“Supernatural ‘er is,” Fred states firmly.   “A maj‘cal weazel, what ‘er is.  Both on‘em a‘d bet.”
“Chinese!” the Squire comments to Fred, once his feet become placed firmly on God’s solid ground.
“A‘d mak‘ sense,” Fred nods wisely.   “Both on‘em, then, maj‘cal weazels fer ‘t foreign lands.”
Chapter Seven
Sunday Morning
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Reverend Stanley could not swing a cat in his very small vestry.  He had stated this once to a dear lady and the utter horror that came upon her forbade forever any return of that uttered phrase.
Not that Reverend Victor Stanley wishes to swing a cat in his very small vestry, this remnant of stone work that has seen worship in St. Cuthbert’s the great Celtic priest’s time.
Reverend Stanley admired the Celts.  They came from the shadows of the older ones, those who built the Dolmen sites and the Cromlech stone circles.  These Celtic people took their spirituality as seriously as they took their bards’ words.  Now if only they had written their knowledge on some fabulous stone. Perhaps!  Ah!  What a wonderful perhaps!  Perhaps then we would all be Celtic Christians instead of that which we came from: Constantine perversion!
Reverend Stanley as he sits in his small vestry will dream he practises his faith within the monastery to which this monk’s meditation cell belonged.  There would have been many miracles: the Celtic world a world of miracles seen, experienced, not spoken as another had experienced.
The Celtic Christians reached back to the teachings of Joseph of Arimathea, the extremely rich merchant trader that came to Britain often, that brought Jesus with him on his vessel.  Trading in Bythford settlement, if that be its name then, would have been brisk.
Jesus taken outing to the moors, who knows.  Why, it might be he could have stood on this very ground that Vicar Stanley now stands.  It’s not unreasonable to think that a settlement might have been established by Jesus’ own words in this very spot.
Jesus believed in miracles.  Those who followed him and his words, saw how miracles would manifest around the great teacher.  Now, in today’s cluttered world, indeed in the world since the Roman rite was forced, so few accepted that miracles happen.  So few even believe there are such things as miracles.
But that’s the intention!  Those in church repeat the verses given in their books.  They know not from where the words come.  Might well they’re confused!  Remnants of truth, tattered pieces of cloth surrounded by coat after coat of covering of lies.  Why should anything make sense to those seeking spiritual knowledge from the church?
Those arrogant powers that debased Jesus’ teachings, retaining all that had been before: control of our lives, supremacy, kingships, overlords, their rules, their law. And most vile of all, having human brother kill human brother.
That is how our knowledge of religion comes to us.  One man kills another, it can be done in the name of Jesus.  All of Jesus turned to evil.
Just thinking of the sermon he is about to give makes Reverend Stanley’s stomach very sensitive.  Perusing the sermon he cannot but be concerned.  The Lord Bishop he is sure is not happy with his words.  Why else has he not been appointed Rector?
Why is he not Rector Stanley, instead of mere vicar, a person who can be dismissed at any moment, turned out of his vicarage, forced to wander the highways begging for a sou from any kind soul.
The vicar glances again at his sermon thinking he might omit an item here and there.  Who knows when an inquiry might be made to unseat him.  Vicar Stanley sighs.  Could he manage to squeeze into his sermon some words from the Bishop’s new book?  The Lord Bishop is such a stickler for Trinitarianism and it is all nonsense, a fostered explanation by the ‘Council’ to replace all that is real. Latitudinarian, just a few words!  Would Jesus do it?
No Jesus would not!  He must be a true pastor.  That is how Jesus would wish, he is sure.
He has to present his sermon, and if speaking out against war, speaking against this war, releases from their boundaries those who listen, he must proceed with it.
Would Jesus send soldiers to fight for gold?  For that is the cause that this war is really about: Gold for the empire, but really for the hidden power to have more power to buy more politicians to get people to pay more tax for their sons to be sent off to be killed.
The vicar glances down at the bracelet fragment he has placed upon his desk.  Near the old ruins out by the moors he found the bracelet lying.
It was a miracle he is sure, that morning when he’d the supernatural fancy to ride his horse to the ruins.  His horse had shied and he had almost been tossed off.  He had gotten down to see what had caused the disturbance. There it was, the bracelet.  Bronze age gold.  Two or three millennium of years before Great Jesus.
Supernatural occurrences!  As common then as they are now.  But who sees them today!  If only we would recognise them, give credence to that which is in all our lives!
He must be more like St. Cuthbert.  He must speak of that which is true.
The supernatural was alive with Jesus.  It is alive with us. The supernatural is everything that Jesus was, of his real teaching. Placing the small fragment in his hand, he holds it towards the light of his lamp.
