Like the Prioress’s tale, the tale of the Second Nun is the story of an exemplary life and death, that of the Roman martyr St Cecilia, canonised in recognition of what we might call her openness to the Spirit and availability to the faithful during and after her life. Even near the end of her life, when ‘half deed, with hir nekke ycorven’ (VIII, 533), Cecilie continues to demonstrate that openness and availability. She encourages her disciples by her preaching (538-9), bequeaths them all ‘hir moebles and hir thyng’ (540), and entrusts them to the care of Pope Urban (‘recomende to yow … thise soules’: 541-5). Most importantly, she leaves instructions for her house to be made ‘perpetuelly a cherche’ (545-6); and so it remains in use, the narrator tells us, ‘into this day’ (552). With this detail the work comes to a strangely muted end, quite unlike that of the Prioress’s tale. In the Prioress’s tale, the saint’s availability, here and now, is concretely realised in the closing prayer. In the Second Nun’s tale, on the other hand, the saint’s availability is realised not in the here and now of personal encounter, but in a church where, from earliest times, men have prayed to her, and continue to do so. Faith presented as an immediate experience, as in the Prioress’s tale, requires no justification: it justifies itself. Faith presented as a process in time, as in the Second Nun’s tale, requires to be defended as an intelligible system. The prevailing tone of the Second Nun’s tale, then, is apologetic. 1