Catherine had been quick enough to detect Magda’s detestation of this particular sister and to use it as a further means of discipline. It was necessary that Magda’s pride and vanity should be humbled, and Catherine saw to it that they were. It was assuredly by the Will of Heaven that the child of Diane Wielitzska had been led to her very doors, and to the subject of her chastening Catherine brought much thought and discrimination. "If you hurt people enough you can make them good." It had been her brother’s bitter creed and it was hers. Pain, in Catherine’s idea, was the surest means of chastening, and Magda was to remember her year at the sisterhood by two things—by the deadly, unbearable monotony of its daily routine and by her first acquaintance with actual bodily pain.
Her health had always been magnificent, and—with the exception of the trivial punishments of childhood and those few moments when she was sitting for the picture of Circe—physical suffering was unknown to her. The penances, therefore, which Catherine appointed her—to kneel for a stated length of time until it seemed as though every muscle she possessed were stretched to breaking-point, to fast when her whole healthy young body craved for food, to be chastened with flagellum, a scourge of knotted cords—all these grew to be a torment almost beyond endurance.
Almost! . . . Yet in the beginning the thought of Michael sustained her triumphantly.
It was a curious sensation—that first stroke of the flagellum.
As Magda, unversed in physical suffering, felt the cords shock against her flesh, she was conscious of a strange uplifting of spirit. This, then, this smarting, blinding thing called pain, was the force that would drive the will to do evil out of her soul.
She waited expectantly—almost exultantly—for the second fall of the thongs. The interval between seemed endless. Sister Agnetia was very deliberate, pausing between each stroke. She knew to a nicety the value of anticipation as a remedial force in punishment.
Again the cords descended on the bared shoulders. Magda winced away from them, shivering. For a moment Sister Agnetia’s arm hung flaccid, the cords of the flagellum pendant and still.
“Are you submitting to the discipline, Sister Penitentia?” came her voice. It was an unpleasant voice, suggestive of a knife that has been dipped in oil.
Magda caught her breath.
“Yes . . . yes . . . I submit myself.”
Dimly she felt that by means of this endurance she would win back Michael, cleanse herself to receive his love.
“I submit,” she repeated in a rapt whisper of self-surrender.
Sister Agnetia’s voice swam unctuously into her consciousness once more.
“I thought you tried to avoid that last stroke. If you flinch from punishment it is not submission, but rebellion.”
Magda gripped her hands together and pressed her knees into the hard stone floor, her muscles taut with anticipation as she heard the soft whistle of the thongs cleaving the air.