After Dinner, Vincent walked with Catherine back to her chamber, in an attempt
to really do some reading.
And so since time was running out, they did read! They took turns, and
discussed various impressions, and by the end of their second chapter, they both
felt qualified thus far to attend Mary's Reading Appreciation Class!

One more chapter to go!

Catherine then noted, "Vincent, I think we better go now. The children will be
looking for us."

With a raised brow, Vincent caused Catherine to laugh, as he clarified, "You
mean Laura and Jamie don't you?"

As he noted Catherine, excitedly getting ready to go, he began to get it. She is as
excited about going, as the children would be she was coming!

And so teasingly he said, "Slow down Catherine, the children aren't going
anywhere."

With a smile she replied, "I know Vincent, but I would just hate if they were
waiting. You know how children are. They might imagine we forgot all about
them and aren't coming."

With an understanding look, Vincent replied, "Very thoughtful of you. We both
know some of the children have experienced that feeling enough already in their
short life times."

Catherine looked back at Vincent with tears in her eyes, needing to say no
more, because he understood what her intent was so perfectly.

So as they approached the Children's chamber, they could hear quite a lot of
clatter, but all it took was Vincent's presence standing there at the threshold, to
bring the chamber to order.

And when they saw them, the children, Laura and Jamie alike, all happily,
greeted them, saying,  "Helloooooo Vincent and Catherine!

And although it was hectic, it was better than it was the last time. It was clear
Jamie and Laura had set some boundaries for the children. And, the two had
done their part, by getting the children dressed into their night clothes.

But excitement was definitely in the air, because the children knew Catherine
was coming to read to them.

Laura and Jamie were ready to make a quick exit, but before they did, Vincent
complimented them by the progress he felt they had made with controlling the
children.

Both felt very proud Vincent complimented them, and before they left, they
awarded both Vincent and Catherine hugs for freeing them up!

As always, the children asked a million questions before they were ready to
quiet down for the night.

Kipper asked, "Hey Vincent how are you feeling since you had that heart attack
yesterday?"

Thoughtfully, Vincent explained, "I am fine now, and thank all of you for your
concern, and for the Get W...."

It was then little  Natalie butted in and excitedly asked, "Did ya like the Get Well
Cards we made for ya Vincent?"

Hiding his grin, because of being cut off in mid sentence, he replied, "And yes
indeed, I was just about to say, thank you all for the Get Well Cards you made
for me. They helped to cheer me immensely."

To which Samantha noted, "I thought all the equipment Peter used to check
your heart attack, was weird and scary Vincent!"

Realizing he better clarify his condition, Vincent urgently said, "You are right
Samantha, however, because of the weird and scary equipment, Peter and
Father were able to determine I didn't have a heart attack or anything like that.
Rather,  my spell seems to have been caused by inhaling the fumes from some
old forgotten kerosene, in the former storage chamber."

To which Kipper noted, "I thought you said it was bad for our brains to sniff
gas and stuff like kerosene."

Realizing he better once again, further clarify, Vincent explained, "I didn't
intentionally sniff the kerosene, as we spoke about in our health information
lesson. And you are correct, I had instructed you about our fragile brain matter,
and of how we wouldn't want to do anything to alter, or hinder its functionality.
But what happened to me you see,  there was a glass container which contained
the kerosene, and when it was broken the fumes filled the air, and caused my
being sickened."

Explaining to Kipper's satisfaction, he nodded and said, "Oh OK I get it now!
What bum luck uh Vincent?"

Vincent looked to Catherine, and seeing she was thoroughly enjoying this "Say
no to Drugs" gab session, he answered, "Precisely Kipper, I had a bit of bum's
luck. Although it was a lesson for me, and for all of us. When delving into
unknown areas, use utmost caution, as we don't know what is underneath
debris."

Zach, then said, "I heard Rebecca telling Jamie, Catherine was crying and was
all upset worrying about you. I guess she thought you were gonna die or
something! Then I got to wondering what we would do if ya did die! That
would be the saddest thing in the whole world!"

