Parson Jack lifted his shovel and passed his palm over its blade, which the sand had already polished. “Thank you,” said he, “I’ll be going at once.”
But he made no motion to start while the postman stood eyeing him. A sudden selfish fear paralysed him. Had Sir Harry heard? And was this the end of his patron’s forbearance? No; the news could not have reached Carwithiel so quickly. He had no enemy to arise early and carry it; to no living creature were even his follies of such importance.
“Don’t forget your letter,” the postman reminded him, moving off towards the foot-bridge.
Parson Jack watched him as he crossed it, and until he had scaled the western slope and disappeared over its shoulder. Then, kneeling by the stream, he dipped his head, and let the icy water run past his temples. When he raised it again his plain face was glowing, for hard fare and life in the open weather kept his complexion clear and ruddy. But the hand gripping the sack on his shoulder shook as he climbed the hill.
By the lych-gate he found two saddle-horses tethered, and just outside the porch stood Sir Harry Vyell—a strikingly handsome man with a careless thoroughbred look; in fact, well over sixty, but apparently ten years younger. By habit he dressed well, and was scrupulously careful of his person; by habit, too, he remained sweet of temper and kindly of speech. But beneath this mask of habit the heart had withered, a while ago, to dust, and lay in the grave of his only son.
“Ah? Good morning, Flood!” cried Sir Harry genially. Parson Jack, reassured, felt the colour rushing into his face. “I’ve brought over my nephew Clem to introduce to you—he’s in Orders, you know—scholar of Balliol, Fellow of All Souls, and what not. High Anglican, too—he’ll be a bishop one of these days, if money doesn’t make him lazy. He’s inside, dancing with delight in front of your chancel-screen—or, rather, the remains of it. Church architecture is his craze just now— that and Church History. Between ourselves”—Sir Harry glanced over his shoulder—“he has a bee or two in his bonnet; but that’s as it should be. Every lad at his age wants to eat up the world.”
Parson Jack could remember no such ambition. They passed into the church together.
Now the surprise which awaits you in Langona Church is its chancel, which stands high above the level of the nave, and, rising suddenly beneath a fine Early English arch, carries the eye upward to the altar with a strange illusion of distance. Even in those days the first impression was one of rare, almost singular, beauty—an impression lost in a series of small pangs as your eye rested on the ruinous details one by one. For of the great screen nothing remained but two tall uprights, surmounted by hideous knops—the addition of some local carpenter. Between the lozenge-shaped shafts of the choir arches, the worm-riddled parclose screens