Friday, June 29, 2012

A Car Ride With Roy Campbell

When Roy and Susan were well out of Oxford, she asked:

"I have heard no news since I left the school. Has a girl, supposedly mad and desperate fir her expected child, been caught or not?"

"If you mean Rose Helen Pole, it depends on by whom and how you mean the word 'caught'."

Susan was worried, and it showed.

"No, she has not been caught by school, by psychiatrists, by abortionists, in short neither policemen nor paramedics have laid their hands on her."

Susan breathed easier again: "But?"

"She has been caught, or if you prefer, she has caught a man who is bent on a life with her. And as long as she is wanted, she is not quite free to go home from him. If you call a mother bent on forcing her to abortion a home."

"Is he bad?"

"You are an idiot, if you excuse the word. No, not quite, but you do make a weak point. And I forgot I was talking to a Queen."

She didn't mind.

"You save her from forced abortion, and you worry over whether she is free to refuse a suitor. Of course she is, but that is the end of his hospitality, and as likely as not of her child. Besides, I do not know if she wants to leave him anyway. I count her as pretty lucky."

"How do you know?"

"Don't ask. The less you know about her, the less you can be forced to tell about her - or punished for not telling but remaining silent, by psychiatrists who take that as a mental symptom. They call it mutism."

She smiled and said: "well, I am not suffering from mutism now, am I?"

He laughed out loud. When he had stopped, he said: "No, you are not. OK, I will tell you her suitor, fiancé or by now even husband is not Nobby."

"You know Nobby?"

"I had a gipsy wedding."

"Ah, yes, you do have a wedding ring, that is true. So her admirer is not Nobby, but ..."

"Someone Nobby knows and you do not."

She paused.

"He is not brutal. You asked if he's bad. He's a lad, and I can say nothing worse of him than that. Let that suffice."

For the first time since her last long talk with George the evening before the so called 'abduction' of Rose and the real abduction of herself, she laughed, for pure joy. And Roy laughed with her.

"Suppose the one who got her pregnant was a lad too, but one who was not taking responsibilities."

"Possible." He was quick to change the subject. "I think you are sane, whatever psychiatrists and police believe or pretend to believe. If you want, there are some now and arrows in the car. When Jack and Tollers invited me to Oxford, I had a feeling I might meet you. Stumble on a Susan Pevensie, Queen of a Most Christian Elfland, known as Narnia! Or, a 'lady Marion', to judge from your archery."

"You seem to have read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, then?"

"Who has not read it these days? Zulus? Hottentots? Chinamen? Deers and rabbits, ducks with wet habits? Foxes and owls, whatever prowls in wood or den? Those maybe have thereof no ken!" He paused. "OK, some left wing people, like the ones who volunteered for Azaña* ..."

"I am not supposed to be for Franco, am I?"

"Some atheists would think you were. More important they would be even more against you than against him. They aren't half as much against Stalin, for instance. After all, getting a crown and a throne, getting real power that goes with it, and of course having that served on a plate while still a child, not even a teenager ..."

"Well, it is not a dictatorship is it? I did not keep up school compulsion for young dwarfs and satyrs, did I? How is that fascist?"

"Well, it is very much anti-Azaña, at least. He was meddling with the education of other people's children when he was President. He banned all schools run by Catholic religious and clergy, just as Combes* did in France during the Third Republic."

"And Combes made school compulsory for all? How dreadful! It is like the Butler Act!"

"No, Combes did not, because Jules Ferry* had already been doing that for some time. Now Azaña was a man who admired Jules Ferry and Combes. Admiring a defrocked priest, how disgusting!"

"A defrocked priest?"

"Well, Combes either was defrocked or defrocked himself from the seminary."

"De-frocked as in un-cassocked, right?"

"Precisely. In some cases it is because of lost faith, but in some cases because ... well, because they did some gross things that celibate priests are not supposed to do."

"So that is how Catholic clergy keeps moral? Immoral ones are thrown out!"

"Indeed they are, and I hope it remains that way."**

"So, Azaña made schools compulsory?"

"I am not sure he could, just after forbidding religious to teach. There were too few teachers to do that."

"And Franco, whom so many are detesting for oppression all over England ..."

"Hmm, hmm!" Roy gave a strong cough.

"At least over a certain type of English people. You should hear Vita ..."

"Hmm, hmm" - this time the cough was even stronger.

"He did not make schools compulsory?"

"No. I am thankful, after fighting in Spain, that I was not deceived in all I fought for."

"You fought for Franco?"

"Well, I could hardly fight for Azaña, could I?"

She smiled at that.

"Besides, the Reds were killing Catholic priests. I tried to save some Carmelite fathers." He wiped a tear from the wrinkle of his eye.

*Footnote on pronunciations: Combes has silent -es, and is pronounced somewhere between Caub and Caumb - no clear m, but a nasal twang on the au. Jules, silent -es first, then j is not dj as in English, then u is pronounced between oo and ee: tongue like ee, lips like oo. Ferry is stressed like Ferree. Azaña = Uh-thuh-nyuh or Uh-thun-yuh.

**Foonote on history: Sadly enough, half a century and a decade later than this story, this writer has to admit it did not remain that way. One George Gheoghan abused children, boys, then was not defrocked as previously he would have been, but sent to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, it was back in the seventies, and his bishop wanted to try a newer and gentler approach. He was given another parish and relapsed, he was given councelling again, and another parish again, and relapsed again, he was sent to prison and killed by fellow inmates in the end. Just because that bishop was not traditional enough to defrock him and let that be that. But back in the days when this happened, defrocking was still the standard procedure for such cases, just as it was for loosing faith. However, Teilhard de Chardin was not defrocked (under Pius XII) for teaching Evolution, as he should have been, he was declared mentally unstable and kept in priesthood. That may have been the start of this slippery slope downward. As, of course, abolishing the cassock, in 1962 the cassock could in Paris diocese, even a few months before Vatican II, be exchanged for the clergyman dress, as carried by Anglicans. Back when this story was set, a seminarian or priest wore a cassock, and defrocking was a marking experience. Liberating - as the clergyman was felt to many priests - or not, it was a severe humiliation, and defrocking, uncassocking, tended to mark a man. At least socially, in the esteem of other Catholics. Which was enough for them to keep their distance.