War in Heaven, by Charles Williams

Chapter Eight

Fardles

“I have read,” said Kenneth Mornington, standing in the station of a small village some seven miles across country from Fardles, “that Paris dominates France. I wish London dominated England in the matter of weather.”

Further letters exchanged between him and the Archdeacon had led to an agreement that he should spend the first Sunday of his holiday at the Rectory, arriving for lunch on the Saturday. The Saturday morning in London had been brilliant, and he had thought it would be pleasanter to walk along the chord of the monstrous arc which the railway made. But it had grown dull as the train left the London suburbs, and even as he jumped from his compartment the first drops of rain began to fall. By the time he had reached the outer exit they had grown to a steady drizzle, and the train had left the station.

Kenneth turned up his collar and set out; the way at least was known to him. “But why,” he said, “do I always get out at the wrong times? If I had gone on I should have had to sit at Fardles station for an hour and a half, but I should have been dry. It is this sheep-like imitation of Adam which annoys me. Adam got out at the wrong time. But he was made to by the railway authorities. I will write,” he thought, and took to a footpath, “the diary of a man who always got out at the wrong time, beginning with a Caesarean operation. And let the angel whom thou still hast served Tell thee Macduff was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped. A Modern Macduff, one might call it. And death? He might die inopportunely, before the one in advance had been moved on, so that all the angels on the line of his spiritual progress found themselves crowded with two souls instead of the one they were prepared for. “Agitation in Heaven. Excursionist unable to return. Trains to Paradise overcrowded. Strange scenes at the stations. Seraph Michael says rules to be enforced.” Stations . . . stages . . . it sounds like Theosophy. Am I a Theosophist? Oh, Lord, it’s worse than ever; I can’t walk to a strange Rectory through seven miles of this.”

In a distance he discerned a shed by the side of the road, broke into a run, and, reaching it, took shelter with a bound which landed him in a shallow puddle lying just within the dark entrance. “Oh, damn and blast!” he cried with a great voice. “Why was this bloody world created?”

“As a sewer for the stars,” a voice in front of him said. “Alternatively, to know God and to glorify Him for ever.”

Kenneth peered into the shed, and found that there was sitting on a heap of stones at the back a young man of about his own age, with a lean, long face, and a blob of white on his knee which turned out in a few minutes to be a writing pad.

“Quite,” Kenneth said. “The two answers are not, of course, necessarily alternative. They might be concon consanguineous? contemporaneous? consubstantial? What is the word I want?”

“Contemptible, concomitant, conditional, consequential, congruous, connectible, concupiscent, contaminable, considerable,” the stranger offered him. “The last is, I admit, weak.”

“The question was considerable,” Kenneth answered. “You no doubt are considering it? You are even writing the answer down?”

“A commentary upon it,” the other said. “But consanguineous was the word I wanted, or its brother.” He wrote.

Kenneth sat down on the same heap of stones and watched till the writing was finished, then he said: “Circumstances almost suggest, don’t you think, that I might hear the context — if it’s what it looks?”

“Context — there’s another,” the stranger said. “Contextual ‘And that contextual meaning flows Through all our manuscripts of rose.’ Rose? Persia? Hafix — Ispahan. Perhaps rose is a little ordinary. ‘And that contextual meaning streams Through all our manuscripts of dreams.”’

“Oh, no, no,” Mornington broke in firmly. “That’s far too minor. Perhaps something modern —‘And that impotent contextual meaning stinks In all our manuscripts, of no matter what coloured inks.’ Better be modern than minor.”

“I agree,” the other said. “But a man must fulfil his destiny, even to minority. Shall I ‘think the complete universe must be Subject to such a rag of it as me?’”

He was interrupted by Kenneth kicking the earth with his heels and crying: “At last! at last! ‘Terror of darkness! O thou king of flames!’ I didn’t think there was another living man who knew George Chapman.”

The stranger caught his arm. “Can you?” he said, made a gesture with his free hand, and began, Mornington’s voice joining in after the first few words:

“That with thy music — footed horse dost strike

The clear light out of crystal on dark earth,

And hurl’st instructive, fire about the world.“

The conversation for the next ten minutes became a duet, and it was only at the end that Kenneth said with a sigh: “‘I have lived long enough, having seen one thing.’ But before I die — the context of consanguineous?”

The stranger picked up his manuscript and read:

“How does thy single heart possess

A double mode of happiness

In quiet and in busyness!

