This is part 2-A. The songs covered in this section are: "I'll Be There" by Clifton Davis; "The Master Song" by Leonard Cohen; "Leader of the Pack" (don't have lyricist/composer info); "Follow Me" by John Denver; "Anticipation" by Carly Simon; "Honky-Tonk Woman" by the Rolling Stones; "What a Wonderful World(This Would Be)" (don't have lyricist/composer info.)

 

I don't know who wrote "We, the unwilling".

 

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PART TWO---The Tree of Knowledge of Evil by Lorraine A. Balint

You and I must make a pact,

We must bring salvation back,

Whenever you need me, I'll be there.

I'll reach out my hand to you,

I'll have faith in all you do.

Just call my name....

 

---Clifton Davis

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

April, 1972---Willie came back to Fairbeach to get Cellie a few days before her birthday. He was joined by Janice Hoffman, who got on the train with him when it stopped in Boston. She had finally gotten Walter to leave for good. He'd returned to his former girlfriend. The nuns told Janice that, under the circumstances, only one parent's consent was necessary to release an underage student from their care. Since Cellie had taken, and passed her exams, there was little point in keeping her until the last minute, especially if she intended to apply for her marriage license in time to marry on Willie's birthday.

 

Janice had begun to take an odd liking to her future son-in-law. Perhaps it was her newly-discovered spirit of defiance to the rules formerly imposed on her by Walter. Or maybe it was her old interest in righting social wrongs, the interest that had goaded her to join the movement for that clinic in Roxbury where Cellie had gotten her pills.

 

The more she considered Willie's history, the more she became convinced he had suffered as much as he may have made others suffer. Though she still had anxious moments, thinking about her daughter's future with this man, she had ceased to believe he would hurt her in some irreparable way. On the contrary, he behaved as if he was truly concerned about Cellie's welfare. On the way down to Connecticut, she and Willie discussed different plans to help Cellie finish her high school classes, and then helping her to go to college after the baby was born, now that Walter had withdrawn his financial assistance.

 

"Barnabas and Julia will probably help us with that. It's just the traveling that might be a problem," Willie commented. "I'll think of something. I promised Cecily, and now I promised that Sister Innocent. That's like promising God, I guess. You know, until I went down there, I didn't know too much about nuns. We always heard wierd stories about them, where I grew up. But these nuns were pretty nice. When Barnabas told me she was staying with nuns, I thought at first it was because she wanted to be one. I guess I could've accepted it, as long as I knew it was them."

 

Janice replied, "It's a wonder you're accepting that you'll soon be married and a father, and that your wife will be dividing her time between her family and her education. When I met her father, I was a student in a pre-law class, and he was my tutor. We got married when I was a year and a half away from graduating. I had Ernest right away, and I never had a thought about going back to school, at least when he was young. Just when I thought he was old enough to stay with a sitter, and not miss me, I turned up pregnant just about the time I was going to sign up for part-time classes. After that, Walter and I agreed that I might as well postpone going back until Cellie grew up. I never got around to it, though I might now, seeing as she'll be married and living up here, anyway."

 

"I want Cecily to have whatever makes her happy, and whatever it takes to get her to stay around with me," Willie admitted. He continued, "For someone who's so smart, she never makes fun of anyone who's not. If anything, she picks on the ones who are as smart, or smarter."

 

"My daughter, champion of the underdog," Janice sighed. "Oh, that's not a dig against you, Willie. It just means she sees things in people that others miss. My late mother was like that. It was like she knew you were feeling bad, and had a solution to your problem, or just an aspirin for your headache, before you even felt like you had one. She died a few months before Cellie was born.

I wish they could have known each other."

 

Willie got a little excited by this information. He knew Barnabas and Julia were wracking their brains trying to figure out how it happened that Cellie had acquired her ability. So it had skipped a generation; perhaps it would pass their child by, after all. The thought made him kind of sad. He said, "That's just how Cecily is with everybody, but she says it's strongest with me." Then he asked, "Did Julia ever meet your mother at all?"

 

"Just a couple of times," Janice answered, wondering why he was so interested. "At my wedding, of course, then at Ernest's christening, and a couple of family get-togethers. But they didn't talk much together, and Julia was off at school and involved with other interests the rest of the time."

 

They had arrived at the Fairbeach station. Willie called for a taxi, and within twenty minutes, they were at St. Dymphna's. When Cellie came down to meet them, Willie and Janice couldn't believe their eyes. Cellie had put on some weight, though she was still thinner than she would have been under normal circumstances. But her face was free of lines and shadows, and her hair, which had become dull and brittle, had a new luster. It also had a new style; Margene had amused herself by sitting over Cellie, as the red-haired girl sat on the floor, and creating an elaborate maze of tiny braids.

 

"This'll last you weeks, and you won't need buckets of water to wash it, either," Margene instructed. "And if your man complains, then you can bore him to death, watching you undo all hundred-thirty of 'em. If you do, you'll look like a red-headed Cleopatra. Just consider it part one of my wedding present to you. I can't thank you enough for helping me get things straight with Marcus G."

 

Cellie remembered the night, a week earlier, when Margene had been weeping over one of Marcus G.'s letters. When Cellie read it, she'd become outraged. "What is all this crap about 'The Man's' rules, anyway? They can't all be bad rules. If something makes sense, it shouldn't matter what 'Man' made it up! If Marcus isn't 'Man' enough to take up his responsibilities, then maybe you'll have to tell him to give it up. I hope he doesn't though, I know how much you want to be able to keep the baby." She then embraced Margene, until the older girl's tears dried, and Cellie could sense the anxiety lifting from her heart.

 

Well, Margene had it out with her errant lover over the phone. The whole Home could hear her sharp tone, as she announced, "So, if you want your kid to live with strangers, and someday, pass you on the street, without him or her even noticing you're alive, you go ahead and play with those bomb-tossing jail-lovers. End up in San Quentin. That's cool with me. When I'm a rich and famous lawyer, I might even handle your appeal someday, if you make enough money on your jailhouse autobiography." This wasn't quite the loving discussion Cellie had in mind. She feared that the worst had come to pass. Then, two days later, a "special delivery" letter arrived for Margene. When Margene tore into it and read it, she almost jumped for joy, but stopped just in time, or she would have delivered on the spot.

 

"He's coming! He's coming!" she sang. Cellie ran into the recreation room, with a few other girls. "He's gonna marry me, and take me back to our hometown, and transfer back to the college in Baltimore. Thank you, Jesus!"

 

Then she hugged her friend. "I'll bet you thought I was too sassy on the phone," Margene said. "But you don't get it. When he hung up, I heard him laughing. He alway liked the way I made him laugh."

 

So now, Cellie, with her copper cornrows, and her best skirt, greeted her fiance and her mother, both of who looked amazed at her hairstyle. Willie held her and whispered in her ear, "Just can't leave well enough alone with our hair, I guess. You will fix it before we get married, won't you?"

 

"Oh, Will. It took Margene hours to do this. I want to leave it for at least a month, okay? Margene gave me these really fancy silver beads to stick on the ends for our wedding. You'll get such a kick out of it when I'm belly-dancing around our bedroom. " She said this last in a whisper.

 

Janice did catch the remark about the wedding. "Cellie, your friend David's aunt Elizabeth called me about the wedding. I told her that you insisted on getting married on Willie's birthday, but since it was a weeknight, a reception was out of the question. So she offered to give you a little reception the following Sunday,at Collinwood, if you both wanted to."

 

"I don't know what to say. I don't know how we'd ever repay her. What do you think, Will?"

 

He was silent for a whole minute. Then he said, "I don't think so. It would feel too wierd for me. I was an unwelcome guest there once, and to be the guest of honor now--- and I wouldn't know what to do in return, either."

 

"Oh, say yes. She said both David and Carolyn were enthusiastic about it, and frankly, Julia and Barnabas don't have enough room, especially if Willie invited his own family. Unless you want to wait a while, and see if we can get the Collinsport Inn banquet hall. I called them, and they're booked solid for two months."

 

"I don't have enough family to fill a table, let alone a hall," Willie said. "Okay, if that's what you two want. I guess that's a woman's thing anyway, planning parties."

 

 

"Who would you invite from your side, Willie?" asked Janice. "I have to know, for when I call Elizabeth back."

 

"I guess my sister Fran, and her husband and two kids, if they can get away from the farm for a couple of days. And my younger brother Paul. He's coming back on leave, but only for a few days. I know the war's damn near over, but there's a lot of mopping up to do. He'll be stuck going back. That's about it. I haven't heard from the others in years."

 

Cellie squeezed him around his waist, in sympathy. She thought, "Pretty soon there'll be another family, one that won't break up into bite-sized pieces around him. Even if we have ten kids, we'll always know where they are." She said, "That's all settled. Could we all talk about this some more at the diner? I really need one of Teddy K.'s kitchen-sink specials."

 

When they got back from the diner, Willie was permitted into the "inner sanctum" of Cellie's room, in order to carry out her luggage. The other girls followed him around like the Pied Piper. They compared notes, and realized he was the oldest father of a Home baby, that they'd ever heard of. "If he's that old, he must be rich. Lucky Cellie," commented Sharon, the youngest resident.

 

"No, actually she had a chance with a really rich guy," replied Margene, who had superior knowledge. "But I guess he must be something special anyway."

 

Downstairs, before they left, Cellie embraced both Sister Innocent, and Sister Marie Clare. Sister Clare said, "I've called your former school, in order to find out if any arrangements could be made for you to finish high school before the baby comes. You won't be able to attend regular classes, but the guidance counselor said there were tutors available to prepare you for the final exams in June. If you pass those, you will get a diploma, though, again, you won't be allowed to be in the graduation."

 

"That's the way it goes. I'm sorry for my Mom and brother having to miss that. But there will be a college graduation someday, you can count on it. And in a week, I guess I will be going through a kind of graduation. You're invited, you know, to the reception, and Margene, too, if she doesn't have her baby right away, and she's not spirited away by Marcus."

 

Sister Innocent said, briskly, "Well, only one of us can leave our duties here at any given time, so we'll have to check to see which of us will be free that day. As for Margene, she still has three weeks to go. It will be up to the doctor to tell if she can attend. I hope you've made arrangements with a doctor in Maine. These are your medical records up to now." She handed Cellie a large Manila envelope.

 

"Well, this is goodbye, then," Cellie sighed. "I never thought I'd be this sad about leaving here, but, Geez...." She burst into tears. Sister Innocent held her, and drew her aside.

 

"May God watch over you, your baby, and your young man, dear. You know, even in your troubles, you never gave us any cause to as much as admonish you. This is a very rare situation. But you ARE a rare individual, with rare gifts. Never forget, you and Mr. Loomis must rise above the traps you've both fallen into. But I feel there is a special destiny for you, my dear. I pray that you'll find it to be a great one."

 

Cellie whispered, "Thank you, Sister. I'm praying for your brother, too."

 

Sister said softly, "That means a great deal to me. Someday, when you're settled and there's time to spare, I shall tell you more about us---"

 

Just then Willie came into the office. "Cecily, the taxi's waiting. We'll be late for the train." He took her hand, the one where her engagement ring now fit without slipping off.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie was in her room at the Old House, deciding what to wear for her wedding in two days. Julia had wanted to take her shopping for a wedding dress, but Cellie said it would make her feel funny, under the circumstances. "I wish I could wear the turquoise dress. Will's really hung up on that old thing. But he's already seen me in it, and I heard that's supposed to be bad luck. What's more, I tried it on, and it doesn't fit anymore. And anyway, I never really cared for it much myself. Talk about serendipity! Aunt Jule, can I wear your rose blouse and grey skirt? I always liked it."

 

"But Willie's seen me in it," Julia protested, with a laugh.

 

"That doesn't count. He's not marrying you. Oh, please? I won't get any stains on it, or anything."

 

"Oh, alright, if it fits, you can wear it."

 

"Thank you, Aunt Jule. I have to show you what Mrs. Texeira gave me yesterday. It'll fit right in." Cellie opened a long, brocaded box. She lifted what looked like a silver spider's web. "It's a handmade lace mantilla from Lisbon. It belonged to Mrs. T's mother. She has a few of them, for herself and Nurse Fatima, so she gave this one to me. There's even silver hairpins to hold it in place."

 

"That should look smashing with those silver braid beads."

 

"Oh, this is so long, it'll hide them completely." Cellie became dizzy. She sat on the bed. Julia hovered over her.

 

"Want me to call Dr. Hurley?"

 

"No, thanks. I just got a little overexcited. I'll be okay. I'll try on the clothes later. I guess I should rest." Julia sat with her for a while, then had to go downstairs to make dinner. Cellie didn't sleep. She thought of the tumultuous welcome she'd gotten from Carolyn and David, as well as Elizabeth, when she'd first arrived. There was something missing, someone she needed to see. Hallie. She didn't know if she could ever explain what had happened, but she wanted an opportunity to make peace with her former friend, as well as with the Professor. She knew Barnabas and Julia missed seeing him, and Cellie had to find out what she could do to make up for what she'd done.

 

Barnabas came upstairs to see her as soon as he'd gotten home from the Antique Shoppe. She let him take her hand. Every time he saw her now, Cellie sensed great waves of contrition flowing from him. She had no fear for herself, in his presence, and she made the effort to believe him when he vowed he would never do anything to harm Willie again. He'd told he wanted their lives to return to normal, as much as possible under the circumstances, and that included making peace with Elliot and Hallie.

 

He said, "I don't know if we'll ever be able to re-establish friendly relations with the Stokes family. These feelings of rejection and betrayal, as you surely know by now, sometimes never go away." He sighed. "I do miss them terribly. And Elliot would have been a great help in dealing with your problem."

 

"Barnabas, you can't throw away two hundred years of friendship between the Collinses and the Stokeses just like that. Take me. I can make the connection. I can even take the rejection, if it comes to that. You wouldn't have to say a word."

 

"Well, I'll go discuss this with your aunt. If she feel there's no danger to you and the baby, we'll go as soon as possible."

 

Less than an hour later, Barnabas was parking his car in front of the Stokes bungalow. He, Julia, and Cellie approached the front steps with some trepidation. Cellie said, "You both stand back. I'll do most of the talking. Here goes nothing." She rang the bell.

 

Elliot answered. He held the evening paper in his hand. Cellie was thankful they hadn't come any later, as Hallie once told her that Elliot usually preferred to retire at a ridiculously early hour when he didn't have other plans. "Cellie. What are you doing here?" His tone was unfriendly. He looked beyond her. "Julia. And Barnabas. You should have called first."

 

"And have you tell us we can't come anyway?" Cellie said. "Professor Stokes, I need to talk to you and Hallie. I have something to ask you. It's dreadfully important." She was standing up to his modest waves of blue-yellow anger. Willie could generate more emotion if he discovered his coffee wasn't strong enough. It was that sad mauve grey, those midnight blues, that wore her down.

 

Elliot replied, "I wouldn't let you see Hallie even if she wanted to. Thank goodness she's at a game with the cheerleaders. You must know, Cellie, since you were sent away, Hallie told me the whole sordid story of your intrigue with Willie Loomis. She told me how she had to play along with David while he saw to it that you two could be alone. Needless to say, I don't encourage her to spend time with him anymore, either. I was truly outraged when she told me the truth about your little fainting spell on the road from Ellsworth. My God, all of you could have been killed. You all behaved abominably, and, I understand, with predictable results." He glared at her belly.

 

Barnabas said, "Elliot--", but Cellie reached behind, and tapped him on his chest. She said, apologetically, "Yes, we did things that were wrong. You have the right to be angry with us. I'm going to make you even angrier when I tell you, it's my fault you didn't get to marry my Aunt."

 

Elliot looked stricken. "How could you have done that? Why would you have done that? Are you such a manipulative little minx that you don't care who you hurt? Are you so mindlessly attached to Barnabas that if he wants something, it must be a good idea? That's the sort of thinking I would expect from your lover. What kind of a person are you, Cellie?" He turned away, to hide his tears. His abject sorrow was physically painful for Cellie. Barnabas and Julia, seeing her wince, tried to lead her down the steps.

 

She pulled away from them, and stepped into the house, following Elliot. He turned, and said, "Please remove yourself from my home." Cellie grabbed his arms and looked into his eyes. He tried to turned away, as though he feared bewitching. She breathed deeply. He felt all the pain and anger and frustration literally being lifted from him. Then, they returned, but he could keep them in a manageable place, held in invisible chains, and think about his next move. He wondered if they would crash on him when she removed her hands from his arms.

 

Cellie had become very red in the face, and she put her hands to her mouth. Elliot quickly led her to the bathroom. He, Barnabas, and Julia, who had come into the house, listened to her tortured retching.

 

"If I had known THIS would happen," Julia said, "I wouldn't have consented to bring her. She's been under an exceptional strain, until lately. It makes things even more difficult, that I can't give her any medication except in an emergency."

 

Finally Cellie emerged, redder than ever, and sweating, and fell into her uncle's arms. "That," she whispered, "is the kind of person I am."

 

Elliot's mind was clear enough at present, to indulge in simple wonderment and intellectual curiosity. "Empathic transference," he said. "I've certainly known incidents of direct empathic contact with a specific individual, as you have, Barnabas. This is completely different. I've only heard of several such cases, but it's a one-in-ten million chance, that I should meet an empath with such a versatility of function, here."

 

Barnabas finally spoke. "And what better place to meet one than here?"

 

Elliot said, "How did this come about? Is this a recent phenomenon, due to the pregnancy, or has it been going on longer?"

 

Cellie couldn't speak. Elliot ran to get her a glass of cool water. While she swallowed cautiously, Julia explained. "The first incidence took place when she was around thirteen."

 

"Puberty seems to bring out these anomalies," Elliot mused. "Hallie began to have clairvoyant dreams when she was almost fourteen. It was a great sorrow to her that she couldn't prevent her parents' departure on that last trip, even though she'd been dreaming about airplanes for a week beforehand." He sighed. "I've actually tried to discourage her from interpreting her dreams, telling her it's coincidence, that it's not significant.... I wonder how much she believes that, but I felt that she really didn't have the emotional stamina, and after our 1841 adventure, it hardly seemed necessary....I'm sorry, do continue."

 

Julia commented, "Perhaps this is time to deal with it, BEFORE it ever BECOMES necessary." She then picked up the story. "Cellie's 'anomaly' started, if I understand her explanation correctly, with simple sensations, and seeing different colors in her head. The colors differentiate the emotions before they become clear on their own merits. As you can see, she can become quite ill when the emotions become violent. Well, with the onset of sexual feelings and activities, it became more acute. She can actually sense when Willie is in the area, from some distance. She became very ill in the maternity home, from negative emotions absorbed from him when we forced them to part. And she discovered a new facet of her talent."

 

Cellie spoke in a hoarse whisper. "It's what I wanted to tell you. I knew that, deep down, Aunt Jule was ambivalent about marrying you. That she was in love with Barnabas, but she gave up on him. But I got the sense that he loved her back. I'm sorry. So sorry. I didn't want to, but I made her emotions turn on herself somehow. I thought I was killing her."

 

Elliot stared at the floor. "Julia, I remember how you said you felt absolutely no pain, once you took off the engagement ring, and handed it to me."

 

"I wasn't being callous, Elliot," Julia said soothingly. "I was in tremendous agony, until I could bring myself to do that. I had tried so hard to believe that marrying you would be the best thing for all of us, but doubts kept eating at me, until the last instant, doubts that might well have shattered our marriage eventually."

 

"I don't know what to say, Julia," her former fiancee said. "I suppose it could have been a mistake, going through with it. I admit I was feeling a little ambivalent myself. But I did love you. I'm not ashamed to say it still hurts."

 

"Hurts me too. Hate to see good friends part," Cellie croaked. Her throat was burning again. She went to get more water.

 

"Believe me when I say that I did suffer tremendous guilt over disappointing you, Elliot," Julia continued. "Without Cellie to prompt us to action, I'm not sure when either I or Barnabas would have gathered the courage to plead for your forgiveness. We miss you terribly, as a friend and an advisor."

 

Barnabas said. "Elliot, we all had some interesting times together, when we were working toward a common goal. We miss your insights about the empathism and other matters. Cellie has also been visited by a spirit, a benign one, fortunately. Apparently, she can 'read' ghosts as well as people."

 

Elliot replied,"Hallie DID mention such an incident, months ago, after Cellie's first visit to Collinwood, though she reported that both Cellie and David, who also apparently saw the entity, minimized it to the point that even I thought it simply a random apparition. I'm sure there are many such minor phantasms still at Collinwood. But THIS changes everything! To get directly to anyone's basest feelings would be a heady power for an evil entity, I suppose. Saves one the trouble of working through the intellects and inhibitions imposed from the outside."

 

"Exactly," Barnabas replied. "Elliot, I swear to you, we had no idea of this condition when she first came to us. She was using it in an immature fashion, as one would expect from a young girl. Of course, as long as she kept the sensations to herself, it did little harm. But you can see what problems this may lead to, unless she is taught to use it appropriately. She even managed to strike an emotional blow to her own father, in an effort to protect Willie, by combining my anger with her own. And then, there is the child. Willie told us that Cellie may have inherited the trait from her maternal grandmother. Just because it skipped one generation doesn't mean it will also skip this one." Barnabas put his hand on his old friend's shoulder, and smiled ruefully. "I must say, Elliot, surrogate parenting is quite a difficult task."

 

Elliot felt the rest of his negative feelings, held in place by the invisible chains, slowly dissipate. "That's true, even with Hallie, now that she's opening herself to new experiences. Between what I

suppose are normal adolescent dilemmas and facing her peculiar gifts make ME fear a day of reckoning---"

 

Julia said, "Elliot, don't even think for a minute that she will end up in the same situation as Cellie. They may be subject to the same temptations, but Cellie was the more adventurous."

 

Barnabas commented, "It was almost inevitable, but to tell the truth, if it had to happen with anyone, I could think of a dozen more suitable candidates than Willie. Still, he's quite eager to assume his responsibilities."

 

Cellie had returned. She'd overheard a little of the conversation while she frantically gulped water. She knew she would live to regret drinking all that fluid but she finally got the heat in her throat to die down. "Professor," she whispered loudly, "I wanted to ask you and Hallie to my wedding reception at Collinwood. We're getting married the day after tomorrow, but Mrs. Stoddard's giving a party on Sunday afternoon."

 

"As a matter of fact, Elizabeth invited us already, with a view to repairing the rift in all our relationships. I told her I would have to think it over. Now I know I'll certainly accept. I'll talk to Hallie, and maybe she'll be willing to call you tomorrow. In spite of everything, she does miss you."

 

"I miss her too. It'll be nice to get together. We're having quite a mix of guests. All the Collinses, of course, and my mom and brother, and Lillian. Will's sister's family and his brother, and Sister Clare from the Home. and maybe, my friend Margene. Those jewelers who sold us our rings, the Detweiler-Braithewaites. Oh, yeah, and Mrs. Texeira."

 

"Well, I'm sure it will be an interesting gathering. We'll see you Sunday, then."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Willie and Cellie were married at the Collinsport courthouse that Tuesday, by Judge James. Willie found it a novel experience to enter any courthouse for a positive reason. When the Judge completed the ceremony, and Willie was about to kiss his bride, she whispered, "How's this for a birthday present?" and embraced him passionately. Barnabas and Julia, the sole attendees and witnesses, and even Willie himself, were a little embarrassed, but the Judge found it rather amusing.

 

The older couple took the newlyweds to dinner at the Collinsport Inn. By this time, Cellie was far more subdued, and sat quietly enough with her new husband. She leaned against his shoulder, her multitude of tiny braids tumbling around under her mantilla. She'd left off the silver beads, when she discovered they made annoying clacking sounds which even she thought was inappropriate for a wedding. She would save them for Sunday, when she still had hopes of seeing Margene. She was surprised to find herself becoming nervous. She glanced at Willie, and even though he was gazing at her mildly, she knew he was anxious too.

 

There was something about the stiff artificiality of the situation, sitting so calmly across from the two people who, just weeks before, had seemed to be their staunchest opponents. Even though Cellie felt comfortable with her uncle and aunt in private, she knew they'd never be completely at ease when they saw her with her husband. Both Willie and Cellie were quite relieved when, after the conventional embraces and good wishes, Barnabas and Julia got into their own car to drive home.

 

Cellie climbed into the station wagon beside Willie. She reached out for him, and he grabbed her, pulling her down on the wide front seat. They were both laughing now. Between kisses, she said, "Hey, watch out for the veil!" They sat up, while Cellie carefully removed the delicate lace web and its silver anchors, and folded it up carefully into her purse. "Well, are we going home, or shall we scandalize everyone who walks into the parking lot?"

 

"Home." He gunned the wheezy motor.

 

They got to the Antique Shoppe's kitchen door. When Willie unlocked it, he said, "You know what I have to do now."

 

"Oh, Geez, Will, you'll slip a disk and become absolutely use--" Cellie squealed in delighted exasperation as he carried her over the threshold.

 

"Thanks for the lift, hon. I hope you're not going to carry me up the stairs, too?"

 

"Nah, I got better ways to wear myself out." First, he pulled down the new kitchen shades. No more free shows for passersby on the sidewalk. Then he held Cellie gently. He whispered, "You're sure we won't be hurting the baby?"

 

She replied, "You heard Dr. Hurley. 'Everything in moderation.' We'll just have to figure out for ourselves what that's supposed to mean."

 

He led her upstairs. They laid down on the bed. "Now, don't mess up the dress," she warned.

 

He said, "I can take care of that." He quickly worked on her buttons and zippers. Then he turned his attention to the whiplike braids. "Cecily, please do something about these."

 

"Can't I keep them till Sunday, at least? I wanted Margene to see me with the beads. I can't take 'em out now , in any case, unless you want to wait around a few hours." Geez, she thought. Willie really had a tendency to get bossy about the hair. For the first time, Cellie wondered what else he might get bossy about.

 

He sighed. "I suppose you're right. I don't feel like waiting, that's for sure. I just don't get it with girls always messing up their hair."

 

"I'll show you who's a girl."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie had fallen asleep, curled up to Willie as she always had, her braided head resting on his chest. Suddenly, he began to twitch, and then toss and turn.The bride woke up to the sound of her husband groaning in his sleep. He was attempting to fend off some attacker that appeared in his dream. She leaned over him, gently trying to wake him. A couple of the braids brushed his face, and one slid into his mouth, maybe down his throat. He rose quickly, coughing, slapping her away, muttering something about snakes all over him.

 

"Will, cut that out! What are you doing? It's me." She had a sick fear in the pit of her stomach, akin to the fear she'd absorbed before she was sent away--- all bright blue violet. He realized what he was doing, and huddled away from her. She repeated, sadness in her voice, "Will, it's just me, Cecily."

 

He replied, in a defeated tone, "Sorry, Cecily. I'm sorry. I just get these dreams sometimes--- Someone-someone was after me, and then the snakes...."

 

"You're getting carried away. I know you were really scared, but I think you're just too hung up about the braids, and you're looking for an excuse---" Then Cellie heard him sobbing. This was real, she could tell. Willie was reliving some bad memory, that seemed obvious, maybe about when he was shot. Perhaps he was thinking about when she was sent away, and how Barnabas--- She said soothingly, "Don't be frightened of anything. I'm here, and I'm not going away. I'll take care of you." He quieted down, and drew her to him again. It was a strange sensation, she thought, feeling like she was far older than Willie.

 

The next morning, she woke up spontaneously at six A.M. and, being careful not to wake her husband, threw on a robe and went into the bathroom. She sat on the edge of the tub, with a large comb. With tears in her eyes, she began to unravel the braids, all one-hundred thirty of them.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

Cellie resumed her duties at the Antique Shoppe. A couple of the old customers, who had shied away from the place during her absence, wandered in, saw she had returned, and spread the word. "Nobody can make this place more entertaining, for want of a better word," Carolyn commented to Barnabas. He agreed. Business picked up a bit, and Barnabas decided not to sell the store after all.

 

Willie's attitude had improved considerably since they'd found Cellie. But once they were married, his progress had slowed, like a phonograph needle stuck in a scratch on a record. He did his work well enough, but he wasn't as happy as he thought he'd be. He apologized to his bride about the braids every chance he got, till she got tired of it. Cellie, frightened by every move he made in his sleep, kept sneaking downstairs to rest on the red velvet settee, which left her exhausted and crabby. But she didn't have the heart to ask him to leave their bed. The night before they were supposed to appear as joyful newlyweds at Elizabeth's reception, both were already wondering if their marriage was a mistake.

 

"It's not the hair anymore," Cellie was explaining to him. "It's the way you won't tell me why you're so afraid. Will, you said you would tell me about all the secrets---about the kidnapping, about the problem you have with Barnabas. I know you have a monstrous fear of him, far beyond what he almost did to you when he caught us. Even though you two act like you've really patched things up since I've been back. If you can't tell me, I'll find someone to help you. Something has to be done soon. I can't sleep with you if I always have to worry that you're going to lash out at imaginary snakes, and end up hitting me instead. What's going to happen when I'm really big, and you mistake me for whatever else is after you in those dreams?"

 

"I wouldn't hit you like that again. I didn't mean to do it. Cecily, I wish I could tell you, like I promised. But I can't. Not right now. If you want to leave, I won't stop you. " He didn't begin to cry again; that was an improvement, she thought.

 

"I don't want to leave you, Will. Ever. But maybe it would be better if we fixed up the other bedroom. We'll have to start, anyway, so we'll have it ready for the baby. I'll stay in there. If you need me at night, I'll get up in a second." She kissed him, and ran her hands up and down his back. "I know I'll be needing you. Like, right now."

 

He pleaded, "Don't go in there. I miss you too much when I wake up in the night, and I know you're not in bed with me. I've been good for a couple of days, maybe it won't happen again." That night, after they made love, he slept like a log, and, after an hour of anxiety, Cellie was able to doze off beside him.

 

The next afternoon, they stood in the foyer at Collinwood, greeting their guests. Cellie had already had a call from Arnold; he had a bad cold, and Lisa was suffering badly from sciatica, but the present they sent would be arriving at the Antique Shoppe in a couple of days. There were two late additions; Willie had asked Pavlos, who wore his most eye-popping leisure suit, and Maggie Evans, who, when Carolyn asked her earlier in the week, wasn't sure she could make it until the last minute. Pavlos caught Cellie in a bear hug that lifted her from the floor, and made her dizzy. "Little Flame!" he exclaimed exuberantly. "We must get you to sing a little tonight. It will be good for you and---" he whispered, "the littler flame. Willie told me. Remember, every new life is a soul regained."

 

"Regained? I think you'd get some disagreement from Sister Marie Clare there," replied Cellie, indicating the nun, who stood alongside Margene (who now wore a diamond chip engagement ring) near the fireplace with David and Hallie. Cellie had felt a pang of disappointment when she'd learned that Sister Innocent couldn't make the reception. Still, she'd been quite enthusiastic in greeting the assistant director of St. Dymphna's, who spent some time trying to cheer the disappointed Cellie with raucous stories of her own early girlhood in the south of Boston.

 

"I think the good Sister and I would be in agreement far more than you would think," Pavlos said. "What I mean is, every child is not only just its own person, but contains bits and pieces of each generation that came before it, as well as bits and pieces of that which influenced the previous generations. Not necessarily reincarnation, but, perhaps, a kind of accumulated memory. Though I would never rule out any possibility. You bring forth the child, you bring forth more than a blank slate, to be exclusively influenced by that which happens to it every day in its own sphere."

 

"You must talk to Professor Stokes. These are the sort of theories and beliefs he expounds," Cellie advised. "Pavlos, you're something else. I'll bet you don't talk about these things with Will at the Koffeehaus."

 

"A little, so that he is able to understand. He seeks knowledge, but obviously, at some point, his mind became as though frozen. But he loves to talk about you. He does appear to understand you very well. And you understand him. In his case, that may be all that's necessary." He released her, and went into the drawing room to join the others.

 

Cellie turned to Maggie, and embraced her. "I can't thank you enough for what you did for Will," the girl whispered. "For you to come through for him, after what you went through, and for me--- and you barely know me."

 

Maggie replied, "I have to admit, it was Carolyn's idea, but once we got in there, I could see it was the right thing to do. He really has changed since he's been with you. As for you, you are a lot like your aunt in many ways, and we became good friends. And any friend of Carolyn's is a friend of mine." She paused, thinking, then she continued, "And you know what else? Doing that was good for me too. It brought back some memories of the old times, when I felt like I really was in control of my life, when I used to have fun. I mean , I'm in control at the art store, but when I'm away from there, I don't usually feel so free--- you know what I mean?"

 

Cellie said, "You really got into the spirit of things, I take it."

 

Maggie smiled. "I did indeed. I wish my father was around, so I could tell him. I wish he could've met you. He would have wanted to paint you, that's for sure. You have that kind of red hair artists love so much."

 

"Maybe I should come in and model for your art students sometime. Just for the hair, of course," Cellie laughed. It was the first time she'd had a happy thought about her hair since her wedding night.

 

She moved on, and stood with Willie as she met his family for the first time. Fran Loomis Maracek stood with her husband, Steve, and her two children, Lew and Adele. Standing a little apart, looking across the drawing room in David and Hallie's direction, was Willie's youngest brother, Paul.

 

As she shook hands and kissed everyone, Cellie was struck by the almost total resemblence between Willie and his younger sister, and the equally striking lack of resemblance between them and Paul. She thought of the small cache of Loomis family photographs ringing the mirror on the dresser at home. Willie and Fran resembled their father very strongly, as did the three middle brothers. Paul, alone, bore some resemblance to their mother.

 

Cellie speculated--- Willie's father had left his family when his oldest son was thirteen. Paul was still an infant at the time. She began to wonder if, perhaps, the elder Mr. Loomis had doubts about his paternity of the youngest child, and finally left, after years of abusing his family, when he discovered this was, indeed, the truth. She wished she had the nerve to ask her husband, but he made it clear, he didn't like talking about that time. What did it matter, anyway? she thought. She'd probably find out, sooner or later from her talkative new sister-in-law. Willie was right, Fran could "yack up a storm."

 

"I'm just so glad Willie decided to settle down at last," Fran was saying. "All those years of him being a rolling stone, tom-catting around the globe with God knows who. Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't mention that in front of you, but it was such a worry, Cellie, you can't imagine!"

 

"Oh, Will's told me some pretty interesting stories," Cellie replied.

 

"And then, to be holed up in this place, without a word for the first couple of years--- our mother was so worried, being in her last illness and all. It was such a relief when he came up to see her, with that last girl---what was her name again, Willie?"

 

"Please, Fran, I don't want to talk about her in front of my wife. Cecily knows all about that stuff anyway," Willie said in an embarrassed tone. "Tell her about the farm. Let Steve talk. Or Paul. The kids. Anybody."

 

"Relax, hon," Cellie said, looking into his eyes. The tension that had been rising in him lessened in a minute. "You know, I'm a city girl, from Boston. I don't know much about farms in general, let alone dairy farms. Um, how big is your place? How many cows? What kind?"

 

Steve, a large, good-natured fellow, forstalled his wife's reply. "We're on about forty acres right now. We used to have more, but I sold off a parcel to developers when we needed money quick. We got fifty cows right now, and two bulls, Holsteins. Used to have Guernseys in my Dad's time, but the fashion now is less fat in the milk. The black-and-whites are better for that. I grow some of my own feed, and have my own outfit, for bottling and pasteurizing. We still deliver to some folks. When you visit, I'll have to show you around. City folks are usually pretty impressed by the whole process."

 

Paul said, "They've been farming continuously on the site for almost two-hundred-fifty years. The house is at least two hundred. Steve's folks used to work for the old farmers, then bought them out around thirty-five years ago. I've been helping out, since I was ten, and I moved there with Mom." His voice broke a little when he said her name. He seemed to be very solemn in general, Cellie noticed, as though there was a cloud hanging over him. Well, considering where he was going in a few days, she couldn't blame him. Cellie hoped to corner him for a private talk later.

 

"Everyone who's on the farm has to help, even the kids and, occasionally, the guests," Fran said. "We got a couple of workers staying there tonight, running things, till Steve goes back tomorrow on the early train. But I guess in a few years we'll have to hire more help. Paul's planning on going back to college when he finishes his hitch--" now her voice turned low, from the anxiety that thinking of the unstable situation overseas brought on "--and even the kids don't think they'll be into farming when they get older."

 

"Well," Cellie answered, "Who knows? I might take a liking to the farming life once I've been introduced to it, and I'll get Will to move there." She was piling it on pretty thick, but she was sincerely interested. She knew Willie had been catching it from his sister since she'd found out he was marrying such a young girl from what she considered to be a high-class family. Cellie thought of her hard-working middle-class, immigrant grandparents (even her mother's mother, who came from an old Massachussetts family, had been the daughter of the owners of a "Mom and Pop" grocery store). She decided that Fran must have been thinking about the small connection to the Collins family.

