Mond immediately denied this when Rob spoke to her. “I was with my friends in the Sauk camp the whole evening and we talked about Who goes along singing. What Alden heard is a lie. “

“No. It’s a lie. ”Her voice was calm, but her trembling fingers were already loosening her apron. “I have to go to my tribe.” Rob sighed. It would be best if he paid the Franciscan Sisters a visit. He’d heard people called them “those bloody brown bugs.” And he also understood why when he saw them, for they wore a brown, woolen costume that was too warm for autumn and must have been torture in the heat of summer. Four of them worked in the ruined fire of the pretty little Swedish stable that August Lund and his wife had built with youthful hope and determination. They seemed to be looking for what was left of healing in the charred remains that were still smoldering in one corner. “Good morning!” He called.

They hadn’t noticed his approach. They had tucked the hem of their long frocks into their belts to have more freedom of movement at work, and now they were hurrying to lower their skirts again, for four pairs of strong, soot-stained and white-stocked legs had been bare.

“I’m Dr. Cole, ”he said, and dismounted. “A distant neighbor.” They stared at him in silence, and it occurred to him that they might not understand his language. “Could I speak to the person responsible, please?”

“That would be the Sister Superior,” replied one of them, and her voice was little more than a whisper.

With a slight movement of her head, which probably asked him to come along, she walked towards the house.

Next to a new shed attached to the building, an old man in black was weeding the frost-barren vegetable garden. The old man showed no interest in Rob. The nun knocked twice, a soft, quiet sound that matched her voice. “In!”

The brown robe slipped past him and curtsied. “This gentleman would like to speak to you, venerable mother, a doctor and a neighbor,” said the whispering nun, curtsied again and was gone.

The Sister Superior was sitting on a wooden chair at a small table. The face, framed by the veil, was extensive, the nose fleshy and broad, the slightly mocking eyes of a penetrating blue that was lighter than those of Sarah’s eyes and more challenging than friendly.

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