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.