Thursday, February 21, 2013

At Home in Mitford-Barnabas-Part Two

Hello! I'm back with Part Two of the first chapter of At Home in Mitford! I hope you are enjoying it so far! Here goes...........................


Nearly every weekday at 6:45 a.m., he made calls at the hospital, then had breakfast at the Grill and walked to the church office. For the rest of the morning, he studied, wrote letters, made telephone calls, and administrated his parish of nearly two hundred.
      At noon, he walked to the Grill for lunch or, if it was raining, snowing or sleeting, ate half of Emma's usual egg salad sandwich and shared her Little Debbies.
     In the afternoon until four he worked on his sermon, counseled, and generally tidied up the affairs of his calling. "A place for everything and everything in its place," he was known to quote from Proverbs.
    At times, he was saddened by never having married and raised a family of his own. But, he had to admit, being a bachelor left him far more time for his parish family.
     On Thursday afternoon, he was going home with a basket that a member of the Altar Guild had delivered, containing home-canned green beans, a jar of pickle relish, and a loaf of banana bread. He put his notebook on top, and covered the whole lot with a draft of Sunday's church bulletin.
    "Red Riding Hood," he mused, as he took the key from the peg.
He stepped out and locked the door behind him, dropping the heavy key into his pocket. Then he turned around and stared in disbelief.
     Coming toward him at an alarming rate of speed was something he hoped he'd never lay eyes on again.
                It was the great leaping, licking, mud-caked dog.
For several days, the dog seemed to appear out of nowhere. Once, when he was walking down Old Church Lane to meet the plumber at Lord's Chapel. Again, when he was planting a border of lavender along the walkway to the rectory. Yet again, when he went to The Local to get milk and sweet potatoes. And on two occasions, as he was leaving the Grill. 
    The meeting in the church lane had been fairly uneventful. After an enthusiastic hand licking and a vigorous leap that had nearly knocked him to the ground, he'd been able to repulse his attacker with a loud recitation of his laundry list. By the time he got to the socks-three pairs white, four pairs black, one pair blue-the dog had wandered into the cemetery at the rear of the churchyard, and disappeared.
       The meeting at the lavender bed, however, had been another matter.
He was kneeling in sober concentration on a flagstone, when suddenly he felt two large paws on his shoulders. Instantly, such a drenching bath was administered to his left ear that he nearly fainted with surprise.
        "Good Lord!" shouted the rector, who had gone crashing into a flat of seedlings. He had not, however, been thrown clear of his trowel.
 He turned around and raised it, as if to strike a fearsome blow, and was surprised to see the dog stand on its hind legs with a look of happy expectation.
   Spurred by some odd impulse, he threw the trowel as far as he could. The excited creature bounded after it, giving forth a joyful chorus of barks, and returned to drop the trowel at the rector's feet.
  Feeling speechless over the whole incident, he threw the trowel again, and watched the dog fetch it back. He was amazed that he was able to stand there and continue such a foolish thing for twenty minutes. Actually, he realized, he hadn't known what else to do.
   At the Grill one morning, he asked around. "Has anybody ever seen that big, black do before?"
"You mean th' one that's taken a likin' to you?" asked Percy Mosely. "We never laid eyes on 'im 'til about a week or two ago. A couple of times, he come by here like a freight train. But anybody tries to catch 'im, he's gone, slick as grease."
    "We tried to feed 'im," said Percy's wife, Velma, "but he won't eat Percy's cookin'."
"Ha, ha," said Percy, who was working six orders of hash browns. "You ought to lay hold of 'im sometime when he's chasin' you, and call th' animal shelter," suggested Velma.
  "In the first place," said Father Tim, "it is impossible to lay hold of that particular dog. And in the second place, I have no intention of sending him to what could be his final doom." In the third place, he thought, that dog never chased me. I always stood my ground!
   "Well, he's sitting out there waiting for you, right now," observed Hessie Mayhew, who had stopped in on her way to the library, with an armful of overdue books.
    The rector raised up from his seat in the booth and looked through the front window. Yes, indeed. He saw the creature, staring soulfully into the Grill.
     He couldn't help thinking that it was oddly flattering to have someone waiting for him, even if it was a dog. Emma had said for years that he needed a dog or a cat, or even a bird. But no, not once had he ever considered such a thing.
      "We ought to call th' shelter," insisted Percy, who thought that a little action would brighten the morning. "They'll be on 'im before you get down t'your office."
    The rector discreetly put a piece of buttered toast in a napkin and slipped it into his pocket. "Let's wait on that, Percy," he said, walking to the door.
  He stood there for a moment, composing himself. Then he opened the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

