Angela wasn’t even allowed to call herself a sister –
not technically speaking. At sixteen she was only in
her second year of the novitiate, a trainee nun who had
to bob her head to the full-fledged sisters when she
met them in the corridors of the convent or when they
entered the classroom at the start of a lesson.
If she thought of herself as Sister Angela, it was
because her vocation to the order was so strong and
certain within her, and she was so completely sure that
when she finished her novitiate she would take full
vows and become a bride of Christ.
In the meantime, she led a life of strict chastity,
self-denial and obedience, in competition with the
other novices but more importantly with herself to be
as blameless, selfless and spiritually spotless as she
Angela was beautiful, but she didn’t know that she was
beautiful. The sheltered life she led, surrounded
entirely by women, gave her no opportunity to learn
from others’ reactions how attractive the contrast was
between her slim figure and her large breasts, or how
gorgeous her child-like face. The only hint she might
have noticed was that she was allowed to wear her
beautiful, fine blonde hair down over her shoulders.
Rather than cut it to neck-length like the other
Of course most of the time it was bound up anyway, so
the difference was less obvious – but it was a
concession made precisely because the older nuns
couldn’t bear to spoil Angela’s perfect beauty, poised
as it was between the innocence of the child and the
voluptuous curves of womanhood.
It was the innocence that troubled Sister Bridget the
most. She was aware that despite the seclusion of
convent life, it took a tough soul to stick to it year
after year. Life in a closed order was sometimes bleak
and hard, and it pained her to think of such an
untried, naive girl as Angela entering that world
without having any experience of anything else. In a
way it seemed to negate the essence of her choice if
she chose on the basis of ignorance of the wider world.
It was because Angela was a church orphan. She had been
raised in convent schools all her life, never seeing
the world except through the bars of a convent gate.
Surely that was wrong, Sister Bridget thought. Surely
the child should at least have a taste of freedom
before opting for a life of seclusion – a glimpse of
earthly beauty before choosing to devote herself to the
perfection of her soul.
After pondering this conundrum over most of a year,
Sister Bridget summoned Angela to her study one fine
Spring morning. The gorgeous young girl made a perfect
courtesy, then greeted the older woman with real
“Angela,” Sister Bridget began, “I’ve had a request
from our sister house in London. They’ve received a
grant to refurbish the older parts of the building, and
they’re hoping to set up an additional dormitory there
so that they can take in intending novices on day
release from the schools nearby. But they need some
help in painting and decorating. Would you like to give
them a hand?”
“Oh yes, Sister!” said Angela, all eagerness. This
sounded like a real adventure. Bridget sincerely hoped
that it would be – and that Angela would enjoy the trip
to London on the train as well as the experience of
working with other young nuns and novices on a shared
task of such importance. She would experience
camaraderie, and the joy of a job well done – and she
would see a little of the world along the way.
So three days later, Father Connell drove Angela to the
Oxford railway station and put her on a train to
London, clutching her ticket, a letter of introduction
to Mother Andreas at the London house, and a small
purse with a twenty pound note in it in case of
Father Connell stayed until the train left, waving
goodbye to Angela until the train turned a bend and she
was out of sight. Then he drove back to the convent to
meet a flustered Sister Bridget. “They’ve just phoned
from London!” she said.
“They said they’ve been delayed and they won’t be able
to meet Angela’s train. She’s to wait at the inquiries
desk for half an hour until they arrive – but she won’t
know that! What are we to do?”
Father Connell quieted Sister Bridget’s fears. He said
he’d phone ahead to King’s Cross and ask for a message
to be read out over the tannoy. Angela would hear it
and would know what to do.
But the best laid plans don’t always work out as
they’re meant to. Angela’s train was delayed for five
minutes, and though Father Connell’s message was read
out in due course, she walked out onto the station
concourse just in time to miss it completely.
It worried the young girl at first that there was
nobody there to meet her. But she knew that the London
convent was busy and short-staffed, and she reasoned
that something important must have come up to prevent
them from sending someone. So she would use her
emergency money and take a taxi.
Carrying her single suitcase, which wasn’t very heavy,
she walked out of the station building into the street.
It was very busy and full of traffic. She looked around
for a black cab, knowing what they were meant to look
like, but there were none in sight. There were several
mini-cabs, however, and she approached the first of
The two men in the front seat watched her approach with
evident interest. Her beauty was enough to make her
stand out in a crowd – and the contrast between her
lovely face and body and her austere black novice’s
gown made an even stronger impression.
“Hello,” she said to the two men. “I need to get to the
convent at Highgate. Could you take me there?”
There was a pause that lasted long enough for Angela to
be sure she’d made a mistake. Blushing, she opened her
mouth to apologise and move on, but then both men spoke
“Sorry, love,” said the driver. “We’re not here to…”
But the man in the passenger seat interrupted him.
“It’s no problem, though, Jimmy, is it? You hop in,
We’ll get you there inside of ten minutes.”
The man addressed as Jimmy stared at his friend in
astonishment, meeting a very intense and meaningful
stare in return.
“Oh. Yeah,” he said at last. “No problem, of course.
Yeah. We can do that.”
The other man – not Jimmy – got out of the car and
opened the rear door for Angela. He took her suitcase
from her, and she climbed in with a smile of thanks.
Then he did something to the lock mechanism in the
door. “Case you fall out,” he said with a bright smile,
and slammed it closed.
Then he got back into the car and Jimmy pulled away
from the curb.
Angela settled into her seat and looked all around,
excited that her London adventure was beginning. Then
to her horror she saw in the car’s rear view mirror her
suitcase left on the pavement behind them, already
receding into the distance.