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“Are you hurt?”

David hears a stranger’s voice ask as he feels a concerned hand on his left shoulder. Touching the back of his head, David is relieved to see there is no blood. Ruing the rising lump and a spreading ache he nods, turning to face the stranger, who is now sitting beside him on the stony path. He has a dim memory of the same voice yelling at his attackers as they fled beyond the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey.

He shakes his head, “No, I don’t think so,” but as he tries to rise to his feet, falls back, muttering “Must have taken more of a whack than I thought.” He closes his eyes and drops his chin.

“Take your time. Rest awhile. They won’t be coming back in a hurry.”

“Who were they? Must have come up behind me. Didn’t see them at all.”

“Ruffians. They yelled as I sent them on their way. Irish, I wager.”

Opening his eyes, David notes the absence of his watch chain. His hand touches his pocket. His watch is gone.

“Ruffians? Thieves more like.” Having defended so many of this kind in court, David is resigned to such experience.

As the stranger helps him to his feet, David explains the watch is all that remains of his father’s bequest. How the watch had stopped at the moment of his father’s death remaining stopped since then. He keeps to himself the notion that his father is ever thus watchful over him. The stranger holds out a hat and a walking stick he had picked up from the nearby grass.

“Let’s be getting you safely home, sir. In which direction are you headed?”

Hat on his head and stick in his hand, David looks about, realising he is within the ruins of the ruined abbey. “Back home to Dumfries.”

“Are you from there today?”

“Yes. My plan was a pleasant day out walking here and back.”

 

The two men head east, picking up Main Street, then heading north towards Dumfries. At the most a two-hour walk away. Time enough for talking while walking and each wondering the while. David feels losing the sense of his father’s protection to be greater than the loss of the watch itself.

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