39: Point of return
Totally tired out from their trek by sea and land, and lulled by the dark, star-filled quiet of the night, the field trippers slept soundly under the smile of waning Moon as he coursed Sky, fine profile turned for Earth to admire as he regarded old falling and new burgeoning entities flaring in space while those below were totally oblivious of the show they were missing.
Sun rose early but the campers in the little meadow didnt. Not at all discouraged by this display of indifference to her prompt appearance, Sun threw light and warmth liberally over the campsite until she had the lot of them burrowing out of their sleeping bags to acknowledge her presence.
It got too warm in there.
Breaking camp in the morning began deteriorating into a leisurely happening. Having finished breakfast, the crew were once again simply enjoying themselves and the meadow with its little pond. So much so that they had the idea of staying there another day, until Rose had to spike the proposition by telling the youngsters that it was a great plan but the groceries were not going to last that long.
Packing up began.
It seemed that youthful stomachs might like experimenting with added available ingredients as an interesting and tasty side dish but they were not willing to put up with living exclusively off the land for too long. In their short lives, before the advent of the bay, theyd had quite enough of survival techniques.
Given the choice of catching fish and foraging for vegetables to accommodate an extra dayneither of which effort seemed to have been too successful thus farthe vote went against remaining where they were, in spite of Morgans vigorous defence of his anglers skills.
Armands suggestion of the day before that they all might give fishing a try was politely overlooked, with hopes of its not being brought up again at this particular time.
Confidence in fishing had been shook.
The doctor decided silently that on the issue of staying or not he didnt qualify for a vote, although his fancy was also taken with the little meadow. The peacefulness of the surroundings had brought an unexpected calm to him which he hadnt enjoyed for some time. The exertions and mishaps of reaching the site, the fun of getting their dinner into edible shape, the quiet evening by the fire as dusk came on with curious, cautious deer appearing at the far end of the clearing, wondering just what had taken over one of their favourite places, then a surprisingly undisturbed sleep, had brought him out of a lethargy he hadnt been willing to admit to before, but which he knew now had kept him from fully participating in the new environment he had found himself in when hed arrived at the bay.
Although he had been part of all the happenings there, he now had to face up to the fact that hed been mostly prowling around on METHUSELAH, brooding. The exuberant presence of the children had been a constant reminder of his own grandchildren off at a distance, and his move from the village, although it had saved money and brought him to what he called his enchanted place, had also engendered a feeling of uselessness which had begun to settle on him.
The abrupt breaking of the routine which he had kept for years had thrown him into a space of unhurried, unstructured time, asking only that he take his new circumstances and do something quite different with himself. He realised now that he hadnt addressed that proposition and instead had been slipping into idle emptiness.
As he joined in with the packing up and the carrying of luggage back down to the beach in the sunny morning a cheerful lightness took him over. He became aware, with some surprise, that he was enjoying himself.
He made a conscious decision to enjoy himself some more.
There was an excited, noisy exchange between the young people when it came to the trading of crews on the boats, so that Armand had to tactfully settle any arguments about who was going to sit where by telling his overly-willing new crew that they could take turns in all the places as they went along so that they could all learn how to sail METHEGLIN from every position, as his last trio had.
This satisfied the replacement crew, as he explained that it would give Therése a chance to play them some music along the way, Bernice could try fishing, which activity had been appropriated by the older children thus far, and Heron would be able to be helmsman, something he longed to do mightily.
Peace reigned aboard METHEGLIN as a wise skipper kept control.
Rose, seeing Armands handling of things worked so well, tried the same technique on her own three. They also were given the option of trading off while they went along, as she told them that the stern paddler set pace and steerage, bow was lookout and navigator and midships were power and direction. As well, all boat crew were charged with the most important task of keeping the smooth rhythm of a canoes engine running like the beat of their hearts.
This last requirement proved to be more difficult than it sounded, but since no one was hosting a race it became a case of theory outstripping performance, as well as providing much laughter when Bernice tried adding a couple of strokes in between the regular ones to make up for her lack of strength and paddle control, and much splashing was the result as the two small boats pushed off, with shouts of,
To the Point, Ho!
Spirit of the Peninsula was not about to let the doctor be the only beneficiary of his invigorating effects on minds too busy with self-imposed responsibilities and problems. As the boats traversed the coastline Rose was reminded of the many times she and her family and friends had travelled this way before, of trips with Grandfather and Chant when they too learned, as children, how to treat BRIGHT LEAF, not as an object but as a willing and helpful friendan integral part of their lives just as everyone and everything else around them was.
