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The Road To Jericho
Tale of Good and Evil
By William Prickett
The Right Reverend David
Bishop of Connecticut
12 Hamilton Way
Father Donald Taylor
St. John's School
Dear Father Taylor,
July 1, 1996
As your Bishop, it has
just come to my attention in a roundabout way that you refused publicly
to give a would-be communicant the Sacrament of Bread and Wine in
early June of this year at a communion service on the campus of
Princeton University. As an Episcopal priest, you are required by
the Rule found on page 409 of the Book of Common Prayer to report
to me, your Bishop, all the circumstances in connection with a refusal
to administer the Holy Sacraments to a would-be communicant. Please,
therefore furnish me with a written explanation in fullest detail
of the whole matter as promptly as possible.
Only a fully ordained
Episcopal priest can consecrate Holy Communion, but a priest does
not have any personal discretion in whether or not to administer
Holy Communion. I do not need to tell you that the withholding of
the sacraments by an Episcopal priest to a would-be communicant
is a matter of the utmost gravity. Such a sanction by an Episcopal
priest on his own is only justified under the most serious circumstances.
I hope and pray for your sake that you were justified in refusing
the sacrament to the would-be communicant. As I say, let me hear
from you as soon as possible.
Right Reverend David
12 Hamilton Way
Dear Bishop Spokane,
July 15, 1996
This letter is, of course,
in response to your letter of July 1, 1996, directing me to explain
in "fullest detail" all the circumstances in connection
with my refusal to give the sacraments to a would-be communicant.
I realize fully the importance and gravity of the whole matter.
Following my graduation
from high school in Ohio, I managed to get through Princeton University
by a combination of scholarships, loans, student aid and working
in the dining rooms and in the summers as a camp counselor. In my
freshman year, I was assigned to room with Archibald Bullock Montgomery,
IV, or Archie as he was and is known. Archie was a young blueblood
from the Philadelphia Main Line. Archie had graduated from Saint
Stephen's which, as you know, is one of the outstanding boys' boarding
schools in the State of Connecticut. He was a tall, slim, good looking
young man with a dark complexion, sandy blond hair, small jet-black
eyes which darted this way and that behind his horn-rimmed glasses
and very white teeth. Archie was very aware of and proud of his
good looks. Archie had a flashing smile, which at times ended as
a smirk. Archie dressed in sports coats and gray flannels or English
tailored suits. He could be charming when he wanted to be or when
he wanted something. Archie played golf in the fall, squash in the
winter and tennis in the spring. Archie was an avid bridge player,
a game I had just barely heard of before I came to Princeton. Archie
had little use for me. Archie, like many of my classmates at Princeton,
was a chain smoker: he always had a Winston cigarette dangling from
his mouth or from his nicotine stained fingers. I hated the dank
smell which permeated our room from his cigarette smoking. I could
always tell when Archie was in our room by his persistent smoker's
Archie was also very
proud of his family and his lineage: he often quipped, "My
great, great grandfather was a Loyalist before, during and after
the American Revolution. Most of the family moved to Canada around
the time of the American Revolution. One of my English ancestors
lost his head along with King Charles when Cromwell came to power.
My father did not lose his head to Roosevelt, but he sure lost most
of the family's money due to Roosevelt's socialist policies!"
He often added, "I am the last Montgomery in our line of the
family. It is my job to produce a son or sons to carry on our name."
To my great surprise,
I found that Archie knew the New Testament as well as the Old Testament
far better than I did though my father was an Episcopal priest,
and I had grown up in a churchgoing family. Archie said that he
had been raised by his grandmother after his parents died and that
she was a devout Episcopalian. But Archie sneered and rolled over
on Sunday mornings when I got up and went to participate in the
early service at the Princeton Chapel, saying, "Much good that
will do you, Pal!"
Archie had a sarcastic
turn of phrase and a biting sardonic wit, which he used unmercifully
when he was teasing or deriding someone. Archie would laughingly
deny "borrowing" the change on my bureau for his breakfast
or for a late snack at night, even when I caught him red-handed.
(He often did not repay such borrowings.) Archie frequently came
back to our room in Holder Hall in our freshman year quite late
after a night of drinking in the Nassau Tavern or after an all night
bridge game. I must admit he never seemed the worse for wear the
next day. On weekends, Archie often went to deb parties or weddings
on the Philadelphia Main Line or Long Island or the North Shore
in Boston. At times he tried to regale me with accounts of his escapades
in New York with hookers he picked up in Times Square or even up
in Harlem. I must also say Archie studied diligently in the courses
that interested him and always got good grades. He often said, "It's
now up to me to get the family's money back."
I loved lacrosse and
rugby and played both all four years I was at Princeton. One afternoon,
Archie came back into our room and found me studying in my damp
sweat clothes. He called me "Stinky." When Archie saw
I detested the nickname, he made certain it stuck. After our freshman
year, we went our separate ways. I roomed with Jack Caldwell who
played varsity football and lacrosse. Archie and I would pass occasionally
on campus. Sometimes Archie would return my nod or greeting but
not always. I joined Tiger Inn, the athletic eating club with Jack
Caldwell. Archie joined one of the fancy social eating clubs. I
forget just which one.
