In this third chronicle from Sherburn, the accident-prone vicar tells of his attempts to identify the murderer of his servant George. He becomes involved in more legal hot water than he has ever experienced before and is within a whisker of being transported for life. His dogged search eventually brings success – and a dilemma of conscience.
We are in the sleepy village of Sherburn in Elmete, Yorkshire, in the year of grace 1729. When George Bywater, the vicar’s servant, is clubbed to death as he collects the parish tithes, the vicar undertakes to track his killer. Unfortunately, his efforts are thwarted at every turn. Threatened with violence, arrested and tried on three separate occasions, on charges that include murder, harbouring a felon and poaching, he is saved from transportation – or worse! – only by an act of God (naturally). He is hauled before the archdeacon and then the archbishop himself for carrying out his investigation at the expense of his pastoral duties. Forbidden to proceed as he wishes, he yet takes advantage of a tip-off from a local magistrate and a chance encounter with a reformed footpad to pursue his inquiries - in a pure spirit of duty, of course – and comes up with a peculiarly delicate challenge to his conscience.
This light-hearted tale is the third Chronicle from Sherburn, in which Julius Falconer presents for the modern reader the absurd adventures penned by the hapless vicar.