My appreciation goes to all the friends who have written comments on Facebook or Chapter 4. Your positive feedback has kept me motivated. Thank you so much for your patience, and some have asked if they would see Albert soon. The answer is yes. 🙂 Hope you like the new chapter to “A man in love”. 😍 If you do, please write me a few words. Thank you! 😘
— Ms Puddle
“Master William!” my old housekeeper, Mrs. Evans, squeals with surprise and joy. “Good morning!”
What time is it? It’s quarter past eight! Why is he here? Didn’t he tell me to pick him up at ten today?
As the heavy front door is closed with a thud, I hear his voice, “Ciamar a tha thu?”
He sounded happy and upbeat. She also answers in Gaelic, calling him a gorgeous-looking laddie. Their hearty laughter then fills my house. He may be giving her a hug or planting a peck on the cheek. At any rate, the arrival of the unexpected visitor catches me off guard. I’m in my study, working on some documents. I brought them home yesterday because I anticipated that I’d be out of office most of the time today to wait on my young master.
Then realization hits me. He misses my housekeeper too. She was actually the nanny of my benefactor. Her husband was hired to be one of the patrols in the vast property. When she reached her mid-forties, a Scottish woman like her was strong enough to take care of Rosemary and later little Master William. However, weeks after Madam Elroy took over the household, the nanny, newly widowed and childless, reckoned it was time to retire. Nevertheless, as a way to remain tied with the Ardlays, she asked if she could be my housekeeper until she became too weak to work. Hence, for the past two years, Mrs. Evans has been praying steadfastly for the young heir, hanging on to the hope that God would protect him, and he would eventually come home.
Yesterday, when I returned near midnight, I felt bad that she had been waiting for me, worried about my safety. The moment she saw me at the door, she exclaimed, “Good grief! Georges, what’s the matter? Your face is pale like a sheet of paper!”
I sincerely apologized. I should have informed her ahead of time. Feeling sorry, I told her I’d got lots on my plate now that Master William had re-appeared. Needless to say, she couldn’t contain her emotions, praising God nonstop. However, I only gave her a brief summary, that the young master had lost his memory and been living with a friend who provided a shelter to him. I figured, if I could barely handle the astonishment of who that friend was, the old woman would have fainted if I had disclosed more than necessary.
For the time being, I hastily wrap up my work and go directly to the kitchen. I know the good old nanny too well. Without a doubt she must have dragged Master William there so that she can cook something for him. As expected, when I show up, my master immediately turns his attention to me and beseeches playfully, “Georges, help! Convince her that I’m actually full!”
The nanny wastes no time and continues speaking Scottish to him, so fast that I have troubles comprehending it, but Master William manages to converse with her, no sweat. His Gaelic is fluent and clear, and he explains endearingly with his hands firmly on her shoulders that he cooked a scrumptious breakfast this morning, so he has no more room in his stomach at the moment. Speaking as his personal assistant all these years, I’m still touched by his warm attitude towards his nanny. As far as I know, he’s never condescending to the household staff, and I recall his aunt has chided him more than once because of that. He is a bit too tenderhearted to her liking, just like his deceased father.
Meanwhile, watching how the nanny nags the master like a doting grandmother and how much he adores her but stands his ground, I hide my amusement and determine not to get involved. I pour myself a cup of black coffee and unhurriedly pull a chair from the kitchen table. Sitting down comfortably, I pretend to leaf through the morning papers. Oblivious to Master William, I’m observing him as objectively as possible in light of what I have learned of his private life. While the shock that he has been living together with Miss Candice all this time has not yet worn off, I must admit short hair really suits him. Dressed in his casual outfit, cotton black pants and a striped shirt, he can be easily mistaken for a lad in the working class, but undoubtedly an incredibly charming one. Not only he seems rejuvenated, his smiling blue eyes also sparkle like never before; not to mention his ruddy complexion and vivacious manner make him appear much younger than his age. Above all, he wears the same contented smile from yesterday, something which rarely occurred in his youth when I was practically with him every day then. In short, his face is alight with bliss.
Does this imply he’s satisfied in life, at least for now?
