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The square shape around the seriffed letter S is formed out of interlacing ribbons with terminal foliation of acanthus leaves and pomegranate buds. The decoration is created in thin black lines, leaving the letters, vines, and leaves white. It appears to be a wood engraving.

SMALL good cometh to me of making rhyme;
so there be folk would have me give it up,
and no longer harrow my mind therewith.

    But in virtue of her who hath been both
mother and maiden, I have begun the tale
of a fair miracle, which God without doubt
hath made show in honour of her who fed
him with her milk.

    Now I shall begin and tell the tale of a nun.
May God help me to handle it well, and bring it to a good
end, even so according to the truth as it was told me by Brother
Giselbrecht, an ordained monk of the order of Saint William; he, a
dying old man, had found it in his books.

    The nun of whom I begin my tale was courtly and fine in her
bearing; not even nowadays, I am sure, could one find another to be
compared to her in manner and way of looks. That I should praise her
body in each part, exposing her beauty, would become me not well; I
will tell you, then, what office she used to hold for a long time in the
cloister where she wore veil. Custodian she was there, and whether it
were day or night, I can tell you she was neither lazy nor slothful. Ever
was she quick to do her work, ringing the bell in church, making ready
with the ornaments and lights, and causing the whole convent to rise
in due time.

    This maiden was not free from Love, who is wont to work so great
wonders over all the world. Sometimes he bringeth shame and torment
and sorrow ; sometimes joy and happiness. Who is wise he maketh so
foolish that he must needs come to grief whether willing or unwilling.
Another he so vanquisheth that he knows no more whether to speak or
to be dumb be to his boon. Many a one he trampleth under foot, who
may not rise but when he giveth leave. Others Love causeth to be

❧The ‘Tale of a Nun,’ given here in an English form, is translated from the verse of a
mediaeval Dutch legend, written probably about the year 1320 by an author whose name is now
unknown. The origin of the legend is to be found in Caesarii Cisterciencis inonachi in
Heisterbacho, Dialogus miraculorum
, where, in Distinctio Septima, cap. xxxv., a short story
of the Virgin’s miraculous intervention is given. Readers of mediaeval French literature, who
know Méon’s collection of Fabliaux, will be able to compare the French and Dutch versions,
and no doubt will agree that the latter has the better claim to a rendering into English.


generous who would fain keep their gifts to themselves, were it not for
Love inspiring them. Also one shall find folk so true one to the other,
that whatsoever Love bringeth them, be it little or great, bliss, joy, or
sorrow, they bear it both together. Such Love I call true.

    Nor could I ever tell you of all the happiness and misery that flow
out of the brooks of Love. Therefore one should not condemn the nun
that she could not escape from Love, which kept her fast in his net. For
the fiend seeketh always to tempt man, and taketh no rest night or day,
but bringeth all his wiles to work.

    By vile cunning, as best he could, so did he tempt the nun that she
believed she must die. Unto God she bade, and implored Him that He
should comfort her by His grace. ‘How burdened I am by strong love
and wounded, He knoweth to Whom all things are open, from Whom
naught is hidden, nor how that this weakness shall lead me astray. I
must lead a new life; I must lay off this garment.’

    Now, hearken, how she fared further on:

    She sent word to the young lord to whom she bore such deep love,
with a letter full of sweet passion, praying him to make haste to come to
her, and it should be to his boon. The messenger went to where dwelt
the young lord, who took the letter and read what his friend had sent
to him. Then he was joyful in his mind and hastened to come to her.
Ever since they had been twelve years old, had these two borne love
together, suffering great dole from it.

    So fast as he could, he rode unto that nunnery where she was to be
found. Before the little window he sat down, and would fain see her and
speak to his love, if that might be. No long time did she tarry, but came
before the little window which was crossed all over with bars of iron.

    Many a time they heaved a sigh, he sitting without and she within,
so deep was the love that troubled them. For so long a while did they
sit there that I could not tell you how oft she changed her colour. ‘Oh,
me!’ she said; ‘Oh, my sweet friend, my chosen love, I am in such grief;
do speak unto me one word or two that may comfort my heart! I am
so longing for thy solace, the arrow of love stings so in my heart, that
heavy dole have I to suffer; never may I be glad again till thou hast
drawn it forth.’

