Unexpected Visitors

Part I

The Visitors

After dinner Bartholomew walked outside to enjoy some fresh autumn air. It was early evening on 1 November. Rain, earlier in the day, had ended. He watched the trees sway and clouds scud across the sky. A colder wind blew mostly from the north. It felt like an early winter was coming. He was thinking about what needed to be completed in preparation. He also recalled the fabulous Halloween that the weasels had created for everyone last night.

His keen ears picked up a sound from far across the pond.

“Whoo. Whoo, Whoo. Whoo, Whoo.”

Could that possibly be an owl, he thought.

It came again, “Whoo. Whoo, Whoo. Whoo, Whoo.”

“Whoo. Whoo, Whoo. Whoo, Whoo,” he answered.

Shortly thereafter, he spotted two familiar shapes winging their way towards him. As they approached, he noticed that one was significantly bigger than the other. It only took a minute for the owls to cross the pond and land next to him.

“Welcome to Ballymore,” he said cordially.

The older visitor said, “Thank you. Hello, Bartholomew.”

Bartholomew was startled. “You know me?” he asked.

“Yes and no,” replied the visitor. “I’m sorry. My name is Jonathan Owl and this is my son, Oliver. We flew here from Cadwell to the east to give you some important information. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that our information might be disturbing. Could we possibly go inside and sit down?”

Bartholomew was now concerned but said, “Yes, of course. Please come in.”

As he led them into his home, he remembered that Sam had mentioned a Jonathan Owl. He offered the unexpected visitors seats at the dining table.

Jonathan began, “I don’t think that there is an easy way to say this, so I will just say it. Bartholomew, I am your brother and Oliver is your nephew.”

Bartholomew stared at them in disbelief.

“I am sorry to shock you this way. Please let me explain. Our parents’ names were Chesney and Olivia. We were both born twenty-one years ago. Our parents used to live in Cadwell but decided to move to Ballymore because they had heard many good things about it. Upon arriving, they built a home, and soon thereafter, our mother had two eggs.”

Bartholomew was listening intently.

“Our mother’s sister, aunt Penelope, had also lived in Cadwell with her husband, uncle Percy. Unfortunately, they were not able to have any children. Our parents had a close relationship with them and offered one of the eggs to them before it hatched. No one else knew of the arrangement. It was a very kind thing to do, but I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do. I was born in Cadwell, and my father and mother were Percy and Penelope, as far as I knew. You were born and raised here and thought you had no brothers or sisters.

“When I was two years old, my foster parents told me the truth about us. Needless to say, it upset me greatly. It upset all of us. However, they were the only parents I knew, and I learned to accept the situation. I must say, they were very good parents to me. Apparently, both sets of parents decided that it would be better if we had no contact and so we didn’t.

“I found out later that you were never told about me. I don’t know what else to say except that I am sorry to be the one to bring you this information. Coming here was difficult, but I finally decided I had to do it.”

Bartholomew was overwhelmed with these revelations. He didn’t know where to begin. Then, he thought, stay calm and don’t rush.

“You are my brother, and you are my nephew?” he asked.

“Yes, we really are,” answered Jonathan.

Bartholomew, with tears in eyes, stood up, went to them, and hugged them. They hugged for a long time.

Bartholomew looked at them and said, “I don’t know where to begin or even how to feel. I need to sit down again. No, I’ll make some tea.”

That was a good idea. He went to the kitchen and prepared the tea, which he made extra strong. That gave him some time to gather his thoughts.

He returned to the table with the tea and asked, “Why did you wait so long to come here? Our parents have been gone for a long time.”

“Yes, they have,” answered Jonathan. “I lived with my foster parents until I married. Then, my wife, Regina, and I had Oliver. Time went by quickly, and I heard you were doing well. I thought of visiting many times, but I didn’t want to cause you trouble. Also, I didn’t know how you would react.”

“Something must have changed for you to come here now,” said Bartholomew.

“Yes. Last year, Regina passed on,” said his brother sadly. “We were married for ten years. She was a wonderful wife and mother.” He smiled and continued, “I am not getting any younger either. When I think about Oliver, I want him to have the best possible future. I believe that Ballymore offers that opportunity. I also knew that we finally had to meet. You needed to know the truth. You deserved to know the truth.”

Bartholomew stared at the table. There was silence.

