At the Inlet: August, Part 1 (The lady becomes an Anglican)

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Hurricanes were a fact of life on the Island; around the turn of the month the Serelians faced one coming up on their coast.  Since Serelia and Serelia Beach were on a coral ridge, they were not only a good place to ride out a storm; they gave some protection to the inland areas also.  Everyone just battened down the hatches, took the boats (including the yacht) inland, and rode it out.

At the palace and Cathedral, this meant that, once the shutters were put up and all of the loose items outside brought in or tied down, everyone pretty much stayed in their quarters for the duration.  This meant a separation for Julian and Terry; Julian was forced to ride it out pretty much by himself.  Darlene had high hopes of spending additional time with Terry, but Annette dashed her hopes when she decided it was time to start a mah-jongg marathon.  They tried to teach Darlene the game but she quickly realised that she would never catch up with these two, so she contented herself with either watching Annette and Terry or playing gin with Adam and George, an inclusion they soon learned to regret.  But this blow stayed offshore enough so that the damage to the country was minimal, and in a couple of days all was back to normal.

Shortly after that Julian came to see Desmond.  “I am pleased to inform you that Terry’s catechisation is complete,” Julian announced.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Desmond replied.

“Of course not—why should I be?”

“You’ve certainly taken long enough, but I can’t believe that all those evenings about the Cathedral have been spent pouring over the Thirty-Nine Articles.  There’s nothing romantic about them, is there?”

“Well, perhaps there is…” Julian mused.

“Don’t be silly—you’re telling me that you’ve gone through the catechism?”

“Yes”

“And the Articles?”

“Of course.”

“And she understands them?”

“Yes, very well.”

“And she agrees with them?”

“We had some interesting discussions, but in the main, yes.”

“In the main?  Don’t you realise the consequences of what could happen?”

“I always thought our Church was the Church of comprehension.”

“Comprehension died with the Glorious Revolution,” Desmond snapped.  “You saw what happened in those days.  We must be careful who we admit to our Church—next thing you know, they’ll be rolling in the floor and barking like dogs.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Julian observed.

“Of course not—that’s their strategy.  Look respectable up front, then their real selves come out when you can’t dispense with them.”

“Well, what I have seen is a person who is committed to living a holy life and also one who is committed to the study and following of the Holy Scriptures—and that’s more that I’ve sometimes seen in you.”

Desmond glared at Julian.  “I wouldn’t take that if you weren’t my brother,” he said through clenched teeth.  There was a silence, and then Desmond resumed.  “All right, Julian, I’ll draft a letter to the Bishop certifying that she’s completed instruction and is ready to be received into the Church.  But I’m warning you—I hope you know what you’re doing here.  If you don’t, there could be consequences for all of us.”

Julian stayed in his office until the letter was typed, reviewed, and signed, and then delivered it personally to the Bishop’s Palace.  Much to his surprise, the Bishop asked him to come in.  Julian came in to the Bishop’s office and handed him the letter.

“Where is Desmond?” the Bishop asked.

“In his office,” Julian replied.

“He must not think this is important…I suppose we can go ahead and receive her next Sunday, as I will be in the Cathedral.”

“Next Sunday?” Julian asked excitedly.  “Thank you, sir.”

“I was hoping this would be done before she left with Mrs. Lewis and you for your organ tour.”

“Oh, yes—this will be splendid,” Julian said breathlessly.

“Since you’re here,” the Bishop resumed, “I thought you might find these interesting.”  “These” were letters of recommendation from Bishop des Cieux and Father Avalon.  “This is probably Her Highness’ doing—obtained by our diplomatic corps.”  He looked up at Julian.  “I knew that their bishop was fond of her, but I had no idea that Avalon would speak of her in such glowing terms, especially in view of the way she departed.  You have a unique individual in your life—I’m just not sure what we’re going to do with her.”

The one thing the Bishop did know to do, however, is to receive her into the Church, which he did on the following Sunday.  Terry was received by herself, making her the centre of attention, but the Bishop dispensed with a long speech about where she came from or how good it was that she came out of it.  This was doubtless at royal insistence.

August was a month that alternated between dodging hurricanes, sweltering in the humid heat and getting drenched in the rain.  As such it was a slow time at the Cathedral, and so Julian made plans for his annual tour of Churches of Serelia and other Anglican churches on the eastern end of the Island.  His recitals were renown, even by those who were usually bored with pipe organ music.  The first one was the afternoon after Terry’s reception into the Church; it took place at St. Matthew’s Church in Serelia Beach, built on the site of the old Cavitt plantation.  In terms of membership it was the largest parish in the Church; a good crowd came out to hear him.  Terry tagged along; although she wasn’t the biggest fan of this kind of music, Julian had inspired an appreciation for it.

The next day the tour started in earnest.  Priscilla Lewis travelled with Terry; this enabled her to follow Julian around, and gave her some time out of the house.  It was the first time in years that Julian did not have to make the trip alone; it seemed to add an élan to his whole being, even while playing.