    He answered her soothingly. ‘You know quite well, dear love, how
long we have borne love to each other all our days, and yet never


was so much leisure ours that we might kiss each other for once. May
God doom our Lady Venus, the goddess who hath so steeped our
senses with this longing, in that she causes two such tender flowers to
fade and to wither away! If only I could entreat you to lay down
your veil and name a set time when you would give me leave to lead
you hence, I would fare out at once and get you made fine costly attire,
of woollen cloth lined with fur—mantle, skirt, and tunic. Never in any
distress will I forsake thee; with thee, my love, will I adventure life,
its sweetness and sourness: take, now, my troth in plight!’

    ‘My well-beloved, dear friend,’ quoth the damsel, ‘most gladly will I
take from thee that pledge, and go so far away with thee that no one
in this cloister shall know whither we have fled. To-night—a week on—
come here, and wait for me outside, in yonder orchard under a sweet-
briar! There wait for me, and I will come out to be your bride, and
go with you wheresoever you choose. Unless it be that sickness
trouble me, or other hindrance make it too heavy for me, be well
assured that I shall be there, and I beseech thee to be there also,
my lief lord!’

    So they made promises each unto other. Then he took leave, and
went where his steed stood saddled, and, without tarrying, took horse
and rode away in haste across green meadows till he came to the city.

    There in naught was he forgetting of his dear love. On the morrow,
going his round of the city, he bought for her blue and scarlet cloth,
and had it made into a fine mantle and cape, with skirt and tunic to
match, each of them well lined, the best that might be. No one ever
saw better stuff worn under lady’s attire; they that looked on it all
praised it. Knives, girdles, pouches, both good and costly, did he buy;
gold rings, head-gear, and many kinds of treasure ; all those treasures
did he purchase that are becoming to a well-bred bride. Also he took
with him five hundred pounds of silver, and one night at dusk went
forth from the town by stealth. All that costly gear he carried with
him, well piled on the back of his steed, and so rode on to the nunnery
till he came into the orchard under a sweet-briar, as she had said.

    Then he sat down on the grass and waited for his well-beloved to
come forth.

    Of him now I shall not speak for a while, but will tell you about
that fair, dainty she.



    Before midnight she rang the bells to first prime, and was in great
dole through love. Then when matins had been sung by all the nuns,
elder and younger of the convent, and when all had retired to their
common dormitory, she alone remained in the choir, muttering her
prayer as she was wont to do. She knelt down before the altar, and in
deep dread spake she:

    ‘Maria, Mother, name sweet, no longer may my body wear this
habit. All ways and at all times thou knowest the heart and soul of
man. I have fasted and prayed and done myself bodily grief, yet it is
all in vain that I chasten myself. Love has me in thrall, and I must
take me to the world’s ways. So verily, as Thou, my dear Lord, hast
been hung between two thieves, and hast been stretched along the Cross,
and hast brought resurrection to Lazarus while he lay a dead man in his
grave, so must Thou know my pains, and pardon my misdoing. I must
fall deeply into heavy sin.’

    After this she turned from the choir unto a statue of Our Lady,
before which she knelt down and said her prayer. ‘Maria,’ spake she
without fear, ‘night and day have I cried, and meekly laid my sorrow
before thee; yet I have never been one straw the better for it. My
mind would give way altogether were I to remain any longer in this
habit.’ So she put off her veil and laid it upon the altar of the Blessed
Virgin; her shoes she untied, and behold, the keys of the Sacristy she
hung before the statue of Mary. This she did, as I will explain to you,
in order that they might be found with ease when sought for at early
prime, for none would ever pass by the statue of Mary but would cast
a glance thereto, and mutter ‘Ave’ before going thence.