The bracelet has come to him for a reason.  To inspire him!  Had that Soul which once worn this bracelet brought him to its presence?  Souls do live on, do for moments turn their attention to our world.
Lord Bishop or not, he has the moral caring of those who come to this church.  He has written this sermon and he will deliver it.
Benefices or not, Vicar Stanley, presently of the parish of St. Brannoc’s, must give his sermon.
. . .
Edward and his mother sink into the well-padded seats of the Double Brougham.  The way to St. Brannoc’s is always pleasant, but today exceptionally so.  The late spring forest is a portrait: fresh young leaves, buds purple and white intensifying an already green vista.
Lawrence, seated opposite them, his thoughts are upon the previous evening’s card playing.  Every raising of his father’s eyebrows kept Lawrence’s attention.  His play was the same!  That thought intrigued Lawrence.  A peculiar sensation to be playing with his father and his uncle.
Enid Coulter and himself had been winning much of the early moves.  Lawrence, hearing the silvered longcase give its tune - Turn again Dick Whittington - had glanced at the time on the moving face of the clock.  Nine when his mother is mentioned.
Here in the middle of cards Enid Coulter talks to this farmer about his mother: Caroline Keys!  “An incendiary melted part of the stone.  Bodies burnt clean away.  Bone fragments only.”
His father had looked peculiarly at his uncle, as he should. “Caroline, Ezekiel, Rachel Keys, they are dead. We cannot bring them back!”
When Lawrence, on a ride to Hartlepool, asked of his mother’s family, his uncle repeated the story he’d always told: They had died.  His mother had died.  The name Morton, his aunt’s maiden name, had been given him to take the place of her brother who died, an engineer working to construct railroad out in Central America.  He was to be the new Lawrence Morton.  A replacement for a brother who died without marrying.  “Your lot, the Keys, they all are dead.  We’ve told you that,” Angulse spat the words at him.”
Lawrence asked about his father, where he was.  “You will know soon enough where your dick comes from.” That laugh Angulse had given.  “And for asking I’ll be using my fine sharp dick of a crop on you.  I’ll not be sparing.”
His uncle had punished him when they were inside the high walls at Hartlepool by stripping him, tying him to a post, whipping him with his riding crop.  The thong lashes had bitten deep into his back.  Lawrence never asked about his parents again.
Why had his father not come for him?  Why had he abandoned him to Angulse Sherod, to the coven, to the foulness his uncle forced?
In the carriage a fierce, helpless anger sweeps over him. Still he aches to have his mother hold him, to have her touch him.
He will have it out with Bexfield.  He will kill him if there is no money offered.  He will steal what he can and with Bella they will be off.  To America he will go.
‘Anger is all you need, lad’
A flash of an image of Angulse, the turn of the lips, just enough to feign a smile.
‘Nothing to do about it, lad!  Nothing!  You know that.’
The powerlessness seeps back.
His thoughts bring the coven here.
He raises his hand to his eyes so those opposite won’t see. He cannot help the tears.  The carriage rumbles forward.
‘That’s right, lad!’
Lawrence picks up a stone, then another, and another. He’s at the auction exchange, a livestock market where his uncle holds financial interest.
The pig he hits with the stones, he watches the blood pour from the animal.
This pleases his uncle greatly.
‘Rage!  Feel it, lad!  Don’t it burn your insides!’
He will kill Bexfield if he is offered no money.
The carriage has halted.  Down the manor driveway they have come, the carriage turning so now they are outside the front doors.
The niece’s friend gets in, sits beside him.
The niece sits next to her.  The carriage door is shut.
A movement in his body.  A longing surges, a desire for some comfort.
‘Like her do you, lad!  Attractive, ain’t she!’
Lawrence shifts his position, covers himself with his hands.  His member has extended.
. . .
Miss Hooper is having a situation.  In the carriage on the way to St. Brannoc’s church, Miss Hooper to say the least is disconcerted. Shapanzi’s nose is wider, his brown, large eyes becoming wild.
Regular as a pin he performs his duty.  Their usual walk has Shapanzi stopping at each point of interest.  This morning however Shapanzi became so engrossed in his thoughts the wee one did nothing more than lift his small leg once and that for the most brief of moments.
The carriage waiting, her Ladyship calling, what choice did she have!
Oh my goodness, now a howl!
Miss Hooper does pride herself on her ability to handle any situation that might arise.  It was written right there on the paper sent as a first introduction of herself to her Ladyship: ‘Miss Hooper takes care of all situations.’ Lady Middleton remarked upon it.
With the strongest force Miss Hooper can command she attempts to divert Shapanzi’s aristocratic attention.  “See the new blossoms, Shapanzi,” she soothes, nudging his face towards the carriage window.  “How idyllic, is it not!”
A mournful howl ensues.  A howl much as one might associate with great sadness.  Or perhaps if there was a better truth, with great distress.
