Hello! I'm back with part three of the first chapter of At Home in Mitford! I hope you are enjoying it so far! (wait, didn't I say the very same thing last time? wow, so out of it.....) Here goes with part three.........
On rare occasions, and for no special reason he could think of, he imagined he was sitting by the fire in the study, in the company of a companionable wife. He would be reading, and she would be sitting across from him in a wing chair.
In this idyll, he could not see her face, but he knew it had a girlish sweetness, and she was always knitting. Knitting, he thought, was a comfort to the soul. It was regular. It was repetitious. And, in the end, it amounted to something.
In this dream, there was always a delectable surprise on the table next to his chair, and nearly always it was a piece of pie. In his bachelor's heart of hearts, he loved pie with an intensity that alarmed him. Yet, when offered seconds, he usually refused. "Wouldn't you like another piece of this nice coconut pie, Father?" he might be asked. "No, I don't believe I'd care for any more," he'd say. An outright lie!
In this imaginary fireside setting, he would not talk much, he thought. But now and then, he might speak of church matters, read Blake or Wordsworth aloud, and try a sermon outline on his companion.
That would be a luxury far greater than any homemade sweet-to have someone listen to his outline and nod encouragement, or, even, for heaven's sake, disagree.
Sometimes he shared an outline or argument with his close friend Hal Owen, the country vet. But in the main, he found that a man must hammer out his theology alone.
He was musing on this one evening, shortly after he'd been to the garage to give the black dog its supper, when he was surprised by a loud, groaning yawn form the vicinity of his own stockinged feet.
He was astounded to see the maverick dog lying next to his chair, gazing up at him.
"Blast!" he exclaimed. "I must have left the garage door open."
The usually gregarious dog not only appeared thoughtfully serene, but looked at him with an air of earnest understanding. How odd that the brown eyes of his companion were not unlike those of an old church warden he'd known as a young priest.
Feeling encouraged, he picked up a volume of Wordsworth from the table by his elbow.
"'It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,'" he read aloud.
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder, everlastingly.
The dog appeared to listen with deep interest. And when the rector finished reading the poem Wordsworth wrote for his young daughter, he moved happily along to an essay.
"'Life and the world,'" it bean without pretension, "'are astonishing things.'"
"No doubt about it," he muttered, as the dog moved closer to his feet.
Barnabas! he thought. That had been the old warden's name. "Barnabas," he said aloud in the still, lamp-lit room.
His companion raised his head, alert and expectant.
"Barnabas?" The dog seemed to blink in agreement, as the rector reached down and patted his head.
"Barnabas, then!" he said, with all the authority of the pulpit. The matter was settled, once and for all.
As he rose to put out the lights in the study, Barnabas got up also revealing a sigh that caused the rector to groan. There, on the worn Aubusson carpet, lay his favorite leather slippers of twenty years, chewed through to the sole.
"A puppy," pronounced Hal Owen, lighting his pie. "Not fully grown."
"How much bigger do you think? This much?" Father Tim extended his hands and indicated a small distance between them.
Hal Owen grinned and shook his head.
"This much?" He held his hands even further apart.
"Umhmm. About that much," said Hal.
Barnabas had settled in the corner by the rector's desk and was happily banging his tail against the floor.
Hal studied him with sober concentration as he puffed on his pipe. "A trace of sheep dog, looks like. A wide streak of Irish wolfhound. But mostly Bouvier, I'd say."
The rector sighed heavily.
"He'll be good for you, Tim. A man needs someone to talk to, someone to entertain his complaints and approve his foolishness. As far as background goes, I like what E.B. White said: 'A really companionable and indispensable dog is an accident of nature. You can't get it by breeding for it and you can't buy it with money. It just happens along.'"
"Well, he does like eighteenth-century poetry."
"See there?" Hal put on his tweed cap. "You bring Barnabas out to Meadowgate, and we'll give him a good run through the fields. Oh, and Marge will bake you a chicken pie. How would that suit you?"
It suited him more than he could express.
"I'm out of here. Have to check the teeth on Tommy McGee's horses and look up the rear of Harold Newland's heifer."
"I wouldn't want to trade callings with you, my friend."
"Nor I with you," said the vet, amiably.
"Ah.....what exactly shall I feed him?"
"Money," said Hal, without any hesitation. "Just toss it in there twice a day, and he'll burn it like a stove."
"That's what I was afraid of."
"Tell you what. I'll let you have his food in bulk, good stuff. It'll hardly cost you a thing. About like keeping a house cat."
"May the Lord bless you."
"Thank you, Tim, I can use it."
"May He cause His face to shine upon you!" he added with fervor.
"That would be appreciated," said Hal, pulling on his gloves. "I'll even see to his shots in a day or two."
Just then, they heard the sound of Emma Garrett's sensible shoes approaching the office door. And so did Barnabas.
With astonishing agility, he leapt over the rector's desk, skidded to the door on the Persian prayer rug, and stood on his hind legs, preparing to greet Emma.
Okay! I know, this is a long chapter! I'll be back soon with the last part!
Thanks for looking at my blog!