Author: rainiergirl PM
When a young man is killed in an accident on Langara land, his father promises revenge by threatening Rob. Matt's efforts to keep Rob safe strain their relationship. Set after "House of Worship" but before "The Grand Wedding."Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Family - Chapters: 2 - Words: 9,191 - Reviews: 4 - Updated: 03-04-12 - Published: 02-26-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7875575
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A few days later. Matt and Rob are mustering brumbies. They herd them into a paddock.
MATT: We'll leave them here for a bit before we bring them down.
ROB: That suits me. They're not the only ones who could use a rest.
Suddenly a shot is heard. A bullet lodges in the tree above Rob's head. Rob takes cover behind the tree and Matt grabs his rifle.
MATT: Stokes! Show yourself, you coward!
He rides out, circling the area. He comes back and shakes his head.
MATT: Whatever else he is, he's used to the bush. He's gone, Rob.
ROB: Or seems to be, anyway.
Later, at Langara. It is evening. Rob is at the table, cleaning his rifle. Matt is watching him but says nothing. Colin is at the desk. He watches Matt and Rob, then turns his attention to the paper before him and begins to write.
A few days later, at the church. The sulky is outside of the church. Emily is inside, polishing the pews. Colin rides up on his horse and ties it at the rail. He enters the church and Emily looks up.
EMILY: Did you get the sermon to Kathleen?
COLIN: Just now. Finishing an Easter sermon on Good Friday is cutting it a bit close for comfort.
EMILY: Oh, but it's wonderful. And I know it will be even better when I hear you say it on Sunday.
Colin smiles at her, then goes to the altar. He stops short, obviously surprised. There is a potted Easter lily on each end of the altar.
COLIN: Emily, there are lilies here.
EMILY: I know, silly. Your dad helped me get them. They were sent up from a hothouse in Melbourne. I know they're your favorite. It's our first Easter in this church. I wanted to surprise you.
Colin touches one of the lilies gently, then goes to Emily. He kisses her.
COLIN: You are always surprising me.
They kiss again, and when they look up they see a boy in the doorway. It is the Stokes boy.
COLIN: It's all right. Come in.
BOY: I came to fetch you, Parson. It's my mum. She's bad sick, begged me to find a parson to be with her.
COLIN: Is a doctor with her?
BOY: No, sir. It's way past that. There's nothing to be done. She needs you now. Please hurry; my dad promised her you'd come in time.
COLIN: Yes, I'll leave right now.
He puts his hand on the boy's shoulder.
COLIN: It will be all right.
EMILY: Should I come with you?
BOY: Better not, ma'am. It's up in the hills; can't get a buggy up there.
COLIN: Go ahead and go home, Emily. I'll stay as long as I'm needed.
Emily looks at him with concern but gets his Bible off the pulpit and hands it to him. He presses her hand as he takes it from her, then leaves with the boy.
Later. Colin is riding alongside the boy. They are on the ridge where Matt and Rob first encountered Stokes.
COLIN: Your family's up here?
BOY: We know we're probably on somebody's land. But Dad likes to be up high, and we don't got anywhere to stay. You won't tell anyone, will you?
COLIN: It's all right. Is it much farther?
The boy looks at the crest of the ridge, where his father is aiming his rifle.
BOY: No, we're almost there.
They ride along a steep embankment. Suddenly a shot is fired. Colin is hit in the chest. He slumps in the saddle for a few seconds, then falls off of his horse and tumbles down the embankment, landing motionless at the bottom of the gully. Stokes rides over and dismounts, looking down at the still body.
BOY: Is he dead, Dad?
STOKES: Probably so. If he's not, he soon will be. He took it full in the chest.
Stokes takes the reins of Colin's horse and holds him steady. He hands the reins to his son.
STOKES: Hold onto him.
Stokes rummages through the saddle bags.
BOY: What are you looking for?
STOKES: He might have something valuable.
He takes out Colin's Bible.
STOKES: He's not carrying much more than this.
