Published: December 29th 2005January 18th 1987
Excerpt of the Rev. H. Nigel Fox Jr. Travel Journal - Circa 1920
ENTRY NINE - Christ's Faithful Apostle
I was unable to shake the dark feeling of melancholy that had crept into me during my visit to the graveyard. I attempted to go about my business as normally as possible, but Sipho began to eye me warily, therefore I knew I was merely fooling myself. We both became increasingly low, but tried to keep a stiff upper lip. Hearty, insincere jocularity was the order of the day when either of us would catch the other out.
After three nights of unsettling dreams accompanied by strange noises, alternating with nerve-wracking days, dark circles were beginning to form under my eyes. Sipho's were very bloodshot, so I surmised that he had not spent the time pleasantly either. We dare not discuss our feelings.
I did not object to Sipho's suggestion that we stay up that evening to listen to the gramophone. Although it was obvious that we were both feeling down in the dumps, music would help us while away the hours.
I had been sleeping in the master bedroom whereas Sipho had taken up his quarters in my former room with all its memories. When we had finally exhausted my collection of music, he suggested we turn in. We retired to our respective bed chambers, but I continued to put off the inevitable and sat up in bed, reading a Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles, or was it The Light in the Darkness?
In any event, I do not recall closing my book, putting down my pipe or drifting into sleep. I do remember being startled awake by a strange noise coming from the hallway. I found myself in the dark, heart pounding furiously, nightclothes bunched round me.
The door to my sleeping chamber was ajar. As I rose, I became aware of the moonlight pouring into the passage from the upper hall window. It was quite bright in the corridor; therefore it seemed a prudent decision to proceed.
The moonlight shimmered, and I was suddenly conscious of a dark shape coming toward me at the end of the passage. It seemed to grow larger and glow in an eerie way. I shook my head, inwardly upbraiding myself that the demon did not exist, but when I looked again it was still there. Lord have mercy!
I inched forward, determined to keep my wits about me and confront the dark shape. Every ounce of my terrified being was screaming to return to my room. When I was within a few feet of the wall at the end of the passage, just before reaching the staircase to my left, it finally dawned on me: the dark, terrifying shape was my own shadow, somewhat distorted by the moonlight behind me. I chuckled quietly at my own gullibility and returned to my room.
Without pausing to light the lamp, I grabbed the bedclothes and quickly jumped into bed. Much to my horror, there seemed to be something moving underneath me. It let out a beastly groan as I landed heavily on top of it. There was a frightful commotion. I scrambled back out and swiftly reached for the light on the bedside table.
In its glow I could make out the features of Sipho, blankets pulled up around his chin, eyes large, and mouth agape. So alarming was the state of his countenance that he did not look altogether human.
I attempted to explain to Sipho that I had, quite automatically, entered my childhood room following my scare, instead of my parents' bedchamber. With more than a touch of merriment I endeavoured to convince my jolted companion that the situation was humorous, but Sipho refused to join in my levity. He did agree however, rather quickly, when I suggested that we exchange rooms, so that this happenstance would not occur a second time.
Another troubled night
A noise awoke me. Glancing at my pocket watch in the moonlight I could see that it was exactly half past eleven. I do believe I knew Harold Nigel Fox Jr. was in for another troubled night.
As on the previous evening, I entered the passageway and a shadow greeted me. My investigation was cut short, however, when a feeling of euphoria welled up inside me.
Flashing lights began in my head, and while for many, these sparkles would mean the beginning of a migraine or an epileptic fit, this was not true for me. Recognising the symptoms, I quickly returned to my room, for I knew bed would be the safest place to ride out the storm, as it were.
'Episodes' was undoubtedly a misnomer: what I truly experienced was an altered consciousness. The bright moonlight in my room intensified to a deep, rich blue, glowing with an unearthly light. I thanked God that I had not been hit with this feeling while out and about. The incredible euphoria - an almost giddy feeling - assailed me.
I lay down and closed my eyes. The entire world seemed to reel. There was a sensation of falling. Finally, I opened my eyes and focused on the portrait of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, which had a great attraction for me... The room had become motionless; the deep blue moonlight had turned to daylight.
