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Professor part 34
Wed Nov 8, 2017 11:58

Professor Chapter 34

I had expected Ronnie to ask me to drive him around so it came as a surprise when he told me we'd be taking his Morris van if that was alright with me.

"Some nasty rough tracks, lots of loose stones, wouldn't want to spoil the finish on your new car" he explained "besides which I may need to put some finds into the back and I might need your help with a couple, if things work out."

"What's all the equipment in there?" I asked as we got in and I looked back to notice the van was half full already.

"Swapsies and things to be dropped off as well as my usual kit I keep in the van in case its needed." he gave a vague reply not actually specifying which was which.

We drove out of the village and up to the main road before turning right. I knew from my map studies there wasn't much else to see in this direction, no more villages until you reach a small cluster at the Lizard which is the southernmost end of England, that's to say the left hand of the fish tail.

"It's a very beautiful place but usually cold, wind swept and bleak except on those rare summer days which is when the postcard photographers take their somewhat misleading snapshots." Ronnie observed cynically. "Many a ship has been wrecked on its treacherous rocks, hence it has had a lighthouse since the mid 1700's, one of the earliest and very necessary. An attractive stone called serpentine, green with black veins, is mined here and it's the sole industry that brings in some money hereabouts."

We finally drew up at a group of buildings which I immediately recognized as an RNLI station thanks to the unmistakeable ramp down which the lifeboat is launched when needed. If you've never seen one launched its well worth taking the trouble to do so especially under storm conditions which demonstrates the courage of the volunteers and the strength of the lifeboats. It descends on rollers with the engine running whatever the size of the waves and may well be submerged or even thrown up into the air as it goes in aid of a ship in distress. To think that these men used to man their oars in open boats to perform the same task in the same conditions!

"Yes, they're the bravest of the brave!" said Ronnie quietly as if reading my thoughts "and I've come here in the hope of meeting the skipper, one of the men who skipper the lifeboat, they work in shifts and today he should be off duty with any luck. I met Karl when the Navy brought him and his crew to the hotel after he lost his boat saving the lives of seamen in a small coaster, got them all off and was taking them to harbour when the Navy intercepted him."

"Intercepted, why?" I asked "If he had saved these sailors what was wrong?"

"When I said his 'boat' I should have said U-boat, he was Reichsmarine Kapitan Karl Wasserman and he commanded a submarine. The naval patrol intercepted him because he was running on the surface to recharge his batteries and they opened fire which forced him to raise a white flag as he had the rescued seamen aboard and couldn't have returned fire or dived.

After they got them all off, the submarine sank from the naval gunfire and the nearest place to put them was in our hotel since the navy were using it anyway for housing. Cut a long story short he came back down here at wars end and joined the lifeboat station eventually becoming Captain. Best not to mention any of this just take him as you find him, you'll soon see why I thought you should meet him. He's also my friend."

As we got out of the Morris, a tall man wearing a white rollneck jumper and navy blue trousers tucked into seamans boots, came towards us smiling and called out "Ronald! You disgraceful old rag and bone man, it is good to see you and to what do I owe the pleasure of a visit and who is this young man, another of your victims? Karl Wasserman" he said offering his hand for mine which was shaken briefly and firmly "and you are?"

"Tolbert Lanston, I'm staying at the hotel."

"How did you meet this reprobate? What criminal activity are you engaged in because I cannot think how else a guest of the hotel could become involved with Ronald who is an old friend which is why I can describe him so honestly!"

"Actually I sought him out because an old lady I met in Pendeen said he was a beach comber and I thought it would be interesting to see if he had any stories he could tell me that I might be able to use for a boys magazine I write for."

"Mrs Harris!" exclaimed Karl looking at Ronnie for confirmation.

"Exactly! So naturally I thought Tolbert might enjoy meeting you" Ronnie replied, the tone of it suggesting that simple affirmation conveyed some inside information shared between them both.

"Well in that case let's get comfortable in my quarters. Luckily I'm off duty today and the sun will be over the yardarm before too long, so perhaps the customary English ritual of tea to whet the whistle followed by a snifter of what takes your fancy to loosen the tongues, eh?"

