A Change Of gender And Beyond
Chapter 3
by F.W. Hinton
          The little train  began  to slow down, and as it jolted to a
          stop Shaun leaned  out  of  the  window  to  read the sign '
          Durham Vale'.  For hours she had been going from one side of
          the carriage to  the  other, watching the countryside go by.
          Standing back when  rows  of  trees seemed almost certain to
          touch the windows.  Then  sitting  down  whenever  they went
          through a tunnel. listening to the echo of the wheels on the

          Sandy Highfield didn't  have  the  heart  to tell her to sit
          down, or they  were  going  to  a  boarding  school  in  the

          " Come on  Uncle  Sandy,"  she said excitedly, " this is the
          village you promised  to  show  me, the one with the big old

          He gave her the tickets to hand to the railway porter.

          " Thank you  Miss,"  he  said with a grin, " hope you have a
          pleasant stay at the Convent."

          Sandy held her  hand  tightly  as  they walked down the lane
          that led to the village.

          " Will we  be  home in time for tea? I wish Ma had come down
          with us. I  know she loves riding on trains and visiting old

          He ignored her  questions,  finding it impossible to answer.
          Impossible to tell her that she was going to the school that
          Dr McKinnon had  recommended,  or her mother so ill that the
          doctor at Westhill had forced her to stay in bed.

          At the top  of  the  hill they came to the village. Just one
          main street with timbered cottages, quaint little shops that
          sold everything. In  the centre of the village a picturesque
          hotel with windows  set  in the attic. On the right the high
          Convent wall stretching  the  length  of  the street. A huge
          gatehouse at the  end  arching  over two massive iron gates,
          flung open, revealing a long tree-lined drive.

          Without giving Shaun  a chance to look back or pull away, he
          tightened his grip  on her tiny hand and hurried through the
          gates. She looked  at him. Her sad little eyes searching for
          an answer to  an  unspoken question were breaking his heart.
          He almost turned  back  as  she  stared at the brown leather
          suitcase he was carrying.

          The Convent lay  in front of them, tranquil and silent. It's
          sloping roof, flying  buttresses  and squat towers with rose
          windows. To the  left  of the Convent, partly hidden by huge
          jacaranda trees was  a  fantasy  of  red  brick  turrets and
          towers with large windows. Sandy knew that this was the home
          of the boarders.

          He pulled on  the  bell rope hanging at the side of the main
          door. Shaun heard  the  ominous  clanging and shivered as it
          faded into the background.

          " Mr Highfield  and Shaun Maclaren. I do hope you had a good
          journey." Shaun looked  up  at  the tall angular Nun, at her
          long beaky nose  and thick spectacles. The Nun enveloped her
          in black serge  for  a  moment, then pushed her gently away,
          holding her at arms length.

          Shaun stared at the sharp features again, suddenly realizing
          with horror, that  this  was where she was going to be left.
          Without a word,  a  short,  round-faced  Nun took her by the
          hand and pulled  her  away  from Sandy Highfield. She called
          out to him, but he had gone, all Shaun could see was a cloud
          of billowing veils.  She was forced up a long flight of bare
          wooden stairs, At the top she tried hard to pull away.

          " Sandy! Sandy!"  she screamed. " Please don't leave me. Let
          me go! Please let me go. I promise I will be good."

          The Nun clasped her hand tighter.

          " Why can't I go with him?" Shaun asked through her tears.

          " You're going to stay here-with me. I'm going to look after
          you, not your  uncle  Sandy.  I  don't know what your mother
          must have been  thinking about, allowing a man to look after
          you. Here you  will  go  to  school every day. There's other
          girls for you to be with. You're a big girl now, and we must
          act like a big girl."

          " I don't  want you looking after me. I don't like school. I
          want to go home-to Ma. Ask Sandy- - he'll take me back-to Ma
          I know he will. Please, please let me go."

          " Now Shaun  Maclaren  you  are  being  a  very silly little
          girl," the Nun told her angrily, " you know you have to stay
          here. It's for  your  own  good. The doctor said it was. You
          might just as  well  stop  this  silly crying. It won't help
          you." The Nun gripped her hand harder and dragged her into a
          long low room. There were beds on either side, all draped in
          white. A wooden  floor,  all shinny and clean, like the ones
          she had seen in the hospital.

