“Stop,” said Father Rowley. “The only assurance of any value to me will be your behaviour in the future.”
“Oh, then I’m not to leave this morning?” Mr. Mousley gasped with open mouth.
“Where would you go if you left here?”
“Well, to tell you the truth,” Mr. Mousley admitted, “I have been rather worried over that little problem ever since I woke up this morning. I scarcely expected that you would tolerate my presence any longer in this house. You will excuse me, Father Rowley, but I am rather overwhelmed for the moment by your kindness. I scarcely know how to express what I feel. I have usually found people so very impatient of my weakness. Do you seriously mean I needn’t go away this morning?”
“You have already been sufficiently punished, I hope,” said the Missioner, “by the humiliations you have inflicted on yourself both outside and inside this house.”
“My thoughts are always humiliating,” said Mr. Mousley. “I think perhaps that nowadays these humiliating thoughts are my chief temptation to drink. Since I have been here and shared in your hospitality I have felt more sharply than ever my disgrace. I have several times been on the point of asking you to let me be given some kind of work, but I have always been too much ashamed when it came to the point to express my aspirations in words.”
“Only yesterday afternoon,” said Father Rowley, “I wrote to the Bishop of Warwick, who has continued to interest himself in you notwithstanding the many occasions you have disappointed him, yes, I wrote to the Bishop of Warwick to say that since you came to St. Agnes’ your behaviour had justified my suggesting that you should once again be allowed to say Mass.”
“You wrote that yesterday afternoon?” Mr. Mousley exclaimed. “And the instant afterwards I went out and got drunk?”
“You mean you took a pick-me-up and two glasses of beer,” corrected Father Rowley.
“No, no, no, it wasn’t a pick-me-up. I went out and got drunk on brandy quite deliberately.”
Father Rowley looked quickly across at Mark, who hastily left the two priests together. He divined from the Missioner’s quick glance that he was going to hear Mr. Mousley’s confession. A week later Mr. Mousley asked Mark if he would serve at Mass the next morning.
“It may seem an odd request,” he said, “but inasmuch as you have seen the depths to which I can sink, I want you equally to see the heights to which Father Rowley has raised me.”
SILCHESTER COLLEGE MISSION