Scandalous Risks

Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch

Book: Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch Read Free Book Online
Authors: Susan Howatch
Tags: Fiction, Historical
whether I could be classified as ‘wayward’ or ‘lost’ or even ‘fallen’. Smoothly he fell back on his erudition. ‘This sounds like a case of metanoia! ’ he remarked. ‘By which I mean –’
    ‘I know what it means. The Dean told me. It’s a turning away from one’s old life and the beginning of a new one.’
    ‘In Christ,’ said the Bishop casually, as if correcting an undergraduate who had made an error in a tutorial. ‘I hope the Dean didn’t forget to mention Christ, but these liberal-radicals nowadays seem to be capable of anything.’ He turned to his wife and added: ‘I lost count of the times I was asked about Honest to God this afternoon. People were deeply upset. It’s a pity Robinson wasn’t there to see the results of his ill-informed, half-baked radicalism.’
    ‘I thought Robinson was supposed to be a conservative,’ I said. ‘After all, he wasn’t invited to contribute to Soundings, was he?’
    The Bishop looked startled. ‘Who’s been talking to you of Soundings? ’
    ‘ The Dean was very enthusiastic when the book was published.’
    ‘I’d have more confidence in Stephen’s bold espousal of the views contained in these controversial books if I knew he was a trained theologian,’ said Dr Ashworth. ‘However, as we all know, he read Greats, not Theology, when he was up at Oxford.’
    ‘But since he’s been a clergyman for almost forty years,’ I said, ‘don’t you think he might have picked up a little theology somewhere along the way?’
    The Bishop was clearly not accustomed to being answered back by a young female who had never even been to a university. Possibly he was unaccustomed to being answered back by anyone. He took a moment to recover from the shock but then said suavely enough: ‘Good point! But perhaps I might draw a parallel here with the legal profession. Banisters and solicitors are all qualified lawyers, but when a knotty legal problem arises the solicitors refer the matter to the banisters, the experts, in order to obtain the best advice.’
    ‘Well, I’m afraid I must now leave you to your expertise,’ I said politely, rising to my feet, ‘and descend from the mountain top of the South Canonry to the valley of the Deanery.’ I turned to my hostess. °Thanks so much for the tea and sympathy, Mrs Ashworth.’
    ‘Drop in again soon,’ said my heroine with a smile, ‘and if there’s anything I can do, just let me know.’
    ‘Yes indeed,’ said the Bishop, suddenly becoming pastoral. ‘If there’s anything we can do –’
    ‘I’ll see you out, Venetia,’ said his wife, and led the way downstairs to the hall. As she opened the front door she added: ‘You won’t want to lug your suitcases to the Deanery – I’ll ask Charley to bring them over later in the car.’
    I thanked her before saying anxiously: ‘I do hope I didn’t upset the Bishop when I answered back.’
    ‘My dear, he was enthralled! Such a delightful change for him to meet someone who doesn’t treat him as a sacred object on a pedestal.’ She looked at me thoughtfully with her cool dark eyes before musing: ‘Maybe you’ve been concentrating on the wrong age-group; very few young men have the self-assurance or the savoir-faire to cope with clever women. Try looking for something intelligent, well-educated and pushing forty.’
    ‘It’ll be either married or peculiar.’
    ‘Not necessarily ... Didn’t I hear a rumour once that Eddie Hoffenberg was rather smitten with you?’
    ‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, Mrs Ashworth – I’d rather die a virgin spinster!’
    Mrs Ashworth merely smiled her enigmatic smile and said: ‘Do keep in touch.’
    I drifted away down the drive towards the Deanery.
    Eddie Hoffenberg emerged from the Deanery just as I approached the front door, so there was no possibility of avoiding him. My father had once referred to him as Aysgarth’s poodle – that bloody Hun,’ but my father, who had lost his best friends in the First War, was

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