Well, folks, I thought that it was time we went back and visited Shepperton, so here goes...
Book Four, Chapter Three
The man listened for a while, but could hear nothing but the waves crashing against the rocks. He then peered out from his hiding place, and saw the people dragging the sailor away. He was curious to find out who they were, and to see if there was anything that could be useful, but did not want to go up and ask, for he did not want to be seen. So, following at a safe distance, noticed them turn in the direction of the town.
As he followed their lamp, he was not able to see clearly who it was ahead, but he knew that this was important because of the light. The man had seen it. He had seen the blue light that enveloped the stranger, had watched from a distance as the light came closer to the shore. He had watched in fascination, because years ago he had actually seen something very much like this, when another ship had been lost, and then, too, there was a survivor, who had turned out to be the earl of Derrymoor.
Thinking back to that time, which was more than fifteen years ago, he had been a hunter and a trapper. So, observing without being seen was second nature to him. And one day, while on this very stretch of coastline, he had looked out toward the storm at sea, and noticed that faint blue light. As the time passed, he noticed that the light became fainter, and then went out shortly before the earl was washed ashore. Tempted as he was to help, he noticed there were persons down at the shoreline helping the earl, and took him with them into the village. So, he merely kept watch, day after day. He noticed that the earl was being tended by the people of the village, as well as a guardsman. Then he also saw her, that lovely creature. No person that he had ever seen was as beautiful as she.
But those memories had been burned away, or so he thought until he saw again that faint blue light.
Now, it seemed, there was nothing to do but to follow.
Up ahead he noticed that they turned in to one of the better houses in the village.
“So, this is where they be takin’ him, the house o’ the bailiff,” he thought. “Well, could be interestin’, but who be the two young ‘uns?”
He watched as they took the sailor inside. Then in a short while the two children came back out, and walked down the way they had come, and then turned down another lane, carrying the lantern between them. He followed at a safe distance, and noticed with a start whose house it was where they stopped. It was the house of the Forest Guard!
“Hmm,” he thought, “this be quite interestin’ if I do say. Simeon, indeed! I wonder what he knows, if aught.”
Then the man left the scene for the moment, thinking to himself that things were going to get interesting again very soon here in Champour.
“By the saints, where have you two been?”
Surprisingly, there was only a hint of worry in her voice this time.
“Oh, mama, we’ve been down to the shore, where the man was. And Rupert went and got uncle Malcolm, and he’s now at his house!”
“Well, enough, my little ones. Why don’t you two come and sit down, and then tell me all about your evening adventures. Then maybe you can go on back to bed.”
So they sat down, and told their mother the tale, or enough of it that she could reasonably piece things together.
“And you say that the man is now at your uncle’s house? Well, I imagine that he’ll be safe there, as anywhere.”
The next day, the three children and Peggy headed over to Malcolm’s house. The household was alive with activity, with the scurrying of the maids, and the quiet intensity of the lady of the house, who managed to keep everyone busy.
“Well, look who comes now. Peggy, it’d be a good thing ye came, for I was just about to send for ye.” Sheila said, as Peggy and her brood descended on her abode. “I imagine that ye’d like to see what the children brought in last night, eh? Well come this way. We’ve kept him in the spare room, where he could get some rest at least. Now Malcolm’s gone off to work, but he wasn’t sure if he should tell anyone about our newest arrival, at least not yet.”
Before Peggy could answer, Alex took off at a run, and entered the spare room, down the hallway. As they caught up to her, she could be seen at his side, with her arms draped around his neck.
“Oh, Mama, here is my man from the sea. Isn’t he comely?”
And they all came into the room, and saw. In the middle of the room was a simple bed, with simple sheets. In the bed was a man, swarthy from the seas. His gaze was far off, as though watching something in the distance. His curly black hair, and his rough beard told of his youth, but there was the sense of weight upon his shoulders, and there was about him a feeling of resignation.
Peggy and the others came into the room, and she approached rather timidly.
“Oh, sir, let me apologize for me daughter. She knows no stranger.”
The man said nothing, simply stared into the distance.
“D’ye speak English?”
He continued staring.
“Oh, Mama,” said Alex. “He does understand ye. He just does not speak.”
“Oh, is that so?”
“Oh, aye, Mama, it is.”
“And how do you know this?”
“When I sang to him, I could tell, he understood.”
A subtle smile appeared on his lips, and then vanished.
“Excuse my daughter, sir. For she’s but a young thing, and she’s apt to say anything to anyone.”
He next moved slightly so that Alex could reach around him more easily.
“D’ye want me to sing t’ye again? All right, then, I’ll sing ye a song that I learned from me mama.”
And she sang, in that little girl voice, of the fishes in the sea, the birds in the air, and the lambs on the land. In response, the man closed his eyes in contentment, and seemed visibly to relax.
When she was done with her song, she turned to him and asked if he’d like anything to drink or to eat. The man nodded, but said nothing.
So Sheila went off to the kitchen, and soon she came back with one of the maids, who brought in a tray, laden with fruit, bread, cheese, as well as cider. The servant laid down the tray in front of the man, who ate and drank as though starving.
Peggy took Sheila aside, and spoke to her in the hallway. The children stayed in the room, and watched as the man ate and drank.
“Now, Sheila. He doesn’t seem right to me. I think that he should see a physician, and there be none here, but in the castle you have the best, in the clinic.”
“But, Peggy, just look at what your daughter has done. She, at the very least understands him, and can seem to communicate with him, which is more than we were able to do all night.”
