CHAPTER 16- At Last
Being a very small village the villagers knows practically all the folks whose children owns vehicles, they can intently which vehicle belongs to which compound when ever they know also at what particular time of the year these children came home to visit their parents.
They knew at a glance therefore that the vehicle passing by and its driver are therefore strangers to this part because if he were a son of the soil he would have been willing and calling out greetings as he drive by.
Frances was just contemplating whether to stop and ask for direction now when he saw a tall dark completion boy in dirty jeans and red T’shirt coming towards his direction.
“Well, I may as well ask direction from this one’ thought Frances, ‘he looks quite different from all these people I have been passing, winding down the glass beside him he hailed excuse me please! the boy came towards him with a welcoming smile and ask in very good English ‘how can I help you sir?
‘Em, can you kindly direct me to the Adams’ place please, Frances said. Which of the Adams? asked the boy because thee are two families bearing that name here? Frances was silent for a few seconds as he diverted hi piece of information ‘emm, actually I am looking for Beatrice Adams’ house, he said at last.
By now some of the villagers has stopped to listen to the two while some were admiring the jeep, Tai was enjoying his importance now because he know that most of the people standing by did not understand English so they would not therefore understand his conversation with the stranger but then their eyes, pepped wide open when they heard the stranger mention Beatrice’s name ‘oh, I am her brother’ Tai now replied with an air of self importance.
“One of the twins then asked Frances counting himself very lucky indeed to have met one of Beatrice’s twin brothers whom he has heard so much about.. “Yes. I am Tai” the other replied. I am Frances Balingo’ said Frances “and I am very pleased to meet you Tai, he spend the passenger door and said ‘do please come in’, I hope Beatrice isn’t Tai climbed in proudly beside Frances and being the door shut minding down the window at his side to wave to the people standing by some of the other boys were obviously envious of Tai’s privilege, they wished they were the ones in his shoes, even the older folks watching could not help but wave as the jeep moves.
They thought that was going through them was that dokita’s child’s father has finally showed up at last. The Adams’ compound was at the extreme end of the village because Abraham Adams while he was alive like to meditate a lot, he has therefore left the family compound in the heart of the village to build this little college, new as the jeep went past Tai put his head out of the window waving to everybody they passed by and they all waved back at him calling out a greeting even though he has just passed them as few moments ago.
Behind who now busy planting some flowers along the edge of the lane stand up at the sound of the approaching vehicle only to see Tai jumped down from the jeep all smiles like a cat that has just had its full of a body of milk.
Hello, here! I Tai said to come and meet my new found friend Mr. Frances Balingo. Frances who was now out of the jeep also came to wave Ken without stretched hand but the other hesitated to shake hands with him because of the soil on his hand but Francs with a disarming smile said ‘come on now, soil is no big deal to friendship and they shake hands normally.
Ken said ‘I think I am going to like you? you are most welcome to our humble abode, ‘I’ve heard a much about you but belief you me I was not prepared to find you so friendly.
I think I am beginning to like you, too, you are so open and friendly, he smiled ‘and I’ve heard so much about you too; he added ‘this place is not bad at all, do you planted all these? he went on to admire the flowers ‘Oh yes, “replied Ken modestly ‘thanks to the assistance from the members of my family but why don’t you go inside you must be tired: he added ‘ I know Tai do his best to asked you comfortable until the others arrived, I will be with you in a moment.
Tai sensing Frances? disappointment at not finding Beatrice at home went on to explain ‘Beatrice sand the others will soon be back, they have just gone to our big farm to get a few yams for the household.
Frances trying to cover his disappointment said what is the use of going inside when everybody is busy as well as join you, ‘I know Tai was going some where when we meet and it’s best not to keep him any longer.
Tai protested ‘No now, I was only going to see my traps but that can keep for now. Oh no’, said Frances but you must go and inspect them, I know a little about hunting you know, so I belief it is wise for you to go and inspect your taps, now, I’ll be here waiting to see what they have caught.