          Shaun looked around  the  room  and  sobbed in irrepressible

          " This is  where  you  will  be  sleeping.  It  is  called a

          " But it's so hot in here."

          " That's because you've been crying."

          " I want  to  go  back  to Westhill. It's much cooler by the
          sea. Please let  me  go  back  with  Sandy  I really will be

          " You will  get  used  to  it,"  the  Nun told her, " and in
          future,  when  you  address  me  you  will  call  me  Sister

          The tour of  the  Convent  continued.  First  the  washroom,
          attached to the  dormitory  where  wash basins were set in a
          wall, and the  water  icy cold. Then into a tiny room beyond
          where Shaun was told she would have to clean her shoes every

          Her heart pounded  with  hope and excitement as she followed
          Sister Rebecca down  the stairs and saw Sandy saying goodbye
          to the Mother  Superior,  She wanted to call out to him, she
          tried to run  to  him,  but  the Nun held her hand tight and
          told her to  be  silent.  They  walked  through  a  maze  of
          corridors  and cloisters.  Eventually  they  went  into  the
          Refectory; a big,  high ceiling chamber, which Shaun thought
          was echoing and very unfriendly. There were tables stretched
          around the three  walls. Places were set only on one side of
          each table so  that  everyone  sat facing the centre. At the
          far end was  a  smaller table. Sister Rebecca explained that
          this was the  top table, where Mother Superior, and when she
          was visiting, Mother Provincial sat.

          Shaun stared in  awe  at the huge Crucifix, hung high on the
          wall behind the table. She looked at the lectern, a few feet
          to he left, built like a pulpit, reminding her of the church
          at Westhill. This,  the Sister told her was where the reader
          sat so that  everyone in the refectory might hear her words.
          That silence at  meal times must be strictly observed by all
          boarders. They went  into  a  sparsely  furnished  community
          room, where old  desks  with  seats  attached  were set in a
          straight line down  the center. Shaun sat at a desk farthest
          away from the  door.  For  more  than an hour Sister Rebecca
          read out the  rules, which she told Shaun every boarder must
          learn by heart.   Shaun could not even remember one of them,
          and in despair rested her head on her hands.  The Nun looked
          at her in disgust.

          " You're not even trying," she said angrily.

          " But Sister - "

          You will speak only when spoken to," Sister Rebecca shouted.

          The interminable silence became more than Shaun could bear.

          " I can't  remember  all  those  stupid  rules," she shouted

          " Then you will sit at your desk until you do. Your outburst
          is intolerable. You  will  learn  everyone  of the rules you
          will remember that  in  the  refectory  and in the dormitory
          absolute silence will be observed."

          " I hate  this  place,"  Shaun  shouted again. She stood up,
          banged her fist hard on the lid of the desk. Then cried with
          the pain in  her  hands  holding them out, shaking them. Her
          eyes pleading for compassion.

          Sister Rebecca glared  at her. " That's your punishment from
          God for being a wicked naughty child."

          It was late  afternoon  when Shaun was taken to the study of
          the Mother Superior.

          " Have you managed to learn some of the rules?" she asked.

          At first Shaun  did  not  answer.   The  question  was asked

          " Yes," she said sheepishly.

          " Can you tell me one of them?"

          " We must  not  speak  or  make  a noise in the dormitory or

          "  The child  has  remembered  nothing,  Reverend  mother,''
          Sister Rebecca interrupted  angrily,  "  she  will  not  pay
          attention. She is  a very stubborn child. All she does is to
          cry and blubber when she cannot get her own way. I think she
          is a spoiled  child who needs a good thrashing" Shaun glared
          at Sister Rebecca, hatred burning in her tear stained eyes.

          The Mother Superior  looked  over the top of her horn-rimmed

          " Dear me,"  she  said  softly,  " this is not at all what I

          The uncanny silence that followed was broken only by Shaun's
          stifled sobs. The  Reverend  Mother,  looked  first  at  the
          Sister, then at the tearful child standing in front of her.

