He had no longer a mind to run after Clement Vyell. Instead, he bent his steps towards the four-roomed cottage which he called the Parsonage and found too large for his needs.
On the sitting-room table lay a letter, in a large blue envelope with a red seal.
That same day, and soon after three o’clock in the afternoon, Parson Jack knocked at the door of St. Cadox Rectory.
The Rector, a widower, usually ate his dinner in the middle of the day, and immediately afterwards retired to his study (with a glass of hot brandy-and-water), presumably to meditate. At Parson Jack’s entrance he started up from his arm-chair with a flushed face and a somewhat incoherent greeting, in the middle of which he suddenly observed that his friend’s face, too, was agitated.
“But what brings you? Nothing wrong, I hope?”
“No—o,” answered Parson Jack dubiously. Then, “Oh no; on the contrary, I came to ask if you have any books bearing on this part of the world— county histories, ecclesiastical histories, and the like—especially ecclesiastical histories. I want to read up about Langona.”
The Rector’s eyes twinkled. “This is rather sudden, eh?”
“After five-and-twenty years? I suppose it is.” Parson Jack blushed like a schoolboy; but he laughed, nevertheless, for he held news, and it bubbled within him.
“Preparing a lecture?”
“No; the fact is”—he straightened his face—“I’ve just learnt of my brother Lionel’s death in India. I’ve never seen him since we were boys,” he added apologetically.
“H’m, h’m.” The Rector paid his respect to Death in a serious little cough. “Still, I don’t quite understand—”
“He has left me five thousand pounds.”
“Ah? A very tidy sum—my dear Flood, I congratulate you; with all my heart I do. You have the prospect now of many happy days.” He shook his friend’s hand warmly. “But—excuse me—what has this to do with reading ecclesiastical history, of Langona or any other place?”
“Well,” Parson Jack answered shyly, sitting down and filling his pipe, “I thought of restoring the church.”
“My dear fellow, don’t be a fool—if I may speak profanely. Five thousand pounds is a tidy sum, no doubt, in Langona especially. But you’ll be leaving Langona. You can buy yourself a decent little living, or retire and set up comfortably as a bachelor on two hundred and fifty pounds a year, with a cob, and a gig as you grow older.”
Parson Jack shook his head. “I’ve been paying debts all my life, with the help of Langona,” said he, puffing slowly. “And now I see that I owe the place repayment. But it isn’t that exactly,” he went on with a quickening voice and another of his shy blushes, “and I don’t want you to mistake that for the real reason. The fact is, I’m attached to the place—to the church especially. It seems a silly thing to say, when I haven’t troubled to learn ten words of its history, and don’t know Norman work from—well, from any but my own.” He laughed grimly, biting on his pipe-stem. “But that can be mended, I suppose—and the old barn has become a sort of companion—and that’s about the long and short of it.”