All the exercise Ben was expelling was doing his heart good. It was giving him tired muscles and relaxing his state of mind. Every so often though he was sure he saw a tail flick in the water that may have belonged to a mermaid but he was not sure. Sometimes he eased up on the oars of the boat and it seemed to glide along fine without a paddle being dipped in the water at all. Ben was concerned about this because he was a long way from his home and no one could come to his aid. He turned his head this way and that to see if there was any sight of someone or something pushing the boat and out of the corner of his eye he saw Hambone.
‘Haaaaaammmmmmmmbonnnnnnne, ere laddie! ’
In the blink of an eye and the twitch of a whisker Hambone was in the bow of the boat regal as you like, with a pose that was best befitting a King that was the good luck charm at the front of an old tea clipper. Ben felt the oars dig into the water more and rowing now became hard again. Someone had stopped pushing the boat. Hambone didn’t care he loved the water and being with Ben and let go a happy growl just for Ben’s benefit. Ben was sure he saw two tails swim off and disappear into the deep blue Loch water. Just at that same time Amazing and Graceful came into view and Hambone let go of a WHOOOOOOOOOOOOF that almost unglued the boat and made it sink.
Ben never really got used to the barks, they were so intense but useful at letting the castle ghosts and guests know Ben was coming home. In much the same way a ship sounds its horn in fog, Hambone could go three times better than that so Agnes put the kettle on and made tea and shortbreads ...much to the delight of the guests and crew in the mirror.
Agnes said under her breath....‘He is coming home. That’s our Hamboone telling us he is okay.’ Unbeknownst to Zara, Agnes had also had words with Hambone to bark as soon as he saw the castle so it seems everyone was looking out for Ben because they cared about him.
Ben was oblivious to this and he rowed on back to the castle. It was early afternoon and he waltzed into the reception area, raced up the stairs and in about ten minutes came back down and said to Zara and Hambone......‘Like to join me in a drive to town for a bit. I won’t be too long.’
As if you had to ask twice?
Hambone was in the boat waiting.
Zara glided behind Ben and across the water next to the boat.
‘I don’t know why Hambone likes boats, he can go faster over water than I can,’ said Zara as the little boat scrapped into the rocky Loch bank. Ben and his guests got into the car and Hambone let go a happy growl making Ben cringe uncomfortably in the front seat.
Ben looked at Zara and she was giggling into her hands and she said.... ‘You know Ben, he really loves you and those growls were a lot softer when he was alive in the fur and flesh.’
‘I just hope he doesn’t bark when we hit town. I don’t want to draw attention to myself.....or you for that fact.’
Ben drove with the radio going and Hambone happy growling his head off to the songs as they came on. It was a happy drive to town with a 30 minute stop then Ben drove back to Amazing and Graceful with three new items all wrapped up in plain brown paper ...and a big smile on his face. Hambone stuck his head out of the car and into the wind and his jowls and ghost slobber flew everywhere. If you were looking at Hambone you could swear he was smiling and then.......WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF, telegraphing to all at Amazing and Graceful that they were close by.
Once again Agnes reset the kettle and laid out even more biscuits, shortbreads and cream cakes for the arriving party. This time maybe Ben would have time to have something to eat and drink before scuttling off at a fast pace.
In came Ben to the reception area with Hambone in close pursuit. Lamb Shanks came over to Hambone and they did the happy dance as if they had not seen each other for years. Zara glided to the mirror and her parents just in time before Raphael flicked a vine at her backside for good measure. Zara knew it was coming and she grabbed the vine and lowered her voice..... ‘Would you like me to prune this for you Raph?’
‘(Long pause)....No madam.... excuse moi.’
Ben watched all that was going on and he made a bee-line for the kitchen. He was only in there for a little while before returning with a plate in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. He sat back into Raph’s chair and sipped his tea with cold hands from his rowing and the wind and commenced to thaw out. He looked down into the plate he was holding. This was a plate he had just bought from a shop in town that did special work....to plates.
Underneath the shortbreads and several cream cakes were two people he loved and missed ...Aubrey and Zara. Their pictures were on his new plate. He actually chomped his way through the food to get to the pictures underneath with such haste he almost choked on the cream cake. He used his finger to mop up the extra cream left behind and he sat staring at the pictures. At least he could have dinner with his family even though they weren’t there with him.
(I am pretty sure I heard you go AWWWWWWHHH isn’t that sweet. Hehehehehe. Hey... I am allowed to enjoy this too you know.)