15: Changed plans
Spring at last began to behave the way everyone expected, after they had grumbled about the wet reality and waited and waited. A week of rain, wind and chill gave way to warming overcast and cloud for a few days, and then sunshine filled Shalisa Creek Bay.
Barge, boats, beaches and cliffs steamed from the warmth of the sun, turning the bay surrounds into a hazy background of yellow-green early growth, seen through a mist softly, like an ancient oriental painting on silk, flooded with sunlight, the whole illusion disappearing before noon, as everything dried out a little and returned the scene to normalcy.
Grandfathers house had a welcoming open door once more even though there was still a coolness in the air, and ELFINSHOE was bouncing again with the activities of five youngsters, going to and from their floating home to barge and beach. Watching the five children boarding the barge, heading for turret and spire, Rose finished her morning tidying of self and house and walked down to where BRIGHT LEAF waited.
Lately, whenever she went down to the canoe, one or more of the children had come running, asking to go with her, and she had taken them along, drawing their attention to the changes spring brought to plants and trees as these exchanged their winter drab for new, colourful clothing. River otters frisked in appreciation of winters retreat, eagles soared mating on the wing, and Canada Geese brought their little fleets of fluff out of drydock, sometimes a dozen at a time, for their first sea trials.
This morning the five youngsters had chosen LEGER DE MAIN for their playground, and she could hear their laughter and the sound of running feet as they chased each other up stairs and around turrets. She pushed the canoe into the water and set off for a paddle all to herself.
Gliding along through the last of Suns generated mist, she felt the serenity of Bay returning to her, as she remembered what it had been like to be a child herself here, with busy people coming and going, while she owned mornings of freedom without restraint, the only rules being the ones she had been taught from birthrespect and consideration for others, herself, and everything else which made up her world.
She went out through Gap, giving a salute with her raised paddle to Guardian Spirit there, took a look at Sea and found a quiet and peaceful surface rippling and mirroring her little craft, with Tide moving lazily in, almost at full, then she turned back, close to shore where the broom was opening in an extravagant golden celebration of the season. Paddling back into Gap she saw the rock cleft ahead, now a long strip of flowering yellow, ready to guide in cautious, knowing seafarers.
After beaching the canoe she took time to treat her already buoyant spirit to colour and fragrance in the garden, under the veiling pink and white bloom of the fruit trees, and where the flowers and herbs the young couple who had gardened so diligently were now showing off what help and happiness can do.
Seeing Fitz leaning on a stern deck stanchion of the barge, with Charm sunning beside him while he regarded his boat, contemplating a spring refit for JOLLY ROSE, she decided to avail herself of his open invitation to come aboard any time for a cup of coffee, or if she just wanted a relaxed conversation about work to be done, which was demanding attention everywhere. Their partnership in the upkeep of everything had evolved very rapidly as they took advantage of co-operation as a friendly and useful commodity.
She returned to BRIGHT LEAF, paddled to the stern of the barge, went up the ladder, and it was while she and Fitz were in the galley making coffee that they heard the twins running down the stairs from the spire, shouting,
Galaxy pirates! Galaxy pirates!
The warning cry from the two had scarcely echoed from the spire gallery in the sunny morning, before all the children disappeared inside the barge, while Rose and Fitz stood on the stern deck to watch the incoming traffic the children had warned them of.
Hope this isnt trouble, murmured Rose, noting the military green colour of the leading boat.
Seems that never takes a holiday, returned Fitz.
On closer observation, the first of the two incoming boats was seen to be towing the second one. Genoas were doused and mainsails on both boats slatted idly in still air as they passed through the Gap on the quiet high tide.
Two white dogs were standing on the bow of the yawl in tow and, as the procession came nearer, Charm took up a stance on the barge deck preparing to run off the invaders if they dared to board, for although she might be wary of children, dogs were just overgrown rodents to her and she was having none of them around here.
I guess somebodys engine broke down, observed Fitz unnecessarily, as the boats came within hailing distance. They seem to know how to get through the Gap without problem. Lovely lines on that first one. She must have been a fine sight onceand the other ones a beauty too.
As they watched, the two boats headed, not for the old wharf but straight for LEGER DE MAIN, and the lead boat skipper, a round smiling man with a woman of equal proportions seated in the pilothouse with him, came out on deck and called,
Hi there. All right if we tie up beside you? My friends engine quit on him. Lucky we were almost here.
Oh, go right ahead, agreed Fitz, and then made himself helpful to get the job done, putting the military green boat to port and the tow astern.
Charm was in no way inclined to encourage this hospitality. She fluffed herself up to her largest dimensions, put on her angriest threatening face, crouched down switching her puffed up tail, laid back her ears and yowled a challenge which the dogs were quick to reply to.
There was a shout from the cockpit of the second boat ordering Ulf and Gurth to quit that right now, and pleadings from Fitz for Charm to stop teasing the dogs, none of which abated the noise much until the boats got their fenders in place and managed to tie up. Then the skipper of the yawl, whom Fitz noticed had a large amount of long curly hair and seemed to be hobbling as he went forward, quieted the two dogs with a single gesture and put them below decks.