The first stop was Amherst, where Julian was to play at the All Saints’ Church there.  Darlene went with them for the first leg of the trip; this gave her an opportunity to go see her family.  They arrived at the church; Darlene’s mother came and got her while Julian got the organ ready and Terry and Priscilla made sure everything was set in the church.  The idea was that the girls would greet the people as they came in; however, here Priscilla did it by herself, as Terry was extremely nervous about meeting Darlene’s family without Darlene.

The recital went well and afterwards Terry was standing with Priscilla next to their usual seats, which were those in the front nearest the organ.  When Terry saw Darlene, she knew the dreaded moment had come.

“Terry, this is my family: my father Thomas, mother Susan, my sister-in-law Allison”—Terry realised that this was Ronald’s widow—“and her sons Ronald, Jr., Thomas, and finally their daughter, which they in a moment of insanity named after me, Darlene.”  Terry saw the entire Amherst clan that remained in Serelia in front of her.  Although the family red hair had turned white, Thomas was still an impressive figure who stood ramrod straight.  Terry could see Ronald replicated in his namesake.

“We have heard a great deal about you,” Thomas said.  “These are Ronald’s children,” he said, driving home the point.

“Your father was a great general—perhaps the Island’s greatest—whose only fault was that he was carried away by his passions, a good lesson for us all,” Terry said, glad to get out the line she had rehearsed for weeks.

“You really believe that?” Ronald, Jr., asked.

“I really do, in spite of all that’s happened,” Terry answered.

“Those are kind sentiments,” Thomas said.  “Well, we must get back to the estate—lots of work to do even before retiring.”  They said their goodbyes and left, but Allison lingered.  She was a cheery looking blonde who nevertheless showed the signs of the disasters that had befallen her.

“That took a lot of courage to say that,” she said to Terry.  “Thanks.”  Before Terry could respond she walked away and rejoined her family.  Darlene had managed to duck behind Terry long enough to come out and give her a hug before leaving with her parents and relatives.

“I’m glad you were ready for this,” Darlene said.  “My father wasn’t.”  With that she went on and joined her family while Terry, Priscilla and Julian tested out the rectory.  Terry was used to uneven accommodations in a Pentecostal church; she expected a higher quality in a church with more resources.  She discovered, however, that state funding was not a panacea for everything, and dumpy rectories were one of them.

The next day they were able to finally flee All Saints’ rectory and make the short trip down the road to St. John the Baptist Church in Denton.  The Old Beran Road widened a bit from the stretch that Terry was so familiar with in Drahla; here it took a straight shot from Amherst through Denton to Claudia.  They reached the church in mid-afternoon; Julian had insisted on a leisurely departure from Amherst.

As Julian tinkered with the organ to see what needed to be done to it, Priscilla and Terry went through their routine.  The church looked like the sexton had been on an extended holiday; they found themselves doing clean-up work.  As they tried to make the best of it, Terry looked up from yet another shabby kneeling cushion to see a woman in front of her.

“Welcome to St. John the Baptist,” she said, “I’m Theresa Gant.”

“Darlene’s sister?”  Terry asked.  She had heard that the two sisters didn’t resemble each other much; now she knew it for herself.  Theresa looked more like her mother, a little taller than Darlene with short blonde hair and age lines that hinted at a less than happy life. Terry was surprised to see Theresa in slacks, which became her figure that had been moulded by the typical Island low calorie diet, supplemented by some recent additions. Serelia was a place that still had reservations about women wearing pants, especially on a rector’s wife.

“Before the war, I was Thomas’ daughter.  During the war, I was Ronnie and Eddie’s sister.  Now, I’m Darlene’s sister.”

“I didn’t mean it that way—I’m sorry,” Terry apologised.

“I know—you are Darlene are friends.”

“I only met the rest of the family yesterday.”

“Thanks for straightening this place up—our sexton’s not very energetic.”  Terry then reintroduced Theresa to Priscilla, and the three of them finished getting the church ready as well as could be expected.

Julian’s recital went according to plan, except that the Rector, Anselm Gant, got up and made a long and tedious introduction to Julian’s concert, so long that even Julian started looking at his watch, worried he would have to delete some of his pieces to finish the programme in a timely manner.  But it all got done and they retreated to the rectory afterwards.

The Gant’s rectory was a definite improvement over the last one; Theresa explained that her father had come and spent his own money and brought his own crew from their estate to upgrade it.  Theresa and Priscilla retreated to the kitchen to prepare the meal, leaving Terry and Julian to Anselm’s tender mercies.  Terry, having been raised in a home with a cook, had limited kitchen skills, something that the Cathedral’s setup obscured for Julian.

Terry would soon regret her lack of culinary expertise, because Anselm proved no more exciting in the living room than he did in the pulpit.  While downing one scotch and water after another, he droned on and on about the poor state of the Serelian Church, the inept policies of the Bishop, and last but not least those dreadful Pentecostals and Baptists who were making life so miserable for everyone. Even Julian was beginning to tire of this dreary refrain by so many of his colleagues, but Terry signalled him to let it ride.  This and other equally sad subjects continued over the dinner table, along with the wine and liqueur.  With dinner complete, a groggy Anselm abruptly announced that he was retiring.

