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Authors: Gian Bordin

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BOOK: Summer of Love
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"However, then it’s not because of us," replied Helen.

    
"Look, you young people, I don’t know whether you’ve resolved your
problem yet, but dinner’s ready. It won’t improve if we wait any longer.
Anyway, a full tummy and a glass of wine smooths things out."

 

 * * *

 

As Rose predicted, Andrew and Helen pretty quickly came to a meeting
of minds of where to go, which was neither to the south nor into the
Western Highlands. They agreed that going south directly was out, since
it meant crossing the only bridge over the Clyde at Glasgow, where,
according to Owen, two constables stood guard.

    
Helen was also in no doubt that her father wouldn’t give up that easily,
and he knew his way around the Western Highlands better than they,
undoubtedly posing the greater threat to them. On the other hand, they
figured that he would expect them to escape to England—all good
reasons for neither going south nor back into the Highlands.

    
In the end, they decided to take Rose’s suggestion and go to Greenock,
as originally planned, and catch the first boat out of there, whatever its
ultimate destination. They should make it to Greenock in one day. Rose
had them promise to look up The Irish Belle, an inn in the thick of
Greenock’s harbor, and tell Mabel O’Brien, the wife of the innkeeper,
that she sent them. They could trust her with anything. She would know
which boat to take. Andrew remembered having been in The Irish Belle
two or three times, waiting for news on ship arrivals.

    
Shortly before midnight, a sailor brought back their saddle bags and
got a one-shilling reward. Before saying goodbye to Rose a second time,
they settled their account with her. Initially, she refused to take any
money, but finally relented and accepted twenty pounds to cover the gift
for Owen, Joe’s liquor, and her own expenses.

    
Sacking bound to the horses’ hooves, Andrew and Helen sneaked out
of The White Heron shortly before one in the morning. Heeding Rose’s
advice, they followed the banks of the Clyde. Fortunately, the sky had
cleared and the northern night offered enough visibility, even without a
moon. Near the River Kelvin, Andrew went ahead on foot to reconnoiter
the approach to the narrow bridge above Partick Castle, but found no
guards stationed there. As they crossed over, they heard the rhythmic
pounding of a galloping horse slowly fade in the distance.

    
"Nobody was on or near the bridge. I’m sure of that," he wondered
aloud.

    
"Whoever it was, is riding away."

    
"And in a great hurry."

    
"You think it has anything to do with us?"

    
"I don’t know, but I think we should get away fast. Let’s remove the
sacking, so we can canter or even gallop for a while."

    
They untied the sacking, threw it into a ditch on the side of the road,
and then cantered away from Partick. Just ahead of Scotstoun, they
briefly discussed whether to cross the Clyde at the Narling Ford or not.
Somehow, both cautiously avoided getting into an argument, still feeling
bruised by their earlier spat. Since neither wanted to get wet, they quickly
agreed to stick to the original plan of crossing the Clyde by the Kilpatrick
ferry.

    
As dawn lit up the eastern horizon, they hid in a copse of oak, a
quarter mile from the ferry. Helen insisted that she, rather than Andrew,
should check out the place for any guards. With considerable apprehension, he watched her gray shape, cloaked in his long riding coat,
disappear in the small cluster of houses near the river.

    
Time passed and there was no sign of her yet. She should be coming
back by now! Should he wait some more or go looking for her? He
dithered back and forth, his anxiety rising. He chided himself for letting
her go rather than do it himself. Finally, he couldn’t stand the uncertainty
any longer, and went to search for her. Instead of approaching the houses
from the road, he started walking through fields and paddocks. Suddenly,
he spied somebody coming briskly away from the houses. After several
seconds the flowing gray coat let him guess that it was Helen. He rushed
back to the horses, reaching them barely a minute ahead of her.

    
"I was so worried," he greeted her. "I already started for the ferry to
look for you."

    
"You needn’t have worried. I didn’t encounter a soul. Nobody! Not
even a rooster. We’re lucky; the ferry is moored to the pier. Shall we go
there to make sure we’re on the first crossing?"

    
"You think this would be wise? I mean, being in the open for two
hours or longer?"

    
"No, maybe it’s better to remain hidden here. It might even be a good
idea to check once more whether the coast is clear." She came to him.
"Hold me, Andrew!"

    
He folded his arms around her, kissing her forehead. "Is anything the
matter, Helen?"

    
She did not answer right away, and then she murmured: "I’m still
shaken by the way I accused you last night. I love you, Andrew. I don’t
want to argue with you, especially not over trifles."

    
He stroked her hair.

    
"Tell me that you still love me, Andrew!"

    
"Oh Helen, I do … more every day."

    
She raised her lips to him and they kissed.

    
"Rose is right, Helen. We’re bound to disagree from time to time, but
if we both make an effort to listen to the other, we’ll be all right."

    
"Maybe we should remind each other of this by saying ‘Rose’ when
we risk getting carried away," suggested Helen with a happy smile.

    
"Yes, that would be good… She’s such a wonderful woman, and she
got very fond of you."

    
"I know. Let’s try to keep in touch with her. We can write to her from
time to time, letting her know how we’re doing."

    
He nodded, and she continued: "I’ll also write to Betty. I miss her. We
became so close over the last four years… She was so pleased when you
came back and she saw you at the dance. She told me afterward that she
fancied you. She felt bad that she never thanked you for helping her get
away from the dragoons."

