“The servers, you mean, my lord?”
“Whatever you call them, they wear red cassocks, red slippers, and red skull caps. That I really cannot stand. You must put them into black cassocks and leave their caps and slippers in the vestry cupboard. Further, I do not wish that most conspicuous processional crucifix to be carried about in front of me wherever I go.”
“Would you like the crucifix to be taken down from the altar as well?” Father Rowley asked.
“No, that can stay: I shan’t see that one.”
“What date will suit your lordship for the Confirmation?”
“Ought not the question to have been rather what date will suit you, for I have never yet been fortunate enough, and I never hope to be fortunate enough, to fix upon a date straight off that will suit you, Mr. Rowley. Let me know that later. In any case, my presence must depend, alas, upon the state of my health. Now, how are you getting on with your new church?”
“We shall be ready to open it in the spring of next year if all goes well. Do you think that a new licence will be required? The new St. Agnes’ is joined to the present church by the sacristy.”
The Bishop considered the question for a moment.
“No, I think that the old licence will serve. There is no prospect yet of making St. Agnes’ into a parish, and I would rather take advantage of the technicality, all things being considered. Good-bye, Mr. Rowley. God bless you.”
The Bishop raised his thin arm.
“God bless your lordship.”
“You are always in my prayers, Mr. Rowley. I think much about you lying here on the threshold of Eternal Life.”
The Bishop turned to Mark who knelt beside the bed.
“Young man, I would fain be spared long enough to ordain you to the service of Almighty God, but you are still young and I am very near to death. You could not have before you a better example of a Christian gentleman than your friend and my friend Mr. Rowley. I shall say nothing about his example as a clergyman of the Church of England. Remember me, both of you, in your prayers.”
The Bishop sank back exhausted, and his visitors went quietly out of the room.
THE ALTAR FOR THE DEAD