The Parochial Quest
of Upper Pandle
by Kitley Wellington
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Percy Loops, after having breathed the same air as Rev. Chimes for about ten minutes, got out of the cellar and went to The Barman. It wasn’t in any way to water himself but because the flat above the pub was used by Dr. Wimpole as his dispensary and workshop, for the talents of a man as vivid as Dr. Wimpole can rarely be contained in a doctor’s diploma. He cashed in cheques for his plumbing services and pocketed shillings for any general mechanical troubles that fazed the customers.
Currently, he was busy fixing what looked like a vacuum cleaner.
‘Doctor, may I?’
‘Ah, Percy! Come in, old spot.’
‘We are faced with a small predicament concerning the upcoming parish elections. I needed your help. I don’t quite know how to put it, but have you ever concocted something that induces pain instead of reducing it?’
‘I did prepare something last week, for whatshername, umm... dispenser, prowler. Ahh... I have it there. Mrs. Spencer-Prowl. She needed something for her husband who refused to pay for her latest shopping spree. Made her return everything, he did, causing much dismay and irritation. I mean to say, what! You can either be a husband or a penny-pincher, not both.’
‘What did you give her?’
‘She wanted something simple to start with, just to give him a little jolt. A severe headache, she gave him, if he ever had one.’
‘How long does the effect usually last for?’
‘Geese! Anywhere between six to eight hours. It kicks in late, only after the first hour will the drinker start feeling the chiseling in his head. Mysteriously, Mrs. Spencer-Prowl later dropped in to take some tablets for diarrhoea. I mean to say, rather rummy, don’t you think, her getting diarrhoea after inducing headache into him.’
‘Good Lord! But, doctor, that must be him.’
‘I say, what?’
‘Can you make some for me? It’s pressing’ .
‘I should have some ready for you in the afternoon, say three o’clock.’
‘Okay. I will pick it up at three, then. Thank you, Doctor!’
* * *
The clock, by the twelfth gong, had started frothing at its mouth and, since the church was about a five-minute walk from his quarters, Rev. Chimes locked the door and started for the cellar.
As he walked into the cellar, his eyes first drifted towards the rack holding the cask and, as if it was a routine, he became totally peaceful with the fact that the cask had vanished. So had his golf club. Upon constantly flipping over the idea of whether or whether not to light a candle in his mind like a veteran lover meanders through the “loves me, loves me not” routine, unraveling the innardrs of a rose, he decided against it and was about to climb the steps back into the real world, when he realized he had forgotten to check something.
The wine bottle had been emptied to the last drop and now lay there like an overworked snail, rolling between the wooden slats. To his dismay, one of the other bottles had also witnessed its opening and a quarter’s disappearance. The whole situation reeked of a certain bitterness.
As instructed by Percy, he came back to check in the morning, around ten minutes past six, and found that the cask was still gone. He wondered what it meant and how Percy was going to solve this mystery.
Percy, after getting the hourly facts directly from the horse’s mouth, was pleased to hear that the thief had opened a new bottle of wine. He emptied Dr. Wimpole’s concoction into that wine bottle.
If the thief returned, this concoction would be enough to catch him. But, to catch the restorer was going to need someone’s presence in the cellar between 6:00 and 8:00 a.m., and he decided to take it upon himself.
* * *
Next day, before sunrise, Percy took his chair and went and sat behind one of the racks in the cellar, heavily concealed from the eyes of anyone who came in.
Percy checked his watch, but as it always happens when you don’t want it to, time now passed with a leaden pace, extremely reluctant to get a move on. In the excitement of the whole situation, Percy had only slept for 4 hours and now his eyelids began to droop. Very soon, his snoring became one with the chirping sounds from the outside world.
He started when he heard the cellar door creak, and in a moment of weakness, wanting to stand up fast, his trouser pocket got stuck in a nail hanging out from the chair’s hands, and it tore itself, lip-to-lip.
Although despaired, he realized that he had company now. He slowly crouched behind the rack to get a facial view of the person now walking in. It was that mysterious person in bowler hat and raincoat. He seemed to be carrying a large cask similar to the one they had seen yesterday in here.
‘Stop in your tracks!’ Percy shouted, just as he had finished putting the cask down, and about to heave a sigh. This sudden announcement took him by surprise and he started towards the stairs only to find himself face to face with Rev. Chimes, who, upon Percy’s request, had made an opportune entrance.
‘Let’s go to Dr. Wimpole’s clinic, shall we? I have a feeling there will be someone waiting for us there,’ Loops said, pointing at the thief. When he lifted his face up, they realized that it was a girl. She lost her hat, and her long hair fell down like a red carpet at an exclusive gala.
* * *
Dr. Wimpole, after doing his Swedish exercises, was back into his chair, smoking his first pipe of the day. He sat in his rocker, overlooking the greens and reading The Daily Trump, the only national newspaper that came into Upper Pandle.
He had just reached the sports page, the most interesting bit of the paper, when someone knocked on the door. It was an old man with a flowing white beard and an extra-large moustache.
‘Oh, doctor, I have a terrible toothache. Couldn’t you possibly take a look?’
‘Certainly, certainly. Come in, old spot.’
Doctor adjusted the reclining chair, making it high enough to give a good look of a person’s mouth, and asked the old man to sit, while he got the forceps from his toolbox.
‘I say. Look here, old spot. Your moustache seems to have gotten loose at the end. Do you want to hold it with your left hand? Right there. Marvelous.’
‘Thank you, doc. You are a good man.’
