By the time the three turned up at Msgr. Colm Langsdon's house, these pilgrims were hardly recognizable. Thankfully, Colm knew Samuel as well. The meeting was anything but happy.
Colm took them all immediately to an outside bath house, where they scrubbed down and threw their now horribly dirty clothes into a small bonfire. Colm, organized and fastidious, had bought all new clothes for any priests or seminarians who would turn up at his place on the way to Farnborough. Within the hour, Samuel and the Serles looked like an Oxford Dons in Harris Tweeds. They were given new Grenson boots as well. Mark and John wondered they would be given Norfolk jackets as well. They were.
Msgr. Colm had independent wealth and took excellent care of his motley pilgrim visitors who came from all over four counties to be or watch others being ordained at Farnborough. The cottage also held one of the best pantries and wine cellars in all of England. Samuel, still in deep grief, could not fully appreciated the largess of the host.
When Colm was told of the death of Columcille, he was quiet for a long time. "We met in Rome, and because of our names, became friends, no, we became brothers. But, Columcille was not made for this world, and I knew he would beat me to the heavens. But, I am very sorry he died this way, on the road. But, I suppose that is fitting for all us, doncha' think?"
The four each fell into their own thoughts on the deceased. Colm then served and the conversation turned to the rest of the journey.
They were each given a Bronte Shetland throw and a cup of Fortnum's Gunpowder teas, the host's favorite. Colm also had sweet and savory treats. The world of skips and dogs faded for a few hours.
"You cannot take any of the roads. The GATS have become paranoid ,and some of their generals disagree with the continued presence of St. Michael's. We have been very lucky so far to have the abbey untouched and valued by an effete of a brother of the abbot's. Very fortunate. But, this may change at any time, like our world."
"I suggest you rest a few hours, and leave at night. The curfews are not enforced here or south of here, and you could make the abbey easily in two hours. You must avoid Camberley. Go between the two old golf courses and cut back. The GATS have some sort of storage of ammunition at Camberley of all places."
"If you sleep and eat, we can say Mass, hear each other's confessions and then you can leave."
No one disagreed with this plan. Colm knew the area and had much experience with the road walkers.
"Now, I am excusing myself, as I need to be alone. I want to think about Columcille and then old days."
The three stood up and watched the priest, who, although younger than Samuel by many years, seemed old and bent. Then, they went to their rooms for a rest.
Later, after a long sleep, confessions, Mass and a huge dinner, Samuel, Mark and John left. They also were given Irish walking sticks to complete the "look" and Melton wool caps. Mark and John could hardly keep from laughing out loud. Where Colm managed to get all these things new seemed a miracle.
Finally, Colm gave each one a new Anstruther mac. John did crack up at this point and had to be poked several times by Mark to stop snorting. Well, Samuel thought, as he knew well the abbot of Farnborough, we shall be appreciated there...
to be continued....