Mr. Godwin awoke from his sleep. The coach driver whose services he had engaged at the White Hart Inn had jumped down from his seat and was rapping on the door with his knuckles. Mr. Godwin opened it drowsily. A lazy cranefly wafted into the coach, and he shooed it away.
“If you please, sir,” said the driver. “This is the end of the road. We’re on the Pilton estate, to be sure, and yonder is the house you’re after.”
“Excellent,” said Mr. Godwin. He took up his little pack, slung it over his shoulder, and exited the carriage. He was standing in a green valley, surrounded by a bowl of rolling hills, carpeted with oak forest. The road they had traveled down was lined with fruiting apple trees. The sun was sinking majestically in the west and shining on the leaves.
Mr. Godwin paid the driver, who turned and left him. Beyond the road, there were fields of wheat and vegetables, in which figures dressed in smocks and straw hats were laboring. Bringing in the harvest, Mr. Godwin presumed. He had been born in London and couldn’t be sure.
He began to take a path that wove between the fields. Ahead, he could see a smart country house, really an old farmhouse with more recently constructed wings. Still, it looked picturesque, nestling amongst the fields, orchards, and woods.
Mr. Godwin began to pant. He was a strong man for his age, but the week he had just spent traveling had weakened him.
Time to find your feet again, old chap.
As he reached the house, dogs began barking from within. He knocked, somewhat apprehensively, upon the door.
I hope I’ve found the right place. It’s a dashed remote spot to be stranded, if that’s what I am.
The door opened, and there was Lord Brigham, with his face tanned and his waistcoat unbuttoned.
“Godwin!” he cried, “at last! We were expecting you yesterday! Were the roads bad, or did you just take your time?”
“I spent a day in Exeter,” explained Mr. Godwin. “Not a bad little city, really.”
“Yes, it is a fine town,” agreed Lord Brigham, “with far less of the noise that London possesses. Still, you will find it much quieter here. I hope you will be able to sleep.”
“I’m sure I will manage,” said Mr. Godwin, taking off his hat.
“Well,” said Lord Brigham. “Come in! Come in! Supper is almost ready.”
Lord Brigham led Mr. Godwin down a tiled hallway into a parlor decorated in the country style, with many flowers and examples of local craftsmanship.
Brigham is looking well. He’s bigger now, more robust. The country air and the exercise agree with him.
“And how is Lady Brigham?” he said.
“Never been better,” said a golden voice, and in she strode in a pretty cotton dress decorated with embroidered cornflowers. Her hair was tied up with ribbon, and a babbling baby was in her arms.
“Ah, yes!” said Mr. Godwin. “You’re a sight for sore eyes, if you forgive me for observing it, my Lord.”
Brigham clapped him on the back. “Sit down!” he said, “Sit down! We eat here at the table in the parlor, such good food we have. I have never tasted the like. Let me pour you a glass of wine. Have you any tobacco? Allow me to fill your pipe.”
Mr. Godwin sat down and allowed his young friends to pamper him. “Where is Ambrose?”
“Oh,” said Annabella, “he’s just at the meeting house with Frederick. They’ll be getting back to eat any minute now, and so will Clothilde and Mr. Fox.”
“Meeting house?” said Mr. Godwin.
“Yes,” said Lord Brigham. “They’re building one for the village, out of strong oak wood grown here on this land. A tabernacle, you might say.”
“That sounds very fine,” said Mr. Godwin, “an excellent use for the mind and body.”
“It is,” said Annabella, rocking little Caroline in her arms, “and you should see them all at work together, the folk from the village, and Father Ambrose, and Frederick, and my husband when he’s not getting lost in the woods and over the hills.”
“Well, it is such lovely countryside,” said Lord Brigham, smiling broadly, “especially in the summer, that getting lost is no real hardship. I’ll take you for a long walk tomorrow if you’re amenable. Perhaps some of the others will want to come.”
The dog started barking again, a sturdy greyhound who patrolled up and down, his whole body quivering with the excitement of returning friends.
“There you are,” said Annabella. “Here come all our people.”
She went out to meet them.
“Well,” said Mr. Godwin, “I daresay you’ve landed, Brigham. Good for you!”
“I have, haven’t I?” said Brigham, sitting down across from Mr. Godwin. “I feel like the happiest man on God’s Earth.”
“Amen,” said Mr. Godwin.