Why do the Heathen Rage?
Francis gingerly eased himself into the narrow space he had often visited in many a forbidden dream.
But this was no dream, it seemed.
Nor, so far as he could tell, was it a nightmare.
So much for romantic love.
'Oversold, oversold, oversold,' he muttered.
Briefly noting the mildly Trinitarian character of the utterance (albeit, one that was by no means that of the most orthodopraxic of curates-to-be), Francis felt a little twinge in his heart.
'Love what fools these mortals be!' The words of Tuppy echoed in his head.
Much as he considered the frivolous gaiety of the precious dandy to be distasteful, if not pressing fast upon the very borders of good taste, honour and the finest English gentleman's decorum itself, he wondered, in his heart, if he was not himself the greatest decadent and fornicator in all of Christendom.
"God save our gracious queen!
Damn her all to hell, I mean!
No prettier little strumpet we 'ave than old Queen Bess!
A pretty little passageway in that temple simpering,
Ooooooiiiiiiii must confess!"
Madame Bijoux's tavern had fallen on hard times.
A little bit of lechery shall leaven the lump.
But too much brings distaste.
Madame Bijoux sighed, and cast her eyes to the heavens.
A wandering hand descended upon her ample bosom.
Her eyes flashed, and she angrily batted the hand away.
The simpering schoolboy blushed and smiled weakly.
"Do you not 'ave an 'ome to go to, mate?"
The callow youth's face fell, as he gently inched back towards the door.
"Everywhere 'is my 'ome, innit," he sulked.
"Not this place, it ain't! Now clear off, before you really 'ave something to cry about, eh?"
"Says 'oo?" the idle young ragamuffin whinged, his shoulder gently 'eaving.
Madame Bijoux's long-repressed maternal instincts began to awaken; was this final act of mercy to be their death throes, then, at long last?
"'Ere," she said, drawing out a pretty penny from her ample bosom. 'Go and buy yourself a pie.'
The urchin greedily snatched in from her hands.
Momentarily embarrassed, he paused and scratched his head. Shuffling his feet from side to side, he gaped at the unexpected generosity of the madam.
'Promise me you won't do nuffink bad with it, eh?' she warned him in mock severity; although truth be told, her heart was fit to break.
'Just a pie,' the boy muttered, sheepishly slinking out.
All of a sudden, Madame Bijoux put her hands on her head and wept, and wept and wept; her heart was fit to burst at the cruelty of the times.
Bathsheba sat resentfully and stared at Francis.
'I believe you have been... as it were, if I may make bold to speak somewhat indelicately... rather, to take the liberty of suggesting...'
'That you have not been, if it is not utterly impermissible to thus insinuate, that you have...'
Almost a smirk.
But not quite!
'Been somewhat less than forthcoming with the truth concerning the appellation with which I am to address...'
Bathsheba slammed the tin mug down on the table, raising her eyebrows in a manner so self-consciously comical, and yet so genuine in its withering displeasure, that Francis could not but let out a little squeak.
"What you meeeeaaaaaaan to say," said Bathsheba, drawing out the word in a manner almost more infuriating than enticing, "is that I have been lying to you."
Francis took a step back.
"I... I would not have ventured to phrase it thus indecorously. And yet, and yet, and, and yet..."
Bathsheba stood up, fist clenched in fury; albeit placed vulnerably and pleading-gentle by her side, for she knew well enough the folly and the weakness of the weaker.
And God only knew it was not hers.
"Your true name, I believe, is Delilah..."
Bathsheba was even more displeased to see this slip.
"Deborah," she whispered.
Francis paused and nodded.
All of a sudden Bathsheba burst into tears and ran the other way.
"You care about my name! You care about my name! But you don't care about me!" she wept, her shoulders heaving, her lips trembling, utterly overcome with sorrow.
"Come... come now," the gentle Bachelor quivered, himself already blubbering like a little schoolboy.
"You know they will never accept it," she wept, turning to face him.
Francis had no words of comfort he could offer her.
"It... well... we are both Catholic and R..."
He knew the words were a lie.
For even truths may be lies upon occasion; and how well they both knew it!
Perhaps the greatest lie of all was love?
No, of course not! Who could possibly think so!
"They will never accept you in their Church. You will never be accepted in society. Everyone will flee from you, everyone will turn their back on you; like Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde."
Francis was tempted to present Tuppy Brookes as a counter-example; but he thought better of it. Extending a trembling hand, his desolate eyes perceived his timid gesture was neither welcomed nor excused.
"They will turn you out of their chapels. They will turn you out of their houses. You will be rootless, condemned, abominable; a vagabond and a wanderer upon the earth! And all because of me!"
Francis struggled to master himself, but it was difficult to say anything remotely comprehensible to Bathsheba, so choked up with tears was he at this most lamentable spectacle.
All of a sudden he flung himself upon Deborah.
"Never! Never! Never! A thousand times, never!" he roared, like a wounded lion about to face his final ignominious demise.
"They will! They will! They will!" she shrieked, as her voice, worn-down with ancient grief, descended to a woeful tremolo of desperate, gentle sobbing.
Pausing for a moment in silence, Francis blinked through the tears, and set nothing.
All of a sudden, he leapt onto the table, brandishing a broken bottle as a musket, and declared:
"I have no family! I have no race! I have no nation!"
Deborah, momentarily astounded, screamed back (purely in sorrow, as all the anger had been burnt out of her by now):
"But you have a God! And that is all they need to bind you!"
Francis paused, and deliberated for a moment.
Eventually, he stepped down and made to embrace the distrustful Bathsheba.
"I will have no God. Not even God could ever dare to separate us."
"No, no, no," pleaded Bathsheba, "I did not ask... I did not ask for this..."
The normally timid apostate's eyes grew wide to the point of appearing hovering orbs of divine vengeance, on some infinitesimal tangential point between the seventh Heaven and the darkest, deepest pits of eternal Hellfire.
For who, after all, was wise enough to know the difference?
"I have no God! I denounce him for a very tyrant! I could not love a God who could make you weep so. I could not love such a God. I denounce him for a very tyrant, and from here on, from this very moment on, let hellfire take his prey."
Like a mortally wounded Wagner heroine, Deborah screamed, and hurled herself into his arms.
Francis threw her onto the bed and smothered him with kisses.
She smothered him with kisses, for no matter what he had said or hinted in the past to her, she knew well enough they were two bodies of one desire.
Francis grunted almost more in agony than in sorrow, as his pagan conqueror's lance tore through the sacred thorny circle of her crucified hymen. Within seconds, the warm, sticky warmth and honey-like sweetness of their passion flooded into Deborah's womb, bring peril, poison, and immeasurable, boundless bliss.
Within moments, the two exhausted infidels fell into an untroubled sleep.
They did not hear the knocking of the door.
For they were lost to the world.
To this world and the World-To-Come.