“I learned to smile from the dog,” he said, as he recounted some of his life story to her.
Jenny could hardly believe what she was hearing, WHO learns to smile from a DOG?
But as he continued, things seemed even more weird. He had, as a child, lost most of his belongings when the bailiffs arrived.
“It was my mother,’ he said. “She lived above her means.”
The picture he painted of his childhood was a very strange one for someone who was very obviously high class, and who had gone to Oxford University all those years ago.
“All that drinking and smoking,” he said, of his father and mother. His father had been a vicar too, but this information left Jenny wondering. There had apparently been no love in the household. And learning to smile from the dog did not bode too well.
“I suppose you would say I was abused,” he said, thoughtfully, one day. He certainly had a great interest in abuse, as he constantly talked about it in one form or another. With great pride, he announced to Jenny that it was he who had helped his wife in the early days of their marriage, when depression had reared its ugly head.
“Your story is hers writ large,” he had said to Jenny, as he described the abuse she had known that had led to her depression.
Jenny was far from depressed, though. In fact, apart from the death, she was quite excited. A new place. A new life. Everything to live for. And meeting this vicar who was far from stereotypical, and indeed seemed outrageous added to her excitement. She had certainly never met a vicar like this before.
“Sex always had to be SO respectable,” he said of hiss wife, tugging as though irritated, at his dog collar.
He once described to her how he had been as a young vicar many years ago. Often, his anger would get the better of him, and would become a deep rage. He would go out into the huge vicarage garden in a frenzy and attack it with a scythe. He would hack and hack until his anger was spent.
Nowadays he didn’t get angry very often, according to his wife. Just the occasional kick of the heater in the church when it wouldn’t work.
“That always seems to get it going,” she had said.
But, when he DID get angry, once in a blue moon, he really DID get angry. It was a white anger, and you were best to keep out of his way when it erupted. Jenny was to witness this one day, in the vicarage kitchen. It was just before Easter. Maundy Thursday to be exact. She and Jill were sitting together at the big table, just talking, and suddenly he stomped into the kitchen, shouting and pointing his finger at Jenny. She thought he was going to hit her, as he prodded his finger almost in her eyes. She had never seen him like this before, and it scared her. After shouting and banging around for a while he left and returned to his Study. Jill seemed unconcerned, but then her drugs did render her pretty emotionless.
Jenny began to wonder about his attractive smile. The one he had learned from the dog. It was one of his best assets. But how FALSE was it? Indeed, how real was this man at all?
Jenny’s mind turned to the woman who had been murdered. She had been hacked to death in a frenzied attack. The whole town was in terror. And now, all these years later, they were talking about it again. What was this Confession that the vicar had heard that morning? What did he know that no one else knew? Whatever, his lips were sealed. They had to be. It was more than his life was worth to reveal something he had heard in Confession. Indeed, he could be defrocked for it. But he had certainly returned to the vicarage that morning with a sort of gliding movement, almost as if he was dancing.