Part 2. The Expected Unexpected Tragedy
Meg Tressidor was absentmindedly bustling about her little kitchen when a familiar voice called out to her from the back doorway. Elspeth was up and wagging her tail before she could even reach the door.
"Meg, love," said Phyllis cheerfully. "We're back for a little visit."
"Edith! Phyllis!" she cried. "How lovely to see you! This is very unexpected."
Standing before her, gloves in hand were her two sister-in-laws Edith and Phyllis Tressidor. Edith and Phyllis were a most unlikely pair of travelers. For almost fifty years now, they had been traveling the world visiting places far and near in their enormous hot air balloon. Because of their great mobility, it was they who kept the family connected with one another. For even with the advent of such modern conveniences as telephones, there were times when only a personal visit would do.
Both well up in their sixties, their golden Tressidor hair had turned to a lovely grey on Edith and snow white on Phyllis. They were similar in height and build and each had sky blue eyes. But there could not be two more different women. Edith always stood ramrod straight with neat, tailored clothing that told all whom she met that she meant business. Phyllis was more feminine, favoring lacy blouses and pretty hats. Their personalities, despite being different were highly complementary. That was the most likely explanation for their ability to get on so well after so many years in each other's company.
"Well, yes, we know," replied Edith. "But after our reconnaissance mission, so to speak, in California, we decided that we must bring you our findings in person. We've had a certain niece of ours under surveillance, you might say."
"Now is that my big sister that I hear talking like she's James Bond or something?" asked Owen from behind her. "I never figured you much for the Sean Connery type, you know."
"Better Connery than that new fellow that played him in the last film," said Phyllis. "I must say that he was nowhere near as fine a man."
"Well then," said Meg. "You'll be happy to know that Mr. Connery is going to be back in the next one. What is it? Diamonds Are Forever?"
"I didn't know that you had a fondness for the cinema idols, love," commented Phyllis suggestively.
"I don't," said Meg, turning a little pink. "But our Christabel does. And when she's not going on about Libby and Davey, that's what she goes on about."
"Figures," grumbled Edith. "It would have done that girl a world of good to go to university if you ask me. It was not becoming for a young girl to fawn all over a lad the way that she did over Freddy Chenoweth. Waited long enough for him too."
"Tsk, tsk," said Phyllis playfully. "Just because you've never had a crush, you feel the need to criticize. Christy and Freddy are quite happy you know, well suited and all that. How is he doing with the veterinary these days?"
"Very well, very well," said Owen. "David helps him manage his money so they're not starving or nothing. Now that Christy has the babies, his sister Morag is doing the books. It's a good job for her, poor girl."
"Yes, we all know that she has many fine qualities," agreed Phyllis. "But without as fine a dowry, no boy will look at her twice. No looks, no money. What shall that poor girl do?"
"Maybe she needs a balloon," suggested Owen playfully. "Although I haven't seen that it's done too much good in helping you to find yourself a man. And you had a fine face and dowry to go with it. Still do as a matter of fact.
"Oh, Owen," she replied fondly. "Will little brothers never give up teasing big sisters?"
"Not so long as they keep giving us the fodder to do so," he answered as he gave each of his sisters a kiss on the cheek. "So what's the news, love? You're both looking lovely as ever."
"And you always did know how to flatter a girl," replied Phyllis. "I had quite forgotten what an old rogue you could be."
Meg shook her head.
"Well, why don't the three of you sit down for a cup of tea?" she suggested. "Now I knew there was a reason why I baked the raspberry scones this morning. Trelawney Rose will be a bit miffed that they're not her favorite blueberry. But I believe that she'll quite get over it when she sees the pair of you. And I would very much like to know what this business about a reconnaissance mission is."
Owen and his sisters exchanged a quick glance. Whatever it was, he hadn't told her about it.
"And raspberry are my favorite," added Phyllis happily, to try and change the subject. "But I suppose that we'll be her favorite aunties for the next few days."
"Of course you will," agreed Meg. "And then Alma and Annabel will tease her a bit for always saying that they are her favorite aunties and quick as a wink, she'll have an excuse for why all of you are her favorites. Now what is all of this spying about? What mission has my Owen sent you off on that's such a secret?"
"The little one never changes, does she, Meg?" asked Edith. "What are we to do with her? But as for the mission, we weren't exactly spying. We just dropped in on your Selena to see what was up with her."
"We'll love young Trelawney Rose as she is," replied Meg. "You never met a kinder soul or more giving heart. Oh, she's always up for a bit of mischief, but a gentler creature you've never met. So then how's my Selena? I can think of no reason why she would need checking on."
Phyllis and Edith exchanged glances and Meg's heart sank a bit. Owen looked a little stern, but Phyllis tried to smooth things over.
"Why don't we all sit down for a spot of tea and those lovely scones before we talk?"
After they were settled and had a few bites, Owen opened the conversation.
"So what is going on with our Selena and why is she still in California?" he asked in his usual blunt manner. As a man of few words, when he used them, he never wasted them.
"I'll tell it," said Edith before Phyllis could open her mouth.
"Well, let's see," she said. "The family is what she expected, four children and a widower, but she's run into two problems."
"Oh? And what might those be?" asked Owen.
"The first is that the widower is showing no sign of getting himself married," she said.
"Which is most perplexing," interrupted Phyllis. "After all, he is such a handsome man!"
"Is he then?"
"Yes, well, that's immaterial," said Edith quickly, now growing very vexed with her sister. "There is also a teenage daughter who is one of the most rude and hostile young people that I have ever met."
"Haven't been around here much, then have you?" replied Owen. "Everyday you read more and more in the paper about the decline of the morals of our youth."
"Well, that's a complaint as old as Socrates himself," commented Aunt Edith. "At any rate, the girl is doing everything possible to make her family miserable. Selena said that she could let the other one go, the marriage bit that is, but she can't leave the family at the mercy of that girl."
