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39: Point of return

It is so
When days are most placid
And at peaceful rest
That the leader
Should regard the shores of this land
Turn eyes seaward to scan horizon
Give thought to the unexpected
And set in motion preparations
To meet it

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 didn’t. 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, they’d had quite enough of survival techniques.

     Given the choice of catching fish and foraging for vegetables to accommodate an extra day—neither of which effort seemed to have been too successful thus far—the vote went against remaining where they were, in spite of Morgan’s vigorous defence of his angler’s skills.

     Armand’s 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 didn’t 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 hadn’t 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 hadn’t 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 he’d arrived at the bay.

     Although he had been part of all the happenings there, he now had to face up to the fact that he’d 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 hadn’t 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 Armand’s 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 canoe’s 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 friend—an 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 weren’t 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! There’s protocol here. Rose first since, she’s head of this expedition—then you can all jump over and swim in if you’re that eager.”

     “Guess that means I’d 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, “It’s 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 island—except the bluff which towered above them didn’t 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.

     “I’m 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.”

     “I’ve been told that its overpowering appearance saved quite a few confrontations,” Rose laughed, “By directing some would-be invaders who didn’t 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.

     “It’s up there in the face of the bluff,” she replied and, as she saw the disappointed faces looking up, explained, “It’s 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. They’d 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 weren’t 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 they’d 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 I’m bigger, I’ll 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 don’t 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. That’s 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 artist’s 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 items—driftwood 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 weather—bull 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 waves—derelict 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 can’t 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 doesn’t leave much room for boats if it’s a high one with this wind behind it, and it’s just about lunchtime anyway. We’ll 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 party’s arrival at the point. It certainly is an occasion to celebrate. As well,” he added, “We’ve 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.

     “It’s been some time since I had an occasion to make a toast but—yes—to 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 Grandfather’s 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 it’s been in the scheme of things here—the jewellery making, the inspiration to people, so strong and permanent in its stance there with Wind and Sea and the protection it’s afforded, and how the peninsula has provided everything we’ve 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. Cliff’s presence was vivid in her mind and seemed to be insistent.

     <Is it because I didn’t say proper words, or—are there any? Maybe I should have given some of my own—or... .>

     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? I’d 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 moment—a journey back into time.

     “Oh, of course,” he smiled. “This must be a place of great memories for you and you haven’t been here for a long while. Please do go and have a little space for yourself. We’ll be fine here. Everyone has decided to be quiet for a change.”

     “Thanks—I won’t be too long,” and she headed through the trees and down to the beach.

     “Hi Rose! I’m catching a fish for dinner,” called Morgan from his perch on a big barnacle-encircled rock he had climbed up onto.

     “I’ll look forward to that,” she told him. “I’m 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 Rose’s 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.

     “That’s the way Chant used to do it,” she observed aloud. “Grandfather used to admonish him not to be so rough with you but—we 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.

Here’s a really big piece of jade, Chant. Let’s take it back to Fine Hands. She’ll be able to make it into something nice.

Grandfather, Chant says he’s going to climb down with the others. Don’t let him. He’ll fall.

Chant is quite strong Rose, and if he has chosen to do this I am sure he will be able to. He just wants to show how brave he is with everyone watching. The others will see that no harm comes to him. Besides, he will probably not do this again. Chant is a giver of song, not a carver. His heart will tell him this when the time comes.

     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 that—something 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 stand—by 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. It’s 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 everything—but that would be going ‘back’ too. Damn! I’m 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 hadn’t 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 tools—transit 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 they’re just practising—but 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 you’re getting ready to do some surveying?”

     “Oh—yeah. We’re going to do the point here for someone who’s going to subdivide. Sure is a spectacular place—away 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? It’s so inaccessible, like you say.”

     “It’s a conglomerate who’s bought it, a local and an offshore concern,” the man told her. “They’re really going to do it up big. Fancy houses, tennis court, marina, stuff like that. It’s a three or four stage development that’ll eventually take in the whole peninsula. Pretty upscale.”

     “They must have purchased quite a lot of property,” speculated Rose. “Why didn’t they come overland?”

     “It seems there’s some question to be settled about land access,” replied the surveyor, “So water’s 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 question’s in the courts now. Makes it nice and private here for the moment though. I wouldn’t mind a piece of this myself if it wasn’t 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 she’d better let these surveyors know that they wouldn’t be working here this day.