    Clad only in her smock, driven thereto by necessity, she went out
by a door which was known to her: she opened it cunningly, and
passed through it by stealth without making a sound. Trembling she
came into the orchard, and was seen then by the young lord, who, draw-
ing near, said: ‘Yea, sweet one, do not fear; it is your friend whom you
meet here.’ But as they were standing thus, she was covered with
shame, because she had on naught save her smock. Howbeit, said he,
‘O body most fair, far better would beautiful attire and rich raiment
befit you: if you will not be angry with me, therefore, I will give them
straightway into your hands.’ So they went together under the sweet-
briar, and there he gave to her whatsoever she might need in two
changes of clothes (blue was the one which there she put on, and well


it fitted her). Lovingly looked he on her, and said: ‘My beloved, far
better does the blue suit you than did ever the grey!’ Also she
put on two silk stockings, and two shoes of Cordova leather, that
became her better than the lappet-shoes she had worn before. Also
he gave her a head-gear of white silk to throw over her head. Then
the young lord kissed her lovingly on the mouth; and it seemed to
him while thus she stood before him that the day unveiled itself in

    In haste he went to his steed, and made her mount before him in
the saddle; and on they rode together till, in the gathering light, they
saw that none followed after them. And as day began to shine in the
east, she said, O Lord, solace of all the world, now Thou must have
charge of us, for day is breaking! Ah! if I had not come out unto
thee, I should have been ringing the bells for first mass, as I was wont
to do in the convent. Great fear have I that I shall live to repent this
flight. The world holds so ill to its word; ‘tis like the cunning hawker
who sells counterfeit gold rings for true ones.’

    ‘Ah, me! what sayest thou, my pure one? May God damn me if
ever I should forsake thee! Whithersoever we go, I shall not leave
thee, unless it be that Death bring severance between us! How is it
thou shouldst be doubting of my good faith? Thou hast not
found me a man cunning or untruthful toward thee. From that
moment, when I chose you to be my. love, not even an empress could
have won hold on my mind; and even were I worthy of her, I would
not leave thee for her sake. Be full sure of this, dear love! With me
I bear five hundred pounds of white silver: of all these shalt thou be
mistress, sweet. And though we go to a foreign country, we shall have
no need to pledge anything till a seven year be gone.’

    Thus riding on, they came that morning near to a forest wherein
were birds making great melody among themselves. So loudly did
they pipe, one might hear it any way off. Each sang according to its
kind. In the green grass stood beautiful flowers, full-blown, shedding
abroad their sweet scents. The sky was clear and bright; and many a
tall tree flourishing in full leaf stood there.

    The young lord looked at the pure maid, for whom he bore love so
constantly, and said: ‘Dear love, if so it pleaseth thee, why should
we not get down and gather flowers? So fair seems this place, let
us here play the game of love!’ ‘What sayest thou, villain churl?
Shall I lie down on the grass like a vile woman that must sell her body


for gold; then must I have little shame in me! Never wouldst thou
have spoken to me so, if thou were not basely bred. Well may it
cause me pain; may God damn one who could think of such a thing!
Now, speak not again of it; but listen to the birds in the valleys how
they sing and are glad; and the time shall not be long to thee. When
once I am lying with thee naked on a well-appointed bed, ay then
thou mayst do as thou longest and as thy heart desires; but great pain
have I at heart that thou shouldst have put this to me now.’

    Quoth he, ‘My dear, nay, do not scorn me thus: it was Venus
herself that did inspire me. God may bring me to shame and grief if
ever I let speak of it again! And spake she, ‘Then I will forgive thee.
Thou art my solace above all men that live under Heaven. If fair
Absolom were alive now, and I full sure that I might live with him a
thousand years in exceeding joy and rest, I should not wish for it.
Beloved, so I set thee before all, that nothing might be offered me for
which I would forsake thee. Were I sitting in Heaven, and thou here
on earth, surely I would come down to thee. Nay, God, punish me
not for that I have talked thus foolishly! To the least of the joys of
Heaven no earthly joy may compare; there so perfect is the smallest
joy, that the soul longs not but to worship God without end. All
earthly things are but poor, and not worth a hair as against those one
meets with in Heaven. Well are they counselled that suffer for it,
though I have to go astray and fall into deep sin for thee, my well-
beloved, my beautiful friend.’

