december 30, 2004

After the howling

But the memory of the voice from the bottom of the lake was alive in him. He heard again and again the greedy animal cry, and all his childhood fears of the kelpie and the raw things of the forest swelled up in him again until he shook from head to foot. The fear so overpowered him that he even began to run towards the vicarage. But after a few steps he halted and wrestled with his terror. “You are a Christian and a servant of God”, he said. “The filthy spirits of the forests and fields and lake will not have the joy of seeing you are afraid of them.”

He forced himself to walk slowly, but he he could not help hunching his head and shoulders like a man who is expecting an attack from behind. But soon he straightened himself. His heartbeat was once more even, and a feeling of newly awakened hope coursed through him.

“You asked God for a sign”, he said. “You did ask God for a sign".

He reached the vicarage with his usual measured pace, and with his head held high.

Before he returned to his study, he stuck his head around the kitchen door and told the servants that if they were to see a traveler preparing to leave the road and cross the lake, they were to stop him, and say that the priest wanted a word.

A while later, a visitor was heard on the porch. The door to the priest’s study opened and a young man came in. He was wearing a padded jacket and leather trousers like all the other farm labourers of the district, but the priest thought he must be a man of some consequence from the certain neatness and style in these clothes.

The priest looked searchingly at the newcomer for a long time before he said anything. He felt drawn to him at once. This was a short, but well-knit, sturdy man, good looking, with grey eyes that glittered like water rippling in strong sunlight, and a smile that brightened him like a shaft of light.

“If I can rescue this man from crossing the ice and drowning”, thought the priest, “that will be a sign to me from God that I may continue to serve Him.”

Posted by andrewb at december 30, 2004 09:23 EM