The Wind Whispers Her Name
Diary Entry (mid July)
Old ‘war wound’ playing up. Damned horse. Hasn’t bothered me some time.
Probably all the walking. Not used to it. Maybe hire bike. Wonder if motorbike in
garden can be resurrected? Visited chemist. Offered painkillers. Must get downto serious writing. Get blasted book finished and go home.
Kenneth set off up the hill, the steep slope he had assumed led to higher ground on his first visit to the monastery. But he was not on his way to the Prophet Elias as recommended on the Classical Tour. He was on a more personal mission. The previous day Mrs Eleni had noticed the limp. She had pointed, raised her eyebrows and inclined her head to one side. In answer to her question he had, feeling rather foolish, mimed riding a horse, even giving a quiet abashed neigh. He was thankful the friends with whom he had once ridden to hounds could not see him, nor was it likely they would ever hear of this embarrassing performance. He then mimed a fall, stopping short of actually falling to the floor as being below his dignity. He grimaced as though in great pain, then demonstrated an exaggerated limp. Mrs Eleni nodded.
‘Nai, Ioanna, her help you, how you call her? Wish woman…’
‘Nai nai, wise woman. Her help you.’
She walked to his desk and reached for the hallowed fountain pen. Before she could pick it up Kenneth had provided her with a pencil and a sheet of note-paper. She drew a rough sketch of what was obviously the house. Rows of arrows indicated the route he should follow. Crude it may have been but it was unmistakably where she wanted him to go. X clearly marked the spot.
Kenneth stared at the map in his hand. A pathway somewhere on the left. Mrs Eleni had squiggled a wavy line to indicate the path he should take, to distinguish it from the straight line which would take him further up the hill. She had told him to look out for rising smoke or the aromatic smell of a fire. Joanna sometimes needed to prepare potions by heating ingredients. Timing his visit was crucial as the wise woman was often out early morning or late at night, optimum times for collecting, depending on what plants she required.
Kenneth wondered about Mrs Eleni crossing herself every time the name Joanna was mentioned. He was not a superstitious man, regarding all religions as irrational nonsense. This had been yet another bone of contention with his father who believed the aristocracy had a duty to support the established church, albeit lip service, setting an example to the people on his estate. Pater firmly believed in pre-ordination. Mater would attend the services but used the time to plan her own affairs, which certainly involved no organised religious group. Of the two parents Kenneth thought his mother to be the more truly spiritual.
He returned to the present with the awareness of someone singing. A sound unlike any he had ever heard. He felt drawn to the sound as Œdysseus had been drawn to Calypso. Then she was there. Appearing in his path without a sound. Frightening, but not in aspect. A strange wild beauty. For a brief moment he saw his mother again. The moment passed as the apparition morphed into a mortal being with long, straggly, black hair. His mother had been the palest of blondes. The robe this woman wore could only be described as one of which Joseph himself would have been proud. It flowed down to the ground barely hiding the bare feet.
‘Why have you come?’
The voice was non-threatening, without emotion.
Her approach had silenced Kenneth, a man never at a loss in the English language. He stood transfixed as the figure circled him. He felt her hands placed gently on his shoulders. Hands that were cool through his cotton shirt but an increasing intensity of warmth emanated from them, releasing tension from taut muscles.
‘You mustn’t spend so long sitting, looking down. Stand every thirty minutes, stretch. That will release your tension.’ So even she’s heard I’m a writer was Kenneth’s cynical thought.
‘Why have you come?’
Again without inflection. The hands remained and the warmth washed over him, comforting as though he were back in the nursery in the safety of his nanny’s arms. Without moving he explained the event responsible for the recurring, painful limp. As he did so he found himself reliving it. The gathering of the landed gentry, the ritual of the stirrup cup, the baying of the hounds pulling on their leashes, eager to be free to pursue their prey, the call of the horn with its differing signals, the thrill of the chase and then the fall. A hedge taken successfully many times. No-one knew what had caused his horse to shy at the last moment. He could hear the crack of the bone, feel the pain. He became aware of the woman speaking.
‘This I can help, but I ask you again. Why have you come?’
The hands were removed and he turned to face this lady. ‘I…’
‘You are troubled in mind. I can give you oils to help the physical pain but I cannot heal your soul.’
Another voice. Its owner appeared behind the woman. Straggly hair, even longer than his mother’s, with a beard that made Kenneth think of a young Merlin, the image being enhanced by the dun-coloured tunic reaching to the youth’s knees. He too was bare-foot.
‘Are you all right? Is everything OK?’
‘I am. It is, my son. This man is no danger to us. Only to himself.’
The man stared unblinkingly at Kenneth, turned and disappeared whence he came.
‘Wait here. I will return shortly with the potion.’
She mentioned a meagre payment and refused the extra Kenneth proffered. As Kenneth retraced his steps down the slope he was troubled by this woman’s parting words.
‘She can never be yours. There is only one for her.’
‘She is wrong. I can make her mine. I will…’
He spoke the words out loud. And the wind whispered her name.
There had been no arrangement to meet but she saw him sitting alone outside Kostas’, waved, went into the bar and returned with her drink to ask if she might join him. He automatically rose as she sat and saw her smile at this politeness. Was she mocking him again?
‘I hear you’ve been seeking supernatural help?’
Was there nothing private on this island?
‘One would hardly call it supernatural. Just someone with knowledge of the power of nature and its goodness, utilising it for the benefit of others. I believe, in common parlance, a white witch.’
‘One which would have been burned at the stake only a few hundred years ago.’
‘And did it help… your problem, or was it problems?’
Kenneth thought he could be as arcane as this woman, though perhaps she wasn’t deliberately so.
‘She made some interesting observations. I think she is very perceptive, good at reading people - apart from her knowledge of the healing qualities of plants.’
‘And did you meet her son?’
‘Yes, I did. Briefly. He seemed very protective of his mother. Some sort of apprentice, one presumes.’
‘Yes. She also has a daughter, but she left. Said her mother was as mad as a hatter and her brother was going the same way. Think she’s travelling... somewhere.’
They sat in silence for some time. She rose.
‘Must get the shopping in before the shops close.’
Kenneth wanted her to stay, to come home with him.
‘Oh, quite. Thank you for your company.’