Moreover, I wonder if one’s language ability is unaffected by amnesia. Has Miss Candice ever suspected that her patient friend might be a Scottish? I guess that depends on whether she understands Gaelic at all. Besides, did Master William say he cooked this morning? Does he do that everyday? Or does he take turns with Miss Candice? The more I ponder over this kind of nitty-gritty details of their daily lives, the more worried I get about the nature of their relationship, especially because he’d rather continue living with her, for who knows how much longer.
This explains why I dread the moment when the matriarch finds out about any of this. She may probably have a heart attack. On the other hand, I have a hunch my master will not inform his aunt yet. Why? Because I can’t shake away the feeling that Miss Candice is more than a friend to Master William. As a matter of fact, what happened last night after I left the hospital is worth mentioning. It definitely isn’t something one will go through every night. First of all, I forgot how long it took me to recollect myself after I made the shocking discovery in the parking lot. While I mulled over the events of the day, sitting behind the steering wheel, I was bombarded by all kinds of doubts and puzzlements. I scratched my head, trying to trace back to the time when my master related to me about his decision to adopt. He hadn’t revealed a word to me about his encounter with Miss Candice, so I could only assume he had somehow appeared to her incognito. If she had known his real identity, she would have informed us when he had first appeared in the hospital as an amnesiac patient. I was following my train of thoughts, and it struck me that if only I hadn’t completely forgotten about Miss Candice, I would have saved myself from lots of anxieties and sleepless nights.
I couldn’t help shaking my head and laughing at myself in resignation. Of course, part of me was relieved that she was not associated with a guy with malicious intentions, but the other part of me sensed that what I had discovered so far was only the tip of the iceberg. I could already foresee more problems down the road; perhaps I should engage the Ardlay’s family lawyer to assist me. At the same time, I must exercise caution lest my master found out about my investigations. Truth be told, I had absolutely no desire to intrude on his privacy, but I wanted to get myself prepared in advance, like under what conditions could the adoption be annulled.
One might say I had overreacted, but I considered the following. Master William could have brought his adopted daughter home as her legal guardian, especially she just got fired, mainly because of him. Yet, it occurred to me that this wasn’t his plan at all. For instance, he didn’t even want me to meet her. He had said “until she’s ready”, but I interpreted that as “until he himself is ready”. Seriously, ready for what? Ready to come clean, to let her know that he had lied to her? Or he might have other reasons that he didn’t want me to know. Without a doubt he must be aware of his guardian role in her life now. However, his memory hadn’t returned to him till the day before yesterday, so naturally he had been regarding her as a friend all these months.
Or a companion?
What about Miss Candice? Who was he to her? What motivated her to leave the hospital’s residence and live together with him, not for a short time but more than two years?
Thus, curiosity propelled me into action. The traffic from the hospital to the House of Magnolia wasn’t bad, and when I arrived, I wondered if my master was home, getting himself ready for his comeback. Was he winding down for the night? Anyway, it was long after dusk; only about a dozen of the windows were lit. After taking in the sight of the old apartment building, I had a quick bite in a nearby restaurant, imagining if this was where the young millionaire used to wash dishes in the kitchen.
Then I rambled around the quiet neighborhood, and I stumbled upon a neat city park. To my surprise, at this hour, a bit more than a handful of people, men and women of different ages, were gathering outside a near-broken house. What are these people doing here in front of a house which has seemingly been dilapidated by neglect?
Only then I saw a sign up near the rooftop, which displayed “Happy Clinic”. I could hardly believe my eyes. All of a sudden, a stout, middle-aged man burst open the door. He came out and stood at his doorstep, shrieking in exasperation, “Enough, that’s enough!”
He was poorly dressed, with visible patches on his clothes. Who’s this? The janitor?
But the onlookers started swarming forward in anticipation, against his wish. The man reacted by raising his arms in a surrender gesture and announced, “Leave me alone! I won’t tell a thing about the man who tamed the lion this afternoon!”
What? Lion? Where did the lion come from? Did they just build a new zoo in the area? If so, did a lion escape or something?
Immediately, my interest was aroused, so I approached them. At this point, a man dressed in a dark suit removed his hat in a gallant manner and began asking questions. I supposed he was a journalist, and he said at least several people behind him were witnesses. He enthusiastically implored, “Would you give me the honor? Frankly, I really want to get the details of the lion incident.”