There was a lovely Saturday
night in May of our senior year during Princeton House Parties Weekend
which I will never forget. I happened to be standing at the top
of the large flight of stairs in front of Blair Arch waiting for
Jack Caldwell. We had both played in the lacrosse game against Dartmouth
that afternoon. We were going to play pool and drink a few beers
at Tiger Inn since neither of us had dates for House Parties. I
had just passed Archie who was standing smoking at the bottom of
the steps. He had not responded to my hello. Just then, a small
pretty girl, her long blonde hair flying, came running right on
past me and on down the steps two at a time. Archie flipped his
cigarette as she threw herself into his open arms saying, "Archie,
Archie, so sorry to be late dearie!" Then they came up the
stairs together, laughing uproariously. Archie noticed me. He hesitated
and then said, "Daisy, I kind of want to introduce you to Don,
or Stinky as I affectionately named him." Just then Jack Caldwell
came through Blair Arch. Seeing I was talking to Archie and a pretty
girl, he waited under Blair Arch. Archie continued, "Stinky
was my assigned roommate in freshman year. But, we went our separate
ways, didn't we, Stinky? Stinky does religion, philosophy and lacrosse
while I do only girls, girls, girls. Stinky, meet Daisy Buchanan.
Daisy is the current lady of my life. I may even marry her if she
gets real lucky! Right, Honey? In fact, Daisy has already proposed
to me, haven't you, Daisy? I may just accept in spite of her disfiguring
birthmark unless I get a larger financial offer from some other
wealthy girl in the meanwhile!"
In the bright light
of the lamps illuminating the steps, I could just see a tiny heart-shape
birthmark at the corner of Daisy's right eye. Daisy replied somewhat
shyly, "Nice to meet you, Don." Then with a wry smile,
she added, "Archie always seems to count his chickens, including
me, before they are quite hatched. But I'm not at all sure that
I will be able put up with Archie's outrageous treatment of me on
a long term basis." (Prophetic words.)
Archie replied in his
teasing voice, "Okay with me, Honey. Sally is just dying to
get me back. In fact, she called last night, or maybe I called her,
come to think of it. She has no birthmarks anywhere on her beautiful
body or at least none that I have been able to find any so far!"
Daisy looked like she
was about to cry and exclaimed, "Oh, Archie. Why are you always
so darn mean to me?"
Archie saw Daisy's obvious
anguish, smiled his sardonic smile, and then said, "There,
there, Daisy Pooh. Of course, I'm just kidding you. I scarcely ever
think of Sally or her lovely body especially when I have my Daisy
in my arms. Sally's nothing but the class slut, or maybe I should
call her a first class slut. After all she has laid most of our
class except, of course, Stinky and a few others who are too sanctimonious
to taste the pleasures of Sally's delicious flesh." Archie
then took Daisy in his arms, embraced her and tenderly kissed her
on the mouth. Daisy smiled and looked radiant again.
There was a somewhat
awkward pause. I said, "Well, very nice to meet you, Daisy.
See you around, Archie." Archie replied, "Not unless I
get my religion back, Stinky, like you and Daisy. But that's not
highly probable, is it? I lost my faith years ago when I was Sacristan
at St. Stephen's School and drank up all the communion wine one
Saturday night. I damn near got fired. I have never been able to
find my faith again. Too bad, but no loss. Come on, Daisy Pooh,
time's awasting! Let's not stand here all night talking religion
to dull old Stinky. It's time for Archie to show Daisy just how
to party, party!"
Daisy said to me, "I
hope we'll meet again."
On the campus bands
were playing dance music. I noticed that Daisy's feet had been doing
small dainty dance steps all the time we were talking. Now she broke
into a series of twirls around Archie saying, "Come on, Archie
my dear. Let's dance together all night. I just love dancing especially
with you, Darling."
Archie said to me, "Stinky,
my boy, I firmly believe that dancing is the upright expression
for a vertical desire. I myself prefer getting right to the point,
and I'm in a fair way of getting Daisy to agree with my point of
view. Right, Honey? In fact, Daisy was a virgin until our first
date, but she has come an awful long way under my expert guidance
since that night in the Hollywood Motel near Trenton." Turning
to Daisy, he said "Remember, Honey, how you first cried and
cried but ended up laughing and begging me to make love to you again?"
Daisy looked embarrassed
and said, "Archie, come on now, you rascal, I don't know why
I put up with you except that I love you. Have you no sense of decency
Archie smiled and said,
"Nope, Daisy Pooh. None at all and neither do you for that
matter anymore or so I found!"
Daisy looked more embarrassed
and said to me, "Don, I hope we'll meet again some time."
I said, "Me, too."
Archie and Daisy went
gaily off arm in arm through the lovely May night. I came on up
the stairs. Jack Caldwell looked after Archie and Daisy. Jack said,
"What a rotten son of a bitch that guy Archie is. I pity that
pretty little girl, whoever she is. She would do herself a favor
by giving Archie the gate here and now!"
