Our cruel Gentleswine, for so I have named him in my heart, has finished with the priest. The mind in that body, now still and gone between the pews, must have shared a history with him. But the indifference remains – no, even more than that – you could say that the dismissal was complete. Or that an affected indifference was still being played out.
Again I hold my tongue, and Jack’s hand holds me back. A pinch or a breath taken in too fast is no longer enough. Gentleswine now turns his attention to the young man.
– “And now, my pretty, to you!” His head jerks back, his laughing mouth is so wide you might expect the top of it to snap off and make a ‘thud’.
I look at Jack in the dark. I’m sure that this is why we’ve come here, this moment, or at least for the second before it is too late. Gentleswine grins, Gentleswine’s heels click in the half-lit belly of the church, all the way down the aisle. This vile and upright strutter knows the echo to be musical, and Jack, with that feeling which opposes arrogance, can no longer restrain his singing streak. So he exhales through his teeth, “I’ll make him cry “wee-wee-wee” all the way home…”
Gentleswine pricks up, but we are as quiet as dead mice again. He releases his hunch and reveals his wide smile for the young man’s inspection. The thugs restrain him and the whipping-pig keeps his gag tight.
– “My name, for I feel I know you well enough now, is John”, says Gentleswine, lethargic and light.
‘John the Gentleswine, Gentleswine John’, suits you well, think I.
– “And my…” he giggles in the most stomach-churning manner and looks up at his henchmen “…friends, inform me that yours …is Jacob! How lovely!”
The young man’s anger is incandescent now. Tears are welling up in his eyes as they shut tight and glare, shut tight and glare, shut tight and glare, and Gentleswine John’s thugs can barely restrain his squirming. Gentleswine John’s voice starts up, sickening and falsely supplicating:
– “Jacob, I need friends, I have no friends, not even…”, he points to the henchmen with his cane, “…not even these rotten street-pickings which have bruised you so…why that should be, I cannot tell, it makes no sense to me at all…and so I’ve picked you, out of all the urchins in London my lad, my Jacob, I’ve picked you, to be my sweet friend. And friends do each other favours, they lend each other things, sometimes they even give each other things which are precious to them…so I must ask Jacob, will you be that friend to me? A poor and lonely wretch like myself?”
He nods to his whipping-pig, who loosens the gag only slightly. Jacob’s expression is now inflamed, and so Gentleswine John raises his hand.
– “Now think carefully Jacob!” says the vile man in a condescending tone.
We find ourselves standing in the dark for a long second, though Jack and I want to stretch that second out. Whipping-pig finally releases the gag.
– “I’ll kill you!”
Jacob’s words are a scream, but they are firm with resolve and with hatred and anger. I believe him. Jack believes him. But the outside world must have only tossed and groaned and then gone back to sleep. His gag is replaced.
– “I knew you you’d let me down, but still, like a poor fool, Jacob, I had hope”, sighs Gentleswine John, and continues, “If you will not give me what I need, like a friend might be inclined to do, I must then take it by force!”
He clenches his fist and moves it to his heart, opens it and moves it slightly below and to the right. His composure springs back.
– “Tie him up!”