The Squire, the Magistrate, stares down at the sleeve dog. “Can you not do something, my dear?”  he asks her ladyship.
“Not long to go.”  A slight rustle of the dress tells of Lady Middleton’s own muted censure.  “Gladys suggested that perhaps we should give Shapanzi a ride to air the dear one’s mind.  Did you not, Gladys?”
“I did, your Ladyship,” answers Gladys meekly.
“At home in China, Ronald, a son of the Empress’s favourite, respect shown would be most imposing.”
“Yes,” Ronald is not going be dealt with this easily.  “But I understand it is a sleeve dog.  Is not the dear one capable of riding peacefully, and quietly I might add, in your sleeve?”
Should Miss Hooper suggest stopping the carriage?
Fumbling for and clutching at her vapour bottle, Miss Hooper cannot decide whether to raise it to her nose or not.  The thought of speaking of the situation makes her shudder.
Then the carriage passes the first cottages of Weatherby village. This, seeming more than a miracle, turns Miss Hooper into a ball of squeals.
“Look!  Oh dear, Shapanzi!  We are almost here.”  The high pitch of the companion’s words does get some attention.  A most exceptional, howl.
“Hush, hush, little one,” Miss Hooper begins to stroke the long silky coat, an action that brings upon the carriage new, very high, very screeching, wails.
Shapanzi and Miss Hooper’s tonal mingling has now reached a crescendo magnifique, something that only those in the carriage could appreciate.
Fortunately, the door is pulled open.  An upside down jump, a dash through Fred’s legs, who, not expecting the cartwheel event, and the sensation between his trousers, turns completely around to stare at the animal running off, disappearing into the bushes.
Fred is of the country and he knows weasels.  Weasels bring dead young back to life — and they don’t always come back as you’d expect.  That dog is a returned weasel, he’d stake his life on it.
Miss Hooper, waiting for not an instant more of delay, pushes against the staring Fred as she attempts to alight.
The carriage door creaks.  Fred, uttering undecipherable, strange wording, grabs hold of the, some might say, howling Miss Hooper, stabilizes her.
Mr. Hews, Lady Middleton and the Squire sit numbly while the dear companion lady vanishes, swallowed by a cloud, a large church gravestone.
“Supernatural ‘er is,” Fred states firmly.  “A maj’cal weazel, what ‘er is.  Both on’em a’d bet.”
Lady Middleton, recovering, comments: “They have no intention of coming into the church, Ronny.  Gladys and Shapanzi plan a leisurely stroll through the church grounds. An opportunity for them both to examine the older stones, Gladys told me.”
“Chinese!”  the Squire comments to Fred, once his feet become placed firmly on God’s solid ground.
“A’d mak’ sense,” Fred nods wisely.  “Both on’em, then, maj’cal weazels fer ‘t foreign lands.”
. . .
A clatter and the arriving Mandalmane carriage pulls up. “A pleasant morning, Squire,” Enid Coulter takes the hand of the young footman.
“One would hope it will remain so this time of year, Enid,”
Annabell and Emily step out of the carriage, followed by Edward and his friend Lawrence.
The Squire holds out his arm to Annabell.  “You will allow me to escort you.”
The parade along the pathway towards the church commences: Annabell and the Magistrate, Enid Coulter and Mr. Hews, Edward Coulter and Lady Middleton, Emily and Lawrence.
“The final banns this morning, my dear.”
Annabell glances up at the church’s old, weathered steeple. “I’m ready uncle.”
Reverend Stanley when he had last spoken with them in the vestry had given Edward and herself a history of the church.
The church at first built of wood, it is not known when the small vestry built of stone came into being.  Old monk’s land, the vicar said, the monk’s quarters also built of wood.
The lavatorium where they washed, the scriptorium where the scribes would be busy copying from the older works, all would be of wood.  The stone monastery and church when they were built would have been grand for these parts.  More grand when St. Brannoc’s was rebuilt to that which it is now.
Annabell asked if the inside of this St. Brannoc’s would be when first built as it is today.  Vicar Stanley had shaken his head.  In those times churches had paint of the brightest of colours.  Some of this older paint remains on the walls of St. Brannoc’s, though now faded.
It was the fashion, to distinguish the church from the houses that had little or no added colour.  Churches had walls of brilliant carotene red.  Lemon yellow, anthocyanin and indigo blue painted as stripes, a myriad of designs.  The green tints were of the sea and forest.
Passing under the Gargoyle at the entrance, Annabell gazes up. She remembers when young asking her uncle why they were so ugly.  “To keep bad spirits away.  To protect us.”  He had clasped her hand tightly as he was doing now.
The Squire has protected her.  She cannot think of any really bad thing that has happened to her since, mama and papa were killed.
As they step under the small portico, words decorate the doorway.  She had asked her uncle as to their meaning. Vicar Stanley had been brought to answer:
Here stands the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church outside of which neither be salvation nor remission of sin.

