Take more," the Reverend Belcher urged, safe in his study now, Mrs. Hatchitt having been removed by an unusually forceful glare after gaping and gawking at the clergyman's bizarre guest.
Ghoulrich, who had only managed a nibble of buttered toast, shook his head but did suffer more tea to be poured. Even indoors and on this increasingly hot day he kept his cloak wrapped tight around his shoulders. Since we last saw him, the tide of vitality had ebbed even further from his wasted features, stranding them like isolated rocks on a savage coast, the nose gone beaky, the eyes aglitter, the mouth both restless and exhausted.
"I don't know what came over me," he said. "I simply found myself here, as if waking from a dream, and sought shelter in the nearest building."
"You came to a church," the Reverend pointed out, "and will, I hope, come again."
"Once more, at least," the unfortunate man said dryly. His gaze strayed to the book-lined walls. "And what on earth brought you to this godforsaken hole, if I may ask?"
"The Lord sent me here," the Reverend answered stiffly, "to do His work."
"He has a puckish sense of humor," Ghoulrich shivered. "Forgive me. Though I am quite used to being stared at, and actually courted attention in my youth, now, when a person looks at me so bug-eyed, as you are doing, I cannot help but wonder if something horribly wrong is happening to my face, a hemorrhage or seizure."
"Oh nothing like that," the Reverend said hastily. "I apologize. It is just that you bear such a striking resemblance to someone I know."
"I am not surprised."
"You have relatives here?"
"None. But I am who you want me to be. That has always been my way."
"I am afraid I don't understand."
"Quite early in life I determined to be an object of desire."
"Surely not an object," the Reverend protested.
"Most especially. I learned to extinguish the bits of my self that got in the way of other people's wants. Thus, you see in me someone else."
"Not necessarily someone I desire," the Reverend demurred.
"This person," he went on, "may perhaps share with you some common ancestor. The physical characteristics--"
"Then I pity him with all my heart," Ghoulrich interrupted. He raised a slim hand and felt his forehead. "I should go, before the fever returns."
She. It is a woman, the Reverend wanted to say, but thought the better of it.
"You are sure you feel well enough to travel?"
"Well I can't stay here." He looked around in horror. "That creature is your wife?"
"Mrs. Hatchitt? Good God, no! She is the housekeep-
"I wonder what brought me here, of all places?" he wondered aloud.