    Thus they spake and exchanged sayings as they rode across
mountains and valleys. Naught would it behove me to tell you what
passed between them. On they rode till they were come to a town’s
gate lying in a valley. So well did they like that place that they
remained there for seven years, leading a joyous life in the embraces of
love, and had together two children. Then after those seven years,
when all their money was spent, they had to live on the goods which
they had brought with them; clothes, ornaments, and horses, these
they sold at half their value; and soon they had again spent all. And
now they knew not by what means to live; for not even a skirt could
she spin, or by that something might have been earned.

    And there came a time when meat and wine and provisions and all
things that are for food grew very dear; and much suffering they had


to bear. Far rather had they died than begged for bread; and poverty
brought parting between them, though it grieved them sore. The
man it was who first broke troth; he left her behind him in heavy
sorrow, and went back again into his own land. Never they beheld
each other again; there remained with her two children very beautiful
to look upon.

    Said she: ‘Now at last that has happened which was ever my
dread early and late; I have remained behind in bitter suffering. He
in whom I had placed all my trust has forsaken me. Mary, Virgin, if
thou would but pray for me and my two little ones, that we may not
perish with hunger! But what shall I, wretched woman, begin to do?
Both body and soul I must foul by wrong-doing. Ay, Virgin Mary,
come to mine aid! Even if I could spin a skirt, I would not make by
it one loaf of bread in a fortnight. I cannot help myself; I must go
outside the walls, and in the fields earn money with my body, where-
with to buy meat. For my two children I may not forsake.’

    And thus she entered into a sinful life. In truth, I have been told
that for seven years she lived as a common woman, and became laden
with many a sin. Dearly did she loathe it, and was hard pushed from
it; but did it for a poor wage, by which she made provision for her
children. What good would come were I to tell you them all—the
shameful and heavy sins in which she thus lived for fourteen years?

    Yet whatever sorrow or repentance befell, never did she forget, but
every day said the Seven Dolours in honour and praise of our Lady,
praying to her to be set free from those acts of sin wherewith she was

    Now, when the fourteen years of her sinful life with her beloved
knight, and that which followed, were ended, God put into her heart
such deep contrition that she would rather have had her head cut from
her body by a bare sword than again give up her flesh to sin as she
had been wont. Night and day she cried, with eyes never dry from
tears; and said she: ‘Mary, Cradle of God, highest fountain of all
womanhood, do not thou forsake me in my distress! I call upon thee,
Our Lady, to witness how I sorrow for my sins, and how deep is the
grief they cause me; so many they be, I cannot tell where or with
whom they were done. Alas, what shall be my fate! Well may I
tremble for the last judgment where all sins will appear revealed,


whether of poor or of rich, and all those will be punished that have not
before been told in confession and done penance for. Well do I know
this, and can have no doubt of it; therefore do I live in such great
dread. Even if I went about in sackcloth, crawling upon bare feet and
hands from place to place, I could not win absolution unless thou,
Mary, were to take pity upon me. Fount of Mercy, so many hast thou
stood by! Yea, though I am a sinful woman, a wretched caitiff, yet
remember, Mary, that whatever life I led, never did I forget to read a
prayer in honour of thee. Be gracious unto me, for I am one full of
woe and in great need of thy solace; therefore I do well to implore it.
Thou Bride, chosen of God, thy Son when He made annunciation of
Himself to thee at Nazareth, sent thee a salutation such as never mes-
senger before had spoken; therefore are these same words so well
favoured of thee that whosoever hath it in his heart to say to thee,
“Ave Maria!” to him thou avowest thanks. Were he fallen into deepest
sin thou wouldst gain grace for him, and be advocate for him with thy

