Part 2: Of Books and Boats
"Alec, wrap the bread in clean cloth, I'll get the tea." Like a trained dog, Alec did what Maurice said. The two men where packing a lunch to take with them on a boat. Maurice promised Alec he would read to him, and Alec suggested taking the boat down the river. The conversation over letters and the past were over, and to not be brought up again.
"Done Sir-" Alec said before he could correct himself.
Maurice turned around and chuckled, "I thought you quit calling me that."
Looking a bit ashamed himself, Alec said, "I did…err, sorry Maurice." Maurice ran over to him with a devilish smile and hugged and kissed him. "Maurice, Maurice! Ouch! You- to strong!" Alec chocked out.
"Sorry, Scudder, but I couldn't help myself. You're so handsome when you look so sad!" Alec snorted and they both laughed. Soon, they returned to packing their lunch and gathering blankets for their outing.
They walked arm in arm down the trail and through the woodland. The summer breeze was cool and pleasant, a perfect day for a boat ride. The boat was tied up to the small dock him and Maurice built a month ago. Maurice set up everything in the boat while Alec untied it. They both hoped in and set down the river.
"Would you like me to start from the beginning?" Maurice asked.
"It don't matter to me, start were you like," said Alec stuffing food into his mouth.
"Alright, I'll finish my tea and then I'll start." Maurice enjoyed watching Alec eat. It was so improper and interesting. Nothing he would of done, but he didn't mind. Alec gulped down the last of his bread and began to steer the boat in the right direction. "Alright, lets see here. I know, I'll start from where I left off. You should catch on soon enough," Maurice told Alec while scanning through pages.
Alec watched Maurice's long fingers turn the pages in a nice rhythm. "How beautiful…" he thought. Maurice began to read.
"Men who look on nature, and their fellow-men, and cry that all is dark and gloomy, are in the right."
Alec understood some of it, but on occasion he would stop and ask questions. "Is he saying that all men see the same way Maurice?" Alec asked.
Maurice looked up. "Yes, I suppose. Together these men see a single thing: darkness. But each man has his own view on what it is, and what it might lead him too. That could be it." Alec nodded and began to steer the boat again.
"But the sombre colours are reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real hues are delicate, and need a clearer vision," Maurice read, finishing the passage. Alec was glad Maurice could explain these things to him. He could read, yes, but just reading words and actually understanding what they mean is completely different. Alec usually had trouble with this. He knew what words meant, just not all of them.
"So they established the rule, that all poor people should ... have the alternative (for they would compel nobody, not they,) of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it." This one struck Alec. He understood the reference to his family, the poor and the horrible Durham's. A look of disgust came across to Alec's face. Maurice looked up and said, "I suppose you understand that one."
"I do…but explain more."
Alec pushed and pulled the oars as Maurice explained. "I think what he's trying to say is that the rich think of themselves noble, and that they should be thanked."
Alec snorted, "horrible."
"Thus the poor are carried about by misery," Maurice finished.
"What bloody rubbish! Us laborers have hearts as good as anyone! The rich should be drowned, all of them. Especially the Durham's…" Alec was upset now, steering the boat harder that it became unbalanced.
"Alec your rocking the boat!" Alec's faced was flushed, but stopped and put the oars of the sides.
With all his sympathy, Maurice reached over and took his hand. "Perhaps no more Dickens today," he said.
Alec nodded and lifted his head up and said, "thanks Maurice."
Maurice understood, he was tired of reading it anyway. "I feel a bit exhausted myself." Maurice set the book down and rested his hands on the back of his skull. He closed his eyes and listened to the water lapping on the boat.
Alec rowed the boat until they reached a small rocky beach. "Maurice, dear, wake up." Golden light illuminated Maurice's figure as he slept. Alec let him sleep for a good hour and a half as he tied up the boat and laid out some blankets to sit on. He didn't want to disrupt him, he looked so peaceful, but Alec started to feel a little lonely.
Maurice stirred while slowly blinking his eyes. Alec hovered over him, slowly bringing a smile to his face. "You sleep longer than I do when I'm taken naps!" Alec exclaimed rubbing Maurice's chest. Maurice smiled then too, squinting his eyes and taking Alec's hand in his.
"Do I? Now how can that be?" Maurice said getting up. Holding hands, they walked over to the blankets.
"That's right, longer than I. I'm not sure how you do it, exact."
They laid down together on the blankets, absorbing each other's comfort. Alec set his head on Maurice's chest and unbuttoned a quarter of his shirt. He felt his heartbeat and closed his eyes.
"Lovely thing ain't it?"
"What, what thing Alec?"
Alec glanced up, "your heart."
Maurice beamed, "and so is yours, as good as mine." Alec closed his eyes again as Maurice entwined his fingers in his curls. It was and had been a glorious afternoon. Maurice thought he could stay like this forever and be happy. He and Alec were in love, that's all there was to it. It would always be like this, Maurice and Alec. The two of them, either in a cabin, out in the woodland, or by a river.