Profundities of utter peace

Do their own vehemence release

Through rippling toils that never cease.

Yet of those ripples’ changing mood,

Thou, ignorant at heart, dost brood

In a most solemn quietude.

Thus idleness and industry

Within that laden heart of thee

Find their rich consanguinity.“

“Yes,” Kenneth murmured, “yes. A little minor, but rather beautiful.”

“The faults, or rather the follies, are sufficiently obvious,” the stranger said. “Yet I flatter myself it reflects the lady.”

“You have printed?” Kenneth asked seriously, for they were now discussing important things, and in answer the other jumped to his feet and stood before him. “I have printed,” he said, “and you are the only man — besides the publisher — who knows about it.”

“Really?” Mornington asked.

“Yes,” said the stranger. “You will understand the horrible position I’m in if I tell you my name. I am Aubrey Duncan Peregrine Mary de Lisle D’Estrange, Duke of the North Ridings, Marquis of Craigmullen and Plessing, Earl and Viscount, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Knight of the Sword and Cape, and several other ridiculous fantasies.”

Mornington pinched his lip. “Yes, I see,” he said. “That must make it difficult to do anything with poetry.”

“Difficult,” the other said, with almost a shout. “It makes it impossible.”

“Oh well, come,” Kenneth said; “impossible? You can publish, and the reviews at least won’t flatter you.”

“It isn’t the reviews,” the Duke said. “It’s just chatting with people and being the fellow who’s written a book or two — not very good books, but his books, and being able to quote things, and so on. How can I quote things to the people who come to see me? How can I ask the Bishop what he thinks of my stuff or tell him what I think of his? What will the Earl my cousin say about the Sitwells?”

“No, quite,” Mornington answered, and for a few minutes the two young men looked at one another. Then the Duke grinned. “It’s so silly,” he said. “I really do care about poetry, and I think some of my stuff might be almost possible. But I can never find it anywhere to live for more than a few days.”

“Anonymity?” Kenneth asked. “But that wouldn’t help.”

“Look here,” the Duke said suddenly, “are you going any where in particular? No? Why not come up to the house with me and stop a few days?”

Mornington shook his head regretfully. “I have promised to stop with the Archdeacon of Fardles over the week-end,” he said.

“Well, after then?” the Duke urged. “Do, for God’s sake come and talk Chapman and Blunden with me. Look here, come up now, and I’ll run you over to Fardles in the car, and on Monday morning I’ll come and fetch you.”

Kenneth assented to this, though he refused to leave his shelter. But within some half an hour the Duke had brought his car to the front of the shed and they were on the way to Fardles. As they drew near the village, approaching it from the cottage side of Cully, they passed another car in a side turning, in which Mornington seemed to see, as he was carried past, the faces of Gregory Persimmons and Adrian Rackstraw. But he was in a long controversy with the Duke on the merits of the Laureate’s new prosody, and though he wondered a little, the incident made hardly any impression on his mind.

The Archdeacon, it appeared, knew the Duke; the Duke was rather detachedly acquainted with the Archdeacon. The detachment was perhaps due to the fact, which had emerged from the few minutes’ conversation the three had together, that the Duke of the North Ridings was a Roman Catholic (hence the Sword and Cape), so far as his obsession with poetry and his own misfortunes left him leisure to be anything. But he promised to come to lunch on Monday, and disappeared.

“I forgot Batesby,” the Archdeacon said suddenly to Mornington, as the car drove off. “Dear me! I’m afraid the Duke and he won’t like one another. Batesby’s dreadfully keen on Reunion; he has a scheme of his own for it — an admirable scheme, I’m certain, if only he could get other people to see it in the same way.”

“I should have thought the same thing was officially true of the Duke,” Mornington said as they entered the house.

“But only because he’s part of an institution,” the Archdeacon said, “and one can more easily believe that institutions are supernatural than that individuals are. And an institution can believe in itself and can wait, whereas an individual can’t. Batesby can’t afford to wait; he might die.”

At lunch Mornington had Mr. Batesby’s scheme of Reunion explained at length by its originator. It was highly complicated and, so far as Kenneth could understand, involved everyone believing that God was opposed to Communism and in favour of election as the only sound method of government. The Archdeacon remarked that discovering the constitution of the Catholic Church was a much pleasanter game than tennis, to which he had been invited that afternoon.

