Constable Wilkins mutters his way through life. He’s a thinking man, and he likes to do his thinking aloud. This has a dampening effect on crime in Cadblister Parva. Unnerving, we mean to say, when you’ve pulled off a perfectly good bit of petty pilfering or what have you, to be walking down the street and hear a voice behind you saying, “pockets full of His Lordship’s spoons, I’d lay odds, if I was a bettin’ man, which I am not” or, “And there’s that young Colin Haskill. Pulled off that job in Blatherstone last week, that’s known. Not that there’s much as we can prove…”
Constable Wilkins was uneasy. He wouldn’t put it higher than that- uneasy.
“Uneasy,” he said aloud. “There was what I’d call a bad feeling at that meeting tonight. Very bad. Hrmmm.”
He proceeded down Cadblister Parva’s main street, which was called, creatively, Main Street. More lights were on in houses than was usual at nigh on midnight, but Wilkins could see that there were reasons for this.
“Christmas Eve,” he muttered. “And everyone upset.”
“And reason enough, too,” he added, as he passed the Chemist’s and the Green-Grocer’s shops- all shut up and dark, they were, he noted in passing. Constable Wilkins then resumed his muttering discourse.
“What with his high holy Lordship showing up at meeting, telling us as he’d mortgaged the village – not but what we knew that already- and then saying as he really didn’t see his way to paying his creditors, who had a notion as the land’d do for a race-course. And none of the buildings protected.” Constable Wilkins shook his head solemnly. “A shocker for Vicar, who’d understood that the church, being old, was Historic. Well, Lordship told him as it weren’t no such thing. Blanched, the Vicar did. Never seen a man go so white so quick.”
Wilkins paused in his discourse, for now Main Street had left the village and passed into open country, and he usually didn’t patrol that far at night, leastways, not in winter when it was snowing. But he was, as has been said, uneasy, and so he continued to follow Main Street as it went up Haver Hill. In the far distance, he’d be able to see the Hall, if visibility wasn’t so bad.
The church-bells tolled the hour of midnight. Wilkins continued on, with slow, stately tread, and as he continued to walk, he continued also to chew over the events of that evening. “Vicar ought to have known that the church weren’t protected, of course, but he being so absent-minded- mazed, some would say- not as I agree- but absent-minded, yes.” Wilkins was silent for a few seconds, having gotten a little lost in his syntax. Ah, yes. He’d been meaning to say about the Vicar. “He ought to have known that the church weren’t protected, but of course he hadn’t, and it was a shock to him. Blanched. Only word for it: blanched. But Miss Verity, now. Sees her dad has come over queer, and pops up herself, bold, pert little piece that she is. ‘What about the entail?’ says she, and, credit where credit is due, it needed saying. But as for all that Votes for Women nonsense she gets up to, now-” and Constable Wilkins gave a single, expressive snort, and thereby dismissed the notion of Women’s Suffrage. Then his soothing flow of speech continued.
“No, can’t say as I think much of Miss Verity, Vicar’s daughter or no. Did stand up to His Lordship, though. Not that it did much good, mind, for it did not. Well! His Lordship just smiles and says that he couldn’t have borrowed money on the village if he hadn’t been able to sell it, not with the lads as he’d borrowed from, anyway. We might almost have felt sorry for him, being embarrassed, so to speak, in a financial way, if he weren’t so clearly rejoicing in it all. But he could hardly keep himself from busting out laughing, he couldn’t. Bad.” And Constable Wilkins shook his head solemnly. “Bad old sinner, Lord Cadblister, and there’s no gettin’ from it.”
And he’d opened his mouth, to go on to explore this interesting theme of Sin in High Places, when he heard someone on the road behind him. Constable Wilkins turned and flicked on his lantern. Catching sight of his fellow-traveler, he scowled.
“Randall Grudge,” he called magisterially. “What may you be doing out so late?”
Grudge smiled his nasty, sneering smile, and gestured to the turning for the lane that served as a shortcut up to the Hall. “I’m calling on my father, Constable. That is, I believe, permissible, even at this hour.” And with a dismissive wave, Randall Grudge passed Constable Wilkins and presently disappeared into the shadows of the thickly-growing trees along the lane.
Wilkins made a few trenchant remarks about how some people seemed born with more sin in them than others; then, he started back on his virtuous way home, to his warm living quarters above the Police Station. Gratefully, he sank into his bed, and promptly fell asleep.
He wouldn’t, in the event, get to stay asleep for very long.