Beth noticed a shape by the barn as she started to shut the solid oak panel, and paused to stare. The figure of a person, so tall and broad that she assumed it was a man, leaned against the weathered building as though he needed support. With a dark fedora, a grey scarf covering most of his face and a long, black coat, he almost blended in with the overcast afternoon shadows.
A woman alone should act with prudence but something about the man told Beth he needed help. She called out but received no response. Troubled, she hurried to him.
“Will you help me?”
Although muffled, his voice sounded deep and melodic. It touched her in a way she couldn’t define. He tilted his head back and she noticed bright blue eyes above the scarf. Blood flowed down from a cut above his left eye. Intrigued as well as concerned, Beth was certain she’d made the right decision.
“Of course. Come up to the house and I’ll fix you up.”
“Fix me up?”
His confusion deepened her unease. How had he been hurt? How long had he been out in the cold? “Yes you are.”
“But I need to get home. Rose will be worried.”
“All right,” she tried a soothing tone. “As soon as we bandage your cut I’ll help you get home.”
“Thank you.” A gloved hand reached up and gently rested on her shoulder while heartfelt urgency filled his tone. “I shouldn’t be worrying her now.”
“Well then let’s get you inside.”
Beth wrapped one arm around his waist and they stumbled the few yards to the house together. Inside, she settled him in a chair in front of the fireplace. She added a couple of short logs onto the flames after seeing his soaked dress shoes and then hurried off for a few needed items.
Minutes later, she returned and covered his legs with a blanket before pressing a folded cloth over his cut. “Hold this here while I get a bandage.”
“Just a moment.” He took the washcloth from her, set it on his lap and then removed his gloves, fur lined, made of supple black leather.
Beth stared. The hand that lifted the washcloth back up onto his injury wasn’t young and strong as she’d expected but wrinkled with age.
“Please excuse my ill manners.” He took off his hat, revealing thick silver hair and then pulled his scarf down to his neck. “I’m Walter Dolvin and who might you be?”
In silence, Beth continued to study the stranger. Even to her untrained eye his apparel, though better suited for a stroll in town then a hike through snow covered woods, spoke of the upper class. His clothing wasn’t the only thing that struck her as odd. Stubble dotted his jaw line, a few days growth of beard that seemed at odds with his neatly trimmed hair and overall dapper appearance. A handsome gentleman to be sure but this man was old enough to be her grandfather.
“I’m Beth, Beth Sullivan. Did you have an accident sir?”
“Now don’t be calling me sir, you’ll have me thinking you’re speaking to my father.” Blue eyes sparkled, his tone charmed. I’m Walter.”
“Walter,” She knelt beside him, a fresh, wet cloth in hand and started cleaning his cut. “What happened to you?”
Confusion clouded his expression. “I don’t know. I’m lost. I need to find my way home. This isn’t a good time for me to be worrying Rose.”
“All right, where is your home?”
Walter looked at her for a long moment then shook his head.
“Where is Rose?” Beth kept her voice soft, gentle, as she finished tending the small cut.
“At home, waiting for me.”
“Okay.” Beth set her supplies to one side and took his hand in hers. “What’s Rose’s name?”
“What’s her full name?”
“I… ” His hand trembled in her grip as his voice trailed off.
“Who is Rose to you?”
As if she flipped a switch, his confusion vanished. His expression filled with warmth, his eyes gleamed, and he smiled. “She’s my love.”
To be continued Tuesday November 19th
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