Part 5 Len and Grandma find things out.
When Len got back to the house some time later, he was buzzing with information he’d got from Neil, so he was a bit disappointed when neither Grandma nor Grandad showed much interest. He was sent to wash his hands ready for tea and then there were fish and chips followed by green jelly and then there was the washing up.
It was only when they sat down with a cup of tea, intending to watch the news – which Len usually ignored, playing on his tablet instead – that Grandma said,
“Never mind that. Don’t bother with the t.v., I’ve been finding things out.”
“So have I.” said Len
“And I’ve got something to tell you about STITCH.” said Grandad.
It was obvious that Len was bursting to talk, so he went first. He told them about meeting Neil. Apparently, his great Grandad Norman, who had died before Neil was born, was known in the family for being slightly mad. In his later years, he had claimed to have met time travellers, on several occasions and even travelled to the future with them once. Of course, everyone knew he was a bit barmy but he insisted so much that, in the end, his son had suggested he write down his adventures. Norman had agreed but, not being much of a writer, he had dictated them instead. Neil had never listened to them, although his Dad said they were fascinating, if a bit crazy. So Neil was going to bring the tapes and a tape player next time he came to see his Gran in a couple of days’ time. Len was bubbling with excitement.
“That’s us, Grandad. It must be.”
“You didn’t tell him that, did you lad?” asked Grandad anxiously.
But Len shook his head. Once Neil had got talking, he was hard to stop, so Len hadn’t had to say much at all.
Grandma went next. Her reading of old newspapers at the library had paid off. Apparently, just about a hundred years ago a local man had gone missing. His mother, Mrs Evangeline Nesbitt, had reported it to the local magistrate and some efforts had been made at a search but with no results. According to the local newspaper, Mr Nesbitt was something of a recluse and had been carrying out scientific experiments in his study one afternoon and he just disappeared.
He had not taken any luggage with him and all that seemed to be missing was a piece of scientific instrumentation that he had been working on that day. The staff had been closely questioned and both the Gamekeeper and his lad had agreed that they had helped carry some scientific equipment to the house, placed it on the desk in his study and that was the last anyone had seen of him.
They sat in silence for quite a while.
“What happened after that?” asked Grandad gloomily.
“Well as far as I can gather,” said Grandma, “his mother stayed in the house for another thirty years or so, until she died, in fact, always believing that he would come back. The thing is, reading between the lines, she was a bit of a fusspot and no-one was really surprised that he had upped and gone. It was just the suddenness of it that was a bit strange. I suspect that not much effort was made to find him. After she died the house was empty for a few years and then it was bought, the land was sold off to the farmer across the way and some time later he sold some of it to build this estate and no-one lived the house again until about 35 years ago, when Mr Nottage’s parents moved in. He inherited it when they died“
“And no one knows where he went.” murmured Grandad thoughtfully.
“Not where, Grandad, but when.”
There was another silence.
“You see,”, Grandad, said, thinking out loud, “the power pack may well have been enough to send him, but not to bring him back. It uses an awful lot of power each trip, you see. It’s one of the problems I’ve been struggling with, making sure we would always be able to get back. That’s why I made the mini’s as well, as a safety feature. If that silly little man pressed the red button, he would have gone back in time, as I hadn’t re-set it for coming home. And it was set to go back a hundred years.”
Len did some quick calculations. 1820. That really was going back in time.
There was another long silence.
Grandma got up and took the cups back into the kitchen. As she washed them, her voice came back to them.
“Well, nasty or not, you can’t just leave him there.”
“I’m not keen on going back 200 hundred years though. We’re not dressed for it. I shall have to give it some thought.”
“Don’t we HAVE to leave him there?”
Grandma and Grandad looked at Len.
“It’s history now isn’t it? If we go back and rescue him, it’ll change history and you’re not supposed to do that. I mean, look at the trouble it could cause.”
“Like what?” they both asked at once.
“Well, I don’t know exactly but in my books, whenever anyone goes back in time, they are warned not to try and change anything. It’s like ripples on a pond or something.”
Len didn’t really know what he was trying to say but he knew changing history was tricky and they should be careful.
“Well, while we ponder that, let’s hear your news Stewart.” and Grandma sat down to listen.
“First, I’ve got a new improved version of STITCH up and running. It uses less power so whenever we go to, we can be sure of getting back. Well, as long as nobody steals the bloody thing anyway. Pardon my language.” He cast a sheepish glance at Grandma, ” I’ve got the second one about half done and I was thinking you and Len might both be able to help make a couple of mini’s, you know, to speed things up a bit.”
He looked up hopefully to see both Grandma and Len nodding. He grinned.
“Yup, I thought you might. Anyway, all being well, by tomorrow teatime we could have two STITCH kits fully operational and we can go whenever we want.”
“And then it’s like Thunderbirds, you know, International Rescue. That’ll be us.” Grandma smiled.
“Unless Len’s right and we shouldn’t meddle with the past. Except,” he paused thoughtfully, “we already have, If we hadn’t gone back there, he wouldn’t have got hold of a time machine. And if he hadn’t got hold of it, he wouldn’t have gone even further back in time. If he has. I mean, we don’t even know for sure that’s what happened”
Grandad was rubbing his head.
“This needs some thought.” said Grandma and they left it at that for the day.