he begins, then fixes them with his blood-curdling stare
The rain falls evenhandedly on the righteous and unrighteous,
He does not laugh, for it is such an ancient joke. Indeed, The Reverend Thomas Hardy does not laugh. Full stop. In truth, it would be difficult to imagine The Reverend Thomas Hardy laughing. Some matronly ladies in the pews beneath the pulpit - his fan club - titter. Further to the back of the church the congregation tuts and whispers. It matters not, The Reverend Thomas Hardy rolls on remorselessly.
but far more often on the righteous, the unrighteous having stolen their umbrellas.
Meanwhile, not a million miles away, The Reverend Goronwy Jones, having just completed a dramatic prowl of his huge pulpit like a lion around its enclosure, now hangs across the polished wooden balustrade towards the congregation. He is locked in prayer extemporaire.
Some where between the two of them (geographically speaking) we find Henry Miles II. He his talking to his class of Sunday Scholars. An umbrella word or phrase, he is explaining, is used to include a disparate group of objects or ideas in a single reference. You might want to find a term for a wide variety of plants, for example. Or politicians. Religions. He sets them a five minute task to invent an umbrella term. They come up with Parasol, extreme, cuckoo thorny and wet.
Oh, Almighty God, intones said Reverend Goronwy Jones, we do praise and thank Thee for all Thy great benevolence towards us and to all of Thy Creation. We thank Thee too, O Father that Thou art all-wise, dispensing only what is needful to Thy Kingdom here on earth, for Thou has sent in season, the sun to ripen and the rain to water fruit and grain. But Lord, there have been times of late, when flood and lack of faith have tempted us to doubt the workings of Thy wisdom, but when in such inclement weather I feel myself sore tempted, then do I recall the time when long ago Thou didst choose a servant from among us and didst lead said servant to invent the umbrella. We do thank thee Lord for that Divine initiative, for rendering to us all that Thou didst see Thy servants might require.
Just about this time Mrs Goronwy Jones is visiting her aunt. She has taken a wrong turning and has found herself high up on an exposed ridge at the top of the town. The town is in the middle of a downpour and it is blowing a gale. In fact, it has just turned Mrs Geronwy's umbrella inside-out. Most people would find this a stroke of malfortune, but Mrs Geronwy Jones realises that she has been led to this spot by the spirit, for she is right outside a shop that is displaying in its ample window space its newly patented Unreturnable Umbrellas. So are the faithful faithfully rewarded in this life.