Before morning service on this Easter Sunday, he met the Rev. Samuel Bishop in the vestry. The organist had already gone to his seat behind the chancel. The first preliminary notes of the voluntary—weak and uncertain, because the organ-blower had come late and as yet there was not sufficient wind in the bellows—were beginning to sound through the building. The two men were alone.
“I should like to know,” Sally’s father was saying, in his quiet, apologetic voice, “how many people you generally expect to communicate on Easter Sunday. The wine, you know. I want to know how much wine to pour out.”
His face twitched as he waited for the answer. It seemed as if some unseen fingers were alternately pinching the flabby flesh of his cheeks, then as swiftly letting it go.
Mr. Windle made a mental calculation, delivering his estimation of the number with a voice confident of his accuracy.
“Sixty,” he said. “Not less—possibly more.”
“That will take a lot of wine.”
“There’s plenty in that cupboard,” said Mr. Windle.
The gentle rector reverently opened the cupboard and examined it.
“Oh yes; there is enough,” he said. He held up a black bottle to the light, and blinked at it short-sightedly. “I—I only wanted to make sure,” he added; “it is apt to make one somewhat apprehensive, when one is officiating in a strange church—apprehensive, if you understand what I mean, of any hitch in the service.”
“Quite so,” said Mr. Windle, sympathetically. He extracted a small, white, potash throat lozenge from the pocket of his waistcoat, and placed it on his tongue. In another twenty-five minutes from that moment he would be reading the lessons. The lozenge would be dissolved and swallowed by that time, and the beneficial effect upon his throat complete when he was ready to begin.
“The bishop is holding early Communion in Maidstone this morning,” he said, when the lozenge had settled into its customary place in his mouth.
“So I heard,” said Mr. Bishop. “What a charming man his lordship is.”
“You know him?” asked Mr. Windle in surprise.
“He is doing us the honour of dining with us to-day after morning service. We always dine in the middle of the day on Sundays—only Sundays, of course.”
“Indeed?” said the Rev. Samuel, in reference to the first part of Mr. Windle’s sentence.
“My wife and I will be pleased if you will come.”
Mr. Bishop’s face twitched with pleasure. He saw the opportunity of becoming better acquainted with his lordship; of mentioning one or two little alterations in his own parish which he had conceived and approved of, entirely on his own initiative.
“I shall be delighted,” he replied—“delighted. Sixty I think you said?” he added, as he commenced to pour the wine into the silver altar jug.
“If not more,” replied the other, departing to take his place in the Windle family pew.