“Oh, aye. I shall speak to her. But I agree wi’ ye. He seems not to be right at all. Now if ye can arrange fer to get a wagon and a horse, we could take him up to the castle. Now can he walk?”
“That I know not, for he was carried in here last night.”
“Very well, then. Now do ye think that we should have Alex come along?”
“Oh, I think, absolutely she should go along.”
They got a couple of servants, who stood on either side of the man, and were able to get him to shuffle his feet. He seemed weak, and barely able to walk, but with the servants’ help they got him to the waiting cart. Then Alex got in beside him, as well as Peggy. Sheila turned toward Peggy, and whispered, “Now mind ye, when ye get to the castle, that ye ask after Clarice.” She then reached into her bag of coins, handed Peggy a couple of pieces of silver. “This is for Clarice, I do know that she needs it.”
“Very well, I shall seek her out, and give her these.” Then Peggy kissed Sheila, and bade her farewell.
“Tell me how it goes with the physician.”
“Oh, aye, I shall.”
With that the cart lurched forward, and Peggy, Alexandra and the man were off toward Shepperton Castle. Rupert stayed behind with Ian.
Soon the boys were back at it, fishing from the pier. While they were fishing, they were approached by the man who had seen them that night. They paid him no heed. For a while he just stood on the pier next to them, looking out toward the horizon.
Eventually, the man spoke. “Now ye be Simeon’s boys, is that not right?”
Rupert answered, “Oh, aye, that’s me father, but this is me cousin, Ian. Now yer name is Master Gilbert. Am I right?”
The man nodded. “Aye, that be me name. But tell me lad, how d’ye know me?”
“Well, me father has spoken of ye, and I’ve often seen ye about, always off by yerself. Now, me father says that yer a guardian of the village. Is that right?”
“Aye, laddie. But tell me, who was that stranger that ye brought out o’ the sea?”
“I know not, as he doesn’t speak. But let me tell ye, he’s a man of some renown, that I can tell ye.”
“And just what makes ye say that, if I might ask?”
“Well, the rings on his fingers, the gold chain about his neck, and his clothes – they all tell of a man of some importance, to my mind.”
“So, can ye tell me, where is he now?”
“Oh, he be on the way to the castle by now…”
“Aye, the castle, eh? Very well lads. Ye have a fine day.”
And with that the man walked off, quickly striding in the direction of the castle.
“Now what did ye tell him all that fer?” asked Ian. But Rupert was paying him no mind, as he got another bite on the end of his line.
Judy sat down in Melchior and Jeanne’s home, in the small rooms next to the alchemist’s shop. Little Falma was there as well, climbing about, and into everything. A busy two year old, he was already showing signs to Judy of great potential.
Jeanne was busying herself, looking after the household, but stopped after putting up the last of the dishes from the evening meal.
“You know, Jeanne, I’m not an invalid, and I could be helping you.”
“Ah, nay, m’lady. An invalid yer not. I know. But, tell me, have ye but sat down today? E’en during the meal, were ye not up serving, helping, and playing with young Falma, while we do have servants to do that? Nay, m’lady, I would suggest that ye but sit, and enjoy a moment’s peace.”
Judy noticed that it felt really good to be sitting down. Her day had been hectic, and now, with the men off, conferring with Craycroft, she was again in familiar territory. Sitting down with her friend, Jeanne, in her home. Her pregnant belly suddenly seemed to relax as well, and she could feel the baby starting to move about. She reclined a bit, and noticed her swollen abdomen, noticed the baby doing what felt like summersaults. She just chuckled at that. A fragrant breeze blew into the room, and they could all feel its peace.
Then there came a knocking at the door. Instantly the two women sensed a voice from the past, and it was Jeanne who answered the summons. There was a page at the door, and it was obvious that he was out of breath from running.
“Heavens, do come in, m’lad, and tell us what it is that sends ye to us in such a state.”
“Very well, m’lady. It is Master Robert, he says to send for the lady Judy, and to come anon to the clinic. It be a matter of some urgency.”
Judy was startled. Rarely did Bob call for her, and never with such a tone of emergency.
“Well, now, lad, it certainly sounds like he needs me there. Let me just get up, and I’ll go with you. And Jeanne, why don’t you stay here with little Falma…”
“Oh, nonsense, I shall come as well. I’ll just call one of the servants to but watch over him. Oh, Clarice! Clarice, could ye but come?”
From the back rooms Clarice hobbled out into the sitting room.
“Aye, m’lady. What d’ye wish?”
“Ah, Clarice, if ye could watch over Falma. M’lady and I are needed at the clinic this very hour.”
“Oh, aye, m’lady. I shall watch him, and put him to bed if ye be late.”
Judy could not help but notice that Clarice seemed to be having some trouble. Her stooped posture, and her limp were rather pronounced. She thought back to her training as a nurse, and she seemed to half remember something, which she could not quite bring to the forefront of memory.
As the two women followed the page out the door, Judy kept trying to remember something. Jeanne noticed that far away look in her eyes.
“What is it, m’lady? Something is troubling ye.”
“Well, it’s hard to put into words, Jeanne. There’s something about the urgency of this call, and something about Clarice, and something far off in my memory. I just can’t seem to put it all together.”
“Ah, I too, sense something is amiss, m’lady.”
Then rather abruptly the wind shifted, and blew hard from the north. It was a cold wind, and it told of a storm about to blow.