Mrs. Amelia Haughton a tall, well-groomed woman, well over eighty had the looks and bearing of someone much younger. Her house, an imposing place with ivy-covered pillars set back on grounds meticulously manicured daily by a gardener.
She was the last one on our Meals on Wheels route.
"So you're the new vicar in town," she began, assessing my husband strangely with her hard, gray eyes.
"That's right, and I'm so pleased to meet you." John extended his hand.
Brushing it aside she continued quizzically, "Know your Bible, do you?"
Leaning hard on her walking stick, she sat down heavily in an arm chair."I have a question that has never been answered to my satisfaction by any man of the 'cloth.'" A broad sweep of her arm appearing to indicate everywhere else. A cynical half smile curled her lip.
"Sit down and talk to me, whilst your wife takes my lunch through to the kitchen." She patted the other chair with a heavily bejewelled hand.
"What did you think Paul meant when he said ..."
Leaving them I followed her instructions and placed her meal near the microwave.
"Well! I never did." She spluttered as I returned. "Never thought of it like that before."
Each Sunday that we called, she had another one of her "trick" questions waiting for John.
"So you see," she tapped her foot confidently, "I know the Bible too!"
"I see you do," John agreed and followed with a whispered question, "But do you know the Lord?"
She satback in shocked surprise. "Of course I do." She spat in exasperation. "I already told you, my brother's a Canon!"
Soon Mother's Day arrived. As I gathered small poises from the garden for all my "mothers," I wondered if Mrs. Haughton would have a house full of visitors.
Our knock received no reply, but entering through the side door we discovered her sick in bed in a darkened lonely house. There was no sign of her two daughters that I knew lived in town.
After serving her lunch, I refilled her hot water bottle, ran an errand to the shop for some biscuits, and after making her comfortable, I left her sleeping.
Driving home we felt sorry for this lady who had everything that money could buy: a beautiful house with rich furnishings, cabinets full of exquisite china and works of art. She also owned about half the real estate in town, but she had no one who really cared about her.
When we arrived the following Sunday she was seated, chipper as usual, in her lovely conservatory.
"Better bring your Bible with you next week," she laughed scornfully as we turned to leave. "You'll really need it this time."
"Tell me now," John asked. "I might be able to answer you."
"No, no. Next week is time enough for me."
"But we're going to leave for two weeks."
"Doesn't matter. There's no hurry."
While we were away we often wondered what her question would be. We just wished that we could reach her heart for the Lord. On our return we drove past her house and noticed that everything was closed up and the lawns were overgrown.
"One less on your route," said the old cook as she quickly placed the meals in their heated containers. "Mrs. Haughton passed over."
I could still hear her words, "There's no hurry."