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The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross

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Published by _Sue_
The Way of the Cross by Daphne DuMaurier is the last in her book of short stories Don't Look Now and Other Stories. A group of Brits travels to Jerusalem on a tour organised by their Vicar. Before landing, the Vicar falls ill leaving an inexperienced parson, Rev. Edward Babcock, in charge. Babcock doesn't want to be in charge of this group of people he doesn't even like. They are tourists, not pilgrims, and all suffer the sin of pride, even the Reverend. Colonel Mason loves to tell stories of his glory days in the army. His wife, Lady Althea is vain and self-important. Jim Foster is a sexist businessman. His long suffering wife likes to make people feel guilty about the poverty in the world although she wears a fur coat. The Smiths are a newlywed couple with bedroom problems. Miss Dean is a spinster with a very different idea of Jerusalem than the bustling city of pilgrims and shopkeepers. Joining the Masons are their precocious nine year old grandson, Robin. He's the only one who's enjoying himself, taking in the sights and the history, while the rest think about themselves and their own disappointments. Unintentionally, they overhear things about themselves they never wanted to know. On a day trip, to the Way of the Cross each one experiences a humiliating event that humbles them and draws them closer as people.
The Way of the Cross by Daphne DuMaurier is the last in her book of short stories Don't Look Now and Other Stories. A group of Brits travels to Jerusalem on a tour organised by their Vicar. Before landing, the Vicar falls ill leaving an inexperienced parson, Rev. Edward Babcock, in charge. Babcock doesn't want to be in charge of this group of people he doesn't even like. They are tourists, not pilgrims, and all suffer the sin of pride, even the Reverend. Colonel Mason loves to tell stories of his glory days in the army. His wife, Lady Althea is vain and self-important. Jim Foster is a sexist businessman. His long suffering wife likes to make people feel guilty about the poverty in the world although she wears a fur coat. The Smiths are a newlywed couple with bedroom problems. Miss Dean is a spinster with a very different idea of Jerusalem than the bustling city of pilgrims and shopkeepers. Joining the Masons are their precocious nine year old grandson, Robin. He's the only one who's enjoying himself, taking in the sights and the history, while the rest think about themselves and their own disappointments. Unintentionally, they overhear things about themselves they never wanted to know. On a day trip, to the Way of the Cross each one experiences a humiliating event that humbles them and draws them closer as people.

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Published by: _Sue_ on Apr 28, 2010
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THE WAY OF THE CROSSBy Daphne du MaurierThe Rev. Edward Babcock stood beside one of the lounge windows of the hotel on the Mount of Olives looking across the Kedron Valley to the city of Jerusalem onthe opposite hill. Darkness had come so suddenly, between the time of arrival with his small party, the allotting of rooms, unpacking, a quick wash; and now, with hardly a moment to get his bearings and study his notes and guidebook, the little group would be on him, primed with questions, each requiring some measure of individual attention.He had not chosen this particular assignment: he was deputising for the vicar ofLittle Bletford, who had succumbed to an attack of influenza and had been obliged to stay on board the S.S. Ventura in Haifa, leaving his small party of sevenparishioners without a shepherd. It had been felt that, in the absence of theirown vicar, another clergyman would be the most suitable person to lead them on the planned twenty-four-hour excursion to Jerusalem, and so the choice had fallenon Edward Babcock. He wished it had been otherwise. It was one thing to visit Jerusalem for the first time as a pilgrim amongst other pilgrims, even as an ordinary tourist, and quite another to find himself in charge of a group of strangers who would be regretting the unavoidable absence of their own vicar, and wouldin addition expect him to show qualities of leadership or, worse, the social bonhomie that was so evident a characteristic of the sick man. Edward Babcock knewthe type only too well. He had observed the vicar on board, forever moving amongst the more affluent of the passengers, hobnobbing with the titled, invariably at his ease. One or two even called him by his Christian name, notably Lady Althea Mason, the most prominent of the group from Little Bletford, and the doyenne,apparently, of Bletford Hall. Babcock, used to his own slum parish on the outskirts of Huddersfield, had no objection to Christian names—the members of his ownyouth club referred to him as Cocky often enough over a game of darts, or duringone of the informal chats which the lads appeared to enjoy as much as he did himself—but snobbery was something he could not abide; and if the ailing vicar ofLittle Bletford thought that he, Babcock, was going to abase himself before a titled lady and her family, he was very much mistaken. Babcock had instantly summed up Lady Althea's husband, Colonel Mason, a retired army officer, as one of theold school tie brigade, and considered that their spoilt grandson Robin, instead of attending some private preparatory school, would have done better rubbing shoulders with the kids on a local council estate.Mr and Mrs Foster were of a different calibre, but equally suspect in Babcock'seyes. Foster was managing director of an up-and-coming plastics firm, and from his conversation on the bus journey from Haifa to Jerusalem he seemed to think more of the possibilities of doing business with the Israelis than he did of visiting the Holy Places. His wife had countered the business chat by holding forth about the distress and starvation amongst Arab refugees, which, she insisted, wasthe responsibility of the whole world. She might have contributed towards this,thought Babcock, by wearing a less expensive fur coat, and giving the money saved to the refugees.Mr and Mrs Smith were a young honeymoon couple. This had made them a special object of attention, giving rise to the usual indulgent glances and smiles—and evena few ill-judged jokes from Mr Foster. They would have done better, Babcock couldn't help telling himself, to have stayed in the hotel on the shores of Galileeand got to know each other properly, rather than trail around Jerusalem, the historical and religious importance of which they couldn't possibly grasp in theirpresent mood.The eighth, and oldest, member of the party was a spinster, Miss Dean. She was nearing seventy, she had informed them all, and it had been her life's dream to come to Jerusalem under the auspices of the vicar of Little Bletford. The substitution of the Rev. Edward Babcock for her beloved vicar, whom she alluded to as Father, had evidently spoilt her idyll.So, thought the shepherd of the flock, glancing at his watch, the position is not an enviable one, but it is a challenge, and one that I must face. It is also aprivilege.
 