You are here you don not mind I asked Tai ‘yes I am sure’ replied Francs with a smile Tai left as Frances began to roll up his trouser Ken said ‘I know you must be tired driving all those miles to this place, so please go and rest ‘no, not at all, said Frances actually driving is hobby I quite enjoy during and I can go on driving for days without being tired. He picked up some seedlings and started putting them in the holes already dug by Ken.
News they say travelled fast in the village and Beatrice and mother soon hard that a visitor was waiting for them at home, they wonder why, neither of the twins has come to inform them of the person was a complete stranger as they have been made to answer.
Each was however busy with her own thought as they lift up their heads on their head and hurried home to see who the stranger was. Beatrice remembered that Frances has said he was going to pay a surprising visit to her village one of these days. She wondered ‘could it be Frances’, but then id don’t think his family owns a jeep; because those who informed them said that the visitor came in the tpefo vehicle normally used by the welfare people or could it be Uncle John’s official car?
Mrs. Adams thought was ‘could it be that Balewa Brown has had a change of heart and owned up and they have finally decided to come for the child? should that be the case Mrs. Adams swear that she will never release the girl to them, ‘never’ I she muttered, tightening her grip on the little girl she was holding s it to were an intruder while using the other hand to balance the hand on her head.
Beatrice cried out “mama” you are hurting me, Mrs. Adams relax her grip a little still not letting go. It was Beatrice who spitted him first, “oh! Frances’, she exclaimed unable to hide her joy “how nice!!”. Frances straightened up throwing down the shovel in his hand, he advances towards Beatrice only to notice that Mrs. Adams was using behind with a load on her head, leaving Beatrice he went towards her mother greeting her respectively he offered to take the load on her head but she declined.
Ken said ‘give the load to him mama, he can not be deter than he is already because he has been working in the garden nothing his mother gave him dirty look ‘how dare you have been making the young man to ………
“But ….. he volunteered to help, Ken on the defensive ‘but …” said Mrs. Adams. It’s aright ma, Frances assures her ‘I do gardening at home too’ he however insisted on taking Mrs. Adams had, while Ken took the one Beatrice was carrying. If you go behind the house, Ken and we have help you to turn the earth there for the tomatoes you said you wanted to plant ‘you are not a good host’, said his mother who was not pacified, ‘ a visitor came a long distance to see you but instead of you showing him hospitality you offered him work to help you with I wonder even If you remember to offer him water. “But he seems to enjoy it, “Ken said avoiding hostile look his mother give him, ‘more over he came with his own wide and canned like which we drank together he added smacking his hips like a clown. “Didn’t you leave any for me? asked Faith-hope. “Faith-h-o-p-!!!, Mrs. Adams smiled at the girl pitching the girls ear.
“Oh! that hurts”, she winced “after all I did not ask anything from the stranger but briefly Ken. Beatrice and Frances looked at each other and laughed Ken said ‘but the stranger brought them you know the girl promptly replied ‘if it was right for you to buy coke from him can’t I? She’s got you there” said Frances, he turned to Faith-hope said “I brought lots of coke fro you too” and what about Aunt Beatrice and brother Tai the girl asked? for everybody Frances told her “oh! thank you very much said the happy girl dancing round him.
As soon as they stepped inside, Tai came back with two rabbits and a small grass cutter, ‘I had better grand dressed this quickly”, he said because it seems as if the animals has been dead for sometime, Frances and Ken followed him out again.
In the court yard Beatrice was peeling yams while Mrs. Adams was grinding pepper little faith-hope was being gathering the fire wood beside the hearth. Frances whispered something into Ken’s ears who went out and came back later with canned cokes for every body, this they took with biscuits as each went about his work.
Tai said willfully, ‘how I wish my camera was the working’, I would have taken some pictures to take back to school. Frances said that he has a Polaroid camera in his gloves, compartment, he went for it and they were soon taking pictures all over the place.
