Jasmine's Place Issue No. 16 - August 2015 - Page 10

next day, armed with our satchels of leaflets, we set out for the village again. Our reception at the tavern was no warmer than it had been before, and we suffered discourteous ripostes that should never sully any maiden’s ears. “Drink reduces men to such uncouth beasts, just as Commander Mavis said,” sighed Cora. I sighed, too, wilted by our failing campaign. I could be digging potatoes, a more prosperous endeavour than harvesting recalcitrant sinners. “Let’s go home.” Wearily, Cora agreed. Would Commander Mavis forgive us for deserting our post? Would God? In front of the grocer’s, next to the tavern, a man sat on a bench. “Halfpenny for half a man?” he called out. Cora seized the opportunity. “How loathsome, begging to support your sin. You will spontaneously combust while your wife languishes for want of meat. It was then I saw the empty and slack trouser leg. “You will die of dropsy,” Cora continued. “Become a cold-hearted 10 JASMINE'S PLACE murderer.” “Cora,” I hissed, tugging at her sleeve. “Jennie, this man is prime for conversion. See how he lowers his eyes?” “I am sorry, sir,” I said, hoping to soften Cora’s impassioned words. “‘Tis fine, lass. I know the fever of combat.” “But, sir, you beg funds for drink!” Cora insisted. “You presume unkindly, lass. ‘Tis for daily bread. I’ve no wife to cheat. No work, due to leaving this leg in the mud of France.” Finally noticing his impairment, Cora had the grace to blush. I found a penny in my satchel and gave it to the man. “King George,” he said, peering at the coin. “I fought for him. And God. And for you, lasses. ‘Tis the same with many men yonder. ‘Tis they who ensured your freedom to stroll these streets in safety and sleep in peace.” Humbled, we hung our heads.