A story befitting the weather, befitting my mood. As told by a very old man of 137 years. He’s a little long-winded, so I’m not sure how many parts there will be… Somewhere between 3 and 10, I’ll guess. – Cortney
PART I: Something Odd at Alden Cottage
If I recall, it was somewhere about 1914, 1915… The world at large was getting itself into a big war, but at home in Wylleysdale life remained peaceful and unchanged.
Let me tell you what it was like. The village itself was nothing to speak of, being a small and unromantic sort of place. The surrounding wood is lovely, though, and hides some of the prettiest little cottages England might ever have built.
The wood – Wylles Wood, it was called – was home to two sisters, orphaned in their young ladyhood. Martha and her little sister, Bea… or Beatrice, I guess, though nobody I ever heard of called her that… Anyway, them girls were provided for by a modest trust which their dear old granddad had thought to give them when he won a regional contest for his sour cider jelly and sold the recipe to a big chain of jam factories. It was too bad he died without ever having written the plan down, and so most of the money was split amongst the interested parties – of which there were many – and Bea and Martha’s remaining share was tiny by comparison.
So they were compelled to supplement their income a bit. Being of age and not too scrawny, they had an easy enough time of it – Martha took in some cleaning and candle dipping, while Bea tended the garden and learned to spin and sew. They managed just fine, and always had an agreeable word for a neighbor or the occasional pilgrim.
The only odd thing – and really, this wouldn’t be much of a story if there weren’t some odd thing – was Bea’s strange preoccupation with the weather. They say she never stepped a foot out of doors except when it rains. The sun would shine through the trees like the breath of golden-haired fairies, and Bea would just look at it from the window by her spinning wheel and go, “Hm.”
“Don’t you want to go walk with me?” Martha would ask her, or, “Oughtn’t we to go to market today?” and Bea would always shake her head no.
Folks gave it an odd look, but I suppose she was rather a shy, retiring type, and generally preferred home to anywhere else. If she had much of an interest in people as a whole, she never showed it to me in any case.
Ah, but when it rained there’s nothing keeping her in. Poor Martha would caution her about her wrap and catching a chill, and Bea heeded the warnings like a good girl, then out she would go into the rain – mud and all, be it mist and fog or a downpour.
Keep all that in mind now as we come to the time in question. As I said, 1915 or so… possibly earlier… The mind grows a bit dim in my latter years. In any case, it was the autumn of the year, and likewise cool and rainy quite most of the time. A new family had moved into the wood, by name of Morrison, and as they were well to do and had many friends in Town (London, that is), they often were receiving visitors.
It was one particularly rainy afternoon when the Morrisons were receiving a particularly new pair of visitors – a particular friend of Mr. Morrison’s from school, and his younger brother. As the two men were much older and much more intimately acquainted, the younger brother was quite particularly forgotten and left to wander the premises, desperate for amusement lest he die of boredom and neglect.
As the prospect of great masses of water spraying from a sky of steel was obviously unattractive to Walter (the younger brother, that is), he elected not to go out of doors. But he did happen to glance out of window and thereby noticed Bea – though he did not know who she was – judiciously suited in warm woolens and most un-judiciously dancing down the street.
Now young Walter was a fool for anything mysterious and interesting, and a young woman in a blue cloak twirling and skipping amid drench-weather fit this bill for certain. The lad’s curiosity was taken and given a shake. He had to know her name. As a maid of the house was happening by at that moment, Walter bade her look out the window and enlighten him.
“Why that’s Miss Bea, of Alden Cottage,” she dutifully reported before continuing on her mission to feed luncheon leftovers to the dogs.
© Cortney Matz, 2008