HIDDEN TREASURE: SS IN THREE CHAPTERS; 3

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A flawed-family history appears to be repeating itself---for the worse---when a stunning treasure is discovered.

Submitted: September 23, 2016

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Submitted: September 23, 2016

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HIDDEN TREASURE

A Short Story in Three Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Three

 

Swans appeared from every side as Christopherdrew nearer to the magnetic blue sweep of theThames.

He stopped at a particular point where a small sand bar could be seen to stretch some twenty feet into the river.

Hurrying clouds reflected mauve in the sliding waters.

Packets of sparkling sunshine rode the ripples of the aimless currents. 

The swans were shameless beggars, moving in twos and threes from side to side, to stake out what they anticipated was a perfect position to receive what they believed would be a bountiful tossing of some delicious snacks.

But no. Nothing.

This tall blond geek stood there empty handed while simply staring at them.

Obviously a newbie

After several minutes of sashaying in gliding movements before the Colonial, they began to slip away, with the older more experienced ones leading and the younger and dumber ones only leaving for fear of losing sight of their families.

Christopher was now alone with the river.

Diggs was suddenly at his elbow.

“They’re a thieving pack of blighters, they are.” He said this with no malice.

Did the swans  have something in common with Diggs?

 

When Christopher and his grandfather quickly ran out of small talk, silence ensued.

Only the lilting, sibilant murmur of the river accompanied their separate thoughts.

“And after you get home Christopher, what will you be doing?”

“Acting.”

“Oh.”

Was there a tincture of sadness?

“What about university or some such?”

Is he really curious or just making conversation? 

“No. Acting. Maybe getting into producing and directing like Dad . . . and Miranda. Maybe. But for now, acting.”

“Well, a chip off the old block, eh Christopher . . . or old blocks I should say.”

He produced his wonderful, deep laugh; the one that had so captivated not only Doris but also many audiences of both stage and film. 

“Keeping the Bolingbrokes on the boards,” with a lighter laugh, “well I guess you’ve made up you mind; had a lot of time to think about it on your travels I should think,” pausing, “but you never know, Christopher.

"Life is very strange in so many ways. 

"Don’t be afraid to go where it leads you. It knows what it’s doing . . . yes, life has its way.” 

As Christopher turned to look at his grandfather, the sun shone directly into his eyes, blinding him.

Suddenly, his grandfather’s words seemed disembodied . . . and with the slight sound of the river, and the modest rustling of the willows, Christopher felt as though he was listening to the voice of a god, an otherworldly incantation—a Delphic pronouncement . . . perhaps a warning.

The sun bored into his eyeballs; the river seemed suddenly alive; his grandfather appeared to levitate and his voice became more stentorious.

“Responsibility has a great price, Christopher; but also a great reward.

“It is something to be sought after, not avoided—as I have almost my entire life.

“But you have that entire life to still live. Don’t look upon it as an enemy  like I did.

“Don’t drink and smoke it away. Don’t party it away.

"Don’t spend your precious life sitting around on stages and sets waiting for a few moments of actual effort; most of which will never be what you wanted; nor what the writer intended; nor what the director hoped for; nor what the investors bargained for . . . never.”

Diggs turned slightly and abruptly, his head blocked the sun.

The river returned to nature, and his grandfathers’ voice returned to his body. 

His laugh was so close to Christopher’s face that he could smell the tobacco and the Scotch.

However, this time the smells were soothing.

Diggs turned toward the river.

Christopher thought he saw a glistening about his grandfather’s eyes as they quickly swung to view the eternal Thames at twilight; in Richmond; with the willows and the swans; and his grandson at his side.

 

Diggs died that night.

Doris found him in his favorite chair—yes—with a glass of Scotch still stuck to his hand and a beautiful smile on his lips, lips she softly kissed as she cried and swayed for hours.

 

*  *  *

 

In addition to the rain, there was the biting west wind that seemed to encircle the large band of mourners.

They edged along the slick uneven flagstones of the Norman Church where Doris had requested they hold the service.

Following the service, Diggs was to be borne to a cemetery next to the tree where he had enjoyed the finest time of his life, his childhood, in a house built by his Uncle James for him and his only other adventurous brother.

Guests and univiteds from every corner of show business arrived by car, taxi, and on foot.

Most had umbrellas and hats, but a few appeared to relish the foul weather as a part of the foul business of death and departure.

They gave no notice of their discomfort as the freezing rain wandered down their forlorn faces and dripped off their resolute chins.

 

The service was pure theatre; speeches both cribbed and extemporaneous; an elegy written specifically for Diggs by a young actor he had befriended only a year ago; Hamlet, of course, and the angels; several amusing stories, and some that were actually funny even if you hadn’t known Diggs.

Doris was stoic.

She smiled at all the right moments, and teared up at all the difficult ones.

Her decision to have a ceremony that was loosely based on a funeral rite—was right.

Everyone had the opportunity to express in joy or sadness, in laughter or with tears, all the essence of Diggs of which they had partaken over so many years. He was seventy-one.

Christopher found himself alternately smiling and crying, and wondered why.

Was it that talk by the river in the twilight?

Was he seeing and hearing about another man, other than the sponging loafer he had been told about all those years?

Alternatively, was it just the fact of death? Was it, maybe, the passing of the last of his grandfathers? On the other hand, was it .?

 

The internment was also conducted in the windy cold rain under frightening skies, skies that appeared to promise no sunshine for the rest of eternity.

Everyone again boarded taxis and cars, or took off on foot, to assemble in a large farmhouse near the cemetery that belonged to the father of a grip who had worked on sets with both Diggs and his son Clive.

A high ceiling hovered over two stories above the main room that contained chairs and couches as well as a long, large dinner table.