“Though they know I don’t play,” he added plaintively. “So I was glad you were coming, and I had an excuse.”

“How do you get exercise?” Kenneth asked idly.

“Well, actually, I go in for fencing,” the Archdeacon said, smiling. “I used to love it as a boy romantically, and since I have outgrown romance I keep it up prosaically.”

The constitution of the Catholic Church occupied the lunch so fully that not until Mr. Batesby had gone away to supervise the Lads’ Christian Cricket Club in his own parish, some ten miles off, did Kenneth see an opportunity of talking to his host about Christianity and the League of Nations. And even then, when they were settled in the garden, he found that by the accident of conversation the priest was already chatting about the deleted paragraph of Sacred Vessels in Folklore.

“Who?” he asked suddenly, arrested by a name.

“Persimmons,” the Archdeacon answered. “I wonder if he had anything to do with your firm. I seem to remember seeing him the day I called on you.”

“But if it’s the man who’s taken a house near here called Mullins or Juggins or something, of course he’s something to do with our firm,” Mornington cried. “He’s Stephen’s father; he used to be the firm. Does he live at Buggins?”

“He lives at Cully,” the Archdeacon said, “which may be what you mean.”

“But how do you know he wanted the paragraph out?” Kenneth demanded.

“Because Sir Giles told me so — confirmed by the fact that he tried to cheat me out of the Graal, and the other fact that he eventually had me knocked on the head and took it,” answered the Archdeacon.

Kenneth looked at him, looked at the garden, looked across at the church. “I am not mad,” he murmured, “‘My pulse doth temperately keep time.’ . . . Yes, it does. ‘These are the thingummybobs, you are my what d’ye call it.’ But that a retired publisher should knock an Archdeacon on the head . . . ”

The Archdeacon flowed into the whole story, and ended with his exit from Cully. Mornington, listening, felt the story to be fantastic and ridiculous, and would have given himself up to incredulity, had it not been for the notion of the Graal itself. This, which to some would have been the extreme fantasy, was to him the easiest thing to believe. For he approached the idea of the sacred vessel, not as did Sir Giles, through antiquity and savage folklore, nor as did the Archdeacon, through a sense of religious depths in which the mere temporary use of a particular vessel seemed a small thing, but through exalted poetry and the high romantic tradition in literature. This living light had shone for so long in his mind upon the idea of the Graal that it was by now a familiar thing — Tennyson and Hawker and Malory and older writers still had made it familiar, and its familiarity created for it a kind of potentiality. To deny it would be to deny his own past. But this emotional testimony to the possibility of its existence had an intellectual support. Kenneth knew — his publicity work had made clear to him — the very high reputation Sir Giles had among the learned; a hundred humble reviews had shown him that. And if the thing were possible, and if the thing were likely . . . But still, Gregory Persimmons . . . He looked back at the Archdeacon.

“You’re sure you saw it?” he asked. “Have you gone to the police?”

“No,” the Archdeacon said. “If you don’t think I saw it, would the police be likely to?”

“I do, I do,” Kenneth said hastily. “But why should he want it?”

“I haven’t any idea,” the priest answered. “That’s what baffles me too. Why should anyone want anything as much as that? And certainly why should anyone want the Graal? if it is the Graal? He talked to me about being a collector, which makes me pretty sure he isn’t.”

Kenneth got up and walked up and down. There was a silence for a few minutes, then the Archdeacon said: “However, we needn’t worry over it. What about me and the League of Nations?”

“Yes,” Kenneth said absently, sitting down again. “Oh, well, Stephen simply leapt at it. I read it, and I told him about it, and I suggested sending it to one of our tame experts? only I couldn’t decide between the political expert and the theological. At least, I was going to suggest it, but I didn’t have time. ‘By an Archdeacon? By an orthodox Archdeacon? Oh, take it, take it by all means, by all manner of means.’ He positively tangoed at it.”

“This is very gratifying,” the Archdeacon answered, “and the haste is unexpected.”

“Stephen”, Kenneth went on, “has a weakness for clerical books; I’ve noticed it before. Fiction is our stand-by, of course; but he takes all the manuscripts by clergymen that he decently can. I think he’s a little shy of some parts of our list, and likes to counterbalance them. We used to do a lot of occult stuff; a particular kind of occult. The standard work on the Black Mass and that sort of thing. That was before Stephen himself really got going, but he feels vaguely responsible, I’ve no doubt.”