    
"I did it as much for myself as for her. There was no need to thank
me."

    
"I never thanked you either. You know, when you grabbed me and said
to this ugly man that you could handle me alone, I was ready to let you
take me. At that moment, something broke inside me, and then I realized
that all you wanted was to help me." She searched his eyes. "You know,
Andrew, I never talked to anybody about that day, except to Betty once
or twice. I wanted to erase its memory from my mind." Her eyes got
unfocused. She was gazing inside. "What would you’ve done if he had
raped me?"

    
Andrew drew her tighter to him and closed his eyes as if he were
reliving the scene in that glen. When he opened them again, he said icily:
"I would have slit his throat then and there."

    
"But he was so much stronger than you."

    
"True, but I can throw my dagger with deadly accuracy much faster
than he could have moved, and he knew that. That’s why he didn’t try to
attack me after I deliberately stepped into his path when you ran to the
ravine."

    
"I didn’t know that." She looked at him proudly, stroking his left
cheek. "Why did you kill the officer?"

    
"How do you know I did? I never told anybody."

    
"Donald MacLaren told us. He said you saved his life. He was rather
puzzled that a Campbell of Argyle would help him."

    
"It was a deed on the spur of the moment. It didn’t even occur to me
that I was saving his life. The only thing in my mind was how much I
hated that vile man. He had forced me to do things that made me lose my
self-respect. And when I realized that we were alone, I acted without
thinking. Killing him was my way of freeing myself from this hatred."

    
She burrowed her head on his neck. "Andrew."

    
"Yes, Helen?"

    
"Please, love me always, even if I sometimes quarrel with you,
because I love you more than anything."

    
"I will, Helen, I will."

 

 * * *

 

The first smoke began to rise from the chimneys of the cottages near the
ferry. Helen again checked that it was safe. Half an hour later, when they
finally rode up to the pier, the ferryman and his two helpers were already
busy on the flat boat, which was moored on the down-river side of the
pier. No more than forty feet long, it was made to carry mainly passengers and goods and was not intended for horses and cattle. So the horses
would have to swim behind the ferry as the boatmen poled it across the
river. With the tide rapidly flowing out, the vessel rode about three feet
below the pier level. They were the only people intent on crossing. The
ferryman seemed reluctant to undertake the trip just for them. Only when
Andrew offered to double the fare did he give orders to his two helpers
to ready the boat for the crossing.

    
After removing the saddle bags, Andrew led the two horses into the
water and coaxed them along the pier to the boat, where Helen took the
leads. He jumped down to the deck and joined her at the rear left, taking
the leads of the horses. One of the men removed the last mooring rope,
and the boat began to drift slowly away from the pier, pulling the horses
along.

    
At that moment, three riders galloped into the square of the pier, and
Dougal’s booming voice reached them: "Halt the ferry!"

    
Immediately, the man at the stern threw the rope, he had been curling
up, back around a mooring post, while the other, standing near the front
of the boat, used his pole to steady it and push it gradually back toward
the pier.

    
It took Helen only a fraction of a second to comprehend what was
happening.
Oh, no, father!
A leaden paralysis took hold of her. Helplessly, she looked at Andrew. The latter tossed the horse leads to her and
rushed over to the boatman, shouting: "Don’t stop!"

    
The fellow looked at him confused, just long enough for Andrew to rip
the rope from his hands and let its end slide into the water. The other
helper attempted his best to steady the boat, but the force of the outgoing
tide slowly rotated the stern away from the pier.

    
By then Robert was running down the pier. Without the slightest hesitation he leapt into the water, caught hold of the boat’s front port side,
and hauled himself over the railing. Robin, following close behind, also
jumped, trying to reach for the vessel, but it slipped from his grasp.
Dougal was shouting and swearing for the boat to come back, joined by
the ferryman who berated Andrew for interfering. Meanwhile, the outgoing tide irretrievably carried the ferry into the current. The ferryman
and his helpers did the only thing left for them, namely steer it to midchannel.

    
Robert stood at the front of the boat, Andrew at the stern, twenty feet
separating them.

    
"You won’t get away this time, you coward!" shouted Robert. He
reached for his pistol and aimed at Andrew.

    
For a moment Helen watched the two men in dismay. Robert, tall,
broad shouldered, looking wild; Andrew, at least half a head smaller,
slight in comparison, no match for his opponent.
Robert is going to kill
him!
She was about to let go of the horses’ leads and jump between the
two, when she heard Andrew’s sharp call: "Helen, hold on to the horses!"

    
Robert pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He swore, dropped the
gun and pulled his knife. His feet wide apart to steady himself on the
gently swaying boat, he came slowly forward.

    
Suddenly, a blur of steel flitted through the air, and a moment later
Robert cried out in agony. The knife in his right hand clattered to the
wooden deck. Dismayed, he stared at the dagger deeply embedded in his
right biceps. He did not even counter when Andrew’s left fist slammed
into his stomach and, as he doubled over, the right connected hard with
his jaw, sending him crashing to the deck, out cold. It all happened so
fast that none of the other people on board had time to move. For several
long seconds, Dougal, who had been shouting: "Get him, Robert, get
him!" fell silent, a pistol in his right hand, helplessly gesticulating, and
then he fired, missing the boat by several feet. He started to swear even
more vociferously, hurling abuse and threats.

BOOK: Summer of Love
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