… I know dear Sue, this story has been already told very, very often, but it was the first that came into my mind when I saw the picture of the footprints on the beach…
… At the end of my earthly existence I stood with the Creator of the Universe by my side. We where looking at the allegory of my life – a broad and white sandy beach with two lines of footprints, that where interrupted here and there. I pondered over this image a long time, then I turned to the Creator of the Universe: „May I ask You one question?“
It nodded softly smiling. „Sure.“
„Once You‘ve promised me to be always on my side.“
„Yes. And I kept my promise. I always do.“
„Would You then please tell me, why there is only one line of footprints during the darkest hours of my life?“
„Because I did carry you then, my beloved child.“…
Lara and Stu spent their honeymoon cruising through the Scottish Highlands. After one wonderful week filled with beautiful and inspiring impressions they reached a lonely and dark green Loch amidst high rising, wooded hills. The young couple came towards a small village with an adorable hotel in an old, enchanting Victorian Villa situated on a big flat rock above the lakes level.
The Landlord, dressed in Scottish Highland costume, greeted Lara and Stu heartily and showed them to their room – it was a little gloomy and furnished oldfashioned, but warming flames licked in the huge fireplace.
There where about a dozen more guests in the hotel, all much older than Lara and Stu, friendly and good humoured, and after enjoying an extensive dinner they gathered in the little bar room where McPhearse, the Landlord, invited them to a degustation of various local Whiskeys.
The evening turned into a wonderful night, full of laughter, jokes, weird stories, singing and McPhearse playing the bagpipes and zealously filling the glasses again and again and again. So it was rather late and nobody could be called sober when the party finally ended and the guests where staggering to their rooms.
Stu fell asleep immediately and began to snore unbearable loud. Lara tried to wake him and stop the disharmonius concert, but without any success. She sighed, got out of the bed, slipped into her leisure suit and sneakers and left the room.
Slowly she strolled down to the stony shore of the Loch. Dark clouds where hunting over the sky and a fresh wind from the hills made her shiver.
Suddenly the silver rays of the full moon broke through the cloudage and fell down to the softly rippled surface of the lake like a bright shining ladder to heaven. A strange sound rose, it was similar to the singing and babbling of a little baby child, sweet and innocent. Lara gave a short thrilled laugh and clapped her hands.
But the next moment she was frozen in fear. Directly under the gigantic fan of moon beams something enormously big rose from the water – a snake like head, a very long neck, a hulky curved body…
„Oh, no!“, Lara yelled. She tried to run away, but she was unable to move any limb. The monster swam straight in her direction. It came nearer – and nearer – and nearer – the ground shivered under its stamping feet when it moved up to the shore – it snorted – it fixed the young woman with its little glowing fishy eyes – and then it started to – sing again – with that high and childlike voice – it softly bowed its head – and within seconds Lara had lost all her fear – she reached out and touched the cheek of that – strange being. The skin was rough but warm and she felt the strong breathing of – Nessy? Could this be the legendary Nessy? – softly striking her face.
The hunting clouds closed the gap in heaven, the moonlight ladder vanished, the strange creature turned around and went back into the Loch. A last singing sound – then it vanished, and the little waves where crumpling the surface of the lake as if nothing ever had happened…
… Stu buttered his fifth slice of toast, he always had an enormous hunger at morning.
„Honey, you don‘t seem to have any appetite.“, he mentioned with a frowne looking at his young wife pushing back and forth with her fork the scrambled eggs on her plate.
„Well, I could not sleep at night, so I got up and took a little walk down to the Loch. And there I have seen something very strange.“
Stu seemed to be only little interested. „And what did you see?“
Lara took a deep breath and looked him straight into the eyes.
„I am pretty sure that I had an encounter with Nessy last night.“
Stu burst into laughter. „Nessy? Huh? – I tell you what, my dear, you have been as drunk as an owl last night! – Nessy! It‘s only a humbug, a tale to lure tourists to the Highlands! It does not exist! It never had existed!“…
Tess informed her mother that recently she had sold for a very good price a painting she had made of the little nuns cloister on the small island amidst the lake, on which shores her family lived since three generations in an old, wind whipped Art Nouveau Villa. The little corpulent woman nodded without showing any passion or recognition and said: „Well… Nice… Barbara, the niece of our neighbour Tom, can paint so wonderful! Oh, what beautiful pictures she creates! She could earn a real fortune with them!“
Tess tried to swallow a harsh reply. This was so familiar to her since her early childhood days. She could not remember one single sign of love, of motherly pride, not one word of praise. Every time she tried to tell about her successes mother countered in that damned emotionless way: „Well… Nice… But … does all those things – painting, travelling, writing, driving, teaching, etc. – in a much better way than you…“
It was late afternoon, and the sun slowly slid towards the horizon line of the lake and turned the color of the softly playing waves into gold. Tess overlooked the beautiful scenery without realising it, full of frustration she clenchend her fists. „I cannot bear it any longer!“, she murmured between her teeth.