“Who ran it then?” the Archdeacon asked idly. “Gregory,” Mornington answered. He stopped suddenly, and the two looked at one another.

“Oh, it’s all nonsense,” Mornington broke out. “The Black Mass, indeed!”

“The Black Mass is all nonsense, of course,” the Archdeacon said; “but nonsense, after all, does exist. And minds can get drunk with nonsense.”

“Do you really mean”, Mornington asked, “that a London publisher sold his soul to the devil and signed it away in his own blood and that sort of thing? Because I’m damned if I can see him doing it. Lots of people are interested in magic, without doing secret incantations under the new moon with the aid of dead men’s grease.”

“You keep harping on the London publisher,” the other said. “If a London publisher has a soul — which you’re bound to admit — he can sell it if he likes: not to the devil, but to himself. Why not?” He considered. “I think perhaps, after all, I ought to try and recover that chalice. There are decencies. There is a way of behaving in these things. And the Graal, if it is the Graal,” he went on, unusually moved, “was not meant for the greedy orgies of a delirious tomtit.”

“Tomtit!” Mornington cried. “If it could be true, he wouldn’t be a tomtit. He’d be a vulture.”

“Well, never mind,” the priest said. “The question is, can I do anything at once? I’ve half a mind to go and take it.”

“Look here,” said Mornington, “let me go and see him first. Stephen thought it would look well if I called, being down here. And let me talk to Lionel Rackstraw.” He spoke almost crossly. “Once a silly idea like this gets into one’s mind, one can’t see anything else. I think you’re wrong.”

“I don’t see, then, what good you’re going to do,” the Archdeacon said. “If I’m mad —”

“Wrong, I said,” Kenneth put in.

“Wrong because being hit on the head has affected my mind and my eyes — which is almost the same thing as being mad. If I’m demented, anyhow — you won’t be any more clear about it after a chat with Mr. Persimmons on whatever he does chat about. Nor with Mr. Rackstraw, whoever he may be.”

Kenneth explained briefly. “So, you see, he’s really been a very decent fellow over the cottage,” he concluded.

“My dear man,” the Archdeacon said, “if you had tea with him and he gave you the last crumpet, it wouldn’t prove anything unless he badly wanted the crumpet, and not much even then. He might want something else more.”

This, however, was a point of view to which Kenneth, when that evening he walked over to the cottage, found Lionel not very willing to agree. Gregory, so far as the Rackstraws were concerned, had been nothing but an advantage. He had lent them the cottage; he had sent a maid down from Cully to save Barbara trouble; he had occupied Adrian for hours together with the motor and other amusements, until the child was very willing for his parents to go off on more or less extensive walks while he played with his new friend. And Lionel saw no reason to associate himself actively — even in sympathy — with the archidiaconal crusade; more especially since Mornington himself was torn between scepticism and sympathy.

“In any case,” he said, “I don’t know what you want me to do. Anyone that will take Adrian off my hands for a little while can knock all the Archdeacons in the country on the head so far as I am concerned.”

“I don’t want you to do anything”, Kenneth answered, “except discuss it.”

“Well, we’re going up to tea at Cully tomorrow,” Lionel said. “I can talk about it there, if you like.”

Kenneth arrived at Cully on the Sunday afternoon, after having heard the Archdeacon preach a sermon in the morning on “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s house,” in which, having identified “thy neighbour” with God and touched lightly on the text “Mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills,” he went off into a fantastic exhortation upon the thesis that the only thing left to covet was “thy neighbour” Himself. “Not His creation, not His manifestations, not even His qualities, but Him,” the Archdeacon ended. “This should be our covetousness and our desire; for this only no greed is too great, as this only can satisfy the greatest greed. The whole universe is His house, the soul of thy mortal neighbour is His wife, thou thyself art His servant and thy body His maid — a myriad oxen, a myriad asses, subsist in the high inorganic creation. Him only thou shalt covet with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. And now to God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all honour . . . ” The congregation searched for sixpences.