Unaware of the release her mind was receiving, she kept up a running commentary as they paddled along, to the effect that she recalled there had been particularly big delicious oysters at one place they passed, and that those rocks close in were where seals hauled themselves out with their young to sun and rest, and over there... .
Enthusiasm built as the field trippers came closer to the point of the peninsula. This was a goal, and they were achieving it. Although it might have seemed like an ordinary excursion to anyone else making a similar journey, this was a first for the young six and they werent going to let anything take away from their feeling of accomplishment.
They approached the turn of the coastline, which would set them ashore on the beach, with every feeling of discovery any explorer seeing a totally unknown shore might have done except, being young, there was much less awe and respect for the occasion and decidedly more of oom-pah-pah!
A lively rivalry about who was going to be first ashore to claim the new land was bandied between the six young crew members so that, when the turn of the point was made and the beach was finally sighted, only a shouted restraint from Armand prevented a mad abandonment of both boats.
Arrêt!Hold on! Theres protocol here. Rose first since, shes head of this expeditionthen you can all jump over and swim in if youre that eager.
Guess that means Id better give the example then, laughed Rose, and putting down her paddle she emptied the pockets of her shorts, went over the side of the canoe and swam the short distance in.
The shouts of delight and approval from the others bounced back from the cliff as she reached shore and waded in to the beach, shaking the dripping water from her arms and wringing it out of her hair.
Okay everybody, she called, Its safe. Nothing unfriendly here. Come on ashore.
Now there was a mass desertion of crew as everyone except Armand jumped into the water and the doctor was left aboard METHEGLIN, laughing and shaking his head, obliged to collect BRIGHT LEAF and bring both boats safely to the beach.
He thought the scene ashore looked more like the antics of a crew which had been shipwrecked and adrift for some time and had finally found a beautiful, bountiful islandexcept the bluff which towered above them didnt appear to hold much bounty.
Had they not just left a very welcoming and lush campsite up on the top of this land formation only that morning, he might have considered, as an explorer seeing it for the first time, carrying on past this windblown, massive, mighty prow of rocky coastline to find a more inviting place for going ashore.
Spirit of the Cliff smiled down on him in the sunlight and tried his best to seem more welcoming, waving his grass-fringed and small, brave little flowers which clung to their perilously steep cliff home over the heads of them all.
Im not surprised, he remarked to Rose when he had come ashore and safeguarded the boats, That no one comes here very often just as you said. This fortress of land gives no indication whatsoever of the hospitality to be had, hidden above.
Ive been told that its overpowering appearance saved quite a few confrontations, Rose laughed, By directing some would-be invaders who didnt know the peninsula to go out along the shore and into the chute between us and the mainland, where they mostly decided to turn around and go back where they came from after having to deal with the unpredictable water there, knowing that if they tried the outside route those in the bay were well able to defend that entrance.
Heron wants to know, where is all the pretty stuff used for jewellery? asked Bernice, running up to them.
Its up there in the face of the bluff, she replied and, as she saw the disappointed faces looking up, explained, Its not really as dangerous as it looks from down here. It has a slope to it which allows the climbers to lean inward against it and hold on with one hand only, while having a go with a mineral pick in the other. Theyd break pieces out and let it fall down to the beach, or some would have bags belted around their waists, one on each side of them to put the rock in. That would help them to keep their balance, rather than having it on their back, and they werent greedy. They knew well enough to quit before the weight got too much. Some would gather only two or three pieces at a time because they felt that taking more would interfere with the thoughts they had about the ones theyd already found. It was really quite a mental excursion for the carver, not just a way to get material or prove that they could make the descent.
Heron, standing a short distance away, looked up at the towering face of rock and earth and after a moment told them,
When Im bigger, Ill climb down from the top, and Spirit of the Cliff will show me where the best rock is and just what it should be turned into.
Both Rose and Armand smiled at that remark, figuring it was going to be some time before this little boy would be climbing down to search the cliff face.
You dont have to take the risk right now though, Rose told him. If you look along the beach you may find some pieces which have been brought down by wind and weather. Thats how most of it was collected before. Some of the best carvers never did climb, and their work was thought of just as highly. The inspiration and feeling which went into the finished article really counted the most. The climb was for the benefit of the artists mind.
Heron, of course, thought the time was not far off when he would have such a joyful adventure of the spirit but for now, with Therése helping, he began a search of the beach, earnestly examining each wave-washed stone and rock they came across, looking for shades of red and green.
