“Who are you?” I finally managed you say as the trance of shock lifted. I had turned round fully expecting to find him close by, on the stone, but the man was back on the bank, seated with his legs outstetched slightly wide before him and his hands extending behind as props. He was smiling broadly in an infectious way. I tried my best to maintain the sense of shock “Who are you?!” I emptily shouted. The man looked at me and in an instantaneous movement leapt to his feet “Good day young lady, I am your uncle Ambrose from near and far.” “But what are you doing? What did you do? What happened?” “What happened?” he began as if taken aback “You incompetently went to charm the fish. I could not stand the sight of this doggerel of a spell and was of a mind to fix it, which I did, did I not?” “Yes.. you did but. ” I stumbled over the mounting incomprehensions “Uncle Ambrose? Spell? What are you talking about?” “Heavens child, it’s not too challenging is it?” he half snapped, half smiled “Uncle appears, summons fish, bingo.” “But I don’t have an Uncle Ambrose…” the words trailed away in their unworldly setting; suddenly he was there in front of me close “You do now.” he grinned, and his teeth brilliantly flashed in the sun. “And now you must tell me your name, no no in fact you needn’t, for I shall have it in a trice, you are…” his eyes rolled and he made a gesture with his hand before levelling a finger at me “…Clara!” my name was not Clara but something in his way made me not want to contradict him. I said nothing. “So Clara, now we are introduced. What shall we do?” “I don’t think sir, I should be doing anything with yourself, besides which I will need to get back soon, nanny will be looking for me.” “I see I see” he said, sounding serious “Then we must get you back to nanny soon mustn’t we. I should not like to get a reputation as a bad uncle. I will escort you of course, for it might not be safe for a young girl to walk back alone on a bright morning in the full light of the day.” There was something of the sardonic to this comment though it faded fast from him. Indeed ‘uncle’ Ambrose was now upright and tapping his stick impatiently. “Might I suggest across the downs? It will be quicker by far.” In fairness to him I didn’t know if he were right or wrong. But equally when I thought about it I had no idea how he knew where I was going or even if he knew where I was going at all. There was however something undeniably hypnotic about his expectation and direction which disabled my rational sense of safe-guarding. “Why yes, uncle” I found myself saying “The route through the downs does seem the best option.” “Excellent!” he said with sharp precision “Onward!” And with this he set off along a path that followed the side of the lake to the north.
The path was much like the area where I had been sat moments before, rocks towards the lake edge of various sizes and vegetation to the left. This in turn began to alter as the path pulled away from the lake to the left. It led up through the low greenery and entered sparse hawthorn woodland where the ground inclined slowly. Ambrose talked as he walked though it was not always clear it was me he was talking to. Sometimes I thought I could see a fine mist that trailed off him but when I looked again it was not there. Ambrose said that the downs were one of his favourite places in the world and that he always relished the opportunity of walking through them. I was still gripped by the nagging worry that this was not good idea, in fact whenever I thought the matter through it was extremely obviously the case. Yet the still his babbling voice and purposeful stride somehow kept me following.
We emerged from the woodland over a style which laid before us a stony path of a greater incline. Tufted grass grew either side of the path, in places penetrating it, whilst the hillside was dotted with grey rocks that littered the place like slumbering beasts. Ambrose seemed enthralled.