Conquail Jones coughed quietly and discreetly, and then gazed fixedly at those around him.
“The truth is this,” he said even more quietly than the cough, “and I beg you to hear me out.”
There was a general nodding of approval, so he continued.
“I chose to live in my high tower entirely on my own. There are many who, over the years, have called it a folly and no doubt that was its purpose when it was built two hundred years ago. A stone edifice, a proclamation of one man's power over his environment and the wealth in his deep pockets.
“But those years are long gone and to me, now, it's no more than a tower which happens to be my home. A stone tower where I can live the life I choose to live, alone with my books.
“I rise early every day, so I hear the morning song-thrush singing and the doves cooing their age-old songs. It is a sheer delight! So I arise contented, and when I have broken my fast I attend to my books. They are ancient, written by hand in a text that is never easy for a modern man to decipher. But I translate the texts, word for word, into modern speech, for in them is immense wisdom. They were escribed, after all, in the darkest of the dark ages and contain amongst the dross of ignorance the odd sparkle of brilliance. For they are from the minds of men, and men of all ages have had such sparkles of brilliance.
“On the day in question I went to my window at the top of my tower and looked out. The land around, serene under a summer sun, was spread before and below me and there is no finer view on all this planet. It is a wonderful sight, and I never tire of gazing out upon it from my solitary home.
“But on this occasion I saw something that was not welcome. In the distance and quite a long way off there were two figures walking along the lane that would eventually lead them to my tower. Even in the brightness of the day, with the sun beaming down as I have described, I could see they were dressed sombrely in dark clothing.
“There are many ways off the lane that they were on and only when it terminates does it reach my own front gate, so I thought the strangers must be making for one of my neighbours. I use the word “neighbours” rather loosely, for the homestead closest to my own lonely towers is many miles off. I would not need that lane at all were it not for the deliveries made to me once a month by my grocer! But no man, however lonely he may wish to be, can be an island. So the lane terminates at my front gate.
“I watched the strangers in their sombre attire, hoping they would deviate one way or another as they passed overgrown sidings to this or that farmstead, but they continued walking in a straight line as if purposefully making for my front gate themselves!
“Now let me make it quite clear. I don't welcome visitors. I never have any, save the grocer. I have no mail, not want any. My affairs are all dealt with properly but without the need for personal interaction on my part. So when the two darkly clad strangers pursued their course towards me you might understand I was becoming increasingly apprehensive.
“To cut their journey and my agonies short, they arrived at my front gate and I watched them as they beheld the sign that I have set there, advising that no callers would be welcomed. They looked at it and I could see, by their body language, that they were discussing it.
“Then rather than obey the implicit instructions on my sign and depart in peace, they opened my front gate – no simple matter, I can assure you – and walked down the short and somewhat overgrown path to my front door.
“From my place n my high tower I heard the doorbell ring – the first time it has chimed in many a long year. As I believe I have made clear, I never have visitors. I wish for no interaction with any living man or woman.
“The bell rang twice, and it seemed to me that the two strangers – I had noted by now that they were men – showed no sign of departing, so I climbed down the two hundred steps from my high place to the front passage. You can possibly see that I am not a young man, and by the time I reached the bottom I was weary despite the fact that it was still a hearty morning.
“I opened the front door, and beheld the two individuals, clad in charcoal suits and with scrubbed faces, standing there, looking at me expectantly.
“'Yes?' I asked as politely as I could, for even though they had offended me by their approach to my desired solitude I put it down to ignorance on their part rather than a malicious intent.
“'We have come to show you the light, to offer you a way into the Lord's Heavenly kingdom,' said one of them, and he held out a religious tract that proclaimed that he was a member of some religious sect.
“And that, my Lord, is why I shot them dead. Both of them, for they had tried to impose something I would never look for on me, so I imposed something they would never look for on them. I imposed death, and a trip, no doubt, to see their Lord.”
© Peter Rogerson 02.02.14