 

Adele and Lew, aged twelve and ten, respectively, had wandered off to visit with David and Hallie. Cellie approached, in time to hear Lew say, "Wow! This house is chock-full of ghosts? Take me, I wanna see 'em." Adele, a shy, quiet girl who resembled her mother, said nothing, but stared at David like he was her favorite rock star. Paul came up, and Cellie performed introductions. Cellie felt a growing red sensation, and looked around. Paul and Hallie were looking at each other, and looking away, and looking again, smiling and blushing a bit. Whatever cloud Paul was under seemed to dissipate when he glanced at the blonde girl.

 

"Oh, no," Cellie thought. "If this goes any farther, the Professor will have my head on a platter." But there was nothing she could do. Really, it wasn't that terrible; Paul was his older brother's (Half-brother's?) opposite in almost every way. He was rather good-looking, polite, and bright, even ambitious, if what his sister said about him was true. There was one major draw-back, as far as Cellie was concerned. She had adopted her in-laws' anxiety over his coming ordealoverseas. If Hallie got too attached to him, and he should be maimed or even killed, Cellie did not want to speculate about Hallie's probable reaction.

 

Cellie said, "David, You've been filling these kids' heads with a lot of bullchips. I don't think their folks would appreciate your guiding them through the West Wing, and your aunt would pitch a fit."

 

"Aw, Torchtop, I'm just entertaining them." The children giggled when he called her by his nickname for her. "It's a boring party for the kiddies, you know?" That little Adele was more than entertained, Cellie could tell. She didn't have to "read" her new niece to know she had a dreadful crush on David. Cellie refrained from calling him "Muffinhead" in Adele's presence.

 

"You want to entertain them? Hit that piano, right now. I'm in the mood to sing. Something about weddings, I guess. Something Broadway. You know 'Sunrise, Sunset'? My mom loves that one."

 

"But you like 'One Hand, One Heart,' I thought."

 

"Too gloomy." Cellie did like that one line at the end, "Even death won't part us now," but she thought it might be a bad omen. She remembered how depressed she'd been for days after her mother had taken her to see "West Side Story." What a downer ending that was!

 

David said, "It's your choice, you're the guest of honor. It's nice of you to earn your keep this way."

 

Cellie made a face. She pulled David over to a corner, and asked, "David, are you having a problem with all this? The fact that I'm married and pregnant, and the most you had to do with it was arranging my meetings with Will? Are you jealous?"

 

David wore a disgruntled expression on his face. "Maybe I am, Torchtop, maybe I am. God knows I got into enough hot water over the whole situation, as though I had done the deed myself. If I had, at least it would have been worth the aggravation." He sighed. "I wish it had been me. I sort of love you, you know? And it would have been such a trip, getting married to you. I know guys my age don't usually think that way, but then, most guys haven't been through some of the things I have. They don't know what's important, not yet, anyway."

 

Cellie stroked his arm. "You've always been way ahead of the pack, Muffinhead. Someday you'll find someone to appreciate it. But you knew how it was with Will and me, from the beginning, and I thought you supported us. You like him, you said you always did, even when he first came to Collinwood and was so nasty."

 

"I was a little kid then. I thought he was really cool. Then he quieted down--- I guess I'll never know why. But even then he was okay to me. I thought he deserved to be treated better than Barnabas and all the other grown-ups treated him. I guess that's what they call identifying with somebody. Then we both met you. This will sound wierd, but, at first, I thought if I helped you go with him a few times, you would turn to me when you got tired of him. When that didn't happen, I still thought it was pretty cool to tweak all the adults. And then I could see it was the real thing with you two. But, I didn't think it would end up like this for a long time, and that you and I could still hang out and pal around together, sing at the Koffeehaus, that kind of thing, at least until I got a regular girlfriend too."

 

Cellie was trying to draw out his unhappiness in a gentler, less obvious manner than she'd used on the Professor. She had no intention of spoiling her big day with a session of retching. "We'll still be pals, David. Being married is nice, don't get me wrong, but Will and I have quite a few kinks to iron out. It's pretty heavy stuff. I need some comic relief. And as for you, even though I won't be in school anymore, there are places I can still check for signs of intelligent female life. You could take me shopping once in a while, and we'll try every cashier. It's been said," she commented solemnly, "that cashiers make the best lovers."

 

David asked, "And why is that, Torchtop?"

 

"Because they know what buttons to push." David chuckled. Cellie continued, "If Will could find someone nice at the store, so could you. And, I've been thinking a lot about this, I want you to be the baby's godfather."

 

"That's fitting. I guess in a way, I'm partly to blame for it's coming. I don't know, it sounds like a heavy responsibility. Who's the lucky godmother? Carolyn? Hallie?"

 

"I haven't decided. Maybe since I picked a godfather, I should let Will pick the godmother. We still have almost six months to go, but I wanted you to know."

 

To her relief, David had calmed down nicely, none the wiser for her intervention. "Aw, heck, why not?," he said. "This is the heir to the house of Torchtop we're talking about. The kid has to inherit your sense of humor, Cellie. And doing this will still have some eyebrow-raising value among our more prudish acquaintances."

 

"I'm happy to learn that you've got your priorities in order, Muffinhead," Cellie replied. "Now, get the gang together, and let's blow 'em away with our talents."

 

David got everyone's attention, then began to play. He put her through her paces. For a solid twenty minutes, he had her singing Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, changing the tempo at a moment's notice. Finally, seeing that his wife looked a little peaked, Willie intervened. He made her sit on the couch, while he brought her something to drink. Then he wandered off in the direction of the dining room.

 

Margene sat with her. "I see your man couldn't stand the braids."

 

"I'm sorry, Margene. He almost let me keep 'em, but he had a bad dream the other night, and somehow they were all over his face, and, well, as they say, the rest is hysteria. You can have your beads back." Cellie looked regretful. She changed the subject. "When's the big day for you and Marcus?"

 

"When the baby's six weeks old. I'm still under my Dad's insurance, so that way, the hospital will be taken care of."

 

Cellie was a little worried about money, too, but it seemed so far off. Maybe she would be like those peasant women, having a baby at home in two grunts, and bypassing the hospital completely. Margene continued, "By then, I'll be able to wear my Mom's wedding dress."

 

"I�m wearing mine right now." Cellie said. "But I'm not wearing the veil tonight---it was so delicate I almost ripped it right after the wedding!" After a while. Margene drifted away, and Cellie walked to where Elliot was standing with Mrs. Texeira.

 

The Professor seemed genuinely pleased to see her. Cellie could understand why. Mrs. Texeira, who appeared to Cellie in a haze of reds, was doing her utmost to charm Elliot, whom she had brought to the point of calling her by her first name. And Elliot, who now considered himself reconciled with both Julia and Barnabas, was generating some warm pinks. "Ah, the bride," he said. Where's the happy bridegroom?"

 

"Oh, he's scoping out the buffet, and choosing the most boring nutritious items, which he will insist that I pile onto my plate. How's it going here?"

 

Elliot replied, "I've just been having the most interesting chat with Fatima, about Lisbon. I visited there in the early sixties, and she just went back there last summer. We were comparing notes."

 

Fatima said, "I've convinced him to come and join us for dinner next Sunday."

 

Cellie said, "You'll never eat better in your life, Professor. Mrs. T.brought in some food in at Christmastime, and she does something special with linquica. I'm looking around for new recipes, myself, as you might expect."

 

Fatima smiled. "That brings back memories of starting out my life with Joao. Some things never change."

 

Cellie was relieved that the Professor's situation was so easily taken care of. Even if this didn't lead to anything permanent, at least he'd be getting out, and she doubted he would suffer such a letdown from the warm-hearted guidance counselor.

 

She moved on to where Elizabeth and Carolyn were surveying the company. Willie came up from behind Cellie and put his arms around her waist as she was thanking their hostess. "I can't tell you how much we appreciate this, Mrs. Stoddard."

 

Elizabeth said, "It's my pleasure. It's wonderful to have the house full of company, for such a happy reason, for the first time in years."

 

Willie looked uncertain. "You really mean it? I know it wouldn't have been too happy, years ago."

 

Elizabeth replied, "Times have changed. People sometimes change with them. We're all quite different than the way we were back then. And the change in you, Willie, has been the most striking. I'd say you belong to us now. And Cellie does too. Heaven knows I should be the last one to pass judgement. One must think of the positive. You both are doing the best thing, and in a few months, we'll have a precious new member in our circle."

 

Carolyn said, rather sadly, "The cycle of life goes on. Maybe it's appropriate that the first member of the next generation should come to us from the outside."

 

Elizabeth, Cellie, and even Willie caught that small catch in her voice. Outside the Shoppe, Carolyn's personal life was now as arid as Willie's had once been. Both women considered the best way to remedy the situation, without making it look like they were interfering in Carolyn's life. Willie whispered to Cellie, "You have to get cracking with that matchmaking thing."

 

Cellie looked across the room, to where her mother was standing at Pavlos's side, and laughing at something he was saying to Ernest and Lillian. Cellie planned to have a private chat with Ernest about Tony Peterson.

 

Fran passed by at that moment, with an anxious look on her face. "Have you seen Lew and Adele around? I wanted to get 'em in line for dinner, but I haven't seen them in about twenty minutes."

 

Cellie said, "Have you asked David?"

 

Fran said, "I did, and he hasn't seen them since before you began to sing. By the way, you do have such a pretty voice, Cellie. Willie was bragging about it before. Anyhow, you wouldn't have a clue as to where they'd be in this big place?"

 

Cellie thought of all the nooks and crannies the curious children might have gotten themselves into. "I guess we'll have to look for them," she sighed.

 

Elizabeth said, "And as quickly as possible. There are some dangerous areas in the unused portion of the house, if that's where they went." Fran gasped, and Elizabeth said, reassuringly, "It's not like the beams are falling, and we have an exterminator go in a couple of times a year, so there shouldn't be much in the way of rats. But it's dark and they could trip on things."

 

Cellie was about to tell about the loose floorboard she'd tripped on once, but she didn't want to get her sister-in-law more upset. She hoped the exterminator managed to kill some of the poisonous spiders. Willie had knocked off a black widow in their closet hideaway back in January. Cellie wondered if Fran believed in ghosts, another occupational hazard of strolling the halls of Collinwood.

 

Elizabeth continued, "We'll get David and my brother Roger, and Willie, of course, to search the West wing. I don't see Barnabas out here, but we'll find him and ask him, too. They know it best. Carolyn and I will search the cellars. Fortunately they're not quite as extensive. We can get some of the others to search outside."

 

Cellie spoke up. "I'll help search the West wing. I've been in there enough with David."

 

Elizabeth said, with a rueful smile, "Why doesn't that surprise me? I'd rather you stayed and rested. If we need more help, I can get Mrs. Johnson. Or Julia."

 

Willie said, "It'll probably just take a few minutes, Cecily. They wouldn't know where the good hiding places are, anyway."

 

She whispered, "But if they are hiding, and they're afraid or anything, I could probably sense where they are. Don't worry, I'll be okay."

 

David, who'd come up behind them during this exchange, poked Cellie and asked, "What's that all about?"

 

Cellie, who'd been looking for an excuse to tell David her secret, whispered, "Tell ya later." To her husband she said, "Please, hon?"

 

"Oh, all right. But you stay near me."

 

Roger, grumbling under his breath about the interruption of his observation of the new and interesting female faces in his house, and Barnabas, flashlights in hand, entered the deserted wing from the so-called "secret panel" in the drawing room, right in front of the guests. Willie, Cellie, and David went upstairs to the locked door near David's room. In this manner, they hoped to cover the area from top to bottom, and meet in the middle, then fan out again if they didn't get any results.

 

David followed the couple, who'd gone on ahead so that Cellie might have a better chance of picking up on any vibrations the children might generate. They'd given him a brief explanation of her abilities on the way up to the West wing door. David was impressed. No wonder Cellie could get along with practically everybody, except, apparently, Jack Knowlton. No wonder she and Willie had been able to get so close in such a short time. "Two halves of a whole," David had said to Hallie, and it had turned out to be true.

 

They called out the children's names, which echoed in the vast corridors. There was no answer, and Cellie wasn't picking up anything yet. They looked in all the familiar places, including the forlorn-looking wardrobe, where they'd left the old mattress. They heard mice skittering away, and noted the cobwebs, but there were few spiders. Cellie was feeling very uneasy, all of a sudden. She demanded, "Give me a flashlight. I just got a sensation. But I need to go on ahead."

 

Willie protested. "It's not safe, Cecily. I don't want you to fall."

 

"I won't, " she promised, "But it's like something wants me to see what I have to see, alone. I don't think it wants to hurt me."

 

David chimed in. "We'll be real close behind you. You see something you'd rather not, just turn and run to us. We'll book out of here in no time flat."

 

Willie shrugged. Nobody could stop his wife from doing whatever she darn well pleased, or her best buddy either. He sighed, praying silently that David would not be a frequent visitor at the Antique Shoppe. Willie hadn't even been told yet about Cellie's choice of a godfather.

 

Cellie kissed her husband, which dissipated his irritable thoughts immediately. She went ahead five paces, around a corner she hadn't seen before. There were two doors close together. "Which one, the lady or the tiger?" she thought, as she tried the one on the left. It was just another closet, filled with old cobwebs. The one on the right opened onto a storage room crammed with old books. "Lew? Adele?" Cellie whispered hopefully. She felt a wave of sorrow and yearning, far more intense than what she'd sensed from Sarah. There was a man, or something like a man, standing behind a stack of books. From what she could make out with her light, he was dressed in what appeared to be fringed leather pants, a matching jacket, and a clamshell necklace. She couldn't see his face.

 

She backed out of the room, resisting the urge to yell for her companions. The guy looked like a biker, she thought at first, then she changed her mind. He looked like an Indian--- oh, what did they call themselves these days? Native Americans, that was it. Cellie considered all she'd learned so far about the Collins family history. The only mention of any dealings with Native Americans was that disturbing account of Nathaniel Collins's massacre of those he'd thought guilty of slaughtering his own little family. Cellie wondered if this apparition had something to do with that tragedy. But the house wasn't even built until one-hundred sixty years after that hideous event, and if she remembered correctly, the old journal she'd read indicated that it took place a couple of miles to the north of the Collins estate.

 

Okay, so maybe this was an Indian trader, or maybe one of those forced into slave labor during that period, who'd died on the property, if not in this house. The Old House, after all, had begun with a two-room cabin built before 1700. (All the expansion and fancy work, Barnabas told her, had commenced in the 1760's.) All that still didn't explain the painful unhappiness he generated.

 

Cellie went in for another look. He stood, regarding her with a baleful expression, which reminded her of Willie when he first woke from his horrible dream. He opened his mouth, and she could barely hear his voice. "Help find him. Help find him." He pointed at a door in the back of the room.

 

"Help find whom? Or what?" Cellie said, in a weary voice. "I'm looking for children, myself."

 

"Children. All gone," he continued, in a mournful tone. "Find him." Still pointing at the door, the Indian slowly faded away, and his sorrow with him.

 

It was as if a storm cloud had lifted. Cellie could "see" blue violet all around the room. She stumbled over the piled books, to the door in the back. "Lew! Adele!" she yelled. "It's your Aunt Cellie. I know you're in there. Don't be afraid to open the door. Nobody's going to hurt you."

 

The door opened. Adele, holding Lew by the hand, stepped out of what was a small closet. Lew had an angry-looking red mark on his arm, and was sniffling with pain and fear. "Oh, geez," Cellie said, "A spider bit you. We've got to get you out of here right away."

 

Willie and David appeared in the doorway when they heard her call. Adele was sobbing quietly. Cellie signalled to David. He stepped in carefully, and took the younger girl's hand. Adele stopped crying immediately. "Ah, the power of Love, " Cellie thought, wryly. Willie edged in next, and lifted his nephew over the books. Then he came back, and helped his wife out of the room.

 

In a few minutes, they'd hooked up with Barnabas and Roger, and five minutes later, everyone was in the drawing room. Fran and Steve hovered over

 

Julia as she was treating Lew's arm. "Lucky he didn't have a massive allergic reaction from this. I don't have enough of the right kind medicine with me to take care of it." She bandaged the red welt, then turned to Adele. "Are you okay? No bites or scratches?"

 

"No, Doctor Collins, I just got my dress dirty."

 

"Call me Aunt Julia. We're family now, you know. I know what would make both you and Lew feel better. You stay here with your Mom and Dad, and we'll bring you whatever you like to eat, right here."

 

Adele said, in her shy way, "Please, I'd like the fried chicken. The legs."

 

Lew said, "Could I have a plate full of stuffed shells, please?"

 

Fran commented to her sister-in-law, "Well, Cellie, I guess that means they're back to normal." She patted the younger woman's belly. "This is just a sample of what you're in for," she continued, "especially if Junior here takes after his Daddy any. We were always looking for Willie, 'specially if there were chores to be done. He was off climbing trees, running into town, whatever, just to get away." She sighed. "There was a lot to get away from, I admit, but he'd get so snotty about it. He really has changed a lot. No snottiness left in him at all,I must say."

 

Cellie said, "It's not entirely my doing, you understand. He had some kind of life-changing thing happen to him when he first got here, but he won't tell me what it was. Or can't. He must have told you he's had some problems since he's been here."

 

"I've heard some things. Well, it's all in the past now. You're the best thing that's ever happened to him. And you're so brave! Going into that creepy room alone."

 

"I just had to, I guess. It worked out. I got the kids out just in time, it seems."

 

"Yeah, Mommy, she saved us from the ghost!" This from Lew.

 

"He was an Indian. Just like the one in those pictures of the first Thanksgiving." said Adele. "But he was nice, Lew. He was just lookin' for somebody."

 

"Oh, God," Steve said, exasperated. "Now their imaginations are running wild. Ghosts and whatnot. That friend of yours, that David, he's got something to answer for. I heard what he was telling them before."

 

Cellie temporized, "I told him off myself at the time, Steve. He didn't mean for them to run off like that, at least not unless he was going with them. And he wasn't about to, after I chewed him out. Those old stories are just a part of living here. You must have stories about all those old houses in Vermont, maybe even about your house."

 

"Well, yes, a couple, anyway, but we don't share 'em with the little ones."

 

"We heard all about the White Lady, Daddy, " said Adele. "I know Cellie musta seen the Indian. She talked to him."

 

"I was talking to Will and David, and yelling for you," Cellie said firmly. "Maybe I was concentrating so hard, I was talking to myself a little. I just have one question. If you didn't get in through the drawing room panel, or the locked door upstairs, how did you get in there?"

 

"Oh, we went up into a bedroom with a flowery wallpaper. Lew leaned against the wall, and it opened like magic."

 

Carolyn and Elizabeth looked at each other in dismay. Elizabeth exclaimed, "Maggie's old bedroom! I forgot all about that panel! I'll have it shut permanently, right away. I'm so sorry."

 

"No great harm done," Steve concluded. "Hey, Fran," he said, "You go in and eat. I'll sit with the kids till you're back. I'm not letting 'em out of my sight again tonight."

 

Willie led Cellie to the dining room. "I guess now I have to worry about another of your spirit friends, " he sighed. "Nothing's just as simple as just having a party, around here. Well, you've got to build up your strength. You grab all the vegetables first, you hear me? You and the baby need the vitamins."

 

Cellie laughed for the first time in hours. "I can go into a haunted room, talk to a ghost and rescue your niece and nephew, but you don't trust me to choose cauliflower over cake."

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

On a warm, Spring-like afternoon two weeks later, Hallie Stokes came to the Antique Shoppe to visit Cellie. Dr. Hurley had recommended Cellie take long walks every day if possible, so Barnabas gave her an extra hour off in the afternoon, in addition to the time she required for her tutored lessons. Hallie always came at least twice a week to walk with her when nobody else was available. (Neither Willie nor Barnabas liked Cellie to walk alone, and Cellie got bored when she had to trudge around by herself anyway.)

 

The two girls set off in the direction of the Koffeehaus. Their usual routine was to walk around the block twice, stop in for a visit with Pavlos and a cup of his coffee (Cellie, who had limited her intake to two cups a day, made a ritual of having one with her husband in the morning, and one with Pavlos in the afternoon), and then heading back. Cellie was showing Hallie the birth announcement and note from Margene, that had arrived that morning.

 

"Marcus Cecil Sherbrook. The 'Cecil' part is for me, she says. I wonder how many kids are named 'Cecil' nowadays?"

 

"I'm just surprised they let her put Marcus's last name on the birth certificate, when they won't be married for another five weeks."

 

"Oh, I heard it's okay, as long as the father comes to the hospital to give his consent. I'd give anything to be able to go to Maryland for the christening, but we have to save that money we got at our wedding. We may go for a weekend, though, to Booth Bay or someplace." Cellie studied the picture of baby Marcus. "You'll have to help me pick out a swell christening gift, anyway. I wish I could see the little guy up close and personal. He's a cutie."

 

"A big cutie. Eight pounds and fourteen ounces. It's hard to imagine something that big inside of one. And she had it the regular way." Hallie shuddered. "Aren't you afraid, Cellie?"

 

"Of course I'm afraid. I'm afraid of the blood tests I get every month--- I didn't know THAT was one of the rules of the baby game! But I'll deal with it when I get to it. I'm going to take those Lamaze heavy breathing classes, but if it's too miserable, you can bet I won't be shy about asking for some heavy drugs, man." Cellie saw her friend was upset, so she changed the subject. She started to tell Hallie about her plans to beautify the back yard at the Shoppe.

 

"Mrs. Stoddard gave me a pile of summer bulbs to plant around the back walkway. Will's got to get some trowels and fertilizer. There'll be Dahlias and Lilies out there by the end of July."

 

Hallie said, "She does have quite an array of different plants up at Collinwood. Did she or David ever take you through her greenhouse? It's small, but it's packed. She does most of the greenhouse work herself. I guess she really got into it when she had all those years of not leaving the estate. But she's kept it up."

 

Cellie replied, "Not yet. And you know that the greenhouse isn't high on David's list of guided tours. Not enough spiders in there."

 

Hallie laughed. "I don't think he'll ever grow out of that stuff, do you?"

 

"I'm not sure his father has, if some of the stories David tells are true. I've heard that picking on governesses was a favorite family sport up there."

 

"That's certainly true. David's not a bad person, but he certainly gave Maggie and that other girl who was up there, that Vicky Winters, a run for their money. I guess it all had to do with his mother. David must have told you something about her." Cellie nodded. Getting David to talk about his mother, Laura, was like pulling teeth.

 

Hallie continued, "He didn't see her for years, then she came back for a while, then she left again, for good. There's a bizarre story behind that, too, something about a fire she set. When he told me the story, I got the impression she was dead. And his dad didn't treat him too well at first, but after the mother went away or died, or whatever, Mr. Collins mellowed out quite a bit toward David. Then, Mr. Collins married again, briefly." Cellie hadn't heard about that yet. "But from what I understand, that was a major disaster from the beginning. You can see where David might have picked up a negative attitude toward women. But he loves his aunt and his cousin, and he likes us."

 

"I always wonder why David wants me to pick out girls for him to date. I mean, I don't mind helping him out--" (Cellie was gradually breaking the truth of her "condition" to Hallie) "--but it's like he's afraid to make the choice himself. It's like he needs a human buffer to soften the sting of rejection for him when things don't work out. Like this last time, with Annette Cadieux. When she gave up on him, I had some heavy phone work, consoling him. " It seemed like everyone needed her to soften things for them, Cellie reflected. Willie needed help to control his temper. Barnabas needed someone to ease his secret shame. Hallie had needed her to blaze a trail into the hinterland of real life. Of the four, only Hallie had progressed beyond the need for shielding.

 

"I know there's someone out there for David," Hallie said. "Maybe he'll find her when he least expects it. Like I did." She blushed.

 

"So, you and Paul really hit it off, huh? You two got a lot accomplished in three days."

 

"How long did it take before you knew Willie was the one?"

 

"Geez, I think within ten minutes of our first conversation. Maybe even before that. I was standing in Aunt Jule's living room, listening to Will and

 

Barnabas hassling out whether Will could stay for dinner, and I was trying to figure him out, then he looked at me in this funny way, and, well, flick. That was it. I can't explain it."

 

"I guess I had a 'flick' with Paul, too."

 

"I saw that Mafia movie, and you know what the men in the movie called it? The 'thunderbolt.' If the way Will acted when we got together was any indication, I'd say that was an apt description." Cellie laughed, but she remembered how it was during her very first experience with Willie---his hesitation, her encouragement. He sure made up for it right after, though, she thought, a regular thunderstorm.

 

Hallie turned dark red, and said, a bit irritably, "It's not like that with Paul. We just had a nice time walking around together, and we kissed and hugged. He's just really a nice guy."

 

Cellie refrained from fuming. Hallie was pretty innocent, far more innocent than Cellie had been, even before she got so involved with Willie. That Paul may have been almost as innocent in some ways. (Cellie wondered how much he knew about the incidents that took place in his family before he was old enough to remember.) She had a few conversations with her bright new brother-in-law in those three days. Paul was happy to discuss his plans for the future, which included a choice between returning to the University of Vermont, or transferring to Bennington. "I used to want to go away, and Bennington is some distance from our town," he said. "But, I'm about to go so far away now. Maybe, if--- when I get back, I won't want to stray too far from home ever again."

 

Cellie had a rainbow spell then; there was a swirl of mauve-grey mist rising around him. It was almost like a premonition. She'd never actually had one before; it could just have been the fatalistic attitude he emanated. She asked, "Paul, are you okay? Is there a problem I can help you with?"

 

He appeared genuinely surprised. "Problem? Oh, not really, Cellie. I'm just tired from worrying about the necessity of going. You can understand that. Don't fret for me, I have survival strategies in mind. I have no doubt I'll be coming back on my own two feet, not feet first.... You know, I just decided, it would be silly to hide out on the farm, after I'm back for good. Bennington's very upbeat and rather cool, or so I've heard. Maybe I'll transfer there, after all."

 

"Well, okay. But if you ever need to talk, and it's something you can't mention to Hallie.... I'm a good listener. Just ask your brother."

 

Paul smiled at her now, all inner as well as outer traces of his distress having vanished. "I'll think about it. Thank God, Willie finally picked a nice girl. That last fiancee he brought home...." He shook his head. "Take good care of Hallie for me, until I get back, anyway. Please?" Cellie was as moved by his sincere tone, as she was by the bright red light he emanated.

 

She snapped back to the present. "Well, Hallie, we won't argue about it. If I had the same attitude, I might not have ended up in such a jam. But, really, when you finally come to that pass, it's not, you know, shameful or disgusting or anything. It's not all grand and glorious, either, but it's nice. It's even fun, when you get used to it." She felt her own face turning hot. "I mean, when it's the right person, and you're married, if that's what you want."

 

Hallie sighed. "Well, it's going to be quite a while before I find out, one way or the other. Paul already left to go overseas. He's got my address, and I have an Army Post Office address, to start us off. Even then, we won't be able to hash it out in the mail too much. I guess they still have censors or something, right?"

 

"I'm not up on that stuff. Maybe. But I wouldn't worry too much, unless they send him on a secret mission. That's not what he's there for, anyway."

 

Hallie began to cry. "It's what he's there for that does worry me. Just another body to stop a bullet, or take the brunt of a landmine, so somebody more important can go on ahead. Oh, Cellie, I love Paul so much already. If he---if something happens to him, I don't know what I would do."

 

Cellie embraced her friend on the steps of Pavlos's place, and asked, "You didn't get one of your special dreams about him, did you?" (Hallie, responding to Cellie's example, was emboldened into sharing the knowledge of HER particular gift with her friend.)

 

"No, at least not yet. I almost hate getting those dreams, they're usually full of bad omens, anyway." Hallie continued, "It would help if I could tell Uncle Elliot about how I feel. He knows I'm going to write to Paul, and he's not too thrilled about that, as it is. He says 'Not another Loomis.' Like it's a rash or something. Paul's not like Willie. I don't mean that in an insulting way, Cellie."

 

"No, Paul's definitely not just 'another Loomis,' " Cellie commented. She thought, "He may not even be a Loomis at all." To Hallie, she said, "Paul wasn't raised in the same home, or in the same way. He never knew his father, not in the same way Will did. His mother, and Steve and Fran, helped make sure he was okay. You've got to keep talking with your uncle, even share some of those letters with him. He understands what you're going through. Look at what just happened to him. And yet, he's moving on."

 

Hallie dried her tears. "I'm glad he's interested in Mrs. Texeira. I was so worried about him when he broke up with your aunt. Maybe it'll all work out for the best. And I guess I can talk to her if I can't with my uncle. For now, anyway."

 

Pavlos poked his head out the huge, oaken door decorated with the stained-glass, house-shaped picture of a coffee cup and saucer. "Little Flame! Cellie, I mean. And Sunflower Hallie. Come on in. Your coffees are waiting for you, and you must meet the members of the band playing tonight." He studied Hallie's face. "We'll have to talk about your troubles. That damned war, thank God it is nearly over. People make enough misery for themselves, without some old men in these different countries adding to them."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie's tutor for English and History, Mrs. Johansen, was giving her pupil a report on her progress. "For someone in your situation, Cecily, you've almost gone beyond the requirements you need to meet for graduation. Instead of giving you more tests in the subjects prior to your final exam, I'm going to assign you a term paper instead. The subject must concern American history, and you must follow all the rules for writing research papers we went over in English class. This will cover both requirements. It's due at the end of May. I expect a statement of subject and purpose when we meet next week, and please begin an outline."

 

After Mrs. Johansen left the kitchen of the Antique Shoppe, Cellie went looking for Barnabas. She had begun to enjoy spending time talking with him again, as in the old days before the ugly incident in February, and he had been showering her with more favorable attention than before. He was taking a break, on the red velvet settee, drinking a cup of the milder coffee Cellie provided for the non-espresso mavens. "I'm pleased that the business has returned to normal," he said, "but it's pleasant just to have a few minutes to unwind, before the next batch of customers arrives.

 

So, you're through with your lesson for the day?"

 

"Yes. Mrs. J. wants me to do a term paper, in lieu of more tests. It's kind of a bummer, because it's no problem for me to take time to study for a test---you study, you take it, it's over in a day."

 

"Well, Cellie, if you expect to attend the University someday, you must be prepared for that sort of work. Besides, someone as intelligent as yourself should welcome a mental challenge."

 

"Oh, I'm not complaining about actually having to write a term paper. It's not like I've never done one before. I just never had to do one when I was pregnant and married and working almost full-time before."

 

"As the expression goes, Cellie, 'Those are the breaks.' I'm sure many

 

other women have had to struggle with conflicting demands, and have come through it all magnificently. As I'm sure you will. Have you a subject in mind already? If it's historical, you know I'm always available to assist you in any way I can."

 

"I don't know. I have a lot to choose from. I'll tell you, if it didn't hit so close to home, I'd love to write something about the Indians of this area."

 

"You're thinking about the apparition you saw at your reception, aren't you?"

 

"Well, yes, but not just him. I wish I knew who he was and what he's all about, of course, but I was thinking in larger terms, like when we talked about the general relationship between the Native people, and the European settlers, that one time. I heard about a new book that just came out, about all the rotten things that were done to the Indians. I could write about balancing the legitimate needs and claims of both the whites and the Indians. I guess conquest and taking over new territory is part of practically every culture." She was also, at that moment, thinking of Paul, over in Vietnam. Some things never changed, she thought.

 

"It's all in how a group goes about it, that counts," Barnabas said. "It really doesn't take much to induce a normally mild-mannered people into becoming savage brutes, intent on pursuing their agenda at the expense of all rational behavior." He stopped for a minute, his face turning red. Cellie figured he was suddenly reminded of his own descent into irrationality. She patted his hand, and smiled into his eyes. Without his even realizing it, she was working on him. He recovered, and continued. "Moral superiority has nothing to do with it. It largely depends on what the conquerors expect from the vanquished foes. There have been many bloodless coups and conquests, where intimidation was the primary weapon, and the tributes collected from less-powerful governments were the primary rewards. But that seems to work best when there is little cultural difference between the conquerors and their subjects."

 

"So, a system like that couldn't have worked between the whites and the Indians, I guess."

 

"Oh, there were compromises, treaties, and informal agreements. They could have worked, I suppose. But the white men had the upper hand by this time, and with the least provocation, often saw fit to violate these attempts at civilized cooperation at the first opportunity. There were skirmishes and massacres on both sides, though what the whites did to the Indians in retaliation was far out of proportion to the Indians' offenses. Things settled down eventually. Many surviving Natives simply relocated themselves, down South and out West. Others accepted the status quo, and wove themselves into the fabric of the society that had formed up here. It's a tragedy, of course, but, if you compare it with the dramatic events that took place in the West in the mid-1800's, it took such a long time for everything to happen, that the tragedy almost seems diffused."

 

"I can see it's a huge subject, of and by itself," Cellie commented. "I'd like to localize it. Whatever you have covering this area, I'd appreciate using it. I'll dedicate my efforts to that sad fellow in the storage room. I'd love to go back in there. There were more books in there than in the stack room at the library."

 

"There were quite a few scholarly members of the family who may have accumulated those books," Barnabas said. "Unfortunately, they don't figure as prominently in the family history as the merchants and the political figures. We even had our social reformers. Several members of the Collins family joined the Quakers in the 1820's, and it's said that a small cottage on my portion of the property was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It's a nice little house with a suspiciously odd-shaped cellar. I was thinking of having it renovated. Perhaps someday you and Willie might be interested in living up there after the baby comes."

 

"I'd move in a New York minute, but I doubt Will would want to. I don't know why. I kind of miss having a real living room, with a sofa I can just fling myself into. We need the extra room upstairs for the baby."

 

Barnabas replied, "Well, sometimes you must respect your husband's wishes. If you don't mind my asking, Cellie, how are you two doing? I just catch glimpses of your interaction with each other, but I try not to watch you. I don't want to interfere, but I, and your aunt, will always be concerned about what happens to you. And Willie, also, to a certain extent."

 

"Everything's okay, Barnabas, don't worry. Will's been extremely good to me. I hope he thinks I'm extremely good to him."

 

"By the exalted way he talks about you to anyone who'll stay long enough to listen, I'd say he does." Barnabas thought he would have been able to tell if Willie had shared their unpleasant mutual history with his bride. He doubted Cellie would have been as open and affectionate with him if Willie had told her anything.

 

Just then, two customers came in, and Barnabas rose, and offered his hand to Cellie, who followed. She served the man and woman some espresso, and some lemon meringue pie she'd made the night before. She found out they were engaged, and were looking for some useful knick-knacks. She directed them towards some odd-shaped tables, and elaborately beaded lamps, made a sale, and reported back to her uncle. Barnabas was pleased; the carved end-table, a fancy lamp, and a Victorian brass picture frame went for over a hundred and fifty dollars, in cash, and no haggling. "That's better than I hoped for, this late in the afternoon," he told Cellie. "You should take a rest, my dear. Carolyn will be back in a few minutes."

 

"Well, I need to stop at the Superette. We need more flour and eggs, and Will makes me drink gallons of milk like there's no tomorrow," Cellie said. "I suggested we move to his sister's dairy farm and eliminate the middle man. I told him, if we did, instead of a dog, I wanted a pet calf. He got the queasiest look on his face, and I felt pretty nauseated myself. Okay, it was a dopey joke. But he sure gets squeamish over the oddest things."

 

Barnabas turned from her, and winced. He remembered some of the distasteful things he'd forced Willie to do early in their association. The calves---Willie was no animal lover, but he'd hated having to steal the helpless creatures, until Barnabas had discovered a fresh human source for his nourishment. He was at a loss, wondering how he'd ever explain all this to his niece someday. He often wondered how Cellie would react to the fact that he was uneasy at first when she called Willie "Will" in his presence--- a reminder to Barnabas of a tragic encounter he'd had with someone who was very much like, and yet, not like, Willie. Mercifully, THAT sensation was ebbing gradually, but that was still a story that had to be told, when the time was right.... If the time was EVER right....

 

"Barnabas? I know something's not--" Cellie was suddenly extremely uncomfortable; she picked up great, vibrating green waves of shame from her uncle. They appeared to her as a thicket of bushes, that if she could only part them and peek in--- then it vanished. This was all of a piece, she thought, with her husband's bad dreams (he had at least one a week, though she had become able to intercept them, to avoid getting in his way when he flailed about) and her aunt's evasiveness. Why couldn't they trust her? Did they think she'd love them any less? Or did they all think she was so weakened by pregnancy that she couldn't handle the truth? The hiding, she felt, made it worse for her, since they kept generating these painful inner eruptions.

 

Willie walked by, at that moment, carrying a box, and caught the sight of his wife looking flushed and dizzy, while Barnabas was looking away. "Cecily? Are you okay?" he asked, putting down the box. Barnabas turned back quickly.

 

"I'm alright. I just got a little woozy," Cellie replied quietly.

 

"I was just telling her to take the rest of the afternoon off," Barnabas explained, almost apologetically.

 

"I wanted to go to the store," Cellie said.

 

"You're going upstairs," Willie said. "I'm going up, to sit with her for a while. Can I leave this stuff here?" He indicated the box. Barnabas nodded. Willie walked Cellie up to their room.