He tosses the Bible on the ground.
BOY: Let's just go.
STOKES: One more thing, boy. Always do a job right.
He takes a piece of paper from inside of his coat. Then he dips his thumb into a drop of blood on the saddle of the horse. He presses his thumb against the paper and then puts the paper under the front of the saddle.
STOKES: Let go of the horse.
The boy drops the reins and Stokes slaps the horse on the rump. It trots off.
Later, at Langara. Emily is inside setting the table for supper and hears riders outside. She goes outside to see who it is, but is clearly disappointed to see Rob and Matt approach. They ride their horses to the stable and she follows them in.
EMILY: I don't suppose you passed Colin on the road?
MATT: No, didn't see him.
EMILY: Oh, well. I didn't expect him back this soon anyway.
ROB: Is he still at the church?
EMILY: No, he...
She suddenly stops speaking and both Matt and Rob look up from tending their horses. Colin's horse is standing in the doorway, riderless.
She goes outside and looks around.
EMILY: I don't see him.
Matt goes to the horse and sees the blood on the saddle. He tries to mask his surprise.
MATT: Let's get him unsaddled.
He begins to unsaddle the horse and notices the paper stuffed under the saddle. He removes it and reads it, then slumps against the horse.
MATT: I've been such a fool. Oh, Colin.
Rob and Emily watch him, Emily with her hands to her mouth.
ROB: What, Dad? What is it?
Matt hands the piece of paper to Rob, who looks at it with a mixture of horror and disbelief. The words "firstborn son" are scrawled on the page, and a bloody thumbprint is clearly visible.
ROB: Oh, no.
Emily has been watching them, obviously trying to hold back panic. She goes to Rob and tries to read the paper, but he keeps her at arm's length.
EMILY: Tell me what's happened. Where's Colin?
MATT: I think he's been hurt, Emily.
Emily watches him silently, waiting for more.
MATT: Where did you say he was?
EMILY: A boy came to the church and asked if Colin would go with him. He said his mother was dying.
MATT: What did this boy look like?
EMILY: He was about fifteen. Brown hair, skinny. Dirty.
ROB: The Stokes boy.
MATT: Did he say where they were going?
EMILY: No. He said in the hills.
MATT: Let's go, Rob.
ROB: The south ridge?
MATT: Yup. Where his son was killed. That's where he would do it.
EMILY: Do what?
The men look at her, but neither answers.
Later. It is almost dark and Matt and Rob are nearing the place where Colin was shot. Suddenly a voice rings out.
STOKES: Can you feel it yet, McGregor? Can you feel the emptiness inside of you yet?
Matt looks around, but he sees nothing. There are many rocks a man could hide behind.
MATT: I'll kill you! You're a dead man, Stokes!
STOKES: Maybe you don't feel it yet. Not tonight. Tonight you won't quite be able to believe it's happened. But tomorrow. Tomorrow, McGregor, when you look up expecting to see him and he's not there, then you'll feel it. Then you'll know the kind of hell that I know. The hell you deserve.
MATT: You miserable son of a...
Rob stops his horse suddenly.
ROB: Dad! Look!
They see Colin's Bible on the ground. Both men quickly dismount. Matt picks up the Bible and holds it tenderly for a moment. Rob shouts to him.
ROB: Come quick, Dad!
Rob is running down the embankment and Matt follows. Colin is lying at the bottom.
They stop when they reach Colin, and Matt kneels beside him.
ROB: Is he...
MATT: I don't know.
Matt checks the pulse on Colin's wrist and shakes his head. Rob hangs his head and brings his hand to his eyes.
Matt then checks the pulse on Colin's neck.
MATT: I think...
He feels the pulse a little longer, then takes his hand away.
MATT: It's barely there, but it's there. He's still with us, Rob. Let's get him up to my horse. I'll take him home. You get Perkins to open up and cable for the doctor.
ROB: I think Dr. Cameron is still in town.
MATT: Let's hope so. And Rob? Get Kathleen. Tell her I need her.
That evening, at Langara. The doctor, Dr. Cameron, comes out of Colin's room and enters the front room where Matt, Kathleen, Rob, and Danni are waiting. They look up expectantly. The doctor sighs heavily.
DR. CAMERON: It's not good. He's hanging on by a thread. Frankly, I'm surprised he survived the trip home.
MATT: Will you take the bullet out?
The doctor looks at them a moment as if uncertain how to reply.
DR. CAMERON: He's very weak. I don't think he could survive that.
ROB: What if you leave it in?
The doctor shakes his head.
DR. CAMERON: He won't last the night. I'm not sure he'll make it another hour.
Danni begins to cry and Rob goes to her and holds her. The doctor watches them and then turns to Matt, who is holding Kathleen's hand.
DR. CAMERON: I'll do whatever you want me to, Matt. But you need to know the facts.
He nods toward the door and the two of them go out onto the veranda.
MATT: Okay, let's have it.
DR. CAMERON: Chest wounds are almost always fatal. I can't tell what damage has been done until I operate, but in Colin's case it might just be cruel to try and do anything. I doubt very much if he could withstand the stress. It would be a lot to put him, and the rest of you, through.
MATT: Is he in pain now?
DR. CAMERON: I don't think so. His body is just...shutting down. It might be more humane to just let him slip away.
Matt puts his head in his hand, then looks at the doctor.
MATT: I can't make this decision. It has to be Emily. You do whatever she tells you to.
The doctor puts his hand on Matt's shoulder, then goes back inside the house.
In Colin's room. The doctor is in his shirt sleeves, as is Matt. Kathleen is pouring a pitcher of water into a basin. Emily is handing a brown bottle and a cloth to the doctor. Her hand is shaking and the doctor takes the bottle from her quickly. He looks at her with concern.
DR. CAMERON: Are you sure you want to be here? Maybe you should wait with the others.
EMILY: I'm not leaving him.
Matt and Kathleen exchange looks, but they say nothing.
DR. CAMERON: Let's get started, then.
Later, Rob and Danni are on the veranda, sitting on a bench. Danni is leaning her head on Rob's shoulder and he has his arm around her.
DANNI: It's taking a long time.
ROB: That's good, I think. They would have told us if something had happened.
DANNI: What will we do if he dies?
ROB: I don't know, Danni. I don't even know how to think about it.
They hear the door open and Matt comes out on the veranda. They look up at him, obviously not wanting to ask him anything.
MATT: He made it through.
Matt sinks wearily on the bench next to Danni and rests his head in his hands. Danni puts her hand on his arm.
Matt looks up at her.
MATT: I'm sorry, Danni, Rob. Dr. Cameron doesn't think Colin will survive through the night.
Matt puts his arm around Danni and the three sit silently on the bench.
The next morning, in Colin's room. Emily is sitting in a chair by Colin's bed. Colin is in the bed, a clean cloth wrapped around his chest. He is not conscious. Emily is holding his hand, watching him. She looks pale and worn, her eyes red, her hair untidy. Matt comes in and puts his hand on her shoulder.
MATT: Why don't you go in my room and lie down for a while? I'll sit with him.
EMILY: I can't leave him. I'm all right.
MATT: Emily, you're going to make yourself sick.
EMILY: It doesn't matter.
She looks at Colin's chest intently.
EMILY: All night long I've watched him breathe. You can't hear him, even if you hold your breath and there are no other sounds. And you can't feel him; if you put your face to his you'd think you could feel his breath on your cheek. But you can't.
Matt watches her, tears in his eyes.
EMILY: But you can see him. If you watch very closely, and don't take your eyes off of him, you can see his chest rise and fall. If you watch him very carefully. And the only thing I want in the world right now is to see that.
Matt presses her shoulder.
MATT: I'll bring you something to eat.
He leaves and goes into the front room. Kathleen and Dr. Cameron are getting ready to leave.
DR. CAMERON: I'm going back to town, Matt. I have some calls I need to make. I've shown Emily how to change Colin's dressing. I'll stop back by later.
Matt shakes his hand.
MATT: Thank you for all you've done.
DR. CAMERON: I wish I could do more. But now it really is out of our hands, Matt.
The doctor leaves the room and Kathleen takes Matt's hand.
KATHLEEN: I need to leave, too, but I won't be long. I just need to see to Michael and get something from the church that Emily asked for.
MATT: Will you cable for troopers? It's all I could do to stop Rob from riding out this morning and looking for Stokes. I won't be able to hold him back much longer.
KATHLEEN: Matt, you're not going to track this man down, are you?
MATT: I hate him, Kathleen. Hate him in a way I didn't even know I had in me. But no, I'm not going after him. My children need me here. I'll let the troopers find him.
Kathleen kisses him lightly.
KATHLEEN: I'll be back as soon as I can.
Later that day. Kathleen drives up to the house in her sulky. There is an Easter lily beside her. Matt comes out of the house and helps her down.
KATHLEEN: How's Colin?
MATT: No change.
Kathleen takes the lily off the seat.
Matt looks at it and smiles.
MATT: Emily was so excited when we were able to get those. She wanted to surprise Colin.
KATHLEEN: I left the other at the church. Emily wanted one here for Colin to see when he wakes up.
MATT: They were his mother's favorite. That's why he likes them so much; he remembers that about her.
He pauses and lightly touches the lily.
MATT: He remembers so much about her. Danni was just a toddler when she died, and Rob's memories are hazy, but Colin remembers so much. He surprises me sometimes, the little things about her he can recall. It's always been a special bond between us, something we share that the other two aren't a part of. Maybe that's part of the reason I can see so much of her in him, more than in Danni and Rob. He's...
Matt stops suddenly and looks at Kathleen, a surprised look on his face, as if he has just realized what he has been talking about.
KATHLEEN: It's all right. I've never minded that you've talked about Claire, and it's natural that you would think about her now.
MATT: I wish she could know him now. To see him as a clergyman, to meet Emily. She would be so happy for him, so proud of him.
He takes the lily from Kathleen and Kathleen takes his arm. The two go into the house.
Later, in Colin's room. Emily is bending over Colin, putting a damp cloth on his head. Matt enters the room with the lily. He puts it on the stand next to Colin's bed.
MATT: Any change?
EMILY: He...he seems feverish.
MATT: Dr. Cameron warned us about infection.
EMILY: He said Colin wouldn't have the strength to fight it.
MATT: I know he said that, but he also said Colin wouldn't make it this far. He was wrong about that. He could be wrong about this.
Suddenly Emily walks to a wall of the room and faces it, leaning her forehead on the wall. Her shoulders shake. Matt goes to her and takes her in his arms. Emily begins to sob.
MATT: It's all right. Let it out. You've hung onto it long enough.
Emily tries to quit crying.
EMILY: I'm sorry.
MATT: You're exhausted. I'm not going to ask you to leave, because I know you won't. How can I help you, Emily?
EMILY: You could stay for a while, sit with me.
Matt smiles at her, then leads her to the chair next to the bed. He pulls the other chair up next to it and sits down. He puts his arm around her, and the two of them watch Colin.
Later. Kathleen comes into the room, holding several pieces of paper. Emily is asleep, her head on Matt's shoulder. Matt puts his finger to his lips.
Kathleen goes to him and whispers to him.
KATHLEEN: How's Colin?
MATT: Not good. He has a fever now.
Kathleen puts the papers on the stand and goes to Colin. She rinses out the cloth on his head, then puts it back on. She picks up the papers and hands them to Matt.
KATHLEEN: I picked this up at the printing office when I went into town. It's the Easter sermon Colin gave me to print. I think you should read it.
Matt nods and Kathleen leaves quietly.
Matt begins to read the sermon, emotion evident as he reads. When he has finished he puts the papers on the bed and looks at Colin. He puts his hand over Colin's. Emily stirs and wakes, a little disoriented.
