The Mission House by Carys Davies
English | 2020| General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 1.5 MB
Fleeing the dark undercurrents of contemporary Britain, Hilary Byrd takes refuge in a hill station in South India. There he finds solace in life’s simple pleasures, travelling by rickshaw around the small town and staying in a mission house beside the local presbytery, where the Padre and his adoptive daughter Priscilla have taken him under their wing.
As his friendship with the young woman grows, Hilary begins to wonder whether his purpose lies in this new relationship. But religious tensions are brewing and the mission house may not be the safe haven it seems.
The Mission House boldly and imaginatively interrogates the fractures between faith and non-belief, young and old, imperial past and nationalistic present. Tenderly subversive and meticulously crafted, it is a deeply human story of the wonders and terrors of connection in a modern world.
As they climbed, the air cooled; by the time they were halfway up, it was chilly and fresh. ‘Thank God!’ said Byrd, gulping the breeze from the open window, and when the Padre asked him, what brought him here, up into the hills? Byrd said – and it felt like the truth – ‘The weather.’
At Modern Stores he bought milk and Nescafé and a packet of Highfield Premium Tea, a very expensive jar of Hartley’s raspberry jam, two eggs in a paper bag, and what looked and smelled like a banana muffin, which he planned to eat in the morning for his breakfast.
The Padre had told him about a short cut which would bring him up out of the hectic town to the presbytery on the hill above the church, and from the high pavement outside Modern Stores he could see the church’s white spire, pointing like a compass needle into the misty sky above the messy pattern of tiled and corrugated roofs and the floaty, lightly moving tops of the trees.
‘There it is,’ he said aloud, because it was reassuring to be able to see exactly where he was going. Carrying his shopping and his straw hat and pulling his suitcase over the broken surface of the road, he moved towards it until he came to the broad concrete steps the Padre had described. Up he went. On his left a group of women in bright clothes hacked at the ground with small sharp tools that flashed in the weak sunlight. Then, just as the Padre had told him they would, the steps delivered him out onto a steep road above the town at a gateless opening surrounded by thick vegetation; a crooked sign on the right-hand side said: dog is on duty.
Byrd walked in under a canopy of dripping trees along a red earth driveway puddled with water.
There was no sign of any dog, or the Padre. The bungalow was there though, in the garden next to the presbytery, as the Padre had promised, the door open invitingly.