The lounge was filling up, and the clamour of the many tourists and pilgrims whowere already taking their places in the dining-room beyond rose in the air withdiscordant sound. Edward Babcock looked out once more towards the lights of Jerusalem on the opposite hill. He felt alien, alone, and curiously nostalgic for Huddersfield. He wished his crowd of friendly, though often rowdy, lads from theyouth club could have been standing at his side.Althea Mason was sitting on the stool before the dressing-table arranging a piece of blue organza round her shoulders. She had chosen the blue to match her eyes. It was her favourite colour, and she always managed to wear it somewhere on her person, no matter the circumstances, but this evening it looked particularly well against the darker shade of her dress. With the string of pearls, and the small pearl ear-rings, the effect was just right. Kate Foster would be overdressedas usual, of course—all that costume jewellery was in such bad taste, and the blue rinse to the hair added to her years, if she only realised it. It was a factof life that however much money a woman had—or a man either, for that matter—itcould never make up for lack of breeding. The Fosters were amiable enough, andeveryone said Jim Foster would stand for Parliament one of these days, which onedid not begrudge him— after all, it was a known thing that his firm gave largesums to the Conservative Party—but there was just that little touch of ostentation, of vulgarity, which betrayed his origins. Althea smiled. Her friends alwaystold her she was shrewd, a keen judge of human nature.'Phil?' she called over her shoulder to her husband. 'Are you ready?'Colonel Mason was in the bathroom filing his nails. A minute speck of grime hadwedged itself beneath his thumbnail and was almost impossible to extract. He resembled his wife in one particular only. A man must be well-groomed. A lack of polish to the shoes, an unbrushed shoulder, a dingy finger-nail, these things weretaboo. Besides, if he and Althea were well turned out it set an example to therest of the party, and above all to their grandson Robin. True, he was only nineyears old, but a boy was never too young to learn, and heaven knows he was quick enough in the uptake. He would make a fine soldier one of these days—that is,if his scruffy scientist of a father ever allowed him to join the army. Seeing that the grandparents were paying for the boy's education, they should be alloweda say in his future. Curious thing that the younger men of today were glib enough when they talked of ideals and how everyone must progress in a changing world, but when the crunch came they were very ready to let the older generation paythe piper. Take this cruise, for instance. Robin was with them because it suitedthe parents' plans. Whether it suited himself and Althea was another matter. Itso happened that it did, for he and Althea were devoted to the child, but thatwas not the point; it occurred too often during school holidays to be a coincidence.'Coming,' he called, and straightening his tie went through to the bedroom. 'AHvery comfortable, I must say,' he ob¬served. 'I wonder if the rest of our partyhave it as good. Of course, none of this existed when I was here twenty years ago.'Oh dear, thought Althea, are we going to have non-stop comparison with his timein the army and during the British occupation? Phil was not above demonstratingstrategic posi¬tions with salt-cellars to Jim Foster during dinner.'I did stipulate a view over Jerusalem for all of us,' she said, 'but whether the others realise that they have me to thank for the whole idea I can't make out.They've taken it very much for granted. Such a pity dear Arthur can't be with us; it really is a tragedy that he had to stay on board. He would have brought such life into it all. I don't think I take very much to young Babcock.''Oh, I don't know,' replied her husband. 'Seems a nice enough chap. Bit of an ordeal for him, coping at a moment's notice. We must make allowances.''He should have refused, if he wasn't equal to it,' said Althea. 'I must say I am continually amazed at the type of young man entering the Church today. Certainly not out of the top drawer. Have you noticed his accent? Still, one never knows what to expect in this day and age.'She stood up for a final glance in the mirror. Colonel Mason cleared his throat
 