The village of Mitford was set snugly into what would be called, in the west, a hanging valley. That is, the mountains rose steeply on either side, and then sloped into a hollow between the ridges, rather like a cake that falls in the middle from too much opening of the oven door.
     According to a walking parishioner of Lord's Chapel, Mitford's business district was precisely 342 paces from one end to the other.
      At the north end, Main Street climbed a slight incline, and circled a town green that was bordered by a hedge of hemlocks and anchored in the center by a World War II memorial. The green also contained four benches facing the memorial and, in the spring, a showy bed of pansies, which on faction claimed was the official town flower.
        Directly to the left of the green was the town hall, and next to that, the First Baptist Church. Set into the center of its own display of shrubs and flowers on the front bank was a wayside pulpit permanently bearing the Scripture verse John 3:16, which the members had long ago agreed was the pivotal message of their faith.
       To the right of the green, facing Lilac Road, was the once-imposing home of Miss Rose and Uncle Billy Watson, whose overgrown yard currently contained two chrome dinette chairs which they used while watching traffic circle the monument.
            Visitors who walked the two-block stretch of the main business district were always surprised to find the shops spaced so far apart, owing to garden plots that flourished between the buildings. In the loamy, neatly edged beds were wooden signs:
                                Garden Courtesy of Joe's Barber Shop, Upstairs to Right
                                Take Time To Smell The Roses, Courtesy Oxford Antiques
                                A Reader's Garden, Courtesy Happy Endings Bookstore
"Mitford," observed a travel feature by a prominent newspaper, "is a village delightfully out of step with contemporary America. Here, where streets are named for flowers, and villagers can seek the shade of a dozen fragrant rose arbors, spring finds most of the citizenry, including merchants, making gardens.
        "........and while Mitford's turn-of-the-century charm and beauty attract visitors like bees to honeysuckle, the town makes conscious effort to discourage serious tourism. "'We want people to come and visit,' says Mayor Esther Cunningham, 'but we're not real interested in having them stick around. The college town of Wesley, just fifteen miles away, is perfect for that. They've got the inns and guest houses and all. Mitford would simply like to be the pause the refreshes.'"
             Going south on Main Street to Wisteria Lane were the post office, the library, a bank, the bookstore, Winnie Ivey's Sweet Stuff Bakery, and a new shop for men's furnishings.
    There was also a grocery store, so well-known for its fresh poultry and produce from local sources that most people simply called it The Local. For thirty-six years, The Local had provided chickens, rabbits, sausage, hams, butter, cakes, pies, free-range eggs, jams, and jellies from a farming community in the valley, along with vegetables and berries in season. In summer, produce bins on the sidewalk under the green awnings were filled each day with Silver Queen corn in the shuck. And in July, pails of fat blackberries were displayed in the cooler case.
          To the left of Main Street, Wisteria Lane meandered past the Episcopal rectory, whose back door looked upon the green seclusion of Baxter Park, and then climbed the hill to the Presbyterians.
   To the right of Main, Wisteria led only to Wesley Chapel, a tiny Methodist church that stood along the creek bank in a grove of pink laurel and was known for the sweetness of its pealing bells.
    The second and only other business block of Main Street was lined with a hardware store, a tea shop, a florist, an Irish woolen shop, and an antique shop, with gardens in between.
   Next, Main was crossed by Old Church Lane, rising steeply on the left to Church Hill Drive, where the ruined foundation of Mitford's first Episcopal church stood in the tall grass of the upland meadow near Miss Sadie Baxter's Fernbank.
       At the opposite end of the lane was Lord's Chapel, which stood between two vacant lots. After passing the church, which was noted for its fine Norman tower and showy gardens, the lane narrowed to a few comfortable houses on the bank of a rushing stream, where Indians Pipes were said to grow in profusion.
      As the streets and lanes gave way to countryside and sloped toward the deeper valley, the rolling farmland began. Here, pastures were stocked with Herefords and Guernseys; lakes were filled with trout and brim; barnyards succored chattering guineas. And everywhere, in town or out, was the rich, black loam that made the earthworm's toil one of unending satisfaction.


That's all for today-but I'll be back soon with more!!

Thanks for looking at my blog!


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