Owen began to look stormy. Meg began to feel fearful. She knew that her husband wanted Selena home and married. She would be twenty-seven in April and every year that passed meant fewer babies for her and Kenneth. But he couldn't force her to leave her present employ and deep down he knew that it wasn't her choice anyway. When one was doing the Lord's work, it was the Almighty that controlled the time table, not the human.
"Well isn't this a lovely kettle of fish," he said. "At least tell me that she's wanting to be on her way."
"Not exactly," said Phyllis. "What was it she said, Edith? That she was content?"
The three women cringed and Elspeth cowered as Owen roared. Because he only very rarely lost his temper, when he did, it was quite fearful. And he had never lost his temper with one of the girls before. Without another word, he left to go back out to his workshop.
Later than evening, Meg was sitting with her sister Annabel in her kitchen. They had all gone over to David's for dinner so that Edith and Phyllis could catch up with the family. Christabel, Freddy, and the children were there as well, and David's youngest son Lewis, who had shown up out of the blue only hours before. Presently, Owen, David, and Lewis were holed up in David's office for a meeting, while Phyllis and Edith were showing Trelawney Rose and Christbel's family the balloon. That gave the two sisters some privacy.
"Is he really that angry with Selena, Meg?" asked Annabel.
"I've never seen him so mad," she replied. "I think that he was willing to accept it all up to the point where Phyllis said that she was content."
"Well, leave it to Phyllis to start something up," she chuckled, shaking her head. "And the way she went on and on at dinner about how handsome this Dr. Harrington is. Looks like she's having her bit of fun stirring the pot as usual. I don't know who was more vexed, Edith or Owen."
"Well, he's not the first handsome man that Selena has ever met," said Meg. "It if he were interested in her, he certainly wouldn't be the first either. She's a lovely girl. You know, all our girls are. But she's never been one to have her head turned by a pretty face."
"No, she hasn't," answered Annabel. "There were not even any schoolgirl crushes for her. She knows her duty. If you ask me, the problem is Kenneth."
Now Meg felt really worried.
"He's even starting to make me nervous," she admitted. "The last time he was here, young Trelawney Rose was happily playing with him one minute and then was hating him the next. And then, he left quick enough. And now it's been almost three years and we haven't seen nor heard hide nor hair of him."
"Well sometimes our young folks do like to fall off the radar, so speak, for a while," she said trying to comfort her. "Look at our Jimmie, he disappeared for two whole years without a peep and then out of nowhere pops up in Greenland of all places."
"Well, Jimmie is a youngest son," answered Meg. "And he was born to roam if anyone ever was. But Kenneth has responsibilities. And the Killigrews don't know anything his whereabouts either. Old Padraic is just as worried about his son as we are. He's almost seventy now and Kenneth still doesn't know anything about running the hotel."
"And it was for Padraic Killigrew to put the break on his son's behavior years ago," said Annabel firmly. "Of course the same might be said of Owen and Selena, but then nobody's ever heard that Kenneth is doing the Lord's work. Does Selena ever hear from him?"
"Edith says, no," she replied. "No letters and no sign of him showing up to claim her. Phyllis suggested that she could come home to wait for him. But Selena pointed out, quite rightly, that since Kenneth is one of us then he would know where to find her when he wants her. If he wants her that is."
"Well, this is quite a pickle," said Annabel. "I wonder what the men are about? They've been locked up there for quite a while."
"I wish that I knew," sighed Meg. "But Owen is guarding his thoughts carefully. But if Lew's in there then it's probably something legal."
The two women were silent for a moment.
"Anna, love," said Meg quietly. "I want you to make me a solemn promise. No matter what, if anything happens to Owen and me, you will keep my girls together. No matter what, Trelawney Rose must be with Selena."
"Oh, Meg," she said. "How many times must we go over this? Nothing is going to happen, but I swear to you that I will always keep the girls together."
Meg looked at her sister with a very deep love. Much as one might love a husband, a sister was entirely different. She and Annabel had grown up together and knew everything about one another. As deeply as she loved her Owen, she couldn't say the same about him.
And later, he refused to tell her what he had discussed with David and Lewis. He would only say that he had some loose ends to tie up with a business deal and there was no solicitor anywhere as good as his young nephew. She had to be satisfied with that. He would say no more.
After a few days, Edith and Phyllis lifted off from the village green where they had been parked. The wind was right and they were headed south to the Canary Islands. Before they left they had one last word with Owen. They promised that if they ran into Kenneth, they would send him to Selena straight off.
But Edith privately told her that it was most unlikely that they would meet him. The world was a much larger place than any of them back in the village realized. No one ever met anyone that they knew from home out there by accident. It was just too improbable.
"Yes, Mummy!" cried a sweet little voice.
Meg Tressidor looked up to see a cheerful little face peeking over the banister at her from the top of the stairs. A pair of bright, golden braids swung over her shoulders and her sky blue eyes looked mischievously back at her.
"Trelawney Rose!" she repeated. "It's almost time for us to walk you up to your Auntie Alma's house. Are you ready?"
"Yes, Mummy," replied the little girl, dutifully. "My bag is packed and Tressa is ready as well."
"Then come down, little one," answered Meg. "Papa would like to get an early start."
"Yes, Mummy," she replied.
Meg waited at the bottom of the stairs as she heard the little feet scampering back to her room, and in a flash, her younger daughter was at her side, bag in one hand and doll in the other. Meg took the bag from her so that she could hold her hand. Trelawney Rose was her butterfly child, flitting from place to place as her fancy took her. But when Owen wanted to leave, there would be no time for her little distractions.
As they went out the door, Owen was coming in from his workshop near the back of the garden.
"It's all set, Meggie," he said. "It will be fine until we return on Sunday. Now Trelawney Rose, you be a good girl for your Auntie Alma. There'll be none of your tricks this time."
