(4) The Churchyard


“Just one important thing I need to do,” Maxwell muttered softly to himself. “I really must visit St. Mary’s before I leave. I’ve got this far and there’s no rush to go now. It shouldn’t take me very long to find the church from here.”

Indeed, he was correct. The very first person that he asked, pointed him immediately in the right direction. It was a flower seller, standing by her stall on the pavement, at the far end of the road.

“I’m going to St Mary’s to find the grave of Mr. McKenzie, the watch-maker,” Maxwell added.

He glanced down at a bucket of roses by the front of the flower stall.

“Here, have this as a gift from me,” the flower seller said, “You can’t visit a grave without laying a flower or something.”

The flower lady passed a single small rose to the small bear and then she pointed away, in the direction of the church.

“You can’t miss it,” she added. “It towers over the other buildings.”

Maxwell thanked the lady for her kindness and he stepped away. After a few minutes of walking, he spied the spire of St. Mary’s over the rooftops of the local houses. Very soon the small mechanical bear had found an imposing lynch-gate entrance and he entered the churchyard.

He looked around at the mass of graves that surrounded the church. A large number of ancient weathered graves crowded around the main body of the church. Further away, towards the edge of the churchyard, there was a wide expanse of open grass that led up to the wall of the perimeter. Between the two areas, gradually encroaching further outwards, stood a number of more recent graves. Those that were the furthest from the church had no gravestone; each grave was marked by a small wooden cross protruding from the earth. It was this area that he searched first.

Maxwell scanned the names of the occupants of each fresh grave. Some of these graves were merely a mass of freshly turned soil, covered with fresh wreathes and flowers. Other graves had become overgrown with a denser tangle of grass. Their accompanying flower wreathes had withered and died long ago. He spotted a single grave at the end of the first row. It was marked by a brass plate within a small wooden cross, awaiting a permanent headstone. The soil that covered the site was freshly laid. Maxwell walked to the grave and he began to read.

Visiting the Churchyard

“Albert Ebenezer McKenzie,” he muttered aloud.

The small mechanical bear looked down at the brass nameplate, bent over and placed his single red rose upon the raised mound, near to the wooden cross. He stood awhile in silence.

“He was such a very kind old man,” the clockwork bear muttered aloud, “and so incredibly gifted.”

Maxwell turned his gaze up from the grave. As he did, he became aware of the sound of footsteps on the paved pathway that led through the churchyard. Maxwell turned to see a lady approach, dressed in a flowing dress and a smart top hat.

Visiting Mr. McKenzie's Grave

“Indeed he was,” the lady exclaimed in a sympathetic tone, looking at the clockwork stuffed toy that stood before her. “Have you come to pay your respects too?”

Maxwell nodded and explained, “Yes, indeed. Sadly, I missed his funeral.”

“There were a fair number of friends present,” the lady continued, “despite the fact that he only had one remaining family member alive, myself. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rosie Helendale, the daughter of his only child: my late mother.”

Rosie Helendale looked down and she saw the red rose laying upon the grave.

“Did you know him too?” she asked.

Maxwell looked up and smiled.

“Yes, I knew him very well,” he explained, “for he was my creator: he made me to work in his shop.”

Rosie looked back and smiled. She knew that the world was being filled with all manner of strange and wonderful new inventions and she had grown quite accustomed to seeing them around New Babbage and beyond. It would take more than a small stuffed clockwork bear to surprise her.

“Such an incredible little fellow, you are!” she exclaimed. “Take consolation in that your creator was a fine old man who had a respectful send-off from those who knew him.”

Maxwell nodded and he smiled again at the lady. There was a slight pause.

“Thank you,” the mechanical bear replied, “but it’s getting late and it’s time that I was on my way. It was good to meet you, Ma’am.”

“Oh, so soon!” Rosie exclaimed, “I’ve hardly had a chance to get to know you and find out a little more. Couldn’t you stay a little longer? There is so much I need to know about my late grandfather and I can’t bear the thought of his creation wandering the streets alone!”

And so it was that the first spark of a friendship was formed, between a most unlikely couple: the small clockwork assistant and the bereaved granddaughter of Mr. McKenzie. Side-by-side the two figures left the confines of the churchyard and, together, they walked into the streets of New Babbage.

“Please, do tell me more about my late grandfather,” Rosie Helendale said to her newly found little friend. “There’s so much I would like to know.”


Captain Killian's picture
Reply by Captain Killian | Tue, 28 November - 7:56 am SLT

What a lovely ending to a good story. Or is the story yet to be finished? I'd like to give Maxwell a good snuggle for his troubles, in either case.

River Falcon's picture
Reply by River Falcon | Tue, 28 November - 12:07 pm SLT

Thank you, Captain Killian, for your feedback.

I used some story notes of mine (from three years ago) to write these past four chapters. Now that I've reached a natural 'anchor point' in the story, I don't honestly know whether I'll write some more or stop here. Either way I'm going to take a break for a bit, at this point.

Captain Killian's picture
Reply by Captain Killian | Thu, 30 November - 11:49 am SLT

The pictures were very lovely, also.