Table of Contents and Overview for At the Inlet | Information and ordering instructions for all of our fiction
That evening George and Darlene retired to the Crown Prince’s apartment, which actually overlooked the inlet. The two had other things to discuss other than the view.
“You’re awfully quiet this evening,” George observed.
“It’s about Terry,” she answered.
“I saw you and Priscilla setting things up with Julian yesterday,” he said. “Evidently, you two are better matchmakers than I thought.”
“We’ve got a long way to go, George,” Darlene replied. “But Terry’s interested. I told her we’d help her.”
George thought for a minute. “She’s going to need it. They’re both going to need it.”
“They make a cute couple.”
“So do we, but look how long it took us to get to the altar…at least their parents are either gone or out of the country. They can’t interfere.”
“Don’t be so quick about that. Someday our children may not like the choices we make.”
“Someday I might not like the choices I make. But our first problem is Julian. It’s one thing for him to go to Norman Cameron on a fact-finding mission—yes, I heard about that already from Devin. It’s quite another to romance that eastern beauty after twenty years in a self-imposed monastery. Knowing Julian, his fear of failure after the disaster with your sister is pretty high too. Finally, he’s doubtless terrified at the reality of dating a Pentecostal.”
“That brings up the Bishop.”
“It’s not just the Bishop, Darlene. Every Convention, those old coot reverends get together and tell each other horror stories about these people. You’d think that every day for our clergy was Friday the 13th. The truth of the matter is that Pentecostals are the biggest threat our Church has right at the moment, and after what I saw in Beran, I can see why.
“Our Bishop, of course, was opposed to Terry coming here in the first place. But my father knows when to ignore his Bishop; besides, the Most Reverend was going out of town and his church cop was on the beach in Drago. If our Bishop would think a little progressively like we have in the palace, he’d find a way to recruit Terry—since the Drahlan state has paid dearly for their stupidity, why not their church?”
“The only way to do that is to ordain her,” Darlene observed, “and neither our Bishop nor your father are ready for that. I’m not sure Terry is ready for that either.”
“Darlene, if mighty Verecunda can fall, anything is possible on this Island. But to the matter at hand—I think the best way to do this is as follows: you take care of Terry, I’ll handle Julian (with some help from Desmond,) and we’ll let my father take care of the Bishop. Then we’ll see if Cupid has as good an aim as the Princess Julia.”
“You still haven’t gotten over that, have you?”
“Neither have Prince Peter or Prince Dennis, either. You and Julia cleaned up in the hunt, and then took off two days to study the Bible with Princess Andrea while we were supposed to ‘catch up.’ That’s hard to take.”
“As you said, dear, anything is now possible on this Island.”
The next day, George and Desmond announced to their spouses that they were having a little “bachelors’” dinner on the royal yacht. Neither spouse was too happy with the announcement until they were informed of the purpose of the meeting. Darlene responded by keeping Terry over and feeding her while the men gathered for the evening.
It wasn’t just George and his favourite Canon either; Julian was invited also. They had their dinner in the main salon of the yacht, then retired to the stern deck. George’s lackey served them the orange liqueur that Serelia was famous for; Julian was sparing in its consumption. It was a very nice evening, a beautiful ending to a beautiful day. The Serelian flag flying off the stern flapped in the breeze; there were a few vessels still plying the lake but most were already at the dock, like the royal yacht itself.
George lit up a cigar as he sat and faced Julian and the Canon. “My father gravely informed me that, if I were to ever light up one more of these below decks, he would strap me to the bridge and commit me to the Golden Light,” he observed. “But I haven’t been smoking so many of these since our return from the trip. That little event seems to have changed everything.”
“It certainly has,” agreed Desmond.
He took a long drag from his cigar and blew it over the stern. “I never thought I would live long enough to have a meeting with two men of the cloth over a subject like this.”
“You mean Terry?” Desmond asked.
“Of course—but it’s still quite an event to discuss a woman with you fine clerics,” George added.
“Desmond seems to be doing well—he has three children,” Julian observed.
“You’re cleverer than I thought,” George said. “But I understand that you’ve availed yourself of our intelligence services to help you in your quest.”
“Well, at least they’re good for something,” Desmond cynically observed.
“Their research is quite thorough,” Julian said. “There can’t be much they don’t know.”
“I think they find the subject matter especially interesting,” George noted. “What I’d like to know is when you found the subject matter interesting.”
Julian thought for a moment, then said, “When she came here in March with Prince William. I had heard about her, as did everyone in Serelia. When I saw her after church talking with Desmond, I was struck by how beautiful and dignified she was.”