“I’m very sorry to hear about your wife and your mother.” He nodded at Jonathan and Oliver and looked down at the table again.

Emotion was brewing in him.

“You have given me quite a surprise. I wish we had met sooner, but I understand the difficult situation in which you found yourself. But I am happy that you finally came to me. I welcome you to my home and to Ballymore. This morning I had no family. Now, I have family. It’s a day to remember.”

They stood and hugged again. Jonathan and Oliver were very happy that Bartholomew had accepted them. They had been worried that he might not.

A new owl family had been created or perhaps finally reunited.

The next few hours passed quickly as they each told of their lives. It was late when they finally retired. For the first time in years, Bartholomew forgot his nightly rounds. The treehouse wasn’t meant to sleep three, but they managed. Jonathan slept in Bartholomew’s room, and Oliver slept in the parlour.

Even though it was after midnight, Bartholomew couldn’t fall asleep. He tossed and turned. It would take a while for him to become used to the fact that he now had some family. When he was younger, he had always hoped for a brother or sister or someone. As time went by, he adapted to the missing pieces in his life. The dear animals of Ballymore had become his family. Now, out of the sky, a brother and nephew had flown into his life, only a few hours ago. He hardly knew them. Would he come to love them? What would happen?

He needed to relax, and let things unfold in their own time. They always do.

In the morning, he awoke with a strange new feeling. The house was not empty. He saw his brother wrapped up in a blanket on the floor under the window. Suddenly, he realised he was now part of a family. It felt good and comforting. He smiled.

“It’s morning everybody,” he yelled. That woke the others. They yawned and returned the greeting. It was a new experience for Jonathan and Oliver, also. They were in unfamiliar surroundings but with the knowledge that they had gained a brother and uncle. Ballymore would be their new home. It was an exciting change to their lives. Jonathan knew that he had brought his son to a place where he could thrive in many ways. Living in Ballymore didn’t guarantee happiness, but it offered a wonderful opportunity. It would be up to Oliver to make the most of it. Jonathan would continue to guide him the best way he knew how. That’s what a parent does.

The Owl family arose, got dressed, and prepared a light breakfast. At breakfast Bartholomew said to Jonathan, “My home is small but, if you like, you can stay with me until a treehouse is built for you and Oliver.”

Then, he realised what he had just said.

“I’m sorry. I’m being presumptuous and rushing. What would you like to do, and how can I help?”

“Thank you, but I think it would be best to have a home built before we move,” said Jonathan. “Moving is a complicated process and we should not hurry. The type of home we build depends partially on what we will do here. I have some ideas I would like to mention.”

“Of course,” responded Bartholomew. “I am interested to hear them.”

“My two great interests are books and teaching. I am teaching Oliver reading, writing, and basic math. He is doing very well. I would love to teach more. Do you think there would be any interest here?”

Bartholomew said, “Right now, there are only two of us who can read and write. A few can do simple math. There is certainly a great need here for teaching the basics. That is something I have wanted to offer for years but never seem to have the time. I think there would be some interest, but I don’t know how much. It is an excellent idea and worth trying.

“We have a large, open pavilion on the island, which we use for events such as picnics. About half of it will be enclosed soon. That will allow us to gather in bad weather. Perhaps you could also use the new space as a classroom at times.”

“That would be fantastic,” said Jonathan enthusiastically. “If my teaching is successful, my dream is to have a dedicated one room schoolhouse.”

“Well, it’s certainly possible. I hope your teaching plans are very successful. It would be a great benefit to Ballymore,” said Bartholomew. “I will do everything I can to help.”

“Thank you very much,” responded Jonathan. “My other interest is books. I see you also love them. I’m not surprised. The love of books must run in the family. My library is currently at one hundred and one. When we move here, my books will be available to everybody. They could form the beginning of a small library in the classroom.”

Bartholomew was impressed with Jonathan and his plans. “You have some wonderful ideas, and together, I think we can bring them to life.”

“Now I’m getting very excited and want to be here yesterday,” said Jonathan as he laughed.

Bartholomew also laughed and said, “I’m ready when you are.”

Notice that Bartholomew didn’t offer to donate his books to the proposed library. They were like family to him, and he couldn’t think of parting with them. Besides, he frequently needed them to find answers to one problem or another.

He turned to Oliver and asked, “So Oliver, what do you think you would like to do in Ballymore?”

“I would like to help my father. I think I have learned reading well enough that I could teach the letters.”