The little girl smiled charmingly.
"I never mean to play any tricks, Papa," she said earnestly. "It's just that sometimes I have the most lovely ideas and they don't always work out as I plan."
"Well, your cousin Emmeline is there visiting, so I know that she will keep you on the straight and narrow," he replied. "Em knows what you're about, little one."
"Yes, Papa," nodded the girl, sagely. "Cousin Em knows about lots of things."
"Yes, and you'll also have Elspeth to watch over you," added Meg. "You know our Elspeth. Quite a little tattletale, she is. You'll do nothing that she won't tell me."
"Yes, Mummy," she replied obediently.
But Meg could see that she was anxious to go. Little Trelawney Rose never liked being between here and there. She only wanted to be here or there.
"Now give your Papa a kiss and a hug and you'll be on your way," said Owen fondly.
Trelawney Rose threw arms around his neck and gave him a big kiss. Then she grasped Meg's hand and they walked down the lane to her Auntie Alma's house with the dog following closely behind them. Alma of course was waiting at the gate. Whenever Owen and Meg were away, the child refused to stay with anyone but old Auntie Alma. It was one of her fancies that no one could shake her from. One of her maiden aunts, Alma had never had any children herself. She doted on her goddaughter Emmeline, who was twenty-four and of course the younger girl, who was ten.
Meg saw Trelawney Rose looking around for Emmeline, but she wasn't anywhere in sight. Auntie Alma noticed too.
"Aye," she greeted her. "So you're more interested in seeing your cousin Em than you are your old Auntie Alma, then? I suppose that I'm second best when your cousin's about."
"Oh, no, Auntie Alma," cried the girl. "You're never second best. But I haven't seen Em in the longest time. One never knows when she'll pop in for a visit. I see you every day, then, don't I?"
"Of course, little one, of course," she said indulgently. "Can't you take a little teasing from your old auntie?"
Meg smiled as the little girl skipped through the gate with the little Corgi Elspeth at her heels. The dog was really hers, but when she and Owen went away, she was tasked with looking after the child. Little Trelawney Rose never looked for trouble, but rather it looked for her. Aunt Alma was getting on in years, but with Elspeth and Emmeline to help, no doubt her daughter would stay out of trouble.
She gave her aunt a big hug and turned back to Meg. But as she turned, the smile faded from her face and her eyes grew large. She was staring at her Mummy with her formerly bright blue eyes, which were now clouded grey as if by a summer storm. The January afternoon was mild in the weak sunlight, but beneath her coat Meg felt a chill. Trelawney Rose was looking at something that clearly disturbed her. Meg turned to look behind herself, but saw nothing. When she faced the child again, she realized that she was intently gazing at her.
Trelawney Rose was a little fey. Everyone in the family and the village knew it. However recently, she had begun to show an unusual prescience about those around her. Within their race, they all were able to look below the surface of human feelings and emotions, but Trelawney Rose's powers of perception went beyond the norm. In the past few months, Meg had started to see it more often. Now the child assumed a very straight posture, with her hands neatly folded in front of her.
"I love you, Mummy," she said seriously. "I love you more than anyone in the whole world, although only a wee bit more than Papa and Selena."
"I love you too, Trelawney Rose," she answered carefully. "What is it you see, love?"
"I see a beautiful white light, Mummy," replied the girl quietly. "It's ever so very lovely, Mummy dear."
Meg looked at her intently. But before her very eyes, the child was transformed. The little girl smiled and spoke cheerfully, much more like herself.
"Goodbye, Mummy," she said. "You and Papa have a lovely holiday. I will be waiting right here for you."
"Yes, dear, we will," she replied.
The little girl went skipping off the house, no doubt in search of one of the treats that Auntie Alma always had on hand for her. Aunt Alma looked at her nervously.
"Do be careful, Meg," she said. "You know what a white light can mean."
"But who knows exactly what the light was or where?" replied Meg, feeling anxious herself, but now wanting to alarm her aunt. "There's no telling if it was the aura. And you know there's no asking her. She'll never give us a straight answer."
"That's why I'm saying to be careful. Must you go?" she asked.
"Aye," she replied. "Owen is insisting. I really don't want to go myself so much, but you know how he loves these little trade shows. And it's always lovely to drive across the duchy to the channel at Looe on the other side."
Auntie Alma nodded, but her face did not lose its mask of concern. Meg chose to ignore it. Owen was set on the weekend, so there was no discussing the matter. Besides, it had been months since they had had any time to themselves. Owen had been busy in the shop and Trelawney Rose had taken to wandering off on her own. She would disappear by herself when something upset her and no one could find her. If Emmeline were not also going to be at Aunt Alma's for the weekend there was no way that she would have left her behind. In the end, she was glad that she did.
It was indeed a lovely weekend. Owen enjoyed the trade show and found some new tools that he ordered. There had also been a craft fair in town, so Meg was able to get some ideas for some gifts that she could make at Easter time. And the beach was lovely in wintertime with the waves crashing more powerfully than usual against the rocks.
But she was anxious to get back to her little girl. It was foolishness of course, but she couldn't help but be concerned by the white light. The child never lied, even when she was imagining things. If she said that she saw it, then she saw it.
They were driving back later on Sunday night than they expected. Of course it was the darkest time of the year and the night fell early. They were driving around the bend on a hillside when there was a blinding light coming at them. Meg's last conscious thought was of her little Trelawney Rose, waiting patiently at home, who would never see her Mummy and Papa again.
It was very quiet in the house when the phone rang. Emmeline had put Trelawney Rose to bed only an hour ago. In a couple of hours, she herself would join her. Auntie Alma was knitting by the cozy fire. Emmeline chafed under the oppression of the homely domesticity. She would be quite happy when Auntie Meg returned and she could safely return her charge. Trelawney Rose had been subdued for most of the weekend. There was no reason why Auntie Alma could not have managed the girl on her own.