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Along the aisle Annabell and her uncle and those behind proceed. A coin is pressed into the hands of the worthy widow who takes care of the pews, Mrs.  Brinson.  On the left the Magistrate’s pew. To the right Mandalmane pew ready for Enid and Edward Coulter and Mr. Morton.
Constance, Emily, Arthur join the Squire and Annabell.
Moving up the aisle come farmers and villagers, tenantry of the surrounding estates, all have been waiting for Miss Samson and Mr. Coulter for it is their final banns to be read today.
When settled the organ begins to play:
Praise my soul the King of Heaven, to His feet they tribute bring.

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The choir entering through the vestibule into the nave, Mr. Pegrin, the choir master and also verger, holding high his virge, all stand. Hidden behind a cloud, the sun starts to beam though the panes, the whole assemblage covered with orange, ruby, blue opal.
At the chancel, the verger and choir stepping between the low wooden side lattice into their choir pews, Vicar Stanley, a thin, tall man, follows behind with his Bible.
Kneeling, head bowed in front of the sanctuary altar, he rises, turns, takes the steps into the pulpit.
A hymn sung in which both the choir and congregation participate:
The King of love my shepherd is Whose goodness faileth never I nothing lack if I am His

And He is mine for ever

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The six verses completed Vicar Stanley beams at those below: “Good morrow to you all.”
Many return a warm, “Good morrow, Vicar.”
Reverend Stanley opens his clergy Bible.  A paper placed between the Banns page has the full names of Edward and Annabell scribbled from the Banns Register in the vestry. “An announcement of intended marriage, third reading:
I, Stanley, Vicar of St. Brannoc church Weatherby, do publish the Banns of Marriage between Mr. Edward, Samuel, Richard Coulter and Miss Annabell, Louise, Jane, Samson, both of this parish.

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If any of you know cause or just impediment, or whoever is morally certain either by their own knowledge or through reliable persons of an impediment by consanguinity, affinity, previous marriage or other situation why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony ye are by conscience and by law bound to declare it. This is the final time of asking.

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The vicar waits a fitting moment.  No call of contention, the vicar smiles first at Annabell seated by her uncle, then to the epistle side, at Edward situated next to his mother.  “A few words to all at this time.  Agreement of which two people make individually and with love to marry is the most important agreement these two people will make, next to their divine attachment.”
The Reverend sighs, sets his Bible upon the underneath pulpit ledge, opens the larger Bible to the designated psalm:
The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

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There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.

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The psalm is read, then a piece from the Gospel of Mark. The congregation stand to sing a canticle.  Then the second reading is given and now the hymn, ‘Now Thank We All Our God.’
Now Thank We All Our God

With heart and hand and voices

Who wondrous things have done

In whom his world rejoices;

Who from our mothers’ arms

Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love

And still is our today.