‘I knew a man once, in Schlumpshire. Lavishly hirsute. He hated shaving every day and, if he didn’t, he looked like a werewolf by cocktails. But the problem was, when clean-shaven, he looked like an overworked pomfret with goitre, breathing from his mouth. So he got a ready-made beard and a moustache to get the best. Any such luck for you?’
‘No, nothing like that.’
‘Better get to work, what... I say, let me check if the other tools have been sterilized enough. You can’t be too careful.’
He was just about to start when Percy Loops, Rev. Chimes, and the girl walked into his dispensary. Doctor hollered something and got back to his patient.
Seeing that Dr. Wimpole had a patient with his jaws open, Loops said, ‘Doctor, I didn’t know you knew dentistry.’
‘I don’t. That’s what makes it so simple,’ he said so, and gave a hearty laugh, but by the time he turned, the old man had jumped from the high chair and was now standing facing everyone.
Everyone’s eyes shot at him, but Percy was the only one who knew that whomever they found in Doctor’s dispensary in the wee morning hours would be their thief. His face also looked familiar; he had seen him somewhere, cursorily. He was the beggar.
‘Listen, old spot, I say, your moustache has come off again.’
Upon hearing these words, Loops saw that the right side of the old man’s moustache was free from its roots, and was now wiggling with a certain notoriety. He was an impostor.
‘No use hiding it now. It will serve you better if you drop that getup of yours and show us your real flesh.’
‘My dear old spot!’ said Doctor, shocked. ‘Ladies present! I mean to say, what!’
‘Oh, pardon my language! I only meant he give away his true identity.’
‘I say! I say! Are you someone else?’
He looked at Rev. Chimes with a satisfied eye, more or less letting him know that the matter had been resolved, but he realized that the beggar was now completely dumbfounded and was now looking at the girl as if he had seen a ghost.
As soon as he took off the white beard and the moustache off, the girl screamed, ‘Father! What are you doing here?’
‘Him? Father? Nay, look at his moustache. He is a doodah. No, no, young lady, that’s father,’ Dr. Wimpole said, pointing to Rev. Chimes.
‘That’s my father,’ the girl shouted, pointing to the beggar, and added, ‘Reverend Driver of Lower Pandle.’
‘What are you doing here?’ Rev. Chimes asked, upon hearing that the man was as dear to the God as he himself.
‘As you very well know, Lower Pandle and Upper Pandle are the only two villages in the vicinity that have a chance of getting a parish. I want it as much as you do.’
The girl, upon seeing that the feminine gender was ghastly underrepresented in the conversation, decided to intervene and said, ‘Else he won’t let me go and get myself trained to become a professional golfer. I had to steal the cask and replace it with one filled with water to make sure Upper Pandle wouldn’t get the parish.’
‘Good Lord! Thou shalt not steal, Tess! How many times did I have you cross that across your mind?’
‘But, Father! I like playing golf, and there isn’t anything else I would do.’
‘Golf, I say! Caddies and birdies, I mean to say, what!’ Doctor, all jolly with the mention of this favorite pastime of his, said, looking at Rev. Driver, ‘Look here! I say, Beardie, do you play golf too?’
‘Good Lord! No! I prefer the flat surface of a bat rather than a clotted metal bottom of a driver.’
‘What are you doing here then?’ Loops added to the interrogation.
‘Oh, I couldn’t bear the pain of seeing Tess and her waning interest in life. I saw how badly she wanted to play golf. So I decided to come down dressed as a beggar, steal the communion wine and reduce the chances of Upper Pandle getting a parish. How else do you think I was going to manage to buy her that expensive kit? Fortunately, I got my hands on some equipment too.’
‘Oh, father!’ Tess said, and whimpered away soulfully, crisscrossing her chest to atone for all the times she had confessed to her friends that he was a champion neotenic when it came to money. That he was after all planning to buy the golf gear melted her heart, and she sobbed away.
‘But there is no way we can let the parish go to Lower Pandle now that we know Reverend Driver was involved in this fixing business. In fact we will have to report this to the rural dean,’ Rev. Chimes said, strongly holding the claims to the parish.
Dr. Wimpole wasn’t a serious man, but when it came down to the freedom to choose a means of living, he let people have a piece of his mind.
‘But, I say, look now, Beardie here didn’t mean it. He was only trying to make his little girl happy. And since when was making an effort, a little wayward though it might have been, to work towards a thing you really want to do a crime? I mean to say, what!’
This statement took Rev. Chimes back to his days at King’s College when his father’s financial difficulties had forced him to give up the game he so loved and put on the parochial robes for bread and wine. He had been mad at the father-daughter pair for trying to jeopardize Upper Pandle’s parochial pursuit, but now the cockles of his heart warmed up and his jaws made way for some grand words.
‘We cannot give up our pursuit for a parish, Upper Pandle cannot. Considering the growing population, the old school building just isn’t enough. However, I would hate to see Tess give up golf. I am ready to offer an indefinite-term loan to help her realize her ambitions. Reverend Driver, I will pray to the Almighty that you may get the parish in the next round.’
By the time everyone had left Dr. Wimpole’s clinic, it was ten past nine, and Loops invited everyone to his quarters for a cup of good old Darjeeling tea. As he put on the kettle, he pondered how the doctor’s concoction, which was meant to induce an acute headache, had instead ended up giving him a toothache. But he left it on its own accord, and the thought soon disappeared with the steam from the kettle.
Copyright © 2016 by Kitley Wellington