Chapter 4: Unpleasant Sight
For two weeks Walter did not see Alden. He tried visiting, but Alden’s mother would turn him away. Even the ever‑present Mr. Bagley was elusive at the inn. The weather wasn’t any kinder; it was dreary and chilly. The gray clouds only threatened more rain. Most people avoided going outside.
Walter hadn’t seen his sister in months and wondered if what Alden had said about those working for Mr. Berry becoming like him, secluded and withdrawn, was true.
His sister hasn’t visited Walter or their mother since she moved out. The last time he saw her, she had a quarrel with their mother, who demanded she quit her job and help out the family instead. Mrs. Banny wanted to keep the family together, but it was only coming apart.
Then the rains started. When they moved into the Swan Inn, Mrs. Banny wouldn’t mention his sister. Uncle Obel and Aunt Edith would ask, but his mother refused to say anything. They stopped asking.
Mrs. Banny kept Walter busy. He thought about his sister and a few times he had seen her when he was out doing errands for Uncle Obel. He wondered if his sister thought of him. He also wondered if the rains would ever stop. It made Walter sad. His uncle must have noticed because he called him over one evening.
“Take sit at the bar. Your mother is upstairs and your aunt has retired early to her room. Would you care for my famous kompot?”
Walter nodded. Uncle Obel uncovered a steaming tureen, poured the sweet drink into a cup, and handed it to his nephew. “Careful now. It’s pretty hot,” he warned.
It was peach punch with real peaches floating in the drink. Walter took a few sips and licked his lips. It warmed up his belly, making him feel a little better.
“Want to tell me what is wrong?”
Walter nodded, but was unable to articulate it.
“Is this about Alden? I’ve noticed he hasn’t been around. Not surprising this time of year,” Uncle Obel began drying a beer mug. “They tend to stay away more than normal.”
“After last year’s episode with the wolf hybrid they might tend to be more reclusive this year. It’s understandable; they almost lost their son. Maybe this year they’re taking precaution. They will come around. Mr. Bagley will run out of ale. Alden will return.”
Walter could understand that, but then the incident with Alden’s aunt and his father left him baffled. Walter told Uncle Obel about the incident then wondered why did his Aunt react strangely at the sight of Alden’s father? Why did she stay away? Why was Alden’s father that way?
“Could be many reasons,” Uncle Obel said. “People comport themselves to things they only know how. She must have her reasons to stay away from the Bagleys. Maybe she reasons it’s for the best.”
“Would that be the same reason Margaret stays away?”
Uncle Obel put down the mug and leaned closer. “Whatever discord your sister and your mother have, it has nothing to do with you. Sometimes it obfuscates their thinking. They need time to cool down; eventually it will work itself out.”