    To such prayers and bewailings the sinner gave herself for many
days. At last she took a child in each hand, and wandered with them
in great poverty from place to place living upon charity. So far did
she traverse the country that at last she found herself back again near
the convent where she had lived as a nun. At a late hour, after the sun
had set, she came to the house of a widow, and begged that, for the sake
of charity, she might rest there for the night. ‘I could not very well
send you away with your little ones,’ said the widow. ‘How tired they
look! Do you sit down, and take some rest; and I will give you of
what the good Lord has bestowed on me, for the honour of His dear
Mother.’ Thus she stayed with her two children, and would fain have
known how matters stood in her old convent. ‘Tell me,’ she said, ‘my
good woman, is this a nuns’ convent?’ ‘In truth, yes,’ answered she,
‘and, on my faith, a magnificent one it is, and rich. Nowhere would one
find another to equal it. The nuns that live there have not their like
for virtue; never did I hear tell of any of them a rumour to their

    The woman, sitting there beside her children, said: ‘How canst
thou say such a thing? for I have heard much talk of late about a
certain nun; if I mistake not she must have been monitress here. She
that told me spake no lie; fourteen years it must be now since she fled


from the convent, and no one has heard tell of her since, nor knows
where she may have died.’ Then the widow grew angry, and said: ‘It
seems to me as if thou wert mad; nor will I have thee here to repeat
such evil things about the monitress. All that time she has been here,
and never did she fail in her duty unless her health gave way. He
would be worse than a vile dog who could say anything of her but good.
She has as pure a mind as ever nun had; were you to search all the
cloisters that are built between the river Elbe and the Garonne I am
sure you could find no nun that leads a holier life.’

    The woman who had so long been soiled by sin,—ay, how wonderful
this talk seemed to her! And she spake thus: ‘Wilt thou make known
to me by what names her father and her mother were called?’ Then
she named them both, and Beatrice knew well that it was herself that
was meant. O God! how she wept at night, kneeling before her bed,
and praying. ‘No other pledge,’ she cried, ‘but my deep penitence
have I to offer thee; and yet, O Mary, come to mine aid! Such grief
have I for my sins that if I saw a furnace hot and red, so burning and
fiery that the flames tongued out of its mouth, I would be fain to creep
therein, could that but free me from my sins. Lord, Thou art loath to
see man in misery; on this I will put my trust, and will ever hope for
solace, though I be in anguish and great dread. Thy loving-kindness
cannot be brought to an end, no more than one can scoop out the great
sea in one day, and lay bare its nether deeps. Never was sin so terrible
that could not win pardon by Thy grace; how, then, shall I be shut
away from Thy mercy, since my sins are so hateful to me.’

    While she was thus stretched in prayer, a heaviness came on all her
limbs, and, without knowing, she fell asleep. And while thus she was
lying in her sleep, it seemed, in a vision, that a voice called to her:
‘Woman, so long hast thou lifted thy lamentation that Mary has
taken pity on thee, and has prayed for thee that thou mayst be free
from condemnation. Now, get thee in haste unto this cloister; the
doors, the same through which thou fleddest with thy love, thou shalt find
opened wide. And all thine attire thou shalt find lying upon the altar,
the veil, and the habit, and the shoes; thou shalt put them on without
fear. Then for all this thou shalt render Mary high thanks. The keys
also of the sacristy which thou didst lay before her statue on that night
when thou wentest away, so well hath she cared for them that in all


these years no one has found thee missing. So well is Mary thy friend,
that in the very image of thee she took up thine office. This, O
sinner, hath our Lady of Heaven done for thee. By her command
thou shalt return unto thy cloister: there is no one on thy bed there.
Hearken, it is in God’s name that I speak unto thee.’

    It was not long after this that she started out of her sleep. ‘God,
Lord Almighty,’ quoth she, ‘nay, do not let the fiend throw me into
heavier grief than that from which I now suffer! If I were now to go
into that convent and be taken for a thief, then I should be in yet
deeper shame than when first I left the nunnery, I beseech thee, good
Lord, by Thy precious Blood which ran out of Thy side, if the voice
that has spoken be really to my boon, then let it not cease, but make
me to hear it once again; yea, even a third time; then shall I know
that I may return to the cloister, and will extol and praise Mary for
it without end.’

    Now hearken, the next night a voice seemed to come thus
admonishing her: ‘Woman, thou makest too long tarrying! Go
back into thy convent, there God shall solace thee. Do what Mary
commandeth thee. Her messenger I am, Doubt it not any more.’

