|They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, drunken men??? and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.|
He had found a brief haven from the still-scorching sun.
John Bettany rested his arms against the cool, marble balustrade of the dilapidated but shady pergola he had stumbled across during his long, meandering walk up from Candlebury Cove and smiled a little to himself over the pretentiousness of his thoughts. He surveyed the landscape with interest; below him lay the remains of a formal rose garden and he could no longer hear the sound of the sea.
The brightly-coloured caravans that had resided on Daniel’s land had gone. John frowned, remembering the old Romany woman’s words of warning, but decided to put it firmly from his mind. He had enough to worry about; he chided himself. It was the fourth of September and the end of his leave was drawing ever closer.
“Hello, I thought I’d stroll over to meet you half-way,” Daniel’s voice made him start, but he turned with a ready smile, not at all upset to be disturbed from his thoughts.
“I said I’d take Daphne out this evening, it’s the last night before she goes to Switzerland, you know – so I can’t stay long.” John said, joining Daniel on the path. Latterly he had been in the habit of stopping at Candlebury in the evenings, after a day’s sailing, though it was far from being a fixed arrangement, just a casual, friendly one that suited them both.
“It’s still so hot,” John remarked, as they headed back toward the cove, unconsciously slowing his pace to match Daniel’s own. “It’s cooler on the sea, but I still burnt yesterday.” He studied his brown arms.
“Have you been doing anything except sailing?” Daniel grinned.
“Not really,” John admitted, with a smile. “I’ve been helping Maurice on the farm, but I escaped at lunchtime and went round to Hartland Point. You really should come out, you know, you’re running out of excuses.”
“Sea-sickness is my excuse.”
“It’s a millpond today. No, I won’t accept that.” John laughed.
“I’ll think about it.” Daniel conceded. “If you’re hot, you should come over and see the sunken garden. It’s my favourite place.”
“Sure.” John said, easily.
The sunken garden was nothing like he had expected; in a private section of the grounds, it was vast and beautiful. John stared, his surprise making him forget his manners. Daniel smiled at the reaction and turned to look over the magnificent water garden, which had been kept in much finer condition than the rest of the grounds.
It was a large stretch of water, cultivated in a noticeably Victorian way, with grandiose fountains and waterfalls and a large selection of water plants and flowers, ferns and grasses. Its most striking aspect the statues in white marble, a man portrayed leaning over toward the water and a number of female statues, grappling with his arm to drag him into the water with them. Another feminine statue lay prostrate on the ground in grief amongst the irises and marsh marigolds. John saw more statues in the distance, in other poses of a similar kind.
“It’s Victorian. My grandmother designed it. She loved the Greek myths. It wasn’t a serious design, she was just sketching, they’d just had the gardens completely overhauled, you see, but my grandfather found her sketches and had it made for her. You were right about saying I should do something with the grounds so I have engaged a gardener now - several, in fact. I asked them to start here, and they’ve done an excellent job.”
“It’s beautiful. If it’s Greek mythology, that must be Hylas? Lured to his death by the nymphs of Lemnos, so his ship had to sail without him.” John moved over to look at the statues more closely.
“Yes, it is. And that’s Halcyone, lying where one just can’t help tripping over her.”
“Halcyone?” John asked, sitting down on a carved stone bench, in the shade, hoping that Daniel would tell him the story of Halcyone while he sat in this tranquil place and listened.
“Halcyone was married to Ceyx, who was the King of Thessaly, they were deeply in love with one another. She was the daughter of – of Aeoylus?”
“Aeolus. He was the God of the winds,” John said.
“You know this already,” Daniel said.
“No, no, I only knew the name,” John fibbed; he did in fact know the story well. “Go on, please.”
“Anyway, she was the daughter of the God of the winds, and she knew how strong the winds could be. When Ceyx wanted to go on a voyage to consult the oracle of Apollo, she begged him not to go and said that if he must, she would travel with him.
"Ceyx refused, much as he wanted to take her with him, he refused to expose her to the dangers of the sea. He promised to return as quickly as he could and they parted, she was prostrate with grief.” Daniel indicated the statue. “And all the time she feared for the mortal peril in which he had placed himself."
