Bill and Ben

When Faith could..

Coco heard the other day about Bill and Ben, not the famous flower pot men, but a pair of mountaineering brothers, indeed twins, and their little sister. They were well known by all for their many adventures. They did everything together, and would only ever climb if they were both in the team.

Although they were twins, the two brothers were very different. Bill was tall and lanky, a head and shoulders above anyone else. Ben was quite short and stocky. Whilst Bill was able to reach out to the hold that no one else could reach, Ben could scramble across anything. So by working together no mountain side was outside their capabilities; it was really little wonder that the club were always very glad when they were able to join the expeditions. Faith, who being ten years younger was still but a child always came along to help. She was not allowed to climb, but she did not care about that. She was quite happy to sit in the Gelato parlour or play in the park whilst they battled with the mountain. Even better, she thought, that Bill and Ben had to pay for her.

It was much like that at home too. Contrary to expectations, Bill was no tenor, but he had a voice so deep that even Rachmaninoff had not written anything that could do justice to his lowest notes which we were quite as strong as your or my middle C. On the other hand Ben had an exquisite tenor range which really only began beyond where any baritone would be embarrassed to go. When the family sang together at home, Ben led them from above, Bill supported them from below and mother, father and little Faith just filled in the middle as best they could.

Now whilst Bill and Ben loved their little sister, Faith was always up to tricks with them. She teased them mercilessly. There was an occasion when, knowing how much common sense they lacked she took advantage of it. They were a little younger then, shall we say immature? at the time. Whenever they went away, their mother made sure that Bill and Ben each had their names stitched into every item of clothing that they had. Was this for their benefit or to let others know whose cllothes they were in mother’s mind? Well little Faith was quite sure that the boys were so lacking in common sense it was to make sure that they wore their own clothes not each others. So one night whilst on camp she crept into their room, stole away all of their clothes and took them to her own room where she proceeded to carefully unpick every label and stitch them back into the other brother’s clothes.

She did not believe it would work as well as it did. The following morning, she was up early for breakfast much to the astonishment of her parents who had learned that she really did prefer to lie in the hot bath than to eat, but despite the lack of sleep, she did not want to miss anything that might happen that morning. Suddenly the breakfast hall fell into fits. Bill had arrived in what could have been a pair of shorts, followed by Ben who appeared to be wearing the bellows of an accordian on his legs when you caught a glimpse of them peeping out from underneath a rather long and tight Jersey jumper. There were hoots and whistles from their fellow campers which did not seem to perturb them until they were taken across to a mirror. How embarrassed they became, especially when Faith asked: Did you not realise the labels were the wrong way round? She had caught them once again.

She never ceased to plan little tricks like this, and Bill and Ben had to be constantly on the watch for the next one, but they would never be without her. As she grew the tricks became more elaborate, she waited to catch them out when they were not expecting it. Well, she was now a young woman and she had planned this one for years. She knew that she would only be able to do it once, and she also had to get it exactly right otherwise the consequences might be, as she put it, somewhat unfortunate. So she waited for the right opportunity. It would come she said to herself.

But she needed to practice somewhere first to ensure she would get it right, so the previous summer she had gone to Iceland on her own. It was most unusual. She never went out on the mountains to climb with her brothers so they wondered whether she had met someone but didn’t want any one to know at the time. She explored the interior, not the usual tourist spots, which was of great concern to them as Iceland is geologically active, and whilst she was there there were reports of some irregular geologic activity. But all was well, and after she returned try as they would they could not get anything out of her. They had to think that whatever it was, it had all come to nothing.

This year the boys had planned to go with their club up the face of a little climbed mountain in Switzerland. There was only one route and so she would know exactly where they all were and when they would come back down. They walked together down the main street in the pretty little Swiss village. She was rather out of place in her prim white blouse, dark skirt, white gloves and delicate hat, when everyone else either wore mountaineering kit or Lederhosen. The boys left her as she made her way into a very neat Italian coffee shop.

A few hours or so later, ‘This is it’, she thought to herself as she supped her Gelato and espresso in the quaint little parlour at the foot of the mountain. She was now a young woman and had discovered the joys of Gelato and coffee. Everything, she mused, was ready. One of the awful things about her tricks on them was that she was often not around to see the expressions on their faces when it was pulled off. She had to listen afterwards to their own remonstrations with her, as they tried to justify their own ridiculous behaviour, as in the switched clothes episode, or themselves, and listen also to the reports and corrections of other people who were there and saw it all. Oh! how she giggled as she remembered how often she had caught them out, but felt a little sad that she was never there to see it. ‘Ah, well, at least the other club members will give me an accurate report’, she said to herself.

On the mountain, they were all well underway. They were about ten thousand feet above the coffee shop where their little sister sat eating her gelato and Bill, who, by reason of his height, had just enabled them to move across a particularly tricky part far more quickly than anyone had expected, turned his mind to her as Ben was away moving across the scree like a gazelle leading a long rope behind him that the others could use to cross more easily. It was perhaps not, or maybe it was the right time to turn your minds to your little sister. He crossed the scree on Ben’s rope. To his astonishment, Ben said to him: ‘Do you remember that morning at camp, Bill? Do you think there is something wrong with Sissy? She has left us alone ever since she came back from Iceland’. Just then there was a crack, not an unfamiliar sound to mountaineers. Rocks move, and when they do so they crack. But this crack was different. It was loud. It was impossibly loud.

Later, when she heard about it, the only thing the other members of the club could remember after that were the words screaming from the lips of Ben, as only a tenor could scream them, simultaneously with the deepest roar from Bill that any auditor had ever heard, which were:

Faith! Put the mountain back!