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The River

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The River

 

From the diary of Dr. Charles William Pemberton, 14.06.1904

 

It was a fine june day, the sun gently warm and the fresh smell of the pine trees on the air.

Constable Francis asked me to join him on his daily patrol and, deciding some fresh air would be beneficial after a morning spent cleaning my cabin, I accepted.

I must say, Miss Mae is a truly remarkable horse. I no longer felt any fear at all, as Francis and me set out, riding double. A mere picking up of heart rate, as the powerful beastie moved under us and I held on tightly to my scarlet-clad friend.    

The whole affair felt more like a joy ride than police-work. Every last thing, little and large, seemed to be enjoying the early summer sun in peace and calm. So we rode on, Miss Mae deftly picking her way between the trees; and I will admit, though only on these pages, that I managed to lean back for a bit and secretly study the nape my friend's neck. The usually neatly cropped bristles there had grown out a bit and looked wonderfully soft. I was pondering this alluring development, when suddenly there came the most heart-wrenching sound I ever had to witness. It sounded like children wailing at the tops of their lungs!

Francis immediately turned Miss Mae to the sound.

"You best hold on, Charles.", he said to me and off we dashed, clear of the trees and along the bank of the Churchill. After only a few moments we found what caused the terrible screaming: a mother sheep had lost her lamb to the rushing waters. Luckily for the wee beastie it had managed to find temporary safety on a flat stone in the middle of the stream.

A visible weight seemed to lift from my Mountie friend upon realizing the nature of this emergency and I too felt quite relieved. We dismounted (and again my heart sped, as I swung off the horse, Francis' hands steady on my sides) and Francis immediately began to undress. My surprise at this must have been plain on my face, as he laughed and said:

"The Churchill is not deep here, but the water is still chilly. I'll want something dry to wear at least when I come back ashore. Here, hold my hat!"

He tossed me his rather large headgear, before my manners bade me to turn away. After some rustling and the ceaseless lament of the two sheep, I could hear him splashing in the river. The sound conjured a rather distracting image of the good constable. As to divert my impure thoughts I looked around in search for his uniform, so I could pick it up and dust it off before he returned. I quickly found the brightly red garment and as I bent to pick it up, the sound of the wailing changed. I looked up in surprise and what I saw surpassed all daydreams: Francis carrying the lamb through the river's rushing waters, his blue breeches rolled up, his upper body utterly naked safe for the straps of his suspenders. The sopping wet beastie wriggled in his gentle grip, sending droplets flying in my friend's face. He laughed and shook his head like a dog.

"Don't fret, little one. There's your mommy, waiting on the other side."

The loving light that shone in my dear friend's eyes as he regarded his wet charge, entirely unperturbed by the most likely still icy cold water around his legs - it kept my eye way longer than what would have been decent. I couldn't help but smile myself. My friend was a true hero; regardless of whether an adventure was big or small, whether honor and medals beckoned or just a distraught mother sheep, he would always, always do his best.

"I'll be with you presently, Charles!"

He must have felt my warm gaze on him, for he turned his head and gave me a brilliant smile. Realizing I had been caught staring, I quickly turned away, helplessly clutching the hat and serge, as affection for this man surged through me.

"Don't - don't hurry unnecessarily, make sure you don't slip on those stones."

"I will be careful."