Of God and Treasure
    “Bloody hell!”

    Godric ducked as a wooden bucket sailed over his head and crashed into the cupboard. So arrived the day that he’d had always predicted would come: a day sore with dust, heat and biting flies.  Brother Casimir jerked down his hood and glared full at him. Godric heard the thud of his sandals as he took several slow, deliberate steps toward him. Clearly, his brother monk contemplated killing him.

    Godric stood with both arms thrust elbow deep in turnips.  Water sloshed over his sandals as he straightened up from his washtub.

    “Here now!” snapped Godric. “You’ve no right to yell at me like that.”

    “You’ve been here in this scullery the better part of the day!” Casimir snarled. “The sun hangs low in the sky and you haven’t even put water on to heat. Are we to have no dinner at all, then? Why are you gadding about in here while we toil in the fields? Why?”

    Godric stood with hands on hips. He gazed into Casimir’s brown eyes and considered knocking him down. Too many Hail Mary’s, he thought. He gestured around the scullery at the dozens of wooden buckets full of turnips. Bundles of leeks and picked greens sat about in scores.

    “God’s nightgown, Casimir! Look around you. It’s harvest time! ‘Tis far more than I would have expected in a drought, but at least, let us be grateful for what God has given us. You will get your dinner. I promise.”

    “And what shall I tell our brothers?”

    Godric grasped his shoulders, spun him around and pushed him towards the door.  “Take them a bucket of water and tell them that I’m not as young as you.”

    He thrust a small, green apple into Casimir’s hand, placed his fist into the brown habit at the small of his back, and shoved.

    “Now go!”

    The younger man stumbled out the door.  Godric swatted at a fly on his neck.

    “What a rank day, O, Lord. Here I stand nose deep in turnips and he moans about dinner being late. I ought hide a wasp in his biscuit.”

    Godric thought of something and glanced Heavenward. He crossed himself and held his hands together in prayer.  “Now, Lord, I did not quite mean it that way.”

    Godric’s prayer evaporated and he shook his fist towards the door.
“Always, why, why, why, with him. I‘ve a mind to knock him right on his ear.”

    He glanced up at a particular corner cupboard and the tickle of anticipation fluttered in his plump belly.

    “Ah, but I shall not be melancholy, for this is the day I have waited for. A day when all manners of plague would be laid upon me and I should require a bit of comfort.”

    He fetched the step stool, pushed it to the cupboard in the corner, stepped up the two steps, thrust a hand in behind the wooden bowls and felt for his prize. He hand closed around a tiny piece of cloth.

    “This very hour, I shall have you!”

    Godric looked out the door and saw no one coming. He unfolded the cloth to reveal his gem.  The piece of Turkish Delight, barely as big as his thumbnail, nestled in his palm like a tiny jewel. His mouth watered at the faint aroma of mint. He clutched the candy to the front of his tunic as he remembered back a year ago when a knight rode up to the abbey at Saint Edmund’s Bury.

    “You there, gentle monk! Of what religious order do ye be?”

    “We are Benedictines, my lord.”

    “Be so good as to draw my horse some water.”

    Godric had put aside his hoe, tossed the water bucket into the well and drew four pails full. While the thirsty horse drank, the knight gave Godric a coin. A month later, when the abbott, Sebastian, visited London town, he took the coin and returned with a piece of candy for each monk.

    But of course, they all ate theirs’ right away, Godric thought as he eyed the morsel. Mine I saved for when I really needed it. It glistened like a piece of stained glass in the cathedral.

    “My little treasure,” he said aloud. “The real question now is how I ought to eat you. Shall it be in one bite or in two? Such a delightful decision I must make!”

    Godric shook his finger at the candy.

    “But first I must start the evening meal.”

    He placed the candy back in the cupboard and stepped down off the stool. In the quarter part of an hour, he lit the fire and set two iron pots full of broth in the hearth to heat.

    “Ha! Casimir did not see these!”

    He removed the goose carcasses soaking in brine, fastened them upon a spit and positioned them over the fire. These things accomplished, he climbed back onto the step stool and peered at the candy.

    “Now, then!”

A puff of wind through the open door fanned the wood smoke into a choking haze.
“Oh!”

    Godric jumped down from the stool, grabbed a thick piece of burlap and swatted at the smoke until it thinned. He glanced again at the cupboard. His heart gladdened.