The phone rang beside her auntie, who immediately answered it. Emmeline knew that the news was very bad indeed. Quite naturally, Auntie Alma's response was to weep loudly. Em wanted to weep as well, but knew that her first duty was to the child. When she entered the bedroom, the little girl was sitting straight up in the big bed clutching her doll.
"Tell me," she quietly.
Emmeline turned on the light. Trelawney Rose's face was streaked with tears. There was no need to tell her anything. Just like herself, she knew what the call was about the instant the phone rang.
"Tell me," the girl repeated.
Emmeline sat beside her and grasped her shoulders so that she could look into her eyes.
"Say the words, Em," said Trelawney Rose bravely. "I will not know that it is true unless you say the words out loud."
Emmeline was a very worldly person, tough as nails some said. But in this case, even one such as she really didn't want to speak the tragic news. However Trelawney Rose knew and her mind was refusing to accept it. She had no choice.
"Your Mummy and Papa will not be returning home to you, little one," she said quietly.
"Not ever," replied Trelawney Rose. It was a statement, not a question.
"Not ever, love," affirmed Emmeline. "They have gone to the angels in heaven."
"You must take me to Selena," said the girl seriously. "I knew when Selena left that she would not be returning home. I will not see her here again for a very long time. I know that you will go to her. I must come with you."
"No, not yet," she replied. "There are arrangements to be made."
"I want Selena," answered Trelawney Rose with a sigh. "I want my Selena now. The only arrangements that I need are to go to my Selena. I will wait here with Auntie Alma until it is time to go."
Emmeline looked at her. As always, her response was unpredictable. But Emmeline had other concerns. She must tell her father, who was now paterfamilias. No decisions regarding Trelawney Rose could be made by anyone other than him. The rest of the family must, of course, be told, but that was her father's job. The bigger problem would be prying the girl loose from Aunt Alma. If she was talking this way, it meant that she would not go willingly.
For the first time, Emmeline noticed that Elspeth was looking at her. She lifted her nose up in the air and howled. It would have been comical, a funny little Corgi pup howling into the air like a wolf or something, if it were not so pathetic.
"Yes, Emmeline, even Elspeth knows," said Trelawney. "I want my Selena."
Emmeline looked at the dog and then looked at the girl. Although outwardly calm, she was gripping the doll very tightly. And tears were still streaming down her face.
"Elspeth," she said sharply. "Stay with Trelawney Rose! Do not leave her side unless I tell you to. It is what Auntie Meg would want."
The dog looked back at her sorrowfully, but agreed. She leapt on the bed and set herself on guard beside Trelawney Rose. Before Emmeline left the room, Trelawney Rose spoke again.
"You do not need to worry that I shall leave before you return. I want my Selena. It is your duty to bring me to her. You promised."
Emmeline would not get to bed that night. She went to her father's house to tell him the news. He took it stoically, but Mum began to keen as Auntie Alma had. Just as Dad was Uncle Owen's brother, Mum was Auntie Meg's sister. It explained the close resemblance between their children. And as sisters, there were no two who could be closer. This was a huge loss for Mum. But now that Dad knew, at least Emmeline would be saved the pain of telling anyone else.
"Go back to your Aunt Alma's and get the child," he ordered. "And there'll be none of her nonsense. It's our duty to care for her until Selena comes home for her."
"How will you tell Selena, Dad?" asked Emmeline, a bit fearfully.
"We'll send her a telegram of course, as soon as the office opens in the morning," he replied. "She'll need to be on the next flight back if she's to be here for the funeral."
"But Dad, how can you do that?" asked Emmeline. "She'll be all alone and the flight from California is halfway around the world."
"Don't give me any of your cheek, girl," he said sternly. "She's been much too long with that family. Even Phyllis and Edith couldn't shake her loose a couple of months ago, and you know how stern your Aunt Edith is. Said she was content. Never heard anything so ridiculous. The only place she has any right to be content is here in the village married to Kenneth. If that young fool had done his duty, the child would be with her Selena at this very moment. She's asking for her as we speak."
Emmeline did not doubt it. She could feel the child's longing as well. There would be no peace for any of them until Trelawney Rose was back in the care of her sister. But she just couldn't stand the thought of Selena alone, among strangers, opening the telegram and discovering that her beloved Mum and Papa were gone. There had only been a letter from her a week ago. She missed them all very much but her work was still not done.
Well, it's done now, she thought grimly. I'll tell Dad that I'll go and get her myself. She needs to be told by a family member in person. She's my dearest friend in the whole world. I cannot let her go through this alone.
Grief Beyond Words
Annabel Tressidor had only heard of grief beyond words. She never thought that she would live it. But here she was, grieving for her sister and her brother-in-law, who only days before had sat at her dining room table eating dinner as if they had not a care in the world. And then there was the child. Trelawney Rose had always been a little fey, but now she would swear that she was stark mad. She seemed not to have realized that her parents were dead and gone. In fact she didn't even mention them. She only asked for "her Selena."
Since Emmeline had told her, that was all that she would say. When she refused to leave Aunt Alma's house on her own, David had gone over and picked her up and carried her home. She had woken up half the village with her crying. When he returned home, he gently placed in the child in her arms. The girl alternately clung to her and tried to break away. She wanted Selena and no one else would do.
Annabel held her, the tears streaming down her own face, until at last the child fell into a restless sleep from sheer exhaustion. She knew that if she could have, she would have willed herself to death. It was obvious that she had no comprehension of what was going on around her.
Thankfully her daughter Sylvia appeared at the door around dawn. Her middle girl was one of the most selfless human beings on the planet. Her Sylvia was her strength. Emmeline took the child to bed for she was exhausted as well. Then Sylvia lay down on the other side of her. Between the two of them, the child would have no opportunity to run away.