          " Shaun Maclaren,"  she  began  sternly,  " you will have to
          learn all the  rules.  They are there for your own good. You
          have told a lie. Punishment for that alone is very severe."

          There was that awful, deadly silence again. Shaun decided to
          make a run  for  the door. Get away from the nightmare Sandy
          Highfield had forced  her  into.  Sister  Rebecca  read  her
          thoughts. Laid a  hand  on  her  shoulder  and  pushed Shaun
          closer to the mother Superior's desk.

          " Because this  is  your  first  day,"  the  Reverend Mother
          continued, " you  will  not be punished. I have asked Sister
          Rebecca to keep  an  eye  on  you. You must promise never to
          tell a lie or raise your voice in anger again."

          " I promise,"  Shaun  said tearfully then began to sob as if
          her heart would break.

          " There there,  child,"  the  Mother  Superior  said  as she
          walked round the  front  of  her  desk  and  clutched  Shaun
          Maclaren to her.  " Once you learn the rules and settle down
          you will grow to love us as we all love you. I'm sure if you
          really try hard  this  Convent  will  be your home away from
          home, and all the troubles of your past will be forgotten."

          Shaun Maclaren was  small, although she was not the youngest
          in her class,  she  stood  last  in line when the girls were
          drilling. She was  painfully  thin with straight blonde hair
          cut squarely around  her  head  in  page-boy style. Her eyes
          normally blue, but for the first week of her boarding school
          life, red from crying were framed with long curling lashes.

          In her navy  serge  uniform, and lace-up shoes she was often
          mistaken for a  girl much younger than her ten and a quarter
          years. She was not a clever child, but had an extremely good
          memory. In her first week Sister Rebecca praised her for her
          achievement in the school spelling-bee.

          'Weeny' she had  been  named by the other girls on her first
          day at school.  The name annoyed Shaun, and the head Prefect
          aware of this ensured everyone called her Weeny.

          Esther, the Prefect, three years older than Shaun tried hard
          to  imitate  Sister   Rebecca.  She  thought  the  new  girl
          characterless and described  her  as 'Nobody's Child' making
          sure that Shaun  Maclaren  was  the  odd one out. She took a
          delight in telling  Sister  Rebecca that Weeny moaned in her

          " Everyone is  complaining,"  she  told the Sister, " one of
          the other girls  said  if I didn't report it, she would, and
          then I would be in serious trouble."

          It was a hot November night.  The dormitory airless, all the
          windows closed. Shaun  tossed  and turned, and although fast
          asleep talked about  Casey  Ann.  Sister Rebecca glided into
          the dormitory and  stood  by  her  bed. Shaun mumbled again.
          Without saying a  word  the Sister dragged her from the bed,
          took  her  by   the  shoulders  and  marched  her  into  the
          wash-room. She stared  angrily  at  Shaun for a moment, then
          threw her on the floor.

          Shaun barely awake,  bewildered,  terrified  began to scream
          tears streaming down her face.

          " What have  I  done?" she screamed, " please don't hurt me.
          What have I done?"

          " You Shaun  Maclaren  are a bad wicked child. You've broken
          every dormitory rule.  You've kept all the girls awake. It's
          time you were given the thrashing you deserve."

          For a moment  Shaun  lay on the stone floor. She looked past
          Sister Rebecca at  the  dim  blue  night  light,  which cast
          enormous shadows of a fiend-like figure in black.

          From within the folds of her habit Sister Rebecca pulled out
          a thick rubberstick  with  thin trips of rubber hanging from
          it. Then with  as  much  strength as she could muster struck
          Shaun around the legs and across her back.

          Screaming  with  pain,   fright,   and   the  agony  of  not
          understanding why she  was  being beaten, Shaun crawled into
          the corner of  the  wash-room. She covered her head with her
          hands, shut her  eyes  tight  seeking  a secret, that secret
          room in her  mind, that sanctuary against pain. Knowing that
          if she concentrated  hard  enough she could reach it, unlock
          the door and  slip inside as she had when Casey Ann had been
          killed by the  semi-trailer.  There  she  knew  she would be
          safe. Safe from  the  lashing  tongues  of  Sister Rebecca's
          rubber stick.