The twins were even more particular. They were after pretty and good rocks, keeping in mind their conversation with Uncle Twimby about good and bad pieces, and a couple of prospective finds were tossed into the sea as bad, sinking quickly out of sight as though in shame although they were really quite innocent.
Morgan and Isabel went for the larger itemsdriftwood smoothed to a silky, grey finish and petrified into elegant, rounded, fantastic and imaginative shapes as its grain had been eroded by sand, salt water and rough weatherbull kelp, torn from its place in some more sheltered shore waters during a storm, set adrift and thrown here on this bare beach of wind, tide and weather, its long whips of fastholds, some still clutching the rock which had been trusted to keep them safely on the bottom, lying prone and twisted on the beach, their floater bulbs which had lifted the long stipes upright and reaching for the sun having the appearance of small shining faces with their lengths of leathery, frilled fronds still attached like the translucent golden-brown hair of legendary mermaids, no longer rippling and swaying in surface waters with the coming and going of the wavesderelict pieces of wood shaped by human hands, which items gave rise to speculations as to what they had been part of and from where and how far they had come and how long ago they had been set adrift.
We cant stay too long everybody, Rose called at last, after she and Armand had walked along the pebbly, rock and boulder strewn beach while Wind, happy to see somebody to play with, blew their hair in all directions. Tide will be coming in soon and it doesnt leave much room for boats if its a high one with this wind behind it, and its just about lunchtime anyway. Well go back around the point and into that last small bight we passed on our way here. It has access up to the top, although you might not think so looking at it from the water.
Heeding the warning, the six youngsters secured the keepsakes they had collected and headed back to the boats.
- - -
Atop the bluff, overlooking the water from their vantage place farther back from the point, and sheltered from wind by trees and underbrush, the field trippers lounged after lunch, taking a quiet break from travelling.
Armand and Rose were allowed a glass of wine with their meal because, as the doctor pointed out,
We must have a toast to our partys arrival at the point. It certainly is an occasion to celebrate. As well, he added, Weve been frugal with the vintage along the way and it will also lighten the load for the trip back.
Lifted high in mugs and glasses, Water and Wine agreed.
Your idea, Armand so you kick it off, prompted Rose.
Its been some time since I had an occasion to make a toast butyesto this beautiful point of land and our company which has had the privilege of visiting it in such a traditional way, like Shalisa and couriers des bois of old, by water and overland, and may we always feel the wonder and delight of such excursions which fill us with the joy of fellowship and accomplishment, and our thanks to Mother Nature for her kind and gentle co-operation and the wonders she has given us along the way. A votre santé!
Yea! yelled the twins as the others laughed, and Water was gulped from mugs. Wine was more restrained, and got only a sip.
Luggage and sleeping bags had been piled in a row to make a backrest for loafing against, but only the two adults were using it, leaning back, legs stretched out, not speaking, involved in their own thoughts and the leisurely finishing of their wine.
Isabel had set up her easel, absorbed in her efforts to catch something of her bright mental vision of Beach and Cliff before it faded. Morgan had gone down to the shore where the canoe and tender were beached, whistling and full of great optimism, determined to catch a fish, all of which seemed to swim past splashing and poking fun at his efforts and his bait. Heron, new carving set laid out, was making his first tentative passes at a small burl he had found on the beach, thinking that it appeared to him like a gull settling its wings after it had landed. The twins were on their sleeping bags, asleep, their pirate hats over their faces, tired out and totally ignoring the music from Therése as she explored the possibilities of the chromatics her new harmonica offered in the realm of sound.
Rose was enjoying the peaceful scene around her, remembering other visits she had made, when some words of Grandfathers came to mind.
Never accept today without thanks and thought. Tomorrow is unknown.
As she went over the words a second time and remembered other things he had said, she began to feel a little wedge of concern intrude its sharp edge into her contentment.
<Whatever made me think of that?! I guess, because I was reminiscing about Cliff and how much its been in the scheme of things herethe jewellery making, the inspiration to people, so strong and permanent in its stance there with Wind and Sea and the protection its afforded, and how the peninsula has provided everything weve needed for a home over all this time.>
Still, an uneasy feeling came over her, and the longer she tried to tell herself she was being silly the more intense the feeling became. Cliffs presence was vivid in her mind and seemed to be insistent.