By midnight, everyone in the village had known. There was sorrow in all quarters, but most of all in the home of her father, James Trelawney. Father had always complained that he lived too long. When Mum had passed, he had nearly died of grief himself. But he still had his Meg, the picture of his dear wife Rose. And then little Trelawney Rose was born. And she was the picture of them both.
But now the entire family was in an uproar. While she would normally not be so sentimental as to indulge her youngest daughter's desire to tell Selena in person, she had to agree in this case. She couldn't imagine how she would have taken the news in those circumstances.
At first the little one could not understand why they didn't just send for her sister.
"I want my Selena now," she said patiently. "If I may not go to her then she should come to me."
"Dad would send a telegram to tell her," explained Emmeline.
"So what?" she asked.
But then she asked, "What's a telegram?"
Emmeline patiently explained that it was a piece of paper that people sent to others when they had bad news to tell them. Selena would read it and be all alone. The girl was thoughtful, but said nothing else.
Annabel understood. It had been difficult to bear as she had been gently told by young Emmeline and was then surrounded by family for comfort. So she sided with Em. It would be too cruel to send a telegram. Fortunately, her David had his hands full with other matters and allowed himself to be guided by her in this.
The wreck had been cataclysmic. Meg was in no condition to be shown. The local man could do nothing for it. After many a row, it was decided that one could not be viewed without the other. David wanted things done quickly, so that the worst of it would not be prolonged for the child. However, Father wanted them waked for several days. In the end the compromise was two days. But David had been right. The wake was far too painful for them all, not just the child, especially with the closed caskets.
And then there was Trelawney Rose. Once she heard that Emmeline was going to America to see Selena to tell her in person, she wanted to go with her. David didn't know what to do, but Father was dead set against it. He didn't want the child out of the village. But Trelawney Rose had other ideas.
She refused to eat. She refused to sleep. And she wept when anyone came near her. When begging to go to Selena didn't work, she announced that she would go to her Mummy and Papa. It was the first time that she had mentioned them. It was all too obvious that she had not forgotten or misunderstood that they were gone forever. Annabel wondered if it would have been better if she did.
"Do you know where your Mummy and Papa are?" Annabel had asked her.
"They are in heaven with the angels," she replied.
"Do you believe that you can go to heaven, just like that?"
"Yes," she said. "You can keep me away from my Selena, but you cannot keep me away from my Mummy and Papa. They are presently in heaven, but they are not full of joy. They are sorrowing for their little one."
Annabel was disturbed by the way that she spoke the words so matter-of-factly, as if she really did know how it was with them. But she recalled her last promise to her sister. She had vowed to make sure that should anything happen to her and Owen, Trelawney Rose should go to Selena. In fact, her own promise had been very specific. She had sworn to keep the two girls together, no matter what. She decided to take the child's side. Her father was furious.
"What kind of a daughter have I raised that would disobey her father so disrespectfully?" He asked in his loudest voice. "The child is fey and anyone with two eyes an see it."
"But Father," replied Annabel. "I promised Meg that I would do everything that I could to keep the two girls together."
"Then we'll send the bloody telegram to Selena and she'll be on her way back on the next flight!" he answered. "What does that girl think that she's about staying with that family for so long? The promise to her mother comes first!"
"Father, how can you be so cruel?" cried Annabel, now becoming upset herself. "The poor girl's an orphan now and you want to send a telegram?"
But Father just continued to rage on about his disloyal daughter and his irresponsible granddaughter. Then he turned his anger on Trelawney Rose.
"Bring me the child!" he ordered Annabel.
"For you to scare her half to death?" she asked. "I should think not."
"You'll do as you're told or you'll feel the back of my hand," he threatened.
But from behind her, Annabel heard a soft, sad little voice.
"I'm here, Grandfather," she said walking slowly forward. "It's alright Auntie. I will not let you feel his anger on my behalf. He can beat me if he likes."
Annabel choked back a sob. Once again, she had the feeling that if it were possible, death would be an acceptable alternative to the present state of affairs in the mind of the child. The girl stood before her grandfather very calmly, with her hands neatly folded in front of her. He looked at her angrily.
"You'll stay home where you belong, Trelawney Rose," he ordered. "There'll be no roaming for you with your Cousin Emmeline. Those such as you are never to leave the village. If your Selena cared a wit for you, she would have been home a long time ago. I've never heard of such nonsense. Staying with a family for over a year. What's in that girl's head?"
"I don't know, Grandfather," answered the child. "Truly, I don't. But I know what is in mine and I want to go to my Selena. If I may not go to my Selena, then I will go to my Mummy and Papa."
"You'll do no such thing," he replied, frustrated by the child's refusal to be intimidated. "You'll eat and you'll sleep as you're told, and there'll be no more of your cheek."
"No, Grandfather," she replied, and quietly walked out. Before she left the room, she turned around and looked at him very sadly.
"You cannot tell me what to do anyway. Only my Uncle David can do that."
Annabel watched as her father seethed in rage. But there was nothing that he could do. One could hardly force feed a ten-year-old. She knew that his anger was rooted in sorrow. Twice death had robbed him and he had been helpless. Trelawney Rose made him feel the same way, but she was alive and well. She was consciously making a decision to harm herself. Yes, thought Annabel, the child is more than a little fey. The grief has turned her mind completely. And who knew what would happen if they didn't watch her carefully?
When the wake was finally over, Owen and Margaret Tressidor were laid to rest in the small graveyard outside the village walls. It was pouring rain on that sad Wednesday morning. The mud was thick and there was a chill in the air. Little Trelawney Rose claimed that all the angels in heaven were weeping because her Mummy and Papa had left her alone. All she wanted now was her Selena.
Emmeline stood beside the grave holding the girl's hand. She would hold no one else's. Earlier in the morning Trelawney Rose had wondered what it would have felt like to be Ophelia's brother, Laertes, who had jumped into the grave with her in Shakespeare's play "Hamlet."
