Father Ignatius visited Mrs Florenti, an elderly widow, in her cottage in the country. She was very distraught and confused. Her five year rental contract on the cottage was due for renewal and her landlord, a farmer, had increased the rent by more than 100%. There was no way she could pay the proposed rent and would have to move.
The kind priest checked the paperwork and it was all in order. The contract was due for renewal and there was nothing Father Ignatius could do apart from sympathize and say a silent prayer to God for help.
As he left the cottage a large farm vehicle drew up to the adjacent field and two people came out; Theodore Luxton-Joyce and another man.
“Hello Padre …” Theodore greeted the priest, “What are you doing here?”
“Just visiting a friend,” replied Father Ignatius.
“Jolly good … this is Gerald Thomson, my Estates Manager. We’re here to look at this piece of land … Care to join us?”
As they walked slowly up the hill adjoining the cottage Gerald Thomson excused himself and went up ahead and started taking measurements of the land with his theodolite.
“Good grazing land this … what!” said Theodore breaking the silence, “Luscious grass … and plenty of it. And the land is sheltered from high winds by those trees up there. It’s a great place to raise sheep!”
“Are you interested in this place?” asked the priest.
“Yes … Coston Enterprises, my Company, have put an offer on this land and we hope to buy most of this hill … all the way down to where we parked our cars, including the cottage with vacant possession!”
“Including the cottage?” asked the priest rather surprised.
“Yes … I’ll need that to house the farm labourer … or shepherd you might call him, who’ll look after the flock! Should you ever need a nice piece of lamb, be sure to let me know Padre … what?”
“Ehmm … thanks,” mumbled the priest as he continued, “Theodore, do you know who lives in that cottage?”
“No idea old boy …” replied the rich businessman picking up a handful of grass and smelling it, “they tell me you can identify good grass by smelling it … can’t understand it really, smells ordinary to me … here have a smell!”
The priest took the grass from Theodore’s hand and surreptitiously threw it away.
“You see Theodore,” hesitated Father Ignatius, “that cottage has been home for an elderly widow for many years. The owner of the house has just doubled her rent, no doubt to get her out. Did you know that?”
Theodore stopped and looked down the hill at the cottage. “No … of course not. I leave all the business stuff to the Estates Manager, Thomson over there … He told me he’d found a piece of land suitable for our purposes with a house to put the shepherd in … and we’ve come here to look at it!”
“I was visiting the old lady living in that house just as you arrived!” said Father Ignatius.
“That’s jolly decent of you Padre …” enthused Theodore, “you’ve a heart of gold. You came to help her move did you?”
Father Ignatius bit his lip as he silently despaired that Theodore was not getting the point.
“The thing is …” he said quietly, “she has nowhere to go … she’s lived here for years at moderate rent. There’s no where she can find a similar rent.”
“She can always come and live with us …” blurted Theodore, “well, not in our house of course. I doubt Rose, my wife, would like that … neither would I. The place is already too crowded with the butler, the kitchen staff, and the other employees … what!”
Father Ignatius said nothing trying to understand the sudden change of events.
“On the edge of our grounds, where I live, there’s a small house on the left, just by the entrance to the grounds … You must have seen it as you drive in?”
The priest nodded.
“My gardener lives there … he looks after the grounds. He wants to move out to live with his sister nearby. The place will be empty in a month or so. We can put the old lady there and I’ll have that cottage for my shepherd!”
Father Ignatius was about to say something when Theodore interrupted.
“And you can tell her I’ll charge her the same rent she’s paying for the cottage … even though the gardener’s house is bigger … what?
“And she’ll be next to other people rather than alone on this isolated hill. She can call on us or our staff should she need any help …
“You get her out of that cottage Father and you’ll be doing me a great favour! What’s her name?”
“Mrs Florenti …”
“Italian is she?” asked Theodore.
“No … Scottish actually. From Aberdeen. She married an Italian years ago.”
“That’s all the better” chortled Theodore remembering his ancestry, “you’ll be telling me she plays the bagpipes next!”
Theodore was more wily than he let on, thought the priest to himself.
As the two men walked down the hill again Father Ignatius thanked God silently for solving the old widow’s problem so quickly. Had he left her a moment sooner he would never have met Theodore, and he would never have known the reason for the doubling of the rent by the landlord, and Mrs Florenti would have ended up in an old peoples’ home.