It was then that Fitz saw the cast on the yawl skippers right leg.
Sorry about the row, the newcomer called. They usually listen to me, except sometimes a cat gets them carried away. Its friendly rivalry though, so no cause for concern. All right if we come aboard?
Receiving permission, the dog owner hitched himself up the stern ladder with mostly the strength of his arms and hit the barge deck with his good left foot, putting out his right hand as he did so, saying,
You must be Fitz Jolly, my wealthy tenant. Im David Godwin, your broke landlordin more ways than one. Guess well have to have a talk.
Before Fitz could respond with more than his hand to that surprise, the man looked at Rose and gave her a startled smile of recognition.
Well forGeeze!Rose Hold! How about that. What are you doing here? I thought you were in the Big City down east getting your People out of trouble.
Ive been. I found out I am my People, returned Rose with an equally welcoming smile, So I came back here and got me out. I must say Im not surprised to see you though. I half expected youd return to the scene of the crime sooner or later.
Why not? Didnt you convince them that it wasnt one?
Once, okay, but dont push your luck.
Then glancing at the cast his leg was adorned with she added,
Looks like you already have. Did somebody hang you out a second storey window by your ankle for non-payment?
Uh uh, he laughed, as the couple who had towed him in came aboard. Got this legitimately.
Turning to them he explained,
Rose and I know each other. This is Bettina and Harry Curriewere sailing buddies Rose HoldFitz Jolly. If you get invited aboard CRUSTY watch out for that top step. Its vicious. They just bought their boat recently and this is her shakedown cruise. I came along to help, butuhlook whos doing the helping.
Dont worry about it, Ill fix your engine, Harry comforted him, while the laughter subsided.
Oh, no problem, David came back hastily. Its done this before and I know exactly what it is. Just need the time to get at it and Ill probably have that now.
Fitz, who had been throwing glances down onto the decks of the two boats moored alongside, found himself another surprise in the green one.
I swear, he said, Im sure thats the LADY LILY. I know those deck fittingscustom madeand that skylightI remember watching the shipwright building it when I was just a young man, and then there was her launching and what a sight she was, all flags and whistles and dripping champagne. I never thought Id see her again, much less on this side of the world. Where did you get her?
You know my boat? asked Harry, pleased. I bought her from a friend of Davids at the yacht club we belong to.
Watch who you designate as my friends, cautioned David. Shes not a bad boat if we scraped all that green bile off her. She certainly was well put together to begin with.
She certainly was, agreed Fitz. My father had her built.
Well, trust Harry to come up with a treasure buried under a pile of manure, laughed David, through the exclamations from the others.
You mean you really are... ? Rose caught herself before she gave away what she now considered to be Fitzs anonymity.
Fitz gave her a little smile, then said,
Why dont we go in and have a little nip to celebrate all this company we have? Its not every day a person gets to meet his landlord and his fathers boat again both at one and the same time.
Oh, let me go back down and get a bottle or two of my own wine, offered Bettina, who wasnt overly fond of a commercial nip when her own was available. After all, were kind of dropping in on you unexpectedly.
Youll love Bettinas wine, David assured them. I know Ill never forget my first taste. She puts all the fun and aroma and colour of the harvest season into her bottles along with the other ingredients.
Gee, sure is great here, observed Harry, looking out over the bay. We had a great sail and a nice overnight in a little town David knew of and boy, did they have a great pub!
This one used to be pretty good too, remarked David as everyone started for the three steps except for himself. Uh oh. Left my crutches on board.
No sweat, smiled Harry, Ill get em for you later, and with that the short round man came back, lifted him easily off his feet, carted him up the steps and set him down at the top.
So youre a weight lifter too. Thanks Harry.
Balancing in the doorway, David got his first look inside his battered casino.
<Awgeeze!somebodys painted it green!>
Hed been looking forward to seeing the barge castle again, but his memories of it and the sight which had gradually appeared as theyd approached hadnt managed to mesh.
<Shes been trashed. Some stupid bastards have wrecked her! Whats the matter with people? Is it inherent in them to destroy everything? Cant they leave anything alone? I wouldnt have minded if somebodyd used it and enjoyed itbut this!>
As they had come closer hed seen the empty window frames covered with plastic, the neglected, weedy flower boxes, the doors made of old boards, the grey-green ropes between the stanchions.
The cheerful eagerness hed begun the journey with had withered. He would almost rather not have seen it at all again than coming onto this.
It had been such a happy, bright dream when in the making, and hed enjoyed living aboard so much on the occasions when hed found time to spare for being here alone. Somehow it and the bay it sat in had given him a wonderful sense of suspended time. Problems disappeared. It had been like a private new world for him, especially when he walked ashore with Ulf and Gurth.
During those times his mind had found space to expand and hed been free, the way hed felt as a child. Free to let his imagination do what it wantedto interact with the things around himto feel suddenly relieved of all his responsibilities, while he skipped stones dancing across the water, examined shells, admiring their intricacies, marvelling at the fact that some soft-bodied little creature had actually produced it, without fuss, noise, waste. Hed made whistles of grass and elderberry twigs. Walked in the meadow beyond the bay and played his flute while Ulf and Gurth kept him company, trotting beside or ahead.
