Soldiers of Peace: Inimical (episode three)
Soldiers of Peace
“I will not close my house against any one lest the Lord close His house against me.”
“If you have a guest in your house and conceal anything from him ’tis not the guest that will be without it but the Lord Himself.”
So run the rules in ancient Irish manuscripts.
Lands and Peoples
The windows of the Waldorf hotel glowed with a confident yellow warmth, as though the distinguished clientele within fueled—like blubber or candle wax—their own comfortable aura. But outside, a disheartening, persistent rain sluiced sooty grit across walkways and into gutters. Geoffrey Malcolm-Webb, a general assignment reporter for the Mirror, angled through the crowd of men sheltering beneath umbrellas, and women with their evening wraps tented over their heads, who jostled towards a line of taxis and private cars.
Malcolm-Webb’s destination was one of the hotel’s off-limits-to-the-rabble banqueting rooms. He had hoped to locate without assistance the area reserved for the press, experience having taught that such places as the fine hotels practiced a line in condescension cowing to one’s humanist tendencies.
Of course I don’t belong here, he told himself. I have no excuse to offer.
He found his hopes defeated by the Waldorf’s discretion towards its patrons. There was brass and plushness in the lobby, but there were no signs. And as he could not spare his dignity by peeping round corners, he applied at the reception desk, where a clerk allowed himself to be pressed into service.
To his credit, this clerk spent only five minutes or so stacking papers and arranging pens before leading the way; and Malcolm-Webb, having no other coin in his pocket, at length surrendered the half-crown he’d had better plans for.
“At Maidstone prison, that’s a decent month’s wage.”
He said this only to himself, after the man had paused expressively, had even—sarky wretch—bowed from the waist and remarked, pocketing the coin, “You are very generous, sir.”
Journalists, Malcolm-Webb found, had been stored at the press table, well to the rear of the room, thus to prevent their commonplace appearance disturbing the assembly’s formality. The assembly in question comprised the local membership of the International Peace League, guests, and highly honored guests. It was the presence of German Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop that had brought on the press coverage. Ribbentrop was seated at the speakers’ table, next to Lord Wrentsley; he, of the Peace League’s Home Counties chapter, its highest ranking British official. The other speakers were unknown to Malcolm-Webb.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)