          Shaun had an  image  of  herself  dead. A pale white corpse,
          wearing her best  blue  nightdress.  The one Sandy Highfield
          had given her  for  Christmas.  She  saw  herself lying in a
          wooden box among  an  array of brightly burning candles. The
          way she dreamed Casey Ann had looked. All she wanted now was
          to join her sister.

          In   spite   of    the   inauspicious   beginning   of   her
          boarding-school career, Shaun  was  a  delight to the Mother
          Superior and the  Mother  Provincial, who would on occasions
          ask her to  recite their favourite stories, ' The Stone that
          Rebounded' and ' Zephyr's Last Ride.' Many of the other Nuns
          were fascinated by  her  ability,  and  at  one  end of term
          Parent's Day meeting  Shaun  was persuaded to recite the two
          favourite stories.

          Sister Rebecca firmly  believed  that  if  Shaun  did have a
          photographic memory, then she should not have any difficulty
          in passing any  or  all  of her grade examinations. This was
          something Shaun Maclaren  found  impossible  to achieve. She
          did try very  hard, wanting her mother and Sandy at Westhill
          to receive a good progress report.

          Sister was firmly  convinced  that  Shaun  as not trying and
          seldom missed an  opportunity  to  use, with zeal her rubber
          punishment stick. An opportunity which presented itself many
          times. Sister Rebecca, was not only her teacher but also her
          House Mother.

          The animosity between  Shaun  and the Sister, to Esther, the
          Prefect seemed to  have  reached an unbearable height, which
          she felt was  effecting  the  whole class. She believed that
          because of her  Shaun had suffered badly, and to make amends
          invited her home  for  the  holidays.  Esther's father had a
          large dairy farm.  Shaun  was  in  her  element.  She  loved
          horses, dogs, helping  out around the farmhouse and when she
          was allowed, with the milking.

          No job was  too  difficult  and  Esther's  parents  who  she
          referred to as  mother  and Pop treated her like a daughter.
          Although Esther told  her  parents  of  the unfair treatment
          Shaun was suffering and her mother saw the deep marks on her
          back Shaun herself never complained.

          " One can  get  used to almost anything," she told them when
          asked how she got them.

          Outwardly, in spite  of  Sister Rebecca's constant beatings,
          Shaun tried hard  to  comply  with  her  wishes.  She always
          endeavoured to hand her homework in on time, spoke only when
          spoken to and  smiled  at the Sister whenever she could. But
          she had come  to  think  that defiance of Sister Rebecca was
          the most important thing in her life.

          It  was  not  an  outward  defiance,  but  another  form  of
          resistance. A resistance  of mind and heart, inside where it
          really mattered. Shaun  stayed  hard,  cold  and distant. No
          crying. No moaning. It was antidote against falling apart.

          In a class  full of girls she was all alone. Her only friend
          Esther had gone  back to the farm to help out her mother and
          father. Shaun Maclaren  knew  that  if she wanted to survive
          this hell on earth in God's house, then she would have to do
          everything Sister Rebecca  told  her. There were a few times
          she thought about  dying, but there was nothing poetic about
          that kind of death.

          In her letters to her mother, who had left Westhill and gone
          North  to  work  she  told  of  the  ill-treatment  she  was
          receiving at the  hands  of  the  Sister. She knew they were
          read by Sister  Rebecca  then destroyed. Even in the writing
          of the letters,  and  knowing  her  mother  would never read
          them, she felt  a sense of achievement, a sense of defiance.
          To Shaun it was another dint in Sister Rebecca's armour.

          When her brother  George  came down for a visit, or took her
          back to his  home  for  a few days she refused to talk about
          her life at  the Convent, for fear of getting a beating, and
          of being told  to try harder. But Shaun Maclaren prayed, and
          prayed hard that  one  day it would all change. She believed
          that whatever fate  befell  Sister  Rebecca,  it  would most
          certainly be in her Karma.

          Returning from the  mid-term  holidays  it  seemed  that her
          prayers had been answered. Sister Rebecca had been taken ill
          and sent to a nursing home. There was an air of happiness as
          the new teacher, House Mother glided into the class room.