I replied, "Jack,
unless I miss my guess, and on pretty short acquaintance, I am afraid
that little Miss Daisy is hopelessly enamoured of our classmate,
Jack said, "Well,
God help her is all I can say."
I did see Daisy one
other time before graduation. I was coming back by train from New
York. I got on the little train that runs from Princeton Junction
into Princeton itself. Just as the train was leaving Princeton Junction,
a pretty blonde girl sat down in the vacant seat alongside of me:
it was Daisy. She turned and looked at me, then turned away embarrassed.
Finally she smiled and somewhat shyly said, "Don, I am not
sure you remember me." She took off her sun glasses. I saw
her long eyelashes and her tiny birthmark. "I am Daisy, Archie's
girlfriend. We met on the steps of Blair Arch one night during House
Parties. I am ashamed of what Archie said about our personal affairs.
I am always embarrassed afterwards, but I can't seem to help myself
when Archie is around."
I replied, "Why
of course, I remember you, Daisy, "How very nice to see you
again. But tell me, how are things going with you and Archie?
Daisy frowned ever so
slightly, blushed and said somewhat hesitantly, "Well, let's
see. We are sort of engaged. My father does not like Archie at all
and says so openly. Mother has had another episode of depression,
so she does not really count. In fact, the rest of my family and
friends are not too crazy about Archie. But that doesn't make any
difference at all to me. I love Archie wildly, and I think he loves
me, though he never once has said so in so many words. He likes
to tease me about all sorts of things like his past girlfriends,
my birthmark, my shyness and my money, though I think he has a lot
himself. Sometimes I think Archie is a little lost, though he is
just about the smartest person I ever met. I think I may be able
to help him and protect him from himself. Actually, we like different
things. I like music and flowers, and I love to dance, none of which
interests Archie in the slightest. I am a little bit afraid of Archie
at times, if you must know, because he seems to take pleasure in
hurting me. Then he blames me saying I like it and encourage him.
I think it will all work out for the best, or at least I hope so.
But maybe I should just try to forget Archie and go on, finish Smith
College and get my master's in the decorative arts, particularly
pewter and early New England silver of which I have a small collection.
You are a friend of his. What do you think?"
But by then the little
train had pulled into the Princeton Station. I could only say "Good
luck, Daisy. I wish you and Archie the best." Over the years
I often wished that I had had the courage and fortitude to sit lovesick
little Miss Daisy Buchanan right down then and there and try to
open her firmly closed eyes, but I didn't.
When we became involved
in Vietnam, my roommate, Jack Caldwell and I went to a meeting with
Marine recruiting officers. We signed up to become Second Lieutenants
in the Marine Corps after graduation. Archie somehow heard I had
signed up with the Marine Corps. He jeered openly at me when he
next saw me, saying, "You are a downright fool, Stinky, to
volunteer, especially for the Marine Corps. Cannon fodder, that's
all you will be! I also hear your athletic friend, Jack Caldwell,
has also signed up. You can safely bet your sweet ass that old Archie
is far too smart to get his butt shot off playing soldier boy in
some god forsaken rice paddy in French Indo-China. For Christ's
sweet sake, Stinky, wise up. If nothing else, just look at what
happened to the French Army at Dien Bien Phu. They lost over four
thousand of their best professional soldiers - Foreign Legionnaires
and paratroopers - fighting hordes of slant-eye soldiers in pajamas
swarming up out of the jungle. No indeed, I guess I'll marry Daisy
or some other well heeled girl and go to Wharton Business School
and have a couple of sons rather than get drafted. Or maybe I will
go to Canada where I still have some distant cousins." I said
to Archie, "But do you really love Daisy?" Archie said,
in a serious tone, "Stinky, don't be silly. Of course I do
though I tease her quite a lot." Archie, as I recall, was awarded
a couple of prizes at graduation in economics and finance.
After being air evacuated
out of Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, I ended up in the Portsmouth
Naval Hospital for a series of operations to get the rest of some
Viet Nam mortar fragments out of my right shoulder. Jack Caldwell
was wounded in a rice paddy trying to pull his radio man to safety.
While I was recuperating, I happened to read in an old Princeton
Alumni Weekly that Archie had indeed married Daisy in a big wedding
at her family's home in Bath, Vermont. Our class leaders at Princeton
were Archie's ushers. (Somehow, I heard later that a daughter, Karen,
was born some six months after the wedding.) Of course, I had not
been invited. Archie did go to Wharton Business School in Philadelphia.
