Only the merest echo of a rumour of years ago regarding a parson who managed to creep into the Chapter when he should have been excluded survives to-day. And even this attenuated scandal would have faded away long ago if some people had not kept it alive by a story which owes its point to the use made of the shady parson's name by an old reprobate who desired to score off a worthy clergyman. The worthy clergyman had come to pay a serious parochial visit of remonstrance to the old reprobate, and had made up his mind, in antique slang, to “let him have it hot.” He had tried the velvet glove of the kindly counsellor several times with the same man, and now he determined to see what the mailed fist would do. Chronic intoxication was the old reprobate's besetting sin, and that was—with more frequent intervals of repentance—the particular failing of that parson who had been a thorn in the flesh to the Cathedral Chapter. It was, however, the vice of which the visiting clergyman was most intolerant; so he launched out in fitting terms against the old reprobate, demonstrating to him how disgraceful, how senseless a thing it was to be a sot.


The man listened to him until the first pause came, and then he sighed, saying—“Truer words were never spoken, sir, and no one knows that better than yourself, Mr. Weston.”

Now Weston was the name of the frail parson, who had been dead for several years, and to hear himself so addressed was very nettling to the teetotal clergyman.

“My name is not Weston,” he said sharply. “You know that I am Mr. Walters.”

“I ask your pardon, sir,” said the man. “But I hold with all you say, and no one has ever said the same better than yourself, Mr. Weston.”

“Don't call me Weston,” cried the clergyman. “The fact that you are muddled on a simple matter like this shows clearly to what condition you have sunk.”

“I don't doubt it, sir,” acquiesced the man sadly. “It's not a condition for any human to be, though mayhap it's worse when it overtakes a passon, as I'm sure you'll hold with me, Mr. Weston.”

“I was informed that you had been sober for some days,” said the clergyman. “But I now begin to fear that you are far from being anything like sober. Have you had anything to drink to-day?”

“Not a drop—not a drop, I'm sorry to confess to you, Mr. Weston.”

The good parson sprang to his feet.

“You are a wretched man!” he cried. “You are clearly so bemuddled with that poison that you are incapable of recognising who is speaking to you.”

“Nay, nay, sir; I'm not so far gone as that. I'm never so far gone but that I can know when a passon's a-speaking to me, Mr. Weston. I s'pose 'tis summit in their manner o' speech, Mr. Weston.”

The tortured clergyman caught up his hat and rushed from the cottage.

Few people would have given the old reprobate credit for striking upon so subtle a scheme of retaliation upon the clergyman who was a model of rectitude, had not the clergyman himself been indiscreet enough to complain, as he did with great bitterness, that the horrid old man was so fuddled with drink as to be incapable of differentiating between a cleric who had never been in the shadow of a cloud and one who had never been otherwise than shady, and who, moreover, had been among the shades for several years.

There were, however, some people who had had experience of the readiness of resources of the old reprobate, and who knew how he had aimed at getting even with his upright visitor. And so the story spread, and was the means of keeping green, if one may be allowed the metaphor, the unsavoury memory of the thorn in the flesh of the Chapter.

But if the wicked old man only simulated for his own base purposes a mistake as to the identity of Mr. Walters, there was certainly no such evil intention on the part of a young woman who, when on a visit to a relation living in Broadminster, was invited to a dinner party and was taken in by a fine-looking man of military appearance whose name was pronounced by their hostess as Colonel Trelawney. The lady rather prided herself on being equal to converse with men of any profession, and she at once started with her partner at the table on a military topic, and continued to ply him with questions of a more or less technical sort, on most of which he professed an ignorance surprising in one who had attained to the rank of a commanding officer. She almost became cross with the completeness of her failure to draw him out; but just as the cheese straws were going round she asked him in desperation if there was any branch of the Service in which he was interested.

“Well,” he said, “of course I am interested in every part of it, but just now I have been studying all the authorities on the order of the Creeds, and I must confess that I find them enthralling.”

She was puzzled.

“Are you in the Sappers?” she asked after a long pause. She had heard that some of the Sappers had peculiarities.

“The Sappers?” he repeated. “The Sappers? I'm afraid I don't quite understand your question. How could I——”

“Are you not Colonel Trelawney?” she cried.

“I am Canon Trelawney,” he replied. “What! Is it possible that you fancied—oh, it must be so. That is why you have been talking on military topics all this time. Colonel! Oh, this is really amusing! Colonel!”

“I thought that our hostess had said 'Colonel,'” she murmured. “You must have fancied that I was mad.”

“It was largely my own fault,” said he. “I am a little old-fashioned, and I have never taken kindly to the modern innovation in evening dress adopted by my brethren. My father was a parson and he habitually wore ordinary evening dress, and I followed him in this particular. I think I shall have to get a dog collar and satin stock after all.”

The lady did not care whether he did or not. She felt she had wasted an evening.

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