Dreams of Thee

Chapter 22

 

Vincent moved down the stairs, walking to where Father sat, and gathered him into a warm embrace.  He knew that Father had missed him during the time he had spent with Catherine.

“Have you already eaten?”

“No, I was hoping to eat with you and Catherine, if she is up.”

“Yes, she is up and will be joining us shortly; we were hoping that you hadn’t eaten.  I realize it is slightly later than normal for you.”

“While we wait for Catherine, come look at this and give me your opinion on the best method for making these repairs. Mouse has come up with a scheme which, while brilliant in scope, is totally lacking in practical applicability.” Father’s warm chuckle rebounded in the still chamber.

Vincent smiled, walked toward the table, and studied Mouse’s latest plans.  “Yes, I agree, they are brilliant, and would work perfectly if we had all the resources of the world above!”

Silently, they studied the plans, then Vincent took a pencil and began to sketch out his ideas as Father stood beside him. They were deeply involved in the plans when Catherine slipped into the chamber, and she stood watching them for several minutes before Vincent felt her presence.

Her smile dazzled Father as she spoke. “Good morning, Father. How are you?”

“Catherine, you take my breath away.  I’m not used to such beauty so early in my day.”

She blushed furiously as she moved across the room to join them.  Standing beside Father, she leaned to kiss him on the cheek, and then it was his turn to blush.

Together, they moved through the tunnels toward the dining area, chatting as they walked.  Just as they neared the entrance, Pascal appeared.

He muttered as he passed them, heading toward the pipe chamber.  He didn’t speak to them, just continued his muttering.

“What did he say?  I couldn’t understand a word,” Catherine said.

Vincent’s face suddenly looked grim, and he looked at Father, then looked back at Catherine and announced, “He said the most dread word in our world, Catherine. He said, ‘Oatmeal.’”

Father paled visibly.

“I don’t understand. I love oatmeal.”

“Catherine, my dear, you see, William is a man of many talents but sadly, simple oatmeal isn’t one of them.  Perhaps we can just turn around, go back to the chamber.”

“Catherine, I was just coming to find you.” William’s voice filled the tunnel as he walked toward them.

Father and son shared a look of mutual horror as Catherine took William’s arm as he swept her into the dining room. There was nothing they could do but reluctantly follow.

They walked to where William was gallantly seating Catherine, his face alight with animation as he spoke softly to her.  Both Father’s and Vincent’s footsteps were slow, almost dragging, as they crossed the room.

Vincent was the first to notice, then Father looked about the room, following Vincent’s gaze.  Something was seriously wrong.  The room was too full.  There were actually people smiling and laughing.  Vincent’s steps increased and Father struggled to keep up with his son’s longer stride.

Seating themselves, they waited, thinking surely someone would come forward soon and tell them.  “Surely, Vincent, everyone here has not pleaded illness as a means of escaping breakfast.”

Vincent silently looked at Father, remembering the last time William had prepared oatmeal and they had not been able to avoid eating.  Vincent had complained of a rock in his stomach for days.

Just then William set three large bowls in front of them.  He started to speak but, hearing his name called from across the room, he left them with a broad smile aimed at Catherine.

Catherine picked up her spoon and began to eat.  Looking up, she noticed that neither Father nor Vincent had moved toward their spoons.  “What is wrong with you?  Not minutes ago you were telling me how hungry you were and now you just sit there.”

Father, determined to be the gracious host, picked up his spoon and reluctantly dipped his spoon into the bowl.

“Catherine, there are just some things in life that I cannot do and eating...”

A look of shock and pain crossed Vincent’s face as he felt Father’s foot kick his leg.  He reached down to rub his leg and then, to his astonishment, he saw Father smile as he spooned up yet another mouthful of the dreaded oatmeal.

“You sure are behaving strangely, Vincent.”

“Vincent,” Father managed between bites, “I strongly suggest you cease burbling and eat.”

Minutes later the hall resounded with laughter as everyone turned to stare, wondering what had caused Vincent and Father to laugh so loudly.

“Honestly, I don’t know what to make of you two,” Catherine said as she walked arm and arm with Father toward his study.

“Catherine, if we never thank you for anything else, the community will be ever grateful to you for teaching William the secret of your method for making delicious edible oatmeal.  You could not possibly know how many cases of stomach problems I have treated because of oatmeal, my son included!”

“But it’s so simple. I can’t imagine William ever having trouble cooking anything.”

“Believe me, Catherine, his oatmeal was not edible!”

 

Chapter 23

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