In the last episode, The Kid felt light-headed, whilst Lord Jo, Patricia and Mrs Pump settle down for a film night at the Manor. Home cinema! Meanwhile, Mrs Post spilled the family beans to the vicar (at last!); the film night turned nasty, and Jane and David both went house hunting. As sometimes, you have to.
‘There was nothing in his life, like the leaving of it,’ said Patricia.
‘What are you on about?’ asked Lord Jo, as he looked for the marmalade.
‘You don’t know where anything is, do you?’
‘Haven’t a clue. I’m used to Mrs Pump doing all this. I know where the kitchen door is, but beyond that, it’s all a bit of a mystery!’
Patricia had not expected to be waking up in the Manor on Monday morning. And before any gossiping mouths get going, she had very definitely spent the night in the spare room. They had enjoyed a most pleasant evening together, after which Lord Jo had reckoned her a little too tipsy to make her way home in the cold and dark. He had offered the spare room to her, like the gentleman he was.
‘They were words said about King Charles 1: ‘There was nothing in his life like the leaving of it,’ said Patricia.
‘King Charles, you say?’
‘Yes. He was executed by Parliament, for being a bit of an idiot.’
‘What sort of an idiot? I meet so many.’
‘Well, he was very enamoured with the idea of the Divine Right of Kings; the idea that no one could touch him, because he was God’s special and particular instrument for rule and governance.’
‘What’s wrong with that?’
‘It just didn’t sit very comfortably with the young shoots of democracy in England at the time; and particularly not with the political and religious radicals who surrounded Cromwell in his climb to power.’
‘Sounds like a good working principle to me. You can have too much interference!’
‘Then you would have been a Cavalier in the Civil War. They probably could have done with you, actually; someone to get things done, while the rest of them played at Fancy Dress. My father, though, would have been a Roundhead – he was always a Cromwell man, God rest his soul. He thought Charles a limp-wristed dolt.’
‘He didn’t like him, then.’
‘No, not much. Daddy had very strong opinions. But when it came to Charles’ death, things changed. His imminent execution seemed to wake some dormant nobility in him, and in his last days at least, he was a most impressive figure, by all accounts.’
‘You like history then, do you?’
‘I do, Lord Jo. I’m very interested in all that.’
‘I don’t know any history at all.’
‘But Misty Longings is full of it!’
‘Then you’ll have to teach me. And by the way, just ‘Jo’ will do.’
‘Oh, all right – Jo!’
‘What a rather wonderful Monday morning!’ thought Patricia.
And neither had David expected to be waking up in the Abbey ruins this Monday. Yet on his arrival at the fire last night, Cadbury and Inky had been wonderfully friendly, and insisted that he stay.
‘We are a community of the homeless!’ said Inky.
‘You do make it all sound very exciting,’ said Cadbury.
‘Well, it is exciting. We have to be pioneers on the new frontier. What d’you reckon, David?’
‘Pioneers, yes. It’s a good idea.’
‘But no more than an idea?’
‘No – I mean – oh, I don’t know. I don’t quite have your optimism,’ said David. ‘I wish I did – I’d get more done, and have more fun!’
‘Where did you lose it?’ asked Cadbury.
‘I don’t know,’ said David. ‘Somewhere along the way, I suppose. I don’t know the exact spot.’
‘My view,’ said Inky, ‘is that we’re returning this site to one of its original purposes.’
‘How do you mean?’ asked Cadbury.
‘Monasteries were famous the world over for their charity to the poor.’
‘Some certainly were,’ said David. ‘Others perhaps less so.’
‘St Francis of Assisi was a brilliant monk!’ said Inky. ‘We could be like him.’
‘Well, of course, he was a monk without walls,’ said David. ‘He lived on a Tuscan hillside.’
‘Like us! We have no walls either – we’re free!’
‘That is certainly one way to look at it,’ said David.
‘So what will you do about your house?’ asked Cadbury.
Inky thought homelessness much too exciting to worry about things like that, or indeed imagine that someone else might. But Cadbury was aware that this man had just lost everything. St Francis had chosen to leave his wealth behind – David hadn’t.
‘I must go back tomorrow, and have a look at the damage done. There’s not much standing; but perhaps there’s some stuff to be saved. I’ll see.’
‘Can we come?’ asked Cadbury excitedly. ‘We could help you.’
‘Oh yes – can we come?’ asked Inky. ‘Please! I’ve never seen a completely collapsed house.’
‘Well, you’re very welcome. I mean, there won’t be much there.’
‘Excellent!’ said Cadbury.
‘Top banana!’ said Inky.
‘Tomorrow we will walk from one ruin to another,’ said David. ‘Things are really looking up!’