 

She looked up at him from her pillow, as he laid a cold, wet cloth on her hot head. "Will, why can't anyone tell me what's going on here? I'm not Lew or Adele. I can handle the truth. Not telling the truth---that's what hurts."

 

He said nothing, just stroked her face and hair. She sensed his anguish, but his desire to tell her was held in that invisible cage.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

A few days later, early one morning, Cellie was reading the paper when an announcement caught her eye. She circled the paragraph, intending to show it to Barnabas. She dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen, where Willie was already making breakfast. "I thought I told you to stay put in bed for a while longer every morning," he said. "I was just about to bring us a tray."

 

"Oh, I'm fit as a fiddle, Will. I just read something I wanted to show Barnabas the instant he came in." They both sat at the table and ate. After they washed the dishes, Cellie went into the showroom, paper in hand, to await her uncle. Barnabas soon arrived, accompanied by Julia, which was a pleasant surprise to Cellie. Julia seldom came to the Antique Shoppe at any time, and it was the middle of the week, when she usually was at work.

 

"Aunt Jule," Cellie said, hugging her. "What are you doing here? Playing hooky from WindCliff?"

 

"No, Cellie. I had a couple of appointments and errands to run, so I took a personal day. Want to go out to lunch with me, later?"

 

"You're not going with Barnabas?"

 

"No, he has to go out of town this afternoon."

 

Barnabas chimed in, "Take the time, Cellie. Carolyn will be in shortly, and I need Willie for this trip anyway."

 

"Oh, Barnabas," Cellie said, "I almost forgot! I have to show you the paper."

 

"I've seen it, already."

 

"Not the Collinsport Star. This is a paper from Bangor. Look here in the announcements. It says a big museum in Bangor is looking for contributions for an exhibit on early life in Maine. You've told me you might leave some of your things to a museum eventually, anyway, but I thought you might enjoy having them displayed and appreciated while you're still around to see it. And it would be just for six weeks, so you'd have them back in, like, no time."

 

"I'm sure they've got some people lined up already, to display the rustic ware."

 

"I was thinking about showing how the other half lived back then. People think of Maine and all they imagine are fishermen, lumberjacks, and the like. You could show them some nice stuff that's really been here for two hundred years. Why don't you loan them some things from Josette's room?" Bodyslam! Cellie gasped quietly, as a confused series of colors emanated from Barnabas, and, at the same time, a pale flicker of spring green surrounded Julia. Cellie felt ill, from her uncle's dismay, and her aunt's quiet hope.

 

"I'll have to think about it, Cellie. The--ah--collection hasn't broken up for almost two centuries, and if a piece or two went astray, or was stolen...." Barnabas's voice almost broke.

 

Julia said, "I'm sure the greatest care would be taken of every item. Look at the great museums in New York or Washington or Boston. They've all displayed a million pieces, and, for the most part, the collections return to their owners intact. It's not as if you had rare paintings or jewelry on display. This place is in Bangor, for goodness' sake. They don't want to raise their insurance risk with shoddy security, any more than you want to lose your possessions."

 

Barnabas looked at his wife out of the corner of his eye. "It would make some things easier, I suppose," he said, his voice trailing off. Cellie was getting a queer sensation--- Julia was jealous of those pretty things for some reason, and Barnabas was mad as hell about it. That squared it with Julia's loyal niece. Obviously, these mementoes were interfering with her aunt's married life, and they had to go, at least long enough for Barnabas to realize he could live without them.

 

"Please, Barnabas. Think heavily about it," Cellie insisted. "I know you love that stuff. I love it too, and I would never suggest such a thing if I thought there would be damage or harm to Josette's things. Why, I'll bet most people around the area never even suspected a French countess ever lived around here, although I've heard stories about Marie Antoinette's attempt to come to Maine. Josette was the real thing, and it's high time somebody else knew about it. Okay, it didn't influence American history, but people love those human-interest footnotes to history. You could present her as being as special as I'm sure she was."

 

"Indeed she was...." Barnabas's voice trailed off.

 

Cellie waited. She wondered if Barnabas suspected she was gauging his reaction. If he did, it evidently didn't faze him, because he made the sensible answer she was looking for.

 

"I'll consider it. Perhaps a representative sample.... and I have other, unique things of my own, which deserve a showing. That might be good advertising for the Antique Shoppe."

 

Cellie couldn't believe she'd wrung that much of a concession from her elusive uncle. She hoped she was doing the right thing. When she looked at her aunt's face, she was almost positive she had.

 

Willie, who'd observed the whole exchange in silence, wasn't so sure. He didn't think that a certain someone would appreciate having her trinkets in a glass case in some museum forty miles from where they belonged. He'd bet old Josette just wouldn't sit still for that, at all.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

 

Carolyn arrived at the Antique shoppe a half-hour later. Barnabas and Willie had already left. Julia was waiting with Cellie; her first appointment wasn't until ten. Cellie had arranged the jewelry in the glass case, and was filling the espresso urn.

 

Carolyn said, "Well, I guess that takes care of everything I was going to do today."

 

"I'm getting a sandwich board you can wear, outside on the sidewalk," Cellie joked. "Maybe we won't get any customers, but I bet it would make a great guy magnet. I'd do the job myself, but I'm taken."

 

Julia wasn't paying attention to the banter. She was worrying about all the things she had to do today. She hoped Barnabas would follow Cellie's suggestion about sending away some of Josette's possessions. Julia had always felt comfortable enough visiting the Old House before their marriage, but now, she often felt like an invader. It wasn't as if Barnabas spent much time in the room. He'd assured her, again and again, that his feelings for the women in his past had faded long ago. He showed her more affection, especially in the past few weeks, than he ever had before. She knew it had to do with relieving his guilt over what he'd done to Willie and Cellie. He became freer, it seemed, when another layer of shame about his former life was peeled back. Perhaps things would improve exponentially when they all settled on a time to tell Cellie the whole truth.

 

In the meantime, there was a palpable presence about Josette's room--- if not Josette herself, then some other force intent on creating dissension between Julia and Barnabas. Angelique? Julia wondered, then dismissed the thought. Angelique had died in her mortal state, after performing several acts of great courage and unselfishness, and with Barnabas's gratitude and love in her heart. If she was anywhere, she was where she could expiate the rest of her evil deeds without causing harm to anyone. Perhaps it was Jeremiah, whose emanations had so disturbed Cellie in the first weeks of her residence at the Old House, but Julia thought that was all settled. And what would Jeremiah have against her relationship with Barnabas anyway? The woman over whom they'd fought had died soon after their duel.

 

Julia looked out the large front window, listening as Cellie was teasing Carolyn, in an effort to interest her in seeking companionship. It was hard to believe that Cellie was happy with someone like Willie. Yet, their attitude left no doubt about how they felt when they were in each other's company. Cellie was always eager to get people together, to try to make them as happy as she was. Cellie was saying, "I'll bet you the commission from my next sale, that you fall for the next guy who walks in that door."

 

A dark-haired man in a suit walked into the shoppe. Julia jumped up, recognizing him. "Tony!" she all but shouted. Cellie first, and then Carolyn, rather hesitantly, turned to look in his direction.

 

Tony Peterson went right up to embrace Julia, and then Cellie, who ran around the jewelry counter, and nearly knocked him over, in her delight. Carolyn hung back, uncertain what to do next.

 

Tony joked, "I guess I'm in the right place. I'll have to tip the fellow who gave me the directions." First, he spoke to Julia and Cellie. "I hope you and Barnabas are doing well, Julia. And Cellie, I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate you in person on your recent marriage. I hope everything is working out. Ernest was quite anxious for a while."

 

"It's really been great, Tone. Will and I confound the critics every day. And, let me thank you again for the swell present. I put your letter in my scrapbook."

 

Tony looked at the blonde woman still behind the counter. "Hello, Carolyn, " he said slowly. "It's been a long time."

 

"Yes, it has. How are you? What are you doing in town? Nothing wrong with your mother, I hope?" Carolyn asked politely. She didn't mention whatever she'd heard about his engagement and postponed wedding date.

 

"I'm just fine," he said. "And Mom's very well, and still running the show at the banquet room. If I have half her energy when I reach her age, I'll feel lucky. How are you doing? And your mother?"

 

"I can't complain. I'm pretty busy, and so's Mother. She's another dynamo. I'd say you and I have a lot to live up to, to keep up with our mothers."

 

Cellie asked, "So, Tony, what brings you to town?"

 

Tony said, "Well, it's a kind of a long story. I remember telling you that I was getting a bit tired of big city life, and being just another member of a huge law firm. Well, I made my choice between the job in New York City, and the offer from a firm in this area. As you may have guessed, I've taken the local job. I'm in the process of moving back to town."

 

"Which law firm?" Carolyn asked, with a wary tone. If her mother was responsible for this, she thought---

 

"Brownley and Townsend. They're located off the highway, between here and Ellsworth."

 

"Oh. I've just barely heard of them." Carolyn was relieved. Her mother and Roger did business with a bigger, older law firm, Garner and Associates, in Bangor.

 

"As it happens, they handle my legal affairs," Julia said. "But I had nothing to do with his hiring. Still, if some of my business passes through Tony's office, I'll know it's in capable hands. He did good work for me before, trying as it sometimes was." She recalled that time, when she'd driven the young lawyer nearly to distraction, trying to hide her most vital lab notes from Barnabas.

 

Cellie asked breathlessly, "Will Lee Anne be joining you up here?"

 

Tony looked at the floor, then at the wall, then in Carolyn's direction.

 

Cellie saw a swirl of red and pink, with green. She was a little sorry to embarrass her brother's friend. He said, quietly, "Lee Anne won't be coming. I couldn't convince her to leave the Boston area. I can't blame her. She has her own career, and I don't think there's much call for her line of work up here." He sighed. "We kept putting the wedding off. I suppose it's just as well."

 

Cellie said, sympathetically, "I'm sorry, Tone. I guess everyone has to follow their own path. Still, this is the place you wanted to be," she said, in a brighter voice, "and you'll surely find what you're looking for." She felt she knew just what he was looking for. It would take a little time before Tony and Carolyn knew it too.

 

Julia walked to the door. "I have an appointment I can't miss. I'll talk to you later, Tony."

 

A couple of minutes later, Tony, whom Cellie had convinced to have coffee and pie, rose to leave. He walked to the jewelry counter, where Carolyn had stationed herself. Cellie tactfully retreated to the kitchen. "It's nice to see you again, Carolyn. I'd really like to get together with you, maybe for lunch sometime, and catch up on what's been going on. Or, are you seeing someone right now?"

 

Carolyn wiped the glass counter, barely looking up at him. "No, I'm not," she replied. "Do you think that's such a good idea, anyway, Tony? I mean, it's been years, and I still remember what happened then."

 

"I just want to talk to you. I've done a lot of thinking about that time, about how it could have been different. I wanted to contact you numerous times."

 

"I wasn't exactly letting the grass grow under my feet. I had other relationships. A couple of them were quite interesting, though none of them worked out, until I met Jeb."

 

"You got married, about the time I met Lee Anne. And then--"

 

"You can say it. I can. Jeb was killed soon after, and I saw it."

 

"I heard you had a bad time for months afterward. I was planning to get married, but I was concerned."

 

"Thanks for the letters. They did help." She turned her face to him now. "I'm really better now. I have this great business, and friends to fuss over me. I'm sorry, truly sorry, about your engagement breaking up. And I don't hold you entirely responsible for what happened years ago. I was confused about my feelings for you and Barnabas, and that Cassandra was bad news in more ways than one. She's gone forever, thank God. And Barnabas is happily married now, for which I'm glad."

 

"Wouldn't you even consider a no-pressure, no-strings get-together, in the most public of places?"

 

Carolyn laughed. "The last I checked, there's really no such thing as no-pressure and no-strings anything. But, what the heck, it wouldn't hurt to go out once. Or twice."

 

After Tony left, Carolyn and Cellie had a string of customers to deal with. Finally, there was a lull, before Julia came to pick Cellie up for lunch. The two young women were drinking coffee. Carolyn said, "Well, I guess you were right about one thing, Cellie. I did fall for him, once. A long time ago. I'm going to see him, but I don't know about the future."

 

"As long as you get out of the house with a nice fella, and you both have a good time, don't worry about the future. It'll take care of itself." Cellie then said, apologetically, "I couldn't help but overhear a couple of things you were saying. Who was Cassandra?"

 

Carolyn turned away. Cellie caught the flashes of old anger, and jealousy. "She was my Uncle Roger's second wife. They were only married for a short time. I'm surprised David didn't tell you about her."

 

"Believe it or not, there are some things David doesn't even like to talk about with me. He's just starting to tell me about his own mother, and that's a very sore subject with him as it is."

 

"I just don't know about my Uncle Roger. Or my mother either, for that matter. For people who are so hung up on the family tree, they've both chosen spouses whose mission in life seems to have been to chop it down! I mean, I learned to love my own father when he came back for a while before he died, but when he was younger, the scam he and his friend Jason pulled, trying to rip my mother off, and then, making it look as though she'd killed him, almost ruined her whole life. When he came back, he tried to explain the last part away--- Apparently Jason had as little use for him in the end, as my mother had, so my father fled from HIM, empty-handed and all unknowing about the effect of his departure on Mother's future."

 

"If your Dad was as much a victim as your Mom, what's the problem?"

 

"He may have been a victim, and he may have left with a warm spot in his heart for me, but, still, there were all those years when he could have contacted me,at least through some intermediary," Carolyn said bitterly. "When he came back, he had Maggie for that task, in lieu of her late father. We weren't together long before he became extremely sick and disturbed, accusing my mother and others of conspiring against him, and then he was murdered, though not by ANYONE in our family, thank God! It happened after he broke a promise to leave town with me. We were learning to understand each other, so I confused his final actions with his first betrayal."

 

Cellie asked, "What about the other betrayal? Tell me more about Cassandra."

 

"My uncle married her after what had to be the tornado of all whirlwind courtships. At first, she was sweet as sugar, but as time went on, she acted like she had it in for all of us. She had some strange power over everyone. She made my mother very ill, with a terrible depression. She pulled some tricks on David. Forget my Uncle. He couldn't even think straight when she was around. It was said she caused Maggie Evans's Dad to go blind. And she found it worthwhile to get her hooks into Tony."

 

"Why did she do all that?"

 

"Who knows? Only Barnabas and David's governess at the time, Vicky Winters, had a real clue as to what she was all about. But Cassandra did awful things to them, too, before she was through. And then there was her brother! Or, at least, he said he was her brother, though she wasn't too thrilled to have him around. Nicholas Blair. I suppose he could really have been her ex-husband, or even her real husband. It was obvious he did know a lot about her. Whatever their true connection, after Tony got clear of Cassandra and left town, Nicholas interested himself, first, in Maggie. When he'd managed to ruin her engagement, he suddenly 'discovered' me. I was involved--- well, I was getting to know someone else, and he horned right in on it. After he racked up numerous casualties, he was on his merry way, too.

 

�Unfortunately, he turned up again later, like a bad penny. More people were damaged or killed, including my late husband. In a way, Nicholas was also responsible for my father's death as well, though I don't believe they ever met. See, it turned out there was a 'conspiracy' after all. My father was just too confused to trace it to the correct source." Carolyn sighed sadly. "Well, that's almost two years ago, and we haven't seen hide or hair of either Nicholas or Cassandra, since."

 

Cellie asked, "So you thought Tony was out of your life for good and all, then? The other friendships didn't last?"

 

"No. It seems I have a knack for attracting doomed romances. It must be a Collins genetic trait. That's another reason I'm afraid to get close to Tony or anyone. Even if I meet a good and decent man, there's always a fatal flaw, either in him or in me. You know, I was once a young girl like any other, dreaming of the right man coming along and sweeping me off my feet, and then going on to give my mother a housefull of grandchildren. I came close, once or twice. I thought I had everything settled when I married Jeb, but he was a troubled soul from the get-go, and then, he was killed. Except for my first boyfriend, Joe, who was one of the nicest men alive, Tony was the nearest I ever came to getting hooked up with a normal kind of guy. I don't want to mess this up."

 

Cellie thought for a minute. "You know what this is like? It's just like the two of you came to a fork in the road, and each went their separate way. Well, you each got to a point in where there was a roadblock. There's no way either of you can break it down on your own, but if one of you goes up the path in the middle, maybe one can help the other clear out at least one road. Sooner or later you'd get to where you were originally headed."

 

Carolyn sighed. "How did you think that up, Cellie? It's almost as if you can read minds or something."

 

"I'll tell you soon. As soon as you go out with Tony at least once, and it goes okay. You have a right to know some things too. But I don't want to influence things more than I--- trust me."

 

"I guess I'll have to." Just then, Julia arrived to pick up her niece.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

"And then Carolyn agreed to go out with Tony. Even though it just happened, I have a feeling this is the start of something special." Cellie tapped Julia on the shoulder. "Are you okay, Aunt Jule? You never had trouble driving and talking before. What appointment were you at?"

 

"I saw Dr. Hurley."

 

"Is something wrong? Here I am, running off at the mouth, and I don't even stop to consider--" Cellie let herself enter her aunt's emotions. There was a sense of intense frustration and sorrow, and the pale green of hope that flickered weakly. "Aunt Jule, you don't have cancer, do you?"

 

"No, I'm well enough. Just fatigued." Julia shifted the subject. "Cellie, your empathic ability isn't expanding to include telepathy or clairvoyance, is it?" She hoped not. The truth about her unhappiness wasn't something she felt inclined to share with her niece, at least, not just yet.

 

Cellie knew when she was being put off, but she didn't have the heart to call her aunt on it. She answered, "It's hard to say. It's certainly getting easier to 'read' people I couldn't 'read' easily before, like Barnabas. There are times when I believe I might be receiving images as well as just emotions. And as for predicting outcomes, well, as my life experiences increase, I guess I'm more capable of following trends. Like this thing with Carolyn and Tony."

 

"Is Willie easier to 'read', now that you're married?" Julia, like Barnabas, had some anxiety over how much Willie might tell his wife, before they had a chance to share their viewpoint.

 

"It's gotten stronger. I'll tell you, it makes it hard to have a decent argument with someone, when you can feel his temper rise before you even have a chance to say anything. My instinct becomes, 'don't provoke him, don't make him unhappy, don't make him break things.' It's very inhibiting, especially when there are important things we have to hash out, or if I simply want to goad him into doing a task he's been putting off. Maybe part of the problem is, I can't read his mind. When he gets the angry feelings, they could just as easily be directed at Barnabas, or anyone, whether or not the other person is present. The sensation affects me no matter who the real target is."

 

Julia asked, "I thought you had a way of controlling his angry outbursts."

 

"Well, I've been spending time with Professor Stokes, and he says, and I agree, that it's really not my place to influence every negative emotion someone generates. That is, if I can judge whether letting it go unchecked will lead to greater harm. And that goes double with a spouse. As long as Will doesn't get so mad, that he might hurt someone else, or himself, I have to stand back while he exercises his right to, ah, express himself."

 

"You're not afraid of him, are you?"

 

"No. At least, not while he's conscious. He does have these bad dreams where he lashes out at some horrid person or thing pursuing him. He could, I suppose, be dreaming about what Barnabas almost did to us, that time, but he won't tell me. I do have that under control, though. I can sense when a dream comes on, and I can usually get him awake before he thrashes around too much." Cellie sighed. "That much having been said, he really is pretty amiable. We don't have that many disagreements, and most of the time, he lets me run things. He is very gentle with me, very affectionate, and except for those dreams, he hasn't hit me, or even yelled at me. I just don't want him to resent me."

 

"I don't mind telling you, I have a hard time when I argue with Barnabas. Of course, in his case, it's that, for the most part, he's so unbelievably civilized and polite, I don't like to smear up his rose-colored view of our life, with mundane little details. I must admit, there was a time when he did get terribly angry about--- well, things that are no longer troubling us. The main issue we have to deal with now, is his attachment to reminders of the past. I suppose you might have noticed," Julia said, cautiously, "that in spite of his cultured ways, and vast knowledge of the world and how it works, that Barnabas has what one might call a 'Collins-centric' slant on things."

 

Cellie commented, "I noticed that whenever we talk about history, for instance, he manages to relate almost everything back to some event in the family record. But, it's not like he's narrow-minded, or anything. Maybe the Collins family is a genuine microcosm of every high and low in human history."

 

"That's been my experience, trekking through time with him," Julia replied. "I'm sure there are plenty of incidents that took place here that can be compared to some important or essential happenstance of human existence."

 

" 'History is made up of the essence of innumerable biographies'," Cellie quoted. "I read that somewhere. I keep forgetting to quote that to Barnabas. There's plenty of Collins biographies to work with, God knows. How that family dwindled to a small handful of individuals, now there's a mystery, though I guess it wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. I hope David and Carolyn put in their contributions before they're through." Cellie got another uncomfortable jolt of emotion from her aunt. "Aunt Jule, are you really okay? We don't have to go out to eat, if you don't feel up to it. I'll drive us back to the Shoppe, and you can lay down in our room."

 

Julia replied, sadly, "No, I am in good health. I have a lot on my mind though. Please, don't press me." She parked the Beetle in the Collinsport Inn parking lot. All through the drive, she had let her mind drift, recalling Dr. Hurley's words.

 

She'd said, "I can sympathize with your desire to have a child. Even at this late date, it's still possible, though quite risky. Still, you're healthy, as far as I can tell, and I know you, yourself, were the product of a late-life pregnancy, so there doesn't seem to be a family history of problems in that area. I would recommend that your husband come in for a check-up, though."

 

Julia had replied, a little too quickly, "He has his own physician, who pronounced him to be in equally good health. And, as far as I know, there haven't been any birth defects in his family tree, of which, I assure you, he has extensive knowledge." Was that ever the truth, she thought ruefully.

 

"Well, then, I don't know what else I can do for you, Julia. They've developed some fertility drugs that have shown promise, but, aside from the fact that they're expensive and that you would have to travel to undergo the regimen, perhaps to Boston, I'm not too enthusiastic about recommending them. They may have unintended side effects, and there's a good chance they wouldn't work in your case. I could design a schedule to follow. That's something I would have to ask you to bring

 

your husband in to discuss. It's quite a commitment, though it shouldn't be too arduous for a healthy couple."

 

"My husband is a very shy fellow when it come to discussing such intimate matters." Even with me, Julia almost said. And if Barnabas agreed to the whole project, she wondered herself what the consequences would be, what with his own rather peculiar health history, if they managed to have a child. But the yearning to have his baby was fierce in her.

 

Dr. Hurley must have guessed at her thoughts, for she said, "It's hard to say what would be the right thing to do in your case. It must be difficult, now that you've finally married whom you believe to be the right man, to accept that you may not be able to do the other thing you want the most."

 

"I didn't know I wanted a child this much until I married Barnabas. When I was engaged to Elliot, I tried to talk him out of his own family plans. And yet, if we had married and I left it up to him, you probably could have scheduled both Cellie and myself for consecutive appointments, so that we could have shared a ride. We might even have been roommates in the maternity ward."

 

Dr. Hurley smiled. "Well, do talk to your husband. The time is growing shorter for you, but this isn't something you have to make a final decision about for a couple of months, at any rate."

 

Julia hoped the time would be right, when some of Josette's things were removed from their house, and when they felt easy in their minds about sharing the truth with her niece. Neither Julia or Barnabas really understood why it was so, but they knew a greater peace each time they allowed Cellie a little more information about their secret. In spite of her efforts to control her ability (both Julia and Elliot had even been teaching the girl a form of self-hypnosis, toward this end)Her niece unconsciously emanated a sense of reassurance, even a healing power. Julia thought she might tell Cellie about her problem, after all. But when it came to the other, bigger secret, she experienced the same spiritual paralysis as Barnabas and Willie. Still, her niece was the one person to whom the truth must be told.

 

Now, in the parking lot of the Collinsport Inn, Julia turned to Cellie, her spirits lifting. Cellie must have been working on her, Julia thought. When that girl was around, Julia felt, there was time to salvage everything.

 

"You feel better now," Cellie said. It was a statement, not a question.

 

"That, I do," Julia replied. "Thank you. I don't know how I ever got along without you."

 

"For now, you won't have to find out. Now let's get in there," Cellie said, indicating the Inn. "I'm eating for at least two. Two hundred, that is.Me and the baby, and everyone else who requires my services."

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

 

Cellie rose early one morning, with the intention of fixing breakfast, and bringing it upstairs to share with her husband. She turned on the radio, to her favorite all-request station, the one she used to call to dedicate songs to Willie. The station seemed to have access to a never-ending supply of records, dating back to the fifties, but the callers always seemed to zero in on a solid twenty or so songs. At this moment, the D.J., Bangor Bob, or, as he himself pronounced it, "Bangah Bawb" (every time he announced his name, Cellie giggled uncontrollably), was playing what had to be everyone's favorite of all time, the most-requested song in radio history. Cellie sang along.

 

"My folks were always puttin' him down,

 

they said he came from the wrong side of town....

 

That's when I fell for the leader of the pack."

 

Okay, she thought, Will would never be the leader of anything, but the next verse described him to the letter:

 

"They all told me that he was bad, but I knew he was just sad...."

 

The next song was much prettier.

 

"Follow me up and down all the way, and all around. Take my hand and say you'll follow me."

 

Cellie felt a delicate sensation, as though a down feather had brushed against her arm. "Will?" she asked the air. Then she turned around.

 

Sarah Collins stood before her, her nimbus of white mist dispersing. Cellie reached out, trying to touch Sarah back, but she felt just a warmth surrounding her hand. Sarah said, "I missed you so. I knew they brought you home, but I was afraid in case they changed their minds and sent you away again. I didn't want to come back until I heard you sing. Then I would know everything was as it should be."

 

"Nobody's going to change their minds. I'm home, and I'm not ever going to leave here again, unless my husband wants to move away."

 

"Don't worry. He won't let Willie go, even if Willie wants to."

 

"Who won't let Will go?"

 

"You know who. You know who."

 

"You mean Barnabas? Good heavens, this isn't the Old South. Will isn't

 

a slave, and neither am I. How silly."

 

"You're SUPPOSED to know. It's so important. Because you have seen another like me."

 

"The Indian? What am I supposed to know? Who's supposed to tell me?"

 

"My brother helped bring you back, you know. I told him he had to."

 

"So you met up with your brother at last. I thought it was a law, or something, that spirits couldn't cross bodies of water. How nice for you that you worked that out, but what has he to do with me?" Cellie was completely lost. Sarah couldn't mean--or could she? Cellie tried to tell herself the youthful spirit was just confused.

 

"You're not cross with me, are you?" Sarah pleaded.

 

"Never. We're buds forever," Cellie said, fervently.

 

"We're flowers? Is that what you mean? My brother used to say I was the prettiest flower at Collinwood."

 

"Not exactly. Buds is a new-fashioned word for friends. There are other words--- pals, mates. We're more than pals, but we're not together enough to be mates. You get it?"

 

"I think I understand. We're tight together like buds are closed tight."

 

"That could be what it means. But, Sarah, when people are buds, they don't say everything in riddles to confuse each other."

 

"Sorry. There's only so much I can say at a time. But you're a bluestocking. That's a name for women who read and write a lot. So you're real smart, and you'll know, soon enough." Sarah reached out, and Cellie felt that almost imperceptable stroke on her arm. "I love you. I wish we could be mates, and be together a lot. I get lonesome sometimes. Maybe it won't be so lonesome when your baby is born. I always wished I could have a brother or sister who was littler than me. Could you make the talking box work again, and sing another song for me?"

 

"If something comes on that's good---wait a minute. I can talk to the people in the box, and tell them what I want them to play. Watch this." Cellie dialed the phone. She was put on hold for less than a minute, then she made her request.

 

"You're lucky, " the switchboard girl said. "We just got five other requests for the same song, so you don't have to wait an hour to hear it."

 

It came over the airwaves within five minutes,

 

"We can never know about the days to come,

 

but we think about them anyway.

 

And I wonder, if I'm really with you now,

 

Or just chasing after some finer day.

 

Anticipation, Anticipation is making me late,

 

Is keeping me waiting.... "

 

Sarah was entranced. These new songs didn't make a lot of sense, and the instruments she heard made a lot of clatter, but the melody was lovely. Cellie didn't realize she was singing all that loudly. At the start of the third verse, she heard familiar footsteps coming downstairs to the kitchen.

 

"For God's sake, Cecily, it's seven-thirty in the morning!" Willie rounded the corner, and stood, transfixed, in the doorway.

 

Sarah looked his way, and vanished, leaving Cellie, who stopped singing abruptly, and faced the stove in order to conceal her embarrassed expression.

 

Cellie flipped the same pancake over and over again. "You saw, didn't you?" she asked quietly.

 

"Damn right I did. She's following you around again. I was hoping these things would leave you alone." He was angry again---though she sensed it wasn't really directed at her.

 

"She's not a thing, and the Indian wasn't, either. They were people, just like we are now. 'As I am now, so shall you be. Prepare for death and follow me'," she quoted.

 

"Don't even kid around about dying, Cecily." Willie went up behind her, and held her tight, burying his face in her hair. Violet-blue, she thought. He was really afraid. "How many times have I told you I'm always worried about losing you and the baby? Didn't it occur to you that these 'people' might want to take the both of you over?"

 

"Sarah? I don't think so. And as for the Indian, well, I haven't seen him since the reception--that's almost a month already." She turned to face him. "Will, if you really wanted to move away from here, with or without me--"

 

"I would never move away without you."

 

"If you wanted to move away, nobody would be able to stop you, could they?"

 

Willie hesitated. The fear was still there. "I--I don't see why we couldn't. Why, do you want to move somewhere else?"

 

"No. It was just something Sarah said."

 

"What else did she tell you?" He got angry again.

 

"Oh, Geez, Will, nothing even I could figure out. Are you mad at me, or at her, or, say, Barnabas?"

 

He became subdued. "Nobody anymore. I'm sorry I got angry at you. But you don't know a lot of stuff yet."

 

"I won't know until someone sees fit to tell me. So far, Sarah's the only one around here who's even forthcoming with some kind of information, garbled as it is."

 

"Now, you're mad at me."

 

"I don't want to be." Cellie wrapped her arms around Willie, and kissed him. "I'm sorry I woke you up. I was going to surprise you with breakfast in bed, like you're always bringing me. Want to go back up?"

 

"No, I can't relax anymore, anyway, and I have to do a lot of things today. It's too much, this singing in the morning, to ghosts and whatnot."

 

"Well, singing in the morning beats the daylights out of puking in the morning. You're lucky you missed out on most of that."

 

"We'll make up for that someday, when we have our next seven children."

 

"That's down one from yesterday. Keep it up, till we're down to four. That's almost a manageable number." Cellie went back to working at the stove. "Will, have you called the school yet? It's not too late to try to sign up for summer G.E.D. classes. It would be a shame if you gave it all up now, after you made up for all the work you missed while I was away." She was more proud of his marks than her own; after all, it was, relatively speaking, a snap for her to garner "A's", simply because she'd never missed a beat with her studies, even when she'd been at her lowest ebb. When Willie made a "C", it struck her as a major achievement, coming as it did after over fifteen years of his seldom even opening a book, and the fact that, aside from all his other problems, he really was rather slow-minded in some ways. Cellie made a point of taping his progress report on the refridgerator, much as her mother had hung up her school papers back in Boston.

 

"I'll call around noontime, from Ellsworth, don't worry." Cellie served Willie the pancakes. He continued, "When will you need me to take you to the Superette this afternoon?"

 

"Around two, I guess. You'll be back by then?"

 

"You bet. Taking you out anywhere, even to the store, is a treat for me."

 

She stood, hand on her hip, regarding him with a pert expression. "You just like being the object of envy, don't you?"

 

He grabbed her hand, and pulled her onto his lap. "Imagine, old Willie Loomis having anything, or anybody, that someone else could envy." He held her for a while, kissing her and rubbing her belly, then released her, in order to go upstairs and prepare for the day. After Cellie cleaned up the kitchen, she followed.

 

Barnabas arrived at nine, the locked firebox containing the jewelry stock under his arm. He handed the box, with its key, to Cellie, who promptly arranged the contents in the glass showcase. He said, "I've made a decision about the jewelry situation today, Cellie."

 

Cellie rose from behind the counter. "And what decision might that be?"

 

"I've been thinking this over, since you've been living here with Willie, that perhaps it might be worthwhile to leave the jewelry stock here, from now on. You would still have to empty the case at night, but there's a perfectly adequate safe in the stairway closet, to which only the two of us will have the combination. This will save the trouble of the possibility of my forgetting to bring the merchandise from home."

 

Cellie thought it over. Barnabas felt safer leaving the jewelry here because he felt she could protect the stuff from Willie. It was kind of an insult to her husband, but she knew it was because Barnabas could trust her implicitly with his jewelry, at least. Too bad he could trust her with his other secret, just yet, though Cellie was starting to get a fix on just what that secret might be. She decided not to tell him about the latest visit from Sarah, for the time being, unless Willie brought it up first. "If that's the way you want to play it, Barnabas, I'm flattered, I guess. Maybe we should look into the possibility of expanding our alarm system into that closet."

 

"I'll be calling the service person later. In the meantime, let me show you how it works." He walked into the closet with his niece. While he was showing her how to open and close the safe a few times, Willie came out of the kitchen, where he'd been listening to the conversation.

 

So, Barnabas was sharing another precious little secret with Cecily, showing that He couldn't trust Willie without the wife around to act like a cop. Willie got very angry, not just at Barnabas this time, but at Cecily, for going along with it. He heard his wife say, "Um, I have to get out of here right now, Barnabas. It's just too stuffy in here, and I'm getting dizzy. My eyes are burning. My stomach is bothering me, too. Geez, and I thought I had that morning sickness thing all beat by now." That'll show her, Willie thought, even though he knew, sooner or later, she would realize what had caused her discomfort.

 

"I'm going now!" he announced, and left the building, just as Cellie emerged from the closet, queasy and just starting to get angry herself. She called out the door to her husband,and was answered by the sputtering roar of the station wagon's motor, as Willie started on his trip to Ellsworth.

 

She fought off the feeling of sadness and disappointment. She didn't understand how Will could be so mean, after he'd been so sweet to her in the kitchen, and then, upstairs. Sometimes, it seemed like their relationship took one step forward, then something happened to set it back two steps. She sat on the red velvet settee, trying to control herself, trying to control the powerful urge to get even with him.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Willie had returned, contrite and with a dozen roses in a ribboned box, at one o'clock. He nodded a greeting to Carolyn, and, taking his wife by the hand, led her upstairs. He closed their bedroom door, and embraced her. "I'm sorry, Cecily. I felt terrible about it all the way to Ellsworth, and all the way back. My girl. Please forgive me," he pleaded in a teary voice.

 

Cellie's arms hung limp at her side. "Oh, Will, how could you? This is worse than slapping me around. At least then, I could try to hit you back. I had no warning. I could have vomited all over my uncle. Is that the kind of marriage you want, Will? You know my soft places, and I know yours, so it's open season, to scratch them and make them bleed?"

 

"You try to control ME all the time, sucking out my mad times like you have a big straw in your head! Why can't I get my licks in? He doesn't trust me, and YOU don't say anything against it! I'd rather He kept the damn jewelry in the Old House. Then, at least, I would know where I stood with Him, and you wouldn't have to join in like you agreed with Him. I don't want the combination to that safe. I don't need it! You don't think, if I really wanted that stuff, I couldn't figure out how to get it? If you really must know, I figured out how to spring the safe at the Old House, as soon as He got it. And guess what? I haven't tried to swipe anything from it in three years."

 

"Will, we're living on Barnabas's property, on his bounty, and on his sufferance. He makes the rules, as far as that goes."

 

"Carolyn owns half of this joint. She can shoot Him down, if we complain."

 

"I don't want to 'shoot him down.' I have no reason to. I love him. Even though he doesn't tell me his darkest secrets, and he doesn't fall all over himself with trust for you. Even though he tried to hurt us, back when--- I understand his reaction to that better, I think. He's been making up for it. And I love you, even though you do tell me all your darkest secrets, well, most of 'em, anyway, and I do trust you to come through for me in the end. It's the same old jealousy rap with you, Will. Why can't you handle the fact that I can love other men, in completely different ways than I love you, and still not be taking anything away from you?"

 

"The way I came up, " he sighed, "there aren't any other ways to love other men. It's all part of the same dirty thing, whether you want to admit it or not. Whether you see the 'right' colors or not. Whether the clothes come off or not. If it's in your head, and His head.... It does take something away from me."

 

Cellie knelt before him. "Tell me, Will. Tell me now. What does my love for Barnabas take away from you? What does it have to do with that great violet-blue cloud of fear you generate whenever he's near you?" She grasped his hands, and looked into his tear-filled eyes. There was a dark place, she could barely make it out, which she saw reflected there.

 

Willie was in there, she could feel him. Cellie was "seeing" through his eyes, the colors and shapes formed by his emotions. He wasn't scared, not at first; actually he was kind of annoyed, dismayed. Frustrated. Then there was a loud noise, a rhythmic pounding. He was moving around. He was reaching for something she couldn't see too clearly, but it had a large handle. Another loud noise, and it was even darker than before. Willie was trying to open a large object that glittered in a dim light, like moonlight, maybe. Cellie could feel his sense of triumph, that he'd overcome some tremendous obstacle, and had in his grasp something he wanted very badly.