          She was a  tall  woman with a pleasant face her eyes, small,
          deep blue with a very slight cast in them, so that she never
          seemed to be looking directly at anyone. There was a deathly
          hush  as  she   wrote  her  name  on  the  blackboard-Sister
          Constance .

          For the whole class it was a new beginning. A week later all
          the old wounds  of  student  teacher  relationship  had been
          healed.  The  use  of  the  cane  or  punishment  stick  was
          abhorrent to Sister  Constance.  She  firmly  believed  that
          gentle persuasion, would  in  the  end  produce  far  better

          Shaun  adored her.  Without  being  asked  she  cleaned  the
          Sister's Crucifix, belt  and  shoes.  She  tried hard in her
          studies, but even  with  the Sister' s continued help, Shaun
          still found it impossible to come anywhere other than bottom
          of the class.

          Sister Constance thought  that Shaun, who had now become her
          favourite pupil was  at  times  withdrawn, especially as the
          end of term  holidays  drew  near.  She seemed filled with a
          sense of foreboding, reluctant to leave the Convent and stay
          with her eldest  sister.   Sister Constance questioned Shaun
          about her attitude.  It  was only after a lengthy discussion
          did the fact  emerge  that  whenever she stayed at Pauline's
          house she was  beaten  by  her  sister  and tormented by her

          " Why don't you tell your mother?" Sister Constance asked.

          " I dare  not. The last time I stayed at Pauline's house and
          Ma came down  for  a  visit  they made me swear not to say a
          word. I know what would have happened if I had spoken out."

          " But surely  your  mother  must  have  known  something was
          wrong. This cannot,  and  will  not  go  on.  I  promise you
          something will be done."

          " Please Sister,"  Shaun  said with tears streaming down her
          cheeks. " Please don't make a fuss. It will only make things
          worse. The beatings-they  don't  really  matter any more . I
          suppose I must  deserve  them.  Besides  Ma's  going to stay
          permanently at Pauline's."

          Sister  Constance  was   suddenly   transferred  to  another
          Convent. No one really knew why. She didn't have time to say
          goodbye to Shaun Maclaren.

          Now that Sister  Constance  had  been transferred, Shaun did
          not  want to  go  back  to  the  Convent  after  the  Easter
          holidays, and pleaded  with  her  mother  to let her stay at
          home. Her brother  George, determined she would continue her
          education, with her  suitcase  and  term money forced her on
          the train.

          Sandy Highfield having  given  up  all hope of ever marrying
          Rachel  had  disappeared.   George   provided  his  youngest
          sister's school fee  and clothing, even though his wife felt
          that his own  children,  were  at  times suffering more than
          they should, and  that,  Shaun  now  aged fourteen should be
          earning her own money.

          The train slowed  to a stop at Durham Vale, and as usual the
          teacher, House Mother was waiting to meet them. Shaun looked
          out of the  window,  as  she  had  on  her first day. A Nun,
          short,  round  faced,   who  resembled  Sister  Rebecca  was
          standing in the  centre of the platform.  Shaun sat down for
          a moment. Her  heart  pounding, her head throbbing, tears of
          fright and despair  running  down  her cheeks. She could see
          the rubber punishment  stick,  feel  the lashes on her back,
          feel them biting  into  her legs. She bent down, touched her
          legs  just to  make  sure  they  were  not  bleeding  again.
          Suddenly she stopped  crying, determined to hide her terror.
          With her case  in  one  hand  opened  the  carriage door and
          slipped around the  other side of the train. She watched the
          train disappear down  the  track  and  waited in the shadows
          until the station became deserted.

          Darkness fell, she  knew  she had to get away. Away from the
          Convent and Sister  Rebecca.  She dried her eyes, pulled her
          hat firmly down  on  her  head  and  decided she needed some
          place to go.  Somewhere she could sit down and plan her next
          move.  She  thought   about   the  waiting  room,  Then  she
          remembered the porter. If he found her he was almost certain
          to inform the Mother Superior, and she would be dragged back
          to the Convent.