Then Tree, Water, Bird and Animal had come into his sphere of consideration. Theyd given him a communication of restful harmony, of calm well-being which had made him feel he really didnt need much else, as he became part of Earth, Sky, Sea and everything around him, separately or in total, soaking in the joy of simply being, without questioning, devoid of problems and worries.
Hed had friends who understood himhis dogs, his flute, his boat, and ashore and in the sea around, although he could never quite explain it, he knew there were spirits. Spirits of the Bay. Ancient beyond time. They laughed with him when he swam in Sea, sang in Tide and sea-life as he rowed, lifted Raven in flight, put forth green shoots for Deer to browse, carried TJUTELA across space and time safely into the bay.
There were others, more like the spirits of people long gone, who still walked their favourite paths and sat on sunwarmed rocks to dream a little, gather flowers in the meadow, make love by the singing waterfall, and one in particular who owned the space by the big fir tree on the beachor perhaps it was he himself who generated all this activity and gave such life to what was around him.
For him there was knowledge here which needed no words and which no books held. It stood by itself, requiring no logic and no explanation. It was. The Spirits were.
Now he stood on the threshold of his ruined dream and sawgreen! He felt tired, dejected and a bit defeated as he stood there, balancing on one foot.
<Almost two years gone byand its changed everything so drastically. Im glad I didnt know about this. It would have chewed at me. While I sat there cornered in one place the whole damned world took a couple of turnsfor the worse.>
Suddenly he became aware that he was being watched covertly by five curious young people who had been listening to everything and, deciding cautiously that friends had arrived and there was no danger, were sneaking peeks from around the office doorway.
Well hiwhat have we got here? Forest sprites? Come on out. Im harmless.
Slowly and cautiously, they emerged, first the twins, then Therése and finally Morgan and Isabel.
The twins regarded him with interest and then Bernice invited in her turn,
Hiyou come on in.
Lets see what I can do, laughed David making a couple of hops into the room.
Here, Ill give you a hand, offered Harry. Im a good crutch to lean on. Wherell it be?
Not the beanbag please Harry. Ill never get out of it again. Something straight and solid should do it.
Try this, said Harry, helping him into a hollowed-out cushioned log chair which Fitz had made from a large piece of a cedar bole. Hows that? Okay?
This is great, David told him appreciatively, then, watching the children watching him, he asked of Rose and Fitz, Are you two running a school here?
Something like that, smiled Rose, evading the question. You dont object to children on the premises do you?
Good lord no! All my nieces and nephews think Im one of them. Havent been encouraged to visit them lately though. Bad influence. Bet I know where you youngsters hang out. It has to be that harlequin mansion with all the balloons and things, moored over by the wharf. Right?
How did you guess? asked the twins in one voice, smiling with delight and forgetting caution.
Because thats just the boat Id choose if I were your age, returned David. Bet we could have had a great soccer scrimmage butsorry kids.
He stuck out his cast-enclosed leg.
Where did you get that?
Why is your leg in cement?
Thats what you get when you break a legso be careful of yours.
Walter walked over and had a good look, touching the cast.
I dont think I want one if it makes you walk funny like that, came Bernices assessment.
I think it would be wowsie, grinned Walter, making his leg stiff and hopping as hed seen David do.
Then, adapting his new friends manner of speaking as he patted the cast he suggested,
Bet Isabel could make that look real pretty.
What! A gambler in the crew? You and I are going to get along just fine. How much you want to bet? How about five loonies?
Five pairs of eyes got together and then Isabel said,
Walter doesnt have five loonies.
OhwellIll stake him and, lets say, if everybody agrees its prettier after than before, he gets to keep the whole lot. Okay? Whos Isabel? You? Whos going to hold the pot? Harryyoure it.
David handed over a ten dollar bill and found himself surrounded, involved in a wager he knew ahead of time hed certainly lose as all five told him their names on requestBernice and Walter giving theirs two or three times.
There were excited suggestions as to what should be put on the cast.
You need balloons an a kite.
An space pirates in their space ship.
Whales and dolphins, came from Therése.
How about a canoe, was Morgans contribution.
Do you think you could squeeze a dragon on there somewhere? asked David.
Mmmand I think flowers and butterflies around the top and bottom would really set it off, Isabel finished up. Ill go get my paints and stuff.
Better take my sock off first, suggested David, but before he could reach for it two pairs of eager small hands quickly yanked it off, and he rolled the opened leg of his jeans farther up on his cast.
The log rounds Fitz had made for seating, topped with hand-sewn and stuffed canvas cushions, were pulled up to his trestle table of old boards and, since there wasnt enough seating to go around, the children settled on the floor around David as Isabel set out her paints and began work.
Bettina and Harry poured out their wine, and it sang gently in the glasses, mellowing the conversation as Isabel worked busily and Fitz told them about the LADY LILY.
She was named for my grandmother and sold when my father died. I certainly hope you two will spend lots of happy hours on her. Our family did. I hated to see her go. She does look the worse for wear, but you can probably give her some restoration and shell be good for a long time after. He put nothing but the best of materials into her, not that you can tell by looking at her now. She was all brightwork, and the varnish below decks was his pride and joy. Wonder how she got here. Maybe came through the Canal. Im glad shes come to someone wholl appreciate her.
