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Sixpence

Sixpence
3
‘It was what he wanted himself. He had a high regard for you personally. He
thought you were an understanding man.’
‘That’s good to hear,’ I said. ‘I do my best.’
‘Yes, I know. He asked me to see to it, especially when he knew he didn’t have
much longer.’
‘So he was a believer then?’
She gave a weak smile. ‘Oh no, vicar, not a believer, not in the sense you mean.
There were a good many things he didn’t believe in, like blue skies, rain, sunshine.
He saw them, accepted them as facts, that’s all, just as he accepted the existence of
God, as a fact. Belief doesn’t enter into it.’
‘That’s a most unusual interpretation,’ I said. ‘I have heard something similar,
but not couched in quite those terms.’
‘It wasn’t all acceptance of facts with him,’ said the widow. She rubbed her arms
gently with her hands. ‘There was belief, strong belief. There were many things he
believed in, things such as truth, honesty, fairness, cooperation, if that’s not a dirty
word, and justice to mention only a few. Man made things, you see, things which can
be unmade much more easily than they were created. He thought he had to believe in
them, and work at the ideas too, otherwise they would go away and be lost, and the
world would be all the poorer for it. He thought everybody should work at them,
though he wasn’t naive enough to believe that everybody would. He was a realist in
that way.’
‘He sounds to have been a more unusual man than I had realised,’ I said.
‘He was. I don’t think you’ll find many like him. We had longer together than I
had any right to expect, much longer, but I never found anyone else quite the same
either.’
She looked around her, apparently taking in the scenery, although it was not
certain just what it was she saw.
‘How long were you married for?’ I asked, prompting what I thought was a need
to talk.
‘Over twenty years. A long time. Yet not long enough. Never long enough with a
man like that. I suppose that’s true for any happy marriage.’
‘He was... That is, there was a fair age difference between you,’ I said diffidently.
That much was true, I knew, and had heard certain comments about it from
members of my parish, people who should have known better, people who received a
swift reminder about Christian charity. I regret I’m a bit sharp in the tongue when it
comes to that sort of thing. No, that’s not in the slightest bit true. I don’t regret it at
all. Certain things cannot be accepted.
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