<Is it because I didnt say proper words, orare there any? Maybe I should have given some of my ownor... .>
Whatever it was, Spirit of Cliff would not be silenced in his intrusion on her thoughts. She finished her wine, put down the empty glass, looked at Armand and, hesitating a little to break into his reverie, did so anyway.
Would you mind keeping an eye on things here for awhile, Armand? Id like to take BRIGHT LEAF and make a little sentimental pilgrimage to the point by myself.
Startled out of his own inward pilgrimage, Armand looked into the dark eyes before him and saw there something of his own train of thought at that momenta journey back into time.
Oh, of course, he smiled. This must be a place of great memories for you and you havent been here for a long while. Please do go and have a little space for yourself. Well be fine here. Everyone has decided to be quiet for a change.
ThanksI wont be too long, and she headed through the trees and down to the beach.
Hi Rose! Im catching a fish for dinner, called Morgan from his perch on a big barnacle-encircled rock he had climbed up onto.
Ill look forward to that, she told him. Im just taking the canoe around the point for a little paddle.
Have fun, he grinned. I sure am.
BRIGHT LEAF seemed to know that this was a special little jaunt, just himself and Rose, because he slid through the water with eager speed and the two of them were rounding the point in a very short time, Paddle giving swift response to Roses strong guidance. When they reached shore she beached the canoe with a definite little bump, jumping out quickly to pull it up onto the stony beach.
Thats the way Chant used to do it, she observed aloud. Grandfather used to admonish him not to be so rough with you butwe were young and full of fun, just like you were, and everything seemed to need a little extra energy to make it work right.
Far out on the water a boat with a loud, powerful engine broke the silence, making her wish it would go away quickly and leave her in peace.
She stood then, looking up at Cliff.
Rose stood for a long while recalling the many occasions when she had come here both as child and adult, and a feeling of sadness came over her as she realised the past was just thatsomething gone and irreplaceable and it would never be the same, no matter how long she stood there or how many times she might come, trying to bring it back with her memories.
<All those years and all those people and here I standby myself. I try not to think alone, but I do feel that way sometimes. I have to go forward not back, but I still wonder if I should have come back at all. Its helped a lot that the others have come to the bay, but maybe I have just too much past to deal with here. Maybe I should have stayed in the city where I belonged. Maybe I should go back now. I know everyone will take good care of everythingbut that would be going back too. Damn! Im always falling into this frame of mind. Why did I think I had to come here to the point by myself anyway?>
Rose, who was always supposed to hold the sunshine in her face, went back to where BRIGHT LEAF waited at the tideline, himself older and quieter in the water, and she sat on the bow of her craft of ancient design, looking out to Horizon, her face reflecting more of the depth of Sea than the light face of Sun, thinking of how different everything was since this canoe had been shaped by Grandfather so many years ago.
The noisy power boat which was out on the water hadnt been getting any of her attention until it pushed itself into her consciousness as it loomed large and headed for the point.
Then she watched with surprise as it beached itself farther along the shore and two men jumped out, talking and laughing and lifting equipment out of their boat. As they began setting it up she recognised it as surveying toolstransit and pole and chain.
Immediate concern took her off the canoe and toward the men.
<Who is this, coming with things used to mark off property? They have no business here. Maybe theyre just practisingbut this is a strange place to choose for that.>
Hi there, she called as she came close to them.
The two turned, smiling, both around middle-age and apparently very professional in what they were about to do.
Hi, they greeted her in return, and the older one said,
We saw your canoe as we came in. We were wondering if it was hand-carved.
Yes, my grandfather made it, she replied, then enquired, I see youre getting ready to do some surveying?
Ohyeah. Were going to do the point here for someone whos going to subdivide. Sure is a spectacular placeaway from everything, but hard to get at without a boat.
Rose felt sudden alarm and was about to order them off, when an old feeling of caution came, such as had appeared when she felt someone had information which she needed for a case, and angry confrontation would be received with unproductive replies.
She smiled instead, and asked,
Who would want to put a subdivision here? Its so inaccessible, like you say.
Its a conglomerate whos bought it, a local and an offshore concern, the man told her. Theyre really going to do it up big. Fancy houses, tennis court, marina, stuff like that. Its a three or four stage development thatll eventually take in the whole peninsula. Pretty upscale.
They must have purchased quite a lot of property, speculated Rose. Why didnt they come overland?
It seems theres some question to be settled about land access, replied the surveyor, So waters the only route at the moment. The people who live where the land route will be are squatters or something and they keep people from getting through. Think the questions in the courts now. Makes it nice and private here for the moment though. I wouldnt mind a piece of this myself if it wasnt so damned expensive.
