The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

Very stern parent indeed, “Come here, sir! What is this complaint the schoolmaster has made against you?”

Much injured youth, “It’s just nothing at all. You see, Jimmie Hughes bent a pin, and I only just left it on the teacher’s chair for him to look at, and he came in without his specs and sat right down on the pin and now he blames me for it!”

 

For two weeks Walter did not see Alden. Walter tried visiting him but his 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 grey 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 Berry, became like him, secluded and withdrawn.

As a matter of fact 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. Mrs. Banny 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 in at 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 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,” Uncle Obel said. “Would you care for my famous kompot?”

Walter nodded. Uncle Obel uncovered a steaming tureen, poured kompot in a cup and handed it to Walter. “Careful now. It’s pretty hot,” he warned Walter.

Walter took a few sips. It was peach punch with real peaches floating in the drink. Walter licked his lips. It seem to warm up his belly in a weather like this, making him feel a little better.

“Want to tell me what is wrong?”

Walter nodded but seemed unable to articulate it.

“Is this about Alden? I have noticed he hasn’t been around. Not surprising around this time of year,” Uncle Obel began drying a beer mug. “They tend to stay away more than normal.”

“Why?”

“After last year episode with the hybrid they might tend to be more reclusive this year. It’s understandable, they almost lost their son. Maybe this year their 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 tells the incident to his Uncle Obel. Why did his Aunt reacted 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 Bagley’s. 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, has nothing to do with you. Sometimes, it obfuscates their thinking. They need time to cool down, eventually it will work itself out.”

“What if it doesn’t?”

“It will, just give it time.”

Walter wanted to believe it, but he didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon. They have always fought but this time was different. “Uncle Obel?”

“Yes, Walter.”

“They say that maybe Mr. Berry has some kind of power over those that work for him. Could that be true?”

“Well, some like to say they have loyalty for him, but you know, there is always a conundrum to everything. I don’t know Mr. Berry personally, but he is kithless. He has lived here as long as I have. Travels out of town for business and maybe antediluvian.”

Walter looked puzzled at that.

“He is an old fashion man, doesn’t meddled with anything that is a newfangled to the modern times. People make assumptions of him. Maybe they don’t understand him. Maybe he has a side we don’t see. It makes people curious. Though, it’s always best to get to know them, you might learn a thing or two from them.”

Walter finishes his kompot and heads to bed early. He had a lot to think about and wanted to be somewhere where he could organize his thoughts. He laid down on his bed and looked out the window. A foggy film covered the windows while the rain, lightly taped outside, brought him little comfort. Today was the last day of September and October would begin tomorrow the day every outsider was looking forward to. He wondered what to expect. With that last thought, he yawned and lulled himself to sleep.

The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

“Yes. Are you getting your father’s jug?”

“No,” Alden blushed shamefully. “He is sleeping it off. Mother sent me to get some medicine from Dr. Diefendorf to help with her nerves. I also had to go to Madam Nefi to get some herbs. Have you ever been there?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“I’ll take you some time, she is–” Alden cuts off when something catches his sight. “There goes my Aunt. The one that works for Mr. Berry. Let’s go talk to her.” Alden and Walter walk over to a tall brunette woman, wearing an immaculate stiff grey dress with a starched collar. She smelt of perfume and soap. She resembled like Alden’s mother only younger and less like a frump. She was carrying a wicker basket and had a stoic expression on her face.

“Hallo, young man,” she greeted Alden.

“Hallo, Aunt Josephine.”

“Who is your friend?” she glances briefly at Walter.

“This is Walter. His Uncle owns the Swan Inn.”

“Ah, Mr. Banny. Yes, I know him. How are you young man?” she directs her question to Walter.

“I’m fine thank you,” Walter says.

“I hope he has been teaching you manners being in a place like that,” she says in an imperious manner. “I would ask how school is going, but knowing what happened to Mr. Crabb—for heaven’s sakes, child, stop looking at me like that.” She looks at Alden when she said that. “Of course I know what’s going on in this town. I don’t live in a cave. That is the only thing people talk about. They are nothing, but busybodies. Have you eaten anything today? Heaven knows you mother can barely feed herself. Well, speak child.”

“I had some bread with honey and milk this morning,” Alden said.

“Bread! Bread is not enough food for a twelve year old,” she starts rummaging through her wicker basket. “Those parents of yours. Sometimes I wonder what’s going on through their heads.” She takes out a wrapped bag of confectionery and handed it to Alden. “Those are the finest chocolates from the city and other regions. You will like them,” she says, handing him another bag with exotic fruits and a few silver coins. “That should be enough to keep the pantry full. Put that money away. Quickly, quickly. We don’t want to repeat last year’s incident when your mother and that husband of hers spent it away on rubbish. Heaven knows your grandfather is not there to sustain them. Does your mother know?”

“No, she thinks she has an admirer,” Alden said.

“She always had her head in the clouds,” she rolls her eyes. “That mother of yours.” All of the sudden she freezes in place with her gaze fixed straight ahead. Alden looks at Walter with worry. Has she been bewitched?

“Aunt Josephine?” Alden calls out to her, but she doesn’t respond. “Aunt–”

“I need to go,” she begins to act expeditiously. She turns and hurries off as if something had frightened her. Walter and Alden turn to see what she was staring at. It was Mr. Bagley, staggering towards them as he points at her. When he reaches them, he burbles, “That wuz her, wasn’t it? That was yer mother’s sister, Josephine. Wasn’t it?” Alden didn’t respond.

“Wait till yer mother hears ‘bout this. She thinks yer aunt’s been brainwashed by that, that Mister Berry. Oi think she is a hoity-toity, like that Berry. What did she want? What did she say?”

Alden just shook his head.

“Say,” his father looks at the bag of confectionery and the bag of exotic fruits. “Did she give ye those?”

Alden couldn’t say no to his father and nodded.

“That’s all she gave ye. While we starve to death she gives ye candy an’ fruit,” he says disconcerted.

“She knows yer mother doesn’t eat fruit an’ Oi don’t like candy. Wait till yer mother hears ‘bout this. Let me take those from ye. Ye better git home.” He takes the fruits and confectioneries away from Alden and staggers away.

Alden looked upset.

“I’m sorry,” was all Walter could say.

Alden shrugged his shoulders. “I better go,” he walked away with his head hung low. Walter wish he could help his friend out but he himself had very little to give. What he had wasn’t his to give. Though, many would disagree, because he was Uncle Obel’s nephew. He had riches to spare. What was Uncle Obels’ was his, his mother reminded him. Uncle Obel did not owe them a living. That Walter knew was true. With a sigh, he walked back to the Swan Inn.