He then went to work for Lehman Brothers but a couple of years later
opened his own firm, Montgomery Securities in New York City. After
leaving the Marine Corps, I got married, graduated from the Episcopal
Theological Seminary and then became the school chaplain at various
boarding schools. Jack Caldwell became a New York corporate lawyer
at Moffe, Tabler & Eckstein. Right after I was separated from
the Marine Corps I attended a ceremony near Boston at which Jack
was presented with the Navy Cross medal for bravery. Longhaired
students interrupted the occasion with anti-war chants and placards
with pictures of Ho Chi Minh and Jane Fonda. Jack, as he wiped away
some spit from his sleeve said to me, "The grateful thanks
of the youth of our country in liquid form so to speak. So much
for what the present generation thinks of 'Princeton in the Nation's
Then, about seven or
so years after graduation, I happened to run into Archie at the
funeral of a classmate of ours in Connecticut. Archie came up to
me and said, "Well, I'll be damned! If it isn't old Stinky
himself, back from the wars and now a full-fledged Episcopalian
man of the cloth!"
I replied, "You're
right, Archie. How are things going with you?"
Archie smiled broadly
and replied with gusto as he lit up a Winston, "Great, Stinky!
Just great! I married Daisy. You may remember her. She was the little
girl with a pink birthmark near her right eye. Of course, Daisy
turned out to be sort of a stick-in-the-mud, to put it mildly. I
have never been able to teach her how to play a decent game of bridge
or tennis for that matter. We have two kids, Karen, seven, but,
most important, a son to carry on the Montgomery name and our line
of the family. Bully is now two. Daisy had a horrible time conceiving
and having Bully. She was in bed for the last two and a half months.
She can't have any more kids. But, that doesn't matter. Bully is
my namesake and the very apple of my eye and of his mother's as
well. Why, he even looks just like me except he has long eyelashes
like his mother, Daisy! He sometimes has asthma, but our baby doctor
says that will pass. We live in a big old farmhouse in Jericho,
Long Island, which I totally renovated and named Trumps - a bridge
term. Trumps has everything: a tennis court, a pool and even a wildflower
garden and a little greenhouse for Daisy. I am making tons of money
as an investment banker in the M&A game - that is, mergers and
acquisitions to you. I even have a girlfriend on the side! What
more can a man ask?" Archie paused and then said almost to
himself, "Still there is something missing, but I don't quite
know what it is. But, say, just what are you doing with yourself
these days, Stinky?"
I replied, "Archie,
thanks for asking. I'm married, and have two little boys. I am the
school chaplain at a small boarding school in upper New York State.
You probably have never even heard of it."
Archie said, "What
is it called?"
I replied, "Rockford
Archie said, "Nope.
Never heard of it." Archie abruptly got up and walked off,
saying, "See you around, Stinky.
Our paths did not cross
again for several years. I went to a few of our major class reunions
at Princeton a couple of times, mostly to catch up with Jack Caldwell
and my other lacrosse and rugby friends, but Archie was never at
the reunions to which I went.
I eventually was appointed
Headmaster of St. John's School, a good boarding school in Tripp,
Connecticut. One Saturday, about fifteen years ago, I was officiating
at the wedding of a graduate of St. John's School. Archie was among
the guests. At the reception, Archie came over to me and said, "Say,
Stinky, old buddy, how are things with you? Still headmastering?
How's your family? You have two boys as I remember."
I replied, "Yes,
Archie. I am still a headmaster. How are things with you? I of course
read about you in the newspapers from time to time in connection
with your financial deals."
Archie frowned, lit
a cigarette and said, "Stinky, everything seemed to be going
my way for a while. I made one hell of a pile of money. I was doing
deals and mergers right and left. I was enjoying life to the fullest.
Then, one day last fall, quite out of the blue, I got a call from
my wife, Daisy. You may remember her. On a Saturday last fall, when
I left our house, Trumps, in Long Island to go play golf at the
Flour Mill Club, my four-year-old, curlyheaded son, Bully, again
had a sort of wheezing cough. Our pediatrician had diagnosed his
cough as mild asthma. The cough didn't seem at all serious to me.
But Bully came crying to the front door with me in his Winnie-the-Pooh
pajamas. As I was about to leave, Bully. grabbed me around the legs
and pleaded, 'Oh Daddy, please Daddy, stay home with Bully. Don't
leave me! Please, oh, please, Daddy!' Of course, I could not stay
- the guys were waiting for me to tee off. I tried to call Karen
to come and take care of her little brother, but she was upstairs
in the nursery watching the Saturday morning cartoons and said she
never heard me. Daisy, as usual, was sick in bed. Our babysitter
did not come in on Saturdays until 10:00 o'clock. Later in the morning,
Bully's wheezing apparently continued and got worse. Roberto, the
gardener, insisted on finishing washing the car before driving Daisy
and Bully to the hospital. Daisy did not realize just how serious
it was until Bully began to turn blue. Well, by the time she got
Bully to the Islip Hospital, Bully was dead in her arms. Daisy was
devastated. She blamed herself, as well she might, especially since
she could have no more children. Then she had a series of complete
nervous breakdowns, just like her own mother. That was the beginning
of a general downturn for me - nothing has gone right for me since
then. Everything seems to turn to shit." Archie ground out
his cigarette with his heel, turned to me and said with intense
vehemence, his face blazing with anger, "Stinky, you claim
to believe in a just and merciful God? Right! Well, answer me just
one thing if you can. Just why in the hell did God allow my only
son, Bully, to die? And, how about my grandmother who choked to
death at Sunday dinner, after church? Why? Why? Yeah, you tell me
why if you can!" Then, without waiting for my answer, he stormed
away to the bar.