Mother called: „It‘s time for a cocktail, Tess. Would you make me a Mimosa?“
The slim and tall middle-aged woman went into the garage. She always had loved to help her father fixing electric devices, or bicycles, or the aged family car. She had been Daddies girl, but he had died some years ago after a heavy stroke. Tess still knew by heart what was properly stuffed in all the drawers of the large wooden closet on the left side of the garage, and had not to search long before she found what she was looking for…
… Her mother took a small sip of the mild sparkling Cocktail. „Well… Nice… But a little bitter… Your cousin Mathilda can mix cocktails! Wow! The finest Mimosas I ever drank in my life!“
Tess smiled mildly. „The little bitter taste will fade away soon, Mum. I bet that this finally will be the absolutely best drink you ever had.“
She went out on the terrace watching the sun touching the far horizon, the veil of filigrane clouds above it were exploding in a firework of gold, red and violet. Dusk laid its soft and summer warm cloak over the lake and the sandy shore.
Tess heard her mother croak: „Darling! Help me, please! I feel so bad…“ A strangeled gargling followed. And then the sound of a corpulent old body flopping liveless to the floor.
The King of Southland rose from behind his desk in the lush decorated baroque Conference Chamber and went to the window. With his forehead slightly frowned he looked over the spacious court garden to the little sanctuary on a low and softly curved mound some hundred feet away. Tomorrow the temple-like pavilion would be torn down by construction workers, creating space for the new planned palace, a much larger one, much more glamorous than the old castle in which his dynasty had lived and ruled for more than four hundred years.
He rang for his valet. „I‘m taking a short stroll through the park, Sebastian, and I would like to do that alone. I will be back in time for dinner.“
The lackey made a deep bow and opened eagerly the wing door.
Little later the ruler of Southland had reached the sanctuary that was made completely of smooth and translucent marble. He sat down on the low steps that surrounded the graceful building with its slim columns and perfectly round curved dome.
It was a mild summer day, birds where caroling in the nearby forest, bees humming in the beds of purple red roses that covered the slopes of the mound, butterflies where tumbling through the velvet like, warm air, as if they where drunk.
The King closed his eyes, in his mind he took a long journey back through time, since his childhood days, he saw himself as a little and rather chubby boy, chasing his brothers and sisters, hiding behind the columns and in the cooling shadow of the prayer room. Years passed by, he was fifteen now, sitting on the wintry cold steps, holding hands with his first love, the two years younger daughter of one of his mothers gentlewomen, Laura Wolkenstein, telling her with tears in the eyes that his parents had arranged his marriage with a Princess he had never heard of.
The carousel of years floating by continued, now he saw his own children playing hide and seek round the filigree pavilion. In the mirror of the small fountain situated in the middle of the prayer room he discovered his first grey streak in his dense and dark brown hair. His wife had given him seven children, but no joy, no love, no kindness, she was beautiful, but as stupid as bean straw and cold-hearted.
Once again the years passed by, he watched himself laying on the snow white marble ground crying his heart out after they told him that his mistress, his first young love, had died during giving birth to their baby child…
He sat there under the dome of the little sanctuary, torn apart by his memories, until the sunset did weave a veil of flaming red and soft gold over the old temple…
Back in the conference room, that now was lit by dozens of candles, he ordered the young architect that has developed the plans of the mighty new castle to join him immediately.
The handsome fellow went in and bowed respectfully. The King folded up the large papers. „My dear friend, I‘ve made a decision – there will be no new palace.“
The architect’s eyes widened with disbelieve and surprise. „His Majesty – I – I don‘t understand…“
The King smiled softly. „No need to be shocked. – With a part of the money calculated for the costs of the new castle you will restore this old one. It has been good enough for my family for over four hundred years, and you will going to make it good enough for the next generations of our dynasty. With the money left you will build schools! Schools for every child, for every girl and boy in this country. And this schools ought to be palaces, beautiful temples of education and culture. And from now on, Mr. Wolkenstein, you will be be my court architect, and I will nominate you the title of a Duke.“ So spoke the King, and laid his arm around the slender shoulders of his illegitimate son.
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