On one entire side of this welcoming room, stood a fireplace of enormous proportions harboring an equally enormous blaze that flickered and crackled behind an open-hearth.

Other rooms also held people while the kitchen, guest rooms and hallways teemed with warmth and life.

For hours, glasses were raised, toasts and stories were proposed and accepted until the not so early hours of the following drizzly day. 

No one wanted to leave, as though their departure would deprive them of an even better story about Diggs than the 'reigning champion' tale.

Diggs was very well sung to his rest.

 

The following day was Christopher’s last. 

Suzanne had called to tell him the ghastly news: his best friend had died in an auto crash. The funeral was in three days.

She refused to talk with anyone else andChristopher did not tell her  about Diggs.

 

While seated in the airport with his father and Miranda, trying to decide when would be the appropriate time to say the last goodbyes, and begin the security procedures, Doris suddenly loomed up in front of him.

Surprised, he craned to look up at her while he rose to offer her his seat.

She accepted and Miranda moved over a seat to allow Christopher to sit down.

Clive took the unannounced arrival of his mother as a cue to say his last goodbyes and Miranda then rose and began her goodbyes.

Following repeated rounds of  hugs, kisses, and pats on the back—with assurances of return visits—father and stepmother were gone. 

 

Christopher turned to his grandmother who was holding out a rather small box wrapped in brown paper with an envelope taped to one corner.

“Your grandfather asked me to make sure you received this Christopher. I cannot really remember if he said ‘after I die’ or just ‘whenever you’re alone with him and he has some time to think.’

“Well, I thought a long plane ride would be the time when you would have lots of time to think, and so." 

She tendered the package toward Christopher.

“He also told me Christopher, that I was to leave before you opened it. I have no idea why. I don’t even know what, my darling, is in it . . . or the envelope either.”

He took her hand with both of his and then pulled her to him and tried not to cry.

“Granny,” half sobbing, “I am going to miss you most of all; really.”

He held her for more than a few moments while she grasped him as well.

“I shall miss you so, my very dear young man . . . so very much.

“You know; Diggs . . . well, God knows he had his faults . . . and I indulged him in a good many of them,” sighing deeply, "however, Christopher . . . there was another part of Diggs, a part he never talked about, a modest part.

"I know that sounds contradictory about an actor . . . and particularly Diggs. But . . . there was that certain part . . . ," tailing off into memories for a moment,"well my dearest, have a very safe flight, and please let me know when you are home and safe. I do . . . I do . . . ,” slowly starting to cry, “I do love you so, Christopher.”

 She grasped him to her with a magnum force of sincerity and grief and love and loss, and then she let him go, turned, and strode away with the strength and stride of a young woman.

 

The note read:

My dearest Christopher. I have watched you and enjoyed you over these last days more than you can imagine.

I don’t really know why I’m giving you this, except that it may offset some of the bad publicity (all very deserved) that I received from your relatives and friends of your family in Canada, when I was much younger and considerably more foolish.

I guess it’s because that, when you do think of me, I’d like you to think of me as I once was, at least one time in my life, when I wasn’t a self-promoting old show-business windbag.

With all my deepest love,

Diggs.

P.S. I meant every word I said by the river at sunset.

Edward Digby Cyril Bolingbroke.

 

The wrapping around the object was a purple tissue paper that felt and smelled of age; of purpose; of meaning.

 Within the tissue was a two by four inch oblong box with a raised cover  that smelled like the tissue paper but radiated far more gravitas. 

The bottom of the box was a Royal purple, the top a military brown, with a fine gold line a quarter inch inside the boundaries of the box.

A crown of gold sat directly in its center.

A hinge crossed the square back of the object, while a tiny metal pushpin protruded from the bottom part of the rounded front. Christopherpressed the pin and raised the lid.

There, resting on beige crushed velour, was a short piece of beige material with a wide purple perpendicular stripe.

Attached to the material by a hollow thin metal holder, lay a silver cross. 

A medal. 

The Military Cross.

But for the Victoria  and George Crosses, the highest Medal for Valor that can be awarded to any soldier in the services of the British Armed Forces.

On the back, along one arm of the cross were engraved the words “Nieuport” and the date “10-7-17”.

Across the other arm were the words: “EdwardBolingbroke, R.F.A.”

 

When Christopher lifted the Medal to examine it more closely, a tightly folded piece of paper fluttered to the floor.

It read:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as artillery Liaison Officer.

At a time when all communication with his artillery group was severed, he made repeated attempts to restore the connection, and personally crossed a river under heavy fire in his efforts to mend the cable and lay fresh ones.

He showed the greatest gallantry and disregard of danger throughout the operation, and only desisted from his efforts on receiving the direct order from his Headquarters to do so.”

 

***

When Christopher’s plane landed at Malton Airport, he had only the five-pound note that Miranda had subtlety stuffed in his blue blazer pocket as she was hugging him tightly—and sincerely—before the final step-motherly kiss.

After changing the note to Canadian currency, there was enough for taxi fare and a very generous tip.

***

All the windows had been opened by some members of the prodigious gathering to trap any errant breezes off the lake.

And indeed, the occasional zephyr of cool air did waft within the walls of the Bolingbroke apartment, while the screens held out the mosquitoes and the black flies—those two dear wee pests of summer in Ontario.

However, flies or not—or even, for that matter, breezes or not—the very thoughtfully prepared ‘homecoming party’ forChristopher was now surging toward a crescendo of tears and spirits; of kisses and handshakes; of stories and lies; of laughter and love.

During that rapturous evening and well into the next morning, surrounded by his family and friends, Christopher EdwardBolingbroke embarked on yet another ‘journey of joy’, a party that set the standard for celebratory congregations for generations.

 

The next day, Chris enrolled in Medical School at the Universityof Toronto.


© Copyright 2017 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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