She looked with him, into the object he'd just opened. Then that pounding cadence returned. The thing he'd wanted, something very familiar to her, though she couldn't focus on it, reached out for him....

 

Cellie shot backwards, impelled by a huge explosion in her head, bits of colors swirling around like confetti, blue-violet, yellow-blue, orange (Why lust? What did that have to do with what she'd "seen"?), bright brown (was that hatred? She wondered.) She cried out. It was like what she'd felt before, when Barnabas had thrown Willie onto the stairs that time, and she'd thrown herself between them, and accepted Willie's fear. She knew, she knew, Sarah had said so. But then it all went black.

 

Carolyn was downstairs, talking to two customers, a young woman, and her mother. Barnabas had gone downtown on an errand. Carolyn wished Cellie and Willie would come downstairs, already. Newlyweds! she thought, with both exasperation and wistfulness. Then she heard a cry, and a thud. Then she heard Willie shouting his wife's name, shouting for Carolyn to come help.

 

"What's the matter?" the mother asked.

 

Carolyn improvised an explanation, as she ran up the stairs. "They're putting a light fixture up. Maybe she fell off a ladder while she was helping."

 

"Poor girl," the mother, who knew Cellie slightly, and that she was pregnant, said to her daughter. "I keep saying, pregnant women have no business climbing ladders or chairs or anything. They should probably stay away from stairs, too. I was always tripping downstairs when I was expecting all of you."

 

Carolyn took the stairs two at a time. She ran into the master bedroom.

 

Willie was crouched, weeping, beside Cellie, who was unconscious on the floor, near the bed. "My God, Willie, what did you do to her? Throw her against the wall? What the hell was going on here, anyway?"

 

"I didn't touch her. I didn't touch her. I didn't want to hurt my Cecily. She was holding my hand and trying to help me. But I killed her anyway, with my bad thoughts." Willie was lost in his hysteria.

 

"We've got to get her to the hospital," Carolyn said, her voice shaking. "I'll call an ambulance."

 

"They'll take her away from me and put me in jail for killing her. My Cecily," he mourned, kissing her still, red face, caressing her tumbled hair.

 

Carolyn sank to her knees, and felt for a pulse. It pounded at uneven intervals, but, the longer Carolyn clutched Cellie's wrist, the steadier the beat became. "She's not dead, Willie. Pull yourself together. I'll go downstairs to call right now."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Dr. Hurley, Cellie's chart in her hand, walked up the hallway to the visitor's waiting room, talking to Julia, with whom she had been consulting about Cellie's condition. Dr. Hurley had found some interesting results in the few neurological tests the hospital had to offer. "There does seem to be an unusual amount of activity in what are coming to be understood as the centers of emotional behavior. Our neurologist is agitating to send her to Boston, or even New York, for more extensive tests."

 

Julia had been forced to explain about Cellie's anomaly. "I don't believe it's an illness, or a syndrome that will grow to destroy her mind in any way. It's like a special adaptation to the conditions of her existence. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new mutation in the human species. Or a throwback to an old one. In any case, I wouldn't want to send her away from her loved ones to undergo a grueling and possibly painful series of tests that won't change anything. They may learn something about the condition, but as to how they could apply the knowledge to help her or anyone else.... And there are the possible effects on the pregnancy to consider."

 

Dr. Hurley said, "Not having more specific knowledge may, in itself, lead to the further endangerment of the pregnancy. You have sufficient concern about her condition as it is, having me run extra blood tests on Cellie, lest she develop whatever condition Willie had years ago. But I do take your point about removing her so completely from the people she needs most. There's been enough of that in her experience, already. It's almost too much to comprehend. If I didn't see the evidence for myself, I wouldn't believe it. She absorbs the effect of people's emotions, and spits them back, or keeps them locked inside, like an oyster is stuck with a trapped grain of sand in its shell? Too bad she isn't an oyster. At least, then, she could form a pearl to soften the sharp edges of the pain it must cause her."

 

Julia said, "The reactions she usually gets from this are upsetting enough---the vomiting and retching, the fatigue. But the over-reaction she gets from her husband is far more frightening, what with the passing-out, and her development of his anxiety symptoms."

 

"I must say, Mr. Loomis is one of the most anxious people I have ever met, and I'm not empathic. He strikes me as someone who's survived a great disaster, and is experiencing a delayed reaction. Rather like a shell-shocked soldier." Dr. Hurley sighed. "Julia, you treated him at WindCliff, and you've also known him personally for five years. What would you say the chances of his ever completely recovering from his problems?"

 

"I think he's as well as he can ever expect to be, Virginia. He's certainly not violent to my niece, and most of the time, he enjoys periods of normalcy when in her company. Her gift gives her some influence over his behavior."

 

"Well, something must have backfired. I'm almost sorry to hear they're such a devoted couple, because my recommendation would be for them to separate temporarily, until he has a better handle on his negative emotions, which are proving deleterious to both Cellie's health and the health of their child."

 

"I would agree with you, except that both of them seem to suffer even worse when they are apart, like there's some invisible link between them. I hope that's not too metaphysical for you."

 

"Julia, I've been a doctor a bit longer than you, and I admit I've seen things that smack more of the spiritual than the merely physical. I've also had a long, and

 

I may say, very happy marriage, and yet, in all my medical and marital experience, I've never seen this sort of bond between even the most ecstatic couples."

 

"I seldom have, myself, but I believe it can exist. Look at those couples, who are separated by a great distance, and yet, if one becomes ill, or dies, or is in some danger, the other partner can somehow sense the coming storm, and, occasionally, reach out to prevent it."

 

Dr. Hurley answered, "I'd love to be able to say that's all coincidence, but something of that nature did happen to George and myself, when I was at a medical convention in Chicago. I had a funny uneasiness, and couldn't sleep, so I called George. He was very grumpy about being awakened just to listen to me complain about my jitters, then, he said he smelled smoke. He ran from the phone to check, then came back a few minutes later to tell me he'd had to extinguish a small electrical fire caused by a frayed lamp cord. Naturally, he thanked me for getting him awake in time."

 

"I've had those times with Barnabas even before we were married," Julia replied. "But this is quite different. It's an on-going thing with Willie and Cellie, like a twenty-four hour radio broadcast. We're trying to teach her some simple methods for controlling both her readings and her reactions to them, but I doubt she'll learn all she needs to know in time to spare her health throughout the restof her pregnancy."

 

They walked into the waiting room. Willie sat alone, in the corner, while Barnabas and Carolyn talked quietly, and looked anxiously in his direction. When the two doctors came in, everyone stood up, though Willie hung back. Dr. Hurley walked right up to him, and put her hand on his shoulder. He asked, in a tiny voice, "Is Cecily going to get better? Is our baby okay?"

 

"Yes to both questions. Mr. Loomis, Julia here informed me about your wife's special attributes. She really had no choice, since this will probably emerge, again and again, as an issue that affects this pregnancy, and any others you may be planning down the road."

 

"I didn't mean for that to happen, Doctor Hurley. We were so careful about all the other stuff--- the food, the rest, everything."

 

"Tell me exactly what happened. Perhaps you can avoid the circumstances in the future."

 

"We had an argument. I was real mad at her this morning, and I made sure she felt it before I left on an errand. But I felt so guilty about it, I came back with flowers and said I was sorry. But she was still mad at me."

 

"I can certainly understand why, Mr. Loomis," Dr. Hurley said irritably.

 

"You have no more business manipulating your wife's emotions than she does interfering with most of yours."

 

"But she was okay then. She wanted to know what my real problem is, and she thought she was smart enough to get into my head without hurting herself. I let her. I was so miserable. I was so selfish. And I ended up nearly killing the only woman who ever really meant anything to me. And our baby." Willie sniffled, and turned his head away.

 

Dr. Hurley said,"I almost changed my mind about asking you this, but I believe it's more necessary than ever. You must separate from your wife for a few weeks."

 

Julia took his arm. "Really, Willie, it would be best. She'll stay at the Old House. You can see her as soon as you're straight. Maybe I can prescribe something for you--"

 

"I'm only straight when I'm near my Cecily. You couldn't give me a pill that could straighten me out like she does. I want her to stay with me," Willie said stubbornly. "I'll take good care of her. That's all I've been doing for the past few weeks. I promise I won't get mad at her like that again, or let her read my insides. But we need each other."

 

Julia grew stern. "Willie, you know I understand what the problem is."

 

Willie looked at the floor, ashamed. "Yes, Julia. You know better than anyone, except---" He was going to glance toward Barnabas, but stopped, because Dr. Hurley was looking on, a little puzzled by the exchange.

 

Julia continued, "It's not just your day-to-day marital ups and downs that I'm worried about. Cellie told me about the dreams. What if she experiences a similar reaction, in the middle of the night, with neither of you in any condition to even call an ambulance?"

 

Willie said, sadly, "Okay, Julia. Take her to the Old House. But not for too long. Won't I be able to see her at all? She might not like that too much, either."

 

Julia put an arm around him. "Of course you'll see her, for a little while every day, if you want. But you can't do anything, or feel anything that will agitate the empathy. I'll have to give you a mild tranquilizer before you visit her. Unfortunately, I can't do the same for her, because of the pregnancy. It's all up to you, Willie."

 

"I'll try to be good, Julia. Can't I see her now?"

 

Dr. Hurley spoke up. "She's still unconscious, though she appeared to be coming out of it, when we looked in on her. We'll get you calmed down right now, and you can see her in a half-hour or so. I'll take you to her room myself, because I have to speak to both of you anyway."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie felt a burning pink light behind her eyelids. She opened them, blinking. A few moments before, she had been having some kind of funny dream, about opening a box. Pandora's box, she thought. She couldn't remember what was in the box. But if she worked on it long enough, she might. She felt a little light-headed. She looked up at the man sitting beside the unfamiliar bed in the unfamiliar room.

 

Barnabas held her hand. For some reason, she squirmed away from him, pulled her hand away. How silly, she thought. Barnabas was generating the very strong emanation of paternal concern. She began to remember the argument with Will. How long ago was that? He'd said some awful things about Barnabas. They couldn't be true, she could sense it. But still, she recoiled from her uncle's touch.

 

"Cellie," he said in a voice of deep concern. "We were so worried about you. Willie told us what brought on the attack, not in great detail, though. I didn't pry. You're entitled to privacy in your marriage."

 

"You weren't mad at him for that, were you, Barnabas?" she whispered.

 

"I was, but aside from Julia's words of restraint, I remembered what you would have had me do. Some of this may be my fault. Much of this trouble goes back to the beginning of my association with Willie, I'm afraid."

 

Cellie turned away. The beginning.... there was something about a beginning. If only she could remember. "Are they going to let him in to see me, or do they think he's a big brainwash expert, who should be kept away from me?" A tear rolled down her cheek. "Don't keep him away, Barnabas. Don't let the same thing happen all over again."

 

Barnabas, to her surprise and relief, seemed genuinely confounded by her anxiety. "Why, I have no say in the matter, Cellie. As far as I'm concerned, if you want to see him, and it doesn't upset you any further, of course you should see him. He'll be here in a few minutes, as a matter of fact, with Dr. Hurley."

 

Dr. Hurley! She was so dazed, and so worried about Will, it had drifted out of her mind. "My baby�I didn't have a miscarriage or anything, did I?"

 

"No, dear. The baby is fine, as far as the doctor can tell. I understand, though, they gave you some other tests. Neurological tests, to determine the cause of your blackout. They may do more, before you leave."

 

"More tests.... Oh my God, Barnabas, the money! We were saving up as much as we could for my hospital stay when I have the baby. This'll blow all that out of the water."

 

Barnabas smiled. "I give you both credit for attempting to live up to your financial responsibility. But you needn't worry, now or then. Of course your aunt and I will help you and Willie with your medical expenses."

 

"I feel funny about that, Barnabas. Maybe you could at least let us pay you back."

 

"That won't be necessary. I owe a great deal to Willie for services he's rendered to me in the past." (Cellie wondered what services her husband must have rendered that would merit the reward of Barnabas's assumption of at least a thousand dollars' worth of medical bills.) "And you both work very hard at the Antique Shoppe."

 

"Well, thanks so much, Barnabas. I don't know what else to say. We caused you and Aunt Jule a lot of trouble, and it just keeps snowballing."

 

"You're no trouble at all. And neither is Willie, as long as you stay with him. All you owe us is to take care of yourself and give birth to a healthy baby. I'm looking forward to having a fine grand-nephew or niece."

 

Cellie wondered if her aunt had gotten around to discussing her own family plans. If she had, Barnabas wasn't telling. Perhaps he'd dismissed the notion of having a child of his own. Still, he hadn't said anything, or given her any other impressions, to justify the nasty things Will had implied about him.

 

Dr. Hurley walked in, Willie following close behind. Barnabas rose, and bent to kiss his niece on her cheek. He stroked her hair briefly with his right hand. Cellie felt a little chill from the touch of the heavy gold band of his ring, brushing against her forehead. The blackness of the onyx set in it was like the blackness she'd seen when she collapsed. If only she could remember the rest�

 

Cellie cringed a little. She couldn't understand it, but Barnabas apparently didn't notice. There was no change in the bright pink light she sensed. She braced herself to feel Willie's jealousy flare up, but she felt little. This was odd, and a bit disconcerting. Maybe she'd overdone things when she absorbed the disturbing images, before she passed out.

 

Her fears were quickly put to rest. Willie bent over her, with a question in his eyes. She smiled and reached up to him, and he held her gently, while trying not to move the I.V. tubes in her arm. He said, "My girl. You don't have to be scared of me anymore. Julia gave me some medicine so I wouldn't get mad or anything when I visit you." He kissed her.

 

Dr. Hurley said, "I'm recommending that he adhere to this regimen for at least three weeks, while you recuperate, Cecily. You will be released from the hospital tomorrow, to stay at the home of your uncle and aunt during that time."

 

"Why can't I go home? I'm starting to feel a lot better."

 

"When the staff neurologist took all our available tests, he discovered anomalies in your brain function. Your aunt explained your case to me. It is my belief that you should be apart from your husband for a short time."

 

"It's not his fault. I sort of brought it on myself."

 

"Fault has nothing to do with it, Cecily. I must explain. You didn't have any sort of a normal fainting spell, at least, not the common syncope one associates with early pregnancy. What you went through was akin to what a patient experiences in the aftermath of electro-shock therapy. In short, there is a high degree of electro-chemical activity in your brain when you have--- what did you used to call them?"

 

"Rainbow spells. Only it's a lot more than that, now."

 

"Yes. I've heard about the incident that brought this 'attack' on. As near as I can figure, the part of your brain that governs your own emotions and your response to those of others, is highly sensitized. It reacts on the slightest clue of, say, a change in facial expression, or, like canines, a trace of chemical changes in perspiration and other body secretions. There may be other, deeper changes that your brain can detect, especially in your husband. I've never been a believer in 'auras' and such, but I would agree that there's more to this than wifely intuition.

 

�The anomaly allows you to pick up on these seemingly invisible signals, and stimulates this hyperactive electro-chemical reaction. Apparently, the activity builds and builds, to a point where your brain goes into a kind of convulsion. To relieve the build-up, your brain has developed a defensive mechanism that permits the release of the extra energy, apparently without long-term effects."

 

"I think I've had a memory loss. I can't remember everything that happened before I blacked out."

 

"As in the case of electroshock treatment, that, also, should clear itself up. I certainly can't tell you how long that might take. But since this is a natural process for you, your brain may already have compensatory and restorative functions in place."

 

"What else have you discovered about my condition?"

 

"You don't get a circulatory shortage, the sort that makes people dangle their heads between their knees after a regular fainting spell. More blood goes to your brain, but there's no evidence of a hemorrhage, as is sometimes noted in shock therapy patients. That's also why your face gets red before you pass out,rather than pale."

 

"Sometimes, after I have a strong emotional experience, say, with Will, I get extremely warm, especially in my head and shoulders, more than one would expect under normal circumstances."

 

"That's part of it. That's why you have to stay away from your husband for a short time. I wanted to recommend that he not even visit you, but that's a hardship I can't bring myself to impose. Understand, I am also concerned for your baby. With all the fluctuations in your emotional state, and the circulatory function, three weeks may not be enough to gird yourself to deal with the rest of the pregnancy. But we've convinced your husband to take a tranquilizer before he comes to you."

 

"Three weeks? You're sure it'll only be three weeks? He needs me, you know, and sometimes in the night."

 

"That's the closest I can cut it. That would take you to the time you're most likely to begin to feel the fetus move around inside you. Or, have you already?"

 

"I get a flutter down there now and then, but it's hard to tell what it is."

 

"Well, once you get to the quickening phase in earnest, it should be easier for you to monitor your actions, as they relate to the baby."

 

"What about my lessons?"

 

"Again, that should be put on hold for the period, so you'll be under as little stress as possible. But you can read your books, and write whatever you want. I'll warn your tutors."

 

"I guess we can live with that, then."

 

"One final word. I've seen extreme closeness between married couples, and some unmarried, who've been together a long time. However, this is the first time I've observed a relationship with symbiotic aspects. Before you go any further with your married life, I would strongly urge you and your husband to undergo some sort of counseling, especially your husband, in order to forstall any complications his anxieties and fears may bring to your condition. I'm sure your aunt could recommend someone, if you have an inhibition about discussing these matters with her." Dr. Hurley rose to leave. "I'll see you later on this afternoon, Cecily."

 

After she'd left, Willie asked his wife, "What's 'symbiotic' supposed to mean? Is it unnatural or something?"

 

Cellie smiled. "You sure have a one-track mind, hon. It's not unnatural, but it's unusual among humans. It's a complex interdependence between two life forms. In plain English, it means, basically, you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours, so to speak. Only stronger than that, like there's invisible roots connecting our heads and hearts. We feel each other's pain. And good feelings, too."

 

"I'm scared. She said all that stuff about that electric shock treatment. I had that, at the state hospital, and then at WindCliff." Willie shuddered. Cellie felt a little of his fear, but it didn't seem to be a current anxiety of his, so she had no ill effects. "It wasn't painful or anything, at least I don't remember any. But that's the problem with it. After I had it a few times, it made it hard to remember stuff for a long time, like she said. And I was always afraid. You knew you were getting it when they didn't give you any breakfast. See, they have to knock you out first, like an operation. It was supposed to make my angry and really scared times go away, Julia said. And it did, for a little while, right after. But it didn't work too good on me, 'cause then it would all come roaring back. Then another day would come, and I wouldn't get my lousy toast and eggs." He began to breathe heavily, and became visibly tense. The tranquilizer must not have been very strong.

 

Cellie, in spite of the doctor's orders, instinctively reached for Willie's hands and gazed into his eyes. He pulled away. "I'm sorry, Cecily. See, I almost did it to you again. I wouldn't want that. Because of the way I would feel after they shocked me, and I would wake up. I had peace, but it was empty. Like standing on a cliff, and nothing, even clouds in the sky, around you. I don't ever want you to have that feeling, like you're dead, but you're not, exactly."

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

 

Cellie was resting on her bed at Collinwood. It was decided that she should spend the second week of her recuperation there, as there was suddenly a large case load at WindCliff, and Julia was forced to cut short her leave of absence from work. Cellie felt guilty about laying around and being served. But Elizabeth Stoddard and Mrs. Johnson wouldn't hear of her helping out around the house, beyond taking care of her room. Elizabeth saw the coming baby as a surrogate grandchild, and, while Mrs. Johnson had grandchildren of her own, she thought a baby around Collinwood would liven things up for everyone.

 

Cellie had a lot of fun, at first, while she was there. David would take her for walks around the estate, and he would tell some vile jokes to make her laugh uproariously. Hallie came by, and they'd all walk together, but then, of course, David had to cut back on the bawdy talk.

 

Carolyn taught her to play chess, checkers, and other board games. "All the games you learn when you're isolated with a couple of people, and you don't have a television. Cabin fever games," Carolyn had sighed. Cellie became a demon backgammon player. Then Carolyn taught her to play blackjack. Cellie got the hang of card-counting, very quickly. One night, she and Carolyn played for dimes, and Cellie won the whole pile in ten minutes. "Willie will have to teach you poker, and then we can send you to Vegas, to make your fortune," Carolyn said.

 

"Oh, he taught me that already," Cellie said, fighting not to turn red. For someone who was kind of slow, Willie was pretty creative when he adapted poker as a love game. The best part was, he tolerated a lot of cheating.

 

Roger joined a couple of the card games, and was impressed with her

 

acumen. There was no justice on the planet, he decided, if he and his son could languish without female companionship most nights, while that Willlie Loomis was able to capture such a brilliant, luscious creature. It was embarrassing, how she openly adored that uncouth, shambling, dreary---there was no shortage of pejorative adjectives to describe the man. Heavens, even that departed friend of Loomis's, that despicable, unlamented Jason McGuire, might have made a more suitable match for Cellie than his low-rent partner-in-crime, that is, if he hadn't been hell-bent on marrying Elizabeth and her money. For all that one's insatiable greed, at least he was intelligent and projected a modicum of charm, however smarmy.

 

It galled Roger to know that, on the night he'd distracted that brazen hag Melinda Knowlton while Carolyn and Maggie lured Loomis from the Blue Whale, he'd actually served the cause of uniting Willie with the girl. And now, another Loomis was coming into the world. He hoped the genetic wheel of fortune would turn in favor of granting the child a larger share of the mother's attractions. That, and better taste when he or she came to choose a spouse.

 

There was a timid knock on the heavy oaken door. Cellie rose, but Roger motioned her to sit. Loomis again, he thought with disgust, as he went to answer the door. Roger wanted a chance to escape to the study, before he had to witness the rather moist greeting between the husband and wife. He wondered how Carolyn could stand being around them. Maybe she needed a refresher course in romance, since she'd been seeing that Tony Peterson again. Roger had nothing against him--- any and all of Cassandra's intrigues during that period were, he felt, her fault, and hers alone.

 

He bade Willie to enter, and rushed down the hall to the study. Cellie danced through the foyer, and into her husband's arms. He whispered, "God, I miss you so much, my girl."

 

"It's only another week and a half, hon."

 

"The baby moving in there yet?" He reached for her belly.

 

"I thought I felt something on the outside this morning, but not since then. I'm going to stop checking so often. Like they say, a watched pot never boils." They walked into the drawing room. Carolyn was shuffling the deck of cards, but she rose as they came in.

 

"I'll leave you two alone. I have to get ready for my date, anyway." She left the room. Cellie and Willie went to stand near the French doors that led into the garden. There was a full moon, which shone above the glittering line of the ocean in the distance.

 

In spite of the slightly stronger tranquilizer Julia had given Willie before he came to the Great House (she didn't want him to have the pills at home), he was feeling amorous. He was crushing Cellie in his arms, and kissing her deeply, and she responded in kind. "Can't we go upstairs to your room, Cecily? You'll only get good feelings from what I want to do with you."

 

She giggled. "I wish we could. Look, there's even a deck of cards we can use for inspiration. But, well, doctor's orders. Plus, all the racket would make both David and Roger crazy with jealousy. And, to be blunt, I'd hate to be Mrs. Johnson when she insists on helping me change the sheets, tomorrow. They won't let me do a damn thing around here."

 

"You're the first person I ever heard of who complained about not having to lift a finger to get anything done. Now, when I lived here, I made an extra mess just for the pleasure of watching Mrs. Johnson scoot around to clear it up before anyone noticed. You should have seen the mountains I made in the ashtrays. And the coffee cups I left all over the place. The stuff I swiped. And all the other little digs I got in."

 

"That was just plain mean. Mrs. Johnson always talks about you as if she likes you. Now that you've told me this, I don't understand why she should."

 

"I was mean. I hope you never find out how mean. But Mrs. Johnson has

 

her own way of looking at things. At one time, she and Roger and even Elizabeth didn't get on too well. Maybe favoring me was her way of getting even. Her own old man was kind of a wild sailor, but she put up with him till he croaked. And her son was no better than I was at one time, but she tried to get him straightened out. Maybe I reminded her of both of them, a little. And then, after I made a lot of trouble, everything became.... different. I didn't get popular, but nobody got too mad at me anymore, at least till Maggie...."

 

He was getting upset again. Cellie felt brave enough to let a little of his unhappiness into her heart. He knew she was doing it. "Stop it, Cecily. I can handle this little bit of bad feelings. You have to think of yourself and our baby first."

 

"Maybe Aunt Jule should give you more 'tranks'."

 

"If I had any more 'tranks', I'd be a zombie. And then, I couldn't do this." He lifted her in his arms, like he had when he carried her over the threshhold in the Antique Shoppe kitchen. He carried her to the couch. They were laughing, as he began to unbutton the collar buttons of her blouse, and then he was serious, as he bent over her.

 

"Okay, okay, we'll go upstairs," Cellie murmurred. "I'd hate to have anyone come in here and see us getting down like this."

 

 

"Too late, Torchtop!" Willie lifted his head, an angry expression on his face. Cellie swung around, and saw David's leering grin.

 

"What are you doing in here, Muffinhead?" she asked angrily.

 

"It's my house, Cellie. I should ask you the same question. This isn't the parlor at the Collinsport House of Secret Pleasure, you know." That had been the name of the old town bordello.

 

"This place couldn't pass for the Collinsport House of Self-Abuse," Cellie quipped. "The couch isn't red enough."

 

"Your faces are. Sorry, really. My aunt insisted I come in and practice the piano for a while. It's a tough life, being dateless and desperate, on a Friday night, at my age."

 

Willie said, irritably, "If you treated people better, maybe a nice girl would come your way."

 

"You didn't treat anybody well at one time, Willie, and you got the nicest girl of them all."

 

"He's nice to me," Cellie fumed. "We have fights and stuff, but we get back on the track after we fall off. Trouble with you, David, is that the minute things get a little difficult, you back off completely---"

 

"At least I don't make my dates fall flat on their faces," David taunted.

 

Willie grabbed David, and threw him into another chair. Cellie, grateful her husband hadn't chucked her best friend to the floor, ran to Willie, and tried to make eye contact. He pushed her away, and went straight out the front door. She followed him down to where the station wagon was parked. He stood by the car, hugging himself and panting. Cellie stopped a few paces from him.

 

"Don't come near me right now, Cecily. Remember the night at the Tavern in Ellsworth? I'm just as mad now, as then."

 

"It doesn't matter if I'm near you or not. It's still painful for me, you know. It's the same damn thing as with Barnabas," she said, tears in her eyes. "I know David insulted you. I'm angry about it, too. But you know he doesn't really mean any harm by it. He still hasn't gotten over Annette."

 

"You always make excuses for him. You know he wants you, not that Annette."

 

"I think I'm the best judge of whether David wants me, and, if so, how much."

 

"Still, you're in that house at nights with him right down the hall. I know if it was me, I'd find a way to get in your room, and make you do things with me before you had a chance to yell for help. And after, you wouldn't yell for help. You'd yell for more. Because that's what you do now."

 

"Oh, is that what you did to Carolyn and that Vicky Winters girl when you lived here before?"

 

"I came damn close, but Jason kept me in line. Still, I had 'em jumping out of their seats when I came into a room." He sounded almost proud of this. It was an ugly sound, indeed.

 

"Go home, Will. I can't take much more of this, tonight." Cellie felt that exhaustion coming on. How could she love such a person? How could she stay married to him? What sort of a child would she have, and how could she let this man help her raise it? Her father had been right. Maybe she should get away from the whole mess--- maybe move back with her mother, who'd gotten a new apartment. If she decided to study law, Ernest could probably get her a job, clerking for his law firm. She could forget Barnabas, David, Carolyn, Hallie, Sarah....It was a shame. She didn't want to, but....but....she was so tired.

 

Willie caught her before she fell. He opened the station wagon door, and sat her inside. He got in beside her, and held her to him. She was limp against him. He was ashamed of himself, and afraid he would have to get David to call Julia. Barnabas would be sore as hell at him, maybe beat the daylights out of him this time, and with no Cecily to stop him.

 

Then Willie heard her sobbing. She put her arms around him, and was holding him as tightly as he held her. "Oh, Will, sometimes I wish I could get away from you. But it won't let me."

 

"Don't say that. You don't want to leave me, any more than I want to go back to the way I was before."

 

"But that's how you were acting, just now. Like it's still in there, waiting for a chance to come out."

 

Willie sighed. "Maybe it is. But it's just talk, now. Honest, Cecily. You have to remember what kind of person I was before we ever met. But I wouldn't be living the way I am now, if I didn't really want to. Maybe someone like you was what I really needed, even back then." He stroked her hair. "I just miss you so much at home, I guess. It's not good for us to be apart so long. Talk to Dr. Hurley and your aunt, please?"

 

"I'll do my best." Just then, David stood beside the car.

 

"Is everything okay out here? I was worried when Cellie didn't come back in, but I didn't hear the car go, either." He peered in. "Everything's ship-shape, I see."

 

Cellie poked Willie. "What are you going to say to him, hon?"

 

"I'm sorry, " Willie groused.

 

"I'm sorry, too," David said. "It's time I watched my mouth already. We're still pals. aren't we, Willie?"

 

"I guess so. But behave around my wife. I don't want her mad at me for telling her she can't have any friends except for girls."

 

David said, in a sincere voice, "I'll be a perfect gentleman, don't worry. Have I ever really let you guys down? If I don't behave---I have to tell you, I think I got zapped. It was really wierd, but this time, when Torch---I mean Cellie, ran after you, I had the queasiest feeling, and not because you pushed me backwards. I felt, I guess you'd call it, remorseful. I don't remember feeling that way the last time we fought about her."

 

"Maybe it's reaching out to you, too, David," Cellie replied."You, and Will, and Barnabas, and a few others. Cellie's Select Committee.I wonder what important thing we've got on our agenda."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

David knocked quietly on Cellie's door. "I got the books you demanded, Your Grace." Cellie opened the door for him.

 

"Thanks a heap, Muffinhead. I know Will would pitch a fit if he thought I was traipsing around the West Wing, trying to find that book room." Cellie took the four books he was carrying. "How thoughtful, David. You wiped the dust off them for me."

 

"Actually, I can't take the credit for that. You're not going to believe it, but when I got into the room, these books, as well as a few others, were already dusted off, as though someone knew they would be needed. And don't think, for a second, Mrs. Johnson, or my Aunt Elizabeth did it, either."

 

"Well, the effort shouldn't have to go to waste. You'll have to get the rest of the dusted-off books, not right now, though. These'll hold me."

 

"You found the marked-off places in the other books I gave you?"

 

"Yup. All that stuff about the late eighteenth century."

 

"You're getting as bad as Barnabas," David chuckled. "Is it true, what I've heard, that he's donating some of Josette's things to the Bangor Museum?"

 

"It's a loan, not a donation," Cellie corrected him. "They'll be back where they belong, in no time."

 

David thought, "Some may be back in less time than that." To his friend he said, "If you convinced Barnabas to say bye-bye to that stuff, even for six weeks, I'd better stay away from you when you try to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge."

 

Cellie picked up the Collins family history, with three slips of paper stuck in the middle. "Oh, by the way, David, I read in here, that it's exactly six months since Sarah Collins' birthday."

 

"Yes, she'd be all of 185-and-a-half years old today. Gone too soon, poor thing."

 

"Well, I know she died on her eleventh birthday, around Christmas. That's almost too sad to commemorate, and December's such an unreliable month, weather-wise, anyway. I'd like to think of this nice spring day as a new, honorary birthday for her. I could make it special, by taking flowers to her grave. I always did that in Boston, for my family, and even some of the older graves I used to visit that looked especially forlorn."

 

"I'll bet it blew some folks' minds, seeing fresh flowers on two-hundred-year-old graves."

 

"That's not why I did it, but now that you mention it.... Still, maybe you could give me the directions to Eagle Hill cemetery, and I could drop off a couple of these roses." She pointed to the vase, which contained Willie's latest installment of floral tributes to his wife.

 

"I got a better idea, Torchtop. I'll get you some of Aunt Elizabeth's flowers to round out the bouquet. Willie might get irked if he notices you raided his present. And I'll take you to the cemetery myself. I haven't been there in ages myself, and there's some folks in there I should visit, I suppose. You shouldn't be alone out there, in any case. It's not exactly Burying Hill, out in the open like that."

 

"Geez, thanks, David." They heard David's phone ring. David ran to

 

answer it, then called Cellie. It was Willie. "Hey, hon," Cellie said, "Is it okay if David takes me for a ride this afternoon? There's some things I have to do....Oh, you're going out anyway? No, I'm not going in that direction....Towards Chartville And then, Brewsters'. Okay, talk to David. Thanks, hon." She handed the phone to David.

 

He hung up within a few minutes, laughing. "That Willie. You'd think I never drove a car before, from the detailed instructions he gave me. And every other word was, 'Go slow, damn it.' Good thing you didn't let on where we were going, Cellie. Willie and Eagle Hill don't mix."

 

"So I've heard, a little, anyway. But I do have to stop at Brewsters' on the way back, that's true enough. I'm growing out of my stuff." She patted her belly.

 

"Well, we'll have to get you back to Willie before you're huge. Poor guy's been chomping at the bit."

 

"Don't start on that, David. Remember what Will said. I'll have to tattle on you. If you're nice to me, I'll let you touch my middle when it really gets moving."

 

David shuddered. "I'll wait to touch my own kid, thanks. Let's go."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

David turned up Eagle Hill Road. Cellie remarked, "Boy, it's nice to see one country road that isn't earmarked for a suburban subdivision, not yet, anyway."

 

"I doubt it ever will," David replied. "The folks around here, even the developers, are pretty superstitious. A lot of this property is Collins turf, anyway, including most of the cemetery." He pulled up in front of a tilted, rusty wrought-iron gate, attached to remnants of a stone wall. The grass around the graves inside was knee-high. "I don't know if we should chance it, Torchtop. We used to have an old Caretaker who spent practically his whole life in there, cutting the grass and cleaning the rust off the gate, but since he died and was buried in there, two years ago, we've only had a landscape service go in there a couple of times a year. From the looks of things, I'd say they haven't been here since April. There may be snakes and ticks galore in there."

 

"And Poison Ivy. I'm quite allergic to Poison Ivy," Cellie informed him.

 

"No, strangely enough, there was never too much of that, except around the trees." David glanced at Cellie, who was suddenly eyeing the unkempt grass anxiously. "Torchtop, you're getting a 'Hallie look'. Is being allergic to Poison Ivy THAT bad?"

 

"I got pretty sick, once, that's all. I guess I'll have to tell Will. As long as we don't wander around too much....There must be one of those bare paths that gets worn into the ground in these old places, right? Where's this mausoleum?"

 

"Way in the back, built into a hill. Tuck your jean bottoms into your socks, anyway." He helped her out of the car. Cellie clutched the bouquet, and carried an old vase David had found in the West Wing.

 

"There's a place I can get more water, isn't there? Some of it spilled in the car." David led the way to an old pipe with a spigot. He pumped the handle. A thin but steady stream ran out. Cellie filled her vase, then David led her, cautiously, through numerous plots both ancient and modern, towards the large white marble building in the back.

 

Along the way, he pointed out different graves. "There's your pal, Ben Stokes, and his Margery. His son and his wife are over there. The grandkids are buried in town, with their families. Now, here's a Quentin Collins, and his wives, he had two, count 'em, two, Samantha, and Daphne, and all their loved and not-so-loved ones. I have a cousin named after this Quentin. He lives in Las Vegas."

 

He pressed on. The graves in the center were the oldest, and the newer ones radiated from this point. "Here's Isaac Collins. It's the oldest regular grave in here, 1681." They studied the large table-like stone, and the one next to it, Isaac's wife Dorothea. "His brother, that Nathaniel you were reading about, nobody knows where he died or was buried. But it was said that once Isaac settled here, he had the remains of his sister-in-law Arabella, and her infant son, whose name nobody could trace, dug up from a few miles away, and planted here." They stood before a memorial plaque nailed onto a fat-trunked oak. The tree bark had grown around it, like huge lips about to swallow the tarnished brass engraving. "This is their tree. They're under here. Now they're part of that tree, I suppose."

 

Cellie said, "I heard the same thing happened to Roger Williams's original grave, in Providence. They were trying to dig him and his wife up, to put them in a fancy tomb, and all they found were two large tree roots in their place. Maybe that only happens to very good, pure people."

 

"I don't know much about Roger Williams, but I suppose Arabella qualifies. She was like Sarah, I guess. Too bad she wasn't actually our ancestor. Everything might have turned out better." They went on further. "Here's a little mix-up. They buried modern people in with the eighteenth century bunch, because there was a lot of empty space."

 

He pointed out a modern granite mausoleum, with a plaque that read "STODDARD-COLLINS". "My aunt had that put up, when she was in a deep funk, a depression I guess, back when my nasty stepmother lived with us. They were going to dig up my Uncle Paul and put him in there, but all they found was a charred casket and what was left of some bones--- nobody could, or WOULD explain how THAT happened! They shelved it inside the tomb anyway, for Carolyn's sake. There's also room for my Aunt Elizabeth, of course, Carolyn, and her husband, if she gets married again."