“As it turned out, Halcyone’s premonition came true,” Daniel faltered a little as he said the words, perhaps remembering a similar premonition made in these very grounds, barely a few weeks ago, but recovered and carried on. “Ceyx’s ship was caught in a storm and in his last dying moments, he begged the Gods that the waves would take his drowned body back to Halcyone so she can bury him.”
“And Halcyone continually prayed to Hera, the goddess of marriage, that her husband would be brought back to her safely, but Hera, anxious that her altars not be defiled by prayers for a dead man, sent Iris to speak to Hypnos, the God of Sleep, who sent his son, Morpheus, who was the God of Dreams, to appear to Halcyone in a dream to tell her that Ceyx was dead.”
“A real chain of command.” John observed, wriggling to move into the shade.
“Quite. So Morpheus appeared to her as her husband, but
as a drowned man, and told her where the body could be found. Halcyone believed him because he had come to her in that form, as a ghost, I suppose, and she went down to the Aegean Sea and saw him in the sea. Halcyone leapt into the sea to join her husband in death, but the Gods had pity on her and changed both her and Ceyx into birds. They nest on the sea and for seven days every winter Halcyone broods over her nest and Aeolus guards the winds. They’re known as halcyon days.” Daniel finished.
“I see... Is that Echo and Narcissus?”
“Yes, she loved him but he only loved himself.”
“All these doomed lovers,” John mused, half to himself.
“I suppose. My grandmother didn’t live to see it finished, so it’s a memorial for her. She died before I was born and I don’t remember very much about my grandfather, apart from coming here with him so he could tell me all the stories.” Daniel stood up, “Did you know it’s nearly six?”
“No – my watch needs winding. I’ll have to run to get back for dinner; we’re having it early today. So – I’ll come round tomorrow and we’ll go sailing.”
“All right,” Daniel conceded, as John disappeared with a hasty goodbye.
“Hi, John!” Fourteen year-old Geoff Maynard was waiting for him when he returned to the beach below the Quadrant’s cliffs.
“We only went to Bideford for my school shirts, so I could’ve come with you today, if you’d just left a few minutes later. I saw you leaving.” Geoff said, still clearly disappointed, picking up the line John threw him.
“There’s always tomorrow or the day after, you don’t go to school until next week, do you? Come on and give me a hand, we’ll be late.” John said, lowering the sails and making sure all was secure. Geoff, who had arrived two days before at the Quadrant with his mother, had been his cousin’s constant shadow ever since, fascinated by the boat and enthusiastic about sailing. John hadn’t minded him tagging along, but did fuss rather about Correct Behaviour in Boats, in Geoff’s opinion.
“Ma’s going home tomorrow,” Geoff reminded him.
“Maybe in the evening then,” John said, good-naturedly, as they hurried up to the Quadrant.
“Mike said I might be able to go and see over his destroyer before he goes away,” Geoff said, looking at John hopefully. Daphne had changed her mind about going out and decided to go and say goodbye to her friends in the village instead. John had been glad, he was tired and now he didn’t need to worry about sudden summer storms.
“I don’t think so,” John replied, then relented to see Geoff’s disappointed face, “We’re going at the beginning of November and you told me you haven’t got any exeats.”
“Are you going out together?” Geoff wanted to know.
“For a while, yes.” “You’re deployed with my ship, you know. You’ll be under my command. We’re going to have to talk sometime.” Lewis’s words came back to him and he sighed. Geoff looked at him with curiosity, but didn’t comment. John was wizard, and now possibly his favourite cousin, but Geoff had four elder brothers and had learned when to keep his mouth shut.
“Coffee?” Maurice offered.
“Wouldn’t say no,” David looked up from the papers he had spread around the table in the Quadrant Library. His head had started to ache. “Where’s Rix?”
“Putting the kids to bed, I think. John’s around, somewhere,” Maurice handed over the mug. “Maybe we could have a game of cards or something.”
“Why not?” David grinned and pushed the paperwork firmly away from him. “It’s been a while since we last played, the four of us I mean. Shall I find Jack and you can fetch Rix?”
“All right.” Maurice left, leaving David to clear away his bank statements and amble upstairs to find John in his bedroom, clearing out the drawers of his desk.
“Coming down to play cards?” he asked, easily, leaning against the doorframe.
