Father McKenzie sat at his office desk in the Rectory, putting the finishing touches to his Sermon for Sunday. Of all the rooms in the Rectory, the only one that his house keeper, Mrs. Armitage, did not touch, was his office. It was rather untidy but it was the way he liked it, his sanctuary.
The Curate, Michael Finnegan, sat in an easy chair on the other side of the desk. He was reading a book or rather flipping through the pages of a book in an uneasy manner.
The Parish Sexton, James McGuire, sat at a card table near the book case at the other side of the spacious office. He was playing solitaire and the cards were not falling to his liking. He impatiently scooped them up and began shuffling them, saying,
“Where in God’s name is Babbage?”
Father McKenzie gave a cough and shifted uneasily in his seat as he looked at the Sexton over the top of his spectacles.
“Remember the Commandment, Sexton. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”
“Sorry Father McKenzie, but Babbage is never late for cards.”
“He is probably debating the finer points of campanology or bell casting. You know how he gets lost in the subject when the debate becomes vigorous. He has been a departed player of late” said the Curate, putting down the book. He checked the time on his fob watch before rising and walking to the window.
“Well, he certainly knows well of the subject and is an excellent bell ringer for our church,” added Father McKenzie.
“Yes, he will probably want to ring the bells at his own funeral,” added the Sexton.
Again, Father McKenzie shifted in his seat and looked at the Sexton over the top of his spectacles,
“Speak no ill of the dead, Sexton, speak, no ill.”
The twilight was fading as the curate looked out of the window towards the front gate.
“There is Babbage standing by the front gate. What on earth is he doing? He looks so different.”
The Sexton joined him and he too looked out of the window,
“Why doesn’t he come in? You are correct, Michael, what is the matter with him? Now he has turned away and is walking towards the Church.”
No sooner had the Sexton uttered the words when Mrs. Armitage, without first knocking, burst into the office,
“Father McKenzie, Father McKenzie, come quickly. Constable Porter is at the back door. Poor Mr Babbage has been found dead in Foundry Street.”
An eerie silence fell over the room just as the church bells began to peal.