    But although this was the second message bidding her to return,
even yet dared she not venture. A third night she waited and
prayed. ‘If it be fiend’s folly that is practised upon me, then put an
end to the devil’s power and malice. And if so be he appear again
to-night, Lord, put him to such confusion that he must fly out of the
house, having no power to do me harm. Now, Mary, be thou my
help. If thou hast sent a voice to bid me back into the nunnery, by
thy Child, I beseech thee, make me hear it a third time to-night.’

    So she watched a third night: and a voice came forth from the
power of God, with an all-prevailing light, saying: ‘Thou doest wrong
not to fulfil what I have commanded thee, for it is Mary who speaks
through me. Thou mayst tarry all too long. Go into the cloister
without trembling: the door stands wide open for thee, so thou mayest
pass where thou wilt: and thou shalt find thine attire waiting for thee
upon the altar.’

    When the voice had thus spoken, the sinner beheld the radiance;
and she said: ‘Now I may doubt no longer; this voice is my Lord’s,


and this message is Mary’s. It comes to me in a radiance so beautiful,
well, now, may I feel sure! And therefore I will not be disobedient; I
will go into the cloister and do this with a good faith in our Lady’s
solace. My children I will commend to God, our Father; in His care
they will be safe.’

    Then she took off her clothes and covered them with them silently
so that they should not wake; and kissing them both on the lips:
‘Children, fare you well!’ said she, ‘I leave you here in our Lady’s
good keeping. Had she not pleaded for me and given me release, I
would never have forsaken you for all the riches of Rome.’

    Hear what she did next. In a trance, all alone, she went toward
the nunnery. When she came through the orchard she found the door
open for her, and went in without trembling: ‘Mary, I thank thee,
now I am safely within these walls; may God make good adventure
befall me further on!’

    Wherever she came the door stood wide open for her; and in the
chapel, where on the altar she had laid off her habit fourteen years ago,
truly I tell you, that on the same spot she found it all again, shoes, and
habit, and veil. She put them on in haste, and kneeling down cried:
‘Lord of the realm of Heaven, and thou, Virgin Mary, Immaculate,
blessed must ye be! Thou, Mary, art the flower of all virtue. In thy
pure maidenhood thou borest a Child without sorrow, that shall be
Lord for evermore. Thou art the chosen of Grace; thy Child made
heaven and earth; the Lord, our Saviour, thou mayst command as
Mother, and He may greet thee, His well-beloved daughter. For all this
I live in better ease; for whosoever seeketh grace from thee, he findeth
it though he may come late. Thy help is so high that my sorrow and
grief in which I have been living so long have been changed by thee
into joy and blessing. Well may I give blessing unto thee!’

    And before our Lady’s statue, where she had hung them once, lo!
she found again the keys of the sacristy. She hung them upon her
belt, and went into the choir, where she found the lamps burning in
every corner. Thence she went to the place of the prayer-books, and
laid each one on its own desk, as often she had done before; and again
she prayed to Mary to save her from all misfortune, and have her poor
children in good keeping, whom she had left at the widow’s house in
great sorrow.

    Meanwhile the night had worn away, and the clock began to strike,


sounding the midnight chime. And now she caught hold of the bell-
rope and began to ring for matins, so regularly as to be clearly heard
all over the convent. And those who had been sleeping in the dormi-
tory came down all without tarrying, and none of them knew what had
happened. Thus she stayed in the convent without reproach or dis-
grace. The sinner was saved in honour of Mary, the Virgin of Heaven,
who never forsakes her friends in their distress and anxiety.

