barley bread and a rind of blue-marled cheese, and a bottle of wine stopped up with wax.
Malkin fell silent for a little while. Then she sucked the air through her teeth and said, all at once, “D’ye ever see our Lord Jesu when you pray? I have heard that holy anchoresses sometimes have visions. D’ye ever see him?”
I smiled. It is the best reproof. My mother taught me that.
Malkin cast down her eyes again. “I would know what he looks like.”
“Look for him when you look on the faces of your fellow Christians,” said I, “and there you will find him, for we are all members of the body of Christ; that is, the Church.”
She nodded, and departed without looking on me again. Only when I turned back from pulling the lattice to did I see that she had forgotten to take the basket with her. Perchance ’twas sin, but I did not call her to retrieve it.
Sarah Ellen Rogers grew up in a small town in northeastern North Carolina. She studied English at Duke University, where she first encountered the medieval literature that inspired "Horologium". Inspired in part by the writings of the anchoress Julian of Norwich, "Horologium" is set around and after the first outbreak of the Black Death, a time of great social, economic, and technological change. Other influences include the Ancrene Wisse, Augustine’s Confessions, Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale, and Middle English lyrics. In her spare time, Sarah writes both speculative fiction and creative nonfiction. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her cat, Dante.
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