Not that Reverend Victor Stanley wishes to swing a cat in his very small vestry, this remnant of stone work that has seen worship in St. Cuthbert’s the great Celtic priest’s time.
Reverend Stanley admired the Celts. They came from
the shadows of the older ones, those who built the Dolmen
sites and the Cromlech stone circles. These Celtic people
took their spirituality as seriously as they took their bards’
words. Now if only they had written their knowledge on
some fabulous stone. Perhaps! Ah! What a wonderful
perhaps! Perhaps then we would all be Celtic Christians
instead of that which we came from:
Reverend Stanley as he sits in his small vestry will
dream he practises his faith within the monastery to which
this monk’s meditation cell belonged. There would have been
many miracles: the Celtic world a world of miracles seen,
experienced, not spoken as another had experienced.
The Celtic Christians reached back to the teachings of
Joseph of Arimathea, the extremely rich merchant trader
that came to Britain often, that brought Jesus with him on
his vessel. Trading in Bythford settlement, if that be its
name then, would have been brisk.
Jesus taken outing to the moors, who knows. Why, it
might be he could have stood on this very ground that
Vicar Stanley now stands. It’s not unreasonable to think
that a settlement might have been established by Jesus’
own words in this very spot.
Jesus believed in miracles. Those who followed him and
his words, saw how miracles would manifest around the
great teacher. Now, in today’s cluttered world, indeed in
the world since the Roman rite was forced, so few accepted
that miracles happen. So few even believe there are such
things as miracles.
But that’s the intention! Those in church repeat the
verses given in their books. They know not from where
the words come. Might well they’re confused! Remnants
of truth, tattered pieces of cloth surrounded by coat after
coat of covering of lies. Why should anything make sense
to those seeking spiritual knowledge from the church?
Those arrogant powers that debased Jesus’ teachings,
retaining all that had been before: control of our lives,
supremacy, kingships, overlords, their rules, their law. And
most vile of all, having human brother kill human brother.
That is how our knowledge of religion comes to us. One
man kills another, it can be done in the name of Jesus. All
of Jesus turned to evil.
Just thinking of the sermon he is about to give makes
Reverend Stanley’s stomach very sensitive. Perusing the
sermon he cannot but be concerned. The Lord Bishop he
is sure is not happy with his words. Why else has he not
been appointed Rector?
Why is he not Rector Stanley, instead of mere vicar, a
person who can be dismissed at any moment, turned out of
his vicarage, forced to wander the highways begging for a
sou from any kind soul.
The vicar glances again at his sermon thinking he might
omit an item here and there. Who knows when an inquiry
might be made to unseat him. Vicar Stanley sighs. Could
he manage to squeeze into his sermon some words from the
Bishop’s new book? The Lord Bishop is such a stickler for
Trinitarianism and it is all nonsense, a fostered explanation
by the ‘Council’ to replace all that is real.
Latitudinarian, just a few words! Would Jesus do it?
No Jesus would not! He must be a true pastor. That is
how Jesus would wish, he is sure.
He has to present his sermon, and if speaking out against
war, speaking against this war, releases from their boundaries those who listen, he must proceed with it.
Would Jesus send soldiers to fight for gold? For that is
the cause that this war is really about: Gold for the empire,
but really for the hidden power to have more power to buy
more politicians to get people to pay more tax for their sons
to be sent off to be killed.
The vicar glances down at the bracelet fragment he has
placed upon his desk. Near the old ruins out by the moors
he found the bracelet lying.
It was a miracle he is sure, that morning when he’d the
supernatural fancy to ride his horse to the ruins. His horse
had shied and he had almost been tossed off. He had gotten
down to see what had caused the disturbance. There it was,
the bracelet. Bronze age gold. Two or three millennium of
years before Great Jesus.
Supernatural occurrences! As common then as they are
now. But who sees them today! If only we would recognise
them, give credence to that which is in all our lives!
He must be more like St. Cuthbert. He must speak of
that which is true.
The supernatural was alive with Jesus. It is alive with
us. The supernatural is everything that Jesus was, of his
real teaching. Placing the small fragment in his hand, he
holds it towards the light of his lamp.
The bracelet has come to him for a reason. To inspire
him! Had that Soul which once worn this bracelet brought
him to its presence? Souls do live on, do for moments turn
their attention to our world.
Lord Bishop or not, he has the moral caring of those
who come to this church. He has written this sermon and
he will deliver it.
Benefices or not, Vicar Stanley, presently of the parish
of St. Brannoc’s, must give his sermon.
. . .
