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Dandy Man of Notes
Act 11: Beatrice Flynn, Mother of Nuns Under Chapel Station
© 2024 James LaFond
Advent, Marsday, Third Day of Sepulcher
The song, what a silvery tongued song that poor beautiful child sung!
Beatrice’s heart nearly flew from her breast as Doris sang. The song was of a rain, a soft, steady rain, as if the sky wept. Yet the skies over New York were but soot and sunlight, the noisy belching corruption of man rising to challenge the guiding light set in heaven by God’s infinite hand.
Beatrice had heard the songs—some of them—of Doris Synchronis before, had been thrilled by her twin’s dandy prance.
The thrill was gone, a cold chill remained beyond the stillness of that song. Beatrice knelt in prayer, upon the Chapel velvet step before the three prayer candles they had lit. Orpheus knelt to her left, Doris to her right. There the girl twin, nearly as pretty as her boy twin was spritely handsome, hummed her rain-like song.
Behind them, Sister Ellen stood aghast as the retiarius, One Netty Sam, placed his dagger upon the tin plate reserved for a man’s hat. The clink of steel on tin was ominous, as Netty Sam engaged Rodman Joe, the nunnery’s very own protector, in a polite exchange, “Now Joe, this goes my way, we both know.”
Joe grumbled, big and broad and brave as men come, but too old to be put to such an affray with the youngest star of the arena, the man who always brought back the runaway from high or low, near or far, “I’ll not stand by whilst yer storybook sass hauls off Christ’s most innocent lass!”
“Dear Joe,” soothed Netty Sam, a man with the orator’s gift for worded charm, “honored I am, to be warded against in my sacred duty by the bravest of your house. The dagger is set aside.”
“Take it back out the door! The Lass is set taking her vowels!”
A parchment was unrolled behind her, and Sam’s rich voice crooned, “The very Bishop of New York has here signed that no such nun shall be accepted from the chattel of Gentile Publico. I place this notice upon the hat plate, Madam Nun, for your conscience to consider after you rise from prayer… in your own good time. I have every moment you require, Madam.”
The surprisingly rich voice of Orpheus rose, not in defiance, but as if in judgment, “My sister shall be no whore, Retiarus.”
With those words Doris ceased her song in choking tears and Beatrice rose from her prayer and turned.
Netty Sam regarded the flaxen haired youth, already a dandy of a man, taller than his sister, who was tall for a woman already, nearly as tall as the famed catcher, who eyed him from under his black leather diadem, “Boy, take your sister by the hand and bring her here and save old Joe his desert.”
The net, hung like a many scaled serpent, a coil of woe, in that long fingered hand, the eyes of the owner black like a viper, hair black to match and shoulder length, as he was famous for wearing it so.
‘I am ashamed that so many runaways come here, only to be caught like mice by great cats.
“Sorry, Mother,” said the youth as he languidly stepped before Beatrice, and, so commanded, took his sister’s hand, “Come Sister,” he continued.
“That’s a good boy, Orpheus. I shall plead clemency with Master Publico.”
“Don’t bother, Catcherman,” said Orpheus in a hollow drawl, as he produced a razor from his blond ringlets of hair and pressed it to her throat, a tender, pale expanse of young neck that the girl bared in a weird ecstasy, as if she wished death. With surprising strength, Orpheus lifted his sister in the crook of his other arm, and she, as if mesmerized, held on to her brother in a weird obedience, as if being taken off to a wedding.
Netty Sam was so handsome in such a wicked way that Beatrice thanked God within for guiding her into the nunnery and forever avoiding such a terrible tangle that the slave catcher’s sure smile had surely netted many a woman’s heart.
Orpheus turned and darted, as if his sister weighed nothing, up the wrought iron twist of stairs to the belfry, where the bell was rung by one of the younger sisters every Ascentday by the rope that caught the slave catcher’s eye. That eye was followed by their faithful rodman, who she knew now would be matched against some brute unlikely to lose for that which he now did; for he stepped between Sam and that bell cord.
Rather than waste a moment on fight or words, the hunter of service deserters, shrugged his shoulders, spied above a pattern of sunlight sufficient for him to judge that the nunnery roof might be gained by a spry soul through the belfry, winked at Sister Ellen with enough adore to bring a blush to her cheeks, snatched the dagger from underneath the half curled wanted notice and loped down the hall towards Saint Mary’s Way with a grace—ruined by the toss of Joe’s whalebone baton across the back of his knees.
The sound provided enough warning for the soul catcher to catch his fall on catlike hands. The look that he cast towards Joe over his ball-like shoulder was so sharp and eagle-like that Beatrice shuddered as Rodman Joe muttered, “As you will, Netty, call me to the sands.”
The younger, fitter and wickeder man nodded an agreement of a kind that must be well understood among brute kind, did not bother a second glance, picked up his dagger and net, and jogged patiently down the candlelit hall to the distant door, that, within three breaths, could be heard to yawn and thud.
Beatrice marveled, as Joe turned and looked down at her with a smug mixture of pride, shame and joy, placed hands on hips and grunted at the unseen rooftops above, “Mum, ye might pray that the Eagle Street soot blows dis way.”
She added in a voice that sounded as old and crone as that of Mother Bronte, when she had once here come in her tattered homespun, one step ahead of a crook named Snatch, “And, Dear Joe, that the devil down below looks away.”
She turned and knelt before the Shrine of the Mother Mary while Joe lumbered off on his stiff old hips towards the door that was his discarded chore. She winced to hear him drag up that brusk baton, and in full confidence that Jesus personally watched over Doris and Orpheus, addressed her prayer closer to home, ‘Lord, I pray that our Dear Joe Stick not be granted his wish to fight on those treacherous sands again, and in no way, I pray, permit him a cross of blows with that terrible soul-finding man. I suppose a loose rooftile is to much to ask?’
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