A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Josiah's family history comes under scrutiny during a conversation with the Reverend Simeon Crow


The Reverend Simeon Crow didn’t often wear spectacles, but when he did he was invariably being serious. It was a habit of his, to try to separate himself from himself as if that was possible, and he’d been forced to conclude that it was the spectacles that did it.

I knew your father, Josiah,” he said, “and I should imagine he’s still around?”

I should imagine so,” replied Josiah uncertainly. As far as he was aware his father was alive, but it had been some weeks since he had last heard news of him and in that brief interim he assumed anything might have happened. “I don’t have much to do with him,” he added apologetically.

I rather supposed not,” grunted Simeon, “my own dealings with him have been … less than, shall we say, friendly.”

He’s a bully.” That was all Josiah meant to say on the subject.

And a sex crazed sinner!” snapped Simeon as if the female gender was never on his own mind. “People sometimes whisper about me and my housekeepers, but I mean none of them any harm though I will admit to feeling sympathy and affection for some of them. But I help them. You must be aware of that.”

I don’t understand...” muttered Josiah. The two of them were sitting in the front room, in arm chairs facing each other, and the sun outside was fading onto an early autumn evening. Simeon had a glass generously filled with red wine on a side table, but Josiah had refused when one was offered. He had yet to take to alcohol and wasn’t at all certain that he ever would, though he was aware that men of the cloth were often more than happy to sample the grape or the grain in measured glasses of what they liked to think as quiet and very unworldly thought.

I call them my housekeepers, and each one is a delight in her own way,” sighed Simeon. “But this is a large house … you might have noticed the upstairs landing and the doors off it. I have an abundance of rooms, and the young ladies need refuge, which I offer at a meagre rent in return for small housekeeping tasks. Janice, for instance, had your room to dust, that’s all. But it keeps her out of mischief and in a bigger way than sermons is helping her on her way to the Almighty. You see, for the young who are left friendless in this world life can be a confusing thing to come to terms with. Take Janice, who you met, for instance.

She was orphaned in her teens, fourteen I think, nasty business, bad car accident on the motorway, and would have been lost to life had I not intervened. She was going off the rails and by the time she was sixteen was up in front of the beak for soliciting. I was able to step in and offer her a room here, with three other young women, and guide all of them down paths of righteousness. It kept her out of prison where she would probably have become much worse. As I said, Goosebury is an excellent village when it comes to housekeepers! I never have to do a stroke of domestic work myself, which is a huge bonus, and I have access to a fund run by a Brumpton charity which affords me to pay them a small wage on top of their benefits. In return they must promise to do their best. That’s all I ask: that they do their best. In life, that is, as people...”

Don’t they have some sort of dress code?” asked Josiah with multicoloured images including a tiny orange skirt uppermost in his mind. “That girl when I arrived was close to being naked.”

You mean Janice? No, as long as they are good and decent in themselves I don’t mind how they dress. Janice has lovely legs and I don’t see anything wrong in her modestly displaying them.”

There wasn’t mush modesty about her when I arrived this afternoon, thought Josiah, and a decent lass would probably have exposed a great deal less of her underwear to a stranger like myself…

That’s why I mentioned your father,” continued Simeon, “and his reputation when it comes to young mothers...”

His mother’s group of one,” sighed Josiah, “I know about it.”

I was hoping it wasn’t going to turn out as something essentially Pyke, if you don’t mind me saying it. What we might call the Pyke Condition, if you see what I mean?”

Josiah sat up, angrily. This is becoming offensive, he thought.

You mean the father’s weakness passing on to the son?” he demanded, “and his sins going through the generations like a biblical flood? I’ve never heard such crass nonsense..!”

Well, I also knew your grandfather...” murmured Simeon, “A man whom I liked, I can assure you of that, but it was rumoured, it was suggested, I know for a fact...”

Josiah relaxed slightly. “I met him once. I was introduced to him by one of his past lady-friends,” he said shortly. “He struck me as a good man,” he added, “though he did like that lady, and she liked him. I see no offence there.”

I don’t want to trespass on family sorrows,” sighed Simeon, “I’m not in any position to be critical, and goodness knows that we’re not of the Roman celibate variety of cleric. I’m a man and no more than that. Like you I trained for the cloth and like you I’m here with all my imperfections. Unlike you, though, I’ve seen a bit of the world and its wily ways and know there are pits for people to fall into, and most of those pits are of our own making as human beings. We create false boundaries when it comes to morality and then accuse those who go beyond them of sin, and worse.”

The man might be a vicar, might preach the gospel to his dwindling congregation, might even believe in the faith he preaches about, but his weasel words are those of a charlatan, thought Josiah.

His face must have provided a clue to those thoughts because Simeon shook his head and poured himself a second glass of red wine. But before he could speak the door opened and Janice of the short orange skirt and minimal underwear walked in, nervously, her eyes moving between the two men as if she wasn’t quite sure of them.

I’m going to the pub,” she said quietly, “I won’t be late. And I promise not to bring any boys back!”

If you had a proper boyfriend then you must know he’d be welcome under my roof,” Simeon told her.

Well, I haven’t and what’s more I don’t want one,” she replied, “I’ve had my fill of boys and men, present company excepted.”

Then have a good time,” Simeon said with a smile, “and have a drink for me!”

You seem to be having one anyway,” she giggled, and turned to go before glancing at Josiah. “I’d invite you to join me if I wasn’t such a bad thing,” she said, blushing, “but I am, and that’s that.”

She’s really good,” sighed Simeon, “but her path has been rocky and lonely. She needs a helping hand or two. And to be shown that the male of the species aren’t all reprehensible.”

Josiah stood up. To him there was the suggestion of something not quite right in Simeon’s words. “If you’ll forgive me I’ll have an early night,” he said, “and I’ll think of what you said about my family’s, what did you call it, condition,” he added darkly.

When he was gone Simeon poured himself a third glass of red wine, right to the top, and looked troubled.

He doesn’t like me, and who can blame him, he thought to himself, and in all honesty I’m not so keen on me either. Why did I say that about his family? What a fool I am, what a hypocritical fool because he’s probably guessed, and who wouldn’t, that I don’t spend very many nights alone in my bed … not with housekeepers like I’ve got, and their lonely needs...

© Peter Rogerson 21.03.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 21, 2018
Last Updated on March 21, 2018
Tags: wine, Josiah Pyke, family history, father's reputation, hypocrisy



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..