Although leaving company so soon was usually regarded as rude, no one seemed to mind.  Julian volunteered to help clean up, but he ended up helping only his sister-in-law, as Theresa invited Terry out to the screened porch.

Theresa lit the citronella candles.  “Care for a drink?” she asked her guest.

“Soda is fine, thank you” Terry replied.

“Now that you’ve been received into our church, you can, you know.”

“I’d prefer not to, thanks.”

“My husband went to an Episcopal prep school in the States.  He had a Latin teacher who was an old-fashioned Episcopal minister.  One day the teacher told the class that ‘when four Whiskeypalians get together, there’s always a fifth.’”  They chuckled over that while Theresa got Terry’s soda and her rum old fashioned.  They sat down.

“You’re seeing Julian, aren’t you?” Theresa asked Terry.

“Yes, I am.”

“I hope it works out for you.  Julian is a fine man.  Maybe I’m just not good enough for him.”

“You were at one time.”

“That was a long time ago…things change.  Things get in the way.”

“Where are your children?”

“They’re staying with his parents.  They live in Fort Albert.  They’re getting up in years—they’re not doing well.  The kids are real good about helping them.”

“Drahla.”

“They never supported independence, but they didn’t want to leave.  It got pretty tough sometimes.”

“Do you ever see Edward’s children?”

“Not since he was killed.  His widow took them to the mainland and vowed never to step foot on the Island again.  She’s as good as her word.  She remarried about two years after she left.  We hear from them every now and then.  They seem to be doing okay.  It’s killing my parents not to see them any more.”  Theresa took another gulp from her glass.  “Darlene thinks a lot of you.”

“The feeling is mutual.”

“That amazes me…you’re the last person I would have figured to suddenly become her lifelong friend.  Now I hear she’s gotten some kind of religion, thanks to you.”

“The change in her life is pretty substantial,” Terry observed.  “Even her mother-in-law has noticed it.”

“There’s only one god of the Amhersts, and that’s themselves,” Theresa came back.  “Their only desire is to control others.  In some ways, Darlene is the most single-minded one of them all in that regard—more so that even Ronnie.”

“You seem to easily disassociate yourself from them.”

“I’m too much like my mother.  I let other people run over me.  I find this religion thing of Darlene hard to believe—a lot of other people do, too.”

“Perhaps she realises that this is too tough of a neighbourhood to make it on her own.”

Theresa looked at Terry with surprise.  “Maybe you know her better than I thought.  But let me stop you here—I don’t want to hear any sermons out of you.  I have to endure them every week.  Besides, you probably should have stuck with your old church—this one is dying, if you ask me.”

“How so?”

“See that?”  The rectory was right on the river; the screened in porch overlooked it.  The view really wasn’t bad at all, especially considering Denton’s location.  Directly across from the rectory was a large building with no windows but reasonable exterior lighting.  “That’s the Lodge, over in Claudia.  Right opposite of the church.  This Island’s whole spiritual journey is summed up right here.  You’d be surprised how many people on this side of the river are in the Lodge.  They go through the Scottish Rite—no political strings attached, not yet at least.  My husband’s a member, but that’s not the only reason why he goes over the border. He has a mistress over there.  I thought after the first go around he’d learn, but he hasn’t.”

“You almost ended it over that, I heard.”

Theresa raised her arm, letting her sleeve drop to reveal the scars around her wrist.  “If it weren’t for the children, I’d do it again.  This time I’d get it right.  My father told me that, if I ever divorced Anselm, he’d disinherit me totally, and I can’t afford that.  So I just have to wait.”  She fixed herself another drink.  “The Lodge and the Church—it’s all right here.  The Church is in trouble.  Our attendance has dropped every year we’ve been here.  Meanwhile your Pentecostal preachers are busy doing their thing.  They’ll even sneak across the border into Claudia and conduct services, even though technically the penalty for being a Christian in Claudia is still crucifixion.”

“Your sister told me about Avinet’s Beach,” Terry noted.

“Our father used to tell that story when he didn’t like what was going on at church,” Theresa responded.  “In any case, one of these preachers had King Mahlon’s daughter, Princess Ophelia, to come to his meetings one night.  She was converted right there—but Mahlon threw her into prison. I still think the Lodge is going to come back.  If you and Darlene and George hadn’t put a stop to it, the Verecundans were ready to put a lot of money into it.  If they had, things would be vastly different on this end of the Island.”

“Perhaps there’s a lesson in this.”

“Perhaps.  Perhaps not.”

There was no recital the following night, so they returned to Serelia for the next day and night.  Desmond certainly had his hands full with the children; the relief was welcome.  Julian rehearsed some different pieces he would play on the second leg of the journey.  Terry spent the evening with the King, Queen, and George, as Darlene was still in Amherst with her parents.  The next morning, before they left, Annette called Terry in to her bedchamber for breakfast, as she wanted to have a Bible study along the lines of the ones Terry did with Darlene.  It was the first time that Annette had attended any kind of Bible study, and they enjoyed their time together.

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