Tuesday 17 – Wednesday 18 February 2015
‘I’ve come to believe, uncle, that there are no more stories to tell. They’ve all been told. Everything from here forward will simply be a retelling of stories that have already gone before.’
‘You’re wrong, Francis. There are still so many stories waiting to be written. The thing is, you see,’ replied the older man, ‘that you’ve got to be brave enough to go out and find them. There are stories everywhere. You just need to know where to look for them.’
Francis kicked at the floor, and worried a ratty piece of carpet under the coffee table.
‘Leave that alone, for God’s sake,’ his uncle muttered, ‘and don’t sigh. It’s unbecoming of a gentleman.’
‘You have an answer for everything, Uncle Winston.’
‘It’s because I’m old, Francis, and I’ve gone out and lived my life not sat here in this dank old house watching it pass me by. Think about that, sunshine.’
Uncle Winston struggled to get up from the chair, his aching bones and stiff left leg a reminder of his service to his country in the time of war. The older man shuffled over to the fireplace and leaned against the mantle.
‘You’re not very much older than my father, uncle, and yet –’ Francis gestured to the way the man was propping himself against the mantle.
Uncle Winston feigned surprise, giving his body the once over, pretending to be shocked by his own fragile appearance.
‘You mock me, sir?’ he challenged Francis.
‘No, sir, surely it is you who mocks yourself.’
‘Why Uncle Winston, did you just chortle?’
‘Yes, Francis, I do believe that I did. A little old fashioned in your vocabulary, aren’t you?’
‘Stories, Uncle Winston, stories . . .’
Silence fell between the two men like a welcome blanket on a cold evening. They wore it comfortably, not rushing to fill the void with unnecessary gossip, but rather savouring every minute of the silence. It was the behaviour of two people who were bonded by something other than blood or choice. It was the mark of two people bonded by secrets. When the silence was finally broken, Winston had returned to his seat, and Francis spoke in a whisper.
‘Tell me about 1892.’
The date caught Winston off guard, and he was unable to disguise his shock.
‘There are some things that are never to be spoken of, Francis, and that happens to be at the top of the list.’
‘I want to know what happened. Neither you nor father ever speaks about it . . . why not?’
‘Nothing good came out of 1892, Francis, and your father and I agreed never, never to talk about it again. I don’t intend to break that agreement.’
Francis nodded, not so much a gesture of agreement but more an indication that he was going to have to push the matter with his uncle.
‘Not even if you’re dying?’
‘No,’ Winston snapped.
‘You won’t even confess what happened in 1892 on your death bed?’
‘No. A promise is a promise, Francis. You of all people should understand the binding power of a promise. And all of your sighing and pouting won’t make me change my mind.’
‘No, probably not . . .’ Francis shifted in his seat. He fiddled behind his back drawing Winston’s attention. ‘But perhaps, as I said, on your death bed you might reconsider that promise.’
Winston’s eyes were unflinchingly focussed upon the pistol in his nephew’s left hand.
. . . To be continued . . .