In the years thereafter,
I sometimes ran across newspaper accounts of Archie's big financial
deals and mergers, or occasionally read about him in our class notes
in the Princeton Alumni Weekly. But, Archie himself seemed to have
passed completely out of my life. By then, as I have noted, I had
been appointed Headmaster of St. John's School. Besides being Headmaster,
I coached lacrosse and taught Sacred Studies.
Thirteen or fourteen
years ago, shortly after the fall term began, I met, as usual, with
my class of new students in Sacred Studies for the first time. Among
them was Karen Bullock Montgomery, a new fourth former, about fourteen
years old. In going over the list of students, I found that Karen
was Archie's daughter. In my welcoming remarks to my class, I said,
"Welcome to my class in Sacred Studies. I don't know any of
you yet but I am sure we will get to know each other well in the
course of the fall term. But I do know the father of one of you,
or rather did know him. Karen's father, Archibald Montgomery, was
a roommate of mine when we were freshmen at Princeton years ago.
I also knew Karen's mother very slightly. Karen, I haven't seen
them in years, but, of course, like everybody else, I have followed
your father's career in the financial world. You'll have to catch
me up on your parents some time." Karen blushed deeply and
a look of horror passed over her young face. She seemed to be on
the verge of tears but almost instantly recovered her composure.
I, of course, quickly went on to other things. Karen's adviser told
me later that day, "Karen does not see her father. There seems
to have been some sort of nasty incident or unpleasantness in connection
with the separation of her parents." Clearly, Archie was a
subject to stay away from with Karen. Indeed, Karen always carefully
kept her distance from me not only as her lacrosse coach and her
Sacred Studies teacher but as the Head of the school. Karen was
a radiant young girl when she came to St. John's with the good looks
of both her father and her mother. During her three years at St.
John's, she grew into a beautiful young woman, a good student, an
aggressive field hockey player and the captain of the undefeated
lacrosse team. She came to chapel and was a communicant. She was
the class valedictorian.
I saw Karen one rainy
fall weekend in her senior year with a small, middle-aged lady on
her arm. It was Karen's mother, Daisy. I did not recognize Daisy,
the pretty young girl who so many years ago had run swiftly down
the steps in front of Blair Arch and into Archie's waiting arms.
The lady standing forlornly in the fall rain was old before her
time: her face, behind heavy glasses, was sallow and lined under
her plastic rain hat. Daisy's lovely blonde hair had now been cut
short and had turned all gray. There was no longer any bounce in
what had been her lively dancing feet. When Karen saw that I was
coming their way, she deliberately turned her mother around and
moved off in the opposite direction, obviously to avoid meeting
me. Mother and daughter walked slowly back down the path, arm-in-arm,
through the gray November drizzle.
In March of the spring
that Karen graduated, I got a note from my secretary, "Karen's
mother, Mrs. Daisy Montgomery, died two days ago. Karen left school
to go to Vermont for the funeral. Karen will be arriving back in
Hartford by train tonight at 9:47 P.M. The assistant headmaster
is busy and asked if you could go to meet Karen and bring her back
to school." It was a nasty March night with the dirty slush
of the remains of winter snow still on the shoulders of the road.
After I met Karen at the Hartford train station, we got silently
into the school station wagon and started the hour-long drive back
to school. Karen said nothing, and I did not want to intrude.
Finally, however, the
silence grew unbearable, at least for me. I said to her, "Karen,
do you want to talk? If you do, that's fine. But, if you don't,
that's also okay. I remember that when you first came to St. John's,
I mentioned your father. Clearly that was not a happy subject. The
only time I saw your mother at school, you deliberately did not
introduce her to me though I had known her slightly when she came
to see your father at Princeton."
The young woman seated
beside me in the car was silent for awhile and then said quietly,
"Poor Mother, she is well out of her long pain and misery.
God bless her and keep her." She turned to me and continued,
"Before my little brother Bully suddenly died when he was about
four, my father and I were really quite close though I always was
a little bit jealous of Bully who clearly was my father's favorite.
My father drove me to school almost every morning when we lived
at Trumps on Long Island, and he delivered me and Mother to St.
Matthew's Episcopal Church on Sundays. On weekends my father and
I often took long walks with my dog, Teal, the black Lab my father
gave me. He always gave me and Teal a special Eskimo kiss when he
tucked me in at night. An Eskimo kiss is where you rub noses. My
father always had a pocket full of Mary Jane candies, which Teal
and I just loved. My father taught me how to play tennis and squash
and to fish for brown trout at my grandfather and grandmother's
bog on their place in Vermont. His nickname for me was Snicklefritz.
When Bully died, my father tried to blame it all on my poor sick
mother, though he himself had left Bully coughing his curly little
head off to go play golf. He also blamed me and Roberto, the gardener.