Looking at the girl, Emmeline was reminded of Ophelia, who had peacefully floated away down the river to her eternal rest. She grasped her hand firmly. The family members that were surrounding them were all weeping loudly. But the child stood silent, the tears slipping down her cheeks. She simply looked resigned.
"Owen William Tressidor," intoned the pastor, who was a kind man but not a very good speaker. "Was as fine a man as ever lived here in the village. He was the pater of a great family and looked lovingly over his brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. There never lived a more loving husband. He truly viewed his beloved wife Margaret as 'flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.' There is no doubt in my mind that he would have wanted to draw a breath without his dear Meggie by his side. He has left behind two beautiful daughters. It is for us to help and comfort them in this most grievous loss."
"And here we have Margaret Mary Tressidor, a quiet woman who devoted her life to God and family," he continued after leaving a moment for reflection on his words for Owen. "You could never meet a gentler soul. There was no one who ever came to her for help who left without it. She leaves behind the same two lovely daughters, orphaned by this great calamity. From these two children, this kindest of ladies has been stolen. It now falls to us to be sure that her final wish is fulfilled, that young Trelawney Rose be placed in the loving care of her sister Selena."
After the pastor had said his few words, Emmeline whispered to Trelawney Rose that it was time to toss in the little bit of earth. Obediently, the girl picked up a small clod of mud and tossed it in. At that moment, the sun broke through and a rainbow appeared. Everyone looked up and gasped.
"Surely these are the souls of Meg and Owen ascending to their final reward," cried Auntie Alma.
Aunt Alma had told everyone in the village that Trelawney Rose had seen the white light behind her mother or perhaps in her aura as they were saying goodbye. At the time she had begged Meg to listen. But she wouldn't stand up to her Owen. Now they had gone to the white light. Everyone was startled by the appearance of the rainbow as Trelawney Rose was doing her last little duty as a daughter except Trelawney Rose herself.
Emmeline looked down at Trelawney Rose to see her reaction and squeezed her hand. The girl looked back at her solemnly and said, "God keeps His promises, so will you."
There was no way of knowing what she meant by that. It was obviously a Biblical reference to Noah and the rainbow at the end of the great flood. But who could even know what the promise was that she was thinking of? Emmeline's plane ticket had been bought and she was due to leave Heathrow that evening. No final decision had been regarding Trelawney Rose yet, but she had secretly bought a second ticket. If they wouldn't let her use it, Em knew that she could always trade it in for another to go somewhere else. She was constantly on the move.
At last they walked back to the village and went to Dad's house for the reading of the will. The men were going to have a conference with regard to the child, although the girl herself would not be present. Sylvia was delegated to sit with the child in the little bedroom that the girls had shared when they were growing up. Most of the women in the family would be present, but would not speak. Never one to like conflict, Sylvia preferred to guard the little girl.
After Emmeline had told Mum and Dad about the Ophelia comment, they had both looked very worried. Even Dad now realized if they tried to keep her apart from Selena any longer they might not be able to keep her safe. Only last night, Em and Syl had woken up to find out that the child had slipped out of bed and disappeared from the house while they were sleeping.
Terrified, they had run out into the village to look for her. Luckily, Sylvia thought to go to the little cottage where she had been born and lived her whole life. And there she was, Elspeth at her side, sitting on the front steps in the moonlight. She was dressed in her thin white nightgown and should have been shivering. But the cold didn't seem to bother her at all.
"Trelawney Rose," called Sylvia softly. "You'll catch your death of cold sitting out here. It's well past midnight."
"I'm sorry, Sylvia," she replied quietly. "I didn't mean to disturb you. But I wanted to come and say goodbye."
"You don't need to say goodbye, love," replied Sylvia. "If Dad lets you go for Selena the two of you will be back soon enough. Then you'll both live here like Uncle Owen and Auntie Meg wanted."
But Trelawney Rose shook her head sadly.
"Selena and I will never live in this house again," she answered.
"Of course you will, little one," she said. "Even if Kenneth doesn't want to live here, you and Selena will until he returns at least."
Trelawney Rose stood up and walked a bit away from the house, Elspeth at her heels. She looked up at it and smiled.
"It's a lovely house," she said. "Isn't it? But the likes of Kenneth Killigrew will never live here. He is quite unworthy."
"What do you mean?" asked Emmeline carefully.
"Kenneth and Selena will never live in this house," she said. "She does not love him. And he does not love her."
"How do you know that?"
The girl looked thoughtful, as if she was struggling to put her ideas into words. But it was impossible to know what she was thinking. Someone, probably Auntie Meg, had taught her how to conceal her thoughts very well.
"I just know," she said with a shrug. "And if he did, he would have gone to her in California to comfort her and bring her home. But he did not. He is not worthy of my Selena."
Emmeline and Sylvia had looked at each other. Coming from anyone else, this would have sounded crazy. But after the last couple of days there was nothing that the child could say that would surprise them. At any rate, they decided not to tell Mum and Dad. Instead, Sylvia took her hand and she willingly allowed herself to be led home. Elspeth never left her side.
The dog had refused to leave her side throughout the whole ordeal. They wouldn't let her in the funeral home, but she sat by the door waiting. Then she waited outside the church until she could resume her guard duties as they walked to the graveyard. Luckily, after the one incident at Auntie Alma's she did not howl again. No doubt it would have upset Mum most terribly.
Now the family all crowded into Dad's living room for the "conference." However, the only two who really had anything to say were Dad and Grandfather. All the Tressidors were prepared to accept Dad's decision. All the Trelawneys were prepared to stand behind Grandfather, whether they agreed or not. Emmeline knew that her father was not looking forward to it. Mum had convinced him that Trelawney Rose should go to America with her.
