They could see now the golden walls of what Timonthy assumed was Peter’s castle. The central tower was taller than he’d imagined and behind it there rose the purple slopes of distant mountains.
They walked over a small stone bridge which was carpeted with grass: a fast dark river flowing underneath. Leaving the untended forest behind now, they were evidently in a garden.
The lawn was cut and there were pockets of newly planted trees and spring bulbs. On their right they grew closer to a lake with shallow sloping, gravelled shores.
They passed an odd looking hut with a roof shaped like a boat stood on its end. “That’s the sauna Peter built for Stolid,” Gerard explained seeing Timonthy looking at it with interest.
“So this is where he does his swimming?” Timonthy asked, quietly as Stolid walked ahead of them. Gerard nodded.
They grew closer to the wall and finally walked through a arched gateway. Inside the wall was draped with wisteria and apricot roses.
That’s early for roses, Timonthy thought, though he was no expert but surely this time of year rose gardens were full of ugly, prickly, stunted sticks with no clue as to their eventual redeeming feature.
It was warm with no sign of the rain clouds that had dogged them just a few minutes ago.
Timonthy thought of Gerard’s prediction about the rain and wondered what it would be like to be a man who had never seen rain, always to be walking in the sunshine. Perhaps that’s why Peter always seemed cheerful.
Most of the walls had inner buildings attached to them with windows and doors.
“That’s where I lived,” Gerard said cheerfully, pointing to a door in a corner created by the crossing of a wall. Outside this door there was a closely planted area, dense with green but scattered with flowers of every colour under the sun.
“Lived?” Timonthy repeated, with a question. “Well, I haven’t decided where I’m going to live from now on,” Gerard explained. “It might be here, or somewhere else completely.”
They could hear the sound of running water, the calls of a hundred birds, even the harsh calls of rooks making nests: everything tended to thoughts of peace and contentment.
On the steps of the main tower in front of them, was a young woman with blond hair tied up in an elaborate, slightly old-fashioned, style with plaits.
Timonthy knew that Lizzie would take one look at her dress and immediately feel jealous. It looked just right for the occasion. Peter rushed forward and gathered this woman in his arms.
“That is Elena,” Gerard said, in case there had been any doubt. She looked slightly startled but appreciative, embracing him back in a more moderate fashion.
There was something in her manner that irrepressibly reminded Timonthy of the way that Stolid used to deal with Johnathon when he was drunk.
Also he thought of Miss Gregg’s opinion that everything Peter did was for a purpose, towards an aim. Was this true even of affection shown to his wife? Had he used the embrace to whisper a warning, or advice into her ear?
Peter stood to one side so that Elena could greet them. “I’m so glad you all finally got here through that terrible weather. Fortunately that passed us by a while ago so you can see us in a better light. I’ve prepared some lunch for you if you follow me.”
They all followed her, with the exception of Will who nodded goodbye explaining he was going to find his family, into the tower and up a wide and generous spiral staircase.
Timonthy went round and round, how many floors it was difficult to say. But finally he stepped onto a level floor in an enormous room.
From here he saw the view all around through eight window bays.
On one side, facing the lake they had just walked beside, was a kitchen and nearer the centre of the room a large table already laid out with food: bread, cheese, fruit with cream and cakes.
Timonthy thought of his heart, and then dismissed the thought. It had been a stupid blip, nothing more. He felt better than he had felt for years.
As he thought this Stolid looked at him and then at Gerard. He looked content. Sitting at the table there was another man already, talking to a young boy of about four. Was this Peter’s cousin, Maone?