    “Oh, I can wait a bit longer. I shall make the bread now.”

    He hummed a hymn to himself as he set a crock of flour onto a table.
                                                          
                                                              ***
    As the bearer of bad news, Casimir could not be happier.  God's portend of doom put a skip in his step and an extra swing in the water pail in his hand.  He remembered not that his backside would eventually bear the brunt of Sebastian’s shoe for he delighted in detraction above all else.

    The monks looked up as he approached. Casimir proffered the gourd ladle from the water bucket to Pascal, who lowered his hood and swiped at the sweat on his brow. He reached for the ladle in Casimir’s hand. Wooden buckets filled with turnips sat about.

    “I say, Casimir, we need empty buckets,” said Pascal. “Carry a few of these full ones to the scullery and empty them.  We’ve time enough to dig some more before supper.”

    “You all may as well slow down,” Casimir announced. “From what I just saw, we will be having no supper tonight.”

    “No supper!” cried Theofrid. He dropped his spade. “What do you mean?”

    Casimir folded his arms and cocked an eyebrow as hoods gathered in a circle around him.

    “Godric is mucking about in the scullery and has not even put on a pot of water to boil. I saw not one morsel of food peeled or prepared.”

    Eyes widened beneath the hoods. Spades, hoes and other tools thudded to the ground. A moan from the ground caught their attention. Leopold, the youngest (and arguably the fairest) of their order, who spent most of his time in a swoon, sat up in the grass.

    “No food? Oh, I should just faint!”

    Leopold swooned again and flopped over in the grass. Kieron frowned and thumped him with a sandal.

    “Get up, you idler! You only faint when there’s work to be done!”

    Kieron mopped his bald forehead with a cloth.  “Did not Sebastian instruct Tarcisius to help in the scullery? Is he not there?” he grumbled

    “He is down in the glen with the horse,” replied Casimir.

    Casimir bridled at another pair of eyes that peered from beneath a hood. Marcellinus stood a head taller and did not speak often, but when he spoke he did so with authority and no one, not even Sebastian, disagreed. Marcellinus lowered his hood and his long curls fell down to his shoulders.

    “The horse must be looked after lest some soldier or knight spies him and knows he is a war-bred. They would surely take him and kill all of us.”

    Marcellinus nodded towards the wood smoke rising from the scullery chimney.

    “Meseemeth, things seem to be in order,” said Marcellinus.

    Theofrid grabbed his spade and shook it at Casimir. “Just trying to stir up trouble you are- and don’t pull your nose at me.”

    “Hmmmph!”

    Casimir remembered his apple and retrieved it from his pocket. Instantly, five pairs of eyes fixed on him.

    “Where did you get that?” asked Pascal.

    Casimir inhaled the sweet fragrance of the little fruit. “From the scullery.”

    ‘Did you bring one for each of us?” asked Leopold.

    Kieron rolled his eyes. “Now he awakes.”

    ‘We are all to have an equal portion,” said Theofrid. “That is fair.”

    “Look, I’ve only this one little thing.”

    “Give us a bite!” Theofrid insisted.

    “But there’s barely a mouthful for me!” Casimir replied.
   
    Robes hitched up to ankle length and sandals began to dance back and forth.
Casimir held his prize aloft as faces crowded in around him.

    “Give us our share, I say!”

    The apple changed hands.

    "Theofrid, give it back to me!"

    "Just a bite! I'll give you a portion of my mashed turnips tonight.”

    "As I've said, it’s only enough for me! Leave off there!” Casimir cried.

    They spun in a circle as he grabbed the prize away from Theofrid.

    "Give it to me—-!" Theofrid yelled.

    “Well, if you want it that much, go and fetch it!”

    Casimir flung the apple with all his might.

    A scream echoed from afar. The monks stood on tiptoe and peered into the distance.  They espied a familiar figure in the apple orchard.

    “Oh, now you’ve done it!” said Kieron. “You gone and hit Foellan.”

    The monks gasped and crossed themselves frantically. Casimir’s heart began to pound as he and Theofrid pointed to each other. Foellan’s form moved up the path towards them. Marcellinus glared at Casimir.

    “If there is a single mark upon him, I hope you take the lash for it.”

