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A perfect hatred

CHAPTER 16

In the last episode, The Kid left Inky sleeping soundly, and set off towards the hole; Lord Jo explained to Patricia about the perfume, and David followed a cat’s meooww. Meanwhile, Rex was putting the finishing touches to the sign for the Winter Fayre, when Mrs Post came to call. Or should I say, came to fall!? Oh, and Billy got to the fridge…

Talk about walking in the footsteps of history! For as The Kid walked up the High Street of Misty Longings, she walked the very same cobbles as Oliver Cromwell walked, in 1644.

They were different days, of course. Back then, England was both an island and a people caught in Civil War – a war between King Charles and Parliament. As we now know, Parliament won, and Oliver Cromwell went on to become Lord Protector of all England, with his slogan ‘Necessity has no law!’ The poet John Milton called him ‘Our chief of men’, and his statue can still be seen outside the great Houses of Parliament in London Town.

And what of his opponent? King Charles 1st was axed from his post – quite literally! – in 1648; and for a few years at least, England changed the words and sang ‘God save the gracious Republic.’

But we’re jumping ahead of ourselves; for in the mid-1640s, this all lay in the future. When Cromwell came to Misty Longings and lodged where Mrs Post now lives, it was Charles who ruled the land; and Oliver, a mere commander of the parliamentary army. From low-grade gentry stock, he was still a nobody on the national stage – but a nobody fast becoming a somebody.

*

How did Mrs Pump feel this evening, as she rubbed night cream on her face?

Mrs Pump felt a perfect hatred towards everyone. This is hardly the whole picture – after all, didn’t she buy nick-knacks for her granddaughter? Yet lingering here is a faint ring of truth. There was within her, a perfect hate – the hate of one abandoned, and furious; the hate of one who feels eternally owed, and never paid; of one who wants the world, yet every day and in every way, pushes it away.

Everyone has their reasons, and so did Mrs Pump. No one in Misty Longings would ever know of these reasons, and she would never tell them. She had no interest in their views: ‘How could such emotional and intellectual pygmies ever understand me?’ she said to herself, as she set the clock radio for 5.30am.

‘One should not judge, until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,’ the inane Rex would sometimes say.

‘Hah!’ thought Mrs Pump. ‘People judge before they’ve even seen the shoes!’

Whether Mrs Pump should have allowed hatred to warp her life must remain an open question. But as she turned out the light on this day, and lay gazing at the cold moon in the big sky, she did know that she would do anything in her power to make Lord Jo unhappy, up there in his manor.

His manor? Well, that was a joke for a start.

*

As Inky had read in The Civil Civil War, the English Civil War wasn’t all bad; or not as bad as it could have been, and really quite nice in places.

Some civil wars really take the biscuit for atrocity; with folk often nastier to those they know than to those they don’t. What sort of a world do we live in?! We can see how it happens, though; it’s the low life who take advantage of unsettled conditions to settle old scores: ‘I never liked Adam the candle stick maker. He comes from another village originally, and he always wins the Prize Marrow competition. I think I’ll rip his guts out in the cause of freedom, and claim his land and wife as my own.’

Fortunately, however, as Inky discovered, the English Civil War was not like this, because everyone liked each other, and it’s hard to hurt people you like. Inky particularly warmed to the words of the general Sir William Waller, spoken to the royalist commander, Sir Ralph Hopton, before the battle at Roundway Down.

‘My affections to you are so unchangeable that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship to your person, but I must be true to the cause I serve. The Great God, who is a searcher of my heart, knows… with what perfect hatred I look upon this war without an enemy. We are both upon the stage and we must act the parts assigned to us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honour, and without personal animosities.’

‘Top banana!’ Inky had thought. ‘Let us kill with reluctance, with honour, and with absolutely no personal animosity!’

Yet when Oliver came to Misty Longings in 1644, his mind was focused on something rather more solid than honour. He suspected this village held a secret.

*

It was only slowly that The Kid saw the figure sitting at the edge of the hole. The street lighting in Misty Longings had not advanced much since the 1640s, and she saw only what her night-adjusting eyes allowed.

As for David, it was the dark which drew him – the cold dark of the abyss his feet now dangled over. He had set out from the Café to raise the cat to the surface; it was the saving of Azure which had brought him here. But a change of mind now stirred suggestively in his soul. Instead of raising the cat – why not lower himself? Why not leap into the pit?

