The Abbey, After the Rain

Posted on July 30, 2004 by Jenna

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High on the hill is a lonely swineherd.

He finds the bodies. They are still living. They are still warm. A sound of terror and horror is torn from his throat:

Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo!

“You will pardon me, Abbess, ” says Sister Berthe, “for doubting your wisdom.”

“Of course,” says the Mother Abbess.

“I had thought you had doomed us, and the world, when you let Maria go.”

“Now you know better.”

They look off at the hills, limned red by the dawn. Sister Margarita ghosts forward to stand beside them.

Those feeling guilt for their grand design heard,
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

“It is hard,” says Sister Berthe, “to make these judgments. To decide how we will bear our secret and our curse.”

“I understand,” says Mother Abbess.

“When you sent away Maria to live with the von Trapps,” Berthe says, “I asked myself: who will answer the creature’s hunger, when we are gone?”

“God provides.”

“As you say, Mother Abbess.”

“And yet,” says Sister Margarita, “is this any more virtuous?”

Thinking on the ways of the plan divine heard,
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

“Mm?” asks the Mother Abbess. The sound from the hills distracts her.

“Well,” says Margarita, “it is not under dispute that these were evil men. But it remains to ask, ‘Can a man be so evil as to deserve what we unleashed on them?'”

“It is not a question of deserving,” says the Mother Abbess. “It is a question of practicality. The hills are alive. They must be fed.”

“Yet those men are suffering,” says Margarita. “They are suffering as few things have ever suffered.”

Sated in its nest a great beast malign heard,
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo

Berthe glances over. “You should not, Sister Margarita, make this harder on the Abbess than it is.”

“It is only,” Margarita says, “that we have chosen, and they have not. For more than seven thousand years, we have stood between the creature and the world. There is no sister here unready for our sacrifice. But these men—these Nazis, yes, but also men, and Rolf a boy—”

“They have not agreed,” says the Mother Abbess. “Is that it?”

Down in its bed of blood and brine heard:
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

“They have not agreed,” confirms Sister Margarita.

“You cannot steal a person’s choice,” says the Mother Abbess, “without stealing the consequences of that choice.”

“I don’t understand, Mother Abbess.”

“They would have locked her in a cage,” says the Mother Abbess. “Like a songbird. They would never have let her come back, to the hills that called to her, to the creature that hungered for her. Not even when she was ready. In taking her consent, they shouldered the burden of that consent.”

Seven thousand years by its pact confined, heard:
Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

Margarita’s voice is pensive.

“I am next, am I not, Mother Abbess?”

The beast yodeled back to the lonely swineherd,
Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo