Mr Randolph Beacham

Lunsford is in hospital, following the accident. He dreams and imagines. He tries to construct a working reality. He comes up with what he is a fact.

It was a male surgical ward that seemed to be named after someone called Beacham. The Randolph Beacham Ward. Attempting to construct some sort of reasonable world Lunsford decided that Mr Beacham must have been some philanthropic Victorian gentleman, maybe he owned flour mills or had shares in the railways. Possibly he had led an early life of licentiousness, lust and greed out in the Empire. Ravaging people as well as lands and landscapes in industrial violence as he brought Christianity and syphilis to grateful natives.

Lunsford pictured Mr Randolph Beacham, bearded and dressed in his black suit and gloves, tall and haggard by his travels and his diseases. He was returning to his home in the county’s lush green winter countryside to attend to the funeral of his father. His mother saw into him and judged him.

“Randolph”, she said, “you are now in control of the estates, of your family’s legacy, of it’s traditions and of its future. Your time as a young man has come to an end as it should with the natural death of your father from old age and hard work.”

She brooked no response other than a nod of this head. She expected his eulogy to his father to be biblical in content and extent. She knew that she only had another two or three years and in this time her role was to support her son and his put this stamp on the estate. He needed a knighthood of some kind, something her disgusting husband had failed to achieve despite the opportunities presented by war and commerce.

Lunsford imagined the damp Wednesday afternoon on which the paterfamilias had been dropped into the ground. He saw the church, St Eades of course. He also saw himself listening to the interminable and shallow eulogy falling from the weirdly formed lips of Randolph Beacham.

Following the funeral and in the sanctity of money and security, Randolph Beacham wholeheartedly embraced the church. He had been cured of the clap by regular ministrations of mercury and prayer, and he had taken to philanthropy with immense brio. Lunsford, with a sadness that reflected his own situation, intuited that Randolph’s children would inevitably end up insane, or dead in the trenches, or both. Randolph’s wife would Cecile flee inward to despair and mourning weeds, leaving him with plenty of time to atone for both his guilt and sin.

Lunsford wasn’t at all sure if he felt much sympathy for Randolph Beacham, or whether a hospital ward should have taken this name. But there it was.

The reality was that there was no Randolph Beacham. The plaque had been nailed on to commemorate Mr Derek Beacham who had died on the ward in 1965. His pals at the golf club out in Bursley village had clubbed together literally in a charity round to raise funds for the plaque. This had then been hung up by the door outside the ward leading people to called it The Beacham Ward. Its official names were Ward 12 or The Bursley Ward, as all the wards were named after local villages and hamlets.

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