 

"Where's Carolyn�s husband buried?"

 

"Oh, he was lost at sea. He was pushed off Widow's Hill by this fanatic member of a cult he was involved with, which plagued all of us, really. His body was never found."

 

"Poor Carolyn." Cellie turned, to a short row of three modern stones. "William Malloy, 1916-1966. Jonah Hinckley, 1899-1971. And this must be Maggie's Dad, right? Samuel Evans, 1915-1968. I take it his wife is buried elsewhere?"

 

"Not anymore," David replied. "My Aunt felt so bad about Maggie's dad, that not only did she let Sam be buried here, she got his wife transferred from the town cemetery. But nobody ever got around to having her name added to his stone. Maggie only comes out here, once a year, on their wedding anniversary, and last time she swore she'd get it done by this summer. It's just hard to get anyone to come out here to do the job."

 

He continued, "That Mr. Malloy was my aunt's right-hand man, first on the fishing fleet, then in the cannery. He got shoved off the cliff, too, but he was found. I didn't know him that well, but he was nice to me, and treated Carolyn almost like a daughter. I used to wish he would marry Aunt Elizabeth, but that's before I really knew about what happened between her and Carolyn's Dad. And Jonah was that old Caretaker I told you about. HE was a creepy old guy, alright. Nobody knew anything about his parents, but he was adopted and raised by my Great-Aunt Nora and her husband along with their kids. Then he somehow got this job, and gave his whole life to it. He rambled and ranted so much about the feelings of the dead, you'd have thought he was one of them, brought back to life to be their champion. Or their social worker!" Both David and Cellie had a good laugh over this last bon mot.

 

They stood before the mausoleum, reading the slate stones around it. Cellie asked, "Why weren't Josette and Jeremiah buried in there?" She pointed to the white tomb.

 

"Well, Jeremiah was shot by the original Barnabas, when he stole his nephew's fiancee. Barnabas's father blamed his younger brother, not only for leaving his son bereft, but making him a murderer into the bargain! So no deluxe accommodations for him. The excuse was, there was no room, but Joshua was rich enough to have had more space carved out. And Josette is lucky to be here at all, since she killed herself. But the townspeople couldn't object, as this was Collins property. No crossroads burial in unhallowed ground for her, but no tomb treament either."

 

David pulled the heavy iron gate of the mausoleum open for Cellie. She had an impression of heaviness, a sorrow as thick as the marble blocks which made up the tomb. She only felt relief when she sat on Sarah's sarcophagus, and arranged the flowers she'd brought. Cellie sensed that Sarah was around, but she did not appear. Cellie hoped she liked the flowers, some of which were still in bud. David wondered why she'd insisted on that. "A private joke, of sorts," she'd replied. "Only I could have a private joke with a ghost."

 

David walked to a peculiar decoration, high on the back wall, behind the crypt of Sarah's mother, Naomi. "See this lion's head thing? It was once the latch that opened a room built under the hill. Joshua Collins once hid firearms for the Revolution in it. That was its last honorable use, as I understand. There've been quite a few nasty surprises hiding behind that door."

 

"Where's the latch handle now?"

 

"Barnabas had Willie remove it, after the Caretaker died. Too many people who shouldn't have gone in there, got in there. I remember, Willie wasn't too enthusiastic about doing the job, but he always ends up doing whatever Barnabas says. Go figure that one out." David realized what he'd just said. "I'm sorry again, Torchhtop. I just keep putting my foot in it, as far as Willie is concerned."

 

"No, don't apologize. I noticed the peculiarities in their relationship the first day. Barnabas says 'Jump!' and Will says 'How high?' It's both saddenning and maddenning." Cellie changed the subject. "Did you ever go in there?"

 

"Oh, yeah. What place haven't I been, where I wasn't supposed to be?" David smirked in the shadows.

 

"My bed, I suppose." Cellie smirked back.

 

"Touche. Anyway, the last time was years ago. I got stuck in there by accident, after Sarah showed me how to get in. She showed me an empty casket. She left without telling me how to open the crypt from the inside. Barnabas and Willie came in, and I hid in the box."

 

"That's awful!"

 

"Well, it sure makes for a story, doesn't it? I was scared spitless they'd open the casket and find me. Even though I still liked Willie, I wasn't too crazy about Barnabas, and neither of them was too friendly in those days. They were talking. I didn't understand what they were saying. I blocked a lot out, I guess. There's stuff I don't want to remember, so I kind of forget it, like stuff about my mother. Anyway, they were in and out of there, and I was trapped. But Sarah came back, and showed me how to get out. There's another latchspring, under a brick in the steps inside. I slid the brick, pulled the lever, and presto. I don't think Willie disconnected that. I mean, if someone found a way to get in here, there'd have to be an emergency exit. To make sure, I marked the brick myself. It says, 'Pull this.' "

 

"That's clear as mud, Muffinhead. Well, I'll keep it on file, for future reference. I see a tiny part of the chain in the lion's mouth is still sticking out, so it may not be impossible---"

 

"What the Hell is going on here!" Willie stood at the entrance to the mausoleum, his face red with anger. Cellie cringed, bile rising in her throat. Her eyelids felt like hot needles. She forced herself to rise, and positioned herself between her husband and her friend.

 

David said, "This wasn't my idea, I swear! She asked me. She wanted to put flowers on Sarah's grave."

 

"I don't think you made enough objections to this little outing," Willie hissed.

 

"What are you doing here, anyway, Will?" Cellie was shaking, swallowing the bile as it came up. Her skin began to take on a greenish cast, but her husband was too lost in his anger and fear to pay attention.

 

"Lie, lie, lie, that's all you do when you want something, don't you, Cecily?"

 

"Like you've never told a lie in your life, Will. And remember, we wouldn't have gotten together without a whole lot of lies told by the three of us."

 

"On a day like today, I wonder if it's all been worth it. You know I never lied to you. I can't answer all your questions, but I tell you when I can't." Willie peered into the mausoleum's interior, towards Sarah's crypt. "Are those some of MY roses I see in that vase? I spend my hard-earned money to give you something pretty for your room, and you take it to someone who's been dead two hundred years. You want to know the truth, when you can't even tell it yourself."

 

"I didn't lie to you. I said we were going towards Chartville, and this is on the road to Chartville, last time I checked."

 

"On the old road to Chartville. I got back early from my errand, then Barnabas said he had some merchandise waiting for him in Chartville. I was going to go the new route, you know I hate going down Eagle Hill, even though it's shorter. But I wanted to get back early, because Julia said I could take you out to dinner. So, I made myself come down this way. And then I saw David's car out there. At first, I really didn't stop to think--- maybe he'd dropped you off at the shops in Chartville, and came here to prowl around till it was time to pick you up. Then I decided to get out and make sure."

 

"I didn't feel you approaching at all."

 

"It's great, what a little self-control can do, isn't it? I had to force myself, especially when I heard your lying voice bouncing off the walls. You've really gone and done it, this time, Cecily. And David, too. I trusted you, David. I guess I am as stupid as they say." Willie grabbed Cellie by the arm, and yanked her out of the mausoleum.

 

Cellie tried to break away, then gave it up. She figured she could work on Willie when they were safely in the car. She wasn't paying attention to David. Then he ran out of the marble room, after them.

 

"Don't you dare hurt her, you creep," David yelped, as he jumped on Willie's back. Willie couldn't shake him off, so he backed into the marble wall, banging David against it a couple of times. Cellie, reminded of what had happened years earlier with Jack Knowlton, and feeling nauseous beyond anything she'd ever felt before, vomited on the grass, then, praying for strength, dangled herself from Willie's arm, and gazed into his eyes. He tried to look away, but her expression reminded him of someone else's.

 

Willie stopped moving, and, with both hands, reached for his stomach. He felt like he'd swallowed ground glass. David slid from his back, shaken and bruised, but with no broken bones, gasping, holding Josette's stone for support. Cellie had the dry heaves. Willie, his stomach relieved of the pins-and-needles sensation, reached out to help her. He was crying now. David was very angry still, but he made himself help Willie carry Cellie.

 

"My girl, my girl. I keep hurting you, " Willie wept, rocking his wife as he sat in the station wagon. "From now on, I won't see you anymore." He whispered, "I wish I could tell you---I wish I could tell you, but I can't. Not now, not ever. I'll send you money, I'll give you a quick divorce. I won't even see the baby if you don't want me to. I love you too much to keep hurting you. Just forgive me. Not now, if you don't want to, but later, when I'm far away from you, and you're safe from me."

 

"Why it hafta be this way," Cellie croaked, hoarsely. "Love you, even when hurts."

 

"Love isn't supposed to hurt," David, now calm, said.

 

"Mine always does," Willie mourned. "David, you take her back to Collinwood." He scooped up his wife, and deposited her in the beige Buick.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Cellie moped around Collinwood the next day. Willie, true to his word, neither visited, nor called. When Carolyn came home from work, Cellie had to ask HER how her own husband was doing.

 

"He's extremely depressed," Carolyn said. "He even asked Tony, when he visited me at lunchtime, if he handled quickie divorces. Tony told him he doesn't handle divorces of any kind. Willie bugged him, asking him to recommend somebody, till Barnabas overheard, and told him to go upstairs and rest, something Barnabas almost never does for his most reliable serf. I know you two had a couple of fights, but what was so different about it this time, that he's talking divorce?"

 

When the younger girl told her, Carolyn hadn't realized how much she'd been missing, going out as often as she had been in the past couple of weeks. Cellie said, "I didn't want to bother you, asking for advice, when you were so happy. I didn't know if you were noticing anything of the kind when Will was working around the Shoppe."

 

"I had hopes nothing like that would ever happen, when you came back, that Willie would start feeling so cocky, that he'd revert to what he was when he first came here. It was bad enough when you were away in Connecticut, but this sounds serious."

 

"The sick part is, I love him anyway. And I love him when he gets his dark nights of the soul."

 

"It's all part of the same package, I'm afraid. Still, I think a lot of it comes from you two being kept apart, as if you haven't had enough of that already. Talk to Dr, Hurley, and Julia. Julia told me she'd prescribe medication for him to take at home, but she'd rather have someone around to dole it out to him, and, well, I can't stay at the Shoppe until Willie's bedtime to give him his sleeping pills. I told her, flat out, that it was YOUR place to do that."

 

Cellie sighed. "I'll give it another shot. If I can't get back there soon, I have a feeling something's going to happen."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

David tried to keep away from her, studying for his final exams. Cellie spoke to him briefly, when he came home from school, but there was a constraint. He was gracious enough to lend her the Hupmobile, so that she could stop at Brewsters' maternity department, and then the Koffeehaus, for a while.

 

She managed to find only one denim maternity item at the store, a tent-like jumper. She'd have to get David to take her to Ellsworth this weekend if she was still at Collinwood. By then, she and David would have made up, she figured. She wondered if she and Will ever would.

 

She walked into the Koffeehaus around five o'clock. There were a few hardcore patrons sipping espresso, and watching a peasant-dressed woman of indeterminate age, with long dark hair, playing a pearl-inlaid twelve-string guitar. Pavlos greeted Cellie quietly, when he saw the expression on her face. "Little Flame. Such sorrow on your dear face. I know it is not news of Hallie's Paul that makes you sad. He, at least, is getting along somehow in that jungle wasteland. Willie was here last night. He is in his own jungle, his own wasteland. And you too. So much sadness isn't good for anyone."

 

"I don't know what to do anymore, Pavlos. He doesn't want to hurt me. He doesn't want to hurt me. It's like a litany in a church. But he hurts me even when he doesn't want to."

 

"He labors under the weight of an evil life he once chose, that he would like to forget, and an evil life imposed on him, that will not let him go. You are the one who stands in equal relationship to him alongside these evils. He is a follower by nature, I'm afraid. He must choose what, or whom, to follow."

 

"It's too much of a burden for me," Cellie wept. "It's wrecking our marriage, and making me so sick, I'm afraid I'll lose my baby."

 

"Don't be afraid for the child, at least, not right now. I don't think danger will come to the little one from its father. And if the child is like you in any way, he or she may sustain you, rather than drain you."

 

"It's so wierd, Pavlos. This isn't the way I'm used to viewing marriage, at least as it exists among the people I've known. If I wasn't pregnant, and didn't change my last name, I'd swear I was the husband, and Will the wife. I'm as modern as anyone, but it's hard to be the decision maker, and the problem solver, when I'm so much younger."

 

"You are very gifted at making these decisions, and solving these problems, and your husband is not. If he doesn't resent you, and you respect him, then it's simply a case of each partner performing the tasks they do best."

 

"Maybe, Pavlos. But his fear--- how shall I handle that? And his anger. I am coming to understand where it comes from, but there's a piece of the puzzle missing."

 

She remembered that last argument she'd had with her husband at the Antique Shoppe, and the emotional "vision." She had run that last around in her mind, and it had finally come to her, after the ugly incident in the cemetery yesterday, that Willie must have been recalling something he'd done in the mausoleum, years before, probably in that "secret" room. That must have been the time when, as he'd once told her, Barnabas had caught him. If that was so, why should Willie still have trouble facing that memory? He'd told her the story readily enough, but without the details. Cellie had certainly found out what Barnabas was capable of when he was angry. And yet, even though he'd endured Barnabas's ways for years, Willie had a deep-seated, almost instinctive reticence about some parts of their relationship. If Barnabas was present that night, then what else could have reached out for Willie in the darkness? Just what had sprung from Pandora's box? It was yellow, like anger.

 

Cellie thought about the books she'd read, even last night, when she'd felt so awful, the collected correspondence of Daniel Collins, concerning the period when Sarah and her brother were alive. They were not censored, as Ben's diary had been. Daniel had been quite open with his suspicions and superstitions.

 

"It will come to you, soon." Pavlos turned his attention to another customer. Cellie turned to watch, and listen to the folk singer. She was singing a strange, poetic song, with an arresting, if monotonous beat to it.

 

"I believe you heard your Master sing,

 

when I was sick in bed.

 

And I believe he told you everything

 

that I keep locked away in my head ....

 

And now, do you come back to bring

 

your prisoner wine and bread?"

 

The song was full of obscure references to what sounded like perverse acts. Cellie knew that the "Master" was male, but didn't catch on to the genders of the other characters in the song. There was some fearsome victimization going on there, though.

 

"And His body is the golden string your body is hanging from...."

 

The golden string--- "Golden string, Golden string," Cellie repeated to herself. The sound jangled something in her memory. "Golden---ring!".... the last link in the chain! Barnabas's ring! Willie hung from his golden ring, with a black stone as deep as an abyss. But what did it all mean? It was coming together.... Pavlos brought her another coffee. In spite of her self-imposed restrictions, Cellie gulped it down. She felt she'd earned it. "Pavlos, " she said, "Who wrote that song? What's it all about, anyway?"

 

"Ah, yes. Leonard Cohen. A writer of beautiful but difficult-to-understand poems set to music. They're not the sort of lyrics you are accustomed to."

 

"Is it a dirty song?"

 

"It depends largely upon what you believe to be dirty. 'Roll me over in the clover,' now that is dirty, though fun. 'Master Song,' that is what Latilda was just singing, is, I believe, about submission and domination, of the mind and spirit, as well as the body, and the extent to which participation is voluntary. It also concerns a rivalry between two people who are vying for such negative attention from one very powerful man. The one being addressed in the song IS a woman, but the one who is singing, the 'I' who is 'sick'--- THAT is never made clear!"

 

"Still, I think I just gained a piece of knowledge, Pavlos, but I don't know what to do with it. Perhaps it's useless knowledge."

 

"No knowledge, once gained, is ever useless, Cellie. It just needs to find its time and place."

 

"Pavlos, who are you, really? Where did you come from?"

 

"I am Constantine Pavlos, born in Athens, Greece, fifty-four years ago. I came to America at age nineteen. I prefer to run music places, rather than diners, as I am an atrocious cook. I've divorced three wives, my limit under the dictates of my religion, and have six children, all grown. What else is there to know?"

 

"That's enough, I suppose, for now," Cellie said. She wondered why someone as wise as Pavlos seemed to be, had ended up divorced three times.Perhaps he had been too busy dispensing advice to take it himself. Or else she was getting the benefit of his bitter experience.

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie was lying on her bed, trying to sleep, at eleven thirty that night. She was getting that queasy, anxious feeling---she wondered if Willie was upset, in their room, across town. She could distinguish his sensations from any she might have sensed in Collinwood. She wished she could go home, but Dr. Hurley was hard to convince.

 

The phone rang in David's room. "Drat that David and his hour-long showers," Cellie thought, as she rose to answer it. She didn't know why she was complaining; she was so restless, she thought she'd take a chance on calling her husband anyway.

 

There was no need. She heard Will's voice on the other end of the line.

 

And what a voice! He was crying, confused, distracted. "Cecily, Cecily," he whimpered. "I can't find you. Where are you? He made me get rid of you."

 

"Will, it's your Cecily. It's really me," she answered in a soothing tone. "You had another bad dream, hon. It'll be okay."

 

"If Cecily was here, she'd help me. But he made me--he made me.... just like Jason."

 

Jason! That friend of his who disappeared---Cellie spoke firmly. "Will, listen to me carefully. I am Cecily. I'm not wherever that Jason is. I'm coming home to take care of you."

 

He was sobbing inconsolably when he hung up the phone. Cellie hoped he'd stay put. She ran across the hall, to the bathroom. It sounded like David had shut off the water. She rapped on the door. "David," she said quietly but distinctly. "I need the keys to the Buick. Will's having a bad time at home, and I have to get down there, right away."

 

David emerged from the bathroom, clad in his pajama bottoms and robe.

 

"Get ready, Cellie. I'll take you."

 

Cellie ran into her room to change. She put on one of her husband's shirts, and the denim jumper, almost the only things she had left that fit comfortably. At least her boots still fit--- she thanked God she didn't develop swollen ankles. She joined David, who was waiting for her downstairs. She stopped for a minute to call Willie from the downstairs phone. It rang and rang and rang. She was sweating profusely, as she announced, "Thirteen times. Fifteen. My God, David, he's not there."

 

"Maybe he's cringing in the closet," David said without sarcasm.

 

"Maybe. We'll have to check, but I have a feeling...."

 

They ran out to the car, and David risked every speed trap to get to the Antique Shoppe within fifteen minutes. Cellie opened the front door, and flipped on every light. "Will! Will! It's Cecily. Don't be scared!" She ran upstairs to search, as David covered the main floor, and peeked down the cellar.

 

As Cellie ran downstairs, David said, "You were right, Torchtop. He's not here. Where do we go from here? Maybe we should get the cops, and Barnabas and Julia. If and when we find him, he'll probably need some medication."

 

"No cops right now. He'll freak totally, if he hasn't already. And no

 

Barnabas and Aunt Jule. Same reason. I can't explain right now. But I think I might know where he is."

 

"Not Widow's Hill?"

 

"No. Eagle Hill. Let's get moving."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Fortunately, David had a powerful flashlight in his glove compartment, to supplement the smaller one Cellie had hurriedly grabbed from her kitchen. They entered the pitch-dark cemetery quietly, passing the station wagon that had, apparently, been hurriedly parked, half on the street. Cellie didn't want her husband to think the police were after him, and frighten him into the woods. As always, David was impressed by her nerves of steel. She had her goal, and be damned to anyone or anything (even the dreaded Poison Ivy!) that got in her way.

 

As they approached the mausoleum, Cellie recalled what Pavlos had said about her child sustaining her. She opened her mind totally, this time without anxiety or reserve, to capture Will's painful waves of horror and loss. She swayed, and caught at a headstone. She noticed it was Ben Stokes's.

 

Are you going to be able to do this, Torchtop?" David asked, anxiously.

 

"Nobody else to do it." She got a fresh surge of energy. "Thanks, Ben," she thought. She went up the marble steps and swung back the gate.

 

She shone in her light, from the floor up. She saw the vase, surprisingly undisturbed, on Sarah's tomb. She turned to the left. Willie sat, on the furthest crypt, Joshua Collins's, his head hung down.

 

He made a quiet sobbing sound. He shivered. Cellie approached him cautiously. "Will?" she said, "It's Cecily." She illuminated him further. He was wearing the old jeans he kept by their bed, in case he had to get up in the middle of the night, his old flannel shirt, and workshoes. They were all covered with dirt, as were his hands. He looked as if he'd been on his hands and knees, digging without tools.

 

David came in behind, surveying the rest of the room. "Jesus," he whispered. "Cellie, look." He pointed. In the flashlight beam, they saw a wrench on the floor. David raised the light. The "secret" door was open.

 

Cellie took the flashlight, and peeked into the room beyond. From the thresh-hold, she could see an old coffin on a marble stand; she was neither surprised or shocked; it was a mausoleum, after all. Just around the corner of the catafalque, she could see that some of the small tiles lining the floor had been pulled up. There were small clods of dirt stewn about.

 

She turned to her husband. "Will, " she whispered. "What did you do?"

 

"I had to find Cecily. I had to make sure she wasn't in there." He looked at her. She held the light up to shine on her face.

 

 

"Can't you see, hon? It's really me. I told you I would come and take care of you. I was so scared I wouldn't find you."

 

Willie put his arm around her. She sat close to him, pulling his head onto her shoulder. David tactfully went outside the room, to sit on the steps.

 

"Tell me what happened, Will. My love."

 

"You won't love me when I tell you," he whimpered.

 

"I'll always love you, and I'll never leave you alone again."

 

"I--I had to bury.... I had to," he was losing control again. Cellie clutched him tightly, and felt his misery draw, like poison from a snakebite. He sniffled, and continued. "I had to bury Jason. He made me."

 

"Who made you bury Jason? Where?"

 

"In there," he whispered, pointing to the secret door. "I buried him in there."

 

"Who made you, Will?" She knew the answer, before he said it.

 

"Barnabas. He killed Jason, and he made me bury him."

 

Cellie kept her voice calm. "And why are you here? What were you doing?"

 

"I had the dream. It was so real. It was happening all over again. I tried to keep Jason away, but he wouldn't listen to me. Barnabas killed him right in front of me. Then we brought him here, and Barnabas said, "Do it." I didn't want to. Jason was awful sometimes, but he was my friend I guess. We had him wrapped up in an old drape, but when we brought him in here, the part that covered his face opened up. His eyes had popped wide open. The drape ripped when I tried to cover his face. But Barnabas had someplace he wanted to go, and I had to hurry. I asked Barnabas for something to cover his eyes. When I looked back down in the hole in the ground, it was you looking back up at me. He made me bury you anyway."

 

"Why did you come here, after I told you I'd come to be with you?"

 

"Didn't believe you. Thought it was part of the dream. I had to check that Jason was still here, not you."

 

"He is, I trust."

 

"He is." Willie shuddered again, at the memory of what he'd seen.

 

"Why didn't you use a shovel, Will?"

 

"I had a trowel, but I dug so hard, I kept hitting something." He pointed out some whitish flecks mixed in the dirt on his clothes. "I was afraid I'd scratch up your face, if you were really in there. So I dug with my hands till I found him...." He hid his sweat-covered face in her breast. She stroked his hair. "Now I told you, and Barnabas will kill us both."

 

"No, he won't. I won't let him. We're going to clear this up, right now. The time has come for the truth to be told. David!" she called.

 

"Yes, Cellie?" David replied wearily. He didn't know how he'd make it through the school day, in just a few hours.

 

"Can you close that thing?" She pointed to the open door.

 

"I guess so." David picked up the wrench, and manipulated the remnant of chain in the lion's mouth. The door creaked and groaned, but it shut tight.

 

"I'm taking Will home in the station wagon. You go on back to Collinwood. I'll explain it all to you soon." She let Willie go for a minute, and hugged David, kissing him on the cheek. "I don't know how I'll ever thank you, Mufffinhead. I'm sorry about blowing a schoolnight."

 

"It's my family duty, I guess. Don't worry, I'll stay awake, pass those exams, and no cheating. Take care of yourself, Torchtop. I'll clear up things with the folks at home."

 

"Swell. If Barnabas and my Aunt are there, tell them I want them downtown. Pronto. Call me if they're there. If not, I'll raise the dead, so to speak. It's gonna be an all-nighter, I'm afraid."

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

 

Cellie ran down the stairs to the Antique Shoppe kitchen to open the door for her aunt and uncle. Julia entered first, then Barnabas. They both had grave expressions on their faces. Cellie had a balefully angry one on hers.

 

"Cellie, are you alright? Did Willie get violent? David didn't tell us much,"Julia asked anxiously.

 

"Don't ever worry about me again. No, Will didn't fly off the handle. He's off his head though, and I know why." Cellie led the way, past the trash pile. She showed Barnabas and Julia a pile of dirt-covered clothes, with the little whitish marks visible in the dirt. "I don't ordinarily show off my dirty laundry, but this is dirty beyond anything I've ever had to deal with. I can't wash that stuff. Would you like to know why, Barnabas? Do you know where that dirt came from? Do you know what that white stuff is? DO YOU?"

 

Barnabas turned his head. Heavy dark green shame replaced the parental pink she sensed when he'd first come in. Then gradually, a slow-growing yellow anger took over. "Willie was in the mausoleum tonight. What was he up to this time?"

 

"Don't screw around, trying to evade the question, Barnabas. I'm not Will, with his mind all turned to oatmeal, years ago, from whatever you did to him when you first--- He had one of his dreams. And it was so bad, it made him go out to Eagle Hill, to open that tomb, and dig the dirt, with his bare hands! To make sure the dream hadn't come true. All he found, was what you had him put there five years ago. That wretched Jason McGuire. Those white pieces...."

 

Julia had been examining the clothes. "Bone fragments," she announced.

 

"That's why he dug with his hands! He had a trowel, but he didn't want to damage what he was trying to uncover, any more than he had."

 

Barnabas said, his anger subsiding, "What was he looking for, Cellie?"

 

"He was looking for me. He dreamed you made him bury me. With my eyes open, like Jason's when you made Will bury him. Damn, that's cold, Barnabas, even though Jason was a rotter through and through. Even though Will was once a rotter, himself. That's cold, even for the likes of you. Didn't want to get yourself dirtied up, did you? But then, one can develop a strange value system when one lives to the age of two-hundred-and-seven years old."

 

Julia turned white. Barnabas, however, was as calm as he'd been the night Cellie had brought him old Ben Stokes's diary. "I was beginning to wonder when you would finally guess."

 

"This isn't a damn guessing game, Barnabas! These are real people, real lives you've managed to mess up in some way. Sarah tried to tell me. You are her brother, aren't you?"

 

He sighed. "Yes, I am. And before you ask, I did not go to live in England in 1796. I had visited there earlier, and after that, not until last year, as you nowknow. I was here, all along, until 1967."

 

"I sort of figured a member of the ruling class, even here in little old Maine, would have had a kind of English accent, in the colonial days. But that's no big deal. Where you were till '67, is a big deal. You were in that hidden room." Cellie was able to remember Willie's "vision" in full detail now. "You were in a coffin. Will let you out. Barnabas, I have to ask you, as Professor Stokes once asked me. What kind of a person are you?"

 

"For many years, I wasn't a person. I had all the memories and some of the leftover feelings of a person, but not much in the way of conscience. I was a vampire, Cellie. For all intents and purposes, for over 170 years, I was dead, and yet, not dead. Do you understand?"

 

Cellie stepped back from her uncle. She tried to "read" him, but he blocked it. Evidently, he still had the skill of hiding his motives. She was afraid, but she touched the deep pocket in the denim jumper. He wasn't a vampire now. Cellie had another piece of insurance, a letter she dropped in the mailbox up the street, just in time for the midnight collection. The large envelope, addressed to Pavlos, contained a smaller, sealed envelope, which bore the instructions: "If you don't hear from me by the time you get this, give this to the Sheriff."

 

She felt bolder. "Oh, yes. Do I ever understand! If I don't, all I have to do is go upstairs, and listen to the frightened whimpers of a middle-aged man who is still so cowed by whatever you did to him, that he lets a little girl make all his decisions. Or I could call a woman in Ellsworth who is still so rattled by what you did to her, that she only feels safe at work. Who else shall I call upon, Barnabas? My aunt, perhaps? How did you get mixed up with this creature, Aunt Jule? How could you love him? How could you marry him? How could you want---" She broke off. Tears were streaming down her aunt's face.

 

"The same way you fell in love with someone like Willie. The same way you married him, and the same way you're giving him the child you both want, Cellie."

 

"Don't speak to your aunt that way, Cellie," Barnabas said, his anger rising once more.

 

"I'm so glad you appreciate my aunt at least that much, Barnabas. After all the mental torture you put her through, chasing all those lovely young throats on your journeys. Miss Roxanne, and your lamented Josette, and Maggie, and who knows who else!Men, too. I don't think it enhances a guy's sense of manhood, to end up in that situation. I married one of those men. I ought to know."

 

"Stop it right now! You have no idea what you're talking about!" Barnabas grabbed her shoulders, and brought his face close to hers. He had an expression, almost of hate, twisting his pale face.

 

"Go ahead, Barnabas. Just try something." Cellie reached into her pocket. Barnabas jumped back, when he felt the small pistol jabbing his ribs. Julia reached for it, but Cellie was quicker. "Will was afraid you'd kill us because I found out. Well, I used to be a Girl Scout, and we have that motto, you know, 'Be prepared'? The wagons are circling, Barnabas. Just like before you sent me away, when you held that damned cane over my man, like you must have so many times before! And I had to jump in, and choose between turning your insides to pulp, and taking over Will's trauma before he went incurably insane. Well, now I have a better choice. I don't want to shoot you, or trash your guts. But I have my options."

 

She wondered why Barnabas and Julia had become so calm, all of a sudden. She had a flash of white, and fought violently, as she was grabbed from behind. "Will! Let me go, damn it! What are you doing?" He worked the gun from her fingers, and threw it behind him. The gun fired. They all ducked, but the bullet lodged itself in a cabinet door. Cellie struggled anew. "He'll get it and kill us! That's what you were afraid of!"

 

"I'm afraid, but I don't want my girl going crazy and shooting people, and with an illegal weapon." Willie gradually released her. He bent to pick up the gun, and handed it to Barnabas. Cellie went around the table, to the door. To her surprise, nobody tried to block her, not even her husband. He kept still, gazing at her with an expression of sadness and longing. She could feel the reds of his love reaching for her. All she could now sense from everyone in the room was affection and concern. It was all too bewildering.

 

"What's going on? What's the matter with everyone? All I know is, I'm out of here." She reached for the door handle, opened the door, and went out on the porch. The clouds which had been obscuring the moon, had cleared, and it shone, high in the sky, like a silver coin. The nubby heads of her lily sprouts lined the edge of the walkway, near the fence, and around the porch itself. Everything outside the kitchen looked so normal. She wondered if they'd let her call David, and pack the rest of her things. She wouldn't tell anyone about what she'd heard, but she wanted out. She'd promised never to leave her husband, but now she would have to. He'd chosen whom he wanted to follow. She fought hard against that familiar sense of exhaustion. "I will win out over this weakness," she thought. "I will---Will...."

 

The door opened behind her. She felt Willie's arms slide around her waist. "Cecily, come back in. We have to talk to you. Nothing's going to happen to you, I promise. They know you were just protecting me." He began to cry. "Don't leave me again. You said you wouldn't."

 

"How can I stay? You still hate Barnabas, and yet, you turned around and protected him!"

 

"I didn't want you to kill him, or anyone. That's not the kind of thing you're meant to do, Cecily. And whether or not you were angry at him, you love him, and you love your aunt. You wouldn't be able to live with yourself after, even supposing we could fix it so you wouldn't get arrested."

 

"I'm not sure I love him anymore, and anyway, I thought my affection for Barnabas made you unhappy."

 

"It does. But you were willing to kill him to help me. I guess you made your choice pretty clear."

 

"And what choice would you have made? Will, what kind of a hold does he have over you now?"

 

"Come back inside, and we'll tell you." Barnabas stood in the doorway. "You can leave the door open, and sit near it, if you still don't trust us."

 

Cellie felt the return of her uncle's paternal interest, but she had the feeling she might be more easily fooled than she'd thought possible. After all, for the second time, she hadn't felt her husband sneak up behind her. Then, of course, all she'd been getting from him was that haze of fear, which was the same intensity no matter how close to or far away from her, he happened to be.

 

She had even ceased to believe that Julia would intervene in her behalf.If there was one trait Cellie could identify that she had in common with her aunt, it would be this almost unthinking devotion to someone who was probably unworthy of it. Well, she had to face whatever was coming her way. She sighed. That's what she'd wanted all along, wasn't it? She reflected on that old saying about being careful what one wished for, as one just might get it. She went back in the kitchen, and sat on the chair nearest the door. Willie sat next to her, holding her hand, whether to give her support, or to get some from her, Cellie couldn't tell.

 

Barnabas spoke first. "Cellie, before we go on, I would like to know, where you got that gun."

 

"I found it in the attic just before I went to the hospital. I was looking up there, to see if there was anything I could use for the baby. It must have belonged to the people who used to own this place before you. It was wrapped up in an embroidered handkerchief. I left it up there, in an old lockbox I also found. When I knew you were coming, I ran up to get it, just in case what Will said was true."

 

"I told her you would kill us because I dug up Jason, and said you killed him. I must have been still stuck in the dream. I'm sorry, Barnabas." Willie looked at the floor.

 

"Hold your head up, Will. You have nothing to be ashamed of," Cellie said.

 

"What Willie said might have been true a few years ago, Cellie," Barnabas said, "but now I don't think I would harm either one of you, even if you called the F.B.I. Though I rather doubt Jason McGuire would have been a top priority as far as missing persons went. I believe there were many who were glad to see him go, and who also might have made excellent suspects in his disappearance. Elizabeth, Carolyn, Roger, Burke Devlin, and Vicky Winters, as well as myself."

 

Cellie's anger rose. "So you were the judge and the executioner. And you rubbed Will's nose in it by forcing him to watch, and to dispose of someone who, bad as he was, had been his friend."

 

"Jason had to be disposed of. He had discovered my secret, and, like any animal, survival was my first priority. As for your precious husband, I'd say he got off easy, in light of his crimes."

 

"Thievery, barroom brawls, and lechery. All capital offenses, I'm sure."

 

Julia said, "There was more than that, Cellie. More than in that Reader's Digest condensed version of a private detective's report your father had made up."

 

Willie turned a dark shade of red. Barnabas prodded, "Tell your wife, Willie, the sort of activities you pursued prior to your, shall we call it, 'change of heart.' "

 

Cellie dropped her husband's hand. She felt sick again.

 

"I--I killed a couple of guys, Cecily. When I had a couple of those fights,in the bars. In Port Arthur, and Charleston--"

 

"Those charges were dropped for lack of evidence!"

 

"Just because the charges were dropped, doesn't mean I didn't do it. I lucked out, because the witnesses were drunker than we were. And, then, there was that time in Rio. This other sailor got bent out of shape because I 'borrowed' his girlfriend for all of ten minutes, right in the alley behind the bar. He would have cut me first, if I hadn't got hold of his knife, and beat him to it. It wasn't like I hacked him to bits, or anything, it was over quick. I was thrown into a Brazilian lockup. Jason got me out of that one, I never found out how, though I believe, now, that he used up the last of Mrs. Stoddard's blackmail money to bribe the guards. That was just after we met, and he wanted me along with him, as his enforcer, I guess you'd call it."

 

Cellie hid her face in her hands, weeping bitterly. "Oh, God, Oh, God, what have I done? My husband, my baby's father, is a murderer. My Uncle is a murderer."

 

"And so is your aunt, " Julia said, sadly.

 

"No---not you too, Aunt Jule. What did Barnabas do to you? You swore an oath to preserve life, and make people comfortable if you couldn't cure them. Where does killing anyone fit in with all that?"

 

"I was preserving a life, and making sure it was as comfortable as could be hoped for under the circumstances. Barnabas's."

 

"A half-life, you mean. A soul-less life that should have seen the light go out for good over one-hundred-seventy years ago."

 

"Cellie," Julia asked, "if you had known about Willie's worst crimes when you were first attracted to him, would it have stopped you from pursuing a relationship with him?"

 

"Yes. I believe it would have. I believe it will, right now."

 

"Don't lie, to me, or your husband, or yourself. Once you got the whatever-it-is that starts it, you wouldn't have missed an opportunity to go after him. That's what happened to me soon after I met Barnabas."

 

"How did that come about?"

 

"I was one of the psychiatrists treating Maggie Evans, and, later, Willie. I became extremely interested in Maggie's case, above and beyond the call of duty. I came down to Collinsport to find out more about the person who could wield such a powerful influence over anyone's life. I was supposed to be helpingthe official investigation! I met Barnabas, and Willie, from then on, I'm almost ashamed to admit, I put Barnabas's welfare above my patients'. I hynotized Maggie so she wouldn't remember, at least not clearly, what Barnabas had done to her, and as for your husband--"

 

"Damn you, Aunt Jule. The electro-shock therapy. His poor brains were scrambled enough. Anything for Barnabas. I'll bet that wasn't all you tried to do to Will, or Maggie. 'Almost ashamed.' Sweet Jesus. What was Barnabas doing to Maggie, anyway, besides keeping her around in case he needed a snack?"