Well I sure appreciate that diesel engine shes got, laughed Harry.
You know, said Bettina thoughtfully, Maybe we should hold a rechristening and change her name by adding LADY LILY to CRUSTY. Give her back her original one without having her give up the new life shes into now.
Lets have a glass of wine to that, agreed Harry.
Over at the artists corner, Isabel had David standing on one leg, leaning on the chair so that she could get to the back of his cast, saying the dragon would have to curl its way all around it. That done, she told him,
You can sit down now. Its almost finished.
This better be quick drying paint, returned David doubtfully, turning around and dropping gratefully into the chair.
Well of course it is, answered Isabel with a superior smile. At least thats what the lady who gave it to me said.
How am I going to be able to see my dragon?
Welllooktheres his tail down bottom and his head out frontsee his fire? Youll have to get a mirror for the rest. Nowlets see. Got it. Hold still.
Under Davids astounded and fascinated gaze his toenails were quickly transformed into gold and then Isabel said,
Okay. Now we all put our initials on it. Ill put mine in the middle. Here Therése. You can have the big toe.
Me next, shouted Walter forgetting politeness in his excitement.
I get the little toe cause Im the littlest, declared Bernice.
Guess I get whats left, as usual said Morgan, throwing his gaze up to the ceiling in resignation as the brush was passed around, There. Twimtwim-beeTwimby, he enunciated, Needs a Y.
Yesyes! Well call him Uncle Twimby, laughed Therése, clapping her hands.
Uncle Twimby! came twin approvals.
Shes always naming everything, Morgan told David sympathetically. Can we call you that?
May we, came the correction, And it is kind ofnice. It suits you.
Yes. Kind of fun like, and funny.
Geezeeverybody spots the joker. Im outnumbered. I accept my fate. I surrender. Uncle Twimby it is.
Better fix it then, said Bernice and, taking the brush, she looked at the little toenail with the big B sprawling over it, said, Theres no room there, and then squiggled a Y onto Davids toe.
Hey! That tickles, laughed David, wiggling his five magnificently decorated and signed digits.
Okay, called Isabel, Hey everybodyis this cast prettier than when we started?
There was no doubt. The vote was unanimous from the others.
Agreed, Uncle Twimby? asked Morgan, laughing.
Who could argue with this lot? Agreed! Hand over the pot, Harry.
Harry put the bill into Walters small, reaching hand.
Look at that! he said admiringly. Here Isabel. Thatll buy lots of groceries for us. Mommy used to say that about those blue ones.
Hearing that remark, David wished hed upped the ante, while he noted that Mommy was referred to in the past tense.
Have you figured out how to restore CRUSTY? he asked those at the table.
Well, to begin with, maybe we should hurry up and start taking off that green paint to see whats under it, Harry told him. If she was built that good she must be a real sweetheart with her fittings all polished and her varnish down below shining around.
That would be wonderful, smiled Bettina. And Fitz can be our advisor.
With all that work well need lunch, hinted Walter.
By golly, it is that time, grinned Harry. What have we got, Bettina?
There was a scramble into boats as everybody went into their food lockers and came up with something and, after a community lunch of salad and sandwiches, Fitz washed up, David leaned against the bar drying the dishes, Morgan put away, Isabel swept the floor and Therése made the place tidy again with the help of the twins.
Harry had disappeared over the stern with a remark about tinkering and tuning, followed by a couple of barks from the direction of TJUTELA as Ulf and Gurthleft aboard and disappointed at not being brought on to the bargepossibly had a walk in mind and, seeing Harry, hoped he might have David with him. Rose and Bettina, enjoying their managerial positions, sat by giving light-hearted helpful hints to the workers. Charm had gone up to the spire room and was sitting on a windowsill where she had a clear view of TJUTELA and crew. She was going to keep her eyes on them.
There came the sound of tools being applied to metal from alongside the barge. No one paid too much attention until David heard the familiar sound of TJUTELAs motor coming to life.
Ohgeezeno! he exclaimed in an anguished voice as he threw down the dishtowel and, grabbing his crutches, he headed at a fast hop out the door, down the stairs and over to the railing of the barge, where he looked over the side into the yawls cockpit.
Fitz, concerned by Davids tone, hurried out after him and, seeing him leaning over the rail, asked,
Whats wrong David? Are you ill?
Worse than that, declared David, rubbing his forehead as he regarded two large greasy smears on the port rail of his boat. Harrys fixing my diesel.
WellI should think youd be pleased, Fitz told him, taken aback by the ungrateful remark.
I should be, but you dont know Harry, David replied, as the sound of the engine ceased.
A few moments later Harry appeared up TJUTELAs companionway, tool kit in hand, smiling broadly and followed by two happy dogs, each one wearing the proof of his friendship for Harry on his white coat in the form of many dark and greasy pat marks.
Got her all fixed, he called. Beautiful engine. One day Ill give her a real overhaul for you.