Edward and his mother sink into the well-padded seats
of the Double Brougham. The way to St. Brannoc’s is
always pleasant, but today exceptionally so. The late spring
forest is a portrait: fresh young leaves, buds purple and
white intensifying an already green vista.
Lawrence, seated opposite them, his thoughts are upon
the previous evening’s card playing. Every raising of his
father’s eyebrows kept Lawrence’s attention. His play was
the same! That thought intrigued Lawrence. A peculiar
sensation to be playing with his father and his uncle.
Enid Coulter and himself had been winning much of the
early moves. Lawrence, hearing the silvered longcase give
its tune - Turn again Dick Whittington - had glanced at
the time on the moving face of the clock. Nine when
his mother is mentioned.
Here in the middle of cards Enid Coulter talks to this
farmer about his mother: Caroline Keys! “An incendiary
melted part of the stone. Bodies burnt clean away. Bone
His father had looked peculiarly at his uncle, as he
should. “Caroline, Ezekiel, Rachel Keys, they are dead.
We cannot bring them back!”
When Lawrence, on a ride to Hartlepool, asked of his
mother’s family, his uncle repeated the story he’d always
told: They had died. His mother had died. The name
Morton, his aunt’s maiden name, had been given him to
take the place of her brother who died, an engineer working
to construct railroad out in Central America. He was to be
the new Lawrence Morton. A replacement for a brother
who died without marrying. “Your lot, the Keys, they all
are dead. We’ve told you that,” Angulse spat the words at
Lawrence asked about his father, where he was. “You
will know soon enough where your dick comes from.” That
laugh Angulse had given. “And for asking I’ll be using my
fine sharp dick of a crop on you. I’ll not be sparing.”
His uncle had punished him when they were inside the high walls at Hartlepool by stripping him, tying him to a post, whipping him
with his riding crop. The thong lashes had bitten deep into
his back. Lawrence never asked about his parents again.
Why had his father not come for him? Why had he
abandoned him to Angulse Sherod, to the coven, to the
foulness his uncle forced?
In the carriage a fierce, helpless anger sweeps over him. Still he aches to have his mother hold him, to have her
He will have it out with Bexfield. He will kill him if
there is no money offered. He will steal what he can and
with Bella they will be off. To America he will go.
‘Anger is all you need, lad’
A flash of an image of Angulse, the turn of the lips, just
enough to feign a smile.
‘Nothing to do about it, lad! Nothing! You know that.’
The powerlessness seeps back.
His thoughts bring the coven here.
He raises his hand to his eyes so those opposite won’t
see. He cannot help the tears. The carriage rumbles forward.
‘That’s right, lad!’
Lawrence picks up a stone, then another, and another. He’s at the auction exchange, a livestock market where his
uncle holds financial interest.
The pig he hits with the stones, he watches the blood
pour from the animal.
This pleases his uncle greatly.
‘Rage! Feel it, lad! Don’t it burn your insides!’
He will kill Bexfield if he is offered no money.
The carriage has halted. Down the manor driveway they
have come, the carriage turning so now they are outside the
The niece’s friend gets in, sits beside him.
The niece sits next to her. The carriage door is shut.
A movement in his body. A longing surges, a desire for some comfort.
‘Like her do you, lad! Attractive, ain’t she!’
Lawrence shifts his position, covers himself with his
hands. His member has extended.
. . .
Miss Hooper is having a situation. In the carriage on
the way to St. Brannoc’s church, Miss Hooper to say the least is
disconcerted. Shapanzi’s nose is wider, his brown, large
eyes becoming wild.
Regular as a pin he performs his duty. Their usual walk
has Shapanzi stopping at each point of interest. This morning however Shapanzi became so engrossed in his thoughts the wee one did nothing more than lift his small leg once
and that for the most brief of moments.
The carriage waiting, her Ladyship calling, what choice
did she have!
Oh my goodness, now a howl!
Miss Hooper does pride herself on her ability to handle
any situation that might arise. It was written right there on the paper sent as a first introduction of herself to her Ladyship: ‘Miss Hooper takes care of all situations.’
Lady Middleton remarked upon it.
With the strongest force Miss Hooper can command she
attempts to divert Shapanzi’s aristocratic attention. “See
the new blossoms, Shapanzi,” she soothes, nudging his face
towards the carriage window. “How idyllic, is it not!”
A mournful howl ensues. A howl much as one might
associate with great sadness. Or perhaps if there was a
better truth, with great distress.
The Squire, the Magistrate, stares down at the sleeve
dog. “Can you not do something, my dear?” he asks her
“Not long to go.” A slight rustle of the dress tells of
Lady Middleton’s own muted censure. “Gladys suggested
that perhaps we should give Shapanzi a ride to air the dear
one’s mind. Did you not, Gladys?”
