PART V: Walter Comes Through
Bea was beside herself with remorse and fear. She knew she’d been as self-involved and obstinate as a beast, and here was poor Martha unconscious and probably dead! It was all her fault. These thoughts whirling through her grief-stricken head, Bea would never have dragged her sister to safety if Prince hadn’t happened to arrive just then.
I hope you’ll all be glad to know that Prince is in fact a real man, as I am myself. He had to be kept a bit mysterious or you’d never have cared a fig about him, seeing as he is a fairly plain, thin, awkward sort of fellow with limp dark hair and freckles. Truth be told, you wouldn’t look twice at him in daylight. He’s a hard worker though, honest and true – and really, those are the sort of qualities that are most pleasant when you’re in a pinch or the weather is foul. Both of which seem to be the case at present.
Bea, if she hadn’t already been weeping, would have wept for joy at sight of him. As it was, she just gurgled something unintelligible and cried harder. Prince didn’t miss a beat though, and scooped Martha out of the mud and carried her all the way back to Alden Cottage.
It was hard walking, Prince’s arms ached, and Bea couldn’t keep from wailing all the way home though she tried very hard. The sight of the dear cottage with light in the windows and smoke wafting from the chimney was so inviting they both were inclined to burst into tears. But Bea was much closer to it than Prince, which is probably why he is the one who realized that there should have been no one home for some hours, and therefore there should have been no light, no smoke, no delightful feelings that make you want to burst into tears in the first place.
They weren’t left to wonder. The door swung open as they drew near and who should appear in the doorway but young Walter Randolph himself. I can tell you he had come by early in the day on account of the rain, planning to follow Bea, only to find that she and Martha had already gone. Then he decided to wait for them. And as the day wore on very long, he became worried, built up the fire, and sent for a doctor – who had arrived only moments before. Ordinarily, this last would be a foolish thing to do, and Martha would have scolded Walter for it had she been awake.
Thankfully, the doctor took charge of the scene before anyone asked Walter any questions, so he was spared having to give an immediate account for his presence. As soon as Bea could be calmed enough to tell the doctor what happened, he set about examining Martha and disinfecting her head where a little bulge was forming under a bruise.
“Is she… will she recover? Oh, she looks so dreadfully pale!” These are the kinds of things Bea kept saying. You can imagine her suffering, when you consider the depth of her remorse and the height of her imagination. Unfortunately, the good doctor did not have time nor inclination to consider either, having just come from delivering twins – and that was across the wood in this slough – only to discover that he had been summoned to an empty cottage with no one needing doctoring, feeling righteously outraged, and then promptly being presented with a head wound after all.
Now I trust you will direct your sympathy to Dr. Dunkirk when I tell you it was with unrepeatable language that he bid her leave the room. Prince was outraged on her behalf as he escorted her through the door, but for Bea’s part I think she was rather more shocked than offended.
Huddled together in the parlor, waiting… Bea and Prince on the sofa as Bea blew her nose and Prince spoke soothing words and rubbed her shoulders. Walter perched awkwardly by the fire, poking it much too often and feeling very in the way. He had guessed at the identity of the tall stranger sitting with Bea, and was engaged in studying him curiously when Prince suddenly turned his head and extended a hand.
“Prince Michaelman.” He didn’t smile, but that would hardly have been appropriate given the circumstances. And besides, he did catch Walter staring.
Startled, Walter breathed wrong and half coughed his name in response. The look on Prince’s face made Walter repeat himself, but Prince likewise chose to then repeat what he had heard, so they wound up talking over each other and getting no further on. It’s difficult to describe, but trust me: the situation was very uncomfortable.
Thankfully, the doctor chose that moment to reenter the room and clear his throat.
© Cortney Matz, 2008