In her own quiet way Rose collected quite a bit of information as she talked with the two before she decided that shed better let these surveyors know that they wouldnt be working here this day.
Perhaps youve gone a bit off your directions, she suggested carefully, in case some navigating error had been made. Do you not know this land isnt for sale?
The two men looked at her in quiet surprise and the older man, noting Roses long black hair, flicked his eyes to the canoe, and then began to wonder if he happened to be talking to one of those squatters hed mentioned who were holding down the route by land.
The younger one spoke up quickly, saying,
No mistake. It was marked quite clearly on the maps we have, and we know the area around here quite well.
Im sure you may know the area well, but the legality of your work is being called into question here, Rose told them. This land has not been sold to anyoneever.
How do you figure that? he asked back.
For answer she reached into her hip pocket, took out her wallet and presented the two with one of her cards, saying,
The Shalisa own this peninsula. All of it, including this part were standing on right now. Im Rose Hold, Shalisa Leader, barrister at law, and youre trespassing.
It wasnt the surprised blank faces before her which struck into her as they read the little printed card. It was the sudden flare of deja vu which overtook her as she handed it over.
<How many times have I done this? How many times have I had to tell people of trespass and legalities and rights? How long is this going to go on? Will it always come back to this point? Must I forever be returning to the courts to fend people off from my own home? If I had paid for it would they be coming here trying to build and mine and log? It seems that right of occupation through centuries means nothing, not even with the protection of a contract signed by officials. Why should it? Im considered to be a homeless nomad, to be turfed off whatever turf Im standing on whenever somebody else decides they want it. Go somewhere else, woman, and be a squatter there, or get a job and some money and buy something like everybody else does.
<Well its not going to be this way. If I have to spend the rest of my life distributing cards with a name on them which isnt even my right one and continue filing uncounted numbers of papers for injunctions of cease and desistIll do this. Papers, papers, papersIll give them papers! Lets see them try to ignore them all.>
The older man standing there in front of her was saying somethinghad no ideareally sorry about this butIll check it out to make sure.
Theres no necessity to check. I can assure you that the land is private and already owned and occupied.
Rose knew she was very angry and she knew it was not the fault of these men who had come only to do a job they had been hired for. She tried to control her temper. She tried smiling again. It was a thin pretence, but she tried.
Im sorry if youve come a long way for nothing, but Ill have to ask you to leave.
Ohsure. Sorry about this, he repeated, Like I said, nobody told us it wasnt their land. We just came to do the surveying and we sure dont want to do anything illegal.
Thank you, she replied. Its unfortunate, and I know it doesnt help to tell you that youre not the first ones. Developers are always busy looking for new territory and sometimes they make mistakes.
Okay maam. Well pack it up here, andthanks for being here, because we sure would have gone all over the place without your permission, grinned the younger of the two. Were pretty thorough.
This time her smile was genuine as she told them,
Im sure you are.
As the two men put their equipment back aboard the power boat she heard the younger one say,
Are we just gonna walk off and leave this job? Its worth a bundle.
Then the reply of the older man,
Itll be worth a bundle if we get hauled into court for trespassing. Lets shove off and get the hell out of here. Im going to keep the retainer that crooked bastard gave us and he can sue us for it if hes got the guts. I wondered why he just happened not to have the title at hand when I asked him about it. We should have checked for ourselves.
Rose watched as the boat pulled away and the two gave her a wave of farewell.
Standing there at the foot of the bluff which had withstood so many assaults of wind, wave and weather, Rose felt a strong and deepening bond for this land the Shalisa had lived with for so long. She looked up and vowed in the Shalisa tongue,
Spirit of the Cliff, you called and I heard. I wont be whimping around about going back to the city ever again. Thank you for bringing me to your aid at this time, and answering my foolish doubts. Ive been complacent and lax in the care of our home and for this I feel shame. To behave this way when there is so much offered me here where I really do belong is wrong. Forgive me for being angry about what is happening. I know its not the way of the Shalisa and Grandfather would not be pleased. Ill try to do better. BRIGHT LEAF, lets go back to the others and be glad that this place is still safe from the harm it might have felt if we hadnt come. This certainly has become an educational field trip.
Spirit of the Cliff watched as the little canoe below slid back into the water, as light and graceful as all the others which had come and gone. He waved his brave little flowers once more, this time with good wishes and hopes of a return visit, grateful that one of those who belonged had sensed his warning, had remembered, and returned in time to prevent such exploitation of his home.