“You should have invited yourself to the Deanery,” George said.
“My whole family is still talking about that,” Desmond added. “She made quite an impact on everyone.”
“But I never thought that she would come here to live,” Julian resumed. “When she did, I knew I had to do something. Since I was unfamiliar with any of her family or background, the Intelligence Service seemed to be the best place to start.”
“I can’t blame you for being smitten by her,” George agreed. “The first time I actually met her, it was by the lake in Barlin. If I had known what I do now, I would have brought you along—it was a supremely romantic setting. As the sun set, I watched her walk all around the lake from her house to the Royal Pavilion—she was so slender and graceful, I didn’t know whether to be smitten by lust or overawed by respect. When she came up to the Pavilion and gave me that coldly formal greeting while I had to look up at her, I decided to stick with respect. I can see why you reacted as you did.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far…” Julian replied.
“You don’t have to defend yourself—it’s the most wonderful thing you’ve done in a long time, although it was a little ham-handed to break the ice by reciting a police report,” George said, taking another drag on his cigar.
“You seem to be favourable to this relationship, Prince,” Desmond noted.
“And why shouldn’t I be?” George asked.
“Well, there’s the matter of her religion,” Desmond observed.
“Her religion…her religion…that seems to be an obsession in certain quarters,” George mused. “So what, Canon, do you have against her religion?”
“Nothing, really…but Julian was ordained by a successor of the Apostles. She comes from a sect. And, of course, you know how they carry on in their services—there’s no telling what they do the rest of the time.”
“I know better than anyone what they do—I’ve been there,” George replied. “I even saw her preach.”
“How was that?” Julian asked, eagerly.
“Never seen anything like that either. They call what comes over her—what is it?—oh yes, ‘the anointing.’ Must work—saw a crutch or two left after the service.”
“You can’t be serious about phenomena like that!” Desmond exclaimed. “We all know that’s psychological manipulation.”
“If you’re right,” George said, “dear Julian here better give up right now and head to the altar—in both the accepted sense of the word and her’s too.” He took another drag on his cigar, exhaling the contents again over the stern, then took another sip of his liqueur. He looked straight at Julian. “Julian, my dear man, your dear brother won’t agree with me on what I am about to say, but I’m going to say it anyway. Our church has served us well this last three score and ten, and people here talk about their true religion coming from the Church of Serelia. Across the border they talk about finding the secrets of eternal life in the Lodge. Other places have other religions; they all claim they have the key to the divine. But I am here to tell you that whatever ‘religion’ Terry has—if that word does justice to what she is really doing—comes straight from God, and I’m not sure how much credit the church she’s a minister in or any other church can take for it.”
There was a silence of the stern. The sea gulls flew about and the small waves lapped up against the boat and dock. Desmond stared across the lake; Julian looked at George blankly, almost like he was in shock.
“Our Bishop wouldn’t agree with you,” Desmond finally came back.
“I’m well aware of that—the Sunday she came to the Cathedral, he droned on and on over lunch in that vein,” George said. “Even in front of Prince William. By the time he was finished, you’d have thought a quarter of Drahla’s population were a bunch of multi-headed monsters that only spoke in tongues when they opened their mouths. I’m glad he’s not Foreign Minister. Even my father was embarrassed. He needs to get a life on this issue—along with a lot of other people in our fair Church.”
“He can create difficulties for Julian and Terry,” Desmond warned. “Fort Morris might need a rector.”
“Julian’s musical skills preclude that,” George observed. “High church in the Cathedral isn’t so high without Julian—he knows that, too.”
“He can create other problems,” Desmond persisted.
“I guess we’ll just have to deal with them,” George answered.
“There’s one question that I had,” Julian piped up, suddenly.
“And what might that be, dear brother?” Desmond asked.
“Well…it’s about her…it’s about her…” Julian stammered.
“Morals, maybe?” George asked.
“What can you expect from people who beat drums and dance about in church?” Desmond asked.
George thought for a second. “I don’t know about the rest of them, but I can tell you she was a lady on the trip. Darlene was impressed. So was I.”
“Evidently Darlene was too impressed,” Desmond said. “She gone head over heels over whatever happened to her on the return. It could be dangerous. It’s almost like she’s gone into a cult.”