    This lady having now turned to be a nun as before, I will not forget
her two children whom she had left behind at the widow’s house in
great need. Neither bread nor money had they; and I could ill tell
you into what deep grief they fell when they no longer found their
mother. The widow came and sat by them in true pity; and said she:
‘I will take these two children to the abbess of the convent; God will
certainly put it into her heart to be good to them.’ Then she dressed
them in their clothes and shoes, and took them with her to the convent.
Quoth she: ‘My lady, see the need of these two orphans; their
mother has left them at my house, and has gone her way—I know not
whether to east or west: and now these poor ones are helpless,
though I would fain do for them what I could.’ The abbess answered,
‘Keep them with you, I will recompense you for it; and you shall not
complain that they have been left with you. Every day they shall
receive of God’s charity. Send some one here daily for meat and
drink, and, should they be in want of anything, forget not to let me

    Full glad was the widow now that all this had thus come about;
she took the children with her, and cared well for them. And now how
happy was the mother who had nursed them and suffered for them,
when she knew them to be in such good keeping; from that time she
needed no longer to have for them any fear or dread.

    But while she was thus leading a holy life, much sighing and
trembling was hers night and day; for the bewailing of her great sins
lay heavily upon her, yet dared she not avow them, or openly make
confession of them.

    At length one day there arrived an abbot who was wont to visit the
sisterhood once a year to know whether anything shameful had
happened which might bring blame on them. The same day that
he came, the sinner lay down in deep prayer within the choir, wrought


with doubt and inward struggle. But the devil so pressed her with heavy
shame that she dared not lay bare her sinful deeds before the abbot.
While thus she lay and prayed, she saw moving toward her a youth
who was all in white. Naked in his arms lay a child that to her
seemed to be quite dead. The youth was throwing an apple up and
down and catching it before the child, playing to it. This the nun at
her prayers saw well, and said: ‘Friend, if so be thou art a messenger
of Heaven, in God’s name I do beseech thee to tell me and not hide
from me why thou art thus playing to the child with yon fair red
apple, while yet it lies a dead body in thine arms? Thy playing,
therefore, cannot move it one hair.’ ‘Forsooth, dame, thou speakest
truly; the child does not know of my playing little or much. It is
dead, and hears not nor sees. Even so, God knoweth not how thou
prayest and fastest. It is all labour lost to chastise thyself. So deeply
art thou buried in sin that God cannot hear thy prayer. I admonish
thee, go straightway to the abbot, thy father, and make confession of
all thy sins without cloak or deceit. Do not be misled by devils
prompting! Absolution of all thy sins shalt thou receive from the holy
abbot. Shouldst thou not dare to speak, the Lord will punish thee
heavily for them.’ With that the youth disappeared, nor even showed
himself again.

    Well had she understood all that he said. So, early the next morn-
ing, she went and found the abbot, and prayed him to hear her con-
fession from word to word. The abbot was a full wise man, and said
he: ‘Dear daughter, I will certainly not refuse this. Examine thyself
well of all, so that thou hide from me nothing of thy sins.’ Then, at
that moment she went and set herself down by this holy father, and
opened to him her whole life. Whatsoever thing had befallen her she
hid it not then; and what she knew in the depth of her heart, she
made it all known to the wise abbot. When she had now finished her
full confession the abbot spoke: ‘Daughter, I will give thee remission
of the sins that trouble thee, of which thou hast now made confession.
Praised and blessed be Mary our Mother, most holy.’ With that he
laid his hand upon her head and gave her pardon. And quoth he: ‘In
a sermon will I tell thy whole story, and devise it so cunningly that on
thyself and thy children no blame shall fall. It would be unjust to
withhold this miracle which God hath done in honour of His Mother.
Everywhere will I tell it, in good hope that thereby many a man may
be converted and learn to honour our blessed Lady.’



    Before he went he told to all the sisterhood what had happened
unto a nun, but there was no one that knew who she was; a close
secret did it remain. And when he made farewell, both her children
he took with him, and clothed them in grey; and both of them became
good monks. Their mother’s name was Beatrice.

    Give praise to Mary and to her Son our Lord whom she nursed,
for that she brought to pass this fair miracle, and freed her from all her
pains. And we all of us that hear or read it, let us pray that Mary
may be our advocate in the sweet valley where God shall sit and doom
the world.    AMEN.

MLA citation:

“Tale of a Nun.” Translated by L. Simons and L. Housman. The Pageant, 1896, pp. 95-116. Pageant Digital Edition, edited by Frederick King and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021.