    Casimir grabbed a spade and began to dig as all the brothers redoubled their work efforts. I did not mean it, he thought as he clawed the turnips from the ground. Lord, I promise I’ll be good! Please, let him not be hurt!

    As Foellan’s hood drew nearer Theofrid whispered into Casimir’s ear.

    “You’re going to Hell for sure.”

    Sunlight burst upon the group and a sudden cool breeze rustled the leaves and grass around them. Foellan appeared amongst them, set down his apple buckets and smiled. The brothers made their obeisance to him. Pascal dipped the gourd into the water bucket and held it still as Foellan’s trembling hands encircled the ladle. He inclined his blonde head and sipped a mouthful. Foellan turned his gaze Heavenward.

    “O, Lord, I thank thee for my brothers, whose faithful hearts I commit into your loving hands,” said Foellan in his thick, Scottish brogue.

    A little hope stirred inside Casimir at Foellan’s gentle smile. “All is well with you, my lord? We did not venture into the orchard, as we knew you were in prayer. We heard you cry out in ecstasy.”

    Foellan clasped his hands together. The blonde fluff of hair that encircled his tonsured head glowed like a halo. His cap reached nearly to his ears.

    “There I was, praying for the salvation of my brothers’ souls. I felt the Holy Spirit move upon me. I began to sing a hymn from the Book of Psalms. Then it hit me!”

    Casimir smiled. “A revelation?”

    “No. An apple!”

    Casimir flinched as Foellan clasped his hands to his chest. The other monks smiled.
   
    “In the blink of an eye, an apple appeared from nowhere and took effect upon my person. Why, I was astonished.”

    “And rightfully so!” said Kieron.
   
    “But what puzzles me most is that I knew not from whence it came. For a moment I thought it came from the direction of you, dear Casimir. I begged pardon from the Lord. Forgive me, I cried! Never could that happen. Why, my brother is the handiwork of Heaven!”

    Foellan stretched his hands Heavenward and fluttered his long eyelashes as sandals squirmed in the dust. Foellan touched Casimir’s shoulder gently.

    “Tell me, Casimir, from whence do you suppose the apple came?”

    A moment of terse silence followed. Casimir smiled.  “From Heaven?”

    Foellan turned away and stood with his back to them for several moments. His shoulders shook slightly, as if from mirth. He faced them again, clasped his hands together and nodded.

    “Apples from Heaven! Yes, yes! This is a true sign from God, I am sure. What a blessed man I am!”

    Casimir sighed with relief, but Marcellinus’ glared from the corner of his eye.  Foellan espied Leopold lying in the grass. He reached out a hand and the young man sat up.

    “Leopold, another fainting spell? Pascal’s medicine did not help?”

    Leopold sighed and Kieron rolled his eyes.

    “I took it, my lord and it did not avail me.”

    “Well, Pascal must make something different for you, then.”

    Foellan pressed his hands into the small of his back, stretched and sighed at the click in his spine.  Marcellinus stepped forward.

    “You are weary from your palsy, my lord. Allow me to carry you up to the abbey.”

    Leopold’s hand tugged Foellan’s robe gently.  “I’ll carry your apples for you.”

    “Nay, you’re already a man short since Tarcisius is helping in the kitchen,” said Foellan.

    “He is not there, my lord,” said Marcellinus. “He has been grazing the horse the better part of the day.”

    “Surely the horse must have eaten his fill by now,” said Kieron. “As we are overburdened, could he not be bothered to come help us?”

    “Of course, Kieron.”

    Foellan’s gentle hand patted Leopold’s cheek. “I think Leopold may run and fetch Tarcisius. I can walk up to the abbey.”

    Leopold sprang to his feet and hurried away.

    “Tell him I said to put the horse in with my donkey in the paddock. Perhaps he’ll stay there until after supper,” Foellan called after him. “Casimir, you may carry up some buckets after the rest of these are filled.”

    Casimir inclined his head. Immediately, Marcellinus reached for the apple buckets.

    “I can carry my own buckets. I’d rather you stay here and help your brothers,” Foellan said.

    Foellan hefted his apple buckets and walked away with a slow, measured limp. Theofrid cast a withering glance at Casimir, who stuck out his tongue spitefully.

    They flinched as Pascal stepped between them.  “What a casual liar you are, Casimir.”