Lionel, Barbara, and Adrian were with Persimmons and Sir Giles on the terrace behind the house when Kenneth arrived, and had already spoken of his probable visit. Gregory welcomed him pleasantly enough, as one of the staff who had originally worked under him. But Kenneth’s mind was already in a slight daze, for, as he had been conducted by the maid through the hall, he had seen on a bracket about the height of his head from the ground, in a corner near the garden door, an antique cup which struck him forcibly as being very like the one the Archdeacon had described to him. It seemed impossible that, if the priest’s absurd suspicions were right, Persimmons should so flaunt the theft before the world — unless, indeed, it were done merely to create the impression of impossibility. “There is no possible idea”, Kenneth thought as he came on to the terrace, “to which the mind of man can’t supply some damned alternative or other. Yet one must act. How are you, Mr. Persimmons? You’ll excuse this call, I know.”

The conversation rippled gently round the spring publishing season and books in general, with backwaters of attention in which Adrian immersed himself.

It approached, gently and unobserved by the two young men, the question of corrections in proof, and it was then that Sir Giles, who had until then preserved a sardonic and almost complete silence, said suddenly: “What I want to know is, whether proofs are or are not private?”

“I suppose they are, technically,” Lionel said lazily, watching Adrian. “Subject to the discretion of the publisher.

“Subject to the discretion of the devil,” Sir Giles said. “What do you say, Persimmons?”

“I should say yes,” Gregory answered. “At least till they are passed for press.”

“I ask,” Sir Giles said pointedly, “because my last proofs were shown to an outsider before the book was published. And if one of these gentlemen was responsible I want to know why.”

“My dear Tumulty, it doesn’t matter,” Gregory in a quiet, soothing tone put in. “I asked you not to mention it, you know.”

“I know you did,” Sir Giles answered, “and I said that I felt I ought to. After all, a man has a right to know why a mad clergyman is allowed to read paragraphs of his book which he afterwards cancels. I tell you, Persimmons, we haven’t seen the last of your . . . Archdeacon yet.”

It was evident that Barbara’s presence was causing Sir Giles acute difficulty in the expression of his feelings. But this was unknown to Kenneth, who, realizing suddenly what the other was talking about, said, leaning forward in his chair, “I’m afraid that’s my fault, Sir Giles. It was I showed the Archdeacon your proofs. I’m extremely sorry if it’s inconvenienced you, but I don’t think I agree that proofs are so entirely private as you suggest. Something must be allowed to a publisher’s need for publicity, and perhaps something for the mere accidents of a publishing house. There was no special stipulation about privacy for your book.”

“I made no stipulation,” Sir Giles answered, staring hostilely at Kenneth, “because I didn’t for an instant suppose I should find it being read in convocation before my final corrections were made.”

“Really, really, Tumulty,” Gregory said. “It’s unfortunate, as it’s turned out, but I’m sure Mornington would be the first to deplore a slight excess of zeal, a slight error of judgement, shall we say?”

“Error of judgement?” Sir Giles snarled. “It’s more like a breach of common honesty.”

Kenneth came to his feet. “I admit no error in judgement,” he said haughtily. “I was entirely within my rights. What is the misfortune you complain of, Mr. Persimmons?” He moved so as to turn his back on Sir Giles.

“I don’t complain,” Gregory answered hastily. “It’s just one of those things that happen. But the Archdeacon, owing to your zeal, my dear Mornington, has been trying to saddle me with the responsibility for the loss of this chalice Sir Giles was writing about. I do wish he’d never seen the proofs. I think you must admit they ought to be treated as private.”

“It’s exactly like reading out a private letter from the steps of St. Paul’s,” Sir Giles added. “A man who does it ought to be flung into the gutter to starve.”

“Now, now, Tumulty,” Gregory put in, as the enraged Kenneth wheeled round, and Barbara and Lionel hastily stood up, “it’s not as bad as that. I think perhaps strict commercial morality would mean strict privacy, but perhaps we take a rather austere view. The younger generation is looser, you know — less tied — less dogmatic, shall we say?”

“Less honest, you mean,” Sir Giles said. “However, it’s your affair more than mine, after all.”

“Let’s say no more about it,” Gregory said handsomely.

“But I will say more about it,” Kenneth cried out. “Do you expect me to be called a thief and a liar and I don’t know what, because I did a perfectly right thing, and then be forgiven for it? I beg your pardon, Barbara, but I can’t stand it, and I won’t.”

“You can’t help it,” Sir Giles said, grinning. “What will you do? We’ve both forgiven you, my fine fellow, and there it stops.”

Kenneth stamped his foot in anger. “I’ll have an apology,” he said. “Sir Giles, what is the importance of this beastly book of yours?”

