This is now the 19th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”. See the table of contents here.
“What’s it like here in the winter?”
Mr. Brown looked up from a book. “What? Winter? Are you thinking of moving here for good? You’ve been here for a while and was wondering when you’d say you were staying.”
It was raining outside. More than raining. The wind screamed across the moor driving the rain almost horizontal. Since exploring the vicinity was out of the question, Ed had decided to take Mr. Brown up on his offer to help him with his research.
“No, not yet at least. My boss is letting me do a couple of hours a work a night so I can extend this little vacation. And I haven’t had a vacation, uhm, what you would call a ‘holiday’, in years and so have weeks of earned time saved up.”
Mr. Brown smiled. “Ah, I was hoping… Anyway, winters can be harsh. Hear that rain pounding on the building? Imagine that being snow. Here let me show you.”
Mr. Brown pulled up a photo gallery on his laptop. The label was “Winter on the Moors”.
“Wow, those are gorgeous,” Ed said. “Are you photographer, then?”
“No, no. My son took these. Phillip is an architect, you know. Lives in Town. London. He’s also an amateur photographer. He could go pro, but he says he wouldn’t enjoy it if he had to do it for money. He used to come out here quite often. Not that I ever saw him as he would spend all day tromping through the moors with his camera. He took a lot of great pictures and said he was going to make a book. And then, out of the blue, he said he wasn’t and he almost never comes out this way anymore.”
They stared at a photo of a country lane covered in a couple of inches of untrodden snow. Ed could only think of his own kids and how distant they had grown. Was it the way of the modern world? There was Liza and Lauren and their awful relationship and now he found that Mr. Brown and Phillip Brown didn’t seem to be doing well either.
Better to move on, he thought, as that “getting old” feeling started to creep into his bones. The photo was a better place to go.
Ed’s mind began to drift, as if he were wondering down that lane, making the first tracks. It was so peaceful.
“Why did you bring up winter? Just curious.”
Ed snapped out of his reverie by Mr. Brown’s question.
“Oh, I was just reading the diary of Richard Borrow that you lent me. It is all so boring, one line entries for each day. ‘Rain today. Took care of animals and spent the day inside reading.’ That kind of thing. And then I got to one that runs for pages and pages. Where is Gossenmare Park?”
“That’s what I suspected. Gossenmare Park about a half an hour drive. You should have Mrs. Smyth take you there. I would myself, you know, but the place is special to her. Wouldn’t want to deny her the pleasure.”
“What is it? More forest land?”
“Good heavens no. Quite the opposite. It was an old manor house and all of the lands around it. If you keep reading the diary you will see that the great house itself burned a few years after that entry you just read. The Gevilles moved into the village. Their fortune was long gone anyway. And so the place became a ruins. Not just the old manor, but there was an ancient tower that William Geville built in the early 12th century. There is little left of that. And then there are even older things there. Stone circles. Lone standing stones. That sort of thing. Of course William Geville married the local ‘nobility’, such as it was, and legend says that her family had lived here even before those stone circles were built. But you need to ask Liza, I mean Mrs. Smyth, about all of that claptrap.”
“And you say it is a half of an hour drive away?” Mr. Brown nodded. “How long would it take to walk?”
“The shortest way to the village, as the crow flies, is about 10 miles. The roads are longer. An adventurous soul could do it in three hours, but the average person might take all day. That’s if the weather behaves.”
“So my old ancestor Richard writes that he was about an hour out, and that he was cutting across the moors on his way home, when the blizzard hit.”
“Exactly. He was following an unmarked path, exploring the untrodden moors as it were. He was quickly blinded in the snow. But he was smart and knew which way the wind blew, most literally in this context. He continued until he couldn’t.”
Ed listened to the wind rattle the windows. What would it be like on the open, untrodden moor in a blizzard? It was no wonder people had pronounced Richard dead when he hadn’t returned in two days. He could imagine their shock when Richard finally arrived on the third, whole and healthy.
“I want to see the cave where he hid,” Ed said. “Where is it?”
Mr. Brown gave him a funny look. “Nobody knows. There are some sheltered areas and shallow caves around, but nothing like he describes and not where he said it was. The Grubb says he knows. A few other people in history claim to have found it. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. They never showed that hidden location to anyone else, so…” Mr. Brown shrugged.
Ed scrolled through more of Phillip’s photos. He tried to imagine being lost in that landscape. On the other hand, what would happen with his sense of place he occasionally felt on the moor? Would he be able to draw that mental map? Did Richard have that same sense of place?
“Thinking of The Grubb, I expect he will arrive at any time now,” Mr. Brown said.
“On a day like today?”
“Of course. It is almost the lunch hour, you know…”
The door to the shop blew opened, the first time it had moved since Ed had arrived. The Grubb came in on a huge gust of wind.
“You take that wet coat off, young man, and hang it before you set another foot into the shop. Can’t have you ruining anything, you know.”
“Hello to you too, Mr. Brown,” The Grubb said. “Hi, Mr. Ed. Beautiful day, innit?”
“I can’t see how you could think that it is ‘beautiful’ with this deluge of biblical proportions going on,” Mr. Brown said.
“But the rain and wind make me feel more alive than ever. Walking here was great. Mr. Ed, are you coming out with me again today? You know, after lunch?”
“I think not, Grubb. I have a lot of reading I have to do.” Ed would find any excuse not to go out on such a day, “feeling more alive” or not.
“Oh. I guess I’ll stay in, too. I think I have almost solved the mystery of you-know-what.” He glanced around the shop as if expecting spies to be listening.
“OK, Grubb,” Mr. Brown said. “We’ll be off to lunch in 10 minutes. Why don’t you sit over there in the mean time?”
Ed reread the diary entry about the blizzard and stopped with Richard snug in the cave. Richard had given almost no details about how he spent his time. It was if he entered and left it two hours later instead of two days later. Where did the time go? And why did he seem so hearty when he left? He never even mentioned being hungry.
Ed glanced up. Mr. Brown was deep in study of his own book and The Grubb was scratching figures into his notebook with his fist-held pencil.
Ed closed his eyes and imagined following the untrodden path to the cave. He decided that he would ask Liza about it. Not just that, but he would ask her to take him to Gossenmare Park. He had been trying to avoid his hostess as much as possible since she had informed him that it was their destiny to become lovers. Perhaps it was time that they actually spent the day together. Not as lovers, of course.
That settled, he dug back into his reading.
He had barely moved onto the next diary entry, “Walked out into the snow to take care of the animals. Spent the rest of the day reading,” when Mr. Brown announced his attention of heading off to the pub for a bite of lunch.