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Title: The Parish Magazine
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0609311.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: December 2006
Date most recently updated: December 2006

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Title: The Parish Magazine
Author: Arthur Conan Doyle




It was six o'clock on a winter evening. Mr. Pomeroy, the printer, was on
the point of leaving his office, which was his back room, for his home,
which was his front room, when young Murphy entered. Murphy was an
imperturbable youth with a fat face and sleepy eyes, who had the rare
quality of always doing without question whatever he was told. It is
usually a great virtue--but there are exceptions.

"There are two folk to see you," said Murphy, laying two cards upon the
table.

Mr. Pomeroy glanced at them.

"Mr. Robert Anderson. Miss Julia Duncan. I don't know the names. Well,
show them in."

A long, sad-faced youth entered, accompanied by a mournful young lady,
clad in black. Their appearance was respectable, but depressing.

"I dare say you know this," said the youth, holding up a small,
grey-covered volume, the outer cover of which was ornamented with the
picture of a church. "It's the _St. Olivia's Church Magazine_. What I
mean, it's the Parish Magazine. This lady and I are what you might call
the editors. It has been printed by----"

"Elliot and Dark, in the City," said the lady, as her companion seemed
to stumble. "But they have suddenly closed down their works. We have the
month's issue all ready, but we want to add to it."

"A Supplement, if you get my meaning," said the youth. "That's the
word--supplement. The thing has become too dam'----"

"What he is trying to say," cried the girl, "is that the magazine wants
lighting up on the social side."

"That's it," said the youth. "Just a bit of ginger, so to speak. So we
arranged a Supplement. We will put it in as a loose leaf, if you follow
my meaning. It's all typewritten and clear"--here he drew a folded paper
from his pocket--"and it needs no reading or correcting. Just rush it
through, five hundred copies, as quickly as you can do it."

"The issue is overdue," said the lady. "We must have it out by midday
to-morrow. They tell me Ferguson and Co. could easily have it ready in
the time, and if you won't guarantee it, we must take it to them."

"Absolutely," said the youth.

Mr. Pomeroy picked up the typed copy and glanced at it. His eyes fell
upon the words, "Our beloved Vicar, Mr. Ffolliott-Sharp, B.A." There was
some allusion to a bishopric. Pomeroy threw the paper across to his
assistant. "Get on with it!" he said.

"We should like to pay at once," said Miss Duncan, opening her bag.
"Here is a five-pound note, and you can account for it afterwards. Of
course, you don't know us, and might not trust us."

"Well, if one did not trust the Parish Magazine--" said Pomeroy,
smiling.

"Absolutely," cried the youth. "But what I mean is that we want to pay
now. You'll send the stuff round to me at 16 Colgrove Road. Got it? Not
later than twelve. Rush it through. What?"

"It shall be there," said Pomeroy.

The pair were leaving the room when the girl turned back.

"Put your name as printer at the bottom," she said. "It's the law.
Besides, you may get the printing of the Magazine in the future."

"Certainly. We always print our name."

The couple passed out, and hugged each other in the passage.

"I think we put it across," said he.

"Marvellous!" said she.

"That fiver was my idea."

"Incredible!" she cried. "We've got him."

"Absolutely!" said he, and they passed out into the night.

The stolid Murphy wrought long and hard, and the Pomeroy Press was
working till unconscionable hours. The assistant found the matter less
dull than most which he handled, and a smile spread itself occasionally
over his fat face. Surely some of this was rather unusual stuff. He had
never read anything quite like it. However, "his not to reason why". He
had been well drilled to do exactly what he was told. The packet was
ready next morning, and before twelve o'clock it had been duly
dispatched to the house mentioned. Murphy carried it himself and was
surprised to find their client waiting for it at the garden gate. It
took some energy, apparently, to be the editor of a Parish Magazine.

It was twenty-four hours before the bomb burst, which blew Mr. Pomeroy
and his household into fragments. The first intimation of trouble was
the following letter:


"_Sir,

"We can hardly Imagine that you have read the contents of the so-called
Supplement to the Parish Magazine which has been distributed to the
members of the congregation of St. Olivia's Church. If you had you would
hardly have dared to make yourself responsible by putting your name to
it. I need not say that you are likely to hear a good deal more of the
matter. As to my teeth, I may say that they are remarkably sound, and
that I have never been to a dentist in my life.

"James Wilson

"(Major)._"


There was a second letter upon the breakfast table. The dazed printer
picked it up. It was in a feminine hand, and read thus:


"_Sir,

"With regard to the infamous paragraph in the new issue of the Parish
Magazine, I may say that if I have bought a new car it is no business of
anyone else, and the remarks about my private affairs are most unkind
and uncalled for. I understand that as you are the printer you are
legally responsible. You will hear in the course of a few days from my
legal advisers.

"Yours faithfully,

"Jane Peddigrew.

"14, Elton Square_."


"What the devil does it mean?" cried Pomeroy, staring wildly at his wife
and daughter. "Murphy! Murphy!"

His assistant entered from the office.

"Have you a copy of that Supplement, which you printed for the Parish
Magazine?"

