The Cave, and other things.
We met again barely two hours later, at the corner of her house where no window oversaw anything, and I took her into my arms again.
We kissed. It was just as before. There was that same promise.
I led her off with me, barely able to control my excitement for her, along a small wood’s path familiar to me... the whole area was familiar to me... and down to the cliffs above the river, leading her along a steep animal track, providing her with help where she needed it... freeing her skirt when it snagged on a bush, as I blushed up at her.
I explained about the cave, and told her that, as far as I knew, I was the only one who knew about it. Soon, she would know about it too.
I showed her where it was, seeing her disbelief that there could be an entrance so well hidden there, and I led the way in, almost crawling, as she followed me, her dress, raised around her, out of the way of getting dirty. It was dark anyway, so she did not fear being seen by me or anyone else.
There was a single candle burning in there. I’d lit it before I went to meet her. There were other candles there too, which I lit, as well as a partially-filled stoneware flagon of wine and some food, which I’d brought from home. We’d get some of that later.
Once we stood upright and she’d dropped her dress to settle where it should be on her, she could see how large the internal chamber was, and how smooth and dry, the floor.
I pointed out to her the cave paintings above our heads, dimly seen in the weak candlelight as I lit another candle and led her deeper into that cave. I knew there were no other animals in there.
Even farther above our heads, on top of the cliff, was a small, isolated plateau I wanted to share with her. At the back of the cave, where it rose many feet, there was another opening which opened out onto that small area of woodland, isolated from that above, and that below, and with no way either up or down to it, other than through that cave.
I led her there, warning her of protrusions above her head that she needed to avoid, until we stood in the sunlight together.
It was a perfect sun trap, and it was much warmer than the cool cave, or the valley where the river flowed.
There was one other unexpected prize that I wished to show her. I led her forward to beneath the farther limestone cliff to where a warm spring bubbled up into a large pool of clear, bluish water.
“I sometimes swim here. Even when the weather seems too cold. It is deep enough to swim, or just to lie in, at the edge.”
There was a faint smell of sulfur, with gases bubbling out with the water.
The outflow from the pool, flowed over the plateau and ran through cracks before it managed to get to the edge, so no one below would know that any of this existed. I believed it was this same spring of warm water that had once carved out that other cave below, and which had sheltered humans before us, before we built houses.
They had been the same humans that had made those paintings in ochre, and others that had been scratched into the rock.
That was when I noticed what I should have seen much earlier.
“But you are hurt.” I saw that Rossignol had a scratch on her leg from following me. I should have been more attentive to her needs rather than being focused only upon my own awkward feelings for her.
Her shoes were also scuffed and muddied from her carelessly following me.
“Please, let me see to you.” I led her to the pool, pulled off my own footwear, took off my shirt and laid it on a rock for her to sit on.
“Come, sit with your feet in the water and I will wash your feet and legs... clean that blood from that scratch. Your shoes will soon dry.
Surrounded by brothers, she must have seen a youth without his shirt before, but it seemed not.
However, she did let me assist her to sit upon that rock, to remove her shoes (it excited me to touch even her feet), as she raised her dress, almost to her knees.
The mud would soon dry and could be brushed off her shoes, and that scratch would soon not be so obvious either.
I paddled out into the water in front of her, getting my own clothing wet, up to the knees, but I didn’t care.
She watched everything I did, touching my head as I knelt in the water in front of her and bathed her leg and her feet.
“I should have been more careful of you, and considerate.”
She touched my face then, and leaned forward to kiss me. I met her half-way, and we kissed again.
“No, Guillaume. I wanted to see this, all of this. Without you, I may never have known of this place, or of that cave, or even the river.”
She looked around.
“This is a small paradise, closed off from the rest of the world. You say you swim here?”
“At least once each week if I can. I love this place.” I kissed her again.
“I not only love this place. I also love you.” There, I had said what had been burning me up for hours.
“I know, Guillaume.” She smiled at me in that way she had. “I love you too.”
She further thought for a few moments, turning things over in her mind.
“I wish I could swim. But there are so many things that girls are discouraged from doing.”
I eagerly leapt in. “I could teach you. If you will let me.”
She looked at me, blushing.
“Here, in this pool. It is a lot safer than the river.” Too many daring youths drowned each spring, in the snow-melt runoff.
“How?” She kept asking the same question, but it was always about different things.
I began to see the difficulties that she already saw. I had allowed my thoughts and wishes to run away with me.
However, when I stood up, ready to retrieve my shirt to dry her feet and her legs, a rock turned under my foot. I lost my balance and fell back into the water.