With a comforting gaze, Vincent looked at Catherine, and said, "Yes, Catherine
was quite concerned for my welfare, but as you can see there is no longer need
for concern. I am alive and well, and am not going to die. Not any time soon
anyway."

To which Joseph noted, "Cuz we all gotta die sometime right?"

With a nod, risking another barrage of questions, Vincent had to admit he was
right, and said, "Yes Joseph, someday when it is our time....we all have to die."

Apologetically, Catherine explained to the children, "I'm afraid I am not great
during emergencies. I am sorry you heard about my being upset, and it caused
you needless worry."

Steadfastly, Zach replied, "Well I figured girls are always crying, so it didn't
make me worry too much more than I already was!"

To which Samantha noted, "Even though you had tears in your eyes, I thought
you were doing O.K. You didn't make me more worried."

With a thankful smile, Catherine replied, "Well good Samantha. I am sure
thankful for that."

Self-consciously, Catherine smiled at Vincent, and in turn,  he squeezed her
hand, before he said to the children, "It is time for you all to climb into bed and
Catherine will read to you tonight as promised."

To the delight of the children, Vincent  and Catherine went around to each
child, to bring their quilts up snuggly under his or her chin, to tuck them in.

As Catherine tucked in Samantha, she told her, "I sure am glad you are gonna
live here with us Catherine. Things seem different somehow. I don't know,
kinda better."

Happy to hear the words that came from this little girls heart, Catherine replied,
"It is that way for me too Samantha. My life seems to be better  now that I am
here too."

So with a final tuck of the quilt, Catherine gave her a hug, and then sat down
aside of the reading table. As she opened the book to the marked page, she then
began reading:

"As me and my companions were scrambling up a hill,
The path was lost in rolling stones, but we went forward still;
For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to
spare!      
Good luck to every sergeant, then, that lets us pick our road;
Bad luck to all the driver-men that cannot pack a load:
For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere,
Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to spare!   
COMMISSARIAT CAMELS We haven't a camelty tune of our own
To help us trollop along, But every neck is a hair trombone
(Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hair trombone!) And this our marching-song:
Can't! Don't! Shan't! Won't! Pass it along the line!
Somebody's pack has slid from his back, Wish it were only mine!     
Somebody's load has tipped off in the road--
Cheer for a halt and a row! Urrr! Yarrh! Grr! Arrh!
Somebody's catching it now! ....


As Catherine read, Vincent watched her, and he thought how beautiful she was.
He imagined how soothing it must be to the children, to be read to, with such
kindness and warmth.

He stood stone-like for a moment, and knew she was reading to these children
only because she really wanted to, because she enjoyed it so much. He saw in
Catherine many things, but this night he saw her kind sweet heart.

Vincent found himself, feeling a bit saddened she would never have a child of
her own to read such stories to. That a life with him, would mean reading
always, to other people's children. As he tipped his head downward, he thought
that was very sad...very sad indeed. As Catherine finished the story, she read:

...ALL THE BEASTS TOGETHER
Children of the Camp are we, Serving each in his degree;
Children of the yoke and goad, Pack and harness, pad and load.
See our line across the plain, Like a heel-rope bent again,
Reaching, writhing, rolling far, Sweeping all away to war!
While the men that walk beside, Dusty, silent, heavy-eyed,
Cannot tell why we or they March and suffer day by day.
Children of the Camp are we, Serving each in his degree;
Children of the yoke and goad, Pack and harness pad and load!

Catherine closed the book, and smiled as she looked about the room. Some of
the children were sleeping and others were still visiting the far off land she had
just read to them about, and they were imagining themselves being children of
the camp.

She looked to Vincent, and he held out his hand to her. He led the way as they
made a final round giving each child an individual goodnight. As they put out the
final torch leaving only the night candle burning, they turned and quietly left
them feeling so warm, secure, and well loved.

