The Purity of the Church Turf, cont.
"I tell you, Reeves, I handled it masterfully!"
"A most gratifying sensation, your Excellency."
"Once old Cardinal Henley blanched at the mention of St. Leonides -- and I must say, I wouldn't have thought a chap with a face that red could blanch -- Berggo would give no better than even money on a head to head with Ginger's pile."
I finished my brandy, and shook my head as Reeves stepped forward to refill the glass. The Sub-Committee would be reconvening at eleven the next morning, so I had to make an early night of it.
"I bided my time," I continued, "until I could get Poleslip alone, then talked my way round to his giving three to two against the field as a side bet."
"A not altogether reckless bet on Bishop Pulverhampton's part, your Excellency."
"Absolutely, Reeves. I didn't want to press him too hard, or he might suspect that I'll be bringing a ringer to the contest."
"A ringer, your Excellency?"
"A dead cert. And you're the one who put me onto it."
"Are you referring to the refurbished Lady's Chapel of the Cathedral of St. Glaphyra, your Excellency?"
"Got it in one, Reeves. Your niece, was it, who sent you some snaps of the grand unveiling?"
"Yes, your Excellency. My second eldest sister's daughter Amelia. She has an understanding with the young architect Bishop Legendre hired for the renovation, and wished to know my unbiased opinion regarding his work."
The brow rose. "That must have taken some tact."
"Indeed, your Excellency. I was at some pains striking the right balance between aesthetic criticism and concern for my niece's feelings."
"I should jolly well think so, Reeves! How was it you described it to me? The absolute nadir of something, wasn't it?"
"'The absolute end of unthinking anti-incarnationalism' was one form I gave to my thoughts, your Excellency. Another was 'embracing the nadir of iconoclastic nihilism.'"
"A bit industrial strength for tender hearted youth, what? No girl wants to hear her sweet baa lamb called an anti-incarnational nihilist."
"She has never referred to the gentleman as her 'sweet baa lamb' in my hearing, your Excellency, but I share your opinion of the inadvisability of presuming her willingness to discuss the topic in a purely objective manner."
"Sentiment aside, Reeves, would you say that the Lady's Chapel of the Cathedral of St. Glaphyra is, pound for pound, the ugliest thing to be found within consecrated walls from sea to shining sea?"
"In my aesthetic judgment, your Excellency, yes."
"Then, as your aesthetic judgment is known to be flawless, I have but to convince old Pimples Legendre to enter it in the contest, and Poleslip's covering three USCCB meetings for me is as certain as things get in this vale of tears."
There was the briefest of hesitations, no longer than the time an Aberdeen terrier spends deciding on the perfect spot on your leg to sink his teeth into, before Reeves said, "So it would seem, your Excellency."
I've worked with Reeves long enough to know that a hesitation like that is fraught.