“So, we will have a teaching family in Ballymore. Wonderful!” said Bartholomew.

“There is one other thing, my ‘Pride and Joy’,” Jonathan said.

Oliver smiled and Bartholomew looked puzzled.

“It will be my gift to Ballymore and I would prefer that it remain a secret until it can be presented.”

“Okay,” said Bartholomew. “Then, a secret it shall remain, but can you give me a hint?”

“No,” said Jonathan and he winked.

Everyone smiled and finished breakfast.

After breakfast Bartholomew gave them a flying tour around Ballymore and answered many questions. Among other things, he told them about the swans’ ambulance service. They would be needing that to move their belongings. Appropriately, they stopped at the swans’ cottage on the island. Stoddard answered the door and was surprised to see not one but three owls standing on his doorstep.

“Good morning, Stoddard. Please let me introduce you to my brother, Jonathan and my nephew Oliver,” said Bartholomew.

“Good morning, all. Where have you been hiding this family, Bartholomew?”

Bartholomew laughed, “It’s a long story, which I will tell you later.”

“That’ll be a story I don’t want to miss. In any event, please come in,” welcomed the swan.

“It’s nice to meet you,” said Jonathan.

“The main purpose of our visit is to introduce my family and tell you that they will be moving here soon,” said Bartholomew. “They now reside in Cadwell. Are you familiar with that village?”

“Oh, yes,” said Stoddard. “Sean and I have been to that area many times.”

Looking at Jonathan, he asked, “Do you live north or south of the river?”

“North.”

“Are you in the forest on the west side?”

“Yes.”

“Birches or pines?”

“Pines.”

“There is a large strawberry field near there,” said Stoddard.

“Yes, we live next to it on the east side,” said Oliver.

“I would say that is about a one hour flight in good weather,” calculated Stoddard.

“Yes, that’s correct. I think it will be difficult keeping secrets from you,” said Jonathan laughing.

Bartholomew stared at Stoddard. “How do you know all this?” he asked.

“We get around,” said Stoddard with a wink. “I assume you have some belongings to be transported. We’ll be happy to help, and welcome to Ballymore.”

“Thank you very much. Yes, we do,” said Jonathan. “The most important belongings are my books and some pieces of a special machine. It will probably take a few trips.”

“So, your ‘Pride and Joy’ is a machine?” asked Bartholomew.

“Yes, and it’s still a secret.”

Stoddard said, “That doesn’t sound like a problem as long as the weather holds. The sooner we do it, the better.”

“Is there a place we can store everything until our home is built?” asked Jonathan.

Bartholomew answered, “Some of your things can be stored in my home. I will find other places for the rest.”

Looking at Stoddard, Bartholomew said, “I will let you know when they are ready. I hope we can move almost everything within two weeks.”

Jonathan agreed that was likely.

Stoddard invited them to stay for tea. During the tea Jonathan told Stoddard a bit about himself and Oliver. After the tea Jonathan asked if they could see the pavilion.

“Of course. I was saving that until last,” said his brother.

So the three owls said goodbye and walked there. It was only next door. Bartholomew pointed out which part was to be enclosed. After studying the pavilion briefly, he said, “I think we could easily make a larger enclosure and divide it into two rooms. You could use the second room as a classroom and library.”

“You think it is possible?” asked Jonathan excitedly.

“Yes, I believe so. Let me talk to our chief builder, Burton Beaver, about it. I will let you know.”

“That would be incredible! Thank you very much,” said Jonathan.

They continued to talk about possibilities for a while and then returned to the treehouse. After a light lunch it was time for Bartholomew’s new family to return to Cadwell. They had a lot of planning and packing to do.

Bartholomew hugged them and said, “I am so happy you came to me and that you are moving to Ballymore. I look forward to helping you with your plans. Please have a safe trip back.”

Jonathan and Oliver said their goodbyes and left. Bartholomew watched them until they disappeared over the trees at the east end of the pond.

Over the next week, he found two storage locations for his brother’s belongings. He also met with Burton Beaver and told him of the design changes to the pavilion enclosure. Burton agreed to create two rooms instead of one. He said the additional effort would be minimal. Bartholomew didn’t mention the reason for the changes, and Burton didn’t ask. Construction was scheduled to begin soon. The new meeting hall and Jonathan’s special room would be finished in time for the Winter Solstice Eve celebration.