Part II

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“Glory be to the Protestant God,” Pastor Mayberry drawled to the eyes looking up at him, “Because in His Infinite Wisdom -- he bestowed us with the grace of coffee!”

And the slavish crowd roars its approval with polite chortles and light palmed applause. Everyone is on the edge of their goose-downed chairs for the response -- Ralf, standing towards the back and in a coarsely starched shirt, is trying not to sweat. All eyes are on Lord Howard in the center of the room now -- the Duke of Shaftesbury and a known Catholic. The year is 1689, and a strange revolution in the Kingdom has just “settled down.” But the tensions between Catholics and Protestants in England had not.

“Well,” Lord Howard said dryly, “Don’t you mean to thank God for England, who found these coffee beans and brought them back and granted you the safety and comfort to enjoy them?”

The response was quick.

“No, my Lord, I don’t. I only thank God for my faith.”

The smirk on the cleric’s face was dripping. Ralf could see sweat starting to pool on Gilbert’s forehead, and a stain-ring starting to form on the red satin of Gilbert’s tunic. Gilbert looked extremely nervous -- like he was about to bolt. Why?

“I love my country,” Lord Howard said, his servant approaching quickly with the Lord’s marmot-fur overcoat, his small dexterous hands quickly draping it over the broad shoulders of the Noble as he stood. Another servant approached with a tall hat on a velvet cushion. “And I would do anything for it.”

And with that, he left, with more servants coming out of the woodwork and following him outside, where a gilded carriage waited, six monstrous horses tied to the pullgate. Everyone was looking at the Pastor.

“There is no place for Catholicism here,” Pastor Mayberry asserted. “This is God’s chosen country.”

A voice from the back blurted -- “But Howard was a hero!”

“A hero?” Mayberry looked around, surprised. “Who said that?”

It was Gilbert. Ralf was shocked by the outburst.

“. . . I said it.”

A circle formed around Gilbert -- everyone was watching. This was the milieu of the coffee-house -- a theater that didn’t need actors. Many sets of painted eyes and perfumed ears perked up; the chance for conflict was the most delicious thing on the menu at Nando’s.

“And what makes our dear old friend HOWARD a hero?”

The crowd murmured boos and hisses when Mayberry said Howard. Ralf was becoming very worried. The debate tradition of the coffee-house, especially Nando’s where he and Gilbert had been coming for the better part of twenty years, was storied and essential. But the times were different now. More tumultuous. Ralf didn’t know if Gilbert had realized it, but this was becoming a dangerous situation.

“He fought for our rights,” Gilbert said, quietly but firmly.

“Fought?” Mayberry said sarcastically. “I don’t remember any battles!”

The crowd ate the joke up with guffaws and fake tears.

“Exactly!” Gilbert said, sounding like a defiant child, not impressing anyone in the slightest bit. “He fought for our God-given rights! And he and the rest of Parliament won!”

“Oh, son, son, son.” Mayberry said, shaking his head. “You do sound like you have strayed from Christ’s pure path! Why do you concern yourself with what the men in government do? Why do you worry your head with such that is so far outside of yourself? What you need is to study the teachings of Luther! Of Christ! They will show you the way. God will guide these men to do what is right, just like He will guide you!  If you let Him in. You need to have complete faith in God -- that is the only way you can ever hope to find salvation.”

“I do have complete faith in God,” Gilbert said.

“Oh you do?” Mayberry questioned, the same scary smirk rising from the depths of his face, causing the hair on the back of Ralf’s neck to stand straight up. “Then why is it I haven’t seen you in church?”

“I . . . don’t live around here,” Gilbert stammered.

Then he turned, grabbed Ralf, and quietly said -- “I think it’s time for us to go.”

Part II