Unfinished Symphony, page 2
He opened the door for Polly and they both stepped through. Polly glanced back inside the kitchen and then shut the door on the life she had known.
They left the farm and made their way down the lane away from Polly’s home. Very little was said, Polly was too busy contemplating the events of the morning. They passed a number of small cottages set back away from the road, smoke curling into the sky from stout chimney’s that rested on top of sagging thatched roofs. Cracks running alongside the render and windows drooping giving the impression of a contented old man at slumber. The smell of bacon and eggs drifted on the breeze as the occupants were busy breaking their fast.
Polly was relieved it was so early, she had no idea how she would explain the strange man that accompanied her. They followed the old track, avoiding the centre of the village and they soon came to the outer boundaries of the tiny village.
Archie stopped and pointed at a small cottage. Polly recognised the place.
“My dear, I fear this is where he has struck. Please child you must enter with me.”
“Mr and Mrs Grindlehurst live here” Polly whispered “What do you think has happened to them? You don’t think they have been hurt do you?”
“I fear the worst my child. I can feel no lingering trace of his presence. Only silence.”
They walked towards the cottage and Archie reached down, unclasping the gate. It slowly swung in, creaking. Archie led Polly up the path between the rows of blooming flowers, already hundreds of bees circled around intoxicated by the strong smell of lavender.
The front door stood ajar and Archie pushed it open with his foot. The door swung in and sunlight flooded into the dark hallway. Archie and Polly entered into the house, all around them was silence even the sounds from the garden seemed to fade away. Their footsteps were muffled by the thick carpet as they walked past the scullery and the pantry.
They continued on towards the parlour and glanced in the kitchen as they passed. The table was still set from the evening’s meal and flies buzzed around the remaining scraps of food. Polly turned to look at Archie who had stopped on the threshold of the parlour.
“Polly, they may not be as you remember them, please be brave. Come.” Archie held out his hand and together they entered the parlour.
Everything was how it should be; nothing seemed out of place, there was no sign of a struggle. Polly gazed around the room, she squeezed Archie’s hand when her eyes settled on the two chairs either side of the fire. Mr and Mrs Grindlehurst sat across from each other, staring, no comprehension on their dull slack faces.
“Mrs Grindlehurst” Polly shouted “Margaret.”
There was no reply. Their heads turned towards Polly, their brows furrowed in concentration. She smiled and waved but the old couple just continued to stare, drool running from their open mouths.
“What’s happened to them” Polly asked. “They don’t recognise me, they don’t even know who I am.”
“I am afraid this is the work of my brother. He has taken their song, they live on, that is, they breathe but that is all. Polly this is why you cannot let him take your song. Now do you see?”
“What can we do? Should we get the doctor or call for an ambulance?”
“I’m afraid there is no medicine to remedy this. They are lost but we can help them pass. Polly, you must sit down and remain utterly still. Make no sound.”
Polly walked to the edge of the couch and sank into the giant piles of cushions. Archie left the room and then returned with a handful of lavender picked fresh from the front garden, he separated the lavender into two bunches and approached Mrs Grindlehurst. As he wafted the bouquet of lavender under her nose her eyes focused momentarily and then Archie placed the flowers on her lap. Then he approached Mr Grindlehurst and performed the same routine. Archie moved to the centre of the room, opened his jacket and pulled out a violin. He placed the violin into the crook of his neck and with his other hand he removed his hat and with a deft flick of his wrist sent it sailing through the sky. Polly had little time to react as the hat landed on top of her head, covering her eyes.
“Now Miss Polly. Tell me all you know of this couple.”
Polly pushed up the brim of the giant hat and looked at the old couple. Mr and Mrs Grindlehurst. Harold and Margaret. Her neighbours.
“Erm, they had two cats and Mr Grindlehurst grew vegetables, big vegetables, the biggest in the county. Even bigger than my fathers.”
“That is all very interesting Polly, but do you know how long they were married? Did they have any children? I think not, their song still lingers faintly. Again child, tell me all you know.”
“Right, they were married for a long, long time. Way before my dad was even born. They had no children themselves and they were kind, very kind. They always had the best Christmas decorations and they decorated the old oak tree in town. They put up lanterns and lights and tinsel. When Tommy’s dog got injured Mr Grindlehurst made a little cart so he could pull himself around. Mrs Grindlehurst sang in the church choir but, to be honest, I don’t really think she was very good. Sorry Mrs Grindlehurst” Polly said as she looked across at the chair where she sat. Mrs Grindlehurst just continued to stare back with the same blank expression.
Archie smiled and reached into the folds of his jacket where he retrieved a long slender violin bow. He beat out a small rhythm on the neck of the violin, rat a tat tat, and then struck his first tentative note. He struck another and another, a slow mournful song began to form and fill the room. Polly felt the sound wash over her. Sadness reached inside of her and she felt tears form in the corner of her eyes. All of a sudden the song stopped and Polly felt the sadness fly out of her.
“That’s not right, no, not right at all” Archie said. “Polly my dear, please stand and follow my lead.”