George tensed in anger at that remark. “Don’t you ever say that to me again,” he admonished Desmond. “I don’t understand or agree with everything that’s going on with her, but in control she certainly is. She—we—are facing serious matters—pregnancy is serious enough, but now she carries the heir of Beran as well as Serelia. She needs all the help she can get.” He went another round with his cigar and liqueur, then once again faced Julian directly. “While we’re dealing with subjects like this, I would like to throw in one more opinion.”
“Which is?” Julian asked.
“If and only if you ever do make it permanent with her, I can assure you that she will more than make up for the years you’ve lost.”
“You think so?”
“Of course—under those long black dresses that are her stock in trade—and behind those black eyes of hers—is a lot of love. Go for it, Julian.”
A couple of days later, Julian was in the Cathedral, practicing his organ playing for the following Sunday. This was Julian’s favourite time of the week; he loved playing the Cathedral’s four-manual organ, and was acknowledged as the finest pipe organist on the Island. He would get so wound up in practicing sometimes that he would forget to stop and have lunch.
The organ was located behind one of the two facing choir lofts on the Gospel side of the church. As Julian was playing that day, he actually took a glance out from behind the keyboard and saw Terry, sitting alone in the opposing choir loft, in the seat closest to the communion rail.
“Oh, Terry, it’s you,” Julian said, surprised.
“Hi,” Terry answered. She had a sultry tone to her deep voice he had never heard before. He rose and came out from the organ and walked towards the centre of the church. Terry got up and walked over in a lilting way to meet him.
They met in the centre, just in front of the altar. They stopped facing each other without saying a word. Terry then reached with both of her hands for both of his. He jerked his hands upward ever so slightly, as if Terry’s hands were wired to the mains.
“Don’t be frightened,” Terry said. She then wrapped her arms around his back and gave him a kiss on his lips that was too long for him and not long enough for her. Finally he took a half step backward. He looked at her with a wide-eyed look of terror, as if it was him that was now wired to the mains. While his eyes were fixed on hers Terry managed to join their hands, as was her original intent.
“Would you like to see the organ?” Julian asked, regaining some composure.
“That would be wonderful,” Terry replied softly. They went over and sat down, Julian at the centre of the bench and Terry to his right.
“Is there anything you would like for me to play for you?” he asked.
“Go ahead and keep playing what you were,” Terry answered. Sitting and admiring him, she looked more like a girl on her first crush rather than the femme fatale she acted like only a minute ago. She was in for a treat though. Julian began by going over all of the manuals, stops and pedals of the organ, demonstrating what they did and how they sounded. Towards the end of this lesson he interrupted himself with a question for Terry.
“Do you still play the piano?”
“I haven’t played since I was in sixth grade.”
“What a pity—with those long fingers, I’m sure you played beautifully.”
“My last year in competitions, I must have been very nervous. Even though I made a ‘Superior’ rating, I missed being either a national winner or an honourable mention. When the results were posted, my mother exploded and balled me out in front of everyone. I was humiliated. Two months later I told my teacher and everyone else I was quitting. I’ve never played since. I don’t think anyone in Drahla ever knew I played—besides, my classical training wouldn’t have done me much good there anyway, I can’t improvise.”
“You would do well here. Would you like to take it up again?”
“Maybe someday…why don’t you get to your practice pieces?” Julian went ahead and did so, adding a few others as well. Watching him manipulate the stops, pedals and keys was to watch an artist at work; Terry was mesmerised at his dexterity. Finally he finished yet another piece, turned to Terry and said, “Would you like to take a look at the organ pipes.”
“Yes.” They went to the narthex and ascended a long and musty staircase the pipes above. When he reached the top, Julian realised he was in a potentially risky spot, but by then it was too late. Terry simply followed him around, taking everything in like a schoolgirl on a field trip. Finally he looked at his watch, turned to her and said, “They should be serving lunch for the Cathedral staff. Would you care to join us?”
“I would love to.” They descended the same manner as they went up. They walked hand in hand through the colonnade and the courtyard to the Cathedral kitchen and dining area; now both of them had a lilt in their step. They reached the kitchen; Julian asked the cook, “Would it be possible if Miss Marlowe could join us?”
The cook looked at Terry; they recognised each other from Terry’s last visit. “Come on in—we’ll be glad to have you today.” They had their first “date” with the rest of the Cathedral staff, some of whom Terry knew from Tim Mallen’s church.
They got their meal from the kitchen, went into the small dining room and sat down. Some of the other staff was already eating there. Needless to say, Julian bringing in a woman with him turned a few heads as they sat down.
“Why don’t you return thanks, Julian,” Terry asked, him.
“Oh, yes,” he replied. They bowed their heads. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are to receive from thy bountiful goodness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” With that they started their meal.
