The Sixth Lamentation

The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick Read Free Book Online

Book: The Sixth Lamentation by William Brodrick Read Free Book Online
Authors: William Brodrick
have done. He must be
accommodated away from the public eye, and be protected. He can’t go home.
Transfer to prison is considered inappropriate.’ Father Andrew had anticipated
most of the questions and answered them mechanically in brief succession. ‘An
expedited investigation has already commenced. No charges were brought after
the war and it’s thought unlikely any could be brought now.
    He’s
never been in hiding from the British authorities. Our involvement is nothing
more than a matter of convenience. Costs sustained by the Priory will be met,
and the police will deal with any protesters. A personal protection officer
will stay with the man himself. He should be off our hands in three months.
That’s it. The question is this: does he stay or go?’ He surveyed the room
gravely waiting for a response, and then dutifully checked himself. ‘Oh yes,
Lord Thingummy-Other, a Catholic peer, humbly endorses the government’s
request:
    ‘Do you
mean Lord Crompton?’ purred Father Michael with deferential enthusiasm.
    ‘I’m
sorry, I didn’t note the name,’ said Father Andrew brusquely
    ‘What
do the sisters think?’ asked Anselm, realigning the debate but relishing the
way Father Andrew had batted down Michael’s impulse for social climbing.
    ‘That
he should leave.’
    There
was a general murmur of assent.
    Father
Jerome, a muscular chap troubled by occasional asthma and the only member of
the community ever to have been imprisoned, named the problem. ‘Leaving aside
any assurances, he’s come here for protection. Claiming sanctuary’s all about
holy innocence, an appeal to God for higher justice. We can’t give that. And if
he doesn’t deserve it we’re in for big trouble. In this world and the next.’
    ‘Nonsense,’
snapped Father Michael. ‘If he’s rejected this way and that because of a false
accusation, then he should stay His own appeal is backed by the Establishment.
How the world chooses to interpret our cooperation is neither here nor there.
Appearances count for nothing.’ And by way of retort he added, ‘I know exactly
what the Trotskyites among you think, but I happen to know Lord Crompton has a
distinguished war record. He knew Mother Teresa. An assurance from him can be
trusted.’
    And so
it went on. Only two monks kept silent: Father Anselm, who was biding his time,
and a recently professed Brother, the youngest member of the community.
    ‘Benedict,
what do you think?’ asked the Prior warmly
    The
young monk stood, as was the custom, and looked uncertainly around him. ‘I’m
afraid I don’t have an opinion. Just questions,’ he faltered.
    ‘Go on.’
    ‘If he’s
innocent, why the false name?’
    ‘A good
question.’
    ‘Why
come here?’
    ‘Another
good question.’
    ‘Why
wasn’t he indicted after the war?’
    ‘I don’t
know.’
    ‘Against
expectation, if there is a trial, what happens then?’
    ‘As
Father Jerome has rightly pointed out, we’re in trouble, especially if he’s
convicted.’
    Brother
Benedict scratched the shaved hair behind his ear. ‘That’s all I can think of
for the time being.’
    ‘Thank
you very much,’ said Father Andrew, leaning back. ‘Jerome and Benedict have
kindly demonstrated the nature of the problem facing the community.’ A
reflective silence spread across the gathered monks. Now, thought Anselm, was
the time for his planned contribution. He coughed, and stood. The Prior nodded.
    Anselm
held back from advocating any one course of action. Instead he donned the
mantle of impartial adviser, reaming off an impressive summary of issues,
neatly numbered, with recommendations depending on the view taken of other
points raised.
    It was
all very professional and implicitly based on lofty experience of these
difficult matters: sound advice from a man who knew the ropes. To the trained
eye, Anselm feared he would be found out by his brothers — that he was angling
to be involved in the handling of the Schwermann

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