As everyone expected, Grandfather roared with displeasure at Dad's pronouncement. But in the end there was nothing that he could do. Trelawney Rose might be half Trelawney, but her father was a Tressidor. Therefore, by their customary laws and rights, she was now in Dad's care.
The will was read and it was clearly stated that she was to be raised by her sister Selena. In fact both girls were now under his guardianship until Selena married, at which time she would be joined to her new clan. But Trelawney Rose, regardless of the physical custody, would always be Dad's legal ward until she married.
However there was a codicil that had been added only months before. If it should ever turn out that Selena was not able to raise the child properly, she was to be placed in the physical custody of David and Annabel Tressidor. It was most confusing to everyone. What could Owen Tressidor have meant by "raise properly"? And why add the codicil anyway? Everyone knew that Selena would never shirk her duty to the child.
Dad was silent, his face like stone. Emmeline suspected that he knew exactly what it was about, but would never breach his brother's confidence. And Lewis, who had obviously written the codicil, also refused to utter a word. At the time Emmeline thought that he was just being a prig, but later she discovered that he had also been sworn to silence.
Money was no problem. There was a marriage portion for each and money had been set aside to raise Trelawney. The deed to the house was to be put in Selena's name. They could live in the house with Kenneth or he could sell it. Once they were married, all of Selena's property reverted to her husband. It was the way that things were. There were murmurings among those present that they thought that if the house was sold, the money should be shared between the two girls.
There was also a bit of distrust in the air. Kenneth had not been home in three years and no one had heard from him since. As far as anyone knew, he had no profession, no way to support the family that he was destined to have. It was presumed that he would go in with his father on the hotel, but he should have begun that, years ago. He was nearing forty. This was quite a kettle of fish.
Dad was the executor of the estate. As such, he was in charge of all decisions regarding his niece until she was placed in her sister's care. However, even when Selena had physical custody, ultimate power would always rest with Dad for as long as her name was Tressidor.
Even after he married Selena, Kenneth would have nothing to say about it or her. It was the way things were, and a very good thing as far as Em was concerned. She still did not like Kenneth. Looking around, she could see that there were others among the Tressidors and Trelawneys who agreed with her.
"She'll go with Emmeline to America to tell Selena," said Dad. "Then the three of them will return right back here. Someone will have to tell Kenneth so that he can come home and finally do his duty. Does anyone know where he is?"
The family all looked at one another. Of course no one knew. But Dad had to ask the question anyway. Up until this point, no one had even thought of it. In fact, no one even knew if he had ever been told of Selena's vow to raise the child in her parents' place. No one there presently knew if he had heard of their parents' deaths.
None of the Killigrews except Uncle Charlie's wife, Aunt Clara, was present. She mumbled that she had no idea of the whereabouts of the lad, but maybe her brother, Kenneth's father, did now. Owen had only asked about him a month ago. It was a muddle of the first order.
"Well, we'll find the young idiot and he'll make things right with Selena," he declared. "They're both old enough to settle and have their babies. Their days of roaming are over."
Emmeline swallowed hard. It would be difficult to tell all this to Selena. In addition to losing her parents, she was going to be marrying a man that she didn't love. But it was she who had insisted that she act as personal envoy and bring the child to her herself. Then she noticed that everyone was staring at her.
"Emmeline Tressidor," said her father sternly. "I want you to promise right here and now that there will be no lollygagging about in California. You'll tell her and be on the first plane back here. And keep a sharp eye on the child. I don't want anything to happen to her because we allowed her to go outside the village."
"Yes, Dad, I know," replied Emmeline. "I know that I have a responsibility to bring her home safe. But remember that I also promised, when she was born, to make sure that if anything ever happened to Uncle and Auntie that I would help to keep Selena and Trelawney Rose together."
"Aye," said Dad. "I forgot that you watched the little one come into the world. Yes, and your Mum too. And she took the same vow. T'was a sacred vow that the three of us took."
Emmeline watched, as Grandfather grew more and more restless. He did not like to hear of these vows between Tressidors. It was obvious that he still viewed Auntie Meg as a Trelawney. It was a pity that the child looked so much like her. It certainly increased his desire to keep her with him. It occurred to her that if she left the girl behind that, will or no will, Tressidor or not, he might find a way of taking her into his own home. Then Selena might never get her back.
"James Trelawney," said Dad, authoritatively. "I'm deciding to send Trelawney Rose with Emmeline to collect Selena and bring her home. I fear that if our Em leaves without her, the child will do herself real harm. I don't know how I know that this is so, I simply know it."
Grandfather glared at him and got up to leave. But before he left, he stood before Emmeline.
"You've always been trouble, you have," he said. "You've been a bad influence on Selena, encouraging her to roam when she ought to be home. Now you've convinced that fool of a man your father to let that innocent babe out into the world. If any ill befalls the child, I will hold you personally responsible."
Emmeline looked back into his eyes with a bravery that she didn't feel. The old man was frightening when he talked like this. But she could not back down from her promise to her Aunt and Uncle. And she would not allow them to rip her cousin's heart out with an impersonal piece of paper.
After he left, she went up to her room and found Trelawney Rose packed and ready to go. Sylvia gave her a ghost of a smile. They both knew what had happened downstairs. The girl was sitting on the bed holding her doll in her lap. Her little bag was neatly set beside her. At the foot of the bed, Elspeth looked up at her with sorrowful eyes. She knew that she would be taking her little charge away.
"I am ready to go to my Selena," she said, looking up at her with solemn eyes.
Emmeline sat beside her and held her close. After three days of being brave and standing up to her family on behalf of her cousins, she was able to finally let go of the emotional control that had gotten her through. At last she wept.
Before they left the village, at the little train station, Emmeline and Trelawney Rose stood before her parents to receive their last instructions. Sylvia stood quietly off to the side. Elspeth also sat beside her, determined to stay with Trelawney Rose until the last possible minute.