Small Things Long Forgotten
My quarters were the same, yet different . . . Somehow they seemed more familiar. The portrait of Jesus was in the identical position, but the rest of the room had been altered somewhat. From my vantage point I could see everything: incredibly, it was the sleeping chamber of my childhood days.
I must say this experience fairly astounded me. Climbing out of bed, I cautiously moved toward the window. My room was a lofty chamber: there before me lay the East Avalon of my youth, down to the tiniest detail.
The tree that had reached to the windowsill was now barely half the size. I could see down past the foot of the hill to the Lodge Gates. I gazed in wonder at the horse and wagon making its way up the Street: it was that of Mr. James Stephenson, the milkman, doing his deliveries.
"What are you staring at, Harry?" came my mother's voice from the other side of the room. Her Scottish brogue seemed stronger than I remembered and my heart thumped madly in my chest. "Shouldn't you be making ready for Sabbath-day school? Have you studied your catechism?" My mother was by far the most potent influence in my religious life when I was a child. Her love was the one pre-eminent factor in my infancy and early boyhood.
"I am not well," I said shakily, thinking that my statement was not far from the truth. My eyes drank in Mother's handsome features as I turned to face her. Many of Father's peers had scorned him for marrying beneath his station in life, yet he felt Mother the most beautiful lass to have ever walked the earth! No lines marred her satiny complexion, and her bright green eyes sparkled, undimmed by time. I was afraid to blink lest she disappear.
"Not to worry, my little lamby pie. Your father did want to speak to you before you left, therefore I'll allow you a 'mulligan' just for today. You lads'll be the end of me: two odd ducks, birds of a feather," she laughed, but her countenance showed concern - I never wanted to miss Sabbath-day school.
When she went out of the door, I found my knees giving way. Returning to the bed, I recognised the red and blue-checked counterpane she had made for it. I ran my hand across its unfaded squares. At first I sat like one paralysed, marvelling at the small things long forgotten.
The wardrobe looked new, polished to a glossy shine, my cricket bat leaning against it. The matching dresser's brass handles glistened, as they had not in years. Around the looking glass were affixed my sport ribbons, set out to best advantage.
My Sabbath-day School attendance certificate hung in a prominent place next to it. The Holy Bible (Catholic Apostolic Version) which had been a prize, sat on the bedside table, its leather cover a deep, rich, red, the pages edged in shiny gold.
Rising up, I could see more: a boy's catapult and several pebbles lay on the dresser-top. With childish glee I furtively picked up the simple weapon and tried it at the open window, congratulating myself as a pebble found its mark on the tree below me, sending a number of birds off in all directions. What a fine prospect there was from the oriel: all of Somerset was set out before me.
The size of my tiny hands clutching the catapult held me spell-bound for a moment, and then I pulled open the wardrobe to look at the garments hanging there. Finally, with a tide of emotion washing over me, I dressed, and made my way out of the door.
An Incredible Sense of Peace
"Harry, where've you been? Your father's been waiting for you!" scolded Mother.
I hoped she had not thought ill of me. Yet I felt no guilt for my tardiness and did not make haste. Filled with an incredible sense of peace, I walked down the long passageway to my father's study. I revelled in her singing of a Highland song (there was a family connection with Clan McCallum). My, how I loved and missed my parents. To have another chance to visit with them was a gift from God. Before entering the office I turned and snuggled against my mother's side.
"Ta," she said doting on me as only my mother could. After an embrace that lasted more than a minute, she opened the study door.
"I have been waiting for you, Son," said my father in a tone that always made me feel special . . . loved. "Do sit down."
My father, renowned for his "healing powers" and his "gift of prophecy", had been considered strange by most people, including me. He believed the British Empire (like Rome before it) was the destined instrument in God's hand for the 'Second Coming'. However, the basic goodness of the man, his love the Lord and his neighbour, overshadowed his many idiosyncrasies. He was forever available to his family - always there for people in need. He was a true Christian, although a die-hard Irvingite.