He swung himself over the starboard side of the sailboat, got into his dinghy, worked his way astern by pushing and pulling on the white hull of the yawl and around her bright transom, where he let go and waggled his way over to the stern ladder of the barge by throwing his weight from side to side, caught hold of the bottom rung, climbed on deck, and stood running the palms of his hands, as well as the tool kit he held, up and down his jeans.
David couldnt see the handprints all along TJUTELAs shining white paint but he knew they were there because he could plainly see the ones on the varnished transom.
He spoke to himself sternly, pushed himself away from the barges rope railing, turned around, and with a smile equalling that of the round man before him he said,
Thanks a million Harry. Now I know Ill be able to make it back under my own power.
Thats what friends are for, grinned Harry.
<So whats a little grease,> David rationalised. <Ill get it off somehow.>
Ulf, Gurth, over the side. Shorego.
Noting the surprised looks Fitz and Harry exchanged as the two dogs plunged happily and immediately over the side of TJUTELA and into the water, he explained,
Theyre not getting enough exercise these days with me like this. Lets go finish the dishes.
As the three turned back into the barge, David was figuring that he could wash the grease off the boat and the two dogs a little later, when no one else was looking. At least, by sending them over the side, hed prevented the disease from spreading.
Once the tidying up on the barge was finished, David sat quietly wondering when hed get a chance to sneak into the office and retrieve his money. Sneaking wasnt going to be easy because every time he moved somebody offered to help.
He hadnt used much of his time on the way up to think about his real reasons for the journey to Shalisa Creek Bay. Hed been too busy keeping an eye on CRUSTY and crew, plus the job of managing TJUTELA while incapacitated. The reality of CRUSTY actually making any distance from the marina had caught him unprepared, and he couldnt admit to the Curries that hed expected them to be aboard his own boat for the trip.
When hed had his first look at the barge as theyd motored in, the fear that someone had perhaps accidentally found the spring-set board had struck him hard. The little sliding trap door which had been under his desk in the office held the means to rescue his business. It had helped for him to see that the floor was still intact, but he didnt want to go brazenly in and tear the floor apart while everybody watched as he retrieved his sizable assets. He was used to privacy regarding his monetary affairs, and to keeping methods of secreting things to himself.
He neednt have worried so much.
Just as lunch had been an affair for everyone to participate in, afternoon became a community siesta. Fitz disappeared into JOLLY ROSE, glad of a little less commotion, and thoroughly drowsy from a good lunch and excellent accompanying wine. The children rowed back to ELFINSHOE, full of too much excitement, and CRUSTYs stern cabin was well filled with Bettina and Harry.
Guess that leaves counsel and criminal, remarked David, as he saw Rose gazing out the window at the sunny shore and, knowing that she was too polite to leave him alone, he told her,
Go ahead. Id go for a walk too if I could. You dont have to stay here and keep me company. Ill go have a nap too.
Ohwell, Rose hesitated, wanting very much to go for a walk on this smiling day.
Go on, smiled David encouragingly.
Ill help you aboard TJUTELA then.
No need. Im good at sliding down stairwaysusually. Slide down the bannister at home. Saves Gram a lot of polishing there. Just watch.
David picked up his crutches, made good time out to the stern ladder, dropped the helpers carefully down into TJUTELAs cockpit and said,
Now for some legerdemain.
He swung himself over the top of the stern ladder and slid down, using his hands on the side rails and his left foot for a brake, then grabbed a stanchion on the yawls deck and landed lightly, left-footed, still standing, and grinning up at Rose.
Ohwell done! came the approval.
Yeah. Should have used that technique aboard Harrys boat, going up. Got more muscles in my arms than between my ears. Have a good walk.
Rose came down after him and settled herself into her canoe.
Just one thing, said David, Is it all right for the dogs to stay ashore for awhile? Otherwise well have to wrestle them aboard right now.
How about if I take them with me?
Uhif theyll go. They always try to hang around me. Tell you whatyou go ashore and Ill tell them to follow you.
Really? More magic?
Just good training and a terrific understanding and trust between us, laughed David.
Rose headed for shore and beached the canoe. David gave a whistle. Two white samoyeds left their rambling and raced for the beach. Before they could hit the water David held up his open hand. Two samoyeds stopped at the edge of the water. He swung his arm toward Rose.
Two puzzled samoyeds, throwing questioning glances over their shoulders, trotted a little uncertainly over to Rose and placed themselves at her left side. David clapped his hands, swung his arm and called,
Have funtheyre with you Rose.
Maybe you could try that on the kids, laughed Rose delightedly, and started along the beach. Ulf and Gurth paced along at her left heel, still throwing the occasional look back at David. She stopped. They stopped. She tried again. Same thing, as the two dogs halted, turned their heads and looked at David. He hadnt rescinded his order.
How do I get them to have fun? she called, laughing at their absolute adherence to orders.
Ohforgot. Just sayhey guys, lets run.
Two pairs of ears perked up. They started for the beach, expecting David to join them.
Heel! ordered David quickly, signalling. Two confused dogs headed back to Rose, throwing questioning glances at each other.
Tell you what, called David, laughing himself, Just walk them out of my sight and then try it.
Okay, no harm in trying, replied Rose and started toward the deer path leading to the meadow, followed closely by Ulf and Gurth, as David went below.