Mean while Mr. Adams kept stealing secret glances at Frances as he moves among her children, his shirt and trousers rolled up, looking quite in his surrounding. She has been apprehensive when Beatrice first told her about the boy suggesting that Beatrice would have done well to choose somebody to marry from a low cedar as herself. I don’t want a son- in-law who would make me feel like a bush woman anytime I go to visit my daughter she has said, “or in-laws who would think we are gold diggers after their money.
Beatrice has defended Frances and his family saying that they are not that type of people, ‘more over’ she said I’ve met members of his family on more than one occasion and they are quite friendly but her heart missed a bit when she remembered that she has not met Mrs. Balingo, it was as if the older woman was trying to avoid her because the few times she has been on the campus she has never requested to see her and when Beatrice asked Frances when she would meet his mother, he always try to make excuses saying his mother was a busy woman who always comes to see him on Friday visits and that they would meet by end by this was unlike the rest of the family who has insisted in genuine to hostel to see and when they were even let there that she has gone to the library they have come to look for him.
Mrs. Adams have a sign as she continue watching Frances praying silently she said ‘ I hope God, he would be alright for Beatrice, I wish he would go on like this that he is not pretend… “mama look at yourself!” Faith cut into her thought sharply ‘what’s on your mind’ said the little girl as she headed Mrs. Adams a picture of her self looking so forlorn and sad, oh! mama, said faith-hope ‘you are not looking as happy as the rest of us.
Mrs. Adams took the picture and look at it she was so surprised to see herself frowning over the grinding stone as if she has been quarreling with somebody to cover up she said ‘this is magic, I never picture can come out so quickly as this I thought they have first has to be taken to people we meet the village photographer who they take them to the trained to be developed before we can have our pictures.
Tai said, ‘this is instant photograph for you mama like the wait and get I told you about in town, but only fasten. Faith-hope brought another picture for Mrs. Adams to see, the woman was surprised to see her grand daughter sitting behind the wheel of Frances jeep, ‘mama look at me driving the motor said the gin proudly and Mrs. Adams smiled and put her on the head.
Tai asked his mother ‘any more jobs for us men because we want to go inside, his mother said no, so washed their hands and went in and faith hope followed them. Beatrice asked the girl “are you a man too? “Oh no,” ma the girl she reached but if I don’t go with them I will only be getting in your way.
Mrs. Adams laughed while Beatrice said ‘don’t get in their way in there too and please behave. Oj, I promise to be as quite as a mouse’, said the girl I won’t even talk to the stranger. Uncle Frances is not a stranger, Beatrice said “mama’, said faith hope ‘if uncle Frances talk to me should I answer him? but Mrs. Adams wave her threateningly at her. Once inside, Faith Hope went to Frances and said ‘Uncle Francs I have promised my Aunt not to get you and mama didn’t give an answer, whether to reply you or not if you talk to me so I will just be as quite as a mouse.
Frances laughed ‘I know mama won’t object to your speaking to me at all, the girl’s face brightens ‘are you sure she asked ‘I am quite sure, Frances replied, faith-hope was quite for some times thinking about it then she said ‘Uncle Frances are you going to marry my aunt, Beatrice, will you take her away fro………
If you don’t shut up there, ‘shouted Tai”, I will burst your ears for you’, but the girl ignored his threats and went on, ‘if you are taking her to Lagos please I would like to go with you because I have never been ……..
Tai advances threateningly towards her and she ran backs to the back yard when Beatrice saw she said know that things will soon fall apart…….
Between Mrs. Adams and Beatrice the ……..were soon dancing in Egusi and vegetable soup, this they took inside to the waiting room boys with well pounded yam. Frances was served a generous portion by himself, the faith hope took theirs together in the kitchen.
When the meal was over, Beatrice and Faith Hope cleared away the debris and went to wash the plates Frances, Tai and Ken played ‘what’ together Mrs. Adams remained in the courtyard shedding melon seeds.
Later when Beatrice finished her chore, she and Frances played ‘Ludo’, Tai backed Frances and Ken took side with Beatrice, the game ended in action, and Faith hope to the amusement of everyone shouted “no winner no vanquished but I wish Uncle Frances will win because he brought me coke.