“Since you seem to know so much about me,” Terry told him, “why don’t you tell me about your family?”
“There isn’t much to tell, really…” Julian said.
“Melchizedek had no father and mother—you’re not Melchizedek. I’m interested,” Terry responded, a little irritated.
“Very well. My father was sexton here at the Cathedral, as was his father before him. So I grew up here. It’s not a very exciting story.”
“You mean, like Samuel did at Shiloh?”
“I’ve never heard it put quite that way,” Julian said.
“I wonder if Samuel was as cute as you are,” Terry mused.
“I wouldn’t know,” Julian replied, off-balance. “You seem to know the Holy Scriptures quite well.”
“I am a minister. Besides, we kind of beat to death the whole business about Elkanah and Samuel at baby dedications.”
“Yes. Our church doesn’t baptise infants, but after they are born their parents bring them to the front of the church and they’re dedicated to the Lord. I did this many times; I dedicated all of Prince Dennis and Princess Andrea’s children, I married and baptised both of them too. The last thing I did before coming here was marry Prince William and Princess Catherine.”
“And the next thing you’ll tell us is that you baptised them, right?” the assistant sexton butted in, sitting at the other end of the table.
“As a matter of fact, I did,” Terry coolly responded.
“You did all that?” Julian asked, incredulous.
“Oh yes—for a time I was their pastor too,” Terry added.
“Their pastor? Oh, yes, I think I remember something about that.”
“But all of this isn’t telling me anything about your family,” Terry said, trying to get the conversation back on course. “Are your parents still living? Do they live here in town?”
“My father is deceased, right after the cease-fire,” Julian answered. “My mother lives in Alemara with my sister Christina—she moved there after he passed away.”
“Christina…” she said, sensing a family resemblance from an old acquaintance. “Isn’t her husband off rotation on their Council right at the moment.”
“Yes, you’re right. They have four children. I seem to be the black sheep in my family in that regard,” Julian admitted.
“Darlene told me about Theresa,” Terry said.
“You’re have that close of a relationship with Her Highness?” Julian said, surprised.
“I do,” Terry replied. “She’s why I’m here. At least until now.”
“I’m sure that what she has to say about me isn’t very complimentary,” Julian said. “She is Theresa’s sister, after all.”
“Darlene finds the whole business very sad,” Terry answered, “but not on your account. She knows you did right. She knows the truth.” Julian stared down at his plate for a second. “Now, your father was the sexton here,” Terry resumed.
“They expected me to become sexton, but because of my music I went to university off of the Island.”
“What about your mother? Where is she from?”
“That’s a long story,” Julian answered, trying to stall.
“Since you’ve got a winning hand, you might as well throw your cards on the table, Reverend,” the assistant sexton piped up again.
“Very well,” he replied reluctantly. “My mother’s maiden name was Masters.”
“One of the five founding families of Serelia?” Terry asked, surprised.
“Yes. Her father was Hiram Abif Masters, whose sister married King Albert.”
“Their family estate was north of what is now Barlin—the Drahlan royal estate, such as it is, occupies a part of that land,” Terry added. “Masters died in a hunting accident.”
“As a result of the terms of the dowry,” Julian went on, “all of their land went to the Crown, since his sons had already died of war or disease.”
“Some of that ended up with King Henry’s father,” Terry informed Julian. “More important, your mother’s sister is Queen Janet, isn’t she?”
“Younger sister,” he admitted.
Terry looked at Julian intently. “You do have a winning hand, don’t you?”
“But not much to show for it,” Julian answered. About that time the cook came out with two bowls of conch chowder, one for each of them.
“Made this special for you just now,” the cook informed them.
“Isn’t holiness the standard for God’s people?” Terry quizzed the cook.
“Certainly is,” the cook responded. “But there’s a time for everything,” and with that she returned to the kitchen. Terry and Julian looked at each other, then took the bowls and started to sup them slowly.
“Now, Julian, why did it take me so much effort to get that simple information about your family out of you? Should I have gone to your intelligence service to start with?” Terry asked him.
Julian took a deep breath. “When I looked at your background, and life you lead in Verecunda, I was worried that you might laugh at all this. I didn’t think it was that important.”
“I’ve lived on this end of the Island long enough to know what’s important and what isn’t,” Terry answered. “Anybody who plays the organ as well as you do and has ministered the way you have obviously has a special place in God’s plan.”
“Ministered? What do you know about that?” Julian asked.
“Darlene told me about your coming to her and her parents after Ronald and Edwards’s Golden Light,” she answered. “That was sweet. That shows you care.”