Polly stood and watched Archie as he began to stamp his feet.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Archie jumped with every stamp of his foot, shaking the furniture and causing the ornaments to wobble on the sideboards. Polly copied his dance and together their feet beat out the rhythm.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
“That’s it Polly my girl. Now don’t stop.” Polly continued to dance on her own.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Archie laughed and shouted over the beat.
“Not a sad song, no, not at all. We will have no dirge for Mr and Mrs Grindlehurst.” He raised the violin and placed it back into the crook of his neck and struck the strings with his bow. A loud clear note sang out. “Dance Polly, dance my girl.”
A wonderful jaunty jig filled the air and the tempo increased as the notes weaved together. Polly kept time with Archie furiously dancing and stamping, adding her own beat to the hypnotic sound of the violin. Polly looked down at her feet as colourful dust began to appear. Every time her foot hit the floor it was like stamping in a puddle and colourful dust would splash up all around her ankles. Bright colours; purple, orange, red and yellow.
“That’s it my girl.” Archie shouted over the music.
The bright coloured dust was still rising up with each and every stamp of her feet but it was now coming to rest in drifts. Polly danced faster and watched amazed as the colours at the edge of the pile began to swirl clockwise around her stomping feet. Faster and faster the dust swirled and faster and faster Polly danced. The blizzard of colour began to lift of the floor and swirled around her legs, then her body, and soon she was encased in a tornado of colour. It continued to rise and swirl above her head as Polly’s feet continued to beat out the strong rhythm.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Bum, boom, bum, bum, bum.
Archie’s hands continued to dance up and down the neck of the violin filling the air with music. The blizzard of colour circled above her head and then began to separate into two smaller circles. The torn
“Polly” Archie shouted. “Stop.”
Silence filled the room and Polly looked at the old couple. They looked lost, confused, as their eyes searched the room, their eyes met and they smiled, a smile so pure and full of happiness. Having found each other again they closed their eyes and sank back into their armchairs and they both breathed one last time.
“Polly we have done all we can. Now we must leave.”
The farm looked the same as every other little building that he had come across. Yet another small weary structure made entirely of wood. The old sagging roof was struggling to hold up the weight the weight of the vast blue sky. The timber rotted and the wind whistled through the cracks, calling to him. Could this be the place?
To keep out of sight the tall and unusual man hunkered down amidst the bushes and brambles. His old knees popping, breaking and disturbing the silence that always accompanied him. He reached into his jacket and removed a strange conical device. Leaning forward and twisting his head he placed the small end against his left ear. Had he found the song for which he searched?
Listening, he focused all his attention. The corner of his lips turned up as he detected the subtle melancholic notes for which he searched. The once happy and joyful song had been smashed and rearranged. The notes jarred against each other and he moistened his lips in anticipation of the meal to come. His pupils dilated as his pulse quickened, the crescendo of sweet sorrow drifted across the open fields. He took a deep shuddery breath that shook his skeletal frame as he listened to the song, the song that he must own.
The notes began to drift and vanish in the morning breeze. He concentrated harder, desperate to savour the taste. The sounds of nature intruding; birds singing, the steady hum of floating bees, the rushing water bubbling in the stream, all trying to hinder and disguise the song for which he searched.
Too late he thought. It was no more than a distraction and he could still detect the sweet cloy melancholy hanging in the air. The song began to drift, fading in and out. His brows furrowed.
“Shut up” shouted the tall and unusual man as he swiped at a bird that flew overhead. The small Blue Tit swooped down and away from his outstretched arm.
The tall man stood with his strange bronze device pressed against his ear. The sound was fading. He staggered through the brambles chasing the diminishing song. He shoved the listening horn back into his jacket and cursed the taste on his lips. Too long had been wasted on that old couple. He sprang over a small hedgerow and ignored the pain in his old legs as he started to run, his desire and hunger driving him on.
“Are you hungry my dear?” Archie asked leaning down and producing an apple from behind Polly’s ear.
“Thanks.” Polly said taking the apple from his hand.
Archie removed his jacket and cast it over an old log. He sat down and patted the log beside where he sat. Polly joined him and began taking little bites of the red apple, not even registering the tart taste as her thoughts continued to swirl around her head, each one bumping and jostling for her attention. Yet none of them granted her any comfort.
“Miss Polly you are staring at that apple as if it contains all the many mysteries of the universe. Tell me, why do you study it so, surely that is a delicacy for the mouth and not for the eyes.”
Polly looked up at Archie. How had she ended up here?
“My dear” he asked “would you care to hear a song.”
Polly coughed as the tartness of the apple caught in the back of her throat and Archie laughed.
“No, no my dear I have no intention of inflicting my dreadful voice upon your good self. Good gracious no. If you would grant me some of your time and attention I would like to teach you how to listen, how to truly listen and open your senses to the wonder all around you. Everywhere there is music, and everywhere there is music there is beauty. All you have to do is, listen.”