"No church today due to illness?" he enquired, with a tone that showed concern. I had once been very ill with rheumatic fever. "You look fit to me . . . but, never mind. In a few days you will be off to school and we will miss you." It was an unusual verbalisation of affection, for as was the case with most Englishmen of his class, Father rarely expressed his love in words. Yet it must be said that he was the tenderest of men, and a lover of little children. His Christian faith seemed to reveal itself in an unworldly character, which made him an idealist — generous to the last degree.
Every chapter in the Book of Revelation was explained to me as certain to come to pass in our own days. The Second Coming of the Lord was daily expected. Christ was immediately coming "as a thief in the night" to take away His elect. This phrase, 'The Second Coming'
, was continually upon my father's lips and he lived in expectation of the Advent.
"Let us see how your religious studies are progressing," he began, in a manner that I had heard many times before. I could almost guess at the exact phrases that would follow.
"Why was our church founded?"
"It was founded because the 'End of the Age' is at hand," I parroted off, amazed that I still knew the answer as if it were yesterday.
"When will the Son of Man appear?" he continued.
"No one knows the day or the hour, only our Father in Heaven," was my proud reply, feeling quite accomplished.
My father lectured me at length, covering every detail of his favourite section of the Bible. My mind wandered as he spoke. It was so very good to listen to the rich timbre of his voice once more.
From left to right, I slowly scanned the study, reading the titles of the many books in the bookcases, sweeping my eyes across the massive desk top, and coming to rest upon my father's comfortable reading chair. Suddenly my gaze was jerked back to something that jarred: placed next to the tallboy was a blue leather portmanteau - mine, not my father's. It seemed older than its present age, even more worn. I stared intently, trying to understand. It was a blatant incongruity.
"Harry! Are you listening?"
"Yes Father." My voice quavered.
"Then tell me: what is the 'abomination that wreaks desolation'
"The ships from the western coastlines (England) will oppose the Wolf and he will lose heart and withdraw. Then he will return and vent his fury against the Holy Covenant . And he will show favour to all who forsake the Covenant. His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the daily sacrifice . . . " I caught my breath, continuing to dredge up the long-forgotten Scripture passage, ". . . then they will set up the 'abomination that wreaks desolation'."
My father seemed unsurprised by my hurried recitation and went on to elaborate on the rest of Daniel, describing the evils that would be perpetrated on the Jews (the people of the Holy Covenant), the military exploits of the Wolf, and so forth. He stopped when he noticed that my mind was again straying. Looking me directly in the eye, he asked me to describe Daniel's dream of the beasts
"There were living beasts," I answered quickly, "each one different from the other." Again, miraculously, from somewhere in the back of my mind came whole sections of scripture. "The first was a lion with the wings of an eagle
, and the wings were torn off . . . "
"And what is the meaning of this?" my father interrupted.
"This beast represents the Empire. The lion is the symbol of England and the eagle is the symbol of America."
My father nodded in approval as I went on with my memorised speech.
"The second beast in the dream was a bear . . . "
"Explain the meaning."
"The bear is the symbol of Russia," I said slowly, my voice beginning to falter somewhat.
Looking at me with eyebrow lifted, my father took over at this point, proceeding right into a description of the final beast: "The last beast will appear on the earth, and it will be different from all the other kingdoms." My father's deep voice intensified. "It will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The Antichrist will speak against the Most High and oppress His chosen people. They will be handed over to him for a time, times a time and a half. This is the beast to be feared - and what is this beast, Harry?" my father boomed.
"The beast is a wolf who will devour the sheep," I rattled off.
I had redeemed myself. Father was pleased. A tiny smile formed on his lips. Looking directly at me with those piercing eyes he said firmly, "The Wolf can only be distinguished from the Lamb of God by the fruit which he shall produce . . . not by what he speaks. Remember - this is the test!"
Then, something strange took place. Before my eyes my father was transfigured into a very old man, with hair as white as snow. A light radiated from him. On the other hand, I was aware that I was no longer a young boy, but my proper age. I sat rooted to my chair, mesmerised.
"Harry - it is time!"
I was now in my bed. The voice was no longer my father's, but that of Sipho, enquiring after my health. My pocket-watch on the bedside table confirmed that it was 11:00 a.m. the following morning.
Sect-1901-Catholic Apostolic Church
The rising up of the Antichrist