This was the opportunity hed been waiting for. He went to a locker, reached for a small tool kit, tucked it into the waistband of his jeans and fastened it there with its lanyard, headed out to the cockpit and got himself aboard LEGER DE MAIN again, murmuring,
Little money boxhere I come!
Ashore, Rose, remembering so many other springs here, headed for Meadow. Sun had not yet dried all of the previous evenings light rain from the foliage in the lower reaches of the heavier tree cover and, as she walked the well known deer path which was being used more and more by bay dwellers now, little showers of raindrops still clinging to leaves and needles scattered down on her as Breeze passing through shook the trees playfully.
Fox Sparrows, and Towhees cocking their head feathers, rustled quickly into underbrush at her approach She took care as to where she stepped because Slug population was busy foraging on the path before Sun made things too dry for their efforts and forced them back into more mossy, moist places.
Tall young growth of salmonberry bushes touched her in gentle greeting as she went by, their deep pink flowers showing the promise of a bountiful food supply for bird and forest dweller later on, and the Oregon grape held up its yellow flower spikes among its prickly, shiny evergreen leaves, there among the sprays of white salal urns, giving the same assurance.
When she reached Meadow the new grass held a smile of fuchsia and yellow, as wild peas tangled themselves up grass blades to show their flowers to Sun, and dandelions threw their brawny green rosettes out to claim territory for regal lions everywhere. Rose knew by the masses of various green that other flowers would come, each in their turn, to create a varying, rich, colourful brocade for Meadow as the season progressed.
Here at the edge of the meadow, she told Ulf and Gurth,
Hey guys, lets run!
At the familiar words they looked up at her, uncertain, used to Davids voice.
YesI mean ithey guys, lets run!
With this more positive and definite suggestion Ulf and Gurth ran, gradually slowing, and stopping to investigate whatever it is which entrances the noses of dogs turned loose on a ramble.
Rose followed more slowly, heading for Grandfathers Place.
Standing there once more, she thought of the Old Ones, of the endless seasons coming and going through time, of the people who had come and gone with them, and of her own place in the bay now. Her heart was happy that she had come back to her home, but like so many others who have left and returned again, she had found that the coming back was not the same as having stayed. The continuum of years had been broken. The present offered only reconstruction. She had foregone her place here for all those years and the gap was irrevocable. There had been no one to record and remember the time which had passed after Grandfather had joined the Old Ones. She regretted this deeply.
She broke her silence at last saying,
Were here with Spring again Grandfather. I have a small song which I feel expresses my thoughts at this time for the Old Ones, you, Father and Mother and Chant. When I first came back I felt that Id have to leave again because I doubted my place here. I wont question my presence in Shalisa Creek Bay anymore. I think I dont need to. Let me sing this for all of us now,
When the sun calls forth the seed from the earth
Theres no way I can retrieve those years lost from this place, but well go on from here. You used to say that knowledge was a defence and a shield and a constructive tool. Maybe the knowledge I would have gained living here with you would have been of much more value, but I lost that treasure by running away from here with my angry and hurt heart when Chant was taken from us. I wanted revenge. It was wrong but, who knows, maybe my time with the law will bring some good to our Place in the future.
We have friends here now with Fitz and the children, and now visitors. I dont know how long any of these will stay, but for the present its enough. Its helped me to see this home again with the aid of other eyesthose which look through the wisdom of years, those which are young and full of excited curious interest, and those who come from City seeking rest and solace from too constant motion and stress, all seeing our land as I once did when Spring came singing for another year. They bring me back into myself. Therell be many days of visiting here with you now, and Ill try to bring our community back into life. Friends will help a lot.
As she stood there, considering her new friends she began to speculate about the one shed known the longest
Come to think of it, I wonder what Davids doing here. Hes hardly the kind to sit around twiddling his thumbs. Hope this doesnt mean Fitz is out of a homeand the kids tooandIm kind of getting used to the barge myselfbut it is his. Im going to ask.
- - -
The subject of what David was doing here now, was brought to the forefront of Roses mind when the two of them sat alone later in front of a small fire, towelling dampness from Ulf and Gurth, to whom David had given a quick degreasing of their topsides.
Fitz had obligingly put Charm aboard JOLLY ROSE , where she now sat smouldering, gazing out a port facing the barge side, while Bettina and Harry took Fitz and the childrenall heeding Davids warning to watch that top stepaboard the LADY LILY, alias CRUSTY, to have a look at that once elegant old girl who looked so frumpy now under her green paint.
Rose had offered to keep David company, not just out of politeness, but also because she was curious. She waited for a good moment to broach the subject of his arrival as he asked,
Whats going down with the kids Rose? Are you their legal guardian?
You might say that. Uhwhat Im going to tell you has to be kept to yourself please.
Youve got it, he assured her.
Theyre runaways. Their mother died and their fathers up north where he went to get work and then seems to have disappeared after he got laid off from his job. The social workers arrived and the kids decided they didnt want that kind of life, being split up and all, and Isabel was determined to keep a promise she made to her mother to look after the kids until their father got back, so they very bravely took off in their houseboat which is also their home. By a stroke of luck they turned up here, or who knows what might have become of them. Fitz and I are trying to quietly locate their father before the authorities get wise.