"Yes, sir. I delivered five hundred, but there are a few in the office."

"Bring it in! Bring it in! Quick!"

Then Mr. Pomeroy began to read aloud, and apoplexy grew nearer and
nearer. The document was headed Social Notes, and began with several
dates and allusions to services which might give confidence to the
superficial and rapid reader. Then it opened out in this way:

"'Our beloved Vicar (Mr. Ffolliott-Sharp, B.A.) is still busy trying
to wangle a bishopric. This time he says in his breezy way that it is 'a
perfect sitter', but we have our doubts. It is notorious that he has
pulled strings in the past, and that the said strings broke. However, he
has a cousin in the Lord Chancellor's office, so there is always hope.'

"Gracious!" cried Pomeroy. "In the Parish Magazine too!"

"'In the last fortnight sixteen hymn books have disappeared from the
church. There is no need for public scandal so if Mr. James Bagshaw,
Junior, of 113 Lower Cheltenhan Place, will call upon the Churchwardens,
all will be arranged.'

"That's the son of old Bagshaw, of the bank," cried Pomeroy, "What can
they have been dreaming of?

"'The Vicar (the Rev. Ffolliott-Sharp, B.A.) would take this opportunity
to beg the younger Miss Ormerod to desisist from her present tactics.
Delicacy forbids the Vicar from saying what those tactics are. It is not
necessary for a young lady to attend every service, and to push herself
into the front pew, which is already owned (though not paid for) by the
Dawson-Braggs family. The Vicar has asked us to send marked copies of
this paragraph to Mrs. Deknar, Miss Featherstone, and Miss Poppy
Crewe.'"


Pomeroy wiped his forehead. "This is pretty awful!" said he. Then:

"'Some of these Sundays Major Wilson's false teeth will drop into the
collecting bag. Let him either get a new set, or else take off that
smile when he walks round with the bag. With lips firmly compressed
there is no reason why the present set may not last for years.'

"That's where the answer comes in," said Pomeroy, glancing at the open
letter upon his table. "I expect he'll be round with a stick presently.
What's this?

"'We don't know if Miss Cissy Dufour and Captain Copperley are secretly
married or not. If not, they should be. He could then enter Laburnum
Villa instead of wearing out the garden gate by leaning on it!'

"Good heavens, listen to this one! 'Mr. Malceby, the grocer, is back
from Hythe. But why the bag of sand among his luggage? Surely sugar
gives a sufficient profit at its present price. As we are on the
subject, we cannot but remark upon the increased water rate paid last
quarter by the Silverside Dairy Company. What do they do with all this
water? The public has a right to know.'

"Good Lord, listen to this! 'It is very wrong to say that our popular
member, Sir James Tender, was drunk at the garden party of the Mayor. It
is true that he tripped over his own leg when he tried to dance the
tango, but that can fairly be attributed to his own obvious physical
disabilities. As a matter of fact, several guests who only drank one
glass of the Mayor's champagne (natural 1928) were very ill in
consequence, so that it is most unfair to put so uncharitable an
interpretation upon our member's _faux pas_.'

"That's worth a thousand pounds in any Court," groaned Porneroy. "My
dear, Rothschild couldn't stand the actions that this paper will bring
on us."

The ladies of the family had shown a regrettable inclination to laugh,
but his words made them properly solemn. He continued his reading.

"'Mrs. Peddigrew has started a six-cylinder which is listed at seven
hundred and fifty pounds. How she does it nobody knows. Her late husband
was a little rat of a man who did odd jobs down in the City. He could
not have left so much. This matter wants looking into.'

"Why, he was the vice-chairman of the Baltic," said Pomeroy. "These
people are stark, staring mad. Listen to this.

"'Evensong will be at six-thirty. Yes, Mrs. Mould, at six-thirty sharp.
And Mr. King will be on the left-hand seat well within view. We can
count on your attendance. If you are not a pillar of the church, you are
generally sneaking behind one!' Oh, Lord, here's another.

"'If Mr. Goldbury, of 7 Cheesman Place, will call at the Vicarage he
will receive back the trouser-button which he put in the bag last
Sunday. It is useless to the Vicar, whereas in its right place it might
be most important to Mr. Goldbury!' There's no use laughing, you two.
You won't laugh when you see the lawyer's letters. Listen to this.

"'"Prithee why so pale, fond lover? Prithee why so pale?" The question
is addressed to William Briggs, our dentist friend of Hope Street. Has
the lady in pink chiffon turned you down, or is it merely that you are
behind with your rent, as usual? Cheer up, William. You have our best
wishes.'

"Good gracious! They grow worse and worse. Just listen to this.

"'If any motorists get into trouble, my advice to them is to see Chief
Constable Walton in his private room at the Town Hall. Cheques will, of
course, not be received. But surely it is far better to pay a small sum
across the table in ready cash--asking for no receipt--than to have the
trouble and expense of proceedings in the Court.'