 

Barnabas said, "Please refrain from using those terms to describe what I was doing, Cellie. It sounds immature, coming from you, of all people."

 

"Spent too much time with Jack the Ripper here, I guess." Willie got up, and left the room, at his wife's words. He vanished upstairs. So she hurt his feelings, Cellie thought. Too bad. She was so tired of considering his feelings already.

 

"In any case, Cellie, I was going to transform Maggie into a bride for myself. She resembled my lost Josette to such a degree, that I had to have her. It's been that way, with most of the women I've loved. Except for the Roxanne Drew you read about in 1840, and the woman who turned me into a vampire in the first place. And, your aunt Julia, of course."

 

"You kept Maggie in that room, didn't you? That pretty, harmless-looking, 'soulful' room. Will told me there was some special reason you were really hung up on that room. No wonder you didn't want to send that stuff away. What about that talented lady who turned you into a vampire? What did you do to rattle her chains?"

 

"Her name, at least the name I first knew her by, was Angelique Bouchard. I met her in Martinique, when I was sent there by my father--"

 

"Joshua, the 'consummate businessman.' Go on."

 

"He sent me there, to seal a business agreement with a major sugar plantation owner, a former French Count, who had moved to Martinique in time to escape the Revolution and its Terror. I was also assigned to court his daughter, who would be returning from school in Europe in a month. I was almost thirty, and my father thought it was time I settled down with a suitable heiress. I wasn't too enthusiastic. I was rather unworldly about women, for my age, and the thought of marrying a possibly homely, snobbish noblewoman wasn't appealing. And I had previously learned the folly of trusting in the accuracy of portraits.

 

"Well, I was awaiting the arrival of this paragon, when I went for a walk along the beach, in the moonlight. You think the view from Widow's Hill is breath-taking? You should see the moon shining on the ocean in Martinique.

 

�I thought I was alone, then I heard a lilting female voice. I turned, and there was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, up to that time. I could make out that she was blonde, and she had light eyes, but I couldn't tell what color. I forgot my French, in my surprise. Then she began to speak English. When I asked, she told me her name, Angelique, and she explained her fluency in English by saying she'd worked for many fine families from England, who'd taken the trouble to educate her, as well as from France. I fell, I believed then, in love. We met there every night. I didn't press her for more details of her life, and she didn't seem interested to inquire about mine. We met, I suppose you would say nowadays, as equals, with 'no strings attached.' Then the day came, when the former Count's daughter came home from school."

 

Cellie smirked. "And then you found out the hard way, there's no such thing as 'no strings attached.' You fell for Josette, broke the news to Angelique, and the spit hit the fan."

 

"An inelegant way to phrase it, but it was so. Angelique pleaded--at first I thought I'd gotten her pregnant, but no, thank heavens, that wasn't the case. I was regretful, but firm. Josette, you see, had fulfilled all those dreams I'd always cherished about the girl I would marry."

 

"Oh, the old Madonna-whore thing. Before you shout me down, Barnabas, I'll share a little secret with you. I think Will has it too. What a thing for you two to have in common."

 

"Perhaps it's true," he admitted. "One tends to forget that those whom one thinks of as 'bad girls' certainly weren't born that way, and that they may have more to offer than the obvious. Alas, Angelique was more than just a bad girl. She was a witch, and she'd been around for a long time before she found me. Once she found me, she also found a way to catch me."

 

"Get to the point, then."

 

"Angelique, as it turned out, had been Josette's personal maid before she was sent to her finishing school, and resumed the position as soon as her mistress returned. I was embarrassed and chagrined, to say the least, that I had let myself be so deceived, but such liasions were commonplace in those days. Still, I wasn't the sort to regard such matters casually to begin with, and having to face the woman whom I'd rejected, while falling passionately, but purely, in love with her mistress, was an ordeal. Josette, who had no idea of what had passed, still treated her maid as a trusted friend, more than a servant, and, to my relief, Angelique appeared to be recovering nicely from her disappointment.

 

"I left for Maine, to prepare for my wedding. Matters had gone so smoothly between myself, Josette, and Angelique, that I wasn't even surprised to see her still in attendance when Josette arrived at the Old House. But Angelique wasted no time in causing all manner of grief, in order to induce me to marry her. She enslaved my hapless servant, Ben, for a considerable time. She caused my father to vanish for a week, to facilitate her plans. She put a spell on my uncle, who was only a few years older than I, and on Josette, that they should desire each other and elope. I had it out with my uncle when he returned from his honeymoon. We dueled. I shot him--- my first murder. I had dearly loved my uncle, and I had killed him. Josette wanted no part of me after that, at first. Then Angelique sank lower than even I had come

 

to expect. She made my sister ill, almost to the point of death. I had no idea, at the time, that she was responsible, but she did offer up a cure, if I married her. I promised, and Sarah recovered immediately. I went through with the wedding. I worked hard to make the best of a bad bargain, but it was a loveless union, on my part."

 

"So she got rather frustrated, and all hell broke lose."

 

"Exactly. I had discovered her hobby, and confronted her. You see, while all the trouble was going on, another, quite innocent girl was accused of withcraft in Angelique's place, and was facing a token trial, and hanging. I wished to save her. Between that, and my lingering love for Josette, not to mention the fact that I nearly killed her to protect Sarah, Angelique took it upon herself to bring down a curse on me,and all the people I loved. I was bitten by a bat, and lay dying from it for several days. Even Angelique was sorry when she saw what she had wrought, and tried to remove the curse, but to no avail. The die was cast. I became what I was to be for almost two centuries. Josette allowed herself to be my chief victim. We were going to be together, even in that horrible way, but that would have been

 

too much for Angelique. I had managed to kill the human form she inhabited, but ended up releasing her into a more powerful spiritual form. As such, she tortured Josette mentally, to the point where she took her own life."

 

"And Sarah found out about you, and she ran away, and died when she became sick from being out in the bad weather," Cellie concluded sadly.

 

"Correct. The grim toll went on and on. My beloved, broken-hearted mother also killed herself. My cousin, a gentle, silly girl, went mad, from what I did to her. I terrified my Aunt to death. She was more stern than my father, and I had disliked her, but even so, her last words were meant to HELP me in her misguided way! And my servant, Ben, who had loved me because I was a good master who taught him to read, write, and figure--- Cellie, I did not have to bite him to get him to do my bidding, once he recovered from Angelique's spell. He killed two people, one guilty and one innocent, to save me from discovery."

 

"And in the end?"

 

"My father had not the heart to put me out of my misery. So he had Ben chain up my coffin, as I lay in it during the day, fastened a Crucifix inside to keep me paralyzed, and placed it in that secret room at the mausoleum. And so I remained, until Willie, who was searching for buried jewels, opened it. You might say, I directed him to it. I had been sending out signals, 'S.O.S's' I suppose you'd call them, for years, hoping to induce some susceptable person to release me and slake my thirst."

 

Willie had wandered down from the room upstairs. He sat next to his wife, and pulled at her hand. Cellie, whose irritation with him had been slowly abating, let him hold it. He said, "I heard his heart beat, whenever I looked at his picture,and thought how I'd love to get a hold of those fancy pins, and that ring. Nobody heard but me. I went to Eagle Hill, and I heard it there. I don't know why it had to be me. I didn't even know there was a secret room. I opened it by accident."

 

"And the hand with the ring grabbed you. That was the only clear image I had when I was trying to follow your emotional memory. When I finally remembered that, it all came together." Cellie turned toward Barnabas. "Why is Will the way he is now? What was different about how you hurt him, and Maggie, that was different from the way you hurt other people who eventually recovered?"

 

Julia answered her. "The first couple of victims are always in worse shape than the ones who come after. My late friend, Dave Woodard, discovered changes in the blood cells of Maggie Evans. He died for making that, and other discoveries, I might add." Julia looked extremely sad. Cellie wondered if her aunt had something to do with that death. I suppose so, given her attitude, the girl thought, all for the "love" of Barnabas....

 

Julia continued, "The same was noted when Willie was hospitalized after being shot. Apparently there was a buildup of necrotic blood cells when Barnabas first arose, and he passed them on to Willie, and then Maggie. I suppose you could say there's a survival advantage to this---the first couple of victims are always more likely to protect and uphold their oppressor, even at the cost of their own lives. This seems to be a less of a problem with vampires of more recent vintage. I, myself, was the victim of two newly-made vampires, one of whom had been Barnabas's lady, and after years of having tests run on me, I feel assured that I am alright."

 

Cellie rubbed her belly. "My baby--- is he or she going to be okay?" Willie, apparently seized by the same concern, reached over, and covered her hand as she moved it in circles over the roundness. He rested his head on her shoulder. She didn't push him away.

 

Her aunt replied, "Cellie, I'm sorry I didn't tell you this before, but I've overheard you complaining about all those blood tests you get every month, which most healthy pregnant women aren't subjected to. I worried about the baby, myself, so I had Virginia run the extra tests. Everything seems to be fine so far. If you were going to have a problem, I believe it would have showed up by now. I've been testing Willie's blood every couple of months, for the past few years. After he was treated for his bullet wounds, the combination of massive transfusions and his own body's production of fresh blood cleared up his situation. Maggie's, too. Even Barnabas's blood appears to be normal.

 

"But in Willie's and Maggie's cases," Julia continued, "the dead cells coursing around in what remained of their depleted blood supplies did damage to some of the internal organs, and, especially, the brain. Maggie was able to make a fuller recovery, and, with the aid of my hypnosis, appeared almost normal, but, by then, she had many other problems to cope with. One time, she suddenly recalled everything, but the memory block was reinforced by someone else with his own agenda. Still, as time went on, she showed the signs of residual anxiety, which, in spite of your accusations, were NOT all Barnabas's fault. She was able to fulfill her duties as governess, even helping us us with some of our 'projects', and she can run her business well enough. Willie wasn't as fortunate. After he was shot, he even

 

had amnesia, from the traumas he had endured. I would say, though, that Willie must have suffered brain damage at some earlier time, probably from blows to the head, and that exacerbated his condition."

 

"That, and those shock treatments," Cellie said quietly, most of the urge to accuse and berate fading.

 

"I'm sorry about those, but I wasn't present at WindCliff most of the time in those days, and so, I wasn't the only one in charge of making that decision. They did seem to help him, at least initially. Then even I saw the sense of stopping them. Willie's actually fortunate that I was involved, even to a limited extent. We had an old neuro-surgeon on staff who was itching for a chance to perform a lobotomy on him. I was already extremely uncomfortable about what Barnabas wanted me to do to protect his secret, and mine. So, when I was informed of the surgeon's proposal, I vetoed that, and threatened to take him before the state medical board."

 

"Thank God for small favors," Cellie said. "Barnabas, why do you keep Will around? Are you really holding him back from doing other things with his life?"

 

"He's gone, and come back, on his own volition. I asked him to stay on, but I didn't demand it."

 

"I did, though," Julia admitted. "But, in the end, Willie made his own decision."

 

"I tried to tell you, Cecily," Willie said. "That's the ONE of the reasons my last girl left me. Barnabas and Julia needed me to help them when this monster religion was taking everybody over at Collinwood, and Barnabas was, um, 'that way' again. My Roxanne wanted me to go, but I chose to stay here. I couldn't tell her why, the same way we can tell YOU why. So she left. I had a good job someplace else, but I guess this is the job I do best." He sighed in a resigned manner.

 

"Willie watches out for me, and I prefer to keep an eye on him," Barnabas said. "One of the reasons I was so angry at him when I found out about the two of you, is that, since my cure, my own personality has drifted back to the way it was before my curse. Both Julia and myself feared that Willie's would shift back to the way he was, before my release. There will always be this link between us."

 

Willie said bitterly. "That's your job, too, Cecily. To watch me, in case I become a murdering, thieving letch again."

 

Cellie said, "You haven't been too much trouble, all things considered."

 

"I hope it lasts, the way I am now. I want it to last." Willie kept her hand over the place where their child rested, rubbing it in that manner that reminded Cellie of the magic lamp.

 

Cellie asked one more question. "Barnabas, how were you finally cured? Did Aunt Jule do it?"

 

"She tried mightily, and nearly finished me off in the process, thoughI eventually came to realize it wasn't her fault. You could say I had trouble controlling my anger in those days. What I almost did to Willie, and you, was a holdover from that time. I knew Julia was jealous of my feelings for the other women I had dealt with, and I thought she was deliberately interfering with my actions, sabotaging my cure. I wanted to kill her on several occasions, and almost succeeded one awful night. But I was stopped by Sarah, who had taken pity on my victims, and intervened when she could. She helped Maggie escape, and kept me from throttling Julia. And, in time, she came to help you and Willie. She was hard on me, though. When we were alive in 1795, I had raised her almost by myself, and she had adored me. She couldn't bear what I did under the influence of the curse, and she refused to appear to me, until she had evidence that I had changed. I now await her return.

 

"But to continue. Julia had tried everything. By then we had worked out a truce, and we became friends. I began to re-experience what you might describe as normal human emotions, some of them, anyway. Then, Angelique came back. She had assumed a new identity--"

 

"Cassandra!" Cellie exclaimed. "Carolyn was telling me. She married Roger, and had that smarmy 'brother', Nicholas Blair. I guess her idea of marital fidelity was more liberal for her, than she allowed it to be for you."

 

"She always operated under rules she made up as she went along. I could tell you a great deal more about my dealings with Angelique at that time, and I will someday, but we were talking about my cure. During that period, I was quite interested in Victoria Winters. I had induced Vicky to elope, in what was, for me, the usual manner. Even so, she resisted somewhat, and had retained the pressing urge to investigate the events of 1795, against my wishes.

 

�While on one last errand to satisfy her curiosity, before I turned her into my bride, we were involved in an automobile accident. I went into a coma. I woke up, facing daylight for the first time in 170 years. The doctor who was treating me, Lang, his name was, had recognized my condition, and had developed some medication to hold it at bay. Unfortunately, he turned out to be what one calls, nowadays, a 'mad scientist.' He came up with a unique permanent solution for my problem."

 

Julia said, "He constructed a human being. At first, Barnabas's personality was supposed to inhabit this creation, but Lang's work was interrupted by Angelique, and he died. I took the experiment over, and animated the being, but it turned out that his function was to absorb the effects of Barnabas's curse, and, we discovered, many of Barnabas's other discomforts, as well. It was a form of empathy, but directed exclusively at one subject. The whole process worked wonderfully, but this fellow, 'Adam', we called him, proved to be a problem on his own merits. He was like a grown-up baby who had to be taught everything. We didn't know what to do with him. We treated him very badly, I'm afraid."

 

Willie said, "I picked on him a lot."

 

"Oh, you were probably working off some of your anger at Barnabas that way. I hope you're sorry now, at least," Cellie admonished.

 

"I got sorry REAL fast when he tried to kill me!"

 

Julia continued, "Adam had come to resent being kept locked up for our use and Willie's abuse."

 

"He grew up. Good for him," Cellie commented acidly.

 

"Not so good," Julia continued. "He escaped, and fell under Nicholas Blair's influence. Nicholas, you see, was a warlock, one of Angelique's mentors, as a matter of fact. We'll tell you more about him, another time. The upshot was, Adam killed several people, and ultimately disappeared. There had been a catch to his empathic resources, that we only discovered when Barnabas was pursued by another vampire. Adam had been empowered to absorb and filter out the effects of Angelique's initial curse. Unfortunately, when Barnabas was attacked anew, he and Adam would suffer the same symptoms, but without being able to recover; you could call it double jeopardy.

 

�Once Adam vanished from our observation, I had to find another solution, in the event he passed away, somewhere. I developed injections that worked. Still, Barnabas has always been under the threat of having a relapse imposed on him. On those occasions, I've been able to treat him successfully, but then he fell into the hands of the Leviathan cult, the 'monster religion' Willie referred to. He was reinstated as a vampire, and remained one until we went back to 1840."

 

"Cellie, you remember the blacked-out portions of Ben's diary?" Barnabas asked. "He gave you the impression I was temporarily insane when I arrived in that time. What happened then, and every time I traveled into the past, was that I was, of course, still in the mausoleum, in my old state, and had to be released, and rehabilitated, so that I could pursue my objectives. Thus it was, then. Julia was already there, and couldn't help me with any medication. Then, like a bad penny, Angelique turned up. But, for once, we had a common enemy, the evil spirit of the man who first initiated her into the black arts, one-hundred fifty years before."

 

"The decapitated guy, right?"

 

"Exactly. Judah Zachery. He came long before Nicholas, to whom Angelique later answered, as her superior in the heirarchy of black witch-craft. Now, it wasn't all smoothed out, right away, between myself and Angelique. She almost caused Julia's death. But, as time went on, I began to appreciate her more, and she softened towards me. Eventually, she removed the curse she'd placed on me, without any hope of return of that love. And, what's more, after Judah stripped her of her powers, she came through with an unselfish act that saved the lives of two innocent men in 1840, as well as all those who would have perished in 1970, at great danger to her own mortal life. I had finally learned to love her. And, then, just as I let her know about it, she was taken from me. The vengeful fiance of one of my victims shot her to death. Naturally, I had my own revenge, but it didn't take the sting out of her passing. Nothing did, until I finally came to love Julia."

 

Cellie sat silently, digesting all she'd been told, hoping she hadn't simply been entranced by a well-told story, lulled into a false sense of security. She kept checking her readings on her uncle, and sensed nothing deceptive. Accepting his version of events involved accepting a skewered kind of morality, but one that had worked, as they said, "For the best." She could choose not to participate anymore than she had, for the time being. But, perhaps, it was her mission to vindicate the steps he'd taken to protect and preserve the people he claimed to care for, including herself. She felt both humbled and a bit lost, a small link in a great, interconnected chain of circumstance that had stretched over one-hundred-seventy-five years.

 

She stroked her abdomen, wondering what part she would have to play in

 

this eternal drama, and her baby, and any others that came after. In a way, she supposed, she should be grateful to her uncle---his earlier actions had preserved a man who she now felt she had been destined to meet. But she still shuddered at the cost of Willie's deliverance from his own vile past. She remembered how he behaved when he was so terrified, back in February, and later, after their marriage, lashing out in those nightmares.

 

Really, if he'd left town years ago, and she'd never met him, what difference would it have made?

 

Cellie gazed at her husband. She thought of all the times when Willie could have done terrible things to her, and had held back. He would never be her fearless protector, but he defended her when it was within his capacity. From the beginning, he had taken the trouble to learn about her, and had supported her in almost everything she did. He even had sufficient common sense to ease her fears about her anomaly, and to interrupt her rash actions with the gun. She was able to function, now, when apart from him, but he was like an anchor, keeping her priorities in order. And he did need her, to keep him on the straight and narrow path. They had an immutable bond, like that of Barnabas and Julia.

 

Barnabas sat down, facing his niece directly. "This is what you needed to know, perhaps what you were destined to know, Cellie. You have a great gift, and there will be those who will seek to make you use it for evil purposes, as well as good. This I know, just as surely as the sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. Your ability is as great and as simple a wonder as that. But, there is more." He took her free hand, stroking it tenderly. "I've said it before, and it's more true now, than ever. You are as dear to me, as any child I might have had. That time, for me, I fear, has past, much as your aunt would like it to be different. You are our future, and your children. You came into my life, after all the sorrows and tribulations of my former state departed, forever, I pray. You bear no memory of your own, of those times. There must be a reason, that we have been blessed in this way."

 

"Barnabas, do you believe in God?" Cellie asked quietly.

 

"Even if I had been the most cynical fellow before I was cursed--and I assure you, I was not, or else I wouldn't have sought so mightily to regain a normal life--- going through the darkness as I have, would have strengthened my conviction in the forces of the light. You cannot have one, without the other. It's not the religion they teach in the churches, but it is the basis of all their beliefs. And mine."

 

"Maybe you were preserved through all those sorrows and tribulations for a higher purpose, yourself."

 

"If I had never killed, I might agree whole-heartedly. Many of those whom I killed did not deserve such fates, and many of those who did, probably should not have been my concern."

 

"It's that eternal wheel those gurus are always preaching about, Barnabas. Sin and redemption. I think I redeem myself by giving life, and you think you've blown it by taking life. Maybe it isn't about the giving and taking itself, but about the balance of the giving and taking."

 

"You are wise for such a young woman." Barnabas kissed her on the forehead. To Cellie's surprise, Willie's reaction was minimal. "Your husband is one of the fortunate ones, to have someone like you. And I am a fortunate man, also." He rose, and put his arm around Julia, who had also risen. He looked at the kitchen clock. It was almost three in the morning. "Do you feel better about staying here, now, Cellie?"

 

"Yes. I'm not afraid, anymore. Maybe I wasn't really, all along. I'm sorry again, Barnabas, about before---"

 

"We won't mention it again. You were protecting someone you love, as

 

Julia has always protected me. We'll have to discuss the proper channeling of that instinct, another time. In the meantime, rest. I've already warned Carolyn that I won't be opening the Shoppe tomorrow---I mean in a couple of hours. Perhaps I will be in during the afternoon, though, to go over the books, and handle phone inquiries."

 

"One more thing, Barnabas," Cellie asked. "Before David went home from the cemetery tonight, I promised I would explain to him why Will was there, and what's been going on in general. What will I do about that? I feel I owe him that much. He was really the best, you know, driving me to the Shoppe first, to look for Will, then taking me out to Eagle Hill, just on my hunch that Will would be there. And at midnight on a school night, yet!"

 

"You have a point, Cellie. David is an unusually loyal friend to you, and acts honorably on those feelings, in spite of the deeper ones I suspect he has in his heart."

 

"Just like the Professor, before I 'intervened' on your behalf. I know all about it. I had to 'intervene' a couple of times in the last two weeks, when it got too hot between David and Will."

 

Julia said, "I guess keeping you apart from Willie hurt more than it helped, in the long run."

 

"Not exactly, if this was the only way I could have hoped to get at the truth. But it doesn't take away from the suffering all the delay caused."

 

"We were secretly as selfish, as Willie openly acknowledges he was, in concealing these facts," Barnabas said regretfully. "We wanted to tell you many times, but we were afraid to lose your love and trust. Then we sent you away, and I thought we'd never see you again. And then came your pregnancy. If something were to happen to your child because of your reaction to what you learned, we would never have forgiven ourselves. But that turned out to be a

 

groundless fear."

 

"Hiding the truth hurts worse, I can tell you from deep personal experience,"Cellie admonished. "You know, I was talking to Pavlos just this afternoon. A lot of people think he's an old hippie flake, but what he tells me always makes sense. He told me a couple of things: That I stood in in equal relation to the evil parts of my husband's life, and that, when there was a crisis, my baby would sustain me rather than drain me. He says no knowledge is useless, if it finds its time and place. He was right on the money, on every count."

 

"Pavlos is not your average barkeep, that is for certain," Barnabas commented. "There is something unusual about him, in a good sense, I mean." He thought for a minute. "Getting back to what to tell David--- notice I said, 'what to tell' him, not 'whether we should tell him.' For, I feel, he should, at last, be apprised of the situation. At one time, when I first arose, David was an annoyance and a threat to me, with his curiosity. He almost found out the truth on several occasions, and I regret to say that I nearly---well, nothing happened, and almost nobody believed him when he tried to share his knowledge. But I changed, and he matured nicely. I believe there should be at least one Collins whose duty it is, to receive the knowledge of all the family tribulations.

 

"Elizabeth may or may not know more than she will ever let on, but her instinct is to preserve the family name at almost any cost, including denial of the facts, even to herself. That was one of the reasons she immured herself at Collinwood for eighteen years, and why Jason was able to take advantage of her, until she was made to see the light. As for Roger, well, he has become much steadier and more reliable, since I first knew him, but he's quite capable of betraying a trust, if he feels personally threatened. Carolyn knows a great deal already, but she's been made to participate in so many of these events, she shouldn't carry the burden alone. David has undergone many trials himself, but without understanding, as he was so young at the time."

 

"He told ME he DELIBERATELY blocks out bad memories he thinks he can't handle, including, I guess, the first time he tried to find out about you. It has something to do with that pyromaniac mother of his. It keeps him from finding another girl, too," Cellie observed.

 

"It may be another Collins family trait. At least, I can start by having a private talk with David about what happened tonight. I'll break it to him in stages. And of course, you can be present, if you want."

 

"Don't worry about David's mental state, either," Julia said. "I know you think I went off the track, handling your situation with Willie, but there was that element of unpredictability. Love can't cure all ills, as you may have already have observed in your relationship, though love can help a lot more than most people give it credit for. David, on the other hand, is more stable, and reasonable. He's young enough to learn, and bright enough to understand."

 

Barnabas and Julia embraced their niece. After they left, Cellie sat, gazing at her husband. He approached her, but he stopped when she spoke.

 

"Will, now that they're gone, is there anything you want to tell me that you couldn't before? Was that really the extent of your crimes, or are there other deaths, maimings, or any other evil deeds I should know about?"

 

"Cecily, between what you heard tonight, and what I told you before, that's all there is to tell. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before, even though you already accepted me in spite of what else I told you. But, I guess, it's like the thing with Jack and Melinda. I am ashamed of those things now, though I wasn't when I did them. I didn't know if that would make you leave me, and I wanted you so much. I was just being selfish again, I guess."

 

Cellie sighed. "According to what my aunt believes, I would have wanted you even if you were Hitler's right-hand man. I don't know about that, but you're nowhere near that bad, not now, at any rate." She stroked his arm. "And Will? You can tell me. What else did Barnabas do to you, that he glossed over? " She remembered what she'd said on the day they were caught---the angry observation she'd hurled at Barnabas, that Willie acted as though he'd been raped. She recalled her initial reaction to her uncle, after she came out of the blackout she'd suffered several weeks earlier---her revulsion to his touch and gaze, as though she, too, had such an experience. She was almost afraid of the answer her husband might give.

 

"There's some things I'll never be able to tell anyone, not even you," Willie replied. "But I can tell you what it was like. Barnabas had me in such a state, that he could have made me crawl in the dirt on Jason's grave, and lick it up. He used to beat on me with that cane, when he thought I betrayed him, which usually meant I was actually trying to do the right thing by whoever he was going after. That's what I was reliving when you protected me. And all those other symptoms you had at St. Dymphna's---the loss of appetite, the screwed-up sleep habits, the pain in your eyes from the light---those things all happened to me. But you were just having parts of my memory, so you were able to have some normal times.

 

"And, if you had been around then, and discovered his secret, he would

 

have been able to make me kill you, or make me watch him do it, like with Jason. That is, if he didn't make me catch you for his other purposes. There was a time he and Julia had to make a lady friend for that Adam. I had to dig up graves to get ....stuff. That's the reason I snatched Maggie the second time, to keep them from using her to jump-start the new girl. And there was a time he got me to kill another vampire, this poor lady HE messed with, but the Leviathan monster people put THAT on him.

 

Willie went on. "Maybe, he still could make me do something awful, if not now, then someday. Part of me is always afraid that he's gonna change back to what he was. I used to be afraid I'd be first one he'd get, again. We were lucky that he began to feel guilty about what he did to Maggie and me, so it never happened. He treated the both of us really nice, after he got better. But now that I have you--- You're just the kind he would have gone after, to be what he used to call his 'bride.' "

 

"And what about my aunt?"

 

"Julia never could stop him when he got like that. She'd sneak around, behind his back, trying to fix the damage, more to protect him, than to help the girl. You heard it for yourself. In your case, though, if she helped you, he might just kill her once and for all. And me, too. I don't even want to think about what would happen if the baby was involved."

 

Cellie began to cry. Her uncle, so loving and concerned about her (and she knew it was genuine)--- it was too much to have to speculate about, even for a hypothetical situation. Willie sat on the chair next to her, and got her to sit on his lap. "I'm sorry I made you scared, Cecily. But it's part of the deal. I'm not going to tell you not to love him and trust him, anymore. Even when he's the other way, as long as he's interested in somebody else, you can get along with him, the way I learned to. With any luck, it won't ever happen."

 

Cellie rested her head on his shoulder. She was very tired. She whispered, "We'll have to keep an eye on each other's back from now on, I guess. I don't want to live like that, but you probably know best."

 

"When you say I know best about anything, it must be true. My girl. You need to go to bed."

 

"Will, do you think you'll ever get those dreams again, even though I know most of the real truth now?"

 

"I don't know. Time will tell, like they say. Cecily, do you still love me?"

 

"Of course I love you," she sighed, resignedly. "We'll try to go forth from this day. Maybe we'll be able to leave this painful stuff behind. I'm sorry for the families of the men you killed, but I think even they'd agree you've been punished far beyond what a prison could deliver." Cellie rose, and went upstairs with her husband.

 

She pulled a spare nightgown from the dresser drawer. Willie unzipped the back of the denim jumper for her. "We'll have to go shopping, and buy you prettier things than this," he commented.

 

"Well, it's certainly practical, compared to the frilly tents I saw. Maybe I can find a place that sells those dashiki tops Margene used to wear. Those were kind of pretty, with all the colors."

 

"Turquoise. You have to get more turquoise," Willie chanted. Cellie was about to slide the night gown over her head, when he said, "Don't. Not yet, anyway. We haven't been together in such a long time.... I know you're very tired. I'm tired too. I just want to look at you, and touch you for a while."

 

They lay on the bed. He stroked her gently. In spite of her exhaustion, Cellie was pulling him closer, when he stopped suddenly. "Hey," Willie said softly, in a voice of wonder. He was kneading her abdomen. "It's moving. I mean, he's moving, or she. I can feel it."

 

She reached down, to where his hand was. The tiny rumbles and flutters she'd been experiencing, were transmuted into a gentle tapping sensation, under her palm. She raised her head, to look. "I think I can even see it, a little. Like a tiny kitten hiding under a big blanket."

 

"My baby. It's really there. I can feel my kid in there. I wish we could celebrate right now. But where can you go at three in the morning?"

 

"Right here. Right now. Suddenly, I don't feel all that tired."

 

"I don't know. I guess it was okay before, but maybe now...."

 

"We'll just be careful, that's all. That's what we're going to be, from now on."

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

 

Cellie didn't wake up until noon the next day. She turned over in bed, and saw that her husband wasn't there. She was a little fearful, after what had happened the night before. She threw on her nightgown, and her robe, and walked to the landing. She looked down. Willie was standing at the stove. She could smell bacon. She came down the stairs, walked behind him, and put her arms around him.

 

He put the spatula down, and turned to her. "Barnabas is in the office," he whispered. "You go on back upstairs, and I'll bring up food for both of us." He kissed her, and patted her rear end as she walked back towards the stairs, reassured.

 

"Wasn't that a nice, husbandly gesture," Cellie thought as she went to get a clean nightgown, and ran into the bathroom for a quick shower. Afterward, she examined herself in the mirror, as she combed out her hair. For someone whose life had changed completely for the fourth or fifth time ("I'm losing count, already," she thought in mock dismay) she was looking pretty good. No shadows under her eyes, no wrinkles or grey hairs. How odd, she thought, that life could proceed normally, even after all those revelations.

 

The new day had arrived, and she was here, and Willie was making her breakfast as usual, and Barnabas was peacefully esconced in his office. Julia, Cellie figured, probably hadn't gone to work, but if she called the Old House now, her aunt would surely answer, glad to talk with her. Everything had changed, and nothing had changed.

 

The baby began to move, fluttering around inside with light taps in all directions. "Getting even with me for keeping you up all night, and sleeping half the day, are you?" she said to her belly. "Your daddy will be happy to know you're off and running, just in time for him to have a little visit with you." Willie was already in the bedroom, with the tray, when she returned. She climbed back into bed. He sat next to her.

 

"Barnabas was asking about you. I told him you're okay, but I didn't tell him about feeling the baby move," he said, putting the tray in the middle of the bed. Willie reached for Cellie's abdomen. He felt the gentle, continuous vibrations just under her skin. "He's really jiggling around in there," he commented.

 

"Busy little critter, isn't SHE" Cellie answered, winking at her husband.

 

"We're not going to have an argument over who wants a girl or boy more, are we? After all that heavy stuff that we went through last night?" Willie asked, seriously. "I don't care what it turns out to be, or what we're going to call it when it's born, as long as it's healthy, and you're alright," he declared.

 

"That's what they all say," she smiled. "Just playing with you, hon. I kind of hope it's twins, a boy and girl. Then everyone would be satisfied, and we wouldn't have to worry about having another till I'm out of college. With twins to care for, that should only take about ten years, tops."

 

"I'm betting on just one big baby, if this is how he acts now. Or she."

 

"Thanks anyway, for not running and telling Barnabas until I'm up and around. You won't have to tell anyone, the way you're hanging onto Junior there. I'll bet you don't stop rubbing my tummy for more than five minutes at a time from now on."

 

"I can't help it. I never touched anything like that before, not even when my mother was having my younger brothers. She didn't believe in that. I doubt my Dad ever touched her at all, once she was like that, especially the last time, with Paul. He was on his way out the door by that time."

 

Cellie didn't press her husband for more details. She was glad to be getting some of his story, even piecemeal, like this. Now that she'd heard the worst, she believed the tale of the rest of Willie's unhappy life would be forthcoming eventually. She just said, "I'm really sorry about that, Will. I never understood what the big deal was about, either, until it happened to me. Touch away. Just don't forget, more than my middle could use a massage, now and then." He bent to kiss her.

 

They sat and ate in silence for a while. After, Willie was laying in bed, Cellie's head on his shoulder. His wife knew, even without looking at him, that he was still feeling sad, "What are you thinking about, hon?" she asked, her own voice serious for once. She stroked his face. "Is it about your folks? Or about last night?"

 

"Both," he replied. "It's all part of the pattern, I guess. My Dad was a rough guy. Some of the people I ran with, early on, were the same. Jason used to knock me around from time to time, but he made up for it after. And I'm still here, working for Barnabas, even after all the things he did to me."

 

"Well, it should be easier for us now, if you want to move away. You have me, and I think, from now on, my aunt will be having more of an influence on Barnabas. And you know, I'll always take up for you, if he ever gives you a hard time again, no matter what the circumstances."

 

"I'm kind of sorry I'm not more like Barnabas, or Jason, in one way. I was never what you call a take-charge type, even when I was at my worst. When I didn't have someone to boss me around, I messed things up. I'm sorry I have to let you do so many hard things. I can only take care of you in little ways, and there you were, ready to kill for me. I think I could, for you and the baby, but---"

 

"Don't say that. I wouldn't want you to, even if it seemed to be necessary. There's been enough of that going on around here, and I want you to keep clean for the rest of your life. I'm starting to learn, there's usually another way, you just have play for the time to find it."

 

Willie got up, and went to the closet. He reached for the metal box on the shelf. "I just want to show you some stuff I saved, before we stop talking about all this depressing stuff, and then I'll take you out for the rest of the afternoon. Do you mind? I won't, if it makes you too sad."

 

"I'm okay. I always wondered what was in that box. I was very good, though. I never pried. I kind of thought you kept your share of our house money in it."

 

"That's in the top part of the box, with our marriage papers, and some other legal stuff you know about. You can look in there anytime you want." He opened the bottom part of the box. He pulled out an envelope. "This has those pictures we took in Chartville, after we visited Lisa and Arnold, and some of your hair. I had to put them away. I couldn't look at them, when you were sent away in February. I guess I can put them in the frame, with our wedding picture that David took at Collinwood."

 

Cellie looked at the strip of photographs. There she was, on Willie's lap, kissing him, making faces with him, and then, just sitting with him, gazing at him, and he at her. "Put this last one in the frame. Someday, we'll get it blown up to the same size. These others, you can stick around the dresser mirror."

 

He took out a large manila envelope. "These are my Mom's things," he sighed. Cellie poured the contents onto the blanket. There was a wedding picture, unframed, printed on a kind of cardboard. As always, Cellie was struck by the resemblance between Willie and his father, even though the man in the picture was at least ten years younger than Willie was now.

 

"I would recognize him anywhere, I guess," Cellie said, pointing to her father-in-law's half of the picture. "You don't know if he's alive?"

 

"I'm not sure. Fran used to hear from him every couple of years, but not in quite a while. I hope I never run into him. I don't know what I would do. But you would probably try to fix that up, too."

 

"Only if you wanted me to, I promise. I understand, since I've been going through all that hell with my own Dad."

 

"You'll make it up with him, someday," Willie predicted. "It's not the same kind of thing at all. I understand, now, I think, since I'm going to be a Dad. If we have a daughter, I'll probably go nuts when she starts in with the guys. But I would never send her away, even if she got into trouble."

 

"Thanks, hon." Cellie pulled his face closer, and kissed him. She went back to studying the picture. "Your mother was stunning, though. You can really see the resemblance between her and Paul, looking at her when she was that young. Her wedding dress looks like my Mom's, all satin. Mom borrowed hers from her older cousin, who must have married around the same time."