“I did, your Ladyship,” answers Gladys meekly.
“At home in China, Ronald, a son of the Empress’s
favourite, respect shown would be most imposing.”
“Yes,” Ronald is not going be dealt with this easily. “But I understand it is a sleeve dog. Is not the dear one
capable of riding peacefully, and quietly I might add, in
Should Miss Hooper suggest stopping the carriage?
Fumbling for and clutching at her vapour bottle, Miss Hooper cannot decide whether to raise it to her nose or
not. The thought of speaking of the situation makes her
Then the carriage passes the first cottages of Weatherby
village. This, seeming more than a miracle, turns Miss
Hooper into a ball of squeals.
“Look! Oh dear, Shapanzi! We are almost here.” The
high pitch of the companion’s words does get some attention. A most exceptional, howl.
“Hush, hush, little one,” Miss Hooper begins to stroke
the long silky coat, an action that brings upon the carriage
new, very high, very screeching, wails.
Shapanzi and Miss Hooper’s tonal mingling has now
reached a crescendo magnifique, something that only those
in the carriage could appreciate.
Fortunately, the door is pulled open. An upside down
jump, a dash through Fred’s legs, who, not expecting the cartwheel event, and the sensation between his trousers, turns completely around to stare at the
animal running off, disappearing into the bushes.
Fred is of the country and he knows weasels. Weasels
bring dead young back to life and they don’t always come
back as you’d expect. That dog is a returned weasel, he’d
stake his life on it.
Miss Hooper, waiting for not an instant more of delay,
pushes against the staring Fred as she attempts to alight.
The carriage door creaks. Fred, uttering undecipherable,
strange wording, grabs hold of the, some might say, howling Miss Hooper, stabilizes her.
Mr. Hews, Lady Middleton and the Squire sit numbly
while the dear companion lady vanishes, swallowed by a
cloud, a large church gravestone.
“Supernatural ‘er is,” Fred states firmly. “A maj’cal
weazel, what ‘er is. Both on’em a’d bet.”
Lady Middleton, recovering, comments: “They have no
intention of coming into the church, Ronny. Gladys and
Shapanzi plan a leisurely stroll through the church grounds. An opportunity for them both to examine the older stones, Gladys told me.”
“Chinese!” the Squire comments to Fred, once his feet
become placed firmly on God’s solid ground.
“A’d mak’ sense,” Fred nods wisely. “Both on’em, then,
maj’cal weazels fer ‘t foreign lands.”
. . .
A clatter and the arriving Mandalmane carriage pulls
up. “A pleasant morning, Squire,” Enid Coulter takes the
hand of the young footman.
“One would hope it will remain so this time of year,
Annabell and Emily step out of the carriage, followed
by Edward and his friend Lawrence.
The Squire holds out his arm to Annabell. “You will
allow me to escort you.”
The parade along the pathway towards the church commences: Annabell and the Magistrate, Enid Coulter and
Mr. Hews, Edward Coulter and Lady Middleton, Emily and
“The final banns this morning, my dear.”
Annabell glances up at the church’s old, weathered steeple.
“I’m ready uncle.”
Reverend Stanley when he had last spoken with them
in the vestry had given Edward and herself a history of the
The church at first built of wood, it is not known when
the small vestry built of stone came into being. Old monk’s
land, the vicar said, the monk’s quarters also built of wood.
The lavatorium where they washed, the scriptorium where
the scribes would be busy copying from the older works,
all would be of wood. The stone monastery and church
when they were built would have been grand for these parts. More grand when St. Brannoc’s was rebuilt to that which
it is now.
Annabell asked if the inside of this St. Brannoc’s would
be when first built as it is today. Vicar Stanley had shaken
his head. In those times churches had paint of the brightest of colours. Some of this older paint remains on
the walls of St. Brannoc’s, though now faded.
It was the fashion, to distinguish the church from the
houses that had little or no added colour. Churches had
walls of brilliant carotene red. Lemon yellow, anthocyanin
and indigo blue painted as stripes, a myriad of designs. The
green tints were of the sea and forest.
Passing under the Gargoyle at the entrance, Annabell
gazes up. She remembers when young asking her uncle why
they were so ugly. “To keep bad spirits away. To protect
us.” He had clasped her hand tightly as he was doing now.
The Squire has protected her. She cannot think of any
really bad thing that has happened to her since, mama and
papa were killed.
As they step under the small portico, words decorate the doorway. She had asked her uncle as to their meaning. Vicar Stanley had been brought to answer: