“They come from England. Do you remember that beach we went to, not that long ago? That was England,” Elena answered.
“I would have thought it was highly unlikely that you are related to any of them.” She laughed as if to pass off the peculiarity of his question as the oddity of a child.
“Why don’t you come round the gardens with us,” Paris invited him. “You can ask me as many questions as you like and I’ll try to answer them.”
Yan grinned at her quickly but then asked “And why are you here, Gerard? You told me yesterday that you were going to be planting trees today.”
Gerard didn’t answer that one straight away. He looked helpless and shrugged his shoulders.
“I changed my mind,” he suggested eventually. The child was deluded or confused, Timonthy decided. Gerard hadn’t even been there to talk about his plans yesterday.
“That’s a very bold claim, Paris,” the man called Koa. “To answer all his questions. I’ve been doing that all morning and I have a feeling I’ve only just started.”
Koa used her name as if he knew her, Timonthy thought worriedly. He tried hard to repress the glare that wanted to force its way through his eyes and he rubbed his face. It was evident he was tired from the journey. Even being driven was tiring in its own way.
Timonthy remembered guiltily. He hadn’t slept for long either. There had been too much to do, too much pleasure to enjoy: too many questions to ask, too many options to explore.
He had to remember the enjoyment not his tiredness or he would be unbearably grumpy in this place which surely deserved his best.
Elena looked after them well and made sure that they all had enough to eat and drink. Peter seemed to fade into the background at this meal as if he had other things to think of, but perhaps he was tired too as he’d admitted he was not used to driving for so long.
When they had all finished Elena showed them where they would be staying on the floor below. Paris and Lizzie were sharing a room again and Timonthy had his own room.
The rooms were shaped like segments of a circle with the bed at the widest point and the door at the smallest. They were sparse but clean and warm.
“I hope you won’t think it rude of me if I have a rest now?” Lizzie asked Elena before she left their room.
“Of course not. You know where to find me if you need me. I usually sleep all day after that journey,” Elena confessed.
Stolid was waiting for them on the stairs and they continued downwards. He was alone now apart from Yan, who trailed him like a shadow, which Timonthy was grateful for. He didn’t yet feel cheerful enough to be able to put up with his new friend.
Paris took Yan by the hand and they walked behind. Timonthy could hear that at last Yan had found someone able to listen to his questions and at least attempt to answer them.
Stolid and he walked slightly ahead on the formal paths which crossed the courtyard.
“What’s going on here, Stolid?” Timonthy had to ask.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Stolid said in a subdued tone. He sounded like a man forced to tell a lie in spite of a life-time spent telling the truth.
“Who are these people, crawling across your house as if they own it? Why have I spent two days trying to find out where you are and not succeeding very well?”
“You are here now and I thought it was you who were crawling all over my house,” Stolid answered with a look of amusement. “I don’t mind that, of course, you are welcome to do what you want in it.”
“So you asked me who these people are,” Stolid said. “Peter is my employer and Elena is his wife. Yan is their son. Gerard who’ve met, he’s another employee and Will as well. Is that everything?”
“You are as bad as Gerard with your refusal to answer a straight question,” Timonthy complained and suddenly wondered then where Gerard had gone.
Timonthy felt defeated. For some reason Stolid did not want to tell him everything. He had to accept that.
“You look better than you did,” he commented instead. “Has the life suited you?”
“It has suited me. I feel like I have a purpose again.”
“What will you do when the garden is finished?” Timonthy asked. He knew that Stolid was subject to phases of euphoria. He didn’t want to see him slumped and abject again so he had to ask, as if the asking would protect against it.
“A garden like this will never be finished,” Stolid enthused, “but the purpose I have found extends beyond the garden. It is as if I had forgotten who I was and now I remember. I even sometimes feel as if I was on the verge of understanding what it means to live, and my place in the universe.”
Timonthy looked at Stolid closely. He sounded like he was on some drug or other, but he suspected it was just happiness with him.
“How did you get on with Gerard?” Stolid asked out of general politeness, it sounded like.
“We got on really well,” Timonthy admitted. “Thank-you for saying nice things about me.” He said the words as if they tasted unpleasant in his mouth and Stolid smiled as if he knew, not unkindly.
“I only said what I believed to be the truth. Do you know where he went to, by the way?” Stolid asked as if trying to change the subject. “I wanted to have a chat with him. There was a job I asked him to do for me and I wondered how he got on.”
“I didn’t see where he went after lunch,” Timonthy admitted. “Perhaps he went back to his home.”
“Perhaps,” Stolid said with a shrug, “but never mind. I’ll show you the orchard.”