          Shaun picked up  her  suitcase  and  walked  down the track,
          singing as she  walked to keep from falling asleep. She took
          long strides so  that  her  feet  would land on the sleepers
          instead of the gravel that cut into her shoes.

          An hour later  she  came  to  a  tunnel.  Too  scared  to go
          through, too tired  to go any further she sat on her case by
          the entrance. The moon rose, she stared at the cloudless sky
          for a moment,  then  closed her eyes and dreamed of dying at
          the hands of Sister Rebecca.

          She woke with a start as a spider crawled over her hand. She
          screamed,  swatted  it  aside,  watched  it  in  the  bright
          moonlight as it  curled, defensively into a ball and dropped
          to the ground. It took her a moment to assemble her thoughts
          and remember where  she  was.  Always afraid of dark places,
          Shaun knew she could never go through the tunnel and decided
          to find a  way  around it. Her feet, cooled by the night air
          had stopped aching.  She  bent  down eased her feet into her
          shoes and began to tie up the laces.

          She stifled a  scream  as she stared at a snake lying on the
          cool track a  few feet away. She thought it looked at her as
          it's fangs went  in  and  out. There were snakes on Esther's
          farm. Pop told  her that if you stay very still they will go
          away. She'd even  seen  a snake at Westhill. This one looked
          different. It was the biggest snake she had ever seen.

          " It's a  Python" she shouted, not daring to look away, " If
          I move it will crush me to death." Fascinated by it's antics
          of curling round  and  round she watched it for a long time.
          Suddenly she remembered  reading that all snakes did this to
          mesmerize their victims  before  they  went in for the kill.
          Her eyes fixed  on  the snake she stood up slowly, the snake
          still curling round.  With  a quick movement she grabbed her
          suitcase and ran  as  fast  as  she  could  down the railway

          Short of breath,  a  pain  in her side she slowed down, then
          tripped and fell  as  her  feet  became  caught  in her shoe
          laces. How long  she sat on the railway line crying, dabbing
          her grazed knees  she  had  no  way  of knowing. As the moon
          clouded over she  knew  she must move or the Python would be
          certain to find her.

          She dragged her  suitcase  along the line not sure if it was
          better to drag  it or carry it. A pinpoint of light appeared
          way off to the right. Shaun knew if she could only get to it
          she would be  safe  from  the  snake. The moon came out from
          behind a cloud she scrambled down the embankment.

          She thought about  saving her suitcase, hiding it somewhere,
          along the embankment,  in  the long grass. She thought about
          all the trouble  her brother had gone to, buying her the new
          school uniform. She  heaved  the  case  over the barbed wire
          fence then climbed  over.  She got one leg over easily, went
          to lift up  her  other  leg,  found  it almost impossible to
          move, knew she  had caught her navy blue knickers on a barb.
          If she wriggled she would tear them or cut the inside of her

          Balancing on one  leg  she  unhooked  them  and  fell to the
          ground with a  thump,  she  lay  on  the damp grass not sure
          whether to laugh  or  cry.   Seconds before the moon slipped
          behind a heavy  cloud, Shaun saw a path that led through the
          trees. She picked  up  her  suitcase  and walked towards the
          tiny light. Strange forms reached out to touch her. Branches
          brushed her arms  and  legs  as  twigs  snapped  behind her.
          Something small flew  directly  into  her face. She screamed
          and started to  run.  Things  seemed to grab her ankles, she
          stopped, pulled away  the  long grass and for a moment stood
          very still.

          There was a snap - -snapping of dried twigs. It's the snake,
          she thought then  dismissed  the thought almost immediately.
          The twigs snapped again. She screamed picked up her case and
          ran, until the  pin-point  of  light  loomed in front of her
          bright and clear.  In  desperation she banged on the door as
          hard as she  could.  Shaun  saw a large woman, a white apron
          covering her dress.  She  dropped the suitcase and fell into
          the woman's arms.