Barbara moved forward and slipped her arm in his. “Kenneth dear,” she murmured; and then to Gregory, “Mr. Persimmons, I don’t quite know what all this is about, but couldn’t we do without forgiving one another?” She smiled at Sir Giles. “Sir Giles has had to forgive so many people, I expect, in different parts of the world, that he might spare us this time.”

Lionel came to her help. “It’s my fault more than Mornington’s,” he said. “I was supposed to be looking after the proofs, and I let an uncorrected set out of my keeping. It’s me you must slang, Sir Giles.”

“In the firm is one thing,” Sir Giles said obstinately, “one risks that. But an outsider, and a clergyman, and a mad clergyman — no.”

“Mad clergyman be-” Kenneth began, and was silenced by Barbara’s appealing, “But what is it all about? Can you tell me, Mr. Persimmons?”

“I can even show you,” Gregory said pleasantly. “As a matter of fact, Adrian’s seen it already. We had a game with it this morning. It’s a question of identifying an old chalice.” He led the way into the hall, and paused before the bracket. “There you are,” he said, “that’s mine. I got it from a Greek, who got it from one of his countrymen who fled before the Turkish recovery in Asia Minor. It comes, through Smyrna, from Ephesus. Old enough and interesting, but as for being the Graal — Unfortunately, after the Archdeacon had read this paragraph about which we’ve all been behaving so badly, three things happened. I did ask him if he had a chalice to spare for a friend of mine who has a very poor parish; thieves made an attempt on the church over there; and the Archdeacon was knocked on the head by a tramp. He seems to think that this proves conclusively that I was the tramp and that this is his missing chalice. At least, he says it’s missing.”

“How do you mean, sir — says it’s missing?” Lionel asked.

“Well, honestly — I dare say it’s mere pique — but we none of us really know the Archdeacon, do we?” Gregory asked. “And some of the clergy aren’t above turning an honest penny by supplying American millionaires with curios. But it looks bad if it does happen to come out — so if the thing can disappear by means of a tramp or an unknown neighbour . . . ”

There was a moment’s pause, then Kenneth said, “Really, sir, if you knew the Archdeacon . . . ”

“Quite right,” Gregory answered. “Oh, my dear fellow, I’m being unjust to him, no doubt. But a man doesn’t expect his parish priest practically to accuse him of highway robbery. I shouldn’t be surprised if I heard from the police next. Probably the best thing would be to offer him this one to replace the one he says he’s — I mean the one he’s lost. But I don’t think I’m quite Christian enough for that.”

“And how did you play with it this morning?” Barbara asked, smiling at Adrian.

“Ah, that is a secret game, isn’t it, Adrian?” Gregory answered merrily. “Our secret game. Isn’t it, Adrian?”

“It’s hidden,” Adrian said seriously. “It’s hidden pictures. But you mustn’t know what, Mummie, must she?” He appealed to Gregory.

“Certainly not,” Gregory said.

“Certainly not,” Adrian repeated. “They’re my hidden pictures.”

“So they shall be, darling,” Barbara said. “Please forgive me. Well, Mr. Persimmons, I suppose we ought to be going. Thank you for a charming afternoon. You’re making this a very pleasant holiday.”

Sir Giles had dropped away when they had entered the hall, and the farewells were thus robbed of their awkwardness; although Gregory detained Kenneth in order to say, “I think I can put it right with Tumulty, although he was very angry at first. Talked of appealing to my son and getting you dismissed, you know.”

“Getting me what?” Kenneth cried.

“Well, you know what my son is,” Gregory said confidentially. “Efficient and all that — but you’ve known him in business, Mornington, and you know what he is. Rather easily influenced, I’m afraid. And Sir Giles is a good name for his list.”

“A very good name,” Kenneth admitted, feeling less heated and more chilly than he had done. It was true — Stephen Persimmons was weak, and would be terrified of losing Sir Giles. And he had before now been guilty of dismissing people in a fit of hysterical anger.

“But I’ve no doubt it’s all right,” Gregory went on, watching the other closely, “no doubt at all. Let me know if anything goes wrong. I’ve a great regard for you, Mornington, and a word, perhaps . . . And keep the Archdeacon quiet, if you can. It would be worth your while.”

He waved his hand and turned back into the house, and Kenneth, considerably more disturbed than before, walked slowly back to the Rectory.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30