Geezegood luck on that one! Being homeless is no fun. They seem like a great bunch.
They are. Did you have a good sail up?
Oh yeah! laughed David. Do you really want to hear this?
Well, hearing that laugh of yours, yes indeed please.
Uh huh, and it serves me right. I got caught in my own nets again. I wanted to get out here, but I wasnt sure I ought to go by myself, and Bettina and Harry kept phoning and telling me they wanted to go off by themselves and quite frankly, I didnt think their boat would get past the breakwater, so I told them I thought it would be great if we went for a cruise... .
With your leg like that?
Like what? Its just a little cast.
Yes, and Ive seen your face a couple of times when youve hit it the wrong way or forgot and stood on it. Youd better watch it or youll wind up with a bent leg. How long has it been?
Ohbit over a week I guessandyeahwellmaybe I am pushing it a bit, but my planes in for its mandatory and anyway, taking that might have been even worse by myself. I actually thought their old boat would pack it in immediately and we three could all go on in TJUTELA, but be damned if that old thing didnt rumble off ahead of me like an old athlete having a last go before it drops dead from a heart attack, and what could I do but follow?
Geezewe got out there away from land and first they tried hiking up their main and he got it stuck half way somehow, so I had to get myself aboard to unstick it. Try that sometime while youre bobbing up and down beside a big whale with a hard skin and youve only got one leg. Anyway, I got it unstuck and we hoisted it up and something whizzed past my ear and Bettina says What was that? and Harry says, That gull up there has been trying to get me for half an hour. But I knew damned well it was no gull, so I started looking over the side and astern, and theres their wind indicator sinking fast. I was too kindhearted to tell them, so I pretended I didnt see it. I started to give the outhaul a good yank to get the foot of the main tight and the damned thing came off in my hand along with a piece of the sail containing the clew. Harry took a look and said, Is that supposed to happen? I refrained from answering, took a handful of what was left of the corner and tied it and the outhaul together. There, I told him, Thatll do until something else breaks.
So I was getting ready to reboard the yawl when Harry asks, Now what? Harry, I told him, Theres a nice gentle breeze blowing at a nice angle across your port quarter and if youll just let out the mainsheet a bit and cleat it in well make it to Shalisa Creek in no timeand he saysBut we already got the sheet up. What am I supposed to do now? Bettinas just sitting there with this nice smile on her face, confidently waiting for Harry and me to take care of things. Harry, I said, That is the main sailthis, is the main sheet and I put the line in his hand. What the hell have you been drinking David? he asks. I guess I know a bedsheet when I see one. So I tell him, Its a sail Harry andjust believe methis is the sheet. Now, see this gadget here where the line runs through? Yeah? Okay, yank on it like this to release itoh geeze mandont let go of the bloody thing yet. Loop it around the winch a couple of times and keep some control of ittherethats itnow cleat it inyank it between the teeth of thatoh heregimmelike that. Okay? Great. Now just keep your headinglook at your compass there. Yeah. Now Ill get back onto TJUTELA and turn you loose. And I did.
Well she sailed like a dream for about twenty minutes until the wind shifted and Harry, thinking he had to keep the sail at that anglekept it there, forgot about the compass which, I discovered later, doesnt work anyway and I, happening to take a look to see where they were, found out he was heading straight for my beamdamned near rammed me. Harry, I yelled, throw out the mainsheet. Well the silly stupe took the line and pitched it overboard. Did I ever have to do some fancy manoeuvring.
Youre getting the picture are you? Yeahwellby this time I decided that wed better give up the sailing lessons, so I very foolishly told him to lower sail. He looks at me with a big grin, says Okay, and lowers the boom as well because he didnt fasten the topping lift. It swung wildly around as it came down and fortunately they both ducked and somehow it landed amidships probably because of Harrys favouring gods again. By the time I got my main down theyd headed off in a circle because the wind filled their downed sail, and it was like trying to catch an insane dolphinbut I did. So I crawled aboard again, set everything shipshape and said, Harry, I think theres too much wind for me. Well have to motor. Oh. he says with relief in his voice. Okay. How was I doing? Great, just greatfollow me. I figured, At least he can handle a motor and keep his boat in a straight line after me.
Well, we got to Shalisa Creek Village safely and headed for the wharf. He goes straight in, bow first, slams the motor into reverse, whips the wheel to port and just about wipes out the wharf along with two or three other boats, then he hollers at some guy whos running like hell trying to reach his own boat in time before it turns into rat powder, puts on that big friendly smile of his and says, Gimme a hand here to park? The guy helped him to tie up way astern of him. When I got in Harry was out glad-handing the skippers, some of whom were tough old fishermen who were laughing their heads off and hoping hed sink the lot of us damned yachtsmen. By this time Im ready for food and a six pack.
