It had been more than a fortnight since I had encountered my dear friend, Mr. Pye. As he lived alone, I made it my purpose and pleasure to ride out to his cozy, creekside cottage on the Far Road to make certain that he was well and still thriving in the robust manner that was his custom.
On this occasion I found his small, quaint homestead vacant; a large antique padlock (unfastened) in the ever-open gate to his garden, and his large tabby cat, Dickens, lounging in his usual spot on the porch swing.
A neighbor reported to me that he had packed a small carpet bag, a painting kit, a journal, some biscuits and jelly- and his brolly, and was out on one of his walkabouts; something he was wont to do when the first rust of Fall touched the copses of alder and maple in the valley below.
He was known to sit for hours near the creek sketching and writing and ‘breathing it all in’ as he would say. He appeared ‘up and spirited’ the neighbor said, his favorite rabbit-headed walking stick in his hand, shouldering his long handled carpet bag bristling with his miscellaneous accouterments.
But that’s not where I found him.
On my return home he was standing beneath a gas lamp on the stoop outside my flat in Soho in the driving rain. His umbrella tucked under his arm, still fastened, soaked to his skin. I guided him inside by his sizable shoulders to stand by the fire. I begged him to remove his hat and coat and sit- but he would not. So he stood and dripped.
I gave him a cup of tea and he wrapped his large hands around the tiny cup causing it to disappear; sipped, and paced, mumbling. “Love, joy, peace,” I discerned from his rambling. And “patience, kindness, goodness.” And he mouthed the words silently. He set the cup and saucer down gently, straightening his shoulders as if remembering his military bearing, snatched up his brolly and was gone, out the door and into the rain. Whatever caused him to leave so abruptly, I cannot venture a guess. It was evident that he was purposed in some direction and not to be detained.
When the rain let up and the roads became traversable, I set my horse and carriage in the direction of his cottage.
At first sighting of his little home, I was saddened. It was the first time I’d seen it in even the slightest disrepair and clearly without the touch of the owner’s eye and hand. The shutters were fastened, the porch unswept and the the roses had gone uncharacteristically in need of pruning. Dickens the cat had moved on, finding another resident whose attention to his love for fresh goat milk could be satisfied on a regular basis. (His loyalty to his appetite far surpassed his need for human companionship.)
Propped against the front door jam was his walking stick; the wood-carved rabbit with the yellow glass eyes; the very stick that his neighbor reported him carrying when he left on his walk. It gave me a shiver. It was propped in such a way as to suggest it was placed there temporarily and forgotten, or- placed there for me to find. It seemed very peculiar that he would leave it behind, so I snatched it up and decided to take it with me.
Pye kept a flat in London, but seldom went there. It was mostly books, an old chair, a roll top desk and a gas lamp. I’d check there next for my old friend.
A full year would go by before I saw him again.