Beatrice said ‘but I prepare the food you ate;, to this the girl replies ‘yes, but you always do when you are around and its not every time people bought me coke but it’s a must for me to eat everyday you know; they all laughed at Beatrice who made a face at him while Tai tagged her ‘cook of the year’ furnaces looking at his watch said ‘time to go, it is for so already and I have four hours drive ahead of me; he went to bade Mrs. Adams goodbye and thank her for her hospitality.
Frances felt quite satisfied with his journey, although there has not been much conversation between Beatrice and himself to him the journey was worth it, he was particularly grateful for the twins friendliness it was as if they had known one another for years. The only person he was unsure of where he was with was Beatrice’s mother, although she has acted the perfect hostess she however remain aloof as if trying to avoid him somehow, at times when he happened to glance in her direction he would find her eyes boring into him as if weighing him. “well’ Frances conducted the journey was not bad after all, if I were Beatrice’s mother I think I would act the same way. He remembered also little Faith hope asking innocently “when you come back to take Aunt Beatrice and me to Lagos? ‘sooner very soon’ he has heard himself say. As he drove out by the compound, they all waved to him, he could still picture their happy faces as they wished him journey mercies Tai called out to him not to forget the camera he has promised to send him. ………………………………………………………….
While the others went inside to resume their games, she however went in search of her mother, Mrs. Adams heard her daughter approaching and looked up has your visitor gone”? She asked. “Yes mama’, Beatrice replied ‘but mama why did you refuse to accept Frances gifts she asked ‘I am not selling my daughter, the woman retorted I refuse to be bought over. “But, m-a-m-a, Frances has no such intentions at all, protested Beatrice.
The woman did not speak again or raise her eyes from what she was doing, Beatrice stood there shifting from one leg to the other as she used to do when she was young when confused. After doing this for sometime she asked tentatively mama do you like Frances? I mean what do you think her voice was so low that you cold hardly heard what she was saying. She went on shifting from one leg to the other as if her life depended on what answer her mother would give.
Mrs. Adams sensed her daughter agitation and in a guarded voice she said ‘he appears a good, boy but you never can tell of with feelings she added ‘Beatrice I want you to be happy, I don’t want you to make another mistake.
“But Frances, I am sure mama will make me happy said Beatrice with every fibre in her body. I hope so, Mrs. Adams said lifting both hands and eyes heaven wards as if look for divine intervention from there ‘I know God is the father of the fatherless and husband to the window, I pray he would continue to guide you.
Don’t worry mama”, Beatrice said ‘I know God is in control and everything will work out fine” “oh no, I hope so too”, said her mother. Beatrice went out join her brothers, Tai raised his right them as soon as she enters, “Beatrice”, he said ‘ I am really proud of you, you really know how to go for the best, I quite like that guy you know, Beatrice in a clipped voice said ‘because he promised you a camera?.
“Oh no”, Tai said ‘come off it sister, you know I always want the best for you and for you to be happy. Beatrice laughed scornfully ‘am I to belief that? Ken went to his brothers defence ‘of course yes and why not after all if a member of the family rejoice they rejoice together and vice-versa;, he smiled and added ‘to be candid the guy is an alright guy he has a sense of humor just like us.
And who told you that you have sense of humour, mocked Beatrice, ‘you not wits, you are nothing but twins, Tai and Ken took a dice each and threw with at her, she caught them and then asked ‘I wonder what you are going to use to continue, your game. The boys looked at each other realizing their mistake while she went to a chair, sitting down she waited for them to come and beg her but instead both boys rose up and went out, at the door Tai said Ludo is for kids and girls anyway let’s go and play ball, so saying they went in search of their football.
Beatrice feeling defeated threw the dice on the floor, she reached for one of the margin zones that Frances has brought for her and started to leave through, Faith hope picked the dices and stated to play by herself.
This marks the beginning of Frances many visits to Abaoloke an son Mrs. Adams’ king feeling towards him began to throw gradually.