This was how he was now thinking. Had he read The Final Scream that evening, as a rehearsal for his own? When he thought of Café Disappointment, and all the recent disasters, did it not rather sum up his life to this point? It was such a fight to survive, and always had been. Had he the stomach for any more? Why always such a struggle?

David shivered for the first time, as one removing their cloak on the scaffold, and feeling the chill; before then placing their head on the block.

As I say, The Kid only slowly saw the outline of the figure hunched by the hole. Had she seen it earlier, she might have walked a little quicker.

*

David didn’t hear the approach of The Kid.

People usually call out: ‘David! Hello! It’s me, your old mucker! Now what on earth are you doing sitting by a hole in the road at midnight?’

But there was nothing like that tonight. The Kid arrived at his side quite soundlessly. She placed her hand on his head, and then knelt down to feel the rough sides of the hole. She seemed to want to touch them whole and smooth again. She seemed quite at ease with his presence, though she did not know him, and he did not know her.

‘I was thinking of jumping,’ he said.

The Kid smiled and carried on feeling her way around the hole. With this complete, she then sat down next to him, and put her arm on his shoulder.

‘Does she want to jump as well?’ wondered David. ‘Is she contemplating the same end as I?’

This rather changed things, and obviously he couldn’t let it happen.

‘You are too young to be consumed by melancholy,’ he said. ‘And – if I’m allowed to say it – much too pretty.’

The Kid thought that he was allowed to say it, even if it was a rather funny thing to say. ‘Do you speak?’ asked David.

The Kid shook her head.

‘Best way. Where have words got us anyway? As Dr Hafiz once said to me, ‘Sometimes only silence breaks open the champagne.’

So they sat in silence for a while, and although there was no champagne as such, they did warm each other; for though neither had noticed, both were surprisingly cold on this winter’s night.

*

Mrs Post was later to claim that she saw a ghost in the High Street that night, and she wasn’t completely wrong.

After a strong cup of hot coffee from the Vicarage kitchen, Rex reckoned they were ready for the trip back to ‘Cromwell’s’. Hopefully, it would be a walk which passed off without incident, because a vicar with a drunk woman, staggering down the street after midnight, well – it could be misinterpreted.

‘People will put two and two together and make five,’ he thought ruefully.

To that end he did ask Mrs Post to keep her voice down, because she seemed to want to sing her way home.

‘We must be as quiet as mice,’ he kept whispering in her ear.

‘As quiet as mice!’ shouted Mrs Post.

‘Sssshhhh!’

And then, just as he thought Mrs Post finally understood the need for discretion, she leapt in the air, like she’d seen a ghost.

‘There’s a ghost!’ she suddenly shouted, looking back over Rex’s shoulder. ‘A ghost in the High Street!’

Rex firmly put his hand over her mouth and bundled her round the corner, glad to be near her front door. It took her some time to find her keys, but once done, and with the door open, he turned the hall light on, and pushed her inside.

‘Good night, Mrs Post!’ he said as he closed the door behind her, and turned back towards home.

Phew!

*

Only The Kid could have told you what Mrs Post had seen. But such had been the shock of the discovery, she wasn’t fit to tell anyone anything right now.

This is what had happened: First, she had seen David home.

‘You are a remarkable young lady,’ he had said, as he stepped inside the Café, avoiding her eyes, but nodding alot. ‘Really very remarkable. Perhaps we will meet again?’

The Kid had smiled, and then returned to the hole. Using the pulley rope, she lowered herself down, not quite knowing how far there was to go. She hoped she stopped before the centre of the earth, which was famously hot. The sides of the hole were rough on her feet and knees, while the rope pained her hands. But a quiet ‘meow!’ preceded her feet finally touching the base of the pit.

Azure seemed fine, and quite delighted to see her. The Kid picked her up, and stroked her a little. She had been a frequent guest at the Abbey, especially when The Kid opened the pilchards. Suddenly she was there, skipping across moss and stone, to nuzzle The Kid’s leg, and plead her case for something fishy. The Kid now kissed Azure’s head, and then in one movement, threw her up into the air. It might have looked cruel, but was nothing of the sort. Azure had only to scrabble a little on landing, to emerge unscathed from the hole.

It was only when The Kid then began to explore the hole, that she discovered the door; and only when she wrenched it open, that the light spilled out.

It must have been then that Mrs Post thought she saw a ghost.

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