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After a soaring performance of which the congregation always delights, the vicar has reached the moment where he is about to give his sermon.  Coughing throughout the church completed, he begins:
“A new coupling of the faithful soon to begin their lives together,” the vicar’s stance in the pulpit shifts slightly.
“ ‘Faithful,’ what does that mean?  To whom?  To what?”
Bringing forth his given easy-going smile, Vicar Stanley continues:
“There is much we do not understand about Jesus.  How do we postulate the thoughts of Jesus?  We understood his simple words, yes!  It is Jesus words that we are most taken with.  But that which most enthrals, that which holds for you reason to be seated here today, are his miracles: changing of water into wine, visitation to Lazarus’ grave, the feeding baskets that never seemed to have less food.
“So many words are presented to us in the gospels.  Most of them not of Jesus.  If I speak of Merlin we think of legend.  Dragon killings and St. George, fairies, goblins, even that which Paracelsus has given us, the Gnomus are part of legend.
“St. Cuthbert believed in that which has intelligence outside our normal vision.
“The Celts believed in beings that live alongside us. Who help in their existence to maintain a balance of life.  So did Celtic Christians believe in beings that live alongside us.
“Magic all around us!  Is not Life itself magic?  Plants are magic.  A newborn babe is magic.  We humans are magic. Our very bodies are magic.  How often to we cast a thought to magic that is our body!
“We are from the apes, has become a popular theory.
“But where do the apes come?  Why are the apes still apes if we came from them?  Is that not someone’s idea that we came from the ape?  Some creation of the mind of a human that many accept is science?  Some say everything came from the sea.  They have proof they say. I would say they believe they have proof.  All they have is legend, a legend much less real than fairies.  But where did the sea come from?  Oh!  that is made from how we understand. We understand water is brought together from elements.
“Where does energy that has us continue our life come from?
“Jesus’ name has been invoked these nineteen centuries for causes far removed from Jesus’ words.  Popes, cardinals, bishops, monks, priests all have given as to how life should, not only should but must be lived.  Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin, different but not so different.
“John Calvin considered warfare good.  He considered killing and butchery of men women and children, good?
“Torture is good!  Burning of people is good!”
The vicar’s gaze roams over the church.  “Many indeed have been the interpretations of Jesus’ declared words. His simple meanings, changed, perverted.  Those who follow as they believe Jesus thought, follow a creed as opposite to that which, even in the gospels is allowed to be stated.
“Throughout our Christian history one has to question the very meaning of Christian.  Since the first Councils, declaring laws, rules we must follow, we’ve been allowed to do the most despicable of deeds in the name of the king, the pope, the bishop, the religious leader of any grouping, the politicians.  Encouraged to do these despicable horrendous deeds in Jesus’ name.
“So where do we, you and I, place our analysis.  ‘Oh! Vicar,’ you say.  ‘As laypersons how can we dare to examine the edicts of the great Councils!’ Is this not precisely his message, that we do not follow law and stipulation that another human, a group of humans have in their ignorance declared we must follow?
“‘Oh no, vicar,’ you will say.  ‘We have rules to follow. “We have laws to obey.  Those in superior positions dictate those rules.  We merely follow.’”
Vicar Stanley glances towards a stained window image: Jesus with a halo of gold surrounding his head.
“‘Thou shalt not kill,’ is the sixth commandment,” the vicar booms out.  “That came to us long before Jesus.
“As a community, we kill every day.  In the southern tip of Africa right now someone is killing in our country’s name.  We are paying for that killing with our taxes.
“’War is different,’ someone will say.  ‘In war we are allowed to kill.  We must kill.’  Did Jesus ever say that?
“Have I missed that pronouncement in the holy texts?”
Vicar Stanley picks up his sermon sheets so he can read his writing more clearly.
Fæder, thu the on heofonum eardast, Geweorethad wuldres dreame, Sy thinum weorcum halgad

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“In the Exeter Book, Codex Exoniensis, that is how the Lord’s Prayer begins.  Now the Geneva Bible translation:
Thy kingdome come.

Thy will be done euen in earth, as it is in heauen.

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“Human against human.  Position and structure.  Money and power reigning.  Killing sanctified.
“All craftily wrangled by determined solicitors, agreed by judges. Legal wording of ill used as law.
“Righteous is to kill!  Approved!  Half a world away we utilize this right to kill, for land, for gold.”
The Vicar looks again to the image of Jesus on the tinted glass window.  “And so we follow this evil, for evil it surely is.  We follow the oft repeated words of those seemingly elected by us, people who in their ignorance or fealty obey interests of those who remain unspoken to us, hidden from our view.
“The interest of the common farmer or indeed of the city dweller that has little money to pour into the coffers of the politicians, disregarded.  Without power, without riches, we are nothing. Nothing to them!
Thy kingdome come.

Thou will be done, Do as thou woudst on earth, as 'tis done in heauen.

