Monday, August 11, 2008

Crisis = Danger + Opportunity: The Verger

THE VERGER by W. Somerset Maugham

There had been a christening that afternoon at St. Peter's, Neville
Square, and Albert Edward Foreman still wore his verger's gown. He kept his
new one, its folds as full and stiff though it were made not of alpaca but
of perennial bronze, for funerals and weddings (St. Peter's, Neville Square,
was a church much favoured by the fashionable for these ceremonies) and now
he wore only his second-best. He wore it with complacence for it was the
dignified symbol of his office, and without it (when he took it off to go
home) he had the disconcerting sensation of being somewhat insufficiently
clad. He took pains with it; he pressed it and ironed it himself. During the
sixteen years he had been verger of this church he had had a succession of
such gowns, but he had never been able to throw them away when they were
worn out and the complete series, neatly wrapped up in brown paper, lay in
the bottom drawers of the wardrobe in his bedroom.

The verger busied himself quietly, replacing the painted wooden cover on
the marble font, taking away a chair that had been brought for an infirm old
lady, and waited for the vicar to have finished in the vestry so that he
could tidy up in there and go home. Presently he saw him walk across the
chancel, genuflect in front of the high altar and come down the aisle; but
he still wore his cassock.

"What's he 'anging about for?" the verger said to himself "Don't 'e know
I want my tea?"

The vicar had been but recently appointed, a red-faced energetic man in
the early forties, and Albert Edward still regretted his predecessor, a
clergyman of the old school who preached leisurely sermons in a silvery
voice and dined out a great deal with his more aristocratic parishioners. He
liked things in church to be just so, but he never fussed; he was not like
this new man who wanted to have his finger in every pie. But Albert Edward
was tolerant. St. Peter's was in a very good neighbourhood and the
parishioners were a very nice class of people. The new vicar had come from
the East End and he couldn't be expected to fall in all at once with the
discreet ways of his fashionable congregation.

"All this 'ustle," said Albert Edward. "But give 'im time, he'll learn."
When the vicar had walked down the aisle so far that he could address the
verger without raising his voice more than was becoming in a place of
worship he stopped.

"Foreman, will you come into the vestry for a minute. I have something to
say to you."

"Very good, sir."


Hattip: Robert Wilson

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