- - -
The cell phone, that non-independent entity which Rose had taken along in case of emergency, had come in handy for notifying the residents of the bay that the two crews would be coming in just before dinner time, and yes, everyone was hungry, so... .
There was quite a welcome waiting when the two boats came through the Gap and beached by the barge. The departure of the children had left a large and quiet hole in the scenery at the bay which was at first thought of as a welcome break, but after one day of their absence, and that of Armand and Rose, the residents began to feel an odd sensation of too much not happening. They were used to having six voices constantly asking questions, or answering them when not asked to do so, and interesting, outrageous projects were definitely lacking from the scenery.
As the two little craft had pulled through the Gap, Guardian received a salute of raised paddles from the canoe, the tender lifting its oars on the gunwales for one stroke before resuming its rhythm. When they headed for the beach and saw all the residents gathered there waiting, Morgan let out a happy yell and held up by the tail a large salmon which had been unwise enough to go for an easy lunch and had learned to his regret that there was no such thing as a free one.
Hey! Look! I got a big fish for dinner!
Yeaha bit late, commented Isabel loudly.
Well itll taste just as good now, retorted Morgan with a wide grin.
Dinner was a big one, including Morgans prize, and the way the youngsters went at it might have given someone the impression that the field trip had been a huge success except that someone must have left the food supplies behind, and everyone had existed on grass, water and air.
How have things been at the bay? asked Armand as he also enjoyed what he considered to be his first good meal in days, although he would never have admitted it out loud. Im sure youve all been up to something interesting.
Oh yeah, said Harry immediately, That old generator is getting balky again, and I guess well have to give it another overhaul.
Well all stand well back while youre at it, laughed Fitz.
Buds off on a big job hauling a breakwater from somewhere to somewhere else, Shiro added. Hes glad of it because hes getting a good fee and things havent been so busy lately.
Theres also some good news andsome bad news, said Tashakawa quietly.
Oh? came the questioning sound from both Rose and Armand.
The children were too busy stuffing themselves and telling Dancing Water and anyone else who would listen all about their adventures.
It is always best to sweeten the sour first, smiled Armand. Lets have the good stuff.
Well, thats for Rose, she told them. David phoned and wanted to ask you to a symphony. He said hed mentioned it to you before and now its pending. He couldnt get you on your cell phone.
No surprise, laughed Rose. I gagged it. It was for emergencies only and we didnt have any, except for the appetites on the way in. Everyone asked me to call ahead for immediate sustenance to be provided.
Forgive me, laughed Armand. I ran out of dinner wine, and was looking forward to some of Bettinas.
And the kids said they were starvingas usual. Guess Ill have to give David a call. Did he say when the symphony is?
This weekend sometime. I assured him that youd be back before then to give him a definitive answer.
Great. Glad I made itand the bad news? Rose asked.
Thats for Armand, stated Tashakawa.
Surely Bettina has not run out of wine, said Armand with theatrical horror in his voice.
Well, depending on your priorities, I think its worse than that.
What could be worse than that? queried Armand with a grin.
How aboutthe cops came looking for you? asked Tashakawa.
Armand looked steadily at the woman beside him, then decided,
This is not a joke.
Indeed! I had thought, since I have been a resident here, that my rowdy days were over, butwhat could I possibly have done recently to annoy our local constabulary? I havent double parked METHUSELAH lately, nor raised hell at the pub, which is now too far away for regular visits.
Well, it seems, explained Tashakawa, That the kids were talking to people in the village when they were there and they told someone about Sidney the Swan and how you operated on him and made him all better and that hes a pet now. Apparently somebody took exception to your good deed and reported it to the wildlife people who are after you for confining wildlife, and also these people had you charged with practising as a veterinarian without a licence.
Armand looked at her in disbelief, then exploded,
Mon dieu! What strain of crapulence are these people suffering from? Should we have left the poor creature to lie there dying while marking time for these officials to arrive, finally for them to decide after a few days of waiting that there was no help for it but to shoot it and put it out of its misery at last?
At the sound of his raised voice everybody looked up.
Whats the matter Uncle Doc? asked Isabel.
It seems that our friend Sidney has put us into a pickle just for his being alive, replied Armand. The innocent words of children to strangers about helping the swan have turned into poisonous persecution.
That got everyones attention.
Are you telling Armand about our visitors? queried Fitz.
Yes, said Tashakawa, And they told us that keeping wild animals as pets is against the law, and so is doing surgery on animals. Apparently you need a licence.
