It was upon this graceful structure that Vera Nevill leant one foggy morning in the first week of November, and surveyed the church in front of her. She was not engaged in any sentimental musings appropriate to the situation. She was neither meditating upon the briefness of life in general, nor upon the many virtues of the ladies of the Crupps family, over whose remains she was standing. She was simply waiting for Jimmy Griffiths, and looking at the church because she had nothing else to look at. The church, indeed, afforded her some food for reflection, purely, I regret to state, of a practical and mundane character. It was a large and handsome building, with a particularly fine old tower, that was sadly out of repair; but the chancel was a modern and barn-like structure of brick and plaster, which ought, of course, to be entirely swept away, and a new and more appropriate one built in its stead. The chancel belonged, as most chancels do, to the lay rector, and the lay rector was Sir John Kynaston.
As soon as it became bruited abroad that Sir John was coming down to the old house for the winter, there was a general excitement throughout the parish, but no one partook of the excitement to a greater degree than did its worthy vicar.
It was the dream of Eustace Daintree’s life to get his church restored, and more especially to get the chancel rebuilt. There had been a restoration fund accumulating for some years, and could he have had the slightest assistance from the lay rector concerning the chancel, Mr. Daintree would assuredly have sent for the architect, and the builders, and the stone-cutters, and have begun his church at once with that beautiful disregard of the future chances of being able to get the money to pay for it, and with that sparrow-like trust in Providence, which is usually displayed by those clerical gentlemen who, in the face of an estimate which tells them that eight thousand pounds will be the sum total required, are ready to dash into bricks and mortar upon the actual possession of eight hundred. But there was the chancel! To leave it as it was whilst restoring the nave would have been too heart-rending; to touch it without Sir John Kynaston’s assistance, impossible and illegal. Several times Eustace Daintree had applied to Sir John in writing upon the subject. The answers had been vague and unsatisfactory. He would promise nothing at all; he would come down and see it some day possibly, and then he would be able to say more about it; meanwhile, for the present, things must remain as they were.
When, therefore, the news was known that Sir John was actually coming down, Mr. Daintree’s thoughts flew at once to his beloved church.
“Now we shall get the chancel done at last,” he said to his wife gleefully, rubbing his hands. And the very day after Sir John’s arrival Eustace went up to the Hall after dinner to see him upon the subject.
“Had you not better wait a day or two?” counselled his more prudent wife. “Wait till you meet him, naturally. You don’t very well know what kind of man he is, nor how he will take it.”