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A Winterfest Mystery

by Pat Rogers

 

Vincent was excited as only a seven year old could be excited. Father had told him several times to calm down, but it was so hard. It was Winterfest again, and there would be games and good things to eat, and of course, the wonderful candle-lighting ceremony. He loved that best of all, but being in the dark was kinda scary…though but he knew Father was close by. And then the wonderful words. He didn’t fully understand them, but he knew they were very special.

It was no good. He just had to go and find Father and ask him yet again if it was time. He found him eventually, after much searching, in the kitchen discussing the menu with William. He waited as patiently as he could, hopping from foot to foot until Father was finished. Then, “Father is it time yet?”

Trying to hide a smile at his son’s impatience, he answered, “Not much longer now, Vincent. Why don’t you go and find Mary and ask her to help you get ready?” Already knowing Vincent’s reaction, he wasn’t disappointed.

Vincent was outraged. He drew himself up to his full height, and then he said, “Father, I’m a big boy now. I can get myself ready.”

“Well, run along then, and I’ll come for you when it’s time,” Father told him. And Vincent did with alacrity.

And then it was time. The ceremony went off without a hitch, and then the fun began.

Several hours later, Vincent was beginning to flag a little and was wondering if he could find a quiet corner to have a nap. He was determined not to let Father know he was tired, because he would be packed off to bed, and he didn’t want that. As he was looking for somewhere, he noticed that the corner of one of the tapestries was billowing a little as though there was a draught and went to investigate. And to his amazement, when he lifted it, there was a little door just the right size for him. Of course, he didn’t hesitate to open it, and he went inside and saw that he was in a small chamber, and there was a little girl sitting on a stool crying quietly. Despite the fact that it was a girl (and boys weren’t s’posed to talk to them) Vincent’s tender heart went out to her, and he went to her side. “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” he asked.

She didn’t answer at first, then she lifted her head and looked at him; and despite his tender age, he realised she was blind. “Who are you?” she asked, “and where did you come from?”

“My name is Vincent, and I’ve come from the Great Hall where we have Winterfest,” he told her.

She seemed puzzled. “What is the Great Hall, and what is Winterfest?” she asked.

Vincent was amazed. “Everybody knows that, don’t they?”

“Well, I don’t,” she said. “Will you tell me about it, please?” she asked.

So Vincent sat on the floor by her feet and did just that, unaware that people were frantically looking for him.

 

***

 

"But he can’t just have disappeared!” Father said worriedly. “We must organise a search.”

“Calm down, Father,” Mary said soothingly, “I’m sure he’s here somewhere, probably hiding. He couldn’t have gotten out of the main doors; they’re way too heavy for him.”

“Well, where is he, then? Nobody has seen him for at least thirty minutes.”

“If he hasn’t been found in the next fifteen minutes, then we’ll organise a search, though I think you’re worrying unnecessarily,” Pascal’s father said. “He’s a very wise little boy for his age. He wouldn’t just wander off.”

 

***

 

Back in the little chamber, the girl had told Vincent that her name was Sylvie, and now they were chattering away like old friends. She told him she had got lost and no one had found her.

“But I found you,” he told her, with all the pride of a seven year old.

“Yes, you did,” she agreed, “but no one else will.”

He was just about to argue with her when she said, “You’d better get back, Vincent. They’ll be looking for you.”

“Oh my, you’re right. I’ll go and tell the others where I’ve been and then come back to talk some more.”

She shook her head sadly. “No, you won’t.” And before he had a chance to disagree, she took a small silver locket from round her neck and gave it to him. “Go now, Vincent, and remember me.”

He got to his feet, went to the door and opened it, and just before he stepped through he said, “I will come back.”

He closed it behind him, pulled the tapestry aside and re-entered the hall to find a scene of near panic. Everyone seemed to be looking for something, and he didn’t realise it was for him.

He looked for Father, and when he spotted him, went up to him and pulled on Father’s sleeve to attract his attention. “Hi, Father. What you looking for?” he asked in all innocence.

Father turned, and there was Vincent, safe and well. And to Vincent’s surprise, Father gathered him into his arms and gave him a big hug. “Vincent, thank God you’re alright, but where have you been?” He called for order then told everyone, “Vincent is back.”

They all gathered round and bombarded Vincent with questions, all seeming to be talking at once. It was too much for him so he put his hands over his ears and closed his eyes, and Mary said, “Give him a chance to answer.”

“You’re right, Mary,” Father agreed. He touched Vincent on the shoulder, and when he opened his eyes and took his hands from his ears, Father said, “Now, tell us where you’ve been, Vincent.”

So Vincent did. All about the door, the chamber, the little girl and the silver locket. When he’d finished, Father smiled indulgently and said, “That’s a very good story, Vincent, but you know it is isn’t the truth, and I’ve told you that you mustn’t tell fibs.”

Vincent was highly indignant and hurt, too, that Father didn’t believe him.

“But it is the truth, Father. I’m not telling fibs. I’ll show you the door.” He turned from Father and ran up to the tapestry, pulled it aside, and was faced with bare rock. “But there was a door,” he insisted.

“Now, Vincent,” Father began warningly, but Mary shook her head and went up to Vincent.

She knelt in front of him and said, “I’m sure it seemed real, Vincent, but you must have fallen asleep and dreamt it. You can see there isn’t a door.”

Vincent’s eyes filled with tears because Mary didn’t believe him, either. Then he suddenly had a thought. “If I did dream it, where did I get this from, then?” He extended his fisted hand palm side up and slowly uncurled his fingers.

There was a collective gasp as they saw what he held, for nestled in his palm was a little silver locket.

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