Although Karl had to be in his 40's, at least according to my mental arithmetic and some guesswork, he was remarkably youthful albeit weather beaten in appearance. His face, what could be seen of it that wasn't covered in thick black hair, was teak coloured from exposure but his eyes were bright and mostly unlined. He also had that speed and fluidity of movement that older men tend to lose as they age.

I was glad of a cup of tea, well not a cup as such, a big mug but that was even more welcome, strong, sweet the way I like it and a cigarette with it which is my only vice unless you include alcohol which insofar as beer is concerned shouldn't really count against you. It wasn't so far back in time that only beer was safe to drink as a cold beverage compared to water that if it hadn't been boiled beforehand was definitely risky. I'd written an article about the New River which is close by my parents home and the necessary research beforehand had horrified me about the quality of London's water supply often drawn from that open sewer known as the Thames.

It was things like that which had initially opened my eyes about the assault on Nature that we humans have conspired to perpetuate. How often do we carelessly toss away our rubbish, cigarette smokers never give a moments thought to the fag ends they drop anywhere. It seems petty until you try calculating what the net amount might add up to, surely it has an undesirable effect on whatever the tar and nicotine leach into. The water supply eventually as almost all our rubbish does one way or another.

So I was sitting there thinking idle thoughts such as these whilst Ronnie and Karl caught up with each others news, not really hearing what they said until...

"OY! You asleep or daydreaming? We've been passing comment on your facial expressions and both of us agree that you should never play poker" said Ronnie jovially at my startled response.

"I beg your pardon, I was miles away, recalling something I wrote about how carelessly we treat Mother Nature."

"She doesn't like it and will be taking action if we don't change our ways, the 1918 flue epidemic was just a warning" said Karl soberly. "I hoped the death toll of the last war would alleviate the pressure and the flu epidemic simply tidied up the surplus. It sounds callous to say that I know but the system has to remain in balance even if drastic action is necessary."

This sounded very much like the warning that the Professor had told me the Frenchman Brull had received from what he described as his 'dryads'.Being forbidden to mention the Professor I decided to try an oblique approach by asking "Not long ago I found in my local library a rather strange book written by a man named Rene Brull, I can't remember the title but I did remember the author. Anyway its about his encounter with shamans in the South American jungle, have either of you read it?"

"Very astute of you Tolbert" muttered Ronnie "How did you work it out?"

"I'm only starting to investigate phenomena which until recently I preferred to dismiss as my being over imaginative but down here in Cornwall it's impossible to ignore." I replied cautiously.

"That is what brought me here too" Karl interjected "as you may already know, we Germans or perhaps I should say Saxons, have an affinity for the forests and countryside. Our legends also strongly identify with trees perhaps because of our history when the Romans tried to subjugate us and were wiped out when they invaded the enormous forest that once almost covered our country.

In my youth I discovered that I was susceptible to the magical feelings that seem to surround one whilst amongst the trees. It is disquieting, is it not, to hear voices that speak to the mind and which others are unable to sense. They make fun of one who admits to this sixth sense perhaps, I do not know what to call it. Should I show him?" he addressed Ronnie

"I gave him one already to try for himself" Ronnie said. I knew immediately he must be referring to the cats cradle as I called it.

"What then would he make of mine I wonder?" said Karl "Come with me Tolbert" he led me into another smaller room equipped as a workshop and on one wall was hung a collection of similar devices, Y shaped with each having a different design of cats cradle. "If it helps to understand how they work, think of them like the keys of a piano. Each one is made from a different wood, each is used to detect a different influence. Some are very powerful, they can be overwhelming if used carelessly. Come."

He led me back to the first room where Ronnie gazed appraisingly at me
"Did I make a mistake in bringing you here? No, I can see that I did not. Now you are faced with a conundrum are you not? What to make of all this, its more than you bargained for isn't it? You came here looking for a few yarns to dress up for your magazine and now you have stumbled across something much bigger that you cannot easily describe and even if you could it wouldn't fit into anything suitable for your original purpose."

Well there, of course, he was quite mistaken.

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