and glanced at his watch. He hoped Althea would not put on her superior manner in front of the luckless parson.'Where's Robin?' he asked. 'We ought to be getting on down.' 'I'm here, Grandfather.'The boy had been standing behind the drawn curtains all the time, looking at theview of the city. Funny little chap. Always appearing out of nowhere. Pity he had to wear those spec¬tacles. Made him the spit image of his father.'Well, my boy,' said Colonel Mason, 'what do you make of it all? I don't mind telling you Jerusalem wasn't lighted up like that twenty years ago.''No,' replied his grandson, 'I don't suppose it was. Nor two thousand years agoeither. Electricity has made an enormous difference to the world. I was saying to Miss Dean as we came along in the bus that Jesus would be very surprised.'H'm ... No answer to that one. Extraordinary things children said. He exchangedlooks with his wife. She smiled indulgently, and patted Robin's shoulder. She liked to think that nobody but herself understood what she was fond of calling hislittle ways.'I hope Miss Dean wasn't shocked.''Shocked?' Robin put his head on one side and considered the matter. 'I'm sure she wasn't,' he replied, 'but I was rather shocked myself when we saw that car that had broken down by the side of the road, and we drove past it without stopping.'Colonel Mason closed the bedroom door behind them, and all three walked along the corridor.'Car?' he asked. 'What г? I don't remember seeing one.''You were looking the other way, Grandfather,' said Robin. 'You were pointing out to Mr Foster a place where there had been machine-guns in your day. Perhaps nobody saw the broken-down car but myself. The guide was busy showing us the siteof the Good Samaritan Inn. The car was a few yards further along the road.''The driver had probably run out of petrol,' said Althea. T dare say somebody came along shortly. It seemed a busy road.'She caught sight of her reflection in the long mirror at the end of the corridor, and adjusted the piece of blue organza.Jim Foster was having a quick one in the bar. Or two, to be exact. Then when theothers appeared he would stand every¬body drinks, and Kate would have to lump it. She would scarcely have the nerve to tick him off in front of everyone with threats of a coronary and the number of calories con¬tained in a double gin. He looked round at the chattering throng. God, what a mob! The Chosen Race in full possession, and good luck to them, especially the women, although the young oneswere better looking in Haifa. Nobody worth crossing the room for here. This lotwere probably from New York's East Side anyway, and not indigenous. The hotel was lousy with tourists, and it would be worse tomorrow in Jeru¬salem proper. He had a good mind to cry off the sight-seeing and hire a car to take himself and Kate down to the Dead Sea, where there was this talk of installing a plant for making plas¬tics. The Israelis had hit on a new method of processing, and you couldbet your life that if they were on to something they believed in it would prosper. Bloody silly to come all this way and not be able to talk with authority about the site when he got home. Sheer waste of expense account. Hullo, here came the honeymooners. No need to ask what they had been doing since decanting from the bus! Though on second thoughts you never could be sure. Bob Smith looked a bitstrained. Perhaps the bride, like all red-heads, was insatiable. A drink wouldput new strength into both of them.'Come on, the bridal pair,' he called. 'The choice of drinks is yours, the damage mine. Let's all relax.'Gallantly he slid off his stool and offered it to Jill Smith, taking care to allow his hand to remain just one instant be¬neath her small posterior as she mounted his vacated seat.'Thanks ever so, Mr Foster,' said the bride, and to prove that she had not losther self-possession, and was aware that his lingering hand was intended for a compliment, she added, T don't know about Bob, but I'd like champagne.'

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