     “Perhaps you’ve gone a bit off your directions,” she suggested carefully, in case some navigating error had been made. “Do you not know this land isn’t for sale?”

     The two men looked at her in quiet surprise and the older man, noting Rose’s 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 he’d 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.”

     “I’m 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 anyone—ever.”

      “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 we’re standing on right now. I’m Rose Hold, Shalisa Leader, barrister at law, and you’re trespassing.”

     It wasn’t 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? I’m considered to be a homeless nomad, to be turfed off whatever turf I’m 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 it’s not going to be this way. If I have to spend the rest of my life distributing cards with a name on them which isn’t even my right one and continue filing uncounted numbers of papers for injunctions of cease and desist—I’ll do this. Papers, papers, papers—I’ll give them papers! Let’s see them try to ignore them all.>

     The older man standing there in front of her was saying something—had no idea—really sorry about this but—I’ll check it out to make sure.

     “There’s 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.

     “I’m sorry if you’ve come a long way for nothing, but I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

     “Oh—sure. Sorry about this,” he repeated, “Like I said, nobody told us it wasn’t their land. We just came to do the surveying and we sure don’t want to do anything illegal.”

     “Thank you,” she replied. “It’s unfortunate, and I know it doesn’t help to tell you that you’re not the first ones. Developers are always busy looking for new territory and sometimes they make mistakes.”

     “Okay ma’am. We’ll pack it up here, and—thanks for being here, because we sure would have gone all over the place without your permission,” grinned the younger of the two. “We’re pretty thorough.”

     This time her smile was genuine as she told them,

     “I’m 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? It’s worth a bundle.”

     Then the reply of the older man,

     “It’ll be worth a bundle if we get hauled into court for trespassing. Let’s shove off and get the hell out of here. I’m going to keep the retainer that crooked bastard gave us and he can sue us for it if he’s 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 won’t 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. I’ve 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 it’s not the way of the Shalisa and Grandfather would not be pleased. I’ll try to do better. BRIGHT LEAF, let’s go back to the others and be glad that this place is still safe from the harm it might have felt if we hadn’t 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!”

     “Yeah—a bit late,” commented Isabel loudly.

     “Well it’ll taste just as good now,” retorted Morgan with a wide grin.

     Dinner was a big one, including Morgan’s 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. “I’m sure you’ve all been up to something interesting.”

     “Oh yeah,” said Harry immediately, “That old generator is getting balky again, and I guess we’ll have to give it another overhaul.”

     “We’ll all stand well back while you’re at it,” laughed Fitz.

     “Bud’s off on a big job hauling a breakwater from somewhere to somewhere else,” Shiro added. “He’s glad of it because he’s getting a good fee and things haven’t been so busy lately.”

     “There’s also some good news and—some 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. “Let’s have the good stuff.”

     “Well, that’s for Rose,” she told them. “David phoned and wanted to ask you to a symphony. He said he’d mentioned it to you before and now it’s pending. He couldn’t get you on your cell phone.”

     “No surprise,” laughed Rose. “I gagged it. It was for emergencies only and we didn’t 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 Bettina’s.”

     “And the kids said they were starving—as usual. Guess I’ll have to give David a call. Did he say when the symphony is?”

     “This weekend sometime. I assured him that you’d be back before then to give him a definitive answer.”

     “Great. Glad I made it—and the bad news?” Rose asked.

     “That’s 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 it’s worse than that.”

     “What could be worse than that?” queried Armand with a grin.

     “How about—the cops came looking for you?” asked Tashakawa.

     Armand looked steadily at the woman beside him, then decided,

     “This is not a joke.”

     “Unfortunately, no.”

     “Indeed! I had thought, since I have been a resident here, that my rowdy days were over, but—what could I possibly have done recently to annoy our local constabulary? I haven’t 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 he’s 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.

     “What’s 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 everyone’s 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 doesn’t want to. He is out there swimming freely about and asking us for handouts, taking advantage of our good nature. As for practising veterinary medicine—oiy! I have the skill to hold people’s lives in my hands but an animal is forbidden?! What sort of nonsense is this?”