“I was doing my duty,” Julian answered, straightening up. “They were in grief. No one else went there. I didn’t even know if they wanted me to come.”
“Julian,” Terry said. He felt her left hand stroking his right one, which was on the table. “How do you know you have a relationship with God?”
He looked away for a second, then turned toward her. “In our church, it starts with baptism, then through confirmation, and…”
“Look, Julian,” she interrupted, “I was raised Catholic. I spent a long time with Father Avalon, learning many things. I understand sacramental theology. But I also know that there comes a time in everyone’s life when he or she has to make a decision about their own relationship with Jesus Christ, and that decision has eternal consequences.” The room became very quiet; the cook at least was in silent prayer.
“Priscilla told me about yours,” he said. “I’m not sure that Desmond believes it.”
“Do you?” she asked.
“Yes, I do, Terry,” he replied. “I believe that you saw who you said you did.”
“Well then, what about your own relationship?”
There was another of those long pauses. “Jesus Christ is man’s road to God. There is no other way for the forgiveness of sins. I ask His forgiveness all of the time. I pray and He answers. I ask Him to help me to keep His commandments and He does. I couldn’t have gotten through the last twenty years at least if I hadn’t. I don’t want to spend eternity in Hell, and I also know that I love God and want to follow Christ and His teachings. It’s been a lonely road because many people think that they can do a lot of things and still be a true Christian but for myself I cannot live that way.”
“Neither can I,” Terry responded. “You answered my question.” They finished up their meals, including the conch chowder. After this, Terry asked Julian, “Do you have an office here?”
“Yes I do…it’s not much, though.”
“I’d like to see it.” A reluctant Julian took her to his office, adjacent to the choir room. Terry realised his reluctance: his organisation left a great deal to be desired of. The most prominent feature of the place, though, was a stack of book cartons that lined one wall of the office.
“What are these?” she asked.
“These are the new Prayer Books for the pews—this is the first printing since the war. They’ve been here for a month now.”
“Isn’t the sexton supposed to take care of this?”
“He claims he doesn’t have time for it—always having to do something for Desmond, he says.”
“So I guess you’re stuck with the job, then?”
“If you want, I’ll help you put them out.”
“Oh, that would be lovely…but they must first be stamped with the Cathedral’s stamp. They we can put them out and collect the old ones.” Terry realised that the sexton had left Julian a job that was not only bigger than he was; it was bigger than the both of them.
“Just a minute,” she said, and scurried out of the room.
“Where are you going, Terry?”
“To get some help.”
“Where? Everyone’s busy.”
“They’re not that busy.” She went back to the kitchen and asked her to round up as many of Mallen’s church people as she could find to get it out. The cook complied; within fifteen minutes they had the cook, her husband the gardener and a couple of other palace staff members there.
Julian was amazed. “How did you get all of these people here?”
“Should we tell him?” Terry asked them. All of them had a fearful look but finally the gardener said, “He’s OK—it’s not much of a secret anyway.”
“They’re my church people, Julian,” Terry said. “Since we’re all here, why don’t we pray over these books? I don’t know as much as I’d like to about them, but I know the Word is there in good measure, and there’s other good stuff too.” With that they laid hands on the boxes and prayed a very Pentecostal concert prayer over these Books of Common Prayer for the Church of Serelia. They rounded up two stamps and the women set first to stamping the books, then the men horsed the books down the stairs and into the nave, where Julian supervised putting them out and collecting the old ones, which they unceremoniously deposited in the sexton’s office. It wasn’t long before they were done.
“I can’t believe this—thank you all so much,” Julian said. They dispersed to their normal duties. Julian turned to Terry and said, “I didn’t expect you to come and do labour for me today.”
“A lot of unexpected things happened today,” Terry said, kissing Julian again.
“Well, I know you’ve been here a long time, but now I must prepare for evensong. Would you care to stay?” Terry agreed and only left the Cathedral after the evening meal there. Julian escorted her to the corner of the church nearest the palace.
“I hope I haven’t taken you away too much from the Princess Darlene,” Julian told her.
“No—her mother came from Amherst to spend the day with her.”
“Will you come again?” Julian asked, plaintively.
“God willing, yes,” she answered. They kissed and embraced for a long time, then Terry took her leave. Julian stood at the entrance to the colonnade, watching her walk out of the Cathedral close and into the palace grounds, not returning to his apartment until she was out of sight. Terry for her part returned to the palace, confident that the day had ended far better than it had started.