    “What could I have done? He was determined to cover my sins!” Casimir protested.

    Kieron shook his forefinger at them.  “You two are the first to gossip and complain, and the lazy boy is the first to carry Foellan’s buckets.”

    “He would rather Godric helped him.” replied Theofrid.

    “Aye, but Godric has earned that right.   A shame it is. Foellan is barely forty years old and he suffers night and day with palsy.  Yet he does his full share of work —and ne’er a word of idle gossip or a complaint from his lips.”

    Kieron frowned at his brothers.

    “You should all be more like Foellan,” he said.

    “Aye!” agreed all the brothers.

    Casimir considered the words with an ache in his heart.
                                                     
                                                        ***
    “Sebastian? My lord?”

    “Ah, Foellan! What is the word from the field?”

    “There seems to be a bit of grumbling, I fear. Apples are flying about as if by magic.”

    What troubles them today?”

    "At the moment, I am unsure, but I’m going up to the scullery to see Godric.  His eye sees all, so I shall soon discover it.”

                                                         ***

    Godric reached his hand inside the cupboard.  “Now my jewel, it is time. Come and delight me, my— oh!”

    Godric startled at the thud of buckets and the splash of water outside in the yard. He fairly leaped off the stool. He heard the tread of sandals on the steps and Foellan appeared at the door. Godric clasped his hands together and smiled.

    “My lord!” he exclaimed.

    Foellan looked at something behind him. Godric peeked around. Foellan gazed first at the stool in the corner. He glanced up at the cupboard. Godric bowed.

    “Allow me.”
   
    The elder man produced a wooden chair and covered it with a folded cloth. Foellan sat. Godric fetched a wooden bowl from the top shelf, filled it with warm broth from the hearth and gave it to Foellan. From a crock he withdrew a soft, fragrant slice of bread. He placed the bread into Foellan’s hand. He paused for a moment to grasp the weakened hands in his and held them tenderly.

    “I did not hoard it, but set this piece aside especially for you, my lord, that you may not faint.”

    “Thank you, Godric.”

    Foellan dipped his bread as Godric, hoping to divert attention from the cupboard, nudged the stool away with his knee. He knelt down at Foellan’s feet with a bucket of water and a cloth.

    “Have you not seen Tarcisius today?” asked Foellan. “I told him to come help you.”

    Godric removed Foellan’s sandals, dipped the rag in cold water and squeezed it over the priest’s dusty feet. Foellan closed his eyes and sighed.

    “Aye, he did. He dressed the geese, put them in brine and told me that he needed to look after the horse awhile. I told him to let the beast eat his fill, lest he break free and worry the neighbors’ crops.”

    “Aye,” replied Foellan. “‘Twas a reasonable decision.”

    With the drying cloth, Godric dried gently between each toe. He placed the leather sandals on the callused feet and pulled down the dusty robe to cover the withered left leg.

    “I know that Casimir is fussing that supper is late, but ‘tis only a little bit and it will be a fine sup.”

    Still, Foellan still looked at the cupboard. Moments later, he put aside the remainder of his broth and bread.

    “Put this on my plate tonight, Godric. It shall be my fill.”

    “Yes, lord.”

    Godric put one sturdy arm around Foellan and lifted him to his feet. The younger priest drooped slightly on his arm.

    “Shall I lay you down awhile to rest?” asked Godric.

    Slowly, Foellan’s frame straightened. “No,” he replied softly. “I have yet a little work to do, then I shall rest.”

    Foellan limped out the door. Godric laid aside the bread and broth. He paused a few moments to check the bread baking on the hearth and he leaned sideways to glance out the door. Gone! Now, my little delight, he thought.

    Godric knocked the stool into the corner with one sweep of his leg. He jumped onto the stool, thrust his hand into the cupboard and snatched the candy as a pirate would seize a maid. He flung aside the cloth and revealed the confection in all its naked, green glory. At the table, he grabbed a sharp knife and sliced the jewel in twain. His feet danced in anticipation.

    “Thou art mine!”

    Feet thudded upon the threshold and Casimir swept in carrying two heavy buckets of turnips. He emptied the buckets into the bin and paused to splash some water over his face.

    Godric looked around at the noisy entrance and for a moment, he forgot his treasure.

