The Lost Umbrella
The Lost Umbrella5 mins 483 5 mins 483
Dusk was drawing in quickly as the shadows lengthened up and the surrounding greenery turned up a fuliginous shade. Yet Brandon Langley was in no hurry as he trudged up the hilly path onwards home. Langley had spent nearly 20 years in the sleepy little town of Murray, nestled in the lap of the Cheviot Hills situated in mountainous northern England. An alumnus at the elite Cambridge, he had been a voracious reader and an astute student of English Literature and had completed his Ph.D. while still in his twenties. A stellar career though he could have had with accomplishments to boast of, the lure of a quiet and serene life away from the crowded and boisterous city life had drawn him to this unknown town that was quite often forgotten by the cartographers.
Although reserved and composed by nature, Langley’s altogether pleasant manner had won him favor with his students. His deep understanding of his subjects during his university days would serve to richly enliven the chapters that he taught them. The children would listen to him entranced and he would feel himself transformed into a mighty storyteller from a mere teacher. Such were his methods that he was the subject of envy yet admiration among his colleagues.
The little brick roofed cottage appeared in the view and the golden spaniel rushed towards its master. Langley’s humble abode had an air of desolated coziness about itself. Housing a single occupant and his lonely pet, the cottage was surrounded by a tidy little garden with its pretty set of flowers. Crocuses sprang up in one corner while white roses stood out in another part imparting a somewhat homely appearance to the single storied house. Langley stared westwards. The rose-red hue of the horizon was giving way rapidly to the deep bluish shade as the sun bid adieu for the day. He sighed deeply and ruffled up the dog’s wavy fur. It had been this time of the day some 5 years ago when Henry had disappeared forever, all of a sudden. The child’s appearance had been just as abrupt. Just an infant about 1-year-old, Langley had found him one fine morning sleeping peacefully with dirty tear streaks down his cheeks as he was about to start his daily morning stroll. He had no belongings save a little blue umbrella. Taken aback greatly and overcome by pity, the teacher had brought the child home. Upon enquiring at the local orphanage, no information on the tiny foundling could be gained. Langley had had then no alternative other than to consider the babe a little piece of miracle and to take upon himself to bring him up. This episode had occurred nearly 10 years ago.
The teacher and the foundling grew attached quite soon. Langley adjusted to his paternal role quite well and got Henry admitted to the school where he taught. Every evening, the sight of the two returning home would be a happy one to behold. Langley’s storyteller would come alive more vividly in front of Henry. Whether it be bedtime, a quiet weekend picnic or a walk homewards, mythical creatures, ghosts, and such other fantasies would keep the duo busy. The spaniel too with keen eyes, ears cocked up and a wagging tail would try its level best to comprehend its masters’ lively discussions. And so it went on- the serene and happy life- for 5 years. And abruptly came to a halt.
It had drizzled all morning and did not show any signs of stopping. Henry, undaunted by it, proudly sheltered himself with the little blue umbrella. The little boy’s jolly gait and his occasional inquisitiveness about matters that may appear mundane to adults such as a strange new mushroom springing up amongst the mountain pebbles or about the pine forests in general always delighted Langley greatly and he endeavored to resolve the doubts with the utmost passion. As daylight began to fade away, Langley, as was his wont of doing away with some of his pending work in the hours after the classes were over, began packing up and looking forward to collecting Henry who would generally spend these extra hours in the school library or studying butterflies and plants in the playground all by himself, when Mr. Harris, the school peon came up in a huff. “Mr. Langley! I can’t see anything ow the boy Sir! Been lookin’ for him all around...” A thorough search was conducted in the bad weather. The police were called in. Search parties were sent out into the mountains, in the nearby villages for at least a week and yet could find nothing of the boy. No remnants, no signs. Henry and his blue umbrella had vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared.
Brandon Langley, though a practical man, underwent strange emotions this day every year. He had tried to convince himself many a time and had almost succeeded in believing that the child - when not being monitored by Mr.Harris- had perhaps gone too close to a cliff edge in his eagerness to study either flora or fauna and had toppled over to his untimely demise. In spite of such a perfectly plausible surmise, a hope, no matter how much Langley tried suppressing it would arise in him-of the child appearing suddenly. Wrestling with such emotions, he entered the kitchen to brew himself a cup of tea. The spaniel had started barking outside in the garden. Langley pulled out his pet’s beloved Rusk biscuits out of the larder. The poor dog deserved a snack too.
The spaniel’s barking resounded fiercely in the quiet atmosphere of the house. Was it just hunger? Or was the barking laced with a sense of urgency? Langley stepped out of the house to pacify his pet with its evening treat. And there, in front of the barking spaniel, lay the little blue umbrella that had remained lost all these years. What was this? Was it a supernatural occurrence? Or was he simply hallucinating- his advance in years combined with the foolish sentiments playing tricks with him?