War in Heaven

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Authors: Charles Williams
him to be any conceivable reason why the Archdeacon should refuse to part with the old chalice, and if by any chance there had been any difficulty he had still expected to be able to obtain sight of it, to see what it looked like and where it was kept. He found himself at the moment almost, it seemed, on the other side of the county from Fardles, and he did not immediately see any way of getting back. He thought for a moment of making his imaginary clerical friend a native of Fardles, in order to give him a special delight in things that came from there, but that was too risky.
    â€œOh, well,” he said, “if you don’t mind, I think I won’t give you his name. He might be rather ashamed of not being able to buy the necessary things. That was why, I thought, if you and I could just quietly settle it together, without bringing other people in, it would be so much better. A clergyman doesn’t like to admit that he’s poor, does he? And that was why——”
    Damnation! he thought, he was repeating himself. But the Archdeacon’s fantastic round face and gold glasses were watching him with a grave attention, and where but now had been a steady flow of words there was an awful silence. “Well,” he said, with an effort at a leap across the void, “I’m sorry you can’t let me have it.”
    â€œBut I’m offering it to you,” the Archdeacon said. “You didn’t want the Fardles chalice particularly , did you?”
    â€œOnly as coming from the place where I was going to live,” Persimmons said, and added suddenly: “It just seemed to me as if, as I was leaving my friend myself, I was sending him something better instead, something greater and stronger and more friendly.”
    â€œBut you were talking about a chalice,” the Archdeacon objected perplexedly. “How do you mean, Mr. Persimmons—finer and stronger and so on?”
    â€œI meant the chalice,” Gregory answered. “Surely that——”
    The Archdeacon laughed good-naturedly and shook his head. “Oh, no,” he said, “no. Not the chalice alone. Why, if it were the Holy Graal itself,” he added thoughtfully, replacing the cap on his fountain-pen and putting it away, “you could hardly say that about it.” He stood up, a little disappointed at not having noticed any self-consciousness about the other when he had mentioned the Graal. “Well,” he said, “I must apologise, but you will understand I have some work to do; I’m going to-morrow, as you say. Will you forgive me? And shall I speak to Rushforth?”
    â€œIf you will be so good,” Persimmons answered. “Or, no, don’t let me take up your time. I will go and see him, if I may mention you name? Yes, I assure you I would rather. Good afternoon, Mr. Archdeacon.”
    â€œGood afternoon,” the Archdeacon said. “I shall see you often when I return, I hope.”
    He accompanied his visitor to the gate, chatting amicably. But when Persimmons had gone he walked slowly back towards the house, considering the discussion thoughtfully. Was there a needy mission church? and was his visitor to be its benefactor? And the chalice? It seemed possible, and even likely, in this fantastic dream of a ridiculous antiquary, that the Graal of so many romances and so long a quest, of Lancelot and Galahad and dim maidens moving in antique pageants of heraldry and symbolism and religion, the desire of Camelot, the messenger of Sarras, the relic of Jerusalem, should be resting neglected in an English village. “Fardles,” he thought, “Castra Parvulorum, the camp of the children: where else should the Child Himself rest?” He re-entered the Rectory, singing again to himself: “Who alone doeth marvellous things; for his mercy endureth for ever.”
    It was the custom of the parish that there should be a daily celebration at seven, at which

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