          The  woman, Shaun  remembered  wearing  a  white  apron  was
          sitting by the  fire.   "  Awake  at  last," she said with a
          smile, " if  you  go  and  have  a  wash  you will feel much
          better.  Breakfast will  be  ready  by  the  time  you  have
          finished." She left  the  fire  and began setting the table.
          Shaun, bewildered, looked  about her, then watched the woman
          slicing a loaf of bread.

          " You've been here all night," she told Shaun, trying to put
          her mind at  rest, " it was too late to take you back to the
          Convent." -

          " There you  are  Shaun  Maclaren," the woman said placing a
          plate of eggs  and  bacon  in front of her as she sat at the
          table. The woman  stood  back,  a beaming smile on her face.
          She folded her  hands  across  her ample stomach and watched
          Shaun eat.

          " Just you  enjoy that, and I want to see every scrap eaten.
          Neither my John  or me can abide food being wasted, and mind
          you don't give  any  to the cat. She has her own food by the
          back door. She will pretend she's starving."

          Shaun looked at the big black cat sitting erect staring into
          the fire. Over  a  steaming  cup  of tea the woman explained
          that she found  Shaun's  name on the inside of her coat when
          she took off  her  wet  clothes  and  put  her to bed on the

          " We know  you don't want to go back to the Convent. But you
          might have to.  Don't  you  worry  though, my John will make
          sure  you're  safe.   We  can't  stand  children  being  ill
          treated." " How  did you know? I never told anyone. I didn't
          mean to be  a  nuisance.  Really  I didn't." " You talked in
          your sleep. Most  of  the  night  you  were crying. Once you
          screamed, begged a  Sister  Rebecca  to stop whipping you. I
          sat up with you most of the night."

          " I'm sorry I was a trouble."

          " You were no trouble dear," the woman told her, warming her
          hands by the  fire,  "  my  John was very upset though," she
          continued, " and  when the Priest came by early this morning
          demanding we allow  him to take you back to the Convent John
          threw him out of the house."

          " He told the Priest they had no right beating children like
          that. The Priest said you probably deserved it. There was an
          awful row. We  both  feel  that  no one should be hit with a
          rubber stick."

          She stopped for a moment to refill their cups with tea.

          " The people  at  the  Convent  must  have complained to the
          police. The Sergeant  came  down, said he'd been informed we
          were keeping a  young  girl  here-against her will. John put
          him straight. While  he was here you had another one of your
          nightmares.  Much worse  than  before. Screaming and crying.
          Begging  this Sister  Rebecca  to  stop  hitting  you.  Even
          covered your head  with your hands, pulled up your knees and
          rubbed your legs. You swore you didn't talk in bed.

          The doctor came  after you passed out, gave you an injection
          to calm you  down.  He told the Sergeant and us that you had
          been badly beaten. Said something about a social worker. The
          Sergeant said I  was  to  keep you here while they talked to
          the local Magistrate."

          A week later  Shaun  accompanied  by a social worker and the
          Police Sergeant went  to the Convent. Sister Rebecca greeted
          them and glared  at  Shaun.  They were shown into the Mother
          Superior's study. Shaun  shaking  from  head  to  toe at the
          thought of what  might  happen  to her stood in front of the
          desk and waited.  She  started to cry. The social worker did
          her best to calm her. It was only when the Sergeant held her
          hand and told her everything was going to be all right, that
          she stopped shaking and crying.

          The Mother Provincial  followed  by the Mother Superior came
          into the study.  They looked first at Shaun, then the Police
          Sergeant and the  social  worker.  The  Sergeant  handed the
          Mother Provincial an  official  document  which  the  Mother
          Superior glanced at then with a glare at Shaun signed.

          She turned to  Shaun.  "  You  are  being  released  by  the
          Convent. Your mother  has  been  informed.  However  you are
          being placed in the care of Mr John Woods and his wife until
          the social worker is satisfied with your progress."

          Shaun was delighted.  She  was  free at last. It seemed that
          all her prayers  had  been  answered. There would be no more
          beatings with the  punishment  stick, no more nightmares and
          she would be able to talk whenever she wanted.

          Shaun stayed with John and his wife for two months, then the
          social worker found  her  a  job  with a printing company. "
          What is your  ambition?"  John  asked  as she was leaving. "
          Join the Army-like my Dad."