Cat got your tongue?
You will remember in the last chapter hearing of Patricia’s unsuccessful visit to the Manor; Inky’s discovery of the hole, and the poor Café service offered to Rex by David. Alky finally got to sleep; Jane discovered a new spider’s web, and Dr Hafiz shared words with the Village Rose. Whilst Billy just wished to be heard.
We discover Rex with a wry smile: ‘Well, I know we’re supposed to keep the Sabbath holy, but a holy road wasn’t a requirement of the famous stone tablets!’ he quipped to himself.
His jokes always went down better when alone, and this one was no exception. He had seen the hole earlier, of course, but had wisely ignored it. Inky was a lovely lad, but quite clueless, and would have asked inappropriate questions, had Rex raised the issue. What sort of a question might Inky have asked? ‘Let me think about that one,’ thought Rex.
He had it in mind to return to the vicarage where he would start on his sermon for Sunday. It was early in the week, but he found that sermons were best mulled over a little. A little mulling would often hit the spiritual spot, with unerring accuracy.
‘Oh I know!’ said Rex to himself, returning to the matter of Inky’s probable question: ‘Inky would have asked me when a hole becomes a space? That’s what he would have asked! ‘When does a hole become a space, Father priest reverend? Because space is generally considered a good thing, but holes a bad thing.’‘
Inky made everything so confused and complicated, and sometimes he left Rex’s brain completely fried! ‘Lord, spare us from unexpected death, and the confused and the complicated!’ he said to himself.
‘Could be the end of this village, a hole like that,’ said David, stopping Rex by the hole.
‘The end of the most beautiful village in England?’ asked Rex amazed. ‘Surely not?’
‘Everything must end,’ he said.
‘But the Parish of Mistie Longen goes way back! It was granted to the abbey as long ago as 973! Are we to be so easily ended now by a hole in the road? Does our history count for nothing?’
‘Where there’s one hole, there’s often another,’ said David knowingly. ‘This village could be riddled with them – potentially speaking.’
‘We’ll leave it to the authorities,’ said Rex, not wishing to stay any longer by the hole, which was making him feel unsettled. He needed to write his sermon – or at least to mull a little. Or at least think about mulling.
‘Until they know the cause of it,’ said David, ‘there’s absolutely nothing that can be done.’
‘I am sure there’s a plan in hand,’ said Rex. ‘This is why there are contingency funds, ready to finance swift repairs in situations like these.’
‘And if someone falls down it in the meantime?’ asked David rhetorically, holding his shoulders in a shrug. ‘What good is a contingency fund, as the coffin is carried into church? And who will want to live here then? It’ll be a ghost town.’
Rex thought that was a slight overreaction, but perhaps David had a point. Perhaps this was the beginning of the end of Misty Longing. Weave a rainbow out of that!
Up the road, Mrs Pump left the Manor. There was a hot pot in the fridge for Lord Jo’s supper – it just needed warming. She had checked to make sure he’d be eating alone. ‘A hot pot for one, then?’ she had asked.
‘A hot pot for one, Mrs P. Who’d eat with me?’
‘Plenty,’ thought Mrs Pump, in the privacy of her own heart. ‘That Patricia, for starters!’ But tonight, there’d be no starters for Patricia. Not here at least, and Mrs Pump was hardly sad.
The air was fresh and the grass winter sodden, as she left Lord Jo. To her right, all heavy and ploughed, was the field which once belonged to the Manor. There she had spent many a happy childhood hour, all those years ago. Best not to dwell on it, though. You can’t bottle past happiness, and save it for later – pouring out a little each day, when the bad times come!
She decided on the river walk, which took her past Tally-Ho Cottage, and down towards the old abbey. It was here she saw the Kid, cowering by the ruins. She was a ruin herself, that young lady! Shame in one so young, but what could you do? It was Mrs Pump’s view that she should go back home, and stop bothering the village.
‘And what’s the matter with you?’ said Mrs Pump in a matter of fact sort of way, because she had once been a nurse, and didn’t have a great deal of time for suffering.
The Kid looked up, but said nothing.
‘Cat got your tongue?’
Always silent, that one. Did the Kid never speak? Had she not been taught? Mrs Pump then noticed the blood.
‘Have you cut your hands on something?’
The Kid’s eyes widened.
‘What have you cut your hands on?’
The Kid began wordlessly to explain, drawing a hole in the air, with rough edges. It did all look a bit crazy, to be honest!
‘Mad girl,’ said Mrs Pump, because having been a nurse, she could tell.
‘So what can you tell me, Cadbury?’ asked Rex, standing by the old village well.
And just for a moment, Rex was almost swallowed by history. Have you ever experienced that? Rex often had since coming to Misty Longings. It was as though he was a time traveller, spun back by ancient tracks and old stone to past eternities. They said that in Buttercup Meadows, if you listened to the wind, you could still hear the farm labourers’ shouts, and Geraint the Blacksmith’s busy anvil. Ah! The good old days, when Pussy Willow Farm employed thirty-seven village men; when human hand, and not machine, had turned the farming wheel. Different village days, those. And now? Now Geraint and labourer lay side by side in the graveyard, joined with the soil they once worked and served.
Yet still heard in Buttercup Meadows.
Rex pulled himself together, and returned to the present – he had things to attend to. For despite his large dog collar, he was being a bit of a detective. Yes, Rex had decided to postpone his sermon mulling, and was now the village sleuth, investigating The Incredibly Mysterious Affair of the Sudden Hole in the Road.
He felt a bit like Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes!
He had chosen Cadbury for his first official interview. He knew Cadbury would have been at the well early, rocking on the seat, and looking for armies. ‘Did you see anything?’ he asked.
‘I saw nothing, Mr Dog Priest Collar!’
She still didn’t get his name right, dear girl! First Inky, now her! They deserved each other, in a way.
‘I was watching Deep Longings to see if they’d try there first.’
‘And did they? Did the armies try Deep Longings first?’
‘Not today they didn’t, Mr Dog Priest Collar, but you always have to watch the horizon. For safety’s sake.’
Such a fearful child! Who had put such fear in her? It was an interesting question, though probably best left to the psychoanalysts. Yet Rex believed he had just the words. He may not be Freud or Karl Marx, but sometimes the simple truth is best. They were words he often used at funerals, but which surely had life in other settings too?
‘Though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil,’ said Rex.
It was sadly at just that moment that Mrs Pump came by, and overheard him. How embarrassing.
‘Outdoor preaching now?’ said Mrs Pump. ‘Is there no safe place in this village for us atheists, hardened by the daily massacre of innocence?’
‘I was just helping the girl,’ said Rex.
‘An exchange of delusions is hardly professional care. I was a nurse, you know.’
Oh, how Rex knew! How everyone knew! She was always saying she was a nurse, though no one knew when or where. Or indeed, how?!
Billy needed a nurse, right now. He needed someone to look after him. His face was puffed and discoloured; and his legs hurt him every time he moved. They also hurt him when he didn’t move, which is not a good sign. Had he really got himself in another fight? It was a strange cell, darker than his usual one. But a cell is a cell is a cell. Perhaps he just didn’t exist any more. That’s what he sometimes felt – that he didn’t exist.
‘I’m just worried about Billy,’ said Patricia, when she met Lord Jo, by chance, at his gate. He was just about to drive away in his big black 4x4, which sat him up in the air, looking down on everyone.
‘We’ll talk tonight,’ he said, not wishing to be delayed.
‘Over supper. Or whatever.’
‘Over supper? I may need to check my diary.’
‘Another night then.’
‘No, no, supper tonight should be fine. 7.00pm? Will you tell Mrs Pump or shall I?’
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