Felton and the Wolf: Chapter VII
Felton could not sleep that night, nor could he find a vent for the clouds of confusion which swirled in his mind. He still did not realize, could not see, how much he had wanted to know his grandfather, and his emotion was something new to his experience: a nearly complete awareness of pain. Pain that gnawed into him, keeping him awake despite his exhaustion. Pain that rumbled in his stomach and ached in his mind.
After a fruitless hour of trying to burrow down into sleep, Felton slipped out of bed and snuck away to Bernard’s house. After several efforts, skipping rocks out to the dam on the water, he woke Bernard. The two of them walked deep into the woods and looked up at stars that shone like cities lit on some distant plain.
“I’m sorry to wake you.”
“Don’t be. I’m glad to get out of there.”
Bernard nodded. “But let’s not talk about that, anyway.”
Felton did not press the issue. Bernard’s life at home was always a difficult subject and never easy for the beaver to address.
They said little as they walked along, content to skip rocks on the stream, but eventually Felton told Bernard the whole story abou this grandfather. He was embarrassed, at first, to bring it up, but as soon as he started, a torrent of words spilled out of him. Bernard listened kindly and did not speak much. He only sat in silence a long while before saying, “Maybe you should go back and give him a chance to answer your questions.”
Felton thought about Bernard’s words the next few days as he did his chores. School would soon be starting again after the autumn break. If he was to go, he should go soon. His mother was worried about him, but Felton did not much feel like talking about anything. He did not go.
School began and he hardly listened to anything that was said. He barely noticed when Eloise passed by the courtyard on Friday. She looked back to see if he was looking, to see Felton smile, but he was lost in thought, looking at the ground as he tightened his scarf. Worst of all, he could simply not understand why such a sadness had gone so deeply inside of him. It was more than the suspicion that his Grandpaw was crazy. There was something in the story of Trounisia which had arrested him, as if a poison arrow had struck hard inside of him, leaving him numb. The heaviness had come without explanation and showed no sign of leaving.
Months came and went until Sir John Graybeard held complete sway over the land. The winter was particularly deep and harsh, which deepened Felton’s growing listlessness. Try as he might, Bernard could only persuade him to tromp the woods after a great effort, and even then Felton would go home early. This was especially disappointing to Bernard since he had a special concern to stay away from his dam as long and often as possible.
Felton continued to read the book Grandpaw had given him, but he never returned to see the old fox. “Crazy old fox that lives in a tree,” he thought with bitterness. One February day, however, Felton received a letter wrapped in red ribbon and sealed with wax. It was from Grandpaw:
I know you feel you cannot believe all that I told you, and that you feel hurt, and that I understand. I understand it very much. But you are called upon to know what few will know. And you must—for Markanus is gaining in strength, and his eyes are set on all of Elandor. And this world, Felton. If Elandor falls, who knows what he may be capable of? He will not be content until he is master.
I will be waiting for you.
Long live the realm,
Felton felt sickened by the letter.
It was three o’clock in the morning but Felton had only slept for an hour. The room was cold, and Felton felt the hair of his back standing on end. He had awoken suddenly and for no apparent reason. But as his mind came into consciousness, a mist of faint light descended into the room. Am I sleeping? he asked himself. Then there was a low voice speaking, barely audible. “Felton—you must arise.” Felton thought he was dreaming, but surely he was not dreaming the little lights like fireflies shining through the mist and the faint scent of honeysuckle. Suddenly the mist of light dissipated and darkness enveloped the room and was there not now a different smell, dark and musty?
“Felton!” cried out a voice again, this time desperately, and Felton bolted upright in bed fully awake, for he had been dreaming. But awakened, the room seemed to spin around him and he ran out into the night. He felt the dream welling up in his stomach, tying it in knots. His legs moved as fast as they were able, carrying him through the forest. At length he grew tired and he sat to rest, but not for long. It was a long way to Grandpaw’s house.
Felton arrived before sunup, and even before arriving he expected something terrible. He grabbed a long, straight stick and burst through the tree-door and up the stairwell. When he entered the red-carpeted chamber, he reeled back in surprise in the face of a snarling beast. Felton was surprised at his own reaction: he charged straight ahead, brandishing his stick and holding it high in the air, ready to attack.
“Aiiiieeeee!” he cried, and the creature was as surprised as Felton, scattering to the window and jumping through it, down the incredible height to the ground.
Felton turned back to the room. It was a mess. Books and clothes were strewn wildly about the place. There was blood on the wall, and Felton rushed over to Grandpaw, who lay silently on the floor. He leaned over the old fox’s wounded body. Grandpaw looked at him, a soft smile on his face as he breathed with effort, “I’m glad you’ve come at last, my child. I did want to see you.”