He had lain beneath the winter sky that night, and pondered things. Wrapped in every piece of spare blanket, and close to the smouldering fire, David wondered why he’d never been here before. For some reason, he had always stopped on the bridge; looking, but not venturing.
The men from the Road Cobbling Company were hard at work in the High street this morning, making good yesterday’s concrete fill, and then layering in the new cobbled surface. Hopefully in a year or two, it would be very hard to tell where the old cobbles ended and the new ones began.
Dr Hafiz watched with mixed feelings; well aware of what Jane would say if she was with him now: ‘They should be digging up this hole and hauling The Kid to safety. That is the logical thing to do.’
In many ways Dr Hafiz agreed.
But the doctor hurried on, because Mrs Pump had been quite insistent on the phone: ‘Could you come now?’
It had felt like a command. And when he arrived, she seemed glad to see him, in a businesslike way.
‘Would you like some coffee?’ she asked, as he entered ‘The Ridings’.
‘Some coffee would be a great pleasure; as long as it is unhealthily strong.’
‘I need to tell you certain things, Doctor Hafiz – and perhaps apologise.’
‘Tell on. It may not be all surprise to me.’
They sat in her small and tasteful front room, as morning light spilled in through the cottage window. Having never been here before, he had not known what to expect. What he was presently most aware of, was an ordered room. Even the pretend door in the wall had its place.
‘I don’t like clutter, as you can see,’ she said.
‘So what do you like?’
‘I’m not sure I know.’
Mrs Pump proceeded to tell him something of her past; a more leisured and measured re-telling of the story she had told Lord Jo and Patricia.
‘Is that a shock?’ she asked on coming to an end.
‘There’s much I didn’t know, of course. But I always knew you were your father’s daughter. The functions room at the Dog and Whistle makes for an interesting surgery, containing, as it does, so many photos. The one of Henry Pumper-Norton holding up the village cricket cup – well, that was always your favourite as you lay on the couch.’
‘My favourite? On the contrary, I tried always to look away.’
‘Then you failed.’
‘It was painful to gaze on that happy face. He did not die so.’
‘So why revisit the pain?’
But Mrs Pump wished to move on: ‘I haven’t quite told you everything.’
She then recounted her vendetta with Lord Jo; her growing hatred for him, and anything to do with him. It was just unfortunate that Patricia was caught in that net. ‘He’s a common little shit, in my opinion, and quite unworthy of the Manor. But before you ask – I didn’t poison him.’
‘What a shame! It’s so nice having such things cleared up. Which leaves me with only two questions.’
‘And the first one is?’
‘Why are you telling me this?’
‘Your phone call the other night – it has haunted me; the one about the unopened present. What did you mean?’
‘Mean? Oh, I don’t know really. I just felt there was something in you entirely unopened; as if your present life is not quite your own.’
‘Well, that’s true.’
‘You have really been most unpleasant to many people; myself included.’
‘I know; bitterness spills everywhere. So what’s your second question?’
When David reached the ruin of his home that morning, with Cadbury and Inky for company, he was much relieved to discover two bird tables still standing, and all nesting boxes unscathed.
‘Well, at least the birds are not homeless,’ he said with some relief.
‘You’re a very kind man,’ said Cadbury. ‘To be thinking of the birds at this time.’
‘Not really – I just don’t have any other friends.’
‘You have us,’ said Cadbury. ‘Or don’t we count?’
‘I’ve found a frying pan!’ cried Inky, who was house-combing with relish. ‘Shall I put everything that I find in a pile, David?’
It would be a pile of rubbish, but if it made Inky happy: ‘A pile would be a very good idea,’ he replied.
‘One pile coming up!’
They all now joined Inky in sifting through the remains of a business and a home. It seemed now a rather small and insignificant space; a space stripped of any self-importance once possessed. With walls ripped down, its secrets lay shamelessly bare.
‘Did you have a cellar?’ asked Cadbury.
‘No such luck. Why do you ask?’
‘I just wondered about this door in the ground.’
‘That’s just a house door fallen flat.’
‘Silly me!’ she said, but then wondered whether she was quite so silly.
Cadbury pulled at the door, but it was heavy and set in its ways, and made of stone. Stone?? This was no house door!
Alky wished it were otherwise. Why had he opened his mouth to David in the Dog and Whistle yesterday? What in God’s name had possessed him? Now David knew about his assault on Cadbury, others would eventually hear, and that would really be too bad. As he well knew: ‘A secret is something you only tell to one other person. That’s how secrets travel.’
The choices now were simple enough. He would either have to kill David; or kill himself. And on reflection, he would probably prefer it if David died.
He must invite him over soon. It wouldn’t be personal; life isn’t personal – but needs must.
More of The Village