“I said I’d play chess with young Geoff,” John replied.
“Oh, he can join us. Come on, Jack, we haven’t played for ages and I’m going back to Armiford tomorrow.”
“All right, why not?” John got to his feet.
“How do I play?” Geoff was thrilled beyond words to be included with his so much older cousins. He spread out his small pile of coins on the table and watched them play a practice hand. Rix explained the rules patiently.
“Don’t think you’re staying up all night,” he said, amused when Geoff won the first game and triumphantly scooped up their coins. “Aunt Jo asked me to make sure you’re in bed by half past nine.”
“Could I go at ten? Please?” Geoff coaxed. His mother and aunt and uncle had gone into Bideford to a concert and wouldn’t be back until late.
“Beginner’s luck.” David laughed and poured brandy for the others. “You can stay up till we’ve had the chance to win that lot back from you,” he joked.
After his second brandy, John had relaxed and was enjoying the banter. David was telling an amusing story about a girl he had dated and he was holding his own at the card game, every so often passing surreptitious coins to Geoff out of his winnings.
“What about this girl of yours, Maurice?” Rix asked, as he dealt the cards. “What’s her name again?”
“Susie.” Maurice said. “I’ll bring her to meet you in the week if you want.”
“I saw her in the village last week, I think,” David said. “Blonde, isn’t she? Is it serious?”
“I think so.” Maurice said, reddening, but looking very happy.
“Really? Fantastic, I’m pleased.” Rix said, as David refreshed their glasses and proposed a toast.
“Come off it, I haven’t asked her to marry me or anything like that,” Maurice smiled.
“Yet!” David grinned. “You’re smitten, that’s fairly obvious. Oh well, I’d better start saving for a wedding present. There’ll only be you and me left soon, John.”
“Don’t you want to get married?” Geoff asked, interested.
David shook his head with a grin, “Not quite yet, Geoff, old chap. Why limit yourself to just one woman?”
“I’d rather make Commander before I’m thirty-five than be married - I’d never get to see a wife anyway, not at the moment.” John swallowed the remnants of his brandy.
“Time you went to bed, Geoff.” Rix said, glancing over at the clock, which said ten fifteen. “You’ll be quiet and not wake the kids, won’t you?”
“All right,” Geoff got up and prepared to leave.
“Don’t forget your winnings,” Maurice reminded him, helping to collect up the cash. Geoff stuffed it into his pockets and wished everyone goodnight.
“Are we carrying on?” John said, lighting a cigarette.
“I’m in,” Maurice said, starting to deal the cards. David refilled the glasses and they lapsed into a companionable silence.
“What time are you leaving tomorrow, Davy?” Rix asked, after he tossed his cards onto the table. He helped himself to one of his brother’s cigarettes and lit up.
“I’ll go after lunch, I think. The roads should be fairly quiet. Will I see you before you go away, Jack?”
“I’ll try and come down to Howells before we go out, and I’m in Portsmouth for a month anyway, until November, we’re having a partial refit, apparently.”
“Can I bring the boys down to see you? They’d love that.” Rix asked.
“Of course, that would be great. Let’s see your cards, David.”
“I’ll see yours,” David produced two ten-shilling notes and put them on the table.
“Here we go,” Maurice rolled his eyes, laying his own cards down. “I wondered how long it would take for you two to start. We’re not all millionaires, you know.”
John won the hand with a certain measure of satisfaction.
David merely shrugged as he pushed the winnings over to his cousin.
“So now we know there’s nothing in you hanging around
with Lyndhurst, don’t we?” he said, cheerfully, returning to John’s earlier disclosure about marrying, and looking over at Rix for corroboration.
“What’s that?” Rix looked blank.
“I was saying about Jack going over to Lyndhurst’s house all the time… How it could be misconstrued.” David laughed.
“Shut up, Davy, of course it couldn’t be.” Rix frowned. “You’re talking complete rubbish, as usual.”
“What are you talking about?” John asked.
“David.” Rix cut across him. “I mean it. Shut up.”
“Oh, come on – he should know!”
“It was just rumours,” Rix said. “Leave him alone.”
“What were?” John had a feeling he didn’t want to know, but he found himself unable to leave it. “What were the rumours?”
Sequel to The Start of the Summer