Tell A Tale in 500 Words
CONVERSATION WITH A WIDOW By Geoffrey Heptonstall
I once thought I heard – when a reverend gentleman spoke – the sound of a stumbling man. ‘On the one hand…’ he began. It was a long explanation I did not wish to hear. He was hesitant of course, for it was a delicate matter. How cautiously he spoke, sensitive as the poor man must have been to the situation.
I was subject to a curious and rather alarming experience that afternoon in the rectory drawing-room. An incident so strange happened suddenly. It was only for a moment as I looked at the window. Something out there distracted me, I must suppose. And, I confess, my attention was wandering.
I had expected to see the reverend gentleman’s face reflected. But I saw another creature entirely. When the rector spoke again I heard another man in the room. This fellow was quite different. I imagined him as club-footed, clumsy (yet cunning, you know, in a way the polite seldom are), his ragged trousers tied with string, his hair as wild as the stare in his eyes. Or so I pictured this creature. I was quite convinced he was there. I felt sure that he was there. I heard the heavy tread of a common labourer in some violent act of trespass. I heard his grunts and growls. I almost felt his foul breath upon my face, his filthy hands….
On looking back into the room again, however, I saw I was mistaken. The rector and I were quite alone. ‘Forgive me,’ I said, ‘I thought I heard a noise. I’m afraid I was quite distracted.’ The rector said nothing. Matters of faith played little part in our meeting. It was a question of money. Purely and simply money.
The rectory was in a cold, remote place not at all to my liking. The day was almost over. Sunset and the cold light of winter added to the dreariness of that unfortunate afternoon. I looked once more out onto the world outside. The rectory drawing room was reflected in the windows. One could see everything that was in the room quite clearly. The rector was there in reflection. I saw myself (how drawn and pale I looked). The rector, of course, had his back to the window.
It was when he turned that I was startled. For the face I saw reflected in the window was not the rector’s face at all. Gone were the civilized humanity, the well-mannered kindliness, and the learned air of a wise man. All those things that one naturally finds in such a man of the cloth had vanished. In their place was an ugly, brutish clod of the kind who might cut your throat for sixpence.
. The journey out there had been dull. It was a long afternoon when I was quite tired by the heat of fire and the nature of the occasion. I have not forgotten that day. There was the matter of an inheritance, with some confusion, I seem to recall.
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