The excitement was rising within her—a steady torrent lifting to the flood. Janet watched its progress steadily in her eyes. When it reached this point, she adroitly changed the current of her thoughts.
“What did your father do?” she asked with interest.
Sally looked up and the expression in her eyes changed.
“Have I never told you?”
“He consecrated too much wine one Easter Sunday where he was taking a locum tenens—and afterwards, when he had to drink it—it went to his head.”
She told it so seriously that Janet was driven to choke the rush of laughter rising within her.
“Why did he have to drink it?” she asked.
“They have to. Consecrated wine mustn’t be kept.”
“But why not? Does it go bad?”
“Janet! No—but, don’t you see?—they do keep it in the Roman Catholic Church—on the altar—that’s why the little red lamp is always burning in front. That’s why the people bow when they first come into the church. And don’t you see they’re afraid in the Anglican Church, that if the Bread and Wine were kept, people might venerate it as the real Presence, which of course it isn’t.”
“I couldn’t tell you.”
“Then he had to drink it all himself?”
“Why didn’t he get somebody to help him?”
“He did try. He asked the warden—but the warden was a total abstainer.”
Janet looked sternly out of the window.
“Then he asked a man he saw outside the church—but he was apparently an atheist. At any rate, he didn’t believe in that.”
“P’raps he thought the wine wasn’t good?” Janet suggested.
“Oh no—he offered to drink it; but of course as he didn’t believe—”
“Didn’t believe in what? He believed it was wine, didn’t he?”
“Oh yes—but he didn’t believe in the Communion. So father had to drink it himself. And then, the Bishop came into the vestry and found him.”
“What happened then?”
“Nothing then—but a few months later, he was appointed to the chaplaincy of a Union—of course a much smaller position than the one he had occupied.”
“Didn’t they give any reasons?”
“Oh yes—in a sort of a way. They said that they thought the rectorship of Cailsham was rather too responsible a post for him. They asked him to accept the other in such a way that it would have been hard to refuse. Of course, they couldn’t actually turn him out. But mother hated him for going. It was soon after we left there that I came up to you in London. They were getting so poor. My brother couldn’t be kept up at Oxford. The governess had to go. Father died not long after I left. I know what he died of. They called it a general break-up.”
“Oh—I know that,” said Janet. “There’s the shot-gun prescription—all the pharmacopoeia ground into a pill and fired down the patient’s throat. It must hit something. That general break-up is the double-barrelled diagnosis. You believe it was the resignation of the rectorship that finished him.”