Yet, the man from the clinic flatly refused to cooperate and turned on his heels. As he yanked the door open, he looked over his shoulder and bellowed in frustration, “I’m going to bed!” Then he slammed the door shut. It was so dark inside, but I surmised that was intentional.
The journalist shook his head and sighed with exaggeration. Rather than giving up, he turned to ask a woman instead. He took out a notebook as she gave an animated account of what she had witnessed earlier in the afternoon. According to her, a lion had escaped the circus and pounced on a pretty lady, a friend of Dr. Martin. But in a split second her handsome husband had placed himself in front of her to shield her from the lion’s claws. In spite of his ghastly wounds, he had forbidden the circus people to shoot at the lion. Miraculously, he had hypnotized the lion, which had willingly crawled back into the cage afterwards. Then the pretty lady and Dr. Martin helped the good-looking man get up on his feet, trudging towards the clinic.
Bewildered by her words, I looked down at once. Even under the dim light, I could see tiny brownish blood spots on the gravel path, especially within a foot from the front door of the clinic. I bet most of the evidence must have been smeared by now. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have believed that the poor, middle-aged man was a doctor. Moreover, I wondered if Master William would like to meet this guy who had rescued not only his wife but also the lion. The reason was simple; they had something in common, for they both cared a lot about animals’ welfare.
Right then, a tall guy corrected the woman, “Ma’am, the man is actually the lady’s big brother, not her husband. The same guy had a car accident a while ago, and I was one of the people who helped carry him to this clinic.”
“Is that right?” The woman covered her mouth in embarrassment. “I’ve always thought they were a couple, so amiable together!”
An old man guffawed, shaking his head. Then he snickered, “No, Mrs. Nolan. Adam is right. The siblings live in the apartment building next to ours, though I don’t remember their names. Sometimes I see them walking home together or going for grocery shopping.”
While the journalist was eagerly jotting down in his notebook, the woman justified, “Exactly! I’ve grown accustomed to seeing them ambling in the area, talking and laughing like newly-weds!”
But the journalist ignored her and inquired the old man, “Where do they live? Maybe I should snap a picture of the building.”
“House of Magnolia,” he answered right away. “I can show you if you like.”
What a coincidence! I thought. The journalist nodded in agreement and thanked the others for their contribution, gratefully waving his notes, “I’ll check with the editor if this is detailed enough. Good night, everyone!”
When he was leaving with the old man, the crowd dissipated in no time, so I decided to call it a night. On my way back to the car, my brain unexpectedly recalled the unpleasant smell of antiseptic emitting from Master William’s body this afternoon in my office.
“Georges?” a voice intrudes into my thoughts and jolts me back to the present. The young master looks me in the eye, obviously concerned. My mind was thousands of miles away just now, and I didn’t notice he had come, sitting right beside me. Was he talking to me?
“Are you alright?” he asks, his gaze fixed on my face. Something in his expression seems to say, “What’s wrong with Georges today?”
“I didn’t rest well,” I begin, which is actually true. I had a nightmare about a lion clamping its jaws around Master William’s throat, suffocating him. Then I was unable to fall back to sleep afterwards.
His brow begins to furrow, but I clear my throat loudly and randomly search the newspaper in my hands for a valid excuse. The title “Lion tamed by mysterious man” literally jumps off the page. The news didn’t make the headline, but the article is long enough for my advantage. Without hesitation, I point it out to him, “Nonetheless, I found this very intriguing, Sir William.”
A curious smile flashes across his handsome features. The moment he takes the newspaper from me, his eyes widen, his smile transforms into a frown, and his fingers tremble, causing the papers to shake slightly. A silence falls upon the kitchen, the only noise being the sizzling sounds from Mrs. Evans’ frying pan, but merely seconds later, Master William forcibly presses the papers down on the table and stands up so abruptly that his chair skids and sways. As I reach out to steady it, his blue eyes catch my scrutinizing gaze. Blood has drained from his face, and at that very instant, he seems to understand what’s on my mind. He then averts his eyes and walks away from me.
That confirms my suspicions. He was reckless enough to tame the lion with bare hands.
Note: When writing this chapter, I let my imagination run wild based on the Candy Candy manga. 😀
 It means “how are you?” according to http://www.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_Gaelic_for_%27How_are_you%27 Please correct me if I’m wrong. Thanks! 🙂