THE FUTURE CASTS ITS SHADOW
by Lavinda de Rossi
“The future casts its shadow before itself.
But we more often shudder, half-knowing in the whiff of its throw, than actually see the complete outline of its silhouette. J W Von Goethe.
IT WAS LATE SPRING, in the Cotswolds, a time of bumblebees, butterflies, honeysuckle and hollyhocks, of fledgling birds on the wing. Today was Sunday and here I was, kneeling on a mat, tilling the weeds from the flowerbeds. Armed with my garden trowel and its partnering fork, I am not really enjoying this, I thought. Growing seedlings, transplanting plants and tending the trees, were more my scene. But it had to be done and as there was no-one around who was game to do it, I would have to get on with it.
Hubby was on the far side of the old stonewalling, a few yards away, grumbling all the way. Reluctant to dig over the long-overgrown vegetable patch, he was making no bones about it, complaining all the way. We lived near Burford then, in a 500 year-old renovated stone-built barn that, in times gone by, had been occupied by the local blacksmith and his wise-woman wife. A ley-line ran through the land, the cornerstone of the house and the ancient well, I had learned. Many herbs grew in the garden. The property had a good feel about it.
Busy couple that we were, commuting from Swindon or Oxford on the high-speed trains to work in London during the week; at the weekends, we either caught up with friends or worked together as a team in the garden.
I had done more than I had originally intended on this particular day and decided it was high time I went indoors. I could do with a shower. Edging forward to tackle one last clump of weeds in a final burst of determined energy, I brushed against a lavender bush as I dug deep. It was an irksome task, attempting to dig up the clumps of grass growing up against the purple and green sage. I breathed a sigh of exasperation.
In response to my touch, a cloud of time-honoured perfume exuded from the lavender, wafting into my senses, making me pause. Content in my thinking, I sat back on my heels and breathed deeply, thankful for the joy of today – the sunshine, the flowers, the birdsong, the warm breeze that played with the delicate pink and white apple blossom now on the drop and, of course, hubby, he was important too. It was so beautifully peaceful here, in Kencot.
Suddenly, my peripheral vision became aware of a tall shadow moving slowly towards me, coming from the direction of our main gate. As I watched, the shadowy form came to a halt right beside me. I took stock. Before me, stood a man, someone of a friendly disposition rather than a menace, I sensed.
He looked down at me. I looked up at him. I did not recognize him.
Perplexed, “Are you there,” I called out to the grumbling, mumbling to himself man on the other side of the wall. “There appears to be someone here to see you. He’s tall and slim and wearing a navy blue city suit and has a mop of silver hair. Recognize him?”
“No!” came a short reply capped by a couple of loud grunts.
“Well, I don’t think he’s a ghost. He seems different somehow. Come to think of it, it can’t be anyone local. He’s not wearing the village gear - tweeds, cords, and brogues. This slim-line feller looks really snazzy. A city slick for sure. I wonder who he is?”
Silence from the other side of the wall.
A second later, there came a loud shout of annoyance from the other side of the stonework. The, red-faced, hubby appeared round the end of the six foot stonewalling. Spade in hand, naked to the waist, perspiration pouring off him, he was narked, no end.
“Something got me on the leg,” he snapped, lifting his trouser leg to show me the damage inflicted. “Must have been wasps!”
“Or an adder,” I said, getting up off my knees to inspect the injury. “Looks like a snake bite to me – with the two puncture marks.” I bent over to inspect the wound more closely. “We’d better get you to hospital. The Commander, (our neighbour next door,) mentioned he’d seen adders recently. Remember? Said he’d shooed them away. Didn’t say which way though, did he? Our way?
By now, pale at the gills and wide-eyed with horror, my husband hurried
into the house through the kitchen stable door. “I’ll just go and have a quick shower. I can't go like this. You get the car out.”
Minutes later, we were on our way to hospital, our shadowy visitor forgotten.
A week later, on the Sunday morning, we were late getting up. I went downstairs to make a cup of tea. As I drew back the red velvet curtains from across the double front door, I heard a faint click - of the gate. Suspicious, I peered through the glass panes.
Caught in the morning sun, a man’s extending shadow was quickly melting into reality. A few steps later, he was standing on our front doorstep, looking through the glass - at me. He tapped on the window. Selling religion, is he, this really smart feller, I mused?
Before me, dressed in a dark city suit, was the tall, slim man with a mop of silver hair - of similar ilk to the man I had seen in the garden the week before.
I opened the front door - just ajar.
“Sorry to arrive unannounced,” he said. “But you’re not in the telephone book, so I couldn’t ring. Is your husband in?” His grey eyes glanced past me, searching eagerly for hubby as he stared into the hall. “I’ve had it in mind to get in touch with him again – when I was in the area. You see we’re old buddies - from our time in the Forces. I heard he was living out this way now. As I’m in the Cotswolds this weekend, I thought I’d look him up.”
“There’s someone here to see you,” I called upstairs, standing back to welcome the man in. “You know, that guy from last week? He’s tall and slim and handsome, wearing a navy blue city suit and has a mop of silver hair?”
As the rumble of naked feet over carpet and staircase took precedence over anything I had to say, I marvelled at how I had been able to pick up the visitor's projected thoughts of wanting to catch up with his old buddy. There were smiles all round, as the men greeted each other affably.
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