Quietly they walked as they headed toward Catherine's chamber each thinking
their own private thoughts on how much they loved children. Catherine
personally  hoped, Vincent would grow to feel differently about her having his
child one day, and Vincent thinking how sad it was Catherine, would never
herself bear a child.

As they passed by Jacob's, they agreed to stop in for a moment to say goodnight.

Standing at the threshold, they saw  Mary was tying an apron on him! And they
heard her sternly instruct, "Raise your arms Father so I can tie this, and make
sure  the ribbons are long enough! Higher Father..."

With a smile in his eyes, Vincent said, "Looks like a perfect fit Father!"

Mary, and Jacob both spun around to face Vincent, and Catherine! What a sight
they made...Mary, with straight pins held tightly in her pursed lips, and Jacob
with a measuring tape around his neck, embarrassingly said, "Mary was just
making certain  the ties were the correct length."

Sternly, Mary shook her head, as she said, "Now Father, how did you manage
to make this one tie longer? Here, let me see that measuring tape...let's see, Oh
my...it is 6 whole inches longer then the other! We must correct that!"

Jacob, looked guiltily scolded, as he raised his eyes, and asked Mary, "Oh Dear,
I suppose this means another private sewing session?"

Mary bluntly said, "Oh yes indeed it does!"

As  she began to gather her things, she said, "However it will have to wait until
tomorrow. The hour is getting late!"

While Mary wasn't looking, Jacob looked to Vincent, raised a brow, and
revealed a lopsided grin, as he said, "I hate taking up so much of your time!
Perhaps I should work on it tonight on my own..."

A suggestion that caused Mary to shriek, "NO! Father don't touch it!"

As she gathered her calm, she reiterated, "I mean to say, you have worked hard
enough on it for one day. We shall work on it together tomorrow."

Jacob resignedly agreed, as he said, "Very well then, whatever you say. May I
walk you back to your chamber?"

Kindly, Mary said, "Oh no stay and visit with Vincent and Catherine."

Quickly, Vincent explained, "We merely stopped by to say good night. I am
walking Catherine back to her chamber as well. We will see you both in the
morning."

Warmly, Catherine said, good night too, and they continued on their way. As
they walked, Catherine mentioned, "Father is so cute isn't he?"

Vincent winced a bit, and admitted, "I never thought of calling Father cute
before, but tonight, side by side with Mary, yes I suppose I would say I agree
with you."

They entered her chamber, and as she lit some candles, she looked at Vincent
and said, "Get comfortable Vincent, I will join you in a minute."

She walked to her wardrobe, and brought out a folded afghan, to snuggle under.
As she looked at Vincent, she approached him, smiled and said, "I thought it
might be nice to have a little cover, since there is a little dampness in the air."

Vincent slipped off his vest, and after he sat down, said, "Come Catherine."

As Catherine sat down at his side, he leaned his head on hers, and longingly
whispered, "I have longed for this part of the day, when the time is ours and
ours alone."

Sitting down side by side, Catherine picked up the book, and snuggled within
Vincent's embrace, and started where she had left off. Finishing the third
chapter;  

benumbed to my very heart, I dragged upstairs; whence,
after putting on dry clothes, and pacing to and fro thirty
or forty minutes, to restore the animal heat, I am adjourned
to my study, feeble as a kitten---almost too much so to enjoy
the cheerful fire and smoking coffee which the servant has
prepared for my refreshment.

As Catherine finished the last sentence, she expected to see Vincent with his
eyes sleepily closed, but was taken aback, by the look of passion there instead.

And so she asked, "What is it Vincent?"

Vincent took the book from her hands, and said, "It is becoming more difficult
to part ways at the end of the day."

In turn, Catherine lovingly said, "For me too Vincent."

Sweetly, Vincent kissed Catherine's hair, and then abruptly stood up thinking he
could not wait a moment longer! It was time to ask Catherine to marry him, and
be his wife.

And so nervously, Vincent said, "Catherine..."

To be continued
Chapter Fourteen
The Shore of Dreams!
By
Sharon Holtz
Chapter Thirteen