    “Ha!” Godric cried triumphantly as he pointed to the food on the hearth. “There is supper, you ingrate, and a fine one, too. Go tell our brothers that tonight we feast. I am the oldest man in this abbey, yet I can make a meal fit for the king himself!”

    Casimir folded his arms and nodded towards the hearth. “The bread is burning.”

    “Oh!”

    Godric leaped to the hearth and used a metal hook to tug the pans out of the heat. He pressed one fist to his fluttering heart as he surveyed the darkened tops of the loaves. Just in time! He sighed in relief. He swung on Casimir in fury and shook his finger.

    “Oh, but I’ve few more ripe words for you, you—!”

    Casimir listened not. He clasped his hands together and smiled as he chewed something. Godric glanced at the table. His candy was gone!

    Casimir swallowed and closed his eyes as he heaved a deep sigh of joy. He licked his thumb and Godric caught a faint whiff of mint. Something inside Godric’s soul broke like glass. His legs became weak.

    “I say—what are you—you—“

    “Oh, that was good!” Casimir exclaimed. “I say, how long have you been hoarding that? Good thing I found it before Foellan or Sebastian.”

    Godric’s tongue felt like a little, dried up plant.  “Hoarding? The candy was mine. You thief! I hoarded it not! It belonged to me!”

    Casimir stuck out his green-tinted tongue. “Now it belongs to the angels, hmmm?”

    Casimir strode out the door and Godric’s life seemed to crash into a heap upon his heart. He tugged the front of his habit as he looked again at the table to make sure it really was gone.

    “Can’t be gone…”

    But yes. It really was gone. Accursed turnips disappeared in a blur of tears as Godric stumbled out the door. He sat down upon the steps and wept. Never had he felt more put-upon than now, when his poor heart had been stripped of every comfort and joy. His sense of deprivation doubled and he cried all the louder.

    A flash of light streamed across the yard and fell upon Godric. He heard a voice speak from the midst of it.

    “Godric? Godric!”

    He looked up and Foellan’s luminous eyes looked into his.

    “Why are you crying?”

    Godric tried to choke back his tears and could not speak for several moments. The sunlight seemed fixed on him.

    “It just seems, my lord, that sometimes the smallest things I set my heart upon just seem to vanish.”

    “And your good intentions?”

    “Taken from me! Even my tiniest treasures!”

    Foellan opened his Bible. He began to read.

    "From Matthew six, verses nineteen through twenty-two: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Godric found no comfort in the passage and wept only louder. Foellan closed his Bible. Godric felt him kneel down beside him and a hand touched his forearm gently.

    “Godric, be comforted, my brother. I know just the thing to ease this misery in your heart.”

    Godric snuffled and stroked away his tears with his fingers.   “Need to get back to—work—my lord—“

    “I’ve just the thing,” whispered Foellan. “Here.”

    Foellan pressed something into his hand.  Godric looked at his palm and his heart seemed to stand still. He smiled. In his hand glistened a small piece of Turkish Delight. He gazed into Foellan’s eyes in amazement.

    “Yours? You saved it this whole year?”

    Foellan smiled.

    Godric clutched the candy in both his hands and sprang to his feet. He danced about.
   
    “I know just what to do!” he cried.

    He ran into the scullery, placed the candy on the table and seized a knife. He bit his tongue and squinted as he parted out the candy.

    “I can cut it this way and then like this!”

    Foellan leaned over his shoulder. “But that’s only nine pieces. There are ten of us brothers.”

    Godric frowned as he thought of Casimir.  “Let Casimir watch as the rest of us eat our share- he ate my whole piece already.”

    But Foellan clasped his hands together and remained silent. Godric’s resolution slipped another notch.

    “Well, all right. Ten pieces it is!”

    Foellan recited, “God loves a cheerful giver."

    Godric looked toward Heaven, content with a sense of inner joy that every monk would find a tiny piece of Heaven on this plate tonight. "Amen!" he said.



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Tseek_Unique
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Synopsis
Solemn vows are quickly forgotten when weary monks covet treasure.
A Word from the Writer
Depicts scenes of general lawlessness (monks behaving badly.) Mild language. Also contains Christian references from the Bible. Not too preachy. My series of short stories revolve around a community of monks at Bury St.Edmund's during the Anarchy in the 12th century. Through the stories, we share in their struggles and adventures.
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