Nicholas was trying to concentrate on the letter to his mother, a letter that was probably the most important document he would ever write. Everything depended upon this letter: his honor, his estates, his family’s future—and his life.
But as he wrote, he began to hear a woman weeping. Annoyed, he got up from the crude little table and looked out the tiny open window to the courtyard below. There were four men walking about, but there was no woman. Besides, Nicholas was three stories up, so he could not have heard her. The room he was in had walls so thick he could hear nothing from outside, and the oak door was heavy and bound with iron.
“She is not of this world,” he told himself, then gave a shiver as he crossed himself. He sat back down at the table and again began to write.
But the moment he sat down, he heard her again. Her weeping had been soft at first, but it was growing louder.
For a moment, Nicholas cocked his head to one side and listened. Yes, she was weeping, but her tears were not from fear, or even from grief. No, he could feel that the source of her pain came from something deeper.
“No!” he said aloud. He did not have the time to try to understand this woman, whether she was of flesh or spirit. Right now, his need was as great as hers. He gave his attention back to the letter, but he could not concentrate. The woman’s tears were pulling him to her. She needed something, but he could not tell what. Did she need comfort? Soothing? What did she want of him?
Putting down his quill, he ran his hand over his eyes. The woman’s tears were filling his head. No, he thought, what she needed was hope. The weeping was from a person who no longer had hope.
Determined to turn his mind back to his own problems, Nicholas looked back at the letter. The woman’s problems were not his. If he did not finish this letter and give it to the waiting messenger soon, his own life would be without hope.
Nicholas wrote two more lines, but then he had to stop. The crying was increasing, growing louder. As it increased in volume, it seemed to grow inside until it filled every corner of the room—and every nook inside his brain.
“Lady,” he whispered, his voice filled with desperation, “give me peace. I would give my life to help you, but I cannot. My life is pledged elsewhere.”
Again, he picked up the pen and tried to write, this time with his other hand over his ear, doing his best to block out the sounds from the woman.
But Nicholas couldn’t stop hearing her. He dropped the quill, ink running across the document as he put both hands over his ears and closed his eyes tight. “What would you have of me?” he cried. “I would give you all that I can, but I have nothing left to give.”
But his pleas meant nothing, for the woman’s weeping grew and grew until the inside of Nicholas’s head began to go round and round. Slowly, he opened his eyes, but he saw nothing. Before him was only darkness. He could not see the walls of the room or the door. He could feel the chair beneath him, but he could no longer see the table or the letter that was so important to him.
But as he sat there, a small, bright light appeared in the far distance, and Nicholas felt himself drawn to the light. As he looked at that tiny speck so far away, it was as though nothing in his life had ever mattered but that light.
“Yes,” he whispered. Then he closed his eyes and gave himself over to the sound of the woman’s tears. Slowly, his body relaxed and he put his head down beside the letter he had been writing. “Yes,” he whispered again as he surrendered himself.