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The Vicar wipes his forehead with his kerchief.  “And what will all this have been for, my dear ones.  Evil is never satiated.  Please rise for a hymn.”
. . .
“Shapanzi!”  Some harm might have overtaken the little detective.  Shapanzi, are you there?”  Not even the smallest of a yelp as a response.
Such a sense of uneasiness Miss Hooper is having.  Is it the gravestones?
‘Oh!  Woe that Mr. Sherlock Holmes is no longer here!’ That has been Miss Hooper’s lamentation for some time.
If Mr. Holmes had not fallen into that chasm he would be here. He would know her distress.
Miss Hooper shudders thinking of Mr. Holmes.  So many cases the poor man, it is sheer impudence of her to always think of him. Why, Lady Middleton herself within distance to call.  A quick scream and the church itself emptied.
Since Mr. Holmes’ disappearance, Miss Hooper has had issues with the supposed truth.  Articles placed by reporters misinformed, printed by equally misinformed editors.  Some have stated that Mr. A. Conan Doyle is ‘the author’ of Mr. Holmes’ adventures when everyone knows Mr. Doyle is the pseudonym for Mr. Holmes.
All very famous geniuses have to retreat into fictitious alias at times.  Everyone knows that.
The violin player, the boxer, the swordsman, the chemist, dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes, dear Dr. Watson his companion and chronicler, she will never allow those of the supposed, esteemed newspapers to beguile her.
What a fabrication, a cacophony of nonsense!  Mr. A. Conan Doyle is the pseudonym of Mr. Holmes. Unthinkable that reporters and editors do not know this. Miss Hooper knows this!  These newspapers do know this!  They do!  They just twist their twaddle to sell their print!
Miss Hooper has taken to calling Shapanzi, ‘her little detective.’  He might be on a case right now, she thinks.
Oh!  Yes!  That is very reassuring.
With Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson engaged in deeper, far more dangerous situations, Shapanzi has taken upon himself the lighter cases.
There have been reports recently that ‘Mr. A. Conan Doyle’ is now working as a physician in a field hospital in southern Africa. As his cover, the great Mr. Sherlock Holmes is winning the war with the Boers.
My goodness, when Mr. Holmes returns, the public will be clamouring, just clamouring for more of his stories. Dr. Watson will be so busy.  Indeed years of stories to be published.
Miss Hooper clutches her bag with her salts.  She really does feel quite light headed.
Shapanzi, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson working together! What a most thrilling team.
Miss Hooper espying a seat by a stone, decides it will be best for her to rest.
“Shapanzi!”  she calls.  “Shapanzi!”   There are older gravestones beyond.  She wonders if he might have gone to those.
Shapanzi doing his detective work.  Off at the back, to the graveyard where the path curves.
‘Departed has the small one.’ Miss Hooper smiles.  She has made a pun.  Not one of her best, but it will suffice.
Yes, departed is how she will speak of it when she catches up with the wee detective.  Shapanzi has departed into a world of departed.
Oh!  What fun!  What repartee!  Oh!  the words are flowing from her.  Shapanzi will be as a returning revenant, she will say.  Shapanzi will be most impressed with her wit.
Miss Hooper has just had a momentous thought.  Only when Shapanzi is at his most serious does he not respond to her call.  He must be on a trail.
“Shapanzi,” Miss Hooper places her hand above her eyes as she searches.
Miss Hooper has visited 221b Baker Street.  She did not stay long. Mr. Holmes would not wish it, nor would Dr. Watson.  Attract a crowd and then what do you have!
Hansoms rattling through the rain splashing everything, it was a dreadful day.  She could picture Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson through the brick.  The warm bright coal flames burning upon the hearth.
She had taken the electric underground railroad to visit them. Alighting at the Baker Street station, she had quickly made her way to 221b.
His violin was out of its case, she is most assured of it. His pipe lay upon the table.  His Persian slippers by his chair.
On her return to the electric underground railroad, she had waited upon the Metropolitan Line platform thinking that it would not be long before the Metropolitan Line would be renamed:   ‘The Great Mr. Sherlock Holmes Line.’  Or something similar.
Perhaps the most important man in all of history, he should indeed have that small honour.
There was one thing that surprised her as outside 221b she stood. Dr. Watson’s name had been stamped on the door next for all to see.  Artificial teeth manufacturer, the address also disclosed.
There has to be subterfuge, she supposes.  Of course, nothing is as it seems.  With these two men that is how it should be.  Such busy dedicated men cannot be disturbed in their work of opposing Moriarty in all of his latest deviltry.
Staring beyond into the older graves, Shapanzi suddenly pops out from behind an exceedingly large crypt.