We are not keeping him! stated Armand angrily. He is keeping us as his friends. He is free to go on his way anytime but he doesnt want to. He is out there swimming freely about and asking us for handouts, taking advantage of our good nature. As for practising veterinary medicineoiy! I have the skill to hold peoples lives in my hands but an animal is forbidden?! What sort of nonsense is this?
It doesnt have anything to do with skill or logic, returned Tashakawa, Its the piece of legitimised paper theyre after.
Armand hit his forehead with the flat of his hand and then appealed,
Rose, is this so? Is the world so insane?
Um, considered Rose, More papers. Im afraid so. You need a licence. In trying to protect domestic animals and wildlife the net gets cast a bit wide.
Now she tells me!
Well I would never have dreamt that any harm would come from your kindness, replied Rose, indignation at the outcome of their deed plain in her voice, But I recall one case where somebody picked up some feathers from dead birds, added some goose feathers which the wild geese had moulted and didnt need anymore, then turned these things into harmless decorative items for sale and got hauled into court for possessing parts of endangered species.
Are they out of jail yet? enquired Armand with a small laugh of disgust.
I really didnt follow the case since it wasnt mine so I dont know what the outcome was, Rose told him a little apologetically. Just goes to show I should pay more attention to things like that. It might come in handy sometime. Who are these people Tash?
He didnt say.
Do you kids happen to remember if you spoke to anyone in town? asked Rose.
I didnt say anything about the swan to anyone, said Morgan promptly. How about you, Twinnies? I saw you talking to somebody.
I think, said Walter, after a moment of thought, Bernice an me were saying about a stuffed swan we saw in the store, nice an fluffy an fat, an this lady said we shouldnt play with it an to put it back an then we said we had a real swan an told her about Sidney.
Did we do something bad? asked Bernice with terrible concern in her face.
No, of course not, you two, Bettina assured them. Somebody else has done something.
Those Hillers are bad! stated Therése.
We mustnt jump to conclusions, cautioned Rose.
Well they were Hillers, asserted the girl. It was that lady who hit me. I remember her standing there. I told the twins not to talk to her.
Oh oh, said Harry, Sounds like a grudge match here.
Theyre just doing it for spite, surmised Bettina.
Oh great, groaned Rose. Here we go again. First they trespass and now theyre out to get us for objecting. Maybe I can have it thrown out as a frivolous and malicious charge and an unnecessary waste and abuse of the courts time and attention. Youre not practising veterinary medicineit was a one off and, while we did keep Sidney somewhat confined until he healed, he is free to go as you say and we never intended anything else. In fact we were rescuing one member of an endangered species.
It would seem, observed Armand, That had we wrung the poor birds elegant neck and served him up for dinner that would have been quite fine and no one would have been any the wiser. These people probably eat quite a few other things themselves and dont worry a bit about it, either in its dead or living state.
I think they have a warrant out for your arrest or something Armand, added Fitz, So maybe youd better go square yourself with the cops.
Fagh! exclaimed Armand. Ill do no such thing. Right now Im going to enjoy our welcome home. Yeslet us have some more of your good wine Bettina, and a toast to all here that the world is not full of such people as those. Bon santé!
- - -
There was no mistaking the pleased tone in Davids voice when he answered Roses call.
HeyRose! Great to hear from you. Youre back from your wilderness trip. I hoped youd make it back before the weekend. How was the adventure?
Oh, we had lots of fun, Rose reported, Apart from a few scrapes and insect bites and such. The kids really enjoyed it and so did Armand and I. Everybodys all for doing it again without being told by officials.
Id sure like to get in on one of those trips. Been too busy here lately to go anywhere. Uhhave you thought about the symphony come Saturday?
Yes, quite a bit. Armand and I have to hit the city court house tout de suite, so your invitation has come at just the right time.
Whats going on?
Well, to make it brief, Armand got hit with a stupid charge over Sidney... .
Sidney? broke in David, Whos that?
The swan. The kids asked Armand what swan is in French and when he said cygne they thought he said Sidney, so thats his name.
Sounds like Therése has been at it again, naming things, laughed David.
You got that right, agreed Rose. Anyway, he got charged for interfering with wildlife and, apart from that, somebody is trying to move a subdivision onto the point of the peninsula so we both have to present ourselves in the halls of justice.
Geeze! exclaimed David. Sounds like youd better get here toot sweet. Are you going to be able to squelch both things?
