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the shocked Christian, 1554

It is fitting that she is riding Nedro bareback, after saddling up the other horses for the men. It is before dawn on Wednesday morning and they are headed for the Church of St. Michael.

The education of the girl has been immediately put into motion. Whyte’s wife was prevailed on to at least let her into the sunroom at the rear of the house. There she amazed them with the extent to which she could read so much of the rest of the Holy Scripture. “How did you know all this?”

“I listened at church. And I could read from Reverend Macready’s big book.” She might have learned the vicar’s name from overhearing the chatter after service, but reading from “the big book”? She has never been inside the church! She always stayed out back during the service. “I climbed up. I can show you.”

Now they get to the church and park the horses behind. What the girl demonstrates is inventive, athletic and horrifying. The shed has a rope with knotted ends, used by the vicar’s horsemen. The girl forms a lasso which she throws up to hang onto one of the buttresses. With strong arms and tough soles she scales the side to a height of thirty feet, up to the clerestory. She points to a tiny sliding panel which opens silently. Perhaps it was put there by the builders to help clean the stained glass? Now she looks through the aperture, her breasts crushed against the rough brickface, her arms extended as her fingers grip the casements of two windows, one to her left, one to her right, her legs wide apart as her toes grip the heads of tiny, fortuitously situated gargoyles.

Her body itself is pressed against brick, not window; people inside would not be able to see her. But the knotted end of the rope taps against the window below. During service, the sound would give her away. She has no hands free. The horrifying part is when she shows how she fixes that problem. With just a slight grimace, she inserts the knot into her “fundament”! Whyte and Rydall look at each other with appalled faces. She has learned the Word of God while naked and trespassing, and while violating herself in the most depraved manner possible!

She comes down, undoes the lasso, and washes the knot under a pump. Rydall stammers, “You -- you can read the vicar’s Holy Book from such a high perch?”

“We have the Great Bible here,” Whyte says. “It is large enough to be read from across a room.”

“I hear the vicar’s words, and follow on the page,” the girl says.

“I always knew her eyes were keen.”

Whyte and Rydall look at each other, unexpectedly moved. They had not planned it but are thinking the same thing. In this peaceful country village the church is never locked. They open the big front doors and invite her in.

For a long time they will remember the sight of this naked young girl, long thought to be a witch, slowly creep down the aisle with wide eyes, on the smooth stone floor that has never before been touched by bare feet. The sun has risen outside and her widened eyes take in the full glory of the luminous stained glass, the saints and martyrs. Now her mouth drops open as she approaches what is in front of her and above her, something that has been blocked from her view until now, the large alabaster Jesus up on the wooden cross. The sun shines from behind Him and the bright stained colors of the sun-pierced windows play against her face and her breasts and her tummy and her thighs. Her expression changes from puzzlement to horror, to see such prominence given to a man almost as naked as she, but bleeding and being tortured to death.

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