"Now, Em," said Annabel. "You'll be sure to tell her gently. This news is likely to break her heart. And Trelawney Rose, you'll need to be strong too. Are you both sure that you don't want Sylvia to come with you?"
"It is most kind of Sylvia to offer," replied Trelawney Rose. "But I wouldn't want to put her out."
"Listen to her, why don't you?" asked Sylvia. "Coming to help you to comfort our poor Selena would hardly put me out. I go where I am needed."
"Thank you, Sylvia," said the child. "But you are not needed here."
"Trelawney Rose!" exclaimed Annabel.
"No, Mum, it's all right," said Sylvia gently. "I know what she means. But I want you to know, little one, that whenever you need me, I will be there."
"Yes, Syl, I know," she replied simply. "I do not mean to sound ungrateful. The day will come when you are very needed."
"It will?" asked David.
The little girl nodded.
"I do not know how, I know," she said. "I simply know."
They all looked at each other, but no one knew what to say. It was simply another one of the child's pronouncements. When they looked back at her she was gazing back with wide-open, honest eyes. Then she went over and knelt down in front of Elspeth.
"You are a very good girl, Elspeth," she said softly. "I know that you are very sad, but we will see each other again."
The dog whimpered.
"I don't know how I know it," replied Trelawney Rose. "I just know it."
Once again, Emmeline and Sylvia looked at each other, remembering the night before and how Elspeth had been with her and heard her tell them that she and Selena would never live in the little house again. But as usual with Trelawney Rose, there were many bits of information, but no context. The girl took the dog in her arms and held her for a long time.
Before they left, Annabel took both of them in her arms and held them.
"Now, Trelawney Rose," said David. "You'll mind Emmeline until she places you in the hands of your Selena and then you'll mind Selena until you are both safely back here. And Emmeline, you'll bring the girls back as soon as possible."
"I promise, Dad," said Emmelne. "And I'll keep them both safe, Mum."
"I know you will, love," said Annabel. "I know that you've always loved Selena better than any of your sisters. She needs you now, and so does the little one. I trust you to tend to them both."
And with that, Emmeline and Trelawney Rose boarded the little train. When their luggage was secured above them, Em sat down and the little girl curled up under her arm with her head on her lap. She was sound asleep before the train had even left the station. Poor little one, thought Emmeline, it's a sad trip we're taking today. Then she rested her own head against the glass and watched the lovely countryside pass by.
Trelawney Rose looked out the window curiously as the flight took off. Refreshed from her long nap, she was ready for her adventure. She had never been more than a few miles outside of the village and within a few hours they had taken the train all the way to London and then the bus to the airport. Now they were on an airplane and going to her Selena in America. If she were not so sad, then it might be exciting to fly on an airplane. But she would rather have her Mummy and Papa than a trip on an airplane. She turned to Emmeline.
"How long will it be until I see my Selena?" she asked.
"Many hours on the plane, but not so many on the clock," she replied. "The clocks follow the sun, so they keep turning back as we pass through the time zones."
"Oh," said Trelawney Rose. "What do you know about the family?"
"Probably what you know," replied Emmeline. "Dr. Justin Harrington is a widower with four children: Willa, Jay, Max, and Jennie. And there is a dog named Chester."
"What kind of a dog?"
"A Shetland Sheepdog," she answered, smiling. "Leave it to you, love, to be more interested in the dog than the family."
"I wonder why Selena is still there," said Trelawney. "The Aunties Phyllis and Edith thought that she was stuck in a rut. Tressidors never stay so long in one place, unless they are there to stay. But then she told them that she was happy and content. Auntie Phyllis said that Dr. Harrington was very handsome."
"Now don't you go connecting the dots in any funny ways and causing your mischief," scolded Emmeline. "You know that Selena is betrothed to Kenneth Killigrew. They have a signed contract and everything. And you know that it is what your Mum and Papa wanted. There will be no foolishness on your part."
"Ha!" she replied. "If Kenneth cared so bloody much about Selena then where was he for the last few days, I ask? Nobody in the family even knows where he is. Fat lot he cares about her."
"It's not about him caring for her," said Emmeline severely. "It's about him marrying her. She'll do as your Mum and Papa wanted. That's how she is."
"Yes, Em," she replied quietly and turned to look out the window. The lights of the British Isles had slipped away and now they were out over the dark ocean. She then closed her mind so that she could think in private, just as her Mummy had taught her.
Emmeline didn't understand how she felt about Kenneth. Nobody did, not even Mummy. She really didn't understand either. But he scared her. She never wanted to see him again. She just couldn't let her Selena marry him. And perhaps old Auntie Phyllis was right. She was a silly old biddy really, but a very jolly auntie. And she had been known to stir the pot a bit in her day.
If Selena were staying with Dr. Harrington and his family because she had fallen in love with him, then perhaps she would marry him. She could escape from Kenneth. But then maybe she wouldn't want Trelawney Rose. A tap on her shoulder interrupted her thoughts. She had let down her guard at the last thought because it was so upsetting. She turned to look at Emmeline.
"Your Selena loves you more than anyone in the whole world," she said looking into her eyes. "Now that your Mum and Papa are gone, it's just the two of you. She's not going to be leaving you any time soon."
Trelawney Rose looked at her hopefully as she concluded,
"Your Cousin Em knows these things, then, doesn't she?"
Trelawney Rose settled back in her seat and closed her mind again. She knew things too. She knew that her Mummy was now an angel and looking down on her every minute of very day. But Mummy was not a happy angel. Mummy knew how sad she was and how badly she now needed her Selena. But before she had gone away, she had made Auntie Anna promise over and over that she would go to Selena.
Auntie Anna had kept her promise. But when she thought of all the talk of Selena staying so long in California, the doubts began to creep into her mind. Auntie, Uncle, and Cousin Emmeline had all kept their vows. Would Selena keep hers?