Archie stood and walked to the centre of the clearing, he pulled up the sleeves on his old woollen shirt and insured the buttons were fastened on his waistcoat. He made an elaborate bow in Polly’s direction. Archie brought his hands together and then swished them through the air and began conducting his imaginary orchestra. Polly began to blush and her feet shifted as she watched Archie performing his strange dance. She thought about clapping to bring this uncomfortable spectacle to an end when Archie pointed to a nearby tree.
Polly followed his finger and watched as two small birds, a pair of song thrushes, hopped to the edge of the branch. Archie cleared his throat and the tiny birds bowed back to him.
Polly looked back at Archie who raised his eyebrows and then moved his hand slowly through the air. One of the birds began singing and as Archie’s other hand described a slow arc through the air Polly heard the second bird join in.
Polly couldn’t help but smile and watched as Archie nodded towards the trunk of an old oak tree that stood at the edge of the clearing. A tiny head appeared at the base of the tree. Archie again cleared his throat and a squirrel edged out from behind the tree.
Archie continued to conduct the birds with his left hand and with his right hand he pointed at the squirrel. Archie’s finger flicked up and down and the squirrel ran over to the base of the tree and began to scrap at the rough bark, adding a steady beat to the bird’s melody.
“You see Polly there is music everywhere and once you learn how to listen you need never be alone.”
“Archie, why must I leave my father? Is there nothing we can do? Couldn’t we set a trap for him and try to catch him.”
“My dear you are a very bold and resourceful child and I don’t doubt that if you used all your wits we certainly could spring a trap and ensnare my brother but what then? We couldn’t take him to a police constable and I don’t believe either of us could do him harm. To run and hide, that is best. I did not live to be the grand old age of one thousand nine hundred and forty eight by engaging in reckless acts. We will hide and he will get bored. Then and only then do we return.”
“I can’t wait till he gets bored, when will that be?” Polly turned away from Archie and swung her foot at the apple core that she had discarded onto the floor. A cloud of dust sprang up as her foot scraped the dry dirt floor striking the apple core she sent it sailing through the air in the direction of the tree. The squirrel bounded behind the tree, avoiding the flying apple core.
Polly watched as the squirrel re-emerged from behind the tree and stood on his hind legs, screaming obscenities that Polly couldn’t understand. Polly turned to Archie.
“What did he say?” she demanded.
“It was just the standard curse of a squirrel. He hopes that winter is long and hard on you, that you forget were you have hidden all your nuts, he also hopes all your fur falls out.”
Polly stuck her tongue out at the squirrel. His eyes widened at the fresh insult, the squirrel turned his back on Polly and returned to all fours. His bushy tail went stiff and pointed up towards the sky as he sprayed his urine in Polly’s direction. She managed to jump out of the way as the hot stinking urine splashed the ground in front of her. The squirrel had already vanished by the time Polly looked up and Archie was laughing so hard that little snot bubbles had formed at the edge of each nostril.
“That’s it.” Polly stated “I’m going home. I have had enough of all this nonsense. If your brother comes I’ll get my catapult and I’ll stay away all night. I’ll show him. Just you see.” She turned on her heels and stormed out of the clearing.
“Wait Polly please.” Archie stormed after her, jumping over the log. His foot caught on the edge of his jacket and as he landed, the coat became tangled in his feet. He waved his hands looking for something to grasp onto as the jacket wrapped itself ever tig
Polly turned back and her shoulders slumped as she saw Archie on the floor, unconscious. How is he going to keep me safe? She asked herself as she walked back over to the prone figure on the floor. She bent down and watched his chest rise and fall as if he was asleep.
“Archie, are you okay?” she asked shaking his shoulder. His eyes opened.
“Ah my dear Polly” he mumbled as he focused in on her.
“Come on let’s get you up.” Polly helped him into a sitting position and Archie paused there waiting for his head to clear, he spoke quietly and took Polly a moment to realise he was addressing her.
“… maybe, yes. But it is treacherous. Dangerous and she so young. But you can’t let him, not again no. There may be a way. Polly a way we could trap him.” He looked into her eyes. “Trap him for good. Finally put an end to his devilment. It is treacherous and there is no certainty that we will make it back but it might just work. Polly you must do exactly as I say, one false step and all will be lost.”
Archie rose to his feet with renewed vigour, the knock on his head having dislodged his courage from its hiding place. He grasped Polly by the hand and led her from the clearing and down the woodland path. Archie began whistling a tune and Polly looked up at the old peculiar man as a smile crept onto her face. He lifted her arm high and Polly pirouetted under his arm. His feet tapped out a strange beat.
The sun cut down through the canopy of the trees, forming a natural spotlight. The old man danced into the circle of light and continued tap tapping in time with the tune he whistled. Polly shook her head and wondered what in the world she had agreed. Taking a bow he re-joined Polly and with their arms linked they continued down the forest path.
Onwards, faster and faster, he followed the lingering trace of her song only pausing to listen. He found himself heading back the way he himself had come, back towards the small cottage and the cause of his delay. The tall and unusual man walked through the centre of the village which now was starting to come alive. Dogs growled at his passing only to flee whimpering when he turned to face them. Even the bravest fiercest dog knew when it had met its match.