We went up to Throw the Rascals Out and of course Harry and Bettina loved the place. Real friendly like, he says, and just as Im unwinding and looking forward to a nice relaxed evening, some yacht skippers from the wharf came in with crew in tow, and came over and sat by us. Well, one of them was a loud-moutheduhwell Ill skip that expressionlets just call him a cloacand the damned fool gets up on the soap box and starts ranting about politics. Seems Harry is some sort of rabid socialist andI dont care whos what, because there are three things my Gram told me never to discuss in public or anywhere else, and thats money, religion and politics and not necessarily in that orderbut Harry made a couple of loud remarks back at this guy and I told him quietly hed have to wait his turn, thinking hed shut up and forget it, but not Harry. Up he goes after the guy gets down and Ill give him credit, he refuted everything the guy had said, very reasonably.
Well, you know politics. Not being able to get at Harry with reason they started heckling him with Hey fatty, youre an idiot, and Get off blimpo, and If youve got as much fat in your head as youve got on your ass youre heading for a melt down. So I had to open my mouth to the guy sitting slightly astern and to my right who was saying worse than that, suggesting that he pipe down and let Harry speak, and he reached over and took hold of my hair and said, Well what are you going to do about it girlie, and I said Dont do that, so he gave my hair a yank and said, Whats that youre gonna do? Gimme a kiss? and what I did was to take my right arm, swing it back and slam him in the mouth with my open palm. Bet thats one kiss he wont forget in a hurry.
Well! Whoosh! All hell broke loose. Before I knew it these creeps were throwing mugs at Harry, and the guy behind me stood up and tried to grab me around the neck, and I had to do a sitting down over the shoulder throw with him, and one of them whizzed his plate of nachos like a frisbee and it all hit Bettina, and Harry came charging from the soap box and while Im trying to protect Bettina from flying missiles there was crashing and banging and somebody kicked me in the leg, and I forgot all about my cast and stood up, just about fell over, and had to make a grab for something to keep me upright, and in so doing I accidentally tipped their table over the two who were still sitting there throwing things, and while Im floundering around trying to keep my balance Bettina grabbed a chair and went after some guy who was attacking Harry, and she poked him with the legs of it like she was a lion tamer.
Then these three older guys at another table got up and I guess they must have been socialists too, because theyd been sitting nodding and agreeing with Harry while he was talking, and they pitched into the guys whod been at the table next to us andyou should have seen these three old gents. One was lean French and one was a little oriental and the other one was built bigger than Harry with a voice to match, and they started wiping up the floor with the city folks, and then we heard the cop siren and the lights went out and before I knew it I was being hustled out a back door in the dark, and out the back they threw my crutches at me and said to the three of us, Get lost quick! They ran one way and we split the other as fast as I could on one legand now you know why Harry thought it was such a great sail and such a great pub.
I think mayhem must follow you around, laughed Rose. Do you ever just sit still and smell the flowers?
Oh yeahlots of times. You just dont happen to be around when Im doing it.
So what brought you to Shalisa Creek Bay at this time, apart from a good sail?
David hesitated, caught off guard by her unexpected question, then replied,
WellI got this paid up bill from the towing company which hauled my barge in that time when it was loose. It said my tenant Fitz Jolly had paid it, so I thought Id better investigate since I didnt have any tenant by that nameor any other name for that matter. Ill have to square it up with him. Im not sure what happened, but it was really good of him.
<It wasnt really a lie,> he quieted himself, <Just one more reason for coming.>
Rose hadnt missed the hesitation in his reply, so she presumed that the reason given wasnt the only one. She kept her face straight, remembering her rescue of the barge from the towline of Bud and Wilf Westman.
Fitz is a good man, she told him. If youd really like to know what happened Ill tell you.
Rose filled him in on what shed heard from Fitz about the arrival of JOLLY ROSE in the bay, and about the things hed heard in the bar regarding what had happened to the barge, accounting for the damage which had occurred while David had been confined within the city. Then she told him how she and Fitz had rescued LEGER DE MAIN from the towline of Bud Westman which, in retrospect, became hilarious in the recounting.
Sitting there with a glass of Bettinas wine in his hand, surrounded by the friendly atmosphere which had been created through the afternoon, and now with the stone fireplace throwing its friendly warmth over them and the two dogs who were sprawled on the hearth, David hesitated to voice his real purpose for being here.
He looked around the big room and saw the skilfully made articles of table, seats and cushions, the books left by the children, Fitzs harmonica on the bar, Roses hand-wound broom standing in a corner of the galley where Isabel had left it, Charms woolly, well-worn rug to one side of the fireplace, a jar of pussy willows and salmonberry branches with opening pink buds set by the windows.
<Somehow my big plans for a restaurant seem way out of line right about now. I feel like a bit of a traitor or a stone-hearted landlord getting ready to kick out some worthy tenants from a somewhat unworthy dwelling so that I can make a profit from it. No windows, no maintenance, and for this Fitz willingly put up his money without question. David Godwin, absentee owner, benefitting from the hardships of other people and failing to keep up his end of the responsibilities. Think Id better rethink a few things here.>
While they talked, laughter spilled over the sides of CRUSTY LADY LILY, mingling with their own, and the sounds filled the space between the arms of the bay, falling over the cormorants who were busy diving for their dinner while Sun got ready to go to bed and bring spring darkness and quiet to Shalisa Creek Bay.