“Shapanzi, my dear.”  Watching her detective as his bright young eyes gaze at her, she has great certainty some significant interest has been discovered.
Miss Hooper raises herself from the stone seat.
Just before she catches up to him, Shapanzi begins running around in a circle.  A ridge of fur stands quite distinctly along his back.
Then he dashes off.
Miss Hooper is quite in a quandary as to what he is telling her?
A high and thick gorse hedge hides where he has gone.
She must follow him.
. . .
Vicar Stanley smiles.
“Good sermon, Vicar.”
A vigorous shaking of the hand to the gentleman slowly exiting the church,
“Enjoyed your talk, Reverend.”
Vicar Stanley nods.
“A little above me today, Vicar.”
Vicar Stanley considers a short comment.  Decides against it.
“Them miracles, Vicar!”  the person stands there, doesn’t say anything more.
“Come and see me at the vicarage!”
“Aye!  Aye!  That I will, Vicar.  That I will!”
Arthur emerges from the high-church, incense smoke still lingering.
“Mr. Hews, very grand to see you.  I was sorry to hear about your wife.”
“Henrietta would have been pleased had she been here.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“She talks to me, you know.”
Vicar Stanley smiles.  “Yes.”
Constance and Enid follow: “I understand some matters with the forthcoming bride and groom, Reverend Stanley?”
“Indeed so, Lady Middleton.  I would invite you all to the old vestry, but it will barely swing a...”
“I said to Enid we can take a short walk.”  Constance turns to Enid for confirmation.
The vicar pats Mrs. Coulter’s hand.  “I hope Æthelred is doing well at the school.”
“Mr. Deegan has said he makes an excellent assistant.”
“Æthelred is a versed young man.”
As the last of the congregation emerge from the nave, the Squire, Annabell, Edward, Lawrence, and Emily, with murmurings of ‘This won’t take long,’ form a procession behind the vicar towards his vestry.
Past a blackened coal chute, down steps many centuries worn, they descend to a carved door pushed open by the vicar.  Even Annabell and Emily have to stoop to get into the vaulted small room.
A tiny latticed window has always intrigued the Squire, Latin etched into the stone around the window.
“This was one of the old monastic sleeping, meditating cells,” Vicar Stanley observes for the benefit of the young people.  “It would be for someone of importance.  Most would have slept in a dorter, a sleeping chamber that held a number of beds.  After first sleep the monks would arise at two to participate in the first service.  During second sleep they would meditate, perhaps read a little and briefly doze before getting up for Lauds.”
Vicar Stanley opens his diary.  “About the rehearsal, I can of course be available sooner, but if it is convenient will Friday afternoon be suitable for all?”
The Reverend glances at Annabell and Emily, then at Edward and Lawrence.  He looks at the Squire.
“Fine with me, Vicar.  I am not going into Biddiford if that is your concern.  I’ve had someone come down from London.  I am taking a protracted rest.  As of last week, I’m free all days.”
“What time would you suggest we meet?”  Edward asks.
“Perhaps five, if everyone can make that time?  I have my rounds of the elderly on Fridays, but I could be finished by three or four if necessary.”
Edward looks at Lawrence who is staring out the small window. “Five o’clock would be fine with us, Vicar.”
Annabell laughs.  “Emily and I will be here, Vicar.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” the Squire smiles at his niece.
“Friday at five then.  Now, if I can have a word with the bride and groom.  Five minutes at the most that is all.”
Edward and Annabell watching the bobbing of heads of those exiting, turn back to the vicar.  “I need to make sure all details are correct for registry,” the vicar opens a larger leather bound volume on his desk, glances at a page he has inserted.  Mr. Edward Samuel Richard Coulter, born July 6, 1878.  Your parents names are Edgar Francis Coulter and Enid Sensor Coulter.”
“That is correct, Reverend.”  Edward nods.
“Miss Annabell Louise Jane Samson, born September 30th 1881. Your parents names are Herbert Harry Samson and Belinda Mary Samson.
“Yes,” Annabell also nods.
“Mr. Coulter you are twenty-two on Saturday.  Miss Samson, you are nineteen on Saturday.  Mr. Coulter you reside at Mandalmane, Oath Highway.  Miss Samson you reside at the Stonebridge Manor, Oath Highway.  Mr. Coulter you are manager of the Coulter Estate.  Miss Annabell, your guardian is Squire Bexfield, magistrate at Biddiford.”
The Vicar looks up at them.  Seeing no contention he proceeds, “This that I am about to say is embarrassing but please grant me your forgiveness.  In my duties the church require that I mention such before registering.” The vicar stares at them.  “For a valid marriage there are three formal requirements and I must make sure that you are aware of these requirements.