Everyone was to blame but him. After Bully died, my father began
to turn nasty to my mother and to me. He was drinking too much.
My father deliberately set out to break my mother's spirit. He was
always running my mother down, first in private and then publicly,
calling her Red Heart because of her little birthmark and saying
she had tricked him into marriage by deliberately getting pregnant.
Then he took to physically abusing my mother. He made no secret
of the fact that he had a girlfriend, Deirdre, and wanted to divorce
Mother and marry Deirdre mostly to have a son or sons. My mother
was terribly humiliated. But she was a saint, never said or did
anything for years. But she adamantly refused to give my father
a divorce, always hoping he would come back to her. To her dying
day, my mother loved my father desperately and would hear no wrong
said of him in her presence. She always blamed herself entirely
for Bully's death.
"However, if you
must know, even she finally had had enough. Late one night I was
awakened by my father shouting at the top of his lungs at my mother.
When I hurried into their bedroom, I found he had knocked one of
her teeth out. Then, he came drunkenly into my room after breaking
down the door, shouting as he came through the door that he loved
me and wanted to take me away. I was very seared and thought he
might try to rape me. Finally, he went down to the living room,
threw up all over the couch and passed out. God, how the living
room stank of whiskey, vomit and cigarettes! My mother and I packed
that very night and were ready to leave the big house in Jericho
early the next morning. Mother's face was all purple and swollen.
I couldn't find my Labrador, Teal, so we had to leave her behind.
My father broke my heart by ordering that Teal be put down. We drove
to Bath, Vermont, where my grandparents lived. But, my mother still
totally refused to agree to the divorce which my father wanted in
order to marry his current girlfriend, Deirdre, a high fashion dress
designer. Later I heard that Deirdre had split with my father after
bringing charges against him for physical abuse. My father left
my mother virtually penniless, having invested and lost all the
very substantial funds that she had inherited that he could get
his hands on. He also hocked and then lost her early American silver
and pewter collection of which she was very proud. Fortunately for
me, the funds for my education had been put in trust by my grandfather,
so my father could not get at them, but, by golly, he sure tried
to get my funds invested in one of his deals that the SEC successfully
persuaded the courts to hold illegal, based on market manipulation.
He's now one very rich man, or so I am told. Much good may it do
him! I want no part of the filthy money he has made in his questionable
financial deals, nor him for that matter."
I said, "But, Karen,
where will you live?"
She snapped back, "Why
with my mother's sister, Aunt Sophy, and her husband, Uncle Bob,
in Bath! They have no children. I'm almost the daughter they never
had. Well, now, I really will be a daughter to them. Anyone but
Karen then continued
bitterly, "Though she tried to hide it, I knew Mother was really
sick for the past year - very sick and in pain. I tried to find
out what was the matter, but she would never tell me. Last week,
she died, ostensibly from pneumonia. I am devastated by her death
but even more by what I had come to suspect. Today, I forced our
family doctor, Dr. Ingleton, to tell me what he thought the real
cause of Mother's death was. If you must know, Dr. Ingleton said
he thought that the underlying cause of my mother's death may have
been advanced untreated syphilis. An autopsy was done before her
funeral to confirm it one way or the other. The results have not
yet come in."
Karen continued bitterly,
"Believe me, I had reason enough to hate my father with all
my heart for all that he had done to my mother, but now that I believe
that he caused Mother's death, I will never forgive him or ever
see him again. Okay, so you know the whole ugly story of my family
and particularly my father. I will not discuss it with you nor anyone.
In fact, what you now know, you alone know: you must promise me
to keep it strictly to yourself. Okay?"
I said, "You have
my promise, Karen."
We then drove all the
way back to St. John's through the cold March rain in silence. The
only sound was the rhythmic swish of the windshield wipers and the
quiet sobbing of the young woman huddled up in the front seat beside
However, by the time
we drove through the stone gates of St. John's, Karen had stopped
crying. She was sitting straight up, stone faced, staring ahead
at the wet road. I said to her as I let her out at her dorm, "Karen,
are you okay?" She replied evenly, "Yep. I'm okay, I guess.
Thanks. I'm tough. Remember, I have something of my father in me.
Mum's the word, right? Good night. And thanks for coming all the
way to get me on such a lousy night."
Karen graduated cum
laude and went on to Smith College. The reports I received from
Smith confirmed that Karen also did well there. I have never seen
Karen in person since the day she graduated from St. John's School.
I knew only that she lived in Bath, Vermont, taught skiing and coached
girls' lacrosse at the Bath High School.
About ten years ago,
I was asked by a young woman who had graduated from St. John's to
come and officiate at her wedding on Long Island. After I had completed
the ceremony and was passing among the guests on the lawn of the
Flour Mill Club, suddenly I came face to face with Archie. Archie
was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. On his arm he had
a strikingly handsome young woman wearing a black dress and a large
fashionable hat. She had dead white skin, greenish eyes and dark
red hair. Archie said, "Well, I'll be damned. If it isn't old
Stinky himself I did not recognize you as you were doing your mumbo-jumbo
during the ceremony. Here, let me introduce you to Lady Penelope
Howland. She is a very close friend of mine these days. Pen, please
meet Father Don Taylor. He was in my class at Princeton years ago."