 

"My Mom's was borrowed, too," Willie explained. "They were poor, and it was the tail end of the Depression, and if someone had a fancy dress, they passed it around so it would look nice for the picture. I think she really got married in a regular dress, like you did. Thanks for saying she was beautiful. She was. Even when she was dying, and she was so skinny, you could still see she was nice-looking, once. She was only fifty."

 

Cellie did some quick mental arithmetic. "She was young, just like me, when she married."

 

"That's not the only thing she did, like you."

 

"Oh, no, Will. She wasn't, was she? With you, of course."

 

"Yeah. My Dad was a wild boy. She was crazy about him, and he acted like it was all her fault, but it didn't stop him from making other kids with her." Cellie forestalled his rising anger, putting both her hands on his face, and looking into his eyes for several minutes. "That's another reason, I wouldn't be too hard on a girl, if she messed up." He sighed. "Okay, Cecily, I'll put this where I can't see it. Maybe another time, I can look at it. I want our baby to see what her grandmother looked like when she was young and happy, not sad like the other pictures around the mirror."

 

"Maybe we could take the picture to a studio, and they could, you know, separate her image somehow," Cellie suggested. I've seen some really nice restorations. You know, all I've ever seen are pictures of my mother's mother. She was about the same age when she died. She was pretty too. My Mom says I got my hair and my height from my Dad's mother, but I got my looks from her mother."

 

"Plus a little something extra, remember."

 

"Yes, it's nice to have something real to remember her by, I guess. But I can't picture her hurting anyone's stomach. That must come from someplace else. My father's mother, Muriel, supposedly had some odd ancestors, back in Scotland, according to Ernest. Oh, well, I'll take a trip out there someday, and track them down."

 

"I was there once, and Ireland, too, with Jason. He got in the mood to see the place again, so he got us a job on a boat that took us there. It was kind of boring, from my point of view, but there was plenty to drink."

 

"Is that where you learned to appreciate redheads?"

 

"No, actually, I liked the dark-haired ones there better. But it wasn't a place where I felt too comfortable messing around."

 

"So, where haven't you been on your travels?"

 

"A lot of really nice places. But here isn't bad. And down South, and the Carribbean, you'd probably enjoy that. When we're older, and have a lot of money, we'll go there. You'll like looking at all those palm trees, white sand, and blue water."

 

"You'll like getting down with me in the white sand."

 

"That's just a T.V. commercial. There's usually people around. Not like two hundred years ago, that's for sure. But it's still really pretty."

 

Willie handed Cellie two yellowed newspaper clippings. The older one

 

was from a Vermont paper, dated 1946 (the year that her brother was born), and reported a local spelling bee.

 

"They really printed this stuff?" Cellie asked. "That was some happening town you lived in."

 

"Look at the first-prize winner in the nine-year-olds' list."

 

"You won ten dollars for your spelling?"

 

"My first honest money. I did spell good at one time."

 

"You do even now, as long as you go slow. You're getting better. What's this clipping? Oh--" her voice took on a sad note. "I wonder why your mother saved this?" It was a report about Willie's first arrest, for disturbing the peace.

 

"I was sixteen, and a bunch of us got lickered up, and we had a big fight, right in the middle of the town. My mother was pretty upset, but she wasn't surprised. I was out on my own soon after, and I managed to hide that early stuff when I joined the Army. By the time they caught on, I was long gone anyway." Willie handed Cellie two more pictures. One had obviously been taken right after he joined the Army.

 

Cellie said, pertly, "Well, now I know what to expect when you lose the rest of your hair." She pointed to his recruit's buzzcut. "Don't get a 'do' like that, ever again."

 

"Hell, no. I treasure what I got left, believe me. But it wasn't the first time I looked like that." He held up the next picture, of a baby on a "bearskin" rug.

 

"Oh, Will." Cellie's voice became tender. "I can tell it's you. You were the cutest baby. Geez, I hope ours is at least half as cute. I'll have to get my Mom to send me my baby pictures. I was a scrawny little imp. People thought I was premature."

 

"I'm sure you were just as cute," he said, loyally. "I want the baby to look like you."

 

 

"Well, when it's older I guess. I think I started to straighten out by the time I was twelve. It's going to be a long wait."

 

Willie put everything back into back into the envelope. "Now, I have one more thing to show you." He picked up a picture from the bottom of the box, a painfully bright Kodachrome snapshot, showing two very happy-looking men in extremely colorful shirts, with their arms around several dark-haired girls in simple dresses. Cellie recognized her husband's leer, as he clutched two of them. The other man was older, dark-haired, with an ingratiating grin. The picture had a caption, in an unfamiliar script. " 'Jason and Willie, Phillipines, 1965,' " Cellie read aloud. "So, this was Jason?"

 

"Yeah. I guess you can tell, we scored big, just before that picture was taken. That's his writing, by the way. He signed all our stuff. He used to say I wrote so bad, I should have been a doctor."

 

"He was a slick-looking fellow," Cellie observed. "I knew guys who looked like that in Boston. I couldn't stand them. They all thought they were God's gifts to women, and, Geez, did they let you know it."

 

"He was pretty good-looking for a guy his age, I guess. Always smiling, even if he was working you over. I wonder what he would have made of you?"

 

"A thousand-dollar-a-night call girl, I suppose."

 

"No, he didn't play that game too often. It was too easy to get caught, and he didn't have enough money at times, to pay off the right people. And, then, he always had a hard time keeping me away from the 'merchandise.' He could have turned you into one fine con artist, though. You're smart enough."

 

"What a compliment. I can see who was having more luck with the lovely

 

ladies, anyway. You seadog, you. You had two to his one. At the same time, or did you make one wait outside?"

 

Willie's face turned red. "Don't ask about that. I picked 'em up easy enough, but he got his to hang around. And his women usually had more class.Of course, now I got one with lots of class." He touched Cellie's face. "These girls were more interested in the color of my money, anyway. I was kind of a big spender, when we had money. No more. No more memories, either." He took the picture back, and dropped it back in the box. "I can still see Barnabas, and Jason--- I thought I could put that out of my mind, but nothing's ever that easy, I guess."

 

Cellie embraced him. "It's going to be alright, hon. Really. I'm glad you showed me. Put the box away. I'm going to get up, and get dressed, and we'll go out, to some pretty place. It looks nice, outside our window. I want to talk to Barnabas before we go. Maybe I can get him to give us a week off, not too soon, of course, but next month.... . Maybe we can go to Boston, to see my family, or to Vermont, to see your sister. We could bring Hallie along, to get to see where Paul grew up, and get to know the family better."

 

"Go ahead. I know now, he'll always listen to you. I guess that doesn't bother me anymore. Not much, anyway. After last night, I feel like everything's balanced out, like everything's going to be okay from now on."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie found a loose Indian-style shirt that still fit over her middle, but she had to wear a pair of Willie's pants, which now felt snug, even without a belt. She knew she would have to ask her husband to take her to the Launderette later, so she could use a whole row of washers and dryers. It would take forever to catch up with all the dirty clothes, including the ones she had to get back from Collinwood, if she just washed a few at a time at home, and hung them outside. That reminded her, she had to get rid of the clothes her husband had worn last night.

 

She ran downstairs, and, to her relief, she saw they were gone. Willie came in through the back door, and guessed at her unspoken question. "I put 'em in a couple of bags, and mixed the bags in the regular trash," he said. "I thought of burning them, but someone would notice a backyard fire this close to June, especially around here. Let the dump do it. That's what we're paying taxes for, after all." He smiled at his little joke.

 

"And your shoes?"

 

"Hosed 'em down. It's supposed to be hot and sunny for the next couple of days, so they should dry off fast."

 

"Well, that's it, then. I'll go talk to the Boss."

 

Cellie turned on her heel, and went through the showroom to Barnabas's

 

office. He was perusing his ledger, but he looked up immediately when he heard her step in. "I'm relieved and glad to see that neither you nor Willie seem to be the worse for last night's travails," he commented, while motioning her to sit down.

 

"I hope Aunt Jule is feeling okay. How is she?"

 

"Very well, and full of plans for the future. She took the day off from work, of course, and she went out with Elizabeth, but she'll be home soon. She'll call you later. She was worried about you, but she gives you credit for your resilience, even in your condition. You do look like you're at peace with, and can live with, the truth."

 

"I've done a lot of thinking, and I guess I'll be spending the rest of my life thinking it all over," Cellie replied. "Some things are a lot better now that I understand. I don't agree with all your actions, but I guess I really had to be there to judge. I'm working hard at not being bitter about the parts that affected Will, because what happened to him pretty much happened to me too. I'm just glad I wasn't around then, so that I didn't have to participate in any way. I reserve the right not to join in the future, either, if something happens which goes against what I believe in. I don't want to lose my moral compass, just for the sake of expediency."

 

"I would never ask you to do anything that would jeopardize either your life or your soul," Barnabas insisted. "That decision, like so many others you've had to make, is up to you. I certainly wouldn't burden you with a choice that involves a threat to the people you hold dear. But to save

them.... I now know just what you're capable of."

 

"That's another one of the things I hope I never have to do again. I didn't like to think I was sinking to that level---okay, I won't put it that way. There was a better way, and it showed itself to me. Or Will did, rather. That certainly proved he knows how to handle me." Cellie brightened a little. "I must say, after having the truth out on the table, it's like someone took a ton of bricks off Will's shoulders."

 

"Of all the things I hoped to accomplish, telling you our story, I am most gratified by that. He's suffered the most of all those I've injured, I'm beginning to think. And, ironically enough, he's the only one to have changed for the better, as a result. In a strange way, he was a reflection of my conscience, once he regained his."

 

"Maybe you did give him something," Cellie mused. "Maybe he gave you something, beyond your minimum daily requirements.... Sorry. I shouldn't be so flippant. It's hard to be philosophical about something that hurt someone I love, so terribly. So, he regained his conscience. That's certainly worth a great deal. But look at what he lost. He can't hide anything, and every little mis-step he makes brings on oceans of regret and self-doubt. All his instincts for self-determination and self-preservation were leeched away, if you don't mind me using that expression. I know how it must have been. I've had both his feelings and his memories. Even now, he's not sure how to take care of me and the baby, beyond what he's doing now. Good thing I'm not the sort of girl who needs a lot of taking care of."

 

"Well, if it's any consolation, Cellie, he wasn't the care-taking sort before we met."

 

"Shows how much you really know about him. He told me he tried to help his mother, after his father left."

 

"That shows how selective a listener you are. In case you missed a crucial detail, he left those responsibilities behind, just like his father did, with nary a thought, until recently. In spite of what your aunt believes about the power of attraction, he wasn't someone even an open-minded woman like yourself could have loved."

 

"But he was living his life!" Cellie protested. "Will's decisions, bad as they were, belonged to him. And, who knows? At some point, he might have tired of that life, if he lived long enough. Most men, even if they don't marry, do tend to slow down when they get older, at least that's what I've heard."

 

"And then, where would he have been, Cellie? At best, he would have ended up in a rooming house in the middle of nowhere, without even his sister to turn to. At worst--- in prison, perhaps. Don't forget those he killed. If he hadn't been--intercepted--others might have lost their lives at his hands, and he would have been caught eventually. Or killed by someone else, in retaliation."

 

"Poor Will. He certainly couldn't cover his tracks as skillfully as you did yours. And he did pay for some of your crimes."

 

"Well, at least we both survived. You are pleased about that?"

 

"Yes. In spite of all I have been taught about right and wrong, crime and punishment, Heaven and Hell.... I still love both of you. I wouldn't dream of turning either of you in, even if I could escape your probable wrath for doing so. I couldn't live without Will, and Aunt Jule couldn't live without you." Cellie sighed. "Perhaps you are right about Will. Just remember, from here on in, he's my responsibility. But someday, you'll have to give me a run-down justifying your treatment of Maggie Evans, and Vicky Winters, and those others."

 

"Those 'others' included not just women, but men who would have reminded you very much of your husband, Cellie. I admit I was harder on the men in a way--- even those of little spirit had to have their spirits broken. There was one man, in particular--- this is as hard to explain as mine and Julia's time travels--- a man who lived in a parallel dimension of time, accessed from a certain part of Collinwood that has since been closed off, like the staircase I once told you of. He bore the same name you call Willie now--- he WAS Will Loomis! Like other denizens of that band of time, he bore the same name, was much the same kind of person, though his life had taken a different course. He was very educated, a writer, married into the Collins family. His life, alas, was as unhappy as Willie's--- and then he met ME---with similar disastrous results."

 

"You bit him too?" Cellie suppressed her dismay with difficulty.

 

"Not only bit him, but my influence was much stronger, for some reason--�� he literally DIED to protect my secret-- killed himself. � to save me from a FAR more malignant version of Angelique, as it turned out. I have done much wrong, but some incidents HAVE left me with sharper regrets than others.... This was one instance. I wish I could say this inspired me to treat the Willie I knew with more compassion.... When you referred to him as 'Will' it used to sting me---"

 

"I'm sorry for that, but MY intention was to make Will-um-Willie feel better. Must I stop?" Cellie sounded resentful again.

 

Barnabas patted Cellie's shoulder. "If I told you to, I doubt you WOULD stop, and I wouldn't have it any other way.... It goes a small way to atone for what I did to BOTH Wills."

 

"And as for Maggie?"

 

"Maggie is another to whom my debt of shame hasn't yet been completely repaid," he replied. "I certainly can't justify what happened to her, now that I am normal, but at the time, I was governed by the exigencies of my condition. I did make an effort to help her, and she tried to help me, when there were other troubles at Collinwood later. We even came close to falling in love! It still cost her, though. She nearly collapsed again, under the weight of the new problems we faced."

 

"Well, judging by how she was at our reception, I'd say she did improve somewhat. Going into that bar, and making the effort to get Will away from

 

Melinda for me.... It must have been liberating, regaining the power to choose to do something good for someone who did her wrong, and having him appreciate it. It did shore up her confidence, but I guess she'll have that uneasiness the rest of her life."

 

"I'm glad you were at least indirectly responsible for helping her. You have a healing influence on people. Including Carolyn. I suppose you hadn't guessed, but I was around her once, also."

 

"Oh, Barnabas. That's really gross. She's family, for God's sake."

 

"I came to feel the same way, even though, at the time, I'm afraid she was necessary for my continued survival. I can assure you, though, her time as my thrall was quite brief. Pursuing members of my own family was always rather distasteful, ever since my poor cousin, Millicent.... I would try not to do that again, if I was ever to fall into that state. I feel, however, that I have made progress, making it up to Carolyn. I went so far as to dispose of the man who killed her husband, although I was to be denied the satisfaction of ridding us of the man who was truly responsible for Jeb's demise, that Nicholas Blair. Blair's Master took care of that, via Angelique."

 

"What would become of me, Barnabas, if you changed back? Am I family enough?"

 

"You are more than family to me, but I don't know what would happen. You are to me, almost what Vicky Winters was, when I got to know her well."

 

"She wasn't a shrinking violet, I take it?"

 

"Vicky Winters was different. I did try to take her over, but she resisted at every turn. Some of that, I found out, was Julia's doing, and that's when we had our worst 'falling out.' Still, Vicky was one of the few women I pursued, whom I came to love and respect. And, besides your aunt, the only other woman who was most consistently helpful to me. Angelique helped me a few times, but until that last day of her life, usually to serve her own ends. I don't know if anyone's told you this, but you are very like Vicky in some ways, including your appearance."

 

"Will seems to think so, too."

 

"Consider it a compliment. She was very special, like you. She had the same desire to learn the truth, as you, and was very brave on occasion. The only major difference between you is that you came equipped with a bit more skepticism, not to say cynicism. More like worldly wisdom. I'd say you've proved that you're also not quite as afraid of disillusionment. But then, you were raised quite differently."

 

"I wasn't born that way, certainly," Cellie mused. "Maybe it was the red hair. People pick on red-heads, and then expect them to be bolder and meaner and braver. I grew into the role." She continued, "Still, I guess I compare favorably with this Vicky Winters, so she must have gone through some hard times, too."

 

"She was raised in an orphanage. A very nice orphanage, I understand, but she did have some unhappy times there.The poor girl never learned who her real parents were, either, though most of us believe she WAS a Collins relation.Elizabeth would never say, and she reminded me of my mother so much that I did not press her, even when I could have forced the issue.Perhaps someday, there will be a reason for Liz to tell�. Perhaps YOU will give her that reason.I'm so sorry you never met Vicky. It was one of the saddest days of my life when she went away."

 

"What happened to her?"

 

"She loved another man, and left to be with him. I actually helped her, if you can believe that. It's a complicated story. She went back into time, also. But alas, in spite of my best efforts on her behalf, I understand she was driven to her death." His voice broke. "Not too many people know about that, and I prefer it stays that way, if you don't mind."

 

"My aunt knows about that, right?"

 

"Julia knows almost everything."

 

Cellie smiled ruefully. "Of course. And what she doesn't know, Will knows, and what he doesn't know, I know. Like a circle of knowledge. I don't know what accepting this way of life makes me. I guess I am a lawyer's daughter, through and through. A lawyer can justify anything for a client."

 

"That's not what you're doing, Cellie. You're not defending indefensible actions, and allowing things to go on as they always have. You're supporting people who want to put right what they've done wrong. Everyone who has a sincere desire to improve themselves deserves a shot at redemption. And your being here has changed things for the better in many respects. Willie isn't the only one who's had a great burden lifted from his shoulders, or feels like he is no longer alone, and full of guilty knowledge."

 

Cellie walked to her uncle's side of the desk. "Here's some beneficial knowledge for you. Will felt the baby move for the first time, last night, after you left. It was kind of like a blessing on the whole enterprise."

 

"That's wonderful. Thinking about that child does give me hope for the future."

 

"You want to feel him? He's moving now." She took his hand, and placed

 

it where the tapping was strongest. Barnabas turned red, but he was smiling.

 

"SHE is going to be a runner, I believe," he said. "What was the name of that mythological girl who was a champion runner?"

 

"Camilla. So, I guess you're looking for a girl, Barnabas?"

 

"Let's just say, I have a feeling."

 

"You and my aunt haven't any expectations of your own, then?"

 

Barnabas removed his hand, and looked away. "As I told you last night, I doubt that will happen. I would worry dreadfully about both Julia's health, and any child's. In spite of her optimistic view about my condition, I fear that traces of what I have been would show up in my offspring. If my release from the curse had come much earlier, I would not be so concerned. I would have loved to be a father, and now that I am settled with Julia, I feel I could be as happy as Ben was when he and Margery had their son."

 

"You know, Barnabas, come to think of it, you were released early. In 1841. That's not early enough?"

 

"I'm not sure. And then, I suppose Willie has filled your mind with anxiety about the possibility of my relapse into that state. Well, I worry sometimes. Not about Angelique, of course. But I am more vulnerable in a way. I made some formidable enemies in my time."

 

"Nobody current, though?"

 

"Not in almost two years. But I am on guard. Not just for myself, or Julia, but for you, and David, and all the others whom I consider to be like my children."

 

"Have you called David yet?"

 

"No, but tomorrow, definitely. We all need this day off from these troubles, for when the real troubles come, there are no days off. We've been lucky to have such a long respite from them."

 

"Long may that continue. That reminds me, Barnabas. If I recall correctly, the deadline for letting them know that you'd like to submit an exhibit to that museum in Bangor is, like, this coming

 

Monday. Do you think you'll go through with it now? I'm not going to insist, or anything, not after last night."

 

"Last night was the BEST reason to do something about it. I was on the phone with the head curator before you came downstairs, and he is expecting some choice items, labelled and documented, by next Friday. We shall have to rent a small truck, as they are giving Josette's possessions, as well as some period pieces from the Shoppe, a lovely large space, eight feet by eight feet."

 

"Geez, our room upstairs isn't all that much bigger. You'll need a lot of stuff to fill it."

 

"I doubt it. The furniture I plan to send is quite bulky, though not at all heavy. That should make Willie feel better. And David. Don't worry, I'll be putting some muscle of my own into the effort. And you and Carolyn can wrap the smaller items. You have a wonderful copperplate kind of writing, my dear. If you could make the time, I would appreciate it very much--"

 

"You don't even have to ask. Of course I'll make out the labels and other papers. That reminds me, again. I finished that report I was supposed to do. I'll have to get it to the school. As soon as we get these museum pieces processed, I have some other school work backlogged. If I expect to get some kind of diploma before the baby comes, I'll have to hustle with it. And I have to get Will back on the G.E.D. track. That'll give him something worthwhile to fret about."

 

"Always planning ahead, that's the key."

 

"Well, the best-laid plans can go astray, but I'll still make 'em. Oh, and Barnabas, do you think there'll be time, before the baby comes, for me and Will to take a little vacation soon, for a week or so? To see my Mom, or to visit Fran in Vermont?"

 

"That hot month doesn't strike me as an ideal time to visit a dairy farm, or the concrete canyon Boston has become, at least in your condition. But if I can get some other strong pair of arms to take over the heavier chores, then yes, I suppose there won't be a problem."

 

Willie poked his head in the door. "Are you ready to go, Cecily? I packed a lunch. I want to hit the state park before there's too much traffic."

 

"Coming, hon. Thanks a mill, Barnabas. I hope you're not going to blow the rest of this delicious day in the office. When my aunt comes home, maybe you should take her on a picnic. Or at least, a stroll around the estate. Something spontaneous."

 

Barnabas rose, and closed the ledger. "I'm going right now. Just out of force of habit, though, I have to tell you. Be careful out there."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

"Will, this place is fabulous. When did you discover it?" Cellie asked, as she sat, resting against her husband, who was leaning against the comfortably-bent trunk of a tree.

 

"Just out driving one day. I think the lookout point is better than the one at Collinwood. You can see out farther. And look down, thataway," he pointed. "You can make out the big House a couple of miles downshore."

 

"We're higher than they are. And they complain about Widow's Hill being steep. Someone who jumped from this cliff would be beach pizza for sure."

 

Willie's voice became somber. "That's been known to happen here. That's why you see park rangers scooting through here so often, to make sure no-one scales that safety rail."

 

"I wouldn't worry about either of us. If what went down last night didn't finish us off, then I think we can survive anything. You've heard that poem about, what is it, the Marines? Or the West Point cadets, or whatever. It goes like this:

 

"We the unwilling, led by the unknowing,

 

Are doing the impossible, for the ungrateful.

 

We have done so much, for so long, with so little,

 

We are now able to do anything, with nothing."

 

"Sounds like the story of my life," Willie replied. "You'll have to write that down for me. But it's not as nice as the poem you wrote for me and the baby. I carry that in my wallet. Whatever happened to all the other ones you wrote?"

 

"That's in my collection of tragic mementoes. Margene used to say, I should have the better ones published. That would include yours. Someday, we'll plow through 'em together." She rose, and took Willie's hand. "Let's go for a walk, up and down the cliff trail. Only, be sure to watch and warn me about any Poison Ivy. I swear, I break out if I so much as look at the stuff!"

 

"Of course I'll look, Cecily. Really, though, this place is pretty weed-free. And if you brush against it, you'll just itch a lot."

 

"Not me," she said, shuddering. "The one time I got it, my ankles swelled up, like some folks do when they're allergic to a bee-sting. I was dumb enough to scratch it, and open the rash. Major mistake. My throat actually began to swell up. Thank God, it was just in our yard, and my Mom was able to get me to the hospital in time."

 

"That can pass to our baby, couldn't it?"

 

"It's like anything else, fifty-fifty, I suppose. Maybe there'll be some test for it by the time he or she is old enough to explore the woods."

 

"Okay, then, I'll be extra careful to check the ground, and the trees." Willie got up, and they went about a half-mile downshore on the Collinwood side, arm-in-arm. There weren't too many people in the park yet, as it was a weekday, but Willie wanted to get their exploring done before busloads of idle schoolchildren arrived at three-thirty, and the rest of the working stiffs came here after the cannery set them loose.

 

Cellie glimpsed a small pile of stones, heaped together in the form of a wall, and the borderline of the park that was closest to Collinwood. There was a shiny new plaque on a tree near the primitive foundation. Cellie read it aloud:

 

"Here stands all that remains of one of the blackest days in

 

Maine history. This is the foundation of the fort-house

 

of Chief Ock-wen-uck, friend to the white settlers, which was

 

treacherously destroyed, and the inhabitants foully murdered, in

 

March, 1643, by the same white settlers he befriended.

 

Erected by the Orono Tribal Council, 1970."

 

"That's the new thing, I guess, Indians getting even by putting up their own monuments," Willie commented.

 

"Actually, that's not the first I've ever seen," his wife replied. "In Massachussetts, there are many such little plaques all over the place, if one takes the time to look for them. This must be the site of that massacre by Nathaniel Collins. I didn't realize it was this close to the estate."

 

"I wouldn't worry too much. This is still a good three miles north of Collinwood. And you haven't seen the Indian spirit again, have you?"

 

"No. But Sarah mentioned him, so he must be someone important. All the same, I'd rather not see him again, at least until I feel ready for it."

 

"I can see, now, why he comes after you. I read a little bit of your term paper. You're really hard on the white settlers. But what's the point? It's all done and gone. We're here now."

 

"I know that. I'm grateful to be here. But there may be some reparations that can be made, to the living. That might be my mission."

 

"If it's something to do with Collinwood, trust me, dead people are bound to be a large part of the picture. That goes with the territory. I just don't want them to bug you while you're pregnant. Have the baby, and get better from that, and then wait until the kid is older, like out of college, is all I ask."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

The first load of Josette's possessions was packed in the rented truck.Willie had been reluctant to participate in the packing, though, of course, he always did what he was told. This time, however, Barnabas let Cellie tell him what to do. She kept the peace. What was surprising, was David's reaction. His sense of loss was almost as intense as Barnabas's had been. "Josette was always here for us," he explained to Cellie. "Whenever I was sad or lonely, or scared, or I had done something to really upset my father, I always came here, and felt like she was helping me. Vicky once told me she even helped me when my mother--- went away. I was in a burning shack, and she told Vicky where to find me, and I got out."

 

"Kind of like a patron saint, but saints don't commit suicide," Cellie commented.

 

"She was highly provoked, I'm sure," David said. He had only just gotten the first installment of Barnabas's version of events, and was confused, and, Cellie feared, blocking it out, as he had a habit of doing.

 

"I hope that doesn't sound like I don't sympathize," she said. "If I had to face the same dismal prospect, I'm not sure my reaction would be much better."

 

"Oh, yes it would. You could snake your way out of just about anything, I'll bet."

 

"I couldn't snake my way out of this," she replied, patting her abdomen. "But, then, this is what I wanted, I guess."

 

"Of course it is. I'm sorry I'm getting so upset about the whole thing.I know, if you'd been around back then, you might have talked Josette out of it. But what's done, is done."

 

"After everything I've heard so far, I'm not sure that's altogether true, as far as Collinwood is concerned. Nothing, it seems, is ever final."

 

"Well, Josette is really gone, forever, I think. I haven't felt her presence in years. But she may have left us a swell replacement." David patted Cellie's shoulder.

 

"I'll always try to stay where I can help you out, Muffinhead." she replied. "And I know you'll always be there for me. And this furniture will be back in place, in six weeks. We'll go visit with it, as often as you like."

 

"I'm going to miss the picture, especially, but at least that's not going until tomorrow." David patted the curved frame of the portrait, which had been taken off its mounting, and leaned against the wall, next to a box of knickknacks which would also be taken to Bangor the next day. Now that Cellie was able to observe the painting up close, she thought the woman in the picture looked almost bewildered.

 

"Well, at least I'm leaving those details out of the public explanation," Cellie said. "I'll miss this stuff too, even though I don't see it every day like I used to. Well, get in the Hupmobile. Barnabas is already in there, and Will is waiting for me in the truck." (Carolyn, after packing her share of trinkets, had gone down to the Antique Shoppe for the rest of the day.) She and David joined the others, on the long trek to the Bangor museum, where the men set up the heavier items, and she arranged the knick-knacks on the tabletops, and put up her index cards. "Looks just fine to me," Cellie announced, surveying the results. "When the picture is here, it'll all come together." Barnabas agreed.

 

It was almost nine, when David dropped Barnabas off at the Old House.

 

(Cellie and Willie had gone home in the truck.) Julia was home from WindCliff. She sat by the fire with a hopeful look on her face. Her husband sat next to her, and took her hand. "It's really happening," she said. "I'm sorry I seem so eager to see everything gone, even for a few weeks. But the atmosphere was becoming oppressive around here, and I didn't know what was causing it. It feels lighter inhere already."

 

"Julia, Josette's furniture wasn't the problem. I know I have this strong attachment to the way of life I once knew. It gets in the way of the things I want to do now, like building up my life with you. Forgive me."

 

"We've done more than our share of forgiving each other. As far as I'm concerned, we're both free of fault this time. Let's try to enjoy our freedom, starting tonight. Barnabas," she said, blushing, "Would you like to take this opportunity to try what I've been suggesting for the past few weeks? This would be a good time to see if we can start a family."

 

"Julia, of course I want to be with you, but you mustn't let up on your precautions. You know I have a deep fear of what might happen."

 

"Your fear holds you back as much as your attachment to things past.I'm not afraid to try."

 

"You would inflict a possible curse on an innocent infant for the sake of gratifying vanity?"

 

"It's not vanity, Barnabas. It's not about proving I can still bear a child, or holding onto you by any means possible. I'm no longer afraid of losing you, except in the most natural, inevitable manner. I love you. I want to extend that love, to share it with you and a child. I feel strongly that the curse was ended forever, over two years ago."

 

"Or one hundred thirty-one years ago, according to Cellie's point of view."

 

"That's true, in a way. By that reckoning, you would have been a vampire for just forty-four years by then. And your cure didn't come about by medication,or creating a scapegoat to carry your burden out of your life. Angelique took it away as completely as a strong wind clears the sky after a stormy day."

 

"But there will always be other storms, Julia. That anxiety lives on in me, that some other agency will force itself into our lives, to take our happiness away. I am afraid for Cellie's child already, what with the visitations she's experienced. My fears would increase a hundred-fold, if you and our child became involved."

 

"Look at what Cellie and Willie have been through already, and yet, she shows no anxiety about what may happen in the future."

 

"Part of that is because most of the uneasiness centered around me, and now she knows she needn't worry about me anymore."

 

"Do you know the real reason she isn't afraid of you?" Julia asked. "Because you and she are surprisingly alike. I don't know if you've ever noticed, Barnabas, but even in the worst times, she's almost your equal in standing her ground, and thinking on her feet. Some of that, she gets from my side of the family, but she has a sense of purpose that goes far beyond what she may have picked up from Walter or myself. And being around you has sharpened the skills."

 

"Still, I shouldn't like to see her pushed to her limit, especially now.Nor you. I must remind you, that while neither of you has this anxiety, I always shall, and so does Willie. He, of all, has the most reason to fear what may happen to me."

 

"He's going to get over that, little by little, with Cellie's help. I'll bet if you asked him, would he go back now, and either prevent his child's conception, or try to eradicate it, once it was discovered, he would tell you 'No!' "

 

"Willie doesn't have to fear passing on a gene that can cause far more misery than even the most wretched human birth defect. And as for dealing with any future recurrence of my curse, he has the option to escape, along with his wife and the child."

 

"Does he really, Barnabas? As you've observed, so many times, where could he go, and who else would hire him, with his record? Could he truly escape the memory of what passed between you when he was your servant? And would Cellie leave here, if she thought she could help you, or stop you if she thought it was possible? Willie and Cellie would probably remain here, no matter what came their way. But they're facing the risk, Cellie head-on, and Willie trusting her judgment. I'll face the risks, too. It would be worth it, just to see the look on your face, when you hold our child in your arms for the first time. If that was the last thing I ever saw, it would be worth it."

 

"Don't ever say anything like that, Julia." Barnabas clutched, Julia tightly, his emotions a welter of tenderness, passion, and great anxiety. For all the difficulty he had expressing his deepest affection for his wife, she had come to know how much he appreciated her presence in his life, and how painful it would be for him if he was to lose her. "I couldn't bear it if you were to die in childbirth, or as a result of my affliction being visited on the child, or simply from heartbreak, if we lost the child. I love you too much to allow that to happen."

 

"Allow it, Barnabas. Prove your love for me, by letting something happen of its own accord, for once. Give up control. Life can't go on, if it's kept in a tight little cage, like the animals in a zoo. You were in a tight, airless place once. As Cellie put it, that was a half-life. You fought for, and won the right to live a whole life. Now, live it."

 

Julia turned her face up to her husband's, and almost pushed him over, with the force of her embrace, her ardent kissing. He began to respond, slowly at first, then, as he made himself stop thinking, became as eager as she was. Just this beginning put all their other restrained, rather embarrassed love-making completely in the shade. He even wanted to stay there, with her, in the parlor, by the glow of the fire, but force of habit made him rise with her, to go upstairs.

 

They lay on his bed, still in a kind of frenzy, pulling at each other's clothes.He raised himself on his elbow, looking down at her. For once, she didn't have toshow and tell him what she needed him to do. He kissed and caressed her without prompting. She drew him closer. He buried his face in her shoulder. She moved his head further down, stroking his hair as she did so. She whispered, "Please...."

 

Crash! It sounded as if every vase, every china piece, in the house had fallen at the same time. Both Barnabas and Julia jumped up, half-undressed, panting now with fright, as they had been, seconds ago, with passion. There was another crash. Now it sounded as if something a bit more solid had fallen. Julia and Barnabas shivered as they held onto each other. "What---who could be doing that? Josette?" Julia quavered.

 

"I don't think so. You wait here, I'll check--"

 

"No, I'm going with you. God only knows what would happen if it--it found either of us alone." Julia and Barnabas grabbed their robes, and Barnabas, who glanced quickly around for the flashlight, realized he'd left it in the kitchen. He lit a candle for when they checked the upstairs rooms without electricity. They exited their room cautiously, flipping on every light switch in their path. They checked Cellie's former rooms first. Sarah's ocean-view room was intact. Jeremiah's library room was in a disturbed condition. Several books had fallen from the shelf, and some china statues,as well as a vase. Down the hall, they peeked into Josette's room. There they made a shocking discovery.

 

All the small vases left in the room had, indeed, fallen to their destruction, as well as a set of Chinese jars Barnabas had once given to Josette. A delicate-looking but heavy crystal-trimmed candlestick holder lay against the wall, some of its pendants shattered. Josette's vanity and its contents were safely in Bangor, or else, Barnabas felt, they would have been casualties too. They didn't see the worst damage until they walked into the middle of the room. Both Julia and Barnabas made sounds of dismay. Somehow, Josette's portrait, which had been leaning near the fireplace, had been thrown to the opposite side of the room, and had apparently hit the wall, where her armoire had stood. The heavy carved frame had split in two, and the canvas hung awkwardly from the cracked stretcher which had once held it taut.

 

Barnabas gently lifted the portrait from the debris, and sighed with relief, that the painting itself had not been damaged beyond losing a few flakes of paint in non-crucial places. The bewildered-looking face of his lost love gazed out at him, and at his wife, as if demanding an explanation. He carried it under his arm, and led Julia from the room. They went down to the parlor, where they were not surprised to see that Barnabas's portrait had fallen to the floor in front of thefireplace, along with a few more pieces of broken crockery.

 

"Who did it, if not Josette, Barnabas? Jeremiah?"

 

"I'm afraid so. Something about our moving Josette's things, as well as our activities upstairs--" Barnabas turned red "--may have set him off. But why? He had nothing to do with Josette's possessions. They never even stayed in that room together. And you had nothing to do with him, at all."

 

"And I thought Cellie made peace with his spirit when she lived here."

 

"Well, he may resent her part in this, too. We'll have to work on finding out what went wrong tomorrow. I hope nothing's happened in Bangor."

 

"We'll hear of it, soon enough. Barnabas, I don't want to stay here tonight."

 

"You don't have to. I'll call Elizabeth. In the morning, though, we should call Elliot. And, perhaps we should ask Cellie to come in, and evaluate the situation."

 

"I'm not sure I approve of that. And I can imagine what Willie might say."

 

"As you've pointed out, Cellie makes her own choices, and takes her own risks. She will know how much she can take. She befriended Jeremiah's spirit once. Perhaps she can smooth things out with him again."

 

"I hope you're right."

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

 

"Idon't want Cecily to go back to the Old House, if there's something there, smashing stuff up," Willie protested when Barnabas and Julia pleaded their case. Cellie sat quietly, allowing her husband to make the decision for once.

 

"But, Willie," Julia said wearily, "We were not injured. It's almost as if the spirit is lodging a complaint. He requires attention. Cellie has a rapport with the entity. Maybe she can explain what happened, so Jeremiah can understand."

 

"Get Professor Stokes, then."

 

"We probably will, if we can't relieve the problem soon. You know why we're reluctant. We've never shared all of Barnabas's secret with Elliot, and wrangling with Jeremiah might bring on revelations we're unprepared to account for. You've seen how hard it was to break it to Cellie. And it's proving difficult, telling David, after he's had years of making himself believe he was just imagining what's turning out to have been true, all along."

 

"I don't know why you can't tell the Professor, you know he understands that stuff," Willie said. "Anyway, I kind of figured something would happen when you sent Josette's stuff away."

