And now, a very long-overdue installment. We’re nearly home!
PART VI: What Happened Next
Bea sprang to her feet. The weary doctor merely lifted his hand in protest.
“Now, now, she’ll be all right. Just a concussion, and a mild one at that. You’ll want to keep her quiet and comfortable for the next few days.”
Bea was visibly relieved, but good doctor Dunkirk seemed even more tense. “Now, er, Miss Bea,” and he turned a little aside, speaking in a low voice. Wyllesdale is a small town you see, and they look after their own. And here is Bea, with two strange men in her sitting room and an ailing sister next door. He was understandably concerned.
“I don’t want to seem untoward…” the rest he merely indicated with a few well-placed eye movements. And of course Bea understood, responding with equal gravity and care. “Don’t you worry, doctor. I’m in no better hands than with him.” She turned to look at Prince and caught a glimpse of Walter too. “I mean them.”
The doctor’s suspicion wasn’t thrown off so casually, so he elected to sit awhile as Bea left to see about Martha. And the depth and weight of the uncomfortable silence in that room was, I assure you, profound.
Martha was awake when Bea came in, and even though it had been only ninety-four minutes since they last spoke, they now had ever so many things to say to each other. They went on at a breakneck pace (it’s just as well there were no gentlemen present – they would’ve been run clean over) until at last Martha took thought of how she happened to be home when her last memory of conscious thought was in the wood.
“Why it’s too romantic to be believed!” Bea responded, beginning now to think of how perfect an end to the story it was. “I was besotted with fear and completely useless, and who would at that precise moment arrive…”
So Bea told Martha the whole story of her rescue, which I won’t bother repeating since you will have just read it (and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s the bit just before this entitled ‘Walter Comes Through’). She had her intended effect, taking Martha through all shades of emotion from disbelief to incredulity to surprise to admiration. Bea was and is a gripping raconteur.
Meanwhile, Walter had got over his self-inflicted social faux pas and was just working up the courage to try again. He didn’t understand how anyone could sit here in such languid silence, when there was so much excitement going on. Prince was cool as ice, draped across the sofa with only a furrowed brow to show any hint of anxiety. Dr. Dunkirk on the other hand, sat in an attitude of high alert, his fingers making a tent of observation, his eyes purposefully positioned on either Prince or Walter at any given moment.
“What do you do in fair weather?”
Almost before he knew it, the words were out of Walter’s mouth. He remained by the fire, poking it again when it needn’t be poked, and staring at Prince with a look of poorly feigned indifference that came off as wildly interested sleepyness. It was a mercy that no one had thought to light any candles.
But Walter’s words did have their intended effect, and Prince stirred a bit in his place. “Fair weather?” he repeated. And Walter explained that he’d been given to understand that Bea and Prince’s arrangement was kept on rainy days only. Naturally, one is curious what Prince would do with the fine ones.
He seemed reluctant to answer immediately, so Walter continued, intending to chat him up a bit and make things more comfortable. “I have a few theories, you know,” he said, going back to the fire which was becoming in real need of more wood. “A fisherman perhaps, or a- a gardener. Of course when you work outdoors there are all sorts of jobs that could be spoiled by rain.”
Prince surprised him with a smile. A smile that grew to a low kind of gurgling laugh. It was a beautiful laugh. “It’s too bad, you know,” said Prince. “I had good news for Bea, and was just on my way to share it when all this…” he gestured toward the adjoining room, but the other men knew what he meant. Prince looked at Walter. “I suppose I can talk about it now with no danger, as my post is being shut down. I’m a lookout for His Majesty’s Navy. I’ve been stationed about three miles from here, out in the middle of the wood in a hermit’s cabin for over a year. I stumbled on this cottage my second day out – well, that’s how I met Bea.”
“Let me guess, it was raining,” this was the first thing the doctor had said since his wee conference with Bea, and the others jumped a little. Out came Prince’s low gurgling laugh. “I was bored. Contrary to what you may think, there’s an alarmingly tiny amount of enemy vessels that make their way to this side of the continent. The Navy figured that out and shut down the post. Suits me just fine, my time is up anyway.”
Walter had ever so many other questions for Prince, but just then Bea came out and wearily thanked them all for their help. Taking their cue from her sagging eyelids, the men rose and excused themselves for the night – the doctor to home and hearth after many an hour of doctoring, the lads Prince and Walter back to the Morrisons’, the hospitality of which Walter had extended to Prince considering he was so far from home. Prince may well have later wished he’d made the long walk home rather than suffer Walter’s catalog of questions and surmises for what remained of the long night up until the candle went out and Walter had talked himself to sleep.
© Cortney Matz, 2009