Monday, 11 August 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


working class said...

And the moral of the story hard and a banker will surely come along to help you blow through your earnings by getting you to invest it in gilt-edged securities?

Anonymous said...

Naw, morale is don't let your qualifications pigeon hole you, and why seek a job when there's so much work to be done...


Leila said...

Another possible moral, as indicated by the title: problems are an opportunity.

Originally in the Tao te Ching but I'm not positive. You never know what good a crisis will bring, but be sure to look around you in the turmoil and don't spend too much time gnashing and wailing.

LOVE this story, thank you. London Banker, if I knew who you were I'd send my IRA to you for safekeeping.

Leila said...

IRA in the States= Individual Retirement Account, a substitute for a pension in our New Economy. Nothing to do with revolutionaries.

Jesse said...

Thanks for the short story from Maugham. I always enjoy his work.

Even during times of dislocation various opportunities present themselves to us if we only have the eyes to see them and the willingness to take a measured risk and not overreach.

senna said...

Moral: That in which you repose your unequivocal trust shall eventually fail you. Whereupon, direct that faith to your own doings and determine by enterprise the "gilt-edged" value of your work...and your soul. God shall not fail man, though he turn away his face time to time. But god's anointed, in worship and material creation, most assuredly will.

Anonymous said...

Then again VERGER--at the proximate point of obtaining, yet not to. That minor blemish that invalidates other lifetime accomplishments; that flaw that keeps you from the brass ring. The great failure which can lead to a greater success in other endeavor.

james hubbard said...

Verger - 2 definitions.

A church offical who serves as sacristan, caretaker, usher, and general attendant.

An official who carries the verge or other symbol of office before a bishop dean, or other dignitary

STS said...

A delightful fable. And very English.