     “It doesn’t have anything to do with skill or logic,” returned Tashakawa, “It’s the piece of legitimised paper they’re 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. I’m 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 didn’t 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 didn’t follow the case since it wasn’t mine so I don’t 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 didn’t say.”

     “Do you kids happen to remember if you spoke to anyone in town?” asked Rose.

     “I didn’t 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 shouldn’t 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 mustn’t 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.”

     “They’re just doing it for spite,” surmised Bettina.

     “Oh great,” groaned Rose. “Here we go again. First they trespass and now they’re 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 court’s time and attention. You’re not practising veterinary medicine—it 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 bird’s 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 don’t 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 you’d better go square yourself with the cops.”

     “Fagh!” exclaimed Armand. “I’ll do no such thing. Right now I’m going to enjoy our welcome home. Yes—let 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 David’s voice when he answered Rose’s call.

     “Hey—Rose! Great to hear from you. You’re back from your wilderness trip. I hoped you’d 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. Everybody’s all for doing it again without being told by officials.”

     “I’d sure like to get in on one of those trips. Been too busy here lately to go anywhere. Uh—have 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.”

     “What’s going on?”

     “Well, to make it brief, Armand got hit with a stupid charge over Sidney... .

     “Sidney?” broke in David, “Who’s that?”

     “The swan. The kids asked Armand what ‘swan’ is in French and when he said cygne they thought he said Sidney, so that’s 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 you’d 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, “I’ll try for an injunction, and a few other things after that. Armand’s outcome hangs on the court’s good will, but since there was no animal held in captivity I think we can wiggle out of it one way or another. Oh—and 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 he’d 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, “I’m an insider. I know the lady who’s organising the event.”

     “He’ll be so pleased. He told me he hadn’t been to a live performance for years—at least not a professional one. We’ll probably get in Thursday night, get our stuff done Friday and relax Saturday—sound okay?”

     “I have a better idea,” he countered. “How about—if you really don’t want all that travelling—how 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 what’s left of the day to ourselves. Maybe, if we all can get it together, a quintette for dinner with Li and Gram. I’ll be a bit busy on Saturday but you can relax and we’ll hit the symphony and a late supper after that. Then I’ll get you back Sunday before dark. Yes?”

     “That sounds terrific, but I thought you said you were busy. We don’t want to cause a lot of trouble.”

     “You call that trouble? Let me add to it then. If you’ve 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. I’ll see to it personally—that is if you don’t mind putting up with Ulf and Gurth—they sort of own the house—oh, and my flute tooting.”

     “Wonderful! That’s really great of you, and we love both the dogs and your flute, but what would you get? The floor?”

     “I’ll get what I call my music room. It’s 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. We’ll pay for gas and stuff. And thanks so much. It’ll 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. I’ll look forward to the city now, instead of dreading the visit. I can pretend we’re all just going to the symphony.”

     “Uh—guess I’d better confess here. I have an ulterior motive for some of my kind offers.”

     “Oh no—don’t tell me you’re in trouble too!”

     “Not this time, but let me be serious for a minute—don’t laugh please—I can be. It’s just—I got this idea that it would be nice if I could grab the chance to show you that I’m 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 you—it fits.”

     “Um—it would—and that’s just it. While I’ve been away from the bay I’ve 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 I’m always on the make, and I guess with my reputation I don’t blame you, but I’m not.

     “There’s another side to me, and I’d 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 I’m kind, considerate, gentle, intelligent, thoughtful, and you know I don’t lie or cheat—except for good causes—call it legerdemain for those occasions—and I’m a pretty good business man—when I’m 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.”

     “That’s some sales pitch. I’d love to be shown that David,” Rose told him with a laugh. “Sounds like a very nice fellow you’re talking about. Can you really perform that metamorphosis?”

     “You’ve misconstrued my words. I didn’t 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 lawyers—you’re starting to sound like one.”

     “Credit yourself—and I’d really prefer it more if you thought I spoke Shalisa,” he suggested.

     “Well I’m really glad you’ve 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 can’t behave myself, huh?”

     “Let’s wait and see.”

     “We got a deal. Oh—and before you sign off, I should tell you it’s sort of a bit of a formal do, but I’m 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 Li’s opinion regarding Godwin the Goof.