Penelope looked coolly
at me and said, "How nice to meet one of Archie's old university
mates. Archie, if the two of you will excuse me for a moment, I
have to powder my nose. I am sure the two of you have a lot to talk
With that, she slipped
away. Archie looked after her as she left. Then Archie turned back
to me, lit a Winston and said, "Well, and how are things with
you, Stinky? Just what are you doing with yourself these days? I
see you are still wearing your collar turned around backwards."
I said, "Archie,
as you may remember, I am married, I have two boys. I am still the
Headmaster of St. John's School in Connecticut. How are you? I have
heard of some of your doings in the financial world."
Archie said, "Just
so, so. Oh, I am doing okay in the financial world. But I never
will get over the death of my only son, Bully, ten years ago. Daisy
died a while back of cancer, but we had been separated for some
time. My daughter, Karen, has some sort of a hang-up dating back
to the time of my bust up with Daisy. Karen, still won't see me
or talk to me. The house, Trumps, is sort of a mess and run down:
the tennis court needs resurfacing, the pool hasn't been opened
for about three years and Daisy's garden is now overrun with weeds."
Then Archie's tone changed, and he said brightly, "But, say
Stinky, you got a look at Lady Penelope. Of course, she's English.
Her father was an English major in a Guards' Regiment. Her mother
and father were from prominent Anglo-Irish families. As staunch
Irish Nationalists and Catholics, they were bitterly against Penelope's
mother's marriage to an English Protestant officer. In fact, some
ten years later, the IRA planted a bomb in their car which killed
Penelope's mother and father and the eldest sister, Briseis. How
God awful! Of course, I have been trying to get Pen to marry me
for a couple of years. We sort of like the same sort of things -
tennis, bridge and travel. But Pen keeps putting me off for reasons
I just can't understand."
Just then, Lady Penelope
glided back up again and said, "Archie, I know that it's grand
fun for you to have a get together with an old college crony, but
I am simply parched. I would love another glass of bubbly. Would
you be a sweetie and get me a glass of champagne?"
Archie said, "Of
course, Pen. Excuse me, Stinky. I take care of this lady's every
need. Will you keep her company while I go get her a glass of champagne
and myself a Scotch?"
As we sat down at a
small table, I said, "Lady Penelope, Archie told me that you,
like him, are a bridge and tennis player. Archie also says he's
been trying to get you to marry him for a couple of years. Is that
right? Are you going to marry him and perhaps produce a son and
heir for him?"
Penelope smiled faintly
and said, "Oh, yes. Archie has been after me to marry him for
ever so long, mostly, I suppose, because he wants a son to replace
his son who died. At first Archie was great fun and exciting, and
we had wonderful good times all over the world. I considered marriage
to Archie at that time quite seriously. He was a sort of father
figure to me at the outset. But, frankly, now I am quite sure that
I do not want to give up my freedom and what's left of my figure
to whelp a litter of American Montgomery toddlers for Archie's familial
ego, even though Archie has spent what amounts to a fortune on me
over the last couple of years. In fact, Archie even built and gave
me the house, No Trump, in Todi, Italy. But I cannot quite face
the prospect of having to live with Archie at Archie's original
house in Jericho. Trumps has gotten quite shabby and rundown. In
fact, I quite dislike staying at Trumps at all. It is still full
of things dating from Archie's marriage to his wife, Daisy, including
a wistful 'little girl' portrait of Daisy that still hangs over
her baby grand piano, her ruined garden and little greenhouse as
well as the child's little painted bed that is still in the nursery.
There are also monogrammed towels in every bathroom of the house
and her stationery is still in all the desk drawers. Archie doesn't
seem to give a ruddy damn at all as to how unnerving all that sort
of thing is for me and, I suppose, his prior lady friends. I think
down deep he is still in love with Daisy and feels very guilty,
though God knows, he apparently treated her abominably, including
outright physical abuse. Incidentally, I've had to make it quite
clear recently to Archie that the moment he so much as raises a
hand to me, I am history for Mr. Montgomery. Furthermore, frankly
I don't relish the prospect of years of wet nappies or diapers as
you Americans call them. Besides, Archie has lost or is in a fair
way of losing his virility. Originally I was attracted to him by
his vibrant masculinity. Now, Archie also has taken to spending
the night with high-priced hookers who frequent the bars in the
hotels on upper Park Avenue when I am not around, mostly to prove
to himself that he is still a great lover. I've often told him that
he might do better at lovemaking if he laid off so much scotch and
the two packs of cigarettes that he smokes every bloody day."
She paused and then said somewhat bitterly, "But, of course,
Archie, as always, knows best."
