Chapter 32

in which Father Smith assists in the ordination of Canon Joseph Scott to Bishop.

The Bishop left one hundred and seventy-eight pounds three shillings and fourpence when he died, and he left it all in trust to Canon Scott 'to be used for the conversion of Scotland to the True Faith.' Most of the canons felt that an even greater sum would be required to do the trick, but they placed Canon Scott's name at the head of the three names they sent to Rome and the Pope agreed that he should be the new Bishop, even although he was only thirty-four years old, and everybody was very pleased because they knew that that had been the Bishop's wish or otherwise he wouldn't have left the young man all that money.

The grubby-mouthed urchins for whom Monsignor O'Duffy had blown up balloons in 1927 were dying in Libya when the new Bishop was consecrated in the pro-Cathedral on the Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, 1942, coram Lady Ippecacuanha in her green W.V.S. uniform. The Bishop of Iona and the Lochs was the consecrating Bishop, but Canon Smith's snooty cousin from England was a consecrator as well, because there had to be three consecrators, to make sure that the Holy Ghost was properly handed on.

Afterwards there was a grand luncheon at the Carlton-Elite, because even although it was wartime it was not every day that a young man of thirty-four became a bishop. Old James Scott was at the high table, sandwiched in between the Bishop of Iona and the Lochs and the snooty old Bishop from England, only this time he didn't have to wear his tramway-man's uniform, because he had retired from points duty two years ago, and in any case he would probably have been allowed the day off. Mrs. Scott was at the high table, too, but she hadn't been able to buy a new hat, because she hadn't known that her son was going to be made a bishop and had allowed her coupons to run out. There were also a number of Polish, French, and Czechoslovak officers in uniform, because the Church in the town was very international these days. Poor Canon Bonnyboat wasn't there, though, because he had had a stroke three months previously and was now living in the Aged and Infirm Priests' Home, which was especially unfortunate just then, as he could have prevented their lordships from making quite a lot of bloomers at the consecration. Elvira was there, however, very neat in the second subaltern's uniform, because she had given up film-making and had come home to join the A.T.S. Canon Smith sat beside her and he thought that she was looking lovelier than ever; she still said that she wasn't ever going to get married, but she said that she might become a nun when the war was over if she found out that she loved God enough.

The spam was excellent and Canon Smith felt in fine fettle as he rose to propose the new Bishop's health and to wish him ad multos annos. He began by saying that he thought that he had a special right to propose the toast, because he himself had baptized his lordship thirty-four years previously and it wasn't every priest who could boast that he'd seen babies turn into bishops.

They needn't be afraid, however: he wasn't going to make a long speech, because he had no need to as their new Bishop's qualities were too well known to them all. All he was going to say was this: their old Bishop had been a great and a wise ruler and his chief concern had been that the diocese which he had loved so much should have a great and wise ruler when he died. That was the only sense in which ambition was lawful for a Christian: ambition for the work and not for self.

The true poet cared only that great poetry should be written and not that he himself should write it. So it was with priests. Good priests cared only that the flickering flame should be handed down the line of tapers and not that they themselves should be the tapers. Bishops were God's chosen tapers, the beacons which He had lighted with Holy Ghost down the centuries and then passed the flame on to others. That understanding, he was sure, would be in their new Bishop's mind as he processed down their churches in his purple and gold: the understanding that he himself would crumble back to dust, but that God's glory which he carried would blaze on for ever. He felt that there was something else which he ought to say but he couldn't think of it, so he just wished the new Bishop a long life and a happy one and then sat down.

'My dear Thomas, I had no idea that you were such an orator,' his snooty cousin said as they stood in the cloakroom buttoning on their coats. 'In fact, my dear fellow, you're wasted in these barbarous parts. You ought to have come to England: you'd have gone ever so much farther.'

'It's the Church I want to go far,' Canon Smith said, and then changed the subject, because, after all, it wasn't his business to snub the snooty Bishop.


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