Stealing Heaven

Stealing Heaven by Marion Meade

Book: Stealing Heaven by Marion Meade Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marion Meade
this later."
    Outside, she raced alongside the Campus Rosaeus and down to the Port Saint-Landry, dreading to share the news with Ceci. Fulbert was not a cruel man—he was kind and wonderfully indulgent—and he would help Ceci if he could. At the same time, she realized that no matter how kind he might be, he was also a canon of the Church. Under no circumstance could he agree to harbor a convent runaway.
    In fairness, she could not blame him.
    Ceci did not leave immediately. There were a number of conversations, between Heloise and Fulbert and also between Ceci and Fulbert. In the end, Fulbert offered to write Lady Alais and see if anything could be done. Possibly Ceci's family were unaware of her reluctance to become a nun; once they fully understood the situation, perhaps they would take her home after all. After speaking privately with Ceci, Fulbert said that in his opinion she should not be forced to take the veil against her will: she had no vocation, that was certain. And Fulbert, as Heloise knew, had always been adamant about men or women taking monastic vows if they had no sense of vocation. He said that it disgraced the Church and caused all manner of evildoing.
    Heloise wanted to believe that it would be all right. Hours she spent on her knees, at Notre Dame or in her room, begging God to see the justice of Ceci's case, and adding automatically, "Thy will be done." Fulbert, calm and affectionate as ever, did not discourage her hopes. Nor did he encourage them.
    "These are hard times," he warned Heloise. "If her kin can't find money for a dower, what choice do they have?" He added, "She could do worse than Argenteuil. There are places like Odette de Pougy where the bellies of the nuns are always swollen."
    Weeks passed. Letters slowly moved back and forth between Paris and Argenteuil, and between Argenteuil and Angers. Spring came at last. The chestnut trees in the cloister unfurled green banners, and the students, liberated from their lodging houses and taverns, roamed the He with uproarious good spirits and danced, fortissimo, around Maypoles.
    On Ascension Day, Heloise woke to see musk roses budding in their garden. For some reason, the roses made her feel guilty; she had not opened a book since Ceci's arrival—that fact she could and did blame on the girl—but then, too, the good weather drove all thoughts of work from her head. For that she could not fault Ceci, and she castigated herself for being a pseudo-scholar. Her lethargy, the shadowy frustration she could not throw off, heightened when she looked ahead. Sister Madelaine had been right, she thought; her studies could be put to no use, now or ever. They must always exist solely for her own selfish pleasure, thus they would forever remain tinged with a certain element of absolute futility. She told herself that she was absurd, for she had everything a girl might want.
    At first, Ceci had slept in Heloise's room. But Agnes, having scoured the house from turret to cellar in a fever of spring cleaning, unexpectedly turned her energies to the room across the landing. Fulbert's relics were carefully transported to a second-floor storeroom; buckets of whitewash were dragged up the staircase and the walls freshened to a whiteness that would have done justice to a Lady chapel. Mattresses were beaten and heaped on the bed frame, sheets were rinsed with saffron, and Agnes draped strawberry hangings around the bed. The room transformed, Ceci settled in. She was so happy that she could hardly keep still. Bouncing with both feet on the bed, she shouted, "How kind you are, Agnes! I love this bed, I love Paris, I love everybody!"
    Agnes giggled. "You're nothing but a weanling," she said, smiling fondly.
    "When I go home, can I take the bed with me?"
    Agnes's smile faded. "God's toenails, how could you be carrying a bed to Angers? On your back?" She lifted Ceci off the bed and unfolded a linen sheet. "Off with you now. I have work to do."

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