“The first is that a marriage has to be a legal monogamous union, that neither of you have already by law married, or if you have, that the spouse has passed from this world, or in some way has been legally annulled.  A requirement also that the marriage is a voluntary union of both the groom and the bride.  The third requirement is that when you take your vows, the marriage is intended as union for life.”
The vicar then glances specifically at another piece of paper, a very worn piece of paper, he has placed inside the leather volume.
“The church also tells me this is what I must do.”  The vicar holds up his hands.  “But I have to tell you I do not agree with it.  The understanding...  well I have to say... is a question that I should inquire, a rather indelicate question.”
“What is it Vicar,” asks Edward.
“It is regarding the nuptial evening.”  The vicar stares somewhat askance at Annabell, holds up his hands.  “But I protest, my dears. I have decided this minute not to ask such a question.”  He smiles. “I believe prying is not suitable in this new... for our modern times.”
It is Annabell who speaks.  “You have an indelicate question to ask, vicar?  From the church.  A requirement of the church, Reverend Stanley?”
“Yes, Miss Samson.”
“Then ask it, Vicar.  Both Edward and myself, we do wish to make sure everything is correct.”
“Are you sure, Miss Samson?”
Annabell laughs.  “I could not leave your vestry without you asking it now, Reverend.”
The vicar glances at Edward, who nods.
“Very well.  An old custom of the church, its purpose does have merit, let us say, for those who have been very protected.  I am asked to inquire if the two intending have become familiar with the natural consummation practice.”
The vicar’s face has become somewhat reddened.  “I am specifically to inquire of the lady as to whether she remains a virgin and if so to suggest she might have need of woman’s counsel.”  The vicar holds his hands together. “I do not wish any answer.  Now I have spoken, such a matter is over.”
Reverend Stanley stands staring at them.  “Dear Mr. Coulter, my dear Miss Samson, as a vicar of Christ, this I do speak to you from my heart.  I wish you to know, both of you, that I am available should you wish to speak with me.  At any time.  I do take my work here seriously.  I do like to think that I am a good servant. As such I am at your service.”
“Thank you, Vicar,” Annabell gives the Reverend her most disarming smile, takes hold of his clasped hands, pats them.
Edward, noting Annabell’s actions, steps to shake the Vicar’s hand: “Thank you, sir.”
“The modern service you have picked is most lovely,” the vicar nods.  “I am so excited to be able to participate in such a service with you.”
. . .
Miss Hooper is not quite sure if she has fallen from the stone where she had been seated?  She cannot remember picking herself up from where she would have been upon the ground.
All now in her sight is amber, yet at times a hint of pink. Each grave marking, each stonework, seems to glow.
Has she entered a forbidden world?  Is this no longer the church grounds that she had trod? Miss Hooper, her feathered hat, her dark brown jacket, white satin blouse with lace ruffling, follows diffidently along the path that she believes the small one, Shapanzi, has taken.  A cawing somewhat unnatural sound of the raven is affecting her.
Then a cat’s meow?
‘I’m on sacred ground,’ she repeats to herself.  ‘This world or the next!’
Eyes glancing to the left, to the right, her reassurance is not all it should be.  A solemn silence runs through the air.  The cawing has ceased, as indeed the wailing meow.
Making her way along the dirt path, sinking sometimes into hollows in the uneven ground, her heart does at last rise.  Only yards in front of her is the little Chinese image.
‘What a brightness all around us, Shapanzi,’ she calls to him.  ‘Do you know what it could mean!’  Her dear detective.  He waits by a stone where he has stopped
Beside him, an apparition it might be, comes forward in the light, a white cat.  Miss Hooper freezes at sight of the cat which does not move.
Shapanzi howls.
Miss Hooper tosses her head for all seems to swirl about her. Forcing herself as if through the light, she looks down to where Shapanzi is waiting.
Upon the stone of the grave are words:
HERE LIES EZEKIEL ELY KEYS BORN Eighteen hundred forty two

RACHEL SARA KEYS BORN Eighteen hundred forty three

CAROLINE MARY KEYS BORN Eighteen hundred sixty

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. Kewe.info
Energy comes upon her as her mind absorbs.  The raven is not more than ten feet above circling.


The Game - The Enslavement Dream. Kewe.info
“Caw, caw, caw.  Caw, caw, caw,” the raven cries.
July Ten   Eighteen hundred seventy eight Anno Domini


The Game - The Enslavement Dream. Kewe.info
Miss Hooper bends to pick up the little Chinese bundle pressing against her leg.   Fondling the warmth of his tiny body, exultation comes over her.  Something has taken place here.
Something of portentousness that Shapanzi and she needs to know.
The cold of the small one’s nose touching her skin, she stares about her.
Raven and white cat have gone.
The headstone, its words remain.
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