One never knows. For mine, it seems that permanent residency over time means nothing. Good thing someone had the wits to get it in writing way back when.
One of your ancestors must have been a lawyer, came the laughing comment.
Luck of the draw in the genes pool, returned Rose, Ill try for an injunction, and a few other things after that. Armands outcome hangs on the courts good will, but since there was no animal held in captivity I think we can wiggle out of it one way or another. Ohand he asked me to ask you if you think you could rustle up another ticket for him? When I told him about your invitation he got all green in the eyes and said hed dress up like me and steal my ticket. We thought it would take the bad taste out of our mouths if we got the business out of the way and then could enjoy an evening of music.
No problem there, was the gratifying reply, Im an insider. I know the lady whos organising the event.
Hell be so pleased. He told me he hadnt been to a live performance for yearsat least not a professional one. Well probably get in Thursday night, get our stuff done Friday and relax Saturdaysound okay?
I have a better idea, he countered. How aboutif you really dont want all that travellinghow about if I fly in to the bay Friday morning early, pick you up and get you here in time for the courthouse to open and from there you can do anything else citywise. Then we have whats left of the day to ourselves. Maybe, if we all can get it together, a quintette for dinner with Li and Gram. Ill be a bit busy on Saturday but you can relax and well hit the symphony and a late supper after that. Then Ill get you back Sunday before dark. Yes?
That sounds terrific, but I thought you said you were busy. We dont want to cause a lot of trouble.
You call that trouble? Let me add to it then. If youve made arrangements for a hotel cancel them. Gram and I have lots of space here. Armand can have my room and for you the spare will beat any old hotel. Ill see to it personallythat is if you dont mind putting up with Ulf and Gurththey sort of own the houseoh, and my flute tooting.
Wonderful! Thats really great of you, and we love both the dogs and your flute, but what would you get? The floor?
Ill get what I call my music room. Its full of all the junk overflowing from my own, but it has a really comfortable big couch I take naps on after exhausting myself listening to music and playing my flute along with it. How about it?
Sounds terrific. Well pay for gas and stuff. And thanks so much. Itll take a lot of the stress out of the whole thing to have a peaceful place to recuperate in after hitting the brickwall of authority. Ill look forward to the city now, instead of dreading the visit. I can pretend were all just going to the symphony.
Uhguess Id better confess here. I have an ulterior motive for some of my kind offers.
Oh nodont tell me youre in trouble too!
Not this time, but let me be serious for a minutedont laugh pleaseI can be. Its justI got this idea that it would be nice if I could grab the chance to show you that Im not really just a stupid nerd who goes through life drinking, gambling, breaking the law and being a bloody fool, the way the prosecution had it, and whose friends call him Godwin the Goof... .
Godwin the Goof? broke in Rose, I have to tell youit fits.
Umit wouldand thats just it. While Ive been away from the bay Ive thought a lot about what you said that time when I asked to become Shalisa. All I ever do around there is to be the clown everyone expects me to be. I know you think Im always on the make, and I guess with my reputation I dont blame you, but Im not.
Theres another side to me, and Id like you to see it, so I thought if I had you in close proximity on my own ground for a couple of days I could do that. Li has it that underneath all that load Im kind, considerate, gentle, intelligent, thoughtful, and you know I dont lie or cheatexcept for good causescall it legerdemain for those occasionsand Im a pretty good business manwhen Im not taking chances and being too reckless, like you put it. My Grandmother even likes me, and though she could be accused of bias she has good taste, so I thought maybe I could get my lawyer on side.
Thats some sales pitch. Id love to be shown that David, Rose told him with a laugh. Sounds like a very nice fellow youre talking about. Can you really perform that metamorphosis?
Youve misconstrued my words. I didnt say I was going to metamorphose. I said I was going to show you the other half of me which is already here.
Talk about lawyersyoure starting to sound like one.
Credit yourselfand Id really prefer it more if you thought I spoke Shalisa, he suggested.
Well Im really glad youve taken the trouble to tell me your plot, she returned lightly, Or the shock might have been too much for me to handle.
You think I cant behave myself, huh?
Lets wait and see.
We got a deal. Ohand before you sign off, I should tell you its sort of a bit of a formal do, but Im sure you have something to wear packed away from your interesting city life.
I think I can come up with something, she assured him.
I knew it. Good. See you Friday morning early and you can fill me in on all the doings at the bay.
Rose put down the phone, laughing quietly to herself and thinking that she already knew something of Lis opinion regarding Godwin the Goof.