From Darkness to Light (part 5)

It was autumn again. The forest was worthy of a painter’s brush. The leaves swirled gracefully down from the treetops, creating a pallet of bright yellow to musty brown on the countryside. It was cheerfully peaceful. Elizabeth sang as she pick dried pod from the shriveled vines. Boy paused from his wood splitting to follow her, flitting from patch to patch of autumn pickings. His eyes filled with a longing, a craving, a need for a woman—the woman, — Elizabeth. “The time will come for me to win her heart,” he vowed to himself.

“Luncheon will be ready soon! “Elizabeth called cheerily to him before entering the house. He smiled warmly to her in reply.

An hour later, boy mopped up his face and hung up his axe. The sun was in the center of the cloudless sky. Lunch would surely be ready. As he sprang around the corner onto the front doorstep, he stopped short by surprise, and fell back a few steps.

There, huddled into a ball of rags and dirt, was a hunched, beggarly man.

Hearing boy’s footsteps, the man raised his head to reveal an attentive, fiftyish sunburned face. Peering at boy through a pair of piercing blue eyes, the uninvited visitor asked hesitatingly, “Who are you, young man, and what is this place?”

Boy slowly replied, “I am Boy, and this is the home of Alexander—the late baron’ brother, and Alexander daughter, Elizabeth.”

In his mind, Boy traveled back to that unforgettable day, when he, too had arrived at this very place, in a plight similar to this inquisitive man.

“Could you give me a place to pass the night, and a meal to strengthen my body? I will not be tedious—I must move on.  I must find my son… and give him what I would have if I had the chance.”

Strangely moved, Boy stepped to the door, “sir you are welcome to share our meal and bed.”

The two stepped into the house together, the weary traveler leaning on boy’s strong arm.

Elizabeth read the mute request in Boy’s eyes and nodded her head, smiling. Boy smiled back, and led the trembling man gently to a chair.  After a low toned consultation with Elizabeth, boy pulled a chair and tried to make the stranger feel at home.

But the sorrowful man could not talk long on anything but his endless searching. “Who is he?” Boy asked, gently, firmly. There it was again, a faint constriction of his heart as the man replied, “My son. My only, long lost son. I lost him was he was but a wee babe.”

Not daring to hope, but yet hopeful, Boy questioned further, “Why have you left him, and where?”

“My wife died—poor girl, — years ago: on a bitter, winter day, leaving me alone with a newborn boy and low funds. I could barely keep the poor lad alive: I fed him my own suppers, and covered him with wool blankets, hungry and shivering myself. But now he is gone…” the heartbroken father’s voice trembled, and tears threatened to spill down his cheeks. Sympathetic tears dimmed Boy’s eyes.

“I left him, one spring morning—about twenty-five years ago—on the streets. Oh, how I regret that I did so!!The agony was unbearable. But I was desperate. With a loose bit of dirty string, I tied my darling wife’s ring to his neck, in hopes of claiming him again.”

Boy’s fingers went of their own accord to the ring on his own neck, fixing his earnest, deep eyes on the speaker. Listening intently to the rest of the strange, sad story, he began to untie the string.

“Life became dull, but time out grew the searing loneliness I first felt. I scraped out living for myself by carving toys and such, just enough to keep body and soul together. And every night, I dreamed of my son, alone on the merciless streets, begging for bread, or picked up by any pitying passersby. I could not take care of him…

“I have an identical ring, by which I hope to recognize my son. His ring would hold my wife’ and my name, while I am wearing the date of our wedding on my finger.” Twisting off his ringlet of gold, Louis continued” but he might as well be… I have searched for him so long with no results…”