 

"You were right for once," Barnabas said.

 

Cellie smiled when she heard this. Nothing else Barnabas could have said would have had the effect of changing her husband's mind. Willie, mollified, said, "It's almost worth all the trouble, just to hear you say I'm right about anything, Barnabas. Just for that, I'll let Cecily go. I know she's just about ready to jump at the chance. But I'm going, too. Somebody has to reel her in, if things get too deep. I have to take care of my family, you know?"

 

"Of course. We're all family here, now. I want to protect Julia, as much as you want to protect Cellie. But if we don't work on this together, the problem may spread, and then nobody will be able to escape the consequences."

 

"Swell, let's go, then. The sooner the better."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

"This is your last chance to back out, Cecily," Willie remarked, as his wife stood on the threshold of the Old House.

 

David, who had come at Barnabas's insistence, so that he could learn a bit more about certain aspects of the family history, stood behind Willie. As Cellie opened the heavy, carved door, he snickered, " 'Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here.' "

 

Cellie shot her friend a withering look. "Shut up, Muffinhead," she whispered. "This isn't one of your grand tours of the 'Great Cobwebs of the West Wing.' This is for real. Stop playing. Maybe you'll learn something."

 

"Sorry, T.T., just breaking the tension."

 

"We're all tense, David," Julia, standing behind him, said.

 

Cellie opened the door, and stepped in. The parlor was as dead-quiet as the Antique Shoppe had been, before Cellie went to work there. She had no rainbow spell, even though the sight of the empty space above the mantel gave her a slight turn. (The two downed portraits were being kept at Collinwood.) "I guess it's time to go upstairs," she sighed.

 

Her heart began to pound, as she ascended the steps. She didn't feel fear, but she was apprehensive. She wondered if any further damage had been done, since Barnabas and Julia had left last night. Barnabas handed her a flashlight when they came to Josette's room, which was dark with the curtains drawn. He and Willie stood directly behind her, as she entered the room. She stopped, and clutched at her Mizpah.

 

"Are you okay, my girl?" Willie whispered.

 

"Yes, but the room is full of-of frustration. It fills me with despair. Yes. Despair. Anger. As yellow-blue as it gets. Jealousy. And a bottomless, deep-blue loss. It's like what you've felt about Barnabas, even when he wasn't actively depriving you of something you wanted passionately. Passion. Deprivation. This is not Jeremiah's room, and he did not share it with Josette, in life." (Barnabas was impressed. He had carefully withheld certain details about the room from his niece, in order to test her capabilities.) "But it represents something to him, and he can't find a substitute, to console him in his painful deprivation, and the sense that Barnabas is flaunting something in front of him." Cellie looked at her uncle, searchingly. "Maybe it's simply the fact that you are still alive, so many years after you killed him, and brought about Josette's suicide." (David, who had pushed himself between Barnabas and Willie, gazed at Barnabas with a bewildered expression that reminded Cellie of Josette's face in the portrait.) "I can't get anything more specific, without being a spiritualist. I'm trying to get closer to him, to comfort him, but he's having none of it. Sorry, Barnabas. This is something between Jeremiah and you."

 

"I'm aware of that. Well, this wasn't a waste of time, by any means. There's something we can do, to get to the bottom of this frustration, and to relieve it, if possible, even at this late date."

 

"You mean, hold a seance, don't you?" Julia asked. "With Cellie involved, of course."

 

"Oh, no. You are not going to get my wife tied up with that. Remember the baby, for God's sake," Willie said angrily. "If I knew you were planning something like that. I wouldn't have let her come here in the first place."

 

"I'm inclined to agree," Julia said. "This isn't all that serious a matter, that we should put Cellie and the baby in jeopardy. We can live somewhere else, until we get the furniture back."

 

"It's not just the furniture, Aunt Jule," Cellie said. "I feel it's something that goes to the heart of your married life. Something that set Jeremiah off, something that he might well interfere with in the future, furniture or no furniture. I'm getting the sense that he may even follow you around, just to mess up your lives, unless we do something about it. I don't think he's in the active mode right now. This may be the best time. He may prove reasonable. He was a reasonable man once, wasn't he, Barnabas?"

 

"Except for the last weeks of his life, when Angelique had him involved with Josette, yes, he was most reasonable, and sweet-tempered, one of the most intelligent men I have ever known," Barnabas sighed. "It is terrible, what passion can do to one, unless it exists in its most proper context."

 

"Then it can be wonderful. I know," Cellie said quietly, rubbing her abdomen. Willie touched her, and the baby beat a tattoo against its father's palm.

 

Julia emanated an envy that affected her niece. Jeremiah must have interrupted a tender moment between Aunt Jule and Barnabas, Cellie thought. She said to Willie, "Please, hon? We can do this. I doubt it will affect the baby."

 

"It will, I just know it, but I can't stop you, Cecily. I'll stick by you, and hold your hand, and if I think something bad is going to happen to you, I'm yanking you out of the circle. I guess that's all I can do."

 

"Okay. Where do you want to set up shop?" David asked.

 

"In here," Barnabas replied. "This is, after all, where the trouble is centered. I'll help you get a table, and chairs. Willie looks like he's afraid to leave Cellie alone. It's alright if he stays with her." He and David exited the room, and returned minutes later, with the table and chairs. They all sat around the table. Barnabas said, "You all know how we begin, don't you? Cellie?"

 

"Yes, I know the drill," she replied. "My girlfriends and I used to play at this sort of thing, at slumber parties, and such. We had a whole bunch of books, and my best friend at the time, Siobhan, had a Ouija board. Of course, her mom didn't know about it." Barnabas looked as though he was about to admonish her about her levity, when she assumed a serious expression, and positioned her hands in what he knew to be the correct manner. She did say, "A Ouija board would make this job a lot easier, I think."

 

"We'll just have to make do with the human element. It can be disturbing, though, when a spirit speaks through one. In that case, a nice, inanimate piece of cardboard would be a welcome sight, indeed." Barnabas began the incantation. "Jeremiah Collins, we implore you. Join our circle tonight, and unburden yourself of the sorrows you carry. You would be among friends here, though I know you don't consider me one. You have a special friend, who sits at my right hand. She's lived in your room, and shared your books, the books you intended to pass on to one such as herself. She has compassion for all who suffer, and she would aid you now. She understands she is partly responsible for your discomfiture, but we will make amends, if only you would speak to her, or through her. Jeremiah Collins, come to us now."

 

Cellie began to experience a swimmy sensation in her head, akin to the one she'd had in the maternity home. But she also felt nauseous, and the fetus within her was using all four limbs, scoring her womb in what seemed to be an effort to escape. "My head feels hot," she whispered. Willie was about to make good his threat to break the circle, when the sensation stopped suddenly. Cellie glanced at Barnabas, who was looking toward the door, a sad smile on his face. She followed his gaze, joined by the others.

 

Sarah stood there, emerging from her companion mists, to step over behind where Cellie sat. "I'm real sorry, Barnabas," she said, clearly, "but you can't use Cecily this way. That's my job, to watch over her and her baby. Either you or Uncle Jeremiah must choose another to catch his voice. He has to say something, and Cecily can talk to him, but he can't be in her, and nobody else from my side, either."

 

"Sarah," Barnabas said in an exalted tone, "I've been waiting for you to come back. Why haven't you shown yourself to me, until now?"

 

"I had to make sure you told Cecily the truth first. It's real important to always tell the truth. You didn't 'zactly tell the truth about what would happen if Jeremiah went into Cecily, but maybe you just didn't know. I will see you again, Barnabas, but Uncle Jeremiah is real mad right now. I'll guard Cecily while he talks to her. Choose another." She vanished.

 

"Well, at least I got someone on the other side who agrees with me,"

 

Willie said. "Barnabas," he continued, "Do you really need Cecily for--for--oh, my head!" He cried out. He was going to reach for his temples, but Barnabas told Cellie and David to hold Willie's hands in place.

 

"I don't know why I have to do this," Cellie began to weep. "I want out, and for Will, too." She was losing her fix on his emotions---his being seemingly vanished in a massive violet-blue cloud. The sensation that had plagued her when she used to go into Jeremiah's room had taken Willie's place in his own brain.

 

"Jeremiah's already firmly entrenched, and if we stop now, he may not

 

emerge, at least, not without inflicting further damage," Barnabas said firmly. "I'm sorry, Cellie, this was not my choice, but Jeremiah's. Sarah, I'm sure, also guards Willie. She won't let him come to harm, and she may have other resources to call upon, if there's trouble. She just couldn't insure the baby's safety, while your mind was occupied. Unborn children are receptive to more influences, than adults."

 

"I'm sorry it isn't me," David said. "I hate to see Willie suffer like that."

 

"I suffered at Barnabas's hands, far more than your Willie." Cellie stared at her husband. He spoke in his voice, but with confidence, and in polished tones, with a little bit of an accent, like Barnabas's. "At least he allowed him to live with his wife." Willie gazed at Cellie as though he recognized her, not as an intimate companion, but as one might acknowledge an acquaintance.

 

Barnabas said, "Uncle Jeremiah, we were close friends once. Our age difference was small enough, that I almost considered you a brother. It was Angelique's fault that you married Josette, and that I was incited into dueling with you. And she goaded Josette into taking her own life."

 

"I know all about Angelique, Barnabas. I know her well, as she travels about, making her amends for all her sins. She was not all to blame. If you hadn't used her, and betrayed her in the first instance--"

 

"I'm aware of my shortcomings, and my attitudes."

 

"But you don't get it, Barnabas. You didn't acknowledge, until the last hour of her life, that you were meant to be together all along."

 

"She hurt so many, in her efforts to prove it. What was I to do? Ignore her crimes completely?"

 

"If you hadn't fought so hard, nephew, all that would not have come to pass. It was grievously wrong of her. But you treated her feelings like a pebble casually cast into a pond. When that happens, one causes more changes than just the ripples on the surface of the water."

 

"One of her pebbles caused you to elope with a woman you barely knew, let alone loved. My fiancee."

 

"Perhaps Angelique's witchcraft caused me to become aware of Josette, but I while I was confused and guilty over how we were driven to elope, in my lasthours, I began to think it possible that I might love her, if I survived our duel--- that's one of the reasons I held back from shooting, and hoped that you'd also reconsider. She WAS my type of woman, though I had simply believed up till then that you and I had similar tastes in that area. And, even though Josette was also under the spell, during the days we spent together, she was genuinely tender and affectionate. She nursed me well when I lay wounded, and whispered words of loving encouragement, though she was also distracted about YOU. Of course she felt guilty also, but I believe if we'd had more time, she would have come around to truly loving me as well."

 

Barnabas's reply reflected a still-potent jealousy that had survived almost 200 years, though its purpose was long since lost. "THAT is wishful thinking on your part, I'm almost sorry to say. Josette DID return to me after your death, willing to share my fate."

 

"NOT all THAT willing in the end, Barnabas. Dare you prate to ME of wishful thinking! But that is not the only reason I despise you now. How can I rest, knowing that you would dare to have a child, when you robbed me of my own?"

 

"You had no children, Uncle. Not with your first wife---"

 

"Laura. That fire-loving creature. You were just a boy on a journey with your father, so we thought it best not to tell you....Laura and I WERE to have a child, but she--she lost it. That was just as well, in view of what happened to her."

 

David gasped. Cellie feared he would break the circle. She suddenly remembered, what little she knew of his own mother, also named Laura, who also had a bizarre love of the flames, and who had disappeared. "Hold on," she whispered to him. "This isn't about your mom, exactly." David relaxed.

 

"And none with your second," Barnabas continued. "You were only married a short time. A VERY short time!"

 

"It doesn't take all that long, nephew," Willie-Jeremiah smirked. "I told you, she was tender to me, and we were together. Completely. A number of times! When I arrived on the 'other side', I found out. She had conceived, the last time, just before we returned to Collinwood."

 

"She never said anything to anyone, not even her aunt," Barnabas said, astounded at the revelation. "If I had only known.... "

 

"Would that have stopped you, Barnabas, what with the state you were in?

 

I doubt it. But you see, she barely knew herself. In her distress, she may have missed the signs, and then you corrupted her with your foul kisses, and made it harder for her to tell. Another week or two, perhaps.... but she never had that week or two. Even though you came back in time, to change the fact, it didn't work anyway. She didn't fall from Widow's Hill, but the poison she took was just as effective. My beloved wife, and the future of my family. My family! And now, you would even take her mementoes away. For she doesn't come to me any longer. As time went on, we became bound to this house, and in this room, we would meet, occasionally, as loving friends. When you came back, she went away." Willie began to cry.

 

It was obvious now, to Cellie, why Jeremiah had chosen her husband as his mouthpiece. There was a point of identification between the lost souls of Willie and Jeremiah, both victimized by Barnabas, and both of whom had lost their loves and their unborn children, because of him. In Willie's case, the loss had been temporary, but he had to live with the memories of his other misadventures at Barnabas's hands.

 

"What can we do, to bring her back?" she asked Jeremiah. "And what of the baby's soul?"

 

"The baby's soul, once it was cleansed of the corruption Barnabas had brought upon it, went to replenish that of another unfortunate child, who lay dying at the same instant. That sometimes happens. Those who die, young and innocent, have options open to them, that are not available to adults. That is fine with me. I will not quarrel with the fact that my child's existence did not go to waste, even though, when his host died eighty years later, my son didn't recognize me when he arrived on this side. But Josette--- once she observed the goings-on in her room and gave up on Barnabas, she went away. Find her, or send me to where she is, and you will have peace."

 

"How will we know where she is?" Cellie inquired.

 

"You will find her with her unfinished work. You must guess where it is. It is not in Bangor."

 

"I accept the challenge. I will find the work. What kind of work? Needlework?"

 

"Josette was fond of petit-point tapestry work," Barnabas said. "We must search the attics, anywhere. We'll find it."

 

"You won't be able to live in this house, or get your wife with child, until you do," Willie-Jeremiah threatened. "Don't wrack your brain too much, nephew. Happy searching. It should take your mind off what you were about to do, last night." He laughed at Barnabas and Julia's reddened faces. The laughter trailed off. Willie looked around the table wildly, and then collapsed, his face landing on Cellie's arm.

 

They broke the circle, and everyone gathered around as Cellie shook her husband. "Wake up, hon, snap out of it. Everything's going to be all right. It's Cecily. I love you. Please wake up."

 

Julia checked him over quickly. "This has happened to other people after they've been the channels for spirits. But his own persona seems to have been buried too deeply. Perhaps it's because of his brain damage." She searched in her medical bag, which she'd brought, ironically enough, in case anything happened to Cellie.

 

"He didn't even want anything to do with this! He was here to protect me! It's all my fault," Cellie mourned. "My love, wake up...." Her voice took on a hysterical edge. "Sarah," she called, "Make him wake up!" She was crying. She put his limp hand on her belly. The baby moved. Willie's eyes opened. He appeared to recognize his wife. Cellie sensed the red glow of his affection returning. She kissed him. "Look at that, hon. You were so worried about me. And now I'm worried about you."

 

" 'Sall right, Cec'ly. Feels like a hangover. Please, drive me home. I gotta lay down, on our bed, with you watchin' me. My angel watchin' over me. Tha's my Cec'ly. My girl. An' my baby. Two angels, looking out for old Willie."

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

 

Cellie sat on the bed next to her husband, who now slept, heavily but normally, as though he had, indeed, had too much to drink. David, who had come to the Antique Shoppe with them, to help her get Willie upstairs, sat on a chair in the corner, watching her. "Come on downstairs, Torchtop," he whispered. "I doubt Willie will notice you're gone."

 

Cellie stroked Willie's hair. "He might have a bad dream from this. He needs me when that happens."

 

"What's going to happen when you have that baby, Cellie? It sounds like you've already got a big baby on your hands."

 

Cellie looked downcast. "We just made a miscalculation this time. He doesn't get possessed every day, you know."

 

"That can be tough, even on the sturdiest constitution. It happened to me a couple of times."

 

"I don't think Will has a sturdy constitution anymore. I worry about whatmay happen in the future, when he gets all the health problems most older people get." She got up from the bed, and drew her friend onto the landing.

 

"Now, why did you suddenly want to leave Willie's side?" David asked.

 

"I don't want him to hear me talk about his death."

 

"Oh, Cellie, he's not going to die, not for a long, long time."

 

Cellie began to sniffle. "You don't know that," she admonished. "After all he's been through.... and now, this happens. I really don't think he's going to have a long life, even if he's very careful. I don't know how he gets through the day."

 

David held her as she cried. "He has a very good reason. You. Torchtop, if this was last year, or even a couple of months ago, I would be as pessimistic as you are now. It's okay to be concerned, I mean, it's no secret, he's a lot older than you, but don't get carried away. Willie's going to live long enough to chase your wheelchair around with his wheelchair. You're just under a strain, and your condition is working on you. Don't make that face at me, Cellie. You, too, are vulnerable to mood-swings, like other ordinary mortal pregnant women. That's no problem. As long as I'm around, you can take time out to go to pieces." He swayed with her, as if they were dancing. "Here's something to keep your brain busy. Remember, it's now your job to find Josette's unfinished work."

 

"It can't be as simple as finding some tacky piece of unfinished embroidery."

 

"It isn't. I've been in and out of this place since I was six, and I've dug up every piece of work there was, and it's all finished, right down to the Scarlet Letters. We Collinses have earned just about every one, from A to Z." When David saw that he'd gotten Cellie to smile, he continued, "Jeremiah must have meant something else, something Josette should have done, but never got a chance to. Maybe to say good-bye to someone."

 

"She said good-bye to Barnabas. He told me she released him from his attachment to her. And she sat at Jeremiah's deathbed, so HE's covered."

 

"It's almost too much to believe, that Barnabas was around back then, and that he was--was--- I've learned to tell myself that Barnabas is very eccentric. I saw him doing some pretty wierd stuff, but--"

 

"Believe it. That's why things worked out as they did, and why my Will is the way he is, and why I'm afraid for him." She broke from her friend's embrace, and sat on the stairs. David sat next to her, leaning against the bannister, away from her. She looked him in the eye. "David, you can't tell me you've never even suspected the whole truth. You said you heard Barnabas and Will doing something in the mausoleum, and you claim you blocked it out."

 

"Not entirely. Sarah got me to look in the empty casket they were keeping there, and I had to spend some time in it, but I didn't know what to make of that. Then there was the day I thought I saw him getting out of the open coffin, when he had it at the Old House. He scared the curiosity out of me that day. I blocked that out better than everything else, to save my hide. In the back of my mind, though, I always knew, even though the part about his real age was difficult to accept. Sort of a Collins instinct, you might say. So is denial."

 

"But you wouldn't ever have turned Barnabas in, or even Will, either."

 

"Of course I wanted to, at first---I thought Barnabas would get me. But Willie--- Hell, no. I'm not sure even Barnabas could have gotten him to do me in. It made me sad, when they shot him and locked him up, because I had it on the very best authority that he wasn't the one who kidnapped Maggie that time."

 

"Whose authority was that? Oh, right. Sarah's."

 

David continued, "The interesting thing is, that a short time after Maggie came back home, Barnabas began to change some, mellowed out.... Almost as if he got religion, if someone like that could get 'born again.' It was like he was trying to prove he was okay, deep down inside. He still had his, ah, moments, but in a few months, he was almost friendly, you know, benign. So, in a way, you're right, by then I wouldn't have turned him in, because by then I didn't want to. Another family tendency, defending our own at almost any cost. Did I ever tell you about how I almost killed my father?"

 

"You did WHAT!"

 

"You heard me. I was only ten, but I knew what I was doing, at least, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

 

"Christ! What would make killing your father seem like a good idea, at that, or any other time? I mean, I'm still angry at my Dad for sending me away, and I had to--to 'zap' him so he wouldn't clobber Will, but I know why he was so mad at me. I would never, ever--- What did Roger do to you that made you think up such a thing?"

 

"I didn't have a warm and fuzzy childhood to look back on, like you did, Torchtop, to prevent me from thoughts of harming my father. My father never wanted me, at least, that's how he acted, the first ten years of my life."

 

"Why on earth not? You're his only child. Even if he didn't get along with your Mother, he did keep you and raise you after she was hospitalized."

 

"He had nothing to do with that decision. My Aunt Elizabeth insisted on keeping me here. That's where the official denial comes in. See, just before he married my mother, my father went out with her and her previous boyfriend, got wasted with them, and plowed into some poor pedestrian with the boyfriend's car. Of course, being a Collins, the most logical thing was to get the other guy in trouble, and marry his girl to keep her quiet. The other man, his name was Burke Devlin, got sent to prison. When he got out, and had a few bucks under his own belt, he came back to town, trying to get at the truth. He felt sorry for me, and befriended me, and I loved him like he WAS my father."

 

"He wasn't just using you, to get back at Roger?"

 

"Maybe at first, but after a while, he really loved me, too. I used to wish he was my father. I know my father thought he was, at least, until I broke my leg two years ago, and he had an excuse to get our blood tested--- he told the doctors,there was no time like the present to get the samples, just in case they needed the information for a more serious emergency later! Then, on the sly, he had the results compared to Burke's prison medical records. He was dead by that time, in a plane crash, so he couldn't object. I'm a Collins, alright. Anyway, you might imagine there was quite a bit of bad blood, if you'll pardon the expression, between my father, whom I thought I hated, and Burke. I resented everything my dad did to me, my mother, and Burke. So, one night, when I knew he was going out, I removed a crucial part from the brake system of his new car. He was going down Widow's Hill Road, and rolled down the gully. Not all the way, of course. He lived, after all."

 

"Damn it, David, that 'gully' is about a hundred feet deep. You must have been one sick puppy, to want that to happen to anyone, let alone your Dad."

 

"I admit I was, okay? Well, when Vicky found out what I'd done, she told my aunt, and my father. He was all for turning me in, sending me away, whatever. The sheriff at the time investigated Burke, and a few others who had it in for my father. But Burke and my Aunt understood what I was going through, so they covered for me, and even Vicky went along with it, when she came to understand, too. They gave a bull story to the sheriff about the part falling off the car by itself, which he believed in about as much as he believed in Santa Claus, I'm sure, but he let it go. And my father came to agree. Later, when Burke got to the truth about his case, he'd already been through a lot with my family, and me, and Vicky, because he was seeing her by then, so he chose to let it go. So you see, Collinses of a feather stick together, and that goes for family friends and retainers, like Vicky and Burke. And now, you."

 

"Was that the best thing for you, Muffinhead? You didn't have to get treatment or anything, did you? You never tried something like that again, I trust?"

 

"I don't know if it was best, but I love my aunt, and she helped me out, and Vicky, and Burke, and Carolyn, after we started getting along. My father, well, he didn't come around until I was saved from that burning shack. I kind of love him now, I guess. As for seeing a shrink, well, at that time, my aunt was kind of hung up on keeping things quiet. That kind of thing was fine for my mother, but, for a Collins, it was like, okay, you did something, but as long as you don't do it again, get over it yourself somehow. Oddly enough, she was willing enough to call one in, the next year, after I went around trying to tell what I thought I knew about Barnabas. He rated more highly with her, than myself and my father, I guess. I didn't want to get sent away, or maybe killed, so I made an effort to block all that out, too."

 

He continued, "I did try to hurt my father one more time, but I was possessed, like Willie, when that happened. Since then, the only time I didn't get along with my father was when you were first sent away. You know, Torchtop," David said, with a rueful smile, "I don't even know if he was madder because I helped you see Willie, or because he had hopes I'd get caught with you myself. If I had, he might have congratulated me, instead. It was my aunt who had all the moral objections."

 

"Oh, David, that's a lot of bullchips. I can't imagine your Dad wanting to think of himself as someone's grandfather, while he's still in what he believes tobe the flower of his youth." Both she and David laughed at that remark.

 

"You've got that right, Cellie. But if my aunt has her way, she'll have me signed, sealed, and delivered to some well-bred, fertile Myrtle by the time I'm twenty-one." He sighed. "I would prefer she was a fertile Myrtle of your choosing, Torchtop. No nibbles yet? It's not as though I'm not trying, myself, but you have an edge."

 

"I think Annette would still go back with you, if you tried to be a little more forthcoming with her, Muffinhead. You don't have to tell her all your swell family secrets, unless you ended up marrying her. But I talked to her the other day, and she's a lot more understanding about your other problems, than she used to be. And if it doesn't work out," Cellie smiled mischievously, "There's always Adele. She'll wait for you."

 

David turned beet-red. "Cut it out, Torchtop. She's just a little kid."

 

"Compared to the age difference between Will and myself, four years is practically nothing."

 

"Compared to the age difference between your aunt and Barnabas, it's way less than zero, but we're living here and now, at the same time. We really don't have anything in common. She sends me notes on perfumed stationery with little pictures of kittens and angels printed on the top! It's just too cute for words."

 

"I hope you don't write anything mean to her, David. She's the sweetest, most inoffensive pre-teeny-bopper who ever lived, and that's counting what Hallie must have been like at her age."

 

"Nothing like the hell-cat you must have been, Cellie." Cellie poked David in the side. He squirmed. "Sorry, pal. Don't worry, I discourage my number-one fan as gently as possible. She is a nice kid, really. But can you imagine if we ever did get together? My father would have kittens, himself. And, sweet as she is, Adele looks like her mother, who in turn, looks like you-know-who. I don't care if I marry a raving beauty, unless it was you, but a girl who looks like Willie--- I don't know."

 

Cellie said, softly, "I might have a girl, and she might look like her father."

 

"Oh, damn, I really did it this time, " David said in a tone of abject apology. "I'm sorry, Cecily, I didn't mean it the way it sounds. Adele is kind of cute, and if you have a girl, and she looks like Good Old Willie, she'll be the prettiest god-daughter I could ever hope to have."

 

"I'll accept your apology, for what it's worth," Cellie said. "Wait, I just realized something. That's the first time you ever called me by my real name. I guess you really meant it." She took her friend's hand. "Let's get back to the Josette question. If we're not looking for stitchery, what are we looking for? To whom was she obligated, by that time?"

 

"I think we'll have to do some homework. You'll have to pump Barnabas for information. I'm sure he and your aunt are running around, distracted, trying to think of something. That Jeremiah was one mean customer, bringing up their, ah, love life like that. Your aunt is has to be the bravest person I know, next to you, wanting to have Barnabas's kid."

 

"But maybe, not the smartest, again, just like me, I guess. I hope it works out. But we have to get the answer, or Jeremiah won't give them a rest. I'll look in the books I have, but, David, I think it's time for you to make another trip to the library. You know what library I mean."

 

"I hope our invisible friend dusts off the right books again, like he or she did the last time. I wonder if it's the Indian."

 

"If he knows how to read, and he wants to communicate with me somehow, that would be a good way, but the last books concerned Barnabas's story, with which, if he's the same Indian I believe him to be, he had no connection."

 

"And whom do you believe him to be?"

 

"Well, after researching about Native Americans in the seventeenth century, I think he may have been one of the victims of a massacre in 1643, perpetrated by your ancestor Isaac's brother, Nathaniel. Arabella's husband. Will and I were at the State park last week, and the remnants of the Indian fort are there, along with an appropriately indignant memorial plaque. That's just about three miles, up the coast. Ever been there?"

 

"Not yet. You'll have to show me," he replied. "See, that's a new State Park. They just opened it about three years ago. It was part of some property previously owned by an old spinster, Keziah, the last survivor of the Henderson family to live around here."

 

"I suppose she knew she had a massacre site on her property?"

 

"She flaunted it, according to my Aunt Elizabeth, who knew her. See, the Hendersons had a strain of the original Abnaki blood in their family. I don't know how much she knew about the Collins connection, but she apparently didn't hold it against my aunt. In fact, Aunt Elizabeth said, Keziah would look at her like she felt sorry for her in some way."

 

"Maybe old Keeze knew all about what happened between your aunt and her husband."

 

"To hear Aunt Elizabeth tell it, it was more than just that. She'd say, 'Keziah acts like she has knowledge older than time.' Of course, she was like, eighty-five or so, by then. Still, Keziah was the only person outside the family with whom my aunt would actually have social visits, while she was keeping herself stuck on the estate. The Henderson place borders the Collins estate near the Old House, and my aunt was able to walk almost right up to Keziah's doorstep, without crossing the border of Collinwood. The house is still there, but nobody's lived in it since then."

 

"I'd like to see it. Maybe the house is part of the mystery."

 

"Could be. Part of the Henderson house is older than the oldest part of Barnabas's house, built way before 1700. There's also supposed to be an Indian graveyard, probably in the park itself, close to that fort, but it's unmarked."

 

"How much you want to bet it's under the baseball diamond?" Cellie sounded angry. "That seems to be a popular place to put something so irreverent. Of course, it's always a coincidence, and yet the white folks couldn't possibly put their structures somewhere else. Part of their damned arrogance, as if killing the Indians wasn't enough."

 

"They found a small Indian cemetery when they built the cannery, back around 1900," David said. "And you know, they've had more fires and accidents in that part of the plant, than in the whole rest of the place put together."

 

"Where did they put the skeletons?"

 

"Some went to the anthropology department at some university, and the rest were lumped together, and buried in the town cemetery, with a nice plaque on a marble tree-stump. Nothing in Eagle Hill, if that's what you were thinking."

 

"That's a relief. I can only stand one Eagle Hill mystery at a time. This 'unfinished work' business may be connected to there, I'm beginning to think."

 

"Well, I'll get back to Collinwood, and start prowling around the West Wing. If Barnabas is there, he'll probably want to have a look in that room."

 

David and Cellie fell silent when they heard Willie turn in the creaky bed, muttering his wife's name. Cellie rose, and went back into the bedroom. David stood on the thresh-hold, listening.

 

"Cecily, where were you?" Willie sounded frightened. "I thought you were going to stay with me."

 

"I was just outside the door, Will. I had to talk with David, about the seance, and how I'm going to solve the problem."

 

"I don't want you to have anything to do with it. Look what happened to me."

 

"I know. But I'm under protection, remember? Besides, Jeremiah's not really mad at us, and he won't be bothering you again, I'm sure. I want to do this. It'll give me something to do with my mind, now that I'm almost done with my schoolwork."

 

"You were supposed to help me with mine, remember? That was part of our deal."

 

"I'll have plenty of time for that. I'm just going to do a lot of reading, at first. Don't worry, I'll be careful." She kissed him. Willie pulled Cellie down on the bed.

 

"Okay, okay," he said. "Boy, am I hungry right now. But, you know, I can't tell if I'm hungrier for food, or for something else."

 

"David's still out there," Cellie whispered. She got up, and walked to the door. David was gone. She heard the kitchen door close quietly. "We're alone, I guess." She sat on the bed again. "I love you, hon. I was worried to death before. You're really okay, aren't you?"

 

"Of course I am. I'm sorry I was mad at you when I woke up." Willie

 

reached up to his wife. She leaned over him. The baby moved when Cellie brushed against her husband's side. Willie pulled his wife close to him. As she unbuttoned his shirt and kissed his shoulder, he gazed into the space beyond her. Cellie sensed that Willie was becoming both sad, and afraid, but he tried to keep his anxiety at bay, by losing himself in what they were doing.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

 

A few days went by. When the Shoppe closed, Cellie sat with Willie after dinner, finishing the remainder of her schoolwork, and reading the books David had located for her. "You should have seen Barnabas's face when I showed him how they were right there, dusted off, nice as you please," David said.) The book she was reading concerned the French nobility who left the country themselves prior to the Revolution.

 

Willie was going to school only one night a week on the summer schedule (which had started the first week of June), and he sat across the table from his wife, doing his own homework. Every now and then, just to get Cellie's attention, he would deliberately make a mistake. Then she would sit on his lap and correct his paper. She knew what he was up to, of course. But she was weary of trying to figure out a solution to Jeremiah's challenge, and almost welcomed the distraction.

 

"I don't see why you should fret so much about it, Cecily. Everything's back to normal." Willie rocked his wife a little on his lap. Cellie put his paper back on the table. She clung to him, feeling a little sleepy.

 

"Aunt Jule and Barnabas aren't back in the Old House yet," she reminded him. "I think they're feeling a little cramped in Abijah's Cottage." Abijah had been the name of the Abolitionist Collins who'd built the tiny place near the Old House, the cottage Barnabas had been restoring, for Cellie's and Willie's possible residence. "Still, it's a good thing they had the place ready."

 

"Good thing they're getting some use out of it. I sure don't want to live there. I know you did, though."

 

"I just wanted some place away from work, with a living room, and comfy

 

chairs that didn't come from some Victorian cathouse."

 

"We'd almost never see it, with the hours we put in here. I prefer being right here in town, anyway, close to everything, the store, the doctor� That's okay for Barnabas and Julia, he likes that life anyway, and she likes stuff quiet after spending the day with the wack cases. It can get pretty hairy with some of those people, I can tell you. I was easy to handle compared to some of them."

 

"Still, hon, it's not the same as being in one's own home."

 

"This is our home. When you're here, it's home enough for me."

 

"Honest, I feel the same way about being with you. This'll do for us, for a while. I meant, for my aunt and uncle. They need to be in the Old House, you know?"

 

"They'll call the Professor in, and he'll know what to do," Willie said, reassuringly.

 

"Maybe.... wait! I think I know what I could do, to get at the solution. I was telling David, maybe the answer is in Eagle Hill." Cellie was wide awake now.

 

"Oh, no, I don't want you out there again, for a while," he said.

 

"Well, I don't think I have to actually go there, not yet, anyway. But I haveto talk to the Professor. He has all those diaries of his ancestor, Barnabas's first servant, Ben Stokes. Ben was his friend, also, you recall."

 

"That always gets me. How could anyone see Barnabas as he was, and still choose to help him, without Barnabas having done something to him, first? He never got to your aunt, either, like that, anyway, and she went along with everything."

 

Cellie rested her head on his shoulder. "I guess they saw something special in him, apart from what he became. Barnabas was a good man, once, but he made mistakes, like everyone else. Unfortunately, he made them with the wrong kind of woman. He's trying to be a good man now. Like you. But Ben knew him before all the bad things happened. And he knew Josette. I'll bet his journals hold some clue as to this piece of unfinished work, or unfinished business, that Josette is supposedly trying to complete."

 

"Well, call the Professor in the morning, then. And I know you've been missing Hallie, since you've come home from Collinwood. If you want to spend the rest of the day with her, I don't mind."

 

"I hope she'll be up to it, after the Senior Prom tonight. It was nice of David to go with her. I know she'd rather it was Paul. It was sweet of him to write to tell her she ought to go, with a friend."

 

"Cecily, you're not sorry you can't go, are you?"

 

"No, not particularly. I'm not a gown-and-heels-and-beehive hairdo kind of girl, I guess. It was funny, when I walked by the beauty parlor this afternoon, to see all the class slobs getting their hair set. And I'm sure the blue jeans crowd packed Matheson's formal department this week." She sighed wistfully.

 

"I'll take you out this Saturday night, and make it up to you that way. We have to get out a little more, before the baby comes. And when you see Hallie, you'll have to tell me what else Paul's been writing to her these days. I kind of wish he would write to us, too, but he wasn't that close with me, naturally, and between Hallie and Fran, it's probably all he can do to keep up with that, and what he's supposed to be doing."

 

"Stuck guarding other Americans who ought to be leaving already," Cellie said bitterly. " Marching through jungles, slogging through swamps, dodging bullets and grenades....What a life. But I'm proud of how Hallie is taking all this. I guess I brought her up right. It would be wonderful if she and Paul ended up married. He has to get through this. Hallie's lost so many important people in her life already. And Paul is a special guy. He must take after you, hon."

 

"I don't see how. I only helped take care of him a short while before I left Vermont, and then there's the fact that---well, never mind about that."

 

Cellie took a chance. "He's not your father's child. I guessed that, almost as soon as I met him."

 

Willie sighed. "You're too smart for your own good sometimes, Cecily."

 

"Don't get upset, hon. I'm sure your Mom was driven beyond endurance. Maybe she was madly in love with the other man. I'm just sorry the other guy couldn't have hung in there and taken over where your Dad left off."

 

"She had five other kids! Even after she sent Fran to live with the Maraceks, that's how Fran met Steve, and I took off, there were still the others, at least until they were fostered out. If my Dad didn't want us, then the other guy sure didn't. I only saw him once. His first name was George, I think, but I never knew his last name. He worked in her department at the mill. He was no better than my Dad, really, in the end. When my Dad found out, he waited till I was out somewhere, and whupped my Mom around. By the time I got back, he was gone. And then, when George what he'd have to live with, HE was gone. I tried to help my Mom, I really did, but I was already pretty busy, doing all that really great stuff you know all about."

 

Cellie clutched at her husband with all her might, to forestall his seething anger. She caught his eye, but he kept looking away. She released him, and rose from his lap, a little fearfully. "I'm going upstairs, Will," she announced in her calmest voice. "When you feel better, you can join me. Just don't wreck anything."

 

He grabbed her arm, and swung her around to face him, but she was ready. He let her arm go, and yelped with pain, grabbing his stomach.

 

She began to cry. "I don't want to do it, I don't want to...."