"My word, we shall have some proceedings in the Court before we are
through. Here is a tit-bit which will keep the lawyers busy: 'The
Voyd-Merriman wedding was a most interesting affair and we wish the
young couple every happiness. We say "young" out of courtesy, for it is
an open secret that the bride will never see thirty-five again. The
groom also is, we should say, getting rather long in the tooth. By the
way, why did he start and look over his shoulder when the clergyman
spoke of "any just cause or impediment"? No doubt it was perfectly
harmless, but it gave rise to some ill-natured gossip. We had pleasure
in attending the reception afterwards. There was a detective to guard
the presents. We really think that his services could have been
dispensed with, for they would never have been in danger. Major Wilson's
two brass napkin rings were the pick of the bunch. There was a cheque in
an envelope from the bride's father. We have heard what the exact figure
was, and we quite appreciate the need for an envelope. However, it will
pay for the cab to the station. It is understood that the happy couple
will get as far as Margate for their honeymoon, and if the money holds
out they may extend their travels to Ramsgate. Address: the Red Cow
public house, near the Station.'

"Why, these are the richest people in Rotherheath," said Pomeroy, wiping
his forehead.

"There is a lot more, but that is enough to settle our hash. I think we
had best sell up for what we can get and clear out of the town. My gosh,
those two folk must have got out of an asylum. Anyhow, my first job must
be to see them. Maybe they are millionaires who can afford to pay for
their little jokes."

His mission proved, however, to be fruitless. On inquiry at the address
given he found that it was an empty house. The caretaker from next door
knew nothing of the matter. It was clear now why the young man had
waited at the gate for his parcel. What was Pomeroy to do next?
Apparently he could only sit and wait for the arrival of the writs.
However, it was a very different document which was handed in at his
door two evenings later, It was headed

"_R.S.B.Y.P_,"

and ran thus:

"_A special meeting of the R.S.B.Y.P. will be held at 16 Stanmore
Terrace, in the billiards-room of John Anderson, J.P., to-night at 9
p.m. The presence of Mr. James Pomeroy, printer, is urgently needed. The
matter under discussion is his liability for certain scandalous
statements recently printed in the Parish Magazine_."

It may well be imagined that Mr. Pomeroy was punctual at the
appointment.

"Mr. Anderson is not at home himself," said the footman, "but young Mr.
Robert Anderson and his friends are receiving." There was a humorous
twinkle in the footman's eyes.

The printer was shown into a small waiting-room, where two men, one a
postman and the other apparently a small tradesman, were seated. He
could not help observing that they were both as harassed and miserable
as he was himself. They looked at him with dull, lack-lustre eyes, but
were too dispirited to talk, nor did he feel sufficient energy to break
the silence.. Presently one of them and then the other was called out.
Finally the footman came for him, and threw wide a door.

"Mr. James Pomeroy," cried the footman.

At the end of a large music-room, which was further adorned by a
billiards-table, was sitting a semicircle of young people, all very
serious, and all with writing materials before them. None was above
twenty-one years of age, and they were about equally divided as to sex.
Among them were the two customers who had lured him to his doom. They
both smiled at him most affectionately, in spite of his angry stare.

"Pray sit down, Mr. Pomeroy," said a very young man in evening dress,
who acted as Chairman. "There are one or two questions which, as
President of the R.S.B.Y.P., it is my duty to put to you. I believe that
you have been somewhat alarmed by this incident of the Parish Magazine?"

"Of course I have," said Pomeroy, in a surly voice.

"May I ask if your sleep has been affected?"

"I have not closed my eyes since it happened."

There was a subdued murmur of applause, and several members leaned
across to shake hands with Mr. Robert Anderson.

"Did it affect your future plans?"

"I had thought of leaving the town."

"Excellent! I think, fellow-members, that there is no doubt that the
monthly gold medal should be awarded to Mr. Anderson and Miss Duncan for
their very meritorious performance, which has been well conceived and
cleverly carried out. To relieve your natural anxiety, we must tell you
at once, Mr. Pomeroy, that you have been the victim of a joke."

"It's likely to be a pretty costly one," said the printer.

"Not at all. No harm has been done. No leaflets have been sent out. The
letters which have reached you emanate from ourselves. We are, Mr.
Pomeroy, the Rotherheath Society of Bright Young People, who endeavour
to make the world a merrier and more lively place by the exercise of our
wit. Upon this occasion a prize was offered for whichever member or
members could most effectually put the wind up some resident in this
suburb. There have been several candidates, but on the whole the prize
must be awarded as already said."

"But--but--it's unjustifiable!" stammered Pomeroy.

"Entirely," said the Chairman, cheerfully. "I think that all our
proceedings may come under that head. On the other hand, we remind our
victims that they have unselfishly sacrificed themselves for the general
hilarity of the community. A special silver medal, which I will now
affix to your coat, will be your souvenir of the occasion."

"And I'll speak to my father when he comes back," said Anderson. "What I
mean is, there is printing and what not to be done for the firm."

"And my father really edits the Parish Magazine. That's what put it into
our heads," said Miss Duncan. "Maybe we can get you the printing after
all."

"And there is whisky-and-soda on the sideboard, and a good cigar," said
the President.

So Mr. Pomeroy eventually went out into the night, thinking that after
all youth will be served, and it would be a dull world without it.



THE END





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