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Not Here, O Appollo!
by [?]

Then I let fall the word that led to the Vicar’s story. In old rambles, after long mornings spent with Plato, my eyes (by mirage, no doubt) had always found something Greek in the curves and colour of this coast; or rather, had felt the want of it. What that something was I could hardly have defined: but the feeling was always with me. It was as if at each bend of the shore I expected to find a temple with pillars, or a column crowning the next promontory; or, where the coast-track wound down to the little haven, to happen on a votive tablet erected to Poseidon or to “Helen’s brothers, lucent stars”; nay, to meet with Odysseus’ fisherman carrying an oar on his shoulder, or even, in an amphitheatre of the cliffs, to surprise Apollo himself and the Nine seated on a green plat whence a waterfall gushed down the coombe to the sandy beach . . . . This evening on my way along the cliffs–perhaps because I had spent a day bathing in sunshine in the company of white-flannelled youths–the old sensation had returned to haunt me. I spoke of it.

“‘Not here, O Apollo–‘” murmured the Senior Tutor.

“You quote against your own scepticism,” said I. “The coast is right enough; it is”

Where Helicon breaks down
In cliff to the sea.

“It was made to invite the authentic gods–only the gods never found it out.”

“Did they not?” asked the Vicar quietly. The question took us a little aback, and after a pause his next words administered another small shock. “One never knows,” he said, “when, or how near, the gods have passed. One may be listening to us in this garden, to-night. . . . As for the Greeks–“

“Yes, yes, we were talking of the Greeks,” the Senior Tutor (a convinced agnostic) put in hastily. “If we leave out Pytheas, no Greeks ever visited Cornwall. They are as mythical hereabouts as”– he hesitated, seeking a comparison–“as the Cornish wreckers; and they never existed outside of pious story-books.”

Said the Vicar, rising from his garden-chair, “I accept the omen. Wait a moment, you two.” He left us and went across the dim lawn to the house, whence by and by he returned bearing a book under his arm, and in his hand a candle, which he set down unlit upon the wicker table among the coffee-cups.

“I am going,” he said, “to tell you something which, a few years ago, I should have scrupled to tell. With all deference to your opinions, my dear Dick, I doubt if they quite allow you to understand the clergy’s horror of chancing a heresy; indeed, I doubt if either of you quite guess what a bridle a man comes to wear who preaches a hundred sermons or so every year to a rural parish, knowing that nine-tenths of his discourse will assuredly be lost, while at any point in the whole of it he may be fatally misunderstood. . . . Yet as a man nears his end he feels an increasing desire to be honest, neither professing more than he knows, nor hiding any small article of knowledge as inexpedient to the Faith. The Faith, he begins to see, can take care of itself: for him, it is important to await his marching-orders with a clean breast. Eh, Dick?”

The Senior Tutor took his pipe from his mouth and nodded slowly.

“But what is your book?” he asked.

“My Parish Register. Its entries cover the years from 1660 to 1827. Luckily I had borrowed it from the vestry box, and it was safe on my shelf in the Vicarage on the Christmas Eve of 1870, the night when the church took fire. That was in my second year as incumbent, and before ever you knew these parts.”