Penelope paused and
then continued, laying her hand on my sleeve, "Please do not
tell Archie that I probably will never marry him. I will tell him
again all in my own way and all in my own good time. Archie loves
being seen going around with and eventually marrying someone who
sports a British accent and title. I am, I guess, the quintessential
trophy woman for Archie. Actually, I got the title from my first
husband who was an aristocratic fag. When we got divorced, I was
technically no longer entitled to the title, but it impresses hotel
managers and shopkeepers and, yes, Archie. But the title is all
I've got left besides a knack for contract bridge and tennis and
some slight gift for foreign languages. Yes. I would like to get
married some time and have children, but to someone much more my
age and someone with whom I do not have to argue with all the bloody
time. Furthermore, I am getting decidedly tired of being known as
Archie's English Tart in the gossip pages here and also in Britain,
if you must know. Besides, Archie's reputation, never the best anyway,
got somewhat further tarnished in bridge circles because of a nasty
little incident in the Antigua bridge tournament last fall. Archie
was accused of having a peek, so to speak, at our opponents' cards.
As a result, we were both summarily thrown out of the tournament
and indeed out of the club at Antiqua."
She paused, and I said,
"Well I am sorry that you don't think that things are going
to work out for you and Archie, especially since you two seem to
have so many things in common such as tennis, bridge, and the same
Lady Penelope looked
over at me and said wryly, "As a matter of fact, though my
father was Church of England, my mother was originally an Irish
Catholic. I have always had the feeling that I will probably end
up going back to my mother's faith as my youngest sister, Nausica,
or Nosey as we call her, has. Also, my Uncle Terence is a Jesuit
priest, though he won't speak to me. Archie is always deriding all
religion, especially Catholicism, though I sense that this is just
another part of his sardonic and sarcastic facade. However, argue
as I may, I have never been able to ever get Archie to admit that,
underneath all of his sarcasm, he has a secret hankering to return
to the Anglican or Episcopal Church in which he was raised by his
grandmother in Philadelphia after he was orphaned as a boy. Archie's
attitude on religion is one of the many reasons that I have never
married Archie or, for that matter, borne him a child. But, as I
told you, frankly, I am getting deadly tired of the life of an English
courtesan, which seems to consist of following Archie from bridge
tournament to bridge tournament and playing tennis at fashionable
places around the world while trying to keep my weight down. I really
envy my younger sister, Nosey, who is happily married to an assistant
professor at a small Catholic university in Scotland. She now has
three nice children of her own."
Just then Archie came
bustling back with a flute of champagne for Lady Penelope and a
dark Scotch on the rocks for himself. Archie said jovially, "Here
you are my dear. Oh, Stinky, I quite forgot to ask you if you wanted
a drink, but you never do drink, do you Stinky? Well, Pen, do come
on along. There are dozens of people and friends I am simply dying
to have you meet. See ya, Stinky. Maybe we will be calling you one
of these days to tie the knot for Pen and me!"
Penelope said lightly,
"Not likely, Archie, old boy, not at all likely, my dear."
Then she turned to me and said, "Don, nice to have met you
and to have had a little chat with one of Archie's university friends."
Together they moved
off. Archie looked proud and elated. Penelope was still smiling
Then, about ten days
before this year's Princeton Reunions weekend, I got a call from
Dan Blackwell, the president of my Princeton class at the time.
He said, "Say, Don, I'm calling you at the suggestion of a
classmate that I invite you to come to our Thirtieth Class Reunion.
You haven't made many of our class reunions except our fifth and
tenth. But, Don, old buddy, one reason why we want you to come back
is to preach and give Holy Communion to the class on Sunday at the
Princeton Chapel after Reunions on Saturday. In fact, I have cleared
the idea with the Dean of the Princeton Chapel. He is delighted."
I was somewhat reluctant to accept the invitation. Princeton Reunions
are, when all is said and done, a sort of long sentimental weekend
where aging Princeton alumni try to relive and glorify their college
days. In addition, I should be at St. John's School in connection
with the St. John's upcoming graduation a week later. But, after
a moment's hesitation, I said, "Dan, I had not planned on coming
to our thirtieth reunion but I am so honored by the invitation to
preach at the Sunday service in the Chapel and give Communion to
my classmates that I will, of course, come. Besides, it will be
great to see you and all the guys again. Thank you for inviting
me. See you there. I will take care of sending in the Reunion reservation
form which is still lying on my desk."
Then, on the Friday
before I left St. John's School for the Reunions on Saturday, I
got a fax quite out of the blue from Archie:
Don, heard you are going
to come back for Reunions. Great! So am I. Let's get together for
old time's sake. Besides, there is something on which you may be
able to help me.
Your (Ex)Roommate Archie
P.S. - I might even
come to hear you preach and take Communion - what would you think
I put two and two together:
Archie had gotten Dan to invite me. I also wondered just what was
it that Archie wanted but, deep down, I knew it had to do with Karen.
---- William Prickett
'47 is a lawyer in Delaware and enjoys foxhunting. This is his first
work of fiction.
© 2001 by William
Prickett. All rights reserved.
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