We proudly release to the world an extract from a never published chapter of "The Thorny Birds" recently discovered in a waste bin behind the dilapidated terraced house at 18 Clappers Close, Wenchoster.
The single page is much stained and damaged by various unguents, and has been meticulously restored by three Coptic nuns working in isolation in the Convent of Perpetual Isolation, Belgrade. Unfortunately, one oft-repeated name eludes positive identification, and is here rendered as "Meggie". The ancient typeface used on the page could also lead this name to be interpreted as "Reggie".
and her hands went limp!
Father Ralph noticed that his "Cup-a-soup" had gone cold. He had been meditating longer than he had thought, engrossed in the new Commentary upon the Eucharistic nature of the Fourth Gospel, published by Brown & Co of Salisbury in 1984. The image of Meggie came into his mind. How long had it been since he had been to "Dunstudyin" (and Wells) and gazed upon her ample form? Meggie had always had a way of getting to the front of the queue of people in his mind, and today was no exception.
Meggie's secret had never been told to Father Ralph, or Cardinal Ralph de Bickerstaff as he now was. The secret of the illegitimate son, now a postulant, and soon to be Father Ricardus Thornybirds!
It had been because of this that Father Ralph had been sent to the outback of Salisbury from his home See of Vancouver. In those days he had been an out-spoken critic of group assessment, (trial by one's peers); the church and the bomb; critical - even - of the will of God. But now, in these quieter days of his preferment, he had finished being Rector of the Seminary and become Cardinal of OilWells, Archbishop of the Black See, and Convenor of Bloggs and Co.
Now was the moment of his triumph. Now he was to see his friend of a friend (if you know what I mean) go through the rigors of ordination to the office of Priest. Though he did not know that this was his son that had been born of the woman that had been the child of his aunt's second brother's third cousin twice removed. Neither of his aunts had warned him. Neither A'ntie Flow nor A'ntie Freeze, (who was, of course, over Flow), nor indeed this woman that was the reminder of the sin of Man. Also the cause of the sin of Man. From whence could his help come?
He looked down to the yellowed sheaves of paper on his lap, the notes from his own training many years before. He turned to the Pastoral Theology section, but found only advice on how to become a successful Industrial Chaplain to I.B.M. Laying them aside he took up his well-thumbed New testament, but found no resurrection there. Then, with the germ of an idea of salvation growing in his mind, he turned again to his notes and hurriedly located the Spirituality section. These notes he had taken in order to remember the advice given by the wise old man all those years ago. With trembling fingers he turned the page and found ......
Here the manuscript ends in a rough torn edge.
© Pharisaios 1983 & 2002
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