March Winds

Part III

The Storm

As Bartholomew was napping and after a lengthy family discussion, the beavers decided to visit Morris. They would talk with him about the apprenticeship opportunity.

The whole family went. They closed their storm shutters and left by the underwater entrance. It was much easier traveling underwater in bad weather. They arrived at Morris’s cottage safe but wet, of course. Between vigorous shaking and the wind they quickly dried enough to be presentable. Beatrice combed her children’s fur as best she could before they went up to the door.

Morris was not expecting them, but he saw them come out of the water near the dock. As they dried off, he made some tea. He always kept a kettle-full of hot water at the ready. When they knocked on the door, the hot tea was on the dining table, and he welcomed them in.

While Morris served, Birk spoke up. He said they had heard that Morris might be looking for an apprentice. Morris indicated that he was. He told Morris of his interest in learning how to make furniture. He described his experience in building windows and doors with his family. The young beaver was very enthusiastic. Even though Morris didn’t know him well, he immediately felt that Birk would make a good apprentice. Besides, everyone knew beavers were excellent builders.

After asking a few wood related questions, Morris said to Birk, “I would like you to be my apprentice. These are the terms of what I propose.”

Birk yelled, “I accept!”

Everyone, except Birk, laughed.

Morris continued, “I would like you to be here five days a week for three or four hours a day. There is a lot to learn, but I’ll teach you everything I know about furniture making. We’ll start with easy projects such as kites. At some point, you should know enough to be on your own. My hope is that you will become my partner and that you will take over the whole business when I retire. How does that sound to you?”

“I accept, again!” said Birk.

Burton spoke, “As you know, we build the stone and wood parts of the cottages. It would be nice if we could provide features like built-in cabinets and bookcases. Do you think, as our relationship develops, we could all work together?”

“I like that idea. I don’t see why not,” responded Morris.

“Then, it is agreed,” said Burton.

“Yes, it is agreed,” answered Morris.

As the wind blew stronger and rattled the windows, the new partners shook paws and hugged.

“Why don’t we have a nice dinner to celebrate our new partnership,” suggested Morris.

Together, the Beaver family and Morris cooked a large meal that included spaghetti, hot rolls with butter, salad, custard, and tea. As Morris looked around the dinner table, he took notice of all the smiling faces. He thought about the new partnership, which had happened so quickly. It was all thanks to Bartholomew. It had certainly been a good day. The doctor visit went better than expected, and now he had an apprentice to help him. He was very pleased and silently thanked Bartholomew.

After dinner everyone rested for a while as the storm worsened. By 8 bongs it was very windy. There were more whitecaps on the pond. The wind direction had shifted slightly, and spray from the pond was occasionally hitting the windows which continued to rattle. Unlike most cottages, this one had no storm shutters. Morris meant to add them, but he was always too busy. Burton couldn’t help but notice the missing shutters and offered to build and install them after the storm ended.

“That’s very gracious of you. Thank you,” Morris responded.

Belva was watching the storm from a front window.

Suddenly she yelled, “Come quick. I think I see something!”

Everyone rushed to the windows.

Her father asked, “What do you see, dear?”

“There, to the left of the dock, there is a big shape in the water. I think it’s moving. Can you see it?”

The animals squinted, trying to see through the storm. Indeed, to the left of the dock was a large dark oval shape, apparently partially submerged. It was not smooth but had a number of parallel ridges on it. It wasn’t floating on the water because leaves and other debris were moving by it.

“It’s probably a log,” her father said.

Then, the “log” turned and looked at them with, what seemed to be, two large red eyes. Belva screamed.

Birk yelled, ”What is it Papa? Let’s go out and see!”

“You will do no such thing!” said their mother.

“Your mother is right. We’re not going out in this storm,” agreed their father.

They continued to watch from the windows as best they could. Soon the shape with eyes, sank below the water and disappeared. The children were scared and fascinated at the same time.

“Whatever it was, it’s gone now,” said their mother. “Come, let’s sit down by the fire. It’s nice and warm there and I’ll make some hot chocolate.”

After they were seated, Morris spoke, “It was probably some debris stirred up by the storm. After storms I have found the strangest things.”

That was not what he really thought. For several years there had been rumours that there was some strange creature in the pond. Once or twice a year there was a sighting similar to tonight’s. However, this was the second sighting this month. A couple of years ago some began calling it the Pond Creature. This was the first time that Morris had seen anything. He looked at Burton and could tell he was thinking the same.

“I think it was the Pond Creature,” exclaimed Belva. The two other children agreed excitedly. This had become quite an adventure for them.

“Now children, calm down,” instructed Beatrice.

“Morris, I have a question about the storm shutters and how they will fit the kitchen window,” said Burton.

“Yes, of course.”

They got up and walked to the kitchen.

While they examined the window, Burton said, “I honestly don’t know what we saw. I think it would be best if we didn’t go back in the water. Although it’s a fairly short walk home, the storm is already bad and getting worse. Could we impose and stay with you tonight?”

“I agree with you. I’m not sure what it was either. Of course, you’re more than welcome to stay. The children can sleep on the floor by the hearth. You and Beatrice can have the spare room,” replied Morris.

“Thank you very much. Better safe than sorry,” said Burton.

Morris nodded in agreement. After a brief time they returned to the parlour.

“Morris has been kind enough to invite us to stay here tonight. I think that’s a good idea,” announced Burton. The wind howled down the chimney as if it were concurring.

The children had also heard of the Pond Creature rumours and preferred to believe that they had seen it tonight. So, they were happy with their father’s decision. Beatrice was also worrying about the trip home, and she too was pleased.

“We have a busy day planned for tomorrow. I think we should retire early if you don’t mind,” said Burton.

“Of course. I’ll get the blankets,” responded Morris.

Morris brought three large, soft blankets from a closet, and Beatrice spread them on the wood floor. The children were very happy with this arrangement. It was different and exciting to sleep next to the hearth in someone else’s cottage, even better than camping out.

After saying goodnight, the adults turned down the oil lamps and retired to their bedrooms. The children curled up in their blankets as they wondered about the events of the evening. The flickering light from the fire bathed the room in a warm glow.

Outside, the storm continued to swirl around the little cottage and around all the cottages of Ballymore. It was a dramatic demonstration of the power and majesty of nature.