MATT: It's all right.
Emily takes the papers from the bed.
EMILY: What's this?
MATT: Colin's sermon. Kathleen brought it from the printing office.
EMILY: I read it when he finished it. I've been thinking about it. Thinking about tomorrow. Colin wanted the Easter service to be so special. He would never have wanted the church to sit empty, especially tomorrow.
MATT: I know. I've thought about that, too.
EMILY: Could you...I mean, would you...
MATT: I'll do anything you want me to, Emily.
EMILY: Would you hold the service tomorrow? Read Colin's sermon? I know it's what he'd want; I know he's the one who would ask you if he could.
Matt looks at her and then at Colin.
MATT: I'd be honored to do that.
The next morning, in the church. The congregation is coming in. Matt is standing at the door to greet them and thank them for their words of concern about Colin. Kathleen, Michael, Rob, and Danni are in a pew.
DANNI: It feels strange to be here without Colin and Emily.
ROB: I hope we did the right thing, leaving Emily home alone.
KATHLEEN: It was more important for her that we all be here. Colin would want that, too.
ROB: I know. It's just that...well, we don't know what we'll find when we get back home.
Kathleen presses his arm reassuringly and Matt comes to the front of the church. The congregation quiets and watches him expectantly.
MATT: What should be the most joyous of days for us is tempered with sorrow. As we come together here to share our grief and concern, I think it's important also that we share the true meaning of this day. That's what Colin would have wanted for us. I would like to read for you the words that he prepared for this service, the words he wanted you to hear.
Matt takes several pieces of paper from the pulpit, then moves away from the pulpit. He glances at the lily on the altar, then begins to read.
MATT: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God loves us, and because of that love He let His son, whom He also loved, die. What must it feel like to love someone so much that we would send that loved one out into certain danger? God knew that kind of love, but do we? We say we love our neighbors, our wives, our husbands. We say we love our sons and daughters. But when it comes time to give those we cherish the freedom to venture forth from us, away from the safety and warmth of our arms, that love is tested. We know that this world is fraught with danger, and it makes us afraid. It makes us hesitant to let go of those closest to us.
Matt pauses and looks at Rob and Danni, then continues reading.
MATT: Our earthly life is limited and we must never forget that. Remembering that, we must seek out and hold fast to all of the joyous moments that God has made so abundant. And we cannot do that if we are reined in by fear. Why should it be so hard to love as God loved, to love so much that we put aside our own needs and courageously send forth into the world those we treasure? It is hard because we don't trust. Somehow, somewhere, we have lost our trust that a higher power will keep those closest to us safe. We must regain that trust. We musn't forget that God's eye is on the sparrow, that He gives us strength and protection in the face of our enemies. And if it is His plan, in His infinite wisdom, to call those we love home to Him, we must never look upon that as a failure on our parts.
Matt's voice breaks and he stops, trying to regain his composure. Several members of the congregation are dabbing their eyes with kerchiefs. Matt looks at Kathleen and she nods encouragingly to him. He continues.
MATT: We must instead remember why God gave us His son. If our loved ones have accepted God's son as their savior, then they will not truly perish. They will have everlasting life. And today, on the day that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, we must renew our trust in that, and in so doing, renew our trust in ourselves. Our trust in ourselves to love so much that we are willing to let our neighbors, our spouses, and our children celebrate the joys of this world unbridled by our fear for their safety. Because we trust that they do not walk alone. God has promised us that...
The scene fades out and shifts to Colin's room at Langara. The room is flooded by morning light, shining on the lily by Colin's bed. Emily is on her knees by the bed, her head bowed in prayer. Colin stirs and his eyes open. He looks at the lily and then at Emily. He places a hand on Emily's head and weakly strokes her hair. She looks up and takes Colin's hand in hers. She gently